Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What to expect in Big 12 basketball

The non-conference games are almost complete, the various tournaments have been played, and there are a variety of surprises which have become headlines in the Big 12. Notably, Kansas State is ranked and much better than expected and Missouri is undefeated and off to its best start since the early 1980s.

Let's take a look at the local teams and what we should expect as conference play begins next week.

Kansas - The defending Big 12 champs for the past six years have been up-and-down, as expected, with the high point being a home victory over Ohio State and the low being a loss, at Sprint Center, to Davidson. It's always a habit with Kansas fans to compare the current KU squad with a past team, but this year's edition is unlike any in recent memory. This year's team seems to be most like the 2008-2009 Kansas squad which featured Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, and the Morris twins as freshmen. But, that team also had basketball savvy players like Brady Morningstar and Tyrell Reed who ensured good ball movement and minimal turnovers. The current Jayhawk team is loose with the ball, averaging 15.18 turnovers per game, has average ball movement, and has yet to get consistent bench play from Connor Teahan, Naadir Tharpe, Justin Wesley or Kevin Young.

What must happen if Kansas intends to win a seventh straight title: Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor must stay healthy, Taylor has to reduce turnovers, and Young must play like he did against Ohio State.

Prediction: The race for the Big 12 title still runs through Lawrence, KS, but it's hard to see this KU team beating Baylor for the league crown. Prediction--Second place in the Big 12 with a likely second round exit in the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas State - No one, and I mean no one, expected Kansas State to be 10-1 with the only loss a two-overtime thriller against future conference mate West Virginia. The Wildcats are getting surprising performances from Jordan Henriquez, Thomas Gipson, and Angel Rodriguez, to go with the expected leadership from Rodney Magruder and Jamar Samuels. Best win: A 13-point neutral site win over Alabama. Worst loss: The only one--against West Virginia in Wichita. Big game: The conference opener, in Lawrence, against Kansas on January 4 is an important "momentum" game for both teams.

Prediction: Kansas State is surprising everyone but can they contend for the league crown? It's hard to see the Wildcats finishing higher than fourth in the league. Look for KSU to make the NCAA Tournament and exit in the first round.

Missouri - Missouri wore the mantle of "most surprising" in the Big 12 until Kansas State won the Diamond Head Classic tournament this past week. The Tigers are undeafeated and are doing it without Lawrence Bowers, out for the year due to a pre-season injury. As expected, MU's guards are the team's engine but the play of Ricardo Ratliffe has been the key to the Tigers' success thus far--he's averaging 14.3 points and 6.9 boards per game. Marcus Denmon is having a league MVP type season and is complemented by Kim English (15.3 points per game) and Michael Dixon (13.1 points per game), plus Phil Pressey at the point. A good shooting team, Mizzou averages .519 in field goal percentage and shoots over 78% at the free throw stripe.

Prediction: Missouri is not a good rebounding team and lacks quality internal muscle, beyond Ratliffe. MU will be disadvantaged against a front line like Baylor's and has yet to face defensive-minded clubs like Kansas or Kansas State. Frank Haith's team will contend for the title but will finish tied for third. Look for MU to make the NCAA Tournament and exit in round two.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crist and Heaps

Kansas has signed many a five-star recruit in basketball. In football, since the origin of the Rivals five-star recruit grading system, the Jayhawks have signed nary a player of this premier caliber.

That changed today--not once, but twice--as first Dayne Crist of Notre Dame and then Jake Heaps of BYU made known their intentions to transfer to Kansas.

The announcements illustrate the impact that the Charlie Weis hiring is already having on the KU program. Crist played for Weis at Notre Dame; Heaps was recruited by Weis before committing to BYU. Crist will be able to play immediately while Heaps will have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules. (Crist has graduated but not yet used up his collegiate eligibility, thus making him available to play right away.)

To put this announcement into perspective, these two recruits said "no" to the likes of Michigan, Oregon, Stanford and USC before signing with their respective schools coming out of high school. And, today, they pledged their allegiance to the University of Kansas.

Jayhawk fans hope that today's announcement begins the fall of other recruiting dominoes given KU's involvement with one high-profile wide receiver transfer possibility, and a couple of highly rated high school receiver and tight end targets.

Charlie Weis was announced as KU's new coach on Friday, December 9. But, the day the Charlie Weis regime at Kansas officially began will likely be remembered as Thursday, December 22--the first time KU ever received a commitment from five star football recruits.

Hits, misses and penalty flags

- Hit: Kansas' recruitment of Dayne Crist, the QB transfer from Notre Dame, may be getting a boost by the rumored announcement of Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as the head coach at Pitt. Wisconsin and Delaware are the other two schools vying for Crist's affections. This former five-star QB has one year of eligibility remaining and can play immediately upon transferring.

- Miss: There's justifiable excitement about Kansas City's victory over Green Bay but let's not get ahead of ourselves, Chiefs fans. Kyle Orton still is a quarterback who's had uneven NFL success and Romeo Crennel is an assistant coach who has interviewed with the Giants, Bills, Cardinals, Bears and Falcons, and not been hired by any as a head coach. Let's keep our excitement, and expectations, real.

- Penalty flag: If England's football (a k a soccer) captain, John Therry, did racially abuse an opponent, then he should be punished for the crime. Therry is the first player to face a court in Britain on a charge of racially abusing an opponent. This charge is part of an effort to crack down on racism in the sport of soccer.

- Hit: Missouri's 11-0 record will be tested in tonight's Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis versus Illinois. The Illini have one loss--to impressive-thus-far UNLV--but will pose the stiffest test for the Tigers in the non-conference season. The betting line has MU as a two point favorite.

- Miss: It's hard to figure Texas out. Rick Barnes' Longhorn basketball squad appears to have talent, at least on paper, but is unranked and lost by 19 last night at North Carolina.

- Penalty flag: Sexting is back in the sports news again--Monta Ellis of the Golden State Warriors has been accused by a team employee of sending texts which include photos of his genitals.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's bowl season...are you excited!?

The college football bowl season kicked off today with three doozies--the New Mexico Bowl (Temple-Wyoming), Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Ohio-Utah State) and New Orleans Bowl (Louisiana-Lafayette-San Diego State.) Over in NCAA Division II, Pittsburg (KS) State was winning a national championship the practical way--via a playoff--but not in Division I/Football Bowl Subdivision. No, no--over here we kick it off with the first three of 34 different bowl games, not counting the national championship game between LSU and Alabama.

Let's take a look at a few of the bowl matchups, including those with Big 12 schools, over the next 22 days so that you can plot out your viewing strategy.

Independence Bowl, December 26, Missouri and North Carolina. Two 7-5 teams square off in this mundane of matchups. Missouri's high powered offense will face a challenge with UNC's stout defense but should win by a touchdown.

Holiday Bowl, December 28, California and Texas. Remember when Texas used to play in bowls which meant something? Longhorns by eight.

Alamo Bowl, December 29, Baylor and Washington. Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III has electrified Baylor Nation and will have plenty of opportunities to rack up points against the Huskies' porous defense. Baylor by 22.

Pinstripe Bowl, December 30, Iowa State and Rutgers. Let's give it up for the Cyclones, victorious over then number two Oklahoma State and back in a bowl game. This disciplined ISU team will win by two TDs over Rutgers.

Insight Bowl, December 30, Iowa and Oklahoma. The state of Iowa's "other team" takes on a Sooner squad depleted by injuries. OU by three.

Texas Bowl, December 31, Texas A&M and Northwestern. A&M's coach, Mike Sherman, was fired; Northwestern's coach, Pat Fitzgerald, is still coaching in Evanston after being rumored to be in the mix for a couple of high profile openings. Look for Northwestern to win a close one in this New Year's Eve battle.

Ticket City Bowl, January 2, Houston and Penn State. Houston was one game away from playing in a BCS game; Penn State is a program in chaos. Houston will bounce back from their Conference USA league championship game loss with a 10 point win over the Nittany Lions.

Outback Bowl, January 2, Georgia and Michigan State. Michigan State was blown out by SEC's Alabama in last year's Capital One Bowl. The Spartans won't let that happen with a SEC bowl foe again, winning by eight.

Rose Bowl, January 2, Oregon and Wisconsin. The Ducks' speed will overwhelm Wisconsin. Oregon by 12.

Fiesta Bowl, January 2, Oklahoma State and Stanford. In the best matchup of the bowl lineup, OSU will win by 10 over Andrew Luck and Stanford.

Cotton Bowl, January 6, Kansas State and Arkansas. Two teams who should have been in a BCS bowl will duke it out in Dallas. Razorbacks by four.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who's got the crow for me to eat?

At Noon today I posted in this blog that the University of Kansas would not hire Charlie Weis or Phillip Fulmer to be their new head football coach. Five hours later they did just that as word leaked that Weis would move from the University of Florida, from his offensive coordinator position, to Lawrence to lead the Jayhawks' football program.

What's this all mean, beyond the obvious irony of Weis returning to the area only one year removed from his stint at the Kansas City Chiefs?

One, this move immediately raises the profile of the Kansas football program. Turner Gill was a ho-hum hire two years ago. Weis will make one of the lead stories on ESPN's Sportscenter.

Two, it proves that Sheahon Zenger, Kansas' athletics director, is willing to take a risk. It's pretty obvious that Zenger wanted Mike Leach and then had to scramble once that verbal deal fell through. He quietly and methodically went about his search such that the Weis announcement was indeed a surprise.

Three, Weis has now sat in three different coaching jobs in three years. He said he moved to Florida for family reasons. How does he now rationalize this move to Kansas? Has Weis become a restless coach or was the allure of a head coaching gig too much to pass up? Maybe Weis knew that the Florida job was simply an interim until he was offered a head position somewhere else.

Four, Weis has a reputation for having a prickly personality. How will that personality impact his ability to hire a quality staff much less get into recruits' homes? A key for Weis will be finding assistants (can you say current Kansas coach Reggie Mitchell) who can recruit and, in particular, recruit Texas.

Five, we know that Weis can coach the offensive side of the football. So, one would think that he would find creative ways to get the ball into the hands of KU's stable of quality running backs--James Sims, Darrien Miller, Tony Pearson and Brandon Bourbon. Pearson, in particular, should flourish under Weis' system.

Finally, Weis has three Super Bowl rings. He's been involved with winning programs. There is a certain legitimacy that Kansas will gain simply by having Weis as its head coach. The challenge now will be to take this hire and turn it into something bigger--hire a top-flight defensive coordinator, recruit a true Division 1 quarterback and/or lure Dayne Crist (a Weis recruit to Notre Dame) to transfer, and "coach up" the promising young players from Kansas' quality recruiting classes of the past two years.

Weis will be officially introduced tomorrow afternoon and then will find himself in front of the Kansas faithful at halftime Saturday of the marquee Kansas-Ohio State basketball matchup. It's a moment many wondered whether Zenger could pull off. So, let's take a moment to applaud KU's athletics director for conducting a search which was well controlled, produced a high-profile result, and has the potential to be a needed big step of restoring some swagger back in Kansas' non-basketball sports activities.

Who will KU eventually hire?

It's been over a week since Kansas' athletics director, Dr. Sheahon Zenger, hit the road to find the school's next football coach. Thus far, Zenger has yet to make a hire and has yet to tip his hand publicly as to who that might be.

Mike Leach's candidacy came and went with some speculating that an agreement was in place but unraveled around Leach's lawsuits with ESPN and Texas Tech, a sister Big 12 institution to KU.

Larry Fedora became the "it" coach, after Southern Mississippi walloped Houston, but he appears headed for North Carolina--a school where his southern recruiting contacts may be a better fit.

June Jones' name was floated about and he seemed headed to Tempe as head of Arizona State but that deal fell through. Will Jones, SMU's coach, get back in the mix at Kansas?

Let's break down those who are believed to be in consideration at Kansas as the clock continues to tick, and openings remain at Illinois, Penn State, UCLA and Texas A&M.

- Jones: Jones could qualify as a home run hire for Kansas given his consistent success and what he's done most recently at SMU. He also has the much-desired recruiting contacts in the Lone Star State. What may work against Zenger is Jones' agent--notoriously ruthless Leigh Steinberg.

- Gus Malzahn: If you believe Twitter, then you probably think that Malzahn's already been hired at KU. His offenses have been successful but he's not been in the head coaching seat since high school. There is speculation that all is not well with Gene Chizik's staff at Auburn which may make Malzahn hot for the job in Lawrence.

- Sonny Dykes: Dykes would seem to make a lot of sense as KU's next head man. He led Louisiana Tech to this year's WAC championship, has Texas high school recruiting ties, and knows Leach's spread offense. Dykes would fit the criteria for those who want a head coach to move to KU versus hiring a current D-1 coordinator.

- Paul Chryst: Reports out of Madison are that Chryst, the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, has interviewed with Zenger.

- Dirk Koetter: This former head coach (Boise State and Arizona State) and current offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars offers an interesting twist to the search--someone with NFL credentials. He also offers up an important decision for Zenger--does he hire someone with issues with his past employer (Arizona State) or try to stay above the potential criticism he'd likely receive?

- Mark Stoops: Over the weekend, Stoops' name seemed to be a hot one with those speculating on the KU hire. It's now seemed to have cooled off. Stoops coached with Zenger at Wyoming and has been the architect of Florida State's defensive turnaround.

So, who will Zenger hire? I think he'll likely come to terms with one of the above names. Forget about Phillip Fulmer and forget about the crazy Charlie Weis idea--KU's A.D. will make a choice from the Jones-Malzahn-Chryst-Koetter-Stoops fivesome. Whether he can get the deal done in order to introduce his new football man on Saturday, at the KU-Ohio State basketball game, is the challenge.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kentucky, North Carolina, and basketball tradition

North Carolina, number three in the all-time college basketball wins category, is playing Kentucky, number one in all-time wins as I write this post today. I can't help but be struck by the linkage of the traditions of these two schools and that of my alma mater, the University of Kansas. And, in full disclosure (given my lack of objectivity here), this is one of the arguments I use when debating which school, of the three, has the best basketball tradition.

- Today's game is being played at Rupp Arena, named after Kentucky's iconic coach--a University of Kansas graduate and player under KU's legendary coach, Phog Allen.

- Kentucky's current coach, John Calipari, was an assistant coach at Kansas in 1984-85.

- North Carolina plays their games in the Smith Center, named after Dean Smith, North Carolina's iconic coach--also a Kansas graduate and player under Allen.

- North Carolina's coach, Roy Williams, as all well know, spent 15 years at KU where he crafted a 418-101 (.805) record and took KU to four Final Fours and two national championship games.

So, when it comes to basketball tradition, I offer up those facts as a bit of grounding on which of these three blue bloods is first in that category. Combine the above with the fact that James Naismith, who invented the game, was Kansas' first coach and no school matches KU in the tradition of its program and its impact on the game of college basketball.

Just sayin'...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Week 14: College football predictions

Last week: 8-0
Season to date: 95-34

Kansas State over Iowa State: The 'Cats still have a chance to tie for the Big 12 crown. Iowa State, notable for its recent upsets over higher ranked opponents, will lose by 10 in Manhattan.

Baylor over Texas: Robert Griffin III is expected to play tomorrow even though he suffered a concussion in last week's win against Texas Tech. Can the league's top-ranked offense beat the top-ranked defense? I think so--I'm picking the Bears by four with RGIII having a huge game.

Oklahoma State over Oklahoma: Bedlam--a series where the Sooners have won eight straight. OSU still has a shot at the BCS title game but it's unlikely. Yet, the prospect of their wonder season frittering away with a loss to OU has to be galling to the Cowboys. I suspect that Brandon Weeden and his receivers will have a big day, winning by three late.

Oregon over UCLA: Let's see--one of the teams in this conference championship game actually fired their coach. How can you pick against Oregon? Ducks by 21.

Virginia Tech over Clemson:
This is a tale of teams who have headed the opposite directions. Clemson beat Virginia Tech earlier in the season in Blacksburg but that won't happen tomorrow. Look for the Hokies to win by 10, thus setting them up for yet another BCS bowl game.

Wisconsin over Michigan State: The inaugural Big 10 championship game will be a chance for the Badgers to replay Sparty for that last second Hail Mary win during the regular season. Wiscy by seven.

LSU over Georgia: I almost made this my weekly upset special and seriously think that a hot Georgia team can pull off the win, particularly in its backyard in Atlanta. But, this seems to be a special LSU squad on its way to the national championship game. Let's go with the Tigers by six.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turner Gill out. Who do you want as Kansas' next head coach?

Turner Gill is out as Kansas' head football coach. So, step one of the first important hire of the Sheahon Zenger era in Kansas' athletics department is complete. Step two is finding, negotiating with and hiring the next head football coach.

See the poll to the right to vote for who you think should be the next head football coach:

- Jim Leavitt, former head coach, South Florida
- Mike Leach, former head coach at Texas Tech
- Kevin Sumlin, head coach at Houston
- Larry Fedora, head coach at Southern Mississippi
- Jim Tressel, former head coach at Ohio State
- Brent Venables, defensive coordinator at Oklahoma
- Dave Doeren, head coach at Northern Illinois

Or, perhaps you have another candidate who you believe should be considered. If so, please post below with your thoughts.

Hey Jay...just shut up!

We're all reasonable adults here, aren't we--I who write this blog and those of you who happen to frequent it? If so, then let's just wrap up the Kansas-Missouri conference alignment debate as follows--you (University of Missouri) did what you thought best for your institution and left the Big 12 for the SEC; we (University of Kansas) likewise made a decision which we think is best for us and the league to which we remained loyal by publicly indicating no desire to continue playing MU in any sport. As reasonable adults, let's simply respect the decision of the other school and agree that "you do what's best for you" and we'll not judge your decision.

Sounds all well and good except for one snag--the governor of the state of Missouri doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut and has played too direct a role in this whole sad breaking of tradition.

Let's have a quick review, shall we? Jay Nixon, Missouri's governor, got famously in the middle of Mizzou's 2010 flirtation with the Big 10 by calling into question the academic prowess of Big 12 schools Texas Tech and Oklahoma State while lauding the academic brilliance of the Big Ten schools. Now, Nixon is on the record as saying that the KU-MU rivalry is "...a tradition that should continue, and we're hopeful that it will. It's good for the Kansas City economy."

Whoa there, Gov--if you were so concerned about the Kansas City economy, where were you weeks ago when MU officials and the Board of Curators were deliberating on your state school's participation in the Big 12? Kansas City officials were publicly pleading with MU to stay in the Big 12, citing the economic impact that this move would have on K.C.

Nixon was in the middle of swirling the Big 12 instability pot in 2010. And, now he's being disingenuous by suggesting that if only KU would want to continue to play MU, all would be well in K.C.

The impact to Kansas City goes far, far beyond a KU-MU football game in Arrowhead. The biggest impact to Kansas City is the likelihood of losing the Mens and Womens Big 12 Basketball Tournaments now that no Big 12 school is located in the state of Missouri--home to Kansas City's Sprint Center. The $16+ million impact in economic impact from the tournament dwarfs what the KU-MU football game means to the metropolitan area of Kansas City.

So, Governor Nixon, do us all a favor and stay out of this. You've been far too involved already and your most recent comments are a transparent attempt to deflect responsibility for what Missouri's decision will mean to Kansas City and this region.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Week 13: College football predictions

Last week: 5-5
Season to date: 87-34 (.719)

Missouri over Kansas. The last game, at least in the foreseeable future, of this rivalry. The last game--likely--of Turner Gill's coaching tenure at Kansas. Lots of "lasts" in this one, which is a poor facsimile of the drama we witnessed in Arrowhead in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Expect a crowd of around 50,000 to witness this MU victory--Tigers by 18 in a game which will be close at half.

Baylor over Texas Tech. This neutral site game, in Arlington, TX, will feature a Bear team who has won three straight, including last week's whopper over Oklahoma, against Tech, losers of four straight. Baylor by a touchdown.

Oklahoma over Iowa State. Iowa State stunned the BCS world last week with its win over Oklahoma State. The Cyclones won't make it two in a row against the state of Oklahoma--Sooners by 24.

Nebraska over Iowa. This game is about bowl positioning for Nebraska, loser to Michigan last week and a non-participant in the first Big Ten championship game. Win this one and NU finishes 9-3. NU by eight.

Alabama over Auburn. Last year, Alabama blew a 24 point lead in this game to eventual national champion Auburn. This year, the Crimson Tide tries to get revenge and stay firmly in the BCS title hunt. Bama by 14.

Michigan over Ohio State. The stakes are huge for Michigan--try to break a seven game losing streak in this rivalry and stay in contention for a BCS berth. Michigan by 10 in the Big House.

Stanford over Notre Dame.
The Cardinal suffered an extremely disappointing loss last week at home against Oregon, effectively ending their national title hopes. They rebound this weekend against Notre Dame. Stanford by 10.

