Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Braxton Miller Injury

It appears that the injury suffered by Braxton Miller--actually a re-injury via dislocation to his right shoulder--will end the star Ohio State QB 's 2014 season before the first game. Miller has come to represent the OSU offense and so any absence will require the team, of course, to readjust immediately. He had already been injured and operated on (not for dislocation but related) so this news, while shocking to fans, is not some out-of-the-blue scenario, but for a team with national title aspirations it cannot be considered anything but awful. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett had taken over the backup duties for the Buckeyes and will presumably become the starter, with Cardale Jones back to number two. Fortunately for the Buckeyes the schedule should allow them to prepare Barrett and Jones for the tougher, end of the season slate. Four of the team's first six games are at home with one, the opener, at a neutral field and the other against a young and talented Maryland team that is probably a year or two away from competing with a top ten team. Still, teams like Maryland, Navy, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech will not be that easy. The QBs need to be up to snuff by midseason as OSU plays at Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota over a four game spread. That will decide whether or not they are a true contender for a Big Ten crown. Hopefully Miller is okay or, at the very least, can recover with enough time to resume playing QB. And hopefully the Buckeyes can recover from the loss of their team's leader and arguably best player. The other potential loser here is the Big Ten who has to have its champion reach the national four-team playoff. This injury makes that reality a great deal tougher.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Playoff Jockeying Begins

When the four-team playoff system to determine the college football national champion was established there were plenty of folks predicting two spots for the SEC and two spots for everyone else (little guys need not apply). Of course the season(s) will have to play out but the rest of college football cannot let the SEC be considered so much better than everyone else that its top two teams--heck even three teams--get to play for the national championship--even though we just had that happen three years ago. The key is to continue to offset the excellent job the SEC does promoting itself so that it is no longer given that the cream of the SEC is much better than champions from other conferences. The conference that has done the most to disrupt this notion, beyond what Florida State did on the football field last year, is the Big 12 and the Big 12 program that has been the most vocal is Oklahoma. One year ago OU coach Bob Stoops began the offensive by questioning just how good the SEC was when its bottom teams seem to stink year in and year out. Stoops blamed the writers for believing SEC "propaganda." Although he was correct the media just threw his argument back in his face as sour grapes. Stoops got the last laugh when his Sooners easily won the Sugar Bowl against favored Alabama this past January. then after Alabama coach Nick Saban attributed his team's performance in that game to not being up for a bowl game that did not have national championship implications, Stoops correctly ripped his counterpart for a lame excuse. And lame it was. But, again, these tit-for-tat quotes mean so much more than uncovering motive for a bowl game from last season. It is all about jockeying for the four spots in the playoff. The problem with this system or any system is that the top college football teams play different schedules. So computer numbers can only give us a portion of the picture. And so voters rely on their eyes but that is flawed as no voter can watch every game. How many Auburn games did experts watch last season? They were not expected to compete for a title so you can excuse folks for skipping games 1-3 (wins over Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State). They lost game four by 14 to LSU and so after watching that game you could again excuse voters from watching Auburn's wins over Mississippi and Western Carolina. You get where I am going with this. Since it will be difficult to choose the four teams on years when we do not have four clear cut best teams--that is every year in college football history--the teams and conferences need to win the propaganda war now even before the season starts. And Alabama, who has enjoyed its recent status as king, needs to get the Sugar Bowl defeat out of the picture while OU must do the opposite. And every conference not named the SEC must promote itself better. And of course win on the field consistently through the season.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Boys Acting Badly

Well it is that time of the year again. No, not the opening of camps although that is coming soon for college football. It is the time for summer arrests and suspensions and we are getting word of more each day. While I am not condoning the bad behavior and feel that scholarship athletes--or scholarship band members--should be held at a higher standard and if they commit serious crimes then they should be punished swiftly, I do feel that we should put the seemingly large number of recent arrests in context. There are a lot of college football players. And while not every arrest makes the paper, nor even every crime leads to an arrest, the reality is that a very small number of college football players break the law. Punish them but do not point fingers at the sport. One of the most recent star players to be accused of a crime is TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, who has been suspended from the Horned Frogs after his ex-girlfriend accused him of punching her in the face and pointing a gun at her. That is serious and comes seven months after fields was involved in an altercation with armed men. There is something wrong here and TCU must do the right thing. This program has made great strides over the past decade and a half but has stumbled of late with a number of players arrested for their involvement in a drug selling operation and other players getting in trouble. And with the team trying to rebound from a 4-8 season we have this situation. But despite the pressure to not do so, coach Gary Patterson must punish his best player if he is indeed guilty. There is no way to get around that as the country needs to see that TCU players are held accountable for their actions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

College Football Trumps Soccer

Look, I love college football. Most of you do too. And I appreciate soccer and the World Cup and root for the U.S. plus Italy as I am Italian-American (I root for the U.S. if those two teams meet). But yesterday's bogus call in Brazil's tainted win over Croatia was the latest reason to prefer college football over soccer. Sure, we have plenty of cheating. God knows there is cheating going on in college football, from recruiting to giving advantages to chosen programs. I understand that and if someone proved that football officials were helping to throw games I would not be that surprised. But, the b.s. call in yesterday's match went a long way to deciding the match as it immediately led to the go-ahead score in a tight match during the second half. At the time that tainted goal was 33% of the game's scoring. There is nothing comparable in football and even the worst call you can think of, even those at game's end with the score close do not compare as the victims of the bad call had numerous opportunities to score throughout the game. Croatia had a handful. Giving a freebie to Brazil is similar to awarding a free touchdown to Alabama in a tied game with Vanderbilt in the fourth quarter and then allowing Vandy only one more drive. And remember that at least of third of Vandy's players would have to be defensive players. And that Bama would be allowed to keep scoring themselves. Etc, etc. It was a joke and allows the entire world to question the legitimacy of the sport and its finest showcase.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pete Carroll Should Keep his Mouth Shut

There was not much gray area when discussing the sanctions that hit USC a few years ago. Most people either felt that they were justified as USC had lost some control over a program that had a number of transgressions or that the NCAA had hit the program too hard as some of the mistakes were committed by individual players and not the program as a whole. One thing both sides agreed on was that coach Pete Carroll knew the sanctions were coming and jumped on the Seattle Seahawks offer in 2010 to escape them. Being that he took the pro job only a few months before the NCAA made its announcement lent a lot of credence to that notion, shared by people on both sides of the debate. It really would be impossible for Carroll to prove otherwise. Yet there he was in a recent interview claiming that he did not jump ship. He left solely because of a wonderful offer and he claimed that he did not know when, or even if, sanctions were coming. He even said that if he had known of the sanctions and their severity he would have stayed to help the program get through troubled times. Please. How could anyone believe him? Why would anyone bother? Leaving to re-prove yourself in the pros is fine but saying you would stay to help clean up your own mess is disingenuous. And USC's hiring Kiffin made the situation even worse, but that is a different story.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another Loaded College Football Hall of Fame Class

The sheer enormity of college football becomes readily apparent on the day the newest Hall of Fame class is announced as the number of great players and coaches from around the country increases with nary a protest as to qualifications (not sure about John Sciarra's merits, mind you, but he is probably a nice guy). The main bit of head scratching with each class is not over quality but timing. Players like Derrick Thomas, who would seem to be a shoo-in when first eligible years ago just got in with recent players, like Dre Bly of UNC who was good but not in Thomas's class. But Thomas's wait seemingly had nothing to do with his play on the field as the National Football Foundation voters tend to honor guys who remain active and are popular with individual chapters than players who were "just" talented and accomplished. But let's not quibble over when guys got in who final did make it as getting in trumps all. So congratulations to Bly, Tony Boselli of USC, Dave Butz of Purdue, Shane Conlan of Penn State, Joe Hamilton of Georgia Tech, John Huard of Maine, Darrin Nelson of Stanford, Willie Roaf of La Tech, Sciarra of UCLA, Sterling Sharpe of South Carolina, Leonard Smith of McNeese State, Thomas of Alabama, LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU and Wesley Walls of Mississippi plus coaches Mike Bellotti of Oregon plus Chico State and Jerry Moore who gained fame at Appalachian State. More to follow on each inductee.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Another QB, Another Arrest

Quarterback Philip Nelson was not a huge recruit. ESPN lists him as having been a two star QB in the class of 2012 while Scout and Rivals both awarded him three stars. He did, however, win the 2011 Minnesota Mr. Football Award and was probably a pretty big deal in his hometown of Mankato. And when he went to the home state Minnesota Gophers he cemented his status as a big fish in a somewhat small pond by eventually becoming a starter in his first year. Although he never became a star nationally he was competing for a starting job from the get go and in two years as a Gopher he threw for 2,179 in 18 games with a 17-14 TD-INT ratio. A good athlete, Nelson has also rushed for 548 yards with 6 TDs. A coaching change led him to seek a transfer and he landed at Rutgers where he expected to compete for the starting job when first eligible in 2015 at what is now another Big Ten program. But that all changed this past weekend when during an altercation as the bars in Mankato were shutting down--and yes another awful thing happened in the middle of the night after those involved had been drinking--Nelson delivered a coup de grace kick to the head of a downed victim, former Mankato State linebacker Isaac Kolstad. It may take awhile for the truth from that night to become unveiled and Kolstad seems to have been an original aggressor, but there really is no defense for kicking a downed man and Nelson's future is uncertain. Kolstad, more importantly, is fighting for his life and has suffered some amount of brain damage. Nelson's involvement in this attack is yet another incident of a college quarterback behaving badly. But unlike guys like Newton, Manziel and Winston, Nelson is not talented enough to expect protection and a lot of second chances. Sure, other positions have plenty of screw-ups but the QBs have to know that they are the story whenever something like this happens and now Nelson's future is uncertain. And, of course, he has to be involved with a Rutgers athletic department that must feel snake bit. Unless Nelson has a history of this behavior, at least this is one Rutgers black eye that does not seem self-inflicted.