May 26, 2006

Scheduling for a Championship

Sometimes you can just do everything to help yourself get to the title game. Today's focus is on those teams that have themselves positioned well for national or conference title run with their scheduling - (two per conference) :

USC Trojans - The Men of Troy don't play the easiest schedule, but they picked a good year to get everyone they need at home. In conference, California, Arizona State, and Oregon all venture to the Coliseum as well as Notre Dame and Nebraska. Their toughest road games are Arkansas and UCLA, who both took severe beatings from the Trojans in 2005.

California Golden Bears - The Bears venture to Knoxville on opening weekend and could springboard to big things if they get a win. USC in late November provides the only other road game vs. a winning team in 2005. Minnesota and Portland State round out the non-conference at home. Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA all venture to Berkeley.

Auburn Tigers - The Plainsmen get LSU, Florida, and Georgia all coming to Jordan-Hare. Road games are against mid-level SEC schools looking for the upset: South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Mississippi. Then there is always the game at Alabama. Non-conference gets a small boost with Washington State, but features three cupcakes in Tulane, Arkansas State, and Buffalo.

South Carolina - Gamecocks only face Florida as their lone SEC road game versus a winning opponent last year. They travel to Clemson, but the idea is more SEC East Championship thinking here than national implications. The game with Clemson is basically an exhibition thinking along those lines. They get Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee at home. Wofford, Florida Atlantic, and Middle Tennessee close out the non-conference slate.

Kansas State & Texas A&M - both have fallen on hard times, however their schedules for 2006 could feature a return to nine win seasons. K-State has gone back to their old scheduling habit - playing their first five of six at home with the road game being at Baylor. They lead off the year with Illinois State, Florida Atlantic, and Marshall. To their credit, they do play Louisville. Nebraska and Texas come to the Little Apple with trips to Missouri, Colorado, and Kansas in-conference. Oklahoma is not on the schedule.

For the Aggies they lead with the Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette, Army in San Antonio, and Louisiana Tech. That is 4-0, folks. The conference slate sees Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Nebraska come for a visit to College Station with only a game in Austin as the lone road test against a winning Big XII team in 2005. (Okay, well at Kansas, but that is winnable.)

Ohio State - The Buckeyes' season will be determined on September 9th. They venture to Austin to take on Texas and if they win there, they will run the table, period. Penn State and Michigan both come to Columbus with road games only against Iowa and Northwestern as trouble spots. Outside of Texas, the Buckeyes play three freebies (Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green).

Iowa - For me, the Big Ten will be decided on September 30th in Iowa City when Iowa hosts Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have a conducive schedule to capitalize if they can win that game. Road games against 2005 winners include Michigan and Minnesota. Northwestern and Wisconsin venture to Iowa City.

Pittsburgh - I don't have much faith in Wanny, however the Panthers could reasonably start the year 10-0 before facing West Virginia and Louisville both at home to close the year. They have tough games against Virginia and Michigan State at home and some trip-up games on the road at South Florida, Central Florida, and Connecticut. Granted, this is a team that lost to Ohio last year, too. Either Wanny had his first year jitters removed or he simply cannot coach himself out of a paper bag. 2006 will tell the tale.

Louisville - If the Cardinals can't get to a BCS game in 2006, they need to never think about it again. Home tilts include Miami and West Virginia and road games at Pittsburgh and Kansas State. Provided U of L doesn't pull a mental lapse like they did last year at South Florida, those four games should determine their fate.

Florida State - Eight home games including Clemson, Boston College, and Florida will help the Noles defend their ACC title. Their two road tests are Miami right off the bat on Labor Day and at North Carolina State on an ESPN Thursday game in early October. Troy, Rice, and Western Michigan round out the weak non-conference portion.

Miami, FL - Miami has home games against Virginia Tech and Boston College. Their road games include Louisville, Georgia Tech (who beat them last year in Miami), and Virginia. If Coker and his new posse of assistants can return the swagger to the Canes then a win in their all-important date with FSU would return them to the ACC title game if they hold serve at home.

Notre Dame - Said it once and I'll say it again, the Irish schedule sets up for a BCS run at least, a national championship at best. Home games against Michigan, Penn State, and UCLA are tempered with travels to Georgia Tech to start the season and USC at the end. No doubt the Irish will be ready for their trip to East Lansing. A 10-2 record gets the Irish into the BCS and this slate promises that finish.

May 23, 2006

The overrated Irish

Is it September yet?

Are the Irish overrated asks Going into 2006, I believe that the Domers are a bit overhyped. Yes, they made huge strides from 2004 to 2005, thanks in part to Charlie Weis and the attitude he instilled in his players.

