Saturday, November 11, 2006

College Football Week 11 Wrap up

My ESPN-inspired nickname for this week: One-Loss Waterloo.

With all the talk about how Rutgers' win over previously undefeated Louisville Thursday night cleared the way for the 1-loss teams to climb back into the National Championship hunt, well those teams decided they didn't want the offer and bowed out of the race completely today.

Three of those title hopefuls saw their dreams come to a crashing halt: Auburn, Texas and Cal all shit the bed and can rest assured knowing that they won't have to plan for a pesky early January trip to the Arizona desert for the Fiesta Bowl. The Gators nearly joined the party, but they somehow eked out a win over the Gamecokcks despite being thoroughly outplayed by Spurrier's new crew. Let's review.

Maybe these One Loss Wonders weren't as good as Rutgers
I know that concept is hard to fathom for the "Big East teams don't belong in the BCS" guys like Cuckoo Corso, but the play on the field speaks for itself. Forget the names on the jerseys or rich traditions of winning and look at the straight facts: Rutgers gutted out a thrilling come-from-behind win over the No.3 team in the country while that trio of now 2-loss teams went down to teams with combined records of 17-12. Nice.

#5Auburn was the first OLW to bite it early this afternoon. They faced a Georgia team that had been reeling, with losses in 4 of the past 5 games and allowing half a hundred to Tennessee and got their lunches handed to them, 37-15. Ironically the Tigers (9-2, 5-2) got beat with a taste of their own medicine: it was the Georgia (7-4, 4-4) defense that outplayed the stingy Tigers unit as the Dawgs picked off Auburn QB Brandon Cox 4 times, 3 by Tra Battle including one for a score, and held the Tigers to a meager 9 first downs and 171 total yards. But it wasn't all defense for the Dawgs: Georgia hung 446 yards on a unit that had been 13th in the country in total defense. Cox was a horrendous 4-12 for 35 yards , 1TD & 4INTs and stud RB Kenny Irons was held to 49 yards on the ground on just 10 carries. It was all-out horrible performance for a team that had high expectations coming into the season and was a top 5 team early in the year. At least the still have the Iron Bowl against Alabama next week.

The next team to stumble was #8Cal. The Bears (8-2, 6-1) had been kind of flying under the radar for weeks, not playing anyone major but not having lost since the season opener at Tennessee. Since then they had ripped off 8 straight wins against weaker PAC-10 opponents, all while waiting for their title chance by defeating Southern Cal next week. But a not-so-funny thing happened on their way to The Coliseum- they got some bad breaks & boneheaded plays that helped the fortunate Arizona Wildcats (5-5, 3-4) to an improbable 24-20 victory. Although Cal outgained the Cats 356 yards to 252 and outrushed them 160-60, a slew of bad penalties, 3 picks by QB Nate Longshore (17-36, 250yds, 1TD, 3INTs) and an overturned TD conspired to do them in. It wasn't for the lack of effort from tailback Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 102 yards but also had a 79-yard TD nullified by a block-in-the-back call, or WR/KR DeSean Jackson, who returned a 1st quarter punt 95 yards for a score, hauled in 6 passes for 131 yards including a 64-yd TD, but also had a 63 yard TD called back when it was ruled he stepped out at the 41. Like Earl would say, it's was bad karma, baby. But at least they still have the grudge match with USC next week and a potential Rose Bowl berth to play for.

And the third and perhaps most surprising OLW to fall by the wayside was the suddenly-in-vogue again #4Texas Longhorns. Their game with Kansas State (7-4, 4-3) just ended with the Wildcats securing an onsides kick after Texas (9-2, 6-1) had score with just over a minute left for the final margin of 45-42. In all fairness to Matthew McConaughey's favorite team they did lose starting QB Colt McCoy to a shoulder injury on their opening scoring drive; he never returned and the Longhorns never recovered. Backup QB Jevan Sneed, a true freshman, was 13-30 for 190 yards & a TD, but 126 yards and the score came in the 4th quarter when the 'Cats were just trying to hang on to a 42-28 lead. McCoy, the redshirt freshman phenom whose 27 TDs are just two off the NCAA record for a frosh, was most definitely the leader of the potent Texas offense and with him out of the equation they were just overwhelmed by a Wildcat team that was reminiscent of the dominant Bill Snyder programs of the mid-to-late '90s. They rolled up 346 yards of offense including 323 in the air, and they also forced 4 turnovers and blocked a punt leading to a 21-point third quarter. So it's by bye to the trophy for Texas, and no shots of a shirtless McConaughey on the sidelines in Glendale with his newest Longhorn buddies howling at the moon after hoisting the crystal chalice. Aw darn.

#6Gators hold on for 17-16 nail biter against their old ballcoach
MY PICK: Gators 27-17
I don't know why I gave the Gators so much credit; they are a completely overrated and deeply flawed team that somehow just manages to find a way to win every week. Their last 3 games have been decided by just 23 points and they haven't scored over 30 since a 42-0 rout of Central Florida in September. Yet somehow they have thrown in with the "best 1-loss team in the country" talk when they're not even the best 1-loss team in their conference (that would be Arkansas.) QB Chris Leak (19-27, 254, 1TD, 1INT) continues to be a puzzle, at times looking like a stud and other times appearing clueless & indecisive. I know it must be killing Urban I'm devoid of all personality Meyer not to be able to throw wunderkind Tim Tebow out there for an entire game and see how many they score, but for some reason he feels obligated to his senior slinger. The story in this one was the return of Steve Spurrier to his old chomping ground where the former Gator coach spent 12 years patrolling the sidelines and annoying fans & coaches everywhere. The Florida alum & 1966 Heisman Trophy winner had a 68-5 record as coach of the Gators at Florida Field, which he nicknamed The Swamp, and many of those victories came at the expense of the Gamecocks. But today the Cocks were out to grab their first win there in 14 tries, and if it weren't for 3 blocked kicks by the Gators' special teams they would have done it. South Carolina started their backup QB and tailback yet still outgained the Gators 410-400 in total yards and could have won the game with a 48-yard FG on the last play. But that's when DE Jarvis Moss blocked his second kick of the game (the other was an extra point) to seal the win and keep the thoughts of a National Championship alive in Gainesville. Don't worry though, these lucky band of overblown underachievers will suffer a loss before the end of the season, possibly to their arch rival Seminoles, who have absolutely nothing left to play for after tonight.

