Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Virginia Tech could also sneak up on the Hoyas as the Hokies schedule is Charmin-soft until they get Seton Hall leading into ACC play. The next four (VCU, Richmond, Maryland, GW) have consistency issues but are much more squared away than ODU and Morgan. After that, there are about five teams struggling around .500 vying for the 10-spot. This week, that one goes to Mason.
1. Georgetown (8-0)
Hoyas likely to win more games in December than the entire NFC East.
2. Willam and Mary (6-2)
This Saturday, the Tribe plays Vassar, a school whose most notable athletic achievement to date is the hosting of the first intercollegiate Quidditch match.
3. Virginia Tech (8-1)
Hokies won a game by two points when Penn State missed a last-second shot. Somebody get me a copy of the Virginia Tech charter because I'm pretty sure that's a violation of the school's founding principals.
4. VCU (6-2)
Beat Richmond in The Battle of a Major Thoroughfare That Was at One Time Named After Jefferson Davis.
5. Richmond (7-2)
During the Civil War, the Battle of Richmond took place in Richmond, Kentucky, which explains why the Richmond Spiders looked lost against VCU.
6. Maryland (5-3)
The return of Dino Gregory to the Terps' lineup had the same impact that "Christmas with Dino" had on my family's tree-trimming festivities. Enjoyable, with some moments of sparkling entertainment, but not essential.
7. GW (7-2)
In the category of Most Effective Washington Area Athletes You've Never Heard Of, Lasan Kromah was just overtaken by Quinton Ganther.8. Old Dominion (6-4)
Monarchs split a pair, always a good strategy with aces or eights at the blackjack table, not so good in college basketball.
9. Morgan State (6-4)
After Tuesday's game against Towson, the Bears go on the road for seven straight. Maybe Todd Bozeman should get scheduling advice from someone other than Fang Mitchell.
10. George Mason (5-5)
Beat Creighton and lost to Dayton. Impossible to predict how they'll fare against Bo Bayton and Fee Fi Mo Mayton.
Friday, December 11, 2009
About two weeks ago, I assessed the Ravens' chances to make the playoffs and came up with the astute proclamation of "definitive, absolute probably." A home win over the Steelers and a road loss to the Packers later, I have to downgrade that evaluation to about 25% and if they do get in, their chance to advance is about 10%. Tackling the first part of that statement, the Ravens almost certainly have to win the remaining games on their schedule: Lions, Bears, at Steelers, at Raiders. Since none of those teams have .500 records or upper echelon quarterbacks, that seems entirely possible.
Assuming they win out and go 10-6, the Ravens have to count on either the Jaguars (7-5) or Denver (8-4) to stumble down the stretch. Baltimore wins a tiebreaker with the Broncos, but Jacksonville's 6-2 conference record leaves the Ravens out if both teams end up 10-6 because the Jags AFC record would then be 9-3, which Baltimore can't reach from its current mark of 6-4. Jacksonville has to play Miami, Indianapolis, at New England and at Cleveland. There's also a chance that the Patriots go 10-6, lose the AFC East tiebreaker to the Dolphins but win the tiebreaker with the Ravens because they beat Baltimore earlier this season. And I haven't (and won't) consider the prospect of tiebreakers with the 6-6 Jets or Dolphins.
So, lots of pieces have to fall into place. Tactically speaking, I'd like to see the Ravens run the ball more. A lot more. Flacco is clearly struggling, and if pounding opponents with a running game worked last season, it should work even better with a more experienced Ray Rice and a strong offensive line. If McClain is healthy, give him the ball 10 times. He looked very good against Pittsburgh. Ditto for McGahee, 10 carries. Keeping Ray Rice at his season average of 15 carries per game, that gives you 35 running plays plus the occasional end around to Clayton or Troy Smith, who has carried nothing but a clipboard this season. Granted, that's about 10 more running plays than the Ravens are averaging this season, but it would go a long way towards taking pressure off of Flacco and might help sell some play action passes. Other than that, Flacco needs to take some more shots down the field, to the point where he throws the ball away to the deep sideline instead of quickly checking down to Rice or Heap as he seems to have done more often of late.