However, when I peer at the defense for the Irish in 2006, I see a lot of familiar faces from a team that was torched by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. What remains to be seen is whether Charlie can turn around the defense in Year Two just as he did the offense In the Beginning.

One component however is to define what being overrated is...Ivan Maisel put out his pre-season, post-spring rankings and he has them at #8. I think that is just about right. They still need a signature win to catapult them to thinking national championship, but the expectations are back in South Bend. No longer will a 8-4 season be viewed in a positive light.

Much like last year, the first stretch of games will define the Irish.

at Georgia Tech
Penn State
at Michigan State

They face a tough game in Atlanta before coming home for two rivals. Then they travel to East Lansing for a little payback. I don't think anyone will predict the Irish to be 0-4 like last year's gurus had the Irish at 0-6 after their murderous beginning, but what will help the Irish is that they get who they need at home. (Penn State, Michigan, UCLA, etc.)

The exception is USC in L.A. at the end of the year. By then the Irish will be playing for a national championship, but I think more a BCS slot. For me, that is a good goal for this team, get back to the BCS, win the bowl game.

I won't rule out a championship, but if you're a person who thinks the Irish will absolutely be in Phoenix at the end of the year for the title game, then yes the Irish are overrated.

May 16, 2006

Reggie Dunlop delivers

"Giving the old geezers what they want... a Saturday night game."

Well the good folks at ABC confirmed the rumor that they will broadcast Saturday night football games in lieu of them losing Monday Night Football. I love the idea and it only reinforces the idea that college football has the NFL beat when it comes to showcasing their games on television.

For instance, my Saturday's are an all day affair:

- (10:00 a.m.)College GameDay on ESPN
- (Noon) Big Ten games on ESPN and ESPN 2
- (12:30 p.m.) SEC JV game on JP
- (12:30 p.m.) FSN with some MAC/Big 12/C-USA filler
- The 3:30 wave of SEC on CBS and ABC regional games
- ESPN's comes back with some goodies between 6-7:45 along with TBS and FSN shifting to the left coast.
- And now we get a full, premium, prime-time thriller back on ABC at 8:00
- Then if you haven't had enough you get a nightcap out West in the Pac-10, WAC, or Mountain West beginning at 10:00 or 10:30.


With the NFL I get the Bengals on my NBC affiliate and two other games at precisely 1:00 and 4:15. Throw in the Sunday Night dog and that is your NFL coverage.

No contest.

Marijuana is not a drug.

"Lots of water, man." - Texas waterboys should have known.

Ramonce Taylor, Texas' running back heir apparent for 2006, was busted for 5 pounds of weed. Five pounds. I can't wait to hear the plea of ignorance on this one. Warning: If you're a close friend of Ramonce, get ready to be the Mysterious Friend Who Planted the Mary Jane.

Five pounds worth of plant. That is Lawrence Taylor-level of getting set up like a mo' fo. This has got to get Texas some Fulmer Cup points.

May 08, 2006

Come on Nebraskans

Anything to win: The Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry

Uncle (Coach) Tom is running for guv'nah in Nebraska. ESPN's Ivan Maisel has an article about how (shocking!) he isn't running away with the race. Maisel makes his plea in ultra "fanboy journalist" fashion by saying how Osborne's football credentials should make this race a walk. Hey, I get Maisel's angle: Uncle Tom is popular and elections are starting to become anything but about the issues.

However, if I were in Dave Heineman's camp (the incumbent Guv) then I would raise some issues. For instance, I would imagine Osborne is pretty soft on crime. Maisel weaves his column talking about the stoic, stodgy, man of no ill-repute Osborne. I simply view Osborne as someone who sold his soul - playing Phillips in a Fiesta Bowl that he could have won without him. His delving into politics back in the mid-to-late 90's only confirmed it for me about his soul-selling.

Currently the entry polls in Nebraska have the race as a dead heat. Nebraskans, you have a chance here to not join Minnesota and California in infamy in electing jock guv'nah's. Show Uncle Tom something doing the right thing and keeping a person with a political career on the job.

May 06, 2006

Crazy about the (other) roundball

Alright, I wont start smack talking, because up until this year baseball at the University of Kentucky was an afterthought. Not now. The Bat Cats are 34-11 after ending an 11-game winning streak that Mississippi brought into yesterday's game. The Cats also sit atop the SEC East with South Carolina losing against Georgia.

The Cats are 13-6 vs. Top 25 teams and own a 12-7 road/neutral record. Talk of Omaha and quite frankly, how we get there from here, permeates Lexington now. ("Now, what's a super regional?") The school did officially bid to the NCAA just yesterday about hosting a regional site and now we sit back and will find out what happens.

