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Five College Football Games To Watch: Week six

Finally! The quality college football matchups have started!  Conference season gets into full swing this Saturday and the matchup’s we have on the docket are a pretty good reward for putting up with the mediocrity that was the first five weeks.  We can only hope that they live up to the billing, otherwise I’ll look bad and we will all be bored. 

Here are my top five games to keep (hopefully) more than an eye on Saturday.  (Note: all times are Eastern Time)

1. No. 5 Georgia at No. 6 South Carolina, 7:00 PM, ESPN

Not much I feel needs to be said to hype this one.  We have two highly ranked SEC opponents fighting with hopes of getting to the BCS or even the national championship.  We’ll see two of the top rushing attacks in the country Saturday night, with Georgia freshman Todd Gurley (536 yards and nine touchdowns) and South Carolina Junior Marcus Baltimore (440 yards and eight touchdowns).  These teams also have two of the premiere pass rushers in America with Georgia Linebacker Jarvis Jones and South Carolina Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.  This should be an exciting one and I expect home field advantage to help carry the Gamecocks to a huge victory in their pursuit of a BCS game.

2. No. 8 West Virginia at No. 11 Texas, 7:00 PM, FOX

I don’t know about you all, but all I really want is to see what Geno Smith can do for an encore.  While Baylor’s defense isn’t exactly “stingy”, throwing for 656 yards and eight touchdowns in one game is just insane.  Texas will provide a much stiffer test as their defense is far superior.  Texas also has itself a pretty decent offense led by quarterback David Ash.  Can West Virginia come up with enough stops to outrun the Horns?  They barely did it last week against Baylor.  This should be a fun one as West Virginia continues to get acclimated to life in the Big 12.  I’ve got the fighting Geno Smith’s in this one.

3. No. 4 LSU at No. 10 Florida, 3:30 PM, CBS

More SEC top 10 matchup fun!  I haven’t been overly impressed with Florida even though they are 4-0.  Texas A&M is ok and winning in Knoxville is no easy task anymore, but this should be interesting to see how they handle their first true elite SEC test.  LSU wasn’t extremely impressive either in victories over Auburn and Towson.  This should be a good measuring stick game for both teams.  While this is huge for both teams, Florida has the only other two ranked opponents on their schedule at home as well, so a victory here puts them in fantastic position going forward.  That said, I’m taking the Mad Hatter and his Tigers to pull off the big road victory.

4. No. 21 Nebraska at No. 12 Ohio St., 8:00 PM, ABC

I’m far from an Ohio St. fan, but it’s kind of a shame as a college football fan they can’t play in at least the Big Ten Championship.  They are clearly the class of the Big Ten and man, has Braxton Miller been impressive this season.  He really has it all and will only continue to get better, which is scary.  He can beat you with his arm and if you give him too much space he’ll run all over you.  Urban Meyer I’m sure has been Salivating over him since day one. Nebraska is coming off a big win over Wisconsin last weekend at home.  While Taylor Martinez has clearly taken his game up a notch this season, I think Ohio St. will continue their winning ways and prove that post season or not, they are the best in the Big Ten.

5. No. 24 Northwestern at Penn St., 12:00 PM, ESPN

This will be a great test for newly ranked Northwestern.  Outside of a visit to Syracuse and a tough one against Vanderbilt, they haven’t really been tested yet.  Penn St., while they started quite slow, have really turned it around the last few weeks and actually played pretty well.  If Northwestern has hopes of being more than just another Big Ten team reaching a bowl game, winning in Happy Valley is a great place to start.  I like the Wildcats to make a nice little statement against Penn St.’s Felines.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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10 NFL Thoughts And Takeaways From Week 4

1. Let’s start with last night’s game.  Each and every year, the cowboys find a way to take lots of talent and be extremely mediocre.  It appears that this year will be no exception.  Tony Romo is a good quarterback but just can’t seem to cross that boundary into the elite range, and last night, he was AWEFUL.

Romo certainly doesn’t; deserve all the blame for last night.  The defense looked pretty bad, as good Cutler shredded them, and the Mystery of Dez Bryant continued.  I really can’t wrap my head around him.  He’s a microcosm of the entire cowboys team.  He is an athletic freak of nature who CAN make all the plays and be a game changer, but he’s more or less a big idiot.  Last night he signals he understands Romo’s check at the line, only to keep running and Charles Tillman had maybe the easiest pick six of his career (that was a head slapper).  There was another play early in the third quarter where he was WIDE open down the sideline and just didn’t catch a throw that was dropped right in his breadbasket.  You can’t win games when your playmakers are making boneheaded mistakes.  The ‘boys have a lot of work to do.

2. I’ll move next to one of those situations that always reminds you that football is indeed just a game.  Earlier this week, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with a treatable form of Leukemia and will be away from the team for at least six weeks and probably won’t be able to be all in as the head coach for the rest of the year.  At the end of the day, the ladder portion isn’t really that important.  Pagano, 52, is by all accounts a great man and a very bright defensive minded head coach who finally got an opportunity.  Hopefully he has a speedy recovery and can continue with his opportunity to coach the Colts, whether that is this season or next season.

3. Did you hear the Jets were bad this week?  If you didn’t, I’m sorry you missed the boat, because it was entertaining.  Their “trademark” defense gave up 379 total yards, including 245 on the ground.  Mark Sanchez seems to be melting more and more each week under the pressure to play well, and the fans are already clamoring for Tim Tebow to get his chance.  Now, their best receiver, Santonio Holmes is out for at least a few weeks.  This whole circus team appears to be splitting at the seams.

It will be interesting to see how Rex Ryan handles this mess from here on out, but I just don’t see them winning many more games this season.  Tim Tebow probably isn’t the answer to their prayers, but maybe, just maybe, he could spark this sinking ship.

4. While the Jet’s have been pretty bad thus far, they are still tied for the division lead with Buffalo and New England at 2-2.  That said, I don’t think there is really any question who the best team in the division is.  After falling behind 21-7 (could have been 28-7 but C.J. Spiller fumbled on the goal line) the Patriots ROARED back scoring 45 second half points.  Tom Brady exploded for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but the story was their running game.  Between Rookie Brandon Bolden and Steven Ridley (both over 100 yards) they totaled 243 yards and three touchdowns.  It’s VERY rare to say that the Pats running game is what sparked them and helped lead them to victory.  Sure, the Bills defense was non-existent in the second half, but this young backfield tandem sure looked good Sunday.  After a rough and rather unheard of two game losing streak, the Pats certainly woke up in the second half.

5. With all due respect to the Arizona Cardinals who have been quite exciting thus far, the Minnesota Vikings have been my most surprising team.  Adrian Peterson looks just fine after recovering from a torn ACL.  He really appears to not have missed a beat.  Christian Ponder, who I thought was drafted WAY to high, has actually been pretty decent.  It also helps having Percy Harvin flying around out there.  I’m not a believer that they can keep this up, but if nothing else, it’s a great sign for the team’s future.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the team they just beat on Sunday, the Detroit Lions.  They sit at 1-3 and in the all to familiar cellar of the ever-difficult NFC North.  Their running game has been less than stellar and they are still making the same stupid, undisciplined mistakes.  After starting last season 5-0, they have since gone 5-9.  Are the Lions really ready to contend and be a playoff team?  Maybe they just aren’t there yet.

6. The Eagles aren’t winning pretty, but they do keep winning.  Mike Vick looked much better Sunday night and didn’t turn the ball over, which was promising. It would still be nice to see them feed LeSean McCoy a bit more.  He’s so good and Andy Reid just totally neglects that.

This game also saw one of my LEAST favorite things in football.  I absolutely hate when coaches call a time out to ice the kicker.  It never works.  Right on cue, the fantastic game manger and walrus, Andy Reid called a time out to “ice” Lawrence Tynes, however he completely biffed the kick wide left.  While Tynes wound up still missing his second attempt (just barely short but on target) what’s the point?  You’re pretty much giving the kicker a warm up shot and a chance to measure the kick a bit better.  Nearly all of the kickers in the NFL have been in a situation to win a game with their foot and are for the most part unflappable (see Billy Cundiff).  Despite Andy Reid’s best efforts to mess everything up, the Eagles still won the game and sit atop the difficult NFC East.

7. This is slightly less to do about real football, but I need to address it after last night.  Jon Gruden is a mind numbingly horrible announcer.  Last night saw one of the worst pregame introductions I have ever seen.  Incase you missed it, it was five minutes of Gruden drooling over the two quarterbacks (completely ignoring their frustrating inconsistent play) while attempting to make some stupid comparison to them being old western movie stars (John Wayne and Josey Wales).  This was such a puzzling rant and left my ears bleeding.

He just doesn’t bring anything to the table, with the exception of the new drinking game where you throw one back every time he drops the word “gunslinger”.  Seriously though, I think Mike Tirico is one of, if not the best play by play guy in the business and he deserves a good quality partner.  Someone really needs to hire Gruden to coach next season to save us all from much more of his voice ringing in our heads for three hours every Monday.

8. Top 5 NFL teams through week 4: 1. Houston Texans,  2. Atlanta Falcons, 3. San Francisco 49ers, 4. Baltimore Ravens, 5. New England Patriots

9. Bottom five NFL teams- 28. New York Jets, 29. Oakland Raiders, 30. Jacksonville Jaguars, 31. Indianapolis Colts, 32. Cleveland Browns

10. Finally, it was outstanding to have the real ref’s back this weekend.  The games all went faster, ran smoother and were called infinitely better.  Were they perfect? Absolutely not, however we must remember this is like the first game of their pre season and haven’t called games since last year.  They will get better, and no matter the mistakes the make, nothing will be as bad as the replacements.

 

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in NFL

 

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10 NFL Thoughts And Takeaways From Week 3

Well, I think this was certainly the wildest weekend of football we’ve seen thus far this season.  We saw three overtime games, a few games’ won at the buzzer and a couple referee blunders (calling them blunders might be a bit too nice).  Let’s jump into my 10 points from week three.

1. What more can I say about the replacement ref’s that hasn’t already been said.  We saw many bad calls across the league Sunday, but nothing even lays a finger on what we saw last night.  It’s pretty clear-cut that the Packers got hosed.  Along with several phantom calls throughout the game, the refs simply decided the game.

The NFL that we all love has turned into a circus.  Trent Dilfer put it quite well during the postgame show on ESPN last night, “This is a multi-billion dollar industry, and this is ruining it.”

The refs were told to crack down and take control of the games, and it appears that in their minds, that means they need to throw a flag on every play, even if nothing actually happens.

This charade has gone on long enough.  Hopefully last night was the tipping point Roger Goodell and the owners needed to clean up this game that has turned into a joke and has lost some serious integrity.  Will I watch all the games next weekend and from here on out regardless? Absolutely.  That said, the most popular sport in the country shouldn’t be compromised over such petty BS.

2. I don’t even want to talk more about the ending of last nights game, however there are some points that need to be brought up from the rest of the game.  First of all, Seattle has a fantastic defense, and it was great to see rookie Bruce Irvin have a breakout game on Monday night.  The Packers offensive line look HORRIFIC in the first half allowing the Seattle defense to sack Rogers eight times.

While the Seahawk defense looked stellar, really expected more from the Packers offensively.  Cedric Benson still hasn’t really clicked with this offense that just hates running the ball, and last years MVP Aaron Rogers seems to be in some sort of fog thus far.  He just doesn’t look like the same guy we saw the last few seasons.  New Orleans and their JV defense coming to town next weekend could be just what the doctor ordered for the Pack.

3. The biggest injury coming out of this weekend was clearly the Jets loss of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrell Revis.  Revis tore his ACL Sunday on a non-contact play (which seem to happen more and more and are just terrifying).  This is an enormous blow to a Jets team that relies so much on his ability to shut down half of the field on any given play.  As arguably the best corner in the league, the Jets will really have to change how they defend other teams.  As good as Antonio Cromartie can be, he can also be that bad at times.  His painfully inconsistent play won’t be nearly enough to make up for the loss of Revis.  I think teams could have a field day throwing on the edge against the Jets now.  This should be interesting to watch for the remainder of the season.  That said, best wishes on a quick recovery to Revis.

4. The surprise of the NFL thus far has without question been the Arizona Cardinals.  They sit at 3-0 with victories over Seattle, New England and Philadelphia and have done it with some fantastic defense.  Patrick Peterson is turning into one of the best defensive backs in the game and their defensive line just creates havoc.  The best news for them though, is that Kevin Kolb hasn’t messed anything up yet.  It will be interesting to see how the quarterback situation is handled once John Skelton is healthy.

I think the Cardinals are definitely for real and this division race will shape up to be a dandy between Arizona Seattle and of course San Francisco.

5. The defending Champion New York Giants appear to have woken up and have a fire lit under their behinds.  After an absolutely awful first six quarters of the season, they mounted a great comeback against Tampa Bay last weekend and then decimated the Panthers on Thursday night.  Eli is playing as well as any quarterback in the game and for them to have the performance they did without Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw and several other key pieces last week was quite impressive.

6. While the craziest game of the weekend probably goes to Tennessee and Detroit, Baltimore and New England put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.  Taking my fandom out of it, it was an extremely entertaining football game.  For the second time in as many meetings, I feel Joe Flacco outperformed Tom Brady when it mattered.  Flacco had a pretty terrible first quarter and the Ravens just couldn’t move the ball at all.  After getting kick started by a penalty call against the patriots that game them a first down, they began to move the ball much better.  This was the first time this season The Ravens appeared to use Ray Rice correctly.  This was the perfect balance of Running and passing for them and Rice’s production on the ground completely opened up the field for Flacco to pick apart the patriots defense.  Flacco made more plays in the fourth quarter and in the end led the Ravens down the field to kick a game winning (barely) field goal.

Even though the Pats have fallen under .500 for the first time since 2003, they will be just fine.  Their division isn’t exactly the toughest and I fully expect them to go on a pretty serious run.  I’d be shocked if they found a way top miss the playoffs in this down AFC.

7. Andy Reid opened up such an unneeded can of worms yesterday during his Monday morning press conference.  He stated that Mike Vick is his starting quarterback “for now”.  The media obviously jumped all over this story and will clearly blow it way out of proportion.  With every mistake Vick makes, the question will be raised of when enough is enough, and the short-tempered Philly fans won’t wait too much longer.

This offense is really just not clicking.  Vick has been a turnover machine, but it’s far from all his fault.  Andy Reid for some reason hates to run the ball when he has arguably the most elusive back in football.  I just don’t get the Eagles.  They won’t win anything the way they are going right now, and I have a sneaky suspicion that if the coach next year has a giant mustache it won’t be Andy Reid.

8. After three weeks, it appears to me that threw two best teams in the NFL are Houston and Atlanta.  Both teams have some extremely dangerous and exciting offensive weapons, solid quarterback play, and fast, quality defenses.  It’s amazing to me what Wade Phillips has done in just a little over one season with this Texans defense that was once an absolute joke.  Only time will tell if these teams can both avoid injuries and keep playing at a high level, but I think they can.  San Francisco, Baltimore and the Giants have been right below in terms of impressive play thus far.

9. The sophomore quarterbacks (outside of the 2011 top pick Cam Newton) really shined Sunday.  Christian Ponder had without question his best game as a pro as the Vikings pulled off the upset of the weekend by stunning the 49ers.  Jake Locker exploded for the Titans in their wild bout with the Lions.  Blain Gabbert threw a game winning touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts in the final minute of the game.  Finally, Andy Dalton led the Bengals past the Redskins in a shootout as he threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns.   It’s great to see these young quarterbacks continue to grow and progress.  I’m sure we will continue to see these guys get better and better as this season rolls along.

10. It appears that since players believe they can get away with a few more things here and there with these replacement refs, big hits have been a common theme early on this season, with Sunday being no exception.  Ed Reed had two HARD shots on Patriots receivers (Julian Edelman and Deion Branch), one of which resulted in a flag.  The two extremely scary hits of the weekend however, were not from that game.  Broncos linebacker Joe Mays BLASTED Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, which resulted in Schaub losing a piece of his ear (gross).  Mays wound up getting suspended for one game, which he’s appealing at the moment.

The other one came when Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey leapt to try and catch a pass in the end zone when he got contorted in mid air and suffered a blow by the defenders helmet.  Heyward-Bey wound up getting carted off the field and had to spend the night in the hospital with a concussion and a strained neck.  These hits are always scary and it’s good to hear that Heyward-Bey is expected to make a full recovery.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in NFL

 

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Torrey Smith: The Inspiration

Yesterday morning, I woke up excited, not only to watch football all day, but to spend some time with some close friends from camp, and guys that I consider to be my little brothers.  As I was getting dressed, I turned on my TV and flipped to ESPN to try and get some last minute fantasy football information before I headed out for the day.

The lead story of the morning was truly an unfortunate one, as I was quickly greeted with the news that Tevin Jones, the younger brother of Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, had been killed in a motorcycle accident overnight.

My heart sunk for this young man.  Certainly I wanted the Ravens to be at full strength to play the Patriots, but man, I never for a second thought Smith would attempt to play last night, and who could blame him if he didn’t?  I think I speak for everyone in Baltimore when I say that football, while important to the players and fans, is just a game, and it’s more important for Smith to be with his family in this time of tragedy.

For those unaware, Torrey Smith was thrust into more of a parent role at a very young age.  While his friends were outside running around and playing, he was inside helping to raise his younger siblings; changing diapers and cooking meals.  This started from the time he was about seven, until he left home to play football at the University of Maryland.

For Torrey Smith, this was more than just losing a brother; this was almost like losing a child.  He had such an impact on his brother’s upbringing that he pretty much helped raise him as one of his own.

I was certainly happy to hear the news that Smith had chosen to suit up last night against New England, but I still don’t know how he did it.  I kept trying to put myself in his shoes, whether with the closest of friends that could be “brothers” or actual siblings or family members, I just don’t know how he was able to keep his focus and perform.

Not only did Smith get out there and play, but he played what was probably the best game of his young career.  He recorded six receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns.  You could feel how powerful of a moment it was when he caught his first touchdown in the second quarter and immediately fell to one knee and pointed up.  As he ran to the sidelines, there was a line of Ravens players and coaches waiting to give the young man a hug and some words of encouragement.

Last night I’m sure provided a much-needed three-hour distraction for the Smith family.  They were able to at the very least attempt to put the tragedy in the back of their minds and watch Torrey play football.

Torrey Smith, last night, today, and tomorrow, is a hero.  It’s not just because he played great and helped the Baltimore Ravens win a huge football game.  It’s for the way he carried himself and spoke.  It’s for his incredible composure in such an unimaginable situation.  It’s for simply going out and playing in the wake of what I’m sure was one of if not the greatest tragedies in his young life.  The smile on his face last night following the game couldn’t help but give you goose bumps.

It almost felt like Smith’s younger brother Tevin was in a better place and willed Justin Tucker’s game winning kick to just stay inside (or directly above) the uprights.

Ravens fans and I’m sure any kindhearted football fan will have Torrey Smith and his family in their thoughts this week.  Rest in peace, Tevin, and thank you Torrey Smith for being such an inspiration.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in NFL

 

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5 College Football Games To Watch In Week 3

Unlike last weekend, this Saturday is bringing us a really good slate of college football games.  We have three matchups that feature top 25 teams (could be four but Arkansas…just ouch) and several other games that are shaping up to be good ones.

It’s certainly nice to have some quality matchup’s this weekend after a week of mostly tune-up’s for the country’s best.  We’re still a few weeks away from the most meaningful of games actually beginning, which is agonizing.  Certainly some teams have already or will this weekend, delve into conference play, but it almost feels like the season doesn’t really begin until early October with the exception of some marquee matchup’s for TV purposes each weekend.

Here are five games to watch this weekend:

1. #2 USC at #21 Stanford:

Stanford has a lot to prove in this one.  I’m sure everyone in that locker room wants to show the country that they are more than just Andrew Luck.  Junior quarterback Josh Nunes looked much crisper last week against Duke (not exactly a real test) and with USC’s defense getting slightly exposed against Syracuse this could get interesting for USC.  I still think USC will hang on with Matt Barkley and company being the Juggernaut they are, but it will be closer than the Trojans will want it to be.

2. #20 Notre Dame at #10 Michigan St.:

Michigan St. has looked VERY good so far as workhorse Le’Veon Bell is making a strong push to be considered for the Heisman Trophy.  Notre Dame has looked far better than the last few years, however I am concerned that Brian Kelley doesn’t have enough faith in starting quarterback Everett Golston to stick with him in the two minute drill, instead he has gone to backup Tommy Rees there.  It just seems a bit odd to not trust the guy you selected to lead your team for the most important two minutes of a game.  I think this one will be close but Michigan St. at home will be too much.

3. #18 Florida at #23 Tennessee:

Florida looked just “meh” against Texas A&M last weekend.  Their defense had a pretty horrible first half and just squeaked one out.  Tennessee has looked pretty impressive thus far led by Tyler Bray’s exceptional quarterback play.  This game sort of seems more important to the coaches of each team than anything else.  Will Muschamp sort of always seems a little in over his head, while Derek Dooley is trying to prove to the fans in Knoxville that he has turned things around after a MUCH maligned start to his tenure.  I like Tennessee to pull this one out at home in a very tight game.

4. #1 Alabama at Arkansas:

So, umm, Arkansas lost…to Louisiana Monroe? Yes that happened, and now just a week later they welcome the nations top team to the same field.  This was supposed to be a top 10 matchup, however after Arkansas took a historic drop from eight to not ranked at all, it has lost some luster.  Arkansas signed John L. Smith to a 10-month contract after the Bobby Petrino fiasco, and I think a lot of Razorback fans are quite ready for that time to be up already.  Alabama is too good and I think Arkansas will get buried.  I imagine they are still demoralized after last week and I think it will show.

5. North Carolina at #19 Louisville:

It feels really good as a Louisville fan to have a meaningful game again.  It has been a long time, but Louisville has looked good in it’s first two matchups so far this season.  This is however, the first real test they will have.  It will be important for them to put together a full 60 minutes of football to come away with a victory.  Last week against Missouri St., the outcome never felt in question, but it also had the feel that it should be a 40 point blowout.  Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been absolutely incredible for the Cards and is starting to earn some national recognition.  Through his first two games he’s 49-60 (a ridiculous 81.7 completion percentage) for two touchdowns and no interceptions.   North Carolina is coming off a tough loss to Wake Forest and I think the crowd at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium, plus a tough Louisville team will be too much.  I like the Cards in this one.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in NCAA Football

 

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Thoughts On Jim Calhoun’s Retirement

When I (and most of you I’m sure) think of University of Connecticut Athletics, the mind automatically thinks of former coach Randy Edsall and his construction of the football program to win one of the worst conferences of all time and get their butt’s whipped in the Fiesta Bowl by Oklahoma a few years ago, right?

I kid, I kid.  UConn lost the face of their athletic department and probably the most recognizable figure in the university, as Jim Calhoun announced his retirement today.  It’s always strange and nostalgic to see these people leave a job they have had not only as long as I have been a fan, but longer than I’ve been alive.  While I think I could count the times I actually rooted for UConn on one hand, it will be strange to not see him on the sideline.

Many saw this coming for the last few weeks after a bike accident caused Calhoun to break his hip.  That said, for a man that has overcome cancer, back spasms and several leaves of absence for those and other medical issues, it’s sort of surprising that something finally took him out of the game.

Calhoun really put UConn (both the university as a whole and their athletic department) on the map.  Prior to taking over the program in 1986, they weren’t exactly what we consider nationally relevant.  They were one of the seven founding members of the Big East, however never made much more noise on the national level than NCAA Tournament births with quick exits.

Once Calhoun arrived on the scene, he changed the entire culture around the program.  He immediately instilled the belief that they were as good as anyone.  He knew what could be done there and through his ability to teach and help form young minds he achieved some amazing success.  Turning around a program like UConn is not an easy task, but to do it and win three national championships while you’re at it makes it all the better.

Calhoun coached 27 players that went on to play in the NBA, won nine Big East Regular season titles, seven Big East tournament titles, coached in four final four’s, and most importantly, won three national championships.

I think we can all agree that Calhoun’s body of work as a head coach was epitomized by what he did in 2011.  He took a team that no one thought much of and had its fair share of adversity and did the unthinkable.  This was a team that finished ninth in the Big East and was squarely on the bubble prior to the annual trip to New York for the conference tournament.  Calhoun benefitted by having arguably the best player in college basketball and great leader on the floor, Kemba Walker, but the job HE did rallying his team to come together and win 11 straight games on the way to one of the most magical runs in college basketball history was amazing.

I don’t think anyone can deny that Jim Calhoun its one of the better coaches to come along, but what legacy will he leave?  He is in extremely rare, and good company as a coach who has won three or more national titles, but he’s not exactly leaving on the best of notes.  Sure he won a national championship in 2011, but last year was something of a disaster and now the program is on probation.  As a result of improper benefits as well as impermissible phone calls and text messages, Calhoun was suspended for three conference games last season.  The program also lost a scholarship for three seasons as well as a number of other minor penalties that keep them under serious watch for the next several years.

This was immediately followed up with a one-year post-season ban on the Huskies for this upcoming season as a result of poor academics.  This sort of suggests to me that Calhoun slightly lost control of his program towards the end.

I’d be a fool to think that college basketball is a clean game these days.  Most programs bend/break the rules, it’s just a matter of who gets caught and how it’s handled.  Calhoun and his staff allowed their wrong doings to slip through the cracks and they are paying for it now.  Whether Calhoun was even a part of these extra benefits, calls and texts doesn’t matter.  It’s his team to run and he should be aware of all of the goings on.

As for the academics side of it, the way the NCAA measures academic success and failure is stupid.  If players leave early to continue their basketball careers in the NBA, it doesn’t count against the universities, which is fine.  What isn’t fine is that most of these players I’m sure know that they are leaving early prior to the start of the school year or second semester allowing them to take absolute joke classes that in no way progress you towards a degree.

Should UConn be held accountable for their men’s basketball team being poor on the academic side? Absolutely.  That said, the way this is currently set up, programs like Kentucky can continue to bring in these one and done players that progress no where towards a degree and take the easiest classes on campus, while assuring they have a few guys that will actually earn degrees and graduate.  Seems like a pretty flawed system, but that is an argument for another day.

Anyway, Jim Calhoun is certainly one of the all time greats.  He is a great teacher, leader and was a true pioneer for Connecticut basketball.  While the program might be in for a few tough years because of some slip-ups towards the end of his career, he without question is leaving the program better than he found it.  You hate to see someone that has done so much good end with a tarnished record like this, but I believe Calhoun is going to, and should be remembered for all of the good he did, even with the asterisks.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in NCAA Basketball

 

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Thoughts On Notre Dame’s Conference Jump

You all thought it was over for the time being, didn’t you?  It’s never really going to be over, unfortunately.

I speak of course, of conference realignment.

This morning’s news of Notre Dame leaving the Big East for the ACC isn’t exactly shocking, but just another shot in the side of the Big East.

Who can blame Notre Dame, though?  They are probably the most recognizable brand in college athletics and they were clearly looking out for what is best for them.  They got out of the ever fluctuating and clearly not stable Big East and made the move to the strong, supported Atlantic Coast Conference.  They also got what is most important to them as an Athletic program, and that is to stay independent in football and keep they NBC contract ($$$$$$$$).  They are certainly the biggest winner in all of this.

The ACC obviously is another winner.  They get a program that is successful in all sports, well known and quite revenue producing.  They continue to solidify themselves as one of the stronger overall conferences and while this doesn’t help them directly in football, Notre Dame will play five ACC schools in football per season, which will be good for TV (see Notre Dame and Florida St. playing).

The losers are of course, again, the Big East.

First of all, the fact that they have been able to continue to take these huge blows with these quality programs leaving and at least attempt to stop the bleeding is pretty amazing.  They are somehow (for the time being) still afloat.

That said, the teams they have brought in to fill the voids certainly don’t equate to the likes of Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia and Notre Dame.  Between tradition and general geography, the new teams just don’t seem to be sensible fits outside of the fact they MAY help the conference keep their automatic BCS bid.  I’m a Louisville fan and follow the Big East rather closely but I don’t think I could tell you who will be in the league next year (assuming no more changes happen).  It’s just a mess.

Losing Notre Dame hurts more than just for basketball.  Mike Brey has the Notre Dame program playing at a consistently high level, even if it may not translate into March success.  Where it will really hurt the Big East is in the non-revenue sports.  Notre Dame is one of the most well rounded programs in the country, having won 64 total Big East titles since they expanded in 2005-06.  Just to give an idea of how remarkable that is, Louisville is in second with 50, followed by UConn with 36, Syracuse with 21 and West Virginia with 14 to round out the top five.

They have been fairly dominant across the board in the Big East and to lose a program with that standard of success is a real dagger.

So, where does this leave the rest of the Big East?  This probably means they will reach out for one more program that doesn’t really belong and won’t make a huge splash but it will in some ways fill a small portion of the void left by Notre Dame.

Then you have programs like Louisville and UConn that clearly want out, but are at the mercy of these conferences that don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to grow any more at the moment.  The ACC seems set with it’s 15 members and the Big 12 just got a lucrative TV deal last year with their 10 current members, and don’t really feel inclined to send out any invites just yet.  With that being the case, like it or not, Louisville and UConn are stuck in this weird limbo known as the Big East for now.

With every one of these conference jumps that is made, you can feel a slight bit of life and fun being sucked out of college athletics.  While our society is and will continue to be financially driven, these institutions preach academics first, and doing things for the betterment of the student athlete (absolute joke of a term, by the way).  These moves just seem to send the wrong message for what the actual message of the collegiate game is.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in NCAA Basketball, NCAA Football

 

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