On defense, the Ravens have to keep blitzing and live or die with the results. The DBs have to stop grabbing every receiver that runs through their zone. All year long, they have gotten beaten by good QBs (Manning, Palmer, Brady, Favre, Rivers, Rogers) and a few RBs but there's no sense in sitting back and waiting for the punishment. As the injuries mount, it's hard to believe this unit can stop a playoff caliber offense, but, on the other hand, they won't play a playoff caliber team for at least a month.
So, the Ravens are mathematically alive and, in vision tinted by purple-colored glasses, still have a decent shot to be playing in the postseason. So don't pack away the purple camo just yet, but you might have some January weekends available for skiing getaways this year.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Week 3 in the Bog Poll finds Georgetown still up top after easy wins over AU and the Mount. William and Mary announces that the Colonial Athletic Association championship road runs through Colonial Williamsburg with a win over VCU, and Richmond and Virginia Tech keep pace. VCU needs to rebound over Richmond this week, and, don't look now, but GW is playing a lot like the good teams that Hobbs had a few years ago before it all blew up in his face. Maryland has lost to three good teams, but they have not really looked competitive on the boards or on defense (plus Vasquez has been bad, bad, bad). The bottom three in the poll are pretty weak, but less weak than Virginia and Mason, who need to get over .500 for any consideration.
1. Georgetown (6-0)
Georgetown-American game marred by Michaele Salahi's attempt to join the cheerleading squads' halftime routines.
2. Willam and Mary (6-2)
Founded in 1693, William and Mary's streak of 316 years without an appearance in the NCAA Tournament could be in jeopardy this year.
3. Richmond (7-1)
Justin Harper was hotter than Justin Bieber in the Spiders' win over Old Dominion. Readers who are not prepubescent girls can be forgiven for not getting that reference. I cannot be forgiven for writing it.
4. Virginia Tech (6-1)
The funny thing about Virginia Tech beating Georgia is that Seth Greenberg is a great admirer of the artist Georgia O'Keefe, whose powerful abstract images of the American Southwest make Greenberg long for his hometown of Plainview, Long Island. Did I mention that my wife is also from Plainview?
5. VCU (5-2)
Lose to William and Mary? Time for Shaka Smart to switch to Shaka Zulu mode!
6. GW (6-1)
Foggy Bottom, stand up! You know, because this is your stop ... you get off here, right ... Foggy Bottom - GWU ... hurry up, the doors are closing.
7. Maryland (5-3)
Terps. As in terpsichorean, defined by my Websters to mean of or relating to dancing. Hmm, not unless they get their act together. Also, in the time it took you to read that, Scottie Reynolds knocked down another three.
8. Old Dominion (5-3)
Monarchs beat the Blue Hens, who played as if they practice with blue balls, which, for their sake, I sincerely hope they do not.
9. Morgan State (5-3)
Bears lost to crosstown rival Loyola, largely because Jimmy Patsos decided to sit on his bench and coach his team for the entire game.
10. James Madison (4-3)
In their three losses, the Dukes have scored in the forties. Actor John Wayne, also nicknamed the Duke, also scored in the forties. Born in 1907, I'm guessing he scored in several other decades in the 20th Century.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The Hoyas claim the top spot based on their undefeated record, a mark that will be much more impressive if they keep it against the likes of Butler and Washington over the next few weeks (no offense to Mount Saint Mary's tonight). VCU advances to #2 with medium wins against Nevada and at Hampton.
