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!

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