Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is it Game Day yet?

About this time last year, I tried to predict where your favorite Saturday morning TV show since "The Wuzzles" would be visiting during the 2010 season. You can debate whether I suck at it or if it's just plain difficult to predict where Game Day will head on any given week, but I was 3 out of 14 in my first try. I'm going to tweak the rules this go-round in an attempt to improve on that by naming two alternative choices- if I hit on one of those, I'll be expecting partial credit since I am a product of shoddy public schooling.

-Saturday, September 3rd:
My money's on: LSU vs. Oregon at the Deathstar. This is essentially like the free space in bingo, since it's already been reported that Game Day will be at Jerryworld for this one. Over 80,000 tickets have already been sold for this game that will most likely be a match-up of two Top 5 teams.

Had this one not already been chosen, my two alternate picks would've been Boise State vs. Georgia in Atlanta and BYU at Ole Miss. They've been at the Georgia Dome for Week 1 each of the past three years, and you've got to be intrigued by the dynamic of "The Grove" being invaded by teetotaling Mormons.

-Saturday, September 10th:
My money's on: Mississippi State at Auburn. You think there's some tension between these two schools after all of the Cam Newton drama last fall? The defending "champs" will be replacing a number of key weapons (including Newton), so the Bulldogs might smell blood in the water (mixed metaphor count: 1) after they somehow kept coach Dan Mullen from bolting to Florida over the offseason.

Two others to consider: They were at this game last year in Tuscaloosa, but don't rule out Alabama at Penn State- you know ESPN will want to showcase a game in Happy Valley during what could be Joe Paterno's last season...although he may never actually retire. Also Utah at USC features the Utes' first Pac 12 (that's gonna be tough to get used to) game.

-Saturday, September 17th:
My money's on: Oklahoma at Florida State. Depending on the preseason polls and how things shake out in the first few weeks of the season, this one could be a match-up of Top 10 teams, and the Sooners might even be #1 heading into Tallahassee. Hard to believe the Seminoles haven't hosted Game Day since 2003, isn't it?

There aren't a whole lot of games that will have ESPN questioning whether or not to be at OU/FSU, but don't rule out Michigan State at Notre Dame (remember the trick play the Spartans beat the Irish on last year, hours before their coach had a heart attack?!) or Colorado vs. Colorado State in Denver, which is an underrated rivalry that has produced some extremely entertaining games over the past decade or so.

-Saturday, September 24th:
My money's on: LSU at West Virginia. The over/under on number of people that die at this game is currently at 1.5. There might be a reason ESPN has never sent it's people & equipment to Morgantown for Game Day before, but with LSU likely to be coming in highly ranked and all of the offseason drama among the Mountaineer coaching staff, there's always a first for everything.

If Disney's insurance company nixes a trip to the Mountain State, other games that might be in the running are a key SEC West game and rematch of a thriller from a year ago, Arkansas at Alabama, and Oklahoma State at Texas A&M in a game featuring the two teams most likely to challenge Oklahoma for the top spot in the poorly-named Big 12.

-Saturday, October 1st:
My money's on: Nebraska at Wisconsin. This will be the Cornhuskers' first Big Ten game, and might be a preview of the first-ever Big Ten title game. With their three-head running back monster back and a new quarterback, the Badgers look tough this year and you know Madison will be rocking for this one.

Other choices could include Nevada at Boise State in a rematch of one of the best games ever played, as well as Alabama at Florida because, you know, it's just a huge game more years than not.

-Saturday, October 8th:
My money's on: Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas. I picked this game, incorrectly, to host last year- but the AT&T Red River Rivalry has been the site of Game Day four of the past ten years ('01, '02, '08 and '09) so I feel like it's a relatively safe pick- unless the Longhorns continue their struggles of a year ago.

The other two games they might pick are Florida at LSU- because it's hard to imagine Game Day going two straight years without a trip to Baton Rouge, and Ohio State at Nebraska (if my October 1st pick was wrong) as the Cornhuskers host their first Big Ten home game.

-Saturday, October 15th:
My money's on: Miami at North Carolina. Game Day has never been to Chapel Hill, and this one could be a big game in the ACC's Coastal division. Don't overlook the storyline of Tar Heels' coach Butch Davis facing the Miami program that he built to the verge of a national title before Larry Coker finally got it done.

By this point of the season, a lot of ESPN's choices will depend on how the standings look at the time. Because of this, I'm just choosing two SEC games- Florida at Auburn in "The other Cam Newton Bowl" and LSU at Tennessee. The Vols haven't had Game Day on their campus since 2004.

-Saturday, October 22nd:
My money's on: Wisconsin at Michigan State. This could also be a preview of the inaugural Big Ten title game, and in an odd scheduling quirk the Badgers will have to return to East Lansing a second consecutive year to try to avenge their only regular-season loss from a year ago. All of those storylines could add up to Michigan State hosting Game Day for the first time since 2005.

Aside from that one, USC at Notre Dame is always an intriguing game, but the fact that it'll be on NBC is probably why Game Day hasn't been to South Bend since the Irish hosted #1 USC in 2005...that and because, you know, they aren't really good at football anymore. Auburn at LSU is another possibility.

-Saturday, October 29th:
My money's on: Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party", like Texas-OU, seems like a safe bet. Game Day was there three times between 1999 and 2005, but not since. Even though this game might not be as hyped as it has been in year's past, I think ESPN will seize the opportunity to have cameras in Jacksonville t get some footage for the "30 for 30" that will air after the Jags leave town entitled "Why did Jacksonville ever have an NFL team in the first place?"

If the Heisman campaign for Andrew Luck is still going full steam, ESPN might spend their Halloween weekend in LA for Stanford at USC. And I hate to keep going back to the Big Ten trough, since I think that league is fairly overrated, but Michigan State at Nebraksa has potential to be big.

-Saturday, November 5th:
My money's on: Texas A&M at Oklahoma. The Aggies will have had plenty of chances to spoil the preseason hyped they've been getting before this one, but if they live up to their potential it's hard to see ESPN not making their first trip to Norman since 2008.

Game Day loves going to a non-BCS site at some point late in most seasons, and they love the pageantry of the service academies, so Army at Air Force might be an option here. Also, the Nick Saban factor alone will always make LSU @ Alabama intriguing.

-Saturday, November 12th:
My money's on: TCU at Boise State. Over the past three seasons, these teams have battled neck and neck- mostly in the media- for BCS positioning. They've played each other in three bowl games, but this will be their first regular season meeting and the only one they'll have as conference mates in the Mountain West. Add on top of that the fact that Boise lobbied the conference to move this game from Fort Worth to Boise, and this one is tailor-made for Game Day- especially if at least one of these teams still has a zero in the loss column.

If it's not the Frogs and Broncos, I'm guessing that at least one Florida school will be featured in this week's show. Miami at Florida State is still one of the best rivalries out there, and Florida at South Carolina still features the Steve Spurrier storyline and is the rematch of a great game a year ago as well as the College World Series finals.

-Saturday, November 19th:
My money's on: Arizona at Arizona State. Am I reaching here? Yeah, probably. But this rivalry has never been the backdrop for Game Day so I figured it was worth a guess. Plus you know Herbstreit knows how to get in trouble in a town like Tempe...

Another option in the Pac 12 is USC at Oregon. Even though the Trojans have clearly already been dethroned in that conference, Autzen Stadium will be absolutely rocking when they come to town. Another wildcard guess is what could be a big game between two of the largest schools in Conference USA with Central Florida at East Carolina.

-Saturday, November 26th:
My money's on: Alabama at Auburn. Thanksgiving weekend is a time for traditional rivalries, and as hard as it is to believe, the Iron Bowl hasn't hosted Game Day since 1996! This game has featured one team trying to spoil the other's national title hopes the past two years- could it be three in a row?

The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State has been featured by Game Day five times, and moves to the holiday weekend for the first time, but I'm gonna go with two rivalries that are not as widely publicized but still create a lot of bad blood between the fanbases: Clemson at South Carolina and Kansas vs. Missouri in Kansas City.

-Saturday, December 3rd:
My money's on: The SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. The past few years, this game has essentially been a national semifinal- there's no reason to think it can't be again this year. With Game Day not visiting the Georgia Dome at the beginning of the year, I feel pretty safe saying title sponsor Home Depot will request this episode in their back yard.

Championship weekend will have a different feel this year, as two conference title games come online and one goes away. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, though, could be a de facto Big 12 title game, making Stillwater a possibility. The first ever Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis might also catch they eye of ESPN.

Clearly, trying to pick beyond the first couple weeks of the season is a pretty futile exercize. I think I can improve off of last year's 3 correct guesses, though. What do you think? That's what the comments section is for...

Good News for Dalton.

Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton tosses a ball.
Andy Dalton pictured here metaphorically taking the football
from Cincy's departing Red Headed Gunslinger.

We're all familiar with the QB situation in Cincinnati, with Carson "Sack-riding my Heisman until the shine comes off" Palmer basically throwing in the towel and saying he'd rather retire than spend another year in the Mistake By the Lake, or whatever body of water in Ohio Cincinnati was mistakenly created near. The wrench in the whole equation, though, is that Cincy and stubborn owner Mike Brown appear to be calling his bluff, denying his requests to be traded or released and seeing if he will really go through with his threats. And, with the caveat that you completely disregard the source, it looks like Palmer is making good on his bitching.

Truthfully, I think the Bengals were pretty well prepared for this; why else would they have used such a valuable pick on Andy Dalton? And now that Palmer has officially sold his house in suburbia - even taking a loss just to put a fine point on how eager his to get the F out of dodge - the Bengals front office is looking pretty competent for perhaps the first time in their lack luster history.

This is pretty great for a multitude of reasons, aside from the obvious, "Dalton's only competition quit the team" angle. For one, assuming the lockout lifts in the coming weeks, the team can move forward with breaking in a new QB. Dalton has already worked out a little with the team, albeit only in those of the unorganized sort, so it's extremely important that he begin learning OC Jay Gruden's system ASAP. With Palmer out of the picture, the coaching staff can zero in on Andy - who, let's not lie to ourselves, is inevitably going to win the job over Palmer, Jr. - and build an offense to suit his strengths as well as one that he can acclimate himself to as quickly as possible. There are apparently already plans in place for the latter half of that as the staff will get to work on initially shrinking the playbook for Dalton as soon as the lockout goes away. Detractors will suggest that it's because Andy has a limited skill set and therefore needs a dumbed down playbook in order to succeed, but anyone with half a brain would understand how unique of a situation this draft class is in as far as the learning curve and that even the most NFL ready QB in the world would have a tough time grasping an entirely new system in half the time. Just wait for the hilarity that will ensure once Carolina fully grasps that Cam Newton's plays at Auburn were SERIOUSLY numbered "one," "two," three," etc. Have fun with that, new OC trying to turn around a disastrous franchise.

And with Palmer backing up his talk, hopefully Mike Brown will realize that he has proved his point and ship him to Minnesota, Seattle, San Francisco - heck, I'd take him over Romo, but only because I just don't like the guy - for some help in other areas of need, of which there are many. Maybe pry away a capable receiver as it looks like the TO-Ocho is coming to an end. I don't know, I'm not a GM. But while I respect Mike Brown sticking to his guns and making Palmer make an ass of himself, I think he's got to get SOMETHING for him, no? It will be interesting to see that situation play out.

An anecdotal side note that is at least partially related: A few weeks ago I was at a playoff game for your World Champion Dallas Mavericks and noticed a bright, red spot in my periphery as I was heading up the stairs at halftime. Lo and behold it was one Andy Dalton - Dalton at a Mavs game? Take THAT, Houston - so naturally I pestered him for menial conversation and a photo op. Somewhere in the back of my margarita enhanced mind, I knew I wanted to ask him about the situation with Carson and get his superficial take, but all I could come up with was, "So Carson Palmer... Fuck that guy, huh?" Being the gentleman that he was, Dalton more or less ignored the comment, but I could sense that, deep down, we were on the same wavelength. So based on that one completely random and meaningless encounter/body language assessment, I think it's safe to assume that Palmer's failings in the residential real estate market will help AD sleep better at night.

Of course, none of this really matters as no moves can occur until the lockout is lifted, so just consider it food for thought to tide you over until the situation can be resolved. Or at least until NCAA Football 2012 comes out in two weeks. Giddy!

Taylor Featherston Begins Pro Career Today

Former Frog shortstop and Colorado Rockies 5th round pick Taylor Featherston is set to begin his minor league career today for the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League, who are owned by Hall of Famer George Brett. For those who don't know, and I certainly did not, the Tri-City Dust Devils are located in Pasco, WA, so really, I still have no idea where they are located.

Featherston helped pace last season's team on their trip to Omaha with a series of clutch hits and some unforgettable defensive plays (the bare-handed misdirected ball off Witte's glove really comes to mind), and he led the team in hitting this year with a .335 average. Despite some defensive lapses in the field this season, his absence does leave TCU with a big question mark of who replaces him at one of the most important positions on the diamond, shortstop. I don't know what Schloss has planned as his replacement, but his bat could definitely be sorely missed, as well as his leadership as a 3 year starter.

Best of luck to Taylor at the next level and beyond, and maybe the great George Brett can teach you a thing or two while you're playing under him.

From Thorns to Roses

Tired of new video montages of the 2010 season? I didn't think so. Thanks to whoever "beaudacious14" is on youtube for making this one.

Morning Dump

Notes on a scorecard