Slots five thru ten are a big blob of meh starting with the Terps, who need to get Greivis Vasquez on track and soon. If they do, memories of their Maui struggles will fade like a rainbow, but right now Greivis is shooting 33% from the field and 26% from three, not good numbers from the guy who leads your team in field goal attempts. ODU went to the same tournament as Richmond but came away with two losses, not exactly legitimizing their status as champions of the 2009 Collegeinsider.com postseason tournament. Virginia Tech blew a chance to move up with a lackluster output against Temple, losing 61-50 after trailing 27-17 at the half. Perhaps of even greater concern, the Hokies needed overtime to beat Delaware the following night.
Morgan beat the bad big name (2-4 Arkansas) but stumbled against an average App. State squad. Still, the Bears are averaging more than 80 ppg with leading scorer Reggie Holmes at 23.7. Might have to go see him in person. GW got starry-eyed in the presence of the president and spotted Oregon State a 14-0 lead, but the Colonials might have to be taken seriously this year, for a change. And Virginia clung to its ten spot by beating Cleveland State, but the Cavs will have to hold off challenges from outliers George Mason, James Madison, Loyola and the Mount.
1. Georgetown (4-0)
Hoyas' position atop this poll about as secure as a White House State Dinner.
2. VCU (4-1)
Larry Sanders has 14 blocks this seasons, three more than the Redskins' starting left tackle.
3. Willam and Mary (4-2)
Wake Forest students so upset by Demon Deacons' loss, they take to the streets and burn massive bales of tobacco.
4. Richmond (6-1)
Spiders win the South Padre Island Invitational; Chris Mooney celebrates by taking his top off in the postgame press confrence.
5. Maryland (4-2)
Terps score some Maui Owie on their trip to the Hawaiian Islands.
6. Old Dominion (4-2)
Monarchs drop two at South Padre Island. I said two, not trou.
7. Virginia Tech (4-1)
Hokies split a pair in Philly, get booed by Eagles' fans.
8. Morgan State (4-2)
If you had Morgan beating Arkansas and losing to Appalachian State this week, you are really wasting your time reading this poll.
9. GW (4-1)
Colonials get their first loss of the season, Obama get his first clear win in just over a year.
10. Virginia (4-2)
Cavaliers win the consolation game in the Cancun Challenge, a contest that strangely did not require the consumption of any tequila.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Q: Are the Ravens a playoff team?
A: Sure, but there are at least 12 teams still in the mix for six AFC spots, and the Ravens are in the middle to bottom of that group, so I wouldn't start brewing that Super Bowl Sunday pot of purple chili just yet. After a blazing 3-0 start, Baltimore has been inconsistent in every phase of the game, so much so that talk radio hosts must be getting a headache from the constant changes of subject from week-to-week. They pass too much, they run too much, they need to blitz more, they need to cover better, they need to stop getting penalties, the kicker must go, Paul Kruger should play, Willis McGahee should play more, it just goes on and on because every week something seems to go wrong, and the Ravens either lose a close game (four of the five losses were by 3 points or fewer), or they don't win as convincingly as they "should" (16-0 over Cleveland, with no first half touchdowns).
Four times, they have scored 30 points or more, and they rank fifth in the conference in ppg. Six times, they've held opponents under 20, and they rank sixth in the AFC in that category. But again, the inconsistency makes it very difficult to truly assess their chances and impossible to predict.
Fortunately, every other team in the conference, except the 10-0 Colts, has had similar issues. In the AFC North, the Bengals looked fearsome early on but fell apart against the hapless Raiders last week. The Steelers have weathered some tough injuries and may have quarterback problems, but they couldn't stop the Browns last week, whom the Ravens have beaten twice by a total score of 50-3.
In the East, New England's defense is going to have to prove themselves now that their coach exposed his lack of confidence in that unit against the Colts. At 5-5, Miami's best win is against the 4-6 Jets, and I don't have much faith that Rex Ryan getting more involved in the Jets' offense is going to help that team's production.
Out West, Denver's 6-0 start is in ashes, while San Diego appears poised to take the division. The Chargers are easily the best team the Ravens have beaten this year, and that game came down to the final play.
