Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Worst Best Season

Another season has come and gone and while Giants fans everywhere will probably remember 2007 as the season Barry broke Hank's record, I will think of one other Giant who had to endure what may have been the most frustrating season for a player ever.

I'm talking about Giants ace Matt Cain and his 7-16 record. That's right, 7-16 and I called him the ace of the staff. Cain led all Giants full-time starters in ERA (3.65), innings pitched (200), strikeouts (163), WHIP (1.26) and was second in opponent's batting average (.235).

In 2007 Cain established himself as not only the top arm on a staff full of quality arms, but one of the best pitchers in the game. It's just a shame many people will take a look at that win-loss record and dismiss this year as a failure.

Last year, in what many call Cain's "breakout" season, he wasn't this good. In just under ten fewer innings in 2006 Cain allowed nine more runs, four more home runs and eight more walks with an ERA half a run higher than his 2007 mark.

Cain ranked 10th in the NL and 20th in all of baseball in ERA in 2007. Not a single pitcher in the top 50 had more losses than Cain's 16 or fewer wins than Cain's 7. In fact only Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie, with his 7-5 record, even matched Cain's season total for wins.

He was also ranked 5th in the NL in hits allowed per nine innings with 7.79 and opponents batting average, meaning he wasn't hit hard. In fact the only thing he really struggled with all year was his command as he led the league with 12 wild pitches and walked 3.56 batters per nine innings.

Of course anyone who watched as much of Cain as I did this season knows that a lot of that had to do with him trying to be too fine, knowing he was going to get little or no support from his team.

Five times Cain left the game with a lead of two runs or more only to see his bullpen give it up and cost him a win. Each time Cain pitched into at least the 6th inning, and four of those times he took the lead into the 7th or later.

Seven times Cain gave up two or less earned runs in a start, and lost. In one early-April stretch Cain allowed three earned runs in 29 innings pitched over four starts and finished with a 1-1 record. The one win, a complete game effort by Cain which the Giants won 2-1.

For the year the Giants and their anemic offense only gave Cain 3.20 runs of support per start. Meanwhile teammate Noah Lowry received 4.70 runs of support on his way to a team-high 14 wins. Lowry had an 87/87 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Cain's was 163/79.

The numbers are ridiculous, but what was most impressive about Cain's season was how well he handled the lack of support. He never let up and actually got better as the season dragged on. Imagine how easy it could have been for him to mail it in and let his frustration get the best of him, but that never happened.

Only once over his last 12 starts dating back to July 28th did Cain allow more than three earned runs and that perseverance paid off as he won four games in that stretch, including three in a row in August.

Looking forward to 2008, I am very excited to see what Cain can do and I wouldn't think twice about naming him as a serious contender for the Cy Young award as soon as next season.

Next up for Cain will be his 23rd birthday which he'll celebrate on Monday, and I can't think of anyone who deserves a few gifts more than he does.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Call it the Emperor's Cup

This week's playing of the 7th President's Cup has me glued to televised golf for the last time for the next two and a half months. That of course is the amount of time Tiger plans on taking off once the event is over, and I think I'll do the same.

It also got me thinking about what it would be like if we could actually have one of the these biennial team golf events that actually features the best players from everywhere around the world.

For those of you that don't know, the President's Cup features an "international" team consisting of all the best players from countries outside of the United States and Europe. Meanwhile the more popular and more contentious Ryder Cup is the U.S. vs. the best that Europe has to offer.

Now that's all well and good, but wouldn't it be great if we could combine the two Cups into one "us against the world" slugfest? It's a pipe dream, but something that I think would be great for golf.

The Emperor's Cup, as we're going to call it, would consist of two teams of 16 players each. The other Cups have 12 man teams, but with the expanded list of players to choose from, 16 seems like a better number.

The selection of the teams would be based solely on the World Golf Rankings which takes into account a players performance over two years. This is would be a point of contention for some who would rather see the hottest players play, but this is my Cup and I think there should be a reward for playing well over a longer stretch of time.

If this uber-Cup were to be played today the teams would look like this:

United States: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank, Aaron Oberholser (if healthy), David Toms, Brett Wetterich, Woody Austin, Charles Howell III, Mark Calcavecchia, Boo Weekley, Hunter Mahan, David Love III

World Team: Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington, Rory Sabbatini, Sergio Garcia, K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy, Vijay Singh, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Henrik Stenson, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Angel Cabrera, Aaron Baddeley, Niclas Fasth

I'll admit, I wouldn't want any part of that World Team which is absolutely stacked, but the U.S. team wouldn't exactly be soft. With the rosters expanded to 16 it would allow for veteran players like Calcavecchia and Love to perhaps bring that experience "x-factor" to the table.

The scoring and format would pretty much stay the same, with one major exception. In the Emperor's Cup there would be eight foursome matches on day one, eight four-ball matches on day two. However instead of another day of team matches there would be instead eight singles matches on day three and finally eight more singles matches on the final day.