Coach John Cohen insists that the Cats won't look ahead, determined on finishing its business with Ole Miss, but Cat fans are warming up to traveling with another team. The ballpark at home is certainly seeing some fannies touch some dusty seats with the team eclipsing the 2,000 attendance mark for the fifth straight game.

When Mitch Barnhart was brought in as athletic director he mentioned about improving the entire department, not just basketball and football. In truth, he has done very well with the smaller sports - but he continues to take heat for football and now, basketball with the Final Four drought reaching gasp, nine years.

Kudos to the other roundball sport for getting UK fans excited this year.

May 03, 2006

The Kentucky Derby: It's different when you live here.

Ferdinand, 1986 Kentucky Derby winner.

So I go surfing to and fro and I come up a mention that someone has extensively covered the Kentucky Derby. I appreciate the admirable coverage of the Bluegrass State and the event that the world knows us for, but I cringe when people mention the finery and tradition that is the Derby and horse racing in general. Horse racing gets a makeover every first Saturday in May to an extreme degree. Sure, Louisville throws a great party, and the state does want the cameras focused on the Commonwealth for the spectacle, but there is a very real underbelly to the industry for those of us who have to endure it 24/7.

The two greatest questions to ask aloud, especially to the right people, is to wonder about two of the Derby's star horses: Ferdinand and Alydar.

Ferdinand was the 1986 Kentucky Derby Winner with Willie Shoemaker up. The Shoe is a legendary jockey, who at the time of the victory became the oldest winner of the Derby. The race wasn't spectacular, but did feature Ferdinand coming from the very back of the pack to take the win. Shoe ran the horse masterfully, staying out of the lead, yet out of traffic to guide him to the win. The red bay then won the 1987 Horse of the Year after besting the '87 Derby winner, Alysheba in the Breeders' Cup Classic. This is the Tournament of Champions signature race, if you will allow the comparison.

Like many horses of Ferdinand's fame, your immediate next job is to become available for stud. While I could keep everyone entertained with how a horse is conceived, I will just say that it is a spectacle to behold - oh, and profitable, too. Keep in mind that making money off your equine athlete is the name of the game. Stud fees are charged based upon the perception of how well your horse provides future money-makers. If he succeeds for a time, then the fee increases and with continued success you can even drop the promise of a live foal. If your horse declines in stud - either not producing much or having problems even conceiving a foal - then your bargaining chip, nay meal ticket declines.

So goes the story of Ferdinand. Unsuccessful at Claiborne Farm in nearby Paris, Kentucky, the horse was shipped to a stud farm in Japan. The story takes turns from there, but essentially the horse continued to disappoint. In July 2001, his name was de-registered, meaning he had met his demise.

No problem, right? 18 years (1983-2001) is a good life for a horse you might say. It sure is, but in the case of Ferdy it was the end of his life that mattered. He was sold to a slaughterhouse to be processed into pet food. Period. He didn't produce and he was executed. And this is part of the nature that is the horse racing industry. Oh sure, in the article the Claiborne farm people were upset at the story. And to be fair, it wasn't the original Japanese farm that slaughtered the animal, but then again, if he was such a legend at your farm, couldn't you as Claiborne Farm, simply have donated him to the Kentucky Horse Park? The Park is a scant 20 miles away in Georgetown, Ky. Ferdinand could have lived a life being shown to kids and adults alike on a leisurely visit, but instead, the fine folks for sure at Claiborne thought it best to get a little money while they could. I hold them just as responsible.

J.T. Lundy: The Man Who (Allegedly) Killed Alydar

Alydar (1975-1990) was a champion breed. Performing at stud only eclipsed his fine racing career. The big horse was locked into a grand 1978 duels with Affirmed for all three Triple Crown races - Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. Alydar would wind up second in all three races by a combined distance of less than two lengths.

At stud, he produced the aforementioned Alysheba and virtually any "Aly" in horse racing has a lineage (direct or indirect) to the great sire. He would also produce 1989 Belmont winner, Easy Goer and be a part of the lineage for 1991 Derby winner, Strike the Gold.

Alydar was held in stud at the famous Calumet Farm here in Lexington. Calumet is the crown jewel of the city. When you fly into Blue Grass Airport, approaching from the northeast, you fly over the majestic farm and its 23-miles of white fencing surrounding the huge estate. Alydar was the money-maker for the farm, even during lean times coinciding with the oil busts of the mid-80's.