In the South, the Colts have distanced themselves from the stumbling Texans, who have lost two straight and play at Indy next. Jacksonville looks solid at 6-4, but they lost to Seattle and Tennessee, neither of who has a winning record. Speaking of the Titans, Vince Young has revived both his team and his career in the last month, but the 0-6 hole they dug themselves makes it hard to believe they can get to the playoffs.
So, the bottom line is that the Ravens have lost five games to four teams that are winning their respective divisions. Except for the game at Cincinnati, every contest has been close, so there's no reason to think they can't compete against any team they play. Taking that line of thinking (I won't call it logic) one step further, they certainly can win enough games to get to the playoffs, and if they do get there, they should have a good shot to advance.
So the answer is a definitive, absolute probably.
Monday, November 23, 2009
With the season underway, we find several teams still undefeated. Morgan's one loss came is a reasonably close game at Louisville and VCU bounced back from a bad loss at Western Michigan with a thorough beating of Oklahoma at home, so both of those teams stay ahead of some of the undefeated. Virginia and GW return from exile and, after a year where VMI and Liberty were a steady presence, the Big South has fallen hard (although Radford could climb in).
Without further ado:
1. Maryland (3-0)
Opened with a win against Charleston Southern. Will have to prove themselves in a tough stretch that includes Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Panama Limited.
2. Old Dominion (4-0)
Monarchs' leading scorer Gerald Lee is from Uusikaupunki, Finland, which is also the home of the Bonk Museum. Bonk Business is a fictional corporation that has produced amazing inventions such as bilateral wave transformation and the gnagg booster.
3. Georgetown (3-0)
John Thompson III coaching against Fran Dunphy in a game where the teams totalled fewer than 100 points. Was that Georgetown-Temple in 2009 or an ESPN 30-30 study of recent Ivy League Basketball history?
4. Morgan State (3-1)
Very disappointed in Todd Bozeman. Sure the Bears are 3-1, but no blog posts since March 6? And the only Todd Bozeman I can find on Twitter is a guy named Todd who lives in Bozeman, Montana? What happened to Coach Wired 2.0?
5. VCU (2-1)
Rams fans hoping that The Larry Sanders show doesn't jump the shark in its third season.
6. Virginia Tech (2-0)
Hokies beat Brown by 14 and UNC Greensboro by 13, but Tech fans know that buzzer beaters and last second losses await just as certainly as castrated turkey jokes at Thanksgiving.
7. GW (3-0)
Colonials at 3-0? Time for the Post to start sniffing around GW's recruiting trail.
8. Virginia (3-1)
"Cavaliers, this is the Bog Poll. Bog Poll, meet the Cavaliers. It's been a few years, so I'll let you two get reacquainted."
9. Richmond (3-1)
Spiders must have been looking past William and Mary to their matchup with perennial college basketball powerhouse, the Chattanooga Mocs.
10. George Mason (3-2)
Patriots drop two out of three in Puerto Rico, Jim Larranaga blames team's insistence on seeing a midnight screening of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon."
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
A few moments from the game stood out as to how completely the Ravens controlled the game from start to finish. Leading 27-3, Baltimore's first possession of the fourth quarter began at their own 30 yard line. In this situation, conventional wisdom calls for a time-consuming, run-oriented scoring drive, but the Ravens ran six straight pass plays and drove to the Cleveland 13. When they finally changed tactics and ran the ball, Willis McGahee fumbled, but it speaks volumes about John Harbaugh's confidence in his defense and Joe Flacco's ability that he went with the passing game at this point in the game.
Also of note, on the Ravens' three rushing touchdowns, McGahee and Ray Rice reached the endzone standing, nearly unimpeded by the Browns' defense, which crumpled under Baltimore's O-line and failed to pursue, leaving wide lanes to the outside.
Going into this game, the Ravens were already ranked number one in Sports Illustrated's Power Ratings, and this morning Bob Ryan picked them to face the Giants in the Super Bowl. Now, I am as excited as anyone about this team's potential, but let's take a look at the other side of the coin, just for fun.
