This is not an Onion News story. Locked out Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco announced that he will have a tryout with the MLS club Sporting KC. Ochocinco is set to tryout March 22-26.
This is not an Onion News story. Locked out Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco announced that he will have a tryout with the MLS club Sporting KC. Ochocinco is set to tryout March 22-26.
Rumors of the Big 10's Expansion Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: The Big 10 still has 11 teams for the time being. Dr. Saturday describes how you can get on the expansion rumor spreading action. This is good news for rumor mongers and bad news for anybody who would like to know what's going on with the Big 10 expansion plans. The next alternative college football futures piece (see the primer, or the first scenario) will be on super conferences. The fact that there has still be nothing new to report on Big 10 expansion means I don't have to rip up what I was writing, yet.
Journalistic Integrity: This issue really should not keep coming up. I don't even want to bring up the unjustly awarded Pam Ward (wait, maybe I just did). However, the AP this week decided to remind us how irrelevant they have become when it comes to matters of awarding by handing out (or rather re-voting to award) the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award to the Houston Texans' Brian Cushing. Cushing tested positive for PEDs last season. The voters knew fact this during the re-vote and yet Cushing still won. The writers who re-voted to let Cushing keep the award also knew the NFL was suspending Cushing for four games for a violation of the league's PED substance abuse policy. By letting Cushing keep the award, the AP has made it's worst decision since naming the Trojans (coincidentally, where Cushing went to school) their national champion in 2003 for beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Simple rule of thumb for you AP guys, if this, then this. The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) duplicated the AP's imbecilic vote in 2003 so they get the same message.
The Anticipated Fall of Troy: ...you'll have to keep waiting on it. Dan Wetzel said the NCAA report on the Trojans was coming out this week and then he took it back. I just love "sources". The next time you read something about college football and the information comes from a "source", print out what you are reading immediately and set it on fire. Your time is too valuable to waste on unsourced nonsense and the image and smell of burning paper will perhaps remind you not to read garbage again. For the fun of it, consult EDSBS' handy chart about what could happen to Southern Cal (or Akron, you had better duck Zips).
Law & Order: Notre Dame's back up Tight End Mike Ragone was busted for marijuana possession. The charge was a misdemeanor. Internal discipline from the school may be forthcoming. Ragone's court date is next Monday. Notre Dame was not deep at the TE position so it's obvious that this is not a good situation for first year Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly.
I'll be back sometime at the end of next week as the serious academic matter of comprehensive exams has come up. So, I have something to do for the next 7 days, what will you do to pass the 168 hours of non-football filled monotony?
There are 113 days until September 4th and the return of college football, pace yourselves.
Unfortunately, football related activities have ceased. I'm not desperate enough to say anything about NFL minicamps, so the news and notes from this past week consists of things tangential to football.
Conference Expansion: The Pac 10 & Big 12 Conferences met in Phoenix for "an informal gathering", according to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. The formality of the get-together aside, joining forces might be attractive in the wake of eventual Big 10 expansion. Therefore, discussing TV contracts is a fine place to start (which might or might not have been discussed). I'm not willing to go out on a limb and believe "a source" about that important matter.
Law & Order (Probably a reoccurring feature so why not kick it off with this):
NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker Lawrence Taylor ("Client-1") was charged in New York State with third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute. This story also involves a pimp and a 16-year-old runaway. The Federal government is prosecuting this case. The arrest has been taken very serious by NutriSystem as they have dropped LT as spokesman.
LSU Center T-Bob Hebert was given a DUI after backing into a parked car. A breathalyzer showed that Hebert was over the legal limit (.08 BAC). LSU head coach Les Miles has indefinitely suspended Hebert who started every game last season except the Capital One Bowl. Hebert's arrest was the second alcohol related incident for the Tigers this offseason. Starting WR Terrance Toliver was arrested and tasered in March following a fight outside of a bar in the vicinity of the LSU campus.
Texas Tech University wants four employees removed from the lawsuit brought against the school by former coach Mike Leach (who was controversially fired "for cause", see what I wrote about it here). Tech's attorney Dicky Grigg is also trying to have the entire suit dismissed by invoking "sovereign immunity" which would preclude the school from being sued without "permission from the Texas legislature or without a waiver based on the defendant's conduct." Tech did not seek to have Craig James removed from the suit (who recently described himself as being in a "spiritual war" against Leach). The next hearing will be May 14.
From the Unemployment Line: JaMarcus Russell was released by the Oakland Raiders. I wrote about the Rise and Fall of JaMarcus here. For those of you looking for a visualization of Russell's departure, you can consult the fine work of LSUFreek (follow him on twitter) here.
Pam Ward Won a Real Broadcasting Award: Yeah, so that happened. I have laid out some details about why I oppose such a thing here. I decided to get more proactive than that and write a letter to the person in charge. You can read the letter, which has already been sent, here.
There are 117 days until college football. Hang in there...
JaMarcus Russell has been released by the Oakland Raiders. It came as a shock to no one that the Raiders have decided to cut their losses, which were substantial (Russell was paid more than $36 million and is still owed another $3 million), and move on. Russell had no chance to remain on the depth chart, much less compete for the starting job, once Jason Campbell was recently acquired. Russell only lasted this long because Raiders owner Al Davis stuck by him. Russell is going to be widely panned as the worst No. 1 NFL Draft Pick ever, but I think something else needs to be remembered about Russell's time in Oakland...
