I actually got my first letter from a fellow blogger today. Yoni Cohen, who runs a college basketball blog simply called "College Basketball"(Nice title, simple and straight to the point.) offered his compliments. I think he's got a great site as well. As soon as I figure out how to start a blogroll, I will include him. For now, I will point you to http://collegeball.blogspot.com/. Bookmark it! It's a must-read.
Despite the fact that potential first round pick junior quarterbacks who return for their senior year don't do as well (remember Ty Detmer?), Matt Leinart is staying at USC for his senior year. Why? Look, I'm the biggest proponent for people staying in college, and I think a college degree is important, but he's a top-5 pick who has the potential to play at least 10 years at the next level. What's he going to prove by staying in college? History says he's not going to win the Heisman. And the only thing you gain by staying a year too long is an injury. Besides, there are such things as summer classes and distance learning.
Everyone's talking about this weekend's UNC-Wake Forest matchup for good reason. Both teams are highly talented and highly ranked. Both could end up top seeds. However, because of ACC expansion, both teams are meeting for the only time this year.
This may not be a big deal to the rest of the nation, but I'm sure this rankles a lot of people down Tobacco Road. The charm of the ACC used to be that it was the only major conference left where every team played an old-style home-and-home series. The old saying goes, "familiarity breeds contempt." Playing your conference rivals twice a year helps fuel that contempt.
Plus, in a lot of other major conferences, there's the missing aspect of getting your league's best team every year on your floor. Believe me, as a Texas Tech fan, I'd love a shot at Kansas or Missouri in our barn every year, but because they're in the North division, we only get them at the United Spirit Arena every other year.
However, because the ACC felt like it needed a little extra football money, it grabbed Miami, Virginia Tech, and BC (who start ACC play next season), which, in addition to watering ACC basketball down, forced them to limit which teams get home-and-home series. Shame, really, that ACC commisioner John Swofford would destroy something beautiful for a quick buck.
Also, as a practical matter, what was Wake Forest going to save in terms of money by eliminating a short bus trip from Winston-Salem to Chapel Hill?
Oh, as for the game, with both teams having great backcourts, I think Sean May makes the difference. He's the one guy the Deacons don't have an answer for.
The Division Bell
I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Teams that have home field in the NFL Playoffs' Divisional round are 45-11. Put it another way, the home teams win slightly over 80% of the time. Yeah, the bye week helps, but it's pretty clear that there's some separation in between the top 2 teams in the playoffs and the rest of the playoff qualifiers.
So why do people pick so many upsets on Divisional Playoff weekend? Well, the media tends to ignore teams that have the week off and focus on the teams that actually play (This happens during the season also), and because of the topsy-turvy nature of the NFL, some teams that get byes may not have a whole lot of playoff experience (The Falcons and this years' edition of the Steelers come to mind).
- New York Jets at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 3:30 pm Central on CBS) - Too many exclamation points for the Jets. Not question marks, exclamation points, as in these are areas of great concern. Chad Pennington is sick, John Abraham is in worse shape than he was last week, and coach Herm Edwards is having another press conference meltdown 4 days after going ballistic with his running backs coach in the Wild Card Game. Will Edward's out-of-control emotion cause him to make a bad play call?
Yeah, Roethlisberger is a rookie, but if he hasn't played like a rookie all year, what makes anyone think he's suddenly going to play like a rookie now? Plus, in the rare times the Steelers needed a play, he's made it. The Steelers win big here.
- St. Louis at Atlanta (Saturday, 7:00 pm Central on Fox) - If the Seattle game revealed anything about the Rams, it's this: Mark Bulger can't escape the rush. The Falcons, of course, have one of the best pass rushes in the league, and one of the best overall defenses. In addition, Isaac Bruce is injured and may not be able to play. The Rams, on the other hand have one of the worst rushing defenses in the league and they are facing the dual rushing threat of Michael Vick and 1,000 yard rusher Warrick Dunn (and that 1,000 yards came on 4.2 yards/carry). Gotta like the Falcons in this one
- Minnesota at Philadelphia (Sunday, noon on Fox) - Yes, Terrell Owens is out, but there are still 4 factors that haven't changed since the Eagles' Week 2 dismantling of the Vikings. First, The Eagles still have a top rated defense. Second, the Vikings still have a horrible defense, they just got a lot of help from Brett Favre last week. Third, Donovan F. McNabb is still quarterbacking the Eagles and rarely makes bad decisions. Finally, Mike Tice is still in a position to screw his own team with a bad play call. All this spells trouble for the Vikings. No contest, Philly wins big
- Indianapolis at New England (Sunday, 3:30 pm on CBS) - As I've been hinting all week, This is the only potential upset out there this weekend. New England can do whatever it wants to the field and try to scheme it's shorthanded defense all it wants. You still need talent to run your defense last time anyone checked, and the Patriots are depleted when it comes to defensive talent. That's bad news facing a team with a great passing game and a running back averaging 4.2 yards/carry. What will make this game close, however, is that when the Patriots have the ball, they will be facing a bad defense as well. I expect this one to be a shootout, and you have to like Indianapolis in a shootout.
Take care this weekend and God bless.
Monday: Division Round Wrap, and the unhealthy focus on Serena Williams dress.