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Monday, September 26, 2011

Seahawks slide by Cardinals 13-10

The Browns win was not the most exciting game that I have ever seen,but compared to the Seattle Seahawks 13-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals,it was of playoff caliber excitement.
Tavaris Jackson's eleven yard dive into the end zone was the only second half score for either team and enabled Seattle to earn their first win of the season in their home opener.
Sidney Rice was the offensive standout in his Seattle bow,catching eight passes for 109 yards.
The 1-2 Seahawks will host the 1-2 Atlanta Falcons next Sunday....


Puget Sounds


1) Kudos to the corner pair of Brandon Browner and Marcus Trufant,who held Larry Fitzgerald to a meaningless screen pass after Fitzgerald's leaping touchdown catch in the second period.
The Hawks were giving the corner covering Fitzgerald help from the safety or linebacker in the area,which is to be expected,but anytime that a star of his caliber can be held to those numbers-you increase your chances of winning....


2) The best player on the field on this day for both teams were defensive linemen-Chris Clemons for Seattle and Calais Campbell for the Cardinals.
Campbell finished the day with two and a half sacks,while Clemons finished with a sack,two tackles for loss and a rejection (Shown above) of a Kevin Kolb pass....


3) Tavaris Jackson shows me little as a quarterback to make me think that Seattle has found their future passer.
Jackson locks onto his receiver early,looks flustered in the pocket and generally looks confused much of the time.
Watching Jackson's interviews makes me root for him because he seems like a really good person,but as I say on other topics-My mechanic is a good guy too,but that does not mean I want him to be my quarterback...


4) Sidney Rice made some super catches along the sideline and looked to be sharp for his first game.
My only complaint was that Rice did not run many deep routes,but that can be addressed.
Tavaris Jackson does have a rapport with Rice and that could be Jackson's saving grace...


5) I thought the offensive line would take some time to jell and the injury to Robert Gallery certainly has not helped,but the group is disappointing thus far.
Jackson had Cardinals in his face far too often for him to succeed.
First round pick James Carpenter seems to having particular issues in the season to date...


6) Safety Kam Chancellor is a huge hitter.
His knockout of Todd Heap gave the Cardinals some reluctance in throwing the ball over the middle due to the pounding that they were sure to take.
Add to that Chancellor's late game interception and his maturing safety partner in the talented Earl Thomas and the safety spots look secure for years to come...


7) Another strong game from Leroy Hill on the comeback trail.
Hill forced a fumble,added a sack and eight tackles.

Hill had faded a bit after being quite a good player a few years back and it is nice to see Hill off to such a strong start....


8) Zach Miller would add so much to this offense,if he was thrown the ball.
Two catches for nine yards is not the type of production that Miller is being paid for.
It is not Miller's fault though as he is being held in to add to the less than strong protection by the offensive line..


9) The game MVP? Try Arizona kicker Jay Feely,who missed two field goals.
Feely hits those-Cardinals win.


10) Just a dull,dull game,but a dull win beats an exciting loss anytime/


Photo Credit:Harry How-Getty Images
 

McCoy's late rally drowns Miami

On a day that the offense and Colt McCoy looked pretty dismal for most of the day,the Cleveland Browns and McCoy stepped up on a final drive that ended with McCoy hitting Mohammed Massaquoi for the game winning touchdown with 43 seconds to go for a 17-16 Cleveland win.
The 2-1 Browns will host the 2-1 Tennessee Titans in Cleveland next Sunday before heading into the bye week.

Brownie Bits

1) One thing to note right off-Colt McCoy did not play well other than the winning drive.
The numbers do not look that bad-210 yards,2 TD's and one pick,but 19 of 39 in an offense that is built around a high completion percentage is not going to cut the mustard long term.
McCoy overthrew Josh Cribbs on a pass that saw Cribbs yards ahead of his defender that would have been an easy TD and he seemed to be either over or underthrowing much of the day.
I did (of course) like the final drive,but despite the win,I still have questions to answer on McCoy.

2) The final drive was very nice as McCoy ran the offense the way it is intended to be run as he completed passes to six different receivers.
In a way,the winning drive showed the potential that the Browns could have had the Browns added another playmaker.
A guy that gets yards after the catch,like Greg Little is beginning to show signs of being.
The Browns add one more top flight pass grabber to go with Little,Mohammed Massaquoi as the 3rd receiver,Ben Watson and Evan Moore at tight end,the Hillis/Hardesty running game and the team could have the makings of a offense....

3) Peyton Hillis had been battling strep throat all week and left before the game,ticking off fantasy owners and giving Montario Hardesty his chance to shine.
Hardesty ran for 67 yards and looked strong.
I think the main issue with Hardesty was the team did not run him enough!
With McCoy struggling and Hillis out,I would have given Hardesty the ball far more.....

4) Hardesty's biggest play of the day though was his screen pass reception for a first down on the final drive on a fourth down and four.
Hardesty played in a pro style offense at Tennessee,he can catch the football and could be quite a help in passing situations.

5) Excellent play on the game winning catch by Mohammed Massaquoi in keeping both feet in bounds,but the "two men on the ground" at the same time celebration rule that gave Miami great field position was a bogus call.
Anyone could see that Massaquoi had gotten up and fell off balance just as Ben Watson slid in.
A guy can taunt,dance and everything else and that is OK,but two guys on the turf at the same time is a penalty?
Dumb rule and one that could have cost the Browns this game.

6) The Pat Shurmur offense sure is not where I hoped it would be,but thus far the defensive line has been spectacular.
Rookie Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor have both been terrific,Jayme Mitchell has been a pleasant surprise and Ahtyba Rubin continues to develop into one of the better tackles in the league.
The four already look to be the Browns best pass rushing bunch since the team returned in 1999.

7) Mike Adams did not have to leap for the final pass of the game by Chad Henne,the pass was going to be well incomplete anyway,but it still was a huge jump.
Adrenaline can make you do things that you normally cannot....

8) Joe Thomas had an excellent day as he controlled Jason Taylor all day long.
The line in general kept the rush off McCoy (zero sacks),but the right side did allow some Dolphins to get through-right tackle HAS to be a priority next season in either the draft or free agency....

9) Josh Cribbs played offense only due to a groin pull,which is why he did not return kicks.
Cribbs effort on his 33 yard TD catch was immense as that was one of those plays that came down to which player needed to make the play.
In those situations,it is not very often that Cribbs is going to lose those battles...

10) One final note-with Ben Watson and Evan Moore playing well and Alex Smith seeing playing time as well,has anyone noticed that fourth rounder Jordan Cameron has been a healthy inactive each week thus far?
I had questions on this pick on draft day,when you considered Cameron being a project and tight end being one of the deeper positions on the team,but it looks worse now as that pick could have brought Denarious Moore in,who is playing well early for Oakland.
I admit that I was not pushing for Moore then,but he would look very good on this team right now....

Photo Credits
Matt Sullivan-Getty Images

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Buckeyes run over Ralphie 37-17

In a game that would have made Woody Hayes proud,the Ohio State Buckeyes used the running game 47 times to just 15 passing attempts by Braxton Miller as the Buckeyes pounded visiting Colorado 37-17.
Miller rushed for 83 yards and hit Devin Smith twice for TD's in the win.
The Buckeyes improve to 3-1 and will open Big Ten play next week against Michigan State....

Buckeyes Leaves

1) This truly was the return to grind it out Buckeye football with Braxton Miller taking the snaps.
It reminded me so much of my childhood watching Woody Hayes teams or for you more modern fans,a lot of the Wisconsin Badger gameplan.
One dimensional?Yes,but enjoyable!

2) I understand and agree with breaking Braxton Miller's role in the offense as slow as possible,especially until after next week's game against Michigan State,but things will have to change as soon as next week.
Colorado is the weakest team that OSU will face until Indiana on November 5th.
Count on Miller throwing far more in each of the games until then.....

3) It was nice to see Miller building chemistry with Devon Smith.
DeVier Posey will make a huge difference when he returns,but Smith will be the long term target for Miller.

