Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ricky Nolasco Saves His Best For Last

Tuesday night, the Marlins were eliminated from playoff contention, despite defeating the Braves, because the Rockies won their game, putting the Wild Card out of reach. Fortunately for Marlins fans, Ricky Nolasco gave us a reason to stay tuned for the final few games of the season.

Wednesday night, Nolasco struck out a career and franchise record 16 batters, including nine consecutive at one point, in 7.2 innings of work. He gave up two runs, both unearned. The 16 fanned batters was the highest in the MLB this season, and the most since Johan Santana was with the Twins and K'd 17 in August of 2007.

It's great to see Nolasco end his season on a high-note, after being demoted earlier in the season after some struggles. But on the other hand, it would have been nice for him to perform like this when the playoffs were on the line. I don't want to get into that right now, though. Instead, I would like to tip my cap to Nolasco, who certainly had a career night while notching his 13th win of the season.

It was quite a way to finish the year for Nolasco, who started on opening day for the Marlins this season, and recorded wins on the bookends of his season, despite a speed bump at the end of May. Nolasco again proved what an asset he can be to this team when he is firing on all cylinders, and that he has the potential to be an ace on this pitching staff with Josh Johnson.

Hopefully, he will be able to carry any type of momentum he got from tonight into next season, because starting pitching has been a concern for the Marlins all season. Outside of Johnson, no Marlins starter has been very reliable throughout the year.

Speaking of concerns for the Marlins, Leo Nunez nearly blew another game after allowing two runs in the ninth, before being relieved for Brendan Donnelly who recorded the save. Nunez's failure on the mound nearly cost Nolasco a decision, and the closer role is something the Marlins will definitely need to assess this offseason, because Nunez is not the answer.

In other statistical anomaly news, Donnelly's save tonight was quite the feat, as well. He recorded the save, despite throwing only one pitch: a ball, that happened to get away from catcher Ronnie Paulino. Paulino lost the ball momentarily, then gathered it, gunned it to third base where Matt Diaz was tagged out to end the game 5-4.

The loss eliminated the Braves from a shot at the NL East crown, which is something the Marlins can take solace in. Similar to playing spoiler to the Mets playoff aspirations last season, the Fish are doing their best to keep the Braves out of the postseason. So once again, hats off to you, Ricky Nolasco, for your workhorse performance to end the year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Enter Thigpen

Miami fans are going to have to hold off their talk about it being “Henne time!” The Dolphins went out and traded for Kansas City second string quarterback Tyler Thigpen on Tuesday.

The team acquired him in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick. Thigpen is in his third professional year out of Coastal Carolina, and he did not have the dreaded “sophomore slump” last year. However, the Chiefs saw what Matt Cassel did for the New England Patriots and decided to lock him up as their franchise quarterback…understandable, the man was impressive.

DolPhans should not mark this guy off to be just another failure that will never measure up to Dan Marino (c’mon, be reasonable). The offense will undoubtedly be different without Chad Pennington (who fans should praise for what he did last season for the tam in leading them to a division crown), but that does not necessarily mean that we are going to go the way of the Rams under Thigpen.

Thigpen was able to muster up 2,608 yards through the air by going 230/420 – good for a completion percentage of 54.8 (again, not Pennington, but the Chad is statistically the greatest of all time in that category). He had a favorable 3:2 TD to INT ratio (18 to 12 for the non-mathletes out there). And his stats show some sign of mobility as he ran for 386 yards on 62 carries for an average of 6.2 yards per carry. The main emphasis on all of these stats is that he did them with the Kansas City offensive line, and that line is undoubtedly worse than that of the Dolphins. I’m almost certain that George Selvie and Co. from USF could take care of that professional offensive line! However, let’s get back to the main storyline.

Dolfans need to give this guy a chance. I personally think that the man has potential to do something good for our franchise. Just because his name fits his roots of Winnsboro, SC, does not mean we should write him off as a failure. Hell, Ric Flair came out of South Carolina, and that has to mean something right? I am not a fan of packing it in after three weeks and competing with the Rams, Bucs, and Lions for the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. The Fins need to keep fighting, and this move shows that they are not ready to pack it in either.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Five Things We Think We Think We Might Know

This is a new feature we're going to give a try around here. It will appear every Monday for the rest of the college football season, maybe. No promises, yet, so let's just see how this goes.

1. If you want to win, you need to run the ball well. As our friend over at The Sporting Blog pointed out, FSU was held to 19 rushing yards against USF, UM held to 59 in Blacksburg, Cal's Jahvid Best could only muster 55 yards against Oregon, and UNC put up a whopping 17 rushing yards on Saturday. The common denominator of all of those: a loss.

2. BJ Daniels made me look brilliant. Very rarely am I spot on with predictions and analysis before something happens. Daniels, USF's redshirt freshman who made his first start at FSU this weekend, is responsible for one of these rare occurrences. I will bask in my awesomeness for the time being, as Daniels (and USF's defense) led the team to a victory in Doak Campbell stadium, despite making a couple of rookie mistakes. While Matt Grothe was the face of that team the past few years, Daniels is the future, and the future of that program appears to be in good hands, as Daniels will only improve with experience.

3. Iowa's defense is pretty good. They held the at-the-time number five team in the nation to 10 points (only 3 in the final 58 minutes of the game), and forced four turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble) and also blocked a punt. As SI's Stewart Mandel points out, Iowa's defense is for real, and will be vital in their bid for a Big Ten title.

4. Miami still isn't back. I wrote about it a couple of times this season already. They're not back, and it showed in a beatdown at the hands of the Hokies in Blacksburg. I still think they're on the right track, but Virginia Tech handled business and "swagga-jacked" the 'Canes. It should put to rest the "the U is back" talk for now... and the Jacory Harris for Heisman ruminations.

5. Concussions are serious business. People joke about the situation that occurred with the Gators' Tim Tebow on Saturday night in Lexington, making biblical allusion jokes to him "rising," etc. But in all seriousness, concussions are serious injuries that can only heal with time (trust me, I've had one. It's not fun.). Florida has a bye week this week, and then travels to Death Valley for a matchup with LSU in two weeks. Perhaps Tebow will be healthy by then, but I wouldn't be surprised to see John Brantley starting for the Gators in Louisiana. I will undoubtedly go more in-depth with this issue as the LSU game approaches in two weeks, but it's certainly something that all of the college football media will be entranced with over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

USF Still Not in Florida's "Big Three"

Before I get to the crux of this piece let me first give a sincere congratulations to the South Florida Bulls football team for an impressive win over the Florida State Seminoles, and to the editor of this site for making the world (read: blogosphere) aware of BJ Daniels last week. It can not be understated how great the growth of the USF football program has been. Though it may seem like they have been around for some time now, they are still truly in their infant stages of being a football school. Saturday they took another huge step forward by beating one of the Big Three Florida schools for the first time (Their only other meeting was a 2005 loss to Miami).

With all of that said, let's not get ahead of ourselves and proclaim South Florida to be a part of a proverbial "Big Three" or "Big Four." This is actually not the first time that arguments have been made to include South Florida; several times over the last few years, with Florida State and Miami struggling, and USF starting to emerge as a contender in the Big East conference, some people have made the assertion that they are the second best team in the state. While their may be times when the Bulls have been ranked higher and performed better than FSU or Miami, there are several reasons why they still rest firmly behind those three prestigious schools.

First of all, what really signified the dominance of the Big Three schools during their peak was that each team dominated their conference. Year in year out the three were winning conference titles, playing in big bowl games and finishing the year in the top ten in the national polls. While USF now has a few "signature wins," they still fail to have a "signature season." Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel [Ed. Note: one-time interviewee of this site! Yeah, I met my weekly name-drop quota there] summed it up nicely in a message he wrote via Twitter:


"USF pulls off its annual early-season "time to take us seriously" upset. Maybe this year not lose to Rutgers."

It's true. If we just take a look at their resume since joining the Big East before the 2005 season, there is not much to suggest they are an elite program. In those four years, they have never finished a season with fewer than four losses, and have always had at least three losses in the Big East, which many regard as the worst of the six BCS automatic qualifiers. Bowl Games? There are obviously no BCS bowls, or even New Year's Day games. Instead they have the Meineke Car Care, Papajohns.com, Sun and the (inaugural) St. Petersburg bowls, in which they have gone 2-2 in. To my knowledge, they have not finished a season ranked in the top 25, although I may be mistaken. If they were, it certainly was not the top 10.

I know the counterargument would be that FSU and Miami have had similar or worse results in the last four years. There is no denying that. Both of those schools have had down periods which have angered fan bases. But, they have enough history and prestige to bear with it, while they make the appropriate changes to improve. It would appear they both are on their way back, despite the awful performances Saturday by both squads. I'm not saying national titles are in their immediate future, but they are back in the discussion as the class of their conference (The ACC, I know that's not saying much).

The point is, while USF has scored yet another impressive, program-building win, they still have a ways to go to be considered a part of the class that is the Gators, Hurricanes and Seminoles. I would second Mandel's suggestion that they should not lose to Rutgers this year, and try to win the Big East. If you can go to Doak Campbell Stadium and beat the Seminoles (who I still think will be ranked at the end of the year), then you ought to be able to navigate a Big East schedule. Cincinnati is the only test, but USF will be at home on Thursday night, which has proven to be the graveyard of highly ranked teams.

Friday, September 25, 2009

FSU - USF Preview: Both Teams Looking For Respect For Different Reasons

[Editor's note: Wooj goes to USF, and will be in Tallahassee for this weekend's USF-FSU game. We figured he should do a little preview for it, so here it is.]

The artists formerly known as the Brahman Bulls will be taking on the Florida State Seminoles in a noon game at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. The Bulls are looking to be traveling in herds (see what I did there?) from what I can muster, and there will be an estimated 12,000 fans wearing green inside of Doak. The rest of the stadium will most likely be filled in by FSU fans wearing white as the school as called for a white-out a la Penn State [ed note. PSU does it better, sadly]. Pick your side loyal fans…let’s do battle.

USF is looking to earn respect in the state of Florida and join the Big Three of FSU, UF, and Miami. Coach Leavitt believes that the only door into the Big Three is to beat one of the Big Three. Their last chance to do it was in 2005 when they fell short of knocking off the Miami Hurricanes. USF will be led by redshirt freshman quarterback BJ Daniels in his first collegiate start due to Matt Grothe’s ACL tear that ended his college career. This game will also be a homecoming for Daniels as he played his high school football at Tallahassee's Lincoln High.

FSU is out to show that they are indeed a high-caliber team. They want to attest to college football fans that they are the team that shellacked BYU in their own stadium, and not the team that did not play up to their potential against Jacksonville State (FSU had a short week, and that DOES make a huge difference folks). Many people are putting the 'Noles on upset alert, and they want to try and set the record straight.

There are many storylines leading up to this game, but the dyslexic battle itself is all that matters. One team will move positively towards the respect that they feel they deserve, and the other will simply be left wanting.

Prediction: FSU 27 - USF 13.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Marlins Matching Game (Since Their Playoff Hopes are Almost Shot)

Let’s play a game, shall we?

I will give you guys two stat lines of two Marlins starting pitchers who pitched in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Phillies at Land Shark Stadium. Then I will give you two pitchers to choose from, and you try to match the statistics to the pitcher. Sound good? Good.

The first line looks something like this:

5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 10 K – 91 pitches, and a loss.

The second line is as follows:

8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K – 110 pitches, and a win.

Now, the pitchers you get to choose from to matchup with these lines are Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson. I’ll even give you guys their season stats to make it a little easier on you.

Sanchez, for the season, is 3-7 with a 4.01 ERA.

Johnson, for the year, is 15-5 with a 3.12 ERA.

Alright, now make your guesses, folks, I’ll wait. And remember, no cheating.

Okay, times up, put your pencils down and pass your answers forward.

/collects answers.

//sorts through answers.

Hmm, that’s interesting, 93 percent of you (why 93 percent? Because that’s the number I made up for the purpose of this post) chose Josh Johnson to be responsible for that first pitching line. Well congratulations, you 93 percent would be absolutely correct wrong.

Shockingly, Johnson didn’t have a typical Johnson start in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, and it resulted in a 9-3 Marlins loss. Instead, in Game 2, Sanchez had the dominant performance, which resulted in a 3-0 win for the team. I was as shocked as all of you were, and given the same choice, I would assume that Johnson had the eight-inning performance.

As a side note, with ten games left in the season, the Marlins currently have a less-than-.10 percent chance of winning the NL East and a .60 percent chance at taking the Wild Card. As they said in Galaxy Quest: Never give up! Never surrender! Basically, what it will take for the Marlins to make the postseason now is a Mets-esque meltdown from the Phillies, or Rockies and Giants.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Was That, Miami?

It's truly difficult to find words to adequately describe the feeling, as a fan, after a jarring loss like the one Miami suffered in Monday night's game against the Colts.

The Dolphins lost, 27-23, despite controlling the ball for just over 45 minutes. They lost, despite executing the Wildcat to perfection for most of the night. Ronnie Brown had his 14th career 100-yard rushing game, and two touchdowns. Yet still, the Dolphins lost.

There's a plethora of reasons that fans and "experts" can come up with as to why the Dolphins lost. Some will argue that it was Ted Ginn's fault, for failing to come up with catches in the end zone on two occasions, including one in the final minute of play. Others will say that it was on the Dolphins offense, which despite meticulously executing a great game plan all night, failed mercilessly at attempting to run a two-minute offense at the end of the game. There are those who will simply claim that Peyton Manning is just that good, insanely efficient and cold-blooded, even though he spent most of the game wearing a hat instead of a helmet.

Then of course, there is the most glaring reason for the Dolphins loss: poor defense. Even though the defense was "well-rested" after waiting on the sideline for more than three-quarters of the ballgame, they couldn't wrap up for tackles, they blew assignments and most importantly, couldn't stop 18 when they needed to. The Dolphins defense gave up three touchdown drives to the Colts in three minutes and 43 seconds of gametime.

While the defensive meltdown is inexcusable in every sense of the word, it was obviously a culmination of all of those aforementioned reasons that resulted in the loss Monday night, and now the Dolphins sit at 0-2 with a trip to San Diego in store for them in Week 3. The defending AFC East champs have a lot to work on between now and then if they want to avoid an 0-3 hole to start the season, but this was still a tough loss to swallow. The Dolphins are going to have to step up their pass defense, particularly since they will be going up against pass-happy San Diego, with Phillip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers on Sunday.

DolPhans shouldn't panic quite yet, though. Remember, last year the Dolphins started 0-2 before traveling to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots in Week 3. We all remember what happened: Brown ran wild(cat) all over Foxboro, and the Dolphins righted the ship and avoided an 0-3 start. Let's see how they bounce back from this year's 0-2 start before we begin to panic.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Links to Take You Into the Weekend

We had a productive day in our little corner of the internet, with a lot of football talk. If you guys can't tell, I've got football on the mind. Here's a few (in the most minimal sense of the word) football-related links to take you into the weekend, because I guarantee I won't be posting anything Saturday, as it's the Florida - Tennessee game.

Speaking of that game, I wrote a couple of pieces for other sites about the big rivalry. Here are those links, as promised:

- The guys over at Souvenir City asked me to preview the game for them.

- While over at College Game Balls, I addressed the Urban Meyer - Lane Kiffin saga, and what people should expect in terms of retaliation on Meyer's end.

As a side note, I will be contributing over at CGB often throughout the season, so check me out over there, too.

Other links:

- Brandon Spikes is the County Assessor (and weekend picks) from the genius that is EDSBS.

- Because we didn't mention UM enough today, apparently. GT's Steven Sylvester gets Futch'd up.

This last link isn't football-related, but it was just too good to pass up:

- Delonte West was arrested while carrying three firearms. On a three-wheeled motorcyle. It gets better. (Major League Jerk)

That's all I've really got for you guys today. Enjoy the weekend.

Putting The Early "Jacory Harris for Heisman" Talk to Rest

I stole this pic from Souvenir City, who got it from PostStar.com // Harris shouldn't strike that pose yet.

I'm a Gator, and as TD pointed out in his introduction Wednesday, I'm currently outnumbered by Canes in my own blog. So you know I had to come along and put them in their place.

The 'Canes are 2-0, after sneaking out of Doak Campbell with a win on Labor Day and by throttling "top 15-ranked" Georgia Tech. While I'll have something else about that later on, probably tomorrow, this post is about Jacory Harris.

The sophomore out of Miami Northwestern has been, for lack of better words, brilliant in his first two games of the season. What makes it even more impressive is that he has done it in just his third and fourth career starts. Through those two games he has completed 41/61 passes for 656 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. But above all, he has ice running through his veins when he stands in the pocket.

Stemming from these two starts has been early ruminations of a Jacory Harris for Heisman campaign, most of which has been hype from the Miami fanbase. Of course, that talk has only been fueled by two games on national television (with no other games on at the time), and commentators referencing an interview Harris did on Dan LeBatard's radio show where Harris said if he made it to New York for the Heisman, he would wear a beautiful pink suit with a diamond-studded pimp cup.

But let's pump the breaks here, folks. While Harris has performed superbly in two nationally televised games, the early Heisman talks are a bit out of line. First off, I'd suggest you guys visit Heisman Pundit and check out the "Ten Heismandments." But I'll save you guys the time and tell you myself why Harris won't win the Heisman this season.

Harris is a sophomore. Only two sophomores in history have won the bronzed stiff-arm: Tim Tebow in 2007 and Sam Bradford last season (with Bradford being a redshirt sophomore). For Harris to win, it would mean that three consecutive sophomores will have won the award, and the first three ever to do so. I don't see that happening.

Then there's this: the Heisman has historically been linked to the national title. It's not a rule, but more of a tradition that the Heisman winner usually vies for the national title. Miami would have to run the table, and a few of the big teams in front of them would have to drop a game or two along the way for that to happen.

But wait, didn't Tebow win the Heisman in '07 for a four-loss team? Why yes, yes he did. But that year was special, as most people will tell you. Tebow put up other-wordly numbers, and there was no clear-cut candidate ahead of him, let alone one on a national title contending squad.

So Harris would have to put up record-setting numbers if "The U" doesn't make a run at the BCS title game if any of us want to see that beautiful pink suit. Know what else would have to happen for Harris to win it? The guys that are already "ahead of him" in the minds of voters, you know, the guys who have been there before and established a name for themselves (like Tebow, Colt McCoy, Jahvid Best, etc.) would all have to struggle and fall by the wayside while Harris simultaneously explodes for a monster season.

It's not happening, Miami fans. Not this year at least. I'll tell you one thing though, Harris will be a great quarterback, and he might just be setting himself up for a run at the Heisman... in 2010.

Let's Try This Again: The U Is Not "Back" Yet

It's amazing what two wins could do for a programs fanbase. Really, it is. We are just three weeks into the college football season and UM fans are already declaring that "The U" is back, that they've got their "swagga" back and that they're God's gift to football again. I said it after the UM-FSU Labor Day matchup, and I'll say it again: "The U" is not back, yet.

Like I said before, the team is certainly on the right track, and they've got talent all over the field, especially at quarterback. But UM still has a ways to go before they can claim they are back. Honestly, have fans ever been so easily convinced of something after just two games? Probably, since these are college football fans we are dealing with.

Coming into the season, UM's opening four-game stretch was considered a murderer's row with a ranked FSU, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, led by the reigning Heisman winner. But three weeks and two games into that schedule, it's not looking as difficult as once thought. Sure, FSU played one hell of a game on Labor Day, but last weekend they trailed in the fourth quarter, and needed a couple of late scores to eke past 1-AA Jacksonville State. This weekend, the Seminoles take on top-ten ranked BYU, and could easily start the season 1-2, with many unanswered questions. Hardly the team some expected them to be.

Then there's the Georgia Tech team that UM throttled on Thursday night. As TD pointed out to me, Tech will probably finish with eight-to-ten wins, but are ahrdly a top-15 caliber team. I tend to agree with that. GT's offense is truly something special. When executed properly, it is fascinating to watch it click. But once a team remains disciplined, stops that option (as Miami did) and forces GT to rely on Josh Nesbitt to make passes down field, they are done for. Nesbitt is hardly a quarterback, despite playing the position.

I don't want to take too much away from Miami fans, because these were two big wins. But I do want to give those fans a reality check. The reality of it is that Miami, while on paper having a demanding opening schedule, actually has some favorable scheduling so far. It's week three of the season and the Canes just finished their second game. They had ten days to prepare for Paul Johnson's triple-option offense, while the Yellow Jackets on the other hand, just had their third game in 12 days. The fatigue showed, and it showed early, as Tech's players were clearly winded after the first quarter. Now the Canes have another nine days to prepare for a trip to Blacksburg to take on the Hokies. After that, they get an Oklahoma team that will be without TE Jermaine Gresham, and possibly without Heisman winner Sam Bradford.

A 4-0 start would still be impressive, but it certainly wouldn't mean what everyone thought it would mean coming into the season. It would mean that yes, the Canes are relevant again, which is a great thing for college football. It would mean that the program is in good hands, and is on it's way back to where it was less than a decade ago. But we need to relax with all of this talk of "The U" being back. After all, it's only been two games.

Sweet Revenge: Thoughts on UM - GT from a Canes Fan


I told the captain of this ship, Tomas Verde, that the Hurricanes would not allow the Yellow Jackets to gain over 200 yards of rushing offense. I felt confident in that notion before the game, but now I sort of feel soft for looking so conservative.

The U only allowed Paul Johnson’s prolific triple option offense to amass 95 yards of total rushing! I told anyone that was willing to listen that Miami would dominate tonight’s game, and they surely did not let me down. Jacory Harris made the bold statement of saying that what is slowly becoming referred to as “Whipple Ball” could not be stopped. The Miami Hurricanes offense was able to support J12’s theory by gaining a very respectable 454 yards of total offense. Harris played another fantastic game via a 20/25 outing that was good for 270 yards and three glorious touchdowns to Laron Byrd[man], Dedrick Epps, and Miami fan-favorite JIMMY GRAHAM!

The only complaint that I have for this otherwise perfect team performance was that they let up in the fourth quarter a bit. I’m not an advocate for running up the score a la Steve Spurrier (kudos to Randy Shannon for not going for it out of respect for Paul Johnson), but the Canes looked a little lackadaisical for a few minutes. The Miami secondary allowed Josh Nesbitt to connect with Demaryius Thomas for a 56-yard touchdown. Matt Bosher, a Groza hopeful, missed his first two career field goals from inside of 40 yards. If you missed it like Bosher did, then all you had to do was see the look on Shannon’s face as he gave the 2008 Canes MVP a piercing stare. Bosher will undoubtedly be able to get back on track.

The Canes tentative performance to put away the opposition will surely be critiqued by the Miami coaching staff, and I think it will help the Canes in the long run. Miami will know how to take the opposition out of a game if given the opportunity next weekend in Blacksburg. The baby Canes are still learning, but they are looking a lot more dangerous every time we see them take the field.

Today, We Talk College Football. A Lot.

We're going to have a pretty decent amount of posts (by our standards) coming in today, all of them are scheduled to be about college football. I'm sure none of you have any complaints about that, since college football rules the world from September until early-January. Agreed? Agreed.

Here's what we've got on deck for you all today:

-Three... yes THREE posts that discuss the Canes. What kind of bizarro world is this? See what happens when I add Canes to my staff? Wait, you mean to tell me that I wrote two of the posts? Well then... this should be interesting.

- We also plan to throw up a college football link dump, for everything college football that you need to know for this weekend.

- I personally will also have a couple of posts that I am doing for College Game Balls and Souvenir City that I will link to. It will be glorious.

That is all for now, we hope you enjoy our Friday offerings, because we know you don't want to accomplish anything on Friday because you're too busy thinking about the weekend, and college football, of course.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Curious Case of the Florida Marlins

We've nearly made it through the entire 2009 season, yet I still don't know what to make of these Florida Marlins. Some days, they surprise you and take two of three from the Cardinals, in St. Louis, including one against Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright. Then there are the days where the Marlins surprise you, in the bad way. Those are the days that they lose two of three to the Nationals.

Really, we are 16 games away from the end of the regular season and all we know for sure about this team is that Hanley Ramirez is one of the best position players in baseball, Josh Johnson is a stud (or as Josh Q. Public put it, he's the "most unsung pitcher in baseball."), and that the team has covered the Vegas over of 76.5 wins that was set at the beginning of the season.

With 16 games left in the season, the Marlins sit 4.5 games back of the Wild Card, and 7 games back of the Phillies for the division. According to coolstandings.com, the Marlins still have a 4.8 percent chance of making the playoffs (as of today). Yes, that is a slim chance, but they're not mathematically eliminated. Yet.

Unfortunately for the Marlins, zero of those 16 remaining games come against the Rockies or Giants, the two teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race. Fortunately, 12 of those 16 come against division opponents, including six against the Phillies. That means the Fish have a better chance at catching the Phillies, despite mathematically having a better shot at winning the Wild Card, if that can somehow make sense.

If the Marlins want to sniff the postseason this year, the team will likely have to sweep those six games from Philadelphia, or at the very least, win five of those. The Fish will probably have to finish on a 13-3 run (and that's being generous) if they want a shot at a third World Series title.

But that's the difficult thing about this team: it's hard to gauge how they will finish the season. Starting pitching outside of JJ has had its ups and downs. The bats have been hot, and they've been lukewarm, too. And the bullpen has had issues of its own, as well (I'm looking at you, Leo Nunez).

This has been a team that somehow has managed to overachieve while simultaneously underacheiving. It's a curious case, that's for sure, and these last few weeks of the season could shape up to be interesting if the Marlins play like they do when they surprise fans, in the good way, of course.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Call It, "Agressive Expansion." Or Don't. Whatever.

Editor's Note: Yesterday I introduced you all to my first official staff writer here at 4th and Fail. Today, I introduce to you another addition to the 4th and Fail team. Call it, "agressive expansion." Or don't, it's your call, so whatever. The point is, this blog's staff just tripled in the last 48 hours. Take that! I was going to introduce you to our newest contributor (I guess that's the title I'll go with for now), but I figured since I let the last guy introduce himself, I should let this guy do the same:

Hey everyone and allow me to introduce myself, the new third wheel at 4th and Fail. My name is Ted Hill and it's such a short and sweet name that I don't need a stage name (Editor's Note: Forget that, you get a stage name, too. I hear it's all the rage in the blogosphere. We shall call you TD).

I hail from Miami since birth and would classify myself as a dedicated fan of all the local teams, including the 'Canes. Currently there are more 'Canes writing for this blog than Gators. I can't imagine Sr. Verde will let that go on much longer. I've been blogging for a little bit but expect to use this avenue for in-depth pieces that don't fall under the umbrella of the two blogs I contribute to (Dolphins & Marlins) (Editor's Note: Woohoo! Shameless plugs!). I'm not quite sure if my works will be more humorous or insightful, or some failed combination of the two, but hopefully you'll want to continue reading. I'm also a soccer/football/futbol fanatic so you may see thoughts on that. I look forward to being a contributor to this little community.

- Ted

The New Guy Presents: The Biggest Choke-Failures in Sports AKA The Bills List

I was inspired Monday night by a certain football game to create my inaugural address to the sports blogosphere via 4th and Fail. I did not look at the success of Tom Brady and the Pats, but instead I looked upon the sheer failure that was displayed on the field by the Bills. So, without further ado, I would like to give my top 10 list of futility as a whole in sports. This doesn’t mean that I am going based on one performance (unless that performance was that much of a cringing failure). I will not judge based on an isolated incident. Instead, I will judge on the individual/team’s entire legacy [of FAIL].

10. Sergio Garcia - Let’s congratulate the man for he is a constant variable in the Law of Fail. The guy just can’t seem to ever win the big one. Whenever he has been in position to win one of golf’s coveted majors he just falls by the wayside. Honestly, it’s become a bit predictable at this point. Garcia’s consistent, but not completely epic failure lands him the 10 spot.

9. Florida State Seminoles Football
- I hate to do this because I have the utmost respect for the program and the legendary Bobby Bowden, but c’mon Noles you’re better than that! Tuck your shirts in! Go run a lap or something! Wide Right I,II, and III along with a Wide Left just for good measure?! They managed to blow another game even with a phantom pass interference call (as a Canes fan, those phantom calls are the bane of my existence) on Labor Day! Five shots at glory and you couldn’t punch it in? Really?...REALLY?!?! The peculiar thing about FSU’s brand of fail is that it always seems to happen against Miami. The Ponyboys of Florida State often manage to stay [garnett and] gold (Ahem! GT fumble! Ahem!), but their rising toll of fail against “the U” lands them the 9 spot. DAG GUMMIT!

8. Michigan Wolverines Fab Five - Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson were all top 100 prospects as they entered the maize and blue. The team was so highly touted, and it is for that reason that they fail. They managed to get to the end of March Madness as freshman in 1992, but they got a whooping at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils (71-51). Alright, they were all just a bunch of kids, but I’m sure they’ll run the NCAA circuit next year, right? WRONG. This 1992 game was just a mere appetizer for the magnificent fail that would ensue in the ’93 NCAA Championship game against the Tarheels of UNC. The Wolverines went on to lose that game 77-71 in what turned out to be an epic fail culminated by a very aware Webber timeout…

7. Houston Oilers - The Houston Oilers punch-in at 7 simply because they were on the wrong end of what we now know as “The Comeback.” This game was a 1993 AFC Wild Card game between said Houston Oilers and the Buffalo Bills. The Buffalo Bills were without eventual Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, and instead had to look to their back-up, Frank Reich, to help them advance to the next round. The Houston Oilers did what they were supposed to do, and they held a commanding 35-3 lead in the 3rd quarter. Suddenly, the poster-boys for futility staged the ultimate comeback, and they eventually won the game 41-38 in OT! Are you kidding me?! The Houston Oilers took the loss so bad that they moved to Tennessee and became the Titans (where they fell short of winning the Super Bowl…literally). I guess I would be ashamed of myself if I blew a 32 point lead against the Bills too…

6. Ohio St. Buckeyes Football – These guys just haven’t been able to win a big game in a long time. The only two games they won were against an obviously overrated Michigan team in 2006, and a very controversial call by Terry Porter in 2003. They were mangled and embarrassed by two SEC teams, Florida and LSU, in the 2006 and 2007 BCS National Championship Games. They were blown up by the USC Trojans in 2008 in the Coliseum by means of a 35-3 man-handling. Ohio State has recently been competitive in games, but now they are just choking at the end. The 2009 Fiesta Bowl against Texas and their most recent fail against the Trojans can attest to that. Therefore, for constantly choking on the big stage for close to a decade now, the Buckeyes check in at number 6.

5. Greg Norman – The Great White Choke himself garners the five-spot on this list. Why, you ask? Simple: The 1996 Masters. Norman went into the final round with an incredible six-stroke lead! The Shark with the golden everything also shot a golden 63 in the first round, and that 63 was good enough to be an Augusta course record. Norman ended up losing the tournament to Nick Faldo…by five strokes. Five strokes?! How’d that happen? Well readers, Norman shot an inglorious 78, and Faldo played a great round with a score of 67. Readers, you must comprehend that it’s not even like he choked by one stroke! This, my friends, was a complete meltdown that Jean Van de Velde could only truly appreciate.

4. 2004 New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox pre-2004 - Eat it up Yankees and Bo Sox fans; I just associated the two of you together (Editor's Note: My mind just exploded). The 2004 Yankees make the four-spot because of their ALCS debacle after holding a 3-0 lead on their most hated rival. No one in MLB history had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. Therefore, it is an automatic fail when you are the first team to accomplish that “feat.” The Red Sox had been failing for a long time prior to this miracle run by “The Idiots.” The most notable Red Sox fail is obviously Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series against the Metropolitans of New York. The Red Sox have righted their ship in the new millennium, and I can’t say that the Yankees are complete choke artists because they have 26 rings in their name. However, there are some 9 year olds who have yet to see the Bronx Bombers win a World Series because of the Diamondbacks in 2001, my beloved Florida Marlins in 2003, and aforementioned Boston Red Sox of 2004. If that magnanimous payroll doesn’t step up then I will have no choice but to start calling the Yankees the 21st Century Boston Red Sox.

3. Chicago Cubs – Neither of the teams mentioned above have failed quite like the Chicago Cubs have, and it hurts to say this because there are some Cubbies in my family. The Cubs have now suffered over 100 years of fail. They’re like watching a gory horror film, sometimes it just gets so ugly but you just can’t take your eyes off of the screen. The Cubs have “suffered” from the “Curse of the Billy Goat in 1945,” the Black Cat in 1969, and the Marlins’ MVP Steve Bartman. The Red Sox would at least get to the World Series from time to time, but these Cubbies haven’t even won the Pennant since the Billy Goat incident! The Cubs just haven’t been able to get it done, but the story will be different in 2015. The Florida Marlins will turn into a team from Miami in 2012, and Back to the Future calls for the Cubs to defeat the Miami team in the World Series by means of a sweep…Oh wait, the Marlins are in the NL with the Cubs you say? Sorry, McFly.

2. Jean Van De Velde - Jean Van De Velde’s epic one-hole fail surpasses the Shark’s in this writer’s humble opinion. Van De Velde knew that he could hit a double-bogey and still come away victorious in the 1999 British Open…queue the misery. Van De Velde’s first shot almost went swimming, and his second shot looked like Albert Pujols was lifting off again on Shaq Vs. because it went right at the grandstand! His shots weren’t even on target, and it was apparent that the man was collapsing. Van De Velde eventually hit a triple bogey to send the Open to a playoff against Paul Lawrie. Lawrie went on to take complete advantage of the situation, as a true one-and-done opportunist, and won the 1999 British Open. Jean Van De Velde thus earns the number 2 spot, and everyone knows who the consensus number one FAIL of a person/team has to be at this point…

1. Buffalo Bills - Please hold your applause for the champions of futility! The zenith of the fail! The apex of ineptitude! THE BUFFALO BILLS! The Yankees may have lost four games, but it was only for one ALCS. The Buffalo Bills, on the other hand, managed to successfully get to 4 straight Super Bowls and lose them ALL. Honestly, there is no one individual or team that can prove to be as consistently miserable at the highest level of fail that there is: Championship choking! Whether they got blown out or just missed a kick those Bills couldn’t even pay the referees off and win due to the fact that they would somehow blow the game. Their choking does not only occur in the Super Bowl though. We just saw the Bills cough up an 11 point lead to the New England Patriots in the 4th quarter to blow the game. In 2005, the Bills managed to cough up a 23-3 fourth quarter lead at the expense of the Sage Rosenfels-led Miami Dolphins! (Editor's Note: SEE, Vikings fans, he could be the answer). The Bills continue to blow game after game, but should we really be surprised about any of this? No, because that would be the same as being surprised by how much of a tool Kanye West can be.

Honorable Failures: These squads/people had miserable failures that were on the cusp of cracking this top 10.

-Mike Vanderjagt - This kicker was never the same after he blew that late field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 AFC Division Playoff game. Those same Pittsburgh Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.

-1980 Soviet Hockey - One country’s fail is another’s treasure! The Soviet team were amazing favorites to take the gold at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980. They beat down the US team in an exhibition just before the Olympics, and this all set the stage for perhaps the greatest game of all time: The Miracle on Ice. The USA hockey team went on to defeat the Russians 4-3 en route to their gold medal triumph over Finland.

-John Terry – The captain of the Chelsea FC walked up to take the game-winning penalty kick against the Manchester United Red Devils in the classic 2008 Champions League Final held in Moscow. The conditions were very slippery due to rain, and the captain slipped on his attempt as the ball hit off of the right post. Man U did not let their second life go to waste as they went on to take the CL title.

-Atlanta Braves – This is pretty simple arithmetic: 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 = 1 WS title… I call that a choke. Especially when you see that the Marlins are yet to win a division title, but managed to make the playoffs twice as a wild card during the Braves very impressive regular season run. So, in numerical terms: 0 division titles = 2WS titles. Hey, don’t get the wrong idea…I’ll take the Marlins deal in a heartbeat.

-New York Mets – The Mets suffered from two consecutive years of late season chokes in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the Mets held a very considerable 7 game lead on the Philadelphia Phillies, and there were only 17 games left to go. The Mets ended up going 5-12 over there last 17 games, and they lost their playoff spot on the last day due to an 8-1 thrashing at the hands of the Florida Marlins. The next year, those same Mets had a 3.5 game lead on the Phillies with 17 games to go. Needless to say, the Mets went 7-10 in an encore to their collapse of the previous season. The Mets once again missed the playoffs on the last day of the season due to a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Florida Marlins.

Thanks for reading everyone, hope you enjoyed. Here are the fails for you’re viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introducing 4th and Fail's First Official Staff Writer

Editor's note: I'd like to introduce to you, my loyal readers, the newest addition here at 4th and Fail. He's the first of what may one day become a small stable of writers in our little corner of the internet and I hope you guys enjoy his work. So I guess that legitimately makes me the Editor/Boss man around here, so that's cool, too. But I'll stop rambling now, and let him introduce himself.

Please allow me to introduce myself to all of you fellow sports fanatics. My name is Ed. Note[REDACTED], but I am better known by the name of Wooj. Don’t ask questions, just run with it and it will be a journey you will not regret.

I am writing out of Miami/Tampa, Florida. The Miami Hurricanes are the real premiere team in Florida (Although my colleague (Ed note: BOSS) would respectfully, or most likely disrespectfully, disagree with me). My role in this blog will be to offer a sometimes varying opinion. As we all know, for every Michael Wilbon there is a Tony Kornheiser. There will undoubtedly be things that both of us will agree on, but we usually find ourselves in arguments about a plethora of sports-related issues so it should be fun to read. I would like to thank all of the readers in advance for supporting 4th and Fail, and I hope that I can fulfill all of your [sports-related] needs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bills Are the Best at Choking. EVER.

A couple of weeks back, I got into a conversation with some other bloggers, including a couple of the writers at Souvenir City, and Andy Hutchins. The discussion was sparked after Hutchins wrote this post, and then later on asked if there is anyone that does one thing better than Usain Bolt does his one thing: sprinting. Several possible answers to that question were brought up, including Michael Phelps at swimming, Tiger Woods at golf, Roger Federer at tennis, and so on.

After watching the Bills-Patriots Monday Night Football game, I have a new nominee for this discussion. I bring to the table: the Buffalo Bills franchise. The Bills are arguably the best at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They choke like no other team or athlete has choked before. Monday night was just further proof.

Monday night, the Bills managed to blow a 24-13 4th quarter lead against the Patriots, allowing the Patriots to score two touchdowns in the waning minutes, including the game-winner following a Leodis McKelvin fumble on a kickoff return that set the Patriots up at the Bills' 30-yard line.

Shortly after the fumble, I received this text from my brother: "Buffalo doing what Buffalo does. The vomit on those nice white Bills jerseys looks so lifelike in HD."

Well put.

In allowing the Pats to score 12 points in under a minute and a half, the Bills further padded their resume for best chokers EVAR. Let's take a look at the samplings on that resume, shall we?

- Four straight Super Bowl losses in the 1990's, from 1991-94, including Scott Norwood's infamous wide-right FG attempt with eight seconds left in Super Bowl XXV.

- December 4, 2005 at the Miami Dolphins, the Bills blew a 23-3 lead heading into the 4th quarter, as the Dolphins scored 21 unanswered points to cap the comeback. (A game that I attended with my brother, and reveled in the disappointment of Bills fans after perpetual taunting from them through three quarters).

-Monday night's fiasco against the Patriots.

Simply put, the Bills are better than any one individual or team, ever, at choking.

*Ed. Note: On a related note, Tuesday I will be introducing my first staff writer here at 4th and Fail, and his first post will continue with the theme of this one. Get excited, people.

Friday, September 11, 2009

So How Bad Does the State of Utah Feel Today?

Seriously how bad do they feel? I mean, it's bad enough that they live in Utah, but today is supposed to be a great day for them.

Why is that, you ask? Well it's because two of the greatest names ever associated with the Utah Jazz are being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame tonight. Jerry Sloan, he of 1,137 wins as a head coach, and most wins as a coach for a single franchise; and John Stockton, the NBA's career leader for both steals and assists, will both me immortalized tonight in Springfield, Mass. But you wouldn't know that from watching ESPN today.

That's because Michael Jordan, his Airness, is also being enshrined today. I mean, it was bad enough for Utah when Jordan came out of retirement in the mid-90's only to prevent the Jazz from winning NBA titles in 1997 and 1998 (and add a fifth and sixth ring for himself), but now he's overshadowing two Utah greats on the day they get inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Talk about bad timing for the Stockton and Sloan... again, over a decade later, running into the Greatest of All Time. They'll get their moment in the spotlight, and rightfully so, but to most of the sports world, today is Jordan's day, and the other enshrinees are just along for the ride.

I'll leave you all with this, Jordan's final shot with the Bulls. Plus it throws salt on the Utah wound.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2009 NFL Preview from A-Z

I'm back with another one of these A-to-Z season previews. I dropped the ball and missed out on the NCAA Football preview last week, but school has been keeping me pretty busy. But I've got time today! Therefore, I give you this year's NFL preview from A-to-Z. Keep in mind it may be slightly more Dolphins-centric, since, you know, that's my team. But for the most part, it will cover the entire league, or at least what I deem worthy.

A is for Arbitrary. As in Roger Goodell's arbitrary suspensions. Just curious to see how many players will receive some of those arbitrary suspensions this season. My bet is that Shawne Merriman has one coming his way.

B is for Brady. As in Tom Brady, and Brady Quinn, too. How will Tom Brady come back from his multiple knee surgeries in the last year? Many suspect the Patriots' offense will be just as potent as it was in 2007, when they finished 18-1. Brady Quinn, on the other hand, was just named the starter for the Browns. I'm curious to see how he fares, if for no other reason than to be flustered with Cam Cameron again for passing on him in the 2007 draft.

C is for Cutler. As in Jay Cutler, who has a new home in Chicago, and a fresh start. Did the Broncos really trade him for KYLE ORTON? C'mon now, we all know who got the better end of that deal, not let's see Cutler prove to everyone that he is an elite QB in this league. If Rex Grossman could "lead" the Bears to the Super Bowl, then the possibilities are limitless for someone like Cutler.

D is for Defense. Because it wins championships. As cliche as they might be, it is also true. Just look at the list of Super Bowl winners of recent years and find a team that didn't have a great defense. While the NFL is loaded with talented defenses, I'm curious to see which defense will step it up to championship level this year. You'll see which team's defense I predict will do that further down this list.

E is for Excellent. The word I believe will describe the hiring ot Jon Gruden to the booth for Monday Night Football. In the preseason, when news broke of Mike Vick's signing with the Eagles, he already gave us a gem when he said Vick would sell more number 7 jerseys than Jaws did with his time in Philadelphia. On-screen gold, and I look forward to his commentary this season.

F is for F*vre. Everyone's "favorite," and I use that term loosely, F-word. It'll be interesting to see how he fares in Minnesota, if for no other reason than that offense could be potent if he plays well with Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. Also, I'm sure the whole world will tune in to watch him take on the Packers, especially when they play at Lambeau.

G is for Go routes. As in, the only route that Darrius Heyward-Bay will be effective when running in Oakland, since that's what he was good at while he was in Maryland, and since he has blazing 4.3 speed. Honestly, the Raiders definitely reached when they took him that early in the first round of this year's draft.

H is for HAKEEM NICKS! I don't think there's much to say here, except HOW DID HE DROP THIS FAR INTO THE FIRST ROUND?!? In all seriousness, I think he's going to fill that void left by Plaxico Burress, who will be catching Giants games from his prison cell for the next couple of seasons.

I is for Imperfect no longer. The 2008 Detroit Lions became the only team to go winless in an NFL season. With a new head coach, new quarterback, and of course Megatron to throw to, there's no way they go imperfect again, right? Right?!?

J is for Jerry Jones. Or "Jerruh" as some like to refer to him. What was he thinking in making that monstrous scoreboard hang that low over the field? One, it makes it difficult for fans in the nosebleeds to see the action on the field, because who goes to a football game to watch it on the big screen? Two, we all saw what happens when a punter boots the ball and it bounces off the scoreboard. It's only going to end up being a hassle for everyone involved, since it'll be a replay of down. I also wonder how long it will be before a desperate QB launches a ball of the scoreboard just to get a replay of down, and whether or not that will become an issue this season.

K is for Keeping OT the same. Okay, I admit this letter was a stretch, but it's the only place I had left to make this point. Last season, we saw a tie in an NFL game. That's not cool. I penned this open letter to Goodell urging him to adopt the college overtime system, but apparently he didn't get the memo, and thus, kept the overtime system the same.

L is for LIGHTS OUT! As in lights out for Shawne Merriman's time in San Diego after this season. Unless he truly has a monster season, the Chargers will likely let him become a free agent at season's end, in which case, he will be a very valuable addition to any defense next year.

M is for Marhsall. As in Brandon Marshall. He threw a memorable hissy-fit in the preseason, and apparently is now in contract negotiations with the Broncos. That can only be a good thing for that team because a happy wide receiver is a productive wide receiver, and Kyle Orton will need all the help he can get in his first year with the Broncos, trying to satisfy the fanbase.

N is for Neckbeard. Because it's both glorious, and awful at the same time. I just needed an excuse to link to Kyle Orton's, especially because he'll need it for the Denver winter. It will also be interesting to see how he performs there after being traded in the offseason

O is for Ochocinco. The outspoken Bengals WR said via Twitter that he was going to give the NFL "hell" this season. Hilarity is sure to ensue.

P is for Playoffs?!? Mostly because this clip of Jim Mora never gets old, but also because it's the main difference between college and the NFL. While bowl season in college is awesome, it doesn't compare to the NFL playoffs in magnitude.

Q is for Quickie von Quick Quick. You know those Nike SPARQ commercials with LT holding a press conference, and it has a bunch of other athletes bragging about their speed. Well LT says his quick smells like french toast. I don't know what that means, but I wonder if he will actually rebound from a down season and return to the LT that made opposing Fantasy Football owners nervous every weekend. If he does, the Chargers have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl, because they are talented.

R is for Rookies. Mainly here, I'm talking about Matt Stafford. He was named the Lions starting QB, and (un)lucky him, he gets to open the season on the road, in New Orleans against a good Saints team. Also lucky for him, anything is an improvement for that team after last season's debacle, so he can only improve them. Other impact rookies to look out for: Percy Harvin in Minnesota, Mark Sanchez, who will also be starting at QB as a rookie for the Jets. Also keep an eye on Aaron Curry of the Seahawks, Jeremy Maclin of the Eagles and a sleeper alert on Sean Smith of the Dolphins, who had a huge preseason, and could turn into a stud defensive back.

S is for Super Bowl. So I guess this will be my preseason Super Bowl prediction. I really like the Chargers in the AFC, with Phillip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and a rejuvenated LT, plus that defense of theirs. In the NFC, I have a feeling the Packers have what it takes, because Aaron Rodgers has looked great in the preseason, and their defense has looked good, too. But what do I know?

T is for Ted Ginn, Jr. I went in-depth on this topic in the preseason, but I'll say it again: I think this is the year that Ginn becomes the go-to receiver that the Dolphins expected him to be when they drafted him.

U is for Unsigned hype. Because that's all that 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree is at this point. It's just days before the 49ers kickoff their season, and Crabtree is sill unsigned. The kid has all the talent in the world for his position, but that talent is useless to the team when you're not signed with them.

V is for Vick. Just a few weeks into the season, we will get to see Michael Vick's first regular season game in the NFL since 2006. He's a backup now, but the Eagles will make him the most significant backup QB in the league when they use him in a "wildcat" package, and anytime they play him and Donovan McNabb together, it should be interesting. Though, I'm sure if McNabb struggles at any point, Philly fans will be calling for Vick to take over as starter.

W is for Wildcat. One season after the Dolphins unleashed the Wildcat offense on the New England Patrios, it seems everyone wants a piece of it. The 'Phins drafted Pat White as a wildcat quarterback, the Vikings will probably do the same with Harvin and Peterson at some point, and we know what the Eagles have planned with Vick and McNabb.

X is for the Wild Card winners. You know, since they're denoted by an X in the standings. In the AFC, I'll take the Ravens and the Dolphins (because I'm a homer), but if not the Dolphins, then a South division team, like the Titans. In the NFC, I'm going with the Eagles and the Bears.

Y is for the division winners. They're denoted by a Y in the standings, so I'll give my predictions. AFC East: Patriots. North: Steelers. South: Colts. West: Chargers. NFC East: Giants. North: Packers. South: Saints. West: Cardinals.

Z is for Zorn. As in Jim Zorn, the head coach for the Redskins. Mostly because it's hard to come up with something that begins with the letter Z, but also because he was 8-8 last year in his first year with Washington. Vegas has them at over/under 8 wins. This season, I'll take the under on that, because they're division is deep. I think they'll finish 7-9.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Delayed Reaction: FSU - UM. Are They Back?

So I meant to write this much earlier, but I was working on a 1,500 word profile for my magazine and feature writing class due today that I had to finish. I might post that profile some other time though, because I thought it was interesting. So here are my thoughts on last nights FSU - UM game. Enjoy.

First and foremost, man what a barn-burner that game was. FSU and Miami finally give us a thrilling game again on Labor Day, and it is arguably one of the best games in the series' history. As many also noted, it was a fitting end to a solid opening weekend for college football that escalated from South Carolina-NC State up to this game.

While the game was great though, I have one big issue with it. As Twitter blew up just before midnight with tweets from UM fans, as well as some media members, about The U's "return." Yes, they did crack the Top 25 this week, coming in at 20, but I think it's a bold statement to assert that The U has returned to relevance.

My biggest question about that claim is this: If this same game played out on a Saturday, with a noon kickoff with dozens of other games going on at the same time, instead of at primetime on ESPN on Labor Day, with no other games competing for viewers, would people be making the same assumptions? Is it only because of the time-slot and mass viewership for the game, that people are saying that UM is back?

Now don't get me wrong, both teams look considerably improved, and Jacory Harris (who was a trending topic on Twitter) is one cool cat, and will be a special player, but both teams also have a lot of concerns to address before they are "back" to their elite level of play from the 1990's. Scoring was at a premium last night not because the offenses are that great, but because the secondaries last night were suspect, at best.

Sure, there were a few great plays in the secondary, but receivers were perpetually open down field for both teams. At one point, Harris was averaging 20 yards per attempt. At the end of the day though, last night's game, while great in its own right, was equal parts good offense and bad defense that produced such a high scoring affair that came down to the last play.

So my response to everyone's quesiton of whether or not UM (and FSU) are back to their old selves, is a no. Not yet, at least. Both teams have definitely improved from the looks of it, and are on the right track (as hard as it is for me to say that at a UF student and fan). The most telling sign that the two teams are not yet back to prominence comes from Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, as last night he tweeted that there was "Zero national media presence in the pressbox."

Now I openly admit that I get joy out of Miami and FSU's struggles, but the fact is, as many people I've spoken with agree, having all three big schools in Florida playing at an elite level is what's best for not just fans of those schools, but college football as a whole. That elite level of play won't be for another year or two, but at least UM and FSU are heading on the right track.

Ed Note: You have no idea how difficult it was to write this without trashing either school too much, and at the same time praising them to an extent. I now feel dirty, and will be taking a long shower to cleanse myself from such filth.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oregon Won't Be Starting a LeGarrette Blount for Heisman Campaign Anytime Soon (UPDATED!)

Last night punch kicked off the college football season with a couple of games aired nationally on ESPN. There was South Carolina and NC State as the primetime game, followed by the first game between two ranked teams this season: Oregon at Boise State on the smurf turf.

The late game itself wasn't all that compelling, but the postgame really sparked some converstaions all over the place today. In case you missed it, Broncos' LB Byron Hout smacked Ducks' RB LeGarrette Blount on the shoulder after the game and said something to him. Blount, who was held to -5 yards on 8 carries, didn't take to kindly to Hout's words and went all Mickey O'Neil on him and landed a haymaker for the one-punch knockout. Blount then channelled his inner-Ron Artest and tried going after some fans in the stands, but was restrained by coaches and security personnel.



Blount definitely deserves a suspension, at least a one game, probably longer. Some may scoff at a one game suspension for landing a haymaker on an unsuspecting opponent, but let's flash back to 2006, when UM and FIU broke out into a brawl on the field. 31 players were suspended: 13 from UM and 18 from FIU. Of those 31, most received an initial one-game suspension. Then FIU dismissed two of the players from the team and suspended all 16 remaining players indefinitely. UM suspended 12 of its players for one game, and suspended Anthony Reddick indefinitely for using his helmet as a weapon during the brawl. That suspension wound up being four games.

So how long should Blount be suspended for? If it was only the one punch, I would say one game, minimum. But he also tried going after fans after that, so he should get a few games. Also keep in mind that he didn't try to use anything (like a helmet) as a weapon to cause even more damage to Hout, only his fist. So he probably shouldn't be kicked off the team or receive an indefinite suspension. I think a fair sentence for Blount would land him anywhere from three games to maybe half the season. Anything less would be too light, and I think an indefinite suspension would be a bit harsh. Either way, I doubt we will see Oregon launchin a Joey Harrington-esque Heisman campaign for Blount anytime in the near future.

Regardless, there is no place in athletics for what Blount did Thursday night, and trust me, I've been a part of something like that before. When I was in my sophomore year of high school, a brawl broke out after we finished one of our basketball games. It was hectic, and many punches were landed by both sides. It took a while to be broken up. In the end, none of us were suspended because the administration, "didn't see anyone actually land a hit," which was total b.s. Even though the other team started the melee, it was still something that none of my team was proud to have partaken in, nor should it have happened in the setting of a sporting event.

UPDATE: So it was announced Friday afternoon that Blount has been suspended for the season, but will remain with the team. Like I said, I think that's a bit harsh, and as NickJ from Souvenir City pointed out, "if it weren't the first game of the season on National TV and the media hadn't jumped all over it would have been 1 game."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fantasy Football Draft: Last One, I Swear

Tonight was the draft for my third and final fantasy football league. This league consists of fellow South Florida sports bloggers, as well as one of my older brothers, who is a regular commenter around these parts. The league is only eight teams, so each team should be pretty deep, which should make for higher scoring games, and hopefully more competitive games. Hopefully.

So without further ado, I present to you my third and final fantasy team for the 2009 NFL season:

QB: Matt Ryan (Atl) and Eli Manning (NYG)
RB: Mike Turner (Atl), Marion Barber (Dal), Derrick Ward (TB) and Darren McFadden (Oak)
WR: Andre Johnson (Hou), Vincent Jackson (SD), Eddie Royal (Den), Lee Evans (Buf) and HAKEEM NICKS! (NYG)
TE: Greg Olsen (Chi) and Zach Miller (Oak)
K: John Kasay (Car)
D/ST: Dallas

First things first, I have Hakeem Nicks, which means I will automatically run away with this league title. Other than that, I must say, it's amazing how well I can draft when Yahoo actually lets me enter the draft room and DRAFT MY OWN TEAM. My team is pretty deep at wide receiver and running back, but as I said, it's only an eight person league, so each team should be pretty deep. Regardless, I still plan on running away with this thing, just like my other two leagues.

Thoughts, comments, just want to talk trash about my team? Feel free to give your opinion below.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another Fantasy Football Draft in the Books

I told you guys the other day that I was doing two (at the time) fantasy football leagues. Well now that number is up to three, with a South Florida sports bloggers league drafting on Thursday night.

Tonight was the Souvenir City league draft, aka the Kevin Duckworth Memorial League, and yours truly had the number one overall pick. Unfortunately for me, Yahoo sucks and I couldn't load the draft room. I tried on my computer, my roommate's and a friend's. It didn't load on any of them. So my team, at my dismay, wound up being auto-drafted.

It's safe to say I was infuriated at this turn of events, and at the same time, I prayed that the auto-drafting program would not screw me over too bad. It could have been a lot worse than it wound up being, but I'll let you all be the judge of that.

QB: Carson Palmer (Cin) and Jake Delhomme (Car).
RB: Adrian Peterson (Min), Marion Barber (Dal), Thomas Jones (NYJ), Ricky Williams (Mia).
WR: Steve Smith (Car), Brandon Marshall (Den), Donnie Avery (StL), Jericho Cotchery (NYJ).
TE: Owen Daniels (Hou), Vernon Davis (SF).
K: Stephen Gostkowski (NE)
D/ST: Philadelphia and Dallas.

Assesment: My biggest issue with this team is that I have a starting QB who hasn't been completely healthy since 2006 (Palmer) and a WR who is currently suspended by his team for being a crybaby. Great. At least I got Peterson with the first pick. Barber should have another huge year for Dallas, and Jones is good, even though I hate the Jets. At least I got the kicker I wanted...

Feel free to leave your thoughts on my team, and if you're in the league, feel free to talk trash about how awful my auto-drafted team is compared to your far superior team. For the record, I still plan on winning this league.

*Also, once football season begins, I promise to be back with more relevant sports posts.