Alydar's fate would cross paths with an adventurous but driven downhome Kentucky boy who married into the aristocracy of Calumet Farm and the Wright family. J.T. Lundy once dreamed of running the Calumet (Camelot) empire. The long version of the story can be found in a September 2001 edition of Texas Monthly. The article by Skip Hollandsworth begins in Alydar's stall in 1990, complete with broken door and ends outside a Houston courtroom in 2000. In between is a paper trail discovered by an aspiring assistant U.S. attorney in Texas. What she found was the cold evidence that Alydar's accident in the stall - a broken leg due to supposedly kicking the stall door with tremendous force - was more of a hit than an unfortunate accident.

"Alydar was Lundy's ATM" per the article and the horse was worth over $36 million in insurance policies covering an accidental and untimely death. Three weeks before having to make a critical $15 million dollar payment to a Houston bank, Alydar had his "accident".

The Lexington Herald-Leader knows which side of their bread the horse racing's butter lands on. To say the industry carries power in Lexington is a bit of an understatement. Nothing gets done here without the help of the horse industry. Alas, the Lexington media, fresh off their 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning article about the corrupt University of Kentucky basketball program, didn't even think to write one article raising a question about the timely death of the crown jewel's most prized stallion. Hence, this is why you have to read from a publication in Texas about the whole series of events.

The horse was murdered. Why? Money. Period. This Saturday, you will hear the telling tales on ABC about how much these people love their horses, treating them like family. For the most part, this is true, but revert to the stories of Ferdinand and Alydar to get a true picture of the entire scope of the horse racing industry. Even an Extreme Makeover: Horse Racing Edition can't wipe away those blemishes.

May 02, 2006

Five Stadiums I want to see...Traditionals.

When Franklin speaks, you've arrived.

Primarily my experience has been with SEC stadiums, although I have a few on the ensuing countdown that I would like to see soon. Part One of this breakdown are the traditional stadiums. The tried and true and known throughout the land. They're the ones that get the Ron Franklin voiceover before a game.

I can try and quantify some more criteria, but really it comes down to a feel that I get through the television. For instance, some people would argue about seeing the Horseshoe (Ohio Stadium). I am not denouncing it outright as I know its big, loud, and Ohio State fans are a bit fanatic (just ask Brian at M-Go Blog). However, I just don't have it on my list of five stadiums to see before I die. Dunno, don't ask.

To this date, I can only eliminate Neyland Stadium (Tennessee) and Sanford Stadium (Georgia) from the list. I have been to both and they both have their charm and reasons for any fan to attend. I would say that Neyland is a bit more reknown for just the stadium, but I found Sanford and the fanfare around it to be a more inclusive package. Simply put, Sanford is nice, but just the stadium by itself would not have made my top five. Top 10? Sure. UGA and the Hedges alone make it that.

Presently I am a 29-year old male who has never been past a menial job, so I don't have the money to go winging all over the country. This list could be a lifetime achievement. Without further adieu:

Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame)
- Boy, you just couldn't see this one coming. . . I have been to South Bend before, even stood on the field, but not on gameday. I almost had BYU tickets last year, but it fell through. Essentially the list can be just narrowed to this stadium in places I need to see before I die. No need for the details, as Domer homers and haters alike can recite, chapter and verse, the reason that makes South Bend special. For me? I just want to shake Charlie's hand.

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)
I attribute the Rose Bowl to the town of Pasadena and not UCLA for one reason. I don't care about seeing a Bruins regular season game. I want to see a Rose Bowl game. Don't care who the teams are, just want to see a real, live Rose Bowl. Personally, I would like to see one extreme or the other - a traditional matchup (Michigan-USC) or a once-in-a-longtime trip for both schools (Oregon State-Illinois).

Tiger Stadium (LSU)
The cool part is that I might have a chance to make this one this year. Kentucky plays at LSU in October and I have a good friend living in New Orleans. We (LSU fan that I went to the Final Four with) would be fools to pass this up, but again, we ain't rich either. That Final Four weekend is still setting us back some. The check got put in the mail today, Brian.

Kyle Field (Texas A&M)
I think I can get tickets, because lately when I watch this team at their place the upper corners always seem available. Now comes financing the drive or flight from central Kentucky to the College Station-Houston area. Yummy. However, anytime you can be privy to a stadium swaying and cadets getting smooched after touchdowns then you have to take the opportunity.

Michigan Stadium (Michigan)
Alright, I want to see the Big House. There, I said it. But I want to see Notre Dame win in the Big House, so I guess I need to hurry up and save the money for the September 2007 meeting. I want to hear 111,000 people all shut up at the same time. Alright, smack talk out of the way, Michigan Stadium is just a spectacle. Again, like Notre Dame Stadium I have seen it - but not on gameday.

About Me

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.