Sunday, October 29, 2006

football update

Been a while since I posted on here, so it's time...and this being Sunday, what better topic to blab about than football? Let me begin by quoting and adding some appropriate emphasis:
The 2006 Chicago Bears continue to prove they are a legitimate contender to reach the Super Bowl. This after blowing out the hapless 49ers 41-10 to move to 7-0 for the first time since their Super Bowl season of 1985.
That's what I'm talkin' about! Even with the Colts winning a tough one in Denver, da Bears are THE force to be reckoned with in the league. At the risk of singlehandedly laying down a jinx and trashing the Bears' season, I'll say the time to start seriously looking at Stupid Bowl tickets may be at hand. I wasn't quite sure after that "win" at Arizona that should have been a loss, but it appears the Bears offense has returned from a two-week hiatus. As long as they stick around -- in other words, as long as Rex Grossman doesn't realize that all Florida QB's are supposed to suck in the NFL -- the Bears will be legit. I wonder what the going rate is for flights to Miami in late January...

And now on to a team that continues to win but in worrisome fashion. That would, of course, be the Razorbacks. How long can such a one-dimensional team crank out victories before a solid opponent catches on? I was really hoping for a sighting of the Hogs' passing attack yesterday against Louisiana-Monroe, but there was none to be had. Arkansas just keeps winning with blatant disregard for their passing game. Sure, their rushing offense is one of the fiercest in the country, but that only works for so long. Sure they can get away with it against schedule-filler mismatched opponents. But somebody had better tell them they have four SEC games to close out the regular season. To paraphrase a common quote (for me at least), you can fool all of the teams some of the time and some of the teams all of the time but you can't fool all of the teams all of the time. With South Carolina (away) and Tennessee coming up, the time to learn how to throw the football effectively would have been last week. Alas...let's hope they keep fooling teams.

Jesse's wacky predictions continued: The Hogs will lose two of the three real games left on their schedule (South Carolina, Tennessee, LSU) to limp across the finish line at 8-4 and will earn a respectable but somewhat disappointing Chick-Fil-A Bowl berth against another team flashing some gaudy rankings but ultimately doomed to a rocky finish, Georgia Tech. Jesse will be very happy to talk trash to co-workers when the pissed-off Hogs rout Tech 45-17. The Bears, on the other hand, have proven themselves good enough to run the table in the postseason, so I must now update my Stupid Bowl prediction to Bears 30, Colts 20. Peyton Manning is worth 20 points alone, but that's all the Bears insanely good D will give up. And the Colts D isn't among the strongest in the league so Grossman and Co. should be able to burn them for some numbers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

countdown to a letdown?

So the Hogs beat Southeast Missouri State 63-7 today. Good for them. That at least shows they have the ability to score lots of points against a very weak opponent, which is characteristic of any good team.

But I'm still convinced they're not as good as their #17 national ranking would imply. They got pounded by USC and then managed to barely slip by Vanderbilt and Alabama. Granted, Vanderbilt just upset Georgia in Athens, so maybe this is their freak good season for the century. But still, before and even after the Auburn game, I wasn't at all convinced Arkansas was so great. And now they'll be at least #15 in the new rankings since Iowa and Georgia crashed today, and they'll be #14 or higher if Florida continues to score at will on Auburn -- it's only the second quarter, but somebody had better tell the Tigers that responding to touchdowns with field goals won't win a lot of games. Come to think of it, fumbling the ball three yards away from the end zone generally doesn't help either. The team with the most points here wins, kids. And while we're on Auburn, perhaps the talking heads who reminded us for weeks about that vaunted Tigers defense can explain to us what's going on down there. And that was your #2 team in the country eight days ago. Wow.

Anyway, back to the Hogs. Their passing attack was a nonfactor against Auburn. Mustain did just enough to not influence the game one way or the other, which works when you can pile up tons of rushing yards. But even today against a far inferior opponent the passing game didn't show up -- until backup QB Casey Dick entered the game, that is. Hmmn...another QB controversy brewing, perhaps? But the point is, the Razorbacks have basically been totally one-dimensional so far. Sure, that works as long as the other team doesn't field a run defense, or if you're like those 90's Nebraska teams and are so unstoppable on the ground that no other aspects of the game matter. But what about good teams like Tennessee and LSU that will have plenty of weeks to prepare for the Hogs' rushing attack? Arkansas now has cupcakes Ole Miss and Louisiana-Monroe to roll over, so they have time to discover the forward pass before getting tested. But they'd better do it before teams start catching on.

Actually, that deserves a paragraph of its own. Is there any team in the country that annually has a non-conference schedule as laughable as Arkansas'? Okay, they opened this season against then-#3 USC and they had a home-and-home against Texas a few years back. That was a step up into the world of respectable non-conference opponents. But...Utah State, Southeast Missouri State, and Louisiana-Monroe? Come on. And this happens every freakin' year. The Razorbacks really know how to pick 'em! The only team I can think of in recent history that consistently played such pathetic opponents year in and year out was Kansas State before Snyder left, and where did it get them? They were perrennially overrated and every year they'd make a big bowl and get smashed by a lower-ranked opponent. They were the Buffalo Bills of college football -- fearsome and impressive in the regular season, but you always knew a total letdown was on hand as soon as they were put to the postseason test. But real teams play real opponents in conference and out, so they build up their strength over the season and are ready when it comes time to defend their record. Arkansas needs to catch on and quit playing nobodies just to make money from home games. If you want respect, then earn it.

So, for once it seems that the Hogs are getting too much respect. I predict they'll march right past Ole Miss and LA-Monroe, and even squeak by South Carolina on the road. But when Tennessee, with two victories over top 10 teams and having lost to now-#2 Florida by a point, shows up in Fayetteville, that could be ugly. I won't predict the outcome, but I will say that if Arkansas can't pass by that game then they'll have no hope of beating a real team like the Vols.

P.S. How about Rutgers? Everybody I heard and read expected them to suffer their first loss today at Navy after an opening schedule full of pansies, and they walk away with a 34-0 shutout. So, folks, maybe that team is for real. But...Rutgers? Rutgers? Nah.

P.P.S. Auburn just rediscovered the touchdown and went up 18-17 on Florida (via blocked punt, but hey, a TD is a TD). If they continue that then maybe I'll have to give them a break. Maybe.