Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bowl Preview No. 2: Ohio State vs. LSU

This bowl has a lot of potential, because both teams have good head coaches and a lot of talent on the field. However, I can't help but look at this game as a possible repeat of last year: a relatively untested Ohio State coming out of a weak Big Ten to play a semi-beaten up SEC team with a dynamic defense and strong offense.

Ohio State offense against LSU defense
The more I see Chris Wells, the more I like him. Beanie's a strong runner who can move the ball well north-south, giving the Buckeyes the potential to chew up a good amount of clock time with the running game. Plus, he comes up big when they need him too, as seen in his 222 yards on 39 carries against Michigan and 221 yards on 31 carries against Michigan State. Ohio State also has a relatively under-rated offensive line, which does a decent job opening up holes for both Beanie and Maurice Wells, their other back. While Todd Boeckman doesn't give Buckeyes the same gamebreaker-potential Troy Smith did last year, he has a good presence in the pocket and is a pretty accurate passer: 64.5 completion percentage on the year. While the Buckeyes don't have the same eye-popping talent at receiver they did last year (Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez), both Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline are decent options.

The one thing that strikes me every time I see LSU's defense is the speed of the secondary and the size they put on the defensive line. Obviously, it all starts with Glenn Dorsey. He has the size and talent to almost single-handedly stuff the run, and forces opposing offenses to plan blocking schemes around him. Meanwhile, the Tigers' speed at the defensive back positions allows them to use a lot of different coverage schemes and rush players from a variety of positions. Boeckman has not seen a defense this fast yet this season, nor has he seen one with the ability to bring pressure from as many angles as the Tigers do. Remember, although Ohio State is ranked No. 1 in total defense, the Tigers aren't far behind: No. 3 overall.

LSU offense against Ohio State defense
The James Laurinaitis vs. the Tigers' entire offense matchup is why I'll watch this game. Every time I see Laurinaitis play, I want to scream "SPARTANS!!" and kick some Persians into an impossibly deep well. The Buckeyes' linebacker is an absolute monster in the middle, and the leader of an incredibly good defense: Ohio State allowed just 3.58 yards per play and only 15 total touchdowns on the season, just two of which were rushing. Jim Tressel has shown he knows how to run a defense, and this year's edition is even better than last year. While Laurinaitis is the only big name, there aren't any weak spots, and the Buckeyes defend well against both the rush (No. 3 overall) and the pass (No. 1 overall). Not a lot of options left for the Tigers.

That's not to say the Tigers have some second-rate offense. LSU's running back duo of Jacob Hester and Keiland Williams helped LSU average 219 yards a game on the ground. Plus, the Tigers have a pocket/scrambler combination at QB that gave the Buckeyes problems against Florida last year. Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux give the Tigers interesting options at quarterback, though they are not in the same league as Chris Leak/Tim Tebow of last year's Gators team. In addition, LSU WR Demetrius Byrd has a real gamebreaker ability, with great speed and good hands.

Final Prediction: LSU 21, Ohio State 17

Monday, December 3, 2007

BCS Bowls previews: Fiesta Bowl

I'll be previewing each bowl game over the next few days, in order of which match ups I find most entertaining. First up, the Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma vs. West Virginia: I love this matchup. Oklahoma, just happy to be in a bowl after a crazy season in the Big 12, draws a West Virginia that laid down arguably the biggest choke job of the season on Saturday, losing to a four-touchdown underdog at home when they controlled their destiny for the national championship game.

The game itself should be good as well. Oklahoma has a good run defense — No. 8 in the country at 92 rushing yards allowed per game — but they haven't faced an offense with this many options. Obviously, when people hear "Mountaineers," they think Steve Slaton/Pat White, though maybe not in that order. However, the two biggest factors in the game for WVU will be fullback Owen Schmitt and running back Noel Devine. Against a Mountaineers offense that only has one real receiving threat (WR Darius Reynaud), the Sooners will probably stack 8 in the box and try to shut down the option early, since White's legs really open up the rest of the Mountaineers attack. Here's where Schmitt comes in: WVU will need his freakish physicality to open up holes for Slaton up the middle when the option isn't working. The other thing the Mountaineers might (and should) do is give Devine 10-12 touches out of the backfield. He's a threat to hit the endzone no matter where they have the ball, and the possibility of Devine turning the corner for 25-yard or more runs should keep the Sooners honest.

On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma matches up very, very well with the Mountaineers' 3-3-5 defense. Oklahoma has a pair of good running backs in Allen Patrick and Chris Brown, a solid receiving corps and one of the most poised QBs in the country in freshman Sam Bradford. Bradford threw one interception every 44 passes during the regular season, a phenomenal ratio especially because it shows he doesn't beat himself. Based on the talent at the skill positions and a line that's slightly heftier than WVU, I don't think Oklahoma will have too much trouble getting to the endzone.

Bowl prediction: Oklahoma 31, West Virginia 17

Friday, November 30, 2007

Did Lastings sleep with Omar's wife?

The Mets traded OF Lastings Milledge today to the Nationals for C Brian Schneider and LF Ryan Church in one of those trades that just doesn't make sense, from a lot of angles. Let's break this one down, step-by-stupid-minaya-step:

1.) The Mets' biggest need is starting pitching, specifically a front-of-the-rotation No. 1 or No. 2-guy, with the loss of Tom Glavine to the Braves and the question marks surrounding Pedro Martinez entering the 2008 season. The Mets' biggest bargaining chip this offseason? Milledge. If Omar Minaya wants to trade for starting, which seems to be his primary goal, why give use your best chip for anything other than an ace?

2.) For the sake of argument though, let's assume Minaya learned the Mets wouldn't be close on Johan Santana, and the combined prospects of dealing with Billy Beane for Dan Haren didn't entice Minaya enough to go after the A's starter. If that's true, rather than seeking to deal Milledge, Minaya should have held on to the outfielder and waited and hoped for one of two things to happen: A) Milledge lights up pitchers in the spring and plays his way into a starting spot, taking Shawn Green's to the bench and giving the Mets an outfielder under 30; or B) Milledge plays well, but continues clashing with manager Willie Randolph and the Mets veterans.

In scenario A, everyone is happy and Minaya looks like a genius by not giving away talent. In situation B, while acknowledging Milledge's talent, the Mets could deal him at the break for a pitching upgrade or help in an injury area if he is really destroying the clubhouse. While there is always the possibility Milledge doesn't play well and still cause problems, his age and his physical tools would still warrant decent prospects in return at the deadline.

3.) Now here is where the real problem is. Minaya has decided that Milledge must be moved, and that he cannot get a frontline starter in return. This is why you should never force a deal. In exchange for Milledge, a five-tool top outfield prospect who can do it all, the Mets got an already over-the-hill catcher with a terrible contract and a mediocre left fielder.

Schneider, who does work well with young pitching staffs, is signed for $4.9 million a year through 2009. The 31-year-old has never league-average OPS+ in a full season, has virtually no power and is a terrible contact hitter. He walks a surprisingly high number of times, probably due to a fairly good batting eye. That being said, the Mets already have two catchers (Johnny Estrada and Ramon Castro) on the roster. Both of those guys will give production not too much different from what Schneider will probably do this year. And to make matter worse, they just signed both of them! Right now, the Mets have three catchers on their roster who will make a combined $12.9 million, none of whom is named Mauer or Martin.

Church, meanwhile, is not a bad player. He had an OPS+ of 114 and 15 homers in 470 at-bats in a stadium that just kills hitters. That being said, Church is 29 heading into this season, and probably works out (best case scenario) to the tune of .290/.370./.480 over the next two or three years. He is not an elite defensive outfielder. He does not have the same physical tools Milledge has, and, aside from his contract, has very little value to the A's or the Twins.

All in all, prodigiously dumb move for the Mets, especially as it needlessly strengthens a divisional rival, and the Nationals are not nearly as bad as everyone thinks they are. Now, with Milledge in center, Manny Acta won't need to chose among Nook Logan, Alex Escobar and Ryan Langerhans in center, and giving the Nats an outfield of Milledge, Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns — not too shabby. While the Nats now need a catcher, it's not a terribly big hole in the lineup. So long as Milledge hits at least what Church did last year, the Nats won't see a huge drop off in production overall. Great job Omar. Great job.

Against Ilinois Terps Find Success

After struggling to get by Hampton and Northeastern and losing to UCLA and Missouri the Terps showed no signs of a consistent offense. Gist was drifting behind the three-point line, Hayes wasn't shooting, Greivis was shooting too much, Milbourne looked lost and Boom was a turnover machine.

Against Illinois, however, the Terps found success. Hayes was more aggressive in his shot selection and it showed with four threes. Dupree emerged as a legitimate low post scoring threat. Which allows Osby to be the spark off the bench that he was last year. Cliff Tucker also impressed by going 4-6 from the field and grabbing five rebounds.

The Terps were able to win against the Fighting Illini rather comfertably despite being out rebounded, out three'd and Greivis Vasquez struggling with his shot to put it mildly.

Maryland has the talent to be a tournament team once again this year. They just need to cut down on turnovers and work on rebounding. Against VCU Gary should try a new starting lineup of Greivis, Hayes, Tucker, Dupree, and Gist.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Take that family

I am the first person in my family not to go to the University of Illinois. That includes both my parents, two uncles, two aunts, and five cousins. How sweet it is that for one more year I get to hold bragging rights in the Rosenbaum house.

BTW, Eric Hayes should keep his hair short for the rest of his life.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Trojan Romeo

Lil' Romeo has signed a letter of intent to play with USC. On the one hand, my first thought was, publicity stunt. However, after hearing how good he actually is, it got me thinking about what other celebrities might fit in with other college and pro sports teams...

Soulja Boy Tell'em: The Dallas Cowboys. Just imagine the touchdown dances he and T.O. could coordinate:

Terrell Owens Celebration

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Dr. Phil: The New York Knicks. No team needs to "get real" more than the Knicks. Added perk: Dr. Phil would provide a better defensive presence than anyone in the current Knicks frontcourt.

Tom Cruise: The Baltimore Orioles. Overpaid? Check for Orioles, check for Cruise. Consistently under-performs expectations? Check for the Orioles, check for Cruise. Weird semi-abusive spousal relationship? Check for Orioles, check for Cruise. Plus, both follow a mythical pseudo-religion espoused by a demigod figure — Cal Ripken and the Oriole Way; L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. A perfect match.

Lord Voldemort: The Patriots. Any explanation needed? I'd like to point out that while a Google search of "Bill Belichick evil" is only at 153,000 ("Lord Voldemort evil" checks in at almost 500,000), the Patriots have a few weeks left in the regular season to jack up that number.

Charlie Sheen: Pittsburgh Pirates. It's been said they need some pitching. Sheen might be able to lend an arm:

Air Bud: The Atlanta Falcons. Great publicity coup that has the added benefit of finally giving the Falcons a top-tier receiver.

Britney Spears: The Denver Broncos. Travis Henry could teacher her a thing or two about avoiding child support payments. Plus, Mike Shanahan can make literally anyone into a 1,000-yard rusher.

Vanilla Ice: Duke men's basketball. The similarities here are endless, especially the eerie resemblance Ice bears to a certain reviled Duke star from the past. Best part — Ice could probably run the point better than Paulus. Plus, I'm sure a certain fan base would make use of this video from Ice's past if he ever played for the Dukies: