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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reviewing the tape-Ohio State pays Illinois back

Ohio State shutout their second straight opponent and added a special dose of revenge with their 30-0 blanking of visiting Illinois.
Ohio State travels this week to Indiana for a night game in Bloomington against the Hoosiers.

Buckeye Branches

1) Terrelle Pryor threw just two passes in the first half and finished with just 13 tosses on the day.
I like the ground game as much as anyone,but two first half passes?
That is extreme by even my standards.

2) The constant downpour of rain in the game contributed to the conservative play calling,I am sure,but the Buckeye defense allowing next to nothing in the way of Illinois offense helped that as well.
Having a defense that slams the door shut on every opportunity allows you flexibility in play calling that can range from gambling to conservative calls that wait until the oppositions defense breaks...

3) The ground game showed a bit more life as Boom Herron rushed for two TD's and averaged 5 and a half yards a carry and Brandon Saine exceeded that with an 81 yard outing and over six yards a carry.
Jim Tressel spread the carries a bit more equally in this game than in the first three and that is a good idea.
The fresher the runners can be,the more likely they are to perform well,especially Herron,who seems to dip in effectiveness as his carries increase.

4) One thing to ponder on the offense is why Ohio State hasn't used mammoth tight end Jake Ballard more in the offense?
Ballard seems tailor made to be the goal line/short yardage receiver on play action plays.
This also enables OSU to loose up defenses against the run,where the Buckeyes lack the rugged bully back to succeed consistently.

5) Kurt Coleman was suspended from the Indiana game for helmet to helmet contact on a play with under a minute to play.
Coleman was not ejected from the game,yet was suspended for the next one anyway.
Tough break for both Coleman and Ohio State,but maybe he should have been out of a 30-0 game at that point anyway...

6) Why was Coleman suspended?
Well,The Big Ten suspended a Michigan player for an incident against Notre Dame that the player wasn't thrown out for and may have felt that not suspending Coleman could set a bad precedent....

7) Brian Rolle continues to surprise me with a season that was beyond my hopes.
Rolle intercepted Juice Williams on the only serious threat that Illinois made in the first half and continues to be all over the field as an impact player.
If Rolle returns next season,he has to rank as a serious candidate for the Butkus award.

8) Ross Homan left the game early with a head injury,but Andrew Sweat was impressive in his spot.The Pennsylvania native showed both speed and solid tackling in his stint against Illinois.

9) The other defender that was dominant was Thaddeus Gibson,who seemed to be constantly attached to Juice Williams.
Gibson deserved a game ball for sure.

10) Three interceptions and allowing next to nothing on ground caused Ron Zook's team to leave town with their heads held low-Just a bit of payback for their less than sportsmanlike behavior in their last visit to the Horseshoe.

11) Thanks to the Buckeyes playing a night game on the Big Ten network this Saturday,no guarantees on a fast recap as I will miss the second half until I have time to review the tape.....

Photo Credits

Anderson-Quinn,Wedge axed and Bucs lose Sano

Hang in there,I plan on looking back at all three football games sometime tonight.
Things were a bit busy as I had meetings over the last two days at work,so I fell a bit behind on the blog.

A few quick notes....

The Browns will be starting Derek Anderson over Brady Quinn in this
weeks home game vs the Bengals.
I don't think that it matters much which quarterback starts with this team,but even though I don't like Quinn,I think both last weeks hook and this weeks benching does either the Browns or Quinn much good.
Quinn has major issues throwing the ball down the field,but they were the same issues that were there before Cleveland picked him,so the Browns need to see Quinn and what he brings to the table and decide if he is the future or yet another Cleveland bust.

The Indians fired Eric Wedge and his entire coaching staff effective at the conclusion of the season.
This move was long overdue and needed to have been addressed quite a while ago.
Wedge's often bizarre game decisions and his loyalty to unproductive players have been a handicap to the Tribe for years and the chance to add a fresh face to the picture would be a good thing.
However,I look for the Indians to hire either AAA manager Torey Lovullo or AA manager Mike Sarbaugh for the job and putting their abilities to the side,on the surface to the players-it could look like more of the same...

The one amateur player that Pirate fans heard about consistently this spring and summer was not Tony Sanchez or any other player that could be a Pirate.
It was all about 16 year old shortstop Miguel Angel Sano and his seeming to want to be a Pirate with the team considered the favorite to sign him.
However,a series of missteps and miscommunications between the team and agent Rob Plummer ended with Sano signing with Minnesota for a bonus over just over three million.
I am not going to say that I am thrilled with the bungling of this issue,but my bigger concern is how the Pirates will be portrayed in the Dominican.
Sano is 16 years old and who knows how things will progress for him,but the loss for the Pirates in the country could mean lesser talents in the Pirates academy there and fewer chances to sign top talent in the country.
I don't know if Miguel Sano will be a great player or not,but I do know this,for the first time on a major issue,I have grave differences with Neal Huntington and the Pirate front office.
Something worth following over the next year or so when you look at the Pirate Latin American signings.

DirectTv and Versus are going down to the wire in their contract dispute with the NHL season starting tomorrow night.
The first game is Boston vs Washington,so I would miss a game from my local team.
This whole thing is ridiculous on both sides and I still think this gets done soon,but the longer it goes,the worse things get for both sides....

Back later with the beginning of the football tape reviews...

Photo Credits
Anderson:Thomas Ondrey-Cleveland Plain Dealer
Sano-Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Devils sign Niedermayer,OSU fights Illini

It wasn't THE Niedermayer that Devils fans would have loved to have seen most,but Lou Lamiorello did upgrade the center position with the signing of Rob Niedermayer to a one year contract worth one million.
The Devils have always liked the center as they have tried multiple times over the years to add him to the team,although most of the speculation involved adding Rob in an attempt to make it easier to re-sign Scott.
The veteran scored 14 goals last season with the Ducks and should help the Devils on the defensive end as well.
Niedermayer will likely be on the third line early in the year until Patrik Elias returns and then could either be the 4th line center or enable Elias to return to wing.

The Devils also decided to sign former Buffalo enforcer Andrew Peters to a two year deal.
Peters ensures that the Devils will have plenty of bangers to drop the gloves between himself,Pierre 3L LeBlond and David Clarkson.
Peters worked his way on the team after being invited to camp without a contract.
Peters has been reported to have made the team,but other cuts have not been made yet.
Look for our Devils preview later this week....


The Ohio State Buckeyes host Illinois as the Illini return to the scene of their greatest win under Ron Zook,their upset of the then top ranked Buckeyes two years ago.
Illinois enters the game 1-1 with a win over Illinois State and a big loss to Missouri.
Illinois relies on the enigmatic QB Juice Williams on offense and will hope to utilize his running abilities to keep the ball away from the Buckeyes with a one man show.
Illinois has a huge problems stopping the run,so if Terrelle Pryor desires,he could have a huge day running the ball and maybe someone emerges from the running back pile with a top effort in today's game.
Our Prediction-
Buckeyes 29 Illinois 15

Back tomorrow with Buckeyes wrapup,Vitali Klitschko vs Chris Arreola and predictions for the Browns and Seahawks.

Photo Credit
Niedermayer;Getty Images

Friday, September 25, 2009

Steaming hot from the melting pot-Baseball returns to Richmond

Time for some more items from the melting pot.

Baseball will finally return to the Richmond Va area as the AA Connecticut Defenders will be moving their Eastern League franchise south.
The San Francisco Giant affiliate will be the most southern location in the league and will mostly likely move to the Southern Division by swapping spots with the Erie Seawolves.

A thought to ponder as we are a year away from the minor league affiliate silly season.
Could this be the Washington Nationals chance to grab the Richmond market for themselves?
Harrisburg has renovated their stadium and the Nationals have to be happy with that,but Richmond offers a rare opportunity to really dig into the Virginia market.
Something to keep an eye on over the next year.....

The two teams that I have heard rumors of replacing the Defenders in Norwich CT are both members of the short season NY/Penn league.
Batavia New York (Cardinals) and Jamestown Jammers (Marlins) are the teams most likely to make the jump.

