Oklahoma passes Texas in BCS rankings as computers continue global conquest

Personally, I'm counting down the days until President-Elect Barack Obama puts together a committee to figure out how he will use his executive power to force a playoff system on the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Until then, we're stuck with computers making mistakes that even the smartest of the computer breeds couldn't fix.

Speaking of executive power, you think lame-duck Dubya is pissed that his boys got bumped from a potential title game appearance by advanced technology.

Don't get me wrong, I love computers. They help me put forth this blog on a daily basis. They keep the newspaper industry afloat. They calculate baseball statistics that really matter like OPS and VORP. And they provide those who sulk in their parents' basements something to look at once they go to bed.

But there are two things computers shouldn't be allowed to do: choose who plays in college football's championship game and choose a potential dating partner.

(Ed. Note: Yeah, Internet dating is overrated. Just like Big 10 football. Ha!)

Plaxico Burress, Cheddar Bob and other NFL thoughts

Sometimes I wonder why the NFL's best headlines come off the field.

Rookie quarterbacks have taken the league by storm in Atlanta and Baltimore. The Hoodie has turned another after-thought quarterback into a gunslinger who will be handsomely paid for his efforts this season. And there's always a storyline with the New York Brett's and football's A-Rod (Aaron Rodgers).

Yet, once again, off-the-field news takes center stage in the world of pigskin.

Plaxico Burress, NY Giants wide receiver and troubled child, reportedly "Cheddar Bob'd" himself at a New York nightclub. Ouch. No truth to the rumor that the situation looked like this (video below). It's another distraction for the defending World Champs who sit atop of the NFC with the conference's only one-loss record.

Fortunately for the G-Men, starting running back Brandon Jacobs returns against the Washington Redskins. Last time we saw him against the 'Skins, he was running around, past and through the defense.

Looking for an added measure of motivation? SIU lost last night, so maybe he'll take out his frustrations on a heated rival.

Pigskin Primer:
  • The Chicago Bears are in prime time tonight against the Minnesota Vikings in a game that could very well decide the NFC North title. Which Bears team will show up? The one that got slaughtered by the Green Bay Packers or the one that returned the favor against the St. Louis Rams? I can already tell you which Adrian Peterson is going to show: the one that has rushed for 423 yards and 7 touchdowns in 3 games against Chicago.
  • While most football fans (and gamblers) weren't happy to see the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks play on Thanksgiving Day, my fantasy teams were. Tennessee Titans running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White each ran for at least 100 yards and scored two touchdowns, respectively. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo through for 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and tight end Jason Witten, who racked up 115 yards and 1 touchdown catch. While most people's fantasies involve things that don't involve pigskins or guys named Chris, Tony or Jason scoring. Mine do, at times.
  • And even though my fantasy teams benefitted from the turkey-like performances of the Seahawks and Lions, I'd like to see some more entertaining football on my favorite holiday. I have an idea to do so, but you'll have to read tomorrow to see my plan.
That's all for now, folks. Enjoy your football on Sunday!

No more Nathan: Bears CB placed on IR

Yes, it was expected. Still, losing cornerback Nathan Vasher is just going to make the Chicago Bears' goal of winning the NFC North a little bit tougher.

Vasher has had his difficulties this year, but so has the defense as a whole. It's never easy to lose a starter, let alone one in charge of shutting down one of the opponents top receiving threats. Thankfully for the Bears, they're playing the Vikings, which means their best threat is Bernard Berrian. If Charles "Peanut" Tillman can handle that, then Corey Graham (who gets the start for the injured Vasher), will do just fine.

As a Bears fan, I'd be more concerned if Chicago placed a linebacker or d-lineman on IR, seeing that "The Real" Adrian Peterson lurks in the Minnesota backfield.

Bears put Nathan Vasher on IR [Yahoo! Sports]

Kevin (Towers) gets kinky as pursuit of Peavy heats up

Here are a pair of mini-stories in the non-story that 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy is still a member of the San Diego Padres.

According to Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Tim Brown, Padres GM Kevin Towers might have done something that usually takes a few drinks and whispers of sweet nothings: found a third member to fulfill his dreams.

And "intending to speak" to Jim Hendry after the Thanksgiving holiday is begging for a reference in which Towers will be willing to talk to Hendry as soon as he steps away from the dinner table. I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not Hendry has indeed been able to step away from a plate of deep fried turkey, mashed potatos and gravy.

As for the third team that will help "facillitate" the trade. Could it be the Baltimore Orioles? Well, maybe.

I'm back in Carbondale, but I can only imaging Chicago sports talk radio lighting up with the idea that the Cubs could somehow land Peavy and O's second sacker Brian Roberts while somehow being able to trade whipping boys Jason Marquis and Kosuke Fukudome.

Could the man who helped hold the Cubs back for the better part of a decade (Andrew B. MacFailure) help the Cubs more as the head of another franchise. That sounds about right.

More news (hopefully) when news actually happens.

A bitter pill to swallow for Salukis

It's not how I envisioned this season would finish. It's not how anyone envisioned the season to finish.

Unfortunately for the SIU football team, its 29-20 loss to the University of New Hampshire in the first round of the FCS Playoffs was a bitter pill to swallow, indeed.

It's not as if the Salukis were short of prime opportunities. They forced four turnovers including three interceptions of Wildcat quarterback R.J. Toman. However, SIU was only able to turn one of those turnovers into a touchdown. You could almost see it coming: the failure to make points out of turnovers was going to bite the Dawgs in the behind.

It did.

So did other missed opportunities, including two missed field goals by sophomore kicker Kyle Dougherty, who hit a career-long 52 yarder last week against Illinois State. Even though they weren't chip-shot kicks (both attempts were beyond 40 yards) it was a surprise to see the sure-footed Saluki kicker misfire twice in a row.

Dougherty's third quarter troubles weren't the only special teams let downs for SIU. The team allowed 199 yards in kickoff returns. Again, it came as a surprise to the keen eye of those who followed the team from day one.

Credit New Hampshire for creating lanes for its returners and containing its blocks down the field.

While the Saluki special teams struggled, the Wildcats excelled.

Kicker Tom Bishop banged through all five of his field goal attempts and when John Clements wasn't wrecking havoc and shredding the SIU special teams unit (3 for 143 yards) he picked up a blocked punt and returned it for a 26-yard touchdown.

Again, credit New Hampshire, which played well enough to win, despite only scoring one offensive touchdown.

As for the Salukis, a great run ended tonight at McAndrew Stadium. The season started with enough questions to drive any coach mad.

That's what made this season special. First-year head coach Dale Lennon turned question marks into certanties, making his hiring look like an absolute steal by athletic director Mario Moccia. Lennon took a team that lost a significant portion of its offense, including its quarterback and top tailback, and returned it to its rightful spot at the top of the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings.

While the goal always is to win a national title, it says a lot about Lennon, his staff and his players to win a conference title in the first year after implementing a new set of schemes and losing one of the school's all-time great coaches to it's upstate rival.

The future looks bright for SIU, especially after another offseason under Coach Lennon's tutilage.

But as of press time, it's Nov. 29, 2008. It's a long time 'til Spring Ball starts.

Until then, so long from McAndrew Stadium. It's been a heck of a ride.

Salukis lose 29-20 to New Hampshire [Daily Egyptian]

SIU trails New Hampshire 16-13 at halftime

The SIU football team trails New Hampshire 16-13 at halftime in the opening round of the FCS Playoffs.

The team's traded field goals early and often as Kyle Dougherty and Tom Bishop were true on their kicks through the games first 18 minutes. As the teams battled with the boot, they also battled turnovers.

There were turnovers on four straight possessions, including a never-before-seen interception by defensive lineman Kendrick Young, who caught a deflected pass (off the referee).

That led to the first touchdown of the game, a sneaker by quarterback Chris Dieker gave the Salukis a 13-6 lead with 4:28 remaining in the first half.

The Wildcats inched closer when Bishop banked another field goal to make it 13-9, and then took the lead on a run by quarterback R.J. Toman to give UNH a 16-13 lead that stood 'til halftime.

