August 31, 2005

Blog for Relief Day

The Truth Laid Bear is asking bloggers -and more importantly their readers- to participate in the Blog for Relief Day on September 1st. It's very easy, just register your blog at TLB and select a charity you would like to give to.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let’s Play Some Football 2005! Big Twelve Edition

The good news is that Oklahoma participated in its second consecutive BCS Championship game and Texas finally broke through with a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan. The bad news is that Oklahoma got absolutely killed by USC (55-19!) and Texas still can’t beat Oklahoma. This is a weirdly lopsided league with 2 great teams in OU and UT; a couple more pretty damned good teams like Texas A&M and Texas Tech, then a whole bunch of mediocrity until you hit Baylor. How much must it suck to be the Baylor Bears, a tiny school in the same division as Texas, Oklahoma, A&M and Tech. The is also a certain Southern tilt to the conference. Nobody in the North division woud contend in the South.

Big 12 North

1. Iowa State Cyclones

For the first time since Seneca Wallace left, ISU returns a quality cornerback. Bret Myer plays much like Wallace did; dangerous with both his arm and legs. The Cyclones also return a quality tailback. Junior Stevie Hicks is a tough, brusing runner who lacks breakaway speed. Myer has some quality targets too, like wideouts Todd Blythe and Jon Davis and former quarterback Austin Flynn. Coordinator Barney Cotton, who doubles as the line coach, is implementing more of H-Back look to the offense. He returns three starters on the line.

Last year the defense carried Iowa State until Myer got the offense cooking. That might be reversed this season. The defense has quality starters, six of whom return from last year. Coach Dan McCarney is more worried about depth, as freshmen are expected to backup along the line and backfield. The best ISU defender is middle linebacker Tim Dobbins, last year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Now a senior, Dobbins has added 20 pounds. The Cyclones also added speed by moving strong safety prospect Adam Carper to outside linebacker.

The Cyclones have gone to a bowl game four of the past five years, and unheard of streak for Iowa State just a few years ago. This could be McCarney’s best team, and playing in the weak North division puts them in the driver’s seat for the division championship.

2. Colorado Buffaloes

What happened to Joel Klatt? After a fine sophomore season, Klatt was awful as a junior last year, tossing 15 interceptions against only 11 touchdowns. He has to bounce back, since for the first time in Coach Gary Barnett’s tenure the running game is a serious question mark. Either undersized sophomore Hugh Charles or fullback Lawrence Vickers will be the primary ballcarrier. The wideouts are young and talented, but tight end Joe Klopfenstein is Klatt’s best target. The line, critizied as soft last year, returns three starters, including guard Brian Daniels, an all-Big 12 possibility.

Coordinator Mike Hankwitz, in his second go-round with the Buffaloes, favors an attacking, aggressive defense. That didn’t work particularly well with last season’s young group. Now that the Buffaloes return ten starters, including a nice linbacking corps led by Brian Iwuh, the “Bandit” linebacker-safety hybrid and talented sophomore Jordan Dizon. The line returns solid senior tackles Vaka Manupuna and James Garee, as well as athletic end Alex Ligon. The secondary may lose safety JJ Billingsly to academic issues, but corner Terrence Wheatley returns.

Barnett has managed to keep his job despite a series of ugly scandals. He’s also managed to lead his team back to the Big 12 championship game. Say what you will about Barnett (and trust me, I have) he is an effective motivator and does what he can with what he has. If Klatt can rebound, this team has enough to return to the championship game.

3. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Bill Callahan could have taken a look at his players last seaon, realized he didn’t have the right atheletes for his pro-style offense and decided to play it safe and conservative. He didn’t. He went all-out and took his lumps. His team and program will be better for it in the long run. In the short run, Callahan better find a quarterback. Juco transfer Zac Taylor is the best bet, or maybe true freshman Harrison Beck. Stumpy tailback Cory Ross will carry the load on the ground, and Callahan has a talented wideouts like Mark LaFlore and Isaiah Fluellen. The line is solid, if unspectacular.

Callahan believes his defense underachieved last season, and he’s probably right. Tackles LeKevin Smith and Titus Adams were heralded recruits who have never panned out. End Adam Carriker has improved and could be on the verge of a breakthrough. The linebackers are young but talented, and the secondary will have to be rebuilt. The Cornhuskers lost safety Josh Bullocks and corner Fabien Washington to the NFL a year early, but the backfield wasn’t particularly good with them.

Callahan didn’t have a very good first season, leading Nebraska to its first losing season since 1961. The team should be much improved this year, providing a quarterback can be found.

4. Missouri Tigers

In 2004, the Tigers mistakenly decided to put the wraps on QB Brad Smith, installing a short, controlled passing game. It wasn’t a disaster, but it was close. Smith’s production fell, and the Tigers went from a bowl team to a losing record. This season, Coach Gary Pinkel has reversed course and installed a spread offense that will allow Smith to run and improvise, the two things he is best at. It would help if Mizzou could recruit some wideouts. It’s almost a given that Smith will finish his career without ever having a marquee –or even above-average- receiver to throw too.

Coordinator Matt Eberflus has worked wonders here, taking a traditionally lousy defense to the top-20 in total defense rankings last year. They do lose tackles CJ Mosely and Atiyyah Ellison, but ends Xzavie Jackson and Brian Smith return, as do talented linebackers Marcus Bacon, Derrick Ming, Van Alexander and Derrick Harrington. Safety Jason Simpson plays close enough to the line of scrimmage to qualify as a linebacker too. Eberflus’ aggressive scheme demands good cornerback play, and the Tigers have three nice ones in AJ Kincade, Marcus King and Calvin Washington.

The Tigers missed their opportunity last season. A star quarterback and one of the best defenses in school history, and Mizzou loses to Troy and stays home for the holidays. Pinkel is a very tough coach who won’t last to much longer without results.

5. Kansas State Wildcats

The Wildcats wasted Darren Sproles’ senior year in 2004. No quarterback ever emerged, and defenses keyed on Sproles. This season, KSU still doesn’t have a QB, and Sproles is gone. Dylan Meier, Allan Webb, and freshman Allan Everidge are battling for the job. Florida State transfer Thomas Clayton has first dibs on Sproles’ position at tailback. To make matter worse, Coach Bill Snyder only returns one starter from the line.

This is K-State’s forte throughout the Snyder years, and you can expect some improvement. The front four, while not spectacular, is talented. If juco transfers Steve Burch and Ricky Miller can live up to billing, the Wildcats will have a nice rotation with returning ends Tearrius George and Scott Edmonds. The linebackers aren’t as fast as recent vintage, but middle ‘backer Ted Sims is a strong run-stuffer. Three quarters of the secondary needs replacing.

The Wildcats slipped last season, and don’t appear to be improving. Snyder is too good and too canny a coach to let this go on much longer, but he needs to find an adequate quarterback before thinking about bowl games.

6. Kansas Jayhawks

Coach Mark Mangino and coordinator Nick Quarataro need to find a quarterback. Adam Barmann started last year, but was only mediocre. Jason Swanson is pushing him. The running game is hurting as well. The Jayhawks dismissed their best back, John Randle, due to disciplinary reasons. Either Clark Green, a plugger who lacks breakaway speed, or Gary Gray, a speedy back who lacks size and toughness, will take over. The line loses three starters, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The wideouts are the strongest unit. Senior Mark Simmons would be a serious honors candidate if he played on a better team.

This unit improved exponentially last season, led by All-America corner Charles Gordon. Gordon, a Big-12 All-Freshman team as a wideout in 2004, was moved to corner and performed brilliantly. He and fellow returnee Theo Baines anchor a solid secondary. The linebackers are tough and physical, led by senior Nick Reid. The line is good, if not spectacular. The Jayhawk defense didn’t give up a touchdown in the first quarter all last season. It will have to be as good this year in order to contend.

The Jayhawks have a sold defense, but the offense needs major work. If a quarterback emerges (a big if), and either of the Greens can solidfy the running game, Kansas could contend for a minor bowl.

Big 12 South

1. Texas Longhorns

Vince Young, the best line in the country, a play-making tight end in David Thomas and a couple question marks. Young is a pretty good place to start. After his star turn in the Rose Bowl, Young will be expected to carry this team and contend for the Heisman. He’s certainly capable of a 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing season. A stud offensive line led by All-American candidates Johnathon Scott and Justin Blalock’ll assist him. With the departure of Cedric Benson, a tailback must emerge from the group of Selvin Young, Romance Taylor or Jamaal Charles. Wide receiver is a question mark, and young players will be expected to contribute immediately.

All-America linebacker Derrick Johnson is a big loss, but Aaron Harris is still manning the middle. The line is led by the talented tackle duo of Rodrique Wright and Larry Dibbles. Both come with question marks though. Wright’s desire has been question, and Dibbles spent the summer getting his academics in order. The secondary is solid, led by Michael Huff, a four-year starter who is one shy of the NCAA record for interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Seventeen starters and a Heisman candidate: that would make this now-or-never year for Mack Brown. Anything less than a victory over Oklahoma and a berth in the national championship game will be considered a failure by Texas fans.

No pressure, Mack.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

After starting at QB for 13 consecutive seasons, Jason White has left OU. In his place will be either junior Paul Thompson or freshman Rhett Bomar. Thompson is the starter for now. Whoever wins the job will be primarily handing off to super soph Adrian Peterson. Peterson, the Heisman runner-up, finished with 1,925 as a true freshman. Running back is a strength overall, as backups Keyjuan Jones and Donta Hickson would start for many other programs. Travis Wilson is a fine wideout, but he is the only returnee.

When last we saw the Sooner defense they were giving up 55 to USC in the Orange Bowl. And that was with six NFL Draftees. Suffice to say, there will be some rebuilding here. Helping matters will be the return of tackle Dusty Dvoracek, who missed the 2004 season while struggling with depression. Coach Bob Stoops is perhaps the best recruiter in the country, and there is talent on this defense. He just has to find it.

Oklahoma may slip this year, maybe even to a two- or three-loss season. Consdiering they’ve participated in three of the past five national championship games, Stoops can probably get away with it. In 2006 though… look out.

3. Texas A&M Aggies

For all the hoopla about Vince Young of Texas, he isn’t the best QB in the division, or even the state. Reggie McNeal, senior starter at A&M, is just about Young’s equal as a runner and a far superior passer. He leads a very talented but young offense. At tailback, junior Courtney Lewis should be at close to 100% after an injury-plauged 2004. McNeil lost his favorite target when Terrence Murphey went to the NFL, but his group of wideouts is young and athletic.

This isn’t quite the Wrecking Crew, but give it time. The Aggies’ defense is led by All-Big 12 free safety Jaxson Appel, a senior and feroucious hitter. There is talent in the front seven as well, with middle linebacker Justin Warren and end Jason Jack. Jack, an athletic 270-pounder, had the look of a star last year. Coordinator Carl Torbush favors an attacking defense. He’s hampered by a lack of solid corners.

