Leigh Ann’s Curse on the Illini is Broken

When I moved to Illinois in the fall 2001, the Illini, led by QB Kurt Kittner (who evidently retired from football after winning the World Bowl MVP and is doing real estate and color commentary for Illini radio), when 10-1 before losing to LSU in a BCS bowl.

Then, Leigh Ann moved to Champaign.

June 2002, while a great month for me, was a dark day for Illini football. After Leigh Ann came, the Illini went 13-45 over the next 5 years and were only remotely in the running for a bowl game once (2002). Their average record during Leigh Ann’s stint there was 2.6 wins and 9 losses.

Of course, this past winter we moved away in what proved to be a joyous occasion for Illini football fans. With their 27-20 win over #21 Penn State today, they are now 4-1 and most likely going to enter the Top 25 this week! Now, if they can only beat Michigan (their one regular season loss in the 2001 season).

And interesting side note is that the Triangle teams down here in North Carolina (UNC, NC State, and Duke) are a cumulative 3-11 this year. Not that any of them were BCS teams last year, but I think it’s worth hypothesizing that the Leigh Ann curse may now be in effect here.

In other news, the bar for “Ugliest Uniform” has just dropped a couple of notches last weekend with the Philly Eagles’ throwback uniforms. They look like a Tar Heel jersey mated with the Tour de France leader jersey.

One more rant, what’s up with the stores like Lowe’s that make you tell them the last 4 digits on your credit card after you swipe it? As far as I can tell, the only purpose in this is to (1) make me dig back in my wallet after I just put it away and (2) let everyone standing in line hear the 4 digits of your credit card. I don’t see how this gives you any extra security and is rather annoying.

The Unbearable Joy of Taxes

Ah, the opportunity to reflect on how craptacular our tax system is. Because of my stipend in grad school, there was no withholding, so we had to send in quarterly estimated taxes. Our Illinois state tax was always pretty close (last year it was only a $37 refund…that’s about as good as you can get). Illinois also has a flat tax system (3%) that’s pretty simple if you’re not a farmer (if there’s one special interest group that political folk in Illinois love, it’s farmers….deductions all over the place. You could even buy a Hummer in state with no sales tax because it qualified as a “farm vehicle”). Federal income tax…not so much. I’d always fill out their worksheet at the beginning of the tax year and then proceed to be hundreds of dollars of when I filed taxes the next year. This year we had to pay well over a thousand dollars. This tells me that the fed tax code is so freakin’ complicated that they can’t even tell people how to estimate how their final bill will turn out.

Humor me for a second while I go on my usual rant about why can’t we just have a single tax rate with an exemption on, say, the first $30,000 of income per person and no other exemptions or credits. I mean none…none for retirement, dependents, mortgage interest, income earned from commercial fishing operations, etc…none. So if an individual made $50K per year and the tax rate was 20%, you’d pay $4000 (0.2 * (50K – 30K)). If you make less than $30K or a married couple makes less than $60K, then they’d pay nothing. Not rocket science.

  • In other news, congrats to the Illini for their win over Indiana! Take that Eric Gordon and thug-a-rific Kelvin Sampson. Doubt they can beat Wisconsin today, but hopefully this is enough to get them off the bubble and into the tournament. I got my Dee Brown headband on today.
  • I stumbled across this awesome site while trying to find an Internet stream for Illini basketball (if you’re into Bit Torrent). They have the Chief’s Last Dance and a DVD-playable copy of the Illini’s miracle comeback against Arizona (the latter takes about a day to download since there’s not many seeds for the 4GB file). I think one of the commenters on the Arizona torrent put it best:

    i cried when i saw the dvd menu. this is outstanding!

    By the way, if anyone knows of any radio stations with audio streams that let you listen to Illini basketball live, please do share.

  • On a less positive note, Clemson did completed yet another end of the season implosion by losing in the first round of the ACC tournament. After starting out 18-0, they finished like 3-10 and blew any chance of going to the NCAAs. Just like the football team falls about every year (sometimes in the beginning, usually in the end) or the baseball team ends up in the top 5 every year only to go two and out in the College World Series. Sigh.
  • Some great Mac parodies: The One thing PC users can do that Mac users can’t and The Onion reports on Apple Unveils New Product-Unveiling Product.
  • Is it just me or does anyone else who comes across Headline News wonder if someone would actually name their kid “Rally”?
  • The US Postal Service is actually doing something so unbelievably cool that I pledge not to complain about their next postage increase. If it’s going towards this kind of innovation, it’s worth it. I gotta find one of these R2D2 mailboxes and get a picture next to it!
  • We watched The Prestige last night. Great movie! Just the right amount of twists and turns without getting too convoluted. You do have to be willing to suspend reality for a little bit though :).
  • Leigh Ann was filling out a background check to volunteer with the Red Cross online this week and it was one of those deals where you have to use Internet Explorer. Presumably, they do this for security which is kind of ironic since IE and it’s Active-X self isn’t exactly known as the pinnacle of secure computing. Pretty much any time a site only works in IE, that should be considered a design flaw. Either the site designer was incompetent, lazy, or has a system to complex for a web app. From now on, anytime I see these sites, I’m going to submit bug reports to the webmaster.
  • Let’s say someone just started shooting bullets up in the air in a crowded area. While not intentionally aiming at anyone, there’s a pretty good chance a bullet could fall and kill an innocent bystander. The cops see this, ask the person so stop shooting repeatedly, and then fire a beanbag gun to subdue him when he doesn’t stop. Unfortunately, the beanbag hits the shooter just right and turns him into a quadriplegic. Should he be allowed to sue the police for the resulting injury? I say no. Duh. The Supreme Court is currently deciding just such a case but in the context of a high-speed car chase.
  • I’m probably just getting old, but is anyone else a little weirded out by all these kids that’ll be walking around and then all of a sudden wheels just sprout out of their shoes and they roll past you? Oh those whippersnappers.
  • I always suspected iTunes didn’t adhere to a uniform distribution when it came to its “random” selections. Looks like someone else agrees. They’re even more conspiracy minded…are some labels paying for better placement in the algorithm?