4) Jordan Hall finished with 80+ yards rushing and a 90+ yard kickoff return.
I hope that Hall remains as part of the offense when Boom Herron (a long time non-favorite of mine) returns after the Spartans visit next week...

5) Underrated play of the game,Chris Fields noticing what no one else on the field did-that a first half Colorado punt hit a Buckeye.
Fields recovery kept possession and OSU would score off the drive...

6) If Colorado is the Pac 12's idea of an elite pickup,I have to wonder what they are thinking now....

7) Not much else to say about this one.
After the Miami debacle,a win was needed and delivered,the schedule toughens starting next week with Michigan State,Nebraska,Illinois and Wisconsin-all ranked teams....

Photo Credit-Columbus Dispatch

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pigskin Pickin' Machine

An abbreviated version of the PPM today as sleep calls before the Ohio State game against Colorado.
This means picks only for college and pro games.

College
Ohio State over Colorado 20-10
Texas Tech over Nevada 42-26
Boise State over Tulsa 51-31
Miami over Bowling Green 28-26
Game of the Week
Oklahoma State over Texas A&M 42-36

Pros
Browns over Dolphins 20-17
Seahawks over Cardinals 17-13
Game of the Week
Packers over Bears 30-17

Friday, September 23, 2011

Forgotten Superstars -Dan Gable

I have always been a Buckeye fan in all sports,but there is one sport that even though I root for Ohio State that there is an equal for them in-Wrestling.
I have always rooted for Iowa Hawkeye wrestling for two reasons-I love their attacking style and long time face of the program,the legendary Dan Gable.

Dan Gable was such a dominant figure in wrestling as a wrestler and a coach,that I cannot think of an athlete to compare to Gable as being similar in any sport.
"Gable Style" has always made Iowa wrestling a bit different than other wrestling squads,even elite ones.
Iowa might be the only state in the nation that puts wrestling right with basketball as far as interest goes and much of that can be attributed to Dan Gable.
Between Gable's grappling career at Iowa State,where he lost just one match in four years,earning three National Championships and his coaching career at Iowa,If Gable is not responsible for starting the interest in wrestling statewide,he sure built that interest to its peak in his terms as a competitor and coach.

Dan Gable is also known for his dominant Gold Medal winning performance at the 1972 Munich Olympics,where he won all of his matches without surrendering a point to his opposition.
Gable took over as the head coach at Iowa in 1976 and took to working on establishing Iowa as the equal of his alma mater Iowa State,which he did in quick order.
The Hawkeyes won 15 NCAA team titles (Nine in a row) and 21 Big Ten titles in a row under Gable,which basically made Iowa the New York Yankees of wrestling.
Gable also coached the freestyle wrestling Olympic teams on three occasions in 1980,1984 and 2000.

Iowa wrestling took a step down after Gable's final year in 1997.
Hawkeye alum Jim Zalesky won three titles in his tenure with Gable as an assistant athletic director,but that was just three titles in nine years and Tom Brands,a Gable protege with the Hawkeyes and the USA Olympic team was brought in to return the program to its glory days.
Brands has been able to do just that after a rebuilding first year as Iowa won three NCAA titles in a row before a third place finish last season.

With the advent of the Big Ten network,I get to watch a lot more wrestling than I ever did before and Iowa along with Ohio State have become winter staples for me.
Thanks to Dan Gable and the aggressive Hawkeyes to making a fan out of me.
For more on Dan Gable,I highly recommend this book for you readers and.or this film for the non-readers!

I will try to be back with something else later tonight,time permitting....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time to clean the inbox a bit with a few things that could use notating.

No coverage of the Steelers shutout of the Seahawks on Sunday.
I have no desire to sit through a 24-0 shutout on tape.
Had the game been closer,it may have been a different story.
The Browns and Seahawks have two more games that are played at the same time-back to back weeks on October 30 and November 6,so those games will be either not covered or on tape,if the game is decent enough to worry with.


Those of you that often times find that their enjoyment of the game can be affected by the people calling the action (like say...ME) should take a look at this article on SI.com that covers all the networks,their announcing and studio teams along with other interesting nuggets on the people that talk the game for a living.

My take on the ACC expansion of Pittsburgh and Syracuse (Raspberry Blown Here).
The ACC continues to toss tradition down the toilet,but I can fix it to a certain degree and maintain history,rivalries and make the best of the situation for long time fans like me,who date back to a SEVEN team ACC!
Assume that 16 teams in two eight team divisions is the eventual goal.
What about an "Heritage" Division consisting of the seven remaining original members-Clemson,Duke,Maryland,North Carolina,N.C. State,Virginia and Wake Forest along with the eighth team to join 1979's Georgia Tech to go with a "newcomers" division with Florida State,Boston College,Virginia Tech and Miami joined by Pittsburgh,Syracuse and the two teams to be named later?
Makes as much sense as the current setup and keeps the original seven schools together.
The new schools looks stronger as far as football goes,but anytime that decisions like these are made for current balance issues,things usually screw up for the long run.
Basketball looks pretty balanced with a small edge for now to the Heritage pending the ID of the eventual two additions.
To this day,I believe that all things considered with the Cleveland/Art Modell/Baltimore fiasco could have been best solved by putting Baltimore in the East with New England,New York and Miami (All rivals of the Baltimore Colts) and sending Buffalo to the North (is there a farther North team that doesn't play in the North?) creating a close geographic league and the AFC's true black and blue division.
Consider this plan,ACC-It would go a long way to making your original fan base happy.

Connecticut and (as Always) Rutgers are rumored to be teams 15 and 16.
Rutgers always comes up in these rumors and I always wonder what they bring to the table in these expansions-Survey Says-Little.
Want a sleeper? Penn State.
It is a longshot,but Grandpa Paterno has always wanted the Big Ten to expand east and when the league instead moved west (Nebraska),the Nittanys could not have been happy.
It is not likely,but Penn State loses just one real rival in the swap(Ohio State) and would refresh three instant rivalries that went dormant with their move to the Big Ten in Syracuse,Pittsburgh and Maryland.

The new website Grantland talks to former NHL enforcer Stu Grimson (Ryan's favorite enforcer,want to make friends and have a conversation with Ryan? Get him talking about Stu Grimson) and the three deaths of hockey enforcers over the summer.
Chris Jones talks to Grimson about his career,fighting and the culture of the game.
Grantland has been uneven thus far with articles ranging from excellent to cringe worthy.
This one is well worth the time.

ESPN's Outside the lines hits a homer here with this article on Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison.
A very detailed and intimate look at this young player that has suddenly fallen out favor in Florida.
When I met Logan here at the Muni,he was very nice and took time to talk.
I would love to see Morrison at either PNC Park or Jacobs Field as a Pirate or Indian,if the Marlins are so dead set on giving him away!

Wendy's is going to remake its hamburger?
Well,it takes effect on Monday,so those of you that want one last run at the old Wendy's burger had better get one over the next few days.
Wendy's lost 1.2 percent of its market share since 2002 (now 12.8 %) and gambled on shaking things up.
I always liked Wendy's burgers WHEN they were done well,which seemed to be 1 out of 3 trips.
Wendy's was the most vulnerable of the Big Three of burgers to poor employees screwing up their food ,at least when I ate there anyway.

Most of you know that I always look through the new network shows of the season and pick a few to give a chance to.
Sometimes this is a homer like the much missed Life and more often than not,it is a swing and a miss.
This season we will be giving a chance to the following shows.
Each show usually gets a four episode run and if I am not interested by then-Adios.
This year,our three choices are

Ringer-Tuesday 9:00 CW
Revenge-Wednesday 10:00 ABC
Person of Interest- Thursday 9:00 CBS
Let's see if any click with me and more importantly with the networks.
What usually happens is anything I like is most of the time over the head of the average viewer and the show gets the boot....

Monday, September 19, 2011

Browns corral Colts 27-19

Peyton Hillis rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns and the Cleveland Browns evened their record at 1-1 with a 27-19 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis.
Colt McCoy passed for over 200 yards and a touchdown in the win that saw McCoy complete passes to eight different Browns.
The Browns will be taking their talents to South Beach next week for a faceoff against the 0-2 Dolphins.

Brownie Bits

1) A four way tie for first place in the AFC North (although being old makes always think of the division as the Central) after two weeks at 1-1.
I wonder which is going to loom larger looking back at the loss to the Bengals,a loss that killed playoff hopes or a game that put the Browns closer to Andrew Luck?

2) 94 yards looks like it is OK,but Peyton Hillis set the tone for this game.
Hillis' bruising style wore down the Colts and made his clinching 4th quarter touchdown a foregone conclusion.

3) Colt McCoy spread the ball around,avoided the big mistakes (NO interceptions) and did exactly what the Browns are hoping to see from him.
Keep the ball in Cleveland control,pound Peyton Hillis and do not turn the ball over.
This sounds like basic football 102,but if McCoy can do that,he looks safe as the QB for a while...

4) Loved the play from the defensive line.
Ahtyba Rubin and Jabaal Sheard each collected sacks and Phil Taylor stuffed the run very well,especially on a third and one that forced a field goal.
The Colts offensive line was having issues,so keep that in mind,but for this game the potential was easy to see.

5) Sheard especially stood out with a forced fumble and another rush that almost turned into a Browns interception.
The Plain Dealer writes that Sheard played this game on his more comfortable left side of the line.
The team said no commitment to keeping him there,but this makes no sense to me.
If Sheard plays like this each week,he'll be on the side he wants to be on.

6) Greg Little and Mohammed Massaquoi each caught three balls and look to be the best two wideouts on the team.
Little as the yards after the catch receiver and Massaquoi as the deeper threat looks to be the tandem that could work best for the Browns.

7) That means less time for Brian Robiskie,who did not catch a pass in the win.
The Browns still need a better best deep threat than Massaquoi,but a number one guy with Little has the two and Massaquoi as the three would give the team a corps that moves above the average teams bunch.

8) Brad Maynard,the new punter after the placing of Richmond McGee on IR put three kicks inside the twenty.
Maynard might not be the Pro Bowler of past years,but he is an improvement over McGee....

9) I would have liked to see more of Montario Hardesty,who I did not see until the fourth quarter.
If the Browns truly want to see Peyton Hillis fresh for the late season games,Hardesty needs to see more time than that..

10) Joe Haden had two penalties,but quietly kept Reggie Wayne from a big day.
Wayne finished with four catches for 66 yards and a long of 20 yards.

Photo Credits
Hillis-AP
Rubin-Joshua Gunter-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inept passing gets Buckeyes beaten

A passing game that "featured" a total of 35 yards passing (all to running backs)  will win very few games against decent teams.
Ohio State threw for just that numbers and deservedly was beaten 23-6 by Miami in a game that was decided by the first quarter,yet any kind of offense at all could have won the game.
Only two field goals by Drew Basil in the second quarter put the Buckeyes on the board.
Ohio State hosts Colorado next week,while Miami goes back to dealing with their felons of the week program....

Buckeye Leaves

1) 35 yards passing is inexcusable.
Period.
If things are going to be this bad,then Braxton Miller should just be given the ball and take his lumps while gaining experience.

2) Not that Miller played well (Intercepted and fumbled),but Joe Bauserman was just awful.
His pass in the second period to Jake Stoneburner that was behind the tight end in the end zone should have been an easy six.
That play right there could have turned the game around.

3) Jordan Hall was impressive in piling up 87 yards before being felled by a leg cramp.
Miami had difficulty stopping Hall,who should be the main horse in next weeks game against Colorado.

4) Miami's second touchdown was an easy one as corner Bradley Roby did not even turn around to look for the football.
Didn't this guy see All the Right Moves?
Coach Nickerson always screamed to play the ball not the man,Roby!!!!

5) Ben Buchanan had a nice night punting and keeping Miami backed up.
Pretty bad when the punter was your second best offensive player.

6) I love the way defensive tackle John Simon is always hustling.
Simon never takes a play off and that motor will likely find a spot on Sundays someday...

7) Rookie mistake by Luke Fickell in not using timeouts late in the game as Miami marched down the field.
Now,I am not saying pull a "Steve Robinson" or anything,but not one timeout on the whole drive?

8) Ohio State has young and inexperienced receivers,but they were rarely close to being open.
The Miami secondary shut down the youngsters and did not allow them to get open,not that Bauserman or Miller would have been able to get the ball to them anyway.

9) Sorry,Brandon,but even in this victory,when you consider the inept OSU offense-Miami did not impress much.
This game was more about what Ohio State was not than anything Miami did....

10) Can you spell Ohio State without an "O'?

Photo Credit:AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pigskin Pickin' Machine

The PPM has plenty to pick from today with good games in both college football and the pros for tomorrow.

We start with Ohio State (2-0) visiting Miami (0-1) in the latest battle of embattled teams.
Ohio State did not look great against Toledo last week and Miami has most of their missing players back.
Ohio State will have keep the running game going,use the time of possession in their favor and hope Miami's Jacory Harris makes a few mistakes in order to win this one.

Texas Tech (1-0) travels to New Mexico to play the 0-2 Lobos.
I don't see this one as being close,Arkansas beat New Mexico by 49 points last week,this might be a little closer-but not much.

Bowling Green (2-0) hosts Wyoming (2-0) in a game that looks to be the first test for both teams.
Both earned two wins over undistinguished opposition.
The game features the return of former Falcon head coach Gregg Brandon to BG as he is now the offensive coordinator for Wyoming.

The game of the week is an easy one as top ranked Oklahoma travels to Tallahassee and the waiting Florida State Seminoles.
Oklahoma seems to be back,but Florida State looks to have one of the better defenses in the country.
The Sooners have won very few big games on the road recently,but FSU looks to have issues running ball despite having James Wilder Jr in their backfield.


The NFL features the Browns traveling to Indianapolis against the Peytonless Colts.
Last weeks loss to the Bengals was a game that they should have won and the Browns have a tendency to win a game or two that you think they are overmatched in.
Can the Browns establish Peyton Hillis this week?
That is one of the two big questions to answer.The other is can the right tackle rotation of Oneil Cousins and Artis Hicks block Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney?
The Colts looked rough without Manning and Kerry Collins is still new to the team.
This could be close....

Seattle heads for Steeltown and the angry Steelers,who laid an egg in their opener against Baltimore.
The Steelers look to have every edge in this one and I do not see Tavaris Jackson having the key to solving the Steelers,but if he does and Seattle wins this game-it is a long season ahead for Pittsburgh.
Seattle must put plenty of heat on Ben Rothlisberger and hope for the best,laying back against Pittsburgh defeats teams before the game starts....

The game of the week has the Bears coming off their surprisingly easy win over Atlanta flying to New Orleans against the Saints.
The Saints loss to the Packers was one of the best games that I have seen in a while and New Orleans is not going to have trouble moving the ball against many teams.
The Saints are going to take advantage of the passing game and win what could be another exciting game....

Bonus pick
Floyd Mayweather over Victor Ortiz in tonight's WBC Welterweight title by late round stoppage

Picks
Miami over Ohio State 24-14
Texas Tech over New Mexico 38-16
Wyoming over Bowling Green 17-10
Browns over Colts 17-14
Steelers over Seahawks 31-13
Saints over Bears 35-21

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's 19!

The Pittsburgh Pirates clinched losing year nineteen in yesterday's 3-2 loss to the St.Louis Cardinals on Roberto Clemente day in Pittsburgh.
Charlie Morton allowed all three runs in seven innings in falling to 9-10 on the season.
The Pirates are in Los Angeles tonight for the first of four games against the Dodgers.

Pirate Hooks

1) The Pirates wore the "Mustard" Caps as a tribute to Roberto Clemente day in the contest.
I prefer those hats to the standard black,although the black hats are fine.

2) As much as I hate to give Greg Brown a compliment,he had an excellent idea for MLB for future Clemente days-Have the Pirates always be at home on September 14th.
Shouldn't be that difficult and the Pirates could then market the day as a traditional tribute...