humiliated at home in 30-0 shutout by Wake Forest
MY PICK: Wake 23-19
And to think the Noles were favored by 8 points in this game. What an embarrassing evening in Tallahassee as the Noles suffered the first home shutout under Bobby Bowden and the first at home since 1973. Othe ignominious feats include Wake's first win against FSU in 14 tries, the Noles first shutout in 232 games (1988 vs. Miami) and their worst home loss since 1981. I know that they are young, starting a ton of freshman, and forced to play numerous players out of position due to injuries, but that's no excuse for a performance like this. From a Florida State team. Coached by Bobby Bowden. At Doak Campbell Stadium. Ever. Starting QB Xavier lee lost his brief hold on the job when he threw his 2 consecutive interceptions late in the 2nd half that led to 10 Deacon points. Lee (5-13, 61 yards, 2picks) was horrible, so Bobby brought back Drew Weatherford, recovered from his injury and ready to retake the reigns of the offense. Ah, wrong: He was just as bad as Lee, tossing 2 picks of his own while completing just 4-15 passes for 52 yards. For the mathematically-challenged (like me) the two QBs combined numbers look like this:9-28, 113 yards, 4 INTs- yikes! Hide the woman & children because those numbers are downright scary. But wait, there's more: Wake (9-1, 5-1) outgained the Noles 307-139, outrushed them 169-26 and the Noles tossed in 9 penalties for 69 yards, many of them the stupid, drive-killing variety. It. was.ugly. I have watched many FSU games in my 2 decades as a Seminole fan and I have never seen them look that bad. It was truly painful to watch, and obviously many of those attending felt that way as well as the stadium looked like a sea of empty seats in the 4th quarter with their team down 30. Boy that's even hard to write. The Demon Deacons are now set up to earn a berth in the ACC title game with wins over Va Tech & Maryland, but all that's left for the nowhere-bound Noles is a chance to rain on the Gators parade; knock them off in their November 25th contest and it might ease some of the painful memories of this season & this game in particular. But it might be a long time before this season is erased from the minds of Seminole fans everywhere. Unless they fire Jeff Bowden in the offseason.

#11Arkansas jumps into the title fray with 31-14 thumping of Vols
MY PICK: Arkansas 28-23
Wooooooopigsoooooeeeeyyyyy! Get ready to hear that call for the rest of the season as the Hogs soundly threw their name into the "best 1-loss team" talk with an impressive win over #13 Tennessee. The Razorbacks (9-1, 6-0) jumped on the Vols early, scoring a TD halfway thru the 1st quarter, and often, putting up 21 in the 2nd to make the second half garbage time. The Vols(7-3, 3-3) were starting freshman QB Jonathan Crompton, and although he fared okay ( 16-34, 174, 2TDs, 1INT) he did not have enough chance to lead the team because the defense had them out of it so early. The Hogs racked up 425 yards of offense, 259 on the ground thanks to talented running back DarrenMcFadden; he had 181 yards on 30 carries with 2 scores and also threw a TD pass in that 2nd quarter outburst that seemed to take the wind out of the Vols sails. The Arkansas defense did the rest, holding the potent Tennessee offense to just 266 yards & 14 points; the Vols had been averaging over 31PPG. These Hogs are the real deal-since losing their season opener to USC 50-14 they have reeled off 9 wins in a row and are just as worthy as any of the remaining OLW's at a shot at the title. Get in line, Razorbacks, and try to keep the hog calling to a dull roar. Wooooooooooooopigggggggsoooooeeeeyyyyyyy!

Other results of notes include #7USC's 35-10 defeat of #21Oregon (MY PICK: USC 38-21), #9Notre Dame's impressive 39-17 trouncing of the Air Force Academy, and the top two teams, Ohio State & Michigan, crushing their warm-up acts Northwestern (54-10) & Indiana (34-3) respectively. Also an inspired Miami squad went down to the Terps 14-13 despite outplaying them in all facets of the game (MY PICK: Maryland 23-21.) But kudos to the 'Canes for manning up and giving their all in a game played just 5 days after the death of teammate Bryan Pata- for once I was actually rooting for the 'Canes to win.

All of this action sets up the Game of the Year, Part III or IV, next week in Columbus: #1Ohio State versus #2 Michigan. One of those teams will be heading to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl, while the other will most likely head to the Rose. But what team will face that winner in the title game? We came closer to finding that out this week, but even though we don't know who will be in the game, we know for a fact a few teams that most definitely won't be there.
Buckle up, the next couple of weeks are going to be a bumpy ride!

UP NEXT: My latest Heisman watch & newest Top 10 poll.
(By the way did you notice I was 5-0 this week?)


Hot stove warming up

The stove is getting cranked up now that there have been some significant developments in player situations in MLB.

The Sox and hard-headed reliever Keith Foulke parted ways yesterday when Foulkie declined the club's $3.75 million dollar option, reportedly to be able to play closer to his Arizona home (we know it was actually to get away from heckling Boston fans.) With former Boston assistant GM Josh Byrnes now calling the shots in the desert for the D-Backs Foulke might be playing as close as possible to that home. Let me just say that Foulke will always be remembered for his role in helping the Sox win the Series in 2004- his presence at the back of the pen was a key part of winning the title, and truth be told they probably wouldn't have won it without his contributions. But he will also be remembered for his many idiotic statements since the night he tossed the final out to the Ball Stealer at Busch Stadium: calling the paying fans idiots that work at Burger King; demanding to be compensated, preferably with new pickup trucks, for talking with certain news organizations; and his epic meltdowns and loss of ability following that 2004 season. This guy is a true classless act, an athlete who feels as though he is honoring the fans with his presence and we should all bow down when he takes the mound. When he heard enough boos coming off of it, he went into a pouting shell that hastened his departure from Beantown. Adios, Foulkie, and good luck getting anywhere near $3.75 mil from Arizona or anyone else.

Speaking of the Sox, all the talk this week has centered around their bid to be able to negotiate with Japanese whiz pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka; reports have placed the offer at $38-45 million dollars, American, just to negotiate with him. Then they have to deal with his agent, the ever-lovable Scott Boras, and try to hammer out an agreement with the 26-year-old righty. All of this leads me to the conclusion that A. this kid had better be the second coming of Cy Young if the Sawx are going to fork over $40 mil just to flirt with him (if he doesn't sign with Boston they would get their money back), and B. how the f**k can anyone be sure that the guy, who has pitched over 1,400 innings in just 8 seasons, won't be a complete bust, a-la the last great Japanese hope, Hideki Irabu? To me this is a Huge gamble for Boston, and it may be one of those "as long as the Stanks don't get him" moves. But it's a mighty expensive roll of the dice, especially when the money is needed to sign about 5-10 other players. I'm never in favor of paying big money for unproven talent, and even though this kid has put up the numbers in Japan (108-59, 3.00 ERA, 1,355Ks) there is no guarantee that he will be able to just to the American game. Look at Hideo Nomo for proof. A big gamble for a team that really should be making solid baseball decisions, not just playing chicken with the Evil Empire and then being on the hook for over $50 million to one unproven player. Then again if he does pitch like the Japanese Clemens then I love the move.

Disgruntled Stankee outfielder Gary Sheffield was traded to the American League Champion Detroit Tigers for 3 minor league pitchers yesterday in a move hailed by both sides as being great for their organization(don't ya love when they all BS like that?) Sheff, who is coming off an injury-ravaged season in which he played in only 39 games in 2006 due to a wrist injury, received what he wanted but wouldn't get from the Stanks: a guaranteed contract ($28 million thru 2009) and a guarantee that he would not be moved to first base. The clubhouse cancer is saying all the right things about being reunited with Tigers skipper Smokey Jim Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski, with whom Sheff won a title in 1997 with the Marlins, but something tells me this situation could get ugly, early, and I will place the same guarantee on this union that I did when Petey signed his 4-year gift with the Mets: Sheffield, who is broken down and 38 years old, will never be near the field when he collects all that money in '09. They might get one decent season out of him, but he is one more major injury or major blow-up away from joining a local retirement community in his native Tampa. Don't even think of asking him to play first, or he'll do what he did in Milwaukee in his first year in the majors-threaten a walkout and force a trade to another team. Detroit, I hope you enjoyed that playoff run- it won't be duplicated next year.


Friday, November 10, 2006

College Football Week 11 Preview

It's a Sunshine State Showcase this weekend as each of three major Florida schools will garner a share of the national spotlight, each for very different reasons.

But before we cover that I wanted to do a little follow-up on the huge Rutgers win Thursday night. All day long Friday the talk centered around the team from Piscataway that literally shocked the college football world. Greg Schiano made the talk show rounds, from Cold Pizza to the Dan Patrick Radio Show, and the first word out of every sportscaster & radio host's mouth was "Rutgers." Oh what a strange sports world we live in. Four years ago this team was 1-11. Now they are on the tips of people's tongues as potential national champs, Schiano is the hottest commodity this side of iTunes, and New Jersey is the fulcrum of the college football universe. But not everybody is jumping on the Rutgers bandwagon: Patrick said they weren't even a top 10 squad, and Lee Cuckoo Corso said the Big East has no business being anywhere near a BCS title game. Nice respect for a team that has done everything that has been asked of them this season & then some. But the balance of power has definitely shifted in the NCAA. All those 1-loss teams like Florida, USC, Tennessee, and Texas get another shot at the tile thanks to Louisville's misstep, and for their part Rutgers is just happy to play the spoiler. But in a perfect world they should have a shot a playing for it all. At least until they lose to West Virginia in three weeks.

-South Carolina(5-4) @ #6Florida(8-1) 3:30PM, CBS
The Old Ballcoach returns to the Swamp he made famous in this battle for bragging rights and not much else in the SEC since the Gamecocks, in Spurrier's words, have played like "losers' to this point in the season. The crusty playcaller backed off his words to a degree this week, but the message was sent: you guys need to play better if my reputation as a coach is going to withstand another horrible season from one of my teams (see Washington Redskins, 2002-03.) Starting QB Syville Newton was benched in last weeks' loss to Arkansas and Spurrier says he will stick with junior Blake Mitchell to at least start the game against the Gators. Meanwhile UF has had their share of troubles in the past week: starting defensive tackle Marcus Thomas was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons, reserve WR Nyan Boateng was stabbed by a female student and will not suit up for the game, and standout LB Brandon Siler may not play due to a knee injury. All of this combined with a 12 1/2 point spread spells doom for the title-hungry Gators in Gainesville. I won't say the 'Cocks will score the upset, but the Visored One will find a way to keep it close in his favorite old haunt.
MY PICK: Florida 27, USC 17

-Noles(5-4) get prime time gig vs. #18Wake Forest(8-1) 8PM, ABC (regional)
This game is the season as far as the Noles are concerned; win at home vs. a ranked opponent for their 6th win and they are entertaining thoughts of playing in a semi-decent bowl game. Lose and they are staring at a .500 record, a sub-.500 conference record, and a possible slot in the Poinsettia or Tickle Me Elmo Bowl. wake has quietly been playing terrific ball all year, led by freshman quarterback Riley Skinner (1121 yards, 6TDs), the ACC leader in pass efficiency (69%.) The Noles have received a boost from newly installed QB Xavier Lee, who has guided the once dormant offense to 2 straight wins vs. conference opponents. Lee (672yds, 5TDs, 3INTs) has been just what the doctors ordered to replace ailing Drew Weatherford- namely a passer who can escape pressure with his legs and create opportunities with his arm. He hasn't been dazzling in his 2 starts, but he has provided another dimension(99yds rushing) to the struggling Seminole offense that it did not have with the Bledsoe-like Weatherford behind center. The Demon Deacons have had their fair share of troubles against the Noles, like a 14 game losing streak and no wins in Tally since 1959, but this could be the year that all those streaks come to an end- don't forget, FSU is only 2-2 at Doak Campbell this season while wake is a team that is 3-1 on the road and an 8 1/2 point underdog here.
MY PICK: Wake 23, FSU 19

- 'Canes will try to move on as they face #23Maryland 3:30 ABC
Miami will try to pick up the pieces of this shattered season when they travel to College Park to take on the improving Terps. Following the shooting death of player Bryan Pata earlier this week, the 'Canes elected to play this game in Pata's honor, but it's hard to say how they will respond when they actually take the field without their spiritual senior leader. Will they come out hungry to release the pent-up frustration & heartache over the loss, or will the culmination of a long, incident-filled season be too much for them to bear and they just collapse like a house of cards? Time will tell, but one thing's for sure" Maryland isn't about to show the grieving team any sympathy. They need this game to keep their ACC Atlantic title hopes alive, as they are currently tied with Wake Forest at 4-1 atop the division. Miami still has a shot at a decent bowl, but it's hard to believe that that is the first things on their mind right now. Just getting through this game is priority one.
MY PICK: Maryland 23, Miami 21

#13Tennessee @ #11Arkansas 7:00 ESPN2
A battle royale in the SEC as the Vols, coming off that devastating home loss to LSU take on everybody's new darling pick for a potential BCS berth, the Razorbacks. Arkansas has not lost since their season-opening 50-14 crushing by USC; since then they have ripped off 8 in a row, but their only tough opponent in that stretch was #2 Auburn. This will be a genuine test to see if the Hogs are really a BCS-caliber team, although the Vols will start freshman QB Jonathan Crompton in place of the injured Erik Ainge. Hmmm, a freshmand QB starting in the biggest gtame of the year on the road in a place that is as hostile as any place to play in the conference, Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville? I don't like that scenario. I think the Hogs grind up the kid like pig meat and leave him by the side of the stadium and Arkansas clearly vaults into the category of "best 1-loss team" after this win. A steady diet of RB Darren McFadden ((1038 yards, 10TDs) and stifling defense (15PPG) should be enough to defeated a depleted Tennessee squad.
MY PICK: Hogs 28, Vols 23