Al Davis has been mentally checked out for so long that he hired the completely unqualified Lane Kiffin to coach the once proud Raiders franchise. Davis then had an odd press conference when he fired Kiffin just 20 games later. At the point in which Kiffin was hired, the Raiders team was an untalented mess with one of the worst records in pro football over the half decade. JaMarcus Russell was a rookie that season. I cannot think of a worse position for a number 1 overall pick to have fallen into. The magnitude of difficulty only increases when you consider a) no QB has been able to do anything with the Raiders since Rich Gannon, b) the Raiders have had a revolving door of coaches, c) Lane Kiffin was Russell's coach as a rookie (I think I mentioned this), d) Russell was guaranteed a big big bag of cash for not having to do anything. I could go on but there is really no need to. Russell didn't have to be great in Oakland, he just needed to have a pulse and hope the Raiders wouldn't throw him out on the street. Now it's time for Plan B.
How did Russell get to this point? After redshirting his freshman year at LSU and limited action as a redshirt freshman, Russell weaved magic time and again for the Tigers as a Sophomore and Junior starter. It wasn't always pretty, but Tiger fans could always count on being in games and Russell making exciting plays (see here, here, here). As a starter, Russell went 25-4 and is in the top five in each category of passing stat recorded by LSU. It was basically LSU's dismantling of a barely there Notre Dame defense in the 2007 Sugar Bowl which sealed Russell's fate as a No. 1 Draft pick.
As a Raider QB, Russell was not set up for success. First, there was the contract holdout (which got him all that guaranteed money). Second, his coach as a rookie was Lane Kiffin (can't be emphasized enough). If you put a Hall of Fame caliber QB behind a porous O-Line, you will no longer have a Hall of Fame caliber QB (you might even have an injured QB). Russell sacked 70 times in 31 appearances for Oakland. The Raiders only 1,000 yard rusher of the three years Russell was in Oakland was Justin Fargas (1,009 yards in 2007). The leading WR in 2007 was Ronald Curry and in 2008-2009, it was the TE Zach Miller. In case you were wondering, none of these seasons produced a 1,000 yard receiver. What exactly besides lose big was Russell supposed to do behind an O-line that couldn't pass or run block? You can rag on Russell's work ethic if you want, but how hard would you try with a ton of guaranteed money and an owner who won't put a solid line in front of you? Despite all of that, Russell showed that from time to time, he still had the playmaking ability he was drafted for.
Now, Russell, who has a career passer rating of 65.2, would be lucky for a team to sign him as a backup. Somebody will probably take that risk, maybe your favorite team. Here's an advocate for the Cleveland Browns to sign Russell. If you thought you heard Mel Kiper, Jr. say that Russell "could be one of the elite top five QBs in this league" in three years (or "John Elwaylike") in the embedded video, you were correct--yet another example of why you shouldn't rate the NFL Draft. Instead, three years later, JaMarcus Russell is unemployed.
Big (soon to be even less accurate) 10/Big (soon to be less than) 12: MISSOURI TO THE BIG TEN. Notre Dame is not budging for the present. This is an unconfirmed report, but why not mention it? Speaking of ND...
Independents: EDSBS brought us this Notre Dame music video...click at your own discretion. Once seen, Freekbass cannot be unseen. Shrewd move by ND. The Big 10 has an image to keep up and Freekbass doesn't fit in it.
SEC: LSU Coach Les Miles is on the Tiger Tour. Mike VI is not going on the tour for obvious reasons.
The Tiger Tour is not to be confused with Auburn's Tiger Prowl (which the NCAA has targeted with its latest inane rule).
PAC 10: Lane Kiffin had a press conference. The Trojans had a scrimmage of some sort today. Presser highlights: On the scrimmage format: “We don't have enough bodies to be able to create two different teams as far as having ones versus twos, so it will be just an offense versus defensive format, which we will have a scoring system for and very little special teams. We'll kick field goals and extra points with no rush.” Don’t be a “loaf”. Kiffin will embarrass you via flat screen TVs and wall postings of your grade if you get beat at practices. Parting shots: Kiffin also had some words about SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and a coach he didn’t beat, Nick Saban. Not that he was asked about them--the question concerned the NCAA rule on head coach travel which Kiffin thinks is “ridiculous”. “Yeah, I've been very strong about that. Not that anybody listens but I have expressed myself to (SEC) Commissioner (Mike) Slive every meeting that we are in. I don't think he appreciated it after the first two times I did and I brought it up and every time I bring it up, it would piss off Nick Saban, because he would bring it up again because he thinks the rule was changed because of him.” Is there really an NCAA “Saban rule”? The Trojans start the 2010 season in Honolulu.
WAC: Hawai'i had its Warrior Bowl on Friday. It was situational and featured "shifty running" by RB Chizzy Dimude and "bruising" running from RB John Lister. Both TDs during the scrimmage were scored on runs. None of this sounds like the Hawai'i you are used to does it? The Warriors will start home games this season at 5:30 p.m. Hawaiian. For those of you on the East Coast it means that Hawai'i games will actually start on Saturday (barely).
Big Sky: Junior QB Bo Levi Mitchell (transfer from SMU) has won the starting job for the Eastern Washington University Eagles. Mitchell threw for nearly 4,600 yards at SMU along with 36 TDs and 33 INTs in 19 games. EWU had a wide open competition for the starting job as it lost Matt Nichols to the NFL (he has signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys). Nichols threw for 12,616 yards and 95 TDs in his career as an Eagle. If you are wondering why this school rings a bell, they are installing red turf for the 2010 season.
Neither No. 1 nor Mr. Irrelevant, Mardy Gilyard
I'm not going to give you draft grades because I think that is an absurd process which assumes that I can predict the future--not that it stops the "pros" from doing it year after year. Nor does it stop them from using hindsight to go back and reevaluate. I did give you Mardy Gilyard above (the no. 99 pick), not because I'm saying he will be as much of an impact player and leader in the NFL as he was at Cincy, but because I don't want to talk about number 1, or Mr. Irrelevant from the 2010 Draft. Everyone has probably heard Gilyard's story, so I'm not going to rehash that in this space. Gilyard is probably my favorite video game character of all time. If you haven't used Cincy on NCAA Football 10, you should (especially at Nippert Stadium) and let the magic happen. The Rams could have drafted Tony Pike to throw the ball to Gilyard, but Pike has been injured frequently and doesn't have nearly the total percentage of passes as INTs (TPPI)™ stat (yeah, that's my trademark) that Sam Bradford has. Pike's TPPI was 2.9% (20 INT/682 passes) whereas Bradford's was 1.8% (16 INT/893 passes). You might also recognize Bradford with this trophy.
Since I'm taking the shrink wrap off TPPI. Let's look at the QB's drafted ranked by TPPI, draft number in brackets.
1. (no. 25) Tim Tebow, Broncos, 1.6% (16 INT/995 passes)
2. (no. 1) Sam Bradford, Rams, 1.8% (16 INT/893 passes)
3. (no. 209) Levi Brown, Bills, 2.0% (19 INT/963 passes)
4. (no. 181) Dan LeFevour, Bears, 2.0% (36 INT/1763 passes)
5. (no. 48) Jimmy Clausen, Panthers, 2.4% (27 INT/1110 passes)
6. (no. 155) John Skelton, Cardinals, 2.6% (36 INT/1363 passes)
7. (no. 176) Rusty Smith, Titans, 2.6% (36 INT/1361 passes)
8. (no. 85) Colt McCoy, Browns, 2.7% (45 INT/1645 passes)
9. (no. 89) Armanti Edwards, Panthers, 2.8% (33 INT/1180 passes)
10. (no. 204) Tony Pike, Panthers, 2.9% (20 INT/682 passes)
11. (no. 239) Sean Canfield, Saints, 3.0% (26 INT/861 passes)
12. (no. 250) Zac Robinson, Patriots, 3.1% (31 INT/999 passes)
13. (no. 122) Mike Kafka, Eagles, 3.1% (20 INT/637 passes)
14. (no. 199) Joe Webb, Vikings, 3.2% (25 INT/792 passes)
15. (no. 168) Jonathan Crompton, Chargers, 3.5% (22 INT/629 passes)
The Carolina Panthers drafted three (Clausen, Edwards, Pike) of the fifteen quarterbacks selected in order of their TPPI. As a whole this group of QBs was not selected in that manner. Crompton was the 8th QB selected although he was clearly 15th in TPPI and Levi Brown and Dan LeFevour were late round selections despite having a low percentage of INTs. I'm not suggesting that TPPI is a make or break stat, but it might be worth looking at in terms of the whole package of scouting a QB. TPPI also doesn't get into situational things like throwing a pick on Hail Mary attempts. However, if your QB consistently throws a pick in such situations, it shouldn't throw off the number.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
The LSU Tigers had a six year reign (which was the longest active streak) of first round draft picks end in 2010. Their streak of three straight years of having a player selected in the top five picks of the draft also ended. LSU ultimately had six players selected which tied them for 5th most during this years' draft. The Florida Gators led the way with nine (9) selections.
You can't spell secede without SEC. This scenario (see the primer here) is inspired by @RickMuscles who mentioned SEC secession on his twitter page recently--he is kind of a big deal. The Civil War has been on my mind for obvious reasons as it is. Expansion, of course, is seemingly in everyone's thoughts these days.
That's right, the South's rising again. This time it involves no attempt to leave the Union, just the NCAA. What would prompt secession by the Southeastern Conference? Not wanting to be controlled by events stemming from the Northern Aggression of the Big 10 Conference. Why trust Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany when he says that there has been no acceleration of the conference's expansion timetable? The opportunity to act is open, why not take it? To understand why SEC secession makes sense, it is necessary to lay out a few things about the SEC itself.
Eight of the twelve member institutions are ranked in the Forbes list of the Top 20 Most Valuable College Football Teams for 2010: nos. 5 (Alabama), 6 (Florida), 7 (LSU), 9 (Georgia), 12 (South Carolina), 13 (Tennessee), 14 (Auburn), 17 (Arkansas). The total value of these teams was $634 million, while the total profit pulled in by the schools was $279 million. LSU is in a group of exactly two schools that does not receive a State subsidy for its athletics program (the other is Nebraska). There's also the matter of that lucrative TV contract with ESPN.
Sure Alabama and Tennessee are on the list of the top ten all-time winningest college football teams, but what about recent success? In the BCS era (1998-2010), the SEC is 14-5 (.737) in BCS games. The Pac 10 (in five less appearances) is the only other one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac 10, SEC) to have a winning record (9-5). Only the Big 10 has more BCS appearances (21) than the SEC (19). The SEC has sent three different teams from each of its two divisions to the BCS. Alabama at 1-2 is the lone SEC squad that is not at least .500 in the BCS. In the BCS title game, four different SEC schools (two from each division) have made the conference a perfect 6-0 (that's fully half of the total BCS titles). The SEC has won the last four (4) BCS title games with three different teams with at least one champion from each division. The SEC has outscored its competition in its six BCS title wins by a score of 184-110. In each SEC title game win the margin of victory was at least seven points.
Since @RickMuscles mentioned secession, let's have a look at the member institutions of the SEC. The twelve schools are located in eight of the former CSA States and one of the Border States (Kentucky). To include the other States of the historical Confederacy, the SEC would need to expand into North Carolina, Texas and Virginia--history is not likely to repeat itself.
SEC Secession and Expansion
An advantage the SEC has over the historical CSA is that the SEC has been in existence for 77 years and ten of its member institutions have been part of the SEC since its founding. The SEC can list some legitimate grievances against the NCAA: a) the NCAA does not allow student athletes to be paid what they should be paid considering the revenue they generate for their schools (not to mention video games) through their performances, b) the NCAA does not sanction the FBS national championship, c) college football in the United States is a de facto minor league of the NFL (how many international players are being selected in the NFL Draft?) with none of the benefits that official affiliation with the NFL could bring, d) the NCAA has recently decided to institute unnecessary rules which could have a profound impact on the result of games. There is no reason to lower academic standards by having student athletes not take any college courses after secession. Instead, the football players can be treated and paid as minor league athletes. In the highest division of professional Mexican League soccer, university teams are represented by professionals, not students. There will still be plenty of colleges left in the NCAA for young men who want to get an education on an athletic scholarship.
Step 1: Commissioner Mike Slive drafts and mails a letter on behalf of the conference to the NCAA detailing the grievances and plans above. He also announces that the SEC is seceding from the NCAA.
Step 2: Slive communicates an interest in adding four more institutions to the SEC to the following schools: Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, West Virginia, East Carolina, Miami, and Florida State.
Step 3: At the SEC annual meeting, the responses are reviewed and the conference decides to admit Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC West and West Virginia and Florida State to the SEC East.
Big 10 Reaction
Overnight, Jim Delany tears up his plans for gradual expansion. The Big 10 attempts to mirror the SEC expansion and secession plan and secures Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and yes, NOTRE DAME, in rapid succession. Delany had realized the potential of matching the 16 teams of the SEC and joining forces to appeal for affiliation with the NFL as a minor league and contacted Slive. The Big 16 comes into being as retaining the Big 10 name would really stretch the imagination with the added teams.
In a word...flabbergasted. Seventeen of the top twenty most valuable college football teams have left. The Big 12 Conference has been laid to waste. But, at least that Butler v. Duke rematch is still intact for the slightly enlarged basketball tournament.
An NFL Minor League
Between the Big 16 and the SEC, there are thirty-two teams just like the NFL. Affiliations between the colleges and the pro teams could be determined in a variety of ways (number of players drafted from a school, proximity of location, famous collegiate athlete was a star franchise player, etc.). Arranging the new minor league in a similar setup to the NFL would help this process. Here's a possible way to do this:
Big 16 East: Indiana, Penn St., Pitt, Ohio St.
Big 16 North: Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Wisconsin
Big 16 South: Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue
Big 16 West: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska
SEC East: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina
SEC North: Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
SEC South: Florida, Florida St., LSU, Miss. St.
SEC West: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Texas
This is not a prediction but instead, an endorsement. Though they aren't favored in this game, I endorse a New Orleans Saints victory. Why?
The NFL trying to claim ownership over the phrase Who Dat which I took offense to as Louisianian.
This season, there has only been one murder in New Orleans during a Saints game.
I like Drew Brees' range. Entertaining on and off the field.
I want to see former LSU Tiger and big play specialist Devery Henderson get a ring.
The Colts' theme song is terrible. I know Duke Tumatoe loves the Colts, but he should be ashamed of himself for that song.
Sticking with music, all 3 of the Manning QBs appeared to sing something at the Kentucky Derby, which is decadent and depraved, in 2006.
Colts RB and former LSU Tiger Joe Addai already has a ring. Share the wealth.
This is the celebration that broke out after the NFC Championship (Imagine a Saints Super Bowl win plus Mardi Gras next Tuesday).
While not the name of a court case (yet), Who Dat Nation v. NFL, is a fitting enough way to look at this situation. The No Fun League is out of their league on this one. NFL commissioners are used to being able to bully the NFL's players, coaches and owners. The NFL also destroyed the USFL despite a jury stating in United States Football League v. National Football League that the NFL was a "duly adjudicated illegal monopoly." The USFL was also awarded damages, $3 (in 1986 money). The NFL paid the USFL with a check ($3.76-with interest) in 1990. However, the NFL is messing with the fans now in trying to claim a trademark on the phrase "Who Dat". How much money did the NFL really think the Fleurty Girl and Storyville T-shirt shops in New Orleans were going to pull down selling Who Dat shirts? This should have obviously been a "customer is always right" situation, but the bullies at the NFL didn't see it that way. This legalistic whining by the NFL had nothing to do with money. The league wanted to assert its dominance again, monopolies are ruthless in that sense. In doing so, the league was spitting in the faces of not only the diehard Who Dats but also the legions of bandwagon fans the New Orleans Saints have acquired. While privately counting their blessings, Louisiana politicians are having a PR bonanza from the NFL's unwarranted aggression.
Junior Senator David Vitter (R-Who Dat Nation) sent the league a letter informing commissioner Roger Goodell that special shirts were being printed up which mock the league's cease and desist letters to the T-shirt shops. Vitter also told Goodell: "Please either drop your present ridiculous position or sue me." Senior Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Who Dat Nation) remarked "I am exploring several options to sack the NFL's greediness, including removing the league's tax exempt status." Bingo. Opportunistic politicians know how to go for the jugular. The NFL quickly revised its position said its position all along was that they were only going to go after uses of Who Dat and the fleur-de-lis with trademarks of the Saints. If that's the case...Here's Aaron Neville from 1983:
The Saints were 8-8 in 1983, only their second .500 season in 16 years of existence at that point in time. They didn't make the playoffs.
Just hours ago, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal requested that the State's Attorney General determine whether or not a lawsuit can be brought against the league. The NFL needs to own up to overstepping this time and cease and desist from harassing small businesses. It is bad enough viewers have to put up with boring regular season football because of an overstuffed league with watered down talent from too many teams. Whenever you are ready to put me on the competition committee, Roger Goodell, I'll accept. In the meantime, take a look at my idea for a relegation division. It is annoying that the players can't enjoy themselves, but they knew that was the case when they signed the contract. It is outrageous that the NFL dares to prevent fans from supporting their team during its one shining moment out of 43 years in the league. Who Dat Nation, Stand Up and Get Crunk for a Black and Gold Super Bowl.
New York Jets 17, Indianapolis Colts 30.
Mark Sanchez had an amazing game first half (5-7, 124 yards 2 TDs) for the Jets, but that didn't matter when Peyton Manning was having a great second half (plus a TD drive with under 2 minutes to go in the first half) for the Colts. The Jets looked to be getting all the breaks en route to a 17-6 lead by the 2 minute warning of the first half. Then the league's MVP decided he wasn't going to take it anymore. Manning missed Dallas Clark and then hit Austin Collie three (3) straight times to slash right through the Jets secondary and trim the Jets' lead to 17-13 before halftime. To recap, the Jets went from in control to out of the game in 58 seconds and 4 plays. The number 1 defense of the Jets continued to have major problems defending passes thrown by Manning in the second half. Add to that the return of Sanchez the Regular (51.5 second half passer rating) and the Jets got exactly 0 points in the second half while giving up 17 points (and 24 unanswered points going back to the first half). Manning finished the game 26/39 for 377 yards and 3 TDs (Manning now has 7 such 300+ yard playoff games--most all-time). Neither teams' running game was impressive. The Colts essentially stopped trying to run the ball once Joe Addai fumbled in the first half and it gave the Jets 3 points. The Jets running game lost Shonn Greene early in the second half which really hurt the total offensive production. Greene doesn't play defense so it is hard to say that his exit means much in the grand scheme of the way the game turned out. There are just some days when Manning is being unreasonable, and this was one of them. The Colts are going back to Miami.
Minnesota Vikings 28, New Orleans Saints 31, OT.
Brett Favre had the Vikings in field goal position to win the game. The Vikings took a penalty for breaking the huddle with 12 men. They were still kind of in field goal range.
And then that happened.
The Saints then won the OT coin toss, got some more lucky breaks (more on this theme below) with penalties and booth reviews and got in field goal range. And...boom goes the dynamite. Black and Gold Super Bowl.
So how was that sequence set up? Before the second Favre INT, the Vikings gift wrapped this game for the Saints a few times (make that 4 times, 3 fumbles and 1 INT). Near the end of the first half the Vikings could have broke a 14-14 tie. Standing at the Saints 10 yard line with a minute remaining after a Saints timeout, Favre could't hand the ball off/Adrian Peterson forgot how to take a handoff and the Saints recovered a fumble. By the middle of the 3rd quarter, Favre's pants had already been on the ground many times from the Saints rush. He was so intent on avoiding sacks (and he did a great job of that), he forced a ball into triple coverage and it was picked off at the Saints 28. Joe Buck was busy bringing on the inevitable right before the INT. Favre got hit high and low on the play and was rolling around on the Superdome turf following the double impact. Speaking of Double Impact, this is about what Favre looked like after too many of his throws. Breesus was well short of his usual performance but still managed a 106.5 QB rating, no INTs or fumbles lost and 3 TD passes. Drew Brees will need to be much better (his WRs share much of the blame for dropping catchable passes) in order to beat the Colts, but he did enough on Sunday to not lose the game for the Saints. Just as Brett Favre finally returned to form (he is all alone in first place with 30 career playoff INTs, he's also first in regular season play with 315, if you were wondering), Reggie Bush took back his jersey from whomever was wearing it last week. He did score a TD on a pirouette past the pylon after a catch. This maneuver only atoned for a muffed punt in the second quarter which set up the Vikings on the doorstep of the endzone (Bush was bailed out by the first of many Vikings fumbles). Otherwise, Bush was ineffective and had limited touches--probably for the best in retrospect. Adrian Peterson finished the game with 122 yards rushing and 3 TDs but also had 2 or 3 (depending if you put the first fumble on Favre or Peterson) drive killing fumbles. Here's some stats to help you comprehend the massiveness of the Vikings meltdown. Vikings first downs: 31, Saints first downs 15. Vikings total yards: 475, Saints total yards: 257. The Saints came nowhere close to 100 rushing yards, committed 9 penalties for 88 yards and only ran 55 plays to the Vikings 82. The Saints didn't do much with the 5 Vikings turnovers they received and the Vikings, as described above, did nothing with the Bush fumble. Yet, the Saints won this game watched a Viking funeral.
Former Tiger in the NFL Gameball, League Championship edition: Saints WR Devery Henderson, 4 catches, 39 yards, 1 TD. One of his catches was on the game winning OT drive.
So the Super Bowl XLIV matchup is set: Colts v. Saints. These were two teams that won a ton of games in a row and then bailed on their regular season in the last few weeks. Usually that kind of thing means you don't make the Super Bowl, but this is apparently a special year. I don't expect the Colts to implode as the Vikings did, so I'm picking the New Orleans boy (Peyton Manning) over the New Orleans franchise. Either way, LSU will continue its amazing streak (2001-2009) of funneling players to the eventual Super Bowl champion. The Colts have former Tiger RB Joe Addai. The Saints have three former Tigers: WR Devery Henderson, DB Randall Gay and DT Marlon Favorite.
Is it possible for both teams to show up for a game at one site?--not this weekend. All four games of the NFL divisional round were filled with boredom. Sure there were some exciting plays but most of them were made by the team which decided it was a good idea to bring at least their B game to the field instead of the other squad which was helplessly thrashing about on live TV.
