31 December 2007

We Wear Short Shorts

"We", of course, refers to the Los Angeles Lakers, who, according to ESPN.com, yesterday wore not just short shorts, but game-used, antique short shorts. Screenshot here, in case ESPN tries to deny that the error ever happened.

EDIT: the article in question has been removed from the ESPN home page! The power of the press triumphs again... or maybe someone on the ESPN staff just realized how truly atrocious the headline was.

29 December 2007

NCAAF Bowl Picks: Pre-New Year Edition

Wow, this is going well. The bowl season is well underway now, and my picks are falling, one by one, like the townspeople in "30 Days of Night"... or the victims in any other horror movie, ever.

On to the picks, you say? I agree. Enough of this witty banter.

Meineke Car Care Bowl (Dec. 29)
Wake Forest -2 against Connecticut
Two bad offenses, two good defenses. Wake has just a bit more experience, which should give them the slight edge.

Liberty Bowl (Dec. 29)
UCF -3 against Mississippi State
Kevin Smith, UCF's running back, needs 181 yards to break Barry Sanders' single season rushing record. He ran well in almost every game this year, and the Bulldogs don't have the D to slow him down.

Alamo Bowl (Dec. 29)
Texas A&M +5.5 against Penn State
TAMU is a team with a powerful rushing attack; Penn State is a team with a rock-solid rush defense. Both teams have inconsistent quarterbacks. Look for a close, low-scoring game.

Independence Bowl (Dec. 30)
Colorado +3.5 against Alabama
There is no way that I'm picking the Saban Tide in this game. It's a gut feeling, but it's also backed up by fact: Bama has lost their last four, and haven't shown signs of life in any of them.

Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 31)
Air Force +3.5 against California
The Falcons aren't as talented as the Bears. But Cal, at this point, is a team that is in complete disarray.

Humanitarian Bowl (Dec. 31)
Fresno State +6 against Georgia Tech
Smurf Turf! Always a fun sight for mid-majors looking to knock off BCS-conference foes. Also, the Yellow Jackets are playing this bowl game with an interim head coach, since Chan Gailey was fired.

Sun Bowl (Dec. 31)
South Florida -6.5 against Oregon
Before Dennis Dixon was hurt, I would have taken Oregon giving a touchdown. Now, it's the other way around. It's really a shame - he made watching the Ducks a lot of fun.

Music City Bowl (Dec. 31)
Kentucky -10 against Florida State
Ten points is a big number, especially in a bowl game. But 36 is an even bigger number.

Insight Bowl (Dec. 31)
Indiana +4 against Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State's porous defense and exciting (if erratic) offense will combine to make this a high-scoring game, but Indiana, playing in a bowl for the first time in a long time, should pull it out.

Chik-Fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31)
Auburn +2.5 against Clemson
Davis and Spiller are the hot topic coming in; Tuberville's mad coaching skillz (note the z, which means that Tuberville is considered "hip") will be the hot topic coming out.

Apostrophe Ho!

How does one pluralize the word "ho"?

SportsIllustrated.com's Phil Taylor apparently doesn't know. According to Merriam-Webster (yes, the noun "ho" is in Merriam-Webster), the plural is either "hos" or, Quayleishly, "hoes". Taylor didn't use either of these options in his reference to Don Imus' remarks about women's basketball.

Have a nice morning, everyone; I'll be back with more NCAAF picks in a few hours.

26 December 2007

Post-Christmas NCAAF Bowl Picks, Part 1

This post will lay out my picks for the bowl games from December 26 to December 28; hopefully, like sugar cookies, the second batch will turn out better than the first.

Motor City Bowl (Dec. 26)
Central Michigan +8 against Purdue
The last time these teams played, Purdue won easily. But this is a bowl game, so things just have to be different, right? On a related note, Purdue has only beaten one Division 1 team with a winning record this year. Can you guess which one? On another, tangentially related note: wow, two rhetorical questions in one pick - I shall avoid them for the rest of the post.

Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27)
Arizona State +2.5 against Texas
ASU was being considered for a BCS berth. Texas was not. If Erickson can revive the Sun Devils from their disappointment, they should prove to be the superior team.

Champs Sports Bowl (Dec. 28)
Boston College -4 against Michigan State
This game will be an example of what happens when a team with a decent offense and a very good defense (Boston College) goes up against a team with a very good offense, but a porous defense. Defense, as the pundits say, wins championships. Here, it will win the Champs Sports Bowl.

Texas Bowl (Dec. 28)
Houston +4.5 against TCU
Good defense may beat good offense, but really good offense (Houston, the 4th-best in the country) beats pretty good defense.

Emerald Bowl (Dec. 28)
Oregon State -5 against Maryland
This pick makes sense for two reasons. First, Yvenson Bernard is a really cool name. Second, Yvenson Bernard is a really good running back, and the Beavers are a good team. Note: Ralph Friedgen is a cool name too, but unless he pulls a William Perry, he's not as good a halfback as Bernard.

Last time: 1-5
Bowls: 1-5

23 December 2007

They Should Know Better: Early Bowl Edition

With the bowl season in progress, a host of new sports-related websites have appeared, the majority of which, sadly for the English language (though not for this blog), include errors.

Some of these errors are simple typos, and thus can be written off as the products of rushed production. The frontpage of the New Mexico Bowl has an error of this type, an omitted "the" at the beginning of the scrolling banner.

Other errors, however, are less forgivable, as they indicate a simple lack of knowledge. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the New Orleans Bowl, the PapaJohns.com Bowl, and the Poinsettia Bowl.

Have a merry Christmas, everyone.

19 December 2007

NCAAF Picks: Pre-Christmas Bowl Games

The NCAAF bowl season starts tomorrow. Over the next four weeks, 62 teams will be playing glorified exhibition games for the right to say that they are the champion of whatever relatively anonymous bowl invited them. LSU and Ohio State are, to me, the only teams who actually have anything at stake.

That aside, it's good to have college football back after its traditional, awkward midseason hiatus. Odds, as usual, are from USA Today. I won't be counting these picks in my season-long quest to conquer the spread, due to the special nature of the bowl season; I'll be keeping a special tally solely of bowl games. Hopefully I can do better than some of the ESPN and SI pundits I seem to so often denigrate in this (rather one-sided) forum.

Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 20)
Utah -9 against Navy
I'm a fan of Navy's throwback option attack, but with a replacement head coach whose name I can't pronounce, they'll have trouble against a tough Utes defense.

New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 21)
Florida Atlantic +2.5 against Memphis
When in doubt, go with Howard Schnellenberger. He's earned it.

PapaJohns.com Bowl (Dec. 22)
Cincinnati -11 against Southern Miss
Southern Miss has fired their coach after a "disappointing" 7-5 season. Not a good sign for the bowl game.

New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 22)
Nevada +3 against New Mexico
The last time New Mexico won a bowl game was 1961. They won't break the streak this year.

Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 22)
BYU -5 against UCLA
These two teams played against each other earlier this year. UCLA won, 27-17. But I still think BYU is better - and UCLA is another team dealing with coaching staff drama.

Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 23)
Boise State -10 against East Carolina
The Broncos are, if I'm not mistaken, the faster team; playing in the home of the Rainbow Warriors and June Jones, they'll have a significant advantage in this game, which could turn ugly in a speedy fashion.

Final Regular Season Record: 45-32-1
Bowl Record: 0-0

17 December 2007

Get Your Kicks...

Miami Northwestern High School won the Florida class 6A high school football championship in convincing fashion, beating Boone High School 41-0 in the championship game and ending their second consecutive undefeated season.

As the ESPN.com story recounted: "Tevin McCaskill's 25-yard TD grab made it 28-0 early in the third quarter and the route was on. "

Which route is that, exactly? Miami Northwestern certainly got their kicks, but they're not quite between Chicago and L.A.

In related news, I've received several emails asking how I have the time to read the hundreds of articles that it must take me to find the errors I reveal. Charlie from Gainesville asks: "Do you do anything besides read ESPN and Sports Illustrated?"

Well, Charlie (and Jim from Tampa, Susanna from Tallahassee, and Mike from Atlanta) - I have other interests: sunsets, good books, long walks on the beach... um... I read pretty fast, too, which helps.

15 December 2007

Sundays Matchup

The dropped apostrophe in the post title was intentional.

NFL.com is usually quite good with their copy editing. Not so much today, as one of the headers on their front page reads:

"With a win and some help, the Browns are in the playoffs, giving Sundays matchup with the Bills a playoff feel."

Screenshot of the error is here.

14 December 2007

The Mitchell Report

After a seemingly interminable wait and an expense of over ten million dollars, the fabled Mitchell Report, the supposed last word on baseball's steroids problem, has finally been released. And it sucks.

Mitchell, of course, was hamstrung by a lack of power; all he could do was ask for players' cooperation. But does that really excuse the lack of reliable information? Most of the names in the report, so far as I could tell, were generated by hearsay and (very weak) circumstantial evidence - cancelled checks, address books, etcetera.

Thus, we have players included such as the immortal Jerry Hairston Jr., who is indicated on pages 207 and 251 of the report. According to ESPN.com's summary (because who really wants to read 400+ pages of bureaucratese?), the case against Hairston is based on the word of Kirk Radomski and one cancelled check. Nice.

I'm not saying that these players didn't do steroids. Quite probably, many of them did; more probably, there are dozens or even hundreds of other players, not named, who made use of performance enhancing substances. But was this report really the best that the MLB could do?

In the famous words of Stan Marsh: weak, dude.

10 December 2007

Killer Trees from Outer Space!

Peter King, who writes the "Monday Morning Quarterback" column for SportsIllustrated.com, said in his latest piece that he liked "The pursuit of Nick Collins, the Green Bay safety who chased down Justin Fargas on a fourth-and-short in the first quarter and chopped him down like a dad at a Christmas Tree farm."

King's comment brought a smile to my face, as I contemplated the laughable idea of dads in Christmas tree farms throughout the world fleeing in terror from machete-wielding firs.

Nice simile, Mr. King.

09 December 2007

Whose Neck, Exactly?

This is a sad story - the poorly written headline, in this case, isn't funny, which heightens the significance of the grammatical error. Jordin Lindsey, a football player for the University of South Carolina, was injured in a fight this weekend. Fortunately, he's all right, and was to be released from the hospital today (the story doesn't say whether he actually was released).

The headline, from SportsIllustrated.cnn.com: Gamecock has neck slashed. The headline, of course, doesn't specify whose neck - whether it was Lindsey's or whether he, in some odd hitman scenario, hired Michael Myers to kill some enemy. Nor does it even specify whether the main figure in the story is even human - for all we know after seeing it, the story is an investigative piece about Roy Jones Jr.

Well done, SI.

08 December 2007

My Heisman Pick

The Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the best offensive skill-position player on a good team in Division 1 NCAA football, will be given out tonight.

Four players have been selected as finalists: Colt Brennan, Chase Daniel, Darren McFadden, and Tim Tebow. Of those four, each has his strengths and weaknesses.

Brennan, the senior quarterback from the University of Hawai'i has put up amazing stats over the past two years; further, his team is the only remaining undefeated in Division 1-A. However, he is haunted by the ghost of countless "system quarterbacks" since Andre Ware won the award in 1989. He is also hampered by his team's weak schedule.

Daniel, the quarterback for the University of Missouri, has also put up significant statistics, and against better competition than Brennan. His performance against then-undefeated Kansas has helped his cause considerably. But in the Big XII Championship against Oklahoma, Daniel laid an egg, going 23-39 for 219 yards and no touchdowns in his team's 38-17 defeat.

McFadden, a do-everything running back for the University of Arkansas and one of the leading prospects in the upcoming NFL draft, has dazzled with spectacular talent and flashed terrific performances, but has also disappeared at times, especially when he ran for only 43 yards in a disastrous loss to Auburn.

That brings us to our final competitor, and the man I believe should win the Heisman: University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow has had a record-setting season, becoming the first player ever to pass for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in the same year, and setting the SEC record for rushing touchdowns in a season. Critics will point to the "Meyer system" (as University of Hawai'i coach June Jones did) and Tebow's underclassman status (he's a true sophomore) - but Tebow has shown up big in every game this season, and is the most deserving player of all the candidates.

06 December 2007

Stupidity in Action

Anthony Smith, second-year defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has guaranteed a win against the thus-far undefeated New England Patriots.

Aww, dude... that's just straight-up ignorant. And not in a "lacking information" either - that's ignorant in a full-on, Chris Rock, face twisted, voice-screech, barely intelligible, I-can't-believe-you-said-that way. Don't do that, dude.

How is this wrong?
First off, you're a nobody. You're a second-year third-round pick from Syracuse who's only starting because the guy in front of you got hurt a month and a half ago. Rodney Harrison has never heard of you. Most of the country has never heard of you. You haven't earned the right to make a guarantee.

Second, you're playing against the Patriots. You know, the seemingly unstoppable football machine that hasn't lost yet this year and is on pace to set numerous all-time offensive records? The team that, when confronted with the slightest hint of potential opposition reacts in much the same way that Jabba's Rancor does when suddenly presented with a defenseless green dancing girl?

Third, you're a free safety, and you're going to be trying to cover Randy Moss. There's a high probability that, at some point during Sunday's game, you're going to be left sitting on your butt while Moss celebrates yet another touchdown catch. This should be a rule: if you're going to wind up sitting on your butt while the player you're supposed to cover celebrates yet another touchdown catch, don't make a guarantee. You'll just look stupid.

Of course, you already look stupid, and the game hasn't even started yet. Way to go, Einstein.

03 December 2007

BCS Reaction

All of the bowl matchups are out now, in case you've been under a rock somewhere. With Missouri and West Virginia royally blowing their chances to go to the title game, somebody had to step in, and LSU and Ohio State found themselves the lucky recipients.

This is a good a resolution as you could ask for, even if it doesn't really settle anything. Ohio State and LSU's claims are as good as anyone's, even if they aren't necessarily any better than those of a half-dozen other teams.

In the other BCS bowls, my only real gripe is the inclusion of 9-3 Illinois. They weren't an automatic selection, and their selection meant the exclusion of 10-2 Arizona State, as well as a host of other... actually, it didn't really mean the exclusion of any other, more worthy candidates; I just object on principle.

01 December 2007

Not the Same Old D-Rays

If, when you saw that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays had traded rising star Delmon Young and quality shortstop Brendan Harris to the Minnesota Twins for a bunch of prospects who might or might not pan out, you heaved a sigh of disgust and said 'same old D-Rays', suck it back in and take another look.

First off, they're not the Devil Rays, or D-Rays, or whatever anymore - now they're just the Rays. While I think that's a truly abhorrent aesthetic choice - the Tampa Bay Rays? Really? They rhyme? - it might just be a sign of a break from the past.

Delmon Young was a rising star, yes, and we'll miss him in a couple of years when he's hitting .310 with 25 HR and 20 SB. But we didn't exactly get a stiff in return. Garza is a pretty quality pitcher - he had a 3.69 ERA last year in 16 starts, which is better than anyone else on the Rays' rotation but Kazmir (and two runs better than anyone but Kazmir and Shields, which is a frightening indictment of the Sonnastine/Howell/Jackson combination), and he should be the Rays' #3 starter right out of the gate.

The Rays should be okay in the outfield; they have Crawford and Upton manning two spots, with Baldelli (when he's healthy) and Gomes holding the other spot down until one of their prospects (presumably Dukes) gets up to the show.

Is this the same sort of move we're used to seeing from the Rays? Not really - this one actually has a chance to have some positive benefits. If they don't lose Carlos Pena to arbitration (heaven forbid - their one legitimate power bat), they could show some improvement next season. For once.

30 November 2007

NCAAF Picks 30/11/07

So here we are, in the last regular-season edition of 90% Mental's picks. It's been a good season so far, and I'll hope to keep it going as we head into the bowl season.

There's only one SEC game this weekend, as LSU will take on Tennessee for the league title and a guaranteed berth in a BCS game, but there are quite a few big games going on around the country. Odds from USA Today.

LSU -7.5 against Tennessee
What a calamitous decline it's been for LSU - in the space of one week, they've gone from near-sure locks for the national championship game to needing to beat the Volunteers to qualify for a BCS bowl. Does anyone really think that the BCS committees would take a three-loss team that's lost two straight games to supposedly inferior opponents? Me neither. But Les Miles and the Tigers should be able to pull this one out.

Out-of-Conference Picks
Virginia Tech -4.5 against Boston College
The last time these two teams played, the Hokies had the game in their grasp. They had dominated the game through three quarters; Boston College had been able to get absolutely nothing going on offense; and then VT went into a prevent defense, with predictable results: Matt Ryan & co. torched them in the last few minutes to come back and win 14-10. The Hokies won't make a similar mistake this time.

Oklahoma -3 against Missouri
The Sooners aren't having their greatest year - they've lost two games, to Colorado and Texas Tech; their quarterback, while he's put up good numbers, is still only a freshman; their running backs are relative unknowns. Missouri, meanwhile, are the team of the moment - they've just come off a big win over undefeated Kansas, their quarterback has been near-flawless, their coach is being hailed as a genius - all the signs point to Missouri continuing to roll smoothly along.
Except - Oklahoma beat Missouri once already this season, flummoxing Chase Daniels and putting up 41 points on the Tigers' 39th-ranked scoring defense. The Sooners did it once; the Sooners will do it again here.

Oregon straight up against Oregon State
Since Dennis Dixon went out two games ago, the Ducks have looked terrible; they haven't won, and last week, against UCLA, they didn't even manage to score. This week, against the Beavers, they'll be starting a redshirt freshman quarterback, Cody Kempt, who went 6-23 in relief of Brady Leaf last week. But Jonathan Stewart is almost healthy again, and Oregon State tailback Yvenson Bernard is probably out for the game, putting pressure on Beavers quarterback Sean Canfield, who has 14 interceptions to only 8 touchdowns this season. Couple that with a full Autzen Stadium, and the Ducks' running game and defense should be enough to make up for their weak passing game.

Last week: 4-3
Season: 43-30-1

26 November 2007

Patriots Struggle Yet Again

... or so this headline would lead one to think. It's not that I despise sportswriters - it's just that I am amused by sportswriters who can't avoid ambiguity in their headlines, particularly in headlines that go on the front page of major sports websites (in this case, SportingNews.com).

25 November 2007

Quality

Excellent excerpt from this article on ESPN.com:

To start Donte' Stallworth or not to start Donte' Stallworth? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to start Randy Moss and Wes Welker, or to take arms against a sea of Eagles and, by opposing, score touchdowns on them? To score; to win. No more; and by a win to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that fantasy football is heir to.

23 November 2007

NCAAF Picks 23/11/07

A happy posthumous Thanksgiving to everyone reading this! I'd like to throw a big Wassup to all of 90% Mental's zombie readers. That aside, I'm happy, warm, and full of turkey - who says there's no Thanksgiving in the UK? As long as there are Americans, there will be Thanksgiving.

Of course, Thanksgiving means rivalries. This week's games are insanely important to many college football fans. And I do mean insanely. How else do you explain something like this?

Odds from USA Today.

Clemson -3 against South Carolina
South Carolina just plain isn't as good as the Tigers; while Spurrier is continuing to improve the Gamecocks, they don't have the talent yet to match up against a very solid Clemson team.

Florida -13.5 against Florida State
The Gators have won their last three games by an average of 25.3 points, and now they're getting Percy Harvin and Maurkice Pouncey back from injury.

