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!
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!
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!
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!