Its safe to say nobody saw last night's upset coming. Oregon State, despite being a program that gets much better as the year progresses, had not shown much this year. Not only were they blown out by Penn State, but they let Stanford march up and down the field on them en route to losing the season opener. I know I did not expect it. OSU has been a solid bowl team under Mike Riley, but I felt they were rebuilding and a good bet to finish well in the bottom half of the league standings. Still, I DVRed the game to watch the Trojans. I was unable to start watching until past 11 o'clock because of prior commitments, but I still figured I'd get to bed early with the Trojans tucking it away by half or something. It turned out to be an amazing game, proving once again just how great and unique college football is compared to the other sports we follow. Last night was a seismic event in the CFB world, and you just dont get those at random in the other sports. So, I am a little bleary-eyed at work this morning, but still pretty ramped up about the game to offer a few thoughts on the outcome.
- The loss for USC is too early in the season to totally eliminate the Trojans from BCS Title game contenion. However, make no mistake, this is a major blow and the human voters will make them pay for this one throughout the season. Conventional wisdom says the Big 12 and SEC are far and away the best leagues right now. I can't see USC (or the Bucks, for that matter) ever being ranked ahead of legit 1-loss teams from those leagues. However, when the Trojans were undefeated, they looked to have a hammer lock on one of the title game invites. We had a race for one spot, opposite USC. Thats no longer the case as we have a whole new ball game in the BCS chase. On the broadcast last night, Chris Fowler said the chase is "energized" in the wake of USC's loss. Thats a perfect word. Logically, we're headed for a Big 12 vs SEC game for all the marbles with each league strong enough to allow for a 1-loss team into the title game. USC (and Ohios State) really need teams from at least one of those leagues to all have 2 losses in order to get back into the mix. And, that's if the Trojans and Bucks win the rest of their games. Thats a big If.
- Next week's poll ought to be interesting. Who in the world will be #1? The Trojans were the near unanimous #1 this week. But, with no obvious next choice, expect those votes to be tallied all over the place. We might see every team in the top-10 get at least one first place vote. Alabama, unranked at the start of the year, could very well be #1 this week if they can go into Athens and beat the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, even a team ranked in the second 10, like Penn State, might find themselves hauling in a series of first place votes. This will be one of the crazier votes of the regular season in recent memory, and you know we're destimed for another bizarre outcome over the weekend to further muddy the waters. As far as USC, I expect them to fall hard and out of the top 10. How can any pollster, with a straight face, put USC ahead of any of the other teams currently in the top-10?
- Since the start of last season, this makes nine times an unranked team has beaten either the #1 or # 2 ranked in the country. The Beavers are the first team with a losing record to beat a top ranked since Michigan State pulled the trick against Michigan in 1990. That was the famous Desmond Howard Interference No Call game. Brutal. Now I need a drink.
- Already this season, we've seen four legit BCS Title Game contenders go down in flames: Clemson, West Virginia, Ohio State and USC. You could even throw in trendy darkhorse ECU after the Pirates were upset last week as another fallen contender. Thats a lot of heady carnage. And, we're not even in October yet.
- The early meme in the wake of this game has been 'oh my, just how good is Penn State?' Thats a viable thought considering how the Nittany Lions thouroughly dismantled the Beavers a couple of weeks ago. But, I want to play this forward and look at it the from a different angle. Consider that in six days these same Beavers travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes. I had discared the Beavers chances in that game, but its obviously time to reconsider. OSU getting off the mat and becoming everyone's darling can only benefit Utah. Originally, who thought the Utes would get any points from the voters based on a possible win there? Now, it could end up being a bigger feather in their cap than winning at the Big House. I think there's a more than decent chance that if Utah and BYU run their repsective tables, that a spot in the BCS Title Game will be on the line when those rivals square off in late November. Suddenly, OSU gets a tangible SOS boost in the eyes of the voters because of next week's game. Its another Thursday Night ESPN special, but for the Utes to take advantage of it, they must take care of business. Suddenly, that business looks a whole heckuva lot tougher.
- How about the game for Jacqueez Rogers. Its not as much the 187 yards rushing or over 200 total yards, but he carried the rock 37 times! Who knew this little dude could be a workhorse like that. When the Beavers lost to Stanford in the opener, this kid was the only thing that impressed me about OSU. He does remind me of Mike Hart in the fact that he is always getting positive yards, although he seems faster and more of a threat in the passing game than Hart. Whats really worth mentioning is that this kid, from SW Texas, was "just" a 3-star recruit (per rivals) and ranked as the #26 all purpose back in the country--16 spots behind our own Texas freshman Sam McGuffie. Yes, thats right, an electron sized, three-star recruit dominated the top ranked team in the country. Perhaps we can stop hand wringing over the "stars" assigned to our recruits and stop going all Chicken Little everytime Michigan signs a 3-star. I'll take a roster chalk full of Jacqueez Rogers, thank you very much. Of course, he limped off the field last night. Hopefully, it isn't serious because the dude is going to be a very big weapon for the Beavers.
- Interesting note on the Vegas Line from last night's game. Obviously, USC did not cover the -23. However, the second half line was -14.5 for the Trojans. USC covered that, thanks to that shank extra point by the Beavers in the closing minutes of the game. Crazy stuff and I am sure there was a lot of hotting and hollering going on in sports books up and down the strip as that was unfolding.
Those following my diaries know that I am more than a little interested in the point spreads of these games we follow. And, I have been tracking some of UM's lines for their future games.
It is with great shock that I report UM is being installed as slight favorite in South Bend.
At Carib Sports--the only place where I am registered that I could find where you could bet tonight on Saturday's game--UM is -1. Lets think about this line:
Summer line: ND -3.5
Adjusted line after Week 1: ND -8.5
Actual line of Game Week: UM -1
I have not seen such a turnaround before. Surprisingly (or not so when you really think about it), most of those summer lines stay true to form.....its scary how accurate those are to the actual line months in advance.....anyway, yeah, you'll see a 1 or 2 point swing over the course of the season, but this line movement is unreal. A five point swing after the first week of games. Then, a 9.5 point swing in the other direction after the 2008 ND team unveiled itself.
To me, it seems that the public and oddsmakers remain confused as what to expect out of both of these outfits. We'll see how this line moves as money begins pouring in now that game week is here. I believe we'll see Irish money come in and eventually the line will be ND -1 or -2. Not sure how anybody can expect anything for sure out of either team. But, it is basically the same ND offense vs the same UM defense as last year and that did not go well for ND. UM got 8 sacks last year and come into this game with 9 sacks and as many TFLs in two games. Also, in three seasons, Weis has only generated three leigt TDs against UM's stop troops. Maybe the experts feel people will remember that and to get even money on both sides have to make UM a small favorite? I dont know.
Think about it: There are savvy betters out there with UM +8.5 tickets in their pocket while all other UM backers would have to lay a single point. I am sure Go Blue Toledo is one of those shrewd betters. Just busting your chops, buddy.....lol.
Also, USC is favored by 10.5 over Ohio State, a line shift up from +4.5 when the line first came out in July. In the other important Big 10 OOC Saturday, Wisconsin is -1.5 at Fresno, after opening at Wisco -3.5.
Thoughts?!?!?! Lets hear them.
Michigan will attempt to get its first win of the season tomorrow against the Miami Ohio Redhawks and, despite last week's struggles, oddsmakers are factoring a comfy Wolverine win. They've installed Michigan as a 14-point tomorrow against Miami. My first thought is can Michigan even score 14 points? Wait, dont answer that.
Seriously, I'd just take two long marches down the field for TDs tomorrow just to prove the team can do it. Covering the spread or winning handily would be nothing but gravy. The line has not budged all week. Perhaps people aren't willing to fade the Wolverines just yet in the matchup because Miami was a disappointment in their opener versus Vandy. Playing at home, Miami was favored in the game and the line grew from -2 to -4 in the week leading up to the contest. A lot of people backed a MAC division favorite against an bottom tiered SEC team. A lot of people lost as Vandy outclassed Miami from start to finish.
The experts in the desert, however, are expecting the public to bet against Michigan all season long and have adjusted some of their lines accordingly. The site I use to get future lines had released over the summer a spot on three of Michigan's games, their road contests at Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State. Those lines remained largely unchanged in the lead up to the season opener. After opening week, the book took down all their future lines for the rest of the season and after a couple days of deliberation re-posted them to take into account new public perceptions after the first weekend of games. All three of Michigan's games on that board have changed dramatically. Lets take a look:
9/13 at Notre Dame. Opening Line, ND -3.5. Current Line, ND -8.5. Wow, i dont really know what to say here. A full 5-point leap in the spread. I about fell off my chair when I saw that. I am suspicious about this line as we dont even know what the Irish really has to offer yet this year. They are 20-point favorites in their opener tomorrow against San Diego State. If they struggle in that game, next week's line will probably come down a point or two. But, what if ND blows the doors off of the Aztecs tomorrow? They might be double digit favorites against Michigan when game week rolls around. From a betting standpoint, I like seeing Michigan the underdog in this matchup. The favorite has only covered the spread five times since the modern series resumed in 1978 and the underdog actually has a winning record straight up in this game in that time frame. Let this sink in: Notre Dame has not played a game since ending their worst season ever with a 3-9 mark. Yet, in order to entice the public to bet Michigan next week, oddsmakers feel the need to install ND as almost a double digit favorite. Yikes!
10/18 at Penn St. Opening Line, PSU -9.5. Current Line, PSU -13. Much like the above logic: Michigan has not lost to PSU in a decade, but in order to entice people into dropping some cash on the Maize and Blue, oddsmakers have made them nearly 2 touchdown underdogs.
11/22 at OSU. Opening Line, OSU -14.5. Current Line, OSU -18. Like the PSU game, this line has jumped by 3.5 points. Right now, the oddsmakers are saying this looks to be the biggest mismatch in the hisotry of this great rivalry.
Other things of import:
We now have a line on the Michigan St-Michigan game to be played at the Big House on 10/25. Remarkably, Michigan is a 1-point favorite right now.
Next week's clash of titans between OSU and USC is off the board. Originally, USC was a 5-point favorite, but its reasonable to assume this game has been pulled from the board while the Beanie Wells' status remains a mystery.
The only other line I saw that differed much from the original line from over the summer was in the Florida-Georgia game in early November. Originally, Florida was favored by 1 point, but that line has jumped siginficantly to -4.5. The Bulldogs lost their top run stuffer for the season and that appears to have been enough for the oddsmakers to finally label one of these teams as a distinct favorite in the contest.
Otherwise, not the most groundbreaking news, but I figured some readers might like to see how the odds have shifted on Michigan games based on their opening result.
I am sure that comes as no surprise to anyone. A quick perusal through the main stream media sites like ESPN, CFN as well as the blogosphere reveals that the Utah Utes Bandwagon tomorrow afternoon is pretty much damn well full. Now, I am not here to ring up those short sighted fools for blindly taking the Boys from the Beehive State. Despite most going against UM tomorrow, an interesting meme is developing as I read through a lot of those predictions. Many are going with the Utes, but also mentioning a caveat somewhere along the lines "Michigan will be much better than people expect this season, but they'll fall just short of the more experienced Utes." Ok, so at least thats an improvement after most of the off season where a lot of people expected us to be bedfellows with Indiana in the Big 10 standings.
What I want to talk about here, however, is the point spread. Michigan is still favored, so obviously when all these experts are picking Utah to win, they're gobbling up the points as well. Utah is the prototypical publid dog, one whose bark sounds so attractive and tough that everyone and their mother collars it. The line movement of this game bears that out.
Back in a UV in the middle of summer, Brian linked to the Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a handicapping forum and research site, that had released an initial line of UM -7 over Utah. In a subsequent diary, I theorized that line would not be valid for very long. Since LVSC is not an actual site where you could place I bet, I said expect that when the real books come out with a line, to see something much smaller, perhaps as close to a field goal. The public would subsquently jump on Utah and drive the number down even farther.
I was kinda, sorta correct. The first official live line I saw was 5.5 at various offshores from BoDog, Pinnacle, 5Dimes and Sportsbook.com. It took about two weeks of August betting, but the line plunged at all those sites to 3.5. It has stayed firm at the number for the second half of this month. This morning I am seeing that the hook has, at least temporarily, been chopped off and UM is an even 3-point favorite. We'll see if it dips below three. I might be interested at that point as the public keeps buying Utah. I am a big fan of fading the room, mostly because I have never met a cash poor bookie.