Tennessee -2.5 against Kentucky
The Vols can go to the SEC championship game with a win. They won't blow their chance against a slumping Wildcats team.

Georgia -3.5 against Georgia Tech
It's not that I don't trust Chan Gailey - it's just that I don't trust Chan Gailey. Seriously - if he handed me a hamburger from a McDonald's drive-through window, I'd check to make sure that it had pickles before I pulled back onto the road.

Auburn -6 against Alabama
Despite whatever 9/11 or Pearl Harbor speeches he might make, Saban's Crimson Tide are in deep trouble. They won't get out of trouble this week.

Out-of-Conference Pick
Boise State +4 against Hawaii
Hawaii has skated the thin edge of disaster all season, with overtime games against Louisiana Tech and San Jose State. Either team could go to a BCS game with a win; the SmurfTurfians, even on the road, get the edge based on their experience from last year.

Out-of-Conference Pick
Kansas -2 against Missouri
The Tigers have only been seriously tested once this year; in that game, they lost to Oklahoma. The Jayhawks have won three games by 10 or fewer points. Kansas wins a close one, but doesn't get past Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game.

Last week: 2-5
Season: 39-27-1

22 November 2007

Oh, Those Poor Cajuns

To preemptively answer the inevitable question: no, this is not a post about Hurricane Katrina. And George Bush doesn't hate black people.

Political commentary aside, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns women's basketball team must be among the most unfortunate in all of the NCAA. After all: they've been dunked on 6 times, more than every other NCAA women's basketball team combined.

Except they haven't: it's just a really poorly written headline.
Thanks, Associated Press. You and your wacky headlines make our lives worth living.

21 November 2007

Catastrotragedexpialidocious

In a story that's gotten very little publicity, Alabama coach Nick Saban (aka Little Nicky, aka The Sabanator, aka Nicky Satan) tried to motivate his team following a loss to UL-Monroe by making reference to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.

According to ESPN.com:
"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said. "It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, and that was a catastrophic event."

A "Saban spokesperson" commented on the coach's comments:
"What Coach Saban said did not correlate losing a football game with tragedy, everyone needs to understand that. He was not equating losing football games to those catastrophic events," football spokesman Jeff Purinton said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The message was that true spirit and unity become evident in the most difficult of times. Those were two tremendous examples that everyone can identify with."

First, Saban's statement was ridiculous. Regardless of what Purinton said, yes, Saban did correlate the UL-Monroe loss with 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. That's pretty obvious. And it is ridiculous to compare football with events that killed, respectively, 2,998 and 2,466 people.

Second, there's a legitimate argument to be made that neither 9/11 nor Pearl Harbor was a tragedy. Not to say that they weren't terrible events, but a tragedy (according to the classical definition), must be a terrible event provoked or initiated by some flaw in the eventual victim's character or actions. If you don't believe that 9/11 or Pearl Harbor were provoked by the US's actions leading up to them (and not just rational responses to situations, but some sort of predisposition that led the country to act in a flawed manner), then technically they weren't tragedies.

Third... it's just straight-up ridiculous to compare sports to war. I can't think of a single other person who would do something like that.

20 November 2007

Heisman Analysis

If it seems as though there's been somewhat less emphasis on the Heisman trophy race this year than in the last few, there's a reason for it: there have been fewer compelling candidates than in the recent past.

Last year, Troy Smith blew the opposition away, putting up huge numbers for the only undefeated team in the country. The year before, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush ran a tight race as two of the top talents in the entire NCAA, and two talents who also happened to play for a top-quality, glamourous team, while Vince Young dazzled with his athleticism and leadership ability.

This year, the top candidates at the beginning of the year have largely fallen by the wayside. Darren McFadden, who was the consensus pick entering the season, has continued to impress with his versatility and talent, but his numbers haven't been as mind-blowingly incredible as they need to be in order to overcome the Razorbacks' four losses. Due to the parity of the field, however, McFadden can still elevate himself with a big game this weekend against LSU.

West Virginia quarterback Pat White was the recipient of some preseason hype, and his team has been solid, but his numbers have been dwarfed by those of some other contenders, especially Florida's Tim Tebow.

Tebow, as a sophomore, has been the premier candidate, despite playing on a three-loss Florida team that will in all likelihood not even make it to the SEC title game. Why? His numbers have been absolutely overwhelming. He's 20th in the nation in passing yards, on only the 64th-most attempts, while also being 4th in the country in rushing touchdowns (his total of 20 is an SEC single-season record).

With Oregon's Dennis Dixon being lost for the season, Tebow takes overhe lead in the Heisman race, and has a good chance of winning at least one more before he leaves for the NFL at (one would assume) the end of the 2009 season.

16 November 2007

16/11/07 NCAAF Picks

Last week was good for 90% Mental's picks... the only blemish came from Mississippi State's win over Alabama. When will Saban live up to my expectations?

Because, clearly, the expectations of an anonymous, faceless blogger who Saban will in all likelihood never see in real life, and whose column Saban will probably never read, are all that matter.

Odds from USA Today.

Florida -34 against Florida Atlantic
FAU isn't a terrible team - they're 5-4 on the season, including a victory over Minnesota. But Florida is on a roll at the moment, having beaten Vanderbilt and South Carolina by a combined 47 points.

Kentucky +4 against Georgia
Andre Woodson will be on form in this game, and should (Gators fans hope, and there is reason to believe - see Georgia's 44-34 escape against Troy) slice through a slightly questionable Bulldogs defense.

Tennessee -11.5 against Vanderbilt
Last year, Tennessee won this game by 29, on the road. This year, they're a better team, and the game is at home.

Mississippi State +10 against Arkansas
Interesting stat: MSU are 8-1-1 against the spread in their last 10 road games. It seems every time I pick against the Bulldogs, they pull an upset. Why should one 6-4 SEC team be favored by 10 points over another 6-4 team?

Alabama -25 against UL Monroe
When these two teams played last year, Alabama won by 34. While Alabama isn't a great team, they're pretty solid, last week's loss to Mississippi State notwithstanding.

LSU -18 against Ole Miss
An SEC team, on the road at another SEC team, favored by 18? Absolutely. Ole Miss has victories this season against NW State, Louisiana Tech, and Memphis - not exactly victories that will rock the Sagarin.

Out-of-Conference Pick:
Ohio State -4 against Michigan
It's tough to pick against Michigan in the Big House, where they're nearly unbeatable. What? They're not? Maybe it's not so tough.

Last week: 6-1
Season: 37-22-1

Emotion and Response

It's amazing - I say one politically incorrect thing and get a veritable torrent of emails.
Yes, this is about my Phil Jackson post yesterday - a post regarding which I've since gotten several emails, doing everything from calling me a homophobic bigot to congratulating me for not buying into the liberal propaganda.

All I was trying to say with my post was that Jackson's comments were more funny than anything else. They definitely weren't "inappropriate" - maybe a bit racy, but not offensive. I see this as an example of political correctness gone awry.

Think about this:
If Jackson had said, "we call this a Jenna Jameson game", would there be the same outcry? Personally, I doubt it - because porn stars don't have lawyers and lobbyists working for them.

Lawyers and lobbyists have to make their money somehow; where there are lobbyists, there will be lobbying. There's been so much lobbying on this sort of issue that the NBA in this case felt pressure to preemptively avoid it by decrying Jackson's statement.

15 November 2007

(Brokeback) Mountain from a Molehill

In case you haven't heard, the NBA rebuked Phil Jackson for making an offensive comment.

What was that comment? After losing a game in which San Antonio made 13 3-pointers, the Zen Master said that "We call this a Brokeback Mountain game, because there's so much penetration and kickouts."

A NBA spokesperson said that the remarks were "in poor taste".

What's the big deal? It's funny! It's not like Jackson is saying that gay people are promiscuous - he's talking about a movie!

11 November 2007

Saturday Roundup

It's been a while since I did one of these (okay - a couple of months), but I felt that the absolute coolness of yesterday's games, plus my having a couple of free hours while I wait for the library to open, demanded it. So - here we go: top stories, matched with songs I thought were either fitting or funny or both. Because I'm from the South, it is SEC-centric.

Legs
Gotta lead off with Tim Tebow here - five rushing touchdowns? That's absolutely ridiculous. Not to belittle the 320 yards passing, but - 5 rushing touchdowns? From a quarterback? Tebow has already set the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season, and today he tied the SEC record.

Another One Bites the Dust
Is any team going to stay undefeated this year? Ohio State lost to Illinois, 28-21, leaving only Hawai'i and Kansas with unblemished records. Hawaii's next big challenge will be against Boise State, while Kansas should be tested against Missouri; both games are in two weeks.

I'm a Little Bit Country
Navy: 572 yards rushing. North Texas: 478 yards passing. Final score: 74-62, the highest scoring game in 1A history.

09 November 2007

09/11/07 NCAAF Predictions

It starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid - but I am, a little bit.

Parity is continuing to rear its crazy/beautiful head and screw with my predictions - last week, who would have thought that Georgia would struggle so much with Troy State? I mean - it was Troy State.

But - on to this week's attempts to find order in chaos. Odds from USA Today.

Tennessee +1.5 against Arkansas
The Vols are getting 1.5, at home, against the Razorbacks? Truly, the apocalypse is upon us. Only way the Hogs pull this off is if Pat Summitt distracts the UT players by dressing up as a cheerleader.

Alabama -4.5 against Mississippi State
I'm hooked on a feeling... and I'm high on believing... that the Tide will claim their seventh win this weekend.

Kentucky -3.5 against Vanderbilt
In a strange twist, the Kentucky defense is giving up more passing yards, rushing yards, and points than Vanderbilt is scoring. Then again... they're Kentucky. Take the over.

Georgia straight up against Auburn
It's tough to pick this game... until you realize they're playing in Georgia, where the crowds are loud and the dogs are barking.

Florida -6.5 against South Carolina
The Gators have lost 3 of 4. But now, Tebow is feeling better, and should be able to run. Florida is 7-3 against the spread in their last ten games.

LSU -36.5 against Louisiana Tech
It's an 8-1 SEC team against a 4-5 WAC team that describes itself as being located "in the piney hills of North Louisiana." 36.5 is a big number, but not that big.

Southern Cal -4 against Cal
Tedford, Longshore, & co. have lost three of their last four. Sure, they beat Washington State last week - but USC is not Washington State.

Last Week: 5-2
Season: 31-21-1

01 November 2007

NCAAF Picks 1/11/07

Last week, I wrote that "Mississippi State has assumed Vanderbilt's former position as conference whipping boy". Oops. My picks weren't totally off - I got Oregon over Southern Cal right - but the estrangement from American TV is definitely taking a toll.

This week features a number of odd matchups; the SEC games aren't as compelling as they have been the last couple of weeks. Then again, "traditional" big games in the league are being supplanted, it would seem - parity is turning Florida-Vandy into a game with legitimate conference title implications. Here are the picks (odds from USA Today)

Florida -16.5 against Vanderbilt
The Gators have got to be seething after their humiliation last week against Georgia (and, for the record, I think Richt's move was classless, even if it was effective); they'll take it out on the Commodores.

Georgia -15 against Troy
I don't understand why this line isn't bigger; I really don't.

Tennessee -31 against UL Lafayette
I'm nervous taking the favorite with this big a line... but, seriously - UL-L is the kind of team you're supposed to schedule for your opener. The result will be about like you would expect.

Alabama +7.5 against LSU
The Sabanator! The Prince of Lies! With Saban coaching against his former team, Bama will pull off an upset... and throw the SEC race into even greater confusion.

South Carolina +4.5 against Arkansas
It's Spurrier! Even though Sebulba shut the cover to the intake port when he walked by in the prerace lineup, the Gamecocks will get their engines revving in the second half and take over the game. And I am sorry for the old, terribly stretched Phantom Menace analogy. There will never be a Jar Jar Binks joke in this column. I promise.
Hey! That analogy was like Britney Spears' face!
Hey! That joke was like the analogy!

Out-of-Conference Special
Oregon -7 against Arizona State
Dixon, Stewart, & Co. should be able to top a surprisingly good Sun Devils team and continue their steady march towards the top of the Pac-10

Out-of-Conference Upset Special
FSU +4.5 against Boston College
Do you remember last year? Georgia Tech and Wake Forest were the out-of-nowhere success stories in the ACC. Then they realized it, and couldn't quite keep their magic alive. The magic ends here; BC escaped Virginia Tech last week when the Hokies went into a prevent defense. Won't happen this week.

Last Week: 4-3
Season: 26-19-1

Odd FHSAA note

From this article, we find out that true freshman quarterback Wesley Carroll, who has brought Mississippi State to the verge of bowl eligibility, came from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

From the same article, we find out that he competed in three consecutive class 5A state championship games, losing all of them to Lakeland High School. The article mentions that the last of those games, a 45-42 double overtime win by Lakeland, is considered "among the greatest games in the history of Florida high school football."

What the article doesn't mention is another interesting tidbit: that same Lakeland High School had seven players commit to play for the University of Florida, including three (RB/KR Chris Rainey and twin linemen Maurkice (OL) and Mike (DL) Pouncey who are now seeing significant time on the field.

Lakeland, by the way, has now won 53 consecutive games - including an 8-0 record this year after losing 9 players to SEC schools last offseason. Wow? Wow.

29 October 2007

Stetson Men's Basketball Preview

After another disappointing season, the Stetson University men's basketball team will look to rebound in 2007-08.

The Hatters return all but one of their players after an 11-20 campaign, having lost only PG Gabe McMillen (graduated, now playing for ADT Taragona in Spain).

McMillen will be difficult to replace; he led the team in minutes played, steals, and assists, and was second in scoring. A.J. Smith, who played 15.4 minutes per game in 06-07, will probably be called upon to fill McMillen's shoes.

If any improvement is to occur, the Hatters will need to improve their efficiency both offensively and defensively. Stetson shot only 41.5% from the field (and only 33% from three-point range) last season, while they let opponents shoot 47%.

Sophomore SG/SF Garfield Blair will look to lead Stetson towards the top of their division; he averaged 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds with more than a steal per game as a freshman. Blair's accurate shooting (49.5%) is welcome, but he must look to cut down on his turnovers (2.6 per game) if he wants to become a more significant threat.

In the post, junior C Tim Lang's improvement will be crucial to the team's success. The 6'9", 250-lb Australian showed flashes of talent at times last season, blocking almost a shot per game and coming seond on the team in rebounding, but foul troubles and inexperience limited him to less than 20 minutes per game.

Congratulations, Red Sox

Congratulations, Red Sox.
You won your second World Series in four years, but your fans still see you as the lovable underdogs who are trying to reverse history.

Congratulations, Red Sox.
Your lineup is one of the more potent in recent memory, your defense sucks, your pitching is a little iffy, but you get saluted as a team that does things the old fashioned way.

Congratulations, Red Sox.
You have the second-highest payroll in all of MLB. You pay your players six times as much as the Devil Rays. But ESPN commentators pay homage to you as a team that is consistently good despite parity.

Congratulations, Red Sox.
I mean that. I really do.

25 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 25/10/07

It's been a crazy week in the life of this 90% (now verging on 100%) Mental blogger. Was a time, once, when some straightforward multiple regression analysis wouldn't have thrown me off my game like this. Don't you just love statistics?

On to the picks, though, trying to rebound after a tough week. Odds from USA Today.

Kentucky -13.5 against Misissippi State
How do you favour (look! British spellings!) any SEC team by almost two touchdowns against any other SEC team this year? Here's how: Kentucky is coming off of an emotional loss against a bitter-ish rival, and will be looking to bounce back. Mississippi State has assumed Vanderbilt's former position as conference whipping boy.

Arkansas -39 against Florida International
Arkansas is not a great team. But this is FIU we're talking about here.

Florida -9 against Georgia
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to The Afternoon Formerly Known As The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Just doesn't have the same ring as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, does it? The pants are just as tight, though - and the beatdown the Gators will lay on the Bulldogs will make Doves Cry... almost as badly as the sight of Prince, naked, crawling across the floor.

Ole Miss +17.5 against Auburn
Another big number - one too big for the offensively-challenged Tigers to top.

Tennessee -3 against South Carolina
This has the feeling of a trap game for the Gamecocks... the Vols, Spurrier's traditional nemesis, are coming off a humiliating beatdown.

Out-of-Conference Special
Virginia Tech -3 against Boston College
It's tough to pick against an unbeaten team ranked second in the country. It's even tougher to pick for a team that LSU beat by 41. But I'm going to do it. This season, pick against the unbeatens and you won't do too badly, it seems.

Out-of-Conference Special pt. 2
Oregon -2.5 against Southern Cal
Oregon is a very, very good team that has been consistently exceeding expectations this year. Southern Cal is a very, very good team that has been struggling this year, capped off with an inexplicable loss to Stanford. I'll take the overachievers.

Last Week: 3-4
Season: 22-16-1

18 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 18/10/07

Picks for this weekend's games; odds from USA Today.

Vanderbilt +13.5 against South Carolina
I'm not saying that the Commodores will win, but the Gamecocks may have a bit of trouble with this matchup. South Carolina beat the Tarheels by 6 last week, so they'll be looking to win big (of course, Spurrier always does), but Vandy is good enough to keep it within 10.

Tennessee straight up against Alabama
Here I go with the Vols again, for the third time in a row... they came through with a 12-point win last week. This time, they should win by 4 (I'm guessing 21-17), behind Ainge's arm, overwhelming the Saban-led Tide.

Ole Miss +5.5 against Arkansas
The Razorbacks have perhaps the best running back tandem in the country. Running and defense wins championships, right? So why are they only 3-3? Unfortunately, there's another part of the formula - the second variable (defense), at which Arkansas really sucks.

Florida -7 against Kentucky
The Gators have had a very tough couple of weeks; now, they get to play against an excellent Wildcats team with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Kentucky, on the other hand, is coming off of a gigantic win. Sound like a trap to you? Yeah, me too.

Mississippi State +23 against West Virginia
The Bulldogs aren't a very good SEC team. The Mountaineers are a pretty solid Big East team. But a 23-point spread? That's a bit much.

Auburn +10.5 against LSU
The margins from the last 3 Auburn-LSU games: 1 point, 3 points, 4 points. 10.5 > 4. Isn't math lovely? Alternatively, the Tigers are better than they have been in a while... ah, forget it. LSU wins by 5.

Out-of-conference Pick
South Florida -3 against Rutgers
Unfortunately, my picking them probably guarantees that the Bulls, they of Grothe and Selvie, will lose this week. Then again, my acknowledging the jinx may reverse the effect (in a sort of postmodernist meta-jinx). You can't fool me - it's just turtles, turtles, turtles all the way down.

Last week: 3-3-1 (disappointing, but not disastrous)
Season: 19-12-1

16 October 2007

Mile High Club (a non-football post)

Scanning the baseball headlines this week:

A-Rod, Boras Meet in California
hmm... an overpaid superstar wanting more money? I don't think that's ever happened before...

Westbrook, Indians Dump Red Sox
Seems like the 1990s again, no? A powerful lineup and a couple of aces leading Cleveland through the AL?

Another Steroids Hearing Possible
Politicans poking their greasy, pointed heads into the world of sports? Seems like it's been a recurring theme since what, 1919?

Rockies Earn First World Series Berth
Ecclesiastes was wrong! It's a breath of fresh air - something we legitimately haven't seen before. On a down note, it makes me think of what the Devil Rays could have become by now, if they had been under good ownership - the Rockies were created in 1993, the Diamondbacks in 1998 - but the story is good enough to make me smile. This is baseball as it should be, evidence that parity is working.

12 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 12/10/07

Here are my picks for this week's SEC games. Odds from USA Today.

Alabama -6.5 against Ole Miss
The Prince of Lies leads his team against the Bulldogs this week. They'll win easily.

Tennessee -7.5 against Mississippi State
I don't like Tennessee. Fat Phil gets on my nerves, and Rocky Top has got to be one of the more annoying songs in all of college football. But the oddsmakers seem to underrate them on a consistent basis.

LSU -9 against Kentucky
The Tigers had trouble with UF last week - no great surprise there. This week, they get a (slightly) easier opponent, and show their quality.

South Carolina -6 against North Carolina
Does it seem like I'm picking a lot of favorites? Or, rather, all the favorites? I don't usually do this, but, in the SEC this week, the favorites (in the early games) seem like the sounder picks. Spurrier vs. the Tarheels... hmm...

Vanderbilt +7 against Georgia
And here's one that isn't the favorite... The tide starts to turn here. Vanderbilt is a solid team, I think; Georgia is solid, too, but not 7 points more solid. This will be a close game.

Auburn +3 against Arkansas
The Razorbacks have the better offense. Auburn has the better defense, special teams, and coaching. I'll go with the better defense, special teams, and coaching.

Out-of-Conference Special
Missouri +9 against Oklahoma
This is two weeks in a row that I've involved Oklahoma in my out-of-conference pick. Last week, they fell 3.5 short of the spread against Texas; this week, coming off of a big win and playing against an undefeated Missouri team with a Heisman-candidate quarterback, they very well could lose straight up.

Last week: 4-2
Season: 16-9

11 October 2007

Schuerholz and Schreiber

The big news today: Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz won't be the team's GM anymore. He's been making personnel decisions for the team since 1990 - coincidentally (or not), the same year the Braves began their ascent to 14 consecutive division titles.

At least he isn't completely gone, though - he'll still be the team president. Call it a promotion if you like; I'm sorry to see his hands taken (or to see him take his hands) from the reins. We'll see what happens to the Braves in the future, as Andy Wren is reportedly set to take the challenge of developing the team's large pool of young talent.

In meta-news, Le Anne Schreiber (AKA ESPN's Ombudsman) made an argument that I (and many, many others) have been making for a long time: that opinion is overriding fact in sports reporting. Her article is definitely worth a read.

05 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 5/10/07

Here are this weekend's SEC football picks. Unfortunately, the Kentucky-South Carolina game is already over, so I can't make a pick on that one. Odds, as usual, are from USA Today.

Vanderbilt +8 against Auburn
This one has all the markings of a trap game - Auburn is coming off of a big victory (over Florida, in case you've been comatose for the last week or so), and playing an underrated Vandy team that has a good deal of talent.

Mississippi State -16.5 against UAB
Don't overlook UAB - they're hardly a patsy. But MSU isn't as terrible as they used to be, and should win this one pretty easily.

Houston +11.5 against Alabama
I've got a feeling about this game. Alabama will escape, but the Cougars will put up a lot of points and keep it close.

Tennessee -2 against Georgia
Given that oddsmakers usually give the home team a 3-point boost in the line, Georgia is considered to be slightly the better team, according to these odds. Make sense to you? Me neither.

Florida +8 against LSU
Do I think the Gators will pull off the upset? As much as I hope they do, I don't see it. But they will keep it within a touchdown.

Out-of-conference Pick:
Oklahoma -10.5 against Texas
The Sooners have got to be angry after losing to lowly Colorado last week. They'll take it out on the Longhorns.

Last Week: 3-4 (ouch)
Season: 12-7

04 October 2007

Purity

There's a certain idea that I'm starting to get, as I blog from this side of the Atlantic, that the analysis I conduct while I'm here is in some ways more pure than that which I do when I'm at home.

Why is that? I have no ability to actually watch the games- I can't be swayed by subjective impressions (my own, at least - I do read columns on ESPN.com, sportsillustrated.com, and other sites). I have to look at numbers.

Statistical analysis lends itself, I think, particularly well to baseball. Why? (oh, the repetitive rhetorical questions! But I have only five minutes before I must leave for my next class.) There's a larger sample size - 162 games, as compared to 16 for the NFL or 82 for the NBA.

So what do the statistics I've chosen to look at say?

Red Sox over Angels in 4
Yankees over Indians in 3
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 5
Phillies over Rockies in 5

Have a great day.

28 September 2007

NCAAF Picks 28/9/07

This weekend's SEC football picks. Last weekend was tough, but I'm still over .500 for the year. Lines, as always, are from USA Today.

LSU -40 against Tulane
The Tigers keep on rolling in the wake of last week's closer-than-expected victory over South Carolina.

South Carolina -14 against Mississippi State
The Gamecocks, coming off that closer-than-expected loss, take their frustrations out on the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss +15 against Georgia
Georgia is talented, but QB Matthew Stafford is inconsistent. Ole Miss isn't quite so talented, but the Bulldogs of Ga will do what the Bulldogs of MSU couldn't, and keep it close.

Kentucky -23.5 against Florida Atlantic
Andre Woodson has been excellent, but he hasn't had a really huge game yet. This week, he will.

Auburn +18 against Florida
The Gators will win, but the Tigers' defense will keep it within two touchdowns.

Alabama +2.5 against FSU
How are the Tide an underdog against the Seminoles? Oh, that's right - they're a lower-echelon SEC team, and the 'Noles are a mid- to upper-echelon ACC team. But 'Bama is just straight-up better.

Out-of-conference Picks
Oregon -4.5 against Cal
Oregon is a very talented team; so is Cal. Tedford's team will have an advantage in speed on the outside, but QB Dennis Dixon (no INT's so far this season) gives the Ducks an edge.

27 September 2007

Glass Half Full?

Let's look at the bright spots of this season for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Give me a minute to think, here...

Ah! Here's one - they didn't lose a hundred games! That's progress, isn't it, from last year? (Never mind that they have a .411 winning percentage)

Combing the statistics, here's another: Scott Kazmir was pretty good - a career-high 13 wins, with a solid 3.54 ERA. (never mind that his ERA and WHIP are both up from last year).

The youngsters did great this season! Delmon Young was as good as advertised, hitting .291/13/93 in his first season, and Carlos Pena far exceeded expectations with 43 HR! (But if the team was this bad when players were exceeding expectations, what will happen when they go into a slump?)

There's a demon for every angel, and a few more unaccounted for - but, as always, there's hope heading into next season. As always, it seems, there are a solid group of prospects - Evan Longoria and Jeff Niemann leading the way - just on the verge of cracking the big leagues.

To steal a phrase from the Brooklyn Dodgers - wait 'til next year. Or the year after that. Or possibly 2063.

21 September 2007

(Very Brief) NCAAF Picks

Sorry for the lack of explanation - the bus for Glasgow leaves in 45 minutes.
But - do take a look at last week's record. Isn't that sweet? Makes me smile just looking at it. All lines from USA Today
Florida -21 over Ole Miss
LSU -16.5 over South Carolina
Kentucky +7 over Arkansas
Tennessee -18.5 over Arkansas State
Auburn -17 over New Mexico State
Georgia +3.5 over Alabama
Last week: 5-1

18 September 2007

Mailbag 9/18/07

Hey - so this is my first mailbag from Scotland. I've gotten a lot of emails in the past few days, and (as always) chosen a few of my favorites to respond to here in the blog. If you email me and your message doesn't get featured, I will try to at least send you some sort of response via email.

Let's get right to it, eh? (oh, wait, that's Canada...)

Tom from Orlando writes in to remind me of this article, which explicitly explains what was illegal about the Patriots' videotaping, and asks me to rethink my stance on the whole incident.

I'm thinking about it... and I'm sticking with it. I simply don't see why it's a problem, especially given that you're allowed to take as many still photographs as you like (and could conceivably, therefore, create the modern equivalent of a flip show). Peter King made the best case I've seen so far as to why it shouldn't be allowed, but I'm still unconvinced.

Mike from Lexington, KY wonders what happened to Louisville, and bemoans what he terms "the flood of SECers shouting their dominance" in the wake of the NCAA football season's first three weeks.

Here's what happened to the Cardinals: they're a team built around offense, but with a bit of a weak defense - not unlike West Virginia last year, or what many people thought Florida would be this year. Louisville got away with it until they ran into another team built the same way, with almost the same quality - Kentucky's offense has always been very good, and it's become quite lethal this year with the ascendance of Andre' Woodson to elite status. If these two teams played 10 times, Louisville would probably win 7; unfortunately for the Cardinals, this was one of the 3.

As to the SEC fans... after the first three weeks of the season, they have reason to shout - LSU looks dominant, Florida's defense has almost lived up to it's incredible offense, and, while Auburn has fallen to South Florida, there have been relatively few humiliations elsewhere.

Speaking of South Florida: not that I told you so, but... I told you so...

15 September 2007

SEC Football Picks

Florida -8 against Tennessee
I just think the Gators are a little bit too fast for the Vols... Harvin, Caldwell, Tebow & co. are the SEC's version of the Golden Bears' offense, and Tennessee will face a similar result.

Auburn -13 against Mississippi State
MSU isn't a very good team. Even though Auburn struggles on offense, their defense will hold State under 14 points.

Kentucky +6.5 against Louisville
This game will be an absolute shootout - take the over if you can get it at 76 or below. The most entertaining game of the week, and one that will come right down to the wire.

LSU -41.5 against MTSU
After LSU crushed a conference opponent by 45, and without looking in form on offense, does anyone really think that the Blue Raiders will be able to avoid a blowout?

Vanderbilt -4.5 against Ole Miss
Ole Miss is terrible, and Vanderbilt could be pushing for a bowl berth. Also: Ole Miss is terrible.

(Out-of-Conference Special)
USC -10 against Nebraska
I don't like the Trojans. But they're a quality side, absolutely oozing with talent, and they're going to overwhelm the Huskers in much the same way they did last year.

14 September 2007

[un]Belichic[k]

The hoodie master has been caught, and punished. Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team will be forfeiting at least one draft pick.

And I ask: so what? Baseball teams have been doing this since before the AL combined with the NL. And baseball teams adjust - catchers have dummy signals, pitchers and managers cover their mouths when they're talking.

So why is it such a big deal that Belichick and Co. were videotaping other teams' signals? Eric Mangini has said that his team was doing the smart thing anyway, using dummy signals to confuse recorders.

It's not that hard to avoid tendencies, is it? Is it so hard that it's worth costing someone a first-round draft pick to avoid it?

I don't think so.

07 September 2007

AL Playoff Predictions

AL East
While the Red Sox of Boston are falling,
the Yankees on Roger are calling.
But while he's gotten older
the Yanks have got bolder -
Joba, Phil and Chien-Ming are balling.

Yankees take the division by three.

AL Central
CC and Travis drive Cleveland,
but Granderson's Tigers won't leave them:
The Royals and Twins
and the White Sox lack wins,
so with Cleveland's schedule, they'll beat them.

Cleveland over Detroit in a tight race.

AL West
Though the Angels are running away with it,
Seattle is trying to stay with it -
But Vlad crushes pitches,
and Lackey is vicious,
And LA of Anaheim plays with it.

Los Angeles by eight games.

Starting this afternoon, I'm going to be in Scotland until mid-December, so my blogposts until then may be somewhat sporadic. I'll post when I can - everybody have a good football season.

02 September 2007

NCAA Week 1 Roundup

Today we begin a (hopefully) continuing series, recapping the big stories of each week in college football.

It's the End of the World as We Know It
The entire country, for a week at least, are Appalachian State fans. In case you've been under a rock somewhere, you know they beat Michigan. If you didn't watch the game, you might not realize that they flat-out beat Michigan - they were simply faster than the Wolverines. Appalachian State dominated the majority of the game.

Guess Who's Back?
The Gators absolutely dominated Western Kentucky as they began their title defense. Tim Tebow proved that he could throw the ball, going 13-17 for 300 yards. UF will have a much tougher test in two weeks (following a preordained blowout against Troy) when they play Tennessee.

Sweet Emotion
Virginia Tech played their first game after the April shootings, and, after all the memorials and the moment of silence, were less than inspiring. They won, but only 17-7 in what was supposed to be a tune-up. The Hokie defense survived the Hokie offense, which posed a greater threat than their East Carolina counterparts.

My Name Is...
Armanti Edwards. The quarterback for Appalachian State, he absolutely shredded the Michigan defense, going 17-23 for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns, with an additional 62 yards rushing. Impressive stuff, and even more impressive when you consider that the only 1-A school (side note: I refuse to use the ridiculous new monikers that the NCAA decreed this past offseason) that recruited him was New Mexico State... and that the Aggies wanted him to convert to receiver.

31 August 2007

Byron and Rodney

Two big pieces of news came out of the NFL today. The big story, of course, is the Jaguars announcing that they will part ways with Byron Leftwich. This will have a serious impact on the real NFL, and a smaller one on fantasy football.

In the real league, the Jaguars' offense will be a bit more consistent, both within games and throughout the season. David Garrard, who played reasonably well over the past couple of seasons, will give the Jaguars a more accurate, more consistent quarterback, albeit one without Leftwich's cannon of an arm. He's also less injury-prone than Leftwich, who has not been healthy for a full season since the year before he left Marshall.

In fantasy football, the Jaguars' running backs are slightly downgraded by the move. While Garrard is a more consistent quarterback than Leftwich, he doesn't throw as pretty of a deep ball, so defenses will be a little more free to pull players into the box.

The Jaguars wide receivers and quarterback are still only low-level plays, although Garrard is mildly intriguing because of his running capability.

In other news, Rodney Harrison has admitted to using human growth hormone during the offseason in order to recover from various injuries sustained over the past two years, and has been suspended for the first four games of the season.

This is another blow to the Patriots' status as the "good guys" of the NFL - following on the heels of their extravagant, occasionally questionable spending in the offseason (especially the acquisition of stand-up guy Randy Moss).

On the field, it's a blow to their defense. Brandon Meriwether, the team's first-round draft pick, will probably step into the starting lineup in Harrison's place - which means that the Patriots will be starting a rookie strong-safety against Chad Pennington and the Jets, LDT and the Chargers, and Carson Palmer & Co in Cincinnati. In his zeal to return to the field, Harrison could well have cost the Patriots at least one, and possibly as many as three, wins.

29 August 2007

NCAAF Predictions

It's a bit harder to project the NCAA football season than the NFL season, for several reasons.

First, there are a lot more teams - 119, rather than 32. While most of those teams are no threat whatsoever, there are still a lot more contenders to foul things up. Any one of fifteen teams could win the championship; any one of fifty could eliminate one of those fifteen.

Second, the season is a lot less structured than that of the NFL. It's shorter, for one thing - twelve games, rather than sixteen, which means that one loss has a much greater impact. It also lacks the playoff system of the NFL - so a deserving team can be denied a chance at the championship.

But, despite the large number of teams and the occasionably inequitable postseason structure, it is possible to, before the season begins, identify a number of teams who have serious shots at making it to the national championship game.

1. USC
This is the team that everyone is talking about; Jim Harbaugh infamously dubbed them the "best team ever". While they're not that good, they are really, really talented.

2. LSU
Les Miles, the Tigers' head coach, sniped at USC's schedule, drawing criticism of LSU's own scheduling practices. While the Tigers play cupcakes, they also play in the SEC. No easy ride here.

3. West Virginia
Good offense. We know that. But did you know their defense could be quite good this year? Last year, their inexperienced and ultimately 109th-ranked pass defense was the team's fatal flaw; this year, the secondary is a year older, and adds former Michigan starter (and veteran of three Rose Bowls) Ryan Mundy.

4. Virginia Tech
A sentimental favorite for the entire country after the horrific events of last April, but they can play football, too. Frank Beamer's teams always have stifling defenses, and this one should be no exception.

SLEEPER: South Florida
Don't laugh. The Bulls went 9-4 last year with a true-freshman quarterback. This year, they return 16 starters from a team that defeated West Virginia and won the PapaJohns.com Bowl. If they can get by Auburn on Sept. 8, their toughest remaining games will be at home.

26 August 2007

The Preseason Game

Tonight, I was watching the alleged football game between the Steelers and the Eagles. I came to a significant conclusion.

The preseason isn't real football. In real football, teams play to win. More importantly, teams play against each other; the individual is important only so far as he (or she, I suppose) affects his team.

What I saw tonight, by contrast, was no competition between teams - it was a competition between individuals on the same team, competing for positions on a depth chart. Interesting? I suppose, in its own way. Interesting, I suppose, in the same way that the Democratic National Convention is interesting: lots of infighting between people who are nominally on the same team. Players were playing for the team only so far as the team could help them.

I found that sense of individualism more than slightly repellant. I'll continue to watch preseason football, I suppose; there's value in determining which individuals will help their teams during the season. But, in essence, preseason football is the antithesis of real football; unless something significant changes, it will have value only as a diagnostic tool. And I, for one, will treat it only as such.

23 August 2007

Mailbag 8/23/07

After completing another four-part series, my inbox is chock full of feedback. That's right - I've got as much feedback as a first-timer at a karaoke bar.

Weak punchlines over with, let's get to the emails. The first comes from Shane in Orlando, who (before I published pt. 2) writes to agree with me: "A lot of people wonder why I'm just not into the NFL. I think that post may have perfectly added to my answer of 'Because it's just plain pathetic!!' Heck, soccer's doing a better job, and the World Cup's not for another three years!"

My personal feelings about soccer aside (I wrote a column once that poked fun at soccer... the response was, shall we say, intense), I'd say that "The Cynic's Take" presented only one side of the story; while the points were valid, they were deliberately slanted. I don't disagree with anything I said in the post, but at the same time I believe that what I said in "The Idealist's Take" is also valid.

Speaking of pt. 2, we come to Joe from Macon, who, along with several other emailers, is wondering what exactly I was doing with the introduction. "Not cool, man," said Joe, continuing that it was "some pretty weird crap. Not normal."

Actually, Joe, you'd be surprised how many weird things can be normal - the ancient Greeks, for instance, condoned practices that today are the exclusive territory of NAMBLA. But weirdness aside, I was having some fun with the language - a practice that was basically the original point of the blog. It didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped, but a few emailers (like Lauren from Gainesville), thought it was cool.

Very few readers, though, apparently liked my predictions - I got no fewer than 4 emails regarding the NFC West alone. Apparently, a lot of you (like Rob from DeLand, FL and Jane from Tallahassee) like the 49ers more than I do. Look - I have a lot of respect for Mike Nolan, and he's doing a terrific job rebuilding that franchise. But I think that they're still about a year away from making it to the top of the division.

Finally, a fun little note - I was doing research this weekend and noticed something a little creepy. This is Lew Ford, an outfielder for the Minnesota Twins. Here he is again. And here... is not him. The last picture is Greg Maddux. I thought cloning was illegal in the United States?

21 August 2007

NFL Preview Pt. 4: AFC Predictions

The AFC playoff picture is considerably more settled than the NFC's; there is a clear favorite in each division, and I see no legitimate reason to go against chalk.

The real intrigue should come in the battle for the AFC wild card spots; I see the Jets and the Broncos taking those spots, but neither will make it past the first round of the playoffs.

In the East, the Patriots are serious Super Bowl contenders. Tom Brady finally has weapons, and the addition of Adalius Thomas should improve the already-good defense. The Jets are a good young team, but they're still a year away; Buffalo will be spending this year to season J.P. Losman and Marshawn Lynch. Miami is a mediocre team struggling to repair their self-image in the wake of the Nick Saban fiasco.

In the North, Baltimore, armed with a still-excellent defense despite the defection of Adalius Thomas, should repeat as division champs. Pittsburgh, following the departure of Bill Cowher, will struggle to remain near the top of the second tier, while Cincinnati has to rely on offense - a strategy that annually results in inconsistency. Brady Quinn is in Cleveland, as is Jamal Lewis... but the team still sucks.

In the West, San Diego will attempt to survive the departure of Marty Schottenheimer. Let me rephrase that... San Diego should improve on last year's already-impressive campaign. Denver should have a top-3 rushing attack, but I don't trust Jay Cutler. Kansas City is an old team with a young quarterback, while Oakland is terrible and could very well be looking at another 1st-overall draft choice.

In the South... it's Indianapolis. Are you surprised? I thought not. They will take a hit on defense, but Dungy will hold it together, and that offense will keep humming along. Jacksonville can win 8 or 9 games, while Tennessee's secondary will struggle to deal with Pacman's ghost, and Houston will continue their endless struggle to emerge from the league cellar.

I have San Diego as my AFC champions. They quite simply have the most complete team of any in the NFL. Their offense, featuring LDT and Antonio Gates, is explosive; their defense, featuring Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo, has the potential to be frighteningly good. The Colts, meanwhile, have a defense with some serious issues, while the Patriots are faced with the challenge of integrating their many offseason additions. The Ravens are, to me, the second-best team in the league, but their WR corps worries me too much for me to pick them. Chargers to the Super Bowl - and Chargers to win the Super Bowl.

19 August 2007

NFL Preview Pt. 3: NFC Prediction

With the overly dour outlook disposed of, despite other, decidedly overwhelming, decisions on drafts, others' destruction, or doom...

And, following a fresh, awesome first attempt, finding a funny, angelic foible and fusing...
ah, heck. Enough with the awkward, forced wordplay, and forward, while keeping in mind I have a blog to write -

here's my NFC At-A-Glance PreviewTM

In the East, I'm picking Philadelphia to win the division. No great surprise here. Dallas has a chance to sneak a wild-card spot; New York took a serious hit when Tiki Barber retired; Washington is kind of mediocre overall and has a young QB to break in.

In the North, Chicago is the prohibitive favorite; no reason to go against chalk. Detroit has the weapons to pull a turnaround, but.. they're the Lions. The Vikings suck. The Packers are a rebuilding team that could go 8-8 or 9-7 due to the presence of Brett Favre.

In the West, which should be the most competitive division in the conference, Seattle has the most experience and a healthy Shaun Alexander. San Francisco, a team on the rise, should win 8-9 games, and the Rams are quality on offense. Arizona has the weapons to pull a turnaround, but... they're the Cardinals.

In the South, the Saints are clearly the best team; they've lost Joe Horn, but should be fine with the addition of Robert Meachem in the draft, and their defense is improved. The Panthers are solid, but nothing special. The Bucs, like the Packers, are a rebuilding team with an old QB - but Jeff Garcia is no Brett Favre. And the Vick-less Falcons... well, they'll struggle to win. Anything.

Predicted NFC champion: the Saints. I don't have faith in Rex Grossman, though he'll be enough to win the division; McNabb will get hurt about Week 16 or so, and the Seahawks are slightly above mediocre. Saints to the Super Bowl.

16 August 2007

NFL Preview Pt. 2: The Idealist's Take

Every year, like the turning of the seasons, renewal brings fresh life to the sports landscape. The assorted detritus of the long, hot summer is swept away by the rejuvenating stream of optimism that is the NFL preseason.
Before the season begins, every team is a championship contender. Surely, the fans say, this is the year the Browns will ascend to their rightful place among the league's elite. Surely, this year, Arizona will achieve self-actualization and win their division.
With time (and sage and rosemary), those dreams will fade. The have-nots will sink, the haves will rise. But there will always be the stories: Tony Dungy and the Colts finally wining a championship; the continued rebirth of the once-moribund San Francisco 49ers; the New Orleans Saints recovering from Katrina, creating an explosive offense, and making it to the verge of the Super Bowl.
There will always be stories. They are wonderful stories, stories that make you laugh a little, that make you smile, that make you cheer for a team, for a player, for a sport.
Not all stories can have happy endings. Players are people; like any group of people, they are flawed - they can disappoint us, can anger us, can disgust us. Not every team can exceed expectations - some will fall short of their goals, will let their fans down.
But the sport is still there. It is still beckoning us, still calling us. Are you listening? It's football time again. And it feels good.

13 August 2007

NFL Preview Pt. 1: The Cynic's Take

Certain things are inevitable. "The Circle of Life" - which is Disney-code for "dying horribly". Taxes, which are bureaucratese for "Governmental incompetence". And the NFL, which is network-television-speak for "hooray, finally, something that people will watch!"

That's right: it's NFL time again. The preseason is already underway, the regular season is just a few short weeks in the future. All across North America, overweight former, wannabe, and never-were jocks are returning to their overstuffed recliners and overindulging in beer, nachos, and overcooked brats.

So, what should the hapless fools - I mean ardent fans - who buy into the corporate lies - I mean team spirit - be on the lookout for, as they peer at their 42-inch flatscreen HD-LCD televisions that cost enough to feed a Third World village for several weeks?

Here's one thing: overweight guys. NFL players are fatter than ever. According to the always-accurate Fox News (and the somewhat less reliable JAMA), more than 1/2 of NFL players have BMI's that qualify them as obese, and more than 1/2 of those are morbidly obese; the idea, apparently, has been to make the players harder to push backwards from the point of attack. The trend towards rocklike immovability has, of course, been echoed in the trends towards rocklike immovability in the league's fans, who are also getting fatter in obvious attempts to imitate their idols.

Here's something else to keep an eye on: idiocy. No, not this - this. NFL players are being arrested for dogfighting, for shootouts in strip clubs - it's almost like they're not very smart or something... hmm... I wonder how that could have happened?

11 August 2007

NBA roundup

Sorry about the David Blaine imitation there for a few days... everybody's got to recharge sometimes.

So - KG is a Celtic. Good for him! He's finally got some other players with him who can share the offensive load - KG has never seemed entirely comfortable as the lead offensive option, especially in crunch time - and who can give him a serious chance to go deep in the playoffs.

Are the Celtics now a good team? Maybe. KG, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen give the team a formidable triumvirate, reminiscent of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, or even of Napoleon, de Cambaceres, and Lebrun... although whether Danny Ainge's trading spree will have the long-lasting effects of the French Revolution will take time to reveal.

By the way: if you knew who de Cambaceres and Lebrun were without a quick Google, you're a better history buff than I am.

Also: Shaq and Penny are back together. But now, rather than being two rising superstars, one of them is old, injury-prone, and out of shape... and the other one is Shaq.

The only thing more pitiful than Shaq chanting at Charlie Crist to "make us healthy", so far as my crystal ball can tell, will be Penny Hardaway chanting at Shaq to "make me good again". Shaq has turned himself into an icon; he has his own shoes, his own television show, his own (new and improved) sidekick. He doesn't need Penny anymore.

05 August 2007

Mailbag 8/5/07

So, after another several articles, the blog has been generating a lot of feedback. Time to respond to the pithiest of it? I think so.

The first email is from Jay of Gainesville, FL, who takes offense to my Tony Gwynn article:
"What are you thinking, man? Gwynn is going into the Hall of Fame, and he's never been linked to steroids before. Why do an article on him now? Even as a joke that's pretty awful. Bad topic, bad timing."

My response: well, Jay, the article was more satire than joke, and I thought the timing was pretty good. I view it as both a kind of tribute to Gwynn, who has been one of the "good guys" in the whole baseball-drug-use scandal, and a subtle (okay, so maybe not-so-subtle) dig at those who haven't been as clean as Gwynn.

The second email is from Eric of Albuquerque, NM, who asks a simple question: "What the hell were you thinking, leaving Larry Fitzgerald off of your Top 10 Wide Receivers?"

My response: I think Fitzgerald is overrated. He has incredible physical tools, but doesn't seem to fully take advantage of them. Would I want him on my team? Yeah, probably, not above any of the guys on the list.

The last email I'm going to answer today is from Lee of... well, of wherever it is that he's from - he didn't put a location in his email. He writes: "Gee, your awesome, where do you get your ideas?"

My response: Umm... okay... well, then... I read ESPN.com, SI.com, Yahoo! sports, and a few other sites, and respond to anything that catches my interest.

02 August 2007

Zeise was right

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Paul Zeise said on Sunday that Michael Vick would have been "better off raping a woman" than what he's been charged with. Since then, he's been released from the television show "Sports Showdown," where he made the comments, and he's drawn heavy flak from several different sources.

KDKA (the television station that hosted the show) called his comments "inappropriate and insensitive". The Post-Gazette said that they were "insensitive and offensive." Under heavy pressure, Zeise himself apologized, saying, "I regret the poor choice of analogies I used to characterize a professional athlete's legal situation."

But Zeise's statements were correct. If Vick had been accused of rape, what would have happened? He would have had to deal with some scrutiny from the press. There would have been some protests, perhaps, if the alleged victim (and we must call her an alleged victim until everything is absolutely proven) happened to be someone of good standing in the community; more likely, she would have been a prostitute or a stripper, and no one would have cared - especially since Vick is black, and therefore cannot be accused of a hate crime.

But Vick hasn't been accused of raping a possibly gold-digging, potentially lying, definitely un-cute stripper; instead, he's been accused of killing dogs - and Americans don't think of "pit bulls" when they think of dogs, they think of Fluffy, the adorable little toy poodle sitting in the corner waiting to be cuddled and held.

Michael Vick killed Fluffy! And Paul Zeise was right.

31 July 2007

Le Tour de France

So... Alberto Contador won the Tour de France. Or at least, we think he did - there's a growing thought now that he might have doped. So that would mean that your Tour winner would be... um...

You know what? I don't even care anymore. Between Landis, Armstrong, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Vinokourov, and a host of other guys who might-or-might-not have been chemically enhanced, I find it hard to muster up any enthusiasm for the Tour. Except, of course, for the wrecks. Those are fun to watch... unless, of course, you're a dog.

So what else is going on? NFL training camps have started; the Bucs cut Simeon Rice because he wouldn't take a $2.5 million drop in pay (can't say that I blame him), and now the Giants are using Rice as leverage to get Michael Strahan to report...

MLB trade deadline was this afternoon. Some big moves, some head-scratchers (why would anybody want Seth McClung? Why?), and the Red Sox got Eric Gagne - yeah, that move makes sense - after all, they desperately needed a potentially dominant but injury-prone closer - because that's the one thing they've been lacking...

Have a good evening, everybody.

27 July 2007

Gwynn Comes Clean

Longtime San Diego Padres slugger Tony Gwynn came clean with federal investigators today, on the eve of his entry into Cooperstown, admitting that he never took steroids. "My sculpted physique helped avert suspicion for years," said Gwynn to syndicated reporter Francois Rabelais, "but I couldn't live with my conscience anymore. It wasn't even illegal when I wasn't doing it, but the guilt..." Gwynn trailed off at this point in his statement, seemingly choking back tears.

In a move reminiscent of Mike Piazza's shocking 2002 revelation that he wasn't actually gay, Gwynn finally "came out of the closet," so to speak, on the issue that has dogged him since even before 2005, when he told a congressional committee that he "wasn't going to talk about the past"; another suspected non-user Greg Maddux, who is renowned for his physical fitness, suddenly found himself unable to speak English at the same hearing, while several others stonewalled the investigators.

Suspicions have long been raised about Gwynn, whose expanding waistline towards the end of his career marked a divergence from the MLB's marked trend towards - preferably drug-enhanced - physical perfection. "I thought he might not be using," said former Gwynn teammate Ken Caminiti. "He was always watching those game films, always studying - you could tell that something wasn't quite right."

After months of soul-searching, the now-portly former slugger said, he decided to cooperate fully with the investigation. In a prepared statement, Gwynn announced that, "I have decided to not only admit to my actions, but also to name names; I will submit a list of players who never took steroids, and leave the rest up to the good judgement of those who have conscientiously ignored this matter to this point."

Early rumors suggest that those Gwynn might implicate could include former teammate David Wells, seven time all-star Ichiro Suzuki, and now-deceased slugger Jimmie Foxx, among others.

23 July 2007

Fantasy Football Preview Pt. 5: Sleepers

It's easy enough to run a fantasy football team for the first few rounds of a draft. You get your star players, the guys who are on all the top-10 lists. You (more or less) follow conventional wisdom, and, usually, you'll be fine.

But it's the late rounds of a draft that can really determine your success - when you pick up guys like Greg Jennings, like Mike Furrey, like Jeff Garcia - guys who can come on in a key moment, whether it be stepping in for an injured star or seizing a starting role and putting up 98 receptions, and take your team to the top.

With that in mind, here are 5 sleepers to keep an eye on this year - guys who maybe haven't done a lot in the past, who definitely aren't highly regarded coming into this season, but who could mean the difference between first place and fourth or fifth in your league.

1. Kevin Walter, WR, Houston Texans
Stats
He's a big guy - 6'3", 215 lb. - and he should (barring an injury) be the #2 WR for Houston. Granted, they're not an offensive juggernaut, but they should be improved this season with the additions of Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak. ESPN Rank: 207

2. Damon Huard, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Stats
After last season, you'd think that this guy would be pretty highly ranked - in 8 starts after Trent Green went out, he threw 11 touchdowns to only 1 interception. But the continued aging of the Chiefs' offensive line, the mediocre state of the Chiefs' receiving corps, and the drafting of Alabama QB Brodie Croyle have all combined to drive Huard down draft boards. Given a chance, Huard should make the doubters very, very sad. Give him a chance, and Huard can make your fantasy team very, very happy. ESPN Rank: 226

3. Michael Pittman, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats
Let's see... why wouldn't this guy be successful? 1. He's stuck behind Cadillac Williams... the decdedly uninspiring and decidedly injury-prone Cadillac Williams. 2. The Bucs' offensive line is weak... except that it's improving, with the addition of former Tiki Barber blocker Luke Petitgout and the continue development of last year's first round pick, Gavin Joseph. Definite potential here. ESPN Rank: 291

4. Sinorice Moss, WR, New York Giants
Stats
He's more like Santana than Randy, but he's smaller (not a good thing) and quite possibly faster (definitely a good thing) than either. Electrifying speed, could be the #2 WR for NY by the end of the season, and offers points from kick/punt returns also. ESPN Rank: 429

5. Cleo Lemon, QB, Miami Dolphins
Stats
Lemon is esconced between a veteran just off an injury - Trent Green - and a 25-year-old rookie - John Beck. The Dolphins seem to like him, for whatever reason, so he should get some playing time if/when Green gets hurt. ESPN Rank: 653

21 July 2007

Fantasy Football Preview Pt. 4: WR

Wide receivers... the prima donnas of the NFL (the Gramatica family excepted). From cell phones hidden in goalposts to riverdancing on the star, these guys are responsible for some of the craziest antics on the football field.

In fantasy football, these guys are also responsible for some big numbers. While they're not the first players you'll draft (unless you're in a really, really deep league), these guys can make or break your team. If you don't have good wide receivers, you're in trouble.

There are, however, a lot of good wide receivers out there. If you don't have one of the guys on this list, you probably have some awesome running backs and probably a top quarterback; unless you horribly mismanage your draft, you should come out okay for wideouts. Still, it never hurts to have a top guy...

1. Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts
Stats
He's not the sexiest pick, but Harrison has produced at a consistently outstanding level for a long time - 10+ TD every year since 1999. He's small, he's old, but he's not slowing down and Peyton Manning is still getting him the ball.
Projection: 100 Rec, 1300 ReYd, 14 TD
Yahoo! Points: 214

2. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
Stats
Last year, Smith was considered a bit of a disappointment, but his stats were still enough to merit top-15 WR status. This year, with a healthy Jake Delhomme (translation: Chris Weinke isn't involved) and a healthy offensive line, Smith should rebound nicely.
Projection: 90 Rec, 1400 ReYd, 11 TD
Yahoo! Points: 206

3. Chad Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
Stats
Ocho Cinco is, to me, an annoying blowhard. But he's also a top-flight wide receiver, if an imperfect one - more physically gifted than either of the two players above him, Johnson somehow nevertheless catches fewer touchdown passes.
Projection: 85 Rec, 1500 ReYd, 8 TD
Yahoo! Points: 198

4. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Stats
He's the #2 WR for the Colts, but still one of the top 4 WR in my rankings. Why? You can't argue with the numbers, and if you own this guy, you don't want to. Slips a little bit in drafts sometimes because of his status as "the other guy", but Colts fans and serious fantasy managers know how good he is.
Projection: 90 Rec, 1250 ReYd, 12 TD
Yahoo! Points: 197

5. Torry Holt, St. Louis Rams
Stats
Here's the rundown on Holt: no fewer than 81 receptions and 1188 yards every year since 2000. Do you want that on your team? I thought so. One word of caution, though: his yards per catch last year was the lowest it's ever been, at 12.8.
Projection: 90 Rec, 1250 ReYd, 10 TD
Yahoo! Points: 185

6. Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers
Stats
Do you remember Antonio Freeman? Driver is Freeman circa 1998 - Brett Favre's favorite target, reasonably big, and a solid possession receiver. Did you catch that? Brett Favre's favorite target - and right now, other than Greg Jennings, Favre's only target. Significant value here.
Projection: 95 Rec, 1350 ReYd, 8 TD
Yahoo! Points: 183

7. Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys
Stats
As a human being, I don't like this guy - he's a loudmouthed, egotistical jerk. As a fantasy owner, I love this guy - he's a loudmouthed, egotistical touchdown machine. If you want nice people on your team, by all means don't draft T.O. - if you want to win your league, then by all means do draft him.
Projection: 80 Rec, 1100 ReYd, 12 TD
Yahoo! Points: 182

8. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
Stats
Johnson is a bit of an enigma. He's a big, fast, skilled wideout with good hands who's been a solid contributor ever since he entered the league; last year, he broke through with 103 receptions. But why hasn't he ever caught more than 6 touchdowns in a season? I think he will this year.
Projection: 100 Rec, 1200 ReYd, 10 TD
Yahoo! Points: 180

9. Roy Williams, Detroit Lions
Stats
Mike Martz likes to throw the ball. We've known that for a while now. In Roy Williams, he has a guy who can catch the ball, and does. Last year, in his first season with Martz and his third in the league, Williams had more receptions and yards than in either of his first two years. There's no reason to think that Williams will take a step back.
Projection: 85 Rec, 1300 ReYd, 8 TD
Yahoo! Points: 178

10. Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals
Stats
Last year, playing with new starting quarterback Matt Leinart, Boldin's stats took a significant hit - his receptions, yards, and touchdowns all declined bigtime. But he was still one of the better fantasy wideouts, and this year, with Leinart more accustomed to the pace of the NFL, Boldin's stats should rebound nicely.
Projection: 95 Rec, 1350 ReYd, 7 TD
Yahoo! Points: 177