Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tailSince “Monday Morning Quarterback” and “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” are taken and uninspired, and because I’m preempting my own exhaustion of “Monday“-themed alliterations, ALDLAND’s regular football/weekend roundup will move to Tuesday afternoons, which also permits incorporation of the Monday night NFL game. With week two of college football and week one of the NFL in the books, here goes:

College Football

Pregame:

  • Brendan and Physguy were in Ann Arbor for ESPN College Gameday, and the only evidence is a couple cryptic tweets from Brendan.

The games — No surprises:

  • I was able to find Michigan State’s game against South Florida on television in the Southeast, which may be thanks to USF’s participation in the game, but which also felt like finding a unicorn in the wild. MSU’s defense continues to outscore their offense, and that’s with three quarterbacks! Even Sparta only ever had two kings at once. Michigan State 21, South Florida 6.
  • I also found Vanderbilt-Austin Peay on TV, which is a reminder that it’s week two for the broadcasters as well. VU had no problem with its Middle Tennessee neighbors, winning 38-3.

Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Clemson outpoints Georgia 38-35

uga-clemson 2013ALDLAND kicked off the 2013 college football season with a bang, as I joined Magalan and commodawg on the ground in Clemson, South Carolina for the weekend’s feature matchup, and the site of ESPN’s College Gameday: Georgia vs. Clemson. Keep reading…

ALDLAND Podcast

One week of college football down, not enough weeks of college football left to go. Your two favorite podcast hosts discuss some of the big games from last week as well as what’s on tap for week two. We also attempt to figure out some of the mysteries of soccer’s transfer window, but not before taking shots at the frequency with which soccer players fall victim to injury.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

College football starts tonight

College football is here at last. Like last year, the season begins on a Thursday night that features Vanderbilt in action against another SEC foe. In 2012, Vandy lost a heartbreaker to South Carolina on a blown call by the officials on opening night. This year, the Commodores take on inter-division rival Ole Miss. Vanderbilt has won three straight against the Rebs, but the margin of victory was just one point in their last meeting, and Ole Miss is on the rise thanks to their best recruiting class ever. While everything’s turning up roses in Oxford this season (“roses” being defined as something close to “Robert Nkemdiche“), a dark cloud has been hovering over Nashville as a result of rape allegations against four recently dismissed players. On the field, Vanderbilt’s biggest question might be at quarterback, where the journeymannish boy Austyn Carta-Samuels is set to take the reins from the graduated Jordan Rodgers and attempt to help the team improve on last year’s nine-win season, VU’s best mark since 1915.

Unlike last year, Vanderbilt technically does not play the first game of the season, Continue reading

ALDLAND Podcast

As promised, ALDLAND is back at it again with another college football preview blowout. Every BCS conference is discussed, and don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the Domers. Join Marcus and I, along with a special surprise guest as we unveil our picks and discuss the major players in the 2013 season as we see it. College football! So exciting!

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

College football bowl schedule released

https://i2.wp.com/2.bp.blogspot.com/-ywpTJQBmo0A/TpxBEf7MsuI/AAAAAAAABcE/PUN9KPePxPk/s1600/bowlgames.jpg

The full bowl schedule, including times and broadcast networks, is here. Some highlights, in chronological order:   Continue reading

Midseason Monday

We’re into the meat of the 2012 football season with heavy games for most teams from here on out. It’s also the time when teams’ reputations for the year become solidified. One such team is Auburn, which fell to 1-6 on the season, 0-5 in conference with a 17-13 loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville. Four years ago, I watched these teams play under the lights in the same stadium. In 2008, Auburn was 5-0 and highly ranked, but the game outcome was the same. This year’s win over the TIgers/Plainsmen/Eagles won’t do as much for the Commodores’ strength of schedule, but it does push them to 2-3 in the conference, and it’s an important win to kick off the second half of a schedule that should be easier than the first.

While Vanderbilt took a necessary step in the positive direction Saturday, Michigan State took another step toward a lost season with a 12-10 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor. More on that game later in the week. Back to the SEC for a moment, where the Eastern division is one of the most power concentrated and confusing divisions in the nation. Florida swamped South Carolina, 44-11, to go to 7-0 (6-0), while Georgia escaped Lexington with a 29-24 win over Kentucky. If Florida’s going to lose a game this year, it will be next week when they host Georgia, because the rest of their schedule is soft cake (Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, and Florida State). In the SEC West, LSU and Texas A&M renewed their rivalry in a compelling game featuring early Aggie control and a Tiger comeback win.

Elsewhere in the top 25, Alabama and Oregon rolled. Two quick notes on Oregon: 1) I’m worried that Florida’s #2 rating in the first BCS, together with their easy finishing schedule, will mean that we don’t get to see Alabama and Oregon in the national championship game, a matchup that feels very compelling and intriguing; and 2) the ALDLAND staff is still waiting on it’s autographed Oregon cheerleader calendar. Jog back to the SEC West, where Mississippi State is the most unheralded undefeated team in the country. After beating MTSU Saturday, though, they’re unlikely to stay that way, finishing with Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. Of course, nothing is more perennially unheralded than the Starkville Dogs, and that schedule only has something to do with it. Most of the rest of the top 25 won, including Clemson, Oregon State, and Stanford in important conference games. The upstart Texas Tech Red Raiders survived in triple overtime to beat TCU, and the very impressive Kansas State beat West Virginia in Morgantown 55-14 in a game in which I’d only somewhat jokingly predicted WVU would score 100 after being embarrassed the week before. Dana Holgorson’s air raid offense appears to be out of jet fuel.

On Sunday, the Vikings continue to mount an increasingly compelling challenge to those who would dismiss them by going to 5-2 with a win over flash in the pan Arizona. RGIII continues to impress despite another close loss, this week to the Giants. The Saints doubled their win total by beating Tampa Bay, and the Raiders came back to beat the ailing Jaguars, who lost Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert, sending out the bat signal for David Garrard (I hope). The Patriots beat the Jets in overtime, although VSL’s Bobby O’Shea, a noted Jets fan, thinks that something is wrong in New England, and I’m inclined to agree. Whether it was the defensive injuries Baltimore suffered last week or Houston’s push to come back from a loss, the Texans returned to 2012 form with a 43-13 win over the Ravens.

In baseball, the World Series is nearly set. The Tigers are in(!), and the Cardinals and Giants are playing a game seven right now, which the Giants are winning 7-0 in the fourth. In other current news, Ndamukong Suh just separated Jay Cutler’s neck from the rest of his body. Bears 10, Lions 0 in the first half.

Narrow Margin Monday, take 2

We find ourselves late on a Monday after another weekend of close games. On Saturday, woefully underachieving Michigan State lost in overtime to Iowa as a result of what one local radio host called the worst coaching he had ever seen in his life, and the man is neither young nor inexperienced in the field. In a real upset, LSU threw a monkey wrench in the SEC East race and beat South Carolina 23-21, Kansas State escaped Ames with a 27-21 win over Iowa State, Notre Dame beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime, and Texas A&M squeaked by Louisiana Tech 59-57. Even the Florida-Vanderbilt game was close into the fourth quarter before the Gators and their quarterback ran away with it. More on that game later this week.

Saturday had its share of blowouts, naturally, and the notable ones included Alabama’s 42-10 win at Missouri, which remains winless in its new conference, Texas Tech’s 49-14 embarrassment of one-time national championship contender West Virginia, still-undefeated Oregon State’s 42-24 win over BYU, and Michigan’s 45-0 muddy execution of Illinois on Wolverine homecoming. Michigan hosts Michigan State in another ALDLAND outing, more on which toward the end of the week.

The NFL had its share of close contests too, including the Lions’ overtime win over hapless Philadelphia, Buffalo’s 19-16 overtime win over Arizona, whose kicker hit a 61-yarder to tie the game but subsequently missed a 30-something yard kick to win the game in the final seconds, the Seahawks 24-23 win over New England, Atlanta’s come-from-behind win over Oakland to become the league’s final undefeated team, Miami’s 17-14 victory over the Rams, and Baltimore’s 31-29 capitalization on the Dallas (ongoing) Disaster. Baltimore payed a long-term price for its win, though, sacrificing defenders Ray Lewis and Ladarius Webb at last to the football devil (no, not the commissioner– separate office) in payment for their past defensive successes. Lewis and Webb are out for the season. Other high-flying teams went down in spectacular fashion on Sunday, including San Francisco, 26-3 at the hands of the Giants, and Houston, 42-24 to Green Bay on Sunday night.

In off-field NFL news, Jonathan Vilma, the embattled New Orleans Saint, reportedly will be allowed to play as soon as this weekend, although it isn’t clear if he will. Vilma continues to maintain a defamation suit against Roger Goodell.

In baseball, the final four is set and in motion. Detroit seized a 2-0 lead over the Yankees as the series heads to Detroit with AL strikeout kings Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer yet to pitch for the Tigers. The other road team, St. Louis, has a 1-0 lead in the NLCS battle of the two most recent defending World Series champions, though the Cardinals are down 5-1 in the fourth as I write this.

Topsy Monday

As noted, last Saturday’s college football games featured a number of games between top-ranked teams. As discussed in this space before, every game generally is going to end with one team on the winning side and one team on the losing side, games being athletic events between two teams. This means that a bunch of ranked teams lost this week, and boy did they.

Keep reading…

13/17 Tuesday

To much fanfare, South Carolina and Vanderbilt opened the college football season last Thursday, and the Gamecocks survived on the road, leaving Nashville with a 17-13 victory. Beside the blatant non-call on a critical pass late in the game, Vanderbilt had little excuse for losing this game. They missed a field goal that would have given them the lead in the first half, and based on the overall level of play, they really should have taken a lead into halftime. The Commodore defense showed its strength, and knocking SC starting quarterback Connor Shaw out of the game proved to be one of their best decisions, as his backups were worse than useless. Shaw didn’t stay out long enough, though, and he proved to be enough of a threat, even with a bum shoulder, to lead his team to narrow victory. For more analysis, read this. Also, did anyone else notice Spurrier wearing a normal ball cap to start the game?

Speaking of 17-13 games, Friday night’s featured game, between Boise State and Michigan State, ended with the same score, although it was the home team, rather than the visitors, that claimed the W. Both teams were featuring brand new quarterbacks, and while Andrew Maxwell struggled for the Spartans, the MSU defense made the offensive production largely irrelevant by thoroughly shutting down a Kellen Moore-less BSU offensive attack. Or, as Boise’s official twitter feed put it:

That pretty much sums it up. Not a lot of glamour for either team in this one, but Michigan State’s defense is going to keep it in some games this year in which it otherwise does not belong.

The showcase game of the weekend was the Cowboys Classic: Alabama and Michigan. Aside from Michigan’s defensive stand on the first series, this was a complete non-game. Alabama nearly shut out the Wolverines in the first half, and they scored 31 of their own points in that time, on their way to a 41-14 rout. As Tommy Tomlinson put it, “Michigan even lost the Kiss Cam.” While Alabama surely is a better team than Michigan will face the rest of the season, I’m not convinced that the Tide exactly overpowered the Maize & Blue. What I saw was the execution of a defensive gameplan to allow Denard Robinson to beat himself by throwing it as much as he wanted. To this casual observer, it felt like he was connecting with guys in crimson as much as he was with the guys in white.

I was a casual observer in part because the Clemson/Auburn game happening at the same time was far more compelling. On their opening drive, I thought Clemson was the best offense I’d seen all weekend. They soon remembered who they were, but they did earn a victory in the fourth quarter, all without their best player, WR Sammy Watkins. I haven’t looked at their schedule, but I imagine this year will go much like last year for those Tigers, in that they’ll start out very strong, maybe opening 5-0, before imploding in heart-breakingly spectacular fashion. Should be fun to watch, especially with Robbie Caldwell now on Dabo Swinney’s staff.

The Clemson/Aubrun game highlighted one of the officiating trends that is sure to drive me nuts all season. Even worse than the excessive celebration penalties (you decide what the adjective “excessive” is modifying) is this helmet rule, pursuant to which players whose helmets come off during a play due to any cause other than an opposing player tearing it off must sit out the subsequent play. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who noticed a larger-than-average number of helmets coming off during play last season. The reason for it is obvious: guys want to wear those lids loose, like Michael Vick. People called the NBA’s dress code racist, and now we have a league full of seven-foot hipster nerds. I can’t wait to see what sort of absurd headgear these kids roll out over the coming weeks and seasons, should this rule with no obvious basis in anything other than some old dude wants to demand that those punk kids strap their helmets on tight persist.

Tajh Boyd went with the leather helmet after losing his usual one several times on Saturday night against Auburn.