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College Football Awards Week 5 October 4, 2015

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Clemson triumphed over Notre Dame in what was perhaps the most thrilling game of the season thus far. Mandatory photo credit: Joshua S. Kelly of USA TODAY Sports

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 5] unless otherwise noted.)


Wish I were him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Glad I’m not him: Al Golden, Miami

Lucky guy: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jim Mora, UCLA

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Matt Rhule, Temple

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina


Thought you’d kick butt, you did: TCU (defeated Texas 50-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Michigan State (defeated Purdue 24-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Texas (lost to No. 4 TCU 50-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (lost to No. 2 Michigan State 24-21) T

hought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Iowa (defeated North Texas 62-16)

Dang, they’re good: TCU

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisiana-Lafayette

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Ole Miss

Did the season start? Georgia Tech

Can the season end?  Wyoming

Can the season never endClemson


Play this again:  No. 12 Clemson 24, No. 6 Notre Dame 22

Play this again, too:  Arkansas 24, Tennessee 20

Never play this again: No. 4 TCU 50, Texas 7

What? Tulane 45, UCF 31

HuhIowa 10, #19 Wisconsin 6

Are you kidding me?  No. 12 Clemson 24, No. 6 Notre Dame 22

Oh – my – GodArizona State 38, No. 7 UCLA 23

Told you so:  Louisville 20, N.C. State 13


(rankings are current AP (post-week 5, pre-week 6)

Ticket to die for:  No. 10 Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Cotton Bowl

Also:  No. 13 Northwestern @ No. 18 Michigan

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Syracuse @ South Florida

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 25 Boise State @ Colorado State

Upset alert: Miami (Fla.) @ No. 12 Florida State

Must win: Wisconsin @ Nebraska

Offensive explosion: No. 23 Cal @ No. 5 Utah

Defensive struggle: Illinois @ No. 22 Iowa

Great game no one is talking about:  No. 21 Oklahoma State @ West Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern vs. Jim Harbaugh of Michigan

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 3 Baylor @ Kansas

Why are they playing? New Mexico State @ No. 14 Ole Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: Portland State @ North Texas

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Troy @ Mississippi State

Week 5 Take-aways:

What a weekend for college football!  The grand irony is that this week left more questions than answers.

What a game it was in Clemson, S.C.  Notre Dame came to town ranked No. 6 in the nation.  The Tigers were ranked twelfth.  ESPN’s Gameday crew was there.  A massive rainstorm persisted throughout the day and night.  Fans watching on national TV witnessed the team descend the hill in “Death Valley” to take on the highly-ranked Fighting Irish.  Mistakes were made on both sides:  typical ups-and-downs of a thrilling contest between highly-ranked teams.  In the end, the Tigers triumphed.

But all of this ought not to obfuscate that Brian Kelly has built a strong program in South Bend.  Were they overrated at No. 6?  Definitely.  Are they still a tough team?  Definitely.

Tennessee lost yet another heartbreaker, this time to Arkansas.  It was a close contest throughout the game, but the same problem continues to plague the Vols:  they have yet to learn how to close a game, which is to say, they need to learn to stop blowing leads late in games.

Steve Spurrier dropped yet another game to a low-standing team in the SEC.  Is it too early to say that the wheels might be coming off the program?  Will Spurrier eventually have the fortitude to fall on his sword and thus clear the path for the program to be lead in a new direction?

Worse yet is the condition of the Texas Longhorns, who just got drubbed by TCU in Fort Worth, 50-7.  Yes, Coach Gary Patterson has gradually built up a super-strong program over the years, but is the lack of quarterback play on the part of the Longhorns the only thing that explains such a debacle, or is it something more systemic than who is the head coach?

Oh, and this slump could not come at a worse time, as Texas takes on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl next week.

The Cincinnati Bearcats have given us two good Thursday night games in a row, and in the process, have walked away with two wins.  The most recent one was home over the Miami Hurricanes.  There has already been grumbling around Coral Gables that Al Golden has not brought the Canes back to the level of prominence that the faithful would like to see.  Is losing to UC a fireable offense, in culmination of this lack of expected progress?

How does one explain Michigan State’s lackluster performance at home against weak Purdue?  The Boilermakers were just a field goal away late in the 4th quarter from tying the game in regulation.  Have the Boilers improved that much in just one week since losing a near-gimme game the previous contest?  Regardless, it will be very interesting to see if Purdue can sustain any sort of improvement as the season progresses.

Ole Miss was rolling after defeating then-No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  The Rebels thus proved that they were both a tough team to reckon with and a team that could win on the road in a hostile environment.  And yet, when they ventured into The Swamp to play Florida, they laid an egg.  Yes, the Gators are improving week-by-week under the able leadership of Jim McElwain, but this alone cannot explain such an embarrassing defeat.  Perhaps Coach Freeze did not have his men fully prepared, or, a critical mass of the team decided to take the game off, thinking it would not be as challenging as playing Bama.  Such are the vicissitudes of college football, where 19 and 20-year olds are susceptible to such emotional roller coasters week to week that can negatively affect their level of play.  It is a problem that coaches do not have to deal with in the pros, thankfully.