This and That

  • Will there be a rematch after #1 Ohio State beat #2 Michigan last weekend? I don’t think it will happen provided either USC or Florida (and possibly Arkansas) wins out. The result eliminates Notre Dame’s title hopes because there’s no way they can let a team that lost by 21 to Michigan at home in the title game over the team that beat them.

    I think it’s best to avoid a rematch if possible. Going into the game, I kind of viewed this as a semifinal game with the loser out because it would just create more controversy if, say, there was a rematch and Michigan won by one at a neutral site. Given those two results, it’s pretty much impossible to say the Wolverines should be the undisputed champions. It’s just like the NFL playoffs where the top ranked team got home field advantage and won to get into the Super Bowl.

    I think Michigan’s probably better than USC, Florida, or Arkansas…but I think it should be one of these three that get the championship shot provided at least one of them finishes with one loss. It’s just like in the Final Four or NFL playoffs when the two best teams sometimes just happen to meet in the semis instead of the final.

  • George Carlin had “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television”. Michael Richards’s new act is “One Word You Can Never Say To Hecklers”.
  • ron_zook_rocks

    The Illini finish the season 2-10 after a loss to Northwestern. Given that they’re not getting smashed by 50 points like they did last season, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the result that the university had in mind when they hired him. In his first two seasons as coach, Zooker is 4-19. What was Ron Turner’s record in the two years before he was fired? Yep, it was 4-19.

  • And, what do those ingenious Republicans do after losing the House for the first time in 12 years? Re-elect the same House leadership that lead them to the defeat. Not to be outdone, the Democratic House leader incompetently tries to purge dissent by endorsing an ethically candidate against her former House leadership opponent. In other news, common sense, ethics, decency, and real change seen frantically running away from the Capital building.

What Happened to the Buckeyes?

That’s what we were wondering after going to see the Buckeyes and Illini play. In case you missed it, the Buckeyes made it out of Champaign with a 17-10 victory. The only answer we could come up with was that Ohio State was trying to avoid injury and limiting their play calling to avoid showing their hand to Michigan as it were.

The first half was about what you’d expect with the Buckeyes winning 17-0 and gaining about 200 yards; the second half, not so much. Jim Tressel must have given quite possibly the worst halftime speech ever because, in the second half, the Buckeyes only gained about 25 total yards on offense.


Looking back at the box score and having watched the game, they basically just stopped passing the ball in the second half. Troy Smith only had 23 attempts in the game and probably a third of those were screens. They probably only had 2-3 (unsuccessful) attempts for long passes. Their longest play from scrimmage for the game was only 17 yards.

This wouldn’t be so bad if their running game was working, but Antonio Pittman only averaged 1.8 yards per carry on 32 carries and Chris Wells got taken out of the game in the first half because of a terrible fumble where no one even touched him. That the Buckeyes’s running game couldn’t handle the Illini defense is not a good sign considering Michigan has the top run defense in the country.

Despite all this, the game really wasn’t as close as the score showed. It was still 17-0 for most of the second half until about halfway through the fourth quarter. Pretty much the only tense moment in the game was when the Illini kicked an onside kick with a couple minutes left after scoring their tenth point. It was a great kick by the Illini, but the Buckeyes got it and ran out the clock.

Luckily, they picked a pretty good week to have their worst game of the season since Michigan barely escaped Ball State, Florida had trouble with Vanderbilt, and West Virginia lost to Louisville.

It was nice to have my mom come over from Columbus to watch the game as well as one of our friends from Chicago. Our picture album for the event it now up in our gallery.

Thoughts on College Football

An eclectic mix of thoughts as Leigh Ann and I get ready to head to Memorial Stadium to watch the number one Buckeyes take on the non-so-number-one Illini this Saturday with my mom and some friends. Last time we saw the Buckeyes play here, they won the National Championship (2002)…hopefully history repeats this year :).

  • The Most Unlikely Contenders: Given they haven’t had that great of a schedule, but could it be possible for Rutgers to throw themselves into the national title picture? They’re sitting at 8-0 right now and even though it’s expected that they’ll get whooped by Louisville and WVU, you have to wonder what if. Louisville will be coming down off their biggest game of the season next Thursday when they play Rutgers. And, it’s in New Jersey on a Thursday night (road teams have a horrendous record on Thursday night). If they were to somehow pull off that upset, beat Syracuse and Cincinnati, that would set up a winner takes all match with WVU for the Big East title. Again, the Mountaineers would be heavy favorites at home, but when it comes down to one game, there’s always a chance that the Scarlet Knights could pull off the upset. I’m just saying…
  • Reality Check: I’m a USC hater, but you’ve gotta admit it’s amazing that their 2-point loss to Oregon State was their first regular season loss since since September 27, 2003 (thereby avoiding a repeat of the real headline Trojans Come From Behind Against Beavers). Over three years since they lost that game to Cal. Perhaps even more amazing, they still haven’t lost any game by more than a touchdown since a 27-16 loss to Notre Dame on October 20, 2001. That’s nearly five years and counting! That’s the most dominant dynasty since I’ve been following college football.
  • A Tough Nut to Crack: Everyone seems to think Michigan’s defense is the best in all the land, but Ohio State’s is pretty darned good. They’ve only had one game (Iowa) where the opposing team scored more than one TD (they scored two). Their closest game has been 17 point win against then number two Texas on the road.
  • At Least the 60-0 Losses Are Gone: I still don’t think hiring Ron Zook was the right decision for the Illini, but I have to admit they’ve gotten better this season even if their record doesn’t show it. At least they’re losing games by a touchdown or two in the second half rather than being down by 40 at half time like last year.
  • Clemson Brought Their D Game to Virginia Tech: Man, we were so stoked for this Thursday night game. We even went with some friends to BW3 to watch the game since we’re cable-less. All the excitement was squashed by the Tigers’s 24-7 loss where they looked totally lethargic. Other than their one TD drive, it seemed like Clemson barely even got a first down. At least our table did pretty well in trivia :?.
  • Hoosier Daddy: There’s a chance that Indiana, the perennial doormats of the Big Ten could make their first bowl since 1993. They have five wins with three games left, so the only need to win one to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately for them, though, their game against Minnesota this weekend is pretty much their only good shot. After that, they play an undefeated Michigan and a Purdue team also fighting for bowl eligibility. So, as close as they’ve come, if they can’t close the deal against the Gophers this weekend, then the bowl-less streak will probably be extended. I’ll be they wish they had back those early season losses to UConn and I-AA Southern Illinois.

Pigskin Pick’Em

OK, after a few busy weekends, let’s try to pick some college football games again and see how I do.

  • Illinois at Penn St.: (Line is Penn St. by 18.5) The Illini seem to have done better on the road. But, the Illini are just in shambles. Do I give them the line or not? Naw. Penn St. 28, Illini 7
  • Indiana at Ohio St.: (Line is Ohio St. by 31) This is a Hoosier team with the most momentum that the program’s had in over a decade after wins at Illinois and against a ranked Iowa team. Unfortunately for them, this is the best Buckeyes team since about 1998. You have to go back to 1988 for the last time the Hoosiers beat the Buckeyes and they’d have to pull the biggest upset in their programs history (by about 2 orders of magnitude) to break that streak this year. Ohio St. 38, Indiana 14
  • Texas at Nebraska: (Line is Texas by 6) All of a sudden, the sports writers seem to be lauding what a great rookie QB Colt McCoy is…which is something I pointed out weeks ago. Even though Nebraska is better, I still don’t think they have the horses to compete with the Longhorns right now. Texas 31, Nebraska 10
  • UCLA at Notre Dame: (Line is ND by 13.5) Notre Dame will use this as a statement game since the Bruins are an extremely weak 4-2 right now (as Pac-10 teams usually are). ND 34, UCLA 7
  • Iowa at Michigan: (Line is Michigan by 13.5) The biggest loser in last week’s Indiana upset of Iowa was Michigan. Now, instead having the chance to beat a top 15 team to move up in the eyes of the pollsters, they’re playing the laughingstock of the Big Ten in a game that a blowout is expected. The Buckeyes were much luckier that they got to beat this weak Hawkeye team when everyone still thought they were pretty good. Michigan 38 Iowa 14
  • Alabama at Tennessee: (Line is Tennessee by 11) I’ve got a feeling that this has the makings of an upset. The SEC teams seem to just continue cannibalizing each other and Tennessee hasn’t had a beatdown laid on them in several weeks since the Florida game. So, for no logical reason whatsoever, I’ll say: Alabama 21, Tennessee 20
  • Boston College at Florida St.: (Line is Florida St. by 7) I was really surprised that the Seminoles were favored in this game even though it’s at home. Last I checked, Florida St. was still plagued by injuries and an incompetent offensive coordinator. BC 28, Florida St. 24
  • Rutgers at Pittsburgh: (Line is Pittsburgh by 6.5) Who had this game circled at the beginning of the season, where we now have an undefeated Rutgers team playing a one-loss Pittsburgh team? Too bad we couldn’t see what these teams’ records would be if they were in the SEC instead of Big East. Pitt has the top rated QB in the nation, so you’ve gotta go with them at home. Pitt 21, Rutgers 17
  • Georgia Tech at Clemson: (Line is Clemson at 7) If there’s one game Clemson has to prove that they’re not going to fall in their typical pattern of underachieving about this time of year, this is it. Can they shut down WR Calvin Johnson of the Jackets? Let’s hope or else this could be ugly. Don’t make me look stupid, Tigers. Clemson 38 Georgia Tech 28

Illini Madness

Last night, we went to Illini Madness, Illinois basketball’s annual kick-off event. It was kind of sad not to see Dee Brown there since he’s been around pretty much my whole time at UIUC (he’s with the Utah Jazz now). Unfortunately, there were no surprise appearances by Dee or Deron Williams or Luther Head. But, the did have the Flying Illini from the ’89 Final Four team there. The highlight for us, though, was that Jeremy Piven from Entourage was there. We couldn’t get down to the floor, but we did get several pictures of him from fairly close by.

Here’s the link to the album for the event.



The Illini Get Screwed


Well, Midnight Madness was bittersweet tonight (photos to come shortly). There was definitely a lot more spirit than the football homecoming pep rally last week and we got to see Jeremy Piven (a.k.a. Ari Gold from Entourage) judge the Illini’s slam dunk contest. But the biggest news of the day is undoubtedly that the Hoosier’s new coach, Kelvin Sampson, screwed the Illini every which way to Sunday by getting prized recruit Eric Gordon to break his verbal commitment to Illinois and join Indiana. Yep, Samson, who bolted Oklahoma after leaving it in a recruiting mess, is already bringing his lack of recruiting integrity to the Big Ten by actively pursuing a recruit who already verballed to another school.

Five Thoughts on the Weekend in College Football

  • I’m Slightly Better than Random in Picking Games: How’d my picks do? I went 6-4…slightly better than the 5-5 you would expect if you just picked a winner at random.
    • OSU did about as I predicted against Cincy even if they were a little sluggish (and, surprisingly, they did when by exactly 30).
    • brasic_syracuse

      I was right about Syracuse beating the Illini, but even I was surprised at how bad a Big East bottom dweller would spank them. I thought it was a mistake to hire Ron Zook and it’s looking more and more wrong each game. The Illini are getting worse if that’s possible.

    • I don’t think even Lloyd Carr would have predicted the a 26-point road win over the Irish…I thought Notre Dame was over hyped and even I blew this pick. Who knew Henne would become Peyton Manning for a day?
    • Oklahoma should have beat Oregon, but apparently Stevie Wonder was hired as the instant replay reviewer for the game. See Oklahoma get screwed by the refs in all its YouTube glory.
    • Got the call for Louisville right, but I had no idea Miami would get trounced despite the Cardinals having their two first-round draft picks injured for an entire half.
    • Missed the LSU game, though they could have won it on the last play of the game, as it were..
    • Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought TCU would hold Texas Tech to three total points. Needless to say, I blew this game and underestimated the Horned Frogs’ defense by about two orders of magnitude.
    • Boy, was I wrong about Jad Dean’s redemption. If not for Clemson’s kicking team, this would have been a blow-out. The Tigers’ first extra point was blocked and returned for a safety and then their next field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a TD (recall that last week the Tigers had a PAT blocked to lose at Boston College). Lucky for the Tigers, Florida State is pitiful thanks to Bobby Bowden’s obstinate decision to stick with his son as offensive coordinator. Thanks, Bobby, the lack of offense will just send more Florida recruits up to Ohio State. Despite, this rant, I got the pick right.
    • Picked the Florida win over Tennessee. How quickly Phil Fulmer can go from being off the host seat to back on it after two less than stellar home performances.
    • USC won over Nebraska about as I expected them to. That naked bootleg that the Huskers did on fourth-and-goal at the one to get their touchdown was pretty sweet.
  • Rich Rodriguez is a Great Coach: He’s done amazing things in his five years at West Virginia. I always suspected he carried Tommy Bowden when Rich was Tommy’s offensive coordinator at Tulane and Clemson (2000 and 2001). Tommy’s never filled that void since Rich left…the Tigers have consistently underachieved since.
  • Three Coaches on Major Hot Seats: I think all three will be gone after this season, but I’ll rank them in order of likelihood that they’ll be fired before next season: (1) Chuck Amato (NC State), (2) Dennis Franchione (Texas A&M), (3) Larry Coker (Miami). As you can see, each already has the pink slip of the Internet age: a firecoach.com domain (evidently, there’s decent money in cyber-squatting these domains).
    • chuck_amato

      NC State got beat by Southern Miss a week after losing to Akron, which Amato followed by a bizarre rant about how NC State was at a disadvantage over MAC schools since they can’t accept academic non-qualifiers. Yea, Chuck, it’s amazing ACC schools are even able to compete against the likes of Ball State and Bowling Green. To add insult to injury, he has some of the most noticable man boobs in sports (probably second only to Phil Mickelson).

    • coach_fran

      Coach Fran has lead the Aggies to a 3-0 start with a cupcake schedule that would make Kansas State proud. But, uh, their last win on a goal-line stand against Army. For those of you that don’t follow college football much, Army has been perpetually among the nation’s worst for about the past two decades. Let’s face it, he’s not getting paid $2 million per year to make the Aggies the fourth-best team in the state of Texas (behind the Longhorns, Horned Frogs, and Red Raiders). I think Bear Bryant cursed Coach Fran for leaving Alabama when he did.