If SIU can complete another thrilling comeback, they might want to heed the following:
  • Win the turnover battle. SIU has picked two of Toman's passes, but has also been bitten by the turnover bug with two turnovers of its own. If the Salukis can continue to pressure Toman, the team might be able to capitalize on an errant pass.
  • Get Larry Lightning to strike. Warner's been productive on the ground, gaining 62 yards on 11 carries (5.6 yards per carry) but hasn't been able to gain many yards on slow developing plays. Quick hitters have been the Salukis' biggest gaining plays.
  • Somehow get the Shermanator to strike. Senior wideout Damian Sherman has been impressive this afternoon with 3 catches for 46 yards. It's too bad a statsheet couldn't give you a picture of a pair of Sherman's grabs. He's extended his body to extreme lengths to grab a pair of Dieker's high passes. If SIU can get in the end zone, look for a Dieker-to-Sherman connection on a jump ball.
That's it for now from The Mac in Carbondale. Stay tuned to the sidebar Twitter updates throughout the game. And of course, siuDE.com for a post-game wrap up.

Playoff Pigskin Preview Brief: SIU-New Hampshire

Well folks, we're about 20 minutes from beginning the logical way to determine a national champion in football.

That's right a playoff.

No, President-Elect Barack Obama didn't use his executive power to force the greedy FBS school presidents into a playoff. Instead, I'm talking about the FCS a.k.a. Division I-AA a.k.a. The Giant Slayers who start their 16-team playoffs today.

And of course, I'm LIVE! in Carobondale's McAndrew Stadium to cover the tilt between the SIU Salukis and the New Hampshire Wildcats. Both teams have alumni I hold near and dear to my heart. UNH proudly recognizes former Chicago Bears standout return specialist and cornerback Jerry Azumah, who starred as the Wildcats' feature running back.

Speaking of running backs, I'm sure a certain segment of the New York Giants' locker room has an eye on this game as running back Brandon Jacobs is a former Saluki star. And since he's injured, maybe he'll be able to park himself in front of a television (or Saluki All-Access) and check out his alma mater.

As for the game itself, it's a toss-up as both of these teams come highly ranked and winners of their respective conferences. UNH won their division in the Colonial Athletic Conference, while SIU won the inaugural Missouri Valley Football Conference title. It represents the team's first conference title since winning the Gateway in 2005.

The Wildcats possess a strong offensive unit that scored 36 points per game. They will be led by quarterback R.J. Toman who has scored 31 touchdowns (27 passing, 4 rushing). The Salukis' 3-4 defense will face a tough test.

As for SIU's offense, it has scored its fair share of points. The Salukis averaged 37.6 points in their home games.

So is it right to expect a shootout? Of course not. But everytime I call for one, it's a defensive struggle.

Prediction: 24-21 SIU in a nailbiter ... which really shouldn't surprise anyone associated or familiar with Saluki football.

Take care, and enjoy the game.

Google Scouting Presents: University of New Hampshire Football

What is Google Scouting?

A term I just made up.

See, when I found out the SIU football team was hosting the University of New Hampshire in the first round of the FCS Playoffs (a.k.a. The Logical Way To Determine A Champion) the only thing I knew about them is they were the school in which former Chicago Bears cornerback/return specialist Jerry Azumah attended.

Yeah, I knew that off the top of my head. But after that, I knew nothing about the program. So I went to my trusty friend Google.

So for those of you who aren't Bears fans or avid watchers of the Football Championship Subdivision, allow me to fill you in on UNH.

Mascot: Wildcat. Boring. There are a million friggin' Wildcat mascots out there. Way to be original New Hampshire, bravo!

Conference: Colonial Athletic Association. Never heard of them? The CAA is home to schools whose hardwood presence is stronger than it is on the gridiron. Teams include UMass, Villanova, Rhode Island (produced Lamar Odom), George Mason (remember its Final Four run?), Virginia Commonwealth University (a.k.a. Duke slayers).

Record: 9-2 (1st place North Division of CAA)

Who to watch for: Sophomore quarterback R.J. Toman. For the second time in three weeks, SIU will be facing one of the subdivision's best quarterbacks as Toman has thrown 27 TD passes, rushed for 4 more and ranks fourth in FCS passing efficiency.

Eat your heart out, Ryan Berry!

Gimme an 'O': Berry ... er ... Toman is the ignitor of the Wildcat offense (not to be confused with the Wildcat formation) as UNH averages 36 points per game.

Gettin' on the 'D': Apparently, turnovers are key for UNH defense. I love informative headlines, I truly do. Anyway, the Wildcats' defense ranks second in the nation in turnover margin and third in interceptions.

The Verdict: UNH is legit. This is the fifth straight year the program has made the playoffs and they play in a conference that is just as powerful as the MVFC. And of course, they're excited to be there. Saturday's showdown will be just that. It will pit a pair of closely ranked, well coached teams that don't make mistakes while capitalizing on its opponents miscues.

The Salukis have the home-field advantage, which just might be the deciding factor in what will likely be a very competitive game. SIU hasn't lost a home game since ... well ... since losing to Joe Flacco and the University of Delaware in the semifinal of last year's FCS playoff.

Looks like a good script to me. Let's see which team writes the Hollywood ending.

SIU @ WKU: Pregame thoughts

Just because I'm supposed to be on vacation doesn't mean I'm not in the loop on what's going down with the SIU men's basketball team.

And yes, I'm sorry I haven't posted a lot of the stuff from NYC. We've been having some problems with the videos, but they'll hopefully be up by tomorrow night.

But moving on from the debacle that was the final rounds of the 2K Sports Classic, the Salukis take to the road as they will meet the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for their first true road game of the season. Last season, SIU struggled in its road bouts and none of the losses were pretty.

There were nail-biting bitter defeats at Indiana State and Missouri State that came at the buzzer. Then there was the blowout loss at Creighton. Again, not pretty. But this is a new team with new talents and hopefully they've put the past behind them.

Here are a few things I find noteworthy about this game:
  • This will be the first game SIU plays without reserve center Nick Evans, who will be out 4-6 weeks after breaking his wrist in the loss against UCLA. While the freshman wasn't a starter, he was a legit big man who was making the most of his minutes and was one of the team's best assets against Duke and UCLA. That means more minutes for sophomore Carlton Fay, senior Tony Boyle, freshman Anthony Booker and junior Christian Cornelius and maybe...
  • The return of the four guard line-up? I know that Chris Lowery said he doesn't want to use it, I remember a time in which Lowery liked using it and used it to the point in which it was successful in spurts. The Salukis have the personnel to do so with seniors Bryan Mullins and Wesley Clemmons, sophomore Justin Bocot and freshmen Kevin Dillard, Ryan Hare. Expect Hare to get a bump in minutes as he was one of the most impressive players in New York as he took several charges and was aggressive taking the ball hard to the rim. That's the kind of play that will get you an increased roll.
  • I'll be going to keep an eye on freshman guard Torres Roundtree's minutes. Roundtree has been limited to 1+ minute since injuring his knee in the Dawgs' win against UMass. The possibility of Roundtree and Evans being held out of tonight's game is high, but nothing Chris Lowery and his staff can't handle.
  • WKU was a Sweet 16 team last year, but its Cinderella run went almost unnoticed as Stephen Curry and Davidson captivated the minds and minutes of TV time of basketball fans everywhere. However, the Hilltoppers are a totally different squad as it has lost its top scorer (Courtney Lee) to the NBA and head coach (Darrin Horn) to South Carolina. We'll see how leading scorer A.J. Slaughter and first-year head coach Ken McDonald respond.
Saluki Nation, expect a fight tonight as both squads have a lot to prove in this early season out-of-conference matchup. Maybe SIU has more to prove, seeing that it wants to shed last season's road woes and last week's shortcomings. Or the Hilltoppers, who are trying to re-establish themselves as one of the best mid-major team's in the country.

Cubs pull out of Peavy race, continue to make 97-win team worse than it should be

After finishing a 97-win regular season with a winless postseason, it seems as if the Chicago Cubs management is trying exceptionally hard to make the 2009 team worse.

How so?

Well, letting go the longest tenured player, clubhouse leader and closer is a heck of a way to start. Parting ways with Kerry Wood is mistake beyond giving up one of the National League's best closers. By dumping Wood, the Cubs also dump their best clubhouse presence. Derrek Lee is a nice character guy, but he leads by example. Carlos Zambrano is certifiably crazy.

The Cubs could re-sign Wood if he does the rumored unthinkable, declines all multi-year offers and accepts the North Siders' arbitration offer. If not, Chicago's favorite choke-artists could be stuck with Kevin Gregg, whose most memorable moment last season was giving up Daryle Ward's game-winning pinch-hit home run in Miami.

And to think, the Cubs acquired Gregg in exchange for minor-league reliever Jose Ceda, who was deemed untouchable last offseason when they were trying to acquire Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts.

Please make sense of that because I know I can't.

Then there's today's news that the Cubs are pulling out of the Jake Peavy sweepstakes. Again, showing a lack of forward thinking as one of the NL's best pitchers hits the open market without the Cubs making a real solid effort towards picking him up.

Last year, it was Johan Santana who had a pretty damn good year for the mets. This year it will be Peavy and CC Sabathia, who apparently told friends that his preferred destinations are the West Coast or Chicago, according to ESPN Radio's Bruce Levine.

Did I mention that the Cubs are trying to make this year's team worse. How about re-signing one-year wonder Ryan Dempster to a four-year extension, who will likely revert back to being a .500 pitcher at best whose claim to fame is comedy that truly isn't funny. Which I guess you really can't call comedy, huh?

Don't get me wrong, I hope he doesn't fall on his face. I'm just prepared for when he does.

Oh, and have you heard this Mark Teahan for Sean Marshall and/or Mike Fontenot rumored deal. Nothing solves the hole in right field like a career .253 hitter as an outfielder.

The Tampa Bay Rays went from worst to first in 2008. The Cubs, well, it looks like they're trying to go in reverse.

Dear Tiger: TBDS will sponsor you.

I'm sitting at my kitchen counter eating a piece of chocolate cake with a tall frosty glass of milk searching for some valuable news to read. And after I've come across all the Barack Obama picking his economic committee news I can handle, I stumble upon this headline:

General Motors to end Tiger endorsement

Is this really news? I mean, why do I (we) care that one of I'm sure hundreds of Tiger Woods' endorsement deals has fallen through. It's not as if Tiger was dropped against his will — it was mutual. It's not as if Tiger opted out of the deal — it was mutual. There wasn't even a scuffle.

So why do I want to read about this with my piece of chocolate cake and glass of milk. And I've stumbled across the answer.

The world needs its proper amount of Tiger news. Why else would this be in the headlines?

The public wants its fix of Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer to walk the planet. I'm pretty sure if Jesus himself came down from Heaven, Tiger would be giving Jesus tips on his backswing. But I digress.

We just can't get enough of the guy (Tiger not Jesus, although I like hearing about him too.)

We have the NBA going on right now. We have college basketball going on right now. We even have the NHL going on right now. Yet Tiger gets the headline on ESPN.com.

Here's an idea: stick The Big Dead Sidebar's name on your bag. We would gladly take the recognition. And we won't make a big deal out of it when we drop you because we losing pennies.

Knick knack, paddy whack NY cuts some deals

As the saying goes: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

P.S. Sorry Jeff, I've got to take this one since I'm sitting in "The Garden" as I write this.

It's been a busy day for the New York City sports media with all the transactions that have been going down recently. Here's a brief update.
  • Mike Mussina calls it a career. The Moose is no longer loose in the Big Apple, announcing his retirement months after completing his first 20-win season. Mussina is a borderline Hall of Famer with 270 wins and a .638 winning percentage, but is without that elusive World Series ring. I'm on the fence about him being in the Hall until further notice, but for now, he's in the Hall of Very Good.
  • Speaking of the Yanks, Hal Steinbrenner, a.k.a. Mini Boss, has taken full control of the team as George Steinbrenner's era has finally come to an end. I figure if all the owners approve of another Psyco Steinbrenner running up free agent prices, how can they not approve Mark Cuban buying the Cubs?
  • The re-tooling of the Knicks began with the trade of guard Jamal Crawford, who is prominently displayed in several commercials and billboards in and around the Garden, for Golden State forward/center Al Harrington. Harrington will fit well in D'Antoni's Phoenix Gone East offensive fun-and-gun system as he will be paired with Zach Randolph in the front court.
Oh wait...
  • Randolph was traded to the L.A. Clippers today in exchange for guard Cuttino Mobley and forward Tim Thomas. I think it's a move than can help both teams as Baron Davis gets a go-to post player to go along with Chris Kaman and the Knicks get Mobley and Thomas - who will benefit from a high-scoring offensive attack. Thomas excelled under D'Antoni before, so I can see him paying dividents upon arrival.
By the looks of things, the Knickerbockers are eying a potential acquisition of LeBron James in the year 2010 ... coincidentally, the same year in which the Cubs are eying their first World Series title since 1908.

That's it from me as I'll sign off from The Garden. I'm gonna catch the end of the Duke-Michigan game without having to constantly check on my laptop for updates and such.

You guys take care, and I'll see you soon. I'm sure of it.

News, notes, quotes & more

It was a rough night in New York City for the SIU men's basketball team against Duke.

Check that. A rough night would have been an improvement.

It was a tough shooting night not only for the Salukis (20-57 for 35.1%), but also for the Blue Devils (18-42 for 42.9%) and that's mostly because they basically shot lights out in the last 10 minutes of the second half ... and how can you not when you're dunking on everything SIU has to offer.

Duke won the game at the charity stripe by shooting 47 free throws and making 40(!) of them. Yeah, that's 85 percent, so yeah, they made the most of their opportunities, but that's a classic discrepancy that you would only see when Duke plays a "non-power" school.

Sean McGahan breaks it down for the Daily Egyptian as SIU head coach Chris Lowery blamed poor defensive positioning for the fouls.

I blame the zebras for knowing the name on the front of the jerseys worn by the team ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Yeah, I went there. But that's Duke being Duke. If you read my blog from the other day, you wouldn't have been surprised with the Blue Devils making more free throws than Southern attempted.

Now for tidbits from New York City:
  • "That's a very good point." Direct quote from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski after I asked him a question. That's right, Coach K gave me a +1 on a question. He was a lot nicer in the presser than I thought he would be ... granted as a UNC fan I was sure he was the devil. He was joking about Dean Smith and Bobby Knight and even had some cracks about his beat writers. I can't wait to see what he has for me today, maybe he'll give me a thumbs up on my outfit. Or my beard. Who knows when this will end.
  • Speaking of outfits, +2 for C-Lo for repping the maroon shirt and maroon-ish tie last night. Very sharp! I wonder if he went to the Prato store and got suits 2 for $125 ... seriously we saw a store like that around Times Square.
  • Oh yeah, speaking of Time Square ... WOW! It's huge! Everything was turned on! I was seriously in awe of my surroundings. It's so brightly colored, it's ridiculous. That's the only way I can describe it.
  • When Steven, Sean and myself stepped on to Madison Square Garden's property I turned to Sean and asked him "do you smell that?" and I could have been talking about the grilled chicken kabobs we just passed. I wasn't. "It's the smell of the House That Jordan Torched." It was the first of many jabs I took at the Knicks last night.
  • My mother called to see how I was doing in the Big Apple and asked me where I was. "Madison Square Garden, Ma" was what I replied. "No, it's just the Garden" said my mother, a native New Yorker. "No, Ma, it's got a new name ... 'The House That Jordan Torched.'" Mom could only reply with a simple "whatever."
  • My seats in the "press box" were probably the best seats I'll ever have at the Garden. Right behind the basket to the right. I could see everything. Everyone. It felt special, and to be honest, I was tense with nerves for most of the first half.
  • No Brandon Jacobs. No Walt Frazier. Sad face. I wanted to know what Frazier said in his pregame video speech to SIU, but it's a moot point after a 25-point loss.
  • Duke fans are evil people. Evil. And annoying. Mostly annoying. With the loudest guy in the entire arena blasting his mouth off at every turn, he only shut up when someone brought him a beer. You would think that would have made it worse, but it was like giving a baby a bottle. All quiet after that.

SIU-Duke Post Game Minute

Hey guys, look what's back. Your favorite feature: Post game video reports!

Isn't that great? I'm sure it is. You know what wasn't great - SIU losing to Duke. But tomorrow's another day as the Salukis will square off against the UCLA Bruins tomorrow afternoon.

That's right, a game against the nation's No. 4 ranked team less than 24 hours after losing by 25 points to the nation's No. 5 ranked team (Dook!) in the same venue.

Duke crashes Garden party, beats SIU 83-58. [Daily Egyptian]

Maybe we'll get a more descriptive recap tomorrow. Maybe not. Only time will tell.

SIU's got work to do as it trails Duke 29-23 at half

Live from New York, it's halftime at Madison Square Garden as the SIU men's basketball team trails Duke at halftime, 29-23.

