30 August 2008

Return of the Line: NCAA Football Picks

Last year, I picked a total of 78 college football games, and went a very respectable 45-32-1. This year, I'm hoping to build on that record and continue to improve. Being a UF fan and a resident of the southeastern United States, I focus my picks on SEC teams, though I do branch out to try to pick big games outside of the conference.

Enough blather - on to the picks! Odds from USA Today, as always.

Hawaii +33.5 against Florida
Do I think the Warriors will top UF? No, I do not - but 33.5 is a big number, especially since the Gators are sans all-everything utility man Percy Harvin.
Prediction: UF 41, Hawaii 14

Mississippi State -9 against Louisiana Tech
I do believe that the Bulldogs are headed in the right direction, and can beat the Bulldogs by more than 9 points.
Prediction: MSU 27, Louisiana Tech 14

UL Monroe +26.5 against Auburn
Auburn is a team that, year after year, seems to have a dominant defense and a less-than-compelling offense. It's hard to win by four touchdowns if you have a less-than-compelling offense.
Prediction: Auburn 34, UL Monroe 12

Ole Miss -8 against Memphis
Memphis? Really?
Prediction: Ole Miss 38, Memphis 20

Clemson -4.5 against Alabama
Look for the Tide to keep this one close - they're a talented team after two consecutive top-10 recruiting classes - but ultimately to fall by about a touchdown due to their youth and inexperience.
Prediction: Clemson 34, Alabama 27

Louisville -4.5 against Kentucky
Louisville has been gutted by desertions and graduations over the past couple of years - but they still have a solid program and one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in Hunter Cantwell.
Prediction: Louisville 41, Kentucky 31

Tennessee -7 against UCLA
Look out for the Vols! It seems every year, one SEC East team - last year, Georgia, the year before, Florida - is almost completely ignored in the preseason - and then finishes the season among the top teams in the country. Nobody's really been talking about Tennessee this year... Meanwhile, UCLA has been having quarterback issues.
Prediction: Tennessee 31, UCLA 17

Out-of-conference special:
Missouri -9 against Illinois
Yes the Illini return most of their players, including dual-threat QB Juice Williams. But they lost RB Rashard Mendenhall - and Williams, for all of his talent, had underwhelming numbers last year.
Prediction: Missouri 40, Illinois 27

29 August 2008

Ross Tucker writes about player's and brings about the downfall of Western civilization

Ross Tucker played for five teams in his seven-year NFL career. He has joined SI.com as a regular contributor on the NFL beat.

Ross Tucker doesn't know how to pluralize the word "player."

In this article, Tucker begins by claiming that "The reality of the game is player's play -- and play well -- through injuries all the time." While I don't disagree with the columnist's sentiment - Tucker, after all, has a good bit more football experience than I do - I cannot help but disagree with his apostrophe usage.

Later in the article, making the argument that Kurt Warner should start for the Cardinals, Tucker says that "Though they [the Cardinals players] would deal with Leinart being the starter, Whisenhunt risks losing the locker room if it is plainly clear to the player's that they have a better chance to win with Warner under center." Again, I agree with the sentiment - the Arizona players (understandably) want to win - but, again, I disagree with the unnecessary apostrophe.

If I may digress for a moment: improper apostrophe usage is one of the greatest threats to modern society. There are, of course, assaults on sensibility in comparison to which Mr. Tucker's two errors seem piffling and inconsequential. As the great Rudy Giuliani made the police take action on minor graffiti in New York, though, we must let no small thing slide - for the acceptance of imperfection in even the smallest detail can lead, if we are not vigilant, to greater and greater cracks in the facade of civilization and, eventually, to the collapse of the whole structure.

So, Mr. Tucker! Though you committed only two simple errors, I name you a threat - and sentence you to read and re-read the MLA Handbook until you commit no more such offenses.


27 August 2008

NFC South Pick

Hi y'all -

As classes have begun gearing up and the semester is getting busier (I'm taking a lighter load than I thought I would have to, but it's still a not-inconsiderable 19 credit hours, on top of my various extracurricular commitments), I've sadly neglected this blog over the last few days. With luck, I'll be able to continue posting at least two or three times a week, with a minimum of double-digit posts each month.

Thus: a quickie post, today, before I run off to my next class.

The NFC South seems, to me, to be somewhat of a forgotten division. It doesn't get a lot of national attention, probably because its teams - the Bucs, Falcons, Panthers, and Saints - (1) aren't traditional football powers, (2) aren't in huge media markets, and (3) haven't been serious threats (with the exception of the out-of-nowhere Saints of a couple of years ago) to win or even make the Super Bowl for the past half-decade or so.

But! Look out for the division this year! The Saints (due to the additions of Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma, among others) and the Panthers (due to the healing of Jake Delhomme from a season-ending injury he suffered last year) each promise to be much improved, while the young Falcons are growing increasingly stocked with talent.

All that said - and yes, I'm going to make somewhat of a homer pick here - I'm picking Tampa (I refuse to call them Tampa Bay - that's a body of water, not a city) to win the division. They've got a solid mix of youth and veterans; they return almost their entire team from last year (with the exception of far-too-rapidly aging CB Brian Kelly) and they have a settled (or reasonably settled) running back situation coming into the season for the first time in what seems like years. It won't be as easy for the Bucs to win it this year as it was last - the rest of the division has improved - but they'll win it and, possibly, get a home playoff game.

Tampa - 11-5
New Orleans - 10-6
Carolina - 8-8
Atlanta - 6-10

22 August 2008

Ben Fowlkes needs to clean up his act

Please pardon the cliche in the title - I borrowed it (with some slight changes) from Ben Fowlkes' SportsIllustrated.com article - an article that contains not one, but two errors.

And are these Fowlkesian errors simple typos or grammatical mistakes? No! They are in fact logical errors that make a hash of the entire article and very nearly leave the reader wondering what, exactly, Fowlkes is trying to say. (A note to Dr. O'Neill - I'm not sorry for the rhetorical question; it is, I feel, a legitimate way to make a point in this case.)

To the first error!

Fowlkes begins his article with a reference to the often-controversial president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship: "Dana White loves to say that running a major mixed martial arts organization isn't as easy it looks -- that's the typical self-congratulatory rhetoric we've become accustomed to from the outspoken UFC president."

Here's the issue, though: Fowlkes closes his article with a reference that's intended to tie the entire feature together, once again bringing in the MMA capo: "While White may claim it's easy, no one really believes that running an MMA organization is a painless endeavor."

But-but-but- that's not the same thing that, at the beginning of the article, Fowlkes said White says! That's not even close to the thing Fowlkes said White says! In fact, that's the exact opposite of what Fowlkes said White says!

Second error!

Midway through the article, Fowlkes attacks Elite XC lightweight champion KJ Noons for refusing to take on tough opponent Nick Diaz: "The champ flatly refused to meet Elite XC's vaguely threatening ultimatum on the matter and Diaz, instead, asked for DREAM standout Eddie Alvarez."

Wait... what? I know that MMA is a constantly shifting, fluid world - but I didn't know that it was a world so fluid that champions changed in mid-sentence! Apparently Fowlkes is privy to some intensely insider information - or, alternatively, he just sucks at using the English language.

Have a good evening, everyone!

Death of an autodeist

Greetings, all.

Before we begin: my apologies for not posting for a few days. Tropical Storm Fay has unleashed its... uh... wrath, I guess, upon us, and things have been slightly hectic. Never worrisome (with the exception of a few hours when the power went out and the dorm was plunged into near-complete darkness, but there have been a long series of incidents to deal with.

Now on to the good stuff. While I was reading this article on ESPN.com, I noticed that Tom Friend had used the line "the ignominy of that draft day." I believed I had found an error, and began to gloat a bit to myself as I began to write a post making fun of ESPN.com writers' ignorance and lack of spellchecking.

Then I did a quick Merriam-Webster search to confirm that "ignominy" should have been "ignonimy," and realized that, in this case at least, it was I who was ignorant.

Mr. Friend: my apologies. You wrote a solid article, and you spelled "ignominy" correctly. There are some few areas, I suppose, in which my knowledge may be imperfect.

17 August 2008

Bringin' it back

Remember how Lance Armstrong lost a part of himself to cancer?

He's now lost a far more integral part of himself to the copy-editing fiasco that is ESPN.com.


14 August 2008

We can only imagine

From the ESPN.com fantasy newsdesk comes this report on Jim Edmonds:

"After being virtually left for dead in San Diego, Edmonds had put up a .273/.374/.597 line since joining the Cubs, heading into Wednesday's games. After his two extra-base hits, we'd imagine his OPS with the Cubs is close to 1.000 now."

You'd imagine? Perhaps an OPS is something that floats out in the ether, a purely abstract concept that can never be applied to real situations? Perhaps OBP and slugging percentage are like position and velocity, and as we approach certainty about a player's on-base percentage, we lose certainty about his slugging position?

For those who are curious: Edmond's OPS with the Cubs currently stands at 0.989.

Screenshot of ESPN's laziness:

House of D

Bill Parcells is a very traditional coach and GM with a tendency to try to impose his personality upon whatever team he's running.

SportsIllustrated recognizes Parcells' tendencies, as demonstrated in Ross Tucker's analysis of the release of kicker Jay Feely: "An old-school football guy, Parcells is less than enthused by players with a penchant for d letting their opinions be known. Especially kickers."

I tell you this: no player I have ever met has had a penchant for d letting his opinions be known.


10 August 2008

America has a brand-new star

We've all heard of Michael Phelps, the 23-year-old superstar who is swimming for eight gold medals at the Beijing games.

For one night at least, though, Phelps has been upstaged by a lesser-known counterpart who has already won two gold medals and may or may not be competing for several more.

I speak, of course, of Michael Phleps.


07 August 2008

Brett Favre: not a Buc


The news dominating the headlines right now: the Green Bay Packers' trade of Brett Favre to the New York Jets.

The news that should be dominating the headlines right now: the Green Bay Packers' not-trade of Brett Favre to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


Obviously, it's because I'm both a Bucs fan and the ultimate arbiter of value in the sporting universe.

What impact will the not-trade of Brett Favre to the Bucs have on Tampa's chances this year?

I think that it's actually a positive impact, for a couple of reasons.

First, the Bucs already have enough distractions, what with their running back controversies and their host of quarterbacks - and adding Brett Favre to the mix would amplify any possible tensions exponentially. Over the last few years, the Bucs have thrived when it has been able to avoid the national spotlight - and having number 4 taking snaps under center would have drawn the media like a lion to a wounded gazelle, like bad food to a high school cafeteria, or even like a tired writer to a simile.

Second, and more important, while Favre is indisputably a great quarterback, his style simply doesn't fit the Bucs' offense. Tampa has built its team on defense and ball control - and Favre, for all his strengths, turns the ball over a lot (he has averaged over twenty-six turnovers per season in the last three years). The Bucs throw a lot of short passes, splitting out a lot of wide receivers to create quick openings before the rush can get to the quarterback - and Favre thrives when he's well protected and has time to throw deep and show off his famous arm. As good as Favre is, Jeff Garcia - a capable, if unspectacular, game manager - gives the team a better chance to win.

04 August 2008

And this is relevant how?

Today's big story: Jason Giambi shaved his moustache!

Wait... that's a big story how, exactly?

Well, obviously, it's a big story because when Giambi started to grow the moustache in May, he started hitting better - so now that he's gotten into a slump with the moustache attached to his face, the reasoning is that shaving it off will help him get out of the slump.

Of course, that reasoning makes no sense whatsoever.

I've never understood superstition. Stepping or not stepping on basepaths, tapping the corners of home plate with your bat, or... um... this (to go back to the Giambi theme) has no observable, quantifiable impact on performance.

My friends know that, despite a few quirks, I am a decidedly nonsuperstitious guy. When I'm going up to bat, I pick up a bat that has the right combination of length and weight, take a couple of practice swings, and then walk up to the plate. If I'm involved in a very casual game, I might imitate Julio Franco, Nomar Garciaparra, or Craig Counsell... but I digress.

What is the point of ritual? Why do any of these illogical, impractical things? I don't get it. It just doesn't make sense. The human mind searches for patterns where, often, there are none.

In the end, though, whether you shave your moustache or not, your performance will regress to something approaching your career mean.

Have a great night, y'all.

01 August 2008

Developing a tolerance

This evening, I'm doing a few things.

First, I'm sorting keys - the last camp of the summer is leaving tomorrow morning, and I'm beginning the inventory of the few hundred keys I've been managing since the beginning of June.

Second, I'm watching Rob Roy. It's a heckuva good film - I've been a Liam Neeson fan since I saw Les Mis a few years ago (yes, I know he was in Schindler's List... I just haven't seen it yet. And yes, I know it's somewhat blasphemous to have not...), and Tim Roth is always excellent.

Third, I'm watching the X Games on ESPN, and specifically the BMX Big Air event.

These dudes are absolutely insane.

Want to know what's more insane?

I'm finding myself unimpressed by everything except the absolute biggest tricks. A few minutes ago, a guy did a 70-foot backflip, and I just shrugged.

A guy went down a ramp and did a 70-foot backflip on a bicycle, and I shrugged. How is that possible?

Have a great evening.