Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Holiday Bowl Preview Nebraska vs. Arizona


I'll start by saying that I love the matchup between Nebraska and Arizona tonight in the Extenze energy drink Holiday Bowl tonight. I've thought Arizona was underrated most of the year and had them ranked higher than any of the major polls throughout the year. I was pretty shocked to see that Arizona started as the favorite(now underdogs), expecting something more along the lines of the 73% of America that picked Nebraska to win via ESPN. Let's take a look at how I see this one playing out.

Arizona- All the talk is about two stingy defenses playing in this game, but I'm not really seeing it. They gave up the following point totals: Iowa(most similar offense to Nebraska-very basic)-27, Oregon St-32, Washington-36, Stanford-38, Oregon-44(2 overtimes at least). I don't see it. The majority of those high scores are running teams similar to Nebraska. They have a better pass defense but who knows if that will even matter much against Nebraska. Their offense is led by their 7 foot quarterback Nick Foles who resembles Matt Jones from Arkansas a few years back (minus the Coke problem hopefully). My biggest fear is running back Nic (finally someone who spells their name right) Grigsby, who is finally healthy after an injury plagued year. Quarterback and overall offense advantage-Arizona. My other biggest worry is the Stoops connection. I'm sure Mike was asking brotha Bob all kinds of questions over Christmas dinner, so lets just hope that Bobby did the honorable thing and refused to gossip.

Nebraska- My first thought is that Ndamukong Suh is under a lot of pressure going into this game. The Big XII Championship is fresh in every one's mind and all eyes will be on him tonight-including Arizona's. I expect him to be as dominant as he has been all year, but to put up paltry stats compared to his last outing. He will go down as the best defensive player in Nebraska history, if not Big XII history(can't think of anyone better), if not NCAA history(too hard to judge).

My next thought is how big a game this is for "The Wildman" Zac Lee. We know he will be amped up for the game for better or worse, lets just hope he hits his peak in the 4th quarter. I think the Wildman is playing for his job going into next year. If he struggles like he did in the Big XII Championship, I think the Cody Green era starts in the first game next year. However, Nebraska has a chance to compete at a very high level next year and might not want to go through the growing pains of a first year starting quarterback. That's why I think if he can play well in this game then he will go into next year as the starter. Green is supposed to see some action tonight as well, but has been unimpressive so far, otherwise the job would probably already be his.

Prediction- I feel very confident about Nebraska winning this game. I think they boast the best defense in the country, and I don't think Arizona will be able to score much unless Grigsby is able to regain his form to the tune of over 300 yards in the first two games this year. I envision Nebraska shutting down the run and then pressuring Matt Jones Lite, who is pretty immobile from what I hear on the streets. I think Zac Lee plays well throwing mostly from playaction along with Helu cracking the 100 yard barrier, and Sexy Rex Burkhead chipping in for 50 yards. Nebraska should be extra motivated after getting screwed against Texas, and I think they take it out on the pretty boys from Arizona.

Nebraska 24, Arizona 9

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mike Leach/Mark Mangino Situations


I don't normally like to talk about off the field situations in sports, because I believe ESPN over analyzes them to death, but I had some thoughts to share on the Mike Leach/Mark Mangino troubles currently unfolding.

I believe this is the start to what will be a continuing trend in college sports, the first of many to come. This disturbs me. It feels like a power struggle between players and coaches. The Mark Mangino situation gave student athletes everywhere the feeling that they have the power to produce action on their coach. We've already had a second instance only a few weeks later now with Mike Leach getting suspended by Texas Tech. These are two high profile coaches that have now been accused of wrongdoing by players and will face severe consequences because of it.

I can't really remember another coach being fired by how he is treating his kids before this. All the power to this point has been with the coaches. Now is it a bad thing that the players now have something of a voice in the matter? Yes and no. I do believe it's unfair for them not to have any say, but its also putting power into kids' hands. Kids (along with their parents) are looking out mostly for themselves. There are reasons this is not the typical practice when delegating power. Kids are more likely to abuse that power to what they think will help their situation. My main concern is the question of what is stopping a kid, or group of kids, to expand on a minor incident to make a coach that isn't giving them any playing time look bad? And how many kids that aren't playing would agree with the coach's decision of who is playing? There are too many players, and not enough PT to keep everyone satisfied.

Now I'm not saying that I think Mangino or Leach is in the right or the wrong. I don't know exactly what happened in either situation, nor do I in any locker room or practice field across the country, which makes it nearly impossible to take a side on the issue. What I am saying is that the student athletes now have the power to take advantage of an overreacting, overprotective, hypersensitive society (which stems from the media). Without the tabloids of ESPN being on 24/7 "News" coverage, neither of these instances occur.

This brings us back to the Mike Leach situation. The kid that made the accusations is Adam James, son of ESPN/ABC game commentator, Craig James. This brings us full circle to the issue at hand, power. Does any of this occur if Craig James doesn't have a voice (his job) and the power that comes with it (speaking to the nation without debate)? I say no. Texas Tech does not want to go head-to-head with the most powerful sports network over this situation. They wouldn't stand a chance, leaving them little choice and forcing their hand into suspending Leach.

This makes it sound like Craig James is now committing an abuse of power in the situation, which I would tentatively agree with (with what we know). So, the real question may be: Can we trust anybody with power? Will power always lead to corruption? I'd like to think not, but see little evidence to support my hope.

Power? None for me, thanks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Johnson County Community College Basketball 2009-10


Beard N Stache

On top of my 'His Dirkness' blog, my second gig is one-half of the dynamic duo, Beard N Stache. Along with my partner in crime, Rob Ladd (stache), we broadcast the basketball games for the Johnson County Community College Cavaliers, the defending NJCAA National Champions. The Cavaliers are 8-3 on the year and are ranked #13 in the nation currently. The team is currently on break for the holidays until mid-January when the season really heats up. To see the Cavaliers in action and to hear Beard N Stache with the call, click on the title of this post to get to the homepage. From there, click on the dated links to see each of the games played to this date.

Next JCCC Men's Basketball home game: Saturday, January 16th vs. Cowley

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009-2010 College Basketball Rankings

His Dirkness' Top 10 (And 1!):

1. Texas- Damion James + Dexter Pittman = Best 1-2 punch in the nation
2. Syracuse- Most impressive resume so far- Unheard of 6 players averaging double digs
3. Kentucky- Could be best by year's end- Reminiscent of Michigan's Fab Five
4. Kansas- Yet to impress- Plenty of time though- Most pure talent in country
5. Connecticut- Have the necessary personnel to win in March- LOVE Stanley Robinson (pictured)
6. North Carolina- Toughest schedule to this point- Huge drop off from number 5
7. Villanova- The 15th year of eligibility for Scottie Reynolds provides experience
8. Purdue- Haven't seen them yet- Seem good though
9. West Virginia- Ditto- Senior De'Sean Butler screams All-American
10. Kansas State- Frank Martin doing a great impersonation of a good coach
11. Duke- Don't trust Scheyer or Singler in March- The opposite of UConn- Yes, I realize they beat UConn- in November

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Kansas City Chiefs thoughts

As tough as this is right now, I'm gonna try and put out some words on what I'm seeing from the Kansas City Chiefs this year (tissues are nearby).

First, I need to get something off my chest though. I was offered free tickets to each of the last two games. I didn't go either Sunday. Warp back to three years ago, and this was unheard of to me. I would feel embarassed to even call myself a fan. Here's the thing though: I don't feel like I'm in the wrong. I liken it to a friend becoming an alcoholic (analogy alert!). Lets call him Nate. Now, Nate (The Chiefs) has recently started drinking too much (Carl + Herm + Haley), and gets irrational when he does (bad drafts in the 2000's). I don't really want to to see Nate when he gets like this (not going to the games), but I still want to support him (watching them on TV). So what do you do? You lie to yourself, tell yourself its not that bad, keep an eye on the situation from afar and wait for it to pass over. Now is this being the best friend in the world? No, but its atleast keeping you sane. I don't want to see the joke that his life (Arrowhead Stadium) has recently become, and want to remain naive to preserve his friendship (sacredness of Arrowhead). Arrowhead just needs some time to itself and a bottle of Hennessy.

Now on to actual thoughts about the team...

Charlie Weis- It seems to make too much sense for it not to happen. He's familiar with Scott Pioli and Todd Haley. He seems to run a similar offense to what Haley runs and likes. He's been a good coordinator in the past, and will most likely be looking to return to that position. Haley needs to hire an offensive coordinator to get better control of the game (and if he doesn't want one, then he needs to go). Pioli will need to make some sort of move before free agency starts to get this season off the fans' minds. I see a strong chance of this happening.

Matt Cassel- He has looked shaky at best the last couple of weeks. His biggest problem is that he seems to get uncomfortable at times. This is the exact problem you'd expect from a quarterback without much game experience. He needs games under his belt. The good news is that we can give him that experience. Remember how bad Trent Green was in his first year with the Chiefs (led the league in INT's)? How did he turn out? Green lacked experience the same way Cassel does. Now I don't envision Cassel becoming as good as Trent (Top 10 quarterback) was, but he could be in the 10-15 range in the league, and I do think we can win with him. His biggest asset is that he performs well in crucial moments. He has led successful drives at the end of games against the Raiders (first game), Cowboys, and Steelers (twice). He makes plays to win games (his teammates don't always respond, i.e. Chambers vs. the Bills). I remain sold on Cassel for now, and would like to see him with a better offensive line. However, next year will be his last year as the undisputed starter if he continues to stuggle.

Defense- The Chiefs defense lacks the same thing it has since Derrick Thomas: Leadership. They try to appoint people as leaders (Shawn Barber, Kendrell Bell, Derrick Johnson, Mike Vrabel, Mike Brown), but leadership needs to be earned, not given. We have three solid pieces to build around: Hali, Flowers, and Carr. We have some overpaid underachievers: Dorsey, Jackson, and DJ. We have some role players that would be good not playing every down: Edwards, McGraw, Brown, Page, Mays, and Belcher (too many). I just noticed that I named every starter except Mike Vrabel/Andy Studebaker. There's our answer. Vrabel is best off becoming co-defensive coordinator and Studebaker is best off starring in preseason games. So what's the solution?

Shawne Merriman- But, Nic, isn't he your most hated player in the league?? Yes, yes he is. That is until he leads the Chiefs in double-digit sacks. I learned years ago with Freddie Mitchell that I can learn to like anybody that puts on a Chiefs uniform. Merriman will become a free agent after this year and has a pretty rocky relationship with general manager A.J. Smith that will in all likelihood lead to his departure. Merriman is having a down year (4 sacks), but we all know that he has the potential to be a force. He is coming off a major knee injury suffered last year, which can take a year or two to overcome (perfect timing), or could possibly be the end of his career (Lights out!). The Chiefs would be forced to overpay which makes the move somewhat risky. I, however, feel in favor of taking the chance because I know I'd be getting a player fully motivated (Lights on!) after switching teams to a division rival.

This will be the first of many posts on the Chiefs franchise, and completes the trifecta of writing about "my teams" (Chiefs, Nebraska Football, KU Basketball). I hope this comforts some of the hopelessness felt by a beaten down, once proud, Chiefs fanbase. Stay tuned for what I think the Chiefs need to address in the upcoming draft (only 5 months away!) and how I see the NFL season playing out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

2009 Heisman Trophy

My Heisman Ballot:
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
2. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
3. C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
4. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
5. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Predicted Heisman Finish:
1. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
3. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
4. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
5. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2009 Kansas Jayhawks Basketball Thoughts

I thought I'd throw down some random thoughts on some University of Kansas basketball action after seeing them walk over UCLA on Sunday. First things first, man has UCLA fallen off- they looked terrible out there. They played good defense, which is expected under Ben Howland, but I never feared KU losing their 10 point lead because they had an offense equivalent to that of a high school team.

I'd like to start by saying it has been harder for me to follow the Jayhawks this year with not being enrolled in the school. I've found it a little challenging to watch them blow out the lesser opponents so far this year. That must just come from not living in Lawrence anymore. But, I feel drawn in now, and why's that? Look at who's number 2...Texas. The next line of thought from my brain goes like this, F*** Texas, followed by an upside down hook 'em horns sign. I dunno if people can tell or not, but I currently have a strong distaste for Texas.

That being said, I would have no problem with Texas displacing KU as number 1 in the nation right now. I have not been impressed with them so far. I would say they haven't had an impressive game up to this point, which obviously means I'm not counting the blowouts of the little schools. In the Memphis and UCLA ballgames they seemed very ho-hum in their efforts and played sloppy, undisciplined basketball. I would argue their most impressive game of the year came against Oakland, a team picked to win their conference with a legitimate big man down low. Now, is this anything to worry about right now? Probably not, as long as it doesn't continue. They'll have a chance to impress with Michigan and Cal coming up in a 4 day span later this month. Although, I foresee their first loss coming at the hands of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The biggest problem I've seen out of the team this year has been players not knowing and/or not committing to their roles on the team. I believe a basketball team is at its best with three main scorers, and the other players filling roles around them. There just aren't enough basketballs to go around to feed four hungry scorers. This team has returnees Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich as the main building blocks, along with freshman Xavier Henry stepping in as that third scorer. The person this leaves on the fence is Tyshawn Taylor, who has been struggling mightily this season. If I were Bill Self, the first thing I'd do (besides admiring myself in the mirror) is show Tyshawn tapes of Russell Robinson. Become him. Accept your role. Make good passes, don't turn the ball over, and lead your team. You win championships with a mix of star players and other players knowing and accepting their roles. Tyshawn fits the bill of a role player, atleast for now, and coming off the bench might be the best way for him to learn that.

The next biggest problem I've seen is just an overall lack of involvement from Cole Aldrich. He is your stud, you need to ride him. It might just be early in the season, so they are including everyone in the action, but Cole needs to take charge and demand the ball more. I'm almost wandering if he has leveled off and reached his full potential.

My final thought is about the overall improvement of the Morris twins. They seem to be everywhere this year. Although, I wander, is that because there are two of them and we think we're seeing them twice as much as we actually are? Does anybody have a strategy for differentiating the two? Because I just say "good play Morris" every time, and refer to the two of them as a whole, 'The Morrisi'. I say we make them wear different colored head bands. Or one grows an afro. Or one becomes point guard. They gotsta do something...

Rock Chalk,
His Dirkness

Monday, December 7, 2009

2009 Big XII Championship: Nebraska-Texas Fallout

I have let the emotions wear down a bit so that this wouldn't be an angry passage of writing, but instead one of pride, which is a more evolved emotion. Believe me, I am still angry though. I feel there were injustices that didn't entirely lead to the game's outcome, but they were still present and they affected the game in Texas' favor. The worst part, is that I feel there are still more to come (cough cough heisman). The game was a heartbreaker of epic proportions. I'm a big Sports Guy reader from ESPN, and I'm not sure where this game ranks in his levels of losing, but I would put it pretty high up on my list. There were three HUGE letdowns just on the final drive with the kick out of bounds (eerily similar to a Chiefs playoff-squashing loss to the Raiders), the horse collar (called too much), and the clock running out (thanks technology!). And i didn't even include the actual field goal (or the Pass Interferences from earlier in the 2nd half). Ouch. However, I was incredibly proud of the performance that Nebraska put on the field. They may not have been victorious, but nobody can deny they are once again relevant on the national stage, which is underrated in terms of importance. I'll put it this way, I wore Nebraska gear all day Sunday and plan to continue for the rest of this week. I believe they were the tougher team on Saturday, especially in the 4th quarter, proved by Gomes just stealing the ball away from a Texas receiver that set up Nebraska's last field goal. And I believe Alabama to be tougher than us, not to mention a whole lot more talented. Good luck Texas!

Colt McCoy- His heisman campaign is a joke. It is based off preconceived notions that he hasn't done anything to lose the heisman (and i refuse to capitalize the word heisman). He had a bad start to the year, mediocre middle, good ending followed by falling flat on his face in the biggest game. Make no mistake, Texas won this game in spite of him, not because of him. Who do I blame for this? None other than Kirk Herbstreit. I don't want to see this guy leading heisman campaigns anymore. He announces the primetime game every week (usually the best and most important) and he gets on their rambling about how whoever the best team's quarterback leads his team and blah blah blah from the very first week of the season. He has too much power with being heard so much. The heisman trophy should be an award that is played out in front of you and then you select the winner at the end. It's like analysists these days aren't smart enough to form their own complete thoughts, so they need a preseason cookie-cutter like mold to sound educated, to the point where you just fill in the best team and that team's quarterback to the prewritten story of the season. This is more of a big picture hatred towards the entire sports media's NOW NOW NOW attitude, but they could still choose to bring their own opinions into play once in a while. And Kirk Herbstreit had the gall to say that McCoy was having his heisman moment in the 4th quarter of Saturday's game!!! Herbstreit lame, heisman lamer.

Ndamukong Suh- 12 tackles. 7 tackles for loss. 4 and 1/2 sacks. Wait, what's that? You were looking for a possible heisman candidate to step up in the biggest game of the year? If Suh does not get an invitation to the heisman Ceremony (he did), i personally refuse to ever watch or support it again (with the small exception of a Nebraska player going back, which I would have to watch then). People are calling Suh the best defensive lineman in the last 15 years, not in a sense for professional potential, but actual results on the field in college! Combine that with the fact that nobody stands out very highly this year in the crop of quarterbacks or running backs, and the best I am looking for is just an invitation?? Does anyone see anything wrong here? Wasn't this one of the most prestigious awards of all time, up there with the Stanley Cup for coolest trophy of all time?? Why is there nobody on TV screaming about this to help get this fixed? It's very fixable, once we get Herbstreit and fools off TV ramming their cream of the crop, pretty boy, elitist team quarterbacks down our throat! Sorry, it had to be said. The point being, if Suh doesn't show up on your ballot, you don't know football. Period. Exclamation point!

This may have gotten more angry than I had initially intended, but I hope that only drives home my point of how passionate I am about this. Too much conformity in thought is accepted in Sports Journalism and i want to be part of the revolution that stands up against it. Sports are a beautiful thing because of how anything can happen, which is because the variable of human performance is involved. This is why we watch. And yet, we have everybody putting out the exact same thoughts, predictions, and insights 24 hours a day on ESPN. I would like to see people representing all forms of thought- a variety of ages, races, and social classes- because craziness should be represented (hello Beano Cook!); it happens all the time in sports, things that NOBODY SAW COMING, and that's what makes them beautiful.

I got a little off track, so lets bring things back towards the game from Saturday. I believe Bo Pelini has taken enormous strides in his two years under the helm for Nebraska. They are sitting pretty under him, and I believe will win a National Championship at some point in his tenure at Nebraska. It's ridiculous to think that his defense has gone from finishing 117th overall (out of 119 teams) in 2007 to what could be the best defense in the country this year. Not Florida. Texas maybe. We'll see how Alabama fares against Texas' offense. And they all have way better offenses to help control games. Another big plus is that Nebraska might have found a way to kill the spread that was taking over the Big XII, dominating the Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas offenses, with only Kansas finding some success. Football was at its best before the spread, before having to score on every drive, and before defenses became inconsequential. Strategies go in waves like fads, with so many coaches out to create new ones and defeat the old ones at all times. I think we may see the spread die down a lot in the next few years, which is one of many reasons that I feel personally thankful for the 2009 Nebraska team- a defensive team living in a defenseless world.

Roll Tide,
His Dirkness

Friday, December 4, 2009

College Football Championship Weekend

Nebraska-Texas: First off, I'm a huge fan of Nebraska, so this write-up will most likely be very biased. Texas is obviously the better team so Nebraska will need to follow the mold on how to upset a superior team. I believe the necessary ingredients for a upset go like this (I'm avoiding obvious keys such as turnovers, which is big in every game):

1. Get off to a fast start - An early deficit can be daunting for an inferior team to overcome. It's paramount to not be down by more than one score by first quarter's end, and scoring first would increase chances greatly.

2. Red Zone conversions - Taking full advantage of opportunities means holding the other team to field goals instead of touchdowns while doing the opposite yourself. The superior team will most likely have more opportunities, so the inferior must get more out of their's.

3. Rattle their quarterback - The superior team will most likely win if they play up to their standards, so you must find a way to force them out of their rhythm. The easiest way I know of doing that is to hit their quarterback early and often. Think New York Giants over the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Biggest hope for Nebraska: They will be able to run the ball. Their offense will fail miserably if they cannot run and setup the pass through playaction, the strategy used successfully over the 5 game winning streak. It will be tough against the Big XII's best run defense.

Biggest fear for Nebraska: Colt McCoy running the ball. If Nebraska is to run their stubborn defense play after play, McCoy will run all over them because of a lack of accountance for the quarterback scrambling.

Prediction: I mentioned Nebraska's stubborn defense - think Baltimore Ravens of 2000. They prefer to beat you with the same look on defense and dare you to beat it. They will have to mix things up and bring blitzes from all angles to try and confuse him. Look for a lot of blitzing from the corners. If Nebraska remains stubborn I think Colt will be able to pick them apart. I think Nebraska might need a score out of their defense or special teams to keep up with the scoring of the Longhorns in this one. Unfortunately, I think Texas has too much talent and too much focus (because of last year) for Nebraska to pull off the upset.

Texas 26, Nebraska 14

Florida-Alabama: All year i have believed Bama to be the better team, but have had doubts creep in due to their close games in the last third of the season. I have now become convinced that this will indeed help Alabama in this game. Florida has only had one really close game this year, against Arkansas, a mediocre team and at home. Alabama has had to scrap for victories against Virginia Tech (neutral), Tennessee, LSU (road), and Auburn (road). Therefore, I give the battletested edge to Bama. I expect Alabama's gameplan to revolve completely around physicality. I think they try to wear them down on offense by pounding the ball, and on defense by hitting anybody in site, including Jesus himself. This gives them their best shot. I expect Florida to continue its strategy of just picking up four yards every play, wooing the defense to sleep, and then hitting them with the big play. I think Bama is up for the challenge. I'm more confident in the unders (41) than either team winning.

Alabama 13, Florida 9

Go Big Red,
His dirkness