#21 Oregon @ #7USC 10:15EST (good, a late game to watch!)
Another 1-loss team with new title hopes, thanks to Rutgers, are the Trojans, who return to the Coliseum tonight after playing 2 straight on the road. They'll need to start having statement wins if they want to impress the voters and prove they are the best of the single loss schools, and they'll have a chance to do it against the Beavers. Oregon is freshly ranked coming off of and impressive 34-14 win over Washington, and their 3-headed monster of QB Dennis Dixon(1803yds, 1TDs), RB Jonathan Stewart(798yds, 7TDs) and WR Jaison Williams (858yds, 6TDs) will give the Trojan defense all they can handle. But USC has a 3-pronged attack of their own in the persons of QB John David Booty(1966yds, 19TDs), and WRs Dwayne Jarrett(453yds, 5TDs) & Steve Smith(698yds, 7TDs), and they are capable of putting up points in a hurry. Like they did in their heartbreaking last second defeat to Oregon State, coming back from down 30-7 to lose 33-31. Something teels me the Men of Troy will not lose to 2 schools from Oregon in the same season. Should be a gool old fashioned shootout, but USC needs this one more.
MY PICK: USC 38, Oregon St. 21


Thursday, November 09, 2006

R.U. serious? Scarlet Knights flip the BCS the Bird

Rutgers 28, Louisville 25, BCS-zero
As the seconds ticked away and the Rutgers field goal unit prepared to take the field for what would be a probable game-winning kick, I remembered something my buddy, who will forever be referred to as Rutgers Ira, told me as I left work this evening:
"don't forget, they've got a great kicker, too."

His prophetic words almost game back to haunt him as the normally reliable Jeremey Ito(11-14 coming in) missed the 33-yarder that would have won the game for the Scarlet Knights. But this was one of the most exciting games in college football this season and it wasn't about to end on a missed kick (although a little OT would have been fun)- Ito got a reprieve when Louisville CB William Gay was whistled for an offsides, and with 13 seconds left he connected from 28 yards on what would become the biggest non-basketball 3-pointer in Rutgers' storied history.

But this game will not just be remembered for that fantastic finish but for the heart, determination and will-to-win the Scarlet Knights showed in coming back from 18 points down in the 2nd quarter to stun the 3rd ranked Cardinals and the rest of the college football universe as well. Never mind the fact that just a year or 2 ago this team would have folded like the hardtop of the Pontiac G6 (damn those ads work) in a situation like that; hell last year this Louisville squad destroyed this Rutgers team by the score of 56-5. This was a game that by all intents & purposes should have been a Louisville blowout from the way it started. But Schiano's boys kept "chopping that wood" (an RU mantra akin to Chucky's 'pound the rock') until there was nothing left of the Louisville offense but a bloody stump.

The first quarter featured enough drama, wild plays, and scoring to fill 3 Disney sports films.
The first play of the game signified what kind of night it would be- Schiano eschewed the obvious running play for a deep bomb that was just out of the reach of his intended receiver, freshman sensation Kenny Britt. Message sent, though: Rutgers wasn't about to play it safe and go the way Louisville wanted them to go, namely running the ball right into the teeth of the staunch Cardinal defense. Rutgers advanced the ball to midfield but was forced to punt, and that's when QB Brian Brohm and the Cardinal offense went to work. Brohm marched the Birds 80 yards in just under five minutes capped by a touchdown by emerging Tampa freshman Anthony Allen for a 7-0 lead just 3 minutes into the game. Message sent back- we are Louisville and this is what we do best. Rutgers got the ball back at their own 22 and immediately went for a big pass again. This time QB Mike Teel (8-21, 189, 1TD,1INT) threw wide of his receiver and the ball was intercepted by Gavin Smart at the 50 for a crowd-hushing turnover. Brohm immediately returned the favor, though, with a pick of his own and the Scarlet Knights found themselves in great position at the Cards' 26. Teel wasted no time in getting his team right back in the game with a 26-yard bullet to Tiquan Underwood for the equalizer, and it was 7-7 with just over 4:00 to play in the 1st quarter. That's when things really got exciting. On the ensuing kickoff Cardinal return specialist JaJuan Spillman, who returned a kick in the game last week vs. West Virginia, made a game-changing play, to say the least: he fielded the kick at his own goal line and then zigged, zagged, and blazed his way to the opposite end zone untouched for a dazzling 100-yard kickoff return that left onlookers slack-jawed with amazement. Blink, blink, did I really just see that? What followed was even crazier as the extra point was blocked but the Rutgers players treated it like it was K-Fed's CD and an alert Allen picked it up and ran it in for the uncnventional 2-point conversion off the blocked PAT. 15-7 Louisville after one, and it. was. on. As is usually the case when a team makes an NCAA highlight reel play, Louisville used that spark to take a torch to Rutgers' solid defense, scoring 10 points in the first 9:00 minutes of the 2nd to bulge the lead to 25-7, and it looked like we were heading to blowout city; in fact I'm sure Rutgers Iras everywhere were preparing their "I told you so" concession speeches for the next day. But this is The New RU, and after Teel hit Kordell Young for a 39-yard pass, Ray Rice (22 carries, 131 yards, 2TDs) busted off an 18-yard TD run to give everyone in Scarlet a breath of hope going into the 2nd half down 11, 25-14.

Schiano must have given a hell of a halftime speech, either that or he had RU alum James Tony Soprano Gandolfini make the defense an offer they couldn't refuse, because the unit that had allowed 213 yards and 18 points in the first half suddenly looked like the second coming of the '85 Chicago Bears. The revitalized D, chopping wood all the way, forced Louisville into 5 consecutive 3 & outs while the offense perked up like Kelly Ripa on speed, scoring on a Rice TD & 2-point conversion and an Ito 46-yard boot to tie the sputtering Cardinals at 25 with just over 10:00 to play. What the heck did he say at halftime? I'm not sure any of it is printable on a family blog, but whatever it was it certainly inspired the defense to crank it up a couple of notches. The usually accurate and poised Brohm looked like a deer in the headlights as the Knights blitzed, stunted and shifted their way to him time and time again, forcing him to scramble for his life or throw the ball incomplete. Brohm was held to a season low 163 yards passing with 1 TD and 1INT, but the entire high-powered team only had 50 yards offense in the 2nd half. It was an awesome turnaround by the Scarlet Knights and the inspired defensive play certainly was the springboard that allowed Rutgers to get back in the game.

The final drive was a clinic on how to run a game down to the end and set up a game-winning field goal, and it was served with a stedy diet of Rice. The surefire Heisman candiate (now) ran for 70 of his 131 yards in the 4th, when the Cardinal D was gassed and the Knights could play their power run game. Starting at the 5:00 minute mark Rice ran 7 times for 42 yards sandwiched around a clutch 26-yard catch & run on 3rd & 6 by forgotten FB Brian Leonard that got them to the Louisville 39 and kept the drive alive. After Teel took a short run to line the ball up in the center of the field Ito's heroics began. Or the Cardinal agony, depending on your perspective. Can you be Gay & miserable at the same time? William says yes.

So the Scarlet Knights did it. They set the college football world on its ear by messing up the precious BCS formula now that it looks like either undefeated Ohio State or Michigan will face a 1-loss team in the Fiesta Bowl while a potentially undefeated team plays in a consolation bowl. Kudos to Rutgers for giving college football fans a 2nd consecutive thrilling Thursday and forcing the BCS powers to reconsider their system, kudos the Big East for proving that the conference is not dead by any means, and kudos to Coach Schiano for reviving a legendary college football program by doing things the right way: playing hard, never giving up, and chopping down every tree that stands in their path. And congrats to all the long-suffering Scarlet fans like Rutgers Ira and my good Jersey buddy Butchie- you guys deserved this.

At the end of the game Ray Rice was interviewed by Erin Andrews and said he was "ready to cry right now"; don't worry Ray, as you turned and hugged your mom I cried for you, because this game was what college football is all about.

Scarlet Knights #1. BCS= Biggest Crock of Shit


The eyes of the college football nation turn to...Rutgers?!

3Louisville(8-0) @ 15Rutgers(8-0)
7:45 ESPN
This week's sign that the apocalypse is coming: the biggest game that has been or will be played this regular season takes place tonight in Piscataway, New Jersey.

You read me right- this game, which pits newly crowned BCS #3 Louisville, fresh off of their pounding of then #3 West Virginia last Thursday night in Louisville, against the little team that could, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, stands to be the most important game of the season. Over the Ohio State/Texas #1 vs. #2 clash in September, over last Thursday night's throwdown, and over next week's Ohio State/Michigan #1 vs. #2 BCS knockout game.

Why, you may ask as you scratch your head and call me crazy? Not because the two teams are the best in the country, nor because it could be the best played game of the year. Because Rutgers carries not only the weight of legions of faithful fans and decades of failure onto the field with them, but they could disrupt the system so much as to cause actual reform of the status quo.

Pity poor Rutgers. To date the qualify under all the criteria to be eligible for a shot in the National Championship game in January: Play in a BCS conference? Big East-check. Won all their games to date? 8 wins, zero losses- check. Play a tough schedule? Not sure "tough" is the word, but after tonight they will have played 3 teams in the BCS top 50 (Pitt, L'Ville, Navy), but they are in a conference that has a BCS tie in, so that takes care of the schedule for them. But yet they have virtually no shot at playing for the title.

Why, you may ask again? Good thing I'm here to tell you these things. Because they started so far back in the preseason guesstimations from all the 'experts' that by the time people found out they were good they had too many spots to overcome to move into a title game. Even now they are still ranked below eight 1-loss teams and two teams with 2-losses (LSU, Tennessee); jeez, talk about no respect.

But Rutgers is one of those teams that are just happy to be here. Two years ago this team was still the butt of every national joke when it came to losing, much like the Devil Rays in baseball, the Clippers used to be in basketball and the Bucs used to be in football. After going 7-4 and going to a bowl game last season now they are on the national radar and Coach Greg Schiano (a Coach of the Year lock in my book) has got recruits actually wanting to come play for the State University of New Jersey rather than having to beg kids to come there. A bowl game one year, a Top 10 finish the next, and then a shot at the title next year would suit Schiano & his employers just fine.
But not me. I think it's B.(C)S. A team should be judged by its play on the field in that calendar year, not on 3 decades of history and poor national reputation. What's the point of even having this freakin' system if it doesn't reward the teams that go out and meet every possible criteria but still have no shot at the Championship? The BCS was supposed to eliminate the ugly monstrosity known as a split champion, but here we are 8 years later and we could end up with a 1-loss team playing for the title while a (possible) undefeated team has to settle for a lesser bowl and no championship glory. It's wrong, and I am rooting for Rutgers with all my might so they can upset the apple cart and hopefully spur change in a very flawed system.

There, now I'll get off my soapbox (hey, it is election season) and get on to my preview of the actual game.

Everyone not affiliated with Rutgers or friendly with a Rugers alum (hi, Ira) thinks that Louisville is going to knock the Knights right back into nowhereland. The Cardinals are coming off that impressive 44-34 spanking of the previously unbeaten Mountaineers and the fact that they did it in prime time when everyone & their brother thought West Virginia was going to win made the victory all the more impressive. Which is exactly why they should be liking Rutgers to return the favor. The Cards boast a potent offense (2nd in the NCAA @ 492YPG), led by QB Brian Brohm(1623yds, 5TDs) and his favorite targets Mario Urrutia(33recs, 633yds,5TDs) and Harry Douglas (41recs,636yds,1TD) and the 10th rated running attack(203YPG), but the Knights are no slouches, either. Led by slick running back Ray Rice, who has 1203yds (6th in the nation) and 13TDs(5th), one of my Heisman candidates before this game and sure to be one after if they win, RU possesses the nation's 12th rated running game(193YPG) and they are also ranked 2nd in passing defense(135YPG).

In other words, something's gotta give. The 2nd ranked passing offense meets the 2nd ranked passing defense, and the 10th & 12th ranked rushing attacks square off in a showdown with a ton riding on it. Miraculously this is the first ever meeting of 2 ranked teams on the RU campus, despite the Scarlet Knights being one of the teams to play in the first college football game ever played (vs. Princeton, Nov. 6th, 1869), and to say things are going to be crazy tonight is a major understatement.

All of the above points to a Scarlet night on the banks of the Raritan. I think Rice is going to test the Louisville run defense again, like Steve Slaton did last week, and the Rutgers defense will be inspired enough to limit Brohm & Co. to under 30 points. It's a tall order, especially for a team that is a 6 1/2 point underdog on its home turf, but I truly believe Rutgers is up to the challenge. Besides, when do you ever see a team go out on back-to-back weeks and knock off undefeated teams this late in the season on prime time national TV?

It's never been done, and it won't happen tonight.

MY PICK: Rutgers 31, L'Ville 28.

Down with the BCS!

Good Luck, Ira!


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

NFL News & Notes

Another proper title for this post: NFL-the Battered, Bruised & Broke List.