Coach Dennis Franchione has A&M on the verge of something big. It may be too early for his young players this season, but nine wins are within reach. If the offensive line solidifies a bit and the young corners can play, look out.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Another year and another redshirt senior quarterback to plug into Mike Leach’s offense. This season it will be Cody Hodges. He fits the profile of recent Tech QBs: He’s slightly undersized, has a good arm, and is a gambler. He’ll be throwing to a deep and talented wide receiver corps led by Jarrett Hicks. He also has underrated tailback Taurean Henderson to take the pressure off. The offensive line could be weak. Only two starters return, but the returnees, guard Manuel Ramirez and tackle EJ Whitley are pretty fair players.

For all the Raiders’ gambling mentaility on offense, they counter with a very conservative defense. The well-traveled Lyle Sentencich runs a very basic 4-3, and schemes against giving up big plays. The line is a strength, led by end Keyunta Dawson. The linebackers are adequate, and the secondary is special. What few big plays Tech receives from its defense usually come from free safety Dwayne Slay.

Leach has seemingly perfected the plug-n-play effect for his quarterbacks. At one point before last season it seemed that Robert Johnson might be the QB of the future, but he’s been moved to wideout. The Red Raiders will score points, and the defense is serviceable. Expecting to crack the top 3 is probably too much.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

New Coach Mike Gundy hired former Florida coordinator Larry Fedora to install a spread attack. It certainly suits Gundy, who is a freewheeling coach, but it may not suit his players at first. Starting QB Donovan Woods is a better runner than thrower, though he’s being pushed by redshirt frosh Bobby Reid, who compares to Reggie McNeil at A&M. Either Woods’ or Reid’s main target will be D’Juan Woods, Donovan’s older brother and younger brother of former OSU star Rashaun. D’Juan Woods is a talented receiver, but others need to step up. The Cowboys also need to find a every down runner.

Oklahoma State will switch from a 4-2-5 to an attacking 4-3 under new coordinator Vance Bedford, who comes from the Chicago Bears. Perhaps the new look will allow the so-far disappointing Xavier Lawson-Kennedy to reach his potential. The line gets an infusion of juco transfers, and the backfield is talented but underisized.

The lifetime Cowboy Gundy was a no-brainer hire to replace the departed Les Miles. The Cowboys are a team, and program on the rise. They, like Tech are stuck in a difficult situation. Both teams would contend for the North title, but are buried in the South.

6. Baylor Bears

Guy Morris would like to install a spread look, but he lacks the talent to run it. The Bears will then stick with a more traditional pro-set offense. Pulling the trigger is Shawn Bell, the winner of the QB derby by default. He does have, in junior Dominique Zeigler, a very nice target to throw too. Tailback Paul Moseley is a potential workhorse, but the line needs serious help after giving up 32 sacks last season.

The future, and probably the present as well, of the defense are with freshmen tackles Vincent Rhodes and Dan Gay. The linebackers are completely new, led by Georgia Tech transfer Nick Moore. They are far more athletic than previous Bear teams, which is necessary in the Big 12. Baylor does have a nice, deep group of cornerbacks led by returning starters Braelon Davis and Anthony Arline.

Morris does have this program in the right direction, but it will be slow going.

Previously: ACC, Big East, Big Ten Non-BCS

Posted by Frinklin at 08:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath


What happened along the Gulf Coast is nearly unthinkable, and my heart goes out to anyone affected by this disaster. Watching it unfold has alternated between horrifying and touching. The Missus and I are going to do our small part, and I hope you do too.


On a personal note, a close friend of ours is stationed in Biloxi. Luckily, she is okay and was able to let everyone know that. Still, we're thinking about you LJ, so stay safe.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Amateur Movie Review: The 40-Year Old Virgin

Would it be enough to mention that three times during this movie I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe and leave it at that?

Posted by Frinklin at 07:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let’s Play Some Football 2005: Non-BSC Conferences

I still don’t have a name for this bunch yet. I could call them “Mid-Majors”, but that’s more a college basketball term. Whatever they’re called, these guys had a breakthrough last year thanks to Utah. The Utes went undefeated and killed Big East champ Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. That probably won’t happen again this year, but if it does, look to the WAC. Boise State and Fresno State have the best of the little guys this season.

Conference USA East
1. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
2. Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
3. Memphis Tigers
4. Marshall Thundering Herd
5. East Carolina Pirates
6. Central Florida Golden Knights

Conference USA West
1. UTEP Miners
2. Tulane Green Wave
3. Houston Cougars
4. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
5. Rice Owls
6. SMU Mustangs

The C-USA loses its marquee program in Louisville, but tries to makes up for it with an expansion into the southwest. This league seems even more like a disparate entity now without the Cardinals, who left along with Cincinnati, South Florida, TCU, and Army. For now, UTEP is the best program here, but that might only last until a bigger program takes a chance on Mike Price. The bottom of the C-USA is awful. ECU bottomed out under John Thompson and now leaves his mess to Skip Holtz. George O’Leary at UCF and Phil Bennett at SMU need to show progress, and soon.

C-USA Champion: UTEP

Mid-American Conference East
1. Bowling Green Falcons
2. Miami Redhawks
3. Ohio Bobcats
4. Akron Zips
5. Kent State Golden Flashes
6. Buffalo Bulls

Mid-American Conference West
1. Toledo Rockets
2. Northern Illinois Huskies
3. Central Michigan Chippewas
4. Eastern Michigan Eagles
5. Ball State Cardinals
6. Western Michigan Broncos

The MAC jettisons Marshall and UCF, returning to a more Midwestern-centric group. That may change, as Temple (seriously, Temple?) is scheduled to join beginning next season. That matters little, as the power in this league is with four teams. The two top teams in each division, Bowling Green, Toledo, Miami and NIU have established themselves as among the best non-BCS programs in the country. Miami lost Terry Hoeppner to Indiana this season, and BGU’s Gregg Brandon could be next. Brandon’s Falcons are the best team this season, behind star QB Omar Jacobs.

MAC Champion: Bowling Green

Mountain West Conference
1. Utah Utes
2. Wyoming Cowboys
3. New Mexico Wolfpack
4. Colorado State Rams
5. Brigham Young Cougars
6. San Diego State Aztecs
7. Air Force Falcons
8. UNLV Rebels

With the departure of Urban Meyer and Alex Smith, Utah will fall back to the pack, just ahead of a surging Wyoming program. The top-4 of the MWC will be tightly bunched, as there isn’t much difference between Utah, Wyoming, NMU and Colorado State. The wildcards will be BYU with new coach Bronco Mendenhall and San Diego State, a talented team that probably needs a bowl game to save Coach Tom Craft’s job.

Sun Belt
1. North Texas Mean Green
2. Troy Trojans
3. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
4. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
5. Florida Atlantic Owls
6. Louisiana-Monroe Indians
7. Arkansas State Indians
8. Florida International Golden Panthers

The Sun Belt becomes quite a bit more geographically rational, dropping Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State for FAU and FIU. The new Florida teams will allow league schools access to lower-level Florida talent, much like North Texas does in Texas. The Mean Green has won 25 straight league games, and are the favorite again this season. Returning the last two national rushing championships will do that.

Western Athletic Conference
1. Boise State Broncos
2. Fresno State Bulldogs
3. Nevada Wolfpack
4. Hawaii Warriors
5. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
6. New Mexico State Aggies
7. Idaho Vandals
8. Utah State Aggies

This is without question the most lopsided league in college football. The top two programs, FSU and BSU, are top-25 caliber teams that have outside shots at BCS appearances. The other six teams are mediocre programs at best. The Broncos have an outstanding team returning after an undefeated season, but with a brutal early schedule (at Georgia, at Oregon State, Bowling Green) could find themselves 0-3 out of the gate. The Bulldogs have a game at USC, which does their BCS chances no favors either. As for the others, it’s a mixed bag. Nevada is improving. Hawaii is rebuilding. NMSU, USU and Idaho are just trying to survive

Previously: ACC, Big East, Big Ten

Posted by Frinklin at 07:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

QB Quandries

The Cougars have named Alex Brink their starting quarterback. I think this is a mistake. For all of Brink’s supposed headiness, all I saw was a scared kid who bolted from the pocket too quickly and wasn’t particularly accurate either. I’m not saying Swogger is the next Drew Bledsoe, but he is certainly more physically talented than Brink, and I haven’t seen anything from Brink that makes up for that.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

As for the Huskies quarterback problems, I have no idea what Willingham and Tim Lappano are thinking. While nothing is official, it seems that Isaiah Stanback will be under center for the Air Force game. The Huskies will be running a West Coast offense, and little -if any- option. Stanback has the strongest arm in the program, one of the strongest in the program’s history. Unfortunately, he has no idea whatsoever where the ball is going once he throws it. Stanback completes passes at around 36%. This is the guy you want handling an intricate, timing-based offense? What’s worse is that Stanback has an NFL future at wide receiver. The Huskies are basically taking a potential all-league receiver and making him into a mediocre QB.

That just doesn’t make sense.

Posted by Frinklin at 08:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Does anybody else worry that drive-thru ATMs have Braille instructions on them?

Posted by Frinklin at 08:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Let’s Play Some Football 2005: Big Ten

The top four teams in this conference (Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue and Iowa) all have legitimate National Championship dreams. The next five (Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern) all have solid bowl hopes and an outside shot of a special season. The last two, Illinois and Indiana, have new coaches with Herculean tasks ahead of them. For 2005, this is the best conference in the country.

1. Michigan Wolverines

All Chad Henne did as a true freshman was start every game and tie Elvis Grbac’s single-season TD pass record with 25. All Mike Hart did as a true freshman was rush for 1,455 yards at over five yards a pop. Now they have to avoid the sophomore slump and lead the Blue to a third consecutive Rose Bowl. Braylon Edwards, now a Cleveland Brown, is gone, but Jason Avant and the ultra-exciting Steve Breaston lead a deep, talented wide receiver corps. The tight end combo of Tim Massaquoi and Tyler Ecker might be the best in the country. The offensive line, led by star tackle Adam Stenavich, is the typical Michigan line; big, nasty and made of almost entirely of future pros.

The Wolverines will score points, lots of them.

As settled and potent the offense is, the defense might be the exact opposite. Michigan was shredded down the stretch last year, giving up an average of 33 points over the last four games. Michigan failed on a mental level last season, failing to keep containment and tackling very poorly. They were especially killed by mobile quarterbacks like Troy Smith of OSU and Vince Young from Texas. There is too much talent, especially along the line, with future NFL tackles Gabe Watson and Pat Massey, and edge players Pierre Woods and LaMarr Woodley. Both Woods and Woodley switch between DE and OLB throughout the season and individual games. The secondary was decimated by graduation though, as only CB Leon Hall returns.

The offense should be one of the nation’s best, and the defense is waaay to talented to be as lousy as it was down the stretch. Unfortunately, that was the case last year too. This team is getting reputation as a slightly lazy one, which must drive Coach Lloyd Carr just nuts. If this team can show more disciple and hunger on the field, they will be one of challengers to USC’s throne. If not, then they finish about third, and lose at least 2 games to less-talented teams.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

If Troy Smith or Justin Zwick can provide consistent quarterback play, this offense will be just as scary as Michigan’s, maybe more so. Smith, a very mobile quarterback with an erratic arm, and Zwick, a classic dropback passer and Ohio schoolboy legend, present very different looks. Zwick will definitely start the opener, as Smith is suspended for 1 game, but look for Smith to be the man once he returns. Whichever grabs the QB job, all eyes will be on the wideouts. Ted Ginn is the most exciting player in the country not named Reggie Bush and Santonio Holmes is the perfect compliment. The line returns 4 starters, plus tight end Ryan Hamby. The running game is the problem. Coach Jim Tressel never really replaced Maurice Clarett. Erik Haw, Antonio Pittman and true freshman Maurice Wells will try to this year.

Like Michigan, the Buckeyes had difficulty keeping containment against mobile quarterbacks. Unlike Michigan, OSU managed not to implode down the stretch. The Bucks D is led by its linebacker corps. AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Schlegel, Mike D’Andrea and Marcus Freeman constitute the deepest unit in the Big 10. The line is adequate, though the defense as a whole has to improve on 2004’s middling 24 sacks. The secondary is good, led by corner Ashton Youbouty.

Provided the Buckeyes settle on a quarterback and tailback, this could be a season to remember. Smith led the team well down the stretch and should continue to grow into the job. Despite Coach Jim Tressel’s love for a grinding running game, the Buckeyes have the talent to explode through the air.

3.Purdue Boilermakers

Coach Joe Tiller is experimenting with an Urban Meyer-like option wrinkle to his famous “Basketball on grass” spread offense now that quick and nimble Brandon Kirsch is expected to start. Kirsch, after a sometimes rocky apprenticeship to Kyle Orton, is a daredevil QB who sometimes does too much. Despite Taylor Stubblefield, the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver, leaving, the wideouts maybe Tiller’s best. Blue-chip recruits Greg Orton and Selwyn Lymon join the 6-9 Kyle Ingraham. The Boilers’ top two tailbacks from 2004, Jerod Void and Brandon Jones both return, plus the team adds redshirt freshman Kory Sheets.

Despite some last minute failures, coordinator Brock Spack has to be commended with his unit’s performance. Purdue was very young on defense last season, but still only gave up an average of 17 points per game. Now a year older, the defense returns all 11 starters. Spack does need to figure out how to generate more turnovers. The team only had 15 all of last season.

This could be Tiller’s best team at Purdue. If Kirsch clicks with the offense, and there is no reason why he wouldn’t, this team will score bunches of points. If the defense can cut down on last minute mistakes, Purdue could turn an Ohio State and Michigan-free schedule into a BCS berth.

4.Iowa Hawkeyes

At this time last year, very few had heard of Drew Tate. Now, after a sparkling sophomore season (2,784 yards, 20 TD, first team All-Big Ten), he is the best reason Iowa fans are thinking BCS and maybe more. Tate has a remarkable ability to improvise and a never-say-die approach that makes him both effective and a fan favorite. His 56-yard TD toss with no time left in the Capitol One Bowl will never be forgotten by Hawkeye fans. Tate has some impressive receivers to work with, led by seniors Ed Hinkle and Clinton Soloman. Both have good size (both are over six feet) and good hands. The running game needs work though; the Hawks finished at 72.58 yards per game, good for 116th in the nation, a remarkable statistic for a bowl team.

Iowa has great linebackers and a lot of youth. Scott Greenway and Abdul Hodge are both honors candidates. Hodge is a speedy 230-pound middle ‘backer, while Greenway is bigger (6-4, 244) and more physical against the run. The problem is, they might be very, very busy this year, as all four starters are gone from the front line. Of the eight players in the two-deeps along the D-line, six are underclassmen. They have talent up front, but zero experience. The backfield is okay, as both corners (Jovon Johnson and Antwan Allen) return, though are both are undersized.

Tate makes this team dangerous. He’s short –listed at 6-0, but that’s rumored to be off by as much as two inches-, small at 185 pounds and he doesn’t have a rocket arm.

And every opposing coach in the Big Ten is afraid of him. Tate is patient, smart and endlessly improvisational. He’s the type of college quarterback who can make a mediocre team good and a good team great. It helps that Kirk Ferentz, one of the best in the business, is his head coach.

5.Michigan State Spartans

What is it with Big Ten and quarterbacks named Drew? A few years ago it was Drew Brees. Now it is Drew Tate at Iowa. Michigan State’s version, Drew Stanton, isn’t far behind. Like Tate, he isn’t always pretty, but he’s daring and makes good decisions. As long as he’s healthy, the Spartans are in every game. He runs John L. Smith’s spread offense, which demands quick reads and accuracy. The Spartans have plenty at wideout, starting with 6-6 Kyle Trannon and Jerremy Scott. The running game is adequate, though they could use a game-breaker.

The Spartans run an ultra-aggressive 4-2-5 arrangement that causes big plays for both sides. Five starters return, but little that qualifies as a major strength. There is talent here, especially at linebacker, where sophomore Kaleb Thornhill could be special. Senior Eric Smith returns at Bandit, a LB and SS hybrid. He’s quick and active, but at 193 pounds, pretty seriously undersized.

The Spartans have the classic look of a team about a year away. The defense has talent, but little experience and the offense may have to win shootouts this year. Once the defense gels, this could be a very dangerous team and a darkhorse pick in the Big Ten.

6.Penn State Nittany Lions

After approximately 16 seasons as the Lions starting QB, Zack Mills is gone. That leaves QB/WR hybrid Michael Robinson as the starter, though soph Anthony Morelli could move Robinson to wideout permanently. The Lions have been awful on offense the past few seasons, “improving” to 90th in passing offense last year. Derrick Williams, the #1 recruit in the nation should help. He’s a dynamic playmaker who reminds observers of Reggie Bush and Ted Ginn. He should start immediately. The running game is better, with Austin Scott recovering from injury and workhorse Tony Hunt returning. The line returns all five starters, four of them seniors.

The Lions D was pretty good last year, not allowing any team over 21 points. That a team with that stout a defense could lose six in a row should tell you how brutal the offense was last year. Corner Alan Zemaitis is a big, physical player who is also a team leader. The other corner, Anwar Phillips was picked on as teams avoided Zemaitis, but he acquitted himself well with four interceptions. He may lose his job anyway, as top recruit Justin King could beat him out. The linebackers are good too, especially sophomore Dan Conner. The Nittany Lions are playing with a 3-4 alignment in order to improve team speed.

If Robinson or Morelli provides steady play at QB, JoePa might have his best team in several years. The defense played well all last season, and Williams and King should help inject some excitement.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Glen Mason’s teams are not particularly exciting, but his basic ground game works well, especially when it features a back as exciting as Laurence Maroney. With running mate Marion Barber gone to the NFL, Maroney could have a 2,000 yard season if he’s healthy. QB Bryan Cupito must improve for the Gophers to get anywhere though. He completed less than 48% of his passes. Without a legitimate threat from the passing game, teams will stack 11 in the box to stop Maroney.

Minnesota, due to a lack of speed and size, plays a very conservative bend-but-don’t-break style of defense. As Mason improves the physical talent on this side of the ball, expect that to change. The Gophers are still small and slow along the line, but the linebackers, led by middleman Mike Sherels, an exciting sophomore, are better than at any time under Mason. The defensive backfield is the most physically talented unit, but in need of some experience.

The Gophers started out well last year. At 5-0, they looked on the verge of a breakthrough season and a challenge for the Big Ten championship. That didn’t happen, as the team lost five of its last six regular season games, including humiliating losses to Michigan State, who racked up 51 against them, and loss to a brutal Indiana team. They did recover to beat Alabama in the Motor City Bowl. Expect much of the same from this edition: they need to get early leads and wear teams down with Maroney. If they get behind, they don’t have the firepower to catch up

8.Wisconsin Badgers

The effectiveness of the Badgers offense will rely almost exclusively on one man; tailback Brian Calhoun. Calhoun, a transfer from Colorado, is expected to shove provide a spark that was lacking last year due to injuries to Anthony Davis and Booker Stanley. Davis is gone now, and Stanley might be too as he was arrested during the off-season. John Stucco returns at QB, though he may be pushed by Tyler Donovan, who is more runner than passer. The line is excellent, led by center Donovan Raiola. The wideouts are good too. Provided Stucco and Donovan can get them the ball, Brandon Williams and Jonathon Orr can stretch defenses.

The Badgers lost a lot of quality here, especially along the line where Anttaj Hawthorne and Erasmus James starred. Throw in the loss of safety Jim Leonhard and corner Scott Starks and the Badgers are starting just above ground zero. A healthy return from corner Brett Bell, who is recovering from knee surgery, and a breakthrough from talented end Jamal Cooper would go a long way toward establishing this defense.

Barry Alvarez has announced this will be his last season, and that could inspire Wisconsin to play above their heads. As it stands, the Badgers are too young on defense and too weak at QB to challenge the Big Ten’s upper echelon. The defense will have to grow up very quickly, as the opener is a classic “gotcha” game against Bowling Green and star QB Omar Jacobs.

9.Northwestern Wildcats

The Wildcats offense has been very schizophrenic the past few seasons. They run a conservative version of the spread, more like West Virginia’s run-based attack than Purdue’s “Basketball on Grass”. Northwestern is very good at moving the ball, averaging over 400 yards per game, but not especially good at scoring. They had problems in the red zone last year, scoring 24 touchdowns in 39 attempts. Brett Basanez returns for his fourth year as starter. Basanez has had seriously up-and-down career, and needs to go out on a good note for the ‘Cats to be successful at all.

Northwestern’s defense isn’t the disaster area it was a couple of years ago when it gave up 500 yards per game. It still isn’t that good either, as the Wildcats gave up more than 40 four times in 2004. The biggest problem area is at corner. Both returnees have issues. Jeff Backes gambles too much and gets toasted too often, and Marquice Cole is undersized at 5-9. The linebackers are good; a rugged, tough bunch that makes plays despite lacking speed. The line has a very nice building block in tackle Barry Cofield.

Coach Randy Walker is a tough, rugged, never-say-die kind of coach, and his team plays that way. However, the overall talent level doesn’t match the teams ahead of NW, and it will take a lot for them to catch up.

10. Illinois Fighting Illini

Ron Zook has junked former coach Ron Turner’s West Coast scheme and brought a wide-open spread offense much like his Florida team ran. First item on the agenda is finding a quarterback, with juniors Tim Brasic and Chris Pazan, along with freshman Kisan Flakes, in the mix. While the QB position is in flux, the running game is a strength behind the shifty Pierre Thomas and do-everything EB Halsey. Kendrick Jones is the top returning receiver. The wideouts are capable, but lack gamebreaking speed.

Zook kept Mike Mallory, Turner’s defensive coordinator. Mallory did well, despite a lack of physical talent. The defensive line is undersized and the linebackers are slow. The defensive backfield should be a strength despite the loss of corner Kelvin Hayden. Morris Virgil, Travis Williams and Justin Harrison form a potent safety rotation.

Turner’s team crumbled the past 2 seasons after a Big Ten championship and BCS berth. There isn’t much to work with in terms of talent, but Zook was a very effective recruiter at Florida. 2005 will be a transition year.

11.Indiana Hoosiers

New Coach Terry Hoeppner has installed a spread offense with pro-style formations, much like his offenses at Miami (OH). Unfortunately, Hoeppner left more talent at Miami than he arrives to n Bloomington. Blake Powers and Grame McFarland are battling for the starting QB job; plus Hoeppner must replace the transferred BenJarvus Green-Ellis, last season’s leading rusher. The line returns four starters, and Hoeppner is excited about his young receiving corps led by Jahkeen Gilmore.

Like the offense, the defense will rely more on misdirection than speed or size. Hoeppner is installing a zone blitz scheme that, theoretically anyway, should allow the Hoosiers to work around their lack of talent. They return six starters, though the new staff will throw everything open.

Hoeppner might have been well-served to stay at Miami until a better job opened up. The Hoosiers are a quagmire at this point, as Gerry Dinardo was canned despite some progress on the field. The biggest problem is fan support, as the Hoosiers averaged around 10,000 fans in 52,000-seat Memorial Stadium. Hoeppner is an energy guy who will do all he can to enthuse the fan base.

Previously: ACC, Big East

Posted by Frinklin at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2005

It feels like home today

Both Ensie and I have been struggling over the move. Its just the usual growing pains, I think. A new house, new people and new places. Today though, today this feels like home. Why? Because my lovely wife has fallen alseep in front of the television with one of our dogs cuddled up beside her.

Posted by Frinklin at 03:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hollywood is, seriously

Have you ever had a hankering for 30-second phone call from Greg Evgan, star of both My Two Dads and BJ and the Bear? How about former Diff'rent Strokes star Todd Bridges? Or perhaps you need a "How ya doin?" from Buck Rodgers babe Erin Grey?

Well, you're in luck. All of these (and many, many more) are available at Hollywood Is Calling. For $19.95 you can arrange for a 30-second call from dozens of former stars. I can't even imagine why someone would be willing to pay 20 bucks to talk to former Blue Lagoon star Christopher Atkins or WCW wrester Raven, but apparently there are enough to keep the site in business.

The only reason I can imagine to do this is to talk to Evigan, when I can finally confirm that he and Paul Reiser were totally, totally gay in My Two Dads.

Posted by Frinklin at 03:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2005

Best Funeral Ever


True to his wishes, the ashes of the late Hunter S. Thompson were used in fireworks at a memorial service at his Woody Creek compound.

That's a pretty damned cool idea.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2005

Wedding Ring Escapades

First, the Missus forgot to wear her wedding ring a few days after we got married. Then I tried to throw mine away. Yesterday morning Ensie lost hers and spent an hour tearing apart our house looking for it. Eventually she did find it, in the living room, underneath her laptop case. Considering she took it off and laid it on her nightstand, it’s a mystery (possibly kitten-related) as to how it got there. One thing is clean though: We are not meant to wear jewelry.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let’s Play Some Football 2005: Big East Edition

After a season of serious flux, the Big East is reconstituted as a league based on the East Coast, but stretching into the Midwest and Deep South. It is rather ungainly, but no more so than the New England is part of the Mid-Atlantic farce that the ACC features. The new Big East, without Miami and Virginia Tech, managed to keep its BCS bid just in time for the incoming Louisville Cardinals. Louisville finished #6 in the nation, but as the champion of the C-USA they ended up playing in the Liberty Bowl against Boise State. The Cardinals are overwhelming favorites this year, but don’t count out Pittsburg or West Virginia making a run at the top.

1. Louisville Cardinals

In 2004 the Cardinals featured a PlayStation offense that racked up just a tick under 50 points per game (49.75) and featured the nation’s most efficient passer in QB Stefan LaFors. LeFors is gone now, along with running back Eric Shelton and all-league receiver JR Russell.

And they just might be better this year. Sophomore Brian Brohm takes over for LaFors, something he nearly did last year. The most heralded recruit in L’Ville history, Brohm played extensively (and well) as a true freshman. Shelton’s replacement is do-everything Michael Bush. Bush was recruited as a QB, and can play at wideout, TE or anywhere in the backfield. Brohm’s main targets will be the big and physical Montrell Jones and the even bigger Joshua Tinch. Four of five starters on the offensive line return. This team will be dangerous, especially against some truly awful Big East defenses.

The defense might be dangerous to both itself and others. The Cardinals haven’t been known for their defenses, but last year was a nice turnaround. Louisville pitched two shutouts and gave up under 20 points per game. This year might be different, as coordinator Mike Cassity has to replace six starters, including ¾ of the defensive backfield. Brohm and Co. might have to outscore people.

Coach Bobby Petrino is 20-5 since taking over for John L. Smith two years ago. Now, the Cardinals have a legitimate shot at both the BCS and contention for the National Championship. The offense is downright frightening, and the defense should mature into an adequate unit.

2. Pitt Panthers

New Coach Dave Wannstedt wasted no time in removing Walt Harris’ West Coast offense, and installing a pro-style, power-running attack. That may be a questionable decision in the short run, as QB Tyler Palko was excellent down the stretch last year, and the returning starter at RB, senior Raymond Kirkley doesn’t strike fear into anyone. The receiving corps is also pretty special, led by stud junior Greg Lee. Three starters on the line return, but that may change as Wannestedt and coordinator Matt Cavanaugh switch to a bigger, more physical line.

Major changes abound here too, as Wannestedt installs the speed-based system that he was so successful as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator back in the 1990s. The Panthers have some talent that already fit the bill, such as linebacker HB Blades and corners Josh Lay and Darrelle Revis. Look for a lot of movement at the other positions as Wannestedt tries to get his best athletes on the field.

A highly respected defensive coordinator in the NFL, a moderate failure as a head coach in the NFL, now trying his luck at an urban university with a proud football tradition. Is that Wannestedt or Pete Carroll at USC? After the tenure of Walt Harris, which was successful despite the feeling that neither party really liked the other, this hire (of a Pitt alum no less) makes a lot of sense. Harris recruited well, and the talent gap between Pitt and Louisville is much slimmer than most realize.

3. West Virginia Mountaineers

Rich Rodriguez’s unorthodox-but-effective run-based spread offense will be lead by someone other than Rasheed Marshall for the first time in his tenure. Sophomore Adam Bednarik, freshman Pat White and perhaps former Pittsburgh Pirate Minor League Player of the Year JR House are the main contenders to take over. Star receiver Chris Henry will have to be replaced as well. The most productive returnee at wideout is Brandon Myles with… ummm…six catches. Tailback Jason Colson returns after gaining 700 yards as a part-timer, but he will be pushed by freshman Jason Gwaltney.

There is much work to be done here.

Despite the exit of NFL 1st round pick Adam “Pacman” Jones, the secondary will continue to be the best unit from WVU’s 3-3-5 stack defense. It will also be the only unit with much returning this season. The lineman and linebackers were weakened by graduation. The Mountaineers haven’t been a particularly aggressive defense the last few years, and that probably won’t change this season.

This could be a long year for West Virginia. Last year was their window, and now they’ve lost each of their three best players. Rodriguez has recruited well –witness Gwaltney and QB Nate Sowers- but they will be very young in 2005.

4. Connecticut Huskies

Life after Dan Orlovsky begins this season. The record-setting UConn QB is gone, leaving junior Matt Bonislawski and freshman DJ Hernandez to take his place. While the Huskies don’t have much returning at QB, they do have an embarrassment of riches at running back. Last year’s starter Cornell Brockington will compete with 2003 star Terry Caulley. Both have rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. The line will flip-flop this season, but three starters return.

The Huskies build their 4-3 on speed, not size. All four starters from the line return, none over 284 pounds. They do lose 2 ultra-productive linebackers in Alfred Fincher and Maurice Lloyd, but James Hargrave is a talented returnee. The defensive backfield will be young, but more athletic than recent teams.

The Huskies did alright their first season in the Big East. The only retuning league team that won a bowl game in 2004 should contend for another. They lost a lot in the passing game, but coach Randy Edsell has recruited well, and this young program is still going forward.

5. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

If Ryan Hart can cut down his interceptions –a very big “if”, considering he’s thrown 38 the past two years combined- this offense could be the Big East’s second best after Louisville.

Consider that for a moment: Rutgers could be good a something on a football field that doesn’t involve being run-over. Hart is now a senior, and barring injury he should finish his career with every Rutgers passing record. Brian Leonard is a nifty run/catch dual-threat fullback that most coaches in the nation would love to have. Receiver Tres Moses led the Big East in receptions last year with 81, and Shawn Tucker, the team’s best wideout in 2003, returns after missing 2004 with an injury. Add in two all-league candidates on the line (tackle Jeremy Zittah and guard John Glass), and you have a talented bunch.

They better be good at scoring points, because the defense is…well, last year the Scarlet Knights were spectacularly awful, giving up over 30 points per game and ranking a lovely 104th in total defense. Coach Greg Schiano (who must have nightmares about his career choices –he’s a Jersey native who, had he waited a week or two, would have been named Miami’s head coach over Larry Coker when Butch Davis left), takes over the defensive coordinator duties in an attempt to improve. The cupboard is not entirely bare. End Ryan Neill was an All-Big East performer in 2004, and safety Ron Girault showed enough to start as a true freshman.

You can make a case for Rutgers as the most difficult job in major college football. Despite being in an excellent recruiting area, this program is so historically awful that winning video game championships has been deemed worthy of inclusion on professional resumes. Schiano may need to update his resume as well; though the case can be made that Rutgers won’t find anyone better. Schiano has poured his heart and soul into this program. If this team can avoid collapses like losing to New Hampshire (New Hampshire!) after last year’s seeming breakthrough win over Michigan State, the offense might propel this team into a minor bowl. Considering RU has gone 37 years since its last (and only) bowl appearance, that could be Coach-of-the-Year material.

6. Syracuse Orange

For years Syracuse has had one of the more exotic offenses in America, With the dismissal of Paul Pasqualoni and the hiring of Greg Robinson, the Orange have switched from their multiple-formation, freeze-option offense to a more conventional West Coast scheme. First Robinson will have to find a quarterback, as neither Perry Patterson nor Joe Fields moved the team with any authority. Fields might be the better bet, as he started as a true freshman last year. One position in fine shape is tailback, as senior Damien Rhodes finally gets to be The Man. The offensive line is solid, so look for a run-oriented team to start out.

Robinson will also serve as his own defensive coordinator, and he has work to do. In 2004 the Orange opened up giving up 51 to Purdue and closed the year giving up –you guessed it- 51 in a Champs Sports Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Unless Robinson is a miracle worker (and judging from his NFL past, he’s not), the Orange just don’t have the talent to stop people with much regularity.

After being on the hot seat seemingly from the Nixon administration on, Paul Pasqualoni was finally fired. Robinson, though a little older than most first-time head coaches, brings a freshness and enthusiasm to a program that had grown decidedly stale.

7. South Florida

Pat Julmiste, the starter at quarterback the past two seasons, might lose his job to Auburn transfer Courtney Denson. Denson was actually switched to corner as a Tiger, but left to play QB for the Bulls. Whoever wins the job will primarily hand off to senior tailback Andre Hall, who fulfilled all expectations after coming in as a juco transfer, rushing for over 1,300 yards. The Bulls return 3 of their 4 starting wideouts from their spread offense, but lose three starters on the line.

The defense returns eight starters, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. The Bulls were beat up in 2004, giving up just a tick under 400 yards per game. South Florida’s biggest problem was a lack of big plays, as they only generated 11 turnovers. Coach Jim Leavitt will be counting on experience improving his defense’s performance. The Bulls were young last season.

Last season was South Florida’s first under .500 as a D-I program. It could happen again, as they move up from C-USA to the Big East. This team could surprise though, as Leavitt recruits as well as anyone in the conference. While this team has hit a bump, the program is still on the right track.

They still lose points for not knowing geography. Tampa is not South Florida.

8.Cincinnati Bearcats

Who knows? The Bearcats lose a 4-year starter at QB in Gino Guidugli, a 1,000-yard rusher in Richard Hall, both starting wideouts and 4 starters on the offensive line.

Other than that, Cincinnati is fine.

Yikes! Cincy loses eight more starters on this side of the ball. The strength of this D, if you can call it that, will be on the line, as end Anthony Hoke returns after an effective freshman year. The linebackers are decimated enough to force Coach Mark Dantonio to move –and install as a starter- fullback Jon Carpenter to an outside ‘backer spot.

It could be a rough initial season in the Big East. In his first season, Dantonio rode a senior-laden team to a bowl victory. Now the team must be completely overhauled. Cincy lost 16 starters and could list two-dozen freshmen on the depth chart. First point of order is finding a replacement for Guidugli. First up is Dustin Grutza.


Posted by Frinklin at 09:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2005

Let’s Play Some Football 2005: ACC Version

If you can figure out how and why these divisions were set up they way they were, you should get a cookie. The ACC finally adds Boston College this year, but not to add the recruiting hotbed of Chestnut Hill, MA to its territory. BC was added just to get the ACC up to 12 teams and a championship game. You’ll notice that Florida State and Miami are in separate divisions, with the fervent hope (amongst TV execs, anyway) that they will meet for the championship in December.

The best ACC teams this year should be Miami and Virginia Tech, both of whom are in the Coastal Division (Blacksburg is right the coast you know). Florida State is right behind, followed by a pack of mid-tier teams looking to break though. A serious challenge could come from Clemson, NC State, Virginia, Boston College, Maryland or Georgia Tech. Or any of those teams could finish at home for the holidays.

Lost in the hoopla over the division split is the actual talent level of the league. Miami, Virginia Tech and possibly Florida State fancy themselves national title contenders, despite problems at quarterback. The real talent in the ACC is at linebacker. The NFL could –and eventually will- restock with talents like UVA’s Ahmed Brooks, FSU’s Ernie Sims and a host of others.

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State Seminoles

The Noles need to find a quality quarterback. After four years and zero improvement from Chris Rix, and with the medical woes of junior Wyatt Sexton, FSU is down to 2 redshirt freshman, Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford. Both are athletic and highly regarded, but their combined experience is about nil. Whoever wins the job will have two excellent backs to hand off too. Both Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington are honors candidates. The offensive line and wide receivers are young, but since this is FSU, they are talented.

If all you needed were linebackers, the Seminoles would never lose. Ernie Sims, AJ Nicholson and Buster Davis are physical and fast. The rest of the defense is hurting though, with star CB Antonio Cromartie and DT Clifton Dickson out for the year. Florida State does sport a couple of nice senior safeties in Kyler Hall and Pat Watkins, but freshman will have to step up at corner.

How much has this program slipped and how much has the ACC caught up? Bobby Bowden hasn’t lost anything in recruiting, but since longtime coaches Mark Richt and Chuck Amato left the results haven’t been there. Jeff Bowden, Bobby’s son and offensive coordinator, has come under fire recently for his unimaginative play-calling and stagnation of the quarterbacks.

2. Boston College Eagles

Coach Tom O’Brien took a big risk last year, redshirting starting QB Quinton Porter. Now Porter is back as a fifth-year senior. He was moderately effective in 2003, and O’Brien is counting on improvement. The defenses he’ll face in the ACC are markedly more complex and athletic than he faced in the Big East. Save for Miami and VT, of course. While the Eagles failed to have a 1,000-yard rusher last year, they do return two capable tailbacks in sophomores LV Whitworth and Andre Callendar. BC is thin enough at WR to consider making CB Will Blackmon a 2-way player. The O-line wasn’t great last year, but all 5 starters return.

The Eagles feature three defenders who would start at just about any program in the nation, chief among them is All-America DE Mathias Kiwanuaka. Kiwanuaka, who could have turned pro and been drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft, is a speedy edge rusher who is sometimes overpowered at the point of attack. Sophmore MLB Brian Toal, perhaps the most heralded recruit in BC history, played well as a true freshman. He is a fine young player who could be forgotten in the ACC’s avalanche of NFL-quality linebackers. Blackmon is a big (6-0, 202) and fast corner who the Eagles envision as a poor-man’s Ted Ginn. If he starts at wideout, look for him in nickel or dime packages.

The Eagles are going to deal with the transfer to the ACC better than some think. The offense has some holes, but O’Brien and coordinator Dana Bible should figure out ways to get the ball in Blackmon’s hands and either of the RB should give the Eagles a quality runner. On defense, the Eagles match up well after finishing 12th in the nation in scoring defense in 2004. This is a dangerous team that gets FSU early.

3. Clemson Tigers

Is Charlie Whitehurst the best QB in the ACC, like he was at the tail end of 2003? Or will he continue to be the mediocrity on display for most of 2004? Coach Tommy Bowden, who has been on the hot seat too many times to count, hired Rob Spence away from Toledo to serve as offensive coordinator. Spence, who built some dynamite offenses for the Rockets, has a lot to work with in Whitehurst. He doesn’t have much around him though, as the receivers have been decimated. The running game wasn’t much either, but Spence has made it a priority. A young O-line was pushed around last year, but shows improvement behind young LT Barry Richardson.

Another new coordinator here, this time former Wyoming coach Vic Koenning. He inherits some talent, but holes as well. The Tigers best defenders, MLB LeRoy Hill and CB Justin Miller both left to the NFL. Koeninng runs a complex system with hybrid DE/OLB and OLB/SS types. Despite the loss of Miller, the defensive backfield is talented, with CB Tye Hill and stud safety CJ Gaddis.

The hiring of Spence is a masterstroke by Bowden. Spence’s offenses as Toledo were among the most innovative and dangerous in the country. If he can rehabilitate Whitehurst’s psyche, the Tigers will be dangerous. The Tigers may start slow, but will be the team no one wants to face in November.

Just like 2003.

4. North Carolina State Wolfpack

Boy did the Pack miss Philip Rivers. Jay Davis took over at QB and was mediocre at best, tossing 15 INTs to go along with his 2100 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’ll be pressed by sophomore Marcus Stone. New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will also coach the quarterbacks. He’ll have much to do, along with installing his West Coast Offense. He’ll mix in a healthy dose of power running, better to play to State’s strength with tailbacks Tremain Hall, Bobby Washington and incoming frosh Toney Baker. TA McClendon started as a true freshman, and Baker might too. The Wolf Pack will need to improve their receivers, as Hall and TE TJ Wiliams are the best returning pass-catchers.

In a league with NFL talent, their might not be a better one than DE Mario Williams. Williams, a first-team All-ACC performer as a sophomore, has an NFL ready body (6-7, 285, 6% body fat) and the game to match. He’s paired with Manny Lawson and a tackle rotation of John McCargo, Tank Tyler and DeMario Pressley. This is the best d-line in college football this season. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left at other positions. The secondary is decimated, with no returning starters. Marcus Hudson will start at corner, after bouncing between CB and safety his previous three seasons. He will need to be a leader.

As befits a Chuck Amato team, the Wolf Pack has a monstrously talented D-line, with some young talent in the back seven. The offense is a bit of mess though, as Trestman has a lot to work on. Like most of the teams in mid-pack ACC, if things break right, this team could contend for the division championship. If the offense doesn’t improve, things could get ugly, and NC State could find themselves losing a lot of games 10-6 or 13-3.

5. Maryland Terrapins

Ralph Friedgen’s offense seriously stumbled last year, as none of his three quarterbacks –Joel Statham, Jordan Steffy and Sam Hollenbach- played very well. Statham was the starter most of the year, and then Steffy, who gave way to Hollenbach, replaced him. Hollenbach will enter the year as the starter, with Statham his backup. Steffy could miss the season with injury. To make matters worse, starting tailback Josh Allen will miss the season after tearing his ACL in the season finale last year. The Terps do have a couple nice options catching the ball. Receiver Derrick Fenner is a quality possession-type, and both tight ends, Derek Miller and Vernon Davis, have starting experience.

Maryland lost Charger first-round pick Shawne Merriman, and most of his supporting cast. Three of four line starters will need to be replaced, along with the entire secondary. The linebackers, thankfully, are quality. Led by middle ‘backer D’Qwell Jackson, all three starters return. Jackson will get All-America consideration, and he should be busy this year. There is young talent on defense, as Friedgen has recruited well.

This looks like a growing-pains year for the Terrapins. The offense was awful last year, and the defense has been decimated. Friedgen has this program on track, but it will be at least another year until they get back to the 10-win plateau.

6. Wake Forest Deamon Deacons

The Deacons will continue to run Jim Grobe’s innovative, misdirection-based running attack. Finding a QB will be the first priority, as both sophomore Ben Mauk and senior Cory Randolph started at times last year. Chris Barclay returns at running back, if healthy he should become Wake’s all-time leading rusher this year. Four starters return on the line.

The Deacs are still smaller and slower than most ACC teams on defense, but they are closing the gap. Middle linebacker Jon Abbate is a physical player who could start on just about any team in the ACC. Considering the astonishing quality of ACC linebackers, that’s really saying something. Wake has dropped the 3-3-5 stack this year, switching to a more traditional 4-3.

Coastal Division

1. Miami Hurricanes

Like most ACC teams, they Hurricanes have serious questions at QB. How a program like Miami could get down to only 2 scholarship quarterbacks is stunning, but both Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman have talent. Wright, the probable starter, was a heralded recruit from California who draws comparisons to former USC Heisman winner Carson Palmer. Freeman is more a dual threat. Whoever wins the job will have plenty to throw too, as Lance Leggett, Ryan Moore and Sinorice Moss constitute a deadly three-wideout attack. The running game is questionable, and may fall to incoming freshman Derron Thiomas. The line is solid, especially if future NFLer Eric Wintson is healthy.


All you need to know about the potential of Miami’s defense is that two of their most gifted players, CB Devin Hester and LB Willie Williams, are not starters at this point. Hester is currently the third corner behind Marcus Maxey and honors candidate Kelly Jennings. Willie Willams, the heralded and controversial recruit from 2 years ago, backs up senior Leon Williams. The front seven, led by Leon Williams and ends Bryan Peta and Thomas Carroll, are athletic. The line is slightly undersized, but should make up for it in speed.

Miami is still Miami and they as much pure talent as anyone not named USC. If Wright can solidify the QB position, this team will be very, very dangerous. They start off with a bang, at Clemson and FSU. Win those two games and its smooth sailing until they head to Blacksburg on November 5.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies

After some starts and stops, this is finally Marcus Vick’s team. After loosing out to Byron Randall two years ago and finding himself suspended all of last year, Vick is the starter despite not having thrown a pass in anger since November of 2003. Viick’s athleticism matches that of his older brother Michael, but he remains unproven. The talent is around him for this to be a special offense if he can come through. Stumpy Mike Imoh is a proven tailback, and the wideouts are young, fast and talented. Three starters return on the line.

Considering the talent on this defense, along with that of Miami, Boston College, NC State and others, it will be a miracle if any ACC team can ever score. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: this defense is fast, physical and talented, led by senior cornerback Jimmy Williams and speedy edge rusher Darryl Tapp. Throw in a young linebacking corps led by sophomore Xavier Adibi, and VT will wreak havoc in 2005.

Everything depends on Vick. The fans have been clamoring for him since he was in high school, and they may not realize how much Randall brought to the table. Vick certainly has the physical tools. If he plays okay, the Hokies will challenge for the ACC championship. If Vick becomes a star, they could play in Pasadena in January.

3. Virginia Cavaliers

Marques Hagans returns at quarterback after a fine debut season. Despite spending most of 2003 at wide receiver, Hagans acquitted himself well, throwing over 2000 yards, but only 9 touchdowns. Part of that was due to difficulties at wide receiver, as now-departed TE Heath Miller was Hagans’ only reliable pass-catcher. That should change with the return of WR Ottowa Anderson, who was ineligible in 2004. The Cavs are loaded at RB, with Wali Lundy and Michael Johnson, the fastest player on the team. The line is excellent, led by All-America (and All-Name) D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

Speaking of linebackers… They don’t get much better than Ahmed Brooks. Despite some inconsistency at times (He was just a sophomore) the NFL-prototype ‘backer terrorized opposing offenses last year. Throw in talented mates Kai Parham, Clint Sintim and Vince Redd, as this is as good a combo as you’ll find, even after Darryl Blackstock left early for the NFL. The line is a little thin, as only Brennan Schmidt returns, but the Cavs have high hopes for Howie Long’s son Chris and maybe even one-time heralded recruit Kwakou Robinson. The secondary is shaky, except for corner Marcus Hamilton, who has locked down the left CB spot.

Last year at this time, the Cavs were on the verge of something big. They still might be, if a little slower now. The Cavaliers overall team speed, especially at WR and DB, isn’t up to par with the titans of the ACC. If coach Al Groh continues to recruit like he has, that will be fixed soon.

4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Freshman Reggie Ball was probably better than sophomore Reggie Ball. Now, as junior Reggie Ball, the Jacket’s QB has to improve. The pieces are there around him to make this a quality offense if he can improve his decision-making. PJ Daniels is a workhorse tailback, and sophomore receiver Calvin Johnson is a dynamic wideout as well as the most talented player at his position in the conference. Only two starters return on the offensive line and GT may have to rely on freshmen at LT. That will not make Ball’s life easier.

Who was paying attention when Tech’s defense became one of the best in the country? Head coach Chan Gailey is an offensive guy, and leaves coordinator Jon Tenuta to his own devices. Tenuta has set up an ultra-aggressive and gambling defense that will give up the occasional big play. Tenuta returns six starters, but lost star tackle Darryl Richard to injury during spring practice.

Gailey is in his fourth year of a five-year deal, and he needs to show some improvement. The Jackets have the skill position talent to excel, assuming Ball can improve. If he does, and the line holds, Tech will have a nice offense. The defense should be much the same: big plays on both sides.

5. North Carolina Tar Heels

Coach John Bunting was on a seriously hot seat this time last year, but was saved by the performance of QB Darian Durant. Durant, who had an up-and-down career as a Heel, played a brilliant senior season and propelled UNC to the Continental Tire Bowl. Now, Bunting and veteran coordinator Gary Tranquil will face life without out Durant, and longtime backup Matt Baker will take over. Baker, a senior, does have good talent around him. The Heels have a good returning tailback in Ronnie McGill, but he will be pushed by LSU transfer Barrington Edwards. The Heels also have nice receivers, led by Jawarski Pollack and Jesse Holley.

The Heels simplified their defense and improved it by doing so in 2004. They are in a rough position, losing two of their best players, tackles Isiaiah Thomas and Terry Hunter to drug suspensions. The back seven is competent, but makes very few big plays. The Tar Heels will have to be a bend-but-don’t-break defense in 2005.

Bunting survived the Steve Spurrier rumors, but he may find it more difficult to survive life without Durant. The offense is okay, as long as Baker comes through, but the defense needs some work.

6. Duke Blue Devils

The Blue Devils imported new coordinator Bill O’Brien from Maryland, so look for some distinctly Ralph Freidgen-esque wrinkles this year. Mike Schneider returns as the starter at QB, but he will be pushed by Nebraska transfer Curt Dukes. The running game is a mess, as Cedric Durgan, while a quality ballcarrier, has been plagued with injuries. A talented group of receivers took a hit when sophomore Chancellor Young, a Seattle native, announced he was leaving the program. The line loses four starters. That may not be a bad thing; the line was awful last year.

Tackle Vince Oghobaase is the Devils’ best recruit in ages, maybe ever. He’ll start as a true freshman, barring injury. He is also a basketball recruit, which is how Duke landed him. If he lives up to the hype, Oghobaase will provide a much-needed difference maker. End Phillip Alexander, provided he returns from injury, is a quality player as well. The secondary is okay. Corner John Talley locks down his side, and Deonto McCormick will have to deal with additional work on the other side. The linebackers are weak.

When does basketball season start? Actually, Ted Roof has this team (slowly, very slowly) heading in the right direction. Duke doesn’t have to be this bad. The school is bigger than Wake Forest, and won the ACC title as recently as… okay, it was 16 years ago.

ACC Champion: Miami Hurricanes

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August 11, 2005

New Cougar Uniforms

The Washington State Cougars today revealed their new and very much improved football uniforms. They've dropped the stripe overdose and single color look for these classic and classy uniforms. The road unis look a little like Stanford's current uniform, but that's beside the point. This look is what they should have had 10 years ago.


Posted by Frinklin at 10:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 09, 2005

The King

Felix Hernandez is 19 years old. Tonight he became the first teenager to win a MLB game in 21 years.


Eight innings, zero runs, zero walks, five singles, six strikeouts...

This is the most excited I've been about being a Mariner fan in months.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Worst. Promotion. Ever.

Because Seattle-area children don't have nearly enough nightmares, the Mariners and Children's Hospital are brining you the Ti-Gar.


Yes, the picture isn't great quality, but that would be a stuffed tiger with a plastic replica of Edgar Martinez's face attached. I can't even imagine how scary Edgar’s giant plastic head would be to a 6-year old.

How do they come up with this stuff?

Posted by Frinklin at 09:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 06, 2005

Interesting Quiz

Most of these goofy things mean zip, but this one was pretty interesting.

And of course, I kinda like the results.

Der Resistance
Achtung! You are 30% brainwashworthy, 13% antitolerant, and 42% blindly patriotic
Welcome to the Resistance (Der Widerstand)! You believe in freedom, justice, equality, and your country, and you can't be converted to the the dark side.

Breakdown: Your Blind Patriotism levels are borderline unhealthy, but you show such a love of people from everywhere and a natural resistance to brainwashing, you would probably focus your energy to fight Fuehrer with furor, so to speak.

Conclusion: Born and raised in Germany in the early 1930's, you would have taken up ARMS against the oppressors. Or even your friends' oppressors. Congratulations!

Less than 5% of all test takers earn a spot in Der Resistance!

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 32% on brainwashworthy
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 4% on antitolerant
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 64% on patriotic
Link: The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid

Found at The American Scene.

Posted by Frinklin at 05:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 05, 2005

Okay, so we’re finally somewhat settled in the new house.

No, that is a total lie. We are not settled. Find “settled” and go exactly 174 degrees from that. We are in a state of near-constant unsettledness.

If “unsettledness” is even a real word, that is.

This is where we stand: Our kitchen is close to being completely unpacked –though we can’t seem to find the damned spice rack- and our new stove has been installed. We haven’t actually used the stove yet. In fact, we haven’t even turned the damned thing on. This would be due to the unpacked boxes stacked upon it. Don’t want to burn down the house before we manage a mortgage payment. Also, the bird and his cage is still right smack in the middle of the kitchen. Why? No other place to put him at this point.

Our bedroom is closest to completion. Our bed is up, our nightstands and lamps are in the right place, our TV is installed, and most of our clothes are unpacked and hanging in our tiny closet with no door on it or folded and in the very nifty built-in. The office has the computer and desk put together and a giant mass of unplaced bookcases. The living room and dining room is a mess. We are able to walk in them, and even watch TV a little. After you move the spare queen-size box spring that is.

Upstairs we have a few neatly stacked storage boxes, a mattress and a chest-of drawers. It’s amazing that we managed to pick a house where the upstairs is of so little use. The space itself is fine. I’ve adapted to the sloped ceilings, and I’ve always loved the little window nooks. However, due to the size of our staircase, it turns out to be nearly impossible to get any furniture up there. The spare box spring I mentioned? It’s a spare because we couldn’t get it up the stairs. The mattress went up eventually, but the boxspring was a lost cause. As it is, we may end up with one entirely empty room up there. It will be the Zen Room apparently.

Notice I don’t mention the actual state of our furniture. It’s arrived. Every single piece of furniture with wood showing has at least one new nick or dent in it. Hell, our idiot movers managed to dent a piece of furniture they didn’t even move. I’ll explain: in the former Frinklin Manor our living room television was in a built-in entertainment unit. It was ugly, and weirdly sized, but it was functional. We decided on a cute Ikea TV stand to replace it in the new house. We picked it out in San Diego, but purchased in Seattle. It didn’t make any sense to pay for it to be moved. So, we picked it up and put it togther during the week off (you know, when we stupidly thought our furniture would be delivered, just because they told us it would). When the movers finally got here and delived the TV, they dropped it onto the stand, gouging the front of it. That’s all you need to know about our movers.

We now have the weekend where we will work like maniacs putting our house together. Hopefully our Craigslist ad will take care of our excess couches (we currently have 4-please don’t ask why), and we will be able to create actual rooms. Our new house looks a bit more house-like with every passing day. Hopefully this weekend it will take a huge leap.

It has to. I don’t think Ensie and my sanity can handle this much longer.

Wanna see what I mean?

Posted by Frinklin at 06:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

We have STUFF!

Our movers finally arrived the day before yesterday. While we're still buried in boxes, our bedroom is almost complete and the office is, well... the computer is hooked up. That's about all we've done.

But I will be able to blog again.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2005

Sometimes You Break Down the Trading Deadline, and Sometimes It Breaks You Down

Today's Musical Selection: "I Hear You Knocking (But You Can't Come In)" by Joe Walsh

Regular readers of my old blog (hello, both of you!) may recall that one of my traditions was to do a unique, one-of-a-kind analysis of baseball's trading-deadline deals. My theory, then as now, was that there are hundreds of sites you can visit to get a traditional analysis of these trades, using such outdated metrics as "statistics" and "observable reality." But only here can you garner the unique perspective of someone who may or may not have been dropped on his head as a child, who goes beyond the "facts" to ferret out the true significance of these late-season moves. For those who have missed my previous award-winning analyses, here are my entries from 2004 and 2003.

But there's something different about this year, something that made it stand out from '04 and '03. Specifically, nobody did anything worth writing about. It's like high school boys bragging about their conquests. Remember how in high school, all the guys would get together in the locker room and brag about how they were sleeping with that beautiful blond cheerleader, or the raven-haired exchange student, or the leggy redhead from homeroom? And you sat there wondering why all your friends were landing these really attractive women, and you kept spending your Saturday nights at home with the TV? Maybe you even pretended to be keeping time with a pretty girl of your own, just to keep up with the Joneses. Of course, at some point down the road (maybe in college, maybe at the reunion), it occurred to you that all your friends were also lying, and that there was a lot of talk, but not a lot of action. The 2005 MLB trading deadline was thus a trip down Memory Lane for a lot of us. Alas, that was its only redeeming quality.

Every year, after analyzing the deals that really matter, I always included a fairly insignificant trade and summed it up with a throwaway line like, "The real significance of this deal is... oh, wait, there isn't any. No one cares about this deal." A humorous, if original, little punchline. The problem is that this year, every single deal was that way. Not one deal quickened the pulse of anyone in the game. It's as if every GM's cell-phone battery went dead around lunchtime on Sunday, and while they were all scrambling to find a landline, the deadline came and went, and all the real deals died a-borning.

I found myself feeling sorry for ESPN's Baseball Tonight crew. Ever try to do a Trading Deadline Special with no trades of significance to talk about? That's awkward television for you. It reminded me of Sara Moulton's old "Cooking Live" show on the Food Network. I'm not sure what Food Network executive thought that the rambling, gaffe-prone Moulton would be a good fit for live television, but this is beside the point.

On one memorable episode, Sara was doing a special on canning, and she was to have a special guest expert on the subject. Only the guest got stuck in traffic or something and didn't show up until 5 minutes before the end of the hour-long show. This left Sara, who admitted she knew nothing about canning, with an awful lot of dead air to fill. Which she did, in her inimitable fashion, by yammering about her family and pretending to demonstrate canning techniques, with the frequent disclaimer "I don't really know how this works." Worse yet, this was a call-in show, so she was bombarded with canning questions that, of course, she couldn't answer. It was the most excruciating hour of television I've ever seen, until yesterday. I think by the end of the Trading Deadline special, Karl Ravech and Peter Gammons were playing tiddlywinks on the desk. It was that kind of day.

Now, of course, I have my own trading-deadline piece to write. Who's sorry now? My analytical skills will be taxed as never before, as I struggle to wring some meaning and coherence out of this giant anti-climax. (Sounds like my love life. But I digress.) Nonetheless, I'm a professional, so I'll give it my best shot. Onward, if you dare...

- - - - -

CHICAGO (NL) acquires OF Matt Lawton and a six-pack of Iron City from PITTSBURGH for OF Jody Gerut and two day passes on the El

All the talking heads pretty much agree that this was the biggest deal of the weekend. Yes, this deal was the biggest deal from the weekend. And I'm supposed to find something clever to say about it, and the half-dozen other deals of equal or lesser caliber that went down. Gulp.

Well, no one said this would be easy. Let's press on.

What I find really interesting about this deal is... wait, that's too strong. What I find notable about this deal is... well, that's still overstating it. The only thing remotely worth mentioning about this deal is the alarmingness willingness of pennant-contending teams to swap unfulfilled potential for proven mediocrity. Lawton is a nothing-special kind of guy, an outfielder with a decent glove, a decent bat and a better-than-decent batting eye, the sort of guy you don't really want unless you find yourself without one. Gerut is a potentially nifty player who blew out his knee last year and hasn't been very good since. (And I'll remind you, this is considered the biggest trade of the weekend. Shudder.)

This is the danger of being a big-market club on the fringes of a pennant race. Not that Gerut is guaranteed to become wonderful, but he might be, and once the Cubs miss the playoffs (as everyone, probably including the Cubs front office, knows they will), they'll be stuck with a slightly-above-average player on the downside of his career who is making $7.75 million a year. The late Bill Veeck said that it wasn't the high price of stardom that annoyed him so much as the high price of mediocrity. This deal would have Veeck banging his head on his deck until his forehead bled.

But if you're the Cubs, and you're GM Jim Hendry, what do you do? If you stand pat and miss the playoffs, you'll be crucified for not making that deal that would have pushed you over the top. (Never mind that that deal, unless it was for Curt Schilling and Alex Rodriguez, didn't exist.) At least if you make a deal, you get credit for trying, even if the end result is a team with a bleaker future than it had before. Because of big-market fan myopia, you're actually better off making the team worse chasing a pipe-dream hope of a playoff spot. This is the annual lesson usually provided by the New York Mets. (The Mets themselves stood pat at the deadline, though not for a lack of trying to make a bad, short-sighted deal.)

This is why, on reflection, I'm actually glad the Nationals had a quiet weekend. We may well miss the playoffs, but at least we will not have dealt away such prospects as we have in doing so. As for you Cubs fans out there... well, that 100-year World Series drought is in sight. Only a few more seasons now. Embrace your destiny!

CHICAGO (AL) acquires 3B Geoff Blum from SAN DIEGO for minor-league P Ryan Meaux and a mayor to be named later

Told you the Lawton-Gerut swap was the biggest deal of the weekend. You thought I was kidding, didn't you? Well, this trade makes Lawton-for-Gerut look like Harvey-Kuenn-for-Rocky-Colavito. (Note to all readers under 50: Look it up.) Blum is pretty much the definition of "utility player": he plays a lot of positions, but he doesn't play any of them especially well. The one constant of Blum's career has been that, if he's getting a lot of playing time for your team, you can tell your team is going nowhere. (Among the other stops on Blum's illustrious resume: Montreal, Tampa Bay, and a completely inexplicable two-season stint in Houston, where he served as a prime example of why the Astros never seem to do anything with all that talent they have.)

This may seem like a segue into my above argument about big-market teams trading current mediocrity for unfulfilled potential, but applying the "potential" tag to Ryan Meaux is a tremendous stretch. Meaux is a 26-year-old pitcher in AA. He's no longer a "prospect." He's not even a "suspect." Let's put this in perspective: A player who's playing AA ball at, say, age 19 or 20 has a good chance to be an All-Star in four years. A player in AA ball at age 21 or 22 has a good chance to be a major-league regular in four years. A player in AA ball at age 26 has a good chance to be 30 in four years.

Functionally, this trade is the equivalent of two people swapping the lint they dug out of the bottom of their pockets. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall for the conversation between White Sox GM Kenny Williams and Padres GM Kevin Towers that led to this blockbuster. I imagine it went something like this:

TOWERS: Hi, Ken. How's it hanging?
WILLIAMS: Oh, I got problems. The Chicago media's killiung me becaus eI haven't made a deal. And I've got this guy Ryan Meaux. He's 26 and he's stuck in AA ball.
TOWERS: Why don't you cut him?
WILLIAMS: I promised his parents I'd keep him around. His father saved my life when we were kids. He's a nice kid and all, but...
TOWERS: Ouch, that's rough.
WILLIAMS: How's life down by the ocean?
TOWERS: It's not a bowl of cherries, I'll tell you. My team can't buy a win, my knees are killing me, my golf game's gone to hell, and I've got Geoff Blum at third base. We're doomed.
WILLIAMS: Geoff Blum? That Geoff Blum? How'd you wind up with him?
TOWERS: Well, I went out to a club with his agent, and I think he slipped something in my drink.
TOWERS: Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't I give you Blum?
WILLIAMS: Give me Blum? Are you crazy? Every team that signs Blum goes straight down the commode. It'll ruin our postseason chances.
TOWERS: Be serious... you're the Chicago White Sox. Your postseason chances are already ruined.
WILLIAMS: Fair point.
TOWERS: So we'll give you Blum, and we'll take that Curly kid off your hands.
WILLIAMS: Meaux. Ryan Meaux.
TOWERS: Whatever. Point is, you can tell the press you made a deal, and I'll have The Curse of Geoff Blum off my back. Is it a deal?
WILLIAMS: I guess.
WILLIAMS: Let us never speak of this again.

Trading-deadline deals... they're FAN-tastic!

BOSTON acquires OF Jose Cruz, Jr. from ARIZONA for minor-league IF Kenny Perez and minor-league P Kyle Bono

Sigh. Cruz is another charter member of the Didn't-You-Used-To-Be-Someone? Club, a guy who traded for years on a famous name (his dad was a big-league infielder) and the always-popular "unfulfilled potential" tag. At some point, though, you can't make it on "unfulfilled potential" anymore, and by the age of 31, that point has long since passed. Nowadays, he's a journeyman outfielder who plays just well enough at contract time to delude some GM into believing that he's a quality major-leaguer, and in between knocks back cocktails with Tony Armas Jr. and Pete Rose Jr. in the MLB wing of the Lucky Sperm Club.

The fact that the Red Sox, a team that supposedly has the potential to go to the World Series, would consider Cruz a worthwhile pickup tells you all you need to know about this year's trading-deadline climate. Yeehaw!

Kyle Bono is not, as far as I know, related to either Sonny Bono or the guy from U2. This exhausts the supply of interesting things I have to say about either of the players Arizona received in this deal.

ATLANTA acquires RP Kyle Farnsworth from DETROIT in exchance for Ps Roman Colon and Zack Miner

This is why I hate Atlanta. Ever wonder how they could manage to win their division for something like 15 seasons running? (Sorry, Expos fans, 1994 doesn't count.) This is exactly why. Every year, they spend the first half treading water, playing .500-ish ball and prompting baseball columnists to drag their "Are the Braves Finally Done?" columns out of the mothballs. Then, just when they've finally gotten us all to believe that, at long last, it's not their year, they get red-hot. They start surging to the front, usually arriving there somewhere around the trading deadline.

And as the trading deadline approaches, Atlanta GM John Schuerholz plays possum, giving every indication that he plans not to make any deals. Don't want to mess with the chemistry, right? And then the smoke clears, and everyone realizes that, while no one was looking, Schuerholz made an appropriately minor deal that, nonetheless, provides that final piece the Braves need to clinch the division. And he did it again.

