Wednesday

9-30-09: More baseball and 2009 College Football Picks: Week 5

Hello again everybody...

I hope you had a chance to check out my companion blog: “The Gettysburg Files”. The second post went up today. If you'd like read more about my trip, click here.

It's mid-week and there are plenty of things yet to be decided.

The AL Central is still up in the air. And suddenly the NL Wildcard is very much in play. There are also plenty of college football lines to sort through and evaluate before arriving at the official Sports Take picks.

So much to do, and so little time.

Okay, there's still a decent chunk of time. But the the first way I wrote it sounds so much more impressive, no?

You're right... we should just get to it.

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."
- Anais Nin (1903 - 1977), Cuban-Spanish-French author


Not bad, but I prefer the Obi-Wan version: "...you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

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Well the first 2 games of the Twins/Tigers series were both very different than I thought, and yet eerily similar to what I thought.

How do I explain that apparent dichotomy? I'm glad you asked.

On the one hand, having Monday night's game rained out certainly wasn't amongst the options I'd considered possible. Having that game postponed meant a double header yesterday. That changes a lot of things.

It changes how you set up your line-up for starters. Do you play the same nine both games? Do you mix and match depending on the starting pitchers? Are all nine of your guys healthy enough to answer the bell twice in one day? Does it really matter if they're not? Do you have to send them out there anyway?

I promise you both Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenhire had to answer all these questions going into the early game of the day/night double-header.

It also changes the way you use your bullpen. If you have to use your closer to win Game 1, can he come back if needed in Game 2? What about the rest of your pen? Can you afford to warm a guy up twice in one day? Or, perhaps more importantly, can you afford not to?

All of these wrinkles were things I hadn't considered going into the series, because I was blissfully unaware that Mother Nature was going to throw the proverbial wrench into the works.

And yet, for all of those considerations, the first two games went much as I'd anticipated.

It was crucial for the Twins to win Game 1. And they did. Yes, in nail-biting fashion. But it was a win none the less.

The Twins 3-2 victory in Game 1 took some of the pressure off of Game 2. Yes, they still wanted to win Game 2. Knowing they have to get three of four in this series, winning Game 2 would give them something of a cushion going into Game 3.

However, Game 2 presented the tiny little problem of trying to beat Justin Verlander. Not very many teams have accomplished the feat, and given the gravity of the situation, he was likely to be on his game.

And he was just that. Even with Verlander's outstanding performance, the Twins managed to take Detroit to the limit. What looked like a comfortable lead for the Tigers was reduced to a 6-5 victory as the Twins fought until the last out.

So after the split of yesterday's double-header, we stand exactly where we stood as of Monday's column. The Twins remain two in back of Detroit, but now there are only 5 games left to play.

The upside is two of them are against Detroit. The downside is, unless the Twins win those two, their chances of winning the division are slim and none. And slim just put a down payment on a plane ticket to the off-season.

The pitching match-ups in Games 3 and 4 both favor the Twins. Tiger-killer Carl Pavano goes tonight, and Scott Baker goes on Thursday. Detroit counters with a kid who's got 14 games of Major League experience tonight (Eddie Bonine) and a guy who they didn't trust to start for them for 75% of the season (Nate Robertson) goes tomorrow.

But starting pitching is only part of the equation. Who can grab an early lead? Which bullpen outperforms the other? Which team makes a critical defensive mistake? These are all a part of the grand formula of Major League baseball. And they're why fans will be transfixed by every pitch for the next few days.

Can you tell the intensity's been ratcheted up a notch or two? I thought you might.

6:05pm is first pitch tonight. If the Twins score one, Detroit's got to score two. Let's go boys!

(Aside: I've been staring at a blinking cursor for the better part of 10 minutes trying to think of a clever way to transition from the wonder of the stretch drive, to fake college football wagering with no success... Unless... Yes! I've just done it!)

Wednesday also means the revelation of this week's college football picks. And that means I get to drop the bold italics on you again... here they are... my...

2009 College Football Picks: Week 5

I've got to tell you, it's slim pickin's this week ladies and gentlemen. Oh, I've got four picks for you. But I'll be honest in saying I only have a strong feeling about one. I'll do my best with the rest. Just know going in, that I'm probably saving 4-0 for a later week!

As usual, before I get to the real fake picks, here's a game I passed on...

LSU +3 @ Georgia: My first thought upon seeing this line was, “wow, Georgia's been way to up and down to deserve being favored in this game.” Then I thought some more about it. If it's true that the odds-makers give a team three points for being at home, then they're saying that these teams are pretty much even. Which, upon reflection is probably true. And when you're flipping a coin between teams, you'd better make that your Flier Pick or just stay away all together. Me? I'm going to choose the latter.

Now on to the real thing!

As usual, were I to have the wherewithal to make a worthwhile wager, these are the games I'd be betting on this week:

Wisconsin +2.5 @ Minnesota (11am, ESPN/ESPN2): The Badgers are 4-0 (1-0 in the Big Ten). The Gophers are 3-1 (1-0 in the Big Ten).
(*) - This game is this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week.

The Badgers laid the wood to Michigan State last weekend. The Gophers held on for a solid victory at Purdue.

The Badgers have won 11 of the past 15 meetings for Paul Bunyan's Axe. The Gophers have won 4.

The Badgers bring in a junior quarterback making his first start on the road in the Big Ten. The Gophers bring in a sophomore quarterback who's has a full year-plus of experience in the Big Ten.

Neither team has played a Big Ten game in brand-spanking-new TCF Bank Stadium.

Needless to say, there's a lot we don't know about this game, which is why the line is so low.

When that's the case, I'd usually pass on the game all together. But this is my school against it's most hated rival. How can I pass that up?

I have no clue who will win this game. The only thing that would surprise me is a blow-out either way. If I have to pick a game like that, I'll take the points. On Wisconsin!

Next...

Alabama -16.5 vs. Kentucky (11:21am, ESPN Gameplan): The Crimson Tide is 4-0 (1-0 in the SEC). The Wildcats are 2-1 (0-1 in the SEC).

Sixteen and a half are a lot of points to give in an SEC contest. But I like my chances here.

Alabama's for real folks. If the win over Virginia Tech didn't tell you that, then the way they dominated an Arkansas team which was coming off a 40-point week should have.

It's entirely possible that their new quarterback (Greg McElroy) is better than their old quarterback (John Parker Wilson), and he got the Tide to within one game of playing for the National Championship.

I know people are in love with the Gators and Tim Tebow*, but I'm not sure that Alabama isn't the best team in the SEC right now.

(* Aside: we may have to re-evaluate Tebow's nickname. I don't recall Superman ever getting a concussion! Even in Superman 3, when he chose to become human, all he got was a bloody nose! Sorry Tim. Maybe we can call you “Batman” or something. He gets concussed all the time. Plus, he's much more bad-ass. Trust me. This could work for you!)

And speaking of Florida, Kentucky just got done getting whipped by the Gators. At the Swamp followed by at Tuscaloosa?! When did head coach Rich Brooks piss off the schedule makers exactly?

Two brutal games in a row, means Kentucky's in a bad way.

That's why I'm picking 'Bama. And that's why I'll give the Wildcats a 16.5-point head start.

Thirdly...

Michigan +2 at Michigan State (11am, Big Ten Network): The Wolverines are 4-0 (1-0 in the Big Ten). The Spartans are 1-3 (0-1 in the Big Ten).

Can someone please explain this to me? How in the name of all that's good about recreational gaming are the Wolverines dogs in this game?!

All they've done is win their first four. Yes, their defense has been sporadic at best. But when a kid like Tate Forcier is on this kind of roll? Betting against him is a bad idea.

And can we be honest? The Spartans suck. I hate to say that, because it tempers my enthusiasm over Wisconsin's win last week, but it's true. Michigan State just plain isn't a very good football team right now. They've lost three in a row, and haven't given me any reason to think that they're close to getting the ship righted.

I know this is an intra-state rivalry game. I know you “throw out the record books when these two teams meet”. Blah-blah-blah. Michigan is better than Michigan State. Period. When you believe that, and you're being offered points, you thank the odds-makers for their gaffe and bet the house.

It pains me to say it... but Hail to the Victors. (Damn you Hammer. I know you're smiling right now.)

Finally...

Stanford -5 vs. UCLA (2:30pm, ABC/ESPN Gameplan): The Cardinal are 3-1 (2-0 in the Pac 10). The Bruins are 3-0 (0-0 in the Pac 10).

I admitted to you in Monday's Post-Mortem that I bet against Stanford merely out of hope that it'd set up a future wagering opportunity against Washington.

So how can the Cardinal make it up to me? By covering the 5 against UCLA of course! Stanford's at home. They can score points in bunches. And Rick Neuheisel has a ways to go before UCLA's a consistent threat.

I wish I had a whole lot more for you on this game. But that's really it. I don't like UCLA all that much, and Stanford cost me a pick last week. So what the hell! Let's take the Cardinal and root for whatever the hell that Tree mascot's supposed to be!

So there you have them. Four picks for your fake-wagering pleasure. Comments, queries, quibbles or complaints? Please attach a comment below and say so!

That's all for today. I'm back on Friday with a DFTU that will either be jubilant, or distraught. The next 18 innings or so will decide.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

9-28-09: 4 Games To Glory & 2009 College Football Picks: Week 4 Post-Mortem

Hello again everybody...

Hope you survived your weekend intact. Mine was quite relaxing, and fairly fruitful for most of the DFT's.

Not to mention productive for me, as well as for those of you interested in my Gettysburg trip. That's right, I finally managed to get the chronicles of my recent trip written and edited. Now all that remains is the posting.

I explain it in the new blog itself, but briefly, I wrote a post for each of the four days of the trip. I'll post them on the same schedule as The Sports Take. So today, Wednesday, Friday and a week from today you'll be able to check in and read-up on my trip. For those of you who'd rather consume the whole bit at once, wait til a week from today, and you can do just that.

With that, I humbly present to you The Gettysburg Files.

I'll include the link in the emails I send out as well, so you'll have ample opportunity to check it out!

But that's over on that blog. On this blog we talk sports. And Monday at The Sports Take means it's time to run down how I did on my weekly college football picks.

Before we can do that today however, I've got to preview the huge 4-game series between the Twins and the Tigers that kicks off tonight!

Off we go...

”Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself.”
A.H. Weiler (1909-2002), writer, editor and critic for the New York Times


Explains a lot about the fine folks in “Management”, doesn't it? “Never mind the details, just do what we say!” But I digress...

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It's do or die time in the American League Central as the Twins and the Tigers, separated by just two games, begin a four-game series tonight in Detroit.

If you're a Twins fan, that two game deficit means that you need the Twins to win three of four. Obviously we wouldn't say no to a four-game sweep, but at a minimum, they need to win three.

Three-of-four puts the Twins in a tie with the Tigers for the division lead with each team having three games remaining. The Twins at home versus the Royals. The Tigers at home versus the White Sox.

The Twins just got done taking two of three from the Royals, while the Tigers lost two of three to Chicago.

A split of the four-gamer doesn't kill the Twins chances, but means they'd need a lot of help over that final weekend. Anything less than two wins basically hands Detroit the division.

Here are the pitching match-ups: Monday – Blackburn (11-11, 4.07) vs. Porcello (14-9, 4.07); Tuesday - Duensing (5-1, 4.11) vs. Verlander (16-9, 2.62); Wednesday – Pavano (8-6, 4.77) vs. Bonine (0-1, 4.60); and Thursday – Baker (7-4, 4.30) vs. Robertson (1-2, 3.70).

Of course, those last two may be subject to change based on Detroit's habit of mixing and matching starters lately, but you get the general idea.

The Twins can't afford to think of it this way, but Game 1 is critical. You know they'll have their hands full in Game 2 against Verlander, so getting a win against Porcello would mitigate a lot of that pressure. The Twins beat Porcello 3-0 back on 9/18, so at least there's some good recent history there.

Tune in tonight. The season's on the line! First pitch is scheduled for 6:05pm Central time.

Next up, it's time to talk college football...

I came in to Week 4 with a 6-4 record. Would that improve, or regress? The only way to find out is to bring you my...

2009 College Football Picks: Week 4 Post-Mortem

Before we get to the actual picks, a few words on the 3 games I passed on...

Arkansas +15 @ Alabama: Final Score – Alabama 35, Arkansas 7
The Razorbacks were never in this game. They looked flat awful against Alabama's vaunted defense. A good pass by me.

Washington State +44.5 @ USC: Final Score – USC 27, Washington St. 6
Bad pass by me. I had several people tell me over the course of the week that I was nuts not to jump on the 44.5 points. What can I tell you? I had a bad feeling about this game. Unfortunately, my bad feelings aren't always right. Should've gone with this one.

Miami -2.5 @ Virginia Tech: Final Score – Virginia Tech 31, Miami 7
Another good pass by me. Scott in Eau Claire was all over this game. I guess “The U” isn't all the way back just yet.

But I don't count the games I don't pick, so let's get to the ones that I did!

First up...

Florida State -14.5 vs. South Florida: Final Score – South Florida 17, FSU 7

Wow.

Couldn't have been more off with this game, could I?

Florida State apparently never got off the bus, and USF had just enough to pull off the upset in Tallahassee.

I say “apparently” because I didn't realize until the game was nearly over that ESPNU is now a part of Comcast's Digital Tier. It used to be a part of the additional sports package, but apparently when the NFL Network made the move to the regular tier, ESPNU and the NHL Network came along for the ride! Check your local listings.

What Dan Learned: When I said in my preview that FSU has had an “up and down” season, I had no idea the downs would go this low. I won't swear them off just yet, but they're knocking on the door of “Eff You Auburn” territory!

0-1 but hopeful for the rest of the afternoon.

Next...

Nebraska -26.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette: Final Score – Nebraska 55, LA-Lafayette 0

And the “Official Nebraska Good Luck Charm” bit continues!

After the game, I had the following text conversation with one of my favorite Husker fans:

Me: “55-0. You're welcome for the pick.”

Nebraska fan: “Against the LA School for Girls? Psh. I think it would've taken you and [name redacted to protect the innocent] together to mogambo them!”

Me: “That's harsh man... but I know you say it with love!”

Nebraska fan: “I'm as mean as I am serious about thinking that your (or my) picks can influence the outcomes of games!”

Me: “Well there's that...”

What Dan Learned: Not a lot. As was intimated in that conversation, Lousiania-Lafayette isn't exactly a great measuring stick. Looking for positives, Nebraska's defense looks to be on it's way back to prominence. That should make Husker fans very happy.

1-1 and feeling a roll coming.

Thirdly...

Purdue +7.5 vs. Notre Dame: Final Score – Notre Dame 24, Purdue 21

Twice picking Purdue as an underdog, and twice I cover!

So does that make them my darling team this year? Oh hell no!

The Irish were fortunate to come out of West Lafayette with a victory. As predicted, Irish QB Jimmy Clausen's foot injury limited the amount of time he spent in the game, and limited his effectiveness when he was in there.

But as sketchy as Notre Dame looked, Purdue looked even worse. Exhibit A: 26 penalties for 206 yards. Those numbers are astonishing. Especially at home. You're supposed to get calls at home. Purdue seemed to go out of their way to give the Irish the win.

Now I understand how this team lost to Northern Illinois.

What Dan Learned: This cover was more of a failure on Notre Dame's part than a success on Purdue's part. We'll keep a close eye on Clausen's injury status as it relates to the line on Irish games for the next few weeks at least. And we'll be even more careful about taking Purdue, especially if they're on the road.

2-1 and guaranteed a positive week with the Flier Pick to come!

Finally...

Washington +7 @ Stanford: Final Score – Stanford 34, Washington 14
(*) - This game was this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week

So much for the “Washington beats Stanford, ergo the line against Notre Dame is out of whack” corollary to my “Washington will be undervalued this year” theory.

Keep track of all that? Okay, good.

Admittedly, this was an emotional pick. I saw a potential path laid out before us, and it required Washington to win this game, so I picked it. Needless to say, it didn't work out.

So was this a let-down on Washington's part after their big win versus USC, or is Stanford just that good? As usual with these things, it's probably a combination of the two.

USC's underwhelming performance against Washington State shows their vulnerability. But you can't take anything away from Stanford putting 34 on someone.

What Dan Learned: Time to wave goodbye to picking the Huskies for a while. Thank you Washington, it was fun while it lasted. I have no clue what the line on their game with Notre Dame will be. But I will say that I'm going to stay miles away from that game!

So I end Week 4 with a 2-1 record (thank you Flier Pick rules!), which makes me 8-5 (.615) for the 2009 season. That's still behind last year's .660-pace, but a step forward from last week for sure.

Make sure you come back on Wednesday for a fresh slate of picks for Week 5.

That's all for today. As always, thanks for reading!

Friday

9-25-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it! We've made it to the end of another week.

Okay, my week technically ended yesterday, but I'm not one to rub these things in. So congratulations, one and all.

There's a big weekend of baseball and college football ahead. The Twins are still fighting for a playoff spot, while my college football picks are fighting to stay above .500.

If you missed my picks for this week, check out yesterday's column. Because today's column is all about the DFTU-ing baby!

No dilly. No dally. Let's do this!

”I don't mind what Congress does, as long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses.”
Victor Hugo (1802-1885), French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman and human rights activist.


I know the guy lived to be 83 years old, but damn that's a lot to fit into one lifetime! And while there aren't really horses traveling down the roads around the Capitol to scare anymore, I think the sentiment remains true and understandable!

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And in the spirit of remaining true and understandable, it's Friday, and you all know what that means!

That's right. It's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment:

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 79-73, in second place in the AL Central and 3 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

FINALLY, the switch has flipped and the Twins have gone on a hot-streak. Winners of 9 of their last 10, the Twins have whittled steadily away at the Tigers lead.

The Tigers aren't exactly rolling over and playing dead, but their 6-4 record over the last 10 has brought Minnesota close enough that the 4-game series in Motown next week should be meaningful.

I say “should be” because there's still the small matter of the Kansas City Royals to deal with.

What's that you say? The Royals are 63-89 and should roll over and play dead for contending teams? Oh, if only that were the case, my dear reader.

You see, the Royals are a big part of why Minnesota has been able to cut into that Tiger lead. Detroit is 9-9 against KC this year, but more importantly they're 1-5 against the Royals in their last six meetings.

The Twins are 7-5 against the Royals, but haven't played them since August 23rd. Since that time KC is 16-13, including going 7-3 in their last 10.

And if that doesn't give Twins fans pause, consider the fact that after avoiding having to face him all year, the Twins have to try and solve Cy Young contender Zack Greinke twice in the last 10 games.

Joy.

That's the downside.

The upside is, the boys could've easily rolled over and gone through the motions after Justin Morneau was ruled out for the rest of the year with his back injury, but they didn't.

Instead, Michael Cuddyer has stepped up in a big way to help replace Morneau's production. And Nick Punto, yes that Nick Punto has been hot of late, including a key 2-RBI single in Wednesday night's win.

So regardless of what any uncle of mine may be posting on my Facebook page (sorry Tim, but you're way off on this one), the Twins are most certainly still alive and kicking in this race.

We're not giving up people! Stay with me!

The Twins start a weekend series with the Royals in Kansas City this weekend before heading to Detroit for the big-time showdown with the Tigers on Monday. If you want to see what a Cy Young Award winner looks like, check out Greinke on Saturday.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 66-87, in last place in the NL West and have been eliminated from playoff consideration.

I'm still searching for positives to bring you, Arizona fans. Really, I am.

One of those things has to be 3B Mark Reynolds. He's having a break-out year hitting .266 with 43 home runs, 100 RBI, and 24 stolen bases. It marks the first time in his career that he's surpassed the 40 home run/100 RBI mark.

Unfortunately, the same night that he batted in his 100th run, he also surpassed the record for strikeouts in a single season with 206. Equally as unfortunate was the fact that in his post-game interviews, reporters asked about the strikeouts before the RBI.

Reynolds' response? “So what?”

That's it. He didn't care. And I'm not sure we should either. I'm not saying 206 strikeouts are a good thing. But when you drive in 100 runs while knocking 43 out of the park, I'm not sure you're really hurting your team all that much either.

Look, if we're going to point to what went wrong in the desert this season, one of the last things we should be pointing at is Reynolds' strikeout mark. Brandon Webb's injury, the lack of consistent defense, Chris Young falling off the map, and managerial instability are all things that should be looked at before we start going after Mark.

So, you're right Mark. So what?

The Snakes finish their home slate this weekend with three against the Padres. After that they hit the road for the last six of the season; three at San Francisco and then three in Chicago.

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 3-0 overall and 0-0 in the Big Ten.

The Big Ten campaign begins for Bucky at 11am central time this Saturday as the Badgers host the Michigan State Spartans at Camp Randall Stadium.

I haven't the foggiest idea what to make of this game.

The Spartans are coming off of two straight tough losses. Two weeks ago, they lost to Central Michigan. Then last week Notre Dame did the deed. Two losses like that should kill a team's confidence. They should get players pointing fingers at each other. And they should have fans creating: www.fireMarkDantonio.com.

But that doesn't seem to be the case. Michigan State seems to be fairly composed. And their quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown 5 touchdowns with only 1 interception. When your offensive leader isn't panicking, the rest of the team tends to keep their emotions in check.

So I count on nothing in that regard.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, has yet to taste the bitterness of defeat yet this season. But last week was the worst 44-14 win I've ever seen.

I know it was Wofford. And I know that there's a bit of “playing down to your competition” when it comes to playing FCS schools. But the Badgers fumbled the ball 4 times. That shouldn't ever happen to a team that relies so heavily on the run, much less against a FCS opponent.

So the Badgers aren't exactly coming into this game firing on all cylinders.

What's going to happen Saturday? Your guess is as good as mine.

The odds-makers have Wisconsin as a three-point favorite. Those of you experienced in the ways of recreational gaming know that home-field advantage usually equates to three points. So even Vegas thinks these two teams are evenly matched.

I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that Wisconsin cleans up the offensive mistakes from last week. If they can do that, and take an early lead on Sparty, they should have a pretty good shot and killing any hope on MSU's sidelines and earning the W.

The game is listed as “ESPN/ESPN2” on my favorite college football lines website, so check your local listings for availability in your area.

And “On Wisconsin”!

There you are ladies and gents. Hopefully you all feel sufficiently updated!

I'll be back on Monday with more Sports Take goodness for you.

Until then, have a fantastic weekend, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday

9-23-09: 2009 College Football Picks: Week 4

Hello again everybody...

I promise I won't keep hammering you with Equinox updates, but it is one of my favorite times of year. Fall brings a crispness to the air, good sleeping weather, the promise of playoff baseball and the early portion of the college football season.

Is it any wonder I'm a fan?

A quick Twins update before we move on: the race for the AL Central is on. The Twins and Tigers both won last night, so the deficit remains at 2.5 games. Remember, the two clubs play four times next week, so if the Twins can keep that margin under 3, then three of four in Detroit gives them at least a tie for the division lead. The Twins try to sweep the White Sox tonight. The Tigers continue their series with the Indians.

Moving on...

Week 4 of the college football season is nigh, so it's time for more picks. I've had a good week, a not-as-good week, and a .500 week. So Week 4 has to be the first repeat of one of those, right? I'm sure you all have your opinions as to which one of those is more likely. And I'd like to say thanks to those of you who seem to have no trouble whatsoever telling me exactly what their opinion is.

But for future reference, if you could do so without that “number 1” hand gesture, it'd be much appreciated!

All kidding aside (mostly), I've got four more games for your consideration, so let's get to the pickin'!

”It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.”
Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC), ancient Greek playwright


You see? Even if you think my picks sometime foolish, you don't know for sure if I'm actually a fool, or if I'm wisely playing the fool for your entertainment!

Or maybe you do know... who am I kidding?!

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Whichever it is, I'm not stopping any time soon! So with that, it's time to bring you my...

2009 College Football Picks: Week 4

First up, a couple of games I looked at, but passed on...

Arkansas +15 @ Alabama (2:30pm, CBS): This seems like a lot of points to give a team that scores as much as Arkansas does (see: Georgia 52, Arkansas 41 just last week). But this is Alabama's SEC opener, and they're at home in Tuscaloosa. Betting a road underdog is always dangerous, so I'm going to take a pass on this one.

Washington State +44.5 @ USC (9:15pm, FSN): So what happens the week after a difficult loss on the road? Yes, USC probably crushes. But 44.5 points? And since I made my picks, the line has actually gone to 45! That just doesn't seem quite right to me. I know the Cougars are awful. I know they've lost to Stanford and Hawaii and have squeaked by SMU. But if 30 points was too much to give Florida in a revenge game, can anyone really give 44.5 to a team that just lost to Washington?! But again, a road underdog, plus a Trojan offense with a lot of potential. Something doesn't feel right. I'm going to pass.

Miami -2.5 @ Virginia Tech (2:30pm, ABC): If I made 5 picks each week, this one would've been my fifth. Scott in Eau Claire thinks that bettors are over-rating Miami, and that VA Tech's defense is so stout that Jacory Harris will struggle to put up the kinds of numbers he has for the 'Canes so far this season. Personally? If you're going to bet this game, I think you have to take Miami. But Scott's caution was enough to talk me off of making this game one of my four picks.

So which games am I picking? Glad you asked!

As always, were I to have the wherewithal to make a worthwhile wager, these are the games I'd be betting on...

First...

Florida State -14.5 vs. South Florida (11am, ESPNU): The Seminoles are 2-1 (0-1 in the ACC). South Florida is 3-0 (0-0 in the Big East).

Florida State's been a little up and down, but with each successive Miami victory, that loss looks better and better.

South Florida may be undefeated, but they've lost their quarterback Matt Grothe, and things are about to change. Grothe is South Florida's offense. Without him, they'll struggle, especially on the road.

Tallahassee will be ready to root on their 'Noles Saturday morning. So I've got no problem giving the 14.5. I'll pass on the tomahawk chop however.

Next...

Nebraska -26.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (6pm, FSN-PPV): The Cornhuskers are 2-1 (0-0 in the Big 12). The Ragin' Cajuns are 2-1 (0-0 in the Sun Belt).

What can I say? Clearly Husker Nation needs me! So here I come to the rescue.

One of my favorite Husker fans asked where my Nebraska pick was last week. While I thought Nebraska/Virginia Tech would be a great game, I didn't have any idea how it would shake out. As it turned out, Nebraska covered the spread. But it was such a close game, I just couldn't pick it.

But don't worry Husker fans, I'm back with you this week. And no Flier Pick here, I'm picking you straight-up!

The Ragin' Cajuns are set to take on their second Top 25 team on the road after getting worked 31-3 by LSU last week. I'm sure it'll be a nice payday for the Cajuns, but they're due for another whacking, this time at the hands of Nebraska.

I've got no problem giving the 26.5 here as Nebraska returns home to Lincoln to take out their frustration over last week's loss. Sorry Louisiana-Lafayette. But thanks for playing!

Thirdly...

Purdue +7.5 vs. Notre Dame (7pm, ESPN): The Boilermakers are 1-2 (0-0 in the Big Ten). The Irish are 2-1.

This is a game where the odds-makers are trying to sucker you into taking Notre Dame.

Yes, Purdue lost to NIU last week. Yes, the Irish beat Michigan State. But Notre Dame's number one wide receiver, Michael Floyd, broke his collarbone and will be out for the rest of the season. Plus, quarterback Jimmy Clausen has a foot injury that will likely limit his mobility on Saturday. I know Charlie Weiss is coaching to keep his job, but when your top guys start getting dinged-up, there's only so much help coaching can provide.

Purdue is two weeks removed from giving Oregon a scare on the Ducks' home turf. Clearly they've been inconsistent, and that loss to NIU is nearly inexcusable. But they've got anger at that loss to feed off of, and everybody gets up for playing Notre Dame. And don't think that hosting a wounded Irish club in West Lafayette won't influence the outcome of this game.

I like Purdue to keep this close, and maybe sneak the upset. So I'll take the 7.5 and hope to hear a lot of that train horn on Saturday evening.

Finally...

Washington +7 @ Stanford (8pm, Fox): The Huskies are 2-1 (1-0 in the Pac 10). The Cardinal are 2-1 (1-0 in the Pac 10).
(*)- This game is this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week

I took a flier on Washington last week, and I'm right back with them this week.

Sure, this game sets up for a huge let-down for the Huskies after their emotional win last week. They're on the road, without the home support that helped carry them past USC. And we all know that a big win like that can take a lot out of a team.

But it can also light a fire under a team. It can give a team confidence and convince them that they're actually capable of playing at that level every week.

I love Jim Harbaugh as a coach in Stanford. And I respect the Cardinal program immensely. It won't surprise me a bit if they win. But their two wins have come against Washington State and San Jose State. In their one test against a legit team, Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons beat them 24-17.

We really don't know yet how legit Washington is this year. But they've got an experienced quarterback and a defense that stood up to a Trojan offense that's supposed to be one of the best in the country.

I think this game is close and Washington will have a chance to sneak a road win in the closing minutes. So we'll take the seven points and see if Washington's our new darling team!

So there you have them folks. Four picks for your consideration. If you have any thoughts, queries, quibbles, or complaints, I encourage you to attach a comment below and let us all know!

I'll be back on Friday with your weekly hit of the DFTU!

Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday

9-21-09: 2009 College Football Picks: Week 3 Post-Mortem

Hello again everybody...

Back to start another week. And I'm feeling a bit conflicted.

The Twins took two of three from the Tigers over the weekend. Those who read Friday's column will recognize this as “Option 2”.

So as of now, the Twins are 3 games behind Detroit with 13 games remaining, including four games in Motown. That's still a decent chunk of ground to have to make up in fewer games than you'd like.

The sweep would've put them 1 game back, and they had a clear starting pitching advantage going into Sunday. But Baker didn't get it done, and neither did the line-up. So there you go.

It's not over, but 1 game back would've looked a lot better than 3 games back does.

But baseball wasn't the only thing cooking over the weekend. There were some fun college football games, including a few I had a specific interest in.

So today, we see what happened to my Week 3 picks.

Let's get to the Post-Morteming shall we?

”There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything, or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.”
Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), Polish-American philosopher and scientist


I guess I tend towards the latter. At least until someone offers me enough evidence to stop doubting. But I hadn't quite thought of it in this way before.