-Pats safety Rodney Harrison was diagnosed with a broken scapula, or shoulder bone for those of us who don't watch House or Grey's Anatomy, which could force him to miss up to 8 weeks. The defensive leader was injured in the first quarter of the Pats loss to Indy Sunday night when he landed hard on his right side after tackling Marvin Harrison(no relation) on a 44-yard gain. Loyal New England fans are shuddering at the prospect of the team playing without the hard-hitting veteran again; last year Harrison only played in 3 games after suffering a devastating knee injury against the Steelers. The secondary resembled a revolving door rest of the season, and judging by the way Manning carved up the DBs on Sunday it is bound to be more of the same this year. Optimistic reports say he could be back in as little as 3-4 weeks because the injury does not require surgery- please, get well soon Rodney.

-Giants DE Michael Strahan is out for at least 2 and possibly 8 weeks after suffering a sprained right foot in New York's lackluster 14-10 win over Houston Sunday. This means the G-Men will be without Strahan, LB Lavar Arrington and DE Osi Umenyiora when the 7-1 Bears come to the Meadowlands for the Sunday Night Football game this week. To make matters worse for the Giants, WR Amani Toomer, who is tied w/ Tiki for the team lead in receptions with 32, has an ACL injury in his left knee and has been shelved for the rest of the year. With wideout Plexiglass Buress ailing as well (back spasms), I would say the money is going to be pouring in on the Chicago side, despite (or maybe partly because of) their tank-job against the Dolphins last week.

-Speaking of that Sunday Nighter, Bears LB Brian Ulracher may also miss the tilt due to his big toe sprain (isn't there a more technical term than that?) which he got after being landed on while making a tackle late in the game against the Fins. Which begs the question of Coach Lovie Smith: what the hell is your All-Everything defensive captain doing on the field in the waning minutes of a 31-13 game that was over by halftime? To which Lovie replied: "Because he's one of our defensive players, and the rest of our players were out there at the end of the game... We had our football team out on the field. He will be out there at the end of the game in other games, also." Okay then. My money says that not only will it take more than a toe injury to keep this warrior down, he will wreak havoc on the banged up Giants and sack Peyton's Brother at least twice. Mark my words (and I know you guys will.)

-Bills RB Willis Magahee will be sidelined indefinitely after breaking 3 ribs in the Bills 24-10 win over Green Bay. Although the bruising runner, famous for having his leg turned into a Thanksgiving wishbone in the epic Ohio State/Miami National Championship game 3 years ago, has had a down year so far (579yds,1TD), he is still the offensive backbone of this squad. In his absence the Bills will turn to former Bear Anthony Thomas. You may remember him- he had like a decent season, season & a half and went on thumping his chest about being "the real A-Train" (as opposed to the actual real A-Train, Mike Alstott), then proceeded to fall of the face of the planet. Good luck, Buffalo; nice time to lose your horse, right before 100 inches of powder blows into town.

-Seahawks Hasselbeck & Alexander still out
Pro Bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck(knee strain) and NFL MVP Shaun Alexander(broken foot bone) will not return to action this weekend when Seattle hosts the rams in a battle for the NFC West division lead. THe Haks had hoped to have at least Alexander back, but the foot has just not healed enough to risk having him on the field; he could return the following week. Hasselbeck still has soreness and is at least 1 if not 2 weeks from returning. So even though the Seahawks dispatched the hapless Raiders Monday Night, 16-0 in a game in which they recorded 9 sacks of Oakland QB Andrew walter, the offense still sputtered- they punted on 8 straight series after going up 13-0. So this game will be a big test of the backups, QB Seneca Wallace & RB Maurice Morris, but the end result won't say much about either team.

'Groingate' sees both the kick-er & kick-ee fined
How much is a shot to the package worth? About $25Gs if you are Raider defensive end Tyler Brayton, better known as "the guy who kneed that loudmouth Seahawk in the groin." in that Monday Night debacle. For his part in the festivities the loudmouth, TE Jerramy Stevens, was fined $15k for instigating the whole sordid mess. So if you subtract the two amounts it only cost Brayton $10 grand to land a glancing blow to the jumblies of a guy half the league would like to hit there with a Louisville Slugger. In fact that would make a great filler show on the NFL Network: Hit Jerramy Stevens in the Nuts with a Louisville Slugger. Sign me up! And we know Warren (pot calling the kettle black) Sapp would be first in line. Seriously, if that doesn't work out for these two clowns how 'bout auditioning for roles in Jackass #3: Nuts for the NFL.

The good news this week: No arrests.


Hump day- what's on tap.

First things first- Little League game from 6:00-8:00. After that my wife & son will be beating a path back to our door to catch the results show of Dancing with the Stars. Last night my wife had to work the election coverage and she is pissed that she missed the extravaganza, when all three finalists tied with identical scores of 59. Actually she is pissed at me for not DVR-ing it, so I'm in the doghouse. What she missed was an inspired performance by Joey, top-notch steppin from Mario Lopez, and saucy & silky stuff from my man Emmitt. Plus we nearly had our first wardrobe malfunction of the proceedings. We've been waiting all season for that, and it nearly came to be when Joey's partner, Edyta, bent over backwards on their final number and nearly bent right out of her snug top, similar to this move by Mario & his "partner", Karina.
There's always tonight- that sticky tape can't hold forever.

I will be back in the sports den checking out a dynamite NBA doubleheader on ESPN- Phoenix(1-3) at the Spurs(3-1) at 8 followed by the Pistons (2-2 sans Big Ben) at the Kings (2-2 sans Peja) at 10:30. I'm interested in both games because the Suns & Spurs are both title contenders and the Pistons & Kings are both huge question marks following the departure of key players the past few years. Plus Eva Longoria could get more face time than boyfriend Tony Parker in the Spurs game.

But if that's not enough I will turn to either MSNBC for non-stop coverage of the Democrats storming of the House but not the Senate and the resignation of Secy of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, or switch it to "E" for wall-to-wall coverage of Mom-of-the-Year candidate Britney Spears dumping her freeloading husband K-Fed like she almost dumped her kid on this NYC street.

I can't get enough of either of those stories, let me tell you.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tragedy strikes 'Da U'- again

The University of Miami football program was already experiencing a terrible year both on & off the field.
Tonight things just got tragically worse for the embattled school.

22-year old senior defensive end Bryan Pata was found dead in the Miami suburb of Kendall Tuesday evening from a gunshot wound. Details are sketchy right now but early word has witnesses pegging it as a drive by-type shooting, although no official word has been released from either local police or family members.

Pata was a 6'4", 270lb starter who had played in 41 games with the 'Canes over the past 4 years and was expected to be a late-round selection in next spring's NFL draft.

The troubles for the school go back at least a decade, from the car crash death of Philadelphia Eagle & Hurricane icon Jerome Brown to the recent deaths of linebacker Marlin Barnes (shot in 1996) and alums Chris Campbell (car crash in 2002) Al Blades (car crash in 2003.)