That would make for 32 total points available, with 16 1/2 points necessary to take home the cup. The format would also not allow teams to "hide" players like they do in those other Cups because everyone plays three total matches no matter what.

The decision to hold half of the singles matches on day three in my mind would do a few things. For one it would bring another major tactical element into play for the team captains. If you're behind heading into day three you might want to get your big guns out there to make up the ground and avoid suffering an early defeat.

On the other hand if you have a lead heading into day three you might want to set things up so your weakest guys go first. Of course you could employ the opposite strategy and let your team's best get out there and end the thing.

Another reason for starting singles play earlier is, despite the fact that team play is fun to watch, golf is an individual game and a one-on-one battle is always going to be the most exciting form of match play.

Lastly, the other Cups use a 6/6/10/12 match-per-day format which means some of the early action on days three and four goes unseen on television with the matches starting early. With eight singles matches on days three and four respectively, all the matches can be shown each day without a problem.

I can just envision a comeback on day three by the U.S. Team where they square the point total at 12 apiece, setting up a Sunday showdown between 16 of the world's best players. Tiger vs. Ernie, Phil vs. Sergio, it would be beautiful.

So if anyone has Tim Finchem's cell phone number and wants to send it to me I'd be more than willing to propose my idea. Oh, and I suppose I could run it by Tiger too.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thank You

Barry Bonds as a Giant:
  • Five-Time NL MVP
  • 12-Time NL All-Star
  • 586 Home Runs
  • Five-Time Gold Glove Winner
  • Nine-Time Silver Slugger Award Winner
  • Led NL in .OBP Eight Times
  • Led NL in Slugging % Five Times
  • 73 Home Runs in 2001 (Single Season Record)
  • Four Post Season Appearances, One World Series (2002) where he hit .471 with four HRs
  • Led NL in Walks 11 Times
  • Became only member of 400/400 and 500/500 club (Home Runs/Stolen Bases)
  • Became the All-Time HR King, ending the 2007 season with 762 career HRs

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Talent Rich

Watching Vince Young carry his Tennessee Titans past the Reggie Bush-led New Orleans Saints got me thinking about what for my money was one of the five best games - in any sport - that I have ever seen.

I'm talking of course about the 2006 Rose Bowl where Young draped his burnt orange Superman cape around himself one last time as a member of the Longhorns and led them to a 41-38 win over USC and Bush.

That game, while incredible for many reasons, may in fact go down as the single greatest collection of talent on a collegiate football field ever. Everyone knows about Young and Bush, but you can't forget Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Michael Huff and others who shared the field that January night.

The Stars: The biggest stars and best players from that game have already been mentioned and the list has to start with Young. People knew Young was an immense talent leading up to the game, but few knew he would almost single handedly lift his Texas teammates to the upset win.

In the game, Young accounted for 467 of Texas' 556 yards of total offense as well as three rushing touchdowns, the last of which proved to be the game-winner with 0:19 left. Later that year he would be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Titans and is currently one of the brightest stars the league has to offer.

The other transcendent star that emerged from that game was of course Bush, who was named the Heisman Trophy winner prior to the Rose Bowl. Like Young, everyone knew Bush was capable of dismantling a defense with his blazing speed and other-worldly moves.

Interestingly it was Bush who was in the middle of what many believe to be the turning point for Texas that night. Well on his way to what looked like another USC score and a 14-0 lead, Bush inexplicably ended a 37-yard catch-and-run with an ill-timed lateral which resulted in a turnover and a sudden change in momentum.

The lateral and ensuing fumble would overshadow yet another big time performance by Bush who ran 13 times for 82 yards and a touchdown and hauled in six passes for 95 more yards. The touchdown was vintage Bush who tight roped the sideline before launching himself from the five yard line into the end zone.

Bush and the Trojans would see their 34-game winning streak come to an end that night, but on the same day Young was picked third overall in the NFL Draft, Bush would go second to the Saints. In his rookie season Bush set a rookie-record with 88 receptions and accounted for 1,523 total yards and nine touchdowns.

USC quarterback Matt Leinart was the king of Los Angeles when he decided to pass on the riches of an NFL contract and return to school for one more run at the title. Leinart's second - and last - loss as a Trojan saw him go 29-of-40 for 365 yards including one touchdown and one interception.

The decision to come back for his final year of eligibility seemed like a risky play, especially in the aftermath of the Rose Bowl. Although the 49ers will never admit it, had Leinart entered the draft after his Heisman winning campaign in 2004 he would almost certainly been the top overall pick. Instead he fell to 10th overall and the Arizona Cardinals where he is currently the teams starting QB.

The Other Big Names: Young, Bush and Leinart may have been the headliners in the 2006 Rose Bowl, but another group of very talented players left their mark on the game.