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It's time, once again, for that Monday tradition: breaking down my college football picks from the past weekend.

Last week I went 1-2 to give me an overall record of 4-2. I still haven't managed that elusive 4-0 week, and I haven't hit a Flier Pick yet. Would either of those things change in Week 3?

The only way to find out is to bring you my...

2009 College Football Picks: Week 3 Post-Mortem

First up...

California -13.5 at Minnesota: Final Score – Cal 35, Minnesota 21

Not a bad start to the day!

Though it galls me to do it, I've got to give the Gophers a ton of credit. The Bears jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter, and it looked like the rout was on.

But Goldy didn't panic, and didn't give up. With some solid quarterbacking by Adam Weber, and some spectacular receiving by Eric Decker, the Gophers went to the locker room trailing only 21-14 at halftime.

The teams traded turnovers in the third quarter before Minnesota put together a nifty drive, ending on a crazy play where Weber handed to Decker on an end-around (*) but instead of running it, Decker pulled up and passed to Gopher back-up quarterback MarQuise Gray for the tying touchdown. That's right, a receiver throwing to a quarterback. Tricky, Jedd Fisch (Gopher offensive coordinator). Very tricky!

(* - This is the single most miscalled play in all of football. Let's get this straight America. If a receiver comes down the line for a hand-off from the quarterback, it's an end-around NOT a “reverse”. To be a reverse, the quarterback would have to hand to another ball carrier who's goal would be to get the defense flowing in the opposite direction before handing to a receiver. It's Football 101 people. Can we all get on the same page please? Thank you.)

So the game was tied headed into the fourth quarter when Cal's Jahvid Best decided to take over and win the game almost single-handed. Best ran for 132 yards on 26 carries and 5 touchdowns, two of which came in the final stanza to seal the win (and the cover).

Heisman candidacy, thy name is Jahvid Best!

What Dan Learned: The Gophers are tough at home in the new TCF Bank stadium. That doesn't mean I'll be picking them to win any time soon. It just makes the prospects for Wisconsin a lot tougher come October 3rd.

Eric Decker is a man amongst boys. He took a knockout shot on his first touchdown catch, and came back to catch another, plus throw for a third. He tweaked his ankle late in the game, so that will bear watching. But if he's healthy, he's going to have a monster year.

Cal's offense is fairly one-dimensional. Granted, that one dimension is an elite running back in the form of Best. But sooner or later they need to develop a more effective passing game, or someone's going to slow down Best enough to beat them.

1-0 and feeling good!

Next...

Penn State -29.5 vs. Temple: Final Score – Penn State 31, Temple 6.

So close!

Loyal Sports Take reader Scott in Eau Claire pointed out that the Big Ten's trouble scoring made this pick a bad one. He was more right than wrong.

Penn State missed a cover by 6 points. One more lousy touchdown and I'd be sitting on 2-0. Oh well, at least I didn't take Toledo +22! (Woops, sorry Scott!)

What Dan Learned: It was bad enough taking one 30-point favorite. Taking two was pushing my luck too damned far.

1-1 and looking forward to the rest of the afternoon.

Thirdly...

Washington +20 vs. USC: Final Score – Washington 16, USC 13
*- This game was this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week

Say it with me, “Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is better than an underdog winning outright”... presuming you picked them.

And I did! And though some of you may think it's “picking in the post-game show” by me, I have several witnesses who will confirm that as the week went along, I told people that not only was I taking the points, but that I thought Washington was going to win this game!

Unfortunately, due to ABC/ESPN's draconian distribution rules, I didn't get to see a down of this game. Not only was this game not available on ABC or ESPN/ESPN2, but the game that was supposed to be on ESPN2 (Nebraska at Virginia Tech) got blacked-out for some reason! Thanks ESPN. You've just convinced me to never EVER buy your College Football package. Well done!

What Dan Learned: My “Washington Will Be Undervalued” theory strikes gold again! I didn't take advantage of it in Week 1 when they covered vs. LSU, but I got on board this week!

Now the trick is to figure out when they go from “undervalued” to “overvalued”. Trust me, it's coming. We saw it last year with ECU and Ball State. Those teams had some big wins early, and started being over-bet, especially on the road. Washington's next two games are at Stanford and at Notre Dame. If they manage to beat Stanford, I guarantee you that the line on the Notre Dame game will be way off. We'll keep our eyes on it!

2-1 and waiting for the Gator beat-down to commence.

Finally...

Florida -29.5 vs. Tennessee: Final Score – Florida 23, Tennessee 13

Well this didn't turn out how I thought!

Usually I detest the notion of a “moral victory”, but if ever a loss deserved that label, this was it.

Like so many others, I expected Florida to mop the field with the Vols, but I have to give Monte Kiffin a ton of credit. His defensive schemes made Florida work for every inch of ground they got. And they also came up with two huge turnovers leading to 10 of Tennessee's 13 points.

The critical play of the game came with about seven minutes left as Florida looked to be driving for a touchdown to make it 30-6 and bring me within 6 points of covering. All-galaxy QB Tim Tebow made a great play to get outside and pick up a first down rushing the ball, but didn't tuck the it away and had the rock stripped away where it was recovered by the Vols.

Tennessee promptly drove it down the field and killed any chance I had of a cover by scoring a touchdown.

What Dan Learned: Florida is good. But I don't think they're as good as they were last year. Don't get me wrong, they still may be good enough to win the whole thing, but unless they develop a down-field threat at the receiver position, teams are going to mimic Monte Kiffin's scheme, and eventually someone will slow their running game down enough to slap a loss on them.

As for the Volunteers? Tough to say. Their defense did as well as Vols fans could've hoped. But the offense is awfully lacking in terms of big-play talent. Their Freshman running back Bryce Brown showed some flashes and could easily grow into a big-time player. But Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton is average at best. And without more talented receivers to help him, Lane Kiffin is going to be forced to call a very vanilla offense to minimize the risk of turnovers.

So I end the week 2-2. Hey, at least I finally hit a Flier Pick, right?!

Week 3's 2-2 record makes me 6-4 (.600) on the season. And just like that, I'm behind last year's pace. But as long as I stay above the .550 mark, I'll be happy!

4-0, you've eluded me once again. But I've got 12 weeks to go. This isn't over yet!

That's going to do it for today. I'm back on Wednesday with more Sports Take goodness for you.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

9-18-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've fooled 'em again! We've reached the end of another week, and the gods have seen fit to keep us mostly healthy and happy!

That's about the long and short of it, isn't it? As long as you can say those two things, you can't ask for much else, right?

Before I get too far into today's business, a word of warning for you. As the cliche goes, the only constant in life is change. And unfortunately for yours truly, it seems like there's going to be some change forthcoming in my work schedule in the not too distant future. I have no idea what form this change is going to take, nor whether it will ultimately be acceptable or not.

Whatever that change is, however, it's my hope that it won't screw up my blogging schedule too badly. But in advance, I'll beg your pardon if there's a (hopefully) brief interruption in my writing while things shake out.

Trust me, I'll keep you updated.

Until then, things proceed as usual. That means on Friday you get a heaping helping of DFTU!

So let's get to the serving, shall we?

"It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid."
- George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), Irish playwright


This may sound rather cynical... okay, it sounds very cynical... but there's a certain amount of truth within that cynicism. Context, as always, is the key. Knowing the time and place to be bluntly sincere can save one all kinds of headaches.

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Speaking of things that can cause headaches, it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment... it's:

Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 74-72, in second place in the AL Central, and 4 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

Here we go!

By Monday, we'll have a good idea if the Twins are going to stay in this thing over the last couple of weeks, or if I can shift my focus completely to football/hockey season.

The Detroit Tigers come to town tonight having lost seven of their last ten games. The Twins, on the other hand, have won six of their last ten and are coming off a sweep of the Cleveland Indians.

There are four scenarios we could see play out:

1. The Twins Sweep - This is obviously the best-case scenario for the Twins. If they sweep then they finish the weekend just one game behind the Tigers, and with all the momentum they could ask for headed into the final 13 games (four of which are at Detroit).

2. The Twins Win 2 of 3 - This scenario isn't nearly as good, but keeps the Twins alive. Taking 2 of 3 leaves the Twins three games behind the Tigers, and means a sweep of that 4-gamer in Detroit would put them ahead. Again, there's a huge difference between this option and Option 1, but at least this keeps them in it.

3. The Tigers Win 2 of 3 - If this doesn't kill the Twins chances, it definitely puts them on life-support. In this case, the Twins would be 5 games out with 13 to play, and even a 4-game sweep in Detroit wouldn't give the Twins the division lead. It's probably overly-optimistic to think they could win the division under this scenario, but I don't want to give up on them yet!

4. The Tigers Sweep - Turn out the lights... the party's over! Obviously, this is a deal-breaker. If the Tigers sweep, it's a 7-game lead, and with only 13 remaining, there's just no reasonable way to make that up.

So which of these options is most likely? Probably 2 or 3. Given the two teams' relative momentum, Option 1 is more likely than Option 4. But this is baseball, and as we've seen so many times this season, anything can happen!

So amongst all your football viewing this weekend, don't forget to peek at the baseball scoreboard and root for the home 9!

After this weekend, the Twins head to Chicago for three with the White Sox, and follow that up with a weekend series at Kansas City.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 64-83, in last place in the NL West, 24 games behind the Dodgers and have been officially eliminated from the playoffs.

That pretty much sums it up right there, doesn't it?

I feel bad for my Diamondback-fan-brethren who live in Arizona and have to watch this dreck on a daily basis.

I've tried all season to try and find small positives to cling to, but if they can't keep ahead of the Padres, then there's not much left for me to cling to.

I could try and point out that Mark Reynolds is having a career years in terms of home runs and RBI, but he's also going to set a record for strike-outs.

Dan Haren is still trying, but isn't getting the support he deserves.

I don't know what to tell you Snakes fans, except see you in Spring Training in March!

For whatever it's worth, Arizona's home against Colorado for three this weekend. Then Monday they host the Giants. So I guess they could still have an impact on the Wild Card race?

Ugh...

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 2-0 (0-0 in the Big Ten).

No, Wisconsin's 34-31 (2 OT) win over Fresno State wasn't pretty. But it was a win. Fresno's not a great ball club, and when you're a Wisconsin team playing them at home, it shouldn't take overtime to decide the matter.

But it did, and now the Badgers have a chance to apply the lessons learned against an FCS team in the form of the Wofford Terriers.

Wofford College is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and is a member of the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) Southern Conference.

The Terriers are 1-1 this season with a 40-7 loss to Southern Florida, and a 42-14 win over Charleston Southern.

So what does this mean for the Badgers? Well the game ought to be more of the Southern Florida variety rather than the Charleston Southern variety.

"Should be", I say, because last year it took an overtime period for the Badgers to eke out a win against FCS-opponent Cal Poly.

The Badgers host Michigan State the week after Wofford, so I'm not terribly worried about looking past the Terriers. I just hope the team isn't too relaxed coming out of the locker room to kick things off.

This should be 28-0 or something near that by halftime. The Badgers should be all over this team early, and hopefully not let up until the students have finished "Jump Around", at least!

Kick-off is slated for 11am central time, check your local listings to find out which Big Ten Network channel they're on.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Do you feel sufficiently updated? I hope you do!

Here's to hoping you all have a wonderful weekend and I'll be back on Monday to recap my college football picks.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

9-16-09: 2009 College Football Picks: Week 3

Hello again everybody...

I'll admit to feeling a bit discombobulated this week. I guess that's to be expected after having 5 days off from work. You wouldn't think it'd feel that much different to start a work-week on Tuesday instead of Monday, but it does to me.

But I've kept on track with the blog as much as possible, and it feels good to keep that rolling right along.

For those of you wondering if/when I'm going to do something with my Gettysburg material, never fear, I'm still working it out. It's going to be a pretty epic project whenever I get around to actually putting it together. So it'll be something I'll have to set aside time to sit down and focus on. And unfortunately, that won't be this weekend... I don't think. Perhaps the following weekend will lighten up some for me and I'll be able to pull it off.

But that's for another day. Today we've got some college football picks to knock out. 1-2 last week isn't something I want to repeat, so let's see if I can get things turned around, shall we?

Away we go!

"Why is it that our memory is good enough to retain the least triviality that happens to us, and yet not good enough to recollect how often we have told it to the same person?
- Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680), noted French author of maxims and memoirs


There's a poker-related corollary to this. Nobody wants to hear your bad-beat story. It doesn't matter how spectacularly bad it is. No one wants to hear it. We've all had 1- or 2-outers hit on us. Do us all a favor: write it down, tear it up, throw it away and get over it. But spare us a retelling of something we've already heard a thousand times. Thank you.

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It's Week 3 of the college football season already. The first two weeks have held a plethora of exciting games, so hopefully this week won't disappoint.

It's also time for me to get back on the winning side of the ledger after a disappointing 1-2 week last week.

So without further ado, here are my...

2009 College Football Picks: Week 3

Before we get to the games I'm picking, here are a couple I looked at, but passed on:

Notre Dame -10 vs. Michigan State - This one tempted me greatly. And the stars seem to line up. The Irish have scored a bunch of points in their first two games. The Spartans lost to Central Michigan at home last week. And Notre Dame's at home! So why not take the Irish here? It feels like a trap to me. Michigan State's going to be pissed after last week, and Notre Dame's defense hasn't shown me enough to justify giving up 10. I'm staying away.

Texas -17.5 vs. Texas Tech - I'm staying away here for many of the same reasons. I love Texas to win this game at home. There's the revenge factor from last year. Plus, Tech graduated their quarterback and number one wide receiver. But that being said, Tech's scored 38 & 55 points in their first two games. Sure those were against North Dakota and Rice, but to take Texas here, I'm guessing they'll have to score at least 47 points, maybe more. And that's a lot to ask. No bet here.

So which games am I taking? I'm glad you asked!

As always, were I to have the wherewithal to make a worthwhile wager, these are the games I'd be betting on this week...

California -13.5 @ Minnesota (11am, ESPN2): The Golden Bears are 2-0 (0-0). The Golden Gophers are 2-0 (0-0).

Lots of "gold" in this game, eh? (I promise, Lon in Forest Lake just thought of 10 puns in about 30 seconds. Please Lon, don't post them.)

There are Minnesota fans out there wondering why I didn't learn my lesson about picking against the Gophers from last week.

That was Air Force folks, this is California. This is a Pac 10 contender. This is a team with Heisman hopeful RB Jahvid Best. This is a team that hasn't been held under 50 points yet this year.

So even if I conservatively estimate that Cal scores 35 points, that means they'd need to hold Minnesota to 21 to cover. I like my chances there.

No flier pick this time Gopher-fans, I'm picking straight-up against you! I'll give you the 13.5 and thoroughly enjoy Bear alum Michele Tafoya winning her friendly wager with Dave Lee!

Next...

Penn State -29.5 vs. Temple (11am, BTN): The Nittany Lions are 2-0 (0-0). The Owls are 0-1 (0-0).

The Owls have had two weeks to prepare for this game. They could have two years to prepare and they'd still get smoked.

The Lions have put up 31 on Akron and 28 on Syracuse, so if they stay consistent there, the D would have to pitch a shut-out for me to cover. But I don't think they'll stay consistent there.

Look back to last year: Penn State 45, Temple 3. Penn State has most of their offensive starters back, and trust me, Temple didn't get that much better.

29.5 is a lot to give, but if we're going to do it, this is the team to do it against. We'll give the Owls the 29.5 and hope that JoePa is making sure that his boys aren't looking past Temple to the Big Ten opener.

Thirdly...

Washington +20 vs. USC (2:30pm, ABC): The Huskies are 1-1, (0-0). The Trojans are 2-0 (0-0).
*This game is this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week.

I told you a game like this was coming. Washington was going to be undervalued against somebody at home, and we needed to be ready to pounce. And here we are.

USC is good. We know that. But they snuck by Ohio State on the road last week. And even though the Buckeyes are better than the Huskies, 20 points is simply way to much to give Washington in this game.

Remember, Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian was the Offensive Coordinator at USC just last year. He knows how the Trojans operate, knows their players and knows their tendencies.

If you remember back to Week 1, Washington gave LSU all they could handle and only lost by 8. Then last week the Huskies put 42 on Idaho. Yes, that's Idaho, not USC. But if the Huskies get even just two TD's against the Trojans, that means USC would have to score 35 for me not to cover. That's a lot to ask of a Freshman quarterback on the road.

I could be way off. USC could roll. But my "undervalued Washington" theory turned out to be true in Week 1 and I think it's going to hold up again this week.

We'll take the 20 on a Flier and see what happens!

And finally...

Florida -29.5 vs. Tennessee (2:30pm, CBS): The Gators are 2-0 (0-0). The Volunteers are 1-1 (0-0).

First off, let me just say this: I'm sorry Jon.

Secondly, there isn't any reasonable number they could've put on this game where I wouldn't take Florida here. They could've put up 35 and I'd still have taken the Gators.

One of the fun parts about college football is that coaches will run off at the mouth a little more often than they do in the pros. When they can back it up, they're lauded. When they can't? Well, just watch on Saturday and see what happens.

A friend of mine pointed out this line to me today. My response was, if Florida coach Urban Meyer could score 100 on Tennessee, he would. The only think stopping him is the clock.

That's how badly I think he wants to put it on Tennessee this year after all the woofing Volunteer coach Lane Kiffin did during the off-season. Look, I know Kiffin was trying to energize the Volunteer fan-base, and I don't blame him for feeling it necessary to do that. But maybe he should've talked trash on Georgia, or even LSU.

Students of recent college football history will recall Georgia dissing the Gators in 2007. The 2008 score? 49-10, Florida.

The lesson? Don't piss off the Gators when you know they're more talented than you. It's tough enough to beat this team when they don't have bulletin board material to motivate them. When you give them that, you become 29.5-point underdogs and end up with people still betting against you.

For Jon's sake, I hope I'm wrong here, but another 49-10 won't surprise me a bit. So we'll give the 29.5 and try to find a good movie for Jon to watch on Saturday!

So there are your four picks for this week. If you've got any thoughts or predictions of your own, please feel free to attach a comment below!

That's all for today. I'll be back on Friday with your weekly dose of DFTU.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

9-14-09: 2009 College Football Picks: Week 2 Post-Mortem

Hello again everybody...

I'm back from vacation, and I can't begin to tell you how amazing it was. I still haven't quite decided how to package it together for you, but for the time being, those of you on Facebook can see a ton of pictures on my page.

But while I go through the process of putting all that together, the sports world rolls on. Which means I need to break down my college picks from last week. I started the year 3-0. Could I keep it rolling in Week 2?

Let's find out!

"In great affairs men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small things they show themselves as they are."
- Nicholas Chamfort (1741 - 1794), French writer


I love this quote because it applies on so many levels. We all can step up with the moment requires it of us. But perhaps our true natures are revealed when we're not making an effort to disguise them?

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So would my picks in Week 2 show me for who I am? Or would they be just a bump in the road? The only way to find out is to give you my...

2009 College Football Picks: Week 2 Post-Mortem

First up...

Georgia -7 vs. South Carolina: Final Score - Georgia 41, South Carolina 37

Even though I was on vacation, I got to watch a little of this game. When I tuned in, Georgia was up by 14 and things were looking good. But Carolina came storming back and did just enough in the second half to cover the spread and beat me.

What Dan Learned: Not much actually. By the end of this game, I was left with more questions than answers. Where was this Gamecock offense last week? Are they really this good, or is Georgia's defense that suspect? Sure Georgia can score a lot, even without super-RB Knowshon Moreno, but if they can't stop the other team, what chance to they have against the Florida's and LSU's of the world?!

0-1, but determined to come back.

Next...

Air Force +4.5 @ Minnesota: Final Score - Minnesota 20, Air Force 13
*This game was this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week

Caught some of this game too. (Really, I was on vacation and all, but if I'm chillin in a hotel room and there's college football on, I'm watching dammit!)

First of all, I was jealous of everybody who got to be part of the opener at TCF Bank Stadium. Had I been in town, I'd have been there for work, but alas, I scheduled my vacation without considering the college football schedule. Bad me.

The new stadium looked spectacular and I can't wait to head out there on October 3rd when Bucky comes to town.

As for the game itself? Well, another one that didn't work out how I'd hoped. This was a game Minnesota should've won, and to give credit where credit is do, they covered.

Air Force isn't an easy team to play when you're not used to facing a triple-option offense. The Gopher defense gave up some big plays on the edges, but any time the Falcons tried to go up the middle, the Gophs shut them down.

Offensively, things still aren't clicking on all cylinders for Minnesota yet, but they did enough to win. And when you're significantly changing your offensive philosophy from the previous year, that's about as much as you can hope for. They'll need to get things going to be competitive in the Big Ten.

What Dan Learned: Eric Decker is scary good. He's going to have a whale of a decision ahead of him next year. He's already been drafted twice by MLB teams. So does he pursue a baseball career or a football career? Not a bad dilemma to face. In the mean time, he's going to give Big Ten defensive coordinators fits trying to shut him down.

Still 0-1 (thank you Flier Pick!) and hoping to turn things around quickly.

Thirdly...

USC -7 @ Ohio State: Final Score - USC 18, Ohio St. 15

Saw some of this too. Kudos to Ohio State for coming out fired up and jumping out to an early lead.

Bigger kudos to USC who weathered the Buckeyes' storm and came up with a clutch drive in the closing minutes to win the game.

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for me to cover.

What Dan Learned: Freshman quarterbacks aren't a reason to bet against anybody this year. Matt Barkley of USC and Tate Forcier of Michigan both came up with big time game-winning drives, showing poise and skill that belies their youth.

As for Ohio State? They played better than most people thought they would, but in the end, couldn't pull off the upset. So is all the "Big Ten sucks" chatter going to die down now? Not after Michigan State's loss to Central Michigan this weekend. And Ohio State still hasn't won "the big one" yet.

0-2 and things aren't looking good.

Finally...

Purdue +12 @ Oregon: Final Score - Oregon 38, Purdue 36

I finally win one this week!

I'll give credit to Oregon for bouncing back from about as tough a Week 1 as a team could have. But for Vegas to set this line as Oregon -12 was just giving money away.

I was worried that the wise guys knew something I didn't. Fortunately, that worry was unfounded.

What Dan Learned: We can't assume that Oregon's going to suck just because they suspended their number one running back for the year. I don't think they're a threat to win the Pac 10, but they're not just going to roll over and play dead either.

So I finished the week 1-2. Not great. Okay, it sucked. But at least it wasn't an 0-for!

For the year, I'm now 4-2 (.667). Ahead of last year's pace, but only slightly. So far, not too bad. We'll see what happens next week!

That's all for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with more Sports Take goodness for you!

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

9-11-09: Hammer's NFL Picks...

Hello again everybody...

As I said, I'm on vacation in Gettysburg today. But I didn't want to leave you without some sort of Sports Take goodness to digest over your weekend.

So courtesy of our favorite guest correspondent, the Hammer, today he gives you his NFL picks for the upcoming season.

(Okay, the season technically started last night, so forgive the timing.)

I'm on vacation, so enough of the pre-ambling. Let's get to this!

” I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. “
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd President of the United States


Hey, if my man T.J. Believes in luck, I don't want to here anybody giving me a hard time about my “baseball magambo” columns!

«Read More...»


Again, because I'm off enjoying the wonder of the Gettysburg National Military Park, The Sports Take's favorite guest-correspondent is stepping in to preview the NFL season.

The Hammer has gone through the entire NFL schedule and put his keen prognosticating skills to use predicting who will win and lose each game. Based on those predictions, he's come up with final standings and playoff results. Vikings fans, hold on to your hats!

So here, without further ado, is the Hammer:


Every year I go through the NFL schedule and give you my predictions for the upcoming season. Every year I hit some right on the head and miss horribly on others and every year you people keep track of this so when I am wrong you let me know right away. the way I see it why mess with tradition. That being said, here are my picks for the 2009 NFL season

NFC EAST: NY GIANTS 12-4, PHILADELPHIA 11-5, DALLAS 11-5, WASHINGTON 7-9

NFC NORTH: GREEN BAY 11-5, MINNESOTA 10-6, CHICAGO 10-6, DETROIT 2-14

NFC SOUTH: NEW ORLEANS 9-7, CAROLINA 6-10, ATLANTA 5-11, TAMPA BAY 5-11

NFC WEST: SEATTLE 10-6, ARIZONA 9-7, SAN FRANCISCO 6-10, ST LOUIS 3-13

AFC EAST: NEW ENGLAND 14-2, NY JETS 7-9, MIAMI 6-10, BUFFALO 4-12

AFC NORTH: PITTSBURGH 14-2, BALTIMORE 12-4, CINCINNATI 6-10, CLEVELAND 4-12

AFC SOUTH: INDIANAPOLIS 13-3, HOUSTON 10-6, TENNESSEE 10-6, JACKSONVILLE 6-10

AFC WEST: SAN DIEGO 12-4, DENVER 5-11, KANSAS CITY 3-13, OAKLAND 3-13


WILD CARD ROUND: PHILADELPHIA OVER NEW ORLEANS; SEATTLE OVER DALLAS; SAN DIEGO OVER BALTIMORE; INDIANAPOLIS OVER HOUSTON


DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF: PHILADELPHIA OVER NY GIANTS; GREEN BAY OVER SEATTLE; NEW ENGLAND OVER SAN DIEGO; PITTSBURGH OVER INDIANAPOLIS

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: PITTSBURGH OVER NEW ENGLAND

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: GREEN BAY OVER PHILADELPHIA

SUPER BOWL XLIV: PITTSBURGH OVER GREEN BAY

Any questions or comments, let me know.


That's the Hammer's NFL thoughts folks. If you have a comment for him, please feel free to attach it below. Trust me, he'll see it.

That's all for this week. I'll be back on Monday with the Post Mortem on my Week 2 picks.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

9-9-09: 2009 College Football Picks: Week 2

Hello again everybody...

Today's the last column of the week authored chiefly by me. That's because tomorrow I'll be winging my way Eastward for a trip I've been planning in my head for years.

When I was a kid, my parents took me out to Pennsylvania twice to visit some friends. While we were out there, we made a family-trip of it to Gettysburg and Washington D.C. I was too young at the time to really understand what it was I was seeing, but some part of it stuck with me.

As I grew up, I developed a keen interest in history, and by the time I got done watching Ken Burns' “Civil War” series on PBS in the early 90's, I was a full-fledged Civil War geek. I even went so far as to minor in History in college. There wasn't as much Civil War involved in that minor as I would've liked, but I got to branch out into Roman and Russian history as well. I'm not as hooked on those, but it was nice to broaden the horizons a bit.

But for me, American History all comes back to the Civil War. Not to underestimate the importance of the Revolution, but to me, the Civil War was the defining moment in American History.

My favorite explanation of this theory comes from Civil War historian Shelby Foote who said, “before the War, it was said 'the United States are'. After the War, it was said, 'the United States is'. That's what the War did. It made us an 'is'.”

The Constitution is a wondrous document. But it was written with a fatal flaw. The founding fathers were so concerned about creating a document that could win universal agreement that they stretched reality to a point where someone actually decided that a human being counted as only 3/5 of a person based solely upon their race.

It's an unthinkable proposition today. But it took a colossal human catastrophe 148 years ago to make it unthinkable today.

The war's defining nature is what makes it so interesting to me. And the defining moment of the War occurred at a sleepy little college town in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

And that's why I'm headed to Gettysburg tomorrow to spend the weekend touring the battlefield for the 3rd time in my life. But this time, I'm armed with exponentially greater knowledge and understanding.

To put it simply, I can't wait.

Given my nature, I'm sure I'll be writing about it in some form or fashion. At this point I doubt it'll be in this blog, but who knows. Maybe I'll create a companion blog and attach that to The Sports Take, so those who are interested can check it out, and those that aren't don't have to.

I'll let you know what I decide.

But don't think for a minute that my absence will leave you without your Sports Take fix for Friday. Thanks to everybody's favorite guest-columnist, the Hammer, I've got something already set to go.

I'll be setting it to auto-publish, so I doubt there'll be the customary email, Facebook and Twitter posts. But if you come back after 1pm on Friday, you'll find the Hammer's work waiting for you.

So, after all of that, let me get to today. There's another full slate of college football headed our way this weekend. And that means it's time to make some Picks!

Let's get to the getting, shall we?

"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think."
- Edwin Schlossberg (1945 - ), internationally recognized designer, author and artist.


Have you ever been reading something and had that feeling like someone had pulled the thoughts straight from your head and expressed them more coherently than you ever could? That doesn't happen by accident. Everybody who writes regularly strives to do just that. I'm not saying I'm anywhere near successful at it. But that is the goal.

Speaking of goals, I went 3-0 in Week 1 of my 2009 College Football Picks, but that holy grail of a 4-0 week still eludes me. Can I manage it in Week 2? There are a lot of interesting lines. And maybe a trap or two. So let's find out what I can wrangle in....

The Sports Take 2009 College Football Picks: Week 2

There were several interesting games that I didn't include this week, but wanted to briefly discuss. First of all, check out Clemson v. Georgia Tech (-4.5) on Thursday night (6:45pm Central on ESPN). I love the way Tech runs their offense. Clemson was improving late last year, which is why I'm iffy on the -4.5, but it should be a fantastic game.

Second, Wisconsin hosts Fresno Saturday at 11am Central (Big Ten Network). Bucky beat the Bulldogs last year in Fresno, but that sketchy 4th quarter against Northern Illinois last week scared me off of taking Wisconsin -8.5. I like Bucky to win obviously, I'm just not sure they cover.

Thirdly, Notre Dame and Michigan hook up in Ann Arbor Saturday at 2:30pm Central (ABC). I have no clue which of these teams is for real, so betting on the Irish -3 would be crazy. But it should be an awfully fun contest to watch.

But enough of the games I didn't pick. Let's get to the real deal!

As always, were I to have the wherewithal to make a worthwhile wager, these are the games I'd be betting on:

Georgia -7 vs. South Carolina (6pm, ESPN2): The Bulldogs are 0-1 (0-0). The Gamecocks are 1-0 (0-0).

So why am I taking the 0-1 team over the 1-0 team? Simple, I thought Georgia showed more potential in their loss to Oklahoma State than Carolina did in their victory over North Carolina State.

The Ol' Ball Coach can't seem to find a quarterback to execute his offense. His tenure in South Carolina has looked like Spinal Tap trying to find a drummer, only so far, nobody's died... I don't think.

Either way, Georgia has a lot more going for it offensively and defensively, and they'll be focused at home after losing on the road in Week 1.

We'll give the 7 points and hope the Gamecocks wilt between the hedges!

Next...

Air Force +4.5 @ Minnesota (6pm, Big Ten Network): The Falcons are 1-0 (0-0). The Golden Gophers are 1-0 (0-0).
* This game is this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week.

Yes, this violates Maxim #1: home field matters. Taking a road underdog is a risky venture, which is why I'm making this game my Flier Pick.

In this case, there are several factors which lead me to believe that Air Force could pull off the upset.

One, they play a goofy offense that's hard to defend. They won't call it the "Wishbone". But that's essentially what it is. Lots of mis-direction. Lots of cut-blocking. Lots of running the football. In other words, my kind of football!

And if you don't think you can score playing offense like that, the Falcons put up 72 points last week. Granted, it was against Nicholls State, but 72 points is 72 points.

Two, the Gophers looked very shaky last week against a team that won 3 games last year and had a quarterback who hadn't taken a live snap in 5 years. I'll give them credit, all the momentum was against them at the end of the first half, and they came back and won. But given where the Gopher program likes to say they are, that was a game they should've won more handily.

As for all the hype surrounding the opening of TCF Bank Stadium? That could go either way. Yes, the crowd's going to be hyped up. And that could inspire the Gophers to play better. Or, all the pressure of all those eyes being on them could make them play tight. Since there's no way of knowing what's going to happen, I have to call that a wash.

So since it's a Flier Pick why not go the emotional route and pick against my most hated rival?

I'll take the 4.5 and root for a service academy!

Thirdly...

USC -7 @ Ohio State (7pm, ESPN): The Trojans are 1-0 (0-0). The Buckeyes are 1-0 (0-0).

This is the first of two traps I may be wading into.

Last year, USC beat Ohio State 35-3 in Pasadena. But that was with Mark Sanchez at quarterback. Now they have to go to Columbus with Freshman Matt Barkley at the helm.

Barkley went 15-19 for 233 yards and one touchdown in Week one against San Jose State. Not the same level of competition he'll face against the Buckeyes this weekend, but still it shows that he wasn't suffering from much in the way of "first start nerves".

And the reality is, the Trojans don't need Barkley to win games for them. Their so deep at running back, led by Junior Joe McKnight, that all Barkley has to do is not lose the game for them. Just make the short, safe, smart throws, and let the running game do the rest.

Ohio State's a different club this year as well. Yes, QB Terrelle Pryor is back for his Sophomore year, and should be better than he was during his freshman campaign. But RB Beanie Wells is gone, as is LB James Laurenitis. Those are big pieces to replace and their absence certainly played a role in the nail-biter Ohio State won last week against Navy.

7 is a lot of points to give on the road, but USC can certainly score a bunch of points. So if their defense is able to contain Pryor, I like the Trojans' chances.

I'm giving the 7 and rooting for a lot of shots of the Song Girls!

Finally...

Purdue +12 @ Oregon (9:15pm, Fox Sports Net: The Boilermakers are 1-0 (0-0). The Ducks are 0-1 (0-0).

This one has me scratching my head in a major way. It's either the trap game of all time, or it's someone's key to retirement. My instincts tell me it's the latter, but the line seems SO skewed, that I wonder if someone knows something I don't?

So let me get this straight. Oregon looks awful at Boise State. They amass a whopping total of 14 yards of total offense in the first half. They finished with a total of 8 points against a good, but not great Bronco defense. And then proceeded to suspend their #1 running back for the rest of the season. And their giving 12 points?!

How does that work?!

I know Purdue isn't supposed to be a Big Ten contender this year, but they did just put 52 points up on a Toledo team that beat fellow Big Ten squad Michigan just last season.

I'm not saying Purdue's going to win (though I won't be shocked if they do), I just don't know how anyone can think that Oregon's 12 points better than anybody right now?

Does anybody see something I'm missing here?

Time to simplify then. Short of a shocking turnaround by Oregon, there's no way I can see them bettering Purdue by 12, so we take the points and thank Vegas very much for giving us an easy one.

So there you have them. Four picks for Week 2. Thoughts? Queries? Quibbles? Complaints? Attach a comment below and let everybody know what you think.

Otherwise, enjoy the games on Saturday. I'll have the Post-Mortem column for you on Monday.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

9-7-09: Notes & Week 1 Post-Mortem

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to another week ladies and gents. Well, since most of you won't be reading this until Tuesday, welcome to a short week. It's a short week for me too, just in a different way than most of you.

Because the Fair is still ongoing on Labor Day, I'm not allowed to take the holiday off. I've made up for that by scheduling a vacation which starts for me on Thursday. Details to come on Wednesday.

But setting all that aside, there's plenty of stuff to talk about from this past weekend, so let's do some Notes and my Week 1 Post-Mortem shall we?

Oh let's...

"A fine quotation is a diamond on the finger of a man of wit, and a pebble in the hand of a fool."
- Joseph Roux (1725-1793), French cartographer and hydrographer


Leave it to a map-maker to put me in a quandary over using quotes in my blog. Am I a man of wit? Or a fool? It may be dangerous, but I'll leave it to you to decide!

«Read More...»


And once you're done pondering the plethora of punch-lines available to you there, it's time for some...

Notes

College football is back and better than ever...
as long as you're not the starting running back from Oregon.

I mentioned that note in Friday's column, but allow me to expound on his punishment just a touch. Suspending the guy for the full year is harsh, but given previous behavior issues he had with that coaching staff, I trust that they know better than we do what the correct punishment should be.

It's unfortunate for him, since he's a senior and now his college career is essentially over. According to reports, he'll retain his scholarship, meaning he can stay in school. And he'll be able to practice with the team. If he takes advantage of those things, it'll be important, because it will allow him to remain in football shape for the draft in April.

But at the risk of using a cliche, he made his bed, now he's got to lie in it.

The games were pretty good too... at least some of them were.

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama didn't disappoint. Some strong defenses and big-time special teams play made for a fun game. And for those predicting a low-scoring game? The line was 36.5, while the actual total was 58. Just because those teams are known for their defense, doesn't mean they can't play offense too.

Navy vs. Ohio State was the surprise of the weekend for me. Ohio State ran out to a big lead, and it seemed would cruise to an easy victory. But give the Midshipmen credit, they came roaring back and used their triple-option offense to great effect, and actually had a chance to tie the game on a two point conversion with less than two minutes left in the game.
An unfortunate play call by their coach, and an even more unfortunate throw by their quarterback resulted in Ohio State getting the two points instead of Navy. But it was still a fantastic game to watch.

And then there were the teams that crushed... just like you'd expect.

Florida, USC, and Texas all rolled to big wins. But they weren't the only ones. Nebraska beat up on Florida Atlantic. Tennessee destroyed Western Kentucky (don't get used to it Lane). And Cal laid a whipping on Maryland.

I mention Cal last because in a couple of weeks they'll be visiting TCF Bank stadium to take on the Gophers. Gopher fans, go ahead and write this one off. You've got no shot. Cal's offense is way to dynamic for you to even hope to slow down. If the line was Cal -30, I still might take Cal. That's how good they looked this weekend.

Moving on...

I picked 4 games Saturday. Three locks and one flier pick. How'd they do? Let's find out in the...

Week 1 Post-Mortem

First up...

Nebraska -23 vs. Florida Atlantic: Final Score: Nebraska 49, FAU 3

I didn't get to see any of this one, but fortunately, I have Nebraska correspondents who'll hopefully tack on their own mini-summary below.

I'll just say this. I was worried early on because it seemed like Nebraska was taking it's sweet time getting their offense rolling. But from what I was able to see online, they hit the gas in the second quarter, and didn't let up til late in the second half.

What Dan Learned: The “good luck charm” bit continues! For those of you who weren't along for the ride last year, I attempted to become Nebraska's official online good luck charm. If I picked them they generally won. If not, well, it was hit or miss. Mind you, my Nebraska-fan-friends utterly rejected my attempts, but that was part of the fun. Vive le “good luck charm”!!!

1-0 and off to a good start in 2009!

Next...

Wisconsin -16.5 vs. Northern Illinois: Final Score: Wisconsin 28, NIU 20
*This is was this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week

Well that didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. For three quarters, the Badgers looked dominant. Then came the fourth. I don't know if something got shook loose during “Jump Around” or what, but NIU was a different team in the fourth.

And not to sound like a whiner, but the officials didn't help many. In the midst of what should have been a goal-line stand, Junior lineman O'Brien Schofield fired through the line and drilled the NIU quarterback as he was trying to make a pitch to his tailback. The ball rolled free and Wisconsin pounced on it, seemingly ending the NIU threat.

But not so fast Bucky!

The officials ruled that the quarterback's forward progress had been stopped, and since that's not a reviewable call, they couldn't go back and look at the tape to see that it was the clearest fumble in the history of modern American college football! (Yes, I was mildly annoyed. Ask my neighbors, I'm sure they heard my whole tirade.)

Instead of the Badgers being able to run out the clock, NIU got the ball back and scored a touchdown to make it a one-score game.

Ultimately, it didn't cost the Badgers. And thanks to that pesky half-point, it wasn't the difference in my covering or not. But it was till the lousiest call I've seen in a long time. And it made things far more nerve-wracking than they should have been.

What Dan Learned: As I indicated, the Badgers were better than I expected for 3 quarters, and then everything I feared for the fourth. So which is the real Wisconsin? It's hard to say. But my hope is that as the season goes along and roles become more defined, the inconsistency will dwindle. That's what I hope anyway.

After watching the game, I can see why they named Scott Tolzien as the starting quarterback. And I can also see why they're enamored with Curt Phillips. Tolzien's clearly more polished and moved the offense down the field more efficiently. But Phillips adds another dimension with his legs. If NIU sat back in coverage, Phillips would take off and burn the Huskies with his running ability. But he clearly wasn't as good throwing the ball as Tolzien is. That means when he's in the game, teams will be able to focus on the running game. At least until he proves that he's able to pass as well as he runs.

So I'm still 1-0 (remember Flier Picks don't count unless I win!)...

Thirdly...

Alabama -6.5 vs. Virginia Tech: Final Score – Alabama 34, VA Tech 24

Yet another cover! All the analysis I saw early on Saturday predicted this to be a low-scoring, hard-hitting defensive battle. Don't be fooled by the final score. This was definitely hard hitting, and there were fantastic defensive plays on both sides. But there were also a lot of big plays on special teams. Both scoring and turnover-wise.

The break-out star of the game wasn't 'Bama WR Julio Jones, as I expected. Instead it was Tide RB Mark Ingram. Ingram had 150 yards rushing on 26 attempts with two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Ingram wasn't physically dominant, but he was awfully hard to hit, and if he got into the open field, he showed tremendous speed.

What Dan Learned: Maxim # 2 from Friday's column holds. The SEC really is greater than the ACC. The Hokies might be the best the ACC has to offer this year, and while they gave the Tide some trouble in the early goings, by the end of the game, it wasn't difficult to tell who was the better club.

As for the Tide, anybody who was worried that the new quarterback was going to be a problem need worry no longer. If McElroy was able to handle what the Hokies were throwing at him, he'll be just fine for the rest of the SEC campaign.

2-0 with one game to go...

California -21.5 vs. Maryland: Final Score – California 52, Maryland 13

All I do is cover! (On the “Locks” anyway...)

Awkward uniform changes aside (who in the world came up with those?! Oregon?!), Cal looked outstanding in this game. Maryland's ineptitude perhaps skewed the final score a little bit, but that doesn't take anything away from the scary talent that California displayed. I'm not ready to say that Cal will end USC's seven year stranglehold on the Pac 10 title after just one game. But they have to be the leader in the clubhouse in that category.

What Dan Learned: I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating (there's your pun, Lon). Unless you're a Cal fan, you won't want to watch when they play Minnesota on September 19th. This game will be ugly. Cal has a ton of offensive talent, and Minnesota still has questions on defense. I'm not specifically a Cal fan, but since my two favorite college football teams are Wisconsin and “whoever plays Minnesota”, I will be on the 19th!

So that makes me 3-0 on the week. Batting 1.000 to start the year! Not bad, not bad at all. The prized 4-0 week continues to elude me, but with the Flier Pick rules, I can still lay claim to an undefeated Week 1!

That's all for today. I'm back on Wednesday with more picks and the final low-down on my trip.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

9-4-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've made it to the end of another week. And for most of you, it's a long weekend thanks to Labor Day. Me? I'll be working Sunday and Monday. But I won't be bitter or grumpy about it – okay, maybe I'll be a little grumpy about it – because next week's a short week for me.

In 6 days I'll be winging my way Eastward for a vacation I've been planning in my head for years. More on that next week.

Today it's time to cap off this week. College football kicked off the 2009 campaign last night, and not without some controversy. I'll have a quick rant.

After that, it's time for your weekly dose of DFTU, in which I add a 3rd team to discuss!

So let's get to the getting, shall we?

"There is no such thing as an underestimate of average intelligence."
- Henry Adams (1838 - 1918), American journalist, historian, academic and novelist


And given what we saw last night, that extends to the world of college athletics.

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If you didn't see the end of the Oregon/Boise State game last night, and somehow managed to miss the highlights today, here is a link to the video. It's surreal enough to warrant a few moments of your time.

If you insist on not watching (and I could understand if you do), here's a quick synopsis: after a pathetic performance by Oregon, their starting running back LeGarrette Blount was walking off the field when a Boise State player came up to him, slapped him on the shoulder-pad and said something (presumably a taunt). Blount's reaction was to let the guy turn away and then sucker-punch him with a right-cross that landed flush on the guy's chin. Blount then proceeded to dance away from the scene while flexing his muscles like he'd just accomplished something. When a couple of teammates tried to separate him from the Boise State players who were coming after him, he shoved one of his own teammates in the face mask. And that wasn't the end!

As he finally tried to exit the field, several boisterous Boise State fans yelled and hollered at him, and that's when he really lost it. Blount flipped out and tried to get at the fans in the stands, and literally had to be dragged off the field by security personnel.

He wasn't ushered off... he wasn't herded off... he was dragged off the field.

It was a truly crazy scene.

Obviously there's no question as to whether Blount's going to be punished, the only question is to what level.

I've heard everything today from “suspend him for one game” to “kick him off the team”. As usual, I think the correct answer lies somewhere in between.

Don't get me wrong, I won't shed a tear if Blount is dismissed from the club. He made his bed, now he's got to lie in it. But if he's suspended somewhere between 4-6 games, I won't be upset either.

It'd be easy to pound one's fist on the desk and say, “don't let the door hit him on the way out”. But I think you have to take certain circumstances into account.

First of all, the Boise State player was being a complete d-bag. You won the game kid, “neener-neenering” the guy just makes you look like a punk. I'd have lost my temper with the guy too if I'd been in Blount's shoes.

And if you've ever been near a college football sideline, you can guess what kinds of things were said by the fans as Blount exited the field. I'm not sure I blame him for being upset by that either.

That being said, I wouldn't have punched the Boise player, and I wouldn't have gone after the fans in the stands. And for those actions, he clearly needs to be punished.

Like I said, if they throw the guy off the team, I'll get over it pretty quickly. But my guess is he's sitting down for 1/3 of the season or so. If it's less than that, then Oregon's basically saying that punishment for inappropriate behavior is mitigated by how talented you are. And that's a dangerous precedent to set.

(Ed.'s Note: At about 3:40pm central time, the following note crossed the wire, "Oregon suspends RB LeGarrette Blount for remainder of season for punching Boise State player". Can't argue with that.)

Okay... enough ugliness, let's get to the fun stuff!

Because it's Friday. And that means that it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment:

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 67-66, in second place in the AL Central and 5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

So the good news is that the Twins are back above .500 and have won four consecutive series. The bad news is that Detroit is also 7-3 in their last 10 games. So the standings haven't changed much since last week.

Yes, technically the Twins have lost a half-game in the standings, but that's more of a quirk in the schedule than anything to blame the boys for.

But, as I said last week, the Twins need to be picking up a game a week on the Tigers to have a realistic chance of catching them. And in the past 7 days, that hasn't happened. That rule's not strict, because the Twins could pick up two games next week and be right back on track. And let's not forget, they still have seven games left directly with the Tigers, so as long as they stay close, they have a chance to make up ground in head-to-head games.

Bottom line is, the Twins are doing what they can do at this point. Now they just need the Tigers to cooperate and hit a rough patch.

The Twins are in Cleveland tonight to start a 3-game weekend series. Then they head North of the border for a 4-gamer with the Blue Jays starting Monday. Not an easy road-trip, but it's one you have to go 5-2 on at least if you want to stay in this thing.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 61-74, in fourth place in the NL West and 19 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

We're getting to that point in the season where there isn't a whole lot I can say about the Snakes.

We've known they've been out of the race for months. They traded away as much dead wood as they could afford to, and have brought in plenty of kids to get a look at them on the big-league level.

Their "anti-magic number" (the number of combined Arizona losses and Dodger wins it will take to officially eliminate the D'backs from the post-season) is nine. With 27 games left on the schedule, that won't take long to get to zero.

I'll give them credit. The guys who are there haven't just rolled over and died. Mark Reynolds is putting together a career year, hitting .274 with 40 home runs and 91 RBI. Dan Haren is only 13-8, but he has a 2.74 ERA and is fourth in the league in strikeouts. Justin Upton is starting to figure some things out while hitting .314.

Don't get me wrong, this has been a painful season to watch for Arizona fans. Especially when three teams in their division are fighting for two playoff spots.

But they're not without hope for next year. And after all, that's the beauty of baseball isn't it? There's always next year.

Arizona is in Colorado for three, and then comes home to host the Dodgers on Monday.

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 0-0 and open the season against Northern Illinois tomorrow night at 6pm central time on the Big Ten Network.

I'll be honest. I really don't know what to expect from Wisconsin this year.

On the one hand, their rushing game should be solid as usual. Red-shirt sophomore John Clay is going to be a beast. At 6-2, 247, his running style is a blend of speed and physicality.

Unfortunately, the quarterback situation is up in the air. As I understand it, the depth chart shows: Scott Tolzien, Jr./Curt Phillips, Fr.

There's an old adage that says, "if you've got three running backs, you've got none". I think we can safely create a corollary that says, "if you've got three quarterbacks, you've got none".

Last year's starter, Senior Dustin Sherer, is apparently third on the depth chart now. Not terribly surprising when he completed only 55% of his passes for last year, throwing 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Tolzien saw action in only 3 games last year, going 5 for 8 with no touchdowns and 1 interception. But apparently he made enough progress in the off season and in camp to win the starting job.

Until he makes a mistake and opens the door for Phillips apparently.

Phillips is a 6-3, 228 Freshman out of Kingsport, TN. And that's pretty much all I know about him. But apparently he impressed the coaching staff enough, that he's likely to see some action against NIU tomorrow.

As for the defense? That's another question mark. Wisconsin has a tradition of playing well against traditional offenses, and struggling against the spread offense. Basically, if their linebacker play improves, they should be okay. If not, then not.

The bottom line is that this is a crucial year for Badger head coach Bret Bielema. Bielema is entering his 4th season at the helm, and his teams records have been going the wrong way.

Reasonable Wisconsin fans know better than to expect 12-1 each year. But last year's 7-6 (3-5 in the Big Ten) isn't going to get it done. I don't think there's a strong movement to fire him yet, but I have heard some grumblings. Fans expect success in Wisconsin. Mediocre bowl games may be acceptable at other Big Ten institutions, but 7 wins and getting killed by Florida State isn't going to cut it in Madison.

I'm looking forward to seeing what they have to offer tomorrow night!

That's going to do it for this week. Enjoy the baseball and college football goodness this weekend! I'll be back on Monday (yes, I'm working on Labor Day) to recap.

Until then, thanks for reading!