But this year alone there had been numerous image-crushing incidents, starting with a brawl in January's Sugar Bowl loss to LSU, the shooting of safety Willie Cooper and subsequent retaliatory fire by teammate Brandon Meriweather in July, to the ugly on-field melee versus FIU last month that saw 30 players suspended from both schools and Miami come under intense fire for not reacting strongly enough to the incident.

But those incidents pale in comparison to having a teammate, student and community member gunned down in the city area while students are still in class and games are still left on the schedule; Miami is set to travel to Maryland to take on the #23 Terps Saturday, but I'm sure a game is the last thing on those kids' minds right now.

The scars left from brawls heal. The scars from the loss of a member of the family never do.


What to watch tonight

With election results pouring in from all around the country, there's only one thing to do tonight as a proud American: find out what else is on.
With the wife stuck at work, just like every election year, it will be free reign on the TV viewing tonight. Hmmm, what will I check out...

Dancing With the Scantily Clad Celebs, 8PM ABC
I'm just going to keep an eye on this show "for my wife", because after all it is down to the Final 3- bald Joe (formerly hairy Joey) Lawrence, Mario Saved by my Dimples Lopez, and my man Emmitt Smith. Lopez is the obvious fave, with his pretty-boy Latino looks, swivel-matic hips and "dimples you can stick your tongue into"(according to my wife's co-worker), but Emmitt has been coming on strong of late, as has Lawrence. It will be a heated battle to see who makes it to the final twosome tomorrow night, but the show just isn't the same without the lovable, laughable Jerry Springer. Not that I'm paying attention or anything.

Toledo (3-6) @ Northern Illinois (5-4), 7:30, ESPN2
What reason could there be to watch a matchup between these two MAC schools unless you are A: Bruce Gradkowski or Chester Taylor checking out your Toledo homeboys or B: a degenerate gambler? Turns out if you are a college football fan the answer is C: for NIU stud running back Garrett Wolfe. The diminutive (5'7") dynamo has been leading the NCAA in rushing basically all season(1479 yards, 14TDs) although no one really knows him; the last time he played on national TV he shit the bed: 25 yards on 18 carries vs. Western Michigan 3 weeks ago. Here's his chance to redeem himself, and your chance to catch one of the most exciting runners in college ball, size not an issue.

Help Me Help You, 9:30, ABC
This Ted Danson vehicle has hooked my wife & I in with its irascible, raunchy humor, high-brow jokes and stellar cast. Each week focuses on another one of Dr. Hoffman's (Danson, better than ever, except for Mayday Malone) wackos, but the drama always centers around the ego-centric shrink himself. Throw in hilarious barbs from his soon-to-be (maybe) ex-wife Anne, played to a tee by Jane Kaczmarek, and this show is a witty hit.

Didn't get to see the show last night, but tonight will be a good time to catch up, especially with Linc and LJ getting busted last week.

This will be followed by about 4 hours of playing Need For Speed: Carbon on XBOX 360 before I have to hand it back in to Hollywood Video after my 1 week test run. The verdict is still out, but so far the game is placing somewhere in between the superb Underground and the lackluster Most Wanted. A full review will come after I have played my fingers to a nub tonight.


NFL 2006 Mid-Term Votes

It's that time again folks, time to exorcise our rights as Americans to vote for our leaders.
And since the First Tuesday in November coincides with the halfway point of the NFL season, what better way to decide the Best & the Worst of the '06 campaign so far.

68%-New Orleans Saints,6-2: predicted to be the dregs of the NFC South they not only lead that division but are tied (with about 8 other teams) for the 2nd best record in football, this after posting a 3-13 mark last year.

32%- Chicago Bears,7-1: not as big a surprise because they showed promise last year (11-5) and boast a strong defense, but no one expected 7-1 from a Rex Grossman-led team

78%-Baltimore Ravens,6-2: coming off of two mediocre seasons (6-10, 9-7) and with an aging Steve McNair as their marquee signee nobody thought these guys could be Super Bowl material. But McNair's leadership & toughness have meshed well with the always-solid Raven D to form a surprise playoff contender
22%-New England Patriots, 6-2: Stop, haters- even the most ardent Pats loyalist couldn't have predicted that their team would have been 1 win vs. the Mannings away from being the best team in the NFL after losing their top 2 receivers(Branch,Givens), the most clutch kicker in history (Vinatieri) and defensive leader(McGinest)

92%-Damon Huard(QB) Kansas City: pressed into action when starter Trent Green went down with a concussion in the season opener all the 10-year vet from Washington has done is gone 5-2, thrown for 1600+ yards with 11 TDs & 1 interception with passer rating (overrated stat) of 105.2, 2nd in the NFL. Oh, and brought KC back to the playoff race (with help from LJ.)
8%-Andre Johnson(WR) Houston: although he had stellar rookie & sophomore seasons Johnson's production dropped off last year(63recs, 688yds, 2TDs); but this year he has been the only bright spot (65recs, NFL-leading 752yds, 4TDs) for an awful Texas (2-6) team.

99%-Marques Colston(WR) New Orleans: hmm, why is he the landslide winner here? Oh maybe because he was the 3rd-to-last player chosen(#252) in the 2006 draft out of that 'notorious football factory' Hofstra and all he has done is outshine his mega-hyped rookie teammate Reggie Bust to the tune of 44 catches (10th in NFL) for 700 yards (4th) and 7 TDs(1st)-talk about bang for your buck; can you say 'Rookie of the Year'?
1%- Chester Taylor(RB) Minnesota: 708 yards (4th in the NFL) is well above & beyond what the Vikes, or any FF geeks, could have expected from this 5th year back from Toledo; his play has kept the Vikes in the playoff hunt.

76% Tampa Bay Bucs, 2-6: From an 11-5 NFC South-winning campaign to this 2-win travesty that cannot score (12.8PPG, last in NFC), can't run the ball (82.8YPG, 2nd to last in NFC) and can't stop the run (134 YPG, 2nd to last in NFC) in one year. Sure the quarterback situation is a disaster, but when a veteran defense is playing this poorly there's no way a rookie QB is going to be able to pick up the slack. anyone?
24%- Arizona, 1-7: the only reason the Cards don't rank higher is because even though people expected great things from this talented but underachieving bunch this year everyone's been saying that for like 3 years now, so it's no real surprise that they suck. The real surprise is how bad they suck, epitomized by that 20-pt collapse vs. the Bears; nice new stadium, though.

66%-Pittsburgh Steelers, 2-6: A post-championship letdown year is almost inevitable, but what's gone on in the Steel City this season makes the Red Sox 2005 season look like a dream. It started with Roethlisberger's poor Peter Fonda impersonation in the spring and following a trip to the emergency room to remove his appendix, continued right up through his awful 3 interceptions Sunday (for a league-leading 14); this team has fallen below bad and all the way to laughingstock. Can they bring the Bus back?
44%-Miami Dolphins, 2-6: Haa haahaha hahahahah... oh sorry, I was just remembering back to the preseason when all the 'experts' predicted that the Fins were not only going to unseat the Pats in the AFC East but go all the way to the Bowl, too. Good one, huh? Now this nut-job of a squad is team turmoil: their low-rent backup QB acquisition (Joey Harrington) is outshining their high-priced but banged-up bust (Duante Culpepper), and despite handing the Bears their only loss on Sunday there hasn't been much to enjoy in South Florida this fall- except on South Beach, of course.

Ben Roethlisberger(QB) Pittsburgh- he runs unopposed in this category due to how truly awful the Super Bowl-winning QB has been. He leads the league in freak accidents (2), interceptions (14), and wearing his hat on backwards while clapping on the sideline, and he has a paltry 72.2 QB rating (whatever that means.) Simply put, all the good things we heard about this overrated caretaker last year have been replaced by doubt, questions about his future as the leader of the team, and plenty of head-scratching over his Favre-like decision making. can you say One Year Wonder?

Reggie Bush(WR/RB/KR) New Orleans: another unopposed candidate. I know there is all the blahblahblah about him being this terrific, all-important receiver(he leads the NFC with 312 receiving yards as a RB), but he was taken with the #2 pick in the draft to be an elusive & deadly runner; so far, no show. The Heisman winner has a grand total of 207 yards on 81 carries for an Errict Rhett-like 2.6YPC. He's also got only 1 touchdown all season, that game-winning punt return vs. the Bucs. Plus he's being outshined by his teammate, the player chosen 250 spots behind him, Marques Colston. Toss in a holdout, USC troubles trailing him into the league, and various nagging injuries, and Mr. Bush better have a terrific 2nd half or he will officially earn the nickname Reggie Bust.

89%- Drew Brees to the Saints: even though Phillip Rivers had done well for the Chargers, Brees has proven to be the offensive lightening rod that can spark a team to playoff glory; he's 4th in the NFL in yards (2206) & TDs (14) and he is the reason the Saints are marching to the playoffs. With veteran wideout Joe Horn nursing various injuries all season and #2 overall draft pick Reggie Bust being, well a bust, the poised vet has calmly pulled the team together
and help give fans in the devastated Bayou area a reason to smile again.
11%- Tony Romo as Cowboys starter: as much as I love Drew Bledsoe, and that goes way back to his pre-Brady days as the leader of the Pats '96 AFC Championship squad, it was time for him to go as the QB for the 'Boys. I don't agree with how it was done- at halftime of a MNF game- but when you've got a mobile guy waiting in the wings it's time to sit the statue down, especially when that statue is throwing 2 terrible picks per game. Romo has provided instant results (65% completions, 6TDs), but has been shaky as well, but he is the right choice for this team now. Drew, thanks for the memories, bud.

1000%- T.O.D. to the Cowboys: this pickup would really be tragic if it weren't so freakin' funny. Watching the Tuna squirm as the Diva Receiva has infected the entire team from day 1- riding a stationary bike while dressed like a Tour-de-Francer; almost attempting to kill himself, then denying it; dropping balls & sparring with coaches- has been priceless to watch. Too bad it's a real NFL franchise he's destroying (his 3rd& counting), but how do you feel sorry when they made a deal with the devil?

53%-Week 7, Bucs 23, Eagles 21: maybe I'm biased because I was there and all, but c'mon, how do you go against a game-winning 62-yard field goal that came just minutes after an apparent game-winning 52-yard TD catch & run by the other team. I mean I felt the after effects of that one for 2 weeks.
37%- Week 9, Wash 22, Dallas 19: the only way to top that thriller is to have 3 potential game-winning field goals in the final minute, one blocked, one missed, and 1 allowed to take place because of a defensive penalty on the last play of the game; plus T.O.D. dropped a sure game-winning TD. Good stuff
5%- Week 6, Bears 20-pt. comeback at Arizona: tough category when a miraculous game like this places 3rd, but the fact that it was done against the Cards loses votes. Still, it was one of those "if I didn't see it, I wouldn't have believed it" games; actually people who saw it didn't believe it- even better.
5%- Week 3, The Saints are comin'...home: had to get this one in there because it was one of the most emotional games in recent memory. The Saints returned to their hurricane-ravaged home, the Superdome, to the pomp & circumstance of an election (U2 & Green Day!); then they went out and crushed the Falcons 23-3 like they were gnats as the new roof withstood the test of the charged up fans.

51%- Tyler Brayton's knee to Jerramy Stevens' groin: this just happened yesterday or it may have received more votes. In the waning moments of Oakland's humiliating MNF loss to the Seahawks, Raider DE Tyler Brayton got so fed up with pesky (and by pesky I mean he's an obnoxious pain in the ass who drops way to many balls to be talking so much smack) Seattle TE Jerramy Stevens that he pulled him up close and gave him a good swift knee to his nether regions, which oddly elicited smiles from Stevens (did he enjoy this?) But the ugly incident begs the question: which is worse, kneeing a grown man in the package or stomping on his head with a cleated size 15? the (male) voters choose 'A', but the league has yet to decide.
49% - Bad Albert stomps on Gurode's melon: tough season when a head-stomp places second, but what Titans DE Albert Haynesworth did to Cowboys center Andre Gurode's head in a game in Week 4 was bad enough to earn him a 6-game sit down and a place in the Cheap Shot Hall of Fame. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm watching the actual NFL or a WWE-style facsimile.
84%- LaDanian Tomlinson(RB) San Diego: this kid just seems to get better & better every year and this could be his best season yet- he's leading the league in total yards from scrimmage (1,151yds,) touchdowns (12) and runs of 20+ yards (6) while guiding the Chargers to the 2nd best record in the AFC. Oh and he's got a touchdown pass, as well, his 4th in 2 years. Nice.

Tiki Barber(RB) New York Giants: Ironically that percentage also equals the likelihood that the leading rusher in the NFL will retire at the end of the season as he says. If that is true we will be witnessing Barry Sanders redux because with 830 yards at the halfway point, 122 more than 2nd place Chester Tayler, to say he will be leaving in his prime is an understatement. He's the vocal & spiritual leader of the best team in the NFC (quiet Walleye, you know the Bears aren't for real), much like Ronde is in Tampa, and if he leads them to a Super Bowl it would be the ultimate cherry on a sweet career.

There you have it, the votes are in and the candidates are ready to make their acceptance speeches.
Once again please remember to go out and vote for your favorite party-approved partisan puppet today.
And thankfully those inane campaign ads will be off of our TV sets tomorrow- hooray!