STEVE LAVIN FLIRTS WITH PC POLICE TWICE IN ONE HALF

To be one of eight broadcast crews for CBS/Turner throughout the first weekend of March Madness is demanding and calls for coverage of six games in a 48-hour period.

That leaves plenty of opportunity for situations to go viral, such as Verne Lundquist taking a basketball to the head during warmups.

Then there is long-time commentator and former UCLA and St. John’s coach Steve Lavin who made two comments on Xavier players during the Musketeers second-round rout over Florida State.

First Lavin referred to a two-handed dunk by Tyrique Jones as delivered ‘gorilla style’.

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 8.23.55 PM

The term ‘gorilla slam’ has been coined by announcers since the days of Darryl Dawkins. But the PC slippery sloped has changed, especially after ESPN tennis announcer Doug Adler was fired earlier this year. In an early-round Australian Open match, Adler appeared to say ‘gorilla effect’ after Venus Williams pounced on the second serve of an opponent.

Adler later said that he actually said ‘guerrilla’, but the social media backlash damage had been done. Adler was fired and later sued ESPN, and reportedly suffered a heart attack days later.

Obviously the Williams sisters carry the torch for African-Americans in tennis while black players consist of the majority of basketball. Also never mind that first baseman Dave Kingman was known as ‘Kong’, or that business in Pittsburg, Kansas feature gorilla statues to pay homage to a local university, or that King Kong himself is currently featured at your local mega-plex.

Mild eyebrows were raised when Lavin made the gorilla comment. Then minutes later he made what could be termed Xavier big man Sean O’Mara as a ‘polar bear with a Paul Bunyan/lumberjack physique.’

Research uncovers that Lavin also referred to Wisconsin’s Brian Butch as a polar bear when he broadcasted during the 2007-08 season (between his UCLA and St. John’s tenures).

It is safe to say that the likes of Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett and Shawn Kemp were not referred to as polar bears in their playing days. So those two references within minutes of each other is an eye-opener.

Unlike journalists, on-air talent do not have the safety net of an editor to cover them. The ground rules have been slowly established over the years, Billy Packer kept his job after referring to Allen Iverson as a ‘tough monkey’, Howard Cosell referred to wide receiver Alvin Garrett as a ‘little monkey’ on Monday Night Football in 1983 – which marked the beginning of the end to Cosell’s career.

With an entire weekend of March Madness TV coverage, this hopefully blows over without repercussions.

Advertisements

FALCONS DREAM SEASON NOT SEEN BY MANY

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons

Despite throttling both the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers en route to Super Bowl LI, the talent of the Atlanta Falcons remain unknown on a national level.

The reasons are obvious. Atlanta was not tabbed for a Sunday Night appearance and not even flexed into a late season game, as was the case with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For other late afternoon national broadcasts, FOX likes to roll with known brands such as the Cowboys, Packers and Seahawks while CBS’s number one crew typically work  Broncos, Patriots and Steeler games. The two networks also make sure to get at least one interconference game that involve such teams.

That left Atlanta with a Week 3 Monday night game at New Orleans that drew alarmingly low ratings against a presidential debate, a Week 8 game v. Green Bay and a Thursday night game in Tampa for a national audience. Most other Falcons games were shown regionally.

Week 1 v. Tampa Bay – The season began with the Falcons in the shadow of the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers, who opened on a Thursday night. With the New Orleans Saints also in action, the game aired in Georgia, the Tampa area and some other southern locations.

Week 2 at Oakland – This interconference game would normally air on FOX, but was flexed to CBS. Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon called this game while Colts v. Broncos got the Jim Nantz/Phil Simms treatment.

Week 3 at New Orleans (MNF) – The aforementioned 45-32 Atlanta victory that drew low ratings against Trump v. Hillary.

Week 4 v. Carolina – With the Panthers in town, the Falcons 48-33 victory was shown in most homes in the south during the 1 p.m. Eastern window. A Seahawks v. Jets game aired everywhere west of Denver and in the northeast.

Week 5 at Denver – The Falcons took down the other Super Bowl 50 participant in a 4:05 Eastern start shown to most of the south and west while a Cowboys v. Bengals game aired in the 4:25 window on FOX

Week 6 at Seattle – The Falcons controversial loss in Seattle was shown regionally in Atlanta and the Pacific Northwest as the rest of the nation got Cowboys v. Packers in the 4:25 window.

Week 7 v. San Diego – Another 4:05 start only shown in the Chargers and Falcons markets, while Patriots/Steelers was shown to a national audience on CBS.

Week 8 v. Green Bay – The Falcons 33-32 marked Atlanta’s lone national 4:25 appearance, shown everywhere with the exception of Denver as the Broncos had a home game.

Week 9 at Tampa Bay (TNF) – The Falcons Thursday night appearance fell here, the first game done with the NBC crew and Al Michaels.

Week 10 at Philadelphia – Headlined FOX’s 1 p.m. slate and shown in many regions that included the West Coast and Texas.

Week 12 v. Arizona – This game again got FOX’s number two team of Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch. The 1 p.m. start was only seen in Georgia, Arizona, the Carolina and other upper Midewest areas.

Week 13 v. Kansas City – CBS’s number two team handled this game which aired mainly to the Kansas City and Atlanta markets. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms worked Houston at Green Bay in the 1 p.m. window.

Week 14 at Los Angeles – By this point in the season it became obvious that the Rams did not make for good TV viewing. Dick Stockton called the one-sided contest aired to the Los Angeles and Atlanta markets.

Week 15 v. San Francisco – Another 4:05 local start against a subpar opponent aired regionally. CBS carried Patriots at Broncos in the 4:25 window.

Week 16 at Carolina – Christmas Eve game went out regionally as most of the nation received Vikings v. Packers in 1 p.m. window.

Week 17 v. New Orleans – Aired in the 4:25 window, the Falcons regular season finale played second fiddle to Giants/Washington in the same time slot.

Division playoff v. Seattle – The first true look to many of this team nationally, but got Burkhardt/Lynch as Joe Buck/Troy Aikman worked Packers/Cowboys.

NFC Championship v. Green Bay – Joe Buck finally got his first look at the Falcons, as he was on his World Series assignment during the previous Packers/Falcons meeting.

Talk about a lack of respect. But with a new stadium on the horizon coupled with this year’s success, the Falcons can look forward to infinitely more television exposure in 2017.

CHARGERS MOVE A 360 LOSE

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-1-09-59-am
Los Angeles Chargers

You can take sides, but there is no winner in the move of the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles, where they will play the next two years in a 30,000 seat soccer venue.

The City of San Diego is angered and devastated and Los Angeles welcomes the Chargers like the arrival of a Wal-Mart. The National Football League also cannot be happy about a franchise that has become a failing pile of garbage.

I will not use this space to destroy Dean Spanos, whose family had the money to build a stadium on their own dime – many other loyal fans and writers have already done that.

The final end game came when the latest stadium referendum was overwhelmingly rejected in November. Voters triple-dog-dared the team to move, and Dean Spanos was more than happy to stick his tongue to the flagpole. The move was made final not with the decency of a press conference, but a Dear John letter and makeshift logo on social media.

At least Stan Kroenke said straight out that in his mind the NFL would not work and continue to take a backseat to baseball in St. Louis, a city that would had made more sense for Chargers relocation.

It was now or never for Spanos to prove his threat not to be a bluff. The Chargers had until Tuesday to give the NFL its answer, at which time the Raiders would have the opportunity to set up shop in Inglewood.

So Spanos has decided to swallow the $550 million location fee and move to Kroenke-land, where they only have to pay $1 per year to be a second-class tenant.

Deano has made his bed and now must lie in it, and do not let the bedbugs bite.

I would like to apologize to Eli Manning, who I was not happy with when he requested the Chargers not to draft him number one overall in 2004. The Manning family identified the San Diego organization as an outfit to steer away from even back then.

Eli wound up with the New York Giants, has had a solid career and has won two Super Bowls. Ben Roethlisberger would be drafted by the Steelers and has three Super Bowl appearances and two rings, and can add to that resume with a win in Sunday’s AFC Championship in New England. Philip Rivers career has been arguably as spectacular, but has just one conference championship game appearance to show for it, to nearly no fault of his own.

And Drew Brees also got out of Dodge and made his legend along with a Super Bowl title in New Orleans.

The Chargers move will really hit home in this year’s Hall of Fame balloting, where LaDainian Tomlinson is likely to be elected first ballot, possibly alongside former Head Coach Don Coryall. Think those enshrinement speeches might be awkward?

Franchise relocations tend to be ugly. The Colts moved to Indianapolis under cover of the night. Art Modell did the unthinkable when he moved the Browns. Eagles owner Leonard Tose tried to move his team to Arizona once after he squandered his fortune at gambling tables. Seattle remains bitter after seeing their NBA team become relevant in Oklahoma. Older baseball fans still don’t forgive the Dodgers and Giants moves to the West Coast or the Milwaukee Braves relocation to Atlanta.

I give the Chargers one sellout at LA Galaxy Stadium this year, when Raiders fans take over the place on what will be an annual basis. In the future their will be more fans driving to Las Vegas to see the Raiders than invest in the Chargers.

As for San Diego, they possibly face a lost generation without NFL football, as the city can now earmark money to expand the convention center to ensure the annual Comic-Con convention does not move to Los Angeles, along with a smaller stadium for San Diego State football, bowl games and possibly MLS soccer.

Yes, America’s Finest City opted for comics over pro football. But I give the LA Chargers experiment 5-10 years. At some point the Spanos family finally begs uncle and sells to owners who then move the team back where it belongs – in the 619.

San Diego – the Chargers will be back.

 

WHO RUNS TABLE TO SUPER BOWL LI?

eli_manning_2008

Aaron Rodgers made good on his six-week promise to ‘run the table’ towards a division title, and it was nice.

A win over Philadelphia, followed by home wins over Houston and Seattle before the Packers swept through the remnants of the NFC North.

But will Rodgers and Green Bay double-down and run the table straight through January and first Sunday in February?

My heart roots for a Chiefs/Packers Super Bowl, 50 years after the original. But my gut say it is turn for someone else to run the table, a movie we have seen before.

Trust me, I deeply root for this to be dead wrong.

WILD CARD

  • Oakland (11-5) at Houston (9-7) – In a switch from last year, all four home teams on Wild Card Weekend actually come in favored. I congratulated the Texans back in October for earning their annual place on ESPN’s 4:40 p.m. Saturday telecast, the NFL’s version of March Madness’s First Four. At this point a Ravens/Broncos pairing holds more intrigue, in their current state the Raiders and Texans represent the two worst playoff participants. Who do you have, Connor Cook or Brock Osweiler? I take Khahil Mack. WINNER: Raiders
  • Detroit (9-7) at Seattle (10-5-1) – The Lions limp into Seattle as eight point underdogs, I say they cover. This will follow the script of most Seahawk home playoff/prime time games. Matthew Stafford has a huge night on a depleted Seattle secondary but Pete Carroll’s proxy army ultimately escapes with their patented psy-op/roller derby-like finish. WINNER: Seahawks
  • Miami (10-6) at Pittsburgh (11-5) – The Dolphins also likely go into postseason with a backup quarterback, and anything beyond this stage would be a bonus. The Steelers have lost at home to lesser opponents in postseason in the past, but not this time. WINNER: Steelers
  • NY Giants (11-5) at Green Bay (10-6) – Packers fans flooded Vegas and have bet Green Bay down to 8-1 to win the Super Bowl, yet only find themselves as 4 1/2 point home favorites against the Giants, who the bookies have at 20-1. This feels just like 2008 and 2012.Temperatures are expected to climb all the way to 12 degrees at Lambeau come game-time, that may be too warm for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, who torch what’s left of the Packers secondary. WINNER: Giants

DIVISIONAL

  • Seattle at Atlanta (11-5) – The NFL stuck the Falcons in the early Saturday window, another franchise the league cannot see eliminated as possible. This one could go either way, but look for the Seahawks luck running out in the divisional round for a second straight year. WINNER: Falcons
  • Oakland at New England (14-2) – You know a 15th anniversary of the Tuck Rule game has to happen. And how do the Patriots get away with signing Michael Floyd straight off a DUI arrest? Anyone for Sheriff Joe as NFL commissioner? This will serve as a scrimmage on the Pats yellow-brick road to the AFC title game. WINNER: Patriots
  • Pittsburgh at Kansas City (12-4) – The teams met early in the season, with Al Michaels forced to dig into his blowout material early after the Steelers hung 36 points in the first half. And why does Mike Tomlin go for two? Because he cannot go for three. Tyreek Hill returns an early punt for a score, other than that I do not see too much that has changed. Add this to the list of Kansas City postseason disappointments. WINNER: Steelers
  • NY Giants at Dallas (13-3) – The league predictably puts the top-seeded Cowboys in the late afternoon window, as they have for more than 40 years. Here Jason Garrett, Dak Prescott and company meet their worst nightmare, the one team that has their number. Eli Manning also tore through Dallas in 2008 and left Terrell Owens in tears. Do not tell Skip Bayless, but history repeats. WINNER: Giants

CHAMPIONSHIP

  • NY Giants at Atlanta – Anyone think the Giants would tear through Green Bay and Dallas, only to lose in Atlanta? New York condemns the Georgia Dome and the Manning family qualifies for their sixth Super Bowl in 11 years. WINNER: Giants
  • Pittsburgh at New England – The Jim Nantz special sees the latest playoff scrum between the Steelers and Patriots. Tom Brady gets his vindication and punches his franchises seventh Super Bowl ticket in 16 years. WINNER: Patriots

SUPER BOWL LI

  • New England v. NY Giants – Fans have feared a Patriots/Cowboys Super Bowl all year, a.k.a the Skip Bayless Bowl. This would be worse, but who thinks Eli Manning rolls over and just be satisfied tied with his older brother with two Super Bowl rings. A late Patriots drive ends in controversial fashion, the final karma on Tom Brady and the team signing Michael Floyd. Eli gets another title and quickly returns to relative obscurity for another four years.

 

SUPER BOWL LI CHAMPIONS: New York Giants (run to the window now!)

2016 GREEN BAY PACKERS PLAYOFF SCENARIOS – WEEK 16

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-2-54-26-am

On Sunday the Packers won while the Bears, Lions and Vikings all lost as Aaron Rodgers added to his legend. It was a good day, and vastly improves Green Bay’s chances to qualify for postseason.

Colin Cowherd now endures another week without digging dirt from ex-teammates about Rodgers. The Packers now ‘control their own destiny’ for the NFC North crown should they beat the Vikings and Lions over the next fortnight and finish 10-6. Green Bay would likely finish as a four seed and host the New York Giants in a first round playoff game.

The Packers could finish as high as a number two seed and earn a first round bye. Green Bay would have to win out coupled with two Seattle losses, two Atlanta losses and possibly one Tampa Bay loss. That is asking a lot.

Should Green Bay defeat the plummeting Vikings at home on Saturday, look for the Week 17 game in Detroit to air on Sunday Night Football.

CAN GREEN BAY WIN THE DIVISION AT 9-7?

A home loss to Minnesota does not necessarily doom the Pack, provided the Lions lose at Dallas next Monday night. Then Week 17 still decides the division. The Vikings can finish 9-7, but are eliminated from division title consideration. Should the three teams finish at 9-7 the Packers would prevail due to a 4-2 divisional record. In head-to-head play, the Vikings would have swept the Packers who swept the Lions who swept the Vikings.

Minnesota needs monumental help on multiple fronts to get a wild card spot, which includes two Packers losses.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-2-53-28-am

CAN GREEN BAY GET A WILD CARD AT 9-7?

If the Packers beat Minnesota but lose in Detroit, the waters become much murkier with Washington and Tampa Bay in the mix.

Starting with Monday night’s home game v. Carolina, Washington would have to lose two of their last three contests to finish 8-7-1. The Dan Snyder-owned team will also be slightly favored in Chicago and against a Giants team likely be locked into the number five seed.

The Packers would also need Tampa Bay to lose at least once. Should Green Bay and the Buccaneers finish tied at 9-7 the scenario becomes complex as both teams finished 3-2 against common opponents and would be 7-5 in conference.

The next criteria involves ‘strength of victory’ and currently too close to call. Should Carolina beat Washington, both the Pack and Bucs would have 49 1/2 wins over the eight teams they have beaten. Should strength of victory end tied, strength of schedule would be the next determining factor, Green Bay holds a slight edge there (115 wins of their 16 opponents v. Tampa’s 111).

Combined conference rankings (or league rankings if necessary) for net points scored and allowed would be the tie-breaker after strength of schedule . The criteria of net points was deemphasized by the league following the 1999 season when the Packers and Carolina Panthers ran up the score in their respective season finales played simultaneously.

However, it is highly unlikely much math will be needed to determine the Packers ultimate playoff fate.

WAKEYLEAKS COULD DOOM PETRINO FOR GOOD

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-4-32-29-am

Coach Bobby Petrino’s resume as a football coach is impressive. In his first stint at Louisville he lead the program to a BCS bowl game and did the same at the University of Arkansas in 2010. Most recently he lead Louisville to a 9-3 and produced the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Petrino’s true signature moments are far less flattering. In 2007 he bolted from the Atlanta Falcons with a 3-10 record to accept the Arkansas position, leaving laminated notes on players lockers to inform them on his decision. In April 2012 he infamously showed up at a Razorbacks presser in a neck brace due to a motorcycle accident. The subsequent investigation revealed a former volleyball player on the bike who worked for the school and had a relationship (along with other perks) with Petrino, which led to the coach’s dismissal.

Petrino eventually got right (it seemed), coached Western Kentucky for a year and then returned to Louisville. With a trip to the Citrus Bowl on the horizon, Petrino should be a feel-good story of redemption.

‘Wakeyleaks’ may destroy all of that in the coming days.

The scandal started earlier this week with revelations that former Wake Forest quarterback and assistant coach turned radio analyst Tommy Elrod leaked game plans to Wake Forest’s ACC opponents as far back as 2014.

The bread crumbs led to a November game where Wake lost to Louisville 44-12. There is one coaching connection between the two programs, Louisville Offensive Coordinator Lonnie Galloway previously worked at Wake Forest alongside Elrod.

On Wednesday, embattled Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich acknowledged that Elrod indeed shared playbook information with Elrod prior the game.

This does not bode well and the dominoes may fall fast. The daytime FOX Sports  talk shows quickly jumped on the topic. Shannon Sharpe suggested on his daily duet with Skip Bayless that Petrino be terminated immediately if he indeed had firsthand knowledge of Wake Forest’s playbook. Later in the day Jason Whitlock chimed in that the ‘rest of the story’ has yet to surface, suggesting gambling as a motive for Elrod’s actions.

Jurich’s head is likely to roll as well, he is already in hot water over investigations of the men’s basketball program, which includes an assistant coach who allegedly hired prostitutes to cater to players and recruits on 15 occasions.

The Atlantic Coast Conference as called for an investigation involving Wake Forest opponents. The smart money says this gets very ugly, very fast for those involved. Wake Forest has its own questions to answer while Louisville now finds itself in scandals involved spying, prostitution and indirectly, gambling.

Do not be surprised if Louisville has an interim football coach for its bowl game while they seek a new AD to repair a damaged athletic program.

THE 2017 NFL ‘BOWL SEASON’

dak_prescott_cowboys

As writers and college football executives clamor for an expanded College Football Playoff, someone has to wonder if it is actually the National Football League that must change course.

I feel the NFL product must ensure that their best products appear in the Super Bowl. Based on the standings, chances seem good for a Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks or Oakland Raiders to make an appearance in the big game.

That would be good, all four franchises bring either tons of recent success and/or huge fanbases. But a 12-team playoff can jeopardize that possibility. What if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dare crash the party?

That can be solved with a ‘Pro Football Playoff’ along with a bowl season. Four teams get a chance at the Lombardi trophy while nine other games give the majority of teams a taste of the postseason life and massive bowl playoffs paid by the television networks.

Through Week 13, 20 teams stand ‘bowl eligible with 6-6 records. That can be stretched into an 11-game bowl season over one weekend, perfect for the daily fantasy industry.

Here is the projected model:

Pro Football Playoff:

  • PlayStation Bowl: No. 2 New England Patriots (10-2) v. No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
  • Chick-Fil-A Bowl: No. 1 Dallas Cowboys (11-1)  v. No. 4 Oakland Raiders (10-2)

The Patriots and Seahawks return to Phoenix for a sequel of their Super Bowl XLIX classic while two of the league’s flagship franchises square off in Atlanta. The winners square off in Super Bowl LI, which for the first time could feature two conference rivals.

Can their possibly be a better format!

‘Week After New Year’s Six’:

  • Rose Bowl: Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) v. Detroit Lions (8-4) – The Raiders/Chiefs Thursday night game in frigid Arrowhead Stadium already looms large. But imagine if a PFP spot was on the line? It would be the NFL version of Michigan v. Ohio State. Whatever the case the game and setting sells itself with its traditional ‘West Division’ v. ‘North Division’ matchup.
  • Sugar Bowl: Atlanta Falcons (7-5) v. New York Giants (8-4) – The Sugar Bowl committee gets its ‘SEC’ team in the Falcons while Odell Beckham makes his New Orleans homecoming.
  • Orange Bowl: Miami Dolphins (7-5) v. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) – The Orange Bowl often has problems selling tickets. That would be solved this year with the hometown Dolphins and the Steelers traveling fan base.
  • Cotton Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) v. Denver Broncos (8-4) – The Bucs late season surge lands Tampa into the Week After New Year’s Six while Cotton Bowl officials are overjoyed to see the Broncos still available.

Rest of the Bowls:

  • Citrus Bowl: Baltimore Ravens (7-5) v. Washington (6-5-1) – The newly sponsored B-Dubs bowl lands the two Beltway teams, not bad for the local hotel business.
  • Outback Bowl: Green Bay Packers (6-6) v. Tennessee Titans (6-6) – The Packers late-season surge earns them a postseason bid where they try to avenge a regular season humiliation at the hands of Marcus Mariota and the Titans.
  • Holiday Bowl: Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) v. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) – That tie against the Seahawks could come back to haunt the Cardinals although their APR score (least amount of suspensions and fines) should help Arizona get in at 7-8-1 if necessary.
  • Pinstripe Bowl: Minnesota Vikings (6-6) v. Buffalo Bills (6-6) – The Vikings really need to finish the season at 8-8 because the franchise usually does not do well on APR. Meanwhile Buffalo fans will be overjoyed to make the trip downstate for postseason action.
  • Independence Bowl: Houston Texans (6-6) v. New Orleans Saints (5-7) – In real life, the Texans could very well host an AFC Wild Card Game at 4:30 ET on Jan. 7. Here their 6-6 record only gets Brock Osweiler and company a short trip to Shreveport to take on New Orleans in a regional clash.

PIECES OF EIGHT – MY 2016 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

larry_culpepper

I got my knee brace but peddle Mountain Dew instead of Dr. Pepper.

Last year college football would had been better served to immediately fast-forward to the Clemson/Alabama championship game over the two mismatch semifinals served up on New Year’s Eve.

This year would had been a good time to ‘invent’ the eight-team College Football Playoff. I would stop short of going Dan Wetzel and invite Western Michigan (how about North Dakota State while we’re at it?), but the best eight teams of 2016 make for great theatre. It’s all hypothetical and will not be a reality anytime soon, but here would be the four ‘quarterfinal’ games.

  • No. 8 Oklahoma (10-2) v. No. 1 Alabama (13-0) – Boomer Sooner will be represented at the Heisman Trophy dinner, with quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Dede Westbrook both invited. The Sooners went 1-2 in non-conference but swept through the Big XII schedule to earn OU its place among the top eight teams.
  • No. 7 USC (9-3) v. No. 2 Clemson (12-1) – In the actual final CFP rankings, USC finished No. 9, behind Wisconsin. I disagree, USC is the argument for an eight team playoff and finished as college football’s best team outside of Tuscaloosa and Washington privately celebrated when the Trojans were left out of the Pac-12 title game. As for the Badgers, they played Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State close, but as Washington State Coach Mike Leach would say, ‘(screw) playing them close.’.
  • No. 6 Michigan (10-2) v. No. 3 Ohio State (11-1)  I made a case for Michigan’s inclusion for the actual four-team CFP, but the Wolverines lost two of their final three games, albeit the last one in ‘controversial’ fashion. Of course most double-overtime ‘instant classics’ deliver some controversy. I would like to see an actual eight-team playoff contested on neutral sites in its entirety, but would  settle for a Michigan return trip to the Horseshoe. It will be good for business, but be warned sequels tend to fall short of the original.
  • No. 5 Washington (12-1) v. No. 4 Penn State (11-2) – No, the CFP did not get it right, which they will realize when the Chick-Fil-A Bowl looks exactly like the SEC Championship game, only with the Crimson Tide rolling a team in purple instead of orange. Some would argue Penn State ahead of Ohio State, but that would mean Penn State facing a Michigan team they were routed by in the regular season. As for the Huskies, it is fitting their kicker’s name is Van Winkle because it has been more than 20 years since the football program was last relevant. Again, one of my criteria is how teams play late and the Nittany Lions finished as well as anyone outside of Alabama and USC.

How it would play out:

  • Oklahoma gives Alabama a better game than Washington but the Crimson Tide prevails.
  • Penn State defeats Washington.
  • Michigan loses for a second time to Ohio State, Coach Jim Harbaugh will be at the ready for more excuses.
  • USC upsets Clemson. I elevated the Trojans to No. 7 to avoid the possibility of a first-round Alabama ambush.

In the second round, Penn State gives Alabama a scare but falls short. The other semifinal features Tommy Trojan against THE. The two schools last met in 2009 when the late Joe McKnight lead USC to victory at the Horseshoe. This time around, Ohio State does not get the call in overtime and the Trojans advance to the championship.

One could pick Tommy Trojan to win the whole shooting match, but I do not live with cardinal and gold glasses and shout ‘Fight On’ to everyone I know. It would be a classic but Nick Saban and Alabama repeat as National Champions.

ESPN GOES HEIDI ON THE GREY CUP

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-14-01-am

I am a self-admitted Canadian Football League junkie.

I love all of it. The three downs, the one-point rouge, the 110 by 65 yard field and 20-yard end zones, the red penalty flags (and yellow challenge flags), the one-yard neutral zone, the three minute warning and many other subtle differences that gives the Canadian game a unique flavor compared to the U.S. version.

Dieter Brock, Warren Moon, Angelo Mosca, Levi Bo Mitchell, Darian Durant, Pinball Clemons, Tom Clements, Rocket Ismail, Ron Lancaster, Dave Cutler, Vic Washington, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Cameron Wake. These are among the players past and present who have shaped the CFL game. And could someone resurrect Don Chevier and Don Wittman and have them call NFL games to show Joe Buck how it’s done. Or just give Jim Nantz’s job to Chris Cuthbert.

Sunday night’s game between the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa REDBLACKS in Toronto became an instant classic – from OneRepublic’s halftime concert (superior to most Super Bowl halftimes) to the heavily favored Stamps furious rally from a 20-point deficit.

Leave it to ESPN to screw it up for viewers outside of Canada. The Stampeders had just scored, then recovered an onside kick and quickly moved into field goal range and touchdown range. Then the screen went teal.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-16-03-am

ESPN ran ads with a scroll running on the bottom acknowledging  technical difficulties. The game returned briefly on standard definition, then with the direct TSN feed just in time to see that Calgary had moved inside the 10-yard line after a pass interference call.

Word from Bristol was that the network had set for the feed to end at 10:00 p.m ET, three and a half hours after opening kickoff. Considering pregame festivities, halftime performance and possibility for overtime – ESPN should had realized the possibility of four hours or even more.

That was not ESPN’s first blank screen of the weekend, a late-night Utah State/BYU game also went dark on Saturday. That hiccup was blamed on-air by high winds in Provo. The Worldwide Leader who has recently lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers per month should feel fortunate that a dropped feed did not occur in the Michigan/Ohio State telecast.

Calgary kicked the game-tying field goal and Ottawa elected to take two kneel downs to end regulation time. TSN’s cameraman went onto the field and next to the line of scrimmage to record the interactions, only for numerous F-bombs from Calgary lineman Micah Johnson to be clearly heard.

TSN features enhanced audio features during games and presents occasional ‘live mic’ games throughout the regular season. It gives insight not seen on traditional football telecasts, but also with occasional language that is part of any pro sports league. My guess is Canadian broadcasters tend to be more lax  than the Federal Communications Commission in the States.

The REDBLACKS won the game on the first possession of overtime on a spectacular grab reminiscent of Tony Gabriel’s catch in the same end zone of what was known as Exhibition Stadium 40 years earlier that gave the Ottawa Rough Riders a title.

Meanwhile fans on ESPN2 were just glad the picture returned in the nick of time.

MICHIGAN REMAINS IN CFP CONVERSATION

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-1-45-23-pm

For those of you who believe the current College Football Playoff system is a travesty.

At the height of the rivalry’s 10-Year War, Ohio and Michigan played to a 10-10 tie in 1973. The Big Ten commissioner and athletic directors met the next day via a conference call and declared the Buckeyes as the conferences Rose Bowl representative. A mitigating factors supposedly was a season-ending injury to Michigan’s quarterback. In those days no one outside of the Big Ten champ went to ANY bowl game.

In 2016 Michigan and THE played double-overtime, and the Buckeyes prevailed in a controversial 30-27 decision that eliminates the Wolverines from College Football Playoff consideration.

Or did it?

The ESPN website known as fivethirtyeight.com has Michigan’s chances as slim and none, their metrics places UM at two percent, behind Wisconsin (34 percent), Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. According to the site, Wisconsin’s chances improve to 81 percent with a win over Penn State along with a Washington loss to Colorado.

This is the same outlet that actually gave Donald Trump a 28.6 percent chance on election night, which was much more than the Washington Post and other publications gave the now President-elect.

The just released AP rankings have Michigan’s chances as better than Wisconsin. The Wolverines received 1264 votes, just 34 votes behind Washington and 27 ahead of the Badgers.

This time Michigan’s fate will lie with 13 members who make up the College Football Playoff committee. As things stand now, their decision may prove as controversial as Ohio State’s fourth down measurement.

For purposes of this exercise, assume top-ranked Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and possible No. 4 Washington win their conference title games. No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State will meet in Indianapolis for the Big Ten trophy, but in reality is considered a third-place game. No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State also meet in the Big XII regular season finale.

Assume Alabama and Ohio State as in, along with Clemson. That leaves the remaining candidates for No. 4

  • 12-1 Washington, Pac-12 Champion.
  • 11-2 Wisconsin or Penn State, Big Ten Champion
  • 10-2 Oklahoma or Oklahoma State
  • 10-2 Michigan

The instant classic in Columbus allows Michigan to remain in contention. Ohio State won handily at Oklahoma early in the season, Michigan and Ohio State both beat Wisconsin and Michigan blew out a Penn State team that THE somehow lost to.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez is part of the CPF committee, but just one of 13 members, he likely will not be able to help Wisconsin’s cause. Former Washington coach Tyrone Willingham also serves on the committee, he was fired after a 0-11 season in 2008.

That leaves possible 12-1 Washington as the fly in the ointment. If the committee did opt to bypass the Huskies, it will not be U-Dub’s first screwjob (see 1984). If the Huskies lose to Colorado in the Pac-12 championship, then Michigan’s inclusion becomes less controversial. Ditto if Clemson manages to lose to Virginia Tech.

If Washington made the CFP ranked No. 4, only to be annihilated by Alabama (very possible), the committee would be open to endless criticism.

Not only could Michigan make the playoff, the Wolverines could even be elevated to No. 3. That would lead to a rematch of Ohio State and Mich-AGAIN in one semifinal along with Alabama/Clemson in a rematch of last year’s thrilling national title game.

ESPN and most fans outside of Seattle, Madison or State College would not complain about those two pairings.