    • Larry Coker did a good job of finished off what Butch Davis started with a national championship and runner-up in his first two years (Butch Davis left one of the most loaded teams ever when he bolted for the NFL…you gotta respect that). But since then, it’s undeniable the U’s program has had a downward trajectory. I think the blowout by an injury-depleted Louisville team was the swan song for Coker. This season now becomes his farewell tour, me’s thinks.
  • Best Quotes from Deadspin Comments This Weekend:
    • I’ve played this season more than five times on NCAA ’07 and Mario Manningham has never ever played this well.
    • Syracuse radio: Matt Park: “Little bit of confusion on the extra point try.” Coach Mac: “They’re not used to it”
    • In the last five minutes of the Iowa-Iowa State game, both the lesbian and Grandpa Simpson have praised Drew Tate for making tackles after he throws interceptions. I know that’s what the NFL looks for in a quarterback.
    • charlie_weis
    • “There was a sign during Gameday this morning – “Charlie Weis: The Devil Lovechild of Jabba the Hut and Rosie O’Donnell.”
    • Did Illinois replace Temple in the Big East?
    • Rece Davis just called the Syracuse-Illinois game “The Big 6 Conference Pillow-Fight of the Week.”
    • In his weekly pick where he dresses up as the team he’s picking, Lee Corso put his Trojan helmet on… backwards. I’m wondering if a similar Trojan snafu led to the birth of one or more of his children.
    • Thus far, this Michigan State/Pitt game is like watching a PG-13 movie, you keep sitting around waiting for some action, but you know that you’re not going to see anything good.
  • Does Anyone Get that Nike High School Commercial?: Michael Vick and a bunch of NFL pros go up against a high school football team and need a last second play to win the game. I don’t get it.

And, completely unrelated to college football:

  • Finding Egg Roll and Wonton Wrappers: If you’re ever planning on cooking homemade egg rolls and/or wontons (as I plan to do), you may think one would look in the international food aisle at one’s local grocery establishment. You would be wrong (at least in Champaign). You need to go to the chilled food section around the cream cheese to find them. Evidently you’ve got to keep them cool.

Weekend Pickoff

So, tomorrow’s college football brings us seven games between Top 25 teams, which is the most in one day since like 1993. I’m going to try my hand at picking the games so everyone can tell me how dumb my picks were after the fact. I’ll do those seven games along with Ohio State, Illinois, and Clemson.

  • Syracuse at Illinois: (Line is Illinois by 3) The most shocking part to me is that the Illini are actually favored in this game. Given that Syracuse lost last week when they couldn’t score on seven straight plays inside the two yard line. That’s pretty freakin’ lame. But Illinois couldn’t even cross midfield last week. This has to be one of the worst inter-conference games ever played by schools from BCS conferences. Syracuse 20, Illinois 13
  • Cincinnati at Ohio State: (Line is Ohio State by 29) I love the Buckeyes, but I’d take Cincy with that spread. Even as an offensive power house, I just don’t see a Tressel team winning by more than 30. Ohio State 31, Cincy 10
  • Michigan at Notre Dame: (Line is ND by 5.5) Weis is a prick, Brady Quinn is overrated, but Henne’s a tool and Michael Hart only has big games whenever I’m not watching. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, I’ll probably tune in for this one. Notre Dame 28, Michigan 17
  • Oklahoma at Oregon: (Line is Oregon by 5) Oklahoma’s looked pathetic this year, but Oregon is a Pac-10 team not named USC…that’s just too big of a hurdle to overcome. Oklahoma 24, Oregon 21
  • Miami at Louisville: (Line is Louisville by 4) If Miami loses, Larry Coker is pretty much fired, me’s thinks. Louisville’s got a great coach and they’ve got the horses to beat the Hurricanes this year (even without Michael Bush). Louisville 17, Miami 13
  • LSU at Auburn: (Line is Auburn by 3.5) LSU is one of those teams that is good every year but I couldn’t name you a single player on the team or tell you anything about them. All I know about Auburn is they have Kenny Irons and he’s awesome. LSU usually seems to rise to the occasion in big SEC games and then lose to about a 15-20 ranked team. So, I’ll go with my gut. LSU 28, Auburn 27
  • Texas Tech at TCU: (Line is Texas Tech by 2.5) When did Texas A&M become the fourth best team in the state of Texas? UTEP’s gunning to knock them off that pedestal now. I think the Red Raiders can end the Horned Frogs longest winning steak in the nation. Texas Tech 35, TCU 17
  • Clemson at Florida State: (Line is Florida State by 5) I think Clemson’s better than Troy and the Seminoles have totally lost their offensive mojo. Jad Dean redeems himself for last week’s missed extra point with five field goals. Clemson 15, Florida St. 10
  • Florida at Tennessee: (Line is Florida by 4) I still think the Cal game was a fluke for Eric Ainge and Tennessee. Chris Leak has to be the most over-hyped solid, but not spectacular QB since Chris Simms. Florida 28, Tennessee 20
  • Nebraska at USC: (Lines is USC by 17.5) Of all the games between ranked teams, ESPN Gameday picked this one to broadcast from? Pretty blatant that they’re always going to choice the ABC-televised game over the real games of the week. I’ve hoped USC would get upset so many times in the past and it never happens, so I’m just going to resign myself to reality and keep picking them until they lose or meet Ohio State. USC 38, Nebraska 14

Six Thoughts from This Week in College Football

  • Ohio State is clearly number one: Their defense is still suspect, but the national champ now seems poised to be one of these five: OSU, USC, Notre Dame (though, I still think they’re over-hyped), West Virginia, and Auburn. There’s definitely no team as strong as 2004 USC or 2002 Miami in the bunch. Heck, even last year’s Texas and USC teams would be the run away front-runner this year. So even though the Buckeye’s defense isn’t great, there may not be another team with the total package necessary to beat them this season.
  • Anthony Gonzalez is a stud: He seems to have brought his A game this season since Santonio Holmes left. The Buckeye’s general strategy seems to be to send Ginn long each time, throw to him if he’s open, and otherwise hit Gonzalez in the 10-30 yard range. Somehow I still get this feeling that Tressel’s coaching staff has never really figured out how to use Ginn such that his full potential is reached.
  • Colt McCoy will be a heck of a QB in a year or two: I have to admit he was awesome for a freshman QB in such a big game. Other than his one interception, he didn’t make may rookie mistakes. In fact, his receivers screwed up a lot more than him. Barring injury, he’s got Heisman written all over him in a couple of years.
  • Troy Smith is not a mobile QB: I don’t know when this myth started, but he’s not Vince Young or Michael Vick. In two games this season, he has 8 rushes for negative 14 yards. Let’s just accept that he’s a good passing, pro-style QB and stop talking about his mobility (this probably helps his NFL draft status as pro-style QBs seem to be much preferred over dual-threat QBs).
  • Florida St. needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat Troy: The Seminoles were down 17-10 with about 6 minutes left in the game before scoring two TDs to win the game. As best we could tell, Troy seems to be a primarily online university (think University of Phoenix). This prompted one of our friends to observe that the football team probably practices by playing Madden over a network. Is Bobby Bowden going to start feeling a bit of heat?
  • Illinois Stinks: 33-0 loss to a Rutgers team that they beat last year. Guess Illini fans will have to wait until next decade.

And, one bonus thought…

  • How does Aunt Jemima still exist?: Totally unrelated to college football, but it struck me as odd that the Aunt Jemima brand of breakfast foods is still used. It must have just flown under the radar in a politically correct world given the stereotype it represents.

2005 College Football Awards

Feel free to add your own awards in the comments!

  • Irrational Exuberance Award: After the Illini started 2-0 by beating Rutgers and San Jose State, one of the local news stations led a segment with the title, “Feels Like 2001”. 2001, of course being the year that the Kurt Kittner-led Illini went 10-2 and earned a BCS birth. Turns out, the season felt more like 2003 (1-11) with the Illini ending the season on a nine game losing streak to finish 2-9.
  • Fastest Time to Erase Memories of the Past Season Award: The Illini win here given that they already had their 2006 football schedule up last week.
  • Coach of the Year Award: I’m sorry, but giving this to Joe Paterno is kind of like giving the Queen of England the Politician of the Year Award. Despite Penn State’s amazing success, I can’t help but think that Paterno and Bobby Bowden are more figureheads at this point. That being said, I’m going with Charlie Weis because I don’t think this Notre Dame team would be going to a BCS bowl if anyone else was coach this season.
  • Game of the Year Award: I’ve got to go with USC-Notre Dame since a 30 game win streak was on the line. Runners-up are: Penn State-Michigan (the Nittany Lions were pretty much undefeated for all but one second of the entire season), Ohio State-Michigan, and Ohio State-Texas.
  • Most Improved Analyst Award: Aaron Taylor on ABC. He seemed like a rookie next to John Saunders and Craig James last year. This year he matured a lot.
  • Worst Analyst Ever Award: Lou Holtz on ESPN. Good gosh he’s bad. If he’s not saying something that’s just wrong, then he’s filling the air with meaningless fluff that makes me yearn to have back the seconds of my life that I just spent listening to him.
  • Worst Game to Be an Oddsmaker Award: Did anyone have 2-6 Arizona beating 8-0 UCLA by 38?
  • Least Deserving Bowl Team Award: Rutgers. They lost to the Illini. The fact that they went 7-4 speaks volumes about the Big East.
  • Dude, Where’s My Yards Award: Adrian Peterson who went from 1925 yards as a freshman to only 1024 yards due in part to injuries and the loss of Heisman caliber quarterback as a teammate. It’s easy to forget that Peterson was the Reggie Bush of 2004.
  • Prettiest Hair Award: Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija. Daggum, those are some beautiful locks. As Leigh Ann noted, he reminds us of “Sunshine” from Remember the Titans.
  • Buckeye That Was Most Likely a Ninja In a Previous Life Award: Troy Smith, though ninjas don’t fumble in game critical situations. As evidenced by the Michigan game, Grasshopper is learning.
  • Buckeye That Was Most Likely a Pirate In a Previous Life Award: A.J. Hawk. Led all swashbucklers in sword cuts for a loss (of limbs that is).
  • The Georgians Working Together Award: Georgia Tech upsets Miami and Georgia upsets LSU to deny their respective opponents BCS births. The end result is that Atlanta’s the Peach Bowl ends up with the best non-BCS bowl of the season with Miami (9-2) versus LSU (9-2). The Gator Bowl with Virginia Tech (10-2) and Louisville (9-2) is the second best non-BCS bowl, IMHO.
  • The Opposites Attract Award: The Cotton Bowl, which will match Texas Tech against Alabama. The Red Raiders have the 2nd ranked offense in the country and the 28th ranked defense. The Crimson Tide has the 74th ranked offense and 2nd ranked defense.
  • Incredible Insight Award: The group that came up with the brand new San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. I think I speak for all college football fans when I say that it would have been a tragedy…a tragedy, I tell you…not to have scheduled this match-up between Colorado State (6-5) and Navy (7-4). I’m just counting down the hours until I can watch this classic match-up.
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Award: Ted Ginn. You just know when he receives a kick that something big is going to happen. The problem is the “big thing” is about equally likely to be a turnover as it is to be a TD return.
  • Strike One Award: Call it the Zook-Willingham rule: If you go to a prestigious football school and don’t have them in the national championship picture within three year, you’re fired. Urban Meyer gets strike one for going 8-3. Zook and Willingham didn’t help themselves by going both going 2-9 in their first year at new, less prestigious football schools. What the heck, I’ll go ahead and give Ron and Ty a share of this award too.
  • Mediocrity Award: Clemson for the seventh year in a row (6-6, 9-3, 7-5, 7-6, 9-4, 6-5, 7-4). Tommy’s the master of doing just enough not to get fired. Stewart Mandel has them picked as the breakout team for next season. I’d like to see that, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

College Football Lines

Here’s the lines for some of my teams this weekend:

  • Ohio St. at Michigan: OSU by 3. I’d definitely take the Buckeyes with that spread.
  • Clemson at USC: Clemson by 2.5. It’s close…Tommy has kind of pwned the Gamecocks…but I have a feeling Spurrier wins this one.
  • Northwestern at UIUC: Northwestern by 14.5. Heck, I’d take Northwestern by at least 21.

And, finally, here’s Stewart Mandel explaining why Notre Dame deserves to be higher in the polls than the Buckeyes.

Guess I’m Still Living in a Hostile and Abusive Environment

According to the NCAA, that is, who ruled that Chief Illiniwek continues to be “hostile and abusive”. In their ever nebulous case against Native American mascots, the NCAA comes up with this gem for their argument du jour:

“By continuing to use Native American nicknames, mascots and imagery, institutions assume responsibility over an environment which they cannot fully control,” Bernard Franklin, NCAA senior vice-president for governance and membership, said in a prepared statement released Friday. “Fans, opponents and others can and will exhibit behaviors that indeed are hostile and abusive to Native Americans.”

This is just super logic by the NCAA. I’m sure that Notre Dame’s opponents never never do anything “hostile and abusive” towards those of Irish descent (not to keep harping on this analogy, but I have yet to hear a valid explanation as to why Notre Dame isn’t part of this witch hunt). And, I wonder what the NCAA has to say about this incident:

On Jan. 18, 1984, Kerr [Steve’s dad] was murdered by Islamic militants for the crime of running that school. Two nights later, Steve cried before tipoff and then delivered his best game as an Arizona freshman, making five of seven shots against Arizona State.

He played to escape the pain. He even played the night an ASU crowd hit him with a sick chant of “PLO,” sending Steve into a 20-point first-half rage.

Would they have bowed to these jerks and proposed Steve Kerr sit out so as not to create an environment “hostile and abusive” to those whose parents were murdered by terrorists? If fans want to project a “hostile and abusive” environment about a Native American mascot, how about kicking them out of the game? This makes absolutely no sense to punish Illinois because people can be jerks.

On another note, since the NCAA is a voluntary organization that includes many administrators from public universities…it would be nice for them to publish an itemization of how much it costs for them to devote time to “solving” the mascot problem as opposed to increasing graduation rates, reducing corruption, etc. I wonder if taxpayers would be pleased with how they’ve chosen to spend their time on this matter.

And You Thought Illini Football Was Bad

After losing to the Buckeyes “only” by a score of 40-2. How about Hanna High School’s basketball team in Oklahoma, who was beat 112-2 on Friday? I don’t understand how a team can be that bad and still decide to field a team.

On another college football note, when I predicted UCLA’s undefeated bubble would soon burst, I had no idea that it would happen by going down 52-14 to a two-win Arizona team! I didn’t know that they were that overrated.

College Football Thoughts

  • The Buckeyes’ offense has actually looked pretty good the past couple of games (of course, as soon as I say this…). Ted Ginn is actually started to make some big plays…man, if he gets an opening on a kick, he can fly.
  • Props to myself for calling Georgia’s imminent loss! I think I’ll apply for Trev Alberts old job :). UCLA almost stole my thunder by going to overtime with Stanford, but their bubble is due to burst. They kind of remind me of the 2001 Illinois team…a decent team that just overachieves like mad, but isn’t as good as their record indicates.
  • How in the heck is Rutgers 6-2 given that they lost to the Illini? I don’t care if you are in the Big East, anyone that loses to the Illini has no right to such a decent record.
  • Tommy Bowden needs to take Jim Tressel lessons on how to win close games. When you have five losses and two are in overtime and the other three were decided by a total of eight points, there’s something wrong.
  • With Tennessee dropping out of the Top 25, this marks the second time this year a preseason Top 5 team has dropped out (Michigan did, but has since came back).
  • If my count is right, 9 of the 11 Big Ten teams have been ranked in the Top 25 during the course of the season: Penn St., Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan St., and Iowa. That’s gotta be approaching a record. Don’t think the Hoosiers will crack the list this season and I’m darn sure the Illini won’t.

