...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
People I Done Seen
Shannon Elizabeth, John Juanda, Devilfish Ulliot, Phil Hellmuth (featured table participant who was knocked out early; this was announced to the room to raucous applause), Doyle Brunson (also knocked out on the first day and the recipient of similar-but-actually-totally-different applause), Jesus Ferguson (spent a large portion of the day sitting directly behind me; has 20k going into day 2), Annie Duke (as mentioned, sitting at my table on day 2), Ron Jeremy (also sitting at a table near mine; I lasted longer than him, ladies), Norman Chad (who actually railed our table for five or six hands and engaged in friendly banter with our table for the duration), that annoying guy with the picture of his kids from last year's main event, that musician guy from last year's main event (flirting with the scantily clad Milwaukee's Best Light girls, not to be confused with the scantily clad Paradise Poker girls, the scantily clad Party Poker girls, the scantily clad Poker Stars girls, or the scantily-clad-and-actually-engaging-in-lingerie-pillow-fights Bodog girls), and others who I've forgotten.
Methods Via Which To Emphasise The Size Of Your Cleavage I Done Seen
All of them.
Percentage Of Professionally Hot Girls Who Would Actually Be Attractive In Something That Covered, Say, 60% Of Their Bodies
Hovering at about 30%. But that 30% is impressive. Also: irritating. I think it's worse when an impossibly hot girl is showing obviously fake enthusiasm towards you for money instead of the usual scoffing. I pointedly ignore them.
The Weird Thing About Las Vegas
It seems that the more expensive something is the more people are willing to pay whatever fee is associated -- and in Vegas, everything has a fee. I am currently paying 10.99 for 24 hours of Internet access. And yet they will beer your ass like there's no tomorrow when you're playing poker.
Okay: .com branded apparel has been banned from the WSOP for the past month. It should come as no surprise to anyone at this point. Despite this, Poker Stars had to have people roving about with black tape to place over the ".com" on approximately 80% of its players.
The Rockstar Bus
As three Asian guys and I exit the front lobby of the hotel the valet asks us if we're headed to the Rio -- we're marked by the PartyPoker (.net, never .com) shirts we wear -- and says that for five bucks we can book passage on a quote-unquote Rockstar Bus. Rockstar Bus? Surely I misheard...
No, I did not. The only possible way to describe this bus decked out in leopard-print couches complete with strategically placed stripper poles is, indeed, a "Rockstar Bus," though presumbably real rockstars wouldn't have some Dave Matthews Band concert playing on the plasma TV at the rear and blasting through the kickin' sound system. This is the part where someone says something like "only in Las Vegas."
I arrive approximately an hour early and wait outside the designated room. My nerves are such that I am surprised that my hands don't spasm uncontrollably. Eventually we're let into the room and I take my seat at approximately the same time as two older gentlemen who don't seem very intimidating. (In fact, one of them folds his big blind on the third hand and the other apparently folded a set of queens to minimal pressure, fearing a potential flush in a small pot. The latter eventually goes out when his KQ catches a king on the flop. He bets and gets raised; the raise gets a cold-caller. He calls and moves in on the turn and is shown a set... NH TY GG. I am at the very least better than these guys.)
I check each player who approaches the table; pleasingly, none of them are Phil Ivey. There is one guy who arrives late and flashes a gangster roll of impressive girth. He claims to be a 100-200 limit player (he charmingly refers to it as 1-2) and the roll is pretty convincing. The remainder of the table:
- Guy from around Sarnia in a PokerStars jersey who seems to enjoy folding good hands more than actually raking chips.
- Put-upon looking Asian guy who is not very good at all.
- Swedish dude.
- Extremely Jewish guy from Long Island who is almost maniacally agressive at times. He ends the day with almost 70k.
- A few others who made little impression.
Hand Of Note #1
The aforementioned old guy -- the one who folded his big blind -- raises in early position and gets either one or two callers. I call with K6 of clubs. Flop is KQ6 rainbow and it's salad days. I bet 600; old guy raises to 1600; I raise to 3600... old guy raises another 4k... and I can't call. I assume QQ or KQ. My stack is down to about 6k. Frowny pants.
I make it 200 with KK in early position and get two callers; then Put-Upon Asian Guy makes it 1500. My stack is about 6300 and I go into the tank. Since PUAG doesn't seem like the kind of player who would make this sort of bet with aces -- it's a go-away-please bet -- I figure that I'm probably 4 to 1 over some sort of middle pair. I push. Callers fold, PUAG calls with QQ. Flop is three clubs; I have the K and he does not have the Q, reducing his outs from two to one. Lightning doesn't strike and I double through to about 13k. Table discussion after the PUAG is gone centers around the theory that he though I had substantially fewer chips.
Other than a few blind steals and some other flops seen that don't amount to much, this concludes level 1. I have around the 13k I had after the KK hand.
Less notable for the hand itself -- I raise with JJ, Gangsta Limit Guy calls in the BB, then we check down 99A-Q-blank and I take a small pot -- than the uncomplimentary thing I say about jacks after the hand which gets me a ten minute penalty. The f-bomb is verboten at the world series, though you can use other forms of swearing all you want.
I sit out for ten minutes.
Hello, nurse: first hand after the penalty is AA. I raise and get one caller -- New York Guy, who's in the small blind. Flop is 24J with two low spades. He bets, I raise, I get re-raised. Tank. I know this guy is very aggressive and capable of bluffing audaciously. He represents the set here. After some time I call. There's now more than 10k in this pot. We'll see what he does on the turn... or maybe we won't care: the beautiful ace of clubs is the turn. He bets out 4k, shove, and he folds. At this point I'm around 21k.
I don't get invovled in all that many big hands for a while. I do the occasional blind steal but more often I re-steal from Gangsta Limit Guy and Swedish Guy -- the former of whom raises a ton of pots, the latter of whom is just tight-weak. The most notable time is when I'm in the BB and GLG makes it 600 -- this was level three, then -- and gets a call from Swedish guy. I've got 97 of hearts and make it 2k. GLG looks disgusted and folds; Swedish guy does likewise, flipping over KQ. Another time I reraise GLG with AJ on the button and take down the pot when the flop is QQ-rag. I'm more than holding ground over this period of time. By the dinner break I have 26k in chips and the table chip leader.
Then bad things happen.