First of all, the Browns are terrible. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson were so awful, they might as well have had Brady Anderson playing quarterback on Sunday. Cleveland crossed midfield just one time in the first half and only got as far as the 44-yard line, and the second half featured three interceptions. To be fair, all three of the Browns' losses have come at the hands of undefeated teams; to be unfair, none of them have been close.
Now, back to the Ravens. They now have a dominant win over a vastly inferior team, a close win on the road against a playoff caliber team (San Diego), and a closer than the final score (38-24) win against a mediocre-at-best winless team (Kansas City). The defense looked very good last time out, but there would have been much hand-wringing if it had continued in the vein it as heading after the first two weeks.
So the true test comes now in the three weeks leading up to the bye in Week 7. The Ravens play at New England and Minnesota, with a home game against the resurgent Bengals. If they drop two or more of those games, suddenly they are just another team in the playoff hunt, with abundant question marks. Two wins keeps them in solid position atop the division, especially if they beat the Bengals. Three wins and we'll get two weeks of stories about the '72 Dolphins, the 2007 Patriots, and the great Colts teams of Baltimore.
Finally, about today's post title and accompanying photo. In 1993, Teri Hatcher was a modestly successful working actress whose career was highlighted by a recurring role as "Penny Parker" on the TV show "MacGyver." But after being cast as Sidra, Jerry Seinfeld's naturally and generously endowed girlfriend, she secured the role of Superman's girlfriend in the hit series, "Lois and Clark," and was catapulted to stardom as Susan Mayer in "Desperate Housewives." Now, you could argue that her success came as a result of talent and hard work, and I can't dispute that, but in just about any job search, you have to be able to get the attention of a prospective employer, and in a place like Hollywood, being known as the woman who embodied, "they're real and they're spectacular" probably counts for something. Taking nothing away from Teri Hatcher, some small percentage of her earnings should probably be directed toward Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, or Peter Mehlman, all of whom received writing credit for that episode.
Monday, September 21, 2009
It was the kind of play that usually comes at the end of a Hollywood 97-minute macho melodrama about a group of scrappy lovable underdogs coming together to surmount internal and external obstacles to emerge victorious as champions. More on sports cinema magic later, but even though this was only the second game of the season, it was a cathartic, satisfying ending to a very entertaining game - for Ravens' fans anyway. I'm sure most coaches want to end a game with their offense grinding out a clock-killing drive while protecting at least a 10-point lead, but I'm equally sure most fans get greater enjoyment from a big play that delivers a win that was anything but certain prior to that moment. For many football teams, that play is a long touchdown pass, but for Ravens' fans, that play is more often made by the defense, and when Ray Lewis makes the game ender, well, you might as well have ripped a page out of a The Official Ravens Roost Handbook. That's the play that gets you out of your seat, causes hand-blisteringly intense high-fives and the occasional fist-pumping shoulder injury.
The Ravens went to San Diego as three-point underdogs, and while it's still early, this is a significant win for a team that has the Super Bowl in its sites. Certainly the Chargers have to be considered an upper-tier AFC team, so beating them on the road is a bit of a big deal, even when you factor in the absence of LaDainian Tomlinson and assorted offensive and defensive linemen due to injuries.
And of course Charger coach Norv Turner's ineptitude is always worth a few opportunities for the opponent. He doesn't give away the game, but he does leave it dangling in plain view. Two cases in point: at the end of the first half, he sent the field goal unit onto the field on third down with ten seconds left on the clock instead of trusting his veteran QB to either make a play or throw incomplete and leave time for the kicker. And his final call, on 4th and 2, was a handoff to Sproles, when his team had a total of 53 rushing yards and 463 receiving yards and distinct physical mismatches at wide receiver. Hard to argue that he didn't deserve the result.