Out of the morass of Saturday and Sundays' games, a pattern emerged. The NFC was the place for blowout games, the AFC on the other hand, is where Lady Luck decided to blow on some other guys' dice.
Arizona Cardinals 14, New Orleans Saints 45.
The Cardinals' defense which got eviscerated by the Packers showed up again. The Cardinals offense which tore through the Packers' defense did not. Kurt Warner never had a shot in this game, well except for this one. Things started off well for Arizona when Tim Hightower took the opening handoff from scrimmage and ran 70 yards untouched for a score. That was the worst possible outcome for the Cardinals. Hightower's run showed Reggie Bush what running the football is supposed to look like. Or at least that's the only explanation I can think of for what the guy wearing the Bush jersey for the Saints was doing. Bush ran North and South (and that includes over some pathetic tacklers for the Cardinals) for the first time in his entire career. Drew Brees was back to doing his thing carving up secondaries. The Saints big play defense returned and forced a couple of turnovers. Arizona was only able to convert one (1) third down all game. The Saints even broke out the flea flicker when the game was 21-14 to show the Cardinals they meant business. Who Dat Nation was thrilled but this game was essentially over when the Saints were up 21-7 at half. Reggie Bush ran onto the field during pregame with a black bat inscribed with the words "Bring The Wood", a theme which continued without a prop in the other NFC divisional game.
Dallas Cowboys 3, Minnesota Vikings 34.
The number 3 was important in this game. Tony Romo had 3 fumbles (he lost 2). Sidney Rice caught 3 TDs for the Vikings. The Vikings 3rd score in the 4th quarter was a TD pass with 1:55 left which gave Brett Favre passing 4 TDs for the game. Dallas LB Keith Brooking was very upset over what he thought was a lack of sportsmanship. I liked what Jimmy Johnson said about the situation on the postgame show, "if you don't like it, stop it." Maybe if Brooking's defense had been stopping Favre at some point during the game before the whipped Cowboys quit on the last Vikings play (a 4th and 3, by the way, from the Dallas 11 yard line) the result might have been different. Brooking doesn't play on the offensive line which let Tony Romo get hurried (and sometimes hit pretty good) all game long. Brett Favre is 40 but he looked much younger when he was celebrating his career best 4 playoff TDs or singing "Pants on the Ground" in the locker room after the game.
Baltimore 3, Indianapolis 20.
The Ravens need to think about getting a symbol of luck on their helmets, it sure worked out for the Colts on Saturday having a horseshoe on their head gear. Every bad bounce that could possibly have occurred for the Ravens did happen. Ed Reed picks off Peyton Manning (who was not having a great game) towards the latter part of the 3rd quarter with the score 17-3 in favor of the Colts. Reed returns the INT about 40 yards before the intended WR Pierre Garcon chases him down and knocks the ball out. Dallas Clark was right in position and fell on the fumble. Five plays later, Ed Reed got another INT from Manning. Dallas Clark had clearly been interfered with and the ball went back to Indy again. The odd drive ended with a Colts FG to make it 20-3. On the ensuing drive, Ray Rice rumbled for 20 yards down to the Colts 28 yard line and then got pelted by Raheem Brock. The ball squirted free and landed near Colts LB Clint Session who recovered the fumble. Ray Rice is an explosive player who is fun to watch. His 67 rush yards and 60 receiving yards were not nearly enough for the Ravens offense. The 3 points the Ravens did score came in the first quarter. After that the Colts underrated defense buckled down and salted the game away by picking off Joe Flacco twice and forcing the above mentioned Rice fumble in the 4th quarter. The Colts cannot run the ball and it's shameful that they can make it to the Conference Championship game by "running enough to keep you honest", as it was described during the telecast. The Colts leading rusher, Joe Addai, was nowhere near 1,000 yards on the season and the whole team couldn't manage 1,300 yards on the ground. In that sense, it makes the Colts winning 14 regular season games and Peyton Manning throwing for 4,500 yards even more impressive. Ray Lewis and his defense didn't have a bad game holding the Colts to 275 yards and 20 points, but miscues and unnecessary penalties hurt them. Manning's Colts finally won a playoff game after winning the conference during the regular season (0-3 coming into Sunday).
New York Jets 17, San Diego 14.
If Nate Kaeding makes his 3 FG attempts, San Diego wins this game. He made none of the three. CBS jinxed him by putting up the graphic showing how long it had been since he had missed a FG from 40 yards or closer. Kaeding missed 2 tries 40 yards or closer on Sunday. Just as the Ravens committed too many penalties, the Chargers racked up 87 yards on 10 flags. Phillip Rivers was just shy of 300 passing yards but most of those were wasted when the Chargers could not convert 3rd downs (they finished 4-13). Their running attack was pretty bad (61 yards). Healthy or not, LaDainian Tomilinson was powerless to help his team. Darren Sproles picked up 33 yards on 3 carries but only had 3 carries! The Chargers secret weapon (FB Jacob Hester) was rolled out in the second quarter. He ignited the first scoring drive for either team by first making a 15 yard catch. Both teams had trouble making first downs up to that point. Hester made a crucial block to give Rivers enough time to throw his only TD of the game to WR Kris Wilson. Hester nearly blocked a punt in the 4th quarter. The Chargers scored on the short field created by the tipped punt. Ultimately, this TD only produced the closer than reality final score of 17-14. Hester creates instant hustle when he is on the field and the Chargers needed such a spark throughout the game. The Jets defense was great from a bend but don't break standpoint (especially if you include the FG defense which made Kaeding choke). They were also the beneficiaries of Lady Luck. Darrelle Revis made one of the most incredibly fortunate INTs you will ever see on his own 17 yard line in the 3rd quarter with San Diego up 7-3. The Chargers defense didn't allow a point until the first drive of the second half. Rivers' second INT set up a short field and the go-ahead score for the Jets in the 4th quarter. After a Chargers punt, RB Shonn Greene destroyed arm tackles on a 53 yard blast up the middle of the field for the second Jets TD. The Chargers lethargic offense was suddenly down 17-7 with about 7 minutes left and that was too much to overcome. Mark Sanchez won his second playoff game and was not good in barely hitting the 100 yard mark in passing. He threw 1 TD and 1 INT. Sanchez was nearly perfect in the first round of the playoffs so Sunday's game was more like a return to normalcy. San Diego had won 11 straight games coming into the first playoff game and the week off seemed to coat them in a layer of rust. The Jets were the only road team to win a divisional round game.
Next week's NFC championship has the Vikings travel to the Superdome to take on the Saints. Both Brett Favre and Drew Brees were outstanding in their first playoff games, if both can keep it up we should see the shootout that Arizona v. New Orleans was supposed to give us. The Vikings and the Saints brought the wood in their divisional games, which one will bring it again? The AFC title game features two offensively flawed teams. The Colts don't have a running game. The Jets don't have a reliable passer. The Colts have a better defense than the Jets, but which team will get the lucky breaks?
If you look up Linebacker in the dictionary, you get this guy
There were four wild card games this weekend, but only one was wild. Before we get to that one, let's review the other three games:
New York Jets 24, Cincinnati Bengals 14.
Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez has had some up and down performances this season. His first playoff game was great in terms of what you want out of your game manager style of QB: 12/15 for 182 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. His shaky regular season merited a QB rating of 63.0 because he threw 12 TDs to 20 INTs and only completed around 54% of his passes for less than 7 yards per attempt. His first playoff game was rated 139.4 which is more than 32 points better than his best regular season outing--a 38-0 shutout of the Raiders. The Jets running game was also rolling with rookie Shonn Greene getting most of the carries. Greene with 135 yards and a TD on 21 attempts also had his best game since that week 7 shutout of the Raiders. For the Bengals, this game was an improvement over their 37-0 drubbing at the hands of the Jets in week 17. First of all, the Bengals scored points in 2 quarters. They had the ball for over 26 minutes. Cedric Benson played and had 169 yards rushing and a TD on 21 carries. QB Carson Palmer played the whole game and crossed the 100 yard passing barrier (he had 0 yards on 11 attempts in week 17). Heck, he even threw a touchdown. WR Chad Ochocinco caught 2 more passes than the 0 he had in week 17. He was unable to celebrate a TD though. The inability of the Bengals to throw and catch the ball was simply amazing. The Bengals franchise is still not ready for the playoffs (they haven't been here often) and haven't won a playoff game since 1990. The Jets won their first playoff game since 2004 and move on to play the team they beat in that game, the San Diego Chargers.
Philadelphia Eagles 14, Dallas Cowboys 34.
This game turned into a blowout faster than you could have imagined. Nobody scored in the first quarter. By halftime, the game was over. Dallas got a TD on a Tony Romo pass early in the 2nd. The Eagles responded with a laser pass from Mike Vick which turned into a 76 yard TD. Dallas rattled off 20 unanswered points to make it 27-7 at half. Cowboys RB Felix Jones exploded for a 73 yard rushing TD in the 3rd to make it 34-7. Jones finished with 148 yards on only 16 carries. The Eagles had 56 yards rushing...total. Both teams' QBs threw for 200+ yards but Romo was more efficient than Donovan McNabb. McNabb was pressured often and threw 1 INT and lost 1 fumble. The Eagles turned the ball over 4 times compared to the Cowboys' 1 turnover. It is surprising to think that the Cowboys win on Saturday was their first playoff victory since 1996. It was not a shock that the Cowboys won this game. The Eagles had absolutely no way of stopping the Cowboys offense. The Eagles' defense appeared to have never defensed a screen play before. This game was similar to the Jets v. Bengals affair. It was a step forward for the Eagles over getting shutout 24-0 in week 17, but it was an effort which was far from what they needed to win the game. The Eagles finished their season in highly disappointing fashion. They had won 6 in a row until they met the Cowboys in week 17. This game was their 3rd loss to the Cowboys in the 2009 season. The Cowboys broke a two game losing streak in week 15 by upsetting the then undefeated New Orleans Saints. Dallas has been red hot ever since only allowing 31 total points during their 4 game win streak. The Cowboys play Minnesota next.
Baltimore Ravens 33, New England Patriots 14.
This wildcard game was over even quicker than the Eagles v. Cowboys. Aided by Tom Brady turnovers, the Ravens put up 24 unanswered points in the first quarter. It got ugly early for the Pats. The first play from scrimmage was a Ray Rice 83 yard TD run. The only Patriots players to put out any effort were RB Kevin Faulk (52 of the Pats 64 rush yards and 37 receiving yards) and WR Julian Edelman (2 TD catches). New England played this game like they were banged up and wanted to end their season. The Ravens came out onto the field jacked up and were more than ready to oblige the lethargic Pats. Ray Rice finished the game with 159 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries. The Ravens didn't need QB Joe Flacco to be good. He was terrible: 4/10 for 34 yards passing with a pick. Despite the lack of passing, the Ravens outgained the Patriots (who couldn't run--64 total rush yards) 268-196. Brady's ribs were bothering him and was clearly off during the game. He threw for only 154 yards 3 INTs and only 2 TDs. He also lost a fumble. Brady's 49.1 QB rating was the lowest of his playoff career. The Patriots were loudly booed in their first playoff home loss since 1978. Ravens LB Ray Lewis (pictured above) was dominant with 13 tackles and a sack. He also had told the CBS crew calling the game that he could pick out what the Patriots were going to run because he had Brady figured out. On certain plays where Lewis slammed into Brady or Faulk or other unfortunate Patriots, it sure seemed like he had the read the Pats playbook. The Patriots will have the offseason to try to regroup. The Ravens move on to play the Colts (a team which should be in the best of health due to basically forfeiting their last 2 games of the regular season). If the Ravens hope to stand a chance, Peyton Manning will have to turn the ball over and Joe Flacco must do something, anything, positive on offense.