UIUC’s Recruiting Violation Woes

If the Illini are going to have recruiting violations, shouldn’t they at least be able to field bowl-eligible teams?

The NCAA placed Illinois on probation for one year Thursday because a booster improperly provided payments and other benefits to a football prospect.

The offenses were a major violation of NCAA rules and occurred between April 2003 and January 2004.

I’d hate to see that booster’s stock portfolio because they obviously don’t demand much in the way of results for their money.

Random College Football Thoughts

I never got around to writing something last week, so I guess that I’ll try to give thoughts on the previous two weeks.

  • The Michigan State-Ohio State game seemed to be more a case of the Spartans snatching defeat from the jaws of victory rather than the Buckeyes playing well. Though, ironically, the Spartans weren’t the worst in the Big Ten in terms of giving a game away on that weekend…take a bow Minnesota (special teams coaches…you gotta remind the punter to make a B line for the back of the endzone if something goes awry in that situation!)
  • Despite the nice victory at Indiana, the Buckeyes have got to work on the turnovers. The defense can only dominate solid opposing offenses so much. It was good to see Ginn get a TD run in the Michigan State game and a TD punt return in the Indiana game. Maybe he’s got his mojo back.
  • That was pure college football bliss to get to watch the end of the Michigan-Penn St. and USC-Notre Dame games within an hour of each other. Unfortunately, I would have liked to have seen the opposite team win in both games :(.
  • The USC-Notre Dame game has to be one of the best games I’ve ever seen start to finish. I was one that thought Tyrone Willingham should have been given more time with the Irish. But, I have to admit I was wrong seeing how much coaching of the mastermind that is Charlie Weis can improve basically the same team Willingham had. Also, the fact that Willingham’s Huskies are 1-6 right now has to at least cause some doubt in the minds of those who thing Willingham is in the upper echelon of coaches.
  • I figured that Florida State was ranked a little too high and due for a loss (though, it’s a mystery how Virgina beats the Seminoles one week and loses to the Tar Heels the next). I think that Georgia is the next undefeated due for a loss.
  • Is it possible to imagine the Illini being worse if UIUC had kept Ron Turner as head coach? Isn’t a new coach at least supposed to show signs of improvement?
  • How on earth did Northwestern pwn a Michigan State team that beat Notre Dame and probably should have beaten Ohio State at home?

UIUC to NCAA: “Yo Mamma’s Hostile and Abusive”

Well, maybe those weren’t the university’s exact words, but they did file an appeal with the NCAA late Thursday challenging their ruling that the Illini mascot is “hostile and abusive”. From the News-Gazette article:

The appeal, signed by UI Board of Trustees Chairman Larry Eppley, states the policy on American Indian imagery conflicts with NCAA principles of institutional responsibility and autonomy. It states the policies regarding the use of Chief Illiniwek and the name “Fighting Illini” are within the jurisdiction of the trustees, who are trying to reach a “consensus conclusion” on the issue.
The UI board “should be allowed to continue its work unfettered by the NCAA’s arbitrary new policy and the corresponding deadline,” the appeal states.
Regarding the names “Illini” and “Fighting Illini,” the appeal states:
โ€“ The names derive from the state’s name and predate the Chief Illiniwek tradition.
โ€“ “Illini” was coined by the student newspaper and is used broadly to describe UI students and alumni, not just its athletic teams.
โ€“ “Fighting” was first used to describe the 1919 and 1920 UI football teams and was adopted for a 1921 fundraising campaign for Memorial Stadium.

A spokesman for the NCAA said support or opposition from a namesake tribe is a primary factor in deciding an appeal, but it is not the only factor. Other considerations include information from the students, faculty and community, and the environment at the university.
The UI’s appeal notes there is no tribe called “Illini” or “Illiniwek” from which it could seek approval for use of the name.
The Illini, or Illinois, Indians were a loosely organized band of independent tribes that included the Peoria, whose descendants now have tribal headquarters in Oklahoma, say historians and anthropologists.

It will be rather entertaining if this appeal is accepted as it will mean that all four Division I schools with Native American mascots will have exemptions from the NCAA’s new “hostile and abusive” policy. Essentially this would mean that (1) the NCAA obviously didn’t spend enough time researching the issue by their own standards if they’re reversing themselves right and left and (2) the policy is effectively dead if it has absolutely no effect on the high-profile Division I athletics.

The appeal makes an important point with which I agree…that UIUC should be the one to decide on Chief Illiniwek, not the NCAA. The school is quite capable of figuring this out by itself. It doesn’t make any sense to me why the NCAA (which, it is always worth pointing out, is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana) somehow knows what’s better for UIUC than the students, administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni of the university.