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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Games to Watch This Weekend 14.3

College football is finally starting to get into the meat of the season and this weekend we'll get the opportunity to see a few games where teams will face their first legitimate opponents.  Here is a chronological look at where to point your eyeballs over the weekend.

  • #5Auburn at #20 Kansas State (ESPN) - Watch for Auburn to assert it's powerful offense and run up the score against K-State's usually solid defense.  
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (CBS) - The Bucs are looking for their first win of the season in a place that has been very difficult for visiting teams to find victories in.  If WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones are healthy, QB Matt Ryan could have a big day provided the Falcons can find someone able to run the ball.
Saturday - Looks like a fun one this week!
  • Rutgers at Navy (CBS Sports Network) - Look for Rutgers and QB Gary Nova to come back strong after a terribly disappointing game last week.  They'll have a tough time with Navy's triple option rushing attack but RU's defense is typically very stout against the run.
  • Florida at #3 Alabama (CBS) - Florida survived in a triple overtime against Kentucky last week but will face a much stiffer challenge against the Crimson Tide this week.  Could be the most exciting 20-3 game you've seen in a while.
  • Virginia at #21 BYU - What's up with Virginia?  They barely lose to highly ranked UCLA and then they beat a pretty decent L'Ville team.   This could be their toughest game so far as BYU has looked really pretty good this season.  Cougars QB Taysom Hill isn't a dark-horse Heisman candidate any longer, he has looked great this year and will put a lot of pressure on UVA's defensive secondary.
  • North Carolina at East Carolina - UNC was a popular sleeper pick before the season and while national sentiment has cooled on them somewhat they are still a talented team with potential.  Meanwhile nobody is hotter than East Carolina right now as they went into Blacksburg and took it to then #17 Virginia Tech Hokies last weekend (who themselves took it to Ohio State the week before).
  • Mississippi State at #8 LSU - Lots of people are high on Dan Mullen's MSU Bulldogs and their QB Dak Prescott this year but playing the Tigers at night in Death Valley which is not a favorable matchup but would pay huge dividends if they are even able to keep it close.  Could be a very fun game to watch.
  • #4 Oklahoma at West Virginia - Oklahoma is the favorite to come out of the Big 12 this year but West Virginia led by QB Clint Trickett (a transfer from FSU where his father is the Assistant Head Coach) has looked like a team eager to play the roll of dream crusher this season after a very close game against Alabama and two other solid performances.
  • #22 Clemson at #1 Florida State - FSU's QB and defending Heisman Trophy winner Jamies Winston does not make smart decisions off the football field.  He is currently under investigation for a sexual assault and this past week just happened to stand on a table on campus and yell some overtly aggressive sexual chants.  This most recent incident has found him suspended for the first half of Saturday night's game against Clemson.  Please see my previous article on Football needing to clean up its' act for my feelings about what should be done with Jamies here.  However, for the game at hand, keep an eye out for Clemson's traditionally high octane offense to try to sneak out to a lead as FSU is working with it's 2nd string QB during the first half resulting in their defense spending more time on the field than they are used to.  There will be a lot of fanfare around this one too as Clemson tries to regain some luster after a humiliating defeat to Georgia in their opener.
  • San Diego at Buffalo - Could this be a preliminary AFC playoff matchup?  The Chargers just beat the defending Super Bowl champ Seahawks and Buffalo is alone at the top of the AFC East.
  • Washington at Philadelphia - In typical Desean Jackson style, he injured himself and is questionable for this week's game.  A game that is notable as it will be his return to Philly after he was surprisingly cut by the Eagles "for football reasons" and definitely not for hanging around with a highly suspect crowd and potentially flashing gang signs during games.  Oh also Washington's QB RGIII is injured and his replacement is better than him so it might be a good thing for them.  The Eagles are also coming off of two straight wins in which they were trailing by at least 14 points at some time during the 2nd half.
  • Green Bay at Detroit - An NFC North matchup with two 1-1 teams who have headlining Quarterbacks in Aaron Rogers and Matt Stafford looking to have banner years for their teams.  Can either establish a running game or defend the pass?
  • Denver at Seattle - Game of the Week! - It's a Super Bowl rematch.  I have to imagine that P.E.Y. has had this one circled on his calendar since he first got a chance to look at a calendar after the game ended in a crushing defeat for the Broncos.  Denver has theoretically improved their D by leaps and bounds and Seattle looked great in Week 1 but turned in a loss to San Diego last weekend.  Should be a fun game to watch!
That'll do it for this weekend folks.  Enjoy the games!

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Football Needs to Get Serious

The NFL's past three Walter Payton "Man of the Year" recipients Charles Tillman, Jason Witten, and Matt Birk.  These are good guys who positively impact their community at large and they are the guys who deserve our attention.

The NFL has been under tremendous scrutiny for how it's handled a few issues with players and an owner recently.  My point here is not to get into specifics about any of those incidents and subsequent punishments but rather look at what the NFL should be doing to elevate the conversation currently taking place about the league and the sport above what it's being reduced to by a handful of individuals.  We can all agree that domestic violence, child abuse, illegal drug use, and driving while impaired are despicable acts that should in no way be condoned, trivialized, or dismissed by any person or company.

At the heart of the matter, the NFL is a for profit entertainment conglomerate.  There are 32 privately owned (well Green Bay is public but that doesn't matter here) companies that operate as the NFL.  Their product is entertainment.  They put on a show, sell licensed paraphernalia, and generate media which is extremely popular.  The popularity is what enables the NFL to be a $10b business this year.  

The NFL is as popular as it is because it is an extremely selective employer, has an incredible talent pool, and it is structured to create a very level playing field for teams which begets exciting close games on a weekly basis that spectators cannot get enough of.  This is what drives the NFL.  

In order to preserve the main drivers of popularity and therefor revenue, the NFL needs to concern itself with how the very people clamoring for their product perceive it as a whole and this is where they are currently missing the boat.  In terms of public perception, what casual sports fan is excited to say that they are an unabashed fan of the league right now?  Whether trying to or not, the league is affiliated with abuse, cover-ups, and greed at the moment.  It doesn't have to be that way though.
Players from the St. Louis Rams who are deserving of our attention seen here helping to rebuild Joplin Missouri after a devastating tornado.  
Marketers tend to throw heaps of money at the leagues biggest "stars" on an annual basis and align their products with those stars often heroic, quirky, and ultimately fan-friendly images.  There have been seven big issues with NFL representatives running afoul of the law in the recent past thereby flying in the face of that fan-friendly imagery.  The most notable incidents also happen to be have come from biggest stars along with one owner and I'd argue that most of the reason there is a public outcry right now is because it seems that the league is trying to go light on it's star players in order to keep them on the field regardless of what they've done off it. In my opinion they are doing this under the incorrect assumption that fans watch the games only to see the biggest stars and because their biggest sponsors have said heaps of money tied to those stars.

We mentioned previously that the NFL is popular in part due to the caliber of player that makes it through the selection process to even make it into the lineup.  My point is that if even the star players (let alone role players) who run afoul of the law or public perception are removed entirely, the NFL and the public will find new stars.  How long did it take Eagles fans to move from Brian Westbrook, one of the greatest Running Backs to ever wear an Eagles jersey to LeSean McCoy?  Not long at all.  That's kind of sad for Brian Westbrook but it's great news for the Eagles and the NFL.  The fans can move on.  Being aggressive with the discipline might cause a ripple and some anger from the biggest fans initially but as evidenced in plenty of previous examples, the fans will move on and in the long run the league and the sponsors will be even more popular for it.

The league should come down hard on all egregious acts by players and owners.  It needs to stamp out the kind of despicable acts that are currently playing on repeat on every TV screen as well as anything that can negatively impact the league.  Why should it allow players or owners (who are all essentially brand ambassadors as much as they are players/owners/competitors) to continue to represent their teams and the league when they are an embarrassment and run counter to their most basic mission?  There are no corporations that would continue to pay it's brand ambassadors very healthy salaries if they were all of a sudden a pariah and therefor a detriment to the very brand they are supposed to bring value to simply through association.

By doing what it ultimately in it's own best interest the NFL would also help eliminate this awful behavior.  If this aggressive stance on negative and heinous acts leads to the league's players and owners being better people as a whole, I think it would be a net gain for society.  The desire to be a player in the NFL is tremendous and probably sits in somewhere in the back of the mind of 50% of high school football players.  If all of those players knew that to ultimately achieve their dreams, they had to be upstanding citizens of the highest order and poses the mental and physical abilities that let them compete on the field, this movement could have very very broad implications as it ripples through society.  Whether or not they want to be considered role models there are a lot of people who look up to and aspire to be those guys on the field and in the luxury boxes on Sundays and the NFL can take a few very easy and very savvy steps to drastically change the conversation.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

College Football Playoff Teams 14.3

The Oregon Ducks keep the top spot locked up but the Alabama Crimson Tide have made a move all the way up to #2 in the highly dynamic SKOHRboard weekly poll.  Both teams played relative lightweights and cruised to easy victories.  The major upset here is when the #2 team in our poll last week Georgia lost a close one to South Carolina.  Now both teams have loses in the conference and despite lots of talent seem to be on the outside looking in.

It remains to be seen if Oklahoma is a good as people think they are but they keep winning solidly.  Previously ranked in the Top Ten, USC quickly dispelled any notion that the Pac12 is College Football's pre-eminent conference when they lost to the ACC's middleweight champ Boston College after giving up about 450 yards rushing to their own 20!  UCLA is also not very good.  BYU absolutely smoked Texas and UCLA just barely hung around long enough to win this week all while getting their no longer a Top Heisman pick QB Brett Hundley hurt.

The most upsetting news of the weekend was Rutgers 5 interceptions in a rough loss to Penn State.  By all accounts a game that the Scarlet Knights soundly outplayed the Nittany Lions save for those crushing interceptions.  

Week 14.3
  1. Oregon
  2. Alabama
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Florida State
  5. Oklahoma
  6. LSU
  7. Baylor
  8. Auburn
  9. Ole Miss
  10. BYU
  11. Notre Dame
  12. West Virginia
  13. Arizona State
  14. South Carolina
  15. USC
  16. Georgia
  17. Stanford
  18. Michigan State
  19. Mississippi State
  20. Wisconsin
  21. Missouri
  22. East Carolina
  23. Kansas State
  24. Ohio State
  25. Oklahoma State

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