Green Bay Packers 45, Arizona Cardinals 51.
If you liked the Ravens' smothering defensive performance in the early game, this latter contest (the highest scoring game in NFL playoff history) probably drove you nuts. This game started out much like the Ravens v. Patriots however. The Cardinals built a quick 17-0 lead by the end of the 1st quarter aided by Packer turnovers. Green Bay got their own offense going with a great defensive play by DB Charles Woodson. Arizona was threatening to score another TD in the 2nd quarter when Kurt Warner dumped the ball off over the middle to WR Larry Fitzgerald, Woodson used his fist like a sledgehammer and smashed the ball out of Fitzgerald's arms and Green Bay recovered the fumble. Warner was screeching at WR Early Doucet about something that had happened besides the fumble on the play. It was the only mistake Doucet made in a game where he caught his first 2 playoff TDs and set up a game winning FG chance. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had his first pass of the game intercepted. His second pass was complete and then fumbled away. Somehow Rodgers had caught fire in the second quarter after the Arizona turnover. By halftime the Packers were only down 24-10 in a game that could have easily gotten away from them. The Cardinals scored on their opening possession of the second half and were up 31-10. The Cardinals defense then turned into swiss cheese. Rodgers threw 2 TD passes to cut the lead down to 7 points. Warner responded with a TD near the end of the 3rd quarter to extend the lead to 38-24. By the 10:57 mark of the 4th quarter, Rodgers had thrown another TD pass and set up a rushing TD and game was tied at 38. Warner threw his 5th TD pass of the game about 6 minutes later. Rodgers responded with his 4th TD pass to tie the game up at 45 with 1:52 remaining. Warner, armed with 3 timeouts, quickly hurried the Cardinals down the field and hit Doucet on a 16 yard pass down to the Packers 16 yard line. The Cards used their last timeout with 14 seconds left and sent veteran kicker Neil Rackers out onto the field for a 34 yard FG to win the game. Rackers choked and pushed the ball wide left. The game was going to overtime. The Packers won the toss and of course took the ball. Arizona's offense had to be nothing short of livid that their defense had seemingly blown the game by letting the Packers get back into it. What they were thinking about Rackers probably contained too much profanity to type. However, in overtime, the Cardinals defense finally got back to the way they were playing at the beginning of the game and ended it. Here's the play, you decide what should have happened, if anything.
The defense for most of the game was so awful on both sides that there were 62 total first downs, 1024 total yards, 9 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs and Arizona RB Beanie Wells looked good. It would normally take a stretch of the imagination to think that Wells was fast enough to play in the NFL (I'm not saying he couldn't be good in short yardage situations). Today was not one of those days. On one play, the Packers defense checked out completely and allowed Wells to get his career long run of 42 yards. Since he finished with 91 yards, that one play severely inflated his yards per carry average to 6.5. Wells hadn't looked this good since his 110 yard performance against the Detroit Lions. To be fair, those guys are so pathetic on run defense, they can make anybody's running back look great.
This was the only game of the three wild card matchups which were played on week 17 to turn out differently. In the last week of the season the Packers demolished the Cardinals 33-7. That wasn't really a fair measure of performance as the Cards rested players while the Packers did not. The Packers won't take any consolation of sending this game to overtime into the offseason. The Cardinals have the Saints next. I would really like to see New Orleans in top form (which they haven't been anywhere close to since that Cowboys loss) to get a game which will rival this wild card game in excitement.
Gameball for the former LSU Tiger in the NFL on Wild Card Weekend: Early Doucet, WR Arizona: 6 catches, 77 yards, 2 TDs and set up Neil Rackers for an easy kick to win the game even though Rackers didn't come through.
And then there were two: of the 8 playoffs teams remaining only the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings don't have a former LSU Tiger on the roster. There has been at least one former Tiger on every Super Bowl champion since 2001.
As this was the last week of the season, the focus should be on the playoffs.
Ready for the Playoffs
It Ain't Over Till It's Over-A Theme for the Liberty Bowl
The Bowl Blitz
International Bowl South Florida 27, Northern Illinois 3
Papajohns.com Bowl UConn 20, South Carolina 7
Cotton Bowl Oklahoma State 7, Ole Miss 21
Liberty Bowl Arkansas 20, East Carolina 17, Overtime
Alamo Bowl Michigan State 31, Texas Tech 41
Bowl Challenge Standings
MWC 4-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 41
Sun Belt 1-0 1.000 (Dwight Dasher swagger boost override) Pt. differential: 10
Independents 1-0 1.000 Pt. differential: 22
Big East 4-2 .667 Pt. differential: 5 (big jump with a 2-0 day)
Big 12 4-3 .571 Pt. differential: -12
SEC 5-4 .555 Pt. differential: 25
ACC 3-3 .500 Pt. differential: 24
Big 10 3-3 .500 Pt. differential: 3
C-USA 2-4 .333 Pt. differential: -22
WAC 1-2 .333 Pt. differential: -41
Pac 10 2-5 .286 Pt. differential: 60
MAC 0-4 .000 Pt. differential: -28 (15 consecutive bowl losses since 2006)