In each of the last two years, the Utes--always a solid underdog--have failed miserably against a BCS school in the season lid lifter. In both those games, vs UCLA and Oregon State, the Utes struggled putting up points. Despite the quality of Brian Johnson at QB, they wont be lighting up the scoreboard tomorrow. Utah also gave up 22 sacks in their six regular season games vs bowl opponents last year, so I think our pass rush will be a big factor.
Of course, the real rub is that nobody is expecting either team to score much. I know, not really breaking news, is it? Tomorrow's Over/Under total is either 40 or 40.5, depending on the book. That is the lowest total on the board for the entire weekend. I cant remember any other time where the Michigan game had this low a total put on it and was the lowest on the board. There are a couple of games in the 41.5 to 42.5 range, but just about every other game has at least another TD added to the O/U line.
While the actual line for tomorrow's game has been plummeting all August, the lines for Michigan's "games of the year" this season have stayed steady. I did a separate diary that broke down the lines released for the ND, PSU and OSU games. Those lines have not budged at all and remain with Michigan decided underdogs: +3.5 vs ND, +9.5 vs PSU and +14.5 vs OSU.
I can guarantee these lines will change dramatically based on tomorrow's actual UM performance. If Michigan lays an egg, those lines will rise. Heck, even if they lose close, I think the public will basically have the expectation that UM is heading towards a ND '07 disaster and look to fade the Wolverines until proven otherwise. Considering OSU and PSU will win their games tomorrow by a combined score of 97-9 and ND does not play (which means they can only look better in the minds of the pundits....lol), a Michigan loss will set off more alarm bells than are going on now. But, if they win and look good in the process, many folks might re-evaluate and consider investing in the Wolverines. That is esepcially the case for the ND and PSU games. As much as I would like to grab close to double digits when they play PSU, I would settle for a line of less than a TD because that would mean Michigan is already outperforming the expectations of the experts in the desert and Joe Public.
Its become a trendy thing for college football pundits to produce bowl projections during the preseason. So, with only hours to go before the preseason melts into the real season, I figured I would join the crowd and offer my own projections, at least for the Big 10. Feel free to rake these guesses over the coals as much as you want. I welcome the discussion. I will be updating these throughout the year, but those will be projections based on how the season is actually playing out. These are my own predictions, but they will appear next to future projections in order to create some comparison fodder as the season progresses. We'll see how it stacks up. So without further adieu, here we go:
The first task of these bowl projections is determing if the Big 10 will received multiple BCS Bowl bids. Even as everyone pans the league, its still a pretty good bet the conference will notch two spots in the big money bowls. The Big 10 has earned two BCS bids in three straight seasons, five of the last six and in seven on the first ten years of the BCS existence. The league does not need to send a team into the title game for this to happen either. Check out 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2005 seasons as examples of this. This fact is pertinent to the following predictions as I dont feel a Big 10 team will be playing for all the mythical marbles come January.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State. Any regular idiot can slate the Bucks into the National Title Game, but I am no regular idiot. The Bucks fall twice this year, likely at USC and at Wisconsin, and a relieved nation can breathe easy knowing OSU will be out of the national title picture. The Big 10, however, will pay for it as the Bucks, with the pressure off, demolish everyone in their path over the second half of their schedule including a, gulp, fifth straight win over arc----nope, I just cant finish typing that sentence. Pasadena has not seen the Bucks in over a decade and never with the Sweater Vest leading the troops. They'll be there on New Year's Day. They'll square off with Oklahoma and get off their BCS Bowl losing streak, while continuing the Sooners.
Sugar: Penn State. While I hardly think the Nittany Lions are world beaters, I think its an easy road map to follow as far as them landing in this plush bowl. The slate is pretty easy early on, and PSU should be 6-0 heading into their showdown in Madison. They'll lose that game and at Ohio State later in October, but as long as they can end the Happy Valley nightmare that is the Michigan losing streak, they'll still be in strong contention for a BCS bid heading into November. They close with at Iowa, Indiana and MSU. They'll sweep those--the MSU game will be an amazing contest in possibly Joe Pa's final home game. Sugar Bowl officials wont pass up the chance of hosting Paterno at the site where he's had some of his more historic moments. That allure will be so strong that they'll get tabbed over a more deserving Badger squad, despite its head to head win over PSU. No worries, their Bourbon Street foe, Georgia will make them pay.
Capital One: Wisconsin. They should get a BCS bid, save for the politicking described above. This team is good enough to earn a split in September road games at Fresno and at Michigan. I'm calling their upset at home versus OSU. Will they have enough in the tank to beat PSU the next week? Honestly that could go either way. I see trouble in November in East Lansing, a result that will keep them from both the Big 10 title and a BCS bid. Despite being double digit underdogs, the Badgers will be leading LSU into the fourth quarter before succombing to a series a fourth down conversions by the Man in the Hat.
Outback: Michigan. I dont need to explain it dammit. Lets just put down 9-3, and have another swig of this Ufer-tastic Maize and Blue Kool Aid. Bring on Auburn. War Eagle this muthafucka! Michigan cruise to another win over the SEC in postseason play. And, yes, I have a whole keg of Kool Aid.
Alamo: Michigan State. I really like the Spartans this year. Think they do the league proud and spring the upset Saturday night in Berkeley. Heck, lets give them a 6-0 start (although the home team in the ND-MSU series has lost seven in row, so L'il Bro might want to consider protecting the 50-yard line from a Leprechaun flag planting). It's a whole new era in East Lansing, right? Ah, no. The team comes out 'Oh No Sparty' flat and drop a game at Northwestern as well as losing to OSU and UM (natch). But it is a new era at MSU and Dantonio gets them to rally and upset Wisconsin. They'll fall to 7-4 with the PSU loss and square off with Texas in the Alamo Bowl. It will be a Burnt Orange win, but closer than the experts think.
Champs Sports: Illinois. Seems like a low projection for a team that many have rated highly heading into the season. But, I dont like Illinois schedule. They could be better this year than last year, but their schedule will work against them. An uphill climb in the opener against Missouri, road games at UM, Wisconsin and Penn State and, oh yeah, good luck trying to beat Tressel two years in a row. This team could not avoid the upset bug last year losing an ugly 10-6 game to Iowa, so there's no reason to think that wont happen again somewhere along the line. It would not be a surprise to see this team 4-4 going into November. But, they would be the best .500 team in country. A win over Northwestern in the finale will give them a 7-5 record and this trip to Orlando. Juice Williams will be their MVP in a win over Miami that will give the Illini a lot of momentum as they gear up for a run at the 2009 league title when the schedule is set up a lot better for them.
Insight: Minnesota. The Gophers finished winless in league play last year. Obviously this is a risky pick. But, if they can get through the first four weeks undefeated (next week's game at Bowling Green will be an early swing game for this projection), Minnesota will be 6-5 heading into their finale at home against Iowa. The Gophers will have too much offense for the Hawkeyes and their 7-5 record puts them in the same bowl that Indiana, last year's dormant to bowl team story of the season, played in. In one of the more entertaining bowl games of the season, the Gophers will fall to Colorado in a shoot out.
Motor City: Northwestern. The Wildcats have the look of their 2005 bowl team. I project a 4-0 out of conference record. Combined with a duplication of their 3-5 league mark last year, that gives them a 7-5 record and a trip to Detroit to play Central Michigan. The Chips will leave one step away from being the Buffalo Bills of the Motor City Bowl, losing their third straight in this contest. Bacher will sling pass for pass with LaFleur, but Tyrell Sutton in his final collegiate game will go for over 200 yards in the win.
Iowa, Purdue and Indiana will not go bowling. Iowa just lacks consistency and are no longer an untouchable team at home. Their loss to Minnesota in the closer drops them to 6-6 and out of the post season. Purdue cant beat good teams. While most figure them to be an easy entrant into the bowl season, I see a team that is just 3-15 against bowl teams the last three years. Two of those wins came last year, against Central Michigan. They wont have four wins at the end of October. They'll prevent a losing season by winning their rivalry game at home with Indiana, but all that will do is close the Tiller era with a 6-6, bowlless season. As for Indiana, they will be doing well to equal last year's 3-5 league mark. Even if they do that, however, I dont think they'll go 4-0 in non conference play as I smell a CMU upset on the first of November. Optimistically the Hoosiers can be 6-3 after nine games, but a three game losing streak (Wisconsin, at PSU, and at Purdue) will knock them back to ,500 and out of a bowl.
We interupt our daily hyperventilating countdown to the start of the football season and the Utah opener, to bring you a little Olympic chatter.
You may have heard of some kid named Micheal Phelps. It's possible he's been on one or two magazine covers in recent weeks. Phelps mania begins tonight at the Beijing games. After coralling six gold (of a total eight medals) in the '04 games in Athens, Phelps is chasing history again as he tries to get eight goals and break Mark Spitz's record. Ever since his Greek bounty, Phelps has been attending UM, training with the elite swim team Club Wolverine, and serving as a volunter assistant for the University's team, that way allowing himself to collect beacoup endorsement dollars. It's a perk of being the greatest swimmer in the world.
His pursuit of history takes center stage tonight. NBC twisted enough arms so that all the swimming finals will be swum in the morning hours in China. The result? All those events will be shown live by the network during their primetime broadcasts. From now until next Saturday night, expect a heavy dose of Phelps, the bathing beauties of the US Women's team and a little Australian rivalry to stir the pot.
Phelps' event tonight is the 400 Individual Medley. That's 100 yards (two laps) of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. According to the schedules on the nbc website, the 400 IM will be at 10 pm tonight and is the first of the four finals going off tonight. I dont know if we can trust those schedules, though, so I will be tuning in when the primetime begins at 8. Apparently, the beach volleyball team of May/Walsh will have a live match before the swimming, so I'll gladly watch those bikini's while waiting for the swimming. Here's the breakdown of tonight's first showdown for Phelps:
Toughest race for Phelps? Conventional wisdom is claiming this will be his hardest event to win gold in. We'll see, but that analysis misses a lot of key points such as this will be the most fresh Phelps will be in any of his other possible finals this week. He says it's his favorite event, so he will come out blazing. He has swum 11 of the fastest 22 times (and six of the fastest eight) in the history of this event. He is the current world record holder and has set said record seven different times. Since setting the mark for the first time six years ago, he has lowered that mark by nearly six seconds (it now sits at 4:05.25). He is the defending gold medalist. Is it worth mentioning that he has never lost a race in this event in international competition? Probably, just a little.
Capital One Bowl Maybe the reason the experts claim this will be his toughest individual race of the entire meet is the quality of his top rival in this race: fellow countryman Ryan Lochte. Lochte is a champion swimmer from the University of Florida. Consider this race the Capital One Bowl of the Olympics as Wolverine and Gator but heads. Lochte has medaled in past Olympics and World Championships, but rarely wins gold because he loses out to Phelps, perhaps the greatest ever, in the IMs and to Aaron Piersol, this decade's best backstroker, in those events. He's a laid back dude, but seems convinced he can pull off the upset tonight. Lothe has said several times that if he can hang with Phelps until the breaststroke legs that he can take him.
Watch the turns You've heard of a basketball player dominating the boards. Well, Phelps dominates the wall. Watch his turns. What he does off the wall just doesn't look human. He's a human dolphin. He can lag back a stroke during the body of the pool, but come out of a turn a stroke ahead. That could be the difference tonight. In the epic battle at the US Trials in the 200 IM, Phelps out touched Lochte by .02 seconds (setting a world record in the process) and did it on strength of those turns. They will be making seven flips on the wall during this race tonight and thats a big advantge for Phelps.
Want to bet Phelps? Take ot a loan Oddsmakers doubt this will be his toughest final of the Games. He was -1000 ( one must wager a grand to win a hundred, thats some pretty bitter juice) when most books took the race of the board when the prelims started. Pinnacle Sports (which does not take bets from people in the US) still has live odds up and Phelps is now -1700 to win tonight's gold. No one else is on the board, but you can take the field at 12 to 1. Expect a fast swim. The odds of the world record going down is a solid favorite of -170.
Phelps victory strategy It might take a world record for Phelps. Lothe qualified in three events for these games, finishing second at the trials losing out each time to a world record effort. Twice by Phelps.
Not all nerves are wrecked the same This morning while watching both indoor and beach volleyball announcer were critical of the poor early play of U.S. teams citing nerves while playing their Olympic opener. Contrast that to Phelps qualifying heat this morning. Announcers on that race wondered if he was swimming too well and too fast as he was under world record pace for the first four laps. As it was, Phelps cruised to an Olympic record this morning. Nice opening statement. Loche qualifed in fifth, but he obviously eased up the final half lap as he had his heat and spot in the finals in hand. Both did an excellent job it seems of leaving something in the tank for tonight.
Quick turnaround or a day in the life of jamiemac They swam those heats this morning, but that was night time in China. After a night of sleep, they will wake up and swim off for the gold. In the 12 hours since, I have run four miles, done a load of laundry, cleaned my kitchen, took care of horses, spent a couple hours by the side of a pool and now have had a couple of brewskis. I could not imagine having to gear up to swim a high stakes international race on such a short turnaround. Ok, so they've been sleeping. But I am pretty sure that after swimming eight laps, you could give me a night of sleep and I still would not be able to drag myself out of bed. It will be interesting to see how all the swimmers throughout this week handle some of these quick turnarounds. Maybe it keeps a lot of world records from falling. We'll see.
Prediction At most, this is a two person race, and I'm going with Phelps. He'll be the frontrunner after the fly and back. He's so improved in the breast that Loche might catch up with Phelps, but he wont be able to gain control of the race. The final turn on the freestyle leg will be the difference putting Phelps ahead for good. They both ought to be pushing world record pace. Its an American 1-2 finish. I would be stunned if Phelps and Loche dont go 1-2 in some fashion. As for bronze, the Hungarian Lazlo Czesch is the pick on paper, but he sometimes has struggled in bigger events. I like the Canadien swimmer, Brians Johns to snare a surprise medal. With nobody watching he snuck in second behind Lochte in the qualifying heat. Maybe he does the same thing tonight when the rest of field has given up on chasing the two Americans? I will say despite the Phelps prediction, if I were to put cash on the event, I would take a small flier on the 12-1 field and hope Loche breaks through with the swim of his life. Laying that kind of juice on the favorite--even if it looks like such a sure thing--is not prudent. Just ask the folks with Big Brown "to win" tickets for the Belmont.
Wait, there is another maize and blue swimmer tonight? Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue Lets quickly give another Club Wolverine swimmer some pub as well. Former UM swimmer Peter Vanderkaay will be swimming in the 400 freestyle final tonight. He is a major threat for the medal podium in what is one of the more wide open events of the swim meet. This event has been the domain of Aussie Ian Thorp for the last two Olympics. He's retired, and now this is anyone's race. Aussie Grant Hacket and North Korean Park Tae Hwan have been projected by SI to win Gold and Silver. But, Hacket only qualified with the fifth best time and Park the third best. The Aussie is dominant at longer distances, particularily the 1500, and Park might be better in a more sprint race. I dont trust SI's projections in this (or in football for that matter!) race. American Larsen Jensen is the American record holder and Vanderkaay has been one the most improved swimmers in international play the last couple of years. Both can win. Watch to see if home pool advantage comes into play tonight. China's Lin Zhnag surprised Park to win their heat this morning, helped by the large home contigent pushing him through his surge down the stretch. They will be yelling in full throat tonight and he could easily use that and get on the medal stand.
Just about everyone in this race can win it and certainly any of the eight swimmers can grab a spot on the medal podium. Right now, Park is the betting favorite at 2-1 with Hackett and Jensen at 3-1. Zhang is 5-1 and Vanderkaay is the long shot of sorts at 12-1. I like Jensen in this one, only because he looked the smoothest in this morning's prelim heats. I feel good about Vanderkaay getting a medal, but its not because SI tabbed him for the bronze. Maybe its just a hunch that his wolverine paw gets in on the wall ahead of most of the others. He'll go bronze with Park getting Silver. I'd put money on both Americans in this one, however, and come out ahead.
Either way, I expect all four American men racing in finals tonight to earn a medal. And, it will be a good night for the maize and blue.