The "thunder" to Bush's "lightning", bruising tailback LenDale White led the Trojans with 20 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Interestingly he is now Young's teammate with the Titans and scored a touchdown against Bush's Saints this past Monday night.

Sandwiched between Bush, Young and Leinart in the 2006 NFL Draft was Texas defensive back Michael Huff who was picked 7th overall by the Oakland Raiders. It was Huff who recovered the Bush lateral and he was all over the field that night, solidifying his status as the top defensive back in the nation that year.

Another member of the Texas secondary stood out in the Rose Bowl and now finds himself reunited with Young in Tennessee. Safety Michael Griffin recorded the only interception of Leinart in the title game that year and a season later was the first round pick of the Titans.

Protecting Leinart has become a habit for guard Deuce Lutui who did so at USC and now does the same as a starting guard for the Arizona Cardinals. Picked a round after Leinart, the selection of Lutui was criticized by some, but Lutui has shut up the doubters and already has 12 starts in just over one season.

Somewhat overshadowed by a couple of other Griffin's in the Texas secondary, Cedric Griffin did a nice job covering USC stud receiver Steve Smith in the Rose Bowl and is now the starting cornerback opposite Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield for the Minnesota Vikings.

Speaking of Smith, while he didn't have a Rose Bowl to remember he was one of the most consistent and steady targets for Leinart at USC his entire career. Picked in the 2nd round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Giants, Smith is working himself into a more prominent role in New York.

Smith's partner in the USC receiving corps was one of the best wide receivers in college history, Dwayne Jarrett. Jarrett was the receiving star of the Rose Bowl, hauling in 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Also picked in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft, Jarrett has yet to play for the Carolina Panthers, but his talent is undeniable.

In all, 28 players who participated in the 2006 Rose Bowl were drafted in the 2006 and 2007 NFL Drafts. Some of the other notables include CB Aaron Ross (Texas), OG Justin Blalock (Texas), C Ryan Kalil (USC), DE Brian Robison (Texas), S Darnell Bing (USC) TE David Thomas (Texas), TE Dominique Byrd (USC), and OT Jonathan Scott (Texas).

The Future: The overflow of talent from that memorable game doesn't end with those that have already reached the NFL. And while not all of them played a major role in the Rose Bowl that year, they were there and are about ready to make a serious impact at the next level as soon as 2008.

Leading the way are a trio of Trojans who are all ranked among the top 15 seniors by Scouts Inc. Tops on that list is defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis who is a disruptive force in the middle for USC. He's joined by tackle Sam Baker who started at left tackle in the Rose Bowl, and linebacker Keith Rivers who figures to go in the top half of the 2008 draft.

Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed caught eight passes in the Rose Bowl for 65 yards and was the Longhorns second leading receiver that night. Most think Sweed will follow in the footsteps of another former Longhorn in the person of Detroit Lions receiver Roy Williams with his combination of size and speed.

Although he missed the Rose Bowl with a knee injury, USC cornerback Terrell Thomas is a big time cover corner with the size to deal with big NFL receivers. If he proves he can overcome his injury history he could be off the board in the first round of the 2008 draft.

Texas defensive tackle Frank Okam is another high-upside player who could be a major factor in the first round of the 2008 draft with a solid senior season in Austin.

At the time few people were giving a second thought about who was backing up Leinart at quarterback for the nation's #1 team, but that man just happened to be Heisman hopeful John David Booty. Booty is a polished, consistent performer and should be drafted in 2008.

Only a freshman at the time, running back Jamaal Charles ran the ball five times for 34 yards in the Rose Bowl and now finds himself as one of the top underclassmen running backs who could declare for the 2008 draft.

Another then-freshman, WR Patrick Turner, is now the man at USC in the receiving corps with the departure of Jarrett and Smith. He's big (6-foot-4 1/2) and with another year under his belt at USC could easily be one of the top receivers in the 2009 draft.

One USC pass catcher who could make a splash in the NFL next year is tight end Fred Davis. Davis was overshadowed by Dominique Byrd in the Rose Bowl, but Davis is a better natural receiver. A former wideout himself, Davis is one of the top senior tight ends in the nation.

Baker may get all the headlines, but Texas has their own stud tackle in Tony Hills. Hills is considered one of the top five or six offensive linemen in the country and should be a stud at the next level.

Should Texas and USC meet again this year in a bowl game, Hills will be tested by another super defensive lineman from USC, defensive end Lawrence Jackson. Jackson is an explosive playmaker off the edge and will certainly hear his name called in the 2008 draft.

Two other USC defenders could opt for an early entry into the NFL Draft and both could be big time performers at the next level. Linebackers Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing are currently playing alongside Rivers and all three could soon be playing on Sundays.

The Bottom Line: The list of current and potential stars who populated the rosters of Texas and USC that night in the Rose Bowl is long and distinguished and has to be considered maybe the greatest collection of talent ever assembled for a single collegiate football game.

For a full list of players who played for Texas and USC, just follow the links.

Please feel free to leave me a question, comment or suggestion as I always like to hear what you have to say. If you don't have a Google account and can't leave a comment on the blog, e-mail me at

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Please, Just Watch the Game

As a fan of many sports I've spent countless hours taking in the sights and sounds of everything from the Final Four in March to the World Series in October (and sometimes November). And while the sights always find a way to thrill and excite me, the sounds have become - how do I say this - annoyingly inconsistent.

What is he talking about, you ask?

I'm talking about the play-by-play announcers who muddle through their assignments week after week, blowing calls and leaning so heavily on their ex-professional athlete/coach color guys they might as well be doing the broadcast blindfolded. Who knows, they might actually luck into a correct call once in a while.

OK, so I'm being a little dramatic about the state of play-by-play commentators, but take a closer listen to some of these guys over the next few weeks and you'll hear what I'm talking about.

I can't be the only one who is sick of hearing these guys blabber away, more intent on gushing with hyperbole than actually accurately calling the action on the field. These guys have high-definition monitors three feet in front of their faces, they're in the stadium with the game going on in front of them and still they can't tell a pass to the sidelines from a slant in the middle of the field.

It is their job to describe the action as it happens on the field, and while I understand that things move very quickly, I suppose I just expect my play-by-play guys to be able to digest what they're seeing and tell me about it. They're paid professionals and I shouldn't have to listen to guys correct themselves every few minutes because they made an over-the-top call on a game-changing fumble that never actually happened.

Also it's their job to know how to correctly pronounce player names, and while I'll grant that Jones is easier than Ta'ufo'ou, that's something that professional broadcasters who are making good money should take the time to make sure they're going to get right on-air.

Mistakes are going to happen, I know that, but it's getting out of control. More and more guys are getting jobs despite the fact they can't seem to get through a single broadcast without botching things that people who are actually watching the games would never miss. I can see it clear as day on my non-plasma or LCD television, why can't they?

This is not to say that there aren't some really good play-by-play guys out there, because there are. Sunday Night Football is graced with the talents of an all-time great in Al Michaels, while ESPN should be proud of the job Mike Tirico does every week on Monday Night Football.

At the risk of sounding like a total homer, the best in the business for my money is the team of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow who broadcast San Francisco Giants games for Fox Sports Net. They're entertaining and knowledgeable and they actually pay attention to what's going on. Maybe it's because both of them are ex-players, but when a guy throws a straight change-up I never hear Kuiper refer to it as a curveball.

And this mini-epidemic knows no age/experience limit. In fact one of the oldest play-by-play men, Dodgers mainstay Vin Scully, consistently calls the game right with rarely a misstep. He's 79 years old for crying out loud and he does it without the crutch of a color guy.

Maybe I'm just too particular and perhaps I just know too much (thanks Dad), but I still think some of these guys have to go. Is it asking too much for a little accuracy from professional announcers who are supposed to know what it is they are seeing? I think not.

Friday, September 21, 2007

So Long Barry

It's official, Barry Bonds will not be a member of the San Francisco Giants in 2008.

This coming from Barry's website where he wrote in his online journal about a meeting he had with members of the Giants' brass. Barry indicated that the team has decided not to attempt to re-sign him after the season is over, despite the fact that he surpassed their expectations of him this season.

As I wrote this past week, this is a day we as Giants fans had to know was coming but had to hope never would. Barry meant the world to the baseball fans of the great city of San Francisco and he will be missed.

Thanks for the memories Barry, you're the best I've ever seen.

To read Barry's journal entry, click here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why College Football is Better than the NFL (Part 2)

So reasons numbers 6 through 10 weren't enough to convince you huh? Well that's why I made this a top-10 list and saved the best for last. So without further ado, lets return to the list.

5. Unpredictability: Can you say Appalachian State? Better yet, can you find Appalachian State on a map? Chances are prior to week one of the college football season you had no idea who Appalachian State was and probably didn't care.

Now of course they are the architects of the greatest upset in college football history. Checking in at number five on the list, it's this type of off-the-wall unpredictability that makes the college game so much more fun than the NFL.

In the NFL the name of the game is parity and when a team like the Browns, with a quarterback named Derek Anderson (no, not that one) hangs half a hundred on the Bengals it's not that big a deal. The major upset has disappeared from the pro game and that gives the edge to college football on a week-to-week basis because you just never know what might happen on the college gridiron.

Already in 2007 there have been some true shockers. USF goes into Jordan Hare and takes out SEC power Auburn, who then gets beat by SEC doormat Mississippi State. Utah pimp slaps then #11 UCLA and Kentucky finally beats their in-state rival Louisville in an instant classic of a football game.

Anything, and I mean anything, can happen in college football which brings us to number four on the list...

4. They're Just Kids: Having spent time around professional athletes and their somewhat lackluster attitudes towards just about everything, it's refreshing to see kids playing a kids game.