The Ravens have now scored 69 points in their first two games, their highest in the first two games since they came to Baltimore. That's a completely irrelevant bit of trivia, so how about another one? The previous high was 55 points, which they scored in 2006 when they won the division and also in 2000, when, hello, they won the Super Bowl. So that's a fun, meaningless trend I'll be tracking until it becomes statistically anomalous.
For me the interesting thing about all these points is that the defense has scored none of them. Don't get me wrong, the defense has been pretty good. Most of the points in the Chiefs game came as a result of special teams and offensive miscues, but the Raven's defense of the past several years has been good for seven to ten points per game. Could be the loss of Rex Ryan as coordinator (and the departure of Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard), could just be coincidence, but the offense's ascent has come at the same time as a toning down of the defensive ferocity. Still, the results are there.
That's enough Ravens for today. Back to the movie subplot I mentioned earlier. Over the weekend, while my younger son was at a friend's house, the rest of us settled in for a nice wholesome family movie. Unfortunately, when you have a 12-year old boy in the house, it's sometimes challenging to find an agreeable selection, so eventually we gave up and chose something called "The Comebacks," a spoof of sports movies that earned every bit of its' PG-13 rating. There's no way I can recommend this fine film. It's so bad, the only suspense is in trying to figure out which movie or cliche was being mocked all the while cringing at the bombardment of sex jokes and racial stereotypes. Still, we all laughed and were thankful that it cost only $2.99.
The weekend's other movie moment came when I stumbled on the original "Bad News Bears." This one I can watch every time it's on, as opposed to the 2005 remake which I won't even dignify with a link. The team cheats, they lose, they exemplify poor sportsmanship and disrespect authority, their opponents and the game. The only concession to Hollywood sports mythology is that they come together as a team. They also have a lot of fun. I'll watch it every time.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Oh, no! Has China finally risen to claim supremacy and declare the dawn of the apocalypse so artfully foretold in the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics (What? That wasn't the central theme? Really? My fortune cookie from that night begs to differ). Actually, no, it's not China that took the top spot.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Saturday, we went to the State Fair. One of our usual stops is the horse racing. It's a chance to sit down and relax, and the Doc never misses a chance to see horses in just about any environment. We watched three or four races, collected exactly $4.20 in winnings and one of the horses we picked broke down in the stretch and had to be helped into an ambulance.
With that kind of progression, I could probably open a daytrading account and bring the entire United States economy to the brink of bankruptcy in an hour or two. Whoops, too late!
So, I'm back on the blog, at least for now. And, what a coincidence, Mr. Tony is back on the air today as well. I'll be posting two or three days a week, about whatever seems to be crossing my mind.
Like the U.S. Open, for instance. Professional tennis was a major televised event in our house growing up. Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, these were well known names and faces, and I could probably rattle off another dozen or two without much thought. Of course, these days, I couldn't go more than five deep in men's or women's (Federer, Nadal, Roddick, Murray, uhh, the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova, there's a Djokovic and a Jankovic (one's a guy and one's a girl, I think). Anna Kournikova doesn't count, so I guess I'm done.
So I'm watching some of these matches and while the tennis is impressive, I can't get too excited about the endless baseline battles with no one daring to approach the net. Fortunately, John McEnroe's commentary saves the day. During a match between Ernests Gulbis and Andy Murray, the lead announcer remarked that Gulbis was currently playing without a coach and had been known to play matches without warming up. "That's insane," was McEnroe's reply, and he went on to excoriate the lack of intelligence and professionalism that kind of thinking engendered. He went on to speculate that there were a few good coaches in New York Gulbis might want to contact while he was in town.
On the other hand, he clearly praised Gulbis when he made good plays. This is the kind of analysis you rarely hear on televised sports. Candid, direct and thoughtful. No cheerleading, no hysterical catch phrases, and yet still entertaining. McEnroe won't make you watch tennis if you're not already a fan. But he'll make me check in on a random match to see if he's calling it, and I'm likely to stay longer if he is. Because you never know when you'll see a clip like the following: