CFB: MID AMERICAN CONFERENCE UPSETS ARE NO LONGER UPSETS

This coming Saturday, there is a college football game scheduled that will be so far under the radar, no one will notice it.  None of the predictors on College Game Day will say a thing about this one; however, if the road team wins, it will be a cause for celebration…for one particular conference.

The game is between the University of Toledo Rockets and the Miami University Hurricanes to be played on Miami’s home field. What the Rockets would like to do is continue a trend that began way back in 1991 and has continued through the first three weeks of the 2017 season…a Mid American Conference (MAC) team knocking off a so-called “Group of Five” FBS opponent. It seems to happen every year and nobody really cares…except for the teams in the Mid American Conference!

As a definition, the “Group of Five” conferences are the ones in which the four teams picked to play off for the College Football National Championship usually come from one of five conferences: The Atlantic Coast Conference; The Big 10; the Big 12; the PAC 12; and the Southeastern Conference. The other conferences in the FBS are considered mid-major schools and are typically not in the mix for a shot at the National Championship. With the recent spate of upsets by the MAC over “Group of Five” conference schools, however, these teams are now starting to be considered.

Upsets of major college football teams by teams from the MAC began in 1991…in fact, there is even a list of top ten upsets by MAC teams! Five of the top ten upsets occurred in 2003: Northern Illinois upset Alabama (SEC) by a score of 19-16 (had to happen before Nick Saban!); Bowling Green topped Purdue (BIG 10), 27-26; Northern Illinois defeated Maryland (then of the ACC) 20-13; Toledo edged Pittsburgh 35-31; and Marshall knocked off Kansas State, 27-20.

Fast-forward a decade or so and the MAC teams are still pulling off upsets. In fact, these so-called upsets are happening so many times, they are probably not even considered upsets any more. Just in 2017, alone, there have been four games in which MAC teams have knocked off “Group of Five” opponents: on September 9, Central Michigan defeated Kansas (BIG 12), 45-27 and Eastern Michigan topped Rutgers (BIG 10), 16-13. The following week, Ohio defeated Kansas, 42-30; then, in perhaps the biggest upset since that Alabama game in 2003, Northern Illinois turned back Nebraska (BIG 10), 21-17. The rumblings heard in and around Lincoln were severe:  “Fire Coach Mike Riley”; “How Could this Happen?” It is because the MAC is no longer a patsy conference.

As a matter of fact, a MAC team muscled its way into the BCS playoff picture, in 2012.  Northern Illinois University rolled to a 12-1 season and was chosen to play in the Orange Bowl…one of the BCS major bowl games. They were defeated by Florida State, 31-10.  Then, last season, Western Michigan University steamrolled their way to a 13-0 regular season, including wins over Northwestern and Illinois (BIG 10). They did not make the “Final Four” but were invited to the Cotton Bowl to play another BIG 10 team, Wisconsin, and bowed, 24-16. It is safe to say that the Mid American Conference has accorded itself well over the past decade-and-a-half.

Attention “Group of Five” athletic directors:  Don’t schedule a Mid American Conference school unless you are prepared to lose the game!

 

 

 

 

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A COMEBACK FOR THE AGES…AGAIN!

This past January 2, in the Rose Bowl, the USC Trojans trailed the Penn State Nittany Lions by a score of 49-35 entering the fourth quarter.  The Trojans rallied to tie the game and, with no time showing on the clock, Matt Boormeester booted a 46-yard field boal to give USC a 52-49 win.  It was called “A Comeback for the Ages”.

Fast forward exactly eight months to Saturday, September 2.  The UCLA Bruins trailed the Texas A & M Aggies by 34 points.  All Josh Rosen and the Bruins did was to stage the biggest FBS comeback since 2006 as they rallied for a 45-44 win…ironically, in the Rose Bowl which is the Bruins’ home stadium.  It was called “A Comeback for the Ages.”  That lasted one week only, thanks to a miraculous finish by the Washington State Cougars over the Boise State Broncos.

Trailing the Broncos by 21 points going into the fourth quarter, Wazzou rallied to tie the game; then won it in the third overtime. Fans who watched the game at Martin Stadium in Pullman were treated to a tremendous offensive display by both teams.  Some of the statistics:

A total of 856 yards by both teams.

There were 166 total plays

The defenses forced seven total turnovers

Once again, it was labeled as “A Comeback for the Ages”!  That is, until the next one occurs…since there are at least two more months left in the college football season, you can count on another “Comeback for the Ages.”

So, how long did a three-overtime game that started at 7:30 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time last?  Well, the writer that filed the story at 11:50 p.m. For those on the East Coast, that was 2:50 a.m.!  In the morning! I have to believe not too many people on the East Coast watched that game until the end.

College Football Sidebars

  1. After taking delight in watching the Ohio State Buckeyes get hammered by Oklahoma, I was wondering when was the last time the Bucks lost two regular season games. Turns out it was 2011; they actually lost their last three games of the regular season…to Purdue, Penn State and Michigan…then, for good measure, they lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl.
  2. Speaking of losing streaks, how about the Governors of Austin Peay from Clarksville, Tennessee? They have lost 29 games in a row and 49 of their last 50 games. Austin Peay has a long way to go in order to catch the all-time record of 80 consecutive losses by Prairie View A & M.
  3. If you were a football head coach, what kind of play would you call if you had a third down and goal to go…FROM YOUR OWN SEVEN-YARD LINE? It happened to Louisiana Tech this past Saturday. Tech fumbled the ball and it was kicked about four or five times before it was downed at their own seven.  So, that made it third and 93 yards!
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MLB MOURNS LOSS OF THREE ALL STARS

It is always sad when one of the MLB players that you watched and idolized during your childhood passes away.  Within the past three weeks, three All Star players left this world to enjoy life in the next.

On July 29, Lee May, known as the “Big Bopper”, died at the age of 74. The older brother of Carlos May and the grandfather of Jacob May…rookie outfielder of the Chicago White Sox…played 18 years in the major leagues from 1965 through 1982.  He played four seasons with Cincinnati, three with Houston, six with Baltimore and two with Kansas City.  Of the three, May never won a World Series ring although he did appear in two World Series: with Cincinnati in 1970 and with Baltimore in 1979.

Lee May was a three-time All Star who had a total of 2,031 hits, 354 home runs and 1,244 RBI.  His three best seasons were in 1969 when he slugged 38 home runs and drove in 110 runs; 1970 when he hit 34 homers and drove in 94 runs; and 1971 when he hit 39 homers and drove in 98 runs.  Five years later, in 1976, May drove in 109 runs…tops in the American League.

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This past Sunday, it was revealed that Darren Daulton, a 14-year veteran with the Phillies and other teams, died of brain cancer at the age of 55.  What makes that fact interesting is that he is the fifth former Phillies player who died of brain cancer.  Others who have died from the same disease were:  Tug McGraw (father of Country singer Tim McGraw), John Vukovich, Ken Brett (brother of former Royals’ star George Brett) and Johnny Oates.  All five played for the Phillies in the old Veterans’ Stadium. (I will talk more about this in my next blog.)

Daulton, nicknamed “Dutch”, was not highly touted when he was drafted in 1980.  In fact, he was the 629th player taken in that draft.  He played 14 years in the majors, almost exclusively behind the plate as a catcher.  Daulton was with Phillies for all but 52 games that he played for the Florida Marlins in 1997.  That worked out well, because Daulton won his only World Series ring that final season.

A three-time All Star, Daulton collected 2,135 hits, slammed 338 home runs and won a Silver Slugger Award in 1992 when he had a .270 average with 27 homers and 109 RBI. He followed that up, in 1993, with 24 homers and 105 RBI. Of the 1,161 games that he played in his big league career, Daulton caught 965 of them.

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Less than 24 hours after the news of Daulton’s death, it was announced that Don Baylor, former All Star player and Manager of the Year, had passed away at the age of 68.  Nicknamed “Groove”, Baylor played 19 Big League seasons and was considered one of the top hitters in the game.  He played for six teams and went to the World Series three consecutive years…with three consecutive teams!  He won a World Series ring in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins.

Baylor was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the 1967 draft (39th pick overall). He played for the Orioles for six seasons. His best year for the Birds was 1975 when he hit 25 home runs and drove in 76 runs. On April 2, 1976, Baylor was involved in a “blockbuster” trade with the Oakland Athletics, in which he and pitcher Mike Torrez went to the West Coast in exchange for the prodigious slugger, Reggie Jackson and lefty starter Ken Holtzman.

Baylor remained only one year with the A’s as he signed a six-year, $1.283 million contract (his salary the previous season was $35,000) with the then California Angels. He played with the Angels until 1983 and led them to the American League Championship Series in 1979 and 1982.

The call of the “Big Apple” and the New York Yankees was overwhelming and, on December 1, 1982, Baylor signed a three-year, $2,277 million contract to play in Yankee Stadium. He then went from New York to Boston, to Minnesota and, finally, he ended his career with Oakland, in 1988.

In his illustrious career, Baylor banged out 2,135 hits including 338 home runs.  He was also a pretty good base stealer. In four separate seasons, Baylor hit at least 25 home runs and stole at least 22 bases.

Just five years after appearing in his last game as a player, Baylor was named manager of the new franchise in Colorado…the Rockies.  He was relatively successful…given he was managing a fledgling team…Finishing in fourth place one time, third place three times, and second place once.  In 1995, Baylor was named National League Manager of the Year as he guided the Rockies to a 77-67 record (in a shortened, 144-game season).

Baylor then managed the Chicago Cubs from 2000 through 2004.  His best record at Wrigley Field as 88-74, good for third place, in 2001.

None of these three players may ever make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown; however, many long-time baseball fans will agree that the game will never be the same again without these three (Hall of Famers in their own right) around the batting cages!

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MLB “DOG AND PONY SHOW”…2017 EDITION…IS OVER AND DONE

MLB’s 2017 of its “Dog and Pony Show”…better known as the Trade Deadline flurry of activity…has come and gone.  Some teams made major improvements, some decided to “stand pat” while others left baseball pundits scratching their collective heads. While not wanting to dwell on individuals trades, I did want to throw out a few numbers:

There were a total of 26 trades completed in the week leading up to the deadline (July 15 through July 31). Of those trades, 18 of them involved players who were in the final year of their contracts meaning that they would become free agents at the end of the season. Over the past several years, baseball GMs have tried to tried potential free agents and try to get something in return before letting them walk at the end of the season.

One particular player was traded twice in a span of six days! Jaime Garcia was traded from the Braves to the Twins on July 24.  Garcia made exactly one start for the Twins before he was sent packing again, on July 30, to the Yankees. This sometimes happens during the off-season; however, not many times during the course of the season!

Garcia being traded twice in six days will probably not make the top five all-time weird trades in MLB history.  How about the case of John McDonald, who was actually traded for himself!  On July 22, 2005, McDonald went from Toronto to Detroit.  Less than four months later, he went from Detroit back to Toronto!  At least McDonald did not have to unpack, pack, and unpack again…like Garcia did!

The one difference in this year’s trade activity that I noticed is that a couple of players who were traded are injured and are out for the rest of the season!  Dustin Fowler was part of the Sonny Gray trade with Oakland and was sent to the Athletics…however, he had right knee surgery and is not due to return this season.  Same scenario is true for Matt Strahm, who was traded from the Royals to the Padres.  He had left knee surgery and is out for the season.

Wait…what???

Teams were actually allowed to trade injured players?  Teams traded for these players not knowing if and when theses players will return from knee injuries?  Are you kidding me, right now?  Why would anyone trade for damaged goods? Strahm is a pitcher and his knees are very important to the success of an MLB pitcher.  How can MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred allow this to happen?

What will the Athletics and/or Padres do if these players…somehow…never come back from these injuries?  All I know is:  I would never, EVER, trade for someone who is recovering from knee surgery.

Is all the trading done, now that the deadline passed?  Not really.  A player still can be traded in August; the only caveat is that any players involved in a deal must clear waivers…that means, no other team puts a claim in for said players.  Therefore, we still may or will have some trades still happening.

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IS ESPN BEGINNING A DOWNWARD SPIRAL? MAYBE

The so-called “World Wide Leader in Sports”, ESPN, is starting to feel the pangs of success.  Once considered the only all-sports network, ESPN is now competing with other sports entities and the pressure is being felt.  Within the past 10 days or so, John Skipper…President of ESPN…began laying off employees…over 100 of them, so far!  The fact that a major corporation is laying off hundreds of employees is not the story here.  What the story is: how ESPN is doing it.  From what I have read and heard, ESPN basically told the affected employees, “Nice to see you, thanks for your service, now goodbye!”

