Boise State Shows Oregon The Importance of Scheduling

It’s easy to look back after the fact and play armchair GM. You hear it all the time from fans: “coach X needs to grow a pair, he should have went for it on 4th down!” or “he shouldn’t have tried to steal second base in that situation, what an idiot.” But those are the types of plays where if you make it, you’re a genius, and if you don’t, well, you get the picture. After all, hindsight is called 20/20 for a reason.

That blue on blue combination is completly unfair. Yea, I'm bitter. You wanna fight about it?

That blue on blue combination is completely unfair. Yea, I'm bitter. You wanna fight about it?

But there are some instances so apparent, so obvious, that even before something goes wrong, you just know it’s going to happen. And when it does, all you can do is just cover your face with your hands and painfully watch through the cracks in-between your fingers, like watching a replay of car accident in slow motion, over and over again.

What am I referring to? No, it wasn’t the Legarrette Blount punch, or Jeremiah Masoli’s mountain of sucktidude on Saturday against Utah. It was scheduling the first game of the season on the road against Boise State.

Let me break it down. Coming into the season, Oregon wasn’t really a model for stability and constancy. Unlike Florida, who returned all 11 starters on defense, their Heisman-winning quarterback, and a head coach who has a vice grip on the title of “best football coach east of USC”, Oregon faced a lot of questions marks.

How fluidly will Chip Kelly take over the reins from the Mike Bellotti era? Will Masoli play like the superstar he was against Oregon State and Oklahoma State or will he produce stinkers like the Cal game? How will the Ducks handle the losses of Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, Nick Reed and Ra’shon Harris on defense and the departures of Max Unger, Fenuki Tupou and Jeremiah Johnson on the offense? That’s a whole lot of turnover to deal with over one offseason. And despite all that, Oregon was hyping themselves up as a Pac 10 contender and BCS title sleeper. That’s a lot of pressure.

So in a season with so many unknowns, they scheduled Boise State, a team desperate for a major non-conference win, in their first game on the road, in a stadium that can unflap even the most unflappable. Doesn’t sound good.

Yes, when they scheduled this game several years ago, they might not have known how much turnover they would be dealing with this season. But last year, when the Broncos traveled to Eugene to face the Ducks – in a very similar situation (new quarterback, a raucous stadium notorious for its effect on the opponents), Boise State didn’t have to play Oregon until their third game of the season, conveniently scheduling tune-up games against Idaho State and Bowling Green to work out all the kinks before playing a powerhouse like the Ducks. And what do you know, it worked out.

So the unproven Ducks go into Boise that Thursday night, in front of a nationally televised audience no less, to play a team who has a home record of 64-2 since 1999 and playing for their BCS life. That’s a dangerous combination.

Playing in a non-BCS conference, where even if they go undefeated, they still aren’t guaranteed a BCS bowl berth, a win against a team like Oregon was absolutely necessary, as a loss would make pundits say, “if they can’t beat Oregon, they have no chance against Texas or Florida.” And Boise State played like it.

But luckily for Chip Kelly and the Ducks, and the fate of their 2009 campaign, even with a loss in the opener, a Rose Bowl appearance still hangs in the balance. So in order for Oregon to have a chance in the Pac 10, they must put the loss to Boise State completely behind them and focus solely on the task at hand, the #6 California Golden Bears. Oh my.

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NFL Power Rankings Week 2

What an amazing weekend. The 49ers get a win on the road, the Oregon Ducks get a W, Brett Tomko throws a shutout for the A’s, Tom Brady resumes his place as an NFL God, and my fantasy football teams go 3-0. Could life get any better? I submit that it cannot.

So now that week 1 is over, and every team has taken the field, there is some actual in-season analysis to go along with preseason projection. Mind you, there is a lot of football left to be played, as one game doesn’t make or break a season. As much as a douche-nozzle as he is, I don’t think Jay Cutler is that bad or the Seahawks are that good.

But let’s get it on. On to the rankings (you can see my week one rankings here and here):

32 (Last week 32) – Bengals – Their top pick breaks his foot in his first day of practice; not good. They are shut out in the first three quarters by a team who gave up 28 points per game last season; bad. Carson Palmer, who’s arm is toasted more than Michael Richard’s comedy career, managed to lead the Bengals to a go-ahead touchdown with 0:38 seconds left; promising. But then on a play straight out of NFL films, the Bengals clutch defeat from the jaws of victory, giving up a back-breaking 87-yard touchdown to a white wide receiver. Ouch.

Fantasy update: Cedric Benson – YPC wasn’t good but finished with over 100 total yards and still has a firm grip on the starting job.

31 (31) – 0-1 – Lions – What do ya know, it’s the same old Lions. The running game sucks, the defense sucks, and the hotshot rookie throws for three INTs.  On the bright side, Stafford was only sacked once. Too bad moral victories in the NFL are worth just as much as a poopy-flavored lollipop.

Fantasy update: Calvin Johnson – Despite an inexperienced passer and a non-existent running game, Megatron still got his. He numbers will go up as Stafford improves.

Big weekend for the best white wide receiver in the AFC West. Man, look how gritty he is!

Big weekend for the best white wide receiver in the AFC West. Man, look how gritty he is!

30 (30) – 0-1 – Rams – When you give up more yards in penalties than you gain on the ground, you’re in for a long day. Clearly, Bulger and Jackson can’t do it by themselves. This team is going nowhere; time for the Rams to start looking for a QB of the future.

Fantasy update: James Laurinaitis – If you play in an individual defensive player league, pick this guy up. He is a tackling machine and their only true playmaker on defense.

29 (29) – 0-1 – Browns – Is it just me or does it seem like every single huge game by a running back is against Cleveland. If Willis McGahee played in the AFC North, the Browns run defense could single-handedly revive his career. Oh wait, he already is. Nevermind.

Fantasy update: Braylon Edwards – Just a shove out of bounds away from being fantasy relevant. He will continue to tantalize next week.

28 (27) – 0-1 – Chiefs – Gave up 501 yards of offense to the perennial offensive juggernaut Baltimore Ravens. In other news, Larry Johnson is still awful.

Fantasy update: Larry Johnson – Stay. Away.

27 (26) – 0-1 – Buccaneers – Offense impressed, led by has-been’s Byron Leftwich and Cadillac Williams. Defense torched, by Tony Romo and Roy Williams. Don’t believe in the offense, but I believe in the defense. At least I believe in something.

Fantasy update: Kellen Winslow – Good day for Miami tight ends, well at least two of them. You can do better than 8 yards, Greg Olsen.

26 (28) – 0-1 – Raiders – The running game is for real and the defense looked surprisingly good, holding the Chargers to under 100 yards rushing. But in typical Raider fashion, they choked down the stretch. How has Al Davis not had a heart attack yet?

Fantasy update: Zach Miller – Say hello to Zach Miller, the Raiders only 1,000 yard receiver this season.

25 (16) – 0-1 – Panthers – To put it positively, Jake Delhomme answered a lot of questions about his ability to still play quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately, the answers weren’t pretty; kind of like watching Rick Fox or 90210’s Jennie Garth on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader this month. Makes you wonder why Carolina didn’t take a flier on Jeff Garcia.

Fantasy update: Jake Delhomme – If he was your sleeper backup QB, don’t kid yourself. You can stick a fork in Jake, he’s done.

24 (23) – 0-1 – Jaguars – Yeah, they only lost by two points at Indy, but man did their offense look pathetic. Wonder if Matt Jones gave David Garrard a discount on the good stuff.

Fantasy update: Maurice Jones-Drew – If Garrard can’t get it together, this could turn into a Steven Jackson-like situation.

23 (22) – 0-1 – Dolphins – Aside from the fact that I just don’t think they are any good, Miami goes from a .465 SOS last year, to the most difficult schedule in the league this year, at .594. I don’t see one game where I can guarantee a Dolphin victory.

Fantasy update: Devon Bess – Had over 550 yards in his rookie season, and has a nice first week grabbing 7 catches. Sleeper

22 (25) – 1-0 – Jets – Mark Sanchez looked good on Sunday. Do it two weeks in a row and then I might start to believe it. Until then, I’m not buying.

Fantasy update: Dustin Keller – He could be someone to keep an eye on. Sanchez might have found a favorite target in his super-athletic tight end.

21 (20) – 1-0 – Broncos – What an inspiring play for white people all around the world.

Fantasy update: Correll Buckhalter – Took advantage of Moreno’s poor day and had a nice 10 touches for 57 yards. Workload may increase.

20 (19) – 0-1- Texans – This is just one of those games where you forget about and move on. Kind of like that night where you had a few too many drinks and hooked up with a girl so ugly your friends don’t even say anything.

Fantasy update: Matt Schaub – I wouldn’t worry about him unless he does it again. Just a really, really bad day for the Texans.

19 (21) – 0-1 – Bills – God is a Patriots fan.

Fantasy update: Fred Jackson – Playing for his future workload. Motivation does crazy things to people.

18 (18) – 0-1 – Redskins – Game really wasn’t as close as the scoreboard suggests, as Campbell hooked up with Cooley for a late TD pass in garbage time. Should lower them just because they made Eli look good.

Fantasy update: Chris Cooley – Even though his TD was in garbage time, I like him as a solid tight end  you can count on week in and week out.

17 (24) – 1-0 – Seahawks – Played against the worst team in the NFC in the one stadium with a true home field advantage. We’ll learn a lot more when they travel to San Francisco next week.

Fantasy update: Julius Jones – Looks like Jones might have found a home in Seattle. Not too worried about Edge.

16 (11) – 0-1 – Bears – ESPN couldn’t have said it better in their power rankings, “The loss to Green Bay was tough. The loss of Brian Urlacher for the season was devastating.”

Fantasy update: Matt Forte – Never really bought into him as a top-5 pick. Be happy if he duplicates his stats from ’08.

You never know what will happen when Shaun Hill drops back for a pass, but hey, that's part of the fun!

You never know what will happen when Shaun Hill drops back for a pass, but hey, that's part of the fun!

15 (17) – 1-0 – 49ers – After getting swept by the Cards in three of the past four years, getting a win in Arizona is a great start for Mike Singletary. San Francisco certainly wasn’t flashy, but they controlled the clock (31:47 TOP) while Shaun Hill and defense stepped up when they were needed.

Fantasy update: Shaun Hill – Will never sell an instructional video on the 7-step drop, but he gets it done. Solid #2 quarterback.

14 (12) – 0-1 – Cardinals – Still have too much firepower to not be competitive in the NFC West. Boldin wasn’t at full-strength and they were without Steve Breaston. But even though Tim Hightower had 12 receptions for 121 yards, Arizona needs to improve the ground  game.

Fantasy update: Tim Hightower – 49ers were leaving the flat open all day. Hightower didn’t just suddenly become Marshall Faulk.

13 (15) – 1-0 – Packers – Made a $20 bet with Alon that the Vikings would finish with more wins than the Packers. You can now add Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings to my anti-man crush list.

Fantasy update: Aaron Rodgers – With that being said, I like Rodgers much better than Favre this season.

12 (14) – 1-0 – Saints – Is there anything more fun to watch than Drew Brees playing the Lions? Yes, actually. Watching Drew Brees play the Lions when you have him on two of your three fantasy teams. Dear diary: jackpot.

Fantasy update: Jeremy Shockey – Has Drew Brees found a new red zone target?

11 (9) – 1-0 – Giants – Along with Miami tight ends, I have an unhealthy obsession with Michigan receivers. My hate for Eli Manning was assuaged by the fact Mario Manningham made his first career touchdown.

