Sunday, October 30, 2011

UCLA's Gift-Wrapped Win

Didn't know UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was on Cal QB Zach Maynard's Christmas list. Well, this year he is. And what would a coach hanging by a thread need more than anything else? A win, of course. So Maynard, with four interceptions and a botched handoff, thoughtfully gift-wrapped a 31-12 victory and presented it---a little early but so what--to the very happy coach.

This surprising loss wasn't all Maynard's fault.  Also point a finger at Cal coach Jeff Tedford and his clueless coaching staff  for lack of preparation. With the Bruins reeling and undermanned and their coach under fire, this should have been a gimme--one of the year's easiest Cal victories. The Bears should have been sky-high from the opening kickoff, smelling the blood of the wounded bruin, primed to seize control of the game in the first quarter. But the Bears started out flat and proceeded to get even flatter. Motivated by smart coaching, Cal's early 7-0 lead should have been two or three times that. The Bears should have been cruising by the second quarter, with dazed and confused Bruins in their rear view mirror.

The Bruins entered the game with their passing game in ruins, their receiving corps wiped out by suspensions.
So the Bears didn't even have a polished passing game to worry about. As it was UCLA only passed for 92 yards. With just the running game to focus on, Cal's defense should have feasted on Bruin runners. But shockingly, UCLA piled up rushing 294 yards, with QB Kevin Prince, of all people, gaining 163.

Once again the Bears were gunned down by a nimble, running QB powering the pistol offense. It happened last season with Colin Kaepernick running that offense for Nevada, which blew the Bears away. You'd think the Cal coaches would have learned by now how to handle the pistol, how to keep the QB from rushing for huge yardage. Yet, they never made appropriate adjustments and the ground carnage continued.

So now where does Neuheisel stand? Does this win placate the angry mob that was screaming for his head all week after that devastating Arizona loss? Clearly he's soothed his disgruntled players somewhat. Their effort in Arizona was half-hearted. Against Cal it was all heart. But next Saturday, a powerhouse--Arizona State--rumbles into town. That victory over Cal was partly due to Bears playing badly. There'll be no gift-wrapped victories from the Sun Devils. Neuheisel's hiatus from the hot seat will likely last only one week.

By the way, Neuheisel may have company on that hot seat--Cal coach Jeff Tedford.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Predictions: Stanford-USC, UCLA-Cal


SC fans are dreaming. Their Trojans really don't have a chance of beating Stanford. These fantasies flowered after the Trojans won last week in South Bend. So what, they beat Notre Dame. Does that all of a sudden make them a Pac12 titan?  The Trojans whipped a team that's thoroughly overrated, a young mistake-prone team whose reputation is largely based on a 31-13 win over Michigan State. There's only one problem. Michigan State is as overrated as Notre Dame. Beating Michigan State, the class of a weak Big 10, means very little. SC's 6-1 record is all flash. There's not a victory over a top-notch team among those six.

Not that Stanford's 7-0 is full of meaningful wins. There's just one--that thrashing last week of Washington, 65-21.  But Stanford has been an unstoppable force, dominating and bullying its opponents. The Cardinal piled up a school-record 446 yards against Washington, pounding a pretty good team. Stanford's secret weapon is its offensive line, featuring tackle Jonathan Martin,  guard David DeCastro and a trio of monster tight ends. The maestro of this offensive machine is Andrew Luck, the best QB in America. Throw in a formidable defense and you have a team that's just too much for the Trojans.


This one is easy. It has nothing to do with Xs and Os. It's all about the mindset of the UCLA players. They either play their hearts out for coach Rick Neuheisel or, as they did last week in the Arizona debacle, slip into an I-don't-care swoon.

Something ugly is going on between the UCLA players and the coaching staff. If the wound has healed, UCLA--even undermanned because of suspensions following the Arizona fight--could turn this into a close game.  But if the UCLA players play like they did in Arizona, the Bears romp and Neuheisel is one step closer to the exit.  Will a forceful, focused UCLA team show up? Highly unlikely. Those wounds are too deep to heal in ten days.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Answering NFL QB Questions

How will Tim Tebow do for the rest of the season?