On a bright note, Bobby Petrino has his Louisville Cardinals slowly improving.  Yes, they got their first win in a body bag game at home against Samford, but then they won, on the road, against a decent NC State team, in the rain.  If that is not improvement, can somebody tell me what is?

College Football Week 4 Awards September 29, 2015

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Tennessee lost a heartbreaker to Florida this past Saturday. They shall continue to lost more close games until they learn how to close, so to speak. Photo by John Raoux of the AP.

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 4] unless otherwise noted.)


Wish I were him: Jim Mora, UCLA

Glad I’m not him: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Lucky guy: Jim McElwain, Florida

Poor guy: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Sonny Dykes, Cal

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Desperately seeking … anything:  Darrell Hazell, Purdue


Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Baylor (defeated Rice 70-17)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oklahoma State (defeated Texas 30-27)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UMass (lost to No. 6 Notre Dame 62-27(

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Texas (lost to No. 24 Oklahoma State 30-27)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Iowa (defeated North Texas 62-16)

Dang, they’re good: UCLA

Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  BYU

Did the season start? Auburn

Can the season end?  Arkansas State

Can the season never endUtah


Play this again:  No. 3 TCU 55, Texas Tech 52

Play this again, too:  Florida 28, Tennessee 27

Never play this again: No. 4 Baylor 70, Rice 17

What? East Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 28

HuhKentucky 21, No. 25 Missouri 13

Are you kidding me?  Michigan 31, No. 22 BYU 0

Oh – my – GodNo. 18 Utah 62, No. 13 Oregon 20

Told you so:  Memphis 53, Cincinnati 46


(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)

Ticket to die for:  No. 6 Notre Dame @ No. 12 Clemson

Also:  No. 13 Alabama @ No. 8 Georgia

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Miami (Fla.) @ Cincinnati

Best non-Power Five matchup: Air Force @ Navy

Upset alert: No. 24 Oklahoma State @ Texas

Must win: Arkansas @ Tennessee

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ No. 5 Baylor

Defensive struggle: South Carolina @ Missouri

Great game no one is talking about:  Louisville @ N.C. State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech vs. Art Briles of Baylor

Also:  Dabo Swinney of Clemson vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame

Who’s bringing the body bags? Purdue @ No. 2 Michigan State

Why are they playing? Eastern Michigan @ No. 9 LSU

Plenty of good seats remaining: FIU @ UMass

They shoot horses, don’t they?  San Jose State @ Auburn

Week 4 Take-aways:

Tennessee lost a heartbreaker on the road to Florida, thus continuing a losing streak to the Gators that started in 2005.  Earlier in the season, they lost another heartbreaker at home to Oklahoma.  What is so heartbreaking about both of these losses is that the Volunteers were in the lead for most of the game, until blowing the lead late in both games.  Butch Jones is continuing to improve the program, gradually bringing it back to its blueblood status in the conference.  But they’re clearly not there yet, and shall not be “there” until they learn to “close the deal,” which is to say, they must learn to finish the games strongly.  It is still early in the season, so still time to salvage things.

Speaking of salvaging, Steve Spurrier seemed to have salvaged things reasonably well when his team beat a deceptively good Central Florida squad.  Next week, though, they travel to a Columbia, Mo., to take on a similarly-ailing Missouri Tigers team, in what one can easily surmise is a must-win game for both.

Why are both aforementioned teams ailing?  They both lost to Kentucky, for goodness sake!

Speaking of UK, given that the Wildcats have W’s over both the Gamecocks and the (Mizzou) Tigers, and they face a relative cupcake in the EKU Colonels this Saturday at home (a quasi-body bag game), the possibility that they could become bowl-eligible in the brutal SEC is not a remote one.  Granted, they face a brutal stretch after the EKU game, facing, in order, Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, then Georgia, but then have a two-week respite with Vanderbilt and then a gimme with Charlotte before concluding the season against improving Louisville.  It could be a 6-6 year, which, for UK, is an improvement.

Utah and Michigan started the season playing each other.  Though the former beat the latter convincingly, both teams are rolling right now.  Funny how that works out.

TCU beat Texas Tech in a high-scoring game that went down to the wire.  The Horned Frogs are supposed to be a top-five team, so how does one account for this narrow victory in a shootout?  Let us not forget that this TCU team also squeaked by Minnesota at the beginning of the season.  Are the Frogs overrated?  The upcoming home game against a gradually-improving Texas team could be a referendum.

The only regretful thing about this delightfully intriguing matchup between Notre Dame and Clemson is that Brent Musburger will not be calling the game!

College Football Week 3 Awards September 24, 2015

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 3] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Glad I’m not him: Nick Saban, Alabama

Lucky guy: Jim Mora, UCLA

Poor guy: Mike Riley, Nebraska

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Steve Sarkesian, USC

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina


Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 12 Oregon (defeated Georgia State 61-28)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 4 Michigan State (defeated Air Force 35-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Idaho State (lost to Boise State 52-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  UConn (lost to Missouri 9-6)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  North Carolina (defeated Illinois 48-14)

Dang, they’re good: Georgia

Dang, they’re bad:  Rutgers

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Georgia Tech

Did the season start? Arkansas

Can the season end?  Idaho State

Can the season never endLSU

GAMES Play this again:  No. 10 UCLA 24, No. 19 BYU 23

Play this again, too:  Cal 45, Texas 44

Never play this again: Arkansas State 70, Missouri State 7

What? Colorado 27, Colorado State 24 (OT)

HuhTexas Tech 35, Arkansas 24

Are you kidding me?  No. 15 Ole Miss 43, No. 2 Alabama 37

Oh – my – GodStanford 41, No. 6 USC 32


(rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)

Ticket to die for:  No. 9 UCLA @ No. 16 Arizona

Also:  Tennessee @ Florida

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Boise State @ Virginia (Fri.)

Best non-Power Five matchup: Cincinnati @ Memphis

Upset alert: No. 24 Oklahoma State @ Texas

Must win: UCF @ South Carolina

Offensive explosion: No. 3 TCU @ Texas Tech

Defensive struggle: No. 25 Missouri @ Kentucky

Great game no one is talking about:  No. 18 Utah @ No. 13 Oregon

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Bronco Mendenhall of BYU vs. Jim Harbaugh of Michigan

Who’s bringing the body bags? Southern @ No. 7 Georgia

Why are they playing? La. Monroe @ No. 12 Alabama

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida Atlantic @ Charlotte

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Kansas @ Rutgers

Week 3 Take-aways:

I thought that Notre Dame was supposed to lose to Georgia Tech after the Irish lost their starting QB last week.

Louisville is, without a doubt, the best 0-3 team in college football by far.

Last week, I noted about Steve Spurrier is on thin ice.  After losing so horribly to Georgia (as good as the Bulldogs are), it has become clear that he and the Gamecocks have no quarterback play, and recruiting seems down overall.  If he is wise, he shall start planning his exit strategy.  Now.  Moreover, the South Carolina administration needs to start finding a good replacement coach after season’s end.  Now.

Who would have thought that Florida vs. Kentucky would be a defensive struggle?  This guy did, but this this guy is still in disbelief that it was.  That said, the true surprise defensive struggle was Mizzou vs. UConn.  The Tigers must have decided to take a week off.

The game of college football has changed so quickly that it is starting to marginalize defensive-minded coaches.  This is the biggest reason that the Alabama Dynasty has some to an end.  It is not anybody’s fault per se, it is simply that the current rules and the trends have combined in a way to render defensive-minded coaches at a disadvantage.  That being said, Nick Saban does himself zero favors by not attracting a good enough quarterback on account of his refusal to modernize his offense.  The Tide’s other skill personnel are exemplary, to be sure.  They are just pedestrian – at best – at the most important position on the field.

College Football Week 2 Awards September 15, 2015

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The color coordination in the stands at Neyland Stadium, with 102,000+ fans on hand, was amazing to behold. Photo by Jackson Lalzure of Getty Images.

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 2] unless otherwise noted.)


Wish I were him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Glad I’m not him: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Lucky guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Poor guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Desperately seeking … anything:  Clint Bowen, Kansas


Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 2 TCU (defeated Stephen F. Austin 70-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 6 Auburn (defeated Jacksonville State 27-20 in OT)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Idaho (lost to No. 8 USC 59-9)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Akron  (see:  Oh – my – God)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Memphis (defeated Kansas 55-23)

Dang, they’re good: Michigan State

Dang, they’re bad:  Kansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  South Carolina

Did the season start?  Louisville

Can the season end?  Army

Can the season never endMichigan State


Play this again:  No. 19 Oklahoma 31, No. 24 Tennessee 24, 2 OT

Play this again, too:  No. 5 Michigan State 31, No. 7 Oregon 28

Never play this again: No. 2 TCU 70, SFA 7

What? Georgia Southern 43, Western Michigan 17

HuhBYU 35, No. 20 Boise State 24

Are you kidding me?  Houston 34, Louisville 31

Oh – my – GodToledo 16, #18 Arkansas 12

Told you so:  Minnesota 23, Colorado State 20 (OT)


(rankings are current AP (post-week 2, pre-week 3)

Ticket to die for:  No. 14 Georgia Tech @ No. 8 Notre Dame (no, really!)

Also:  No. 18 Auburn @ No. 13 LSU

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Colorado @ Colorado State

Best non-Power Five matchup: Memphis @ Bowling Green

Upset alert: No. 19 BYU @ No. 10 UCLA

Must win: No. 15 Ole Miss @ No. 2 Alabama

Offensive explosion: Nevada @ No. 17 Texas A&M

Defensive struggle: Florida @ Kentucky

Great game no one is talking about:  Pittsburgh @ Iowa

Also:  No. 23 Northwestern @ Duke

Who’s bringing the body bags? Air Force @ No. 4 Michigan State

Why are they playing? UConn @ No. 22 Missouri

Plenty of good seats remaining: Buffalo @ Florida Atlantic

They shoot horses, don’t they?  NC Central @ FIU

Week 2 Take-aways:

The best example of a Pyrrhic victory took place when Notre Dame barely pulled it out over Virginia.  In the process of the game, Coach Brian Kelly likely lost his QB Malik Zaire to a broken ankle and shall likely be out for the rest of the year (he went down late in the 3rd quarter).  ESPN is currently replaying the incident online.  It is not for the faint of heart.

Honestly, even though Ohio State shut out Hawaii 38-0, I thought that they Rainbow Warriors would have lost by at least two more touchdowns.  Perhaps Urban Meyer called off the dogs early in the 3rd quarter in order to save his players from unnecessary wear, tear, and risk.  If so, smart move.  Perhaps Hawaii beat the spread?

Steve Spurrier lost to Kentucky for two consecutive seasons for the first time ever, this time at home.  Last year, we established by November that the Gamecocks were a team that blew 4th Quarter leads.  The Wildcats were one of the teams to whom South Carolina blew one of those leads.  But what about this year?  Perhaps Spurrier is not getting the players anymore.  If so, perhaps at age 70, the Ol’ Ball Coach might want to start planning is exit strategy.  After all, Hatin’-Ass Spurrier only works if he is winning games.  If he loses games, then the trash talking becomes a worthless, annoying schtick.

On the other hand, can Kentucky be THAT good?  They shall have a solid test to show how good they are against a rebuilding Florida under new HC Jim McElwain, a former assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama who got things rolling at Colorado State.

The Volunteers gave a valiant effort at home but in the end could not overcome the defensive halftime adjustments the Sooners made.  But it was a good, exciting, competitive game.  The new uniform designs thanks to Nike was a nice, fitting touch.  But was even more visually stunning was the color-coordinated alternating orange and white checker pattern among the fans throughout the stands – very impressive, despite the loss.

The Oregon @ Michigan State game is certainly a game that lived up to its hype.  The Spartans are stronger than at any year I have watched them in my lifetime (for reference, I am 35).  Not even Nick Saban’s strong MSU squad from the 1999 season seems to be as rough and tough as this bunch.  What Mark Dantonio has built in East Lansing in an era that has favored the warm-weather programs is nothing short of amazing.  Better yet, it is not a fluke, but rather the product of steady building and improvement.  Last season, the Spartans upset Baylor in the Cotton Bowl, and the season before that, they upset a heavily-favored Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl.  Again, given the incredibly competitive nature of the game, where most marquee recruits hail from the Sun Belt and prefer to stay in warm-weather environs, the success that Mark Dantonio has reaped at Michigan State is astounding.

College Football 2015 Week 1 Awards September 9, 2015

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South Carolina's Deebo Samuel (1) reaches for a pass as North Carolina's Des Lawrence (2) defends in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. The pass was incomplete. South Carolina won 17-13. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The battle for Carolina in Charlotte started the 2015 college football season well.  It was very aesthically pleasing to see North Carolina and South Carolina both wear their home colors, too!(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 1] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Glad I’m not him: David Shaw, Stanford

Lucky guy: Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

Poor guy: Mike Riley, Nebraska

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jerry Kill, Minnesota

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Charlie Strong, Texas

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeff Monken, Army


Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 9 Georgia (defeated LA-Monroe 51-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 22 Arizona (defeated UTSA 42-32)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Texas State (lost to No. 10 Florida State 59-16)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Central Michigan (lost to Oklahoma State 24-13).

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  No. 11 Notre Dame (defeated Texas 38-3)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Tulane

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Stanford

Did the season start?  Texas (Honorable Mention:  Penn State)

Can the season end?  Tulane

Can the season never endNotre Dame


Play this again:  No. 6 Auburn 31, Louisville 24

Play this again, too:  No. 2 TCU 23, Minnesota 17

Honorable Mention to play again:  South Carolina 17, North Carolina 13

Never play this again: No. 17 Ole Miss 76, Tennessee-Martin 3

Say what? BYU 33, Nebraska 28

WHAT? FIU 15, UCF 14

HuhNorthwestern 16, No. 21 Stanford 6

Are you kidding me?  Texas A&M 38, No. 15 Arizona State 17

Oh – my – GodTemple 27, Penn State 10


(rankings are current AP (post-week 1, pre-week 2)

Ticket to die for:  No. 7 Oregon @ No. 5 Michigan State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Houston @ Louisville; also:  Minnesota @ Colorado State

Best non-Power Five matchup: Marshall @ Ohio U

Upset alert: No. 19 Oklahoma @ No. 25 Tennessee

Must win: Kentucky @ South Carolina

Offensive explosion: No. 22 Arizona @ Nevada

Defensive struggle: No. 14 LSU @ No. 25 Mississippi State

Great game no one is talking about: Minnesota @ Colorado State; also:  No. 20 Boise State @ BYU

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Stoops of Kentucky vs. Steve Spurrier of South Carolina

Who’s bringing the body bags? Hawaii @ No. 1 Ohio State

Why are they playing? South Alabama @ Nebraska

Plenty of good seats remaining: Army @ UConn

They shoot horses, don’t they?  NC Central @ Duke

Week 1 Take-aways:

  • Ohio State seems to have not skipped a beat during the offseason.  After the occasional hiccup in the second quarter, they made every halftime adjustment one could think of and demonstrated why they deserve to retain the top ranking.
  • Had Louisville not made mistake after mistake, the results of the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game would surely have been considerably different.  That said, Auburn is not a team with which to be trifled.
  • Evidence of the Big Ten gaining strength compared to, say, seasons 2005-2013, could not be further on display, and not just with the top dog Ohio State.  Mighty Stanford travelled eastward to take on Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.  They did not return to the West Coast victorious.  Few pigskin prognosticators saw THAT coming.
  • Arizona State has potential to be a tough team.  Dropping the ball – figuratively — to Texas A&M did not help their case.  Either the Sun Devils were highly overrated going into the game, or they picked a horrible time to take the night off.
  • Either South Carolina is starting to struggle a bit as a program, or North Carolina has greatly improved.  At this point, I suspect the latter.  Larry Fedora has proven to be a capable coach, and Gene Chizik’s influence on the Tarheel’s defense quickly showed itself.
  • Jim Harbaugh shall no doubt make Michigan into a respected power again.  Their loss to Utah in Salt Lake City seemed to be a speedbump towards that goal.  The immediate discernment is that the Utes are becomingly an increasingly respected program in the post-Urban Meyer era.  In the meantime, signs that Harbaugh is shaking things up in Ann Arbor is already readily apparent.  For one, their legendary helmet design now has metal flake in the both the yellow and blue parts of the distinct pattern – a first for the program.  Moreover, they were wearing [gasp!] white pants with traditional stripes, which is a far cry from the plain yellow pants they have worn for decades.  That last item alone is proof that Hades has officially frozen over!

Such is the ‘rousing start to the 2015 college football season.  One more week of an excess of body bag games to go, and things ought to be even more interesting!

College Football 2015 Quick Preview September 3, 2015

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Atlanta bolsters its stature as one of the epicenters of college football by being the host city for arguably the best game of Week 1. Photo by Paul Abell, USA Today Sports.

Another glorious season of college football is about to commence.  Come the evening of Thurs., Sept. 3, teams will have kicked off the most exciting three months in all of sports (four if you count the bowl game postseason), and come late Monday evening, the fans, analysts and pundits alike shall have had a look at whether or not the preseason rankings are worth any count.

What is particularly attractive about this particular opening weekend is that, unlike in some years past, there is a critical mass of high-stakes games from the beginning.  Sure, the body-bag games abound as they usually do during Week One.  However, there are many high-ranked teams that are about to butt heads with other ranked teams, or teams that are near-ranked and hungry for respect from the voters.

From the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, to an incredibly delectable home opener for Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., to a Carolina border war Thursday evening, to a revenge game for Urban Meyer & Co. in Blacksburg, Va., on Labor Day evening, this weekend has it all.  Below is thus faithfully submitted a list highlight and lowlight games on which to keep a fan’s eye.  Enjoy, and God Bless America!

Ticket to die for Auburn vs. Louisville in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta; possible Texas @ Notre Dame, too.

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Western Kentucky @ Vanderbilt; BYU @ Nebraska

Best non-Power Five matchup: UNL @ Northern Illinois; Ohio U @ Idaho

Upset alert: Texas @ Notre Dame; TCU @ Minnesota (don’t laugh);

Must win: Ohio State @ Virginia Tech; Purdue @ Marshall

Offensive explosion: Arizona State @ Texas A&M

Defensive struggle: BYU @ Nebraska

Great game no one is talking about: South Carolina vs. North Carolina in Charlotte; Michigan @ Utah; Washington @ Boise State; Stanford @ Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Gus Malzahn of Auburn vs. Bobby Petrino of Louisville and Paul Chryst of Wisconsin vs. Nick Saban of Alabama; Todd Graham of Arizona State vs. Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M

Who’s bringing the body bags? Baylor @ SMU; Akron @ Oklahoma; Mississippi State @ Southern Miss; UTSA @ Arizona; Michigan State @ Western Michigan; Texas State @ Florida State; Wofford @ Clemson; LA Monroe @ Georgia – and that’s the short list!

 Why are they playing? Savannah State @ Colorado State; Oklahoma State @ Central Michigan; Norfolk State @ Rutgers; Arkansas State @ USC

Plenty of good seats remaining: Villanova @ UConn; also, Presbyterian @ Miami (Ohio); also Old Dominion @ Eastern Michigan;

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Bethune-Cookman @ Miami (Fla.); Georgia Southern @ West Virginia; Tennessee Tech @ Houston; Elon @ Wake Forest

Swing Music’s 80th Birthday August 23, 2015

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Goodman_at_Palomar1935Eighty years ago this past Friday, on Aug. 21, 1935, the Swing Era was born.  The energy that was released along with its birth was propelled musical revolutions and helped define the high-points of American popular music since that one evening eight decades ago, and it all began one night with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra performing at the Palomar Ballroom at 2nd Street and Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.  Ironically, they had no idea that they were about to make history.

The night started out disappointingly.  His first segment of the show was tepid at best, playing the safe, “sweet” stuff that pacified his conservative Middle American audiences that made up most of his cross-country tour.  During the break of that segment, Benny decided that if they were going to go down, they were going to go down swinging – figuratively and literally!  To the rest of the band’s delight, he called for the hot stuff – specifically the Fletcher Henderson arrangements.  When they reconvened on the bandstand to start the next segment of that evening’s concert, they immediately kicked things off with “King Porter Stomp.”

The fans in attendance immediately recognized the tune, and it created an instant (and positive) sensation!  He and his band quickly followed up with “Sometimes I’m Happy”, followed then by “Sugar Foot Stomp”.  With each number, the fans were hollering for more.  Every tune the band played during the rest of the night resulted in all sorts of Lindy-Hopping and Jitterbugging.  The atmosphere for the remainder of the night was electric; the sensation that was created that evening made Benny Goodman an overnight superstar, and the Swing Era was officially born.

What explains all of this?  How could a bandleader and his men, who had to endure disappointment after disappointment during a grueling cross-country tour in the summer of 1935, finally find this unexpected pot of gold at the rainbow’s end?

Two major factors explain this, factors that Goodman never took into consideration at the beginning of that fateful night.

One was a radio show hosted by disc jockey Al Jarvis, entitled the Make-Believe Ballroom (a title later borrowed by Charlie Barnet for his hit 1936 tune, with the Modernaires on vocals).  This show was based on playing records over the radio – a novel idea at the time.  Jarvis built up Benny’s audience playing records, specifically, Fletcher Henderson’s choice arrangements.

The other, even bigger factor, was that Benny Goodman actually enjoyed a national audience through his weekly “Let’s Dance” radio show out of New York City.  The show had three different bands, one built for three different music genres.  One segment was filled by Kel Murray (actual name:  Murray Kelner), who provided the “sweet” music, strings and all.  Another segment was filled by Xavier Cugat, who provided the Latin music, and Benny Goodman’s band capped things off with the Swing.  The “Let’s Dance” show, brought to a nationwide audience courtesy of the National Biscuit Company (you might have heard of them by their abbreviated moniker of Nabisco), helped build Goodman’s fan base all over the country, although in uneven concentrations.

As mentioned earlier, many of his Middle America audiences preferred the sedate stuff.  When Benny and his band tried to push the proverbial envelope with hot swing arrangements, they often received negative push-back.  One particular low point came in Denver when the audience demanded their money back.

Things started to look up a bit on the West Coast, however.  His Oakland, Calif., concert was very positively received, as was a subsequent concert at Pismo Beach.  But after all the disappointments the band experienced, they took these two high points as flukes, thinking that such success could in no way be sustained.  Better to play it safe, survive, and get the rest of the tour over with.

What Benny failed to consider was that the aforementioned “Let’s Dance” show had built up a nationwide audience for his band, and that fans were particularly concentrated on the West Coast.  Hence, the fans were hungry for the good stuff when they were finally able to see the King-of-Swing-to-be in person.  Hence, moreover, their consternation when Goodman and his band started off the evening playing the safe, sweet numbers that they thought would ensure their survival.

It turned out in hindsight the band’s unexpected, earlier successes at Oakland and Pismo Beach were not flukes.  All it took was Goodman to have the intestinal fortitude to play the hot, swinging songs that he and his band were built to play….that and a highly receptive audience that he did not even realize he had until he already decided to play the Fletcher Henderson arrangements.

Needless to say, his concert the following night was just as successful, and we can be grateful 80 years later that somebody on August 22, 1935, had the foresight to record an aircheck of the concert for posterity.


The legendary Palomar Ballroom, the birthplace of Swing (or, at least is era) is sadly no more, and has not been for a long time.  It burned down in 1939.  Today, a Von’s grocery store occupies the spot where, 80 years ago this weekend, the greatest era of American popular music was born.

On Presidential Deaths and Economic Growth February 19, 2015

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William-Henry-HarrisonIn honor of the recent Presidents’ Day — which we used to correctly acknowledge as Washington’s Birthday before political correctness — let us play a little trivia game.  How many presidents died in office other than those who were assassinated?  Give up?  The correct number is four, five if you count James K. Polk (more on that later).

They are, in chronological order:  William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The latter two did not die of pathogen-caused disease, but rather of other maladies.  In Harding’s case, it was a heart attack.  In FDR’s case, it was a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by, well, being in office for three terms and change.

So what of the first two?  Harrison, for example holds two dubious distinctions as President:  the first to die while in office, and shortest length of time while in office, at about 30 days.  But why?  We have been conditioned to think it was on account of pneumonia.  Turns out that is not the case.  Yes, he did himself no favors by giving an 8,445-word Inaugural Address (still a record to this day for Inaugural Addresses, making the Hero of Tippecanoe a holder of three Presidential records!), which he did in the freezing rain without a hat, overcoat, or gloves.  Not the smartest of moves, and he actually did catch a cold from it.  But he recovered from the cold, and it never grew into pneumonia.  So what happened?

A fascinating article published in the New York Times last year sheds new light on Harrison’s untimely death.  It details the findings of a new medical investigation in that year, which followed the clues and concluded that the cause of death was typhoid, not pneumonia.  The latter was merely a guess from Harrison’s attending physician who, understandably, had comparatively limited medical knowledge.  Even then, the doctor acknowledged pneumonia to be a secondary diagnosis.

Typhoid actually makes all the sense in the world.  The disease is bacterially-based, and the pathogens in this case ravage the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the stomach, until they do their damage which allows them to enter the bloodstream, causing sepsis.  In the middle part of the 19th Century, not far from the White House was a man-made fetid swamp produced on account of daily deposits of, er, night soil — at government expense, of course.  This fetid, man-made marsh became a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause typhoid and paratyphoid fevers (both of which, interestingly, belong in the same genus of Salmonella).  It claimed two other presidents, too.  James K. Polk contracted severe gastroenteritis  (a variation on the exact same theme, practically tomayto-tomahto) while in the White House but he somehow recovered, only to die of cholera — the nature of the infection is practically the same, as they are often brought on my contaminated food and water — merely three months after leaving office in 1849.

Polk’s successor, Zachary Taylor, also died in office, having contracted Salmonella-caused gastroenteritis during the 4th of July celebration in 1850.  He died just five days later.

Frankly, it is a wonder that more of our presidents did not die of similar causes.  Antibiotics, which would have stopped these pathogens in their tracks, were not available until WWII, roughly a century’s span from this time.

So how come subsequent presidents in the remaining 19th Century avoided meeting such an untimely demise?  George Will’s insight provides an answer, and does so within the context of marking the 25th anniversary of AIDS in a 2006 article:

“AIDS arrived in America in the wake of the Salk vaccine, which, by swiftly defeating polio, gave Americans a misleading paradigm of how progress is made in public health. Pharmacology often is a small contributor. By the time the first anti-tuberculosis drugs became available in the 1950s, the annual death rate from TB had plummeted to 20 per 100,000 Americans, from 200 per 100,000 in 1900. Drugs may have accounted for just 3 percent of the reduction. The other 97 percent was the result of better nutrition and less urban crowding. Thanks to chlorination of water and better sanitation and personal hygiene, typhoid, too, became rare before effective drugs were available.”

“Which suggests,” he adds, “that the most powerful public health program is economic growth.  And the second most powerful is information.”

Indeed.  Economic growth provides the resources necessary to better dispose of human waste as well.  DC introduced its first sewer system in 1885, for example, thus greatly reducing the chance of Presidents Cleveland through [Franklin] Roosevelt contracting the same maladies that felled two, if not three, of their predecessors in the mid-19th Century.

That said, as an aside, there seemed not to be a universal utilization of Washington, D.C.’s sewer system as recently as 1941, as George Will points out in an article seven months prior to the aforecited one.

“Ol’ Blue Eyes” and “Ted” February 18, 2015

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After three years, fans of the Seth MacFarlane comedy “Ted” are about to be relieved from suspenseful waiting, as a sequel, “Ted 2,” is about to debut in theatres come late June.  In case the reader is unaware, the protagonist is a live, talking teddy bear, who is foul-mouthed, lecherous, super-lascivious, and given to bouts of indolence, drunken revelry, and pot-smoking, yet altogether strangely endearing nonetheless.  Basically, he is a modern, crude adaptation of Charlie McCarthy (or, to put it another way, MacFarlane’s Ted is analogous to Edgar Bergen’s McCarthy), and needless to say, it has proven to be most amusing!

This commercial-length preview — which debuted during the Super Bowl, no less — alone is enough to have one rolling in the aisles.  Once the dear reader has recovered from hysterics, though, re-run the ad again and listen to the tune used for background music.  That’s right, they are using Frank Sinatra’s “Can I Steal A Little Love?” which has, er, interesting implications, given the sub-theme this part of the movie explores!

“Can I Steal A Little Love” was released in 1957, and one of Sinatra’s many wonderful swinging singles from that year.  Indeed, that year turned out to be yet another banner one for Ol’ Blue Eyes, who not only had a spate of hit singles, ranging from “Witchcraft” to “All the Way,” to three albums produced as well, such as “Where Are You?”, “Come Fly With Me,” (both title cuts remain famous in his repertoire) and his ever-popular, ever-timeless, ever-wonderful Christmas album. But as a brief summation, “Can I Steal A Little Love” is one of a plethora of great examples of why not only was 1957 a banner year for Sinatra, but also why his body of work at Capitol Records remains so timeless to this day, as is evident by its use in a major movie commercial 58 years later.

The Top Three Greatest Christmas Albums December 18, 2014

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
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NKC-the-christmas-songNo. 1:  Nat King Cole:  The Christmas Song.  What merits this as number one?  Start with the fact that the title cut of the album is perhaps the most iconic recording of a secular Christmas song.  Add in the fact that A) this is Nat “King” Cole, whose vocal talents just feel perfect for music to promote Yuletide cheer, and B) this is a Capitol Records album, produced at the time (1960, specifically) when the label included both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as its stablemates and thus pretty much owned the mainstream popular music market in that era.  But Cole mixes well the secular and religious songs, making fun, upbeat versions with some (e.g., “Deck the Halls” and “Hark!  The Herald Angels”) and poignant versions with others (e.g., “O Tannenbaum” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”), making for a compilation that spans the proper emotional gamut during this sentimental time of year.

The only irony is that it does not contain the best version of “The Christmas Song,” a tune that Cole himself would record officially at least three different times, but that is a discussion for another time.

FS_XmasNo. 1a:  A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra.  Make no mistake about it, this album was cut in 1957, when Ol’ Blue Eyes was on top of his game, only a year or so removed from recording his two greatest albums ever (“Songs for Swinging Lovers” and “A Swingin’ Affair”).  It shows in this album, too.  Just as the previously mentioned album introduced me to Nat “King” Cole, so too did this particular album introduce me to Sinatra at a very early age.

Certain songs grab you in such a way that you remember where you were the first time you heard them.  For me, it was Christmastime while I was in kindergarten when I first heard the opening track, “Jingle Bells,” on this album, and it stuck with me ever since.  The song is so well-known as to be trite, but every once in a while, one hears a version that is so well-rendered as to rise above the triteness.  This is one of those songs.

But if you are first grabbed by that opening track, you stay for “Mistletoe and Holly.”  To this day, few have attempted to cover it because Sinatra did it so well the first time.  But two additional tracks truly cement the album’s timelessness.  Sammy Cahn’s “The Christmas Waltz” truly helps define the song collection, and no Christmas season is complete without enjoying this track a few times.  Others have tried to duplicate Frank’s efforts with this song over the years, but each time, they keep coming up short.

The other track that seals the album’s greatness for all time is Sinatra’s definitive version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Sinatra truly captures the essence of the song itself, arguably outdoing the other definitive version by Judy Garland from 1944.  Listening to this song proves to any discerning listener why Frank Sinatra was indeed the singing voice of the 20th Century.

The religious songs on the latter part of the album are not too shabby, either.  Recent re-releases of the album include an alternative version of “The Christmas Waltz,” which is not quite as good as the official rendition, but it remains a good listen nonetheless (it being a Nelson Riddle arrangement, compared to the Gordon Jenkins arrangements that populate the rest of the track line-up).

AChristmasGifttoYoufromPhilSpectorcoverNo. 3:  Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You.  One unique aspect of this album is that it does not center on one artist, but rather on several artists/groups that were the talent pool on Spector’s label at the time.  The recording effect that defined the legendary producer’s records came to be known as the “Wall of Sound,” (a primer for those unfamiliar with this effect of recorded sound) and while that effect lifted many Spector-produced tracks to legendary status and made for a definitive element in some music from 1960s, one could argue that this effect was perfected on this very album.  If that exceeds credibility in the minds of some readers, I invite them to listen to the last several bars of instrumentation of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by The Crystals:  it’s vintage Phil Spector (this is not to mention that the song’s arrangement has been copied by many artists in the 50+ years since).

There is not a bad track in the line-up, and they include some of the most iconic versions of certain secular Christmas song.  The Ronettes’ version of “Sleigh Ride”, for example, remains the definitive version of this song – in most circles – to this day, though ironically paced with a shuffle beat (one of the oldest rhythmic patterns in popular music).  Bob B. Soxx’s rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus” is a fresh take on that song, too.   Indeed, there is a timeless “hipness” to these tracks, which is what makes the album so classic.

Of course, Darlene Love contributed the lion’s share of musical gems.  Her version of “White Christmas” is the closest one to rival Bing Crosby’s eternally popular 1942 and 1947 versions.  “Baby Please Come Home” has become an iconic song in its own right, and her multi-dubbed vocals on “Winter Wonderland” have made it arguably the best version of that winter-themed song to date.  With such a strong line-up of recordings, it almost makes “Marshmallow World” get lost in the mix, but an attentive listen reveals that this track is the most underrated on the album.  This is easily the greatest version anybody has made of the song, and the energy that Love puts into the vocals on this track are positively contagious.  Moreover, if one focuses just on Love’s contributions to this song compilation, one cannot help but conclude that these make up the very cornerstone to her musical legacy.

Put all three albums together, and you have a solid trifecta of timeless Christmas music that has stood the test of time for more than five decades, which is all too fitting for a holiday season partially defined by timeless traditions.


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