Secondly, it appears as if ESPN is not following the basic Corporate rule of “last one hired, first one fired.”  Some of the employees who were let go have been with the network for several years:  Ed Werder, Andy Katz, Danny Kanell, Jayson Stark (WHAT??!!), Ron Jaworski, Doug Glanville, and Jim Bowden are among those who were let go.  Yet, newcomers like Mike Golic, Jr., were retained.  With all due respect to Mike Jr., he should have been the one to go instead of, say, all the others!

What was really incredulous was what Ed Werder tweeted…he said that after ESPN told him he was being laid off, they asked him to stick around for the NFL draft!!!

In addition to all of those employees who were laid off, some long-term employees are going to experience significantly reduced roles.  Ryen Rusillo, Karl Ravech and Hannah Storm will have fewer assignments…perhaps, in a effort to get those veteran announcers to leave on their own.

There have been other personalities who have left “The Mother Ship” as Dan Patrick refers to ESPN.  Patrick left almost ten years ago in order to pursue other opportunities.  He has his own show, “The Dan Patrick Show” and has been quite successful since breaking out on his own.  Colin Cowherd left ESPN for Fox and has also enjoyed much success.  Other personalities to either leave ESPN or retire (perhaps before being laid off) are:  Chris Berman, Mike Tirico, Erin Andrews, etc.

Not only are employees being let go, ESPN is saying goodbye to a couple of long-term programs.  The Sports Reporters, a long-running Sunday show featuring four veteran reporters trading barbs and stories, is going off the air after this Sunday’s show.  The show was anchored for a long period of time by the late John Saunders until he passed away. Mike Lupica tried his very best to fill in as host but the program is still going off the air.

Then, it has been announced that the long-running morning show, “Mike and Mike”, featuring Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic, is going off the air after over 18 years of being together.  Greenberg is going to host a “Today Show”-type television morning show and will be joined by Sage Steele.  With all due respect to Ms. Steele, not having Greenberg and Golic bantering back and forth is going to be a severe loss to morning programming.

With the news of the demise of the above two shows, could “The Sports Reporters” and “Pardon the Interruption” be far behind?  And…oh, by the way, do people really like watching Dan LeBatard, his Papi, and Bomani Jones, all scrunched together in one small place?  If they were any closer, they would have do use much more deodorant!

So, why did all of this happen?  My purely unprofessional opinion is that ESPN simply got “too big for its britches”.  They flipped one successful network into:  ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPNU, not to mention ESPN Classic.  They had too many employees to begin with and it is now taking its toll.  I mean, do you really need five people previewing the NFL schedule on Sunday mornings?  Do you really have to have three people on Baseball Tonight?  Does every football game need two to three people in the booth…and two sideline reporters?

So, apparently, Mr. Skipper is going to try and get leaner and meaner.  The only problem, if all of the good on-air personalities are gone, who is going to be watching the shows?

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MLB WANTS TIES IN BASEBALL…AND I DON’T MEAN BOW TIES!!!

          There has been a lot going on in major league baseball as Commissioner Rob Manfred looks for ways to “speed up” baseball games.  One way to speed up the game was put into place at the beginning of the season…streamlining the intentional walk.  Now, instead of pitchers going through the motions of throwing four pitches way outside of the strike zone, managers just get the attention of the home plate umpire and signals that he wants the batter to be intentionally passed.  The umpire says, “Take your base” and the batter trots down to first.  There is no recourse for the batter…at least, not yet.

Now, there are reports going around that MLB wants to have games end in ties, after a certain amount of extra innings.  The reasons for this are:  (1) Games don’t go 15, 16, 17 innings or longer and the games don’t last 4, 5, or even 6 hours.  I am “old school” and my response for MLB wanting games to end in ties is a paraphrase that Tom Hanks…playing Manager Jimmy Dugan in the classic movie, “ A League of Their Own”…spewed out:  “THERE’S NO TYING IN BASEBALL!”

Supposedly, another reason for wanting to end a game after so many innings is that a game that goes 16, 17, or 18 innings would put a tremendous tax on a pitching staff.  Case in point:  On April 13, the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins played a 16-inning game before the Mets finally won out. In that game, the Mets used eight pitchers and the Marlins used nine pitchers.  It did not help that neither starter in that game lasted past the fifth inning.  Also, it needs to be noted that two Mets pitchers…Josh Edgin and Jerry Blevins…lasted one-third of an inning and two-thirds of an inning.

The idea of not having enough pitching is a load of rubbish.  All 30 MLB teams currently have 12 pitchers on their active rosters.  There are 16 teams that are carrying 13 pitchers.  And managers believe they don’t have enough pitching?  Are you kidding me right now?  Perhaps if managers used pitchers to face MORE THAT ONE BATTER, they would not have to worry about not having enough pitchers.

So, how to solve the dilemma of games going too long:  One solution could be the 26th player rule currently in place.  Right now, if a team has a game rained out, they have the option to bring up a 26th player when that game is made up…usually a spot-starter, who comes up to start one game of the doubleheader and then goes back to the minors.  Perhaps, MLB could extend that rule by saying that if teams play a game lasting 12 innings or more, they have five games to bring up an extra pitcher to be available for the next game or so.  That way, managers could rest some of their bullpen.

Secondly, MLB could look into the “international tie-breaker” rules where a runner is “placed” on base after a certain amount of innings are complete.  This is what I do with my Strat-O-Matic table-top baseball game.  I play one extra inning…the tenth inning, like any other normal inning.  If the game then goes to the 11th inning, each team is allowed to place a runner on second base to start.  The runner would be the batter who made the last out of the previous inning.

If neither team scores in the 11th inning, then two runners are placed at first and second base.  If the game goes to the 13th inning, I place runners at second and third.  Using this plan last season, none of my games lasted past the 12th inning.

The international tie-breaker would force managers to use different strategies…the hitting team would have to decide whether to try and sacrifice the runner to third; the fielding team would have to decide whether to intentionally walk the next hitter to get a chance at a DP.

Whatever strategy works the best, MLB CANNOT have ties in baseball! Many old-time managers and players would roll over in their graves!

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ESPN FALLING FROM GRACE

ESPN, dubbed “The World Wide Leader in Sports”, has begun and continues a slow and steady fall from greatness.  Deaths, resignations, and terminations have turned the once-powerful network into one that is struggling to maintain its identity.

The decline began in 2005, when Robin Roberts, host of Sports Center, left ESPN for ABC and “Good Morning, America.”  Two years later, Dan Patrick, host of “The Dan Patrick Show”, told his viewers that he was leaving, effective August 16, 2007.  Nowadays, when Patrick refers to ESPN on his current show, he call it “The Mother Ship”.

Fast forward to 2012, with football analyst Erin Andrews leaving ESPN for rival Fox Sports.  After Andrew’s departure, ESPN began taking some major hits, starting January 4, 2015 when Stuart Scott died of cancer.  Later that year, in June, it was announced that Colin Cowherd…longtime morning show host, would be leaving ESPN to join Fox Sports.  Cowherd promptly began taking shots at his former employer and was asked to leave before his departure date.

In April of last year, Mike Tirico, the voice on Monday Night Football ever since ESPN began broadcasting the game after moving it from ABC, announced that he was leaving for NBC sports.  Tirico shared some of the host duties on Sunday Night Football this past football season and broadcast some games when the network gave Al Michaels some time off.

Another death stung the network on August 10, 2016, when John Saunders died in his sleep.  Saunders wore many hats at ESPN, including studio host during the college football season, and the host of “The Sports Reporters”, which aired on Sunday mornings.

When the curtain fell on the 2016 NFL season, ESPN announced that Chris Berman, who has been with the network since its inception, would no longer be doing the NFL Sunday pre-game show AND NFL Prime Time.  Berman will be doing other things for the network but his absence from these two critically acclaimed shows will be noticeable.

A couple of weeks ago, ESPN announced that the long-running morning sports show, “Mike and Mike”, would be ending as Mike Greenberg will be hosting a new morning sports show.  Greenburg, and former NFL player Mike Golic, had been doing their show, now going on 17 years.  Their show was highlighted by the two performing several stunts, including betting their “Sheets of Integrity” for the NCAA College Basketball tournament.  The loser of their bet had to do some wild things…Golic had his body “waxed” on live TV; Greenburg had to milk a real cow!

Another show will be falling by the wayside as “The Sports Reporters” will be ending soon.  Mike Lupica had successfully transitioned over to full-time host when Saunders died, but the show will not be going on.

There were other less-known attritions:  Peter Gammons and Harold Reynolds (who was accused of sexual harassment) going to the MLB channel; Skip Bayless leaving “First Take” for a similar sports show on Fox; Brent Musburger just announced that he will be doing his last play-by-play on January 31; and so on and so on.  ESPN head John Skipper is probably thinking that the network is big enough to withstand all of these moves.  He had better hope that it will.

 

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