His magic act--engineering miraculous comebacks--won't work consistently. The real Tebow isn't a Magic Man but a running back masquerading as a QB. In the first 54 minutes of the Miami game, his stats were appalling--4 for 14 for 40 yards with 6 sacks, including some bone-crunching safety blitzes. In the closing minutes, though, he morphed into Mr. Clutch, passing for two TDs and running for a two-point conversion, leading the Broncos to a 18-15 OT victory.

But remember who he was struggling against--the pitiful, winless Miami Dolphins. If he could be corraled by that crew of lightweight defenders for most of the game, imagine what a tough, savvy defense would do to him. Smart bettors put money on whoever Tebow is playing against. Once in a while you get the Tebow magic, but more often, he'll break your heart.

What's going to happen to Carson Palmer in Oakland?

No question Kyle Boller--cannon arm, zero touch--isn't the answer.  His jittery, three-pick performance in the first half of the 28-0 Kansas City rout, which earned him a 17.3 passer rating, made that perfectly clear. But the savior isn't former Bengal Carson Palmer either. Trading two premium draft picks for a QB on the downside of his career was a moronic move--something Al Davis would do. Maybe taking Palmer off the Bengals' hands was a homage to the late Davis--a final boneheaded trade like the ones he routinely made.

Could be Palmer's second half against Kansas City--three picks, weak-armed throws, overall rust--is a preview of what the Raiders will get. Still, it's possible that when the rust wears off and he adjusts to his receivers and the limits of his offensive line, Palmer will be as good as he was back in the middle of the last decade.  But don't count on it. By the time he rounds into shape--if he ever does--the season will be over.

What's going to happen with Matthew Stafford in Detroit?

Probably nothing good. In the last two games--both losses--he's regressed, passing for only three TDs.  His mechanics are breaking down. At times he's been throwing with an awkward sidearm motion, which could be a consequence of his January shoulder surgery. In addition, he's now looking tentative in the pocket. Could be his spotty pass protection is giving him the jitters. His hookups with wide receiver Calvin Johnson fueled the Lions' 5-0 start. Partly because the running game is hurting and requires less attention, defenses have been able to focus more on clamping down on Johnson. Even worse, Stafford will be dodging defenders in Denver this Sunday on a bum ankle. If they don't stem the slide this week, the Lions could be sliding back into that familiar loser persona.

It'll be Tebow vs. Stafford, with Detroit a slight favorite. The Lions are shaky but the Broncos are shakier. Look for Tebow to run out of miracles and for Stafford and Co. to prevail.

Will John Beck make Redskin fans forget Rex Grossman?

That shouldn't be too difficult. Grossman is a turnover waiting to happen. In that 33-20 loss to the Panthers, Beck sure seemed like an upgrade, posting respectable numbers--22 for 37 for 275 yards and a TD, rushing for another. Though Beck blundered twice--a fumble and a INT--he takes better care of the ball than Grossman and is a stronger, more confident presence in the pocket.

But even if Beck gives the Skins a slight boost at QB, the team is springing leaks elsewhere, with five signfiicant injuries, including RB Tim Hightower gone for the season and receiver Santana Moss lost for at least five weeks. Weakened Washington should be bowled over by Buffalo, a 6-point favorite that's considerably more talented, this Sunday in Toronto


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

World Series, Then and Now

Decades ago, the World Series used to be something really special, a fall event bigger than Halloween and, for many, one that overshadowed Thanksgiving. Back then everybody knew about the Series and most people---black and white, rich and poor, young and old--cared about it. It was a force so powerful you couldn't escape it. Here's an example.

In 1956, the Brooklyn Dodgers battled the New York Yankees in a Series highlighted by Don Larsen's perfect game in Yankee Stadium. I watched and listened to that game--No. 5--on a street in Philadelphia that housed about twelve businesses, including a grocery store, a bakery, a hardware store and a newstand. A giddy, sports-struck little kid, on a school holiday,  I went from store to store, hearing some of the game on the radio here, watching some on an old black-and-white television there. In every store I went to on that street, fans were huddled around radios and TVs, savoring Larsen's historic feat. And this wasn't even in New York. You can imagine how fans there were mesmerized by the Series.

Could something like that happen today, outside the home cities of the Series rivals? Not a chance.

There's a World Series in progress now, between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Outside of St. Louis and Arlington and hard-core baseball circles, there's hardly any buzz about it. There would be more interest if big-name franchises like the Yankees, the Red Sox or the Phillies were involved, but Series between small market teams that boast no huge stars simply don't attract that much mainstream attention now. Can you imagine some ladies chit-chatting in a grocery store and the St. Louis Cardinals or Albert Pujols popping up in conversation? Neither can I.

The sports world has moved on and the lustre of basball, once the crown jewel, has dimmed considerably, for a number of reasons--mainly due to the rise of pro football.

Something happened on Monday night at Dan Tana's Italian restaurant in West Hollywood that illustrates my point. There was a Baltimore-Jacksonville football game on the lone TV above the bar, at the same time as a Series game between Texas and St. Louis. The patrons preferred to watch the football game--a really boring, low-scoring, mistake-riddled contest--to watching the Series.

A few decades ago, in baseball's heyday, the choice would have been different.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

UCLA, Skid or Soar?

UCLA players are mired in a nasty quandry, grappling with this prickly question: do we play hard or dog it for the rest of the season?

They clearly are done with coach Rick Neuheisel. If you have a strong stomach, just look at the tape of the first half of the Thursday night drubbing in the desert, that bottom-scraping, 48-12 loss to Arizona. The players were making a statement, loud and clear, dumping all over the coach and his staff.

But what if, in an attack of pride and conscience, the players spiral out of this skid and soar, up and up? It's possible. Remember, this isn't a bad team.  Preseason forecasts pointed to questions at QB and a lightweight offense, but predicted that a powerhouse defense would power the team to the upper levels of the Pac12. What's ailing UCLA has nothing to do with skill or talent. The problem is coaching and motivation.

But what if the players played all out and either won a few games or at least were impressively competitive? That would mean Neuheisel was suddenly Supercoach and maybe athletic director Dan Guerrero might not fire him. The players naturally want to play their best but they also want Neuheisel out. Playing well is also feathering Neuheisel's nest, which is not in the best long-term interests of the players or the program.

What to do? The notion of dogging it for the rest of the season and further embarrassing themselves really sucks. But that's the easy way out and the obvious answer, since it would ensure Neuheisel's exit.  In four of the remaining games--California, Utah, Colorado and USC--a revved up, motivated UCLA has a shot, though a strong showing in next week's Cal game will be tough considering six players were suspended because of the Arizona melee. In the fifth game, against Arizona State, the third best team in the Pac 12, they don't have prayer.

So do the UCLA players finish with a flourish, cannons blasting, or feebly, popgun-style? Would hate to be in their shoes.

But I know what I'd do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rick Neuheisel R.I.P.

In a tongue-in-cheek post on Sept. 18 I joked that UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel might survive the season. All joking aside, that's not going to happen.

He'll be lucky to still be coach on Friday. If I were athletic director Dan Guerrero, I would have canned him after that humiliating 48-12 loss to Arizona in Thursday night. Actually Guerrero should have sent him packing at halftime, after the team had been destroyed 42-7, surrendering over 400 yards in total offense. That drubbing, on national TV, is an ugly stain on the reputation of this respected program.

This was a critical game--one that was very winnable, especially with the team coming off a bye week. UCLA wasn't tackling a powerhouse, but rather a 1-5 weakling with a week-old coach and a ramshackle defense ranked 119th out of 120 among Division 1 schools. Losing to such a team is bad enough. Being blown out by this ragtag bunch is unforgivable.

That all-out brawl at the end of the first half was the last straw, a sure sign of an undisciplined team taking out its frustrations on an opponent. The players expended more energy in that fight than they did in the game. No question, Neuheisel has lost this team. They've tuned him out. They've bailed out. The curtain going down on that abysmal first half was also the curtain going down on his UCLA career.

Neuheisel has been cliff-hanging all season. He's been on the hot seat so long his fanny is in flames.

Enough. Get him out. This team will never get to a bowl game. It will never win another game with Neuheisel in charge. As a former UCLA student I declare him an embarrassment to the University.  Season ticket-holders should boycott the team and not attend another game until this stiff has been sacked.

Rick Neuheisel  R.I.P.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dan Wheldon and the Death Wager

In a West Los Angeles sports bar on Tuesday, a tall, skinny young man was holding court at the bar showing tapes on his IPad--tapes that could make you sick.