3) Derrek Lee has been smoking the ball with three more hits yesterday.
Lee is hitting .363 as a Pirate and looks to be making a move for a contract with someone next year..

4) Alex Presley also cracked two doubles.Presley is a guy that I must admit I was wrong about.
No matter what his career turns out to be,seeing him play at Hickory and Lynchburg,I had him pegged as an organizational soldier.

5) The Pirates claimed catcher Matt Pagnozzi off waivers from Colorado.
I would guess this makes a Ryan Doumit return less likely when you consider that Doumit's off season option involves the team picking up BOTH his 2012 and 2013 options at the same time.
Pagnozzi does not bring any special skill set,so he might be bound for Indianapolis next season after Tony Sanchez's off year at Altoona.

6) I also watched the Giants-Padres game at work and I enjoy their broadcasts so much more than the Pirates or anyone else for that matter.
Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow mesh so well together and their reporter Amy Gutierrez is toned down compared to so many of the people that are so over the top at the position for other teams.
Other than maybe Vin Scully doing the Dodgers,the Giants team ranks as my top announcers to kick back and enjoy a game with.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Summer time with the Devils

With training camp opening up in a few days,I thought that I would use the time to catch up on some various Devil nuggets that I did not have a chance to comment on during autograph season.

Three pieces of news rates beyond all with two affecting the on ice product and the other the off ice,although I might rate that as number one to me for the long journey.

The top on ice issue is the injury to Travis Zajac,which will leave the Devils without their top center for the first month of the season and likely more than that.
Zajac's injured Achilles Tendon happened over the summer,so much of his downtime will have been eaten up before the season starts,but the type of injury that he suffered will take time to get back into playing shape.
Imagine having to push off an area that has just been injured for the need to build up skating speed.
I bet Zajac does not play before late November,considering the injury.
The Devils plan to move Dainius Zubrus from wing to center to replace Zajac,which makes sense to me.
Zubrus is an experienced center and had some of his better years in the pivot,so I do prefer this solution to overpaying for a center for a few months..

The Devils also said goodbye to a tenured member of the defense corps as Colin White was released along with Trent Hunter,who had just been acquired from the Islanders in the deal that sent Brian Rolston to Long Island.
White was vulnerable with his declining play and the chance to save one million dollars under the cap for the next two years was too much for the Devils to pass up,especially considering the hopes for Bryce Salvador to return next season.
I never hated Colin White the way that many did,but there is no doubt that his play suffered since his eye injury.
White was always a physical player and he lost some of that post injury and understandably so.
I imagine the chance of losing ones sight from a punch or check could make one gun shy.
White signed quickly with the San Jose Sharks.
Hunter's release saved the Devils 660,000 dollars over each of the next four years against the cap.
Between the moves and maneuvering minus the one year deal for Zach Parise,the Devils have put themselves with a bit over five million dollars under the cap according to Cap Geek,which we welcome to the link lists to the right.

The Devils also invited five non-roster players to camp,three of the names being of note.
The most recognizable name is former Devils Petr Sykora,who has played the last two seasons in Europe.
Sykora was a key member of the second Devils title team as part of the "A Line" with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias.
At age 34,I would say Sykora is near the bottom of the tank,but the Devils have always tried to give former stars a final chance to make teams as a thank you for past deeds,so this does not surprise me.
Defenseman Anton Stralman spent some time with Columbus last season and was looking for a shot,but the name that intrigues me most is right wing Steve Bernier,who has been disappointing in various stops,but has shown enough talent to get future chances elsewhere.
I can see Bernier making this team with a solid camp,the talent is there,but consistency is needed.

The bad news is that the Devils no longer have the best play by play man in the game as the travel has gotten to Mike "Doc" Emrick and Emrick has decided to cut back in games and do a game or two a week for Versus.
Emrick was part of the Devils game experience for me and he will be greatly missed.

Doc did an interview with Puck the Media discussing his future and his past with the Devils.
Well worth the time to stop by there.

Sadly,I suspected that Steve Cangelosi would be the replacement for Doc and I was correct.
I am not a fan of his work and look for a lot of watching on the visiting teams feed for next season for TRS.

I think that cleans things up.
Back tomorrow with the Pirates against the Cardinals.....

On the signing front-

Lots of cards to list with the cardboard piling up,so I decided to knock a few of these off today.
This will nowhere near cover the total,but it might make things a bit more manageable.

We start with the July visit to Hagerstown from the Pirates SAL team,the West Virginia Power.That should tell how many cards have piled up.
Jameson Taillon was terrific as he signed everything for everyone.
Taillon was the top prospect that was the best signer that I have seen this season,although Delino DeShields of Lexington gave him a run for his money.
The Power had several of the Pirates touted pitchers and all were good signers,especially Brooks Pounders and Colton Cain.
Other nice additions were Zac Fuesser and Zack Von Rosenberg on the mound and Drew Maggi of the position players.
The Power were not loaded with position prospects.
This series was notable for the one day appearance for Carlos Alvarez,formerly known as Esmailyn Gonzalez with the Suns.
Alvarez was a player that received a large bonus from the Nationals,but as part of the scandal that dealt with visas,he was not allowed to enter the country for a term.
I had a lot of cards for Alvarez from the days that he was expected to be a Sun in the past and I was able to get him to sign them.
The next day,he was back in Auburn and the NY/Penn league.

The Kinston Indians were in Frederick and I was limited in what I had for the K-Tribe.
The notable additions were long time favorite T.J. House,Chase Burnette and Abner Abreu,who would soon be sent to the Cubs in the Kosuke Fukudome swap.

The Augusta Greenjackets hit Hagerstown and were not loaded with prospects like they had been in 2010.
Notable pickups included Seth Rosin (Who seemed to be in every set known to man),third baseman Adam Duvall and the always terrific pitching coach Steve Kline,who not only signs,but generally takes the time to shoot the bull a bit.

Time to say thanks to Jason Christensen,who always takes care of me from Binghampton.
Jason knocked out this season's B-Mets team set among others throughout the year and wanted to say thanks again to him.
Jason tossed in some extras for me that included Greg Golson and Bubba Bell on cards that I didn't have.
Jason worked on Portland for me and landed Junichi Tazawa,who I always seemed to miss as well as New Hampshire with Adeiny Hechavarria,Henderson Alvarez,Anthony Gose,Mike McDade,Joel Carreno and Chad Jenkins-all great catches.
Notables from the Mets included Matt Den Dekker,Jeurys Familia and Reece Havens.

The pile has just taken a hit,but far from over,look for more signing fronts soon!

Finally,a night to watch the Pirates!

I had a chance to watch the Pirates for a change in recent days and watched a controversial loss to the visiting St.Louis Cardinals by a 6-4 count at PNC Park.
Joel Hanrahan allowed two runs in the ninth (0-4) to pick up the loss.
The Pirates did get two longballs in the contest as Andrew McCutchen (23) and Derrek Lee (5) each reached the outfield seats.
The series ends tomorrow with the Cardinals at 12:35,so I am hoping to catch that one before the teams goes back on the road with a four game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
At least I will get hear Vin Scully in that one as I'll bring the XM to work to listen to the series or at least the Thursday and Friday games as Saturday will depend on how the Ohio State game is going....

Pirate Hooks

1) The controversy begins in the fifth inning on a seemingly routine flyball to right fielder Lance Berkman by Derrek Lee.
Since everyone runs on Berkman,with one of the weaker arms in the league,the speedy Pedro Ciriaco scored with ease.
The Cardinals appealed and to my amazement won the appeal with Ciriaco being ruled out and ending the inning with some Clint Hurdle words for Sam Holbrook,the third base umpire.
Clearly a bad call as Ciriaco had his foot on the bag when Berkman caught the ball.

2) Later,when Hurdle or someone saw the replays,Hurdle went to Holbrook and informed him of the replay and that he really botched the call.
Hurdle was removed from the game almost as soon as the sentence left his mouth.

3) Holbrook again was the center of attention in the final stanza.
With Josh Harrison on second and pinch runner Chase D'arnaud on first,Pedro Ciriaco laid down a nice bunt considering that there was two strikes.
The ball was thrown to third to make a play on Harrison,who was called out to the dismay of Harrison,third base coach Nick Leyva and acting manager Jeff Banister,who protested the call.
This was a closer play than the earlier one and on replay looked to go either way,but the result was instead of bases loaded and no one out,second and first and one down.
Neil Walker then ended the game with a double play,but even on the twin killing.
That would have left the game 6-5 and the tying run on third,two down.

4) Nice to see Jared Hughes pitch in the bigs for the first time.
Hughes had made a few appearances with the Buccos,but this was the first that I had seen him pitch there.
Always nice to see good guys get a chance in the big time.
Jared pitched a scoreless seventh including a putout on Albert Pujols.

5) Garrett Jones added a baserunning miscue as he got caught up between first and second to end an inning and scoring threat.
Ryan Doumit faked a tag on a fly to you guessed it-Lance Berkman and Jones assumed the throw was going home.
Since Doumit was not going,the ball wasn't either and Jones was dead to rights.

6) The loss was number 81 on the season.
The Pirates must win every game to avoid the nineteenth losing season in a row.

Photo Credits
Hughes:Justin Allen-Getty Images
Harrison-AP Photo

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cliff Robertson

Normally,the death of an actor would not make a full post here,but to me this was a special case.
The recent death of Cliff Robertson at the age of 88 made me think of three roles that Robertson played that affected me in different ways.
His Oscar winning performance in 1968's Charly made me want to search out the book Flowers for Algernon,which the film was based on as a teenager.
I do not read a ton of fiction,so the film made quite an impression as did the book,which was quite a bit darker in premise.
I saw the film on TV,a few years back while at work and thought about the film/book a bit.
Could it be that it planted the seed in what I do as a profession?
Perhaps,but the point is that Robertson's performance was so powerful and moving that I could take that thought seriously.
If the chance is there for you to watch the film or even read the book,I highly recommend them.
The language is a bit dated (Think of reading J.D.Salinger's Catcher in the Rye for a similar dating),but they will make you think a bit on several issues.
Of course,like most things that I read,the book was not encouraged by school as it has been removed by several school systems through the years.
Sadly,I cannot think of many books that truly influenced me in school and yet I like to consider myself pretty well read.
I would love to see our school systems open their minds and allow their students to find their own love of reading and that is done by not restricting what they read.
I better step off the W.J. Bryan box and get back to Cliff Robertson.


Cliff Robertson did a television movie in 1973 that I saw later on a late night flick and that again made me want to read the book/short story by Edward Everitt Hale that dates back to 1863,the Man Without a Country..
Robertson plays the role of a Naval Lieutenant that renounces the United States in a treason trial (the hook is based on the treason trial for former Vice President Aaron Burr) and whose punishment is to spend the rest of his life at seas,not allowed to step on U.S soil or hear the name of the United States at all.
Nolan is played well by Robertson,who transitions easily from the young rebellious officer to the regret filled older man,that would give anything to take back his mistake.
The book taught me one lesson-Be careful what you say.
I don't always follow my own advice on this,but if you can try to think before you allow emotion to take over.

The other Robertson role was yet another actor to do Batman in 1966.
The role of "Shame" a takeoff of the Western film "Shane" was like most Batman roles,a light hearted one.
Robertson played the role to its campy hilt and made himself yet another star to me and my brother that was far bigger to us than he actually was at the time.
For an actor so well known for dramatic roles,Robertson did quite well as a comedic actor.


Cliff Robertson will be missed and our best to his family and friends.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ginn is more than just rummy

The Seattle Seahawks looked lousy on offense in the first half before rebounding to draw within two points in the fourth quarter in San Francisco.
That was until Pete Carroll decided to kick to Ted Ginn Jr. on first a kickoff and then a punt.
Seconds later after Ginn had taken both kicks back for touchdowns,the tie was cast in a 33-17 San Francisco win.
Tavaris Jackson did throw two second half touchdowns,but seemed out of sorts for most of the game.
Seattle travels to Pittsburgh next week where a riled up Steeler team will be waiting after their season opening loss in Baltimore.

Puget Sounds

1) Tavaris Jackson looks like he played decently by the numbers (this is exactly why I do not like to write about games that I have not actually watched,if I can help it),but he seemed to be flustered by the rush (more on that below) and struggled reading the defense.
Jackson was intercepted and lost two fumbles and the line play sure did not help,but the mistakes cannot continue to that degree.
I'll give him more chances than just this game,but if I were a gambling man-bet on Charlie Whitehurst getting a shot before this season ends.

2) The offensive line is young and it showed it without the only veteran playing in Robert Gallery.
The line had major issues as Jackson was sacked five times and rushed countless more.
This is a group that should improve as the season progresses and it had better.

3) Marshawn Lynch ran for just 33 yards on 13 carries,with 12 of that on one run.
Some of those issues has to go on the offensive line,but it will interesting to see next week how the line adjusts to these issues against the Steelers.

4) Undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin caught a long TD pass to bring the Seahawks to within two points,but Baldwin caught four other passes and finished with 83 yards receiving on the day.
Baldwin played very well and was the main target for Jackson on the day.

5) Zach Miller was signed to a sizable contract to come in from Oakland,but finished with just 2 catches for under 20 yards.
If this is how Miller will be utilized,it seems like quite a waste of money when they could pay a lesser player less money to be thrown to twice a game.

6) Loved the play of second year safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.
Both finished with seven or more tackles,which has its good and bad points,but given time to mature,they look very much like an excellent combo with Chancellor as the hitter and Thomas the playmaker.

7) The defensive line was unable to generate much pressure on Alex Smith and that was a surprise considering the 49er line is nothing special.
Chris Clemons was a name that I don't remember hearing much at all about.

8) Anytime that you allow a TD in the return game,the special teams are not good,but two?
I'll give Pete Carroll a pass on the kickoff to Ted Ginn,but why punt to him down nine with roughly four minutes to go?
If you are not kicking away from Ginn,why not just go for it?
The end result would be the same...

9) Seattle played most of the game without starting fullback Michael Robinson,who sprained an ankle in the first quarter.
Looks for the Hawks to sign a fullback soon unless Robinson is 100 percent to go on Sunday.

10) A final nod to the defense,who stood tall in the red zone holding the Niners to just one offensive touchdown and four field goals.
This game could have gotten very ugly if not for the strong play in their own territory....

Browns drop disappointing opener

The Cleveland Browns had about everything that a below average team could want to open their season with-a team that was their equal (if not worse),a home game and the opponent had quarterbacks that ranged from players making their debut to veterans that had failed in various stops.
All of that was not enough as the Browns and the supposedly superior West Coast offense had the game in their grasp only to lose it in the fourth quarter to the Cincinnati Bengals 27-17 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The dagger in the heart was a long touchdown pass to A.J. Green,who Browns fans like myself badly wanted in Cleveland,while the Browns defense generally milled around and looked unprepared as the Bengals snapped the ball and ran the play.
Cleveland travels to Indianapolis next week against the Peyton Manningless Colts.

Brownie Bits

1) I know it is just week one,but these are the type of games that below average simply HAVE to win for the reasons that I detailed above.
Now,if the idea to is to be bad to the point of adding impact players in the draft,that is a different kettle of fish,as I often have said/written the problem with the Browns is that they have been bad not awful.
The difference being 3-13 and picking in the top three and 6-10 picking 7th-10th.
Losing these types of games are how you go 3-13.

2) 11 penalties? ELEVEN?
Unacceptable for the home to commit that amount of penalties,when the team with the rookie and retread taking snaps commit just three.

3) Pat Shurmur might want to believe that the TD to A.J. Green might have been illegal due to the substitution rule,but he is just as much as fault as the players on the play.
Why? Shurmur was standing beside a ref,all he had to do was call a timeout.
He didn't = Ball Game.

4) New punter Richmond McGee was just awful in his debut as his weak punts especially in the first half consistently gave the Bengals great field position.
McGee could be out the door or at least challenged this week by a punter off the street.
If McGee is the punter against the Colts,he had better improve on yesterday....

5) Joe Haden was the player directly responsible for covering A.J. Green on the touchdown pass,but other than that-Haden was the best player for the Browns yesterday.
Green did not catch a pass other than that one and Haden batted several passes down.
Joe Haden has to be considered the Browns top player on defense and along with Joe Thomas,the best on the entire team.

6) D'Qwell Jackson played very well in his return to the lineup after two injury filled years.
Jackson was constantly around the ball and looked like he fits into the Dick Jauron 4-3 far better than the Rob Ryan 3-4 schemes.

7) Colt McCoy was pretty average 19/40 and two touchdowns.
Put aside the late interception,that was in desperation time under a rush (more on that shortly),the most worrisome thing for me was the passes being batted/tipped at the line of scrimmage.
One of the knocks on McCoy is his height and that knocked down passes could be a problem,it sure was yesterday.

8) The Browns offensive line looked shaky at times,which considering one spot was held by a rookie (Jason Pinkston) at left guard and two guys off the waiver wire (O'neil Cousins and Artis Hicks) at right tackle could be expected,but the issue was not just pass protection.
Peyton Hillis ran for under sixty yards,if this team is going to wear down teams with the running game-that is not going to cut it.

9) I did have some nice things on the defensive line to say until the clinching TD run on third down by Cedric Benson,which looked like he was running through the Grand Canyon.
That one was pretty bad,but the Browns have to feel good about Ahtyba Rubin and rookie Phil Taylor up the middle.
The Browns are going to tough to run between the tackles against by the end of the year with Rubin,Taylor,D'Qwell Jackson and then T.J. Ward guarding the middle of the field.

10) Solomon Wilcots said in the fourth quarter "this was a whale of a game".
Lacking the wisdom of Solomon,Wilcots was on this as it was anything but that.
What it was was this-a close game between two bad teams,not a good game...

11) Wrapping things up,I am not totally discouraged as there is a learning curve with new systems,which Cleveland seems to have every few years and this was Pat Shurmur's debut as a coach.
Although Shurmur made his mistakes and I am still confused on the penalty for accidentally knocking down an official,which I have never seen before,it was just game one.
All of that said-this is a win that they had to have and mistakes cost them this game against a team that might have been one of the few inferior teams in the league.
Onto Indianapolis.

Seahawks review later today,hopefully.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dodging a Rocket

I thought that Toledo was going to give Ohio State a decent game,what I did not foresee was how decent as Ohio State barely staved off the Rockets 27-22 at Ohio Stadium.
Carlos Hyde rushed for two touchdowns including the game winner late in the third quarter.
Toledo moved to the Buckeye 17 before turning the ball over on downs with less than a minute to play.
Ohio State travels to Miami next Saturday in the lower bracket of teams with NCAA issues game.
LSU advanced to the finals with their win last week over Oregon.

Buckeye Leaves

1) The big worry for me in this one?
The lack of a running game.
Take away Carlos Hyde's 36 TD run and the rushing game was very pedestrian.
That is my top concern going into Miami next week.

2) No playing time for Braxton Miller?
I thought the QB position was to be shared between Miller and Joe Bauserman?
Bauserman looked good on the first drive but ordinary thereafter and he overthrew Chris Fields on what would have been a sure long TD pass.
Fickel said the decision was a gut feeling.
Well,not thrilled with that one.Miller needed a little time in the game if you expect anything from him next week.

3) Put Chris Fields 1 catch for six yards aside.
His punt return was electric and twice he was open for big gains and Joe Bauserman overthrew him.
Fields might be the best of this bunch of young pass catchers.

4) Credit to John Simon,who's pass rush hurried the Rockets on their last gasp.Simon was banged up and still returned to the game.
Nice job playing through the pain.

5) The best player I saw yesterday?
How about Toledo WR Eric Page?
Page grabbed 12 passes and is well on his way to being drafted by the pros.
Page will dropped due to his size (5'10),but I bet he makes someone's team in 2013.

6) Special teams? Not so special as Toledo blocked a punt for the first score by the Rockets.
This was a issue last season in Columbus and I have a feeling it will be brought up again against Miami.

7) 14 penalties against Toledo?
Way too many.Cut that in half and you might have a different winner.

8) One example?
The punt with under a minute to go that was downed at the 17 by Toledo and was forced to kick again due to an offsides.
That punt was the Fields TD return.
Seven points handed to OSU in a five point win....

9) Another TD catch for Jake Stoneburner.
Stoneburner clearly has chemistry with Joe Bauserman and look for a big game for the senior against Miami next week....

Photo Credit:Chris Russell-Columbus Dispatch

Seattle Seahawks Preview

I will be doing a review of the tape later this week of the Ohio State close call against Toledo,but I wanted to get this up and finished before the NFL season started today.

The Seattle Seahawks became the first team with a losing record to make the playoffs and then followed the season with a huge upset win over the Saints before losing in Chicago to end the season.
Pete Carroll continues to put his stamp on the team with a new quarterback and top receiver and release of a fan favorite on defense.

Tavaris Jackson was imported from Minnesota via free agency to replace Matt Hasselbeck,who was allowed to go to Tennessee by the same route.
Jackson has plenty of things to prove to me as I am not convinced of him as a true starter.
Charlie Whitehurst backs up and looks to be a wasted use of draft pick (via trade) after just one season.
I do not think Whitehurst is the answer either,but a drop down in round two and giving a three away for a backup sure seems like a high price to pay.
California rookie Josh Portis will be the clipboard carrier.

Marshawn Lynch gets the full time chance as the water carrier among the backs.
Lynch picked his game up late in the season,so it is possible he has something left in the tank.
Justin Forsett will be the backup with Leon Washington getting to play in long yardage situations.
Former Penn State quarterback and 49er Michael Robinson adds an unusual dimension at fullback should the Hawks decided to mix things up.

The enigmatic Sidney Rice was the other top free agent signed from the Vikings.
Rice missed ten games after a super 2009 in Minnesota,but the 2009 season was his only true strong season.
Which is the real Rice? Seattle needs the star player to be the one that arrives.
Seattle needs Rice as a deep threat as Mike Williams is more of a possession receiver on the other side.
Williams had an excellent year in his comeback from exile,but is not a true number one.
Ben Obomanu returns as the third receiver with the remaining receivers being young with second year man Golden Tate and rookie Kris Durham along with former Viking Doug Baldwin rounding the corps out.
Zach Miller was signing from Oakland to a large contract to start at tight end and it is a good thing that they did as last years starter John Carlson will miss the season with a shoulder injury.
Miller is one of the better tight ends in the league and should rack up good numbers.
He had better as the backups are untested Anthony McCoy and Dominque Byrd.

The offensive line is young and I mean YOUNG with two rookies,a second year man and a third year man that missed much of last season.
Only free agent pickup Robert Gallery at guard has top level experience and Gallery might miss the opener.
2010 top pick Russell Okung is a stud at left tackle,when he can stay on the field and Max Unger looks to be solid now that he has returned to his natural position at center.
The teams first and third rounders in the draft are starting with James Carpenter at tackle paired with John Moffitt at guard on the right side.
This group will have its growing pains,but should get better as the season moves along.

The defensive line does not have the type of depth one would like,but is solid with the starters.
Chris Clemons returns at one end after eleven sacks last year and Red Bryant was playing very well at the opposite end before a season ending injury.
Veteran Raheem Brock adds pass rush ability as the top situational lineman.
Brandon Mebane was re-signed to a new deal in the off season after improving to the point of being the teams best all around lineman and will pair with former Cardinal Alan Branch as the tackles.
Mebane and Branch must stay healthy as the team lacks quality depth at tackle.

Seattle released long time starter Lofa Tatupu in order to use David Hawthorne in his spot.
Hawthorne is an excellent tackler,but the loss of Tatupu adds pressure to Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry to come through.
Curry has been inconsistent in his two year career and Hill has to find his past production to make this a plus group.Rookie K.J. Wright and veteran Matt McCoy will see time as the main backups.

Marcus Trufant anchors one corner and will draw the top receiver to cover.
The other corner is the question with former CFLer Brandon Browner the starter for now.
Second year man Walter Thurmond and rookie Richard Sherman are the backups.
Earl Thomas returns after a good rookie campaign at one safety with another second year player.
Kam Chancellor at the other.
Former Packer Atari Bigby was signed to be the main backup at safety and to play in the nickel and dime packages.

Well traveled Steven Hauschka replaces Olindo Mare at kicker after Mare left as a free agent.
Jon Ryan returns as the punter and Leon Washington will again pair with Golden Tate as the kick returners.

I just do not know what to expect from this team.
I like some of the pickups and the pass catchers are improved,but the quarterbacks have huge questions to me and the play of Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst could be the main issue in the season results.
Seattle will be tough at home,but can they win on the road?
Lets go generic 8-8 and that should give them a chance to again win the weak NFC West....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pigskin Pickin' Machine

Slow week in college football with just Ohio State taking on Toledo of interest,but we do add the NFL,so extra games to pick from there as well.

Ohio State blasted the worst team in the MAC last year in last weeks game,but this week takes on one of the better teams in Toledo.
The Rockets feature a wide open offense and Ohio State will be missing the "Charity three" for another week as the NCAA diddles around..
Hmmm,do a charity event and get a gift bag-two games,take money from a felon (Jacory Harris) only one.
Isn't the NCAA grand?
This could be close for a while.

Our NCAA game of the week goes to the weeks only meeting of ranked teams with Alabama visiting Penn State.Neither team has decided on a quarterback yet,but I just don't see Penn State doing very much against the brutal Bama defense no matter the QB.

In the pros,Cleveland hosts the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that looks to be pretty ground centered.
Both teams will try to establish the run,so the team with more success stopping it should get the W in the battle of young Texas passers.
The game could also come down to which of Colt McCoy or Andy Dalton is able to avoid the big mistake.

Seattle visits San Francisco in the first game for Jim Harbaugh as Niner coach.
Good luck in winning with Alex Smith,but one could say the same for the Hawks trying to win with Tavaris Jackson.
Frank Gore always seems to play well against Seattle and that is a concern.
Seattle's offensive line struggled in pre-season and Robert Gallery will miss this one.
Concerns abound for me in this one.

The game of the week would have been the Packers-Saints game,but the Thursday start ended that,so we will go with the Sodom vs Gomorrah matchup of the NFL otherwise known as Pittsburgh vs Baltimore.
Baltimore is going all in with veteran signees and additions to leap over the Steelers,who stood pretty much pat as usual.
This looks like another violent matchup and I was going one way all week until today,I suddenly got a different feeling-let's see if I am right

PPM
Ohio State over Toledo 34-17
Alabama over Penn State 21-6
Browns over Bengals 20-14
49ers over Seahawks 28-16
Steelers over Ravens 17-13

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cleveland Browns Preview

Please bear with me,I am currently trying to catch up on my rest after the baseball season and in order to do that,I have not been on as much.
I am hoping to rectify that over the next few days with this post,the PPM,a Seahawk preview and a cleaning of the inbox between today and Sunday.
I actually have some things that I am excited about writing,so I hope that time permits in getting them finished..

The Cleveland Browns are expected to be a better team this season,even though the record may not show it.
The Browns continue to add young talent in place of older talent and hope to be in a position of being one draft and free agent period away from being a playoff club.
New head coach Pat Shurmur has installed the West Coast offense and the 4-3 defense in an attempt to put his stamp on the team.

On the offense,this is Colt McCoy's team and his style of offense with this being his chance to run with it.
McCoy had better as he will not get another one,if he does not take advantage of it.
Many observers think McCoy's lack of arm strength will doom him in the winter weather along Lake Erie,but the offense should take advantage of his strengths in the short game and give him a chance to succeed.
McCoy had better succeed as the choices behind him are less than thrilling as Seneca Wallace returns as the main backup bringing with him the 20 yard bomb.
People think McCoy has a weak wing? Wallace makes McCoy look like John Elway.
Shurmur favorite Thaddeus Lewis was claimed off waivers from the Rams after the end of pre-season as the third passer.

Peyton Hillis was the surprise of the season in 2010 and looks to be the workhorse again this season.
My worry about Hillis is the durability factor as runners of his style take a ton of shots.
I don't have concerns for this season,but the fact of the Browns talking long term contract with a runner of his style is a bit worrisome.
Montario Hardesty will be the backup after a knee injury that cost him his rookie season.
Hardesty is a needed player in order to give Hillis an occasional break.
Rookie Owen Maricic will start at fullback and rookie Armond Smith completes the backs on the roster.

The wide receivers still look weak to me.
Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi return as starters with plenty to prove.
Both enter their third season and need to step their game up if they want to be looked at as true NFL starters.
Rookie Greg Little carries the largest upside of the group and should see the field often.
Joshua Cribbs will continue to get playing time in the slot with second year man Carlton Mitchell along former Eagle Jordan Norwood completing the group.
Ben Watson and Evan Moore are back to give the Browns two pass catching threats at tight end.
Watson is more of an every down tight end,while Moore is more of a pass catching threat only.
Rookie Jordan Cameron resembles Moore in his type of game and will get more time as the season progresses.

The Browns have had to patch the offensive line with some veterans from the waiver wire due to issues with injuries.
Pro Bowler Joe Thomas is as good as it gets at left tackle,but Eric Steinbach will miss the season with back issues giving Cleveland a huge blow to the less than deep line.
Alex Mack is better than average at center and 2010 third rounder Shaun Lauvao will start at right guard with his chance to start.
Tony Pashos is a huge question mark at right tackle due both injuries and his play.
Oniel Cousins was claimed from Baltimore and Artis Hicks was claimed from Washington to add depth and one will take Steinbach's slot at left guard.
Steve Vallos returns and John Greco was signed from the Rams to complete the group.

The new 4-3 defense features an almost all new defensive line.
Ahytuba Rubin returns after a great 2010 at the nose tackle in the 3-4 and will be installed at the defensive tackle beside first round pick Phil Taylor of Baylor.
If things work as expected,the Browns are going to be tough to run up the middle on.
Jayme Mitchell will start at one end after never playing a down under Eric Mangini with second round pick Jabaal Sheard starting at the other.
One of them will need to step up as a pass rusher if Cleveland is to put heat on the opposing passer.
Marcus Benard returns after a seven and a half sack 2010,but the question is-can he put up similar numbers in the 4-3?
I am not sure as he makes me think of him as a 3-4 rush guy.

The starting linebackers are all returning from the past.
D'Qwell Jackson is back after missing most of the last two years due to injuries.
If Jackson is back to form,he should be solid in the middle.
Scott Fujita and Chris Gogong are decent veterans on the outside,but neither are long term answers to the linebacking question.
Kaluka Maivia,Titus Brown and Quinton Spears are special teamers and the backups that are less than average if case of an injury.

Three of the four starters return from the 2010 Browns.
Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown are back on the corners with T.J. Ward back at safety paired with Mike Adams moving up from the nickel back to start at the other safety.
Usama Young was signed to start at safety,but was beaten out by Adams.
The depth is nothing to get stoked for with former Eagle Dmitri Patterson brought in along with speedy fifth rounder Buster Skrine,who should return kicks occasionally as well.
Two other rookies made the team as well in seventh rounder Eric Hagg and free agent James Dockery joining with returning special teamer Ray Ventrone.

Josh Cribbs will be the main kick returner with Buster Skrine and Jordan Norwood getting time there as well.
Phil Dawson is back at kicker and Richmond McGee replaces the injured Reggie Hodges as the punter..

The Browns need to get off to a strong start as the stretch run is brutal with four of the last six on the road and the home games being against the Steelers and Ravens.
Luckily, the schedule is not that strong early,so there are some winnable games.
I am looking for improvement,not necessarily wins,so there is more to this than meets the eye.
I'll be positive and go with 7-9,although 6-10 would not be a surprise to me

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two former Devils perish in Russian plane crash

The tragic plane crash that killed 43 people and 36 members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization hits home with the Devils family as two of the players were former Devils.
Karel Rachunek and Alexander Vasuynov were not the biggest names of the deceased players,but they were notable to Devils fans.
Rachunek spent the 2007-08 with the Devils after spending most of his career with Ottawa,while Vasuynov spent most of his time with the AHL Devils before a eighteen game debut last season.
Vasuynov had just joined the KHL franchise after last season with the Devils retaining his NHL rights.

