Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Former Badgers tearin' up the NHL

Last week's game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks featured five former Badgers, four of which were members of the 2006 National Championship team.

Joe Pavelski scored a short-handed goal to lead the Sharks over the Badger-heavy Blackhawks featuring Jack Skille, Jacob Dowell and Adam Burish. Burish scored his first NHL goal in his 58th game, while Skille scored his third goal of the season.

Also skating for the Blackhawks is Rene Bourque, who was a Badger from 2000-2004.

Read the full recap of the Blackhawks/Sharks matchup here.


Both Skille and Dowell have been splitting time between the Blackhawks and their affiliate in Rockford. They were sent down last Friday, but Skille was promptly pulled back up yesterday to join Chicago for their upcoming 17 day road trip.

Good for Skille for heading back up so quick, but here's hoping they send him down again ever so briefly for Rockford's trip to play the Admirals on Feb. 22. If both Dowell and Skille are skating, it should be a fun reunion trip to the Bradley Center, especially since the UW band is scheduled to be at the Ads game that night. You'd better believe the boyfriend and I will be there in full UW regalia. We also plan to play surrogate Phil for the night! ;)


Here's the full list of Badgers currently skating in the NHL:

Badgers in the NHL
Rene Bourque Wing Chicago Blackhawks
Alex Brooks Defense St. Louis Blues
Adam Burish Wing Chicago Blackhawks
Chris Chelios Defense Detroit Red Wings
Jake Dowell
Chicago Blackhawks
Brian Elliott Goalie Ottawa Senators
Tom Gilbert Defnese Edmonton Oilers
Dany Heatley Wing Ottawa Senators
Sean Hill Defense Minnesota Wild
Matt Hussey Forward Colorado Avalanche
Joe Pavelski Center San Jose Sharks
Brian Rafalski Defense Detroit Red Wings
Steve Reinprecht Center Phoenix Coyotes
Jack SkilleWingChicago Blackhawks
Ryan Suter Defense Nashville Predators
Dave Tanabe Defense Carolina Hurricanes
Brad Winchester Wing Dallas Stars
Andy Wozniewski Defense Toronto Maple Leafs

From the "Don't you wish you lived in Wisconsin" files...

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning and a Wind Chill Advisory for all of southeast Wisconsin Tuesday afternoon through Tuesday night.

TODAY’S TMJ4 Meteorologist Craig Koplien says Tuesday starts out warm with light rain developing.

Then Tuesday afternoon it will become very windy and turn sharply colder. The rain will change to freezing rain and sleet and then become snow.

Koplien says we can expect a high in the mid 40's Tuesday morning, and then temperatures will fall into the 20's Tuesday afternoon.

Winds should increase to 30 to 45 mph late Tuesday afternoon with gusts around 50.

Tuesday night will be very windy and cold with the snow ending. One to three inches of accumulation is expected in the Milwaukee area.

Lows Tuesday night will be 0 to -5 with wind chills falling to -30 or -35 degrees.

Here's Craig's timetable:

11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Light rain begins.

12 p.m. - 3 p.m. Temperatures plunge from the 40s to the 20s.

1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Potential for freezing rain and sleet.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Rain or freezing rain or sleet changes to all snow…Snow will continue through around 10 p.m. Total snow accumulation…1 to 3 inches.

3 p.m. - 6 p.m. Winds increase from 15-25 mph to 30-45 mph with gusts around 50 mph…Winds like this will continue through the night. Wind Chills late tonight & tomorrow morning…30 to 35 below.

Tuesday morning the temperature was near 45 degrees. Wednesday morning the Wind Chill will be near 35 below. That’s a difference of nearly 80 degrees!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wisconsin Hockey takes 3 points from Minnesota

We had an absolutely spectacular time Saturday night at the Kohl Center as the Badgers came back from being down 2-0 to tie Minnesota.

The boyfriend didn't share my enthusiasm, but I was all psyched by the play of goalie Shane Connelly. I think he had an absolutely stellar game. One of Minnesota's goals came on a 5 on 3 power play. The other was a beautiful display of passing and puck handling, neither of which you can fault Connelly on.

This was a game that was a tale of two halves (I know, I know, they play periods, but the teams seemed to split the second period, so I'm saying they "halved" the game) as Minnesota came out of the gates quickly while Wisconsin looked flat. It seemed like the Badgers never controlled the puck for more than a few seconds at a time and their team chemistry and timing were off.

The Gophers held possession in their zone and kept peppering Connelly and went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead. The fans were hoping that the Badgers would come back for the second period fired up, but looked just as stale in the first part of the second period. We had a couple of power plays in which it seemed Minnesota controlled the puck more than we did and certainly spent about as much time in our zone as we did in theirs.

As the period went on, the Badgers got some momentum and started getting their own chances on net. Finally, at 11:32, Patrick Johnson scored a power play goal on a slapshot from the right face-off circle. Podge Turnbull and Jamie McBain assisted.

The goal brought the crowd back into the game and really changed the face of the game. The Badgers players were more energized and the Gophers seemed to deflate.

After the first two periods of play, the Gophers outshot Wisconsin, 21-14.

From here, the Badgers took control of the game. We peppered the keeper and had about 8 THISCLOSE chances. We controlled the puck, we made crisp passes and we generally watched the Minnesota team deflate and get tired.

There were at least 3 different times in the third period and OT in which there were long stretches of play without any stoppages and you could tell this took a toll on the Gophers. The stats show that each team had just 3 shots each in the OT, but it certainly didn't seem that way. The fans were all on their feet and there were about 5 collective gasps as we all thought the Badgers had the opportunity to end the game.

According to this article, the third period has been the IT period for the Badgers
"However, with the success Wisconsin has had in the third period, outscoring opponents 37-18 in the final frame, and the hard luck the Gophers have stumbled on in the same frame, it was only fitting that a crazy goal capped a traditionally physical weekend."

Connelly was the factor for Wisconsin in this game. In the first part of the game, his defense let him down and allowed Minnesota complete access to the net and Connelly made the best of the bad situation. At the end of the game, especially in OT when both teams were desperate, Connelly made two separate heart-stopping saves, keeping the game in the Badgers' hands.

The three points move Wisconsin into a tie for fourth place in the WCHA with Minnesota-Duluth, who the Badgers host this coming weekend.

During Friday's broadcast, the Pairwise rankings (hockey's version of the BCS, for lack of a better explanation. Here's an explanation) had Wisconsin and Minnesota tied for 16th place. Clearly the win and tie will move Wisconsin ahead. In general, a team needs to be in the top 14 of the Pairwise to make post-season. We're tied for 13th in the newest rankings.

Freshman Kyle Turris has really come out of his shell - this USCHO.com article talks about how his performance at the World Juniors seems to have lit a fire.

Freshman Patrick Johnson also had a stellar weekend. He had an assist Friday night. I thought he had two goals Saturday night as that's what was announced over the PA, but apparently that was changed after the game to an assist. Either way, he had a killer weekend.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Men's Hockey beats Minnesota 3-1

This weekend marks the border battle between the men's hockey teams from Minnesota and Wisconsin. It doesn't matter what happens the rest of the season, this is a huge series for both teams.

Most seasons, Wisconsin is a few rungs below Minnesota, so not only is this a rivalry, but it's about getting some points from a team and gaining ground in the standings.

Of course this year, neither team is in the top half of the WCHA, which hasn't happened in quite a few years. And if today were the end of the season, neith UW or UM would make the post-season.

So tonight's game was all about pride and both teams were more than a little riled up. At least 3 fights broke out and by the end, when UW was up 3-1, the frustration was coming out for Minnesota and so were the fights.

I'm super excited to be going to the game tomorrow night. I've never been to the Border Battle before and after watching tonight's game, I can only imagine what we're in store for tomorrow.

Let's hope the refs have a bit more control of the game tomorrow, as they completely let the game out of hand tonight. The teams will be more fired up and the fights will be even more likely. If the refs let the guys have as much contact as they did tonight, it's not going to end well. At one point, the play had stopped and Minnesota was doing a line change, so they had about 9 guys on the ice. Fights broke out at the Gophers outnumbered the Badgers 9-5. The refs completely lost control at that point. They didn't get the penalties right and after that, the players knew they could get away with stuff.

The ref crew really needs to keep the teams on a short leash tomorrow or the game is going to get out of hand fast.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wisconsin basketball

I heard somewhere the other day that some talking head called the UW men's basketball team the most "complete team" that there is right now.

The stats are backing that up. In five Big Ten games, we have 5 wins and 5 different guys score 20 or more points. We have had 7 different scoring leaders this season. There is no "star" on this team. Since his arrival at Wisconsin, Bo Ryan has had a super-star on his roster. But Devin Harris and Alando Tucker are gone

They certainly weren't on anyone's radar to begin the season, as their pre-season rank was somewhere around 40th.

Last year's team won a record 30 games, was briefly ranked #1 in the nation and upset two top 5 teams in Pitt and Ohio State.

No one expected anything near that from this team. Everyone figured it would be a two-team Big Ten race between Indiana and Michigan State. But as of right now, the Badgers are perched atop the Big Ten standings after an impressive start to conference play and a big win prior to that at Texas.

You don't have to have a long memory to think of another Wisconsin team that started the season out of the spotlight, climbed to the top of the rankings and then fell into oblivion at the end of the season. Here's hoping this year's basketball team does a little better than the football team did...


This week's win over Northwestern was the official marking of the 10th anniversary of the Kohl Center - Home Sweet Home. The bball team opened the Kohl Center with a win over Northwestern and came full circle by beating them again this week. In fact, the Badgers have an 88% win percentage in the Kohl Center.


An look at Stiemsma from jsonline.com


This espn.com article looks at a Forbes.com study that ranked the most valuable men's basketball programs based on: "our valuations on what the basketball programs contribute to four important beneficiaries: their university (money generated by basketball that goes to the institution for academic purposes, including scholarship payments for basketball players); athletic department (the net profit generated by the basketball program retained by the department); conference (the distribution of tournament revenue); and local communities (incremental spending by visitors to the county during the regular season that's attributable to the program)."

Wisconsin comes in at #9 with a value of $15.7 million dollars and $9.6 million in profit.

The top 20:
1. North Carolina
2. Kentucky
3. Louisville
4. Arizona
5. Duke
6. Indiana
7. Illinois
8. Kansas
9. Wisconsin
10. Ohio State
11. Texas
12. Missouri
13. NC State
14. UCLA
15. Oklahoma State
16. Michigan State
17. Maryland
18. Syracuse
19. Arkansas
20. Xavier

Rough times for Marquette

I have to admit that with the Packers going so far into the post-season, I'm not as up on the bball season as I'd like to be. I've done some reading and I know that MU wasn't necessarily supposed to win either of the games they lost this week, but I know they weren't supposed to get embarrassed either.

The Golden Eagles lost to UConn by 16 points, but the game was never that close. The team scored a crap-load of points in the final few minutes in order to cut the deficit from around 30 points to those 16. Their shooting percentage was in the mid 20s for most of the game. The flurry of hoops at the end brought that up to a dismal 40% for the game.

In the loss to Louisville earlier in the week, Marquette shot all of 30% from the floor and missed everyone of it's 12 3-point attempts.

Dominic James is in what I now think might be a signature slump. He's been averaging 14 or so points a game, but against UConn he had just 9 points on all of 10 shots. You're not going to get very far when your star player has worse numbers than the guys coming off the bench.

While the loss to Louisville should have lit a fire under the Golden Eagles' butts, instead they came out colder than the weather in Green Bay, making just one of their first 11 shots. So then as a fan you hope that the coach fires them up at halftime and they come out of the locker room looking more like the #13 team? Not so much. They came out at hit just 2 of their first 9 shots.

While doing my research, I read quite a bit of anti-Crean talk and I'm not sure what to make of it. Certainly the two losses have been beyond disheartening for a fan. The talk about the fact that Marquette has had a veritable revolving door of assistant coaches probably holds the most credence.

There is no way that Marquette is the team that it is right now without Tom Crean. From the Final Four appearance to the Big East move to the Al Center on campus to recruiting, Marquette left the slump of the 80s and 90s thanks to Tom Crean. The question now is whether he's the guy to lead them from here.

I read some chatter about how Crean knows how to recruit the big men, but doesn't know how to coach him. I don't know enough to know whether this is true.

It seems that the consensus is that Crean's in do-or-die mode this year and next. We have a killer incoming recruiting class. Thus far, Dominic James hasn't done enough to make him declare and leave early, meaning James, Matthews and McNeal will all be back.

If Crean can't do it with this team, he can't do it and it's time to move on.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


We interrupt the regularly scheduled Packer programming to bring a Brewers update.

Two big items in the past few days:

Claudio Vargas signed a 1-year $3.6 million deal that helped us avoid arbitration.
(That leaves Dave Bush, J.J. Hardy and Chris Capuano left in arbitration - and by the way, holy crap that J.J. only made $400,000 last year. )


The Brewers signed veteran outfielder Mike Cameron to a one-year deal with an option for 2009 that guarantees him $7 million. Of course, Cameron will have to sit out the first 25 games of the season for twice testing positive for a banned substance while he was in San Diego. This article says the Brewers are working on the mentality that Cameron is a good guy who made a dumb mistake. I suppose only time will tell, but this isn't a young guy.

The signing of Cameron means Bill Hall will move to 3rd base and Ryan Braun will move to left field. Everyone knew this was a possibility with Braun after last year's defensive problems, but I'm still not so sure...

This article from jsonline.com included this information :

The news was hardly a shock to Braun, who had agreed to move to left field if the Brewers acquired an established third baseman. There was no way to forecast the position switch would occur as the result of signing a centerfielder, but Braun said he was completely on-board with the decision.

"I'm excited about it," Braun said Saturday before boarding a flight from Los Angeles to Milwaukee, where he will make a personal appearance today and later participate in the Brewers' "Winter Warm-Up."

"It's in my best interests and in the best interests of the team. Whatever makes us better, I'm all for it. There's no question it's the right move," said Braun.

Braun, 24, who never has played left field, insisted he wasn't merely keeping a stiff upper lip in wake of the news. Never mind that few players who win rookie-of-the-year honors are asked to learn a new position the next season.

"I honestly feel that way," he said. "When I played shortstop (in high school and college), I loved that position. But I never really loved playing third.

"I'm upbeat about it. Trust me."

I'm actually less worried about Braun than I am about moving Bill Hall AGAIN. He took a bit of time adjusting to center and I'm worried about that again this season.

Hall contributed to the Brewers' defensive woes by committing nine errors in 130 games while making the difficult transition to center. Most of those miscues came in the early going when he was still finding his bearings.

"After the first couple of months, I felt like I made myself into a pretty good centerfielder," said Hall. "It might have cost me some offensively, but I don't think that will be a problem again."

Whether switching positions was a major factor or not, Hall did experience a significant fall-off at the plate from the previous year, when he earned team MVP honors by slugging 35 homers and knocking in 85 runs. Last season, he batted .254 with 14 homers and 63 RBI.


"Right now, I don't even have an infielder's glove," he said. "I didn't think I'd need one again."

The club committed to Hall with a four-year, $24 million contract last year. Now, he'd like them to commit to putting him at one position and staying there.

"I think every player likes to look out for himself at some point," said Hall. "You want to protect your dignity a little bit."

In addition, I feel like Rickie Weeks was the guy who was prime for a move due to defensive issues after his first year at second. Instead, they left him out there and gave him a chance. He cut his # of errors in half.

I have to admit that I was a little concerned about all the moving when the reasons I've heard seem to center on the "win now" attitude and fans' complaints. Not really the solid foundation we want for major personnel changes, you know? But in the same article there was this:

Nevertheless, the right side of the Brewers' infield - Weeks and first baseman Prince Fielder - are known more for their offensive prowess than glove work. Melvin and Yost decided they couldn't have three-fourths of the infield fit that profile and make it to the playoffs this year.

"We have to get better on defense," said Yost. "That's all there is to it."

And I have to say I like this reasoning better than anything else I've heard.


Finally, this guy compares the Cubs to the Brewers mano a mano and says the Cubs have the edge and will take the NL Central next year...

Packer Playoffs

I plan on being back this afternoon with some more Packer goodness, but for now I'll pass on these two tidbits.

A Green Bay TV station is pulling it's syndicated Seinfeld on Saturday because it's Eli's favorite show.

And this is ESPN.com's look at cold weather football that includes a whole lot of Favre and Packer talk.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Marquette, Wisconsin underranked?

This guy says Marquette and Wisconsin are two of the most under the radar teams in college basketball today.

(The Pomeroy rankings he refers to can be found here. The explanation of the rankings and the formula used to calculate them, is here.)

Marquette; AP #13, Pomeroy #3

I was initially surprised to see Marquette this high in Pomeroy's rankings, but now I get it. They don't have any marquee wins, but their resume is impressive in more subtle ways. There are two main characteristics that cause teams to be underrated by the AP poll, and Marquette has both.

1. "Quality" losses

Marquette has lost two games. In November, Duke beat them by four in Hawaii. Then, a week ago, they lost at West Virginia by 15. Neither of these are bad losses; everybody knows about Duke, but West Virginia is very good as well. According to Pomeroy, Marquette has played the 23rd most difficult schedule in the country.

2. Destroying teams

The AP voters mostly look at whether you win or lose, rather than how much you win or lose by. When we're trying to predict a team's future performance, doing this is ignoring some important information. Three of Marquette's victories are good examples of this:

11/20 Oklahoma St. (N), 91-61
1/3 Providence (H), 96-67
1/12 Notre Dame (H), 92-66

Having beaten these three teams, none of which are ranked, isn't particularly impressive. But beating them by an average of 28 points bodes very well for Marquette as they continue Big East play.


Wisconsin; AP #17, Pomeroy #6

The main reason that Wisconsin is only #17 is they were 40th in the preseason poll. It would be difficult to move up higher than 23 spots while losing twice over the first couple months of the season. But what's important is that those were quality losses; @Duke, and against Marquette at home. Their win @Texas is very impressive; it's also their only win that has come by less than 10 points. They haven't had much trouble in their first three Big Ten games, easily beating Michigan, Iowa and Illinois.

Packer Playoff Coverage

This article came from Len Pasquarelli on ESPN.com...

First Look: Giants-Packers NFC title game

Just like the AFC Championship Game, Sunday's title matchup in the senior conference features a couple of teams that played each other on Sept. 16, in the second weekend of the regular season. The Packers went to the Meadowlands that day and ambushed the Giants, 35-13, as quarterback Brett Favre threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns.

Favre was just starting to warm up at that early juncture of the season. At the same time, the New York defense, reshaped by first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, was ice-cold. It wasn't until after that loss, which got the Giants off to an 0-2 start, that the unit really began to grasp Spagnuolo's principles. The pass rush eventually would crank up to lead the NFL in sacks with 52.

More Giants-Packers

Want to see more on the Giants-Packers NFC Championship Game? Check out our special index page.
N.Y. Giants at Green Bay

• SportsNation: Who'll win?

Four months later, the Giants are still attacking the pocket and Favre is still attacking secondaries, but there have been changes. Each team has discovered playmakers it didn't know existed on its roster. And for the Giants, quarterback Eli Manning -- the Manning brother who didn't figure to be playing in a conference championship game on Sunday -- has taken on a more prominent leadership role, maturing into a player who can manage games.

"He keeps answering the doubters," wide receiver Plaxico Burress said after the Giants' 21-17 upset victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's divisional-round game.

And so do we. So here are five early questions about the NFC Championship Game:

1. Unlike his older brother, Manning seems to be so up and down, and it's difficult to predict which Eli will show up. Has he finally reached a level of consistency?

Never underestimate confidence. That's one notable component of Manning's recent success. He seems much more confident in himself and his receivers the past three or four games.

Of course, as is the case with all quarterbacks, you look a whole lot better when your teammates are out there making plays for you. Wide receivers Burress and Amani Toomer have been constants all year. And the Giants have gotten solid production from their three tailbacks.

But in the past month, rookie wide receiver Steve Smith, slowed by injuries most of the year, has started to come up big. In Sunday's upset victory at Dallas, Manning kept going back to Smith in clutch, third-down situations, and the former Southern California star displayed good maturity and playmaking skills. Another rookie, fifth-round tight end Kevin Boss, who replaced injured Jeremy Shockey, has made timely catches.

More than any other player, though, Manning's ascent is up to, well, Manning himself. He has reduced his turnovers, managed games well and played within himself, rather than forcing the issue.

With Manning, it's always been tough to say that he has arrived because he historically has followed strong performances with some slippage. But for every successful quarterback, there comes a time when the game actually seems to slow down, when overall vision and field presence add that nebulous peripheral element that sets apart the really good ones from the pretty good ones.

There is certainly a mounting body of evidence that, in his fourth season, Manning has reached that critical nexus of his career.

2. OK, even if we buy that, there's still no way Manning can top Favre at Lambeau Field, is there?

Hey, having seen the Giants play toe-to-toe with New England in the regular-season finale, then win at Tampa Bay and Dallas, we're not going to underestimate this team. Sometimes a club just catches lightning in a bottle, rises to the occasion, and gets hot at the most opportune time of year.

If happened with Pittsburgh two years ago, and the Steelers rode the wave all the way to a Super Bowl XL championship. But it seems this is more a question about Favre, and his re-emergence this season, than it is about Manning and the Giants and their chances for another unlikely upset.

It might be hard to fathom how a guy in his 17th season could still get better, but Favre has. The hiring of Mike McCarthy last year was a boon for his career because the Green Bay coach is a "quarterback guy," accustomed to working with players who have a big dose of ego and might not want to be coached very much.

McCarthy came in and didn't let Favre's résumé blind him. He coached some of the gunslinger mentality out of Favre, forced him to make better decisions, but also made a few minor concessions along the way. No matter their stature in the league, most guys want to be coached, and Favre certainly was receptive to a lot of McCarthy's ideas.

The far more mystifying turnaround is in Favre's ability to throw the deep ball again, and with uncanny accuracy, to his wide receivers. It's as though Favre, at 38, has dipped his right arm in a fountain of youth. And, of course, he's still capable of making the crazy, improvisational play, like his underhand toss to tight end Donald Lee in Saturday's snowy victory.

3. Yeah, well, all that stuff about Favre aside, he still can't throw the ball if he's on his backside, right?

Well, the ability of the Packers' offensive line to protect Favre against the Giants' ferocious pass rush certainly will be one of the keys.

Because the Packers aren't on national television that much, casual fans might not realize that Green Bay has one of the best tackle tandems in the league: Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher.

Neither is a prototype of what scouts normally are seeking at their respective positions. Tauscher is hardly the strongside mauler teams covet at right tackle, and Clifton doesn't look as though he possesses enough foot quickness to seal off the blind side. But the pair has been together for eight seasons, both coming to the team in the 2000 draft, and the two really are excellent.

One of them, though, will have his hands full with Giants end Osi Umenyiora, who usually aligns on the right side but moved all over the place in Sunday's win at Dallas, and who absolutely took over the game in the last few Cowboys possessions.

And here's a wild card to throw into the mix: the Giants' No. 3 end, Justin Tuck, who was not a starter this season but still had 10 sacks, one more than Michael Strahan. New York substitutes liberally on the defensive line, and Spagnuolo uses all three ends in his nickel package, so Tuck gets a lot of pass-rush opportunities. And many of them come against slower guards because he often moves inside to tackle on third down.

That's where the New York pass rush might be a bigger challenge for the Packers' offensive line. The guard positions have been unsettled in Green Bay much of the season. This would be a good week to get that position straightened out.

4. So I flipped on the TV on Saturday afternoon and saw this guy named Ryan Grant playing for the Packers and running through both the snow and the Seahawks' defense, and it struck me that I knew nothing about him. Where the heck did he come from?

Coincidentally, he came from the Giants, who were so deep at tailback coming out of the preseason that they dealt him to the desperate Packers on Sept. 1 for a sixth-round pick. Kind of an odd coincidence, huh? That the New York defense is going to have to contend with a player the Giants knew from training camp, one the team surrendered in what was pretty much a giveaway trade.

Grant originally signed with New York as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2005. He spent most of that season on the Giants' practice squad and all of 2006 on the non-football injury list with a fractured hand.

Because the Giants' depth chart already featured Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Reuben Droughns, there was no room for Grant on the roster, thus the deal. Hard to blame the New York brass for making the trade.

Grant began the season on the Green Bay bench, but when rookies Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn were injured, he landed the starting job basically by default. And despite starting just eight games, he ran for 956 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Packers love his toughness and explosiveness and, after Saturday, they have to like his resilience, too. The kid bounced back from two early fumbles that handed Seattle a 14-0 lead to run for 201 yards.

In the regular-season meeting between the two teams, Grant played sparingly. He didn't log a single carry, and his lone contribution to the Packers' offense was a 21-yard reