September 30, 2010

Packers-Bears Postmortem

Okay, I guess I've calmed down enough to write about this game reasonably rationally. The story of the game was penalties, penalties, penalties, with a dash of special teams for that extra dimension of FAIL. I still think the Packers are the best team in the NFC (and Football Outsiders agrees). The Packers are rated 5th in the league on both offense and defense and first overall. However, the Packers are rated 29th in Special Teams play. It's funny - one thing I've often felt in the past is that for some strange reason, the Packers and the Badgers tend to have similar issues from year to year. Back when I was an undergrad the big problem was tackling - both teams seemed to be competing with one another to see who could have the most missed arm tackles per game. This year it's sorry, sorry special teams (despite the fact that Crosby and Welch are both having pretty good seasons kicking the ball).

Give credit to the Bears - they executed where the Packers did not. I'd like to give especial kudos to Urlacher and Briggs, who are still the strength of that defense, Julius Peppers, who had the Packers line worried all game, and especially the Bears fans at Soldier Field who kept things loud and the Bears in the game.

Here's the tale of the penalties (thanks to commenter Bush League All Star over at APC

1) 10:03 left, first quarter – pass interference on Woodson. Thankfully, no points scored on that drive, but only because of Robbie Gould’s missed field goal.

2) 5:41 left, first quarter – false start on Clifton. Green Bay overcame that flag, as Rodgers found Jennings for a touchdown.

3) 4:26 left, first quarter – offsides on Bishop…on a kickoff. A KICKOFF? I haven’t seen that call in years. You see that in pee wee football, not the NFL.

4) 4:01 left, first quarter – face mask on Matthews. The Packers thankfully didn’t pay for it, as an interception by Martin made up for it.

5) 6:02 left, second quarter – holding on Colledge. That wiped out an eight yard run.

6) 3:55 left, second quarter – illegal block on Martin. A 22 yard return wiped out.

7) 14:55 left, third quarter – illegal formation on Clifton. A five-yard pass to Lee negated.

8) 9:18 left, third quarter – holding on Sitton. Another five yard gain, a run by Rodgers, negated.

9) 7:25 left, third quarter – holding on Tauscher. Not just 15 yards lost on a pass to Finley, but a touchdown.

10) 1:50 left, third quarter – false start on Tauscher. Almost no yardage lost.

11) 1:50 left, third quarter – false start on Tauscher. Ditto.

12) :24 left, third quarter – delay of game on Rodgers. It turned a third and 1 into a third and 6, which went incomplete.

13) 13:56 left, fourth quarter – false start on Clifton. Made up for with a 14 yard gain on second and 12.

14) 6:45 left, fourth quarter – roughing the passer on Zombo. That canceled an interception by Barnett, and the drive turned into a tying field goal for Chicago.

15) 6:34 left, fourth quarter – unnecessary roughness on Collins, helping to lead to the field goal.

16) 2:33 left, fourth quarter – intentional grounding on Rodgers, on a drive which led to the game-turning turnover.

17) 1:51 left, fourth quarter – pass interference on Burnett, negating an interception by Collins that would have saved the game.

18) :04 left, fourth quarter – illegal forward pass on Driver, negating a chance at a Cal-Stanford miracle lateral play.

Total yards in penalties: 152.
Total offensive yards lost beyond the penalties themselves: 55.
Points loss by Green Bay or gained by Chicago because of penalties: 13.

Just lots of dumb, dumb penalties. The OP didn't list the downs on these, but I remember from the TV that at least 6 of them were on third down. Penalties happen, especially when playing on the road in front of a fired-up crowd, and I'm never upset when a team fails to get a clean sheet, but this is just inexcusable. I disagree with the poster's characterization of points/picks lost, as some of those might not have been picks if there was no PI.

One other big worry is the Packers complete lack of a running game. I was pretty meh when Grant went down but I was all wrong. Jackson just isn't an every-down kind of back, and Kuhn is only a 2-3 yards and a cloud of dust type *fullback*. I haven't heard any more rumors about the Pack looking for a RB (i.e. Marshawn Lynch).

Turnovers: Aaron Rodgers threw a hail mary pick at the end of the first half, but the big turnover was the James Jones fumble that led to the Bears game winning drive. All credit to Urlacher and Briggs for causing it, but it was just the Packers luck that day that despite the face that Jones was both running along the sideline and carrying the ball on the sideline side of his body, the ball didn't go out of bounds. Cutler threw one terrible looking pick and threw another one that was called back due to a roughing the passer penalty on Zombo. Cutler looked erratic most of the night and IIRC there were at least one or two other near picks on the night, which isn't that surprising considering the pressure the Packer pass rush was getting on him

Special teams: The announcers and some Packers fans were wondering why the hell the Packers would kick to Hester. Well, for one he hadn't scored a TD in nearly two years. On top of that, the Packers punter looks pretty good. He had several absolutely booming punts, including the one that Hester scored his TD on. He made a mistake on the last punt of the second quarter, hitting a line drive right to Hester but at least he made the best tackle that I've ever seen by a punter to stop him from taking it to the house. I like Mathsay's potential - I think the bigger problem is the special teams tackling in general.

All in all: what do you do to deal with penalties? Some of them were dumb (like the multiple false starts, etc) and hopefully the players learned a lesson from this game. I don't think that fining players is going to make a difference. When players are on the field, they're thinking about their assignments, not their paychecks. The Packers play an aggressive defense and they just got burned a bit more than usual, on top of the dumber, much more preventable penalties. I have hope they'll do better next time, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Speaking of dumb mistakes, what was up with McCarthy challenging that fumble anyway? It was clear that the player and the ball were in bounds. They sure could have used those extra seconds at the end of the game. Speaking of which - why didn't they just let Chicago score when they got into the red zone with less than 2 minutes left? Aaron Rodgers was clearly on fire that night - the only thing stopping the Packers from marching down the field was the Packers. Just some generally poor game management by McCarthy that night.

Game Ball: Aaron Rodgers: 34/45 for 316 yards, 1 TD, one meaningless INT, and an average of 7 yards per attempt and just over 9 yards per completion.

Update: check out this link from baturkey in the comments (scroll down past the Failboys analysis). The two sentence summary is that there's little correlation between run-pass balance and scoring. As they say, you "win to run the ball".

September 27, 2010

Stat of the Game



Preview: Packers (2-0) at Bears (2-0)

Too much work to do today, so this will be short. What's with so many Bears fans drinking this team's Kool-aid? They barely beat the lowly Lions *at home* and only on the strength of a bizarre mistake/rules wrinkle. Then they beat the overrated and asleep-seeming Cowboys in Dallas, which was more impressive. But honestly though - this was 2 games. All the problems that you complained about last season (Lovie, the offensive line) are still in place, though at least Urlacher is back. Cutler was a bit unlucky (and erratic) in general last season, and still does not have a great line in front of him. He's been better in the past 2 games, but, By DeRosa's Stubble, it's only 2 games. I'll be interested to see how their line handles Clay Matthews.

Most of the focus going into this game is on the quarterbacks, and for good reason. Both these teams (the Bears especially) don't really have great rushing games. I'm willing to give Forte a bit of the benefit of the doubt as the Bears O-line is not that good, but he seems like he's more of an outside runner/screen pass kind of guy anyway. The same applies to an even greater extent for Brandon Jackson, who's a great 3rd down kind of back but it not the guy you can count on for 3 yards when you need it. On top of that, the Bears have Urlacher back to shut down the middle of the field. Basically, we're going to see a lot of passing in this game, and I'll take Rodgers over Cutler. But if the Packers get absolutely *nothing* out of their running backs they could be in trouble.

Another reason to worry is that the Packers are still missing half their secondary with Bigby and Harris still recovering from surgery. Tramon Williams looks okay in the second CB spot but he's not all that special. Luckily neither are the Bears WRs. I don't really get the love for Devin Hester, Wide Receiver. They should be giving Aromashadu more touches. In fact, he should be matched up against shaky nickel back Sam Shields tonight.

On the other aspect of passing defense, I think Green Bay has the clear advantage. Clay Matthews and the Packers D, which is rated as the best pass rushing defense in the league according to FO. Clay Matthews has been an absolute terror, totaling 6 sacks.

Aaron Rodgers: 2 TD, 1 INT
Jermichael Finley: 1 TD
Donald Driver: 1 TD
Packers D: 5 sacks (2 by Matthews)
Culter: 2 TD, 2 INT

Final Score: GB 23 - 17 CHI

September 26, 2010

Big Ten Power Poll: Week 0

Since Big Ten play is finally, blessedly, starting, here's a power poll for the conference.

  • 1. A Ohio State University (4-0, 0-0)

    Despite what all the numbers say, I'm still not sold on Terelle Pryor. I'm willing to have an open mind that he *could* be good, but I'm withholding my judgment until he plays a key role in OSU winning a road game at UW and/or Iowa. The defense is the strength of this team, and it's up to Pryor to prove otherwise.

  • 2. Wisconsin (4-0, 0-0)

  • 3. Iowa (3-1, 0-0)

    It's pretty close between UW and Iowa for the 2 spot. Both teams have been burned by injuries in the preseason - Jewel Hampton (again) for the Hawkeyes, and Chris Borland for the Badgers. The Hawkeyes are further handicapped by the loss of RB Brandon Wegher to some unspecified personal issues, leaving Robinson as the lone remaining back from their good-looking preseason 3-headed backfield. Iowa's defense is still a class above Wisconsin's, but the main reasons why I rank UW ahead are Scott Tolzien and James White. I've never been that high on Tolzien, but I'm starting to wonder about my evaluation of Stanzi a bit. He throws a lot of picks, but to be fair a lot more has been asked of him in the past year and a half due to Iowa's troubles at RB. But the bigger difference makers are John Clay and James White, both of whom look like they could win B10 offensive player of the year awards if they were solo feature backs. And UW has two of them.

    I think Wisconsin has the edge, but since they play in Kinnick this year you just have to flip a coin to guess who wins when they match up.

  • 4. Denard Robinson (4-0, 0-0)

    I didn't expect much from Michigan this year, but Denard Robinson has certainly put the school back on the map. No wonder RichRod let Mallett go. I don't really see them contending for the title but they're going to be a tough game at home.

  • 5. Penn State (3-1, 0-0)

    Not much shame in losing to the juggernaught that is Alabama, but I'm not sold on their QB. Much like Michigan they won't have much of a shot at a BCS bowl but they'll still be a tough nut to crack at home.

  • 6. Michigan State (4-0, 0-0)

    I can't really say much as all I know about Sparty this season is that they beat the Domers on a trick FG play in overtime. Love it. Since UW plays them next weekend I'll write up some more come preview time

  • Who cares?: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

    I don't really know how to rank these guys. They'll get their wins at home against each other, and each of them will likely win a home game against the top 6, but nothing much to see here.

  • 10. Purdue (2-2, 0-0)

    Purdue lost to the Domers and then lost to Toledo last week, but that's not as bad as...

  • 11. Minnesota (1-3, 0-0)

    Goldy beat Middle Tennessee state, and then lost to South Dakota, put up a better game than most thought against USC, and then lost to NIU. Ouch.

September 25, 2010

That's more like it: Badgers win 70-3

Wisconsin won 70-3 in a well-executed, and, most importantly, mistake-free game vs Pile of Electronics State. Every aspect of the team was firing on all cylinders, and freshman RB James White was especially impressive, tallying 4 touchdowns and 146 yards. The Badgers scored touchdowns on their first ten drives, averaging 9.1 yards per play. I'm still wary of this team after the last two games, but this is what I've been looking for. Good teams blow bad teams out of the water.

Game MVP: Barry Alvarez and/or Pat Richter, for scheduling this game in the first place

Tip o' the cap: James White for further proving that he belongs ahead of Montee Ball on the depth chart

Wag of the finger: The Wisconsin second-team offense, for failing to uphold their double-digit touchdown drive streak with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

September 24, 2010

Preview: Austin Peay at Wisconsin

Since UW is favored by a whopping 43 points in this game there isn't much to preview. So I guess we'll do some edjumacation on Austin Peay instead.

I thought Austin Peay was a Texas School, since they love throwing Stephen F. Austin's name in everything, but in fact it's an old school in central Tennessee that was named after a former governor of TN. The fact that "Leadership" is one of their departments makes me place them on the same level as my hometown's college (ugh). I should probably give it the benefit of the doubt though, seeing as it's been around much longer than a decade. Their men's basketball team has made the NCAA tournament twice in the past decade, only to be stomped by Louisville and Texas in the first round.

Also, their school cheer is "Let's go Peay!". I bet their athletic department's true strength is in watersports *rimshot*

September 21, 2010

Midweek Scrap Heap

Spurs lost 4-1 to Arsenal in their Carling Cup match. I had this game on while I was working but missed the extra time goals. No big deal, since the last thing this squad needs is even more games. Phil has a recap up over at Yankee Yiddos.

Bulaga may have passed Clifton on the depth chart at Left Tackle. Clifton has been having some knee issues and was benched for Bulaga in the second quarter of the Bills game. Give him some time to recover, and Bulaga some time to develop and this is a good thing for the Pack. Bulaga is the LT of the future anyway.

Bears fans are riding high after their improbable 2-0 start. I love how they're suddenly Super Bowl bound. Chicago media FTW. Enjoy it while it lasts. Remember that Martz, for all his offensive genius, doesn't have Orlando Pace at LT anymore. The Vikings are at 0-2 and but luckily face the suddenly-frisky Lions at home.

The UW-Austin Peay game will be on the BTN national feed (since I don't get 'extra' channels here). The B10 opener against Sparty will be on ABC/ESPN.

Blake Sorenson will pick up most of the playing time void left by Chris Borland's injury. Expect to see more of James White in this week's game. Nick Toon is also close to returning.

Penn State just received a huge donation to start a hockey program. As they will be the sixth Big Ten school to add a hockey program, this means that there are now talks to start a Big Ten hockey league. That would be pretty cool, especially because it would mean watching UW hockey on the BTN.

September 20, 2010

Green Bay 37 - Buffalo 7 (and Washington 27 - Houston 30)

I felt pretty secure in saying that despite the fact I was missing this game on TV, I wasn't missing much. Rodgers threw for 2 TDs and ran for another, and Brandon Jackson picked up his first TD as a starter. The only negative thing I can say about the game is that for a blowout this big, the Packers only put up 91 rushing yards. I like Jackson because he's a decent option to catch passes out of the backfield, but we're talking about Buffalo, the 24th best team against the rush (per FO). I know the Packers are a passing-oriented offense but you have to think that they're looking desparately for a new RB.

Supposedly they are looking at Marshawn Lynch, which I'm not a huge fan of (who else is available though). He's been accused of sexual assault by his ex, struck a drunk pedestrian and fled the scene, and was caught with marijuana and a loaded gun in his car following the 2009 Pro Bowl. He also loves Applebee's, which makes me instantly despise him on top of all the legal issues. Obviously his head isn't screwed on straight.

For the most part this was a scoreboard watching game, and the best news was that the Vikings lost (now 0-2!). The Bears beat the Cowboys, which further dims their chances as a WC contender but with the Vikings 0-2 and Favre struggling the Packers look like they don't really need it anyway. The Vikings get the frisky-looking Lions next week in the Metrodome. The Lions are a pretty good pick at home right now, I think but I don't really see them winning this game on the road.

Game Balls:
Offense: Aaron Rogers
Defense: Clay Matthews (3 sacks)

Next week the Packers travel to Soldier Field to play the improbably 2-0 Chicago Bears on Monday Night. It should be a fun one, for various reasons, most notably the fact that I heard several Bears fans mention on Twitter/fb something along the lines of Cutler should sue his offensive line for attempted murder.

(mini-recap: Washington 27 - 30 Houston)
The Redskins looked much, much better this week, and I take back anything I said about McNabb being done. That said, I don't really have any idea how Houston managed to come back, despite the fact that I watched it. They just have a great, great offense. They look like a playoff team, and could even knock off the Colts in the AFC South.

I still don't know what to think about the NFC East. The Cowboys were overrated but they still managed to surprise me by losing to the freaking Bears IN DALLAS. The Eagles don't wow me either, though McCoy sure looked good. Teams will start gameplanning for the Notorious Dog Killer if he keeps playing, and Kolb certainly did not look impressive against the Packers before he was knocked out. The Giants are kinda good but aren't really blow you away good. I thought the NFC East would be a real muddle but now I'm even more convinced. I wouldn't be surprised if 9-7 won the division (with a bunch of tiebreakers) and I could see the Skins (or any other of these guys) going on a hot streak to win it.

I was going to add some more here about the NFL overtime rules and the lameness of icing kickers, but that deserves its own post.

September 19, 2010

Preview: Bills at Packers

The Packers are favored by 13 points in this game, and that's a conservative line I think. The Bills are a mess. They have a great weapon in LEEEEE Evans but have no one who can throw it to him. They do have a decent pass defense but that's about it. It's tough to win a game on your secondary alone.

The big story of the game for the Packers is Brandon Jackson - how well will he do in his first game as starter? Luckily they have a gimme week for him to get his feet wet. I like Jackson, but Kuhn is the only realistic backup here and I'm incredibly underwhelmed at the thought of Kuhn getting more than 2 carries in a game. I've seen some speculation that the Packers might go after troubled Bills RB Marshawn Lynch, but I'm guessing the Bills are waiting until after they play the Pack to make sure he doesn't pass along any info. That way they could lose by 30 instead of 20.

Clay Matthews is still banged up but should be back this week. I hope the Packers take it easy with him against this team.

Prediction: Packers 33, Bills 10

Borland may be done for the season

Borland re-aggravated his separated shoulder in today's game, and there was talk by Bielema after the game that they might have to red-shirt him. He can play in one more game before he has to sit out.

This is a huge blow for Wisconsin's defense. Borland exploded on to the scene last year after Mike Taylor went down for the year with a knee injury. A LB corps of Borland, Taylor, and St. Jean would be pretty formidable, but now it is weakened considerably.

September 18, 2010

Arizona State defeats Arizona state (UW wins 20-19)

Wisconsin was lucky to win this game. They looked terrible, especially on defense and special teams. Wisconsin just couldn't tackle. At all. They were further hurt by the fact that 2009 Big 10 Defensive Freshman of the Year Chris Borland re-injured his separated shoulder three minutes into the game. DE and defensive captain J.J. Watt had to be taken off the field twice (though he returned each time), and Culmer St. Jean missed a fair amount of time too.

Arizona absolutely shredded UW's special teams, running one kick back in the first quarter, taking another to the house in the second (that was called back for two blocking in the back penalties), and nearly got a third at the end of the half (mentioned below). All in all ASU netted 256 return yards. That's just inexcusable.

The story of the game was ASU's miscues. They committed 8 penalties in the first half, including one I hadn't seen before - a sideline penalty on the ASU coaching staff. That sparked a tirade by ASU coach Dennis Erickson that probably should have been flagged a second time. They also committed a costly late hit penalty to keep UW's final, clock-killing drive alive. Erickson waited far too long to burn ASU's timeouts during the last drive, and found Wisconsin able to run out the clock before they could get it back.

Most importantly though, ASU left 15 points on the field. As they were slashing through UW in the first half, ASU missed out on two straight touchdowns, one by a clumsily dropped pass by one of their players, and another on a catch out of bounds by another reciever who just missed getting his foot down by inches. After UW scored to take the lead with 10 seconds left in first half, UW kicked off to ASU and they nearly ran it all the way back until Shelton Johnson finally made the tackle at the one yard line.

Most painfully, ASU led a drive to tie the game late in the 4th quarter and carved through the porous Wisconsin defense yet again to apparently get the game tying score. But then Jay Valai dove in and blocked the extra point, and the Badgers held on to win.

Wisconsin was outplayed in all aspects of the game. The offense looked out of sorts in the first half. When the Badgers were only down by 3, from the playcalling you'd guess that they were trailing by 2+ TDs. Too much passing from Tolzien, though he did make some nice plays to Kendricks. The 'real' Wisconsin only showed up in the 3rd quarter, when they ground out an 85-yard drive for a TD, followed by finally getting some pressure on Threet for once. Clay had a quietly decent game. For some reason they were barely using him early in the game and the announcers were confused that he was on the bench while the offense was sputtering. He still ended up over the century mark.

Game Ball (tie): Sheldon Johnson and Jay Valai
Tip o' the Cap: Steven Threet had a fantastic game. He was fully in command of that offense and was shredding the decimated UW linebacker corps.
Wag of the Finger: Obviously, the special teams coaching staff. I wonder if they'll run around tackling random people during the week, much like P.J. Hill and the rest of the running game had to carry footballs around all week when they had fumbling problems a few weeks ago.

The Badgers are banged up, but at least they effectively have a Bye next week against Austin Peay before B10 play starts in East Lansing on Oct. 2.

Spurs 3 - 1 Wolves

Spurs got off to a great start but couldn't find the net in the first half, largely due to some great saves by Wolves keeper Hahnemann. The most telling stat was shots fired: Spurs took 25 shots to Wolves 6. At one point late in the first half Spurs had posession of the ball twice as long as Wolves. However, after Wolves rammed in a well-executed goal just before the half (yet another just before halftime goal conceded by Spurs), it was looking like it would be another game where Spurs dominated but only came out with a point, at best. I missed most of what led to the first goal but either Kaboul was hurting or Harry was pissed at him, as he subbed him about a minute before halftime.

Spurs finally picked up an equalizer on a Van Der Vaart penalty in the 76th minute. Then Pavs came in for Keane and redeemed his awful start against WBA with the game-winner just before injury time. Hutton slammed in the insurance goal in stoppage time to make what looked like another disappointing game for Spurs into a rout.

VdV (pen) 76'
Pavs 87'
Hutton 90'

Game ball: Van Der Vaart
I didn't expect him to be fit enough to play, let alone have the great start he did. He caused all sorts of problems for Wolves defenders in the first half and Spurs looked much less lackluster on offense than they did vs Werder Bremen. I'm excited to see how the offense looks once Modric gets back.

I'd love to see more Pavs in the lineup over Keane. I like that Harry came out with this 4-4-2 lineup but Keane hasn't looked all that great out there. This team really misses Defoe.

Arsenal on Tuesday. COYS.

September 17, 2010

NFL Apocalypse looming - can baseball take advantage?

Players from four teams (so far) have voted to decertify the NFLPA, essentially voting to break up their own union. This will provide them leverage to sue the NFL in the event of a lockout due to labor laws involving collective bargaining. Logic-wise I'm not sure why this makes sense - if the union decertifies they can't, well, bargain, but they can still apparently negotiate as a "trade organization" (though I'm not all that sure how the labor laws work out there). There would be no more grievances, and the NFL would have control over how the players are marketed. But it does provide the owners more of an incentive to work out a new deal before the current one expires I guess.

I'm very interested to see what will happen if we do see a stoppage in the NFL. The 94 strike absolutely murdered baseball. The NFL *may* have passed it by then in ratings but baseball was still the national sport. The Venn diagram of baseball fans and football fans has a pretty big intersection so I would not be surprised if people blame the players.

However, one difference between football and baseball is that the casual fan does not imagine he or she can play professional football (FG kickers excepted). As we saw last week players get injured all the time, and it feels like the concussion issue is finally starting to seep its way into the national sports fan consciousness. Not just anyone can take a bone-crunching tackle from Ray Lewis. But they certainly don't have sympathy with any high-paid star who stops producing (though the NFL mitigates this by just cutting them, thanks to the ridiculous non-guaranteed contracts bandied around).

Can baseball jump in to fill the void? Well, I guess it *could*, but I'm not so sure that Bud Selig is the guy to lead the way. MLB has its own CBA to negotiate soon too, though things don't sound quite as dire on that front. Now that Fehr is gone I wonder if the union doesn't have as much teeth. We'll just have to see how it goes.

Game preview: Arizona State (2-0) at Wisconsin (2-0)

Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0) at Wisconsin Badgers (2-0), 2:30 PM CT

Well, at least we're playing a somewhat credible opponent, even if they are expected to finish 9th in the Pac 10. I'm hoping to see the Badgers bounce back from their general carelessness in their last 2 games (especially the SJSU game), and hopefully having a real opponent here will wake the team up, though playing Austin Peay next week won't help much on that front.

I love how the UW Badgers website has billed this as a "clash of unbeatens", as if that means anything in the quasi-preseason.

Badgers injuries
KR Gilreath (concussion) and WR Nick Toon (turf toe) are both expected to miss the game. Honestly I'm surprised that Gilreath can even walk, let alone practice, following that nasty hit last week. RT Oglesby will probably be kept out this game too. LB and returning defensive rookie of the year Chris Borland will return tomorrow, further bolstering the Badgers' excellent linebacking corps.

ASU's quarterback is Steven Threet, who Badgers fans might remember from Michigan's 3-win season (the Appalachian State year) a few years back. I'd laugh at them for it, except UM beat the Badgers that year in a game that Threet led them back from a 19 point deficit in the 4th quarter at the Big House. He's now ASU's QB and has put up a QB rating of 157 in 2 games against the perennial powerhouses North Arizona and Portland State. We'll see how they do against a credible team. For what it's worth Tolzien has put up a QB rating of 147 against the crappy opponents UW has played, so I guess it doesn't mean much. I would bet he's probably better than Tolzein.

How the Badgers win this game

What do you want to do tonight Brain this week, Bret?

The same thing we do every week - try to take over the world run the ball down their throats.

You can't really say much about ASU's run defense given their opponents so far (and the scores they ran up on them). Their defense was top rated in the Pac-10 last year, and their secondary is especially good. However, I still expect UW to run all over them.

How the Badgers lose this game
They make a few dumb mistakes early and have to rely on Tolzein's arm. As I mentioned above ASU's secondary is apparently pretty good, and Tolzein's top 2 WRs are out this week. However, I think both of them are pretty mediocre anyway (especially Gilreath) so there shouldn't be a big dropoff.

Badgers win, 30-17

The Vegas spread is 13 points, which seems just right to me. I think Clay rushes for 2 TDs, Tolzein hooks up with Anderson for one, and Ball or White pick one up too.

Predictions in other B10 games of interest:
Iowa 27 - 17 Arizona
Notre Dame 17 - 21 MSU
USC 1,000,00 - 3 Minnesota

Tottenham Hotspur Traveling Ambulance at Wolves (preview)

The tattered remnants of the Spurs squad take on Wolves tomorrow at the Lane. So far it looks like the following will be out:

Van Der Vaart

Wolves lost to the Cottagers last week but faced accusations of playing dirty after they broke the leg of Fulham striker Bobby Zemora. It would be just Spurs luck to see someone knocked out of this game in a similar way.

Not much of a preview, but I'm a bit out of the swing of things on footy with all the american football starting up, not to mention that my knowledge of the depth of Spurs and the EPL is still pretty slight. Here's a much better preview) of the match over at Yankee Yiddos.

My prediction: Spurs 2 - 1 Wolves

September 14, 2010

Spurs draw, Mini-Scrap Heap

Spurs drew with Werder Bremen 2-2. They look great for most of the first half, scoring 2 goals, one off Crouch's giant head from a beautiful ball from Van Der Vaart (via Jenas). The other goal was an own goal (that I missed) but apparently Crouch was very much involved in that one too. Then Culdcini let a soft goal through right before the half, and WB quickly scored again after the half. Spurs hung on for the next half hour to escape with a point. I'll take it for a road game, but you'd love to see them come out with 3 points after starting the game 2-0. Injuries have really bit the team - Phil points out on YY (in a much more informed recap post) that the injury list now consists of Defoe, Gomes, Dawson, Modric, Van Der Vaart, Woodgate, and Bentley, all of whom could be starting if they were healthy. Hopefully Spurs heal up as the league goes on, or they'll be ground down by their grueling schedule.

Speaking of injuries, as expected Packers DE Justin Harrell tore his ACL and will be out for the season. The even bigger news is that starting RB Ryan Grant is out for the season with an ankle injury. As I detailed in my preview last week, I don't think this is a huge loss as I'm optimistic about Brandon Jackson (especially his pass-catching ability), and I think Grant is a mediocre back. However, their depth isn't that great, as Jackson and FB John Kuhn are the only other backs on the roster. They signed former ASU running back Dmitri Nance to add to their depth but no one seems to know much about him right now, and he should take some time to learn the system, as he was previously on Atlanta's practice squad. Brandon over at APC speculates that the Packers could go after retreads like Willie Parker or former Packer Ahman Green, but I don't really see either of those happening.

Some great news out of Madison is that David Gilreath is already walking, only a day after the horrific head injury that sent him to the hospital on Saturday. Petroykus even speculates that he could be back on Saturday, though I would be *shocked* if he even puts pads on. Hopefully White gets more opportunities to run some kicks back (and learned a lesson about holding on to the football last week).

I need to stop criticizing players on these teams. In the past 2 weeks I've mentioned how I think Gilreath and Grant are overrated and should lose time to their backups and they've suffered serious injuries.

Mini-preview: Spurs at Werder Bremen (Champions League Group Stage)

I'm not qualified to comment much on this match, so I invite you to check out the excellent Yankee Yiddos preview instead. This is Mercurial Outfielder from ACB's new footy blog and it looks like it will be great.

Harry is expected to deploy a 4-5-1, though the personnel in it is still up for question. With Defoe out Crouch (ugh) is the likely lone striker, which will mean lots of balls lamely lofted towards his giant head. It sounds like Modric is a game-time decision (I think he doesn't play).

My prediction: Spurs lose 2-0. Too many injuries and general poor play of late. I'd love for them to surprise me though.

September 13, 2010

Crappy journalism

Gene Wojciechowski on yesterday's game:

On fourth-and-1 at the Packers' 42, Vick was stuffed like cheesesteak into a roll. Green Bay got the ball and Aaron Rodgers genuflected three times before the clock ran out. The Packers left with a 27-20 win, but it wasn't anything Rodgers is going to put on his Facebook page.

This has the trifecta of crappy journalism in my book - first a lousy and unnecessary simile related to one of the teams. Seriously, do you think a cheesesteak reference will show that you're hip with Philly? Followed by the unnecessary use of 'genuflected' when 'kneeled' would have worked just fine. This just feels like a smug insertion for the author to show that he's smarter than the average fan. Finally, a reference to Facebook to show that you're hip with the new-fangled social media.

September 12, 2010

Packers win 27-20

This was a snoozer early on, then got tense in the 4th quarter when the opposing offense suddenly woke up in the hands of a notorious dog murder. The Packers o-line looked shaky early but managed to adjust to the opponent's (admittedly, good) pass rush as the game went on. There were many injuries in this game, most notably opposing QB Kevin Kolb. For the Packers, the casualties inclued:

  • DE Justin Harrell (knee)- could be out for the season
  • RB Ryan Grant (ankle) - was in a walking cast and unable to return. I would not expect him back next week
  • DE Cullen Jenkins (hand) - he broke his hand but isn't likely to miss any time. He'll just wear a club cast for the rest of the season
  • FS Nick Collins was banged up late in the game but seems to be okay. Losing him would be a big blow since the Packers are already down half their starting defensive backfield with Bigby and Harris out

I would worry a bit about the defensive meltdown in the second half, but I think a big part of it was the fact that the team prepped for Kolb and not the notorious dog killer, who is a completely different QB. It seemed like Capers was asleep at the switch, not leaving anyone to keep an eye him on those big runs.

Despite their impressive comeback, the opponents managed to shoot themselves in the foot several times. They had 10 penalties for 80 yards, and the NDK threw and incomplete pass late in the 4th quarter when he had enough open field to run in for the game-tying TD. I'll take the win on the road.

Game MVP: Clay Matthews. He was all over the field today, terrorizing the opposing QBs (he's the one who knocked out Kolb). Woodson had a great game too, just missing out on a pick and being a big part of a fumble recovery.
Game LVP: Rodgers didn't have a great game, and I have no clue who the hell his second pick was supposed to go to. He threw a near-certain Pick 6 that the defender somehow dropped.

Next week, the Packers play LEEEEEEE Evans and the lowly Bills at Lambeau.

September 11, 2010

Preview: Green Bay (0-0) at Team that Shall Not be Acknowledged (0-0)

Editor-in-viceroy's note: don't take me for any sort of objective analyst or football insider at all (i.e. I can't read a defense, for one).

Green Bay takes on another football team (who disappeared off my radar as long as they have a certain someone on the roster) today. I don't know what to make of them. They have a new QB that everyone seems to be falling over to hype (Kolb), and I don't know anything about McCoy, their starting RB. Kolb could be good, I don't know, but I don't really trust a rookie QB in his first season. Even Aaron Rodgers, who is easily one of the top 5 QBs in the league right now, struggled in his first year. That said, Kolb probably still is an upgrade on the Shadow of Donovan McNabb (aside: sorry Redskins fans. He's not McNabb anymore). Though for what it's worth Kolb did put up decent numbers last year when McNabb was injured (300+ yards, 2 TDs in each of his 2 starts).

Kolb will test a passing defense that was pretty good last season, but is missing Atari Bigby and the overrated Al Harris. Tramon Williams grew on me last year, up until the Cards playoff game when he was burned approximately 572 times by the Cardsd receivers. I like Nick Collins but he and Woodson aren't enough to lock the passing game down.

Speaking of Woodson...

Packers players to watch:

Jermichael Finley, TE
He emerged as Rodgers favorite target late last year and generates a TON of mismatches. I think he's going to have a huge year, and it won't be a fluke.

Brandon Jackson, RB
I've never been a fan of Ryan Grant - I was floored in one of my fantasy drafts today when Grant was a high-round pick (avg on Yahoo is pick 23). He doesn't exactly suck, but he's about as forgettable as it gets. Jackson seems to be getting an increased role this year as the third-down back and I hope he impresses enough to get more playing time. He was fairly disappointing after the Packers drafted him but to his credit has been slowly improving since then.

UPDATE: I forgot to include a prediction.

27-21 Green Bay

TDs by Driver, Finley, and Grant.

Wisconsin 27 - 14 San Jose St.

This was a classic UW preseason game, and is also dashing my (already small) optimism that UW will have a shot at a 1-loss season and a BCS bowl. Once again they dominated the stats but generally looked flat. I've seen this many times before in the preseason - where they dominate the other team but make a bunch of stupid mistakes (White's fumble into the endzone, turning it over on downs inside the 5, Tolzein's pick). I missed some of the second have but was less whelmed than I was last week, when UW played a slightly better opponent.

This kind of stuff comes back and burns you in the Big Ten season. I have no doubt that UW can and will hang with teams like Iowa, OSU, etc. (and play largely mistake-free football), but where they will get into trouble are the medium to lesser teams like Northwestern and MSU. This kind of thing just shows a lack of focus and they'll get burned when they play a half-decent squad. My biggest issue with the program over the years is its tendency to sleep on lesser teams, and I see no reason not to believe it's different this year.

Clay and Tolzien both had big games, though my lack of understanding of QB rating shows through when I goggle at Tolzein's numbers. He was a (seemingly) predestrian 15 for 22 with a TD and an INT, which somehow translates to a 147 QB rating? Clay got a much bigger share of the carries today, and rushed for 137 yards (6 yds/carry) and 2 TDs, which I like to see.

Keeping my fingers crossed for Gilreath, who has a concussion after a nasty, nasty collision on a punt return. No word yet on how he's doing - media reports say he was NOT moving when they took him off the field, despite some of the announcers' initial reports.

The biggest news so far today is JMU beating Virginia Tech. Holy crap. I'm going to be rooting against VT (and Oregon State) the rest of the year so we don't see BSU in the National Championship game. I'm currently rooting for (ugh) OSU in this game vs Miami. They're still the most likely (though not by much) B10 team to make the championship game. PSU-Bama should be a great game tonight, but I think Bama wins by double digits. I'd feel differently if PSU's freshman QB had a few more games under his belt.

September 09, 2010

Preview: Wisconsin Badgers vs San Jose St. Cupcakes

I don't really have much to say about this game, except that UW is favored by 38 points. SJSU lost its first appearance as sacrificial lamb to Alabama last week, 48-3. I'm guessing UW puts up at least 250 yards on the ground, maybe even 300

I can't wait for the real games to start. Enjoy your check, SJSU.

NFL season predictions

A lot of analysts are high on the Packers this season, and I don't blame them. I covered most of my own thoughts about the Packers (and the NFC North) in this post from a month ago, and a few things have changed. For one, I was snookered by the Favre retirement rumors. But even with Favre back I don't really see the need to change the projection much, as he has ongoing ankle problems, Sidney Rice is out for half the season, and Harvin is having issues with debilitating migraines. They still have a great defense and Adrian Peterson, but it's not enough.

Here's my Packers predictions, week by week
@Philly W
Buffalo W
@Bears W
Lions W
@Skins W
Dolphins W
Vikes W
@Jets L
Cowboys L
@Vikes L
@Falcons W
Niners W
@Lions W
@Pats L
Giants W
Bears W

Total: 12-4

NFC North:
Packers: 12-4
Vikings: 9-7
Lions: 6-10
Bears: 5-11

Playoff Teams:
Packers 12-4
Saints 12-4
Niners 11-5
Giants 10-6
Falcons 10-6
Vikings 9-7

Colts 12-4
Chargers 11-5
Pats 11-5
Ravens 11-5
Bengals 10-6
Jets 9-7

WC Round
Ravens over Jets
Bengals over Pats
Falcons over Giants
Vikings over Niners

Round 2
Packers over Falcons
Saints over Vikings
Ravens over Chargers
Colts over Bengals

Conference Championships
Packers over Saints
Ravens over Colts

Super Bowl
Packers vs Ravens (no pick...)

Some other predictions:
Redskins 6-10
Cowboys 9-7
Eagles 8-8
Steelers 8-8

September 07, 2010

Bowl projections

I don't know enough about the landscape of college football to make bowl projections, but I've enjoyed Bama Hawkeye's projections over the last season or two (my memory is pretty hazy as to when I started reading those). I groaned when I saw the matchup that was projected for Wisconsin: Wisconsin-Auburn at the Capital One Bowl in, yet again, Orlando. Maybe Bielema and Alvarez can light a fire under the team to go undefeated due to the fact that they don't want to have to buy condos in Orlando, given how often Wisconsin has been there. Let's take a look at the last 10 years.

Bowls the last 10 years for Wisconsin:
2002 Alamo (San Antone) vs Colorado (remember when they were good)
2003 Music City (Nashville) vs Auburn (I was at this game!)
2004 Outback (Tampa) vs Georgia
2005 Capital One (Orlando) vs Auburn
2006 Capital One (Orlando) vs Arkansas
2007 Outback (Tampa) vs Tennessee
2008 Champs (Orlando) vs FSU
2009 Champs (Orlando) vs Miami

Hrm. They've played in Orlando quite often (in fact, I was at their last bowl game outside the Tampa-Orlando corridor), but haven't played Auburn as often as I remember. Maybe I'm just remembering many end-of-season projections that had the programs playing each other. I also have zero memory of the Colorado, Georgia, or Tennessee bowl games.

September 05, 2010

UNLV 21 - 41 Wisconsin

A decent start for UW. It was a classic non-conference Wisconsin game, in that they dominated the other team but still made enough mistakes to make you nervous at halftime. Tolzien threw a pick 6, and Nick Toon fumbled in the red zone, which led directly to 14 of UNLV's 21 points.

However, aside from that one bad throw Tolzien looked really good. I think I heard the phrase "game manager" half a hundred times during the broadcast, and generally when the Badgers needed a completion he and the wideouts came through. But of course, Wisconsin's calling card is the running game and holy crap did it look good. The only negative I can say about it is that they have so many great backs that Clay might not get enough carries to win the Heisman. Clay had several of his trademark runs where he was hit and then ran another 7-8 yards with a guy on his back, and Ball looked good too. But the player who impressed me the most was freshman James White, the 'speed back'. He got 11 carries and looked great, and what especially pleased me was that the Badgers put him back for a few kick returns, though from the stat sheet it looks like he didn't get a chance to run with any of them. Despite all the love the announcers were giving Gilreath I've never thought that he was an especially good returner.

The offense in general was in good form, starting from the first drive where they marched down the field, eating a ton of clock on the way (~7:30 on the opening drive). Wisconsin dominated the TOP by 17 minutes and it felt like a LOT longer.

The special teams have looked better so far, and the best news I saw all game was that Bielema is no longer coaching the special teams himself this year. There was lots of criticism in the media the past few seasons that Bielema's handling of the ST unit was weak due to his other responsibilities, but that could just be a correlation = causation fallacy.

The defense looked great, but of all the team's units I can't really say much about them until they face a real offense at ASU or MSU. Watt still looks great, and Borland looks just as dominant as he did last year. The Badgers were also all over the Rebels backfield early in the game, which was great to see. Valai got beat on one of UNLV's touchdowns but that happens sometimes (that's what the play action is for anyway). The safeties are good but I don't have any clue about the cornerbacks this year.

My memories of the second half are a lot hazier after the Badgers pushed the score up to 41. We were watching it on DVR (to skip commercials) and it was after 1 in the morning at that point, so I was nodding off. I put on the rest of the game in the morning but already knew that not much else was going to happen.

Final stats:
Total Yards: UW 475, UNLV 217
Rushing Yards: UW 278, UNLV 112
Passing Yards: UW 197, UNLV 105
Fumbles: UW 1, UNLV 1
TOP: UW 38:19, UNLV 21:41

September 04, 2010

I have returned

So I was going to post about all this sports stuff (Packers, Badgers, Spurs Champions League Debut, etc.) but that whole thesis and moving thing got in the way. Funny how that goes. Besides the thesis and the move, I've also been sucked into Starcraft 2, as I knew I would. Luckily I was self-aware enough to hold off purchasing it until after I defended my thesis. It's pretty awesome. It's like they took the Starcraft that was so awesome from ~14 years ago and managed to overlay a Firefly vibe over top of it as well as adding in an achievement system that pushes my completionist buttons. Bastards. You win again, Blizzard. You win again.

In the intervening time I have also read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which are on the pending review list. Season predictions to come too.

I'm off to watch the UW-UNLV game tonight with the Austin Badger alums. Should be a good time. Hooray for college football!!

Tomorrow we're going to see Kevin McDonald, our favorite Kid in the Hall not once, but twice as part of the Out of Bounds Comedy festival. Seeing the Kids in the Hall reunion tour a few years ago is easily one of my top 5 highlights of our time in Madison.