USC-PENN STATE ROSE BOWL GAME AN INSTANT CLASSIC!

The wild affair that occurred in Pasadena yesterday at the Rose Bowl immediately goes into the record books as one of the top five all-time great college football bowl games.  Numerous records were set and, when all was said and done, the USC Trojans outlasted the Penn State Nittany Lions, 52-49, in a game that lasted nearly four-and-a-half hours.

Nobody will ask me, but I list this game as the third all-time greatest game in college football history.  The number one game was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona when the upstart Boise State Broncos stunned the legendary famous Oklahoma Sooners, 43-42, in overtime.  It wasn’t so much that the Broncos won the game…that would have been enough of a shocker.  It was how they won it.  Trailing the Sooners, 42-35, Boise State pulled a trick play to score a touchdown and pull to within one point of sending the game into a second overtime.  Broncos coach, Chris Petersen, decided he wanted to end the game right then and there.  Using the old “Statue of Liberty” play, the Broncos caught the Sooners napping and won the game.

Second on my list of top five games is the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC.  That is when Longhorns QB Vince Young scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to give Texas a 41-38 win over the Trojans.

Last night’s game goes down as number three.  USC trailed Penn State, 49-35, going into the fourth quarter.  The Nittany Lions were the best team in college football scoring fourth quarter points.  The Trojans defense not only shut them down, they shut them out!  Matt Boormeester, the junior place-kicker for USC, had missed two field goals that would have made the game a lot less exciting.  He got redemption, however, as he drilled the game winner from 46 yards out to cap an unbelievable comeback.

Number four on my list was the 2003 BCS championship game where Ohio State defeated Miami of Florida, 31-24, in double overtime.  The game was tied, 17-17, at the end of regulation.  Each team scored a touchdown in the first overtime.  There was a controversial pass interference call that led to the second overtime when Buckeyes RB Maurice Clarett scored to give Ohio State the lead.  Miami had a first and goal but could not score the tying TD and the Buckeyes prevailed.

Finally, the game that is forever being called “The Chicken Soup” game:  the 1979 Cotton Bowl (certainly a classic!) between Notre Dame and Houston.  This was the signature game for Irish QB Joe Montana.  Because of unusually cold weather in Dallas, Texas (the city had its worst ice storm in 30 years), the Cotton Bowl game was adversely affected.  Montana had the flu and remained in the locker room at half time and, supposedly, had a bowl of chicken soup.  He rallied his health and came back out to lead the Irish to an improbable 35-34 win over the Cougars.

Well, those are my top five college football bowl games of all time.  I would love to hear what yours are!


 

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MEJIA’S BAN FROM MLB A BITTER BLOW TO A TALENTED ATHLETE

I always have to shake my head and cluck my teeth when I read about talented professional athletes waste their gifts and exit a sport before getting chance to reap the treasures of a productive career.  The latest to fall from grace is relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia of the New York Mets.  Mejia, a 26-year-old from the Dominican Republic, has been suspended from major league baseball permanently for his third strike of testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs.

Mejia said, in an interview, that he is going to appeal the suspension.  “It is not like they say, Mejia was quoted in a local paper.  “I am sure that I did not use anything.  I will appeal…win or lose, I have faith.  I have to clear my name.”  Mejia went on to say, “…I will take this case to the bitter end.”

That may be, Jenrry, but the fact of the matter remains that you tested positive…not once, not twice, but THREE times for Boldernone, an anabolic steroid used for Androgen deficiency disorders, and Stanozolol, used to decrease pain and increased joint discomfort.  This probably stems from the fact that Mejia was recovering from right elbow surgery he had performed in July, 2013.  He appeared in 63 games in 2014, but then began experiencing discomfort in the same elbow.  In April, 2015, Mejia was placed on the disabled list because of right elbow inflammation.

The first suspension handed to Mejia was on April 11, 2015.  He was given an 80-game ban for a first offense.  Then, on July 28, he tested positive again and was suspended for 162 games.  That means Mejia would not have been able to pitch in the big leagues until July 28 of this year.  Even in the middle of the second suspension, Mejia was expected to be tendered a contract for whenever he returned.  Finally, last week, Mejia tested positive for the third time.  Now, he is banned for life.

It is a shame that Mejia and his representatives could not let the injury heal itself.  Now, after five pretty good years in the MLB, he is gone for good.  Mejia would have been arbitration-eligible after the 2017 season.  He made over $500,000 in salary for the 2015 season…now, he will make $0.

According to the collective bargaining agreement, Mejia will be able to apply for reinstatement after two years.  That will give MLB plenty of time to decide what they can do…since Mejia is the first major league player to receive a lifetime suspension.  Alex Rodriguez got a one-year ban; so, this will be uncharted territory for MLB to explore.

For now, though, Mejia probably just needs to concentrate on letting his elbow rest and, perhaps, begin a throwing program later in the year.  Let’s hope that whoever is handling him does it the correct and proper way.

 

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The Blog Dog: Blatt Firing a Travesty for the NBA

When I was a boy growing up in Southeastern Michigan, I dreamed of being a professional athlete…what boy wouldn’t?  After a successful career, I dreamed, I would then become a successful coach/manager.  I would guide my team to the playoffs and then the championship.

No more.

I would not want to be a coach nowadays, because it is no  longer a steady, safe job.  You can get fired, even if you have a winning record, and have your team in first place!

Case in point:  David Blatt, the recently fired head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Last season, his first with the Cavs, he did the unspeakable:  Won his division with a 53-29 record, went all the way to the NBA Finals—only the second time in Cavaliers’ history—and fell just two wins short of winning the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.  All this, with two of his best players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, on the sidelines with injuries.

Then, to begin this season, all the Cavaliers have done to date is win 30 of their first 41 games, ranked first in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the entire NBA.  So, what was Blatt’s reward for having his team playing so well?  HE GOT FIRED!!!

Why?  Why did such a successful coach get the axe?  Two words:  LeBron James.  He returned to Cleveland after winning a couple of NBA championship rings in Miami, hoping to bring a championship to his home state.  Unfortunately, that is turning out to be much harder LeBron had hoped.

The Cavs made the mistake of hiring Blatt before James announced that he was returning to Cleveland.  Rather than having to wear egg on their faces and replace Blatt before he even got started, the Cavs decided to roll with the punches and see if James, errrr! Blatt, could take the team to the championship.  He darned well almost did!

Seeing that their window of opportunity was slowly beginning to close, The Cavs finally decided to part company with Blatt (not even waiting until the All Star break!) and promote assistant coach Tyronn Lue to head coach.  I don’t know why the Cavs just didn’t appoint James as a player/coach.  It seems as if he is running the team anyway.

James then came out and claimed that he knew nothing about Blatt’s firing.   RIGHT!!!   If you believe that, I have some ocean-front property in Nevada I would like to sell you!

I think LeBron needs to come to grips that the NBA might be passing him by and that he may NEVER have the chance to win a championship for his home-town fans.  I know that he wants to be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time, but the proof is in the pudding…or, how many championship rings a player owns.  LeBron has two…I don’t think he is going to win any more.

 

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The Blog Dog: NFL: EPIC MELTDOWN EXTENDS PLAYOFF DROUGHT FOR BENGALS

I have to preface this blog by saying that I waited a couple of days before deciding to do it because, if I had done it right after the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game on Saturday, there would have been too many expletives that I would have had to delete.

Let me start by saying that I have been watching NFL football since 1957…the year my Detroit Lions pummeled the Cleveland Browns, 59-14, to win the NFL championship (unfortunately for me, that was the last title the Lions have won, but I digress). And I have to say, in all honesty, the game last Saturday between the Steelers and Bengals was the ugliest game I have ever witnessed.

Where to begin? How about when Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger was cheered by Bengals fans when he was injured…or how about the fans pelting him with debris when he was carted off the field? That behavior is totally unacceptable! Perhaps the NFL should penalize the fans a couple of home games in 2016…perhaps, have them played in London, Mexico, or Canada where fans know how to behave themselves!

Still, the Bengals had the chance to win the game and end a 25-year drought since the last time they won a playoff game. They would have done it with backup QB A.J. McCarron, who was trying to justify his play as he filled in for the injured Andy Dalton. McCarron was one minute and 50 seconds away from his place in the spotlight. He had drilled a 25-yard pass to WR A.J. Green to give Cincy a 16-15 lead.

Then, it looked as if the Steelers’ fate was sealed when Vontaze Burfict intercepted a Landry Jones pass with 1:43 left. All the Bengals had to do was run out the final 103 seconds and victory would be theirs. But, alas, that is when the meltdown began happening.

Jeremy Hill, RB for the Bengals, was stopped on a running play and did not protect the ball. It was stripped out and the Steelers recovered the fumble. That is when “Big Ben” came off the bench, injured shoulder and all, to try and lead the offense to a point where a game-winning field goal could be booted.

Cincinnati’s defense was stingy, though, and the Steelers were faced with a fourth down and three yard to go situation. That is when the wheels began to fall off the Bengals’ wagon. A pass to Antonio Brown was incomplete but Burfict, who has had a history of dirty play, came across and belted Brown in the head with his shoulder. Brown was spun around and dropped to the ground, obviously injured. Burfict was flagged for a late hit and the Steelers got 15 huge yards and a first down.

Wait…it gets worse! During the time that Brown was being attended to by staff, Adam “Pacman” Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and that gave the Steelers another 15 yards, this time to the Cincinnati 17-yard line. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not wait any further. He sent his field goal kicker, Chris Boswell, onto the field with 14 seconds left. Boswell promptly drilled the field goal and the Bengals were eliminated for yet another year.

A couple of comments: Burfict’s hit was just the latest in a series of dirty plays he has been involved in…three in 2013, one in 2014 and one in 2015. He actually had a late hit earlier this season and, finally, the last straw. Burfict has received a three-game suspension from the league for the start of 2016; but, I wonder if he will still be on the Bengals.

Secondly, Pacman says that Antonio Brown was “faking” being belted in the head and “winked” at Jones as he was leaving the field. Say WHAT??? Mr. Jones needs to look at the play on You Tube…Brown was definitely hit in the helmet by Burfict’s shoulder. Just because he winked at Jones does not mean he was faking it. Jones later said that he would apologize to Brown if he does not play this weekend. So, if Brown clears concussion protocol and does play, then he was faking?

Finally, I would be extremely surprised if Jones is on the Bengals’ roster next season. Even though he was being taunted on the field, he needed to keep his cool. His failure to do so cost the Bengals the game and, perhaps, his spot on the team.

 

 

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The Blog Dog: Alabama Returns to the Top of the CFB World

And then, there were…NONE!  No college football  FBS school was able to get through the 2015 season undefeated.  Clemson came the closest but, last night, fell five points short as they were defeated by Alabama, 45-40, in the National Championship game .

Say what you want about the Tide and head coach Nick Saban…they have won consistently and now boast four national championships in the past seven years.  During that time period, Alabama’s record is 86-10.  Saban now trails just the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant by one in number of total national championships.  He won one title when he was at LSU and the other four at Alabama.  Saban is now tied with Bernie Bierman (Minnesota) and Howard Jones (Yale and USC), each with five college football titles.

No one can say that the game, hosted by Glendale, Arizona, was not exciting.  The teams scored a total of 85 points. Clemson actually had more total yards, 550 to 473, but Alabama did not have one, single turnover.  Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner, joins Tony Dorsett as the only Heisman winners to also win the national championship in the same year.

So, now, the question is:  will the Crimson Tide be able to repeat in 2016?  The Tide has a tough opener as they face Southern California on September 3.  They have road games against Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee; plus they open the month of November on the road at LSU and then hosting Mississippi State.  How much will Saban have to reload in order to contend again?  He will definitely have to replace his QB, Jacob Coker and RB Kenyan Drake, both of whom are seniors.  Henry is a junior but he will most definitely enter the NFL draft…he has nothing more to prove.

As for Dabo Swinney and Clemson, they look like they will be back in the playoff hunt again next season.  QB Deshaun Watson is only a sophomore, so he will be back, as will CB Mackensie Alexander and RB Wayne Gallman.  Hunter Renfrow, the great WR, is only a freshman.

The Tigers’ 2016 schedule looks pretty favorable.  Clemson starts the season in Auburn against those Tigers.  The only other road game that may give Swinney’s team trouble will be traveling to meet Florida State.

All in all, it looks like the 2016 season will be a repeat of 2015.

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CFB BOWLS HAVE BEEN WATERED DOWN TO MEDIOCRITY

If you have followed college football for as long as I have, you would agree that the post-season bowls have been dramatically de-valued. The reason is simple: There are WAY TOO MANY bowls. The solution is just as simple: Take a chain saw and cut the number of bowls down to a workable amount, where teams with 5-7 records are not even going to be considered.

My plan may be too dramatic, but I believe that there should only be ten bowls…the oldest ten in existence. The bowls should NOT be used for the playoffs…those should be separate from the bowls. So, if my plan of 10 bowls, plus the two playoff games (to be played at neutral sites), is to work, the top 24 teams in the playoff rankings would be used. Instead of having to choose 5-7 teams, there would be schools with nine or ten wins that WOULD NOT be selected by a bowl. We need to get back to the time when a school had to EARN a bowl berth.

Using the above formula, and using the final college rankings, this is how the bowl matchups would be at the end of the 2016 season:

Because New Years 2017 falls on a Sunday, there are no games scheduled for that day. Traditionally, the Rose Parade and college games are scheduled for the following Monday. The Rose Bowl, “The Grandaddy Of Them All”, would still be played after the Rose Parade. It would be followed by the two playoff games on the same day. The championship game would be played on the following Monday. There really is no need for college football to wait nine or ten days between the playoff games and the championship games.

2016/17   College Football Bowl Schedule

Date                Day                 Bowl                            Site               TV                   TIME

Dec.    24             Sat.       Battle Frog Fiesta Bowl (10)   Glendale         ESPN              12:00

Tennessee versus Temple

Dec.    24               Sat.       Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl (9)    Atlanta          ESPN             3:30

Navy versus Utah

 Dec.   24            Sat.     AutoZone Liberty Bowl (8) Memphis/Nashville  ESPN         7:00

    Florida versus LSU

Dec.    26        Mon.     Citrus Bowl  Orlando (7)              ESPN              12:00

Baylor versus Houston

 Dec.    26        Mon.       Gator Bowl (6)    Jacksonville    ESPN              3:30

Oregon versus Oklahoma State

 Dec.    26        Mon.       Cotton Bowl (5)           Dallas       ESPN              7:30

Northwestern versus Michigan

 Dec.    31        Sat.           Sun Bowl (4)  El Paso/San Diego   CBS              12:00

TCU versus Ole Miss

Dec.   31         Sat.           Sugar Bowl (3)  New Orleans         ESPN           3:30

Florida State versus North Carolina

 Dec.    31        Sat.      One Orange Bowl (2)  Miami                  ESPN            7:00

Ohio State versus Notre Dame

 Jan.     2         Mon.       Rose Bowl (1)              Pasadena            ESPN            1:30

Stanford versus Iowa

 Jan.    2          Mon.        Playoff Game #1         Neutral Site      ESPN            4:00

Alabama versus Michigan State

 Jan.    2          Mon.       Playoff Game   #2          Neutral Site    ESPN            8:00

Clemson versus Oklahoma

 Jan.     9         Mon.         Championship Game   Neutral Site   ESPN           8:00

Because New Years Day, 2017, falls on a Sunday, the Rose Parade and the games would be played on Monday, according to previous tradition.

The numbers in parentheses are the age ranking of the bowls; e.g., the Fiesta Bowl is the 10th oldest; the Rose Bowl, “The Grand-Daddy of Them All”, would still be played on the day of the Rose Parade.

So, that it my solution. I would love your feedback on this and please feel free to come up with a solution of your own.

 

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CFB BOWLS WERE MAINLY A BUST THIS YEAR

My first post of 2016!

I knew, going into this season’s college football bowl games, that I would not be watching too many of them. After all, there were forty—count them—forty! bowl games played. There were so many bowl games scheduled that there were not even enough “bowl eligible” teams to fill all of the slots.

The NCAA had to pick two teams with 5-7 records to fill the final two bowl slots. They looked at schools’ APR (academic background) and chose San Jose State out of the Mountain West Conference and Nebraska from the Big 10. Surprisingly, both teams won! San Jose State defeated Georgia State, 27-16 in the AutoNation Cure Bowl and Nebraska thumped UCLA, out of the PAC 12, 37-29, in the Foster Farms Bowl.

Too many bowl games? For sure…in my next blog, I will give a recipe for cutting bowls down, considerably, and how to determine who plays where.

If the teams were supposed to play offense and defense in their respective bowl games, somebody forgot to tell quite of few of them. Of the 80 teams selected to play in the post-season, 27 of them scored 40 or more points…that is not a typo: 27 of them! That is around a third of all the teams (34%)! Four teams scored more than 40 points—AND LOST! Of those 27 teams, seven scored 50 or more points. Tulsa, out of the American Athletic Conference, scored 52 points—AND LOST! Incredible!

Certainly, the game that was the most exciting, by far, was the Valero Alamo Bowl which pitted Texas Christian University, out of the Big 12, against Oregon, with their high-powered offense, from the PAC 12. Trailing, 31-0, at half-time and missing their starting QB—Trevone Boykin—things did not look well for the TCU Horned Frogs. But, as they say, a game is four quarters long. After TCU head coach Gary Patterson changed his outfit from black to purple (the school colors), the Horned Frogs went wild and overcame that 31-point deficit and tied the game. The schools then went to three overtimes…and TCU won the game, 47-41. I am sure, like me, you missed that game, so go and watch the replay. You will be astounded!

The Camping World Independence Bowl marked the last time that Frank Beamer coached the Virginia Tech Hokies. After 29 years of success, Beamer announced that he was retiring and his team gave him a win in his final game…although, the Hokies had to hang on for a 55-52 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Beamer winds up with 238 wins—that ties him with the legendary Woody Hayes for 35th all-time.

Say what you want about the SEC and whether or not they are the best conference in the FBS, but the conference went 8-2 during the bowl season…including the playoff win by Alabama…and could go 9-2 if the Crimson Tide wins the National Championship game. The worst conference record in bowl games was the American Athletic Conference at just 2-6. Only Houston and Navy recorded wins.

Finally (this is it for stats!), out of 128 FBS teams (conference and independents), only 29 schools finished with at least 10 wins…including bowl games. That is only 23%! This begs the question: Parity or Mediocrity? You decide!

 

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