Monday, October 31, 2011

Strange Saturday for Iowa's Big Two Football Teams

Talk about getting blindsided with the results of the Iowa and Iowa State games. Wow.

On paper, the Hawkeyes should have owned Minnesota. Then, they played the game. The result was the Gophers doubled their victory total to two. Iowa choked a lead in the fourth quarter and lost 22-21. The Hawkeyes couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. Minnesota, if truth was told, probably couldn’t believe it. It made the Gophers season.

Now, Iowa must regroup before facing the Michigans---Michigan and Michigan State. Those games now will scare any rabid Hawkeye fan.

Iowa State played Texas Tech last Saturday. The Red Raiders were coming off a stunning upset of Oklahoma the week before. I thought Texas Tech might be a little flat and the Cyclones could give the Red Raiders a competitive game. But it turns out Texas Tech was REALLY flat.

Iowa State mirrored a struggling team entering the game. The Cyclone had lost four straight and looked real bad during the streak.

Well, Iowa State found itself a quarterback. Redshirt freshman Jared Barnett started his first game and ran the show brilliantly. Iowa State pounded Texas Tech 41-7.

I figured Tech would win in a fairly close game. The only time the Red Raiders were in the game was at 0-0. Good figure.

The old saying came true in Iowa last Saturday: “On any given Saturday, any team can beat someone else.” That is one factor that makes college football a great game.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Watch Some College Football Saturday

There is a number of interesting college football matchups tomorrow (Saturday).

Stanford is the No. 1 team on upset alert this week. The Cardinal has visions of playing for a possible national championship, but this week’s game at Southern California (USC) should test Stanford’s resolve. The probation-ridden Trojans are in the unusual spoiler role and would like to put a blemish on this Andrew Luck team.

Is Kansas State for real? We will find out this week when the undefeated Wildcats host Oklahoma. It’s a bad time to play the Sooners after Texas Tech upset Oklahoma last Saturday. If the Sooners still want to cling to small hopes of a national championship, they cannot lose any more games.

Undefeated Oklahoma State hopes to continue its push for a national championship when the Cowboys host Baylor. The Bears can score points but probably cannot stop the Cowboy offense. This game could end up 73-55.

Has Michigan State come down from its miracle win over Wisconsin? The Spartans travel to Nebraska tomorrow and it should be a tight one. Both are one-loss teams but the Spartans are undefeated in Big Ten Conference play.

Wisconsin hopes to avoid another loss this week. The Badgers travel to Ohio State Saturday. The road was a pitfall in East Lansing last Saturday, but one-loss Wisconsin needs to rebound if it wants to compete for a conference championship game.

What games are you watching this weekend? What team do you think should be on upset alert?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Basic Journalism Practice

We learned yesterday West Virginia joining the Big 12 conference is a possibility not a reality.

Okay, I learned my lesson…maybe. Yesterday, I remembered what I heard in journalism school a long time ago. You need to report the facts. But ladies and gentlemen in this Internet age that is difficult. Everybody uses the term “source” on the Internet, but few actually know who the source is. News is like the microwave oven: we cannot wait. This is no time to use the slow cooker.

Well, that attitude definitely got in the way with the West Virginia story. It turned out there was no story. Can anyone say “Egg on the face” including mine?

Apparently, people outside the Big 12 and West Virginia cried foul. Louisville may be competing with the Mountaineers for the Big 12 spot. But who really knows?

Two things I do know. The Big 12 is one very strange acting conference and secondly, I need to get the facts straight before my fingers attack the keyboard.

Oh one last thing: stay tuned for more from the Big 12 soap opera.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hello West Virginia

Apparently, West Virginia is taking the advice to “Go West young man” literally. The Mountaineers are posed to accept an offer from the Big 12 Conference.

The Big 12 continues to receive some good news after the conference almost landed in the garbage dump. TCU and West Virginia ACTUALLY want to be in the league.

But the Big 12 will no longer be a regional conference. For my foreign readers, West Virginia is on the East Coast many, many and many miles away from the other Big 12 members. The Big 12 has forever been a Midwest and Texas-based conference. But as they say, “Times are changing.”

The Mountaineers will bring competitiveness to its new league. They provide nationally ranked teams in football and men’s basketball. The football coach and men’s basketball coach both have spent time in the conference.

So I would say the Big 12 is fortunate to have West Virginia join the group.

The frequent flyer miles will jump up now, but the conference better not complain. It’s a whole lot better offering the welcome mat then getting the parting gifts package ready.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What is it with the Big 12 Conference?

Only in the Big 12 Conference do you have teams wanting to leave and then delay the process. Other conferences have teams actually leave in a relatively short time and life goes on. But then there is the Big 12.

The process drags on and on. First it was Texas A&M and now it’s Missouri’s turn. What are the Tigers thinking anyway?

They had the perfect opportunity yesterday at a Big 12 Conference meeting. All Missouri had to say is “Fellas we are leaving the conference. Thanks for your time.” But no, Missouri remained silent. It even voted on a potential Big 12 TV network. Wow.

Missouri claims there is a lengthy process to leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers say they want to be deliberate. Go ahead boys, step out on the water and make your move. The Big 12 knows you want a divorce. So go sign the papers.

Someone should write a book or teach a class on conference realignment. They have a perfect example on what not to do. It’s called the Big 12 Conference.

Monday, October 24, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals' John Jay is Former Miami Star

Last week, I was already to blog on John Jay and Ryan Braun playing on the same college baseball team at the University of Miami. Then my computer became very sick. It spent time in the computer hospital and I didn’t get it back until late Friday.

So needless-to-say, I am playing catch-up including my blogs.

Because I follow the Cardinals closely, I knew Jay was a Miami alum. I didn’t know Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers’ star, played there too and at the same time as Jay.

College baseball continues to supply players to the big leagues. Miami is one of the better college programs in the country.

Jay has had an interesting year with St. Louis. He began as the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder, but when they traded Coby Rasmus near deadline, Jay became the starting centerfielder. He played a solid defensive game and hit in the .290 range.

Jay continues to play solid defense in the postseason. His hitting in the World Series has been a struggle. He is barely battling .100 and generally fails to make solid contact.

The Cardinals need Jay to breakout of his slump in this series. He is one of the table setters and he enables the run producer’s better opportunities when on base. Let’s hope he warms up. He has the talent; he just needs to deliver it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Iowa State Cyclones Hit the Skids

The Iowa State football team has played only six games this season, but the contrast is frightening.

Iowa State surprisingly won its first three games despite committing numerous turnovers. Northern Iowa, Iowa and UCONN couldn’t take full advantage of the errors.

The Cyclones have continued the mistakes against Texas, Baylor and Missouri and the final result has not been pretty. Iowa State has suffered three blowout losses.

So the Cyclones are at 3-3. Sadly, they should be favored in only one remaining game. Kansas comes to Ames on Nov. 5 but other than that, the schedule looks bleak. Even more so, if Iowa State keeps turning the ball over, the scores could remain real ugly.

Playing giveaway and playing the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, does not bode well for the Cyclones.

Coach Paul Rhoads has fashioned an upset the last two seasons: Nebraska in 2009 and Texas in 2010, so the magic is still possible. But as the coaches say, Iowa State will need to play a near perfect football game for that to happen. Perfection has definitely been a foreign word to this team so far this season.

Iowa State needs to reverse the negative trend quickly or this season will become disaster just as quickly.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Watching College Football

Another full list of college football today (Saturday). I read that there are still 13 unbeaten teams heading into today’s action. This might take time to slice that number.

Don’t know why, but I think the TV games are a little weak for Oct. 15. I plan on looking in on Baylor-Texas A&M. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is one of the most exciting players in the game this season. He is electric.

I am also planning to watch a little Oklahoma State-Texas action. Not too many people outside of the Texas family would mind if the Longhorns receive a major whipping.

Iowa-Northwestern also holds some interest. The Wildcats have been a major pain in Iowa’s side in recent years. It seems Iowa loses its focus when its plays Northwestern. Focus shouldn’t be a problem this season because the Hawkeyes badly need a victory.

I don’t understand ABC’s fascination with Ohio State this year. The Buckeyes aren’t that good. Maybe Ohio State is the football counterpart of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Maybe ABC is really airing the game because of ranked Illinois.

Enjoy the games whatever ones you watch.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trying to Teach My Mother

I was thinking about my mother this morning. She died in 2007 and lived a full life. She wanted to know what was going on with current events and she wasn’t afraid to tackle new things.

One thing she wanted to learn was football. The woman enjoyed college basketball and following teams like Iowa State and Iowa, but when it came to the game of football, she didn’t have a clue.

On several occasions, I tried to patiently teach her football. Football is an extremely complicated game. It’s challenging to understand blocking schemes and offensive and defensive play-calling. But even the simpler football aspects can create difficulty.

I think she finally understood the scoring system: six points for a touch down and three for a field goal etc. But the aspect she could never master is the down-and-distance factor. You get four downs to make 10 yards which is really basic. Except for football games are not played in tiny, little neat packages. You have penalties, you have loss of yardage and even loss of down. That creates all kinds of problems for the down-and-distance factor. And as I discovered, this problem can greatly hinder the explanation process.

I think my mother finally made peace about not understanding football. I made peace with it too as I quit trying to explain the game.

But as I think about it, learning football is a whole lot like cooking. Whether its football or cooking, the down-and-distance could come back to bite you. And if I had to follow one of my mom’s recipes and make some food, I shudder to think how the food would turn out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are You Ready for College Basketball?

Ready or not, the college basketball season is upon us. Teams are conducting media days this week and then on Friday practice official begins. Many schools take advantage of the first day of practice and hold Midnight Madness events.

I have always considered basketball a cold weather sport. I still don’t understand how people in places like California, Texas or Florida can truly watch basketball while they decide what color shorts and tee-shirts to wear to the arena. We folks here in the Midwest usually wear a heavy winter coat and look forward to escaping into the warm basketball cave.

But it might even take us Midwesterners a while to get into the basketball spirit this season. At least here in Iowa, the fall weather has been wonderful.

I have read a little on the upcoming season but not much. Here in Iowa, I think people will be watching Iowa State closely. Coach Fred Hoiberg had a bunch of quality transfers sit out last season and it will be interesting to see how they perform in actual competition. Royce White, the Minnesota transfer, is the head of that class. With some good breaks, the Cyclones could become the best team in Iowa this year.

Northern Iowa, or UNI as it is called here, should be competitive again. The Panthers have been the best Division I team in the state for the past few years.

Iowa should be improved under second-year coach Fran McCaffery. The Hawks have some experience and talent returning from a team that didn’t even post a .500 record last season.

What college team are you following this season?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Wouldn't the Missouri Tigers Leave?

The Missouri Tigers are the No. 1 soap opera college team in America these days. Please, let me explain.

Missouri has wandering eyes as it ponders what to do with its athletic future. These wandering eyes began last year when the Tigers really wanted an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference. An invitation that obviously never developed.

So after that snub, the Tigers appeared content to remain in the Big 12. Their president was even trying to hold the leaky-boat league together.

But then developed rumors Missouri had new eyes for the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Well, the Tiger’s President resigned from his Big 12 leadership role and the Missouri curators gave him permission to seek conference membership somewhere else.

Now, apparently Missouri is weighing whether its wants to remain in the Big 12 or jump to the SEC. The SEC hasn’t publicly said it will offer Missouri a spot in its conference, but many believe it will eventually come.

My question is why is it taking Missouri so long to determine its fate? Is there more interest from the Missouri side rather than the SEC side? Does the SEC want to invite someone other than Missouri? Could Missouri end up without a conference if the SEC thing doesn’t come through?

Missouri’s wandering eyes does not bode well for the marriage of the Tigers and the Big 12. It doesn’t appear that Missouri wants the Big 12 Conference and is only waiting for someone else to take them.

Missouri hopes it isn’t a lengthy wait.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wrong About Penn State and Iowa

It was pretty ugly in Happy Valley Saturday. I mean, who tuned in to watch a 13-3 ballgame? I certainly wasn’t predicting a low score game if you recall my Friday blog.

But the game was frankly boring. Both teams combined for three field goals and one touchdown. Penn State had a total of two field goals to Iowa’s one for a 6-3 halftime lead. The Lions tallied the lone touchdown in the second half.

This was Big Ten Conference football from many years ago. Bo and Woody would have probably enjoyed it. The spread offense has actually appeared in the conference but not on this day. Oh for those 34-27 games.

But I’m sure Joe Paterno didn’t complain. He was 1-8 against Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz before Saturday’s game. At JoePa’s age, a win is a win.

What happened to Iowa’s offense? The Hawkeyes had been scoring plenty of points. But their Saturday performance was dismal.

Penn State is probably not as bad as I thought. Iowa’s young team definitely took a couple steps backward.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz Mastery Over Penn State's Joe Paterno

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz is a Pennsylvania nature. You think the guy wants to win a little more when he faces Penn State and Joe Paterno? Ferentz will never come out and say that publicly, but I bet Ferentz has a little extra fire against Paterno.

One thing we know for sure is Ferentz has had JoePa’s number in the series. Iowa is 8-1 against Penn State. The two battle again in Happy Valley Saturday on ABC.

Although Iowa has dominated the results in the games, Iowa-Penn State is usually an entertaining affair. Both coaches are generally old school and favor strong defense and vanilla offense. However, Iowa is featuring some contemporary offense lately and running the no-hurdle. Penn State’s wrinkle this season is a two quarterback system in Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden.

This game should be a close one with a good number of points put up on the scoreboard. I assure you it won’t finish like the game a few years back when the Hawkeyes beat the Lions 6-4.

I imagine JoePa would enjoy silencing the critics about his record against Iowa. He wants to show the Pennsylvania guy that winning football doesn’t almost always happen on the Iowa sideline.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

TCU Horned Frogs Receive Offer

Apparently, the Big 12 Conference welcome mat has been extended to TCU.

The Forth Worth, Texas school is meeting today (Thursday) to consider an opportunity to join the league. If the Horned Frogs accept, they will leave the Big East Conference without ever playing a game in it. Earlier, TCU decided to leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East.

Well, the Big 12 would welcome the Horned Frogs with open arms, what about the commitment they made to the Big East? TCU is trying to mold young men and women, but what type of message would its actions send? Aren’t the Horned Frogs telling their students and everyone else that it is okay to break contacts at a moments notice even though the marriage hasn’t even started?

Welcome to the present landscape of college athletics. Commitments are loose and based upon what’s good for a particular school.

TCU’s move would make sense geographically and also financially, but what about its word to the Big East?

Meanwhile, the Big 12 is still waiting to hear Missouri’s status. Do the Tigers really have any offer from the SEC or is it wishful thinking?

Things are never simple in the Big 12 whether it’s TCU, Missouri or Texas.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Trouble With the Ohio State Buckeyes

Shame, shame on Ohio State. When will this mess ever end?

The NCAA suspended three Buckeye football players this week for accepting payments regarding summer work. It seems the players received more money than the actual amount of hours worked. Hmm. I bet it wasn’t $2 or $3 dollars more either.

I have lost track of the number of football players at Ohio State with off the field issues. Could the water boy or the cheerleaders be next?

What is Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith doing in all this besides carefully crafting media spin? And where is Ohio State President Gordon Gee? His silence is deafening. And how about the NCAA? It suspends the players for one whole game (this week against Nebraska). Big deal.

Both Ohio State and the NCAA have work to do in cleaning up this football nightmare. It’s gone too long and too far.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Missouri Tigers Make Noise Off the Field

Missouri represents the Big 12 Conference well with their athletic endeavors. The Tigers have also been competitive in the two major sports: football and men’s basketball.

But today (Tuesday) we might learn if Missouri will indeed take their sports and moved to the Southeast Conference. A meeting is taking place to possibly grant Missouri permission to go to the SEC.

While I don’t admit to know all the nuts-and-bolts of that decision, I do know losing Missouri to the SEC would be a blow to the Big 12. The Tigers have been a long-time member of a group of schools in the middle section of the country. They have been rivals with Kansas forever.

I wonder if Missouri is seeking the SEC or is the SEC seeking Missouri. Have the Tigers reached their limit with the instability of the Big 12 Conference? Are they tired of Texas’ muscle? Do they worry about the future of the Big 12?

Yes, the SEC might offer Missouri more security on the short term. But will its athletic teams become sucked up in the process. Can the Tigers compete in football? Can they become an elite program in basketball?

Missouri knows the athletic landscape in the Big 12. There is risk-and-reward in moving to the SEC. The Tiger need to determine whether there is more risk or more reward.

It’s an interesting dilemma.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Texas Longhorns Provide Whipping

Iowa State was hoping for big things Saturday night. The big boys (Texas) were coming to town with the game on national television. Iowa State could make a statement and show the nation it belonged.

It all looked good on paper, but unfortunately for Iowa State the Cyclones had to play the game. And once the Cyclones teed it up against the Longhorns, it wasn’t pretty.

Iowa State turned the football over frequently and made costly penalties. When you play a ranked team like Texas that is a deadly combination.

The Longhorns accepted the gifts and simply punished the Cyclones 37-14.

Sure, Texas came into the contest with plenty of motivation after an Iowa State upset win in Texas last season. But in the end, the Longhorns didn’t need that motivation. It was that lopsided.

Iowa State (3-1) needs to go back to the basics. The Cyclones must take care of the ball and cleanup stupid penalties.

If they don’t, it could become ugly again this week in Waco, Texas. Iowa State will oppose an angry Baylor team. The Bears suffered their first defeat at Kansas State last week, 36-35, in an upset.