Monday, December 27, 2010

BCS Preview - By Jeff Bailey

 Jeff Bailey weighs in with his thoughts on the BCS bowl games, complete with predictions.

Rose Bowl
Wisconsin (5) vs. TCU (3)
  The Grandaddy of them all is once again one of the best bowl games of the season.  It pits fifth ranked Big Ten Champion, Wisconsin against third ranked Mountain West Champion, TCU.  The Horned Frogs tried to burst the BCS bubble but came up short even after a 12-0 season.  TCU still wants to prove to people that they belong with the big dogs so they will be giving nothing less than 110%.  Wisconsin has not been to the Rose Bowl since 1999 and will be more than ready for the challenge.
  Wisconsin has one of, if not the best, running attack games in the country.  The 3-headed monster, as I like to call it, of White, Clay, and Ball each have over 860 yards and have at least 13 TDs.  TCU is no pushover though with the third ranked run defense in the country, and 1st overall defense.  Something is going to have to give in this game; either Wisconsin gets its run game going, or TCU stops them dead in their tracks.  Both teams cannot win in that category.
  I believe this will be a semi-high scoring game (both teams average 43 ppg) but the difference maker will be the QBs.  Which QB can spread the field better and move the ball down the field?  On paper TCU’s Andy Dalton has the better stats, but as a pure leader and getting the team going I will go with Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien.

Final Score: Wisconsin 34 TCU 24

Orange Bowl
Virginia Tech (13) vs. Stanford (4)
  13th ranked Virginia Tech is back in the Orange Bowl after missing a BCS game last season.  The nation’s fourth-ranked Stanford Cardinal has blown onto the scene the past two seasons and is rewarded with their first BCS game since the 1999 Rose Bowl.  Stanford is seeking their first BCS win while Virginia Tech feels right at home at the Orange (3rd appearance in four years).
  Both of these teams have very solid and balanced offensive attacks and are coming into this game very hot.  Stanford is on a seven game win streak and the Hokies, after losing their first two games, have roared back to win 11 straight.  The two main keys I see to this game involve the QBs.  First, which Tyrod Taylor will show up for Virginia Tech?  Some days he can be an amazing QB while other days he can lay an egg.    
  Secondly, how does Virginia Tech slow down or stop Andrew Luck?  In my mind, Luck is the best pure passer in college football and will make an immediate impact in the NFL.  All season long Luck has pretty much had his way with defenses.  Virginia Tech has a solid defense but it won’t be enough to slow down Luck and Stanford.

Final Score: Stanford 28 Virginia Tech 20

Fiesta Bowl
Oklahoma (7) vs. Connecticut (NR)
  This is probably one of the most lopsided BCS games we have seen in a long time on paper.   Seventh ranked Oklahoma, the Big 12 champion, has only missed a BCS bowl game 3 times since 2000.  They’ll face the Big East champion, an unranked UConn team that has only been to four bowl games in school history.  Many people are upset that UConn gets to play in a BCS game while other “better” teams get left out.  This is the first time a team with 4 losses has played in a BCS game since the inception of the current system.  UConn has a lot to prove about themselves and the Big East. 
  Oklahoma is a very pass heavy offense with Landry Jones leading the way with almost 4300 yards passing and 35 TDs.  UConn, on the other hand, is a very run heavy offense with Jordan Todman, who has over 1500 yards rushing and 14 TDs.  Don’t count Oklahoma out on the running game because DeMarco Murray is a stud who has had a quiet 1100 yard season.  On paper, both teams are very similar in defense, but the Huskies didn’t play one team ranked in the top 25 all year.
  I have a feeling this game might stay close for a quarter, maybe 2, then the flood gates will open for Oklahoma.  I don’t see UConn being able to stop Jones or Murray, and they don’t have enough offensive weapons to move the ball on Oklahoma.

Final Score: Oklahoma 43 UConn 10

Sugar Bowl
Ohio State (6) vs. Arkansas (8)
  The Sugar Bowl this year looks to be a very hard fought game by two very solid teams.  Ohio State, currently ranked sixth, looks to extend its BCS win streak to 2 after losing 3 straight, while eighth ranked Arkansas is looking for its first BCS bowl win.  Ohio State is very used to playing in BCS games having played in eight BCS games since the system started; the most by any school in the nation.  On the other hand, Arkansas has never played in a BCS game and hasn’t even been to a bowl game since 2007.
  The Buckeyes are no stranger to Arkansas’ QB Ryan Mallet seeing that they played against him four years ago when he was at Michigan.  Since then, Mallet has become one of the best QBs in the country and threw for 3600 yards this season.  Ohio State’s QB Terrelle Pryor didn’t live up to the preseason hype for a Heisman-like year, but still lead the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record.  Both teams are very balanced on offense and very solid on defense.  Ohio State comes in with the third best overall defense in the country, but will it be enough to stop Mallet and the Razorbacks?  I look for both teams to move the ball, but special teams will be a big factor in winning the game.

Final Score: Ohio State 27 Arkansas 24

BCS National Championship
Auburn (1) vs. Oregon (2)
  Points, points, and more points.  That is what I think of when I see this match up.  How high can the score go?  #1 Auburn has the most exciting and explosive player in college football that we have seen in years, while #2 Oregon has the most explosive and high powered offense of any team in the country.  Neither team posts a great defense, which could make this a very exciting game.  Oregon is averaging an astonishing 540 yards per game, while Auburn is not too shabby themselves with 497 yards per contest.  Both teams also average over 42 points per game, with Oregon scoring nearly 50 a game.
  Oregon uses Chip Kelly’s patented spread offense with the two-headed monster of QB Darron Thomas and RB LeMichael James.  If you stop one of them, the other will pick up the slack and still put points on the board.  Auburn is lead by Heisman winner Cam Newton who is probably the best dual threat QB college football has ever seen.  Newton has accounted for 4000 yards of offense and 48 TDs this season.
Like I said earlier, neither team has much of a defense, so the main key to this game is which defense will show up more.  “Defense wins championships” should be the phrase of the week/month for these teams.    This could easily be the highest scoring national championship game ever, but the winner will be the team who’s defense show up more.
  Besides defense, the main key to this game is if Auburn gets down big early or not.  Auburn has had many come-from-behind victories this season and is never out of the game.  If Auburn gets down early again in this one, I think Chip Kelly and Oregon have it in them to stomp the fire out right away.

Final Score: Auburn 48 Oregon 44

Agree?  Disagree?  Post a comment with your thoughts.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The reinvention of Tiger Woods - Dan Wines

  A year later, I get the feeling it’s coming.  For the duration of 2010, Tiger Woods was a shell of himself.  His swagger gone, his spirit broken, he simply went through the motions.  He didn't seem to want to be there.  The relentless questions regarding his repeated extra-marital liaisons made him tired, weary, and to be honest, somewhat pathetic.  His play on the course suffered.  The previously “unbeatable if he wants to be” Tiger Woods was replaced by a child yelling at himself after every bad shot.  Every one with a microphone kept trying to predict when he’d turn the corner.  Some expected his return to Augusta to be the moment when Tiger said “screw it, I’m taking over.”  Others, more aware of what months off from golf does to anyone’s game, predicted it’d be at one of the other three majors.  They were all wrong, over and over again.

As each tournament came and went, Tiger walked off the course, in defeat, earlier and earlier.  While the leaders walked up the 18th fairway, Tiger climbed the steps to a jet and headed home.  I watched him quit at the WGC at Firestone Country Club in Akron.  No joke, the greatest golfer ever (sorry, Jack), quit.  No practice swings.  No advice from part-time caddy, full-time bully Steve Williams.  No effort.  No desire.  I’ve seen Tiger Woods play a dozen rounds of golf in person and never imagined I'd see that version. 

All that said, I have a feeling the golf world is in for one of the best years of Tiger’s decorated career.  The comeback trail started yesterday, at the Chevron World Challenge, a tournament he hosts.  His driver was good, his approach shots were better, and he didn’t leave himself long putts.  The result? Eight birdies, a bogey, and a one shot -7 lead.  Sure, it’s one round.  He could implode in this tournament, get in his own head, and spiral into 2010 Tiger.  Don’t count on that.

His behavior that lead to an image destruction like we’ve never seen before, nor will again, was humiliating.  Because of that, some people have already forgotten that prior to having his model wife destroy his car, cell phone, front teeth, and dignity, Tiger was a bit of a robot.  Every interview sounded automated.  Every move sounded calculated.  His routine was to dominate from Thursday through Sunday, and then go back to his private and sheltered life.  Then he played chicken with a fire hydrant and a tree, which he lost, and his whole life changed.  We watched with various degrees of interest.  At first, I laughed.  I’m a Lefty fan.  Then, as he went to “sex rehab” (seriously?) and his mistress list read like a football roster, I started to feel kind of bad for the guy.  Yeah, he screwed up, and he did it in such a stupid fashion it was hard to believe, but it got to the point where we were running out of mud to drag him through.  By the time the Ryder Cup rolled around, I found myself rooting for Tiger to regain his form.  I’ve spent over a decade rooting against the guy, and I suddenly wanted to see him dominate again.  He played fairly well in the Ryder Cup, an event he’s always played fairly well in, and he finally looked like a real golfer again.

That brings us to now.  The 65 he shot yesterday wasn’t his best performance, but it was by far his best performance since we found out he gave a Perkins waitress a tip.  His marriage, a large number of his endorsements, and a chunk of money are gone.  Lee Westwood is the new number one, almost by default.  He’s got a new swing coach, and because athletes are still largely entitled morons, a lot of the negative attention has found new targets.  There are three reasons I think Tiger’s desire to dominate is back and more intense than ever before.

First, he’s too close to Nicklaus’ record for major victories to let another year slip away.  It’s nonsense to think that at his age (turning 35 this month), he’s getting too old to get the job done.  He’s in better physical condition than any other golfer ever.  Phil Mickelson’s four majors have all come after the age of 34, and considering Woods’ superior conditioning, it’s a no-brainer to think he’s got plenty left in the tank.  With a renewed focus and less personal drama, I think he closes the gap by at least two this year.

Secondly, he’s not happy that Lee Westwood is number one in the world.  He wants that title back.  What was sometimes lost in Tiger’s “it’s all about the majors” attitude was just how much he valued that world #1 ranking.  It was mostly assumed he’d always be number one – until he wasn’t.  I think Woods will regain the top spot, and even if “it’s all about the majors,” he’ll hang on to it.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, Tiger cares about being “the guy”  in golf.  Never before in his career has golf seen such an influx of young, entertaining players.  Guys like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Ryo Ishikawa are poised to steal some of the spotlight.  McIlroy and Johnson were close to getting over the hump in 2010, and I don’t get the sense that they’ll pull an Adam Scott and go from a future star to a relative disappointment any time soon.  In much the same way that NBA people expect Kobe Bryant to eventually pass the torch to players like LeBron and Kevin Durant, Tiger will someday be forced to turn the game over to the younger guys.  I don’t expect him to go quietly.

I anticipate that 2011 will be a banner year for the PGA.  With the infusion of this young talent and a focused, driven Tiger Woods, it’s coming, and I can’t wait.