Fantasy update: Mario Manningham – Is 800 yards and 6 TD’s out of the question?

10 (10) – 1-0 – Cowboys – Who needs T.O.? Romo, Barber, Williams and Witten provide plenty of weapons for Dallas’s potent offense. The defense, though, is a little frightening.

Fantasy update: Tony Romo – Pretty solidly locked in as the #3 QB right now, I’d say.

9 (5) – 0-1 – Titans – Could you really have asked for more going into the defending champion’s house on opening night? Yea, a win would have been nice. (Mandatory argument for a change in the playoff system).

Fantasy update: Kerry Collins – How is he still alive, let alone a decent quarterback in the NFL? Isn’t he like 40, and an alcoholic?

8 (8) – 1-0 – Falcons – All this game proved to me was that Miami is not good. I still need to see more from Matt Ryan to have Atlanta as a legitimate NFC title contender.

Fantasy update:  Michael Turner – I apologize if you bought into the Matthew Berry hype.

7 (13) – 1-0 – Ravens – Joe Flacco is really good. (I’m already at 1,700 words, give me a break).

Fantasy update: Joe Flacco – I have no problem with starting Flacco against a mediocre defense.

6 (3) – 1-0 – Chargers – I think the Raiders are better than what San Diego expected, but what worries me are the injuries to the O-line. The absence of Nick Hardwick and Marcus McNeil could turn LT into Sean Alexander.

Fantasy update: Antonio Gates – Is there a more consistent player in fantasy?

5 (6) – 1-0 – Colts – The Jags always give Indy a good game. Defense was impressive without Bob Sanders, can they keep it up?

Fantasy update: Reggie Wayne – Yeah, he’s pretty good.

4 (7) – 1-0 – Eagles – The McNabb injury hurts, but I love Garcia as an insurance policy. The scheduling Gods are watching over Philly; after playing the Saints in week 2, they’re at home against the Chiefs, a bye, at home against the Bucs and then at Oakland. Even a convicted animal killer could win two of those games.

I'm not 100% sure God is a Pats fan, but I know this guy is.

I'm not 100% sure God is a Pats fan, but I know this guy is.

Fantasy update: Defense/ST – Forced 7 turnovers. Nuff said?

3 (4) – 1-0 – Vikings – I said it: Adrian Peterson for MVP.

Fantasy update: Bernard Berrian – Don’t worry, the  chemistry will come.

2 (2) – 1-0 – Steelers – Has there ever been a defending Super Bowl champ that gets less love than the Steelers?

Fantasy update: Santonio Holmes – Finally emerging as the Steelers #1 WR.

1 (1) – 1-0 – Patriots – It’s so true I’m going to say it again: God is a Patriots fan.

Fantasy update: Pats RB’s – Stay away, you don’t want any of them.

The Anti-man Crushes, People the Sports Dude Hates

First, let me say, I wasn’t going to write this blog until Tuesday, but for the sake of my girlfriend’s sanity and the future of our relationship, I needed to get out my snide comments and sarcastic witticisms before I do any more irreversible damage. Let’s just say she was not amused when I called her a “borderline midget” even though she is 5’2” and a whole one-third of a foot away from being a legal dwarf. I was clearly joking. Why she puts up with me, I have no clue. Let’s move on.

boston-sports-si-coversBrett Favre – According to ESPN, Brett Favre can do no wrong. He helps old ladies cross the street, adopts lost kittens from the pound, and if they had to venture a guess for who would find the cure for cancer, I’m pretty sure they would pick Brett Favre. Who cares if he’s only a mediocre NFL quarterback anymore? I mean, the man was just in a Super Bowl in 1997. Wait, that was 12 years ago, already? Somebody go get John Madden’s inhaler.

And then, of course, they would go on to force meaningless Brett Favre stories down our throats for the next week, making sure to get all their top analysts to line up and kiss Favre’s butt for 30 second clips. I can just picture Merrill Hoge, Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortenson and Trent Dilfer all sitting together in the make-up room, competing to see who has can squeeze the most superlatives into a 300-word speech. I set the over/under at 20, bet my life savings on the over, and then put my future children’s college education money on Jaws. It’s a stone cold lock.

Eli Manning – Continuing with overpaid, underperforming quarterbacks, I pose a simple question: where would Eli Manning be without his last name? A store manager at Sports Authority? The UFL? if he was lucky, a back-up quarterback in the NFL? Seriously, the dude was good college, but I never watched him and thought, “Man, this guy sure has what it takes to be a legit NFL quarterback.”

And then to force a trade so he could be in a major market? If that doesn’t scream douchebag, I don’t know what does. Anyone with an IQ over 75 could tell he would crumple under the pressure in New York. And I know there are some of you out there that will say, “how can he be overrated, he won a Super Bowl MVP.” It’s not that simple. First of all, he didn’t even play that well. 19 for 34 and a QB rating of 87.3 hardly screams MVP. Second, the pass that won him the award was complete luck and never should have left his hand. How he wasn’t sacked is beyond me. And if you re-did that jump ball match-up of Rodney Harrison and 18th-string wide receiver David Tyree 5 million times, do you see Tyree ever winning again? I don’t.

So let’s recap. He’s good in college, get’s drafted #1 overall because of the hope he will turn out to be half of what his brother is, sucks for four years, rides the best defensive line in the history of the NFL to a magical playoff run, receives the good fortune of the luckiest play in Super Bowl history, has his first decent season in his contract year but loses Plax and then instantly turns in four straight sub-200 yard games, dupes the Giants into one of the biggest (and worst) contracts in NFL history, and now will rely on Domenik Hixon and Hakeem Nicks as his top receivers this year. I am not bitter at all.

Steroids – The only thing I care less about than Brett Favre. The only players I would care about if they tested positive would be Jeter and Pujols, but until then, I’d rather watch highlights of the WNBA pre-season.

Boston fans – I used to like them, I really did. All the history, Fenway Park, Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Bill Russell. There was just something likeable about them. Maybe it was being able to empathize with a team who had encountered so much epically bad luck, or maybe it was how passionate Bostonians were about their sports no matter what happened year in and year out. But then 2004 hit and all hell broke loose. The curse was over, and Boston’s collective sports personality went from cynical to cocky after a routine Ruben Sierra ground out to Pokey Reese. There wasn’t even a need to play the Cardinals after that. The ensuing 4-game sweep was inevitable.

The one time lovable losers quickly forgot their storied past and took on a whole new identity, more annoying than those Guido, work out three hours a day, wear shirts one size too small, collar popping Mets fans from New Jersey. You could say the success got to their heads. The Patriots become the best team in the NFL, the Red Sox break the curse, and the Celtics are given the Big Three in an act of collusion between ESPN and David Stern. Hell, even the Bruins are a playoff team, Matt Ryan leads Boston College to a spectacular year, and Boston University has one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college hockey. The altogether success was mind-boggling.

But this is where it get’s annoying. That isn’t enough for them. Now they have to win every year. I came in contact with this first-hand this past year in the dorms at Oregon where I met Alon. We were talking baseball, one by one going through the Red Sox roster: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Bay, Ortiz, Lowell, Drew, Beckett, (Mo) Lester, Wakefield, the bullpen, etc. ESPN, SI, everybody has them pegged as a playoff team and a legitimate World Series candidate, yet Alon complains to me, knowing I am an A’s fan, “I don’t really like our team this year. We need a better second lefty out of the pen.” Wow.

The San Francisco Giants – It’s already 1:30 and I have to wake up in 6 hours. Unless I want to go to work tomorrow with bags under my eyes bigger than the size of Greg Anderson’s prison cell, I am going to save this for an entirely new post. Goodnight.