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A bunch of Pitt fans/alumni writing and ranting about the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and anything sports and entertainment related. Other than being alumni, the writers of this blog have no affiliation or official connection with the University of Pittsburgh, the Pitt Panthers, and related entities. The views expressed on this blog are solely our own. You can e-mail us:
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Monday, September 29, 2003
The main problem with this planned Big East conference, is that it is still very unstable. There would still be a sum total of only 8 football programs. This is simply too small a size for a BCS conference now. How happy do you think the SEC and the Big XII would be to give the Big East an equal shot when they have 12 teams to fight through? Same with the Big 11 and the ACC. I used to think that the Big East would have a shot at keeping its exclusive bid, but now I can foresee a change to make it so that the Big East would have to share it with the Mountain West and possibly the WAC conference. This would mean a fight with 20-30 odd schools for one bid. Not so great odds.
Another aspect of the instability is that conference raiding/expansion isn't done yet, and the Big East schools will be cherry picked. The ACC will add a 12th member in the next year, and you can bet it will be an offer to a Big East school. That school will and should jump off the sinking ship, for the safer and more lucrative deal. Higher exit fees will not be much of a deterrent. Do you think the Big East would still get a bid if Boston College, Syracuse or even Pitt was out of the mix? Who would replace that school in the Big East? Temple? Memphis? East Carolina? UAB?
There is also another expansion possibility in the Big 11. They can talk all they want about how they have no interest in expanding to 12, but sooner or later it will happen. They may be holding out for Notre Dame, and people can talk about how Notre Dame may change its tune when it's NBC deal expires; but if you have ever talked to the alumni and boosters of ND, you know that it isn't going to happen. They are passionate/insane about maintaining their independence. Eventually the Big 11 won't wait any longer. At that time Pitt or Syracuse will get the call. You can bet either will jump.
The bowl money will also start to dry up with only 8 teams. The Big East currently has tie-ins (with Notre Dame) to 4 bowls. It is, to be kind, highly unlikely that the Big East will be able to produce enough teams with winning records to qualify enough teams to fill the slots. Considering how poorly most of the Big East schools travel to bowl games, the Big East could quickly lose one maybe two of the tie-ins.
Over to the basketball side. You are talking about a 16 team conference with 2 eight team divisions. That is a scheduling nightmare for a league and a bad layout. A conference schedule is 16 games. You are faced with the choice of playing every team once and one team twice; or playing everyone in your division twice and two different teams from the other divisions each year.
Then try on how the conferences will look for competitive balance (and this is how it would look according to the reports):
No question it would look like one of the deepest and strongest b-ball conferences in the country. It would also get killed in getting teams into the NCAA tournament. Last year, 7 of these teams got in (with BC and Seton Hall just outside the bubble), and 5 from just one division. The selection committee would/could not go more than 6 if they were all in the same conference, because there just wouldn't be enough slots to pick more than that from any one conference -- even one with this many members.
The so-called lucrative TV deal for this basketball conference wouldn't be so great when split 16 ways -- not to mention the difficulty of showing many marquee games -- that is unless the Big East pitches the rule saying all teams have to be shown at least once on ESPN/ESPN2.
No, the problem with this plan is that it is too small for football, and too big for basketball.
Inevitably it seems that I read something along the veins of this article every year.
This, I submit, is a very good thing for college football. The sport needs USC to be good. Needs Notre Dame to be strong. Needs Oklahoma and Alabama and Michigan to be competitive.
And the sport is stronger when those schools with the most powerful histories and traditions are strong, and not struggling. It's fun to see an outsider charge into the big room and challenge for a championship, like Virginia Tech did in 1999, but college football's touchstones are in places such as Austin and Norman and Columbus.
Every year it sets my teeth to grinding.
Part of it is the sheer arrogance in believing that college football and tradition only belong in certain places that are still producing winning teams. I don't read any stories about the grand old days of when Fordham, Columbia and the Ivy Leagues ruled. What about poor old Rutgers, one of the true founding schools of college football? Haven't heard much about missing the great old Southern Methodist University teams.
Part of it is the elitism in denying that college football doesn't or shouldn't become that big in other places -- that they are less worthy for some reason. Sure schools like Virginia Tech and Florida State have built top-tier programs, and they have created rabid and fanatical fans, but that doesn't mean they have any right to be treated like Nebraska, Penn St., Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio St., Texas, or Notre Dame. Why, the nerve!
Mainly, though, it annoys me because what it is really just a chance for sportswriters to get lazy and pretentious. Who cares about really analyzing and writing about a present team, when you can just bask in the comparisons to teams of yore. Or to write about the great old traditions. They write their flowery prose with dreams of dime-a-dozen sportswriting awards, and fantasies of a Pulitzer dancing before them. Never noticing that they are writing the same generic piece that has been written dozens of times before in dozens of cities before.
And when things go south, the same writers quickly turn on the "storied programs" by bleating about how overbearing and unrealistic and arrogant the fans, alumni and boosters are in daring to compare today's situation to the days when Bryant, Schembeckler (sp?), Hayes, Rockne, Osbourne and so on strode the sidelines. As if.
Well, here's the positive spin on allowing 5 touchdown passes:
Here's the good news: You can't call Texas A&M's secondary untested any longer.
Most of the blame for this loss went on the offense blowing it in the red zone.
Texas A&M enjoyed lots of big plays, gaudy stats and momentum-building moments in the first half Saturday against No. 17 Pittsburgh. Everything except lots of points on the scoreboard.
So the Panthers capitalized on the Aggies' inability to capitalize by running away with a 37-26 win in front of 79,116 at Kyle Field.
Though some knew who was really to blame.
A remarkably mediocre defense, [former head coach] R.C. Slocum's legacy to A&M, buckled in the second half again. Two quarters from an upset, the Aggies allowed four second-half touchdowns in a 37-26 loss to No. 17 Pitt at Kyle Field.
On defense, the Aggies have nothing close to their skill level.
Given A&M's tradition and recruiting base, that should not happen. Blame it on the talent drain that began on Slocum's watch.
Of course part of the problem seems to be a second consevutive game where there is a total meltdown in the second-half.
Four games into the season, A&M's finishing kick has been more like a kick in the teeth.
Continuing a season-long trend, the Aggies melted in the second half Saturday. This time, No. 17 Pittsburgh overmatched Texas A&M and eased to a 37-26 victory before 79,116 at Kyle Field.
The Aggies were ahead 13-9 at halftime, but that lead vanished in the third quarter. The Panthers had two consecutive 80-yard drives to start the quarter and added a third touchdown after an A&M turnover to go ahead 30-13.
Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford passed for five touchdowns, three of them to Larry Fitzgerald. Although the Aggies had 544 total yards, they were outgained 295-241 in the second half and outscored 28-13.
In four games, Texas A&M (2-2) has been outscored 83-44 in the second half. In the Aggies' last three games, it is 75-27. Both Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh had long drives to open the second half, setting the tone for a defeat.
Give the sportswriters in Texas credit. They didn't sugarcoat the loss. They didn't make excuses. They came out and wrote that Pitt beat A&M .
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Now, take Purdue which beat a pretty bad Notre Dame team, at home. They move from being unranked in the ESPN poll to being #23 (the AP had them at #22 and kept them there). How about Minnesota hanging on to beat a Penn State team that had only beaten Temple and Kent State in Happy Valley: ESPN -- from #20 to #16; AP #24 to #21. Tennessee, who was at home needed 2 or 3 overtimes to beat an unranked South Carolina team, moved up a notch. Florida gets some incredible luck to barely beat Kentucky and moves up in both polls from #25 to #24.
On the other side, TCU beats a bad Arizona team and falls 4 spots in the ESPN (#17 to #21) and 1 notch (#19 to #20) in the AP.
I'd say they don't matter, that only the BCS when it is released is what counts, but these two polls count 50% towards the BCS rankings.
Those wonderful ABC regional telecasts decided that the Cleveland area should be subjected to the Notre Dame-Purdue spectacle. I probably could have found a bar with a dish and enough TVs that they could have spared a monitor for me, but then I would hardly have been in any condition to evaluate the game by the end -- after the first half, I probably would have been seeing red, and drinking like it. Instead I watched Notre Dame lose and contented myself with the knowledge that I was serving as advanced scout on Pitt's next opponent; while waiting for updates and occasional calls to Pat and Shawn regarding the game.
I did end up catching ESPN College Game Day Scoreboard at 7pm and the late edition.
The early edition was illuminating for the, shall we call it, effusive praise of Walt Harris -- especially by Mark May (Pitt alum) and Kirk Herbstreit. The phrase "offensive genius" was bandied about by the two of them.
The late edition with just Mark May and Trev Alberts to comment was more rational. Mark May, while still praising Pitt, really had some questions about the Pitt defense. He pointed out that the Pitt D has allowed almost 1100 yards over the last two games. Let me also point out that except for the opener against the Golden Flashes, Pitt has allowed at least 20 points. Statistically, it seems clear that Pitt could have easily lost this game but for the turnovers. Texas A&M lost the ball 4 times on fumbles and interceptions to Pitt's 1 interception. Otherwise, Texas A&M ran and passed for more yardage (kind of reminds me of when Pitt lost to ND last year).
Tight End Kris Wilson, was again underutilized --only 2 receptions for 33 yards.
At first, I was a little annoyed for Pitt to have a bye week this soon -- after starting the season a week late -- but given injuries to several starters -- Brockenbrough, Miree, Claude Harriot, Lewis Moore and Justin Belarski -- this looks like a good time for a break.
I've got to say, that this was a very important win for Pitt, not just because of their rebound from last week's loss and the fact that they actually made some second half adjustments. No, because this game meant more than last week's game. Last week's loss actually doesn't look so bad insomuch as it was perceived nationally as just part of a fantastic weekend for the MAC. Pitt was just one of several top teams that lost to MAC teams that day. Toledo actually looked respectable (up until they laid an egg against the 'Cuse).
No, this game was important, because it was a game Pitt could have lost and wouldn't have been a big shock to lose in College Station to a decent A&M team. This was the kind of game Pitt needed, a win on the road against a quality team.
UPDATE: Looks like the issue of the defense is being picked up as a concern.
Saturday, September 27, 2003
When the hell did Walt Harris and his coaching staff start making effective halftime adjustments?
I mean, at halftime, we were trailing 13-9. Texas A&M had pretty much dominated us all afternoon, aside from a few flashes of brilliance from Larry Fitzgerald. Pitt Defensive Coordinator Paul Rhoades apparently forgot to prepare our defense for the option (I mean, who the hell would have ever suspected that a Big XII team would run the option?). Worse yet, Rhoades apparently forgot to teach anybody how to tackle anything. On the offensive side of the ball, Rod Rutherford was way off target -- frequently missing wide open receivers. To be honest with you, I had pretty much given up on Pitt at that point.
But then a completely different Panthers squad emerged from the tunnels after halftime. Apparently Harris had finally watched the tapes from the Texas A&M/Virginia Tech game last Thursday, and had realized that the Aggies had trouble defending the run. Despite the loss of starting tailback Brandon Miree, the Panthers started successfully ramming the ball down the Aggies's throats (especially with Polite). This forced the Aggies to leave our receiving corps in man-to-man coverage, and shortly thereafter, Texas A&M's wheels just fell off under the aerial attack. The Panthers scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter, and easily held off a comeback attempt by the Aggies in the fourth.
I have never seen such a complete mid-game turnaround by a Pittsburgh Panthers football team. We went from being dominated to dominating in the time that it took Texas A&M's camouflage-wearing marching band (dorks) to get on and off the field. Walt Harris and his staff on the offensive side of the ball outcoached the living hell out of Dennis Franchione at halftime... and this despite Harris's long-standing record of stubbornly making literally no halftime adjustments whatsoever (to my frequent and bitter frustration).
(Just in case I'm painting too rosy of a picture here, however, the Panthers's defense continued to reek AFTER HALFTIME. I've never seen a team miss so many easy tackles. And I suspect that if we hadn't knocked Aggies Quarterback Reggie McNeal out of the game, they would have continued to successfully run the option against us. I have been very disappointed in the job that Paul Rhoades has been doing for us all season long. This game only reinforced that. Of course, to be fair, Rhoades had lost both Claude Harriot and Lewis Moore to injuries for most of the game.)
But the crux of this whole game was and is that Larry Fitzgerald is Almighty God... er... well, at least a half-diety like one of Zeus's illegitimate children to some earth-bound Greek slut. Even Musberger couldn't shut up about him. That Willy Mays basket catch for a touchdown in the midst of three Aggie defenders was the most freakish thing that I've seen a receiver do since Cris Carter retired. Fitzgerald must have finished the day with at least 135 yards, although his official stats have not been posted yet. This kid, who seems classier than I'll ever be, has got to be a legitimate Heisman contender now.
So as far as my picks for this week went, I got the Pitt game way wrong (and I couldn't be happier about it). I think that I'm going to have to throw in the towel on the Toledo/Syracuse game too. The Rockets are currently down 27-7 in the 4th quarter. Perhaps that win in the Glass Bowl was a freak after all. Ether way, I refuse to believe that Syracuse anything-but-sucks this year.
But my Minnesota Golden Gophers came through for me by sticking with their running game and powering the ball down Penn State's helpless little throat when it mattered in the fourth quarter (Minnesota 20, PSU 14). Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions showed some heart in this game, and that scares me. After most of Penn State's tailbacks and wide receivers proved worthless yet again, Quarterback Zack Mills got hurt, backup Michael Robinson came in, and suddenly the Lions had a legitimate scoring threat... a running quarterback like Michael Vick... albeit a slower, white bread version. Either way, the Lions came up JUST short yet again.
So I went 1-2 on the day, taking my season record to .500 (9-9). I might take the week off next week, as I'll be on a cruise ship on my honeymoon. Besides, both Pitt and Ohio State are idle. In any case, I sincerely doubt that anybody really cares.
Hail to Walt Harris for finally learning how to make halftime adjustments. Hail to Pitt for a legitimately impressive win. And Hail to good swift asskickings for Paul Rhoades (AGAIN) and for Texas A&M for having the stupidest traditions in college football (just because you take yourself way too seriously doesn't mean the rest of the world isn't laughing their asses off every time you end a cheer with "OOP!").
Friday, September 26, 2003
As unbelievable as this seems today (just four years later), Penn State was then the second ranked team in the country -- heading towards a seemingly inevitable clash with Florida State for the national championship. About 130 miles east-northeast of Pitt Stadium, the mighty Nittany Lions were in Beaver Stadium hosting a massive underdog: the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The surprisingly pesky Gophers, under the direction of Head Coach Glen Mason (one of my favorites), avoided a knockout punch all day long. Finally, down 23-21 with less than a minute left, the Gophers converted a hail mary fourth down play that brought them into field goal range. Mason skillfully ran the clock down, and the Gophers kicked a field goal with no time left. The ball fluttered past Lavar Arrington's outstretched hands and through the uprights.
The #2 ranked Nittany Lions lost, 24-23. One hundred and thirty miles to the west-southwest, Pitt Stadium erupted in such a loud cheer that the Panthers had to blow a time out in order to figure out what was going on. I, myself, yelled my head off, scaring the crap out of the little girl who was sitting in front of us.
The front page headline in the next day's Altoona Mirror read "10 AND... OH NO!!!"
That 24-23 upset loss to lowly Minnesota knocked Penn State football into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover. Since that fateful day in 1999, the Nittany Lions have gone 22-22. This tailspin, coupled with Walt Harris's stunning rebuilding effort, is why our own Pitt Panthers are now the foremost college football program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I never would have believed that it could happen back in 1999, and neither could any of you.
Tomorrow, the Penn State Nittany Lions will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Beaver Stadium for the first time since that fateful day in 1999. So wherever you are tomorrow, take a moment and savor what all has happened to Pitt football since then.
I know where I'll be. Sitting in Beaver Stadium rooting for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Hail to Minnesota and Glen Mason
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Now, let me me get to Chas. I agree with the vast majority of what he has to say, but would like to clarify a few points. For instance, I fully agree that the Big East should not try to continue as a mega-conference with different schools playing football and non-football sports. All that I would clarify beyond what Chas said is the reasons why: such a conference would have no identity, would thus continue to get raided by other conferences, and would continue to dilute football profits across less profitable non-football-playing schools like Georgetown or St. Johns.
"Lee is worried that Boston College will be poached by the ACC, well the ACC is apparently shooting a little higher."
The ACC's arrogance here is outright laughable. Notre Dame wouldn't join the Big Ten to play football when invited in 1999 -- despite the facts that (1) ND sits right in the middle of the Big Ten's turf, (2) ND matches the Big Ten's academic standards, (3) ND's own faculty strongly recommended that the school join the Big Ten, and (4) ND has ancient rivalries with several Big Ten schools (e.g., Purdue, Michigan State, and remember that Notre Dame football was only born when a few guys from Ann Arbor, Michigan, showed up in South Bend to show the locals a new game that was sweeping the country). But Notre Dame is supposed to seriously consider joining the ACC? Right. Whatever.
If Notre Dame EVER plays football in any athletic conference, it will be the Big Ten. But I sincerely doubt that they'll ever do even that much. The Irish are simply too proud of their independent status.
By the way, remember how the ACC pointed out with pride, when Miami and Virginia Tech joined the league, that it wouldn't even have to change it's logo: it would just add two new dots to the map. So tell me, where the hell does Indiana fit on your map? Exactly what about Indiana says "Atlantic Coast?" Can I vacation on Indiana's Outer Banks? This is the most blatant money grab since... well... the last time that the ACC tried to expand.
"This is not good. While I don't think Notre Dame is going to the ACC, it could be using it as leverage against the Big 11 to keep the majority of its NBC football money if it would join the Big 11."
Notre Dame certainly could be doing that. But like I said, I don't think that Notre Dame really wants to join either the Big Ten or the ACC. I've said it hundreds of times before, and I'll probably say it again: the ACC's 12th member will probably be Boston College, the Big Ten's 12th member will probably be either Pitt or (more likely) Syracuse, and Notre Dame will rot in the wilderness by itself.
"It now appears that the last grasping hope for saving my beloved school from eventual college football irrelevance is a complete shake-up/revolution in the BCS system."
The prospects of the Loyal Big East Football Conference retaining our seat at the BCS banquet are admittedly growing dim. However, I personally think that we could still do it with the help of a few upper-tier Mountain West and MAC schools. Besides, maybe... just maybe... Boston College is so pissed off at the ACC that it won't bolt after all.
As for the "Retro Jersey Notes" post, I absolutely loved the Sports Illustrated piece on retro college football uniforms. I think that Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Tulane, and especially Miami should return to their retro unis right away.
However, none of these old uniforms are as cool or as unique as Pitt's old uniforms were. All I'm asking is that our team come out in the old unis for a game or two.
Finally, Columbus just went up another peg in its battle for supremacy with Pittsburgh. It just landed an arena football team. The Buffalo Destroyers will be moving to Columbus this winter.
Hail to Boston College's Staying Loyal to the Big East This Time and to the ACC's Having to Settle for Southern Mississippi or Some Other Crap School
Quick recap, Miree was going into his sophomore season at Alabama as the projected starting RB. Franchione took over as head coach, and changed the system -- knocking Miree down the depth chart. Miree asked out of his scholarship to transfer, Franchione (who later skipped out on his contract with Alabama to take the Texas A&M job) wouldn't let him. Miree went over his head to the AD and eventually got his release. He ended up transferring to Pitt.
Miree isn't saying much about the matter, but you have to hope he uses it as motivation. Of course, it would help if he got the ball enough times. He is averaging less than 20 touches a game.
Who will Time of Possession favor? Franchione likes to control the pace of the game. Against VA Tech last week, A&M held the ball for just over half the game (30:43) -- the first time this season they "won" the time of possession battle. Yet another reason for Pitt to mount a successful ground attack this week.
The Big 12 beat reporter for the Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram picked A&M over Pitt 24-21.
Otherwise, there isn't much of a buzz leading up to this game. Not too surprising since both teams lost last week. Gosh, can you imagine all the attention this game would have gotten if both had won? Damn.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
You can sound off to them here. I don't know what they were thinking with the Marshall, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma -- which didn't exactly have radical shifts. Iowa State they conceded went through dozens of changes and just settled on the worst example they could find. The Va. Tech was particularly bad.
I have to admit, though, I kind of liked the old Miami helmet.
The Big East plans to invite four Conference USA teams to join the league in 2005, keeping the conference intact after defections of its two biggest football programs threatened to split it in two.
Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville and Marquette will be invited in November, a source close to the expansion plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday.
Yes, that's right. The Big East will stay united as a Mega-Mess-Conference. Two divisions, eight teams in each, sixteen teams total. The divisions would be split into basketball/football and basketball only.
It will be one hell of an unwieldly basketball power conference. As an 8 team, football conference, though, it will absolutely blow (the lack of archived links is Blogger's fault).
Lee is worried that Boston College will be poached by the ACC, well the ACC is apparently shooting a little higher.
The ACC is having discussions with Notre Dame about becoming the league's 12th member, with concessions to allay the school's concern about giving up its lucrative independent status in football in the near future.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame has had membership discussions with the 11-school Big Ten, too.
Sources close to Notre Dame say the Big Ten hasn't pushed the football issue as hard as the ACC, though it also would ultimately want Notre Dame to become its 12th football member.
This is not good. While I don't think Notre Dame is going to the ACC, it could be using it as leverage against the Big 11 to keep the majority of its NBC football money if it would join the Big 11.
Getting back to the Big East decision to remain united. Why? Why? Why? Why? I've tried to be somewhat optimistic. I've tried to believe that Pitt and the other Big East football schools would finally understand that it is untenable to be a split conference.
But no. They have apparently drunk the kool-aid and are willing to create an unwieldly, geographically stupid, bloated league stretching from Providence, Rhode Island to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am disgusted, demoralized, despondent and depressed. No sir, I don't like it.
It now appears that the last grasping hope for saving my beloved school from eventual college football irrelevance is a complete shake-up/revolution in the BCS system.
I had personally thought that the NCAA would approve the ACC's request in order to limit any further conference raiding of the type we all had to sit through this past summer (I would cite some of our previous discussions on this topic, but for some reason, our archives no longer work. Chas?). But no. So then Terry Don (Y'all can refer to me as Lee Charles) takes a few seconds of his life that he'll never get back to point out the blatantly obvious next step.
"I think (adding a 12th team) would be where we need to go, if in fact we want the championship game."
I think we can assume that the ACC does, indeed, want that lucrative football championship game. So brace yourself, fellow Pitt fans. Here we go again. So who is the ACC's first target for their 12th team? Potential Big East member Louisville? UCF? South Carolina or some other SEC team? I don't know for sure. But Terry Don does drop a hint.
"I think people continue to have affinity [for Boston College]," Phillips said. "I don't know how they feel about us after what's happened."
@#%*@#% great. The chicken-fried, NASCAR-lovin' bastards are looking at raiding the Big East yet again. Assuming that (1) Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese handles this situation as competently as he has handled everything else this year, and (2) Boston College thus leaves vapor trails bolting to the ACC, where does the Big East go from there?
My guess is, to pieces. At some point, the monster conference that mostly lies to our west (at least, all of the decent teams lie to our west, Lion Fan) is gonna get championship game envy too, and start hunting for a 12th team. Pitt, WVU, and Syracuse will all be considered, and as I've said many times before (where the hell are our archives?), I suspect that Syracuse will be selected (although Pitt will certainly make a strong bid).
But even if the Big Ten decides not to expand past its current 11 members (and there are many within the conference who don't want it to), I doubt that a Big East Football Conference composed of Pitt, WVU, Syracuse, UConn, and Rutgers could invite in enough nearby Conference USA members in to maintain its BCS conference status. I suspect that we'd have to invite some far flung members in as well: perhaps Brigham Young, Colorado State, San Diego State, Northern Illinois, Toledo, or Marshall.
Although this might help us to maintain our BCS conference status, it would make us into the new Conference USA -- a shapeless, sprawling mess that's always under attack from other conferences who wish to expand.
So in conclusion, I don't think that this is a good thing for alma mater, dear old Pittsburgh.
Hail to Good, Swift Ass-Kickings for Mike Tranghese (for not reforming the Big East Football Conference by now to make it more attractive to Boston College and everybody else), the ACC (seriously, why did you chaw-chewing idiots stop at 11 members this past summer?), those idiots in the Glass Bowl who damn near killed themselves ripping the goal posts down, and whoever is behind these vanilla flavored colas (THEY SUCK!!! OK!?)
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
PITTSBURGH (pick 'em) AT TEXAS A&M: Aggies's quarterback Reggie McNeal nearly carried Texas A&M past Virginia Tech by himself last Thursday night in Blacksburg. Thanks in part to his offensive line, McNeal can both run and throw with the best of them. Pitt has trouble defending quarterbacks like McNeal. Heck, Pitt has trouble defending anybody who can throw the ball these days.
Kyle Field is a helluva place to get well after Toledo busted out a family-sized can of whoop-ass on the Panthers last Saturday, and Walt Harris has never been one to quickly turn around a team anyways. So I'll take the Aggies and hope to be wrong.
TOLEDO (+4) AT SYRACUSE: Chas was right. Toledo gets no respect. Syracuse is half the team that Pitt is this year. I'll take another dose of the MAC attack, please.
MINNESOTA (-2.5) AT PENN STATE: Da... da... da, da, da... PENN STATE SUCKS!!! This little ditty, once popular in Oakland (but not so popular since it actually became true), has never held more water than this season. The Lions are in the midst of a massive rebuilding effort, especially along their offensive line. I was not impressed by their half-assed victories against Kent State and Temple (they only looked decent at times during their loss to Nebraska).
Minnesota, on the other hand, ain't half bad this year. They got a very high powered offense (that's admittedly easy to overrate since they've only played patsies thus far). I pick the Golden Gophers to finish no worse than the middle of the Big Ten pack.
Sure, the Gophers are going to win this game. And it is a lot more probable that they'll win by more than 2.5 than less than 2.5.
NORTHWESTERN (I'm still waiting for the @#%*@#! line) AT OHIO STATE: I might wait until tomorrow morning to pick this one, as I'd like to see a real line. I'll edit this post then.
Incidentally, Neil Rudel weighed in on the Toledo loss in today's Altoona Mirror. He blamed it on stupidity within Pitt's athletic department: Pitt never should have agreed to appear in the Glass Bowl. Personally, I think that Toledo is good enough of a MAC program to deserve at least one home game every few years. Besides, Rudel's indictment smacks of the same rhetoric that was used to justify Penn State's avoiding Pitt a few years back. Either way, Rudel's piece was a very paternalistic, condescending waste of newsprint that isn't even worth reprinting here.
Hail to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, easily the funniest thing on these days
Monday, September 22, 2003
Quick offensive keys for Pitt:
Running game. Miree was lousy against Toledo. 62 yards on 20 carries. The O-line needs to be better, and so does Miree.
Spread the wealth when passing. Fitzgerald had 12 receptions for 201 yards (out of 315 total passing yards). The RB, Miree, was second on number of receptions with 6. The supposed number 2 receiver for Pitt -- Brockenbrough caught only 3 passes. Sooner or later, Fitzgerald will be shut down or some team will take a cheap shot to get him out of the game.
Use the Tight End. Kris Wilson is a stud TE, who will be a solid pro one day. Unfortunately, no one knows it, because he rarely seems to see the ball. He does a lot of blocking and running over the middle as a decoy. He's being wasted.
Quick Defensive keys:
Kill. Kill. Kill. The defense has not pressured the QB in 3 games this season. Herriot has only one sack. More is needed up front.
Two years ago, Pitt Head Coach Walt Harris nearly torpedoed the entire 2001 season and his job by instituting the spread offense over the summer before the season. Pitt went 1-5 to start the season before Harris stopped being stubborn and arrogant, and junked the spread. It had been obvious to everyone but Harris that the team hadn't grasped the spread offense -- every game with featured numerous delay of games and lost time outs because they couldn't get the play in and everyone set up, and completely predictable playcalling. The excuses were that the team didn't have the right players and that they didn't have enough time to really teach the players.
Last year, West Virginia under second year coach, Rich Rodriguez, beat Pitt with the spread offense. They were able to continually move the ball on Pitt, and while the final score only said 24-17, Pitt was completely outplayed.
Now, Toledo, who also runs a spread offense and has the 4th largest offensive line in the country, generates well under 100 yards rushing (not including the QB -- though it still falls short of the century mark), but gets 461 yards in the air. Pitt was not able to sack the QB once, despite better than 2-1 odds that Toledo would pass on any given play. (Apparently others are noticing Pitt's problem with the spread.)
By far, to me, this quote from Harris was the most telling:
They had a great game plan and executed everything tremendously. They did a lot of things we hadn't seen before and didn't prepare for, so that is a tremendous credit to the way they executed.
Say what? That may be a credit to Toledo, but it's also a hell of an indictment against the Pitt coaching staff. As Pat pointed out, Toledo made second half adjustments to help shut down the Panther offense, but Pitt made no changes and gave up 98 and 83-yard touchdown drives -- each of which included a 4th and long that they got with the pass. In those drives, the Toledo QB, Gradkowski, went 20-22 on the drives. This has been a longtime criticism of Harris and his staff -- no halftime or game adjustments. It's maddening. The plan appeared to be build a lead and hang of for dear life.
Well, congratulations Toledo. You got screwed in both polls. The AP poll has you just outside the top 25, and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll really screwed you - by keeping you in the middle of the "others" including being behind Marshall -- the team you beat last week. Enjoy the win now, and start looking for a new head coach. I'm guessing Tom Amstutz will be getting a few job offers after this season.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
TOLEDO 35, PITTSBURGH 31: Last week, I said that Paul Rhoades, Pitt's Defensive Coordinator, had a "crapload of work" to do before we faced "the likes of Virginia Tech and Miami." I was right in saying that he had a lot of work to do. However, my timeframe was a little off.
Pittsburgh native, Pitt reject, and Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski lit up the Panthers defense for 461 yards through the air with a spread offense that apparently Paul Rhoades never saw coming. On offense, we had literally no running game whatsoever. Although Rod Rutherford was able to pick apart Toledo's defense to the tune of 315 yards, he also threw two key interceptions that put the Rockets back in the game.
I think that the better team on this particular night probably won, and I give the University of Toledo (as well as fellow MAC members Marshall, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green) credit for showing that they belong in a BCS conference (perhaps the new Big East Football Conference should invite in Toledo and Marshall in addition to Louisville and Cincinnati?). But I can't help but express my extreme disappointment in Paul Rhoades. Somebody didn't take either the Toledo Rockets or the spread offense seriously enough.
MIAMI 33, BOSTON COLLEGE 14: I didn't think that BC could stay with the Hurricanes for four quarters, and I was right. What more needs to be said about this debacle?
MARYLAND 34, WEST VIRGINIA 7: I said right up front that I was least sure of my pick for this game, and cripes, was I off... Before yesterday, Maryland just never looked all that impressive to me, while the Mountaineers often did. Well, the wheels have fallen off of the WVU bandwagon for me.
What a terrible day for the loyal members of the Big East. We got kicked around by both the ACC (ouch!) and the MAC (whimper). Maybe we don't belong in the BCS after 2005.
OHIO STATE 24, BOWLING GREEN 17: Bowling Green, which is clearly in the top echelon of the MAC (with Toledo and Marshall) this year, did not disappoint me in this game. Meanwhile, Ohio State let its second opponent in a row come back from a 24-7 deficit (where's the killer instinct?). But, BG receiver Craig Jarrett dropped a sure touchdown, Will Allen saved the day yet again with an interception, and Ohio State escaped its own stadium.
Ohio State's defense slowed (although by no means stopped) the nation's most prolific offense. And the Buckeyes running game was, for a change, respectable. Scott McMullen did an OK job at backup quarterback. Still, I can't help but think that the defending national champions and their 18 game winning streak are, at this point, a lame horse, hobbling along, painful to watch, almost begging to be put out of its misery.
Tressel, overhaul this team now.
Incidentally, it was nice to see the previously invincible Michigan Wolverines go down in flames (it always is, and they always do). But it was awesome to see one of Kansas State's regularly scheduled patsies finally rise up and punk the Wildcats.
Hail to Toledo, Marshall, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Oregon (bad uniforms and all), Will Allen, and a good, swift asskicking for Paul Rhoades. And Hail to Pitt Sports Blather contributors Chas (and his family), John (and his family), Patrick, and especially my best man Shawn for driving all the way to Altoona to spend yesterday with Jen and I. We both genuinely appreciated it. I'm sorry that I couldn't spend more time with the gang.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Even though, this is only Pitt's third game of the season, the majority of teams are already looking at their 4th game. Pitt, it seems has been playing patsies forever this season. Toledo is no patsy, as they showed by beating Marshall.
Toledo has gotten juiced for this game. They are looking to be loud and take advantage of home field. A couple of the key Toledo players are Pittsburgh area natives, which has been the only angle even being played up in the Pittsburgh papers to this point.
Despite the worries, Pitt should win this game. Pitt has depth on the defensive line, which should lessen the impact of the Rockets' big O-line, unlike Marshall which was just worn down by the end of the game.
The big fear is looking past this game to the Texas A&M game next weekend.
Incidentally, for anybody rolling into Central Pennsylvania for my wedding this weekend, tickets are still available for that red-hot Penn State/Kent State game just 45 minutes down the road. Yeah, you heard me. The Nittany Lions STILL haven't sold out Beaver Stadium. And that's despite the fact that this will be the first completely untelevised Penn State football game in over six years.
Now that my requisite Penn State bashing is done, let's get to my favorite games for this Saturday...
PITTSBURGH (-10) AT TOLEDO: Last week, I promised myself that I would never again pick Pitt to cover against a MAC team. Admittedly, that was before I saw how small this spread is. However, given (1) that Pitt will be the highest ranked team ever to play in the likely-to-be-sold-out-and-loud Glass Bowl, (2) that the Panthers almost certainly will (and probably should) be looking past this game to their showdown with Texas A&M next week, and (3) that Toledo looked somewhat tough (or at least a lot tougher than Kent State or Ball State) in beating Marshall in Huntington last Friday, I'll stick with my oath. I'll take Toledo and the points.
MIAMI OF FLORIDA (-12.5) AT BOSTON COLLEGE OF MASSACHUSETTS: If Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse, and Rutgers fans will ever be united about anything, they should all be united in support of Boston College this Saturday. This will be the first time that a loyal Big East Football Conference member squares off against either of the traitors who decided to jump to the ACC this past summer.
You know that I'll be a temporary Eagles fan this weekend. And I definitely believe in the power of emotion and the power of a loud and vengeful home crowd (despite Tom O'Brien's pleas). However, I just can't make myself believe that Miami can't paste at least two measly touchdowns on this somewhat depleted Boston College team. So I'll take the Hurricanes to cover, and hope that BC proves me wrong.
WEST VIRGINIA (+9) AT MARYLAND: Ah, another Big East/ACC matchup. Of my four picks for this week, this is the one that I'm least sure of. I haven't seen Maryland all that often this year, but when I have watched the Terps, they haven't looked all that impressive. On the other hand, WVU looked great against an admittedly overrated Wisconsin team. I guess I'm just surprised that the Mountaineers are that big of an underdog here. I mean, is Byrd Stadium that tough of a place to play?
Given that Rich Rodriguez is always underrated and Ralph Friedgen is quickly becoming one of the most overrated head coaches ever (just because he's unusually fat doesn't mean that he's unusually good, and heck, who couldn't win the old ACC when FSU was down?), I'll take the Mountaineers and the points here.
BOWLING GREEN (-14) AT OHIO STATE: I'm trying to stay away from picking too many Ohio State or Penn State games (this is a Pitt website), but this one looks particularly scary. Bowling Green is clearly one of the better MAC teams this year, defeating popular pre-season pick for the Big Ten crown Purdue 27-26 two weeks ago. Plus, the Eagles pasted over 60 points on both Eastern Kentucky and Liberty. Ohio State, on the other hand, has no offensive line whatsoever, subsequently cannot run the ball, and can only sporadically pass. Craig Krenzel has been practically all of this team's offense since last year's Michigan game, and Craig Krenzel will sit this game out with an injury.
Ohio State hasn't lost to another Ohio school since the College of Wooster in 1913. Brace yourself. I'll take Bowling Green and the measly 14 points, please.
Hail to National Talk Like A Pirate Day, tomorrow. And Hail to Married Life.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Obviously, the easy target is Joe Paterno's age, but I don't think it's that simple. Play-calling, philosophy, game-management -- these things are insect bites. The real disease is recruiting.
Simply put, Penn State no longer recruits at a national-powerhouse level. Period. But it's deceiving.
Every year, Penn State starts near the top of the recruiting rankings -- TheInsiders.com currently lists them No. 1 -- but by February, they're nowhere to be found. Why? Because they give out the large majority of their scholarships to kids who are willing to commit before their senior year. In doing so, they're missing out on the growing number of elite players who wait until January or February to announce their decision. Michigan, for example, had as many SuperPrep All-Americas in its most recent recruiting class as Penn State has on its entire roster.
"You don't see Penn State hanging on in the latter stages of these recruiting races for difference makers," said SuperPrep publisher Allen Wallace, who's ranked four of PSU's last five classes outside the nation's top 10. "People like [Michigan safety and Pennsylvania native] Marlin Jackson."
Clearly, the Nittany Lions need to revise their recruiting strategy. Unfortunately, it's safe to say that nothing will change as long as Paterno is the coach. Not that it's solely his fault, but when one man has control over literally every aspect of the program, it's hard to imagine his staff effecting any real change.
This is a really good point. The usual explanations for recruiting that I've heard have been: the move to the Big 11 backfired for PSU -- they thought this would allow them to recruit more from the midwest, but instead Michigan and TOSU have been raiding in Pennsylvania; Pitt's resurgence has added competition for players (gee, that it wasn't a problem in the 70s and 80s); other schools stress JoePa's age when they come calling (funny that it doesn't seem to hurt Bobby Bowden); and bad karma for ending the annual Pitt-Penn St. game.
Paterno doesn't want to hold scholarships up until the end. He doesn't want to compete for players on the fence. He'd rather know his roster for next season by November, than wait on a player.
Fastbreak recruiting is good when you are a program trying to build (or rebuild) or if you are a mid-major. After a point though, if you have succeeded in building the program, you have to be willing to hold off on some scholarships for the really big recruits who are basically trying to figure out where they can maximize and showcase themselves for the NFL. I look forward to the day when Pitt is at that point.
[Keith] Benjamin, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard renowned for his gravity-defying dunks, chose the Panthers after originally committing to Villanova. He also received offers from Providence, St. John's and Seton Hall.
"He jumps to the moon," said Mt. Vernon coach Bob Cimmino, whose school sits 10 minutes outside of the Bronx. "He's a high-wire act. It's a gift."
Rated the No. 57 player in the country by HoopScoop and the No. 19 shooting guard by Athlon magazine, Benjamin averaged 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. His high school team is 51-3 the past two years, including 26-1 last season.
He backed out of 'Nova because they have major depth at the guard position, while he stands a shot at starting at Pitt. Pitt has 2 other scholarships to offer for the 2004 class.
Monday, September 15, 2003
This chat session from September 15, 2003, further explains why I hate ESPN college football analyst Trev Alberts so much. Last Thursday, during the halftime show of the Cal/Utah game, Alberts clearly guaranteed that North Carolina State would beat Ohio State this past Saturday. I know because I was watching (and blogged about it immediately here).
Mark May and Chris Fowler (who was runs with the second string boys on Thursday night) quickly teased Alberts about his guarantee. Fowler warned, "They'll hear that in Columbus." Alberts quietly responded, "Oh... I shouldn't have said that." However, Alberts DID NOT retract his guarantee.
I would respect Alberts for sticking with his guarantee after he let it slip. However, he hasn't done that since Ohio State actually beat N.C. State.
Mike, OH-IO: Got any more guarantees this week? Betting against your predictions is usually easy money.
Trev Alberts: I think you are referring to the guarantee that NC State would beat OSU. I just watched the tape and guaranteed that Amato's guys would be ready to play. I did not guarantee an NC State vicotry, I predicted a win. If it had not been for some boneheaded playcalling, I would have been right. If you are happy that you won against a 1-2 team in triple OT, good for you.
First off, either learn how to spell "victory" or use the spellchecker. Second, don't try to change what you said. You had a chance to retract your guarantee Thursday night and chose not to do so. Third, don't get so defensive about getting the Ohio State-N.C. State game wrong. No college football analyst gets it right every time. Heck, I went 1-3 this past week. You're going to predict many games wrong. You don't have to get bitter or insulting about it. Fourth, you should be used to predicting Ohio State games wrong by now (didn't you guarantee that Miami would win too?). Fifth, N.C. State isn't just your average 1-2 team. Many ESPN analysts -- including yourself, I believe -- predicted that they would win the ACC and that Phillip Rivers would be a legitimate Heisman contender. Ohio State was not playing a patsy.
Not surprisingly, I'm not the only college football fan who hates Pretty Boy Alberts.
Frank (Atlanta, GA): Who was more lucky last year? Ohio St to not lose a game or you to keep your job?
Alberts then gets into a pathetic little exchange that sounds like it belongs in junior high school.
Jim (DC): Trev, where do you live in Atlanta? Ever make it out to Makos or Hole in the Wall in Buckhead??
Trev Alberts: Yeah, I'm gonna tell you where I live so you can egg my house and beat me up! I live "somewhere" in Atlanta. Maybe you can find me.
Matt Bryant (Tallahassee): Are you saying that if Jim from DC found you, that he would be able to beat you up?
Trev Alberts: Well, let's face it. Like I've always said, I will fight anybody. I'm not scared. But I would never say I could beat anyone up. I'm a farm kid from Iowa now. I always tell everyone, if you are going to fight somebody, make sure you can win. I don't go lookin' for fights, but I will defend my self if I have to. You don't want to fight a farm kid! I'm a middle aged man! What do you want from me!
First, "myself" is one word. Second, just because you're from Iowa doesn't mean that you grew up on a farm. I DID grow up on a farm, and I was no tougher than my friends whose dads weren't farmers (I just worked harder after school, that's all). Third, you're getting a little paranoid and defensive. Nobody threatened to beat you up, old man. Fourth, grow up.
I would seriously take the Nittany Lion/Notre Dame-worshiping little turncoat Pitt alumnus, Beano Cook, over Trev Alberts any day. And that's saying a lot...
Ivan Maisel's piece on ESPN.com today turns up an interesting motivation for Michigan's remarkable success this season so far.
Upon more persistent questioning, however, some of the Wolverines said their motivation this season stems in part from the national championship won by their archrival, Ohio State, a year ago. "They are a great team and our biggest rival," said tailback Chris Perry, who has emerged not only as a Heisman Trophy contender but as a leader in the Michigan locker room. "When they go out and win a national championship, you try to go out and one-up each other. That's what rivals do. They're one up on us."
Now that's a real rivalry. Perhaps what Penn State needs these days is a real rival to motivate it. Now if we only knew where they could find one to put on their schedule...
Well, Rudel's call in show is over. Nothing surprising. Nittany Lion Nation is indeed encouraged by Penn State's gutsy performance in Lincoln, Nebraska last Saturday. Nevertheless, there were the usual spat of callers (probably an honest majority these days) who want Joe Paterno gone. Rudel thinks that if they have one more bad season after this one, empty seats at Beaver Stadium will force Penn State into asking Joe to resign.
One of Rudel's guests asserted that Joe Paterno still has value, though, because Penn State has one of the top two recruiting classes in the country right now. I would love to dispute that fact, since I'm pretty sure that even Pitt (as well as Michigan, Ohio State, USC, Miami, and several other schools) has a better recruiting class brewing than the Lions do. However, I can find no 2004 early class rankings on the internet. Has anybody else seen anything?
The student section at Heinz Field is so much more enthusiastic and fun than it was when I was at Pitt in the early 1990s that it almost embarrasses me. Of course, today's kids have the luxury of a winning program. Nevertheless, they really should give the kids better seats, even if it comes at the expense of money-paying, old alumni season ticket holders like myself. You want your loudest fans where they can do the most damage. Think of the student sections in Cameron Indoor Stadium or in the crotch of the Horseshoe.
The kids's booing Ball State both on and off the field was hilarious (if admittedly a little classless... I mean, wasn't it bad enough that the poor bastards had to play a top ten team on the road?). However, I still don't understand why security won't let the kids throw a beach ball around a little. Maybe those balls are a lot more dangerous than I think.
Speaking of things that have improved since I was a student at Pitt, the Pitt Band is genuinely impressive these days. I love their field entrance. I just wish that the stadium would kill that Alan Parson's Project music sooner when the team takes the field. I'd rather hear the Victory Song than that synthesizer crap.
Seriously (and don't think that I won't take a little crap for this from some of this site's other contributors), Hail to the Pitt Band
My picks against the spread for last week came the width of T.A. McLendon's ass from going 0-4. Fortunately, N.C. State's Head Coach Chuck Amato couldn't call a play right on EA Sports's NCAA Football 2003 (even with the animated Lee Corso recommendations), Ohio State's Will Allen made the hit of his career, and N.C. State came up a half yard short in losing to Ohio State 44-38 (3OT). It's a shame, in that it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys (snicker).
But despite their having beaten a rival who had openly circled September 13 on their calendar last winter, Ohio State revealed in this game (and in the last one) that it has some very serious problems. The Buckeyes simply cannot run the ball, and their senior-laden offensive line is getting repeatedly manhandled. They could get by on a sputtering offense last year, but that was with a far superior defense. I sincerely doubt that OSU can reclaim even the Big Ten crown without a fundamental overhaul.
So thanks to some luck in Columbus, I avoided the shut out and went 1-3 this past week -- taking my new overall record to 5-6. What the hell went wrong? Well, I can come up with three main problems with my picks.
1. I am an idiot (PITTSBURGH 42, BALL STATE 21). In spite of my having followed Pitt football long enough to know better, I picked Pitt to cover the spread against a MAC team -- based on Pitt's impressive performance against Kent State two weeks ago. But under Head Coach Walt Harris, Pitt has generally played to the level of its season-opening MAC opponents for at least a quarter or two, if not all day. I should have remembered this.
But that first half -- during which Ball State pretty much had their way both on the ground and in the air against our defense -- was absolutely frightening. Add Walt Harris's scattered episodes of predictable playcalling to Defensive Coordinator Paul Rhoades's woes, and I'm still shaking. The 9th ranked team in the country shouldn't have trouble against Ball State, even if only for a half. I think that we're lucky this game wasn't televised.
Either way, both Paul Rhoades and Bob Ligashesky (our special teams coach) have a crapload of work to do before we face the likes of Virginia Tech and Miami.
2. Michigan is scary good (MICHIGAN 38, NOTRE DAME 0). This seemed like an easy pick at the time. Michigan never looks good three games in a row, and Notre Dame always plays Michigan close. But as much as I despise having to admit it, this year's Michigan team is something special. Now watch the suckers get upset by Northwestern again.
3. Every now and then, Penn State actually tries (NEBRASKA 18, PENN STATE 10). After playing entirely flat against Boston College and Temple, one would expect that Penn State wouldn't put much effort into this one (especially along the offensive line). But for some freak reason, the Lions actually tried. Perhaps the outcome of this game has as much to do with Nebraska sucking as Penn State's improving. Nevertheless, I was somewhat impressed with the Lions.
Too bad they don't play Michigan this year. I could root for lightening or a tornado or something...
Hail to Heinz Field Security Getting Off the Student Section's Ass... I Mean, It's Only a Freakin' Beach Ball, Fer Chrissakes
The game was alternatingly frustrating and predictable. Pitt came out in the first half and were sleepwalking on both sides of the ball. No spark. No energy. Ball St. was not rolling over for them. At the end of the half, the score was 14-14; and there were boos in the stadium for the performance.
The 3rd quarter was different. Pitt showed some spark and pride. The defense shut down Ball St. and Pitt put 21 unanswered points on the board. Ball State added a 4th quarter touchdown to keep more fans from breaking for the parking lot early -- and insure that there would be no chance to cover the spread -- on a mild, overcast day.
Ultimately, Pitt won the game with ease; and there are plenty of excuses for being so sluggish and even looking past Ball State to the game against Texas A&M in 2 weeks. Still, there is that upcoming game against the Toledo Rockets in the Glass Bowl. Toledo just came off a great win against Marshall in Huntington. Toledo may actually give them more of a battle than expected.
Friday, September 12, 2003
Thursday, September 11, 2003
At the end of the game, Dad said, "That's the greatest college football game ever that I've seen." This means a lot, coming from a man who has followed the game closely since the mid-1950s, and who is certainly not a fan of Ohio State.
Despite what Maurice Clarett has done to tarnish this contest since then, it's hard to argue otherwise. Four times, a team (twice Ohio State, twice Miami) stood at fourth-down-and-ballgame. Three out of the four times, the involved team survived. But beyond that, there's nothing more thrilling than watching a significant underdog (13 points) struggling against a fabulously talented opponent, to the brink of catastrophe and back, over and over, through two overtimes, until they finally power their way, with their defense on the field, into a national championship for the ages.
And it certainly doesn't hurt when all of your friends from Pitt are openly rooting for Miami out of loyalty to the Big East Conference. Too bad Miami didn't return that loyalty.
In any case, only one sports-related event could mean more to me than my long-suffering Buckeyes winning a game like that. And that's if my even-longer-suffering Panthers won it all. None of Pitt's current players can remember how terrible Pitt was in the Paul Hackett days. Only those of us who were stubborn and (face it) stupid enough to adopt the Panthers then can, and that's probably for the best. First, I thought that Pitt would never stay in Division I-A. Then, I thought that Pitt would never surpass (let alone beat) Penn State. Then, I thought that Pitt would never make the top ten. Then, I thought that Pitt would never sell out its stadium unless Notre Dame was in town. Now, I don't know what to think some days (although my long-learned pessimism certainly isn't dead).
That Pitt has rebuilt to the level it's at now is miraculous, and I have to remind myself of that sometimes. If Pitt can even get a whiff of the national championship this season, I'll be ecstatic. But if Pitt could actually rebuild all the way back to 1976 (and don't even think of bringing up that "Back to the Future" crap)... well, could there be a bigger underdog? I mean, do you remember the Paul Hackett days!?
(By the way, just now, during the halftime show of the Cal/Utah game, Trev Alberts garanteed that North Carolina State would beat Ohio State this Saturday. That does it. I'm refinancing the house, running to Vegas, and putting it all on the Buckeyes.)
I don't have any jpeg's of hotties that ratings-starved Fox Sports trots out there in a pitful attempt get anybody to notice (didn't O'Rielly make fun of CNN's pushing Paula Zahn?), so I'll just sign out.
Hail to Paul Hackett's Sitting Somewhere Out There, Feeling Guilty For Ever Cashing a Paycheck in Oakland
"Let's face it: Would you rather talk to me or some overweight dude with cheese-puff stains on his T-shirt?"
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Ball State (+31) at Pittsburgh: This is obviously another name-your-price, sucker bet game that is almost impossible to pick against the spread. That being said, Pitt beat the living hell out of the spread last week against Kent State, and looked quite impressive while doing so. Plus, I doubt that Pitt will be looking past the Cardinals (yes, I had to look it up) to Toledo. I'll suspect more of a let down next week than this week. So I'll actually (gulp) take Pitt to cover.
Notre Dame (+10.5) at Michigan: First off, I sincerely commend the University of Michigan for refusing to play Notre Dame after this series until the Irish join the Big Ten Conference. It's nice to finally see the Wolverines match the stand Woody Hayes took in the freakin' 1960s (and that John Cooper broke in 1995-96). Personally, I think that Big East schools should refuse to play Notre Dame as well until the Irish join a conference (hopefully the Big East... think of all your subway supporters in the Northeast!).
Michigan has looked dominant this year, so far. And therein lies the problem. Neither Michigan nor Ohio State ever look dominant three games in a row. Add in the Wolverines historical slump against the Irish, and the fact that Michigan is about the biggest rival that Notre Dame has these days, and... well... this one seems easy. On history alone (as well as Ty Willingham's strategizing), I'll take the Irish and the points.
North Carolina State (no line) at Ohio State: No line? No freakin' line whatsoever on the Buckeyes at home on national television against the team that got manhandled (not just upset) by an admittedly decent Wake Forest team last week?
I know that Ohio State looked pathetic against San Diego State, but I think we can assume that the Buckeyes might have been looking past the Aztecs to the only team that I've ever seen talk more trash than Michigan. And sure Maurice Clarett has been a distraction. Good. Ohio State has traditionally needed a reason to focus on big out-of-conference games like this.
N.C. State's aerial attack against Ohio State's secondary will decide this game, and I don't think that the Wolfpack can keep it up all day. So I'll take N.C. State to lead at halftime, and Ohio State to pull away in the end.
Penn State (+10) at Nebraska: Heck, these days a man could make his living picking Penn State not to cover spreads. Add in the facts that (1) Penn State's defense couldn't stop Boston College's running game but now must face the Cornhuskers's option, and (2) Zack Mills couldn't pass against BC's defense but now must face the resurgent Blackshirts? Forget about it. The world needs more easy picks like this.
(Incidentally, the fact that these two equally downtrodden programs are actually finding the time to talk trash about each other, to the level that even ESPN noticed, is the funniest thing I've seen this week.)
Hail to More Night Games at Heinz Field
RPI from the 2002-2003 season out of 327 schools.
Now the Big East schedule actually looks difficult because the new 16 game season means playing 10 of the teams only once, but 3 teams twice. The 3 teams Pitt will be facing twice are: UConn, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Now Pitt has had really easy non-con b-ball schedules for a while, and it hurt them 2 years ago in the seeding for the NCAA tournament. Last year, despite being a Top 10 team, the strength of schedule (SOS) for Pitt was only 56. It doesn't look, judging by the non-con, that the SOS will be that much better. So to read this from Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon in the press release, just makes me roll my eyes.
"By far, it's the most difficult schedule we will play in my five years here," Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon said. "The Big East will again pose a tremendous challenge. I'm excited about our non-conference schedule as well. We're bringing in teams from three of the major conferences -- the ACC, SEC and Big 10. I doubt there are many schools nationwide who can say that."
You're not exactly facing in Duke, Florida and Michigan St.
So let's keep the schedule in perspective. The doubters of Pitt will have every right to point at the schedule once again before conference play begins and ask "But whou have they played?"
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
I'm not going to pretend that I know much about Mr. Peyton beyond this. All I know is that he's automatically cool for choosing Pitt. More importantly, I know that I continue to be impressed with Walt (quarterback genius) Harris's ability to recruit in the face of all the uncertainty surrounding the Big East Football Conference. I mean, you just KNOW that LSU, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Auburn surely brought up the Big East's turmoil to Mr. Peyton.
Of course, beating out programs as prominent as LSU, Georgia Tech, and Auburn for a kid's services is pretty impressive in its own right.
Hail to the Quarterback Genius's Recruiting
I agree 100%. Granted, I have only seen games in PNC, Wrigley, Fenway and Three Rivers Stadium (I've seen the outside of Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Jacobs Field, Comiskey Park, Riverfront Stadium and The Vet, but that doesn't count), as well as minor league parks including Johnstown's Point Stadium, Blair County Ballpark (Altoona Curve) and the old home of the Durham Bulls, so my basis for comparison isn't as solid as others'. Still, PNC is a magnificent ballpark. Everything but the home team on the field is first rate.
What does this have to do with Pitt Football? Good question.
Really, I just wanted to spread the love for Pittsburgh. But now that I've thought about it, this article reminds me of how disappointed I am in Heinz Field. (Rant coming about now...)
The Rooneys (who own the Steelers, for those of you living on Mars for the last 60 years) had just as good an opportunity to build a palace of a football stadium as the Pirates did with PNC Park. But NO! Clearly, Heinz Field was built for one reason - luxury and club boxes, and the high ticket prices that come with them.
Sure, compared to Three Rivers, there are more seats on the sidelines and fewer in the endzones, and the seats are generally closer to the field (except for the upper upper deck). The seats are bigger, and there are more bathrooms, and let's not forget the Coca-Cola great hall. (Naturally, these things are all improvements over Pitt Stadium as well, but that is another rant entirely).
For the regular fan, though, Heinz Field could have been so much better. Ingress and egress is actually worse - three gates instead of four, and only two escalators for the peasantry. Getting to the 500 level at Heinz Field is worse than climbing up Cardiac Hill.
The scoreboard? They forgot to put the score on the board! They have to insert a graphic into the instant replay. There is no out of town scoreboard, and the mini-boards that hang on each sideline just above the club seats have such small lettering you can barely read them.
Far fewer seats are under cover - not as big a deal for baseball, since games are cancelled for bad weather, but for a winter sport like football, Three Rivers did have some [rotection.
And the cup holders? The don't hold any beverage holding device that is sold in that stadium.
Not bottles, not paper cups with pop, or plastic beer cups (Steeler games only). They might as well not have bothered - we would have a little more room for our feet without them.
The whole design of the stadium - with the 500 level being so high - is to accomidate the big money seats at mid level.
So, was tearing down Three Rivers necessary? Hell no. Sure, the Pirates needed PNC Park. Without it, I'm sure they would be losing real money instead of pretending to lose money.
The Steelers didn't need it at all. They only added 6,000 more seats (Three Rivers capacity was 59,000). The Rooneys needed an excuse to charge fans more money, so they figured the only way to justify it was to build a new stadium. If they had doubled the price for luxury boxes at Three Rivers, people and businesses here would have paid. All they had to do was declare a certain section "preferred" seating and people would have paid - that's how much Pittsburgh fans love the Steelers. But they couldn't let the Pirates have something without getting it themselves. They had to have their new stadium. And the irony of it is - they could have done it so much better (without even costing that much more).
Sure, maybe the Rooneys were right to be cheap - they knew that Steeler fans would still come no matter how the stadium was, and they would pay an arm and a leg to do so. But wouldn't it be nice to have two great stadiums? Especially after all we had to pay in taxes to get them? Especially since we (meaning Pitt) had to sacrifice our on-campus stadium.
Sure, there were a lot of problems with Pitt Stadium, but at least it was Pitt's. Someday, Pitt will be home again...
But I digress.
Monday, September 08, 2003
The whole system is keeping both foxsports.com and sportingnews.com urls, but you never actually know when you will be shifting from one to the other. The most immediate and noticeable effect -- the reduction of interesting content on team pages. There's a lot more reliance on the Fox junk. This means video and crap from the local Fox Sports affiliate.
The whole thing seems harder to navigate and in a moment of sheer, inspired brilliance, you still have separate sign-ins for the Fox Sports and the Sporting News sites. Great, work.
Now one of the aspects of tailgating in the city, are the people who come by. Rather than just drunk fans, we get panhandlers, peddlers and bit players. People looking to hit up the drunks one way or the other. So, we've settled in and are talking -- Pat's using ice to clean his chair -- when a guy rides up on a mountain bike, pops off it, and plops himself amongst us.
Before we can even react he has thrown down three cards face up on the ground. 10 of Spades, 10 of Clubs and the 10 of Hearts. He wants to do a little 3 Card Monty! Keep in mind that our tailgating crew has a large contingent of lawyers who work or worked for the Public Defenders Office. The guy starts his patter. He starts sweeping up the well worn, length-wise folded cards then throwing them down with practiced ease trying to get us interested. Trying to get us to put a little action on it. One of our group -- "Timmy Gates" starts talking with him a little, letting him do his spiel. Free entertainment.
Our new friend, looks at him and says, "You look familiar. Do I know you?"
Timmy responds, "I may have represented you at some point."
Pause, then, "Oh, s**t! Gates!"
You can't make this stuff up. He still took Timmy for about $25.
Did you ever wonder what local coverage is for patsy teams? I mean the teams that are bad, will almost always be bad, and their athletic department's budget is based on being paid 6 figures just to do a roadie to be beaten up. Teams like Louisiana Tech, Akron, McNeese St. and Kent St. Here's a sample.
Kent State's 15 minutes lasted exactly that long.
After a quarter of level-headed football, it looked as if the Golden Flashes were genuinely going to put together some sort of upset bid against Pittsburgh on Saturday night at Heinz Field.
Then it came unraveled mentally and physically -- and did so quickly. It was as if the two parties seemed all too happy to settle into the anticipated roles and the Panthers ended up getting some fun for their $300,000 in a 43-3 victory.
Honest reporting. Got to love it.
Speaking of honest reporting, the Rod Rutherford misdemeanor assault charge is still fodder. Actually, Harris's handling of it is more the issue. Either he should have benched Rutherford or played him, period. His half-ass "punishment" of not letting him play the 1st quarter was idiocy.
Of course, as we've been saying, this is not a major incident regarding Rutherford, but that won't stop some from trying to make it bigger. Take this from the Palm Beach Post who seems to link Adrian McPherson (the disgraced former Florida State QB who bet on games and may have bet on/against his own team) with Marcus Vick and Rutherford.
Rutherford was charged with kicking out a car window and assaulting a 19-year-old woman outside a nightclub early Monday. Vick, the younger brother of Michael, was one of two Hokies suspended this week after violating unspecified team policies.
While Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer held out Vick the entire game, Pitt's Walt Harris showed a silly little incident like punching a woman and displaying a violent temper isn't going to get in the way of a football game.
Harris believed the way to penalize his quarterback was to sit him... for the first quarter of the season opener against Kent State. Rutherford threw four touchdown passes in a 43-3 victory after being "punished." Rutherford should have been sitting on the sidelines for Saturday's game and probably a few more.
Punched? Violent temper? The alleged assault was that he grabbed her arm, through an open window leading her to strike her head on the inside of the car. There was never a punch. Of course that would interfere with a good story.
Nice to see that reporters are looking closely at the facts.
Back to the game. The dark cloud, was that it is clear that Getsy is a tremendous drop-off from Rutherford. Getsy got the start (because they still hope to be able to redshirt Palko) and it was ugly. Getsy was 0-4 passing in the 1st quarter, and 3-11 overall with some mop-up duty. The stats show Rutherford to be the key. This worries the hell out of me. As I've said, before, one of Harris's weaknesses is his focus on one of his QBs to the exclusion and bad development of the others. Looks like the trend is continuing. Or Pitt better blow out Toledo and Ball State early to give Getsy lots of mop up time.
Jeez, Penn State... You Really DO Suck
(Boston College 27, PSU 14) The sad thing is, I don't enjoy watching Penn State getting beat -- even by a 10 point underdog -- nearly as much as I used to. For one thing, it's getting old. Second, I'm afraid that if they lose too often, they'll let Paterno go before he has a chance to pull a Woody Hayes incident and scar that program's tradition forever. Plus, if they let Joe go now -- before he runs Penn State football too far into the ground -- it will be much less work for his successors to rebuild it.
...not that I didn't enjoy Penn State's loss a little...
After watching this game, the only thing that seems more laughable than my picking Penn State to cover the spread is my reason for doing so: I liked Penn State's offensive line and secondary. Saturday afternoon, both of these alleged advantages were especially pathetic. The offensive line had quarterback Zack Mills running for his life all day -- so much so that the kid who was once supposed to be the next Kerry Collins got benched in favor of his much more mobile backup, Michael Robinson. Meanwhile, the secondary got torched for 206 total yards in the first quarter alone.
Really, Penn State's defense in general was pathetic. They had literally no pass rush, even when they were blitzing. They repeatedly couldn't make simple tackles, and allowed Boston College to run the ball down their throat.
We all knew that this was going to be a rebuilding year for Penn State, and I went so far as to say in August that this might be their worst team in decades. But I never suspected that they could be this bad.
Of course, part of the problem was that I never suspected that Boston College (and the Wake Forest team that upset them the previous week) could be that good. But then again, I often don't give Big East teams enough credit.
Who Are You and What Did You Do With My Panthers?
(Pitt 43, Kent State 3) I didn't think that our Panthers would cover this week because (1) 30.5 points is a @#%*@! of a spread, (2) starting quarterback Rod Rutherford's legal troubles would be a distraction, and most importantly, (3) Pitt NEVER, EVER, starts the season strong.
And on our first three possessions, my prediction seemed dead on as redshirt-freshman quarterback Luke Getsy proved largely ineffective. But then, Walt Harris, quarterback genius, gave up the moral high ground and put in the legally embattled Rutherford. And Kent State's wheels just fell off. Of course, Kent State's decision to use one-on-one coverage on Larry Fitzgerald all damn day didn't help.
On one hand, I'm sure that Neil Rudel and his ilk will have a field day with Walt Harris's (quarterback genius) decision to play Rutherford. On the other hand, Rod hasn't been convicted of anything yet. Besides, didn't Joe Paterno play accused rapist Anwar Phillips in the Captial One Bowl, only to have Phillips exonerated last month?
Perhaps this team will be the one that breaks the mold of Panther football that we longtime fans with our deeply entrenched pessimism hold dear.
Fire Ron Zook Now
(Miami of Florida 38, Florida of Florida 33) How the hell do you let your archrival out of a 23 point hole? It's freakish games like this one, with no defense apparently on the field, that make me pray that I never have to relocate to the pancake-flat, insect-riddled, high-crime sauna of a state that is America's Wang. You suck, Florida. And by that, I mean the whole damn state.
But you, Florida Gators, especially suck. If I were Brock Berlin, I would have given you the Gator chomp salute too. I hope you enjoyed every humiliating moment of it. I don't root for you bastards very often, but when I do, I expect you to at least try past halftime.
By the way, I picked this game right.
Hail to Well Done Hebrew National Hot Dogs Dropped At Least Six Freakin' Times on the Ridge Avenue Parking Lot