There were grisly shots from all angles of the aftermath of Sunday's 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which killed beloved IndyCar star Dan Wheldon. This wasn't the relatively tasteful footage shown on TV. These tapes were way at the other end of the spectrum.

Where did he get these tapes, from the Internet?

Tapeman, who said he saw the race in person, never gave a straight answer, only responding cryptically: "Deep underground, you have to know where to look."

This race probably never should have happened. It's the initial IndyCar event at this track in six years and the first time these cars have raced in this 1.5-mile oval since it was banked for speeds in excess of 220 mph.

The way the race was organized, the Speedway was essentially an IndyCar death trap.
Quite simply, too many cars (34) traveling too fast in too little space. The cliche--an accident waiting to happen--really fits here.

Glitzy and heavily hyped, this race was organized to spotlight the IndyCar circuit, which lags far behind NASCAR in attendance. Into this circus-like atmosphere, the sponsors tossed a promotional plum. Wheldon was promised a $5 million bonus if, starting in last place, he could finish first. Did the lure of those millions inspire him to take some risks? We'll never know.

Apparently this race had been red-flagged for some time. Reportedly drivers knew it was dangerous and so did industry experts, who warned that racing IndyCars on heavily-banked ovals was a bad idea.

The gambling community had targeted this race too, for, according to Tapeman, something ominiously called a death wager--something handled by a handful of underground bookies around the world. As he explained it, the bettor puts money on a driver, gambling that he'll be knocked out of the race by an accident or, for a whopper payoff, be killed. Tapeman said one of his buddies cashed in on Wheldon's death, winning several thousand.

Did he have any problem with such a sick wager?

Apparently not.

He replied: "Really, really sorry the guy is dead. but I'm also sorry I didn't bet on him."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Al Davis, RIP SOB

No way to sugar-coat it. Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders' owner and former coach who died Saturday in Oakland at 82, was a rotten son of a bitch.

I know, I know...If you can't say something nice about the dead...yadda, yadda....But we're talking about Al Davis, alias Lucifer, alias Satan.

No question, Davis was a giant. He was the architect of the Raiders' success and a key figure in the merger of the old AFL with the NFL, propelling  pro football past baseball to the top of America's sporting scene.. But then, this misguided dictator nearly destroyed the Raiders. This is the guy who held that franchise hostage for decades with his selfish, ultra-controlling, mega-meddling--hiring coaches who were nothing but his puppets, making idiotic personnel decisions based on his passion for archaic offense concepts. In the last 15 years, because of him, the Raiders have had only three winning seasons. For years they were the laughinh stock of the league.  Last year and this season, the team has been on the rise. But if he were still around, no doubt he would have found a way to screw that up.

That "rotten son-of-a bitch" line is a direct quote from former Raiders' RB Marcus Allen, who had good reason to despise Davis. I remember hearing Allen curse Davis back in the 80s during a conversation at the bar of Le Dome, the famed West Hollywood restaurant, during a glitzy GQ magazine party. For sure Allen hasn't changed his opinion about Davis, who famously made his life miserable during Allen's long tenure with the Raiders. But, on Saturday, during a football halftime TV show he was hosting, Allen, mentioning only in passing that he had differences with Davis, spoke glowingly of his nemesis.

Yeah, right.

Allen isn't a great actor. Insincerity dripped from every word. You knew what he really wanted to say started with, "Glory Hallelujah!."

Over the years I've talked to many people who've dealt with Davis. The consensus? Rotten SOB.

I've had two personal encounters with Davis which have defined my opinion of him. The first was in San Francisco back in the 70s. I tagged along with a friend for an innocuous five-or-six-man business lunch, with Davis, of course, as the centerpiece. On the one hand he was charming and friendly. On the other, he sent out an eerie, unmistakable vibe with this clear message--I'm in charge and don't you forget it.

There was a defining moment. For a few seconds he lost his temper at someone, for what reason I forget.  He lashed out, cracking his Mr. Nice Guy veneer, unleashing a venomous creature coiled up inside. It was startling, chilling. The man Davis chastised never said another word. Quickly, as if it were second nature, Davis reassembled Mr. Nice Guy and went on like nothing had happened. That was another message from Davis--don't ever get on my bad side.