I have been watching (at least the first two episodes) the Ultimate Fighter and the second episode was the same as the first for me-Compelling television for the first 40 minutes and then suffering through the fight,which for the second week in a row was pretty damn dull.
Perhaps I am just a Boxing guy,but I just don't see the excitement in the fights.
Sure,the knockouts look great,like Boxing KO's do,but the rest seem like dullsville.
At least next week's fight features Kimbo Slice and shouldn't feature a lot of grappling and rest holds and might be more exciting watching.

One of the two teams coaches.Quinton "Ramage" Jackson announced his retirement a few days ago.
This (assuming it is true) ends the scheduled December fight between Jackson and opposing coach Rashad Evans.
Jackson cited issues with UFC over his accepting the role of BA Baracus in the A-Team film remake as his reason to retire.
Now,Jackson is one of the few names that I actually recognize in MMA from the outside ( I couldn't have told you who Rashad Evans was,if I was playing a game of "Beer Money"),but one cannot blame a guy for making a career in film over the far lesser money of MMA.

UFC keeps costs down and therefore their fighters active,by keeping costs down and are able to pay their top guys far less than their boxing equivalents.
Cannot blame Jackson for that decision at all.

I was way wrong on my prediction on the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez fight.
Bigger,stronger,faster carried the day as Mayweather won a lopsided decision and dropped Marquez in the second round.
The fight is replayed on HBO on Saturday night as part of the WBC Heavyweight title bout between Vitali Klitschko and Chris Arreola.
That should be a good one,while it lasts.
We like Klitschko by middle round KO.

As far as money goes,the fight was a success on pay per view as it sold over a million buys,which was more than expected and far better than its same night competition from the UFC.
Just goes to show when Boxing puts its best on display-it is far from dead.
The key is to get their guys on TV more and put the best against the best more often.

The Pirates added yet another former Yankee pitcher with the claim of Anthony Claggett off waivers.
The claim continues the to beginning to be bizarre fetish that the Pirates have towards Yankee minor league pitchers.
Claggett spent most of this season with AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre and the numbers look OK,until you get to strikeouts- just 43 in 82 innings!
Screams soft tosser to me!
The Pirates placed Jose Ascanio on the 60 day disabled list to make space for Claggett on the 40 man roster.

Interesting article on Aquaculture from the Washington Post.
The article states that for the first time ever-half the fish/shellfish that humans consume will be farm raised.
This sounds fine,but the issues with aquaculture are more than that.
Inter-breeding with the wild catch and the higher rate of disease are just a few of the issues that make this such a complicated one....

Back tomorrow with Devils news and a look at Ohio State-Illinois.

Photo Credits
Conn Defenders:Conn.Defenders
Jackson:Unknown

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pirate Hooks

A few thoughts on the Pirates and the worst swing of modern baseball (1890 doesn't count) ever seen in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates are 3-21 over their last 24 games and considering that one of their best (?) pitchers in Ross Ohlendorf has been shut down for the season,I do not see things getting any better over the last 13 games.
Barring a 7-6 final run and what could give you the thought that is going to happen,the Pirates will hit the 100 loss mark.
And in even more bad news,unless Washington really finishes up strong,the 100 loss season will not be able to land the first pick.
Believe it or not,even this legendarily bad stretch of baseball is not going to be enough to catch the Nationals in the Bryce Harper derby.

The Post-Gazette offered an article on possible free agent signings for the Pirates over the winter and some of the names were interesting.
Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson returns?
Well,second base is a huge hole and the worrisome "vesting option" that so concerned the Pirates will not be activated since Sanchez has struggled with injuries in San Francisco,so Sanchez would be more in line for the salary area that was laughed at when the Pirates attempted a cheap extension.
Sanchez would likely only come if Jack Wilson returned and that could happen.
Seattle said that they would pick up his option upon bringing him to the Emerald City,but injury issues and less than stellar performance could cause the Mariners to skip on the option.
Returning the pair to Pittsburgh and getting the young arms for basically losing the combo for a little of two months is a great bargain.
Former Pirate bullpenner John Grabow was the name that the Pirates seemed to have the most interest in.
I have not been impressed with either Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio,but Josh Harrison was a nice addition to the system and bringing Grabow back would be getting them for free.
Grabow could be ruled a Type A free agent and if that is the case,I have no interest.
Signing Grabow means that the Cubs would get the Pirates second round pick in the 2010 draft and that is too high of a price for a average reliever on a bad team.
Rick Ankiel is a name that came up and assuming the price is right (and it may not be),I would love to see Ankiel in left field at PNC Park.
Ankiel has the athletic ability to play the most difficult outfield position and coming off a bad year,Ankiel might be in the Pirate price range...
I would hope the Pirates would add someone at reasonable cost,but not if costs valuable money in the draft.
The Pirates need to continue down the road that they traveled the last two seasons and if that means 100 losses next year,fine.
Just don't overspend to bring popular players back to satisfy the casual fan and then take away that money from the system to pay for the retreads......

I am still not sure on the long term success for Garrett Jones,but Jones has hit very well this season and it is nice to see someone give these long time AAA veterans a chance.
Sometimes you find a usable part and from the players side of things,they never have wonder-what might have been if they had just been given a chance...

One player that has played very well in the recent stretch has been Lastings Milledge.
Milledge has played well in the field,which was the main rap on him and hit well too in moving his average above .300.
I would not feel uncomfortable at all with Garrett Jones at first and an outfield of Milledge,Andrew McCutchen and possibly Rick Ankiel next season.
That would not be among the elite teams at those positions,but far from the worst either.

Rumors are swirling about Ryan Doumit being the next to go.
Doumit does not appear to be a John Russell favorite and was quite outspoken in his views on the Pirates mid-season deals.
Neal Huntington may very well decide that the team can get by with the platoon of Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz that held down the fort when Doumit was injured last season and get something for the lefty swinging catcher..

Neil Walker has been getting some PT with Andy LaRoche being put down by the flu,but hasn't done much with it.
The best long term role for Walker might be as a super utility player.
Walker could catch,third and with some work could even play 1st,2nd or the outfield in a pinch.
I remember when Davey Johnson did a similar move with Clint Hurdle with the Mets and it added four years to his career and that means long term dollars with the MLB pension plan...

Photo Credits
Ankiel:Chris Lee-St.Louis Post-Dispatch
Walker:Bill Gentry

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Browns crushed in Denver,next stop Baltimore

The Cleveland Browns had little offense in the first half in Denver,yet trailed only 10-6 at the half and just 13-6 entering the final quarter.
But the defense finally wore out in allowing two fourth quarter touchdowns in a 27-6 pummelling in Denver.
I wish that I could say things will get better this week,but a trip to Baltimore makes 0-3 seem inevitable....

Brownie Bits

1) Brady Quinn either doesn't want to look more than ten yards down the field,cannot throw the ball with accuracy that far or lacks the confidence that he can do so.
One of those reasons is why he doesn't/can't throw down the field and until he at least tries to do so,the Quinn reign is destined to be undistinguished.

2) Cannot blame it all on Quinn though,the play calling looks straight out of high school ball.
After recovering the opening kickoff that was handed to them and a nice pass for a 14 yard gain from Quinn to Braylon Edwards,the Browns had first and goal from the Denver five and a chance to establish themselves early in the game.
The Browns decided to end that thought themselves with Jamal Lewis up the middle for a yard,Lewis up the middle for two and a horrible looking incompletion to Mike Furrey ended the drive with a Phil Dawson field goal.
The Browns had a chance and blew it as Denver looked at the drive as a triumph and Cleveland lost all momentum despite a 3-0 lead.
Too Vanilla!

3) Rushing game?
What is that?
The Browns were outrushed 186 to 54 by Denver,showing that they cannot only stop the run,cannot run themselves.
Jamal Lewis cannot turn the corner,so he forces the team to run up the middle,where the are weakest with rookie Alex Mack and mediocre Pork Chop Womack,along with Eric Steinbach.
Not that anyone is on the bench that can turn the corner either.