Don't get me wrong, nowadays collegiate athletes are more and more aware of their own talents and like most kids try to emulate their professional idols. But despite the fact that they are literally young adults, from a maturity standpoint they are still just kids.

They make the game fun with their unscripted celebrations and not-so-great decision making at times. They also have the ability to let the emotional wave control them in a way that the professionals simply don't.

The pros are measured and calculated and almost completely un-affected by ra-ra stuff or "win one for the Gipper" speeches. College kids on the other hand are still inspired by the simple idea of playing for one another.

Maybe it's because they're not worth millions and most of them know they don't have a future on Sundays, but there's something so much more entertaining about the highs and lows produced by college kids every Saturday.

3. The NFL Draft: Why is an NFL event sitting at number three on the big list you ask? Well without the college game and its popularity the NFL Draft would not be the sort of event that it has become. No other sport has a draft that comes with as much anticipation and hype as football and it's because the college game is so great.

I am a self-described draft junkie. I'm the guy who likes to see every pick of every round and mark guys off my draft sheet as they go. I'm the kid who (when I lived on the West Coast) would get up at 7:45 in the morning on a Saturday to settle in for the 10+ hours of coverage on ESPN. I simply can't get enough of it.

I'm into the potential of the top picks and interested in seeing where some of my favorite collegiate players land at the next level. Sure I care about who the Niners pick, but I love the draft because I'm an analyst at heart who gets excited over projecting guys at the next level no matter where they end up. If you don't believe me, take a look at my analysis of 50 of the top players in the 2007 draft.

It's cool to see EA Sports mock up screenshots of what the best players of tomorrow will look like in their new NFL threads. And it's cool to see kids who have worked their whole lives, many times with the odds stacked against them, finally reach the big time.

The other thing that I love about the draft is that it means a whole new crop of players will be starring for their schools in the fall after waiting for their turn to shine. The ever-changing landscape of the college game keeps it fresh and the draft just happens to be one of the more entertaining steps in the process.

2. Wide Open Style: They call the NFL a "copy-cat" league where teams take offensive and defensive strategies that work and tweak them to fit their own teams strengths. That's good strategy if it helps you win games, but lets be honest, it's pretty boring to see nearly every team in the league employing some version of the West Coast offense and/or a zone blitz scheme.

The college game features the most innovative and downright fun styles of play at any level. Sure Steve Spurrier's Fun-and-Gun never made it in the NFL, but he won a national title with it at Florida.

Current Florida head coach Urban Meyer guided the Gators to a national championship by utilizing a two-quarterback system and lots of designed QB running plays to go along with secondary-flooding wide receiver sets.

Only in college will you see the option and the spread option that gives mobile quarterbacks everywhere a chance to play and win. Trick plays, odd formations and multiple-use athletes like Penn State's Derrick Williams are all in play in the much more entertaining styles of play found at schools across the country.

Three yards and a cloud of dust just won't cut it in today's college football world and that makes me smile.

1. Every Game Counts: This is the easy one on the list, but still the most important in my humble opinion. One of the most popular Super Bowl picks, the New Orleans Saints, find themselves 0-2 to start the season and they - like everyone else - are still very much in the running for a playoff spot.

Conversely my beloved 49ers are off to a 2-0 start, but I know not to get overly excited as things can change quickly. The Michigan Wolverines on the other hand saw their title hopes dashed by - say it with me - Appalachian State.

The same is true for hopeful teams like Virginia Tech, Tennessee and Louisville who find themselves needing more than a little bit of help from the myriad of schools ahead of them in the polls.

Detractors say that the national title should be decided on the field with a playoff system, but I say a playoff system would only serve to kill what is currently the most important and exciting regular season in any sport.

I love college basketball, but when I really think about it, I really only love college basketball in March. I like it a lot during the regular season, but even the games biggest and best rivalry - North Carolina vs. Duke - means virtually nothing in the grand scheme of things. Both teams will most likely make the Big Dance with a chance to take home the big prize.

In college football you have to be virtually perfect all year to have a chance, and I love that. There's no pre-season to get things ironed out and no room for a let down if a school wants to win it all.

The system is not perfect, but it lends itself to more sustained excitement than any playoff system ever could. All a playoff would do is open the door to more teams whining and moaning about being left out, just as all the teams who are on the bubble and miss out on March Madness do in college basketball.

Quite simply college football is unmatched in weekly excitement and importance and that's the biggest reason why the NFL loses this matchup.

Okay, so there it is, that's the list and I hope you enjoyed it. Some of you may be wondering where things like tradition and rivalries are. Well this is my list and while those things are great, they narrowly missed the cut.

Feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment and let me know how you feel about this list. What other factors did I forget? Am I dead wrong in the first place? I want to know what you think.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why College Football is Better than the NFL (Part 1)

So I was going to make this a list on why college basketball is better than the NBA, but I thought a "top-37" list was going a little overboard. So instead I've decided to keep it in season and share with you my top 10 reasons why I think college football reigns over the pro game.

10. The Uniforms: The NFL has a few nice looks - the Saints and Falcons come to mind - but they have nothing on the sheer number of styles the college game boasts. From the outrageous Oregon Ducks to the classic Michigan Wolverines, the NFL just can't compete.

More than anything they take chances in the college game when it comes to uniforms. Every team it seems has a home look, a road look, an alternate home look, a night game look, a national television look, you name it they got it and I love it.

Kids seem to always be ahead of the curve when it comes to fashion and what looks good, and it's no different here.

9. Overtime: Is it just me or isn't there something just so anti-climactic about a 50-yard pass interference penalty followed by a 40-yard field goal to end a game? Well that's how they do it in the NFL. It doesn't matter if you just rallied from 30 points down at the half to force the extra period, you lose the coin toss and you are automatically behind the sudden death eight-ball.

Don't get me wrong, the college system isn't perfect, but it is better. Both teams get a chance to answer a score by the other and over the last several years the system has helped produced some of the greatest games in any sport. Anyone recall a recent BCS Bowl Game that featured a hook-and-lateral, a wide receiver pass and the statue of liberty?

The only thing I would do to tweak the college system is have the teams start at the 50-yard line to make field goals a bit tougher to get, but that's about it. I just love seeing two teams fighting and giving everything they have get a chance to keep their hopes alive in overtime.

8. The Crowds: The NFL stadiums and the people who fill them are great fans who can get loud and raucous with the best of them. Still, no pro crowd can come close to 105,000 in Neyland Stadium in Tennessee or 112,000+ packed into "The Big House".

Painted frat boys, bands belting out "The Imperial March" from Star Wars every 30 seconds and inebriated coeds are just a few of the reasons this sports fan loves a college crowd. Not to mention the fact that games are played in places called "Death Valley", "The Swamp" and "The Horseshoe". "Death Valley", how cool is that?

In the NFL they play at "name-that-huge-company field" and it all just seems a bit too controlled and big-business as opposed to the all-out passion that is the college game. When was the last time you saw the folks at Invesco Field storm the field after a big win over the Chargers? Not that I condone that sort of thing, but it is crazy to see a swarm of people target the goal posts for destruction after a win over a hated rival.

7. National Fan Bases: Born out of those crazy Saturday morning crowds are legions of life-long fans who, despite often times living hundreds of miles away from their beloved alma maters, seek out other alums for the express purpose of cheering on their school.

Sure there are pro football fans displaced by the circumstances of life (I live in Minnesota for crying out loud), but it's just not the same. Take in a Nebraska game at Sensor's in Bloomington, Minnesota some Saturday and prepare to be drowned in a sea of red.

That kind of devotion can be found in a few NFL fan bases like the Raiders and Steelers, but a person's alma mater tends to take center stage like little else.

6. The Great Debate: Sports talk radio types who belly ache every year about college football's lack of a playoff system should instead be donating a portion of their salaries to the NCAA for giving them never ending debates over who the best team really is and in turn keeping them in business.

There's something wonderful about guys getting together with other guys and arguing until they're red in the face over whether or not USC could beat LSU. And the debate lasts all season long, keeping the phone lines at KFAN full and giving the hosts of College Gameday something to talk about week in and week out.

If we're lucky we get to find out who would win a game between two top teams at the end of the season to prove who the better team is and which conference reigns supreme. And if we don't get our wish the debate rages into the off-season keeping college football on our minds 12 months a year, genius.

Tune in Thursday to find out the top 5 reasons why college football is better than the NFL.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Give the Kid a Chance

Vikings fans, I know it hurts to see your once glorious offensive juggernaut reduced to a dink-and-dunk three-and-out spree, but try to be patient. It can't stay this bad forever; at least I think it can't.

No, eventually head coach Brad Childress will take the handcuffs off Tarvaris Jackson and maybe, just maybe, he'll figure out how to throw something other than a seven-yard slant with accuracy. Maybe.

I mean really, how much could anyone have possibly expected from a guy who never played a down of Div-1A football before turning pro? Not to mention the fact that the team cut three of the receivers they had in camp who actually hang onto the ball when it's thrown to them (Billy McMullen, Martin Nance and Jason Carter anyone?).

All along I've been an advocate for letting Jackson play and figure things out on his own. He's talented enough to make things happen, but therein lies the problem with the handling of him to this point.

Childress and the offensive coaching staff has him so wound up with making precise reads and being technically sound that they've stripped him of his biggest strength, his own athletic instincts.

Anyone who saw him play at Alabama State will tell you that in those days Jackson was a dynamic playmaker with raw talent oozing from his pores. And while it's important for him to develop as a pocket passer and a guy who can read defenses, the Vikings have gone a bit overboard and bogged him down with too much information all at once.

A lot of people want to make the Michael Vick comparison and I think that's a bit off. Jackson is not the type of dynamic, game-changing athlete that Vick was despite similar builds and arm strength.

A better comparison in my mind is between Jackson and current Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia. Jackson clearly has a much stronger arm than Garcia, but like Garcia is at his best on the move as opposed to stuck in the pocket.

Garcia benefited early on in his career from steeping into an offense in San Francisco that was previously led by Steve Young who himself was a quarterback with quality athleticism. So when Garcia took over, the coaching staff for the 49ers knew how to utilize a mobile QB and keep things simple for him.

This is where I don't quite understand Childress' use of Jackson. Coming over from Philadelphia where he had Donovan McNabb one would think that an offense tailored around a quarterback with running skills would be right up Childress' alley. Instead he's taken the conservative route with Jackson and tried to mold him into something he's not.

I was always taught that you build your scheme around the players you have and their unique abilities. This is a tried and true Bill Walsh coaching tenant that Childress has apparently forgotten.

We saw it last year with the total misuse of the tight end position as a weapon in the passing game and we're seeing it already this year as Childress tries as hard as he can to fit Jackson's square peg abilities into the round hole of the pocket.

Am I suggesting that the Vikings should go spread option a la Tennessee and Vince Young? No. What I am suggesting is that Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell need to find more opportunities for Jackson to use his legs to set up the pass (i.e. naked boot legs, sprint out passes, etc.).

On top of that they need to take more than one or two shots down the field in the course of a game as well. A few foul ball deep passes aren't going to get defenses to loosen up on what could be an explosive Vikings running game, they need to let Jackson try and stretch the deep middle of the field from time to time.

This is where the tight ends and even a guy like Mewelde Moore would come into play if Childress would commit to working the seams a bit more instead of always having his backs and tight ends run curls, hitches and circle routes out of the backfield.

Spread the field a bit, line Moore or free agent pickup Visanthe Shiancoe up in the slot once in a while and force a linebacker or safety to play those guys one-on-one. Create those types of mismatches down the field and let Jackson and his big time arm do the rest.

The kid is going to make mistakes like we saw on Sunday against Detroit, that's just a fact of life with a young quarterback. But giving him opportunities to succeed and make plays on his own is a necessary step in his development.

I've seen Jackson work, I am confident he has it in him to be a quality NFL quarterback, all he needs is to get the ball rolling his way and the sky is the limit.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It Happened Last Night

When I saw the greatest ballplayer of our generation limp off the field last night in San Diego, I have to admit it finally hit me that this may very well be the last season that this die hard Giants fan will get to see #25 in the orange and black.

That realization makes me sad - there's no other way to put it - because Barry Bonds has meant so much to my team and my love of the game of baseball. I know the general public despises him, thinks he's a cheater and a generally bad guy, but to me he's the best I've ever seen and the single biggest reason why my Giants have been a winner more often than not since he arrived in 1993.

That year he helped take a team that was 72-90 the year before and led them to 103 wins. If the Wild Card had been in place that year they would have been able to make a real run at the World Series, but instead the Atlanta Braves won 104 games and took the NL West crown.

The next ten years of Giants baseball saw them amass a better overall regular season record than all but two teams, the aforementioned Braves and the New York Yankees. And while all that success only led to one appearance in the fall classic, it was the play of Bonds and the feeling that they would always have a chance with him that kept me looking forward to spring and the start of the baseball season.

I'm gonna miss Barry and I have a feeling no matter where he plays next season that he's going to miss San Francisco, but I guess they were right when they said all good things must come to end. I just wish "they" were wrong once in a while.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another Irish QB Gone

OK, so it might seem like I'm piling on Notre Dame here (I am a little), but it appears another Irish QB and top recruit has left the program to find playing time elsewhere.

This time it's game one starter Demetrius Jones who has reportedly decided to transfer to Northern Illinois. Jones got his one and only start two weeks ago against Georgia Tech and completed a grand total of one pass before being pulled from the game. First for Evan Sharpley and then by freshman sensation Jimmy Clausen.

The defection of Jones comes on the heels of the pre-season transfer of fellow QB recruit Zach Frazier to Connecticut. Jones and Frazier were two of Irish head coach Charlie Weis' prize recruits in 2006, his first full recruiting class as the head man in South Bend.

It was widely speculated that the presence of Clausen just a year after Jones and Frazier were brought in might cause this type of thing to happen, but after Frazier transferred many thought he'd be the only one. Now with Jones out of the picture as well it leaves the Irish with only Clausen and Sharpley as viable options under center.

What this does do for the Irish football program is place the weight of expectation squarely on the shoulder of Clausen who got his first start last week at Penn State. While his numbers in that game weren't particularly wonderful, the freshmen did show poise and pocket presence that belies his age.

There have been rumors that this is exactly what Weis wanted in the first place, not necessarily having both of his sophomore quarterbacks transfer, but going with Clausen from the beginning. No quarterback in recent memory has come along with more hype than Clausen and now he gets to show what he can do without the fear of getting pulled.

One has to wonder however what kind of impact the transfers of Jones and Frazier might have on quarterback recruiting for Notre Dame in the future. Weis has shown he's not shy about rolling with the younger guy if he feels he's the best available player, a fact that might scare off some potentially big time recruits. Not to mention the fact that in the short term any young QB that comes in will have an uphill battle to fight for playing time behind Clausen.

In case you're wondering, Weis has already picked up a verbal commitment from another top quarterback recruit in 6-foot-5 Dayne Crist out of Sherman Oaks, California. Rated as a 4-star recruit by, Crist turned down offers from USC, Oregon, Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Under the Golden Dome

This goes out to all you Notre Dame fans/alumni/boosters who called for the firing of former head football coach Tyrone Willingham back in 2004...


OK, now that we got that out of the way I'll try to make the rest of this a bit more civil.

Willingham is my favorite coach in college football, and maybe all of sports for that matter. Not only is he a quality coach, but more than that he's a quality person who embodies all the traits a leader of young men should.

Mothers around the country would do well to send their sons to Willingham whose character and leadership are the true cornerstones of successful programs. Apparently that's not good enough for the football factory in South Bend, but right now it's all the rave in the Pacific Northwest.

As the University of Washington gets ready to take on their toughest test thus far in #10 Ohio State, the season is already a rousing success after victories over Syracuse and the team with what was the nation's longest winning streak, Boise State.

That the Huskies are back on the national radar should come as no surprise to those of us who have followed Willingham throughout his coaching career. This is a man who took Stanford, without the aid of Tiger Woods, to a Rose Bowl for crying out loud. Go ahead, ask the Cardinal faithful how the post-Willingham era has been.

When he finally got his "big break" it seemed an odd, but hopeful fit at Notre Dame. And after a 10-0 start it seemed the stars had actually aligned themselves for a man who so richly deserved it. But after going 10-3 in that 2002 season his 11-12 record over the next two seasons was not good enough for the Irish who jettisoned him without giving him the fair shot he was promised.

Anyone who knows anything about the college game knows that a program on a down swing like Notre Dame was when Willingham took over needs to give their coach at least four or five years to bring in his recruits and get things going his way.

Consider Willingam's first ever freshman class at Notre Dame which included Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski, Jeff Samardizja, Ryan Harris and John Carlson. He never got to see those players reach their full potential, rather it was the Irish's new head man Charlie Weis who would guide them to back-to-back winning seasons.

Critics will tell you that Willingham's success came with another man's (former Irish head coach Bob Davie's) players, which is true. However his successor (Weis) looks to be going through the same struggles now, but I'm fairly certain that Irish alum Weis will keep his gig.

Of course all of that is the past for Willingham who through it all has been the bigger man about the obvious screw job he was dealt. Instead of whining about the situation he's managed to take a team that had plummeted from a Rose Bowl win in 2001 to one of the worst programs in all the land and turn it around, his way.

That way is by bringing in tough minded players like QB Jake Locker, who is the talk of the Pac-10, and stressing hard-nosed defense and consistency on offense. That way is also stressing respect for the game and for one another, something too few big time college athletes do nowadays.

No one knows how the Huskies season will ultimately end up or if Willingham will turn the program all the way around in the land of Starbucks, but I for one will be pulling for him.

Goodbye World

In case anyone forgot, Tiger Woods is the best golfer on the planet. In fact, I'd say he's probably the best golfer this or any other planet has ever seen, with apologies to Jack of course.

When he decided to remake his swing and adjust his game after the memorable year that was 2000 we all thought he was crazy. What we didn't know was that the evolution of his game was a necessary step and that he'd only continue to get better despite "Tiger-proof" courses and the deepest fields the PGA Tour has ever seen.

Of course that's why he's Tiger and the rest of us only post our good rounds in order to make our 15 handicap game smell like it's a solid 10.

With the new FedEx Cup playoffs coming to an end this Sunday, Tiger decided to end any thoughts the world's #2 player Phil Mickelson or surprise contender Steve Stricker may have had about stashing away that $10 million annuity that should make sure Sam Alexis Woods' great-grandchildren will be able to eat.

His first round 64 in the season-ending Tour Championship was followed up by a second round 63 which included five birdies and an eagle, on the front side, in a row. The mere fact that he only shot 63 should tell you that while I often times think otherwise, the man is indeed a human being.

You wanna know what the really scary part about this Woods guy is? He's getting better every day he laces up his Nike spikes and hits the course with a game that cannot be contained by normal standards. And no matter what the Rory Sabbatini's of the world tell you, they're not even close to him and the gap between him and the rest of the golfing world continues to grow.