My other encounter with him happened about five years later, in the Marina City Club, a luxury apartment-condo complex in Marina Del Rey, Calif. This time I was an observer. Walking past the gym, I witnessed what was obvously the tail-end of vicious tongue-lashing, for what it wasn't clear, Davis was giving a middle-aged Latino, who was apparently a lower-level service employee--possibly a member of the cleaning staff. No one else was around.

Seething, Davis said: "...You're nothing...nobody. Get out of my sight. You disgust me."

Head down, obviously humiliated, the man scurried past me. Smirking, Davis walked calmly away, as if nothing had happened.

What kind of man behaves like that, bullying and degrading an underling?

Only a rotten SOB.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A-Rod Please, Please...

"Please, please, please hit a me, this is killing me!"

In a sports bar last week in Marina del Rey, Calif., a loud, plump, thirtyish Bronx gambler named Rocco, watching the TV above the bar, was begging, pleading for New York Yankee third-baseman Alex Rodriguez to tie a playoff game with a clutch homer. It was desperation time. The Bronx Bombers trailed the Detriot Tigers 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth. The series was tied 2-2. The winner advances to the next round and the loser spends the next few months moping.

"I got seven hundred bucks riding on this series," screamed Rocco, who obviously didn't care that he was annoying other patrons and making an ass of himself. He wasn't even drunk. He clearly was just being Rocco.

In the game, fearsome Tiger closer Jose Valverde, who had just disposed of Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano with seven pitches, had his sights on A-Rod.

Rocco roared in his bullhorn style: "This is it. Two out. You're our last resort." Some last resort. He was already 0 for 3, with two strikeouts, one in the seventh with the bases loaded.

Valverde stared at A-Rod. The camera zeroed in A-Rod's face.

"Oh no, oh no! Look at A-Rod's eyes, he's scared, the pitcher has him psyched out," Rocco moaned, pounding the bar with his fist. "A-Rod is done...done dammit. The pitcher owns him. Look at how A-Rod is holding the bat. Swing and a miss, by a mile. You idiot!

"Look he's putting those pitches just where A-Rod can't get a good swing at 'em. He has A-Rod fishing. Look at how A-Rod is holding the bat. That's not his normal way. The way he's holding it says he's scared. That guy owns you, A-Rod, he owns you. He's the warden and you're the prisoner."

Interrupting his rant, Rocco put his hands over his eyes. "I can't watch this. It's an execution." But his blinders lasted only a few seconds.

The rant resumed: "Get this over with, A-Rod. You can't connect if you're scared. I hate you, A-Rod, God I hate you. You're costing me money, you ass. Ball one. At least you didn't bite on that one This guy is deep in your head, A-Rod. He's smells fear. He's gonna strike you out. You're cooked. I just know it."

Rocco was on the money. A-Rod struck out meekly, on just four pitches, dragging the Yankees and their season down with him. The bar crowd cheered the Tigers, prompting Rocco to retaliate: "To hell with all of youse. I'm a Yankee. I was born a Yankee. In my crib my baby blanket was a Yankee blanket. That's how much I am a Yankee!"

Rocco paid his bill and walked slowly out, anguish in every step, muttering: "You're a bum A-Rod, a real bum. It's October. Why can't you be like Mr. October? Reggie Jackson wouldn't have struck out. He would have hit a home run and saved us. But you, they should drop you in the East River.

"I wish I was home. I should be in the Bronx at a time like this. They'd understand. I shouldn't be here."

Amen to that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Will the real Tiger...

Tiger, where are you?

That guy in the red jersey at the Open in San Martin, Calif. can't be you. The real Tiger Woods wouldn't be playing in some rinky-dink tournament chock full of nobodies. And, for ceretain, the real Tiger wouldn't finish in a tie for 30th, 10 strokes behind some guy named Bryce Molder who's winning for the first time in 132 career starts.

The real Tiger would  have dominated this second-tier contest from the first hole, had it won by the end of the second day and spent the next two days swaggering the greens, intimidating his colleagues, lording his dominance over them--behaving, as he did in his prime, like a real jerk.

That guy out there, walking the greens with little confidence, is desperate, tinkering with his mechanics, fiddling with his swing, adjusting to a new caddie, Joe LaCava, doing anything that might propel him back to the No.1 spot he controlled for so many years. In the Open he finished with three respectable 68s, but was doomed by digging himself in a huge hole on the first day with a 73.

The real Tiger? He's gone--his knee and Achilles injuries speeding his decline. In his place, the fake Tiger was all smiles after the tournament, insisting that he's on an upward spiral, telling everyone to forget that 73 and focus on those three 68s.

We all know what Tiger needs--a return to his old life. He prospered as a lying, cheating womanizer. He was in his glory romping with that waitress who looks like Benjamin Franklin. He treasured the thrill of the cheat, the risk of being caught by his wife. Being a lowlife, no doubt, was invigorating. It apparently juiced up his golf game and gave his confidence a shot in the arm.

But now that he's divorced, plain old womanizing isn't a solution. Cavorting with tramps isn't enough. There's no thrill in that. Now there's no risk, no one to lie to. Where's the fun in that?

Face it. That guy out there masquerading as Tiger, floundering, taking one step forward and two steps back, is all we're going to get. It's sad but we do get this kinky kick out of watching him struggle to get back on the pedestal, to rise from a pedestrian No. 51 world ranking back to the top..

Who can resist a good train wreck?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NFL Post Mortem, 10/3

Mention QB Alex Smith to a hard-core 49er fan a few weeks ago and you were likely to get sprayed with expletives, like "he's a blankety-blank passer, a no-talent blankety-blank, a blankety-blank leader who'll never lead our team to the playoffs."

But in the last two weeks a maddening pattern has emerged. Now there are two Smiths. In the first half, he's blankety-blank Smith, overthrowing and underthrowing receivers, handcuffing the offense, leading the team to certain defeat. But then in the second half he turns into Tom Brady, hitting clutch passes, throwing the ball to the perfect spot, doing everything right that he did wrong in the first half.

In the last two games, both on the road--in Cincinnati and Philadelphia--Smith fueled second-half rallies, powering the Niners from behind to the kind of nip-and-tuck victories rare to the Niners since Steve Young retired in the '90s. Against the Eagles in the third quarter he was a miraculous 9 for 9 for 179 yards. Suddenly the 49ers, largely thanks to Smith, are 3-1 and one of this season's surprises.

Now what? How long can Smith be succcessful with this Jekyll-and-Hyde routine? Will he sink back into blankety-blank Smith or soar into Tom-Brady territory? My money is on blankety-blank Smith......

Jets fans are just as puzzled by their QB. Mark Sanchez, they fear, is riding an accelerating downward spiral. You won't see a QB play any worse than he did in Sunday's beating by the Ravens, 34-17.     .

Sanchez' signature was all over this defeat. His three fumbles and an interception led to 17 Ravens' points. Baltimore QB Joe Flacco also had a horrible game, but next to Sanchez' stinker, Flacco's failures--including 10 for 31 for 163 yards with an interception--didn't seem so bad.

Sanchez didn't bomb all by himself. He had lots of help. His albatross is the offensive line, which is in chaos since All Pro center Nick Mangold sprained his ankle in week two. There's a good chance Mangold, the stablizing influence, may be healthy enough to play in Sunday's crucial contest against the Patriots.

The Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger can empathize with Sanchez. Big Ben is bottoming out too. Last Sunday, in that 17-10 loss to Houston,  he was really bounced around--sacked five times and on the ropes the rest of the time. But like Sanchez, he has a scapegoat--the same one, and just as valid. Roethlisberger is operating behind an offensive line so crippled by injuries that it's sunk to the league's lower depths--new territory for Steelers' O line. With all the juggling of linemen, a rookie (Marcus Gilbert), obviously learning on the job, has landed at right tackle. To Roethlisberger's dismay, he's a slow learner and the QB has the bruises, including a banged-up left foot in the Houston game, to prove it.....

Just how big of a lead does Dallas have to give QB Tony Romo to insure victory? You'd think 27-3 in the second half would be a fat enough cushion. But the Detroit Lions chewed that up fast, rumbling by the Cowboys, 34-30. Here's what happened. As every defensive player in the league knows, Romo is easily rattled and rushed into throwing interceptions--three this time, two that went directly to TDs.

