Sunday, September 30, 2012

0 Managing Your Expectations

By Kenny Howell

No one likes to lose. Plain and simple.

But there are times when moral victories are OK. You don't necessarily need to be happy about it, but at least get yourself to indifference.

Take Tennessee's game yesterday with Georgia. Being a Tennessee fan, did I want the Vols to lose? No. Did I ever think they were going to win? No to that as well.

It is something that I have come to grips with. There was a point in time when Tennessee had Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry and future All-American Travis Stephens lining up in the backfield with Peyton Manning at quarterback and Peerless Price at receiver. Other NFL players on that 1997 team were Chad Clifton, Shawn Bryson, Shaun Ellis, Terry Fair, Dwayne Goodrich, Deon Grant, Leonard Little, David Martin, Marcus Nash, Billy Ratliff, Raynoch Thompson, Darwin Walker, Al Wilson and Cedrick Wilson.

That team, with all that talent, lost two games, including getting blown out in Orange Bowl against Nebraska, 42-17. And that is when the SEC had 2-4 teams that could play elite football. Now, we have 4-6 every year.

Looking at this year's team, there are few sure things as far as NFL players. Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarelle Patterson and A.J. Johnson should get a chance. Other than that, you got some guys that can work their way into the fold, but no sure things.

So losing to a No. 5 Georgia team at their place is not that demoralizing. Especially since you worked yourself into a position to win with much less talent on the field. Does it suck that you had a chance and you came up short? Absolutely. But the loss does show that you have improved and you are moving toward being able to beat those types of teams in the future.

With the running game coming together the past two weeks, UT does seem to have their offense fully rounded. 44 points against a good Georgia defense, with maybe the best defensive player in the country is a big deal. It's the 51 they scored that is troubling.

The Vols seem to be able to handle runs up the middle fairly well. Daniel McCullers is a tough guy to get around, and the defense seems to bottle up runners. It's the outside that we have trouble with, which Georgia knew and exploited for a ton of yards. The biggest thing that sticks out is that how weak the Vols are in the secondary. Part of is that they are put in bad situations on both the run and the pass by the playcalling, but you still got to make plays when it's your opportunity.

The transition to the 3-4 is a big deal. Both Alabama and Georgia had around .500 seasons when they switched to the new defense. So it's hard to expect Tennessee, which probably had less talent than those teams at the time of their transition, to do much better than that.

In just under two weeks from now, Tennessee takes on Mississippi State. This is the one you need to have because you can win it. Later, when you play Missouri, that is also the time get the win. If you can upset a South Carolina or Alabama, it would be huge, but you can't bank on that. Just win the ones you can, and keep building back to the Tennessee we once knew.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

1 Basketball...A Contact Sport?

By Kenny Howell

I know it is Saturday, and it is against federal law to talk about anything other than college football, but I needed to say something about the NBA.

The NBA has said that they are going to try to crack down harder on flopping this season, with the possibility of fines for players who do it. Manu Ginobili might be the first player to lose his whole salary in fines if that is true.

But I think blaming players like Vlade Divac and other European ballers for bringing the idea of flopping from their soccer routes is only part of the problem. They would have never been able to get away with it if the idea of basketball as a contact sport had totally disappeared in recent years.

Now, I feel a little like an old man saying "back in my day, basketball was played like this and all you youngsters are wusses." Not necessarily true, basketball was never like football, and I don't pretend it should be. However, in covering high school games, and watching college and professional, I have noticed that 70 percent (not scientific number at all) of the time a foul is called, it shouldn't be a foul.

Basketball courts are 94 feet long and 50 feet wide. When you have 10 men or women playing in that space, especially ones who are large and extremely athletic, they are going to run into each other. When you get all those down at one end of the court, it certainly is going to happen.

Teams have taken advantage of that with the rise of isolation plays in recent years. Let your best scorer get it to the rim, and hope for a score or a foul. A lot of the times the offensive player will just barrel toward the rim, and the majority of the time if a foul is called, it is on the defense. Even the best defenders, who defend the play extremely well, get called for fouls. Even if they go straight up like their supposed to, and sometimes don't even affect the shot.

This has really soured me on basketball. Basketball was my sport growing up, and I would watch every significant or insignificant game that ESPN would show. But now it seems like I am watching a free throw contest each game, and no one wants to see that.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

0 NHL cancels preseason, makes Justin mad

By Justin Koehn

Another league, another season, another lockout. With the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA expired, the league today has announced the remainder of the preseason will be canceled. While they claim talks have been ongoing "around the clock," there doesn't seem to be much progress occurring on either side of the fence. 

With the regular season set to start on October 11th, the window to getting a deal in place before threatening to cancel the start of the 2012-2013 season is closing in fast. The NHL has been picking up a larger fan base over the last few years, and this latest debacle could very well pour water over the fire of a sport that has always been followed by a smaller audience in the states compared to other professional leagues such as the NFL and MLB. They have suffered their share of lockouts lately too, most recently with the NFL referees. After watching the Seahawks and Packers game, we all know how that turned out. A short time later the NFL announces a deal has been reached. Why can't the NHL and NHLPA work at this speed when there is a sense of urgency? My thought is they do not feel the urgency yet. Paychecks will still be flowing for a few weeks, as well as benefits. Will they move quicker to reach a deal once it starts hurting them in their pockets? Perhaps, but it won't come without hurting those who really matter: The Fans.

As said before, the league has just started to build a larger fan base with games on the national TV market, gaining major airtime on NBC and the NBC Sports Network including coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs as well as once-a-year games like the Winter Classic. This latest lockout becomes the fourth stoppage since 1992 for the NHL. I can only imagine this time around the fans are finally going to get to the point of fed up and finally call it quits.

No agreement, no games, no revenue, no fans. Nothing good can come from this unless an agreement is reached, and soon. Only time will tell how this one will play out, so as we get closer to the regular season schedule I hope the two sides can get a deal inked. If we could only know now what the final deal would end up being so we could pass that information along and get the contracts signed and get to playing hockey.

NHL Defenseman Barry Beck (1977-1990 with LA Kings, NY Rangers, Colorado Rockies) once said, "We only have one person to blame, and that's each other."

This quote summarizes the entire situation between the NHL and NHLPA. Quit pointing fingers, quit the whining, grab your stick, drop the puck, and LET'S PLAY SOME HOCKEY!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

0 Kenny's College Football Predictions, Week 5

By Kenny Howell

There isn't a ton of big games this weekend, so I am for the most part picking the favorite in these. However, I could see a few games possibly being an upset. Or I am just taking a shot in the dark here. Either/or.

No. 1 Alabama 35 Ole Miss 13

This should never be a game, but Ole Miss was able to put up a lot of points on a good Texas defense, so maybe they get a few scores here.

No. 2 Oregon 45 Washington State 27

Which Oregon defense will show up this week? The one that allowed 34 and 25 points to Arkansas State and Fresno State, or the one that shut out Arizona. I am thinking the first, just because I would prefer it that way.

No. 3 LSU 223 Towson 0

LSU scores one more than Georgia Tech against Cumberland and breaks the record. Really, it just depends on when LSU quits, so who knows.

No. 4 Florida State 41 South Florida 17

This is a road game for FSU, but not really. Should have no trouble with the Bulls.

No. 5 Georgia 38 Tennessee 28

Tennessee comes out with a lot of fire, but Georgia just has too much talent and home field advantage. UT will score, but won't be able to slow down the Bulldogs.

No. 6 South Carolina 31 Kentucky 10

The last hurrah for Joker Phillips continues as the Wildcats will get dominated by another more talented opponent. Kentucky will continue to act like they care while working on growing in their unibrows for basketball season.

No. 8 Stanford 24 Washington 14

Don't think it will be easy, but Cardinals gut out another win on the road in the Pac-12.

No. 9 West Virginia 48 No. 25 Baylor 35

Probably the second best marquee game of the week. It will be gross with no defense, but West Virginia should have more firepower than the Bears.

Oklahoma State 41 No. 12 Texas 34

This is one of my upsets of the week. Not sure why, just got a feeling that Texas is a bit overrated. Which they usually are.

No. 14 Ohio State 24 No. 22 Michigan State 20

This is probably the marquee game of the week, and it should be a good one. Should be a battle, but Meyer is used to these games and should be able to pull the Buckeyes through.

No. 15 TCU 34 SMU 10

In the battle of a bunch of letters, TCU should be able to handle the Mustangs with no problem.

No. 17 Clemson 28 Boston College 27

I am thinking Clemson is not that great, and after they got it handed to them last week against Florida State, they may come out a little flat. They still have enough talent to beat Boston College. 

Arizona 27 No. 18 Oregon State 21

I put Oregon State in my Top 10 this week because all they have done this year is beat ranked teams, but I think it might end this week. Arizona got embarrassed by Oregon last week, so they will come out with a little extra and will hand the Beavers their first loss.

No. 19 Louisville 35 Southern Miss 20

Louisville has looked pretty solid so far, but I am not sure how good they are. Luckily, Southern Miss is not good, so they should win.

No. 22 Nebraska 34 Wisconsin 17

Any other year, this would probably be a pretty good game, but the Badgers are way down this year for their standards. Cornhuskers should win easily.

No. 24 Boise State 24 New Mexico 13

Boise State can't do a whole lot on offense this year, but they have been pretty stout on defense, enough so to keep winning at New Mexico.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

0 Shaee's College Football Top 10, Sept. 25

By Shaee Flatt
College Football Top 10
My top 10 teams in college football, based on who has impressed me the most, thus far this season. Let the debate begin.
1.     Alabama (4-0) – Clear cut number one, in my opinion. Nobody close to the Tide right now.
2.     LSU (4-0) – Struggled against Auburn this past week, but I still have the defending SEC Champions at number two, for now.
3.     Florida State (4-0) - Okay, I think it’s safe to say that Florida State is officially back. The Noles are going to be hard for anyone to beat, much less someone out of the ACC.
4.     Oregon (4-0) – Oregon may have the nation’s best offense, and they have proved it every week thus far, seemingly scoring at will against everyone they’ve faced.
5.     West Virginia (3-0) - If Oregon doesn’t have the best offense in the country, West Virginia does. Geno Smith is the Heisman frontrunner, and could be on his way to leading the Mountaineers to a Big 12 title in their inaugural season.
6.     Georgia (4-0) – This is where I start to feel a little less certain. Georgia has looked good at times, but has also looked very beatable at times. Nonetheless, the Dawgs are back to full strength this week against Tennessee, and should only get better as the season goes on.
7.     Ohio State (4-0) – Ole Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes looking really strong, and QB Braxton Miller has really impressed me thus far this season. Look for the Buckeyes to be strong contenders for a Rose Bowl birth this year.
8.     Kansas State (4-0) – Kansas State looked good Saturday night against the Sooners, but I’m intrigued to see if they can keep that level of play all season. Maybe some more inspirational texts from Jets QB Tim Tebow could help.
9.     South Carolina (4-0) – The Gamecocks don’t do it in some flashy way, that everyone enjoys to watch, but they do it. This team just knows how to win football games. However, South Carolina faces one of the nation’s most daunting schedules.
10.  Notre Dame (4-0) - First let me say this, I don’t think Notre Dame will be this high in my closing poll, they have too many tough games ahead of them, but they deserve to be here right now. Their win over Michigan State was one of the most impressive wins by any team so far this season.

0 Kenny's College Football Top 10, Sept. 25

By Kenny Howell

This is my first top 10 of the year, mostly because the blog wasn't even around a week ago, it was just a glimmer in the bored glaze of my eyes, but also because you can't start evaluating teams until they have played a few weeks.
I try to base my rankings based on what teams have done, not where they were ranked when the season started by some poll. So, my rankings don't necessarily mean these are the best teams based on the eye test, but rather the ones that have proved it. But it is hard to ignore the eye test, so everything I just said may have been all a lie.

1. Alabama (4-0) - They are the defending champs and until someone knocks them off, they will stay there.

2. Florida State (4-0) - The Seminoles have a signature win over Clemson, and half of their games have been against automatic qualifiers. They have a habit of disappearing later in the year, so we will see if it lasts.

3. Oregon (4-0) - The Ducks probably wouldn't have been ranked this high if they hadn't just dominated Arizona. I don't think the Wildcats are that great, but they did beat a pretty good Oklahoma State team, so that's something.

4. Notre Dame (4-0) - This is where I may lose some of you, and I may actually lose myself. I don't agree with myself for putting them this high, but they have beaten three BCS conference teams, two of which were ranked. Not sure it will last.

5. LSU (4-0) - This one is based mostly on the eye test, although the whipping of Washington looked pretty good. However, they struggled against a bad Auburn team.

6. Stanford (3-0) - The win against USC is the majority of this ranking, but the Cardinals look as tough as they did when Jim Harbaugh was there. I wouldn't be surprised if he was still coaching them through an earpiece in David Shaw's ear.

7. Georgia (4-0) - Another eye test team. Missouri road win was solid, although they struggled for a majority of it. If I had a Top 25, Jarvis Jones would be ranked No. 19 by himself.

8. Oregon State (2-0) - OK, I lost you again. However, the Beavers have played two games, both against ranked opponents, and recorded wins in both.

9. Florida (4-0) - It isn't pretty, but Florida has just won every game they have played, and QB Jeff Driskell will be a star before it is all said and done.

10. Kansas State (4-0) - The Wildcats have two big wins, one over a probably overrated Oklahoma team. They also dismantled Miami. Both those wins look great in 1989, but also pretty good nowadays.

0 The 13th Man

By Shaee Flatt

The phrase “12th man” is thrown around a lot in football, referring to the crowd noise at a home stadium.

Sometimes, the phrase can be literal however, for instance, Texas A&M has the phrase “Home of the 12th man” posted inside their stadium in reference to E. King Gill, who was called from the stands to serve as a backup in A&M’s 1929 game against powerhouse Centre College.

The NFL, however, is taking it to a whole new level. The NFL has come up with a 13th man. And here I was thinking that football was supposed to be played with 11 at a time. Nope. You’ve got the 11 on the field, the crowd, and now…  the replacement referees. We won’t get into the details on why they are here, or where they came from, because that quite frankly, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that these referees have truly become the 13th man. There are horrendous calls in what seems like every game, and now, the referees have let the wrong team walk off the field as the winner, possibly, twice.

Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, everyone watches the primetime NFL games. Firstly, we go to Baltimore, where Sunday night, the Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots game down to the foot of Ravens placekicker, Justin Tucker. Or did it? With two seconds remaining, and the Ravens down by two, Tucker lined up for a game winning 27 yard field goal. A chip shot, right? Not so much. Tucker kicked the ball straight right, and it appeared at first glance to miss right, after replay, all I can say is I’m glad it wasn’t me making the call. Some say he clearly made it, some say he clearly missed it. It’s controversy at its finest. The tune was a little different Monday night in Seattle, where the Seahawks took on the Green Bay Packers. In Seattle there was no denying the result of the final play. With eight seconds remaining and Green Bay leading Seattle 12-7, the Seahawks and rookie Quarterback, Russell Wilson, had one last shot to get the ball in the end zone and win the game. Wilson took the snap and rolled back, and to his right, with no time on the clock he hurled the ball 40 yards in to the end zone. In the eyes of millions at home, Packers defensive back, M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball and sealed the win for Green Bay. In the eyes of the referees calling the game, Seahawks Wide Receiver, Golden Tate, reached in and had equal possession and therefore caught the ball? Whatever the thought of the referee on that play, it was wrong. Everyone in that stadium, including Golden Tate, knows he didn’t catch that ball. Except for the one man that is being paid to know. Pathetic. Fans, players, broadcasters, journalists, everyone took to twitter and let their voice be heard on the replacement referees last night. Their voices though, went unheard, as the NFL upheld the ruling this morning, and said “The game is final.”

While it was a long shot at best that the NFL would somehow step in hours after a game, and change the winner, it is, despite the even more controversy that would have appeared, what many would suggest, should have been done. Fans can argue about may things discussing the replacement referees in today’s NFL, but one thing is for certain, the “13th man” has become just as important as any of the other 11 men standing on that field with them. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

0 Same Vanderbilt, just more excited about it

by Kenny Howell

Everyone is really excited about James Franklin. Vanderbilt fans love him, and people are expecting him to be snagged up by another college before he can build the powerhouse he dreams to have at Vandy. But what has he done?
The one thing he has done has got people excited about Vanderbilt football. There is no denying that. Vanderbilt fans who have long just spent their time talking about how many University of Tennessee players have been arrested in the past year, are now talking crap and thinking they can take down top programs.
And there is something about that confidence. It is obvious on the field that Franklin has convinced his players they can beat anyone, and they are willing to lay it on the line for him. In post game comments after the South Carolina game, Jordan Matthews said something to the effect that he had let Franklin down, and they have to start playing better for him. That is going to get you a better effort on the field, and I think that is obvious.
But Vanderbilt has yet to do anything with that attitude. They have played several teams close, but have still had the same result as previous coaches. Their loss to Georgia Saturday, 48-3, was the worst loss they had recorded since 2003. Just a few years before, Bobby Johnson took the Dores to a bowl, and they actually won it. But no one was investing and him and calling him the next great coach of college football, maybe because he was a little more reserved than Franklin.
But fans are already declaring Vanderbilt a player in the SEC East soon based on some close games. No huge wins, just close games. And Franklin’s energy is the reason, even if it hasn’t translated into big wins.
Franklin has people entranced, from players to fans, and even members of the media. It’s not hard to figure out why. He oozes personality and definitely has that leader personality. But is that ever going to create wins? Right now, it is translating to much of the same, but everyone is real excited about it.

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