Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee Proves What Is Wrong with College Football

Ohio State University’s president, E. Gordon Gee, recently made comments about how Boise State and TCU don’t deserve the opportunity to play for a national championship because they don’t play as tough of a schedule week in and week out as Ohio State does.

I forgot that Ohio State is playing top ten caliber teams every week in the Big Ten. How did that ever slip past me? Oh wait that’s because it simply isn’t true. There are some strong teams in the conference to be sure, but this isn’t like the Big East’s basketball program where there are usually about eight teams ranked in the top 25 at any given moment. That’s a conference schedule that’s truly a gauntlet.

Based on his logic, a team from the Big East football conference deserves a chance before Boise State or TCU. Yes the same BCS qualifying conference that doesn’t have a team with more than seven wins at the moment.

The top teams from the traditionally strong conferences won’t schedule Boise State. TCU may be on the verge of joining the Big East, but given how “strong” that conference is this year, TCU could win it next year and still hear the arguments of how they don’t play anyone.

Even last year, the BCS committee was unwilling to give Boise State and TCU the chance to prove what they could do against major conference teams. They chose to have the two outsiders play each other instead. Someone tell me how that gave either program the chance to prove how good they are.

Mid major schools have been proving their mettle by winning some big games over the past few years. Utah has defeated Pittsburgh and Alabama in BCS bowls within the past few years. Boise State defeated Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. When given the chance to prove it, they’ve stepped up.

How many times has Ohio State gone to major bowl games, including national championship games, and lost? Maybe they were just tired from “running the gauntlet” week in and week out. I forgot how challenging it was to play teams like Ohio, Marshall, and Eastern Michigan.

Gee went on to say that the traditional bowl system is better for the game than the BCS. He claimed that by having a true playoff system, the game would move closer to the point of professionalism. That’s got to be the lamest excuse against a playoff I’ve ever heard.

I have a newsflash for you Mr. Gee; college football would be a lot more exciting if they actually came up with a legitimate way to give the top teams a chance to prove their worth on the field.

How amazing would it be if the big conferences accepted the challenge of these schools instead of making excuses for why they aren’t worthy?

How about a trendsetter emerges to propose a true playoff system and give a chance to those teams that earn it on the field?

Put your money where your mouth is Mr. Gee and tell your athletic director that you want him to schedule a series with Boise State. I mean if your team is so much better, why not take the chance to put the Broncos in their place.

I guess you’re just afraid that your “battle-tested” team will be too tired from running the “gauntlet” of the Big Ten.

I still hold out hope that college football will eventually do what’s right and adopt a playoff system.

Until that happens, all we’re left with is a bunch of blowhard university presidents who freely admit they don’t know the “X’s and O’s” of football. Maybe next time you shouldn’t comment on something you don’t understand Mr. Gee.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pittsburgh Steelers Overcome Zebras To Beat Raiders: Week 11 Grades

Flag Day usually falls on June 14th, but we witnessed a late celebration of the holiday by Tony Corrente and his officiating crew today at Heinz Field.

You would think as a Steeler fan I'd be thrilled as could be after a 35-3 shellacking of the Oakland Raiders.  Obviously there's a lot of positives to discuss after a completely dominating performance of the overhyped, overrated Oakland Raiders.

But no, I'm still seething hours after the win because of the ridiculous officiating. 

Personal foul on Ryan Clark for a shoulder hit.  Personal foul on James Harrison for a perfectly legal takedown.  Plenty of major plays by the Steeler offense negated by holding. 

The Steelers were flagged for a franchise record 163 yards, including six personal foul penalties. 

Congratulations Roger Goodell, you're now punishing legal physical play as well.  I'll be anxious to see how the league handles Richard Seymour after he punched Ben Roethlisberger in the face well over five seconds after the play was over.

Onto the grades.

Quarterback: A+

Big Ben threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns.  More importantly, no turnovers from the signal caller.  He also added a rushing score which I factored into the running game score.  No complaints from me on this one.  Good job Ben!

Running Backs: B-

Rashard Mendenhall finished with only 59 yards, but added a tough physical touchdown which really set the tone.  Roethlisberger had three huge runs for 55 yards.  Isaac Redman came in for some garbage time running and added 27 yards.  As a whole, the Steelers ran for 162 yards.   A fairly solid overall effort, even if the featured back didn't put up eye popping yardage totals.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A

Roethlisberger really spread the ball around to all of his receivers today, and they really delivered.

Mike Wallace continued his huge 2010 capmaign, adding three catches for 116 yards and a score.  Pittsburgh went with more youth at the position for this game, activating both of their rookies, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.  Sanders had a big touchdown grab, and has really shown flashes of brilliance so far this season.  Both of the rookies have been dynamic on punt and kickoff returns.

Offensive Line: B-

The O-line improved leaps and bounds over last week's debacle, limiting the Raiders to only two sacks.  There were some holds called which negated big plays on offense, but given how Tony Corrente and his zebra crew were calling the game, I'm not going to fault the line for that.  Roethlisberger had plenty of time to make goodc decisions today so I'll give them a solid grade.

Defensive Front Seven: A

Darren McFadden came into the game leading the NFL with 108 yards per game.  He was completely shut down by the Steelers defense, managing a meager 14 yards on the day.  Amazing what happens when you don't get to play an AFC West softie.  

The front seven ended up with five of the team's six sacks, an interception by James Harrison and three forced fumbles.

One word sums it up.  Domination.

Secondary: A

One week after getting scorched by the New England Patriots, the secondary really stepped up and prevented the Raiders from making anything happen.  They ended up with two interceptions, plus a negated pick six by Ike Taylor due to a B.S. personal foul call.  Even in the later parts of the game when everyone knew the Raiders had to pass, the Raiders were unable to move the ball.

Job well done today secondary!

Special Teams: A-

Shaun Suisham was perfect on his field goal attempts, mainly because he didn't have to attempt one.  I'm not going to complain about that.  Dan Sepulveda landed four of his seven punts inside the 20 yard line.  Antonio Brown was very dynamic on his punt returns, hopefully proving that Antwaan Randle-El is no longer needed to fair catch the ball back there.   
I will ding Suisham a bit because most of his kickoffs were being fielded at the ten yard line, however the coverage teams were very good at snuffing out returns by the Raiders.

Coaching: A

Bruce Arians may have called his best game of the season, though let's please temper the enthusiasm and realize this was against an overmatched Raider squad.  The defense was simply amazing.  This is how they looked in the first four games of the season. 

Referees:  F

Dear Tony Corrente, please learn the rules and teach your crew how to properly call an NFL game.   I know, you probably got a memo from Roger Goodell telling you to target James Harrison and the rest of the Steelers for daring to play physical football, and kudos to you for following through on it.  The only problem is you didn't even bother trying to hide this fact. 

This was the most lopsided, blatantly miscalled game I've seen in a long time.  Even Dan Fouts was calling you out on it. 

In the words of the 64,000+ fans at Heinz Field.  "Refs you suck"

Monday, November 15, 2010

No Longer Elite: Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 10 Grades

How painful was that to watch as a Steeler fan.  All the hallmarks of "Steeler Football" were sorely lacking in this one.  Inability to establish a consistent running game, our Steeler D lit up for 39 points and unbelievably they didn't give up more.  New England had their way with the Steelers.  For this being such a key primetime matchup between two AFC heavyweights, the Steelers may have proven tonight they belong back in the middleweight division.

Here's how I viewed the unit performances.

Quarterback: B

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 387 yards, three touchdowns, and a costly pick-six.  If only the defense had made some plays, maybe this could have been a big Steeler victory.

Running Back: C

Despite the lack of an offensive line tonight, the running game made some plays.  Unfortunately the Steelers fell behind and had to abandon the running game.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C

Once Hines Ward left the game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit (which was not flagged by the way), the wide receivers seemed to forget how to catch passes or run routes until the game was out of reach.  Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders started making some big catches late in this game.  If only they had helped convert some of those red zone opportunities early, this game could have turned out differently.

Offensive Line: D

Unable to clear running lanes, unable to provide passing protection for Ben Roethlisberger, this line clearly misses Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu and Willie Colon. The line was pathetic tonight. Trai Essex needs to be flipping burgers somewhere.   Only reason they didn't get an F is because somehow, someway, Roethlisberger managed to throw for almost 400 yards.

Defensive Front Seven: F
Failed to generate pressure on Tom Brady.  If you can't do that, then what happened to the secondary is what occurs.  ZERO sacks, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 87 yards and could have had more if the Patriots actually tried to run the clock out.

Secondary: F

Do I really need to explain this one?  William Gay was played like a harp all night long.  Absolutely horrible display by this unit.  A rookie tight end had three touchdowns against Gay.  If I could give them more than a fail, I would.  At this point, surely some of the backups can play better than William Gay.
Special Teams: F

If you can't even make a 26 yard field goal, you deserve a failing grade.  Granted Emmanuel Sanders had some decent returns and Sepulveda was alright but Jeff Reed has possibly worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh.  Short kickoffs and missed field goals aren't going to do anything to boost your job security.  Several opportunities to try and recover an onside kick, but they could not do it.

Coaching:  F

No defensive adjustments to the Patriots' line of attack.  39 points given up by the best scoring defense in the league.  New England gave the rest of the league a big blueprint on how to defeat Pittsburgh.  This was the same Patriots' team that got crushed last week by Cleveland.  Twice this season the Steelers have lost to teams that got spanked by Cleveland.  That's clearly a coaching fail.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Steelers Make Just Enough Plays To Win: Week 9 Grades

This one almost turned into one of the most disappointing losses in Pittsburgh Steeler's Franchise history.  Cincinatti was within about 13 yards from handing the Steelers their worst blown lead in the franchise's history.  Luckily the Steelers found enough grit and resolve to hold them out of the end zone and earn a hard fought "W" on the road.

Let's see how the team did.

Quarterback: C-

Ben Roethlisberger was making plays down the field under pressure most of the day, and his receivers were dropping more than their fair share of passes all day long.  He gets a lower grade though because of the stupid interception he threw which gave Cincinatti new life while down by 13 points.  It almost came back to bite the Steelers tonight.

Running Back: A

Rashard Mendenhall helped burn the clock with 7 rushes for 43 yards midway through the 4th quarter and pushed his rushing total to 99 yards on the day.  Given that he had to earn most of the yards on his own, this was a great day for the Steeler's starting running back.  He also added 31 yards on 3 catches.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C-

Mike Wallace had 5 catches for 110 yards, once again showing his big play ability, but the receivers as a whole were dropping a lot of passes tonight .  Hines Ward fumbled and lost the ball in the 2nd quarter.  Ward then got credit for a touchdown later in the 2nd quarter that was not a touchdown.  Luckily Cincinatti chose not to review the call which likely ended up being the difference in the game.  Not a banner day overall for this group.

Offensive Line: B-

Given the fact Chris Kemoeatu and Maurkice Pouncey were injured for good portions of this game, I think the Steelers did a fairly decent job in their pass blocking, and on some of their running plays as well.  There were some mistakes to be sure, but overall the unit got the job done today.
Defensive Front Seven: A

These guys were all over the Bengals and Carson Palmer the entire game.  Four sacks, and they held Cedric Benson to 54 yards rushing.  James Harrison was also involved in the key final defensive play to finally seal the game. 

Secondary: C-

This grade would have been a lot worse if the Bengals had managed to score the go ahead touchdown on that final drive.   Ike Taylor only allowed one catch to Chad Ochocinco on the day, so he definitely did his job effectively.  The problem was William Gay and Bryant McFadden and whoever else was called upon to cover Terrell Owens.  Owens came up big for the Bengals with 10 catches for 141 yards and 2 TD's.  His leadership on the field trying to rally the troops was quite evident, as opposed to Ochocinco who seemed to want to cry and pout all night long because he wasn't getting his way.

Special Teams: B+

Jeff Reed nailed a huge 53 yard field goal, but also missed a kick that would have effectively iced the game.  A few of his kickoffs were shot and allowed some decent returns for the Bengals. 

Emmanuel Sanders continues to show great special teams presence both as a returner, but also as a tackler.  He caused the fumble on the opening kickoff which set the tone early for this match.  He deserves some recognition early on this year for all he is doing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joe Paterno's 400th Win: Like Watching Your Grandpa Achieve His Lifelong Dream

Due to parental responsibilities, I got a late start watching the football game between Northwestern and Penn State this weekend. By the time I turned on the game, it was already 21-0 in favor of the visiting Wildcats.

It turned out I was just in time to watch a truly great comeback by my beloved Nittany Lions.

I'm not sure why I felt calm and so sure of the comeback, but it may have been my grandfather's spirit telling me to enjoy what was about to happen. My grandfather Edward was one of the first people who made me a lifelong Penn State fan. He also was about three months apart in age from Joe Paterno.

Maybe that's why watching Penn State football always makes me feel like I am watching my own grandfather out there coaching up the troops. My "Pap" always liked JoePa because of what he stood for on and off the field. He always commented on how Paterno would never rub victory in the face of his opponent by running up the score intentionally.

He always mentioned how Paterno would show nothing but respect for the opponent he was facing, even if it was a game PSU was 99 percent sure to win.

Think about it, have you ever heard Paterno disrespect an opponent before in your life?

I didn't think so.

In today's world of sports, success is fleeting, and it seems like head coaches are always being fired for having a bad season. I've been pretty fortunate to root for two teams that believe in stability at the head coaching position, the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and, of course, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

As the final moments unwound on victory number 400, I found myself watching in amazement that an 83-year-old man who is constantly being told that the game has passed him by continues to fly in the face of logic and win games for Penn State.

After the final gun sounded, Paterno was greeted by two of his offensive linemen, who picked the old coach up (very carefully, of course) on their shoulders and began to carry him reluctantly for just a little bit. Paterno deserved this moment. He always tries to deflect the spotlight away from himself and his players and onto the next opponent, but this moment deserved to be his and his alone.

It was nice to see him smile and enjoy it.

I was especially touched when Joe's wife Sue found her way to him and the two enjoyed a moment together. It was like seeing your own grandparents unafraid to share their love for each other even after so many years of marriage.

I think that's why this day and this moment were so uplifting to me. It was almost like seeing my own grandfather achieve his dreams.

That's why I know I'm in no hurry to see Joe Paterno retire from coaching. He's like a grandfather to me, and God knows we should treasure every moment with our grandparents before they are gone forever.

Joe Paterno is the embodiment of everything our parents taught us growing up. Be respectful, teach them the right way, not the wrong way. Above all else, with 400 collegiate victories, I think he’s proved that he knew what he was talking about all along.

Hats off to you, Joe.

Think you have another 100 in you?