The biggest names were long time NHLer and team coach Brad McCrimmon and former NHL star and captain of the Slovakian national team Pavol Demitra,but they were among a large number of former NHL players lost in the crash.

The amazing thing is that when you consider the amount of times that pro athletes get on planes and especially for basketball and hockey team,which are usually on one night stands that this does not happen more often.
The constant on and off planes and catching connecting flights has to be a concern,no matter who you are.
I suppose air travel is safe statistically,but I would wager that fewer players are going to consider the KHL after this tragedy for a long time to come.
Considering the reported problems with the aircraft in Russia right now,I would say that is a safe bet.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to all the families and friends affected by this crash....

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Zip for the Zips

Ohio State gave Luke Fickel a shutout victory in his bow as Buckeye head coach as Ohio State was never threatened in a 42-0 shutout of overmatched Akron.
Joe Bauserman tossed three touchdown passes to Jake Stoneburner and ran for another in his first start at OSU.
Ohio State hosts Toledo next week before a road trip to Miami.

Buckeye Leaves

1) Under Jim Tressel,every year it seemed that there was talk of getting the tight ends more involved in the offense and that never seemed to come to pass.
In that vein,it was nice to see Jake Stoneburner used in the passing game.
Stoneburner is difficult for a linebacker to cover and tough for a defensive back to tackle.
In a year with so many questions at wide receiver,Stoneburner could be a huge asset for the Buckeyes.

2) I thought Joe Bauserman looked pretty sharp and accurate with his passes and showed signs of being at least a decent game manager.
Unlike Todd Boeckman's run,a few years back,Bauserman should at least be able to make the throws.

3) I liked what I saw of Braxton Miller in the second half and at least early on in the season,this is exactly how I would like to see Miller used-Here and there to gain experience until he is ready to be the full time QB and if that means Bauserman plays well enough that Miller waits until next year,I am fine with that...

4) Running for over 200 yards is all well and good against Akron,but I would have liked to have seen a run longer than 24 yards against such opposition.
Perhaps that was because the speedier backs were on suspension,Jordan Hall (Gift bag from a breast cancer fundraiser) or nicked up Jamaal Berry,so I'll wait and see on the topic against Toledo next week.

5) Great pick on a tipped pass by Andrew Sweat,who's interception led to the third Buckeye touchdown that salted the game away for good.
Sweat is the OSU top hope as that veteran linebacker that glues everything together that they seem to have every year.

6) Thanks to the Columbus Dispatch for dropping this exchange from Lou Holtz on Mark May.
Too bad I missed this as I cannot stand Mark May and his relentless Ohio State and the Big Ten sucks schtick,but Uncle Lou put him in his place with number seven..

7)." Lou Holtz comes off as the crazy uncle who will say anything, but this time his anything was better than everything else spoken all day. As Mark May carped about how Ohio State was underachieving against Akron, Holtz quipped, “Jesus loves you; everyone else in Ohio thinks you’re an idiot.” Zing."
Count this person in Maryland as thinking that Mark May is an idiot too.....

8) Chris Spielman commented during the game on Braxton Miller perhaps being more skilled than Terrelle Pryor.
I'll wait to see Miller a bit more before that conclusion,but I will say this-I think Miller is going to be more of a passing threat than Pryor ever was and he looks to be just as fast as a runner,although not with the power that Pryor possessed....

9) I was asked by one reader on my prediction on the Buckeyes since I did not do a preview.
Let's go with this-Depending on the results of Miami's suspensions (what a joke the NCAA is),let's go either 10-2 or 9-3.
If Miami is as handicapped by their issues as Ohio State,I like the Buckeyes to win,but if the NCAA lets them off light for now,OSU could lose that one.
The other losses? Wisconsin at home and at Nebraska where Buckeye alum Bo Pelini will have the Huskers over the top in their first game in the conference against OSU.

10) Look for a tougher test next week from Toledo,who looks to be one of the MAC's better teams along with Miami (Ohio version) and Northern Illinois.
One of these days,the "wrong" MAC team is going to show up at the wrong time and bite the Buckeyes,I doubt this is the time,but Toledo might be in this one for a while.

Photo Credit:Marvin Fong-Cleveland Plain Dealer


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pigskin Pickin' Machine

In the absence of the NFL,I'll add an extra college game or two for the week.
Since Bowling Green has played (and won) in their rematch of the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl against Idaho,they will not be listed.

Ohio State hosts Akron in the first game of the Luke Fickell era,which is an era that could last the year and be finished.
Akron was 1-11 last year and this spells Buckeye walkover when you consider the turmoil over the off season.
I'll wager this one is over by mid second quarter at the latest.

Texas Tech hosts Texas State,which always makes me think of the bad yet occasionally funny for the wrong reason film Necessary Roughness.The Bobcats (not Armadillos) went 4-7 last year and now are coached by well traveled Dennis Franchione,who I always liked in his stops around Texas.
Texas Tech continues its transition to more of an balanced offense under Tommy Tuberville and I expect this one to be unbalanced-in score that is.
Unless Flattop Myers has transferred from the Texas (by God) Colts to Texas State that is...

The games of the week are both scheduled for the same time.
Brilliant call by ESPN,who has both games on their family of networks.

Oregon and LSU battle in Dallas at JerryWorld in what might be an early elimination for the National title for the loser and is round one in the four team playoff for worst off-season.
Ohio State takes on Miami in a few weeks in the other bracket.
Both teams have QB issues as LSU's likes to kick people in the head allegedly and Oregon's likes to ride in cars traveling at 118 MPH and at least sit around the aroma of marijuana.
This is more of a home game for LSU than Oregon,but the Tigers were hit harder by the suspension bug.
The key here is LaMichael James running the ball against an SEC defense.

Boise State travels between the hedges to Georgia against the Bulldogs.
If Boise grabs this one,they leap their major road game of the season as most of their other tough games are in Boise.
Kellen Moore and Aaron Murray will keep the footballs flying in what looks to be a fun game to watch.

Predictions
Ohio State 56-7
Texas Tech 48-14
Oregon 23-20
Boise State 41-36



Friday, September 2, 2011

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time for some housecleaning.
I am still not seeing Pirate games,but there was two small moves as John Bowker was shipped to the Phillies for a PTBNL and Matt Diaz to the Braves for the same.
For all the good things that Neal Huntington has done in building the Pirates system,I cannot name one free agent that had exceeded expectations,although Kevin Correia did about what they hoped,but the line of busts is a rather long one.

I also have decided against an Ohio State preview as I am trying to finish up the Lakewood Blue Claws as soon as possible in the final series of the year in Hagerstown.
I will still have coverage of the OSU game against Akron.

Maryland and their contract with Under Armour makes one think of the Oregon deal with Nike as far as bad and strange uniform choices.
The turtle themed helmet is just awful and the further things go,I suspect that worse things will get.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall has taken the player names off the back of the uniform to promote "Team unity".
I hate these moves because they do little good other than to confuse people watching the game on identifying players.
Terrific Maryland football has sunk so low that they have to emulate Big East football?

With the Texas A&M move to the SEC,the interesting point is the 14th team to join the SEC.
If it is Clemson,Florida State,Virginia Tech or the sleeper team N.C.State,the ACC could be the big loser in this mess.
If the Big Ten decides to go to 14 teams in the commotion,Maryland could be a Big Ten target.
This is what happens when a basketball conference makes moves based on football.....

Finally,this interesting article about the troubles of Ric Flair is well worth the time.
Flair is reportedly considering legal action on the article.
The slide of Ric Flair is one of the sadder things that I have seen in quite some time.
We wrote about Flair earlier this year and things only have gotten worse for the faded legend.