Game of the week--LSU over Arkansas.
If anyone needed further proof of the SEC's dominance of college football, look no further than the current 1-2-3 ranking--LSU, Alabama and Arkansas. In this battle of #1 versus #3, look for LSU's home field advantage to help them win by four.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Big 12: November hoops

November is the silly season in college hoops. On one hand, you have schools feasting on foes with directions in their names (see Baylor and Kansas State) and, on the other, you have schools participating in high profile tournaments and "classics" who quickly find out how they stack up against quality competition (see Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma State.)

Let's break down what we've found out...and, what we still don't know.

- Kansas: A week ago, Kansas was humbled in the second half against a highly talented Kentucky. Last night, KU proved that they belonged by going toe-to-toe with Duke, in a March tournament-like atmosphere, before losing late. What we know: Kansas' identity will be with its tough defense and ability to penetrate and dish. What we don't know: Will Kansas' bench mature enough to provide at least a few quality minutes in big games? Last night, KU's reserves played 30 minutes yet netted zero points, zero rebounds and zero assists.

- Missouri: Who saw this coming? Missouri played discipline basketball, on both ends of the court, in blowing away Notre Dame and California to win the CBE Classic. Yes, the Tigers will ultimately miss Lawrence Bowers but, for now, they look to be a definite contender in the Big 12. What we know: MU's guards are quick, can shoot and have matured into potentially the best backcourt in the conference. What we don't know: Will the lack of bigs, beyond Ricardo Ratliffe, equate to a top four finish in the Big 12?

- Baylor: We know the Bears are talented. But, seriously, Baylor plays no one of note until a December 17 visit to BYU. What we know: We don't--play somebody!

- Texas: The Longhorns are 2-2 after back-to-back losses to Oregon State and North Carolina State. What we know: J'Covan Brown will contend for player-of-the-year honors in the conference.

- Oklahoma State: Highly touted freshman LeBryan Nash is only shooting at a .370 clip and the Cowboys looked bad last night against Stanford.

- Texas A&M: A&M (3-1) lost to the only quality team--Mississippi State--that they've played to date. What we don't know: I'm still trying to figure out why the Aggies were picked third in the league, behind KU and Baylor.

- Kansas State: The Wildcats have played three games--all wins--against nobodies. What we know: Let's simply call this an "incomplete" grade, shall we?

What's coming up of note:

- Missouri faces Villanova on December 6 in Columbia.

- Bob Huggins returns to Manhattan on December 8 as West Virginia takes on Kansas State.

- KU continues its killer schedule against #3 Ohio State on December 10, in Lawrence.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who'll be the next coach at Kansas?

It's official--we can now turn our attention from the Turner Gill death watch to the question of "who will Kansas get to coach after Gill is fired?" Gill's Kansas team turned in another uninspired effort today against Texas A&M causing Kansas fans to compare, via social media, the current state of Kansas football to that of the Bob Valesente era--long considered the absolutest darkest period of Jayhawk gridiron history. (Lighten up, KU fans--the end of the Valesente reign was so bad, nobody cared. At least now there is legitimate interest in Kansas' football program.)

The usual suspect names will come up but let's look at a list of legitimate possibilities, focusing on who Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger might have on his speed dial list:

- Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois. Doeren was hired by Zenger at Northern Illinois and is 19-6 thus far in his two seasons there. Doeren was an assistant at KU under Mark Mangino and a former head coach at Shawnee Mission Northwest.

- Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston. Sumlin was rumored to be in the mix when Gill got the Kansas job. Two years later, Gill is about to be fired and Sumlin has the Cougars at 11-0. You may ask why Sumlin would now leave Houston--isn't there allure to bringing his skills to the Big 12?

- Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma. Venables' name is on the list whenever a Big 12 opening occurs. It'll show up again when Gill gets fired but I doubt that he leaves for Lawrence.

- Jim Leavitt, former head coach, South Florida. Ironically, Leavitt was fired the same year as Mangino was let go at Kansas, paving the way for Gill. Leavitt is a disciple of Bill Snyder and Zenger served on Snyder's staff. Is Lawrence a destination for Leavitt to redeem himself after the messy divorce from South Florida?

- John Latina, assistant head coach, Notre Dame. Latina is another former KSU assistant (are you noticing a trend here) who was on the same staff as Zenger in Manhattan.

- Dennis Franchione, head coach, Texas State. Franchione is a Kansas native and served as head coach at Texas A&M, but resigned under controversy. He's in year one at Texas State.

And, if you truly want to think outside the box, consider the name "Terry Donahue." Donahue, now doing college football broadcasting, is the former UCLA coach who has the most wins in Pac-10 history. Donahue served seven seasons as a Kansas assistant and his wife has Kansas roots. Donahue is 67 but might be lured back to Lawrence by the possibility of revitalizing a program which proved, in 2007-2008, that success could be had on Mt. Oread.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week 12: College football predictions

Last week: 7-2
Season to date: 82-29 (.739)

Texas A&M over Kansas. A&M has lost three straight with two of those losses coming in overtime. Kansas has lost eight straight. The Jayhawks travel to Kyle Field for the last time in a Big 12 conference game. The Aggies will rebound big over KU--Texas A&M by 20.

Kansas State over Texas. Texas is favored but how can you bet against the Wildcats in this season-of-seasons for Bill Snyder, Collin Klein and crew? This one, like KSU's last two games, will be close but I expect the 'Cats to win by four.

Missouri over Texas Tech. Gary Pinkel won't be on the sidelines on Saturday and that's a shame, as it's Senior Day in Columbia. MU is coming off an important win over Texas while Tech is headed south with three straight losses. MU becomes bowl eligible by beating Tech--Missouri by 12.

Oklahoma over Baylor. The Bears became bowl eligible last week by beating Kansas and hope for a huge win for the program in a home game this Saturday. OU will effectively clamp down on Robert Griffin III and his talented set of receivers--Oklahoma by 10.

Oklahoma State over Iowa State. The Heisman watch for Brandon Weeden continues--OSU by 25.

Nebraska over Michigan. The Big Red invades The Big House. Nebraska's running game, behind Rex Burkhead, is too much for the Wolverines--NU by a touchdown.

Houston over SMU. The Ponies started the season 5-1 but now have lost three of their last four. Facing Houston is not the cure for reversing that trend--UH by 30.

Ohio State over Penn State. Sadly, football is now secondary to all of the drama at Penn State. OSU by 14.

Florida State over Virginia. This could be an upset special--Virginia is having a terrific season and Florida State is coming off a rivalry game win over Miami. I think FSU wins by four in this one.

Game of the week--Oregon over USC. Some might pick USC for the upset here given Oregon's big win last week over Stanford. But, the Ducks are playing at home and are peaking at the right time. Oregon's speed will overwhelm USC--Ducks by 10.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strange seatmates

Guess who Section 10 spotted sitting together last night in Madison Square Garden at the Champions Classic? Taking in the Kansas-Kentucky game together were none other than former KU athletics director Lew Perkins sitting next to former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson. Hmm...

A couple of rows in front of Perkins and Peterson was Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics and father of Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers.

Grading Kansas-Kentucky

The first Champions Classic is complete and the premiere version of this three-year double-header had an electric atmosphere. The first game featured Duke and Michigan State and just so happened to coincide with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's quest to become the all-time winningest coach in Division 1 history. And, the second game matched up the two winningest programs in college hoops--Kentucky and Kansas.

Let's grade out Kansas' effort in their loss to the number two ranked Wildcats.

Tyshawn Taylor: B. Taylor led the team in scoring and single-handily worked to keep Kansas in it after falling well behind in the second half. Taylor did too little too early when Kansas could have distanced itself from Kentucky given the 'Cats first half turnover and shooting woes. Taylor is the only Jayhawk who has started before in a game of this magnitude--he didn't look it in the first half but certainly came to play in the second half.

Thomas Robinson: C+. On paper, Robinson's line looks good--11 points and 12 rebounds. But, Robinson fouled out and continued to show a penchant for allowing his man to get the ball and then guarding versus denying the post. Robinson will learn from this game as he went up against a stud, Terence Jones, and had his moments. He needs to watch his emotions as teams will go after him knowing that KU has little quality frontcourt depth.

Jeff Withey: B-. I was impressed with Withey's combativeness in a game where I thought he might play passive.

Elijah Johnson: C. Johnson only had two points until late in the game. And, his effort was summed up when he had the baseline, drove, then tried to dish off versus going to the rim for the dunk. Johnson was clearly flustered by Kentucky's length.

Travis Releford: D. Let's be blunt--Kansas has to have Releford improve and play to his potential in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance at another conference crown and post-season wins. Four points and three rebounds, plus several errors on both ends of the court, won't cut it.

Justin Wesley: B. Wesley did a serviceable job on the defensive side of the ball and supplied some quality minutes, netting five points and five boards.

Connor Teahan: C+. The former walk-on hit a couple of threes but was exposed defensively, had two turnovers and four fouls.

Naadir Tharpe: D. In nine minutes, Tharpe committed two turnovers and missed all four of his shots, including an ill-advised three from Queens.

Kevin Young: C-. Not yet ready for prime time, Young played just two minutes with two rebounds.

Coaching: C. Bill Self tried to prep his team for the "men" they would play last night. And, early at least, it seemed as if Kansas was ready for this marquee match-up. Self can't be happy with last night's ball movement and had to resort to asking his best guard--Taylor--to drive the ball, while spreading the floor, late in the game given the lack of any other offense.

Intangibles: A. Kansas won the war of star power. Sure, Kentucky had Ashley Judd in the Garden but KU boasted Jason Sudeikis and Paul Rudd, along with their pal Josh Groban (sporting a Jayhawk sticker), plus former players Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Russell Robinson and Cole Aldrich.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week 11: College football predictions

After last week's hiatus, we pick up with this weekend's action and our latest round of predictions.

Week nine predictions: 6-4
Season to date: 75-27 (.735)

Baylor over Kansas. It's hard to name a more electrifying college quarterback in recent memory than Robert Griffin III. He sometimes reminds me of Cam Newton and sometimes of Vince Young. Yet, the thing that distinguishes RGIII is his passing accuracy, especially while on the move. Baylor's track squad masquerading as a football team, which put up 697 total yards last week against Missouri, will score points in bunches--BU by 22.

Missouri over Texas. In what might be considered a mild upset, I like Missouri at home over the surging Longhorns. This match-up featurese the top two rushing teams in the Big 12. Missouri by three.

Kansas State over Texas A&M. How will KSU react after last week's classic loss at Oklahoma State? Leave it to Bill Snyder to get his team up off the mat and prepared for another quality foe. KSU by four.

Oklahoma State over Texas Tech. It's hard to figure this Texas Tech team out. It's not hard to figure out Oklahoma State--number two in the country and on track to play in the national championship game. OSU by 14.

Arkansas over Tennessee. The Hogs roll at home by 17.

Boise State over TCU. This game isn't as meaningful as in years past and TCU will struggle on the blue field in Boise. Broncos by 12.

Florida State over Miami. This in-state rivalry game features two teams who have not lived up to pre-season hype. FSU, at home, will win by a touchdown.

Nebraska over Penn State. The story in Happy Valley is about everything other than this football game, a match-up between traditional powers. It's hard to imagine Penn State being able to find focus to actually play a game. NU will win big by 14.

Game of the Day: Stanford over Oregon. Stanford must beat the Ducks to stay in contention for a national championship game shot. Oregon is one of the hotter teams in the country right now. In a close one, Andrew Luck and his mates will win late, by four, at home.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Things that make you go "hmm..."

We're sorry, fans of Section 10, for the recent hiatus. Sometimes work just gets in the way, huh?

Here are some "things that make you go 'hmm...?'"

- Why is it when a quarterback spikes the ball after the snap from center, to stop the clock, it's not called intentional grounding? He's between the tackles and he's not throwing to anyone. And, if it's not intentional grounding then it has to be a fumble, right? Let's place that one in the "stupid rules" category of sports, along with the NBA rule of calling timeout, late in a game, and getting the ball automatically at halfcourt.

- Iowa's record in its last 26 football games, where the margin was four points or fewer, is now 9-17 after yesterday's upset of Michigan. But really, with that record you're paying Kirk Ferentz how much money!?

- The much-discussed Kris Humphries-Kim Kardashian marriage lasted 72 days. That makes it the shortest, high profile nuptials involving an athlete. The former "record" was held by the Dennis Rodman-Carmen Electra marriage, which stretched out for five months.

- Air Force and Boise State are rumored to have been offered spots in the Big East's football league. Does it strike you as odd that any school located in Colorado Springs or Boise would be involved in a conference with "east" in its name?

- Likewise, Missouri will soon officially head to the SEC and be placed in the Eastern Division of that league. Makes perfect sense geographically, right?

- Finally, Kansas' season-long mantra for football has been the "believe." The problem is, Kansas fans, and perhaps players and staff, aren't sure what they're supposed to believe given the Jayhawks' 2-7 record and 0-6 mark in conference play.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Week nine: College football predictions

Last week: 7-3
Season to date: 69-23

Texas over Kansas. The Longhorns are favored by 28 at home. Is there any reason to believe that Kansas can beat the spread? It’s not likely—UT by 30.

Game of the week--Oklahoma over Kansas State. ESPN’s College Game Day bypassed Manhattan, KS this weekend, likely because of Oklahoma’s loss last week to Texas Tech. That should in no way diminish the importance of this game. OU needs a win badly to maintain hopes of a Big 12 championship. Undefeated Kansas State will play in front of a wild home crowd and wants this win to not only prove the doubters wrong but to also keep pace with Oklahoma State in league play. OU by nine.

Texas A&M over Missouri. Call this the “defector bowl”—two probable future SEC foes do battle in College Station and A&M will prevail by 10.

Texas Tech over Iowa State. I’m tempted to go with this as an “upset special,” but the Red Raiders are at home and I doubt that Tommy Tuberville will allow his team to gloat over the OU upset win for too long. Look for Tech to start slow and then pull away for a 14 point win.

Oklahoma State over Baylor. No one has stopped OSU’s offense yet and it surely won’t be Baylor’s porous defense. This is one of those Big 12 games where the offenses are likely to put up a combined 90 points. Oklahoma State by 17.

Florida over Georgia. It would be easy to pick the Dawgs in this one—they’ve won five in a row and are due to beat rival Florida. But, John Brantley is back at QB for the Gators and that will help their inconsistent offense. Florida by four at the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”

Wisconsin over Ohio State. Wiscy was ready for overtime at Michigan State last Saturday night and then the wacky batted ball touchdown gave Sparty the win. The Badgers will rebound tomorrow with a 10 point win on the road in Columbus.

Stanford over USC. This will be billed as the Quarterback Bowl—Andrew Luck of Stanford against Matt Barkley of USC. But, that misses the story line of Stanford’s relatively quiet rise as a football power—the nation’s longest winning streak (15 games), the first team in 75 years to win 10 games by at least 25 points, and winner of three of the last four against perennial power USC. The Trojans have won three straight but Stanford’s overall, balanced offense coupled with their stout defense will be too much—Stanford by 10.

Clemson over Georgia Tech. This is a tale of teams headed different directions. Clemson is ranked fifth in the country, is undefeated, and is very much in the national title chase. Georgia Tech was off to its best start in years before blowing a gasket against Virginia Tech and Miami. This will be a tough road test for the Tigers but look for them to win a by a touchdown.

Nebraska over Michigan State. The hottest team in the league—Michigan State—plays a team who still has hopes of making the inaugural Big Ten conference championship game. I think Michigan State’s killer October schedule will trip them up, finally, this week. Nebraska by four.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dead man walkin'

There's no way Turner Gill can survive this loss. There's no way that Sheahon Zenger, Kansas' athletics director, can ignore the howls of frustration from alums who witnessed a second straight embarrassing defeat to in-state rival Kansas State.

Let's re-state the obvious--Gill is a good man. Gill is a fine representative for the University of Kansas, he genuinely cares about the young men that he is coaching, and there is much about him to like.

What cannot be ignored is his record at Kansas (5-14 in one and a half seasons), the points scored against his team over the past five games (287--an average of 57.4 per game) or the third quarter meltdowns against Georgia Tech (28-0), Texas Tech (21-0) and today against KSU (21-0.) He has one win against a conference opponent and that team--Colorado--is now in a different league and is 1-7 this year.

Gill's fate was sealed today right before halftime. After Kansas scored to pull within 14, with less than a minute to play, Gill and his special teams staff elected to squib the ball on the ensuing kickoff. A KSU lineman returned the ball 10 yards. That set up a long Collin Klein completion and Wildcat field goal with one second left. Halftime score: 31-14...and any Kansas momentum was quickly kaput. Predictably, to those of us who have watched this season of frustration, KSU then came out and ran back the opening kickoff for a TD. Those in Memorial Stadium then got to witness a Kansas kickoff return that featured not one but three penalties. A KU fumble turned into a Wildcat touchdown drive and the rout was on.

Is there anything keeping Zenger from making this move? Sure--$6 million as that's the amount Kansas will owe Gill if he is fired at the end of this season. It's a lot of money for any athletics program, much less the one at Kansas. But, can Zenger afford another year of this? It's hard to imagine KU winning another game this season--only the contest at Iowa State looks close to winnable. Interest in the program is in free fall, fans are disenchanted and that will hit hard at season ticket sales next year.

This is Zenger's first major coaching decision at Kansas. After today, that decision became much clearer.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week eight: College football predictions

Last week: 7-3
Season to date: 62-20 (.756)

Kansas State over Kansas. Let's see if you can follow this flawed logic--every week I've picked against Kansas State and what's their current record? Why, 6-0! So, why not pick them over Kansas in hopes that my team can pull off the upset and, at least momentarily, pop KSU's bubble? Kansas hung with Oklahoma, at least for a half, last weekend and faces yet another undefeated opponent in this season which has already included Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and OU. Kansas State just finds a way to win each week by playing Bill Snyder's brand of fundamentally sound, don't-turn-the-ball-over football. This is a huge game for KU coach Turner Gill. A win Saturday cements another year for his tenure, a close loss likely does the same, but a three touchdown or worse defeat could likely be the impetus for his firing. KSU by eight.

Oklahoma State over Missouri. Oklahoma State is 4th in the BCS standings and features perhaps the most exciting offense in the country. Missouri's no slouch on the offensive side of the ball but the tale of this game will be whether MU can at least slow OSU and hold them to field goals versus touchdowns each time the Cowboys touch the ball. After this week, OSU faces Baylor and Kansas State, both at home, and goes on the road to Texas Tech and Iowa State. This is by far the Cowboys' toughest test before the Bedlam game at home against OU on December 3. I think this one will be tight--OSU by nine in Columbia.

Oklahoma over Texas Tech. OU will take their solid second half from last week as momentum into this home game against Tech. Oklahoma by 21.

Texas A&M over Iowa State. This game features two teams headed opposite directions--A&M beat Baylor in surprisingly easy fashion last week and Iowa State lost big to Missouri for their third straight loss. The Aggies will roll by 18.

Notre Dame over USC. Remember when this game was "the game" of the weekend when these two traditional powers faced off? No more. Neither team is ranked and the Lane Kiffin era in Los Angeles is still working to regain past glory. Notre Dame by 10 in South Bend.

Stanford over Washington. How about this Stanford team and Oliver Luck? They own the nation's longest winning streak--15--and while Luck gets the publicity, the defense is quietly holding opponents to 11.2 points per game. Stanford by 17 at home.

Nebraska over Minnesota. When's the last time Minnesota has been relevant in football? NU by 18.

Clemson over North Carolina. Another undeafeated team--Clemson--will extend that streak in Death Valley over UNC. Let's see if Clemson's D can improve this week in stopping the run as they gave up 291 rushing yards to Maryland last week. Clemson by 12.

LSU over Auburn. Speaking of Death Valley, this game takes place at the "other" Death Valley in Baton Rouge. This game will be close for a half then the Tigers' superior talent will make it a two touchdown win for the number one team in the country.

Game of the week--Wisconsin over Michigan State. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin's QB, is the real deal and is making a Heisman Trophy run. Michigan State is fresh off a big win over arch-rival Michigan and did it by holding the Wolverine's Dennard Robinson to 42 yards rushing and 123 passing. Wiscy by eight.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dirty rivalries

Here's more ammunition for the disbelief among local fans that the Kansas-Missouri rivalry may be going away should the Tigers move to the SEC, as many are suggesting is inevitable.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece today on the "dirtiest rivalry in college football." The Journal tallied how many conduct and roughness penalties have been assessed in the last five meetings of 40 well-known rivalries.

Here's their list:

1. Auburn-Georgia: 5.4 per game; biggest offender - Georgia (59%)
2. Duke-North Carolina: 5.2 per game; biggest offender - UNC (69%)
3. UCLA-USC: 4.8 per game; biggest offender - UCLA (54%)
4. New Mexico-New Mexico State: 4.6 per game; biggest offender - NM (65%)
5. Kansas-Missouri: 4.2 per game; biggest offender - MU (76%)
6. Michigan-Michigan St.: 4 per game; biggest offender - MSU (80%)
7. C. Michigan-W. Michigan: 3.8 per game; biggest offender - WM (58%)
8. BYU-Utah: 3.6 per game; biggest offender - Utah (61%)
9. NC State-North Carolina: 3.4 per game; biggest offender - UNC (59%)

Clearly, North Carolina has issues as they are noted twice as "biggest offender." And, Missouri's 76% "offender" rate trails only Michigan State, in the Spartans' rivalry versus Michigan.

Really--do we want this Border War thing to go away?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week seven: College football predictions

Last week: 9-1
Season record: 55-17 (.763)

Oklahoma over Kansas. The line for this game is 34. Take Oklahoma and the points as this will be a replay of Kansas' blowout loss last weekend at Oklahoma State--it's just a question of when Bob Stoops pulls his starters, and given his need for BCS points, don't expect that to happen before the end of the third quarter. For Kansas, every game is about "progress," as in, is there any? Next week, the Jayhawks face Kansas State at home. If KU loses that game in ugly fashion, a la 2010, then the howls for Turner Gill's job will escalate to a level that can't be ignored. OU by 38.

Missouri over Iowa State. MU is 2-3 in the conference so there's no better antidote than getting Iowa State at home. And, it's Homecoming, that event which Missouri claims it invented (but so does Baylor and so does Illinois.) MU should roll in this one yet fans will be watching to see if the Tigers can score in the third quarter--a 15 minute period where the offense has generated all of 16 points this year. Win convincingly and MU could carry some momentum into next week against Oklahoma State, also in Columbia. Tigers by 17.

Texas Tech over Kansas State. I know, I know--I keep picking against Kansas State each week and all they've done is go undefeated. So, for the benefit of my K-State friends, I'm picking against the Wildcats again this week. The story of the 'Cats season has been the turnaround of their defense and that will be a key tomorrow--can KSU force Tech turnovers? Texas Tech by four.

Oklahoma State over Texas. Look, Texas just isn't that good. They lost badly against Oklahoma last week and will face an even higher-powered offense this week. OSU by 14.

Texas A&M over Baylor. The game is at Kyle Field thus "advantage A&M." However, if the Aggies cannot fix their pass defense this game could easily swing in Baylor's favor. Texas A&M by a touchdown.

Auburn over Florida. Florida is favored but Auburn's playing at home. War Eagle--Tigers by two.

Georgia Tech over Virginia. The Ramblin' Wreck is off to its best start in 45 years. And, these next two weeks are critical--"trap" games at Charlottesville tomorrow and at Miami next week. Georgia Tech then returns home to face Clemson and Virginia Tech. Tech by 10.

Illinois over Ohio State. Illinois has lost nine straight to Ohio State at home. That should change tomorrow as the Illini look to stay undefeated. Kansas Citian and Rockhurst High alum Nathan Scheelhaase is having a great year for Illinois. Illini by six.

Michigan State over Michigan. Michigan State has a defense which stopped Denard Robinson last year. Let's see if they can do it again as the winner here could be the favorite in the division. Michigan State by three.

Game of the week - Virginia Tech over Wake Forest. Something's in the water in the ACC this year--Georgia Tech is off to its best start in 45 years and Wake Forest is off to its best start ever. Wake Forest is tied with Clemson in the Atlantic Division but is going up against a defense which forces turnover and QB sacks. The Hokies will prevail, on the road, by two.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Missouri and the SEC

It's easy to understand why the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri system have given chancellor Brady Deaton the approval to investigate other conference affiliations. The Big 12's recent instability has been a national punch line and MU is one of the--and perhaps only--Big 12 school outside of Texas and Oklahoma who appears to have interest from another conference.

However, it's my fervent hope that the decision ultimately doesn't become about MU's ability to thumb their nose at the "all about me" attitude of Texas, whose elitist ways played out so publicly over the past few months, or to say "look at me now" to Oklahoma president David Boren, who so obviously loved the flirtation with and thought of taking his Sooner Schooner west to the Pac 12.

No, this has to be about what's best for Missouri. Perhaps at the end of the vetting process, Deaton and his colleagues will determine that a move south is truly the right option. If so, so be it. But, in the wake of that decision will be catastrophic economic and regional brand ramifications for the Kansas City area.

There are a few optimistic public statements about the Big 12 Tournament still being a possibility for Kansas City, should MU leave, and that the Border War games between Kansas and Missouri can continue. Forget it--neither will happen.

The Big 12 will not hold a tournament in a state with no members--particularly one that said "see ya" to the collective remaining eight schools and new entry, TCU. Trust me, it just won't happen.

Further, what's the impetus for KU to continue playing MU in football, should the Tigers join the SEC? With TCU's entry into the league, coupled with another new school should MU depart, Kansas will have its regular rotation of nine conference games. The three non-conference games will be scheduled as follows--two guaranteed wins and one against a name opponent, e.g., the home-and-home series of 2010-2011 with Georgia Tech. The Jayhawks will not schedule a team of Missouri's current football caliber when they already will have to face Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU, not to mention Texas Tech, Kansas State and Baylor. Likewise, why would Missouri want to play KU given similar difficult foes in the SEC?

Sure, the Border War football game at Arrowhead can pull in a decent payday when the schools are good. But, from a won-loss perspective, it makes little sense for either school in scheduling non-conference match-ups. The last thing Kansas' program needs, as it tries to regain stability, is another tough foe on its schedule.

In basketball, there is more likelihood that the game could continue, given scheduling flexibility, but, in this case, why would Missouri want to schedule a game against a team that's beaten them 25 out of 35 games played during the Big 12 era? (And, Kansas has won nine of the last 10.) Don't let pride get in the way, Missouri fans. Once again, there is little reason to make this game happen.

The Mens and Womens Big 12 tournaments bring in positive economic impact to the Kansas City region in the sum of low teen millions. The Kansas City brand gets national exposure not only from the basketball tournaments but from past Arrowhead games between KU and MU coupled with the occasional Big 12 football championship.

So, Chancellor Deaton, the clock is ticking and a region anxiously awaits the news out of Columbia. Please don't let hubris get in the way of the right decision for Missouri. If a move to the SEC is warranted given your and your colleagues' analysis, so be it. I just hope that analysis weighs the merits of benefit to your state, and the second largest city in your state.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week six: College football predictions

Last week's record: 6-6
Season to date: 46-16 (.742)

Conference play is in full swing and the Big 12 slate is highlighted by the Red River Rivalry--Texas versus Oklahoma in Dallas. Let's take a look at that and other key match-ups for tomorrow.

Oklahoma State over Kansas. It's conventional wisdom to think that this game will be ugly--the conference's best offense against the Big 12's worst defense. Yet, KU showed improvement last week in their loss to Texas Tech and, offensively, the Jayhawks have a ground game which can potentially maintain possession and keep Branden Weeden and company off of the field. Don't get me wrong, this game will still be a blow-out but I suspect it'll be like last week where it was close for a half before Tech pulled away. OSU by 22.

Missouri over Kansas State. Arthur Brown of KSU is contending for defensive player of the year in the conference but the 'Cats have not yet played a balanced offense of Missouri's caliber. Kansas State is rolling in confidence while Missouri desperately needs this game and next (Iowa State) before heading into the teeth of their schedule--Oklahoma State, at Texas A&M, at Baylor, and Texas. MU by three in a hard-fought road win.

Oklahoma over Texas. Two undefeated teams; two ranked teams. OU, at #1 in the coaches poll, takes on #11 Texas in the marquee game of the day in the Big 12. However, this game won't live up to the hype as Texas is over-ranked and OU's offense is loaded with Landry Jones winging it to Ryan Broyles and Kenny Sills. It'll still be fun as this is college football at its best--the Texas State Fair, one of the best rivalries in the game, and ESPN's College GameDay crew on the scene. OU by 10.

Texas A&M over Texas Tech. Do you think A&M will get a tough reception in Lubbock on Saturday night? The Aggies are leaving for the SEC and Tech's fans are notoriously, shall we see, an uninviting group. The Red Raiders are 4-0 but have feasted on a schedule of Texas State, Nevada, New Mexico and Kansas--not exactly murderer's row. A&M is 2-2 after last week's four point loss to Arkansas. This is rebound week for Texas A&M--Aggies by eight.

Baylor over Iowa State. Baylor lost last week in a statement game--a road win against a Big 12 opponent. The Bears could not put Kansas State away and Robert Griffin III threw a costly interception late in the game. The Bears will take their frustrations out on ISU with a 18 point road win.

Virginia Tech over Miami. The Hokies were humbled by Clemson. They'll rebound against the "U" with a 10 point home win.

Nebraska over Ohio State. Last week was embarrassing for the Huskers--after much hype with their entrance into the Big Ten, NU was shredded by Wisconsin in Madison. This week Ohio State comes to Lincoln, but this isn't your father's Buckeye team. Nebraska will win easily by 13.

Arkansas over Auburn. Auburn came back last week to beat South Carolina and now is a surprising 4-1. Better not look ahead--here comes #10 Arkansas followed by games against Florida and LSU. Razorbacks by 10 at home.

Arizona State over Utah. Pac 12 South leader ASU will manhandle first-time Utah QB starter Jon Hays. The Sun Devils win on the road by 10.

Game of the week - LSU over Florida. How'd you like to be Florida? Last week the Gators faced Alabama and this week they get LSU, in Death Valley. Look for LSU to roll by 14.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Quote of the week

This is what Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self said to the Kansas City Star in discussing Missouri's investigation of a move to the SEC: "Nobody (fans) has come up to me and said 'No matter what, whatever you do, you can't lose to Texas.' But they've come up and said that about Kansas State and Missouri."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The state of Kansas football

Here we are, four games into season two of the Turner Gill regime, and Kansas sits at the same place, 2-2, as the 2010 season. We all remember last year--the opening game debacle against North Dakota State, the redeeming win against Georgia Tech, and another non-conference win before going 1-8 in conference play. This year we've seen KU beat McNeese State, come from behind for a stirring win over Northern Illinois, get throttled at Georgia Tech and, today, squander a 20 point lead in an 11 point loss to Texas Tech.

Today's game was one of the few legitimate win opportunities Kansas has this year. And, the way they opened, it looked like the Jayhawks were tired of hearing two weeks of post-Georgia Tech negative comments from fans and media. Unfortunately, just as quickly as KU jumped to their big lead, they muffed a punt, threw an interception, and allowed Tech back in the game with four turnovers and a scoreless third quarter.

So, four games into the 2011 season, how do we assess this current Kansas squad?

- KU is poorly conditioned. Chris Dawson, the strength and conditioning coach under Mark Mangino, is practicing his development techniques down the road in Manhattan. And, the difference in KU's conditioning is noticeable. Thus far this season, Kansas has scored 21 points in the third quarter while surrendering 76. This stat is not only a sign of bad, or no, halftime adjustments but also indicates that the Jayhawks run out of gas in the second half.

- The Jayhawks have never had more potential talent at the running back position. James Sims is the workhorse in KU's young backfield but freshmen Darrien Miller, Brandon Bourbon and Tony Pierson are the real deal, and we haven't even mentioned Rell Lewis. Bourbon gained over 100 yards today and each of the three freshmen has scored a touchdown this season. KU is loaded at running back.

- Kansas is not built to be a come-from-behind offense. Jordan Webb is a serviceable quarterback when handing off to his talented RB's and using misdirection to open up the passing game. He is not a throw-down-the-field QB.

- The 3-4 defense isn't the answer. When past defensive coordinator Carl Torbush installed the 3-4, it was under the guise of putting talented linebackers on the field. That LB play has been inconsistent, at best. Steven Johnson is having a great season but transfer Darrius Willis has, at times, struggled and Tunde Bukare hasn't proven that he's a Big 12 caliber player. The defensive line was thin to start the season and has been plagued by injuries and poor play. It starts up front and KU's defensive struggles can be pinpointed to their inability to control the line of scrimmage and to get pressure on the QB.

- Recruiting speed has been a priority at KU. Unfortunately, the recruited speed seems to only be on the offensive side of the ball. KU's lack of speed at the LB position and on the corners is being exploited.

- Looking ahead. Seriously, what game can we point to as one where the Jayhawks stand a decent chance to pick up a win? Next week KU plays #5 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, then returns to Lawrence to face Oklahoma. After that, KU gets in-state rival Kansas State who is off to a 4-0 start and gaining confidence each week. The only game on KU's schedule which looks remotely winnable is Iowa State--and that game is in Ames.

- What does Kansas need? Kansas must place a priority on recruiting defensive linemen. There are needs elsewhere (an athletic cover cornerback, a middle linebacker) but quality defensive linemen is a mandatory.

- How hot is Turner Gill's seat? The common sentiment was that KU would be hard-pressed to get more than four wins this season and that it was critical to show improvement and progress. We see definite improvement with the offense. Unfortunately, the defense is rivaling the worst in school history. Gill has the benefit of a sweetheart contract from former athletics director Lew Perkins. Yet, Gill's seat will get pretty darn warm prior to next season if the Jayhawks don't at least equal last season's three win total.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Week five: College football predictions

Last week: 9-1
Season record: 40-10 (.800)

Texas Tech over Kansas. The Las Vegas bettors must know something I don't as the line here is only Tech by seven. Given how porous Kansas' defense was against Georgia Tech, it's hard to understand how Tech's offense won't light up KU. It's a huge understatement to say this is a pivotal game for KU--they're at home against an opponent who, at least before the season, seemed to be a possible "W." After this, the Jayhawks must journey to Oklahoma State and then play Oklahoma--a 2-4 record headed into the Kansas State game on October 22. Tech by 14.

Baylor over Kansas State. Who knew that the game of the week in the Big 12 this weekend would be the undefeated Baylor Bears versus Kansas State, fresh off their road upset of Miami. Baylor's offense, which has scored 154 points in three games, will be a huge test of KSU's D--the Bears are explosive and can score quickly. Conversely, they gave up 31 points to Rice in their last game. This will be a close one--Baylor by 4 on a late RGIII touchdown.

Iowa State over Texas. Here's your upset special of the week. This game is in Ames, Iowa State has been a surprise, and Texas could be looking ahead to OU next week. Plus, Texas was impressive in their last game over UCLA but still is a team looking to find itself a bit. Iowa State by three.

Texas A&M over Arkansas. This inter-conference game in Arlington previews a future SEC conference match-up. Both teams are coming off hard losses--Arkansas against Alabama and A&M against Oklahoma State, a game where they blew a huge lead at home. Arkansas, like OSU, can put up big numbers through the air but I suspect that A&M will bounce back with a four-point win.

Oklahoma over Ball State. The line is 37.5. I'd still take OU to cover the spread. Oklahoma by 38 in Norman.

Notre Dame over Purdue. The Irish win again against the Boilermakers--Notre Dame by 13.

Wisconsin over Nebraska. It's Nebraska's first conference game in the Big Ten and you'd better like the color red if you happen to be in Madison. It's the #7 Badgers versus the #8 Cornhuskers and, for NU, it's the chance to win a big game--something which hasn't happened much under Bo Pellini. For Wisconsin, it's an opportunity to stake their claim as the favorite to win the league. Wiscy by three.

TCU over SMU. Old Southwest Conference rivals do battle with rumors swirling that TCU may truly be a Big 12 expansion target, even though SMU is the school which has said "invite us and we'll come." TCU continues its recent dominance in this series with a 14 point win.

Navy over Air Force.
Could these teams be headed to the Big East? That's another of the latest conference realignment rumors. Navy by three.

Ohio State over Michigan State. All the attention in the Big 10 will be focused on Nebraska-Wisconsin but this should be an interesting game as well. Ohio State by four.

Utah over Washington. Utah is hosting a Pac 12 game for the first time. The Utes will win this one by 10.

Game of the week--Alabama over Florida. Florida got whipped last year in Tuscaloosa and you can bet that Will Muschamp has reminded the Gators of that game all week. The sexy pick here is Florida but I'll go with Nick Saban over Muschamp's debut in this rivalry--Alabama by a touchdown.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Football rivalries and realignment

In an interesting twist of irony today, a front page Sports section headline from USA Today read "Emmert: Conference drama embarrassing." The story quoted NCAA president Mark Emmert who took to task 100 plus athletics directors who have gathered for meetings in suburban Dallas.

Next to the article was USA Today's regular "snapshots" feature, which today listed out the "most played Football Bowl Subdivision rivalries." Minnesota and Wisconsin have the most played rivalry, at 120 games, followed closely by Kansas-Missouri at 119, Kansas-Nebraska at 117, Texas-Texas A&M at 117, and North Carolina-Virginia at 116.

The irony, of course, is that the Kansas-Nebraska rivalry is no more, given NU's flight to the Big Ten, and the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry will likely go away as well due to A&M's acceptance into the SEC. Should Missouri follow A&M into the SEC, that would also likely stop the KU-MU "border war."

Seeing long-standing rivalries being tossed aside is, indeed, "embarrassing."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Layups, first downs and penalty flags

- Layup: Bill Self had to be squirming in his seat yesterday as the defensive-minded Kansas head coach saw little "D" on the floor at the Legends of the Phog game. The contest, in front of a standing-room only capacity crowd in Allen Fieldhouse, featured highlight reel dunks, Globetrotter-esque passes, and appearances by guys named Pierce, Chalmers, Rush, Collison, Valentine and others. The atmosphere was electric and the outcome perfect after Pierce and Chalmers made late threes to end the game in a 111-111 tie. As Self said in his pre-game address to the crowd, "Only at Kansas."

- First down: Robert Griffin III, Baylor's all-everything QB, is having a season which is the stuff of which legends are made. RGIII threw five touchdown passes against Rice and now has more TD passes this season than he does incompletions.

- Penalty flag: Minnesota pulled a Kansas yesterday--they were upset by North Dakota State. The Gophers fell, at home, to the same NDSU team who ruined KU's home opener last season.

- Layup: Speaking of Baylor, The Sporting News' preseason college basketball magazine has the Bears as the favorite to win the Big 12 followed by Kansas and Missouri.

- First down: I can't help but laugh at Direct TV's commercial featuring Deion Sanders where Deion, as the small football angel, says "slow your roll, baby" to the woman who thinks he's cute.

- Penalty flag: It was the "Hot Seat Bowl" and Mark Richt of Georgia beat fellow, much-criticized coach Houston Nutt of Mississippi. One has to believe that Nutt will be gone after this season and Richt may be there with him. Ole Miss is currently 1-3 and Georgia 2-2.

- Penalty flag: The uniqueness has worn off of Maryland's multi-uniform look. The Terps dropped their second straight game yesterday in a 38-7 rout at the hands of--get this--Temple.

- First down: And, on that note, Temple's Bernard Pierce had five TDs and 149 yards in the Owls' win.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Top college tailgates

Not only does the SEC know how to play football but, if you believe a magazine titled Tailgater Monthly, the conference schools also know how to party before, during and after the game.

SEC schools dominated the top 20 list of best tailgating venues. Tailgater Monthly had these nuggets for each experience:

1. Ole Miss: The Grove has been described as the "Holy Grail of Tailgating."

2. Florida: The stadium, the "Gator Chomp," and "it's Florida."

3. Clemson: "...located in the nation's barbecue belt." (Huh? Did the author ever visit Kansas City?)

4. Washington: "...much of the Husky tailgating scene takes place on water" given the stadium's proximity to Lake Husky.

5. Ohio State: "The tailgating scene is a sight to behold..."

6. Tennessee: "One part tailgating on water, one part smoky barbecue pit, and one part Southern hospitality."

7. LSU: "Night games at LSU rival the insanity that is common to Oakland Raider games."

8. Notre Dame: "Tailgating is a family event."

9. Auburn: " take tremendous pride in the Auburn experience."

10. Oregon: "Remember to bring your rain gear when you come to Eugene..."

11. Alabama: "Pork practically the official food of Alabama."

12. Wisconsin: "Students and fans...don't tailgate as much as they front door-gate" given the proximity of Badger Stadium to the campus.

13. Texas: One of the friendliest tailgating venues, those in burnt orange often offer a beer and food to fans from opposing schools.

14. Arkansas: " Arkansas home game is a special experience."

15. Oklahoma: "No foie gras here. Just steaks, ribs, burgers, dogs, beer and a heck of a good time..."

16. Michigan: A diverse scene, from the "socioeconomic background of the fans to the physical terrain where they tailgate."

17. Colorado: "Part old west ruffian outpost, part granola munching hippie enclave..."

18. Penn State: The tailgating scene here is so "over the top" that school officials have banned the consumption of alcohol after kickoff.

19. Georgia: "Girls look damn good in red and black and tens of thousands of them are all over town on game day."

20. UCLA: The Rose Bowl--nuf sed...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week four: College football predictions

Last week: 15-3
Season record: 31-9 (.775)

Kansas Jayhawks fans can breathe easy--KU has a "bye" week this weekend, so let's focus on the rest of the Big 12 and other key games across the country.

Oklahoma over Missouri: Missouri has not won in Norman since 1966. Oklahoma lost last year in Columbia. OU showed poise and confidence in pulling away from Florida State late in last week's 10 point win in Tallahassee. A MU win would be huge. It's not going to happen--OU by 18.

Miami over Kansas State: Another team coming off of a big win is Miami, 24-6 winners last week over Ohio State. Jacory Harris is back at QB for the Canes and the U's line, on both sides of the ball, will be too much for KSU. Miami by 17.

Game of the Day--Oklahoma State over Texas A&M: A&M is the home favorite in this battle of high-powered offense (Cowboys) versus stingy defense (Aggies.) OSU must establish enough of a run threat to open up their passing game, which is averaging 408 yards per game. Oklahoma State by two.

Baylor over Rice: It's an old Southwest Conference match-up but Rice will be no match for this newly revitalized Baylor program. The line is 20.5 but it'll be worse than that as Robert Griffin III continues his Heisman campaign--Baylor by 25.

Texas Tech over Nevada: Seth Doege completed 40 of 44 passes last week for Texas Tech, reminscent of Mike Leach's offenses in Lubbock. This one could get ugly--Tech by 21.

LSU over West Virginia: This could be a really interesting game. LSU travels to West Virginia to face a team they only beat by six last year in Baton Rouge. This will be a low-scoring game with LSU prevailing six.

Clemson over Florida State: Don't underestimate how important last week's game against OU was to Florida State. It was a tough loss and Clemson, conversely, beat the defending national champion, Auburn, at home. Clemson's playing with confidence; Florida State's confidence is fragile. Clemson by three.

Notre Dame over Pittsburgh: The Irish beat up on their Big East basketball brethren. Oh wait, Pitt is leaving the Big East in hoops too? Notre Dame by 10.

Arizona State over USC: How good is Arizona State? The jury's still out after last week's loss to Illinois. The Sun Devils will win at home by six.

Alabama over Arkansas: Roll, Tide, home by 10 over Arkansas. Is Alabama on course to face Oklahoma in the national title game?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The geography of realignment

Four, maybe five, super conferences; major television markets equating to major network deals; bringing together the best which thus stimulates new rivalries and enhances traditional ones. These are some of the reasons being floated for the crazed college athletics realignment world in which we live.

Rarely has the word "geography" or even "proximity" been used in what we've seen publicly. Let's take a look, shall we, at just how expansive some of these conferences will become if realignment becomes a reality.


The name of this conference, by the way, is the "Atlantic Coast Conference." That league will now feature Pittsburgh, from the hill country of Pennsylvania, which is roughly 380 miles from the Atlantic seaboard. The new league, with the addition of Syracuse and Pitt, will cover 10 states and a distance of 1,750 miles, north to south--the approximate mileage from Syracuse, N.Y. to Miami, FL. The good news? All of the schools are in the eastern time zone.

Big Ten

The Big Ten seems content--at least for now--to remain at 12 teams. (Don't even get me started on conference branding and the numbering system.) The granddaddy of all conferences covers nine states, two time zones, and a 1,230 mile trip from Lincoln, NE to State College, PA.

Pac 12

Let's make the leap that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech are headed to the Pac 12. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see the wackiness of any Texas school aligned with a conference that has the word "Pacific" in its naming convention. This expanded group of schools covers eight states but spread over three time zones. And, look out for that Austin, TX to Seattle, WA trip--that journey totes up to about 2,500 miles!


The new member in the SEC will be Texas A&M, if legal issues are worked out. That means that the conference will encompass 10 states and two time zones. The trip to avoid is from Lexington, KY to College Station, TX--about 1,060 miles.

Big 12/Big East

The runt of the realignment litter is the discussion about mashing-up Big 12 leftovers with remaining Big East football schools. For the sake of discussion, let's consider the league of Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, TCU and West Virginia. (This assumes that Connecticut and Rutgers will eventually defect to the ACC, following Syracuse and Pitt.) That's eight states, two time zones and a 1,425 mile trip from Ames, IA to Tampa, FL.

What's it all mean? Not much as little to no consideration seems to be given to travel schedules for student-athletes or the former convenience for fans to drive to away games. Who's surprised? Nothing has seemed logical over these past several days of long-standing conference relationships being blown up and long-time rivalries being cavalierly dismissed. As I keep thinking, it's sad...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Conference realignment--what Kansas and Missouri should do next

If ever there was a time for two bitter rivals to come together for the greater good, it's now. The University of Kansas and the University of Missouri are on the precipice of being left behind in the Armageddon which is conference realignment--or in a conference they don't desire--if they don't act together now by approaching the Big Ten and emphasizing the following:

- "We can deliver you--the Big Ten--the market of Kansas City and this community's avidity for college sports. And, by the way, we also have the facilities (Arrowhead, Sprint Center, historic Municipal Auditorium) and infrastructure which know how to host Mens and Womens post-season conference basketball tournaments, post-season football championships and in-season neutral site games. (Please note--you need Kansas as part of this package deal in order to deliver highly rated viewership in the Kansas City market. There are many more Kansas alums living in Kansas City than Missouri alums.)
- We (Missouri) can deliver the St. Louis market.
- We offer you the longest-running football rivalry west of the Mississippi.
- We offer you the most tradition-rich basketball program in the country, thus improving the overall status and power rating of the league's basketball.
- We offer you two excellent academic institutions, both of whom are in the Association of American Universities and at no risk of being booted out. (See Nebraska, who lost their AAU status this past year.)
- We offer you geographic proximity to your other member institutions.
- We offer you the chance to easily expand to 16 teams, thus matching your rivals in the ACC and Pac 12 who are recruiting schools as we speak. Make your sweetheart deal with Notre Dame, bring us on, then select someone else who is deserving. (By the way, we strongly suggest you look no further than Iowa State, another member of the AAU, who has a spirited rivalry with Iowa, another Big Ten school.)"

Rivals make for strange bedfellows but, if KU and MU don't partner on this, we likely will see KU in a cobbled together conference which includes Big 12 castoffs coupled with the remaining Big East schools, and Missouri will go to the SEC where they'll be in a conference where their football program becomes mid-tier and the academics don't rival those of the Big Ten.

Brady Deaton, Bernadette Gray-Little, Mike Alden and Sheahon Zenger need to have Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney on a conference call as soon as possible, if it hasn't happened already.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Greatest college football teams ever

The latest issue of The Sporting News has a distinguished panel of writers, players and coaches who have selected the ten best college football teams ever. The old Big Eight conference--or, at least, two of the eight--is well represented.

The 1971 Nebraska team was chosen as the best ever. That was the team who waged the epic "best game ever" with Oklahoma for conference supremacy, then whipped number two Alabama by 32 in the Orange Bowl. The Big Eight that year finished nationally at one-two-three--Nebraska ranked first, followed by Oklahoma and Colorado.

The 1974 Oklahoma Sooners were ranked third on the list followed by the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers in fourth. Bud Wilkinson's 1956 Oklahoma Sooners were rated fifth.

The top ten list is:

1. Nebraska - 1971
2. USC - 1972
3. Oklahoma - 1974
4. Nebraska - 1995
5. Oklahoma - 1956
6. Ohio State - 1968
7. Army - 1945
8. Alabama - 1961
9. Miami - 2001
10. Miami - 1987

The '71 Cornhusker team was dominant--they averaged 39 points per game while allowing only eight.

College football: Week three predictions

Last week: 9-2
Season record: 18-6

Tonight/UConn over Iowa State. Look who’s at the top of the Big 12 standings—Iowa State! The Cyclones are 2-0 and are coming off an emotional win over in-state rival Iowa. Iowa State will face a UConn team which beat Fordham at home before losing by three last week at Vanderbilt. It’ll be close but UConn will win by a late field goal.

Georgia Tech over Kansas. Georgia Tech wants revenge for last season’s loss in Lawrence. Kansas wants to silence those who still doubt, even though the Jayhawks are 2-0. KU must find some way to shore up a defense which is giving up 33 points a game, 96th in the country. Both teams like to run the ball—Tech is third in rushing yards nationally and Kansas is tenth. Key stat: When James Sims rushes for 100 yards, Kansas wins. The line is 15 but I think it’ll be closer—Tech by 8.

Kansas State over Kent State. K-State has had two weeks to stew about their less-than-upbeat performance in a 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky in the opener. They’ll be facing an 0-2 Kent State team on Saturday before going on the road to Miami. In a “fixer-upper” game, KSU wins big by 17.

Missouri over Western Illinois. MU lost the battle in the desert against Arizona State last week but QB James Franklin found loads of confidence in leading a late Missouri comeback. MU by 21.

Oklahoma State over Tulsa. How good is OSU’s offense? The Cowboys are second in passing yards nationally and eighth in points per game. Tulsa will be no match—OSU by 17.

Texas over UCLA. Last year, Texas was 3-0 and ranked seventh entering the game with UCLA. The Longhorns lost and went 2-7 over the rest of the season. This year, Texas re-enters the top 25 after starting 2-0 but will face UCLA with a new starting QB (Case McCoy in place of Garrett Gilbert) and starting tailback (Malcolm Brown over Fozzy Whitaker.) McCoy will share time with David Ash but will play the majority of the minutes. Texas revenges last year’s loss in a close game—UT by three.

Texas A&M over Idaho. Pick a score number. A&M by 35? Sounds good…

Texas Tech over New Mexico. Almost as bad but not quite as big a margin—Tech by 21.

BYU over Utah. These two rivals will slug it out after tough losses—BYU by one to Texas and Utah by nine to Pac 12 foe USC. BYU is at home and will win by four.

Clemson over Auburn. Auburn’s bubble finally bursts—after finding ways to win over Utah State and Mississippi State, the Tigers come back to reality with a four point loss to Clemson.

Colorado over Colorado State. Colorado may be flinging the ball all over the field (ranked 11th in passing yardage) but the Buffs are still 0-2. Colorado State is 2-0 and has only allowed 12 points per game. CU wins by seven in this rivalry game in Denver.

Florida over Tennessee. It’s been six years since Tennessee has beaten Florida. And, you can now make it seven. Florida by eight.

Maryland over West Virginia. What wacky uniform combo will Maryland unveil tomorrow? In one of the better games of the day, West Virginia will win by two.

Notre Dame over Michigan State. After last week's sensational finish in Ann Arbor, the Golden Domers take on that "other" Michigan team. ND's fortunes will change with their first win of the season--a touchdown margin over Michigan State.

Miami over Ohio State. This is the game which provides all sort of comedic fodder for the travails of college football this past off-season--"Little Luke" and his escapades versus "Tattoo-gate." Jacory Harris returns to lead the Hurricanes at quarterback--Miami by three.

Game of the Day: Oklahoma over Florida State. Maybe this game will help everyone remember that Oklahoma still plays football. Of late, the reason for watching OU is to see what the school's administration decides--stay in the Big 12 or head west to the Pac 12? Number one versus number five. The biggest game in Tallassee in years. Last year, OU won by 30 over FSU--revenge the loss, win this game, and the 'Noles are in the thick of national championship talk. OU by four.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Things that make you go "hmm..."

In today's "things that make you go 'hmm...'" department, we have the topic of conference realignment--the news item which has been dominating sports pages and radio talk shows for the past several weeks.

So, our "things that make you go 'hmm...'"

- Have you heard the term "student athlete" used in any of the discussions? Aren't they the ones playing the sports which will be affected by conference affiliations?

- Out of close to 500 players on rosters of Texas schools in the Big 12, over 400 are from the state of Texas. With dissolution of the conference, those players will end up playing the majority of their games in front of fans outside of the state of Texas.

- Why is it that arguments like "more travel days" and "too much time away from class" are used as reasons why there isn't a national championship "tournament" in college football, yet you never hear those concerns voiced about conference alignments where University of Kansas players might travel to Syracuse, N.Y. (if the Jayhawks end up in the Big East) or Missouri footballers would journey to Gainesville, FL (if MU would end up in the SEC?) Geographic proximity, with current conference alignments, does reduce travel...right?

- Did I miss the phone call or mail survey asking my opinion on the matter? After all, I have been a season ticketholder at Kansas for a long, long time and contribute to the University's Williams Educational Fund. Just like the above point on student athletes, I've noticed little acknowledgment about the role of the fans.

- Does tradition matter? If Kansas and Missouri go to separate conferences, the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi will likely end. The oldest continuous football series (Kansas-Nebraska) in the west has already been stopped with NU's departure to the Big Ten.

- And finally, it's long been said that "sports are the front porch of the University." No where is that more true than at Kansas State, who saw interest in the school and resulting enrollment increase once the Wildcats achieved success in football and became more of a national brand. If KSU does not end up in a BCS conference--a distinct possibility--then the resulting enrollment, and giving, will decline. There has been little public acknowledgment, by those making the comments, about the impact of conference realignment beyond what happens in the stadiums and arenas across the country.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

College football: Week two predictions

Last week: 9-4

Tonight/Oklahoma State over Arizona. Oklahoma State will continue to put up huge numbers but is facing a QB who isn’t too shabby—Nick Foles. Foles threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns against Northern Arizona in week one but will face an OSU defense whose starting lineup only allowed two field goals last week. OSU, at home, by 17.

Friday/Arizona State over Missouri. The last time MU played in Tempe, they lost to Iowa in the 2010 Insight Bowl. On Friday, the Tigers will face another tough test in this Phoenix suburb, particularly given the late (9:30 CDT) start and Friday night date. Both teams are banged up—Arizona has already lost three starters to season-ending injuries and Missouri will play without DE Jacquies Smith and LB Will Ebner, among others. Arizona State by four.

Kansas over Northern Illinois. Make no mistake—this is a good Northern Illinois team. NIU won 11 games last season and is favored to win the MAC which is why they are six point favorites over a team which is still suspect, even though the Jayhawks had impressive moments last week against McNeese State. Kansas must shore up its issues on defense—the Jayhawks did not force a turnover last week, had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, and routinely over-pursued. Look for KU to work, once again, to establish the run and thus control time of possession. I’m being an optimist and going with KU by three in this one.

Iowa over Iowa State. It’s the annual state rivalry game and once again the Hawkeyes are favored. This game, in Ames, will be closer than expected. Look for Iowa to win by a touchdown.

Texas over BYU. This should be one of the better games of the day. The win over Rice unveiled a new look Texas offense but this week’s opponent is much stronger, thus given head coach Mack Brown a better understanding as to his team’s progress. BYU will be looking to knock off a second straight BCS conference opponent after last week’s 14-13 win at Mississippi. Surprisingly, UT is 0-2 all-time versus BYU but should get its first series victory on Saturday—Texas by 10.

Cal over Colorado. Colorado was not impressive in its opening loss to Hawaii last week and now must visit California, one of the Buffs’ new Pac-12 brethren. Cal by six.

Notre Dame over Michigan. A six-hour home game loss, a starting QB who’s been benched—it’s not been a good week for Notre Dame. So, a trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan, who won 34-10 last week over Western Michigan, may not be what the doctor ordered. I suspect that ND will bounce back and, in a close one, prevail by a field goal.

Auburn over Mississippi State. Mississippi State is a rising program in the SEC. Auburn survived week one against Utah State. Auburn looks for a fourth straight victory over the Bulldogs, ranked 16th in the country. Win in Auburn and Mississippi State establishes itself as a legitimate SEC contender. It won’t happen—Auburn by three.

South Carolina over Georgia. Could Mark Richt’s seat get any hotter? After an opening game loss to Boise State, the Bulldogs must turn around and play SEC foe South Carolina. Georgia has won seven of the last eight from SC but won’t make it eight of nine—Carolina wins by four in Athens.

USC over Utah. Welcome to the Pac-12, Utah. The Utes journey to the Los Angeles Coliseum to do battle with the Men of Troy. USC by 10.

Game of the week: Alabama over Penn State. It’s a classic inter-sectional matchup—Paterno versus Saban, Big Ten against SEC—and it’s a rivalry which hasn’t been played since 1990. Penn State will have home field advantage; Alabama will get the victory. Crimson Tide by 10.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quote of the week

Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, said this to the St. Petersburg Times on the death of Lee Roy Selmon, Hall of Fame defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this past week: "He didn't play at Miami or Florida. He was from Oklahoma and he came to Tampa and played nine years and they named an expressway after him. That's all you need to know about Lee Roy Selmon."

Monday, September 5, 2011

If it's good enough for Oregon...

Don't look now but other schools are emulating the multiple uniform combinations look of the University of Oregon. The Ducks' variety of uniforms has been building over the past 15 years in the school's long history with Nike and it culminated with Oregon's national championship game appearance versus Auburn. Ironically, Oregon played a school--Auburn--who has done little, if anything, to its traditional uniform look over the past few decades. Auburn, like Penn State, USC, Oklahoma and Nebraska, has eschewed the changed uni look in favor of taking a more traditional approach to outfitting its football team.

Now that Oregon has successfully pulled off the multi-uniform approach, other schools are following suit as are other uniform and equipment providers. This year, Oklahoma State--another Nike school--has adopted the multiple helmet, jersey and pants look as have Arizona State, Wyoming and Washington State. Not to be outdone, Maryland has copied the approach with Under Armour as has South Carolina. And, Adidas is doing the same for North Carolina State.

Rob Mullens, Oregon's athletics director, said this of the school's branding effort, "We used to be ridiculed for being out there, but now you look across college football and it's the trend."

(Source: Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

For love of the game

Yesterday, for the 51st year, by my count, I journeyed to my favorite college town in America--Lawrence, KS--to take in the opening of the college football season at my alma mater, the University of Kansas.

To be a football fan at Kansas is, well, hard to explain...or justify. We Kansans have reveled in the glory of some of the best to ever play the game--Gallopin' Gale Sayers; John Hadl, who was an All-American both as a running back and then as a quarterback; John Riggins, the middle brother of the wild Riggins clan; Nolan Cromwell, the best athlete I ever saw, who came to Lawrence from tiny Ransom, KS; and more recently, Touchdown Todd Reesing, the small kid nobody recruited, from Austin, TX, who only walked away as the most prolific quarterback in the school's history and the engineer of the most unlikely season in KU history, which was capped by a BCS bowl victory in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

We Kansas fans have also suffered through more than our fair share of ignominy. We've had the messy exit of Mark Mangino; the 39-year losing streak to Nebraska; a loss in the 1968 Orange Bowl due to having 12 men on the field on the final, clinching play; and years when we put an embarrassing product on the field and lost to teams such as North Dakota State, San Diego State, Kent State and other "directional" schools.

Yet, yesterday, just like I've done for all these years, I put on my crimson-and-blue gear, loaded the car with tailgate supplies, and set off for "the Hill," four hours ahead of game time.

I owe this love of the college game to the man who first took me over to KU those many years ago--my father. And, it was my dad who I called this afternoon so that he would have my eye-witness report on how the team looked.

My Dad is grayed, stooped, and battling a variety of health concerns. The topic of college football in the fall, and basketball in the winter, is just the antidote, though, to cheer him up. He had to quiz me about the young Jayhawk running backs, and, of course, regale me with how that 1961 backfield of Hadl, Curtis McClinton, Doyle Schick, and Bert Coan was "the best I've ever seen;" lament that the radio broadcast missed one of the touchdowns due to a commercial; and ask "what are we going to do about that defense?"

When I, with Dad and Mom, would drive the 45 miles to Lawrence, we'd park on a side street, unfold our old lawn chairs, and eat the sandwiches Mom had made--our 1960s version of a tailgate. The four-block walk to the stadium would be over brick-lined sidewalks and through fallen leaves of orange and brown. As we got closer to the stadium, students would be hawking game day mums for the ladies and pennants and caps for kids like me.

The stadium experience is far different now. There are big screen scoreboards in high definition. Hospitality tents dot the Hill which formerly, back in the day, was packed with those vying for a view of the game, but without paying for a ticket. I don't park on a side street anymore--I join the regulars in Lot 50 as a parking pass is now part of the price of season ticket admission.

What stays the same is the love of a fall Saturday in a beautiful college town, watching a sport played by young men wearing the colors of my school. My father exposed me to this game, explained the "X's and O's," and, most importantly, taught me what it means to be a fan. You see, in his eyes, a true fan is one who is always there--not only for the glory years of Reesing, Hadl and Riggins, but also for the years where success was measured by beating Kansas State and/or Missouri and hoping for off-season success in recruiting.

I will be forever grateful to my Dad for sharing his passion for this game with me. The sport is tarnished with the various off-field scandals and conference realignment talk dominating the sports pages but one thing remains constant--when they play between the lines, those representing our schools are galvanizing alumni and fans and giving us all hope for a taste of something special...and a chance to remember our own "best backfield we ever saw."