But Romo isn't a bad QB. Throw out the interceptions and his numbers for the Lions' game (34 out of 47
for 331 yards) are impressive. But until he conquers his tendency toward back-breaking turnovers, no lead is safe with this guy.....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

College Chat

Remember when the Ohio State Buckeyes were smug, swaggering bullies, season after season stepping all over opponents, boasting a second string that was superior to half the teams in  the Big Ten?

But look at them now, in ruins after that nasty off-season scandal robbed them of a coach, an all-star QB and some quality players. They're a mild 3-2, rudderless, with Flotsam and Jetsam at QB. It's gotten so bad that they had to scramble to score a last-second TD to avoid an embarrassing home shutout by Michigan State. The former Buckeye bullies barely made a dent in the State defense, mustering only 178 yards in the 10-7 loss. Great season for Buckeye bashers, isn't it?.......

Cal fans shudder when they envision the upcoming carnage at Oregon's Autzen Stadium Thursday night. When the Ducks offense revs up into high gear, the Bears will be left flailing in the dust.

Hungry for revenge, the Ducks haven't forgotten last year when the Bears barely lost in Berkeley, effectively grounding the Ducks high-flying offense, nearly spoiling their undefeated season. But last season the Cal defense was the giant of the Pac 10. This season, with lesser personnel, the Cal D has been docile--run over by run-of-the-mill offenses. If crappy Colorado can score in the 30s against Cal, imagine what a Ferrari offense can do.......

Nebraska was dreaming--dreaming big. They thought they could skip from the Big 12 to the Big 10 and automatically become Tog Dog. Forget it.

The Cornhuskers might be able to dominate the Big Ten middle-class--the likes of Michigan and Illinois--but they're not yet in the class of Big-Ten boss Wisconsin, which bombed Nebraska, 48-17. The Huskers were whipped in every department, particularly at QB. There Wisconsin's superb Russell Wilson thoroughly spanked Nebraska hot-shot Taylor Martinez, who had a case of the jitters, tossing three interceptions. That loss sent Nebraska skidding out of the Top 10, its bubble burst.....

The biggest disappointment in the SEC? No contest, it's Mississippi State. Fans in Starkville were giddy with anticipation, after finishing last year 9-4 and No. 15 in the AP poll, and returning 15 starters. So far, though,  with the 2-3 record, including an ugly 0-3 in the SEC, fans have been mired in gloom. Losing to LSU is acceptable, but dropping winnable games to Auburn and Georgia isn't. One of the wins, beating lousy La. Tech in OT, is nearly as bad as a loss.

There have been breakdowns everywhere. The run defense isn't stopping anybody, the heralded running game has faltered and the passing game, run by talented senior QB Chris Relf, has been spotty. Last week's whipping, 24-10, by Georgia in the battle of the Bulldogs has fans wondering whether it's possible to salvage the season. Maybe State can plug some of the leaks during this week's breather against UAB. If not, the following week, they won't emerge from the South Carolina lion's den in one piece.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pac 12 = pac 2 + pac 10

The new Pac12 is really two leagues--this season anyway. But not that new North-South nonsense that veteran Pac10 fans haven't adjusted to yet.

Unofficially it's Oregon and Stanford in one elite division and the other ten peons huddled in the other. That's the reality.

Summing up the Pac12 season is a cinch. It's a series of prelims setting the stage for the main event, a bunch of time-killing games to occupy fans until the REAL game. That's on Nov.12, when Oregon travels to Palo Alto to tangle with Stanford and settle who's king of the Pac12. Meanwhile the other ten will duke it out for third place.

How can you argue that Oregon and Stanford are in a class by themselves? Both are bulging with talent, teeming with all-stars. Each boasts one of the league's top two players--Oregon's RB LaMichael James and Stanford's QB Andrew Luck.

Sure, one of the top two might lose a game, but that won't be a reflection of quality. It'll just mean one of them got bored waiting for the REAL game, got lazy and got burned by one of the league's lesser lights. The main job of Stanford coach David Shaw and Oregon coach Chip Kelly is to keep their players interested until Nov. 12, to avoid a sneak attack by one of the peons.

In that battle for third place, it's a tossup between Arizona State, Washington and Utah. If these three beat up on each other, possibly SC, powered by a gust of motivation and a dose of heart, might slip in.