Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Sports Moment of the Year 2011

Last year it was Goal Goal USA with Landon Donovan sending the United States to the top of the group and into the knockout stages of the World Cup.  This year its back to business as usual, Michigan.  However, its not the moment you might suspect. 

Michigan's first night game under the lights in Michigan Stadium produced agruably the most entertaining game of the year in college football.  Michigan came back from a 24-7 deficiet in the 4th quarter only to blow the lead with 30 seconds left, then Jeremy Gallon used his cloaking power up to disappear and set up a 22 yrd touchdown throw to Roy Roundtree to defeat Notre Dame.


It was the best game I had witnessed live in my lifetime, but its still not the moment of the year.

No the sports moment of the year can only be reserved for ending the nearly 3,000 day drought to Ohio State.  When Courtney Avery intercepted Braxton Miller's 4th down pass to seal the game for Michigan I couldn't control my excitement.  I was uncontrolablly shaking my brother up and down and jumping around.  It was the kind of pure ephoria that only 7 straight defeats to your bitter rivals could produce.  Michigan finally became Michigan again. We slowly made our way onto the field to celebrate to commerate the moment and the best trip ever to Ann Arbor.

2011 Sports Moment of the Year: Michigan beats Ohio State - Zero Day in Ann Arbor

Other more national moments of the year:
-Derek Jeter hits 3,000 and goes 5 for 5 in Yankees win- Lou, myself, and half the readership took this in from the rightfield bleachers and it was probably the most excited I have ever been at an event where I had no rooting interest.

-The last day of the baseball regular season saw the Red Sox choke, and the Rays complete a wild comeback to go to the postseason

-Game 6 World Series-the Cardinals were down to their last strike twice and facing elimination but David Freeze was always there to save the day.

-Wisconsin and Michigan State played two classics this fall.  MSU beats Wisconsin on a Hail Mary then blows the Big Ten Championship on a roughing the punter penalty.

-Butler Pitt NCAA Tournament Second Round (Not calling it Third round)- Two inexplicaple fouls in the last 1.4 seconds saw a crazy finish and a worthy winner in Butler.

-Mavericks defeat Heat in NBA Finals- The Heat were expected to get it done, but instead it was the Mavs playing well late in games and capturing their first title.

There are plently more to mention, but I will allow you to mention your favorite in the comments.

Friday, December 23, 2011

5 for Sunday (Christmas Eve Edition)

Winter is officially here, fantasy leagues are in their championship weeks, everyone is hustling to get those last-minute gifts, and our Jewish friends everywhere are planning out their annual Chinese-food-and-movies day. What else? Oh yeah, it's Christmas, and the NFL has a full Sunday's slate of games taking place this Saturday, Christmas Eve. And since this is the season of bonuses (hopefully all of my fellow office-dwellers out there were made happy in that regard), I'll be comparing each game to a certain facet of the Christmas holiday. Home teams in CAPS.

NY JETS (-3) over NY Giants - Opening the Presents
Since this is part of the first set of games for Saturday, and is clearly the most hyped, the quadrennial (yeah I looked that word up) New York meeting has the clearest counterpart of all: the presents. People have been looking forward to this game since the schedule unveiling, and just like with Christmas presents, it will leave people either extremely delighted or terribly disappointed. The winner of this game stays alive in the playoff hunt, and the loser will be all but done. At the end of the day (CAUTION: Antrel Rolle tweak ahead), the Jets play very well at home and should have the favorable balance of the crowd on their side, while the Giants are three Cowboys mistakes away from being on a 6-game losing streak. The real difference is that the Jets are capable of ratcheting up a good defensive performance when they wake up on the right side of the bed, while the Giants don't have the bodies or the cohesiveness on defense to be trusted.

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) over Miami - Reading Christmas Cards
You say this one's a formality, right? Well, it is. That's why this game is equivalent to reading Christmas cards. To be courteous, you have to read the card before opening the gifts, but 90% of the time you just glance at the thing for 12 seconds until you can attack the wrapping paper. And while in many cases people spend a good deal of time and effort picking out just the right card and writing just the right thing inside, there's no two ways around the fact that it's still a mere card. Similarly, the Dolphins will put up a solid effort in Foxboro, but the outcome will still boil down to the fact that the Patriots are a significantly better team who does not stop scoring. Close early, lopsided late.

Arizona (+4) over CINCINNATI - Spending Time with Family
You know how not every part of the holidays is full of fun? That's this game. It will very likely not be pretty between the Cards and Bengals, much like how you typically just have to grin and bear it through Christmas family gatherings. And how do you get through what can be several agonizing hours, or even several agonizing days? By doing the prudent thing - you say "please" and "thank you," you offer help when needed, and you try your absolute best at the small talk. How do you get through this ugly game between surging Arizona and boring Cincinnati? By taking the points, of course!

San Diego (+2.5) over DETROIT - 24 Hours of A Christmas Story
Some things about the holidays are so nicely tried and true that I honestly hope they never change. One of them is the fact that A Christmas Story gets run on TV for 24 hours in a row. Another December rite is the strong late-season play of the San Diego Chargers, who are so sadly stricken with Norv Turner Syndrome for the first three months of the season. Now that Philip Rivers is no longer an interception machine, it's irresistible to take the Bolts plus points against a team that they are at least even with, if not better than. I still don't buy the Lions and don't see another miraculous comeback materializing on Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS (-6.5) over Atlanta (Monday Night) - The Mall on Dec. 26th
There are some places that are just horrifying to try to invade. The Superdome on the night of a primetime game is one of them. Another one is the mall on the day after Christmas. Yet neither the Falcons (because they're in the same division) nor the average American gentile (because they never learn their lesson) can avoid this fate year after year. Expect the scoreboard to be lit up on Monday night (ever so conveniently for this analogy, the night after Christmas), but in the end the Saints have the quick-strike ability that the Falcons have yet to master. With Drew Brees just 305 yards away from breaking Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record of 5,084 (which he very nearly broke in 2008), a Saints victory by something like 34-24 sounds about right.

Last Week: 3-2-0
Season: 33-36-6

Saturday, December 17, 2011

5 for Sunday (A Photo Essay)

Nobody wants to actually read during this time of year, what with all the shopping, wrapping, party-attending, imbibing and Christmas movie-watching that there is to be done. Plus, after last week, my words are about the equivalent of dog excrement on a computer screen, so this week will be a mere photo essay with one picture describing why I'm taking each game whatever way I'm taking it. Home teams in CAPS.

Dallas (-7) over TAMPA BAY (Saturday Night)

Green Bay (-13.5) over KANSAS CITY

Seattle (+3.5) over CHICAGO

Carolina (+6) over HOUSTON

DENVER (+7.5) over New England

Last Week: 0-4-1
Season: 30-34-6

Sunday, December 11, 2011

5 for Sunday

Well, that was fun while it lasted. Back to .500 on the nose heading into Week 14. Home teams in CAPS.

BALTIMORE (-16.5) over Indianapolis
In what is considered a pretty decent rivalry, would you be surprised if I told you that the Ravens haven't beaten Indy since 2001, a time span consisting of nine meetings between the teams? That streak is highly likely to end right here if the Ravens, who are undefeated at home, play to form. The Colts made things interesting late against the papier maché defense of the Patriots last week, but don't count on that happening in Baltimore this week. Last week was a fluke.

TENNESSEE (+3.5) over New Orleans
The Titans are coming on strong lately, thanks in large part to Chris Johnson's resurgence. The Saints do not play nearly as well on the road as they do at home, and despite their ability to run the ball, their type of game still does not translate to grass the way that it does to turf. I'll take a blind stab with the 3.5 at home for the Titans, because this is a team that is suddenly in the hunt and it could be a field goal game either way.

MIAMI (-3) over Philadelphia
The Dolphins are 4-8 getting better, while the Eagles are 4-8 getting worse. Mike Vick does come back this week, sparing drunk Eagles fans all over the Delaware Valley from passes like this. However, the return of the starting quarterback does not a victory guarantee, especially when the Eagles' defense has been putting on embarrassing displays of tackling for most of the season. The Dolphins are a team that nobody wants to play right now and the only thing they have in common with the team that started 0-7 is their uniforms.

Kansas City (+10.5) over NY JETS
I firmly believe the Jets will win this game, but they have way too many kinks in their offense for me to give up that many points with them. Give Kansas City some credit for the fight that they have shown in the past few weeks when they could have easily folded after losing Matt Cassel. The Chiefs play respectable defense, so I just don't think enough points will be scored in this one to justify anything but taking the underdog. Jets by a 17-10, 14-6 type score.

DENVER (-3) over Chicago
In what could have been the Jay Cutler Bowl, we're left with an early Christmas present instead. Wait a second - Tebowmania and a Broncos team with a ton of momentum is at home against a Bears team that is anemic with Caleb Hanie under center, and all you have to lay is the standard 3 points? Thank you, where do I sign? It's simple: don't kick to Devin Hester, and let God's QB sort things out in the last 5 minutes.

Last Week: 2-3-0
Season: 30-30-5

Saturday, December 3, 2011

5 for Sunday

Finally back over .500 after last week. I wanted to take Seattle plus the 3 at home against the Eagles on Thursday night, but I didn't get it in on time so it won't count. Home teams in CAPS.

Cincinnati (+6.5) over PITTSBURGH
When all is said and done, the Bengals just play close games. Do they have enough to win at the Big Ketchup Bottle in December? Maybe not. But I think they have enough to keep things close. The Steelers will not light up the scoreboard and Ben Roethlisberger is clearly not yet back to 100%, as anyone who saw last Sunday night's squeaker in Kansas City would attest. Now that Andy Dalton has A.J. Green back on the field, the Bengals might be able to take the shots against Pittsburgh's depleted secondary that the Chiefs weren't able to.

NEW ENGLAND (-20.5) over Indianapolis
If you needed any further reason to take the Patriots in this game, be advised that Dan Orlovsky is starting this game for the Colts. Moving on....

Tennessee (+2.5) over BUFFALO
The Bills had plenty of chances against the Jets last week, but Stevie Johnson spent more time orchestrating touchdown celebrations than catching the ball. Chris Johnson is seemingly back to being the Chris Johnson of 2009, which measures up favorably against the Bills' 4.5-ypc run defense. Simply put, Tennessee is a decent team and Buffalo is a fraud. Take the points and enjoy not watching this game.

Denver (+1.5) over MINNESOTA
Does Tebowmania continue? A lot of people are saying it will not, now that God's quarterback will be faced with the Metrodome. However, with Adrian Peterson ruled out again for the Vikings, I have no real reason to back a team that has lost 5 of 6 over a team that has won 5 of 6 and seems to have something supernatural on their side.

Green Bay (-6.5) over NY GIANTS
I guess there are people out there who have some blind faith that the Giants will just pull one out of their ass against the unquestioned best team in football. Those people must not have seen either of the Giants' past two games. It's not that I don't think the Giants have a good team. The Giants do have a good team. It's just that too many of those players who make up that "good team" are either injured or playing hurt (Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Justin Tuck, Michael Boley, and Osi Umenyiora just to name a few). Even if the December wind starts whipping around MetLife Stadium, you can't tell me that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, on 10 days' rest, don't have another field day.

Last Week: 4-1-0
Season: 28-27-5

5 for Championship Weekend

1-4 last weekend after a very puzzling overturned replay decision in the Michigan game.  Good thing Michigan hung on or a some blood would be on my hands.  32-33 on the season in the race for .500.

All games Saturday

Conference USA Championship
Southern Miss @ Houston (-13.5) Noon ABC

The Cougars are one game away from the BCS.  Will they be distracted by impending departure of their head coach or will they keep rolling divisional foes?

Texas @ Baylor (-2.5) 3:30 ABC

Is this Mack Brown's swan song?  Rumors are he could be retiring.  Is RG3 banged up after last week?  Answers are probably and probably not respectively.  I am pulling for a Texas win hard but I think Baylor takes this one at home.

SEC/ National Championship
LSU (-13.5) vs. Georgia in the ATL 4 CBS

Georgia is on a roll as predicted with their soft conference schedule and the best QB in the SEC.  They have a shot against LSU and should be able to score in the high 20s but they will need to break 30 to have a shot in this one.  Georgia's defense is going to have to win this one.  Meanwhile if LSU wins this one they will have earned the National Championship in my view.  They will have one of the most impressive resumes in recent history and most importantly beat Bama in Bama.  Conversation over, fuck you Bama.

Big 12 defacto Championship

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (-3.5) 8 ABC

This is a straight toss up but I think OK State will snap their drought in this series and keep their faint title hopes alive.  Chances are this is one of the more entertaining games of the day.

B16 Ten Championship

Michigan State (+10) @ Wisconsin 8 FOX

I'm with Lou on this one.  How do you not like MSU +10 even if you think Wisconsin will win.  Wisconsin should be out for blood because they were o so close to a magical season stop by miracle plays surrendered in East Lansing and Columbus.  This game is sold out depsite what a brilliant Craigslist scheme had us believe.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cinq Pour Samedi - Championship Weekend Edition

Championship Weekend should be the most anticipated slate of the pre-bowl season, but this year it is shaping up to be bit of a dud. Or are they? After all, the games aren't played on paper. (But who are we kidding, some of these matchups might really blow). Home teams in CAPS unless the game is at a neutral site.

OREGON (-31) over UCLA (Friday Night)
UCLA thought so highly of Rick Neuheisel's work in taking them to the Pac-12 Championship Game that they are letting him coach the game despite his dismissal this week. Yes, that was sarcasm. The truth is that the Bruins don't belong in this game, nor do they even belong on the same field as Oregon. But the rules are the rules, and the Ducks will have a nice chance to run some sprints down the Autzen Stadium sideline with the football in hand before giving way to their second-teamers at some point in the 4th quarter. You can't make this spread too big. You really can't.

LSU (-13.5) over Georgia (neutral site - Georgia Dome)
If this game weren't a quasi-home game for the Bulldogs, LSU would probably be a favorite by 16 or 17. That's no insult to Georgia, who has won 10 in a row and made everyone forget about Mark Richt supposedly being on the hot seat going into this season. LSU is just on another level. Their defense does not stop flying at you and the offense and special teams seem to take advantage of any little mistake their opponent makes. The Tigers have been put through the gauntlet this year and are still standing at 12-0. Expect a close game after two or three quarters (take Georgia for the halftime line, any of you gambling degenerates out there), but like they have against Arkansas and West Virginia, LSU will pull away late.

Virginia Tech (-7) over Clemson (neutral site - Bank of America Stadium)
These are not the same two teams that met on October 1st, which was a 23-3 win for Clemson. The Hokies have gotten stronger at the right time while the Tigers are, well, in the words of Dennis Green, "what we thought they were." Frankly, I don't see why this line is single digits. Another year, another ACC title won in Charlotte for Virginia Tech.

OKLAHOMA STATE (-3) over Oklahoma
Bedlam will most likely be the best game of the weekend, despite being merely a regular season game and not a conference title game. OK State has not beaten Oklahoma since 2002, and if they don't do it this year, then they may never do it. The Cowboys' sloppiness on offense against Iowa State will spell doom against Oklahoma if they repeat it. I don't think, however, that people put enough stock in the fact that Oklahoma State has just suffered the tragedy of another plane crash within its athletic department on the very day that they lost to Iowa State. This should sure be fun to watch however it unfolds, as the winner may very well be the last team to have the ball.

Michigan State (+10) over Wisconsin (neutral site - Lucas Oil Stadium)
Can anyone tell me why, at a neutral site, this line is this high? I know Wisconsin has appeared to return to its early-season form in the past few weeks, but 10 points? To a Michigan State team who is 10-2 themselves and happened to beat Wisconsin (albeit on a Hail Mary) earlier this season? I know that Wisconsin's running game resembles a fleet of bulldozers on the right day, but both of these teams play good enough defense to keep this game relatively low-scoring. I'll take the points all day and all night.

Last Week: 2-3-0
Season: 28-35-2