August 30, 2007

It's Game Day (for someone, at least)! These are Bullet Points!

  • LSU and Mississippi State open the college football season tonight. We are so incredibly super pumped that it is officially Game Day for college football, and there will be many more such Game Days between now and the end of December. The wait...is over.
  • Let us all be careful not to let the fact that college football is beginning to make us lose sight of a spectacular MLB pennant race. This is the best sports time of the year, with the freshness and optimism of the beginning of the NCAA football season coupled with the excitement of the end of baseball. The Redbirds are, inconceivably, still alive in the NL Central while the Red Sox should cruise to the AL Eastern title--though 2 straight losses to the Yankees isn't good at all.
  • With that said: holy crap, it's football season! Here is a friendly, 40AS suggested list of things to Avoid and things to Seek Out this season:
  1. AVOID - ESPN predictions, they'll only make you mad. Plus, there are enough analysts predicting every stupid scenario and outcome possible that one is bound to piss you off.*
  2. SEEK OUT - Pam Ward's Big Ten game, if only to note which game she's calling and see if you can win the "Which Crappy Big Ten Game will Pam Ward be Calling?" game
  3. AVOID - Saturday night dinner plans
  4. SEEK OUT - VY highlights
  5. AVOID - Power rankings. They're silly
  6. SEEK OUT - The Oddsmakers' Top 25 poll
  7. AVOID - Tuscaloosa (Dreamland Ribs notwithstanding), Norman, Stillwater, Starkville (Lil' Dewey's BBQ notwithstanding), East Lansing, Ames, College Station, Lubbock, Syracuse, Morgantown, Waco
  8. SEEK OUT - Austin, Lawrence, Athens, Palo Alto, Auburn, Ann Arbor, Oxford, Knoxville, Eugene, Boulder, Chapel Hill, Tucson, State College, Madison, Seattle
  9. AVOID - Trying to figure out what's going on with Sirius and XM, and whether they'll ever merge to create a blissful college football listening experience. It will just drive you insane.
  10. SEEK OUT - Sweet highlight videos of defense on YouTube (see below)

*Note: We recognize that the existence of ESPN is, on the whole, a wonderful thing because it allows us to see so much more college football on live TV than people ever thought possible a mere 25 years ago. We also understand that it is very difficult to fill 24 hours of programming about sports without incessantly talking and making predictions about them.

August 29, 2007

Two Years...

We write almost exclusively about sports, but this post is not about sports. Today is August 29th, and it has been exactly two years since Hurricane Katrina. If you read our blog regularly you probably know how much this event has affected both of our lives.

If this post is the only time you think about Katrina today, that'll be okay with us. Today is not the day for us to discuss sports, not even their healing effect in times of disaster. Rather today is a day to remember a storm which took over 1800 lives, destroyed over 300,000 homes and had a lasting impact on millions of Americans throughout the Gulf Coast.

Both of us consider those that have returned to rebuild their old lives to be our heroes. To quote famed New Orleans Times Picayune writer Chris Rose:

We stay. We raise our houses and we raze our houses and we get up and go to
work -- the lucky ones -- because this is home and no word has a stronger
allegiance in the English language.
Somewhat ironically Rose's article is inspired by a home on Louisville Street, the street where Jeff first lived. We hope that at some point today you remember it for what it means to all of those effected by Katrina.

-Jeff and Abram

August 28, 2007

A Quick Rant About Something That's Wrong

We went to Texas, and are proud fans of the Longhorns and the Big XII Conference. But we also grew up in the Deep South, which means that our roots are in SEC country. We can remember going to our first Texas home conference game and noticing how little all our burnt-orange brethren seemed to hate Oklahoma State. This was confusing to us, since every game in the SEC (except when you're playing Vanderbilt) has the atmosphere of a rivalry game. But we got used to it. In fact, there is even one area in which we believe the SEC could--and should--learn a lot from the Big XII. The area in question is inter-divisional scheduling.

In both leagues, each team plays 3 teams from the other division each year. In the Big XII, whom everyone plays in a given year is determined by a straightforward rotating schedule. For example: In 2004, Texas played Missouri in Austin, at Colorado, and at Kansas. In
2005, Texas played the same 3 schools but with home-and-home flipped, i.e. at Mizzou and against Colorado and Kansas at home. Then, in 2006, the opponents rotated--so Texas played at home against Iowa State, at Nebraska, and at K-State. This season, the Horns play at Iowa State and at home against Nebraska and Kansas State. In 2008, the process will start over again. So, you get the idea--in a four-year college career, every Big XII football player gets the opportunity to play every team in the other division twice.

Now consider the Southeastern Conference. In an attempt to preserve traditional rivalries that existed well before the conference was divided into an Eastern and a Western division, each team in the SEC has one permanent opponent from the other side and the other 2 in a given year are determined on a rotationg home-and-home basis. The only problem is that there are only 2 such rivalries that the system is intended to protect: Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn. The other 8 teams in the league have no serious cross-divisional rivalries. But because those 4 schools insist upon playing one another every year, everyone else has to have a permanent opponent as well. This means that there are years in which the competitive balance of the league is badly skewed. LSU's permanent Eastern opponent is Florida. Compare that to Mississippi State (permanent opponent: Kentucky), Arkansas (South Carolina), and Ole Miss (Vanderbilt). This means that there will often be years in which LSU, Auburn, and/or Bama have to play 2 of the Big Three (i.e., Florida, Georgia and Tennessee), and there will also be years in which State, Ole Miss, and/or Arkansas have to play none of them. For example, Mississippi State won the SEC West in 1998 with an Eastern schedule of South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. This can only be described as a joke. As proof that State was not, in fact, the best team in the SEC West that year, look no further than their 38-11 Cotton Bowl thrashing at the hands of the Longhorns.

We certainly understand that rivalries are a big part of what makes college football fun. But we would also argue that it is a conference's duty to do right by its student-athletes in terms of fair competition. The SEC scheduling system right now doesn't do that. It is important to note that Oklahoma-Nebraska is every bit as big and traditional a rivalry as either Auburn-Georgia or Bama-Tennessee--and that playing OU-NU two years on, two years off for the past 11 years has not caused the world to crumble. It would not crumble if the 2 SEC rivalries played under the same system, either.

But, Southerners hate a change...

August 27, 2007

Moody Angers Lord?

When Moses disobeyed the Lord by striking a rock with his staff his punishment was banishment from the Promised Land. Will Emmanuel Moody meet with a similar fate?

Just over two years ago Moody, then a Texas commit, was quoted as saying "God chose Texas for me. He wanted me to commit to Texas." Wow. Four months later apparently God told Moody to leave that commitment and attend USC. Clearly shaken by this experience with God, Moody is no longer listening to the Lord, instead following his heart to Florida after transferring from USC. We hope for his sake that things work out, although the Big Guy Upstairs is telling us it won't.

Hoping for a Healthful 2 Weeks in Wide Receiver Town

ESPN is reporting that Billy Pittman (shoulder) will be out for the season opener against Arkansas State. He joins fellow receivers Limas Sweed (wrist) and Jordan Shipley (hammie) on the list of injured wideouts for Game 1. Sweed will likely play a little bit but is not nearly 100%.

Now, not to take Arkansas State lightly, but it's probably fair to suggest that the Longhorns are enormous favorites to win the ballgame with or without the three stud pass catchers. As BON notes, Greg Davis and Mack Brown are likely to keep the gameplan very conservative and simple either way (incidentally, that link will also show you some great analysis of Texas' Game 1 Depth Chart). So Colt McCoy won't be having a huge stats game in the opener, and it makes sense. You need to establish your running game to be successful throughout the season, and there's no reason to give TCU any idea of what Texas will actually do offensively from watching the Arkansas State game film.

That said, the Horns will presumably want to open it up and spread the field a good bit more in Week 2 against Texas Christian. That means it's important for Sweed, Shipley, and Pittman to be healthy (or at least healthier) by September 8. Don't get us wrong: Nate Jones, Quan Cosby, and James Kirkendoll are all very capable receivers. And Jermichael Finley (who once snookered one of our brothers out of $30) is a fantastic pass-catching TE. But we'd feel a lot better if the rest of the receiving corps felt a lot better by the time the Frogs come to Austin.

August 25, 2007

Ranking the Bands

We wanted to point you to a cool site which has rankings for marching bands. The good: LSU #1 in the SEC. The bad: Texas tied with Texas A&M for #1 in the Big XII. Either way, lots of cool videos, the coolest of which you can see below. We're under a week until football!

August 24, 2007

Football Football Football Football Football Football

We've got football on the brain, mostly because it's almost football time, and football is our favorite thing in the whole football. We mean, in the whole world. Sorry--honest mistake.

We are anxious for answers in some key areas as we prepare for the 2007 Football Season, which you can see is capitalized because it is very important. First, the questions about the offense (and one personal question):

Item 1: (This is one you can help with, using the comment feature on this post.) Abram has an LSAT class next Thursday night from 5:30 to 9:00. Should he:
A) Go to the class and hurry home to catch the last hour or so of LSU's season opener against Mississippi State, which begins at 7:00
B) Go to the class for most of the time, but leave about an hour to 90 minutes early in order to catch most of the game
C) Go to the class for the first hour and a half and then get home in time for kickoff, or
D) Skip it entirely in order to prepare himself

Item 2: Can Colt McCoy back up his unbelievable freshman year with an equal-or-better sophomore campaign? Obviously, we are inclined to believe he can. All indications from the coaching staff and reporters watching camp have been very positive on Colt's progress, and he seems poised to pick up right where he left off before getting knocked out of the K-State game. But, it won't be until the TCU game Sept. 8 that we get the beginning of an answer here. And to be perfectly honest, while TCU is no slouch, they are not exactly a defensive juggernaut. So it will fittingly be Kansas State in Austin on Sept. 29 that proves to be the first real test of Colt's second season at the helm.

Item 3: How will Jamaal Charles respond to being the one and only feature back in the Longhorn offense now that Selvin Young has graduated? Chris Ogbannaya and Vondrell McGee are both very capable backups, and Ogbannaya is likely to get plenty of snaps with the first team at fullback in offensive sets where Texas has one. But Charles is now undeniably the go-to guy, a status he has not held yet in his career. The answer to Item 2 will depend heavily on the answer to this one, as JC has to provide a serious running threat if defenses are to respect the ground game and thus provide McCoy with opportunities to beat them through the air. And Item 3's answer will depend heavily upon...

Item 4: How will the Texas offensive line perform after losing 3 all-conference starters--Justin Blalock, Lyle Sendlein, and Kasey Studdard--off of the 2006 squad? This is the million dollar question. Mack Brown, he of the recruiting genius, has plenty of talent to work with in crafting this season's O-Line. Dallas Griffin, the center, is a 5th-year senior who has never started yet is on the Outland Trophy watch list. Guard Cedrick Dockery began last season as a starter then got injured against ou, and it will be interesting to see if he can return at 100% this year as predicted. His counterpart Chris Hall is probably the biggest question mark on the unit; he is a redshirt sophomore who appeared in 7 games as a backup last year. Finally, tackles Adam Ulatoski and Tony Hills both started some last season, with Hills doing so the whole season and Ulatoski starting after Dockery's injury. So, the good news is that it is not a young, totally untested group of blockers. The questions to be answered are how they will work together as a unit and who will step up to fill the leadership void left behind by Blalock, Sendlein, and Studdard. But make no mistake: these are five humongous, talented dudes who have the physical ability to make the offense extremely successful. Because everybody knows that lineman are what make the offense go.

August 23, 2007

To Buy Or Not To Buy, Part II

As debated in BON, Jeff bought Madden. Don't bother calling this weekend, he has plans.

FYI

  • The last time the Baltimore Ravens gave up 30 points: Nov 27, 2005
  • The last time the Baltimore Orioles gave up 30 runs: last night
  • And since the TEXAS Rangers represent all of Texas, the last time the Houston TEXANS scored 30 points: Dec 18, 2005

August 21, 2007

Stuff for Pondering

  • Ten more days until Texas football (and 8 until NCAA football) begins. We like our chances against Arkansas State, and the real question is: where can we watch it? Much like preseason NFL football, we're just hoping for no injuries.

  • A really fantastic article on Michael Vick from The Times-Picayune's John DeShazier, closing with:

    "There is much to be angry with Vick for, much to be disappointed in.
    But Monday, a feeling of sadness prevailed.
    You hate to see a man commit the kind of turnover Vick has committed, mourn to think of him tossing away a career that was so promising and, potentially, forever staining his life by making himself almost untouchable."

  • Kevin Durant was cut from the Olympic qualifying team earlier this week. We love America, one of us even works for the government, but it's moves like this that have caused America's image to slip in the world. Hopefully they'll fix their mistake for the olympic team.
  • The Cardinals heard our whining and delivered last night, albeit with 4 unearned runs to complete a comeback 5-2 win over the Marlins. Hanley Ramirez's error that allowed the damage--a throw over the first baseman's head that can only be described as lazy in the extreme--served as a great lesson for youngsters playing infield: the man's not out until he's out. Ramirez cost his team the ballgame by lobbing the ball to first instead of setting himself and making a good throw. Shameful.

  • Finally, The Times-Picayune published a cool piece on Adam Kraus who one of us grew up with. It's worth a read.

This many more days 'til Longhorn Football!

August 20, 2007

And We're Back...

Thanks to Peter for giving us the chance to be big time bloggers if only for the weekend. A few bullet points as we approach the end of the offseason:
  • Just a thought, but with Mike Vick gone, can (his cousin) Aaron Brooks be far behind? He's at least familiar with the Falcons offense having played in the same division with the Saints, he's unemployed at present, and the expectations would be lower than low. Plus it would make Joe Horn happy while he sits for half the season with a hamstring pull (just kidding, we still really like Joe)
  • The Cardinals took advantage of our faith in them to drop two of three versus the Cubs, and meanwhile the Red Sox are doing a nice job blowing their 14 1/2 game lead.
  • Finally, and most importantly, next weekend is the final weekend without real football. Our long national nightmare is nearly over. Our plan: a case of Shiner, a half-dozen comedies, the 2005 and 2006 Rose Bowls, Live the Dream -- The Texas Longhorns' Magical March to the 2005 National Championship, and no plans until Monday. We suggest you do the same.

August 16, 2007

Detour, Part II

From today (Thursday) until Monday, we will be posting over at Burnt Orange Nation while actual BON writer Peter Bean is on his way to law school. Visit often!

August 14, 2007

Russell to Return

Probably. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Kyle Russell is "pretty definite" that he will play his junior season on the 40 Acres. Russell joins a number of prominent Longhorn baseball players returning to join the 2008 squad that will seemingly have no excuses for not having a big year. The Horns get Russell back but lose starting pitchers James Russell and Adrian Alaniz as well as third baseman Bradley Suttle. Football starts in less than 3 weeks.

Predictions! NCAA National Championship

We would like to once again acknowledge that it is patently absurd at this point to even be predicting conference winners, let alone who will be in and win the national championship. But, in a way, so is the fact that we're even allowed to have a blog. Is this a great country or what?

Our Prediction: We believe that, at the end of the year, the number one team according the the BCS will be USC. The Trojans' Pac-10 schedule, while not as soft as most Southern fans like to say it is, will still include several 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-win teams like Oregon State, Stanford, Washington State, Arizona State, Washington, and Arizona. Their non-conference schedule includes a season-opener against the mighty Vandals of Idaho, but also road trips to Nebraska and Notre Dame. Then there are the three conference games that could provide some concern: Cal, UCLA, and Oregon. But the Trojans are absolutely stacked, as always, and they also don't have a conference championship game to contend with which means they only have to beat the good teams once. Thus, Southern Cal ought to come through their schedule undefeated and stay in the top spot all year.

We then believe that there will be a melee among a few one-loss teams vying for the number 2 spot. We think Texas is going to be one of those teams, probably beating Oklahoma but managing to lose to Nebraska, a&m, or someone like that. Not to be negative; it's just that this team looks very good but not like one that is great enough to get through the entire season unscathed--especially after a tough off-season. Remember: it's VERY hard to go undefeated in college football. You're also probably looking at a one-loss Big Ten champ in Michigan (or possibly Ohio State, or--in a serious stretch because of questions at QB--Penn State). If West Virginia manages to come through their schedule with just one loss, they will also be in the conversation. But in the end, we predict it will be LSU whom the system selects. The one loss we predict for the Tigers is October 6 against Florida at home. That means it is early enough in the season for them to climb back up through the polls with wins over the Three A's: Auburn, Alabama, and Arkansas. Then, defeating Florida in the rematch in the SEC Championship Game should give them a late quality win component that put them over the top.

The main reason we make and like this prediction is that we don't like USC, and we think it would be funny to see their fans like deer in the headlights surrounded by the crazy LSU faithful in New Orleans for the week leading up to the game. The last time the BCS Championship Game made a stop in the Superdome it was a home game-like atmosphere for LSU, and there's no reason to believe this scenario would be any different. The Tigers took care of Oklahoma last time, and they'll bring down another team we dislike this time. LSU is our pick for national champion.

ADDENDUM TO OUR PICK:
ESPN just weighed in with their picks...twelve analysts, twelve choices for USC. It's this type of analytical groupthink that makes us dislike ESPN.

*Disclaimer: Most of our motivation in this post is to avoid, at all costs, putting any sort of jinx on Mack, Colt, and the Longhorns. Thus, as far as you know, we actually believe it will be Texas raising the crystal football when it's all said and done. We'll never tell!

August 12, 2007

Predictions! College Football

It is our goal with these predictions to be so entirely accurate as to remove the fun of watching the season. We think we've done that. A few caveats before we get to the predictions. 1) We're homers, our predictions may reflect that, but we've tried to be somewhat objective. You'll probably think we've failed, but whatever. We didn't bother with the non-BCS schools, but feel free to leave your Rice over Southern Miss prediction in the comments. Finally, over the course of several posts we'll be predicting the NCAA regular season, then the national champion, then we'll delve into the NFL. So, without further ado...

Big XII -- Texas We're a Texas blog. A healthy Colt makes the Big XII a one horse race in our opinion...yeah, we made that awful pun on our first freaking prediction, sorry.

SEC -- LSU The Tigers return a healthy crew of starters on both sides of the ball from a team that many thought was the best in America by season's end in 2006. New QB Matt Flynn is battle-tested to the tune of a Peach Bowl rout over Miami in '05. They may lose an early matchup with the Champion Gators, but that won't hurt their chances in the SEC West. We like LSU in a rematch with Florida in Atlanta simply because it's really hard to beat a really good team twice. Plus, we're really hoping Matt Flynn plays well, just to keep Ryan Perriloux on the bench.

Big Ten -- Michigan We thought about picking OSU, just to see the response from our Michigan fan reader(s). Alas, we see Mike Hart and Chad Henne coming of age in a big way.

Pac 10 -- USC (41...38...)

ACC -- Virginia Tech Predicting a winner out of that one is harder than choosing a Mountain West winner, nevertheless Va Tech is the pick. They ought to be mighty good.

Big East -- South Florida This is one of those situations where one big upset could win the conference, since West Virginia is the only truly great team in the league. If it doesn't happen, we were wrong and no one will remember. If it does, we're awesome.


Next up, your national champion....

August 11, 2007

First 44,260 Fans Receive a New Favorite Player!

One of us is currently in St. Louis for the Cardinals' 3-game set against the Dodgers. Yes, barring a collapse by the Cubs and Brewers coupled with a huge surge by the Champs, this will end up being a forgettable season for St. Louis. However, the atmosphere today in Busch Stadium III was worth writing about because of the heroics of one Rick Ankiel.

Ankiel, as you may recall, had a great 2000 season as a rookie pitcher at the tender age of 20. At the end of that season, against the Braves in the NLDS, Ankiel had one of the weirdest outings in baseball history in Game One. The Cards got off to a good start, but in the Braves' half of the third Ankiel lost all control over his pitches and his career began to end with 5 wild pitches in the one inning. He followed it up with a similar performance against the Mets in Game 2 of the NLCS, was ineffective at the beginning of 2001 and his major league career was apparently over--or at least put on hold.

But Ricky had always been a good hitter, at least for a pitcher. So he stuck around in the Cards' minor league system as an outfielder, putting up consistently improving numbers which culminated in a strong season in right field for the Memphis Redbirds. On Thursday he got the call-up to the big show, and promptly hit a homerun to put the icing on the cake of a victory over the Pedros. He became the 12th player in baseball history, and the first since 1947, to hit his first homerun as a pitcher and then do so as a position player.