4) More offensive line.
Those of you that read the Browns preview might remember how little I thought of free agent signee John St.Clair and thus far St.Clair is living down to expectations.
Between his various penalties and inability to stop Elvis Dumervil (4 sacks,Yes FOUR), St.Clair is looks more like a waiver wire candidate than a starting NFL tackle.
But again,is there anyone on the bench better?

5) The Browns handed Denver the ball deep inside their own territory on a fumble by Quinn,but again-I cannot place blame for the fumble on Quinn,Although I can blame him for not falling on the ball.
Quinn tried to pick it up and run and Denver recovered the ball,but Alex Mack dribbled a grounder to Quinn that looked like a practice snap from Manu Manu the slender in Necessary Roughness.
Mack has a lot to learn and I like his toughness,but the center needs to be able to snap in the shotgun!

6) Nice to see Eric Wright fail to make a tackle again on a breakaway TD run.
I can understand being shoved aside by Adrian Peterson,but Correll Buckhalter?
Wright is more of a cover corner than a physical tackler,but this is getting ridiculous.

7) Ridiculous?
Try commentator Steve Beuerlein,who claimed Wright is one of the better corners in the league!
He may be the best of the Browns motley crew,but the league????

8) Want a reason to not believe in Mangini and George "Gilligan" Kokinis?
After all their draft day maneuvering to end up with 4 picks in the first two rounds,it has resulted in a starting center that struggles to make snaps, a wide receiver with one catch,another that was not even on the active list for the game and a linebacker that plays special teams and has not seen a snap on defense!
Worried yet?

9) Maybe Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie would make a difference last week or the next few,but after investing second round picks on them and considering the chaff ahead of them,shouldn't the Browns at least try to get them on the field more???

10) Nice thing to say-Kicking game was fine.
Phil Dawson 2 of 2 and Dave Zastadil put three punts inside the 20.

11) One final thought.
Look at the schedule-not one likely win anytime soon.
at Baltimore,home against the improved Bengals,at the could be 2-0 Bills,at Pittsburgh,Green Bay at home,at Chicago,home against Baltimore before a week 11 battle in Detroit.
That could feature the 0-10 Browns against the 0-10 Lions.
Cleveland does finish the season with three weaker teams in the Chiefs (road) ,Raiders and Jaguars (home),so I do think they will win a game or two,but I don't see it happening before week 11.

Editors Note
Two roster moves for the Browns.
Tight end Martin Rucker waived to make room for former Jacksonville TE Greg Estanda.
Defensive back Marquis Floyd out in favor of former Steeler Anthony Madison.
More on these moves tomorrow....

Photo Credits
Snap:David Zalubowski-AP Photo
Quinn:Joshua Gunter-AP Photo

Injury bug bites hard in Seattle loss

The Seattle Seahawks had two major problems in their 23-10 loss in San Francisco to the 49ers.
The biggest and most damaging long term was the rib injury that sent Matt Hasselbeck from the game in the waning moments of the first half.
The largest short term problem was a stunning inability to stop Frank Gore.
Gore ripped off touchdown runs of 79 and 80 yards that were enough by themselves to defeat the Hawks.
If you remember our quick picks,you may recall our thoughts on the main obstacle to a Seahawk win was being able to stop Frank Gore.
They didn't and they lost.
The 1-1 Seahawks host the Bears next Sunday....

Puget Sounds

1) Matt Hasselbeck went to the hospital with a fractured rib from the hit from Patrick Willis and basically ended the contest for Seattle.
Hasselbeck was uncertain for the Bears game,but if I was Jim Mora,I would be preparing for having to use Seneca Wallace in the matchup.

2) Hasselbeck is not the best quarterback in the league,but I would wager that he is in the top few of the most important in the league.
Seneca Wallace adds to your offensive package with being able to throw and catch the ball,but he is not someone that I am comfortable with as the second QB.
Hasselebeck turns 34 on Friday and the injury issues are becoming more of a pattern.
Seattle needs to bite the bullet and draft a young passer in the draft next season.
And no,not another David Greene or Mike Teel type either.

3) Lofa Tatupu tried to play,but didn't last long with his hamstring injury.
I liked what I saw from replacement David Hawthorne and Hawthorne will need to continue to play way considering his inexperience (2nd year) along with rookie Aaron Curry as starters.

4) 2008 first rounder Lawrence Jackson showed his potential with a two sack day with a forced fumble to boot.
Jackson has all the physical tools to succeed in the Seahawk defensive line rotation as a pass rusher off the end and it was encouraging to see the USC product play so well.

5) More injuries as Josh Wilson and Sean Locklear sprained ankles and Justin Griffith injured a knee.
Griffith will miss a major part of the season,so second year man Owen Schmitt will need to develop quickly if the running game is to stay decent.
Wilson is a double loss,considering his kick returning along with being the top corner with the loss of Marcus Trufant.
Locklear's loss could mean the early return of Walter Jones,but that may be worse news for Seattle,if Jones re-aggravates his injury and misses more time.

6) The difference in the offense when Wallace is under center is substantial.
Look at the numbers-15 for 23,but only 127 yards.
Teams are able to play tighter on the receivers because they know Wallace is incapable of beating them deep or even over middle range.
This also drops the effectiveness of John Carlson as there is less room over the middle for Carlson to maneuver around the linebackers.

7) Other than a 14 yard run by Justin Forsett,the Seahawks were unable to run the ball,which was a huge contrast to the Rams game.
Forsett finished with 35 yards,the second highest rusher?
Matt Hasselbeck with 12.
Yuck.

Sorry,there is not more on this one,but only so much time to review tape and Seattle always ranks third in that race,Sorry to my Seahawk readers...

Back later with the worst and most venomous post of the bunch-the Browns pounding in Denver.

Photo Credits
Gore:Marcio Sanchez:AP Photo
Hasselbeck:Ben Margot:AP Photo

Reviewing the tape- Buckeyes defuse Rockets


Get ready for a few posts today on my only top to bottom off day of the week.
I have spent the time reviewing the tape of each of the three weekend games though,so the hard part is over-the easy part (if there is such as a thing) is actually typing them up.
If time permits,there will be two additional posts from the Melting Pot and a look at the Pirates march to 100 losses.....

The Ohio State Buckeyes were warned by the media that their game in Cleveland against the Toledo Rockets could be a trap game.
After all,Toledo had scored 54 points in a win over Big 12 member Colorado in their last game and the Buckeyes hadn't exactly looked like Air Coryell in either of their games.
However,the Buckeye defense controlled the Rockets with ease and only allowed one scoring opportunity and then stripped that away as well in a 38-0 cakewalk.
Terrelle Pryor threw for a career high of 262 yards and ran for over 100 more in the win.


Buckeye Branches

1) Terrelle Pryor did toss three touchdowns in the win,but threw two picks as well.
Pryor has plenty of arm and throws the hard pass with accuracy,but still struggles with the long ball.
I think this is because Pryor tends to throw the ball over his back foot when pressured and results in wild and inaccurate passes.

2) His long bomb to Dane Sanzenbacher was on the money though and from watching the replay,it looked to me that his technique was solid.
Pryor is always going to be a work in progress in the passing game,but one thing that I have seen is improvement throwing long-IF the offensive line gives him plenty of time.
I realize that sounds rudimentary,but Pryor seems to be almost in panic mode on long pass play calls that have even a medium rush level from the defense....

3) Another pedestrian game from Boom Herron with 42 yards on 15 carries,although he did score a touchdown.
Both Brandon Saine and freshman Jordan Hall rushed for more yards on few carries than Herron.

4) I liked what I saw from Jordan Hall in his first game action.
Hall ripped off a very nice 17 yard run against the Rockets and seemed to be comfortable in the offense.
Hopefully,Hall will continue to see action this week against Illinois..

5) Dane Sanzenbacher finished with 126 yards and two touchdowns on five catches,but still seems to be a better fit in the "Hartline" possession receiver role than the "Robiskie" as the number one receiver.
Its the speed issue as there is a big difference in running away from Toledo defenders and being run down by USC secondary players..

6) Toledo only threatened to score once as Eric Page attempted to battle his way into the end zone only to have the ball stripped away by Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell.
Ross Homan recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
I am not sure how I feel on the whole stripping the ball issue.
It can pay big dividends,but as the Browns have seen in each of their first two games can result in runners being literally carried by runners..

7) Can you believe in this era of television that the station that I could find carrying the game was Altitude?
ESPN had the game since it was technically a Toledo home game and I am sure that stations in Ohio picked it up,but neither of the Fox Sports Ohio stations or Sports Time Ohio purchased it.
That left Altitude,a Colorado network that features the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets.
Thanks to them or I would have been on the outside looking in.

8) If Jim Tressel has someone on the kicking team that has short range accuracy,I might consider giving him some work.
Aaron Pettrey drills long field goals,but botches short ones as he smacked a short field goal off the upright against Toledo after an extra point miss vs Navy.
Just something to consider....

9) One player that has impressed me thus far is wideout Deiver Posey.
Posey shows a willingness to catch the ball over the middle and has some speed as well.
I look for things to only get better for Posey.

10) And finally, another tip of the cap to USC's Pete Carroll for losing to an inferior Pac 10 team for the third year in a row after a big non-conference win.
Carroll is an excellent big game coach,but seems to lose that touch shortly thereafter.
Say what you will about Jim Tressel,but the Bucks don't lose many games that they are favored by more than a few points.
Check our new poll on this topic..

Photo Credits;Tony Dejak-AP Photo

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More quick picks

With extra overtime,time is short,so tomorrow will feature coverage of the Ohio State blanking of Toledo along with the Browns and Seahawks games.

The Browns travel to Denver,where they never win against the Broncos.
But Denver looked to be quite ordinary on offense against the Bengals last week,so Cleveland has a chance here,which is more than I could say on many past visits.
The key to this game is this matchup-Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal being covered by Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald.
Denver threw with impunity against McDonald last season and the Denver wideouts against the Cleveland corners could tell the tale.
Kyle Orton's arm isn't Jay Cutler's and the Browns could take advantage of that and lessen the chance of getting beat deep.
On offense,the key is effective running by Jamal Lewis,better use on screen passes with the returning Jerome Harrison and go deep once in a while,so the Broncos don't start cheating up with their secondary like the Vikings did.
This is a winnable game for Cleveland,but considering its in Denver....

Seattle travels to San Francisco for the lead spot in the NFC West.
Leroy Hill is out for Seattle and that hurts the linebackers in controlling Frank Gore.
Seattle also needs to play the short passing game that Niner QB Shaun Hill prefers.
On offense,Seattle hopes to continue the nice mix in the offense,but look for Nate Burleson to get deep at least once in the game.

Our Predictions
Broncos 16 Browns 13
Seahawks 27 49ers 20

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Predictions

Slow day,but I did want to get a few predictions up.

Ohio State travels to Cleveland for a "road" game against the Toledo Rockets at Cleveland Stadium.
Toledo upset Colorado last week and features a high powered offense that could give the Buckeyes some trouble for a while.
However,the Rocket defense is less than impressive and has given up a ton of points in the first two games.
If Terrelle Pryor ever gets on track-today is the day.
Ohio State 38 Toledo 21

Tonight is the return to the ring of Floyd Mayweather and Mayweather faces a tough task in Juan Manuel Marquez.
Mayweather is a big favorite and is the bigger fighter naturally,but he also weighed in two pounds heavier than the agreed limit and has plenty of ring rust.
The one thing that the bettors aren't taking into account is Mayweather's two close fights against Jose Luis Castillo a few years back.
Many observers (Me included) thought Castillo won the first fight and Marquez has a similar style to trouble Floyd plus he is even more skilled than Castillo was.
Call me crazy,but our long shot special-Marquez by close decision.....

Friday, September 18, 2009

On the Signing Front-Friends that help me out


On the signing front continues with a look at some of the things that friends have gotten signed for me that has yet to be mentioned here.

Thanks to my good friend Jason Christensen for his help over the course of the season.
Jason and his dad Frank sent me a Auburn Doubledays team set and most of them were signed!
This was a nice catch for me as the Toronto teams never visit here with their AA team visiting Bowie and Harrisburg,so most these I would have never gotten signed without their kindness and help.
The funniest things about the Auburn set was that two former Hagerstown Suns were in the set as 2008 Sun Jamie Lehman and 09 Sun David Slowak were both in the team cards.
Jason also looks out for me when he is on the road as he nabbed former Sun pitching coach Rich Gale on a trip to Syracuse.
I was able to add a few Phillies when Reading came to Binghamton,most notably one of our favorites in Dominic Brown on two cards and a few of the home team prospects as well in Ike Davis and hard throwing Bradley Holt.
I was able to have the Akron Aeros team set thanks to Jason-the biggest catch was Eastern League MVP and the top prospect in the Indian system in Carlos Santana,but others included Nick Weglarz,Perfect Game tosser Jeanmar Gomez,Beau Mills,Matt McBride and two of our favorites in Josh Tomlin and Neil Wagner.
Jason also gave me some stuff that I didn't have such as Pirates Charlie Morton and Brandon Moss along with former Buc Tom Gorzelanny among others.

Tom O'Brien helped me at Potomac with some of the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks.
I never seem to get around to seeing Wilmington,but Tom helped me out with some of the Blue Rocks,particularly the biggest fan of Dave"superfan" Sloan in pitcher Danny Duffy.
Tom also was able to get a few Chris Marrero's signed that I had missed and Potomac pitcher Bradley Meyers on his Carolina League All-Star card.
Tom was a major help at Bowie this season and worked on getting me the Altoona Curve set this year.
I usually see the Curve in Harrisburg,but for various reasons,it didn't work out this year and thanks to Tom with notables such as Gorkys Hernandez,Daniel Moskos,Brian Friday and one of our favorites in Jared Hughes.

Mike Treadwell was a major help on his trip to the Appalachian League this season.Mike not only picked me up sets while there,he worked on them as well.
Mike was able to have three players from the Appy top prospect set sign their cards as Cardinal top pick Robert Stock and the Mariners Cesar Fuentes andGabriel Noriega were added.
I never would have gotten them without Mike and I am very appreciative.
Mike helped me with a large chunk of the Danville set,most notably Tyler Stovall along with Yankee first round selection the 6'10 Andrew Brackman.
Thanks again,Mike and I might available for that trip next year! Ha Ha!

Bill Cover filled in the last handful of cards from the Connecticut Defenders and that included uber prospect Madison Bumgarner.
Bill stuck around to get Madison (a one at a time,but does allow you to come back) to help me out and finish the Defenders.
Thanks for all your help,Bill!

Pol Heiney tossed me a Sid Bream,who I had missed twice over the last year and it is a really cool one with Bream wearing the yellow Pirate batting helmet.
Thanks,Pol!

And finally,a tip of the cap to someone that never wants his name mentioned,but I like to acknowledge his help anyway.
This person goes out of his way to help me with various needs and offers his knowledge and advice on this crazy hobby and asks far less of me than I do him.
Once again,he helped me in the last few weeks of the season and without tipping his name off,I just wanted to say thanks!

I still have a few more things out there and I'll write about them eventually.
Next stop on the signing front will be from the Augusta Greenjackets visit to Hagerstown....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Ultimate Fighter,Devils win pre-season opener


The New Jersey Devils won their pre-season opener 3-2 on a shootout goal by Travis Zajac.
David Clarkson scored the other two Devil goals on the power play.
Yann Danis went the distance in net for New Jersey after the initial reports were that he would share game action with Jeff Frazee.
I don't have too much to say about the game,but here are a few thoughts.

1) MSG+ changed the graphics on the in game scoreboard again.
Seems like they do that every year.
Not bad,but a bit on the small side.

2) The biggest news of the day involved Patrik Elias,who underwent groin surgery (gee,that sounds delightful) and will miss 3 to 6 weeks.
Elias had a huge bounce back season last year and his loss will be a huge one to the Devil offense that already was light at the center position.
Perhaps this will be the impetus for the Devils to make the move to add a center that was expected over the off-season.

3) The Devils used a lot of the players that you will see at Lowell and some of the youngsters battling for a roster spot here.
The player that stood out the most was Nicklas Bergfors to me.
The Swede seemed to be around the Ranger net often and assisted on one of the Clarkson goals.

I watched the first episode of the Ulitmate Fighter last night on Spike Tv.
There was not much on television and I watched the episode,knowing that I was only familiar with a few names(the coaches of each team and Kimbo Slice) and didn't have opinions formed at all.
The program wasn't that bad until they got to the actual fighting part.
That was pretty dull despite an absolutely brutal cut on one of the fighters.
I just don't see the appeal of the fights themselves,they are violent and the fighters take a pounding,but I don't see the excitement part of the sport.

Seattle will lose linebacker Leroy Hill for longer than expected as it appears that Hill will be out for six weeks.
Will Herring moves into the starting lineup to replace Hill in a significant downgrade.

The Browns released veteran linebacker Leon Williams yesterday.
Williams was inactive for the loss to Minnesota.
No word on a roster addition.

Saying goodbyes

to Patrick Swayze.
Swayze was never a huge favorite of mine,but I thought Point Break was a good film and Road House was one of those less than great movies that you seem to stop and watch when passing it on the remote.
Swayze was 57.

to Mary Travers.
Travers was the "Mary" of folk trio Peter,Paul and Mary was successful in the folk boom of the 1960's and moved on to a career in children's music after their run had passed.
The trio used songs from unknown writers to give them their start in the business such as Bob Dylan,Gordon Lightfoot and John Denver.
Travers was 72.

to Henry Gibson
Gibson was best known for his work on Laugh-In,but was also well known as a character actor.
I will remember Gibson best for his role as the leader of the American Nazi Party in the classic Blues Brothers film.
Gibson was 73.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Steaming hot from the melting pot



Time for a few thoughts that should clean up some things that had been clogging the inbox.
Many other blogs use Random Ramblings,which I just stumbled over,so I'll be looking for some new names for these segments...

Fox Sports Pittsburgh sure makes it tough to cover the team at this time of year.
Next to no coverage of the visit to Dodger Stadium and one thing that it does make me think about.
Will FSP be in big trouble the year that the Pirates do contend and they show 2 games a week?

Not that the Pirates have been worth watching as they are 2-8 over their last 10 games.
Thanks to a moderate winning run by Kansas City over the same period of time,the Pirates sped by the Royals and into second place in the Bryce Harper derby.
The Pirates still trail Washington by 5 and a half games and time is running out,but I wouldn't rule catching Washington out quite yet....

Showtime starts their awaited five part series on the American Football League tonight entitled Full Color Football.
It is produced by NFL Films and anything that the Sabol gang works on is usually tremendous.

Showtime also was able to get their way on their boxing card last Saturday night as both Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward won their respective bouts and avoided any type of injuries,so their November first round battle in the Super Six is on as scheduled.
Kessler stopped Gusmyr Perdomo in the fourth to keep his WBA crown and Ward battered Shelby Pudwill into a third round knockout.
The series starts next month with WBC champ Carl Froch defending against Andre Dirrell and Arthur Abraham moving up from 160 pounds to wage war against Jermaine Taylor.

ESPN and promoter Top Rank are finally discussing working together again after years of differences.
Long time (or Old) fans will remember that boxing on ESPN for years was called Top Rank Boxing as the weekly show only had Top Rank promoted fighters on it,while non Top Rank fights were called Boxing Specials.
Nice to see the two talking again at least.

Still no word on Versus and Direct Tv coming to an agreement.
Direct TV still hasn't given Versus' channel assignment to anyone,so that is good news,but little seems to be happening on any upcoming deal....

Ohio State lost to USC,but they did accomplish one thing as the game was the most watched in ESPN history as 10.6 million viewers watched the game.
Usually the game would have been on ABC,due to the networks commitment to NASCAR (sigh) the game was shifted to ESPN.

The New Jersey Devils start exhibition play tonight at the Rock against the Rangers.
The game is on MSG,so we will have some coverage here tomorrow....

Back tomorrow with whatever strikes me to write about...

Photo Credits
Dutch Oven:DeltaBlues.net
Kessler-Perdomo:Jesper Sorensen-AP Photo

Reviewing the tape-Whitewash!

Reviewing the tape of the Seattle Seahawks 28-0 win over the St.Louis Rams at Qwest Field was pretty pleasant.
However nothing is perfect and one must consider the quality of opposition when looking at any victory.
Matt Hasselbeck tossed three touchdowns (two to John Carlson) and Julius Jones rushed for over 100 yards on the ground.
The Seahawks travel to San Francisco next week for what could be an important game in the divisional race.

Puget Sounds

1) Why could a Week two game look important already?
Well,since San Francisco surprisingly won their first game over Arizona,a road win over the Niners would make Seattle the early favorite by the numbers for the NFC West crown.

2) Seattle did lose starting linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to leg injuries in the game.
Neither is expected to be long termers,but just in case,former Seahawk D.D Lewis was signed to add depth to the linebacking group.
Hill will miss two weeks,while no word on Tatupu's status for the Niners.

3) Matt Hasselbeck threw two interceptions to go with his three touchdowns,but the first looked to me like he was just overly in love with his arm on opening day as he twice tried to force the ball into double covered receivers.
This is the type of attempt that can get Hasselbeck in trouble as he usually doesn't possess the type of arm to get away with that sort of thing...

4) Julius Jones did rip off 62 of his 117 yards on his touchdown gallop that was the final score of the day,but putting that run aside,Jones ran with more power and energy than I saw most times last season.
Take into account that it was the opener against the downtrodden Rams,but this gives me hope of Jones having a big year.


5) Check the "Fargo strut" by Jones after the TD run.
Jeff Jarrett is much more known for the dance now,but I wasn't aware of Jones being a wrestling fan.
Maybe it is simple as two guys with the same initials?

6) Turning point of the game,late in the first half with the Hawks leading 7-0 and going for a field goal,St.Louis not only blocks Olindo Mare's attempt,they scoop the ball up and run for what appears to be the game tying TD.
Jim Mora challenges the call as he claims the Rams had 12 men on the field.
The challenge goes in the favor of Seattle,who not only gets the TD off the board,but measures for the first down after the five yard penalty.
Seattle gets it by inches,the drive continues and when Hasselbeck hits Nate Burleson for the score with 12 seconds remaining,the game is essentially over...

7) The Seahawk passing game returned to its strength using its depth to spread the ball around.Three Hawks had six or more grabs on the day-Nate Burleson (7),John Carlson and T.J.Houshmanzdeh (6).
That is going to go a long way in making the teams passing game respected once again.

8) I rave about John Carlson all the time,but a tip to fantasy owners-if you have a chance to get Carlson right now,do so!
He is the default receiver on almost every play and he doesn't miss many opportunities to catch the football...

9) Solid line protected Hasselbeck all day as the Rams were unable to sack him at all during the course of the contest.
Not bad for a shuffled together unit without two starters,but San Francisco should bring a sterner test this Sunday.

Photo Credits
Fans:Elaine Thompson-AP Photo
Carlson:Ted Warren-AP Photo

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reviewing the tape-Peterson runs over Cleveland


This post will feature some thoughts on the Browns 34-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings after reviewing the tape after getting some badly needed rest yesterday morning.
I'll try to get the look back at the Seahawks win over the Rams later today.

The Cleveland Browns caught some breaks early and were able to hang with the Vikings for the first half as they trotted into the locker room with a 13-10 lead and thinking they had controlled Adrian Peterson.
What they didn't know was Peterson was dehydrated and barely able to function for the half.
Well, an IV allowed Peterson to step into the phone booth and become Superman,roll over the helpless Brown defense in the second half and take away any hope of an upset win.....

Brownie Bits

1) I am a huge fan of Adrian Peterson,I made a fantasy football trade,while he played for Oklahoma in order to make sure he was on my team when the rap on him was durability,so I have a small bias.
However,Adrian Peterson may be the most complete running back since Jim Brown.
There may have been faster backs,shiftier backs and backs with more power,but I feel pretty comfortable in saying that he is the most complete since Brown and with a little more time,maybe even the best since Brown period.
And that covers a ton of great backs..


2) The Browns were overmatched by the Vikings and this was an expected defeat,but considering that next weeks opponent (Denver) needed a miracle to defeat the Bengals,we should have a decent handle on whether this is 6-10 team or a 3-13 team after the trip to the Mile High City.

3) Once again,the Browns best player is Joshua Cribbs.Cribbs scored the Browns only meaningful touchdown on a punt return and saw plenty of action on offense as well,but he could have used better in the offense.
How so?Glad you asked.....

4) I know the Wildcat (or Single Wing) is the NFL version of the chocolate brown leisure suit right now,but when you consistently run the same damn play out of the formation-you aren't tricking anyone!!!
I screamed about this with Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini is doing the same thing,Throw one pass with Cribbs out of this and you will open SO MUCH ground on future plays,then you really have teams confused!
Not to mention teams see Cribbs in the backfield and play him to run,which is exactly what Cleveland did twice inside the Viking ten and ignored two wide open receivers that would have been a touchdown instead settling for a field goal.
If you are just going to run Cribbs out of the formation,then it is just another running play.

5) The Browns did manage to break their long touchdown drought in the fourth quarter with a meaningless score,but when your top offensive threat turns out to be Robert Royal (4 catches,60 yards and the TD),it could be a long season offensively.
Brady Quinn makes one read and then looks for the tight end,which would have worked brilliantly with the departed Kellen Winslow,but not so much with pedestrian Royal...

6) Speaking of Quinn,not impressed.
Most of his passing yards came in garbage time and his Garo Yepremian like pass/fumble was a total joke.
I am not saying Derek Anderson is any better,mind you,but Quinn's opener was not encouraging to me..

7) Jamal Lewis ran reasonably well ( 57 yards on 11 carries) against one of the top run defenses in the league and gives me some hope that he can be at least average this season.
He may have to be,considering Jerome Harrison is still on the shelf and James Davis being injured in the Viking game...

8) Braylon Edwards caught only one ball and had a touchdown taken away (good call,I thought) and generally was a non-factor,but his grab on the non-TD was phenomenal.
Just goes to show that Edwards has the talent when motivated,which he seldom is...

9) The Browns rookie pass catchers were a non factor as Mohammed Massquoi caught one pass for 18 yards on the last drive,while Brian Robiskie had nothing on the stat sheet.
If these two are the future,let's see more of them and less of Mike Furrey.

10) The Browns were able to put some pressure on Brett Favre with four sacks and give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan credit for being aggressive and creative in figuring ways out to press Favre,but the second half was not as effective.
Ryan is going to have to mix things up from week to week to best utilize his less than stellar talent base..

11) The tackling was improved until the last Peterson TD run in which he bum rushed over what seemed to be half the stadium,but the Browns defended only one pass on the game (Eric Wright).
That is not going to cut it when you play more pass oriented teams.

12) If I could pick one play that showed the NFL's feelings about the Browns,I would pick Adrian Petersons' last TD run where he broke Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright's tackle attempts and then tossed McDonald's second attempt aside with a dismissive shove.
That play was like a stern school principal dismissing a miscreant from his office and that much like Cleveland's attempt to defeat top teams...


13) Finally,this was not a total disaster.
Sure,there were bad points in the game,but those were expected.
Next week is going to be an interesting game as both the Browns and Broncos are similar teams.
New coaches,new quarterbacks and not excessively talented.
This is a winnable game on the road for Cleveland and could be a valuable building block with a win.....

Photo Credits
Peterson,Quinn:Mark Duncan-AP Photo
Royal:Tony Dejak-AP Photo

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week one


The NFL season (or as I like to call my waste of money for the year) kicks off today with the Browns and Seahawks in action.

The Cleveland Browns host the Brett Favre media circus otherwise known as the Minnesota Vikings in their opener.
The Browns are 1-9 in their ten openers since returning to the league and they drew a tough card this season to start with.
Brett Favre is getting all the ink (or font,if you will) but the real key is Adrian Peterson,the NFL's best back.
Minnesota does two things incredibly well-run the football and stop the opponent running game.
Cleveland does little well unless you count Eric Mangini's playing of I've got a secret as part of the team.
The Vikings shut down good teams backs,the Browns runners aren't even at the average level.
Cleveland's route to victory starts with keeping Peterson away from the long runs that earned his reputation,he'll get his yards-just not the massive ones.
Make Brett Favre beat you,the Viking receivers are not much better than the Browns.
And be able to run the ball just enough to keep Minnesota honest.

The Seattle Seahawks host the St.Louis Rams in a division matchup.
A win would go a long way to showing that last seasons poor record was a fluke.
Seattle is the better team and just needs to play up to their abilities.
Keep the pass rush off Matt Hasselbeck and don't let Stephen Jackson run wild and things should take care of themselves..

Our Predictions
Vikings 31-14
Seahawks 24-10

Sometimes you just know....


Every once in a while,you have a bit of total clarity.
Mine came last night in the fourth quarter of Ohio State's 18-15 loss to USC.
I thought things were looking up with a 15-10 Buckeye lead and the Buckeyes driving with a third down coming up inside Trojan territory.
But a conservative call lost four yards on a quarterback draw and as soon as I saw the punting unit on the field instead of Aaron Pettrey attempting a 53 yard field goal,the moment hit me-USC was going to pull the game out.
As I screamed at the television at work,it was so clear-Playing not to lose instead of to win.
And the result was 18-15 USC.

Buckeye Branches

1) I think the world of Jim Tressel,but last night was the chance to rip up the "safe" playbook and roll the dice.
Tressel did neither and as a result,a win turned into a loss.

2) The Buckeye defense did its job for sure as they held the Trojans to 18 points and seven of those were handed to them with a drive that started at the Buckeye five.
The Buckeye pass rush was effective until the final drive and I think things will only improve on the defensive side of the ball.

3) Wish I could say the same for Terrelle Pryor,who seems to save his worst for last.
The Buckeyes had little time and no timeouts in a dire situation,but Pryor didn't seem very poised on the final drive and his start was not much better when an interception was thrown right to a USC linebacker that led to a touchdown.
Pryor may be the most electrifying player in the game,but electricity can get you shocked if you don't use it properly.

4) The lack of a true top notch runner bit the Bucks and I would wager that will happen again over the course of the season.
Boom Herron is not the guy to carry the mail as a number one back as his 44 yards on 18 carries with a long of eight yards shows.
Brandon Saine had one carry and Jamaal Berry sat for the second week in a row.

5) Had to love the continued great play of linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan.
Both of the two seemed to be in on every play.

6) Ohio State kept Joe McKnight under wraps until the final drive.
Ignore all the hype of Matt Barkley,this game was won by Mcknight.

7) Another just missed it moment came early in the 4th when Ohio State had a rusher in the face of punter Billy O'Malley but overshot the spot and missed what would have been a sure two points and maybe seven.
The little things that add up.

8) More Pryor,watching the game reminded me of when Donovan McNabb decided to prove that he could be a passer from the pocket and refused to run as often.
I got the feeling that Pryor is doing the same thing and his effectiveness is falling as a result.

9) I railed against the Ohio State secondary last week,but I thought they played reasonably well last night.
They were able to avoid the big play that happened so often against Navy and kept the USC players in front of them.

10) Finally,this game showed once and for all that Ohio State needs someone new to call the plays on offense.
Too much Vanilla considering the average running game.
Is it too much to ask Jim Tressel to give up a little control in order to win these games against elite competition???

11) More Tressel, as the play calling at the end of the first half went into the other direction.
Up 10-7 and USC with no timeouts,OSU threw two passes instead of running into the locker room,that resulted in a USC field goal in a three point loss.
That was the time to be conservative and yet they were not.

Bullpen Notes

I know I have bias here,but sorry if I am not screaming about the Michigan "Big win" over Notre Dame at home?
Wow,you beat a team that was 3-8 last year and was only ranked 22nd because of their name.
If Notre Dame would have ranked where they deserved to be,this would be just another win...

Guess these two teams don't look as good as they did last week.
Oklahoma State went out and followed up a win over Georgia with an inexplicable loss at home to Houston and to one person out there in particular-Does Miami's win over Florida State lose some gloss after almost losing after trailing the whole night to Jacksonville State?
I think so,I didn't even know Jacksonville State's mascot (Gamecocks) until I did a Google search,that is how non-descript they are!

The New Jersey Devils opened camp and a surprise player showed up.
Former Buffalo enforcer Andrew Peters arrived at camp and will be attempting to take the enforcer role for Pierre Luc LeBlond.
Shapes up to be an interesting battle....

Photo Credit
AP Photo-Terry Gilliam

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Revenge time?

The Ohio State Buckeyes have a chance to regain some polish on a tarnished reputation for themselves and the Big Ten conference as the mighty USC Trojans visit Columbus for a night game.
Now,I know that the Buckeyes have lost some prestige with their less than glowing BCS title game losses in Florida and LSU (although to this day,I fail to see the big hate on the LSU loss,the Tigers were clearly the better team) and last years pounding at USC.
However,I would have thought that last seasons Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas in a game that could have went either way would have gotten a piece of that back.
So it appears that a win tonight is needed to relieve some of the national criticism that Ohio State and therefore the Big Ten receives.
Can this happen?
Sure,USC does start a freshman quarterback coming into his first road game into a hostile environment and they did suffer many losses to the NFL on defense,but all the offensive starters other than QB Mark Sanchez return and against a Buckeye defense that looked pretty slow against Navy could speed right on by.
Ohio State is going to need to run the ball effectively enough to set Terrelle Pryor up to mix up his runs and passes and that may be a problem.

The Navy game showed some issues for OSU and I am concerned.
Sometimes,teams play poorly prior to a big showdown and bounce back strong in a surprise effort,but just as many times it is a precursor to major problems.
Ohio State appears to have secondary concerns other than Kurt Coleman and a pass rush that will need to pick things up tonight after an average game against an undersized opponent.
The Buckeyes will need to rush Matt Barkley and attempt to fluster him and in order to stop Joe McKnight (I REALLY like McKnight a lot),OSU may have to put eight men in the box and gamble on their questionable secondary.

Our prediction
I don't think this is a blowout and it could be closer than the morning line (7 pts).
A week ago,I might have picked OSU,but last weeks performance worried me.
I hate to do it,but USC 21-16.

Bullpen Notes

Just a word on the lack of Pirate coverage.
With their games being shown less in the month of September and pretty much no real news to be found after the rosters enlarged,it has become hard to find things to write about.
Considering that with football kicking off and hockey opening camp,it is just a little slow.
I will try to catch a game or so soon in order to keep things going.

I am hoping to sometime in October,do a "State of the system" address for the Pirates and Indians.
This would cover not only 2009 in review,but also look at positional strengths and weaknesses that each team should be attempting to address over the next season...

Boxing doubleheader on Showtime as the final prelude to the "Super Six" Super Middleweight tournament occurs with WBA champ Mikkel Kessler defending his belt against Gusmyl Perdomo in Denmark,while Andre Ward tunes up for his fight with Kessler with a bout against Tocker Pudwill in Oakland.
The Super Six is a great idea,but it could have been even better with either of two changes.
One is the inclusion of Jermain Taylor,who has lost three of his last four major fights and seems to have gotten into "not wanting to get into top shape" mode.
Taylor fades down the stretch of his tough fights,often costing him wins.
I would have replaced Taylor with the winner of the upcoming IBF title rematch between Lucien Bute (Champ) and Librado Andrade or Tulsa,Oklahoma star Allan Green instead.
But,if Taylor was a must have,I would have made it tournament an "Elite Eight" and added those two fighters anyway.
In any event,it is a innovative idea and one that shows a lot of potential in changing the way Boxing does business.

One final note-do you know what our highest search has been for lately?
Sal Amato from the last things that make us laugh!
All these work and Sal Amato is what gets people here???
Now THAT makes me laugh!

Back tomorrow with Buckeyes-Trojans and our picks for the first week of NFL Action.

Photo Credits
Helmets:Helmet Project
Kessler:Scanpix

Friday, September 11, 2009

Seattle Seahawks Preview


The Seattle Seahawks come off a disappointing and injury plagued 2008 with what appears to be an improved team that should have an excellent chance of winning the NFC West.
New coach Jim Mora Jr has some wrinkles that he is adding to the Mike Holmgren playbook and here hopes that a new shine helps some possibly fading players.

Matt Hasselbeck fought off back injuries much of last season and claims to be healthy.
He better be as Seneca Wallace returns as the main backup after some less than impressive outings as the quarterback replacement last year.
Mike Teel was drafted out of Rutgers to be the third string clipboard carrier.
Wallace brings versatility to the offense with the various things that he can do,but as a pure QB,he lacks the ideal numbers that you need from a backup quarterback.
Once again,the season could hinge on the health of Hasselbeck.

Julius Jones returns as the teams leading rusher and hopes to solidify himself there after an erratic 2008.
Jones averaged 4.4 yards a carry for a career high,but only carried the ball 10 times a game as Holmgren seemed to lack confidence in him.
Edgerrin James was signed to back up Jones and possibly take his place if needed.
James had his issues last season with the Cardinals,but played well in the Arizona playoff run,giving hope that he may have a little left in the tank.
Justin Forsett is back as the change of pace back and brings valuable special teams play.
Owen Schmitt was drafted in 2008 as the long term fullback,but one year later is the backup as Mora brings in his former Falcon starter Justin Griffith to start.
Griffith is a solid lead blocker and fair pass catcher to boot.

The Seattle strength should be the receiving corps.
Between injured players returning and two top notch acquisitions,Seattle should have little problem finding targets.
T.J.Houshmanzdeh arrives as a free agent from the Bengals and brings his excellent hands to Seattle as he looks to finally escape the shadow of the more publicized Chad Johnson.
Nate Burleson returns from injury to provide the Seahawks with a legitimate deep threat.
Deion Branch may return to form as the slot receiver,which is a role that he may be better suited for and speedy rookie Deon Butler adds to the quality of the unit.
Ben Obomanu completes the excellent group.
John Carlson had an excellent rookie season and with a similar jump in production in 2009 could become one of the top pass catching tight ends in the game.
Journeyman John Owens is the top backup,but watch for rookie Cameron Morrah's development.
Morrah surprisingly entered the draft early and could be a late round steal for the Hawks.

The offensive line is a question mark as future Hall of Famer Walter Jones continues to struggle with injuries and to cover for the ailing Jones,Seattle is forced to shuffle positions.
Jones starts when healthy at left tackle,but with his injury,Sean Locklear moves from right tackle to left,Ray Willis from guard to right tackle,rookie Max Unger from center to guard and Steve Vallos takes over at center.
With Jones,this is a pretty good line,without? We will have to see.
Former first round center Chris Spencer is also injured,so the Seattle line could improve quickly once things get better on the physical front.
Veterans Mansfield Vrotto and Brandon Frye are the backups.

Seattle attempted to fortify the defensive line by bringing in players with top of the talent that had disappointed after big contracts.
Cory Redding was acquired from the Lions in the deal that cost the Hawks Julian Peterson.
Redding has been pedestrian for the last two seasons after an excellent 2006.
Patrick Kerney attempts a return after missing nine games last season.
The 32 year old veteran still managed 5 sacks in the seven games he played and his intensity is never questioned,only his age and durability.
Darryl Tapp and 2008 top pick Lawrence Jackson will see plenty of action in the defensive end rotation as well.
Colin Cole arrived from Green Bay as Seattle attempts to replace the up the middle pass rush that was lost when Rocky Bernard signed with the Giants.
Replacing Bernard is a tough task and I doubt that Cole can completely do that,but he will need to provide some sort of rush.
Brandon Mebane was one of the few Seahawks to have a top year in 2008,showing power and potential as a future stalwart.
Mebane shows the possibility of being a future star in Seattle with continued progress.
Veteran Craig Terrill and second year man Red Bryant are the other parts of the tackle rotation.

Julian Peterson will be missed.
Peterson was sent to the Lions and took the best all around backing play that Seattle has seen in years with him.
Peterson's pass rush from the outside will be very difficult to replace,but top pick Aaron Curry will try to do just that.
Curry was rated as the top overall player in the draft and Seattle was fortunate to steal him with the fourth pick.
Tackling machine Lofa Tatupu was down a bit in production last season,but still ranked among the leagues top tacklers and Leroy Hill is solid enough at the other outside position.
Health is paramount here as the backup crew of Will Herring,David Hawthorne and Lance Laury leaves much to be desired....

The secondary took a huge hit when Pro Bowl corner Marcus Trufant went down in training camp.Trufant was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list and is ineligible to return until after the bye week.
Josh Wilson and veteran Ken Lucas will be the starters for now with former starter Kelly Jennings as the top backup.
Wilson came along very well last season and continues to develop into a top notch corner.
Travis Fisher is the depth corner.
HURRAY! Brian Russell was released and the secondary improved with that move only.
Jordan Babineaux (who never seemed to do anything,but make big plays) will finally get his chance to start for Russell.
Seattle brought aging veteran Lawyer Milloy to backup Babineaux and hopefully teach him a few things as well.
Milloy still hits as well as any safety and was a nice pickup.
Deon Grant returns as the safety on the other side after a nice season.
C.J.Wallace backs up Grant.

Olindo Mare replaced Josh Brown better than I would have expected last season and missed just three of 27 field goal attempts.
Not sure if Mare can do that again,but it is certainly possible.
Canadian Jon Ryan is back after averaging 45 yards a boot last season.
Josh Wilson and Justin Forsett will be the kick returners again,while Forsett along with Nate Burleson and Deon Butler will all see punt return action.

I think the Seahawks will bounce back after a fluky 2008 with a vengeance.
The schedule isn't overall all that tough and I think Seattle has stepped forward and I don't see any huge steps forward from the other three division foes.
Our Prediction
11-5 NFC West Champions

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cleveland Browns Preview


Here is one of our two football previews for the upcoming NFL season.
With time at a premium,I decided to do the Browns first,so the one that was more important was guaranteed to be finished before Sunday.

Eric Mangini continues his Bill Belichick impersonation with his silly refusal to announce the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Vikings.
Word has leaked out that Brady Quinn was given the nod over Derek Anderson and I can see why.
It is well known that I am not a Brady Quinn believer,but after spending a first round pick on Quinn and seeing him play very little over the first two seasons,it is clear that now is the time to give the Notre Dame product his opportunity to fish or cut bait.
Quinn seems a better fit with the Browns receivers and a better fit into the offense that Mangini wants to run.
Also,starting with Quinn and then going to Anderson if things go badly is a better plan than leading with Anderson and then going to Quinn.
Brett Ratliff comes over from the Jets to fill the third string spot.
The Browns running game was quite a disappointment last season and if any turnaround is possible in Cleveland,the ground game will have to improve.
Jamal Lewis looks to be about done to me and would be best suited for a "Jerome Bettis" type role that not only would improve his effectiveness but also prolong his career.
Sixth round pick James Davis from Clemson has been very impressive in pre-season play and should see plenty of action,while Jerome Harrison might get the most snaps of all when you consider his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Cedric Peerman was claimed off waivers from Baltimore after the Ravens released the sixth round pick.
Peerman is the low man of the depth chart.
Lawrence Vickers will see the most playing time at fullback since he is the only fullback on the roster.

The pass catchers start with the enigmatic Braylon Edwards and end with a lot of questions.
When Braylon Edwards is the guy you need to count on,you have issues.
The long striding speedster led the league in dropped passes last season and was near the top in whining,over-inflated ego and excuses as well.
Edwards should be motivated to shape up as this is a contract season for him.
Joshua Cribbs wants a new contract and in an unusual move in today's NFL is attempting to earn it on the field.
The special teams ace has won the WR position opposite Edwards as the Browns attempt to get the ball into the hands of their most electrifying player more often.
Veteran Mike Furrey comes over from the Lions as the slot possession reciever.Furrey had some solid season in that role in the past as a Ram and should be the hot read for Quinn if he is being pressured.
Second round rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi complete the Browns receiving corps.

The tight end spot was given to former Bill Robert Royal over veteran Steve Heiden and second year man Martin Rucker.
Royal is the best blocker of the bunch and that seems to be the attribute most valued by Mangini from a tight end.
Royal specializes in the 2 yard TD flip to the tight end,so don't expect huge numbers with the hands.
Rucker is the pass catcher of the group,but plays soft and I was mildly surprised to see him make the team at all.
Heiden is the most complete player of the three,but has battled injuries over the last few seasons.

The offensive line is anchored by the excellent left side of Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas and guard Eric Steinbach.
The pair ranks among the best in the game and gives the Browns a solid anchor in attempting to pick up the ground game.
I wish that I could say the same about the right side with journeyman John St.Clair and former Seahawk Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack.
Both are better suited as backups,especially St.Clair,but will have to step their game up in order to compete.
Rex Hadnot backs up both players,but better suits as a guard.
The starting center also has not been announced as undersized veteran Hank Fraley attempts to hold off the challenge of first round pick Alex Mack.
Fraley may be the better player now,but Mack better suits the style of play and needs to get experience as soon as possible....

The Browns continue to run the 3-4 defense and I do not see a huge improvement over last years version for the most part.
Shaun Rogers returns to anchor the defensive line from the nose tackle spot.
Rogers was and is the Browns only impact player on the defense and will need to continue his play of last season for the Browns to have any chance of success.
Ahtyba Rubin backs up the Pro Bowler.
Former Jet Kenyon Coleman man one end with Robaire Smith returning from injury on the other side.
High priced bust Corey Williams and yet another former Jet C.J. Mosley are the backups.

D'Qwell Jackson returns as the Browns top linebacker after a breakout season last year.
Jackson led the team in tackles and seemed to be one of the few Browns that was a good fit in the 3-4 defense.
Disappointing first round pick Kamerion Wimbley keeps one of the outside spots in what is likely his last chance to turn around a flagging career.
Two more former Jets hold the remaining starting spots as Eric Barton and David Bowens move in from New York.
Barton is an excellent tackler and Bowens knows the system.
Rookies David Veikune and Kalava Maiava are the long term hopes for those spots and they are the main backups along with 2008 pre-season sensation Alex Hall,who will mainly be used as a pass rusher and returning Leon Williams adds depth as well.

Three of the four starting spots from 2008 stay the same as Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald hold down their corner spots with Brodney Pool back at free safety.
Former Jet Abram Elam replaces the departed Sean Jones at the strong safety slot.
I like Wright,but McDonald would be better as the nickel or dime corner and his starting shows the weakness of the Browns secondary.
Well traveled vet Hank Poteat leads a collection of young unproven backups at corner.
Pool has been average during his time in Cleveland and Elam seems to be about the same.
Veteran Mike Adams and special teamer Nick Sorensen are the depth providers.

Josh Cribbs will be the main kick and punt returner with Jerome Harrison taking a few as well.
Phil Dawson and Dave Zastudil keep the solid core of the kicking game together for another season.

Frankly,this team doesn't look very good and even worse,they don't even look interesting.
James Davis could be fun to watch and seeing if Brady Quinn develops adds something worth paying attention to,but the Browns could be bad and boring and that is not very entertaining viewing and really not getting any bang for my Sunday Ticket buck.

Our Prediction-Giving the Browns every benefit of each game that looks close and we all know that will not happen.
5-11.
However,expect worse......