Both teams have struggled to shoot from the field, but as usual, the Dukies have been able to connect from the line to the tune of 15-for-19 from the charity stripe. The Salukis have only gone to the line eight times and have only hit four shots.

For SIU to pull off the upset it needs to:
  • Get to the free throw line. 4-of-8 isn't gonna cut it.
  • Hit its open shots. The Salukis have missed more bunnies than Elmer Fudd.
  • Make it rain 3s. The Salukis actually made it rain against UMass. Doing again would be nice.

The people I want to meet in New York City

My final pre-game post for the night focuses on the people I want to see during my stay in New York City.

  1. Alex Hitchens. Apparently, he's good at matchmaking and I could use his advice while in the Big Apple, and beyond.
  2. Ivanka Trump. She's hot!!!!!!!
  3. Wolf Boy. A.K.A. me before shaving.
  4. Agent J. Drives a 1970 Ford P.O.S. that can fly. His partner, Agent K, can be a pain, but that's what partners are about.
  5. Spike Lee. Reggie knows him very well.
  6. I heard a crazy rumor that Dean Smith (the UNC legend) was here tonight. if so, I want to meet him.
  7. Hal Steinbrenner. We'll start the bidding at two years, $16 million and see what happens...you know he's the new boss, right.
  8. Jay-Z. I'll drop a few bars with the best rapper alive before hitting the 40/40 Club.
  9. Derek Jeter. Because his leftovers are all 10s.
  10. Eddy Curry, because he's a fat guy. And everyone loves fat guys.
That's all from here, folks. Keep it real.

More nonsense: Dirty-30 edition

As the second major trade of the offseason occurred last Thursday, I was greeted with the same confusion I was dealing with when it came to analyzing the Matt Holiday trade. The Chicago White Sox shipped mascot/outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher and his swagger to the New York Yankees for a slightly cheaper version of Juan Uribe in Wilson Betemit and a couple of busted "prospects" in pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez.

First off, this trade greatly differs from the Holliday trade in that it's easy to see why one team made the move while it boggles the mind as to why the other team did. New York now has a first baseman for a relatively cheap price without trading away any of its three legit prospects in Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy or Joba Chamberlain.

While, from the outside looking in, Swisher's numbers look terrible, there is plenty of reason to think he'll turn around from his horrific .219 average with the White Sox in 2008. Take for instance, his power stats staying relatively the same as a reason for a comeback to the levels he was at in Oakland. His 2008 numbers compared to 2007 are 24 homers/ 69 RBIs and 22 homers/ 78 RBIs, respectively. The biggest drop off was his average and on-base percentage which declined from .262/.381 in 2007 to .219/.332 in 2008.

For Swisher's young career these numbers were career lows. To be honest, Swisher really only had about two months of good hitting in a White Sox uniform which ironically occured when he was playing first base the majority of the time. In my opinion that was the biggest problem for "Dirty-30". He never had a set position and struggled to find any continuity in what he was doing. One day he was in centerfield, the next day he was at first, the next day he was out of the lineup and so forth.

It's worth noting that Swisher also bounced all over the lineup, subbing in as the leadoff guy early in the season before slipping further and further down the chain. If the Yankees plan to use him as a super-utility player another failure of a season is in store for Swisher as one of his biggest complaints about Chicago, other than regular playing time, was the ferocity of the Chicago media. All I can say is, you ain't see nothing yet Swish.

Perhaps the change of scenary will do him well as his comedy act wore thin when he stopped hitting and the White Sox were in the heat of a pennant race in 2008. But the fact of the matter is that White Sox GM Ken Williams has to be banking on Swisher continuing to regress to his career averages of .244/.354. If that's the case, despite the relative cheapness of Swisher's contract, he could be cutting his losses earlier than most thought was neccessary.

The other reasoning for the trade is that there wasn't a position for him on the team. Really there never was either, but Chicago was desperate to make a move for a "center fielder" despite the fact that Swisher didn't have the range or the arm strength to cover U.S. Cellular Field. After losing out on free agents like Torii Hunter and Kosuke Fukudome, Williams was desperate to make a move and that's why he's likely to be tagged with a loss on this trade because of what he originally gave up to Oakland for Swisher's services. Pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney were among the best trade chips Williams had at the time.

Now, he's essentially cashing those chips in for two pitchers that at a best case scenario, could be cast in the fifth-starter/long reliever role. That's a big loss in my mind but maybe Williams has something bigger in mind. We'll never know, he's vurrrrry mysterious.

Photo Credit: SF Chronicle

Madison Square Garden memories

YouTube presents...

Marv Albert (YES!) presents Mike Jordan dropping a double-nickel on the Knicks.

It's Miller Time...

Previous Coaches vs. Cancer Highlights...

Alright, that's enough from me until further notice.

In a New York (City) State of Mind

Tonight, a nation will have its eyes squarely set on the SIU men's basketball team.

Yeah, Duke's on the other side of the court. Who cares?

The Salukis are in New York City playing at Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1967 and are looking to repeat the feat they accomplished that season, en route to a NIT title.

And that's beat the Blue Devils.

Easier said than done, my friends. Even easier (maybe) if you're playing the Dukies on March Madness '09 and you've got the game skills of a kid who never leaves his basement, not even to feel the loving touch of his girlfriend or a home-cooked meal from Mom.

Speaking of kids who never leave their basements ...

I've made my triumphant return to New York City for the first time since 2003 and it's just like how I remembered it.

Congested with mindless pedestrians roaming the streets and sidewalks aimlessly and drivers who apparently didn't go (or pay attention to) their Driver's Ed instructor. Seriously, traffic sucks and construction doesn't hurt.

But man, I'm hungry. I think it's time for me to get some grub. Or take a nap, seeing that myself and two of my compadres just spent 16-plus hours in a car together.

Yeah, I think I'll knock that nap out first.

Oh yeah, congrats to BFeldt for making his first post. I wonder if I should tell him now about the potential site relaunch/redesign.

Oops, I let that cat out of the bag out early didn't I?

Details forthcoming???

Oh yeah, and where are my manners.

Always (seriously, I mean always) check the sidebar for frequent Twitter updates from tonight's game. Oh and check out my Gus Bode blog whenever it gets up (that's what she said) at gusbode.wordpress.com.

Oh yeah ... check out my preview of tonight's game. Here's for another classic at the Garden.

Garden party: SIU ready to dance with Duke [Daily Egyptian]

P.S. Maybe I'm the only one thinking this way, but the last time I cheered for a certain No. 45 to play at MSG, he dropped 55 on the New York Knicks. Carlton Fay, the floor is yours.

Cards to fill a void tomorrow?

That's right, it's a bfeldt post for the first time in the bright history of TBDLinkS. And while I don't anticipate it being the longest post this blog has ever seen, it dishes some interesting news nonetheless.

Per Bernie Miklasz at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Cardinals will fill one of their voids tomorrow afternoon.

The Redbirds currently have voids at shortstop, second base, starting pitching, relief pitching and left-handed relief pitching (there's a difference).

Later, in the same forum, but a different post, he elaborates by saying this player has not been a previous member of the Cardinals, which would exclude unpopular candidates for the vacant shortstop position such as Felipe Lopez or Cesar Izturis. It would also eliminate Braden Looper or Jason Isringhausen for any bullpen or starting position, although that is not to say the Cardinals wouldn't open up talks with any of the aforementioned candidates after this supposed signing.

The guess here, and the popular opinion in the forum, is a relief pitcher, specifically a left-handed reliever. The Cardinals' bullpen was atrocious last season, and arguably would have contended for the Central Division had it not been so bad.

Arthur Rhodes, a lefty reliever who compiled a 2.04 ERA with 24 holds last season, has had his name come up a lot recently, but that is speculation at this point.

Stay tuned...

Lunchtime Layup: Red Hawk Down

Everyone needs some good literature during their lunch break, and here at TBDS, I am going to try to give you a daily dose of the NBA to get you through your leftover meatloaf and Slim Fast. 

Today's special: Deep-fried Hawk

Yes, the most exciting team in the Eastern Conference and the early sexy pick Atlanta Hawks had their recent woes summed up in a disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers last night 113-96. There is not a whole lot the Hawks can do right now with Josh Smith still on the sidelines and Al Horford potentially joining him, but surrendering 113 points to Indiana is not a good sign. 

The Hawks built their blistering start on a run-n-gun offense and highlight reel defense. The speed is still there. They are easily the fastest team in the East, but with the absence of Smith, the defense lacks motivation.

Marvin Williams isn't the vocal leader Smith or Horford tend to be, but he is the best defender on the team and it will be up to him to motivate his teammates so they can avoid another embarrassing performance like Tuesday's. 

The main problem with the Hawks though, even when Smith and Horford return, is depth. Josh Childress picked up his ball and gyros and headed to Greece, leaving the bench extremely depleted. Now is the time for the reserve Hawks to test their wings and either fly high or crash and burn. 

The Hawks draw Washington tonight, so it should snap the four-game skid, but I want to see major minutes from Randolph Morris, Acie Law and Solomon Jones. Law has been a major disappointment thus far, but if those three can start to grow the Hawks will not only stop the skid, but they will be very dangerous in the playoffs. 

If those three fail to reach their potential, then it is time to dip into the underused D-League for a quick fix. I don't know a whole lot about the players on their affiliate, but I do know TJ Cummings could be good. 

The Hawks need to win their game tonight against Washington and try to build some confidence again. I really want to see this team in the playoffs, but they will need to either develop their bench or make a midseason move to get maybe a Luke Walton or someone like that.

The Triple Threat
* The L.A. Lakers continue to play the best and most exciting basketball. Last night's 116-109 win over Chicago showed even when the defense takes a night off, they can't be stopped. It was Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum who did the most damage, but Kobe Bryant's six assists were impressive as well, including two highlight reel dishes.

*Cleveland Cavaliers extended their winning streak to eight games with another stellar performance by the King. LeBron James rejected New Jersey Net guard Devin Harris like Michael Ruffin on prom night. The block, and his 31 points, is just another reason Jay-Z wants to be jockin LeBron.

*It appears Portland may have been a tad over hyped. Golden State pulled off a nice looking upset with a 111-106 victory over the Blaze. Greg Oden had a breakout game with 22 points and 10 boards, but I don't really care, because everyone is enamored with Anthony Morrow. After dropping 37 points on the Clip, Morrow dropped 25 on Portland. It would be sweet to see him do that the rest of the year and take home ROY honors. (It's a dream).

NYC Countdown: Day 2

"Old" Yankee Stadim, courtesy of Way Back Sports

I haven't been to New York City since 2003.

The last time I was in the Big Apple I was in town for a wedding. I got the best haircut ever in the Bronx and ate the tastiest, cheesiest slice of pizza not too far from the barber shop.

The Cubs and Yankees were in first place and my cousin (who lives outside the city and has Yankees season tix) told me if the Cubs and Yanks were to meet in the World Series, he would have given me tickets and paid for my airfare.

If not for an ill-fated foul ball and a complete Cubs collapse, it could have happened. As it turned out, I have yet to return to NY, therefore, never getting a chance to go to Yankee Stadium.

That's why I immediately circled the date on my calendar when I saw that there was a possibility that the SIU men's basketball team would be playing out east.

Thanks to victories against California (Pa.) and UMass, the Salukis are making my dreams come true. I'm pretty sure they don't care about how much it means to me to have the opportunity to go back to New York City, but in some backwards way I care that they get to play in NYC at Madison Square Garden.

And now SIU gets an opportunity to play Duke and possibly UCLA or Michigan. Those are all schools from power conferences and if the Salukis can pull out a couple of wins, it could help make Carbondale a destination school for the Midwest's top basketball players.

Not that it already isn't. Ask the fabulous freshmen Kevin Dillard, Ryan Hare, Torres Roundtree and Anthony Booker. To them, SIU is the destination school of the Midwest.

New York City has been known as the place where stars shine. Here's hoping the Salukis' stars shine a little brighter Thursday and Friday night.

I guarantee this isn't in Ron Turner's playbook

So how long until the Chicago Bears brass sees this blog and immediately replaces Ron Turner as the team's offensive coordinator?

I often compare Turner's playcalling to something you'd see out of a high school playbook, mostly because he's still probably using the same plays he ran when he was the OC with the Bears the first time around. But when I ran across this post from Deadspin ... which I almost used in Quality Linkage ... I decided it needed to be featurized.

Via Deadspin's Rick Chandler:

When Kurt Bryan first introduced the A-11 offense at Piedmont High last season, he was nearly given the classic tar and feathers treatment, with extra tar. Parents didn't understand it, opposing coaches mocked it and his own players feared it, and those were the positive aspects. And when the Highlanders started 0-2, things really got tense in this sleepy Oakland Calif., suburb. But look at Piedmont now. The offense of the future, as some call it, has propelled the school to five straight wins, the past three by a total score of 139-55, as they march into the playoffs with an 8-2 overall record, 6-1 in league.

First of all, let's remember the name Kurt Bryan so we can tell Jerry Angelo to throw millions at this guy to run a professional offense. Second, he sounds kind of like the nerdy guy in class that no one listens to until they realize he's a genius.

"There was some harsh criticism in the community, but we were watching film every day and we knew we were on to something," said assistant coach Steve Humphries. He and head coach Bryan dreamed up the offense during a late-night bull session, as they tried to devise a way to make their diminutive roster competitive with other, larger schools. One way to do that would be to use two quarterbacks at the same time, Humphries thought. And then Bryan said, why not make all the players eligible to catch a pass? What the hell? Everybody go long!

Ron Turner just raised his hand and asked me what does it mean to "go long?" And no, Ron, it isn't sexual.

What resulted is an offense with a touch of Tourette's, where anything can happen. Any five players on any given play are eligible to go downfield and catch a pass, and the defense never knows which five. With two quarterbacks in the backfield, no one under center and three receivers split wide on each side, it's basically a kick formation, where the standard receiver eligibility rules don't apply. There can be direct snaps to any of three players in the backfield, lots of end-arounds and reverses; a maddening array for any defense to defend.

Touchdowns and Tourette's ... sounds like a future blog title.

"Our first opponent this season spent their entire spring working on defending the A-11," Bryan said. "We started 0-2 last season, but then we won our next seven straight, and by week six I'm getting calls from college coaches asking 'What is this?' "

"It took a lot of getting used to, a lot of studying," George said. "It requires you to think. That's a lot of pressure on me, but I like it."

At least the kids are embracing it. I know Bears fans would. Hell, I think Devin Hester would jump for joy if he understood how a normal offense worked.

Forty-one states have legalized the A-11. "But there's a loud minority out there who think that it's ruining football," Bryan said. "The truth is that today's athlete has changed. The field dimensions are the same, but the athletes aren't, and that's how the A-11 came to be.

"You heard the same type of detractors when the forward pass was invented in the early 20th century," he said. "But football evolved from a mob rule type of game to one that was more spread out and more safe, and it will evolve again. This offense is catching on, and these kids have a sense of ownership with it. It will be interesting to see how far they go."

I like the idea of "mob rule." I also like the idea of an offense that moves forward and scores points in increments of seven, not three.

The A-11 Offense Will Revolutionize Football, Make You Dizzy. [Deadspin]

This Just In: Dustin Pedroia wins AL MVP

Yesterday, the baseball writers got it right.

Albert Pujols won his second NL MVP, a well-earned award in my book seeing that he carried what could have been a potentially terrible team into contention for most of the baseball season.

Today, I'm scratching my head over their decision to name Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia the AL's MVP. He's not even the best player on his team, so how can he be the most valuable player of a league?

His VORP was 63.3, only one-tenth of a point higher than Philadelphia Phillies second sacker Chase Utley. And if you were paying attention, it was Pujols (not Utley) who won the NL MVP yesterday.

Heck, Dusty's VORP doesn't even rank in the top-20 single season among all-time second basemen.

If you care (and don't feel like reading through this article) Chuck Knoblauch owns the best single-season VORP for a second baseman ... of course this was done when he wasn't booting ground balls and turning them into souvenirs by throwing them into the Yankee Stadium stands.

Like I said, Pedroia isn't even the most valuable player on his team.

Kevin Youkilis anyone?

Pedroia: .326/.376/.493 with 17 home runs 83 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases

Youkilis: .300/.390/.569 with 29 home runs 115 runs batted in and 3 stolen bases

I guess it was Pedroia's plus-17 stolen bases put him over the top.

More to come later...

SIU-Duke Week: Referees wear blue (with video proof)

When you play against a team like Duke, you're not just playing the other guys on the court. You're playing against the prestige of the past, Coach K and, of course, the zebras.

It's something SIU might have to overcome, but I feel is mentally strong enough to do so, especially under the direction of head coach Chris Lowery and senior leadership of Bryan Mullins.

The combination of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance could pay dividends for the Salukis. It's like when the Florida Marlins won the World Series. They had old man Jack McKeon directing the ship with guys like Miggy Cabrera and Josh Beckett tearing it up.

It all kinda makes sense.

But yeah. Let me get off that tangent and get back on track.

It's almost unfair that opposing teams have to play against so much and then have to play a basketball game. Not only do they have a head coach that helped Team USA earn an Olympic gold and has won a few national titles. They have a roster stocked with Hamburger All-Americans. And then they have to go up against refs, too.

But you know what, no one on SIU is intimidated by it. And that might be more important than anything else.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Daily Dosage: Breakfast with links

Alright, so it's a slow day in my sports world so there aren't any recaps. Instead, you've got yourself a full helping of links.

And everyone loves links, right?

Especially at the breakfast table.

Just like everyone loves Salma Hayek. Well, they should. I'd like Hayek on my breakfast table.

I know the Campari people love her because this is one of their ads. I hope they're not trying to give her some of that infamous "Dirty 30 Juice."

Alright, enough. Let's hit you up with some quality linkage.

  • SIU is ready to dance with the (Blue) Devils on Thursday. And they're not scared. [Daily Egyptian]
  • The Cubs are opening the new Yankee Stadium [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Sadly, Lovie Smith doesn't have an interest in the Tennessee Volunteers football opening. [Chicago Tribune]
  • ESPN is closing in on a deal with the devil .. er .. BCS. [msnbc.com]
  • It won't even matter once Barack Obama officially steps into office and 'throws his weight around.' [USA Today]
  • Speaking of college football, the NFL needs to adopt its OT system. [4th and Fail]
  • Snobbery, Mark Cuban and the Cubs. [New York Times]
  • Fun with logos. [Blaze of Love]
  • The accuracy (or lack thereof) of preseason polls. [Rush The Court]
  • Drew Sharp guarantees a Lions victory, eventually. [Detroit Free Press]
  • Another anti-ESPN blog. [ESPN is Weak]
  • The goodbye interview with Fire Joe Morgan. [Deadspin]
  • Oh, and the best of, according to Deadspin.

A Nugget of Knowledge

There are a lot of teams in the NBA that I feel are often shed in an incorrect light. Whether it is jumping on a bandwagon a little too early (see 2008 L.A. Clippers), writing off a team a little too early (see 2008 Atlanta Hawks) or just being completely wrong about a team's style of play. 

I will admit, I am guilty of the first two. I saw the New York Knicks having a terrible year, and that just wont happen. That team plays with more heart and desire than I expected and no matter what their final record is, they are not a terrible team. 

I also though the Philadelphia 76ers having a great year, but I don't know now. Andre Igoudala looks at Elton Brand like he is some sort of Klingon sent from the future and unsure if he should pass him the ball. Meanwhile Louis Williams is looking at Igoudala looking at Brand, trying to figure out what the confusion is. 

Pretty much what needs to happen in Philly, is they need to stop looking confused at each other and play like Andre Miller and Thaddeus Young have been ballin' all year.

But this post isn't about Philly or New York. This post is about the third problem; when a team's style of play is completely overlooked. This post is about how the media, I'm talking to you ESPN, continuously offers terrible analysis on the Denver Nuggets.

When a team is playing great defense, but doesn't look like the San Antonio Spurs or Detroit Pistons when they are doing it, they fall victim to the Denver Nugget Syndrome (DNS). 

DNS is a serious disease that affects 99% of all media outlets. It happens when a team has great all-around talent, but can't seem to win a championship. After all, a team with Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby surely could have won a conference championship. 

So when that team does not win a title, the defense takes the blame. And maybe on paper, the defensive prowess isn't shown, but if you actually watch the games, you will see stellar defense. Kenyon Martin is one of the best in the league. Anthony Carter, Linas Kleiza, Renaldo Balkman, Nene Hilario and J.R. Smith are all more than capable defenders.

If  you didn't get a chance to see the Nuggets play the Boston Celtics, you missed a defensive clinic that resulted in Boston managing only 85 points. The Nuggets next two games are against my Milwaukee Bucks and the San Antonio Spurs. There should be great defense displayed in both games, but the real treat comes Nov. 21 when they play the L.A. Lakers.

Watch for George Karl to put Kenyon Martin on Kobe Bryant, watch Chauncey Billups shutdown Derek Fisher. Watch Nene, Balkman, Kleiza and even Chris "Birdman" Andersen give the deadly duo of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol all they can handle.

I guarantee your DNS will be cured.

Now the Nuggets are ranked 6th in overall defense, but will ESPN say anything? No. So please, next time you turn on ESPN or look at a box score don't forget the game is played on the court, and when you watch that game, Denver will bring the D. 

DNS goes far beyond the Nuggets and far beyond basketball. So as college basketball starts, bowl games approach and the NFL nears the playoffs, remember to put the TV on mute every once in a while and see for yourself what really goes down.  

NYC Countdown: Day 1

I'm counting down the days 'til I get to enjoy The Big Apple

I'm stoked.

SIU. Duke. Madison Square Garden. It's the stuff that dreams are made of. This is the kind of moment that made me want to be a sports writer. Going to Madison Square Garden to cover a basketball game, let alone do it for a legit publication, is something I can't wait to tell my friends and family about.

My only regrets are missing the opportunity to cover the SIU football team's opportunity to clinch a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference championship and the automatic FCS playoff berth (by virtue of beating Northern Iowa earlier in the year).

And missing Paige's 21st birthday.

I hope everyone understands how big this is. It truly is kind of a big deal.

Albert the Great

Albert Pujols has received his just due and won his second MVP award, his first since 2005. While this should probably be his fourth or fifth MVP, the voters finally wised up and voted for the most deserving player.

For those of you arguing for Ryan Howard as MVP, just take a look at the numbers. The only areas Howard holds a significant advantage are home runs and RBIs. Howard finished with 48 and 146, respectively, compared to Albert's 37 and 116.

But when you look at more important stats, Pujols has Howard beat in every category.

Pujols' .357 batting average was 38 points higher than Howard's on-base percentage and 106 points better than Howard's abysmal .251 average.

Howard's 199 strikeouts were also 145 more than Pujols', while Pujols walked 104 times compared to 81 by Howard.

While voters who didn't vote Pujols first don't both me, it's idiots like Tom Haudricour, who had an MVP vote, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who make sportswriters look like idiots.

Via the Brewers Blog:

"With the Cardinals finishing fourth, I voted Pujols seventh on my ballot. I don't consider MVP to be "the most outstanding player" award and therefore don't just go by who had the best stats. i like to credit players for lifting their teams to the post-season or at least keeping them in the race until the very end."

Then, Haudricour went on to give his list of the top 10 players he voted for.

  1. Ryan Howard
  2. CC Sabathia
  3. Manny Ramirez
  4. Carlos Delgado
  5. Aramis Ramirez
  6. Prince Fielder
  7. Albert Pujols
  8. Ryan Ludwick
  9. Ryan Braun
  10. David Wright

That's right. He voted Carlos Delgado No. 4, despite the fact that the Mets didn't make the playoffs and choked down the stretch, y et again. Did I mention that was his exact argument as to why he put Pujols No. 7.

I don't think there is a person in their right mind who would actually say Delgado had a better season than Pujols.

But it gets even better.

"St. Louis did stay in the wild card race until mid-September, but mainly because the Brewers and Mets were gagging at the time."

So you put two players, Delgado and Prince Fielder, whose teams you say were "gagging" at the end of the season in front of a player who dominated opposing pitchers from the beginning of the season to the end.

Idiots like this can't take away from a great season by arguably the best player in baseball. Pujols has been the most consistent player in the MLB since he entered the league and he should have five or six MVP's by the time he decides to hang it up.

Who is the Cover-2 supposed to cover and other Bears-related rants

No, the team isn't much more active when the ball is in play.

Will Bob Babich please stand up?

Hi, Bob. Your defense sucks. Sorry.

I'm sorry ... wait, no I'm not ... but the highly-touted Cover-2 defense isn't covering anyone and the Bears defense has been torn to shreds this season.

And that is not acceptable, not for a fanbase obsessed with "Bear football" centered around a hard-hitting defense.

And while the defense is still hard-hitting, it's a shame the hits come after the opposing offense gains another first down.

Wanna know what's worse? Guys like Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown are in their prime of their careers and their talents are being wasted playing in a defense that can't stop the pass in a league that favors the passing game.

I know. It was the defense that helped the Bears reach the Super Bowl a few years ago, but your argument is flawed.
  • Ron Rivera, disciple of the '85 Bears 46 defense, was running the defense.
  • The Bears lost the Super Bowl, as Peyton Manning exposed the weakness of the 'D'
Heck, even Mike Brown (who's usually out for the year during Week 10) gets it.

"Once we come to grips our defense isn't what it's supposed to be, then we'll all be better off. The perception is we have a good defense. The reality is we don't. … Everyone wants [our defense] to be what it used to be, and it's not that."
—Bears safety Mike Brown

Yet, all the blame shouldn't go on the defense.

While the NFL progresses into a pass-happy league, offensive coordinator Ron Turner continues to use his 1995 offensive playbook as he still believes Erik Kramer and Jeff Graham are still on the Bears roster.

Guess what Ron, they're not. In fact, somehow this offense has regressed since then.

Why are the Bears the only team in the NFL that cannot properly run a screen to their running back? Why, on third down, does the offense design patterns that come up short of the first down marker? How many times are you going to run dive plays with the explosive Matt Forte?

It's sickening. The offense is truly offensive. But believe it or not, Turner shouldn't shoulder the entire blame.

Jerry Angelo, please stand up.

If you're looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction, don't look at the Chicago Bears offense. Unless, of course, you're looking for self-destruction.

Other than Forte, the Bears don't have skill position players that you would say are "plus" guys ... or "playmakers" as football fans would call them. Greg Olson's nice, but he's buried in the depth chart at times behind Desmond Clark.

Marty Booker is old and the rest of the receiving corps are just bad. Devin Hester has not only been underwhelming as a receiver, it looks as if he's lost his swagger and speed in the return game ... which was supposed to be the Bears' biggest weapon coming into the season.

The offensive line has its moments, but at times it looks old.

Oh, and there's no reason to beat the dead horse that is Rex Grossman. And if you're looking for Kyle Orton to be your savior, well, wait 'til next Sunday and instead of waiting for noon to get up and catch the Bears on your local FOX or CBS affiliate, follow the wife and kids to church.

And if the Bears come out next week and hang 30+ points on the St. Louis Rams, all will be well in the City of Wind. But I refuse to get caught up in the hype.

The Bears are 5-5 ... that means they're .500 ... and that means they're only average.

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

This Just In: Albert Pujols named NL MVP

Statistically, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols earned his second NL MVP crown.

Pujols' 2008 line: .357/.462/.653 with 37 home runs 116 runs batted in 7 stolen bases and an astonishing 104 walks.

Yet, I can't help but take a trip to the way back machine. Via ESPN:

"I see it this way: Someone who doesn't take his team to the playoffs doesn't deserve to win the MVP."

Think Albert's singing a different tune today?

Expect a full recap of this momentous occasion by a blogger more familiar with Cardinal Nation later this afternoon.

SIU-Duke Week: JJ Redick is no Langston Hughes

Ed. Note: Maybe I should be breaking down who SIU should match up against Duke's Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson. Or writing about how this is Chris Lowery's chance to show the nation that his basketball program can compete with anyone. Actually, I should probably be doing homework.

Instead, I'm taking on Duke the only way I know how: By ridiculing them. First up on the whipping's list: JJ Redick and his crap-tastic poetry.

End Ed. Note.

A long, long time ago in a blogosphere far, far away I was a poet. A pretty darn good one if I may say so myself. That's why I'm taking this platform to rip former Duke star guard J.J. Redick's poetry, which is Exhibit A why the Duke Blue Devils are lame.

Via a story from SI.com from 2005:

As I decide to fulfill my life's strategy
The devil insists on trying to battle me
I meet him in an empty field on the high plains
He throws temptations my way to inflict internal pain
Life and death matters, this ain't no game
It's mind over matter, the power of my brain
He thinks I'll give in if my muscles start to strain
He believes I'll submit to the evil of society's frame
And benefit from notoriety's gain
He says I don't have to properly train
and that he'll give me all the fame
and everyone will know my name
But I think he's insane
'Cause I know the truth- to gain is to give
To have pain is to live
So I call on my heavenly Father's name
And slowly watch the thunder and rain subside
I'm finally able to push the temptations aside
I went blow for blow, I went face to face
Now the devil knows, I'm able to escape
Not by a back door or an alternate route
I saw the middle high ground and I ran right through

Are you kidding me? Is this poetry? Read it out loud. Look in a mirror and read it aloud. It's lame. It's all sing-songy and rhymie (yes, I just made up a word, but only to prove my point) and of course, bad. Maybe JJ should rap it out. Think he's got enough power to get Lil' Wayne to hop on a remix?

But wait, there's more.

No bandage can cover my scars
It's hard living a life behind invisible bars
Searching for the face of God
I'm only inspired by the poems of Nas
Because the truth has carved my life's patterns
The reality of pain, and the joy of laughter
My hopes and dreams shattered
by the miscalculation of my own situation
It's difficult to keep my nerves patient
Facing the forecast of fears
that none of my peers have ever been faced with
I wanna reach the top floor, but I'm stuck in the basement
With not enough juice to burst through
the chains that have shackled my brain
It seems my dreams have carried me to a separate peace
apart from reality
Society is allowing me to grow into the man I'm destined to become
But how can I move when my entire skeleton is numb?
Numb from the obstacles that I've been given
Suddenly the bars connect to walls
and I find myself contained inside life's prison

All you need to do is read the first few lines and realize this is Redick's attempt at being emo. Someone get the former ACC 3-point assassin some make up, black nail polish and a My Chemical Romance CD. Seriously, JJ, do you have a writing coach?

It continues.

My life story is read in poetic stages
I was once weak-minded, now I'm courageous
The cause and effect of a thousand actions
The mathematical breakdown of micro-fractions
It's difficult to fathom the coming of the rapture
What if I awoke in an empty pasture?
Suddenly every ounce of passion had been depleted
And all my determination had been defeated
The rain pours, my tears fall
The pain subsides, I stand in awe
A lightning bolt strikes, I feel a sudden energy
Thunder clouds approach, I can't run from destiny
A tornado tears me down, but I will stand again
My life is a hurricane, but I'll weather it to the end

I love the weather references in the end though ... did your teacher tell you to write a weather poem? That's cute. Way to go Mr. Redick, you get a gold star!

Ten minutes pass without a notice
Nine times in my life I've felt hopeless
Eight friends I've lost on purpose
Seven broken bones my skeleton felt were worthless
Six days of work, but only one day of worship
Five ways I feel pain, but that's only on the surface
Four corners of the earth, all touched by God's churches
Three sisters have influenced my poetic verses
Two years that I completely lost focus
One brother for which I wrote this
Ten minutes pass without a notice

This is the only poem that I thought was passable. I like the idea of a countdown poem, so that's cool and I like how it's wrapped up nicely in a bow. But Ten minutes pass without a notice ... he must be talking about life at the end of the Orlando Magic's bench.

And finally...

I can't see what my future has in store
but I move forth with the strength of a condor
The courage of a warrior
The commitment of an American soldier
Despite this weight on my shoulder
my inner forces circulate to form
a nucleus of an unbreakable bond
These words describe the soundtrack to my life's song
My mind and body united like the Colors of Benneton
My destiny isn't told by the creases of my palm
A sharp thorn once cut my soul
The blood flowed
But no bandage would cover the wound
I couldn't help but stare at the distant moon
Waiting for a resolution to come at an instant soon
I asked the Lord, "What am I to do?"
He said, "Son, I made the sky blue
The rain falls because of me
Leaves change colors on a fall tree
I was the inspiration to Martin Luther King
I'm the reason Ray Charles could sing
I've changed others through and through
And my son, I'll do the same to you"

Damn, JJ got really preachy on us. It's hard for me to blast something with MLK and Ray Charles references ... but it's so damn cliche , it's unnecessary. I'd tell Redick to stick with his day job, but he really doesn't get off the bench often, does he?

I guess I can't hate. He gets paid millions of dollars to sit on a bench. That's the kind of job I dream of having one day.

Selections from J.J. Redick [SI.com]

This Just In: Cuban charged with inside trading

The man that Chicago Cubs fans hope will own their team has been charged with insider trading by the Securities Exchange Committee.

While most newsgroups will break this down because of its newsworthiness, I'll pose the following question: Is he really much worse than the guys who currently own the Cubs?

You know, Tribune Co. The ownership group that helped lie about/hide every Mark Prior and Kerry Wood injury. The people that made Sammy Sosa's early exit in 2004 look like a federal crime. The head honchos who made a profit off losing teams, cried about losing money and then turned the tables when it was found that they were one of a handful of teams making a profit.

Oh yeah, and the same ownership group that held back a segment of tickets for "premium games," created a ticket brocker office and then sold the tickets at a major mark-up.

Yet, Mark Cuban is getting charge for what I would call getting a hook up. I didn't know it was a crime to take advice from your friends to save your money.


Nothing else to report here.

SEC Charges Mark Cuban With Insider Trading [Wall Street Journal]


Alright, it's a busy week here at The Big Dead Sidebar.

I'm trying to get schoolwork done as this semester comes to a close to a hurry. I'm trying to get my name out there with my resume and such so I can hopefully land an internship or a job somewhere once I graduate

Then there's actual work, as I must balance responsiblities between school and work, not to mention balancing basketball coverage and football coverage. Yeah, I'm busy.

Did I mention we're going to New York City to see SIU play Duke at Madison Square Garden? Oh, I didn't? Well it's kind of a big deal.

So why am I giving you an announcement?

Well, so you can look at this pretty girl, of course. And so I can tell you a lot of the posts this week will be pre-written and autoposted.

Don't be sad. If news breaks, we'll be here.

Keep it classy, folks.

Daily Dosage: Worst Three-Way Ever

Can you believe the nerve of the Chicago Bears?

I get up early, write my stories, edit my stories and bake a cake early Sunday morning just so I can watch one of the NFL's most storied rivalries.

And how am I rewarded? By the Monsters of the Midway laying a monstrous egg in Green Bay. Sickening. Absolutely sickening.

The loss puts the Bears, Packers and Minnesota Vikings in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North. Like I said: Worst 3-way ever.

Shame on you, Bears.

Hopefully Jamie-Lynn Sigler will brighten your day.

Packers bounce Bears into first-place tie. I guess by this headline you can tell The Neckbeard didn't save the day. But the Chicago's ineptitude didn't stop there.

Devin Hester hasn't shown up all season as he ranks 30th among returners. It looks like he's taken a money, gone to an island and has sent a look-a-like to take care of his on-field business. The defense didn't show up to stop the run or the pass.

Yet I bet all you'll hear about is Rex Grossman's sh*tty day Before you ask, The Neckbeard


Grant's big day leads Packers over Bears [Packers 37 Bears 3]

The defense does it again. The SIU football team scored 35 first-half points as it hosted another must-win game at McAndrew Stadium. However, unlike Western Illinois, the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits had the kind of offense that stretched the Salukis to the limit.

A 14-point third quarter tied the game at 35 before a fourth quarter 28-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Kyle Dougherty became the game-clinching score for SIU.

But it wasn't that easy. The Saluki 'D' stepped it up in the final period and did not allow the Jackrabbits to score. And when the Evil Bunnies looked poised to take the game into overtime or even score the leading touchdown, cornerback James Wheeler stepped in front of a Ryan Berry pass headed towards the sideline to seal the win.

Defense bails out sluggish second half by SIU [Daily Egyptian]
Timely turnovers give SIU victory [Daily Egyptian]

Jacobs > Scott. In the battle for Saluki pride, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs reigned supreme over Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott. No. 27 rushed past, through and around B-more defenders for 73 yards and two touchdowns as the Giants bested the Ravens, 30-10.

Scott made four tackles in the game as Baltimore dropped its record to 6-4.

Giants rush for 207 yards against Ravens in win [Giants 30 Ravens 10]

Quality Linkage:
  • Lil' Romeo played with his pants around his ankle...that's what she said. [LA Times]
  • Classy coeds at Maryland. [College Game Balls]
  • Justin Timberlake wants to be like Mike. [Fanhouse]
  • TRL signs off. Where's Carson, Christina and Fred Durst? [Gawker]
  • The Arrested Development movie? Please let it be true! [FilmDrunk]

Bears-Packers in a photographic nutshell

Sums it up pretty well, doesn't it?

Photo Credit: Yardbarker

Lennon for Coach of the Year?

You hate to give these awards in the midst of the season, but I figure I'd pimp SIU football head coach Dale Lennon for the award.

And you know who chooses the winner? The fans.

That's right, it's up to Saluki Nation to do it in true Chicago fashion and vote early and often for Coach Lennon.

I'm not sure if two different coaches have won the award back-to-back for the same university, but it would be cool if Lennon could follow Jerry Kill. On paper, it would mean three things.
  • It would mean Kill's class is talented beyond the players that left last year after getting to the brink of a FCS title game appearance.
  • It would also justify bringing in Lennon, a D-II coach with no familiarity of SIU or its players other than what he had seen on tape.
  • Finally it would be a testament to the kind of job that he and his assistants have done implementing the "spread-ish" offense and 3-4 defense to a team not necessarily built for either.
And how do you not vote for a guy with an awesome mustache? As a guy who proudly reps a beard once the winter months roll around, I'm proud.

Vote Lennon! [Coach of the Year.com]

Photo Credit: Grand Forks Herald

College Pigskin Post Game

I realize I don't do a lot of stuff on college football on this blog, but I should. I don't always find the NFL interesting unless it's opening week, a rivlary game, a made-for-TV matchup or it's playoff time.

But I'm always down for some college football action ... and USC Song Girls, of course.

Oh yeah, the Trojans won by a pretty good margin. If they want to return to the title hunt, they're gonna need some losses at the top and will definitely need to continue to blow every other team in the Pac 10 (and Notre Dame, of course) out of the water.

That's enough of that, let's take a look at some intriguing games.

Including one in my backyard.

SIU survives the anti-shootout. The SIU football team beat South Dakota State University 38-35, but don't call it a shootout. At least, according to SDSU head coach John Steigelmeier.

The Salukis put up 35 first half points and led by 14 at the half, but JackRabbit QB Ryan Berry led his team on a furious comeback to tie the game at 35 in the third quarter. However, the SIU defense kept Berry and the bunnies off the board in the 4th quarter.

In fact, the only fourth quarter score came off the foot of sophomore Saluki kicker Kyle Dougherty. It ended being up the deciding score.

And that sentence couldn't even have been written until the games final moments. Berry led SDSU on the kind of drive that Hollywood script writers have dreams about. However, SIU cornerback James Wheeler, who Berry victimized all day, came up with the game sealing pick.

It was Berry's second of the day, his first was returned for 57 yards by safety Marty Rogers for a touchdown.

If the Salukis can beat rival Illinois State next Saturday, they would secure a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title.

Salukis defeat South Dakota State, 38-35 [Daily Egyptian]

Michigan hits rock bottom, loses to Northwestern at home. There's no shame losing to Northwestern, unless you have to deal with their campus cops that don't care about black people, their "homer" sports writers cheering in the press box, or if they've got Darnell Autry and Dwayne Bates lining up on offense and Pat Fitzgerald on the defense.

Well none of those players were a factor as the Wildcats beat the Wolverines, 21-14, at the Big House. That pushes Michigan to 3-8, the most losses in school history and they still have yet to face THE Ohio State.

Rich Rodriguez is a bad man, so failure couldn't come to a better person.

Northwestern 21 Michigan 14

Tide continues to roll. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person not affiliated with LSU that hates the idea that Nick Saban could be on his way to a national title in Alabama. Maybe it's wrong that I cheer for that gigantic elephant mascot to fall flat on his face. But maybe I'm right.

Maybe I should cheer against a coach that left Michigan State after building it up. Then left LSU for the Miami Dolphins after rebuilding them. Then left Miami after failing miserably for Alabama.

Papa was a rolling stone ... and not the Mick Jagger kind either.

That's why I want them to fail. Here's hoping Urban Meyer can smoke 'em in the SEC title game. I like them, they're fun to watch!

Alabama 32 Mississippi State 7

Speaking of LSU ... The Tigers pulled off quite the comeback win against Troy, scoring 30 points in the fourth quarter to complete the 40-31 come-from-behind win.

It's too bad they didn't have it in them last week against Saban. That would have been even sweeter.

Kudos from Carbondale. You take care now!

Photo Credit: cnnsi.com