It's bad enough that the Braves are winning with a roster full of kids that even I have never heard of (Pete Orr? Kelly Johnson? Brian McCann? Jeff Francoeur?!). It's worse that they just swept my Nationals in a season-defining three-game series. Now, they've gone and patched the one hole they had. Kyle Farnsworth may never have become the star the Cubs thought he would be, and he may be prone to fits of temper, but he does throw 100 MPH, and he is having an excellent season.

When Farnsworth settles in and becomes a lockdown eighth-inning guy and occasional closer and helps the Braves win the division by 10 games, everyone will say, "How did they pick him up?" Even though the Braves do this year in and year out, we keep acting like it's a complete shock. After 15 years of consistent excellence, isn't it time to stop letting Schuerholz and the Braves sneak up on us like this?

And yes, I'm especially bitter about this because we share a division. It's not fair having to compete against a team that rich and that smart. You know, Atlanta is actually west of Pittsburgh, and therefore should, on a strictly geographic basis, be placed in the NL Central. I'm just saying.

ARIZONA acquires RP Buddy Groom from NEW YORK (AL) in exchange for a jockstrap to be named later

This trade shows why it's never a good idea to run your mouth around the trading deadline. Buddy Groom pitched last year in Baltimore, where he pitched more than a pitcher of his age and ability has any right to expect. And as if that wasn't enough, this year Groom wound up with the Yankees, and again pitched more than a broken-down washout really deserves. Eventually, though, the Yankees found someone who, in their opinion, could actually pitch, and designated Groom for assignment. Now, another man might have reflected on his good fortune, to have been paid handsomely for a number of seasons to play a child's game, and accepted his departure peacefully.

Not Buddy Groom. He proceeded to take his last few moments in the spotlight to rip the Yankees and manger Joe Torre, and the Orioles and manager Lee Mazzilli. "I wouldn't encourage anybody else to come here thinking you are going to get an opportunity because unless you are one of Joe's boys you are not going to get much of a shot," Groom said. Now, one might venture to suggest that someone who's compiled a 4.91 ERA in 24 games has gotten all the shots his performance would merit, and then some. But Buddy Groom knows when an injustice has been visited upon him, even when the rest of us don't see it.

As a reward for popping up, the Yankees dumped Groom off on the Diamondbacks, so now Buddy can strap on the proud purple pinstripes (or whatever uniform the D'Backs are wearing this week) and join his new team in its quest to become the first team to win a division with a 75-87 record. I understand that the Yankees first tried to send Buddy to the Devil Rays, but the Devil Rays insisted on receiving $2 million and three top prospects before they were willing to take Groom.

This, by the way, is the same Buddy Groom who spent the 2004 Orioles D.C. FanFest bitching about the fact that the team sat him down at a table in the sun. Which pretty much confirms in my mind the fact that Buddy Groom is a total jackass. This latest outburst didn't change my opinion. My advice to Buddy Groom: If you're 40 years old, and your given name is "Wedsel," and you're being paid a six-figure salary to throw a baseball, shut the hell up.

SAN DIEGO acquires SP Chan Ho Park from TEXAS for 1B/OF Phil Nevin

And the trading reaches a new low. Good trades are apples for apples. In this trade, both the apples are rotten. And not good rotten, like they've fermented into hard cider. No, these apples are mottled black and brown, with worms crawling through them, moldering in the weeds and waiting for an unuspecting person to step on them and wind up with nasty brown apple goop all over their pants.

If the Blum-Meaux trade was an exchange of non-entities, this is worse. This is like trading herpes for chlamydia: either way, it's just as painful and uncomfortable, but the variety might be a welcome change.

What are the Padres thinking? Is Nevin that horrible? Granted, he's a power hitter with no power, and he's another one of those jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none utility guys. (Sort of a deluxe version of Geoff Blum.) For this, he's making $9.5 million a year. If he can cash his paycheck with a straight face, he's a better man than I. Also, he's reportedly a bit of a sulker when he's not playing, which is pretty often, since he's not very good.

The Padres were so desperate to unload him that they tried to send him to Baltimore for Sidney Ponson, a fat head case who's even more grotesquely overpaid than Nevin. (Not sure why this was considered progress, but so be it.) But Nevin vetoed the deal, because he just loves San Diego so much. (Note to the Padres front office: Nevin has a no-trade clause to eight teams. By my count, that leaves 21 teams to whom they could send Nevin without needing his approval. And yet, three times in the past few seasons, the Padres attempted to send Nevin to teams on his no-trade list: Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Baltimore. He vetoed them all. Is there anyone with a brain working for the Padres?)

Finally, with the trading deadline approaching and the Padres growing ever more desperate, they finally found Texas, and Chan Ho Park, who might be described as a poor man's Ponson. Incredibly, the Padres managed to find one of two pitchers even more overpaid than Ponson. (Kevin Brown is the other; I'm not sure how the Padres managed not to acquire him too.) Park is 32, he's making $15 million a year, and he's compiled a record that could be described as "replacement-level," if by "replacement-level" you mean "replacing him with some guy pulled at random out of the upper deck." The Padres and Rangers probably each have a dozen guys in their farm system who could pitch better than Park. Nolan Ryan could pitch better than Park, and he's pushing 60.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make it: What in God's name are the Padres thinking? How is it possible that, until yesterday, the Padres were in first place in the NL West despite apparently being run by one of the people in those Vonage commercials? How does Towers keep his job? My mind reels.

BALTIMORE acquires OF Eric Byrnes from COLORADO for OF Larry Bigbie

At first, my only thought on this trade was that it pretty much defines "tit for tat." Then I paused. "Wait," I said to myself, "didn't the Rockies just get Byrnes, like, two weeks ago?" And indeed they did, from Oakland in the Joe Kennedy deal.

What could possibly have happened to sour the Rockies on Byrnes in two weeks, I wondered? Did the Rockies suddenly decide that Byrnes wasn't the right person to lead their pennant drive? (I mean, sure, they're 37-67 right now, but that puts them in the thick of the race in the NL West.) Did Byrnes sleep with the general manager's daughter? Does the Rockies owner have a Bigbie fetish? Or, as I've so long suspected, does the Rockies front office make all its personnel decisions with a Ouija board?

As it turns out, the truth is more prosaic. The Rockies didn't really want Larry Bigbie. (Surprise, surprise.) They traded to Byrnes to get Bigbie so that they could ship Bigbie to Boston, in exchange for hot catching prospect Kelly Shoppach. Only the problem was, Boston couldn't trade Shoppach, because they were planning to send Shoppach to Tampa Bay in the same trade that would have sent Manny Ramirez to Mets, only that trade fell apart when Carly found out Sonny was still sleeping with Alexis while they were supposedly trying to cure Lucky of his amnesia and reunite him with Liz. Or something. (Sorry, sometimes I get the trading deadline and the plot from "General Hospital" mixed up.)

All this simply goes to prove that the deals that didn't happen this weekend were far more interesting than anything that did happen. And now my head hurts, so let's move on.

SAN FRANCISCO acquires OF Randy Winn from SEATTLE in exchange for C Yorvit Torrealba and minor-league P Jesse Foppert

I could use this space to ponder on the fact that it seems like the hottest commodity at the trading deadline was unexceptional replacement-level journeyman outfielder. Or I could point out that Jesse Foppert is another charter member of the Didn't-You-Used-To-Be-Somebody? Club. (He was supposed to be one of the Giants' best pitching prospects before he blew out his arm.)

But I'm rapidly running out of steam, and I still have a couple more trades to deal with here, so I'll just say this: Kudos to Seattle. Because when you have the opportunity to acquire a player named "Yorvit Torrealba"... well, you can't pass up that opportunity. It doesn't matter if he can play or not. The baseball gods will look favorably on Seattle for this deal.

FLORIDA gets RP Ron Villone from SEATTLE for minor leaguers blah, blah, blah

I can't even pretend I care about this deal. Let's just move on.

TAMPA BAY acquires Nothing from NOWHERE in exchange for Nobody and no cash considerations

(Note to the reader: This is usually the spot where I take a free shot at the Seattle Mariners for once again failing to improve their team when it counts, on their way to yet another postseason failure. Well, seeing as Seattle made not one but two - TWO! - trades this weekend, and also considering that they're about as likely to make the postseason as the St. Louis Browns, I'm laying off them this year. Tampa Bay, you're my new pinata! Come on down!)

Everyone who's ever played in a fantasy league has come across the Hoarder. There's always one guy in every league who acts like this. Usually he anchors himself in the cellar about two weeks into the season and stays there. For a month or two, he's good for easy punchline, but as you start getting into June and July, the jokes get stale and you start thinking about liberating some of his better players. His team's going nowhere, but he's got a Jake Peavy or a Miguel Tejada that could help out a contender.

But he won't make a deal. Even when his season is clearly dead in June, he's convinced that he's going to mount a miracle run and get back in it. When July and August roll around and even he has to admit that maybe Tony Clark isn't going to be the 70-home-run hitter he imagined, he's still determined to hold you hostage and turn his season around with one deal. You want Peavy? Only if you're offering Mark Mulder and Gary Sheffield. You want Tejada? No problem. Just send him Scott Rolen, David Ortiz and Livan Hernandez. It's like trying to negotiate a toy store with a small child. ("Okay, Johnny, I'll buy you one toy. Do you want the Hot Wheels Super-Smokin' Triple Loop of Terror, the Lego model of the Hubble Space Telescope or the Testosterone Tommy action figure?" "All of 'em." "You can only have one." "Okay, I'll have one of each.")

In the grand scheme of things, the Hoarder doesn't matter much. Sure, he's a drag on the league, and he can be awfully annoying if he's holding onto a player you could really use. But in the end, if he pays his $100, what's the harm? It's almost like a charitable donation.

Running a fantasy team this way is one thing. But when you operate an honest--to-God, more-or-less-major-league franchise this way, you have to wonder. You wouldn't think that Vince Naimoli was in the charitable-donation business (the Greg Vaughn contract aside). You'd think that anyone who ran his business the way the Hoarder runs his fantasy team would soon find himself looking for dinner in the dumpster behind the Pizza Hut. But no, despite being completely incompetent at his job, Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMar continues to cash obscenely large paychecks on a regular basis.

Hey there, recent college grads! Are you struggling to find a job? Starting to suspect that four years of art history wasn't the lucrative career path you'd imagined? Resigning yourself to a lifetime of saying, "Extra whipped cream on your latte, sir?" Are you beginning to lose hope, to think that you'll never be qualified for a real job in today's competitive economic climate?

Well, have no fear! Chuck LaMar isn't remotely qualified to hold a job in a major-league organization above peanut vendor, and yet he draws a six-figure salary! He's an inspiration to young, unqualified strivers everywhere. Not so inspiring for the baseball fans of Tampa Bay, but the five of them will figure out a better way to spend their summers eventually.

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Well, there you have it! Much ado about nothing. I must say, with more than a touch of pride, that this column is much more long-winded than I would have imagined possible with such a pathetic crop of trades. Victory is mine!

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack