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.