So this weekend suddenly and pleasantly became a really fun weekend to drive up and see the Cards play. And today, Ankiel cemented himself as easily the best story of this year's MLB season. On the first pitch he saw from Derek Lowe, Ricky Ballgame hammered a ball into the Cards' bullpen for a 2-run homer to give St. Louis a 1st inning lead that they would not relinquish. Then, in the bottom of the 7th, he went yard again with a solo shot to put the Cardinals up 6-1. This guy's seats happened to be in the right field bleachers, where it was unforgivingly hot but only about 50 feet from where both of the blasts landed. So that was cool. For good measure, Ankiel then made a twisting, turning, sliding-on-the-warning-track catch in the top of the 8th to a standing ovation. It is hard to remember if we have ever seen such incredible adulation for a single player in a team sport, but Rick has now hit 3 homeruns and taken 3 curtain calls.

So Rick Ankiel, now 27, may very well have a great MLB career in front of him as a position player. We heard a story today that he went to the manager of the Memphis Redbirds during spring training this year and said he'd like to try pitching again, to which the manager replied with a bewildered, "are you serious?!" Ankiel said with a smile, "April Fools!"

To come all the way back from mysteriously and embarrassingly having a promising future abruptly end, and to do so through 6 years of toil in the minor leagues, is an incredible story. It takes a whole heck of a lot of hard work, a refusal to give up on yourself just like in the movies, and a sense of self-deprecating humor as demonstrated above. Three Cheers for Rick Ankiel, and here's hoping for ten more years in the Busch Stadium outfield.

August 8, 2007

On Bonds...

Congrats are due to Barry Bonds for #756. We'll never know if he cheated or how much his cheating affected his career HR total (although we guess the effect was significant). Hitting that many HRs is tough, and we'll admit that Bonds is one of the best baseball players in the game's history.

That's about all the positive we can say for Barry, because we don't like him very much. He's an ass. We're saddened that one of the game's biggest jerks holding what is arguably the most prestigious record in all of sports. Moreover he took it over from one of the game's best sports figures. That Bonds took over the record in a loss to the Nationals is somewhat symbolic of what this chase has done to the Giants.

There really is, however, one overarching reason why we will villify Bonds until his record falls. We probably could have handled the cheating. It sucks that he's a jerk, but people will forget that over time. No, we don't like Bonds because of what he has done to us. As soon as he is out of pinstripes, Alex Rodriguez will become our favorite ballplayer (outside of the Cards and Bo Sox). No matter where he signs in 2008, we will cheer for A-rod, and that sucks. So, here's to A-rod's home run chase sometime in 2015...we're counting down the days.

August 7, 2007

Little Vince Checks In

Before the start of the season VY apparently took a cross-country road trip in the form of a doll that put the roaming gnome to shame. Here are the results.

August 5, 2007

Punishment Handed Down

Kindle and Melton out for the first three games of the year for DWI, at least according to a Mack Brown press conference today that we admittedly did not see. We'll have more later as the situation warrants, but we think it's a good punishment (if not a bit on the light side).

Today is a Very Special Day

That's right, football is back...at least in a very limited, nerve wracking, boring after 10 minutes, form. Preseason Who Dats versus Steelers at 8 o'clock (ET) on NFL Network, catch the excitement! The preseason can mean only one thing...the season is getting really close.

August 4, 2007

Oh, Snap!

A nice catfight between Bob Stoops and Dennis Franchione is developing, which seems kind of like Dennis Franchione and Baylor head coach Guy Morriss getting into an argument. You can read all about it here. The highlights:



"That may be the only question they have . . . other than what jobs they are going to work this year...That is a joke; I couldn't resist."

















"There are a lot of people who have a lot to say when they don't have a Big 12 championship to talk about."

August 2, 2007

Offseason Arrest Count -- 4 -- Who's Next?

Now that Andre Jones has joined the fray we're up to the following being arrested this offseason:
Robert Joseph
Sergio Kindle
Andre Jones (already off the roster)
Henry Melton

The key question for the offseason seems to be 'who's next?' Seems to be young, talented defenders are getting arrested this offseason. For the record our money's on Hunter Lawrence, probably in some crime related to getting back at Ryan Bailey.

In other news, Dorf's back with a brand new blog, drop by and tell him hi. Finally, BON has the funniest countdown of the offseason today. 30 days, we're in August, offseason's almost over.