I steal-raise with A8 off in third or fourth position. GLG calls from the BB. Flop is A62 all spades -- my 8 is a spade. Check to me, I bet 1k and get moved in on. Horrible error here: I have a hand that is good but despises a reraise. Like the JJ hand I should just play this for showdown value. Instead I have 6300 to me in a pot that's about 4k in size. I figure this is either a mid-pocket pair with a spade, in which case I'm ahead, or a set of sixes or twos, in which case I'm behind but but not dead... the thought that I've got another ace with a bigger spade kicker does not occur tome and
should have swung my decision to fold. I do call, though, and am shown trip sixes. Turn is the ten of spades -- hurrah -- river is the ten of hearts -- curses. This live stuff is just as rigged as online play. Down to about 18k.
I resume the good play, though, and chip away at the stacks of others. One typical hand:
Folded to me in the SB. The weak old guy who was shown a set of twos hasn't picked up his fateful KQ yet and is in the BB. I raise with 9-6 off. Flop is Q94 all hearts -- I have nary a one -- I bet 800 and get min-raised. A danger sign from a good player but I think this means he caught a piece but is looking to get away from it, especially when he re-checks his cards... no flush for this guy. I repop to 4k and he goes away, asking if I had a Q. I tell him low hearts.
By the time we've gotten to the final break of the night I am back where I was before the A8 hand at 25 or 26k.
Again a steal raise from mid position with A7 -- memo to self, stop freakin' doing this -- is called by NY Guy. Flop is rags not including a seven. I check and then raise his bet. He says "I'll just call" and does so. flop is another low rag, giving me a gutshot, and I bet out 8k only to get raised all in. I drop it. Should have quit after the flop call, or better yet not gone after one of the better players on the table out of position. I'm down to 10k after all that.
The remainder of the night I'm pretty much in push-fold mode. I win a small hand in the BB when I call the SB's raise and then bet out a straight draw I made with QJ. I push all in with a better and a caller with 76off and am not called. I come over a standard opening bet with AK and am not called by AQ. By the time we're done I have 15k.
I'm Not Sure What To File This Under
PUAG after sadly contemplating his dwindling stack: "I wish I had a girlfriend so I could beat her tonight." I think "disappointing item that proves your sense of humor is not nearly as sophisticated as you think it is."
I play Tuesday.
I plan on sleeping until then.
Due to a hilarious naivety in re: the amount of time I'd have to do things other than play poker and the general difficulty of navigating the vast sea of humanity that was day 1B of the WSOP updates were obviously not forthcoming. We finished at around 6 or 7 AM EST.
In brief: I live but have only increased my stack from 10k to 15k. At one point it was around 26k but I got cute bluffing and lost a big chunk. No one of note was at my table -- though a few players were clearly very good -- though Ron Jeremy sat at the one next to me. He busted out around 10. Hellmuth, Brunson, Mizrachi, and many others are gone. Annie Duke, however, is not. She's sitting three to my left on my table for Tuesday.
More detail later.
All in one place. Bevo Sports has collected the various preseason top 25s in one large table for your viewing convenience.
Offensive line fears: assuaged. I remember the days of yore when you would come home from class with an hour to kill and watch something along the lines of "Bear In The Big Blue House" because, hey, it was college and you were going to live forever. Something similar must have happened in the life of the reader who notified me of the existence of Disney's "American Dragon":
Dragon up! Jake Long is your average 13-year-old kid who just happens to be a powerful and magical dragon! While learning to master his mad dragon skills (with the help of Grandpa and Fu Dog), it's Jake's destiny to protect all the magical creatures in New York from some seriously bad dudes.
(If you're wondering, Fu Dog is "a 600-year-old talking dog, and Jake's official animal guardian.") If you go to the character page and mouse over Jake you get to hear him exclaim "Y'all see me represent!" If you're thinking to yourself "boy, I bet MGoBlog pile-drives 'Dragon Up!' and 'Y'all see me represent' into the ground over the next sixth months," you know me all too well. As said reader -- name unspecified by probably somethng along the lines of "N---- Acasto" -- put it:
How can analysts say that our offensive line is questionable this season when our left tackle is a skateboarding, crime-fighting, fire-breathing mythical creature?
Projected series duration: six episodes. In the meantime, anyone need some IM icons?
Projected league duration: six games. You've probably heard about this minor-league NFL thing that will play on the campuses of collegiate teams by now. I was torn on whether the idea is a good one or not: I'd probably go see Marquise Walker play but not Cato June (what's that you say, Cato June is a pro-bowl NFL linebacker? Pshaw), but when SMQB dubbed the thing "the Hula Bowl League" that clarified things. Do I watch the Hula Bowl? No. Does it take ten seconds after hearing the words "Hula Bowl" to remember what, in fact, the Hula Bowl is? Yes.
A Notre Dame preview... is not coming from me, as I still have five Big Ten teams and Indiana (ha!) to go. Lo siento. Maize 'n' Brew's opponent-by-opponent preview has just reached ND if you need to know all about the Irish.
SMQB has previewed Penn State and projected 7-5; annoyed PSU fans can now storm over there.
Phil Hellmuth: prepare to meet the rail. Until Saturday.
So, right: I board a plane bound for Las Vegas tomorrow. Saturday I play in the WSOP. Woodson willing I will continue on from there.
You and your oversized head are going
I wouldn't expect much (anything) tomorrow. I may relates some first-day impressions as I plan to railbird portions of the first day and get in some live PLO. Saturday I'll update progress and try to capture the overall gist of the thing in the breaks provided me. If I'm still in I'll do likewise until the inevitable bust occurs. Realistically, I'll be happy if I make the second day or bust Bill Simmons. If and when the Simmons bust happens I promise to scream "HA! Where's your Basketball Jesus now?"
Anyone who happens to be in Vegas and wants to get a drink or something, shoot me an email. I could not convince any of my weak-ass friends to come along.
Voracity coming up in an hour or two, then it's plane time.
And, wow, that picture of Simmons is really big. It's very, very big. At least it's very tall compared to its width and thus doesn't push the text down as much as one might expect. This screws with the look of the page and therefore requires additional text that, though it may not say much of anything, does have the benefit of preventing the goofy visage of Simmons from jutting into the post below it. All entirely hypothetical, of course.
Any concerns readers might have about Ryan Mallet's Elite 11 performances should begone. Mallet is camp champion, having defeated Logan Gray, Tyrod Taylor, and counselor Jordan Palmer to win the... er... "2006 Elite 11 EA SPORTS NCAA 2007 tournament title". No doubt this portends great things for the young man, even if he did play with Florida State as his team of choice.
Of note are Mallet's constant trash talking and late heroics against Ohio State:
Taylor and Mallett squared off for the right to face Palmer in the tournament finals, and after battling through a scoreless first quarter before Mallett scored on an Xavier Lee (Florida State) touchdown pass with 1:28 left in the half. Taylor, boosted perhaps by his personal cheerleader Rontrell Bailey, battled through Mallett's constant chatter and mounted a drive at the end of the first half, but was stopped on the one-yard line with seven seconds left and time expired as Taylor had already used his three timeouts.
Taylor took the second half kickoff and needed little time to makeup for the mistake at the end of the first half, as a Troy Smith to Ted Ginn 77-yard touchdown pass 14 seconds into the third quarter tied the score. The scoring continued in the quarter, as Mallett answered with a drive but Taylor's big play ability came out again with another 65-yard Troy Smith TD pass to knot it at 14 at the end of three.
Taylor stopped Mallett on downs early in the fourth quarter, but after a Taylor turnover Mallett converted a fourth down and moved deep and worked the clock to take a 17-14 lead with one second left on a 20-yard field goal, advancing to the finals to face off against Palmer.
The man knows how to boringly grind out a game: he is a perfect fit for the Michigan offense. Those interested in Mallet thanking God for his thumbs can see the teary acceptance speech here.
The Elite 11 quarterback camp is underway and Ryan Mallet is performing to mixed reviews. You can take the breathless opening paragraph from GBW at face value...
Once again GBW managed to get a bird's eye view of the Elite 11 goings-on. This is our 5th straight camp. There is only one Superstar at the camp ... the separation between this ONE ELITE QB and the others is so great as to make it a little hard to report upon ...
...but I would try to keep your face well removed from the vicinity of such a... vigorous endorsement. Somehow I find this random poster from an obscure Internets outpost more credible:
1. It was Ryan then everybody else
2. Kid grows each time I see him
3. Footwork will not be an issue
4. Arm is a cannon and he is "on"
Maybe it's the laconic, unexcited prose that engenders trust. Maybe it's the lack of implied fellatio. Who knows?
Unfortunately for the visions of crystal footballs dancing around in our heads, Ryan finished 17th of 18 (the "counselors" throw as well) in the accuracy competition. This is obviously no big deal for the following reasons:
- It's one hackneyed drill at a camp.
- He beat someone.
- If Clausen wasn't such a big chicken that he dodged the camp entirely he would have finished last.
- Because I say so.
The most encouraging bit of unconfirmed Internet speculation comes from RCMB poster tritongreen, who knows a couple of people in charge of the camp and announced the selection of Nichol to the board a week before it happened. That may have been a fairly obvious prediction, but he also revealed that Stanton would be a counselor, which he is. tritongreen would like to see Ann Arbor burn to the ground. Despite that, he says this:
Mallett is the 2nd best QB at the camp behind the kid going to Florida. [This is probably a typo and means the "kid from Florida," Texas-bound John Brantley -ed]They love him. Monster arm, great footwork and other intangibles. Michigan is getting a very good QB.
Nichol is very average. Please know that this means very average for being one of the best 11 in the country so no one get the noose out yet, but dont expect Smoker or Stanton type of quality the next 4 years.
Good news....Stanton is the best counselor out there.
As always, take it FWIW.
Wither Mike Croel? This Slate article on the demise of the baseball (/football /hockey /basketball) card touched a nerve with me, especially because I've just moved all my crap from one place to another. There's always a moment when you move when you stumble across stuff you forgot you had: for me it was the dingy old backgammon set that encased the most precious treasures the twelve-year-old version of myself owned. Opening up the case -- something I've just done for the first time in years -- is an interesting look back into a younger version of myself.
Card collecting was weird combination of sentimentality with ruthless economics, so the things that ended up in the case reflect both my personal preferences and what I no doubt thought was a keen financial acumen that would net a cool 20 grand sometime down the road. The former explains the dual Dikembe Mutumbo rookies (recently imported from Colorado, I was still fond of the Nuggets and Broncos -- the Rockies and Avs did not exist yet). The latter explains the David Robinson rookie as well as the four or five cards displaying an oversized human being that eventually resolves itself into a version of Shaq that's too small and impossibly huge all at the same time.
Also of note:
- The famous -- at least amongst my circle of preteen friends -- card featuring Frank Thomas subtly giving the bird to the cameraman.
- A Shawn Kemp rookie card even less recognizable than the Shaq versions.
- A panoply of Lindros cards... thanks for nothing, Eric! You and your stupid concussions cost me some "clams" or "bones" or whatever you people call them! Don't get me started on your stupid "knee injury," Pavel Bure!
- A gold-embossed card featuring the infamous Todd Van Poppel, he of the infinite promise and ERA.
- At least the reasoning for having Van Poppel in there is sound, as he was one of the most highly touted prospects of my collecting era. But why in God's name do I have two-count-'em-two Felix Jose rookie cards? Who the hell is Felix Jose?
- I do know who Joe Juneau is, but there's still no excuse for his rookie card in this case.
- Mark McGuire used to be very very tiny.
- Boy, Kid Brian was in for some disillusionments: there are four or five different Barry Sanders cards and three featuring Chris Webber decked out in maize and blue. Plus, Mike Croel would never repeat the form of his rookie season with the Broncos.
- Think I could wrangle a column on Page 2 in exchange for a Larry Bird '92 Dream Team card?
- I think I have to go burn this Alonzo Mourning "Future Heroes" card.
- I have an entire hologram set of the '92 award winners, featuring the following players: Michael Jordan (points, MVP), David Robinson (blocks, DPOY), John Stockton (assists, steals), Larry Johnson (ROY), Dennis Rodman (rebounds) aaaaaaaaaaand... the immortal Detlef Schrempf!
Apparently I could sell these things for a total of eight dollars. I should have got more Dikembe Mutumbo rookies.
It's official: blog make newspaper crazy. The News and Free Press are seriously weirding me out, man. First: Angelique Chengelis apparently has this column-ish thing called "The Buzz" wherein she writes chatty blurbs on relevant news. The overall effect is freakin' creepy:
He absolutely knows Michigan is behind in terms of a practice facility for both basketball programs. Recruits need to look no further than neighboring Michigan State to see the type of top-notch facilities of which Michigan is absolutely worthy.
Those who like motor sports have their biases.
I have mine.
Open-wheel racing on a high-speed oval is racing at its purest -- breath-taking, dangerous, and quite frankly, awesome.
Is it just me, or does this seem like the sort of thing an editor bestowed upon the plebes in an attempt to get back all those readers distracted by the shiny Internets? That's bad, but the News, as per usual when it comes to miraculously bad ideas, has nothing on the Free Press. You probably saw this cited on Deadspin, but if you didn't it must be brought to your attention so we can collectively beat it to death. It is a liveblog of the British Open. In a newspaper. Apparently written by a man who digs Carrot Top. Argh:
Free Press golf writer Carlos Monarrez recaps the British Open third round from the best seat of all -- his couch.
7 a.m. -- TNT's coverage begins. Yeah, right, like a sports writer is really going to be awake at 7 a.m. Thank God for TiVo.
7:02 -- Angelina Jolie and I are riding unicorns over a sea of strawberry marshmallows.
9:04 -- Dang it, I'm awake! See you tonight, Angelina. ABC is starting its third-round recap with the usual overwrought soundtrack. Presidential inaugurations don't get the kind of fanfare golf majors get from networks.
9:05 -- A replay of John Se
nden's ace on the 13th hole. Who says 13 is unlucky?
Obviously this newspaper/blogwar thing has gotten out of hand. We need some sort of ceasefire, a line drawn in the sand. (Across this line you do not... also, Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature, etc.)
How about this: you leave the liveblogs, jokes, statistical analysis, and devastating good looks to us. We'll stop pretending we're real journalists and blathering on about long tails and new media and how useless y'all are. This way no one gets hurt.
The UW System administration saw UW-Milwaukee, with its doctoral status, large size and urban setting, as a place to address the needs of students rejected by UW-Madison. It envisioned turning UW-Milwaukee into a Wisconsin version of Michigan State University or the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Please forward this to everyone you know who goes or went to State. Multiple times. If this is an attempt to join the BlogPoll via sucking up, it's working.
Etc.: Random gambly-type Big Ten preview projects Michigan as champions (via Badger Sports); EDSBS caption contest (warning: not suitable for basically everyone); The 614 starts in with the OSU preview, again references this "two game season" thing which you'd better believe I am preparing to throw in the face of anyone who even so much of thinks of mentioning it (lo, I am wroth and my vengance will be Internet sarcasm).
Last year Iowa was the only team in the conference that could give Michigan a run for its money when it came to snakebites. A 23-3 loss to ISU was a comedy of errors performed mostly with Tate on the bench; replacment Jason Manson went 10/31. The loss to Michigan -- suffered without Ed Hinkel -- was full of uncharacteristic drops, penalties, and execution errors. Iowa carried the balance of the play and likely would have won that game seven of ten times if given the opportunity. The Northwestern and Florida games made the word "onside" a guaranteed bar fight in Des Moines. Only a vengeful stomping at the hands of OSU stands out as a game Iowa really deserved to lose.
This was a reversion to the mean -- or possibly past it -- after Iowa's charmed 2004, which was full of fortituous bounces on turnovers of all kinds. As a result, Kirk Ferentz's inexorable march to godhood took a bit of a siesta last year as Iowa stumbled to a 7-5 record. Sportswriters, always projecting things to be just like they were last year, have noticed.
The general consensus is Iowa's 2005 was something more than a blip. The Hawkeyes are projected to return to their newly familiar stomping grounds in the top 25, but if Stewart Mandel represents conventional wisdom at its coventional-est it appears the sportswriters of America are focusing more on 7-5 than the Tates: he has them #18. Athlon says #16. Even all-seeing, all-gambling Argus Phil Steele places Iowa but #15. Last year I argued that Iowa was overrated at number eight as journos focused more on Iowa's record than the fortune it had taken to get them there. This year they've multiplied that mistake by negative one.
No headliners remain on the Iowa defense after two years in which graduation has taken Matt Roth, Jonathan Babineaux, Abdul Hodge, and Chad Greenway to the NFL, but the Hawkeyes have star power on the other side of the ball in Drew Tate (the flingingest quarterback this side of the Pecos), Albert Young, and Albert Young's cadaverous ACL. The offensive line is either experienced or OMG shirtless. The defensive line looks poised to resume the terror of the Roth-Babineaux days. The defensive back seven? Well, you can't have everything. There are indeed ominous holes at corner and linebacker.
Despite that, viewers should be prepared for a faceful of Tate this year.
Last Year: Like everyone else in the Big Ten, Iowa had an excellent offense: 22nd nationally, 27th in passing and 34th in rushing. Also like everyone else in the Big Ten, it's hard to tell whether or not this was more a product of the offense or the defenses they faced, especially because Iowa missed Penn State.
Rating: 5. Drew Tate is one of the best quarterbacks in the country no matter your preferred metric. He has the numbers: two straight years with around 2800 yards passing, a completion percentage hovering around 62 percent, and 22 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions last year. He has the accolades: two years on the All Big Ten teams. And for those who like talking in vague generalities, he is the very avatar of "heart" or "moxie" or whatever you people call it.
The UFR from last year's Iowa game is downright effusive:
Great galloping gravy! Remember the breakdown of positive/negative downfield plays I did for the PSU game? Henne had 14 positive to 16 negative. Take away two TE screens, two dumpoffs to Young on third and long, and four Solomon stop routes (to play this conservatively) and Tate had 23 positive to 7 negative, and that's being super harsh on the "Inaccurate" category, which holds two bombs and the third down comeback route in OT that glanced off Solomon's fingertips.
It's not fair to hold Henne to that standard--it probably isn't fair to hold Tate to that standard, that was one of the finest quarterbacked games I've seen, like, ever--but that's kind of mindboggling. Seriously, I think Tate made a total of three bad plays (holding the ball too long on one sack, fumbling a snap, and letting Woods bat a ball down on the waggle easily). That says a lot about Tate and a lot about how far away from him Henne has been this year.
It was only a series of tiny miracles (penalties, sacks, and Iowa receiving screwups) that prevented the Hawkeyes from running up 35 points on Michigan that day. That game perfectly encapsulates what will happen if you let Tate sit comfortably in the pocket: he will kill you on laser-accurate throws long, short, and in-between.
The backup situation is dire. Manson is a senior who Iowa will try to avoid at all costs and the next quarterback on the depth chart is redshirt freshman Jake Christensen. Christensen was a touted recruit a couple years ago but an awful showing in the Army All-American game had many wondering whether his presence there was less because of his talent and more due to the tendency of Tom Lemming (in his last year of picking the rosters for the game) to wildly overrate players from Illinois even more than players considering Notre Dame. He might be okay down the road, but if pressed into service this year throats will constrict across the state.
Rating: 4.Albert Young emerged from the vast morass of Iowa running backs with torn ACLs to crush opponents on his way to 1334 yards and plenty of hype, but his two games against actual run defenses sound a caution: he totaled 23 carries and 59 yards against Ohio State and Florida. There are many great backs who would have struggled to do better against those defenses, but those numbers indicate that without a proper hole to burst into Young is not a Fred Russell capable of materializing yards from seemingly nothing.
However, he is capable of taking those holes and ruthlessly exploiting them. Against Michigan Young was impressive, slashing through the MasseyGap (TM) time and again with decisive cuts and bursting past Michigan's oft-befuddled outside linebackers en route to 153 yards. He should do very well again this year behind an ornery offensive line stocked with what seems like six different guards.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Rating: 3. Clinton Solomon, Ed Hinkel, and Matt Melloy depart. Left behind are junior Herb Grigbsy's 25 catches, Brobdingnagian tight end Scott Chandler, and nothing else resembling experience. Senior Calvin Davis is projected to join Grigsby in the starting lineup but has struggled with injuries over the past two years and had only eight catches in '05. In general, MGoBlog is skeptical of journeyman seniors, especially at positions that see a lot of rotation, so it would be wise to examine Iowa's other options. Redshirt freshman Trey Stross is distinctly Caucasian and thus is guaranteed to be Iowa's annual Inexplicably Great White Receiver at some point in his career. It also helps that Stross displayed velvet hands and great leaping ability in high school. Another player to keep an eye out for: freshman James Cleveland, an early enrollee who lit up the spring game.
Fee fi fo fum.
The inexperience at wide receiver will be offset by the talent at tight end. Iowa loves the one-back, two-tight end ace sets I can never get to work in NCAA and has the personnel to threaten run or pass out of them. Chandler is fairly ponderous but giant and a
good receiver. His 47 catches led Iowa a year ago. Second-stringer Anthony Moeaki, a highly touted recruit, played in every game as a freshman, catching eight passes. He will see plenty of time and two or three dozen catches by the end of the year.
Rating: 4. There's more instability here than one might initially assume there would be with three returning starters, as Iowa can't seem to decide where anyone should play on the line. Right tackle Marshall Yanda started all last season but started out at left guard. Right guard Mike Elgin had a full year of starting at that position in '05 but was the starting center the year before. But they have nothing on senior Mike Jones, who could release a hit single titled Where is Mike Jones? The answer last year was, variously, "left tackle," "right tackle," and "left guard." This year -- at least for now -- he's the right tackle.
So those guys have a ton of experience if a fairly uncertain notion of where, exactly, they're supposed to line up before each play. Jones is the most talented, having burst into the starting lineup as a true freshman. He finds himself a preseason All Big Ten pick by The Sporting News (TSN, understandably confused, named him the fifth best guard in the country), Lindy's, and Blue Ribbon. Yanda and Elgin are both somewhere between competent to good. But there is the niggling issue of center and, oh, left tackle.
Those positions will be filled by two touted members of Iowa's monster 2004 recruiting class. Redshirt freshman Rafael Eubanks, a consensus four-star ranked the #13 offensive lineman by Scout and the #5 guard by Rivals, emerged as the starting center in the spring. True sophomore Dace Richardson is projected to start at left tackle. Richardson was even more touted than Eubanks and was clearly being groomed for the role the instant he stepped on campus, as Iowa chose to forgo his redshirt year in favor of spot plays in most of their games. A large portion of the Hawkeye's success this year relies upon how effective last year's crash course as a collegiate lineman was.
Last Year: Excellent against the run, bad against the pass. Iowa finished 22nd nationally in run defense and had two standout performances against Minnesota, who managed 129 yards as a team, and Wisconsin, who got all of 12. Possibly because of Iowa's tendency to crush tailback like bug, teams went to the air against the Hawkeyes and more often than not found success: Iowa was but 77th in pass defense efficiency and 96th in terms of yardage.
Rating: 4. This was supposed to be a disaster zone after the loss of the entire '04 line. Freshmen and sophomores were to be thrust into the uncaring maw of the Big Ten and swallowed whole. This did not so much happen. There was certainly a dropoff -- let us remember that messrs Roth and Babineaux combined for 40 TFL a year ago -- but all told the defensive line did more than just survive.
Junior defensive ends Ken Iwebema and Bryan Mattison were both disruptive forces as sophomores, combining for 19.5 TFL and 11 sacks. Iwebema found his way on the the media's selections for first team All Big Ten. While that may say more about the media than Iwebema in a year that featured Tamba Hali, Lamarr Woodley, and Mike Kudla, it does indicate his impressive talent.
The defensive tackles were also fairly competent despite being undersized. Then-freshmen Matt Kroul and Mitch King held down the starting jobs all year and were not utterly destroyed. King was even kind of good at times with 10 TFLs. One does not hold Minnesota and Wisconsin's run games down with linebackers alone. Kroul and King kept Hodge and Greenway free all year.
A repeat of last year's performance will not be enough for the defensive line, however. Minus Hodge and Greenway and with shaky cornerbacks the line will have get more pressure on the quarterback against tough opponents than the did a year ago, when Iowa had one three yard sack against OSU and none against Michigan. If that happens again this year games against good opponents will dissolve into shootouts that Iowa would like to avoid.
Rating: 3. The Big Ten wishes Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway all the luck in the world in the NFL and encourages them to never, ever return. Replacing the two departed stars are EDSBS/SMQB All-Name Team candidates Mike Klinkenborg ("Der resistance is der futile, jah") and Mike Humpel (hur hur hur), both juniors who saw sporadic action a year ago. The functional Edmond Miles returns to start alongside the newcomers.
My flimsy excuse for posting this picture: Edmond Miles is the Hawkeye on the
right. Hey, blame Google.
Much like last year's defensive line, there must be a dropoff from Hodge and Greenway to Klinkenborg and Humpel. The n00bs are unlikely to average thirteen tackles a game and even more unlikely to cause Pavlovian salivation amongst NFL GMs, but unlike last year's defensive line the new linebackers have cut their teeth against the Big Ten and shown themselves at least decent. Both players are getting raves from the coaches for being intelligent players ready to step in and not screw things up entirely, and I believe them since this is Kirk Ferentz we're talking about.
Not screwing stuff up is a good baseline, but it does shift more pressure onto Miles and the defensive line to make the plays that stop drives. Miles was no wallflower a year ago, hitting double digits in TFLs, and is a candidate to break out now that Iowa is clearly in need of another thumping badass. The linebackers won't be a liability.
Rating: 2. Iowa may not miss longtime starters Antwan Allen and Jovon Johnson as much as you might expect. Iowa's pass defense wasn't that good with them: 96th in the country in yardage terms and 77th in efficiency. Some of that is probably attributable to a lack of quarterback pressure -- 2.1 sacks per game placed Iowa 68th nationally -- but most of the blame has to rest with the secondary.
In retrospect Johnson's placement on the All Big Ten first team seems to be more a product of longevity than quality: you started for three years on one of the Big Ten's better teams, so we assume you're good. For further reference see Lentz, Matt. Allen was only afforded honorable mention status and neither was drafted. So the dropoff from the duo to juniors Adam Shada and Charles Godfrey may not be great, but given the secondary's performance a year ago Iowa will want to shoot higher than mere maintenance.
I'm from Nebraska.
Better than maintenance may be hard to achieve, however. Adam Shada... well... is from Nebraska, if you know what I mean. He would have to buck an awful lot of history for a guy from Nebraska to become a standout corner on the collegiate level, especially as an unheralded recruit. Many cite his three interceptions from a year ago as reason to believe in his ability, but interceptions are usually fluky events and should not be relied upon for projection. Meanwhile, Godfrey was bouncing to and from safety as recently as last year and seems to have moved to corner because Iowa has no alternatives. It is always, always, always a bad sign when a player goes from backup safety to starting corner over the c
ourse of one offseason. Mediocrity here would be great.
Safety is more secure. Miguel Merrick and Marcus Paschal are both experienced seniors able in run support. Neither has the sort of range or playmaking ability you'd like in the ideal safety, but they're safe players who don't miss many tackles or assignments.
Kickers & Coverage
Rating: 5. Iowa and Ohio State must have a factory somewhere: Kaeding-replacment Kyle Schlicher was 17 of 21 a year ago and is one of the favorites for the Groza award this year. He's the best in the league.
Punter Andy Fenstermaker is an analogue of Michigan's Ross Ryan: the punts he gets off are often ugly, short ducks (84th in gross average), but they're difficult to return and thus the team's net numbers are acceptable (50th).
Since kickers are so much more important than punters and Fenstermaker is okay in net punting, the precious five is bestowed.
Non-Conference: I-AA snackycake Montana, a decent MAC foe in Northern Illinois, and two low-level BCS teams in Syracuse and Iowa State. Respectable-ish, though the biggest threat may well be Garrett Wolfe and company the week after the Hawkeyes' trip to Michigan.
Conference: Michigan State and Penn State are absent from the schedule, which is a small net benefit. More important is the timing of the Ohio State game, which is a night game at home immediately after a virtual bye against Illinois. OSU, meanwhile, will be coming off the Penn State grudge match. That game's homefield advantage may be worth five or six points.
Compounding the scheduling goodness is this fierce slate of away games:
The trip to Ann Arbor is the only thing resembling an actual crowd Iowa will face all year, and Michigan Stadium is only mildly intimidating minus the winged helmets that dwell within.
We're Sure About
Tate. He's the closest thing to Drew Brees since Drew Brees.
We Have An Idea About
The Defensive Line. What should have been a painful year of learning was instead fairly competent all around. All four starters return; Ferentz and Norm Parker have a proven track record of building terrifying linemen out of whole cloth; watch the eff out.
The Offensive Line Aside From Dace Richardson. A ton of experience save for center Eubanks, but he should be okay as a VHT in a position that's not all that demanding. Everyone else is going to be good.
We Have No Clue About
Dace Richardson. We do have some idea: VHT recruit under the Ferentz regime, but Richardson's performance very well could mean the difference between Drew Tate, Iowa Legend and Drew Tate, Damn Good But Frustrating. If Richardson is wobbly at some point and costs Iowa a game it could cost Iowa much more than that.
Cornerback. Even though it's been theorized that Jovon Johnson and Antwan Allen weren't really all that good, Iowa isn't exactly bursting at the seams with candidates to replace them.
An Embarassing Prediction, No Doubt
Given the schedule and the talent the Hawkeyes have, a run to the national championship game is not out of the question. There's not a team on the schedule obviously better than Iowa and everyone remotely dangerous save Michigan must travel to Kinnick. 12-0 could happen. It wouldn't even be that surprising.
Maybe the run defense disintegrates without Greenway and Hodge, but I doubt it. If it does then some wonky corners could make the Iowa defense eminently perforable again. Throw in a lot of drops from the wide receivers, the complete implosion of Richardson, and a lot of bad luck... and Iowa's still very good with a favorable schedule. 9-3.
Iowa was better than its record a year ago and returns the building blocks of a potentially great team in Tate, Young, and the defensive line. Replacing the wide receivers and linebackers will be a chore and some corners must turn up, but the tight ends should reduce the WR burden, the safeties should to likewise for the LBs, and the corners will probably get help from a ravenous defensive line.
As previously discussed, the schedule is a dream. Visits to Syracuse, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota all promise to feature more Iowa fans than opposition ones. The nonconference schedule is managable without being embarassing. The Hawkeyes miss two potentially dangerous teams in MSU and PSU. The only downers are a trip to Michigan and the shame that the national championship game is in Arizona instead of New Orleans, which prevents what would have been a beautiful joke about Tates and beads.
Wins: Montana, @ Syracuse, @ Illinois, @Indiana, Northwestern
Probable Wins: Iowa State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, @ Minnesota, OSU
Tossups: @ Michigan
Probable Losses: None
No Chance: None
Iowa gets OSU in the most favorable spot possible and catches the Buckeyes early in the season when their defense still figures to be breast-feeding. Iowa wins that game, loses to either Michigan or one of the "probable wins" category, and coasts to the Rose Bowl at 11-1.
These words are not minced. Not even chopped. Bill Martin on Crisler Arena:
"Our basketball coaches are struggling with a second-rate facility,'' Martin said. "It's in dire need of upgrading.''
Yow. Ammunition for the baskeball facilities wars, no doubt, but possibly just empty talk given the vast array of athletic department construction already planned for the next few years. Lining up donors for basketball has proven much more difficult than for football or even baseball, which will have a new stadium this year.
What? Mattias Askew is in the NFL? Sure, sure, he just got tasered because he didn't want to move his car but the real question is: Mattias Askew is in the NFL? A player from one of John L. Smith's defenses is currently being paid by a professional football team?
The Apocalypse: coming. The first sign was the Whitlock column in which he eviscerated Scoop Jackson. The second: Askew. The third: College Football News giving a shiv to Notre Dame, ranking them 18th and pointing out those uncomfortable facts about the pass rush, secondary, and last year's strength of schedule. Personally, I think 18th is flashily contrarian -- I'll probably rank them around 8 or 10 in the preseason BlogPoll -- but credit must be given to CFN for doing something other than tongue-bathing enormously fat head coach Charlie Weis. (via College Footblog)
Etc: Ty Law is a Chief.
31-40: The Bothersome
40. Jason Whitlock
Note: this was written before Whitlock's column in which he A) called Scoop Jackson's inane "1.3 percent" piece "so juvenile and flawed" that he "nearly broke down in tears after reading it" and B) sensibly tackled the new ASPE study that revealed vanishingly small numbers of black sports editors and columnists. As much as I really, really dislike Whitlock I'd move him down into the 40s because of it if they hadn't been published already. I would remove him entirely if he mentioned that Scoop looks like a muppet.
Whitlock is infuriating because everything he writes seems precisely calculated to be outlandish, outrageous, or controversial. It seems he can't go a month without expressing his opinion that everything that has ever happened is because of racism. Bob Huggins getting fired? Racism. An extension for Charlie Weis? Racism. Everyone hating Barry Bonds? Racism. Distaste for the US basketball team during their run to sixth place in the Olympics? Racism. His placement on this list? Racism, no doubt. Even more infuriating are the less-frequent columns that have the gall to chide others for focusing too much on race. Almost completely round sports columnist who isn't nearly as funny as he thinks he is, heal thyself.
39. Jacques Lemaire
Not satisfied with watching Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow strangle hockey ninety percent of the way to death, Lemaire's Minnesota Wild attempt to finish the job every night with their suffocating nu-90s trap. Lemaire is a main reason that Sean Avery is the only other NFL employee to make this list, having directly caused the death of interesting hockey (and thus indirectly the strike) by riding the same trap to the Stanley Cup at the helm of the New Jersey Devils. Inspired by New Jersey's ability to win games -1 to -2, the rest of the league immediately started boring other teams into submission.
As the evilest of the evil men who kill the interesting bits of hockey for their own personal benefit, he lands at #40.
38. Mike Kryzerzwierskiziziskiywerkski
I don't think of Mike Kryzerwksizi (-ish) as a basketball coach; I think of him as a smug asshole. Okay, so he runs a program as clean as college basketball programs get that's more successful than any other in college basketball and neither of these things are traditionally objectionable, but come on:
Meet Coach K: Leader
"I don't look at myself as a basketball coach. I look at myself as a leader who happens to coach basketball."
- Coach K
MUST FIND. MUST PUNCH. MUST FIND AND PUNCH. On his official website you're invited to "Meet Coach K" not only as a leader but also a coach, father, friend, mentor, motivator, student, and teacher. No doubt Coach K excels in all these roles, as he excels in everything. And if there's one thing people hate more than a loser it's one of those guys who wins over and over and over again and then details his incredible home life, wonderful children, and twelve inch penis. There is nothing about Coach K that's remotely likeable precisely because he is the best human to ever exist. And damn him further for turning unathletic white guys -- normally basketball underdogs that are tremendous fun to cheer for -- into a neverending March scourge.
37. NBA Referees
College referees are vastly more incompetent, but lack the belief that their cranky, elderly asses walk on water. No doubt the reason each and every NBA foul short of a beheading is met with a torrent of bitching no matter the team, time, or place has much to do with the fact that the definition of a foul changes depending on who you are, where you are, and several other mysterious factors including the phases of the moon and just how senile Dick Bavetta feels today. Everyone around the league -- everyone -- acknowledges the existence of a star system wherein your Dwyane Wades get calls that other players simply wouldn't, which makes the NBA seem more scripted than spontaneous at times.
Besides, don't you understand that you're killing Mark Cuban? You're killing Cubes!
37. The Sun Belt Conference
Perhaps if this was a Texas A&M blog the Sun Belt would check in much lower, if at all. But it isn't. The Sun Belt -- previously a conference best known for having a hilariously inappropriate name (hello Moscow, Idaho) -- exploded onto the national scene by totally and irrevocably fucking up the Alamo Bowl. Causing conniption fits across the educated bits of Michigan was bad enough, but the conference compounded its error by attempting to justify the fiasco, releasing a document laden with feeble double-speak, obfuscation, and general LIES LIES LIES.
As a result, Michigan fans have been plugging ULM, ULL, and whatever other half-ass universities comprise the damn thing this year into NCAA 2006, turning the difficulty down to "retard," and ritualistically beating the Sun Belt 2,100-0 since the final whistle went.
The next time you hear a columnist or non-BCS school member whinge about small schools being left out in the cold, remember the Alamo.
35. This Guy
34. Jim O'Brien
In a tepid effort to be fair to OSU, this nutjob must be mentioned. O'Brien landed Ohio State's basketball program on probation by attempting to pay recruit Boban Savovic thousands of dollars. Ohio State noticed this transgression and sensibly fired the man. Loathesome, sure, but the kicker: O'Brien sued Ohio State for breach of contract.
Kicker part II: he won. OSU's basketball team will be fine, what with Oden and everyone coming in next year, but the nerve!
33. Lou Holth
Not content with driving every thchool he's ever coached thtraight into the loving arms of Mither NCAA Investigationth man, Holth decided he needed to inflict more pain upon the nation at large. The vehicle via which he doleth out the punishment: placement next to douthestache purveyor and fellow list-member Mark May on ESPN college football theth. From this inexplicable pe
rch, Holtz lithpth out incoherent, utheleth analythith with a dazed thmile upon hith face. [/EO hilarious lisping]
Why so high up? Holtz makes me miss Trev Alberts, which is sort of like wondering what happened to the good old days with world leaders like Mao and Hitler. Thufferin thccotath!
32. Alonzo Mourning
It takes an awful lot of work to erase the sympathy one receives when returning from an inexplicable kidney disease that nearly ends one's career, but Alonzo Mourning managed to do it in, oh, about seven days. I'll let this random blogger detail Mourning's epic pouting, lying, and doggin' spree that took him from New Jersey to Toronto and finally to Miami, where he could ride the coattails of Dwyane Wade to an NBA championship ring that he deserves about as much as I do (though to be fair both 'Zo and I deserve one more than Gary Payton). I'll let my own fictionalized version of Hubie Brown summarize:
"You cannot put your hands on another player, but Alonzo Mourning is one of the great assholes we have in this league."
31. George Shinn
Shinn is a man who cares about nothing except lining his pockets with money. He managed to turn baskeball-mad North Carolina against their once-beloved Hornets (they led the league in attendance from 1988 to 1996), then moved the team to New Orleans when Charlotte asked him to cough up a piddling $13 million for an arena otherwise totally funded with public money. Now he's riding New Orleans for money and threatening to move the team again:
Shinn's lawyers have seized upon a contractual clause in the Hornets' 2002 relocation agreement that requires the city and state to build the team a new practice facility adjacent to the New Orleans Arena, the team's fate in the Crescent City appears sealed. The new practice facility would require an $8.5 million minimum public commitment.
You may remember that about half of New Orleans is underwater.* Someone get Chris Paul away from this man before he gets sexually assaulted, too.
*(To stave off the inevitable correction: not really.)
The Pittsburgh Sports Report has an interview with WR Toney Clemons:
Clemons said Pitt, Michigan, and surprising contender Akron have impressed him the most so far. With no decision in sight, Clemons is leaving the door wide open for the traditionally late-acting powers of the college football landscape to get involved. Naming Ohio State, Miami (FL), Florida, and Florida State, Clemons said he gets mail from all over, but "an offer would be overwhelming" from one of the big boys yet to get involved.
Probably not deciding soon. I received an email forwarded along from a reader whose brother-in-law has a daughter at Mullen:
Steve Watson Jr.'s pedigree and physical toools have not so far paid off on the football field. Steve Junior is every bit as tall as his dad (6'4") but much more filled out (although I suspect less than the 240 lbs. listed in the article). But I have yet to see Junior show any of the pass catching skills his father honed to perfection with the Broncos. To my knowledge, Steve Junior has not made a game winning catch or even racked up a 100+ yard game, but he sure looks like a football player. Steve Senior has been seen at many Mullen games rooting his boy on and has been something of an informal coach to Dave Logan, the former Cleveland Brown tight end and current coach of the Mullen Mustangs. I have yet to see any of Watson Junior's potential realized on the field. Maybe this year, his last at Mullen. ...
There are two footnotes about Steve Watson Senior you may find interesting. First, Watson's career with the Broncos was shortened significantly when he was hung out to dry on a short pass during the NFL season all the players were on strike and teams were fielded mostly by replacement players and a few NFL scabs who crossed the line. Watson was one of those scabs. Second, Watson's post-playing career as a cohost of the Bronco's after game show ended abruptly when, during the sign-off the night before the gubernatorial election, Watson innocently said something like, "and good luck to Roy Romer." Even though the comment was innocent and Watson was actually a personal friend of Governor Romer, the comment apparently triggered some kind of equal time provision in force and embarrassed the Denver affiliate enough to terminate his contract immediately. It sort of reminded me of Billy Pilgrim's best friend, an American prisoner of war in "Slaughterhouse Five" who was shot by Nazis following the bombing of Dresden for picking up what turned out to be a small Christmas figurine that reminded him of one he had been missing in his house
A "Slaughterhouse Five" reference == guaranteed inclusion on blog. Sounds like Watson may be more of a project than you might expect a son of an NFL receiver to be. Rivals gave him three stars for that reason; Scout gave him four for the "looks like a football player" bit, no doubt.
The editor of Scout's Oklahoma State site tossed off a prediction that OL Matt Romine, who's very highly touted, will end up at OU. I don't know if that has backing or is just random speculation. CA CB Donovan Warren still lists Michigan but Scott Wolf posted this downer recently:
USC and UCLA are also locked in a battle for Long Beach Poly cornerback Donovan Warren. But a Pac-10 coach recently told me some members of Warren's family want him to attend Ohio State.
Gross! Everyone expects Warren to go to USC anyway. Apparently Michigan led at one point for Minnesota DE Broderick Binns -- who I know nothing about -- and could possibly still be on top according to yet another irritating question headline from GBW.
ESPN's Top 150 was roundly lambasted across the Internets for being dumb; perhaps this is why:
In the six BCS conferences in the 2005 season, just 26 freshmen actually made a significant impact or even got on the field at all. This is a staggering statistic. Despite all the talk about freshmen making an impact early on, the truth is that it is extremely difficult to make the jump from high school to college, and not as many kids are doing it as fast as many think.
Because we do put emphasis on a player's ability to contribute early, the grades for all players naturally become lower -- and therefore more realistic -- when the odds against a player contributing as a true freshman is factored in.
Um... okay. First of all, "odds [modifier] is" ain't proper Englishes. Second of all, universally depressing rating isn't the criticism leveled by annoying recruitniks. Rather, the critcism comes because players that virtually every coach in the country would thoroughly enjoy offering eligibility-maintaining sham classes to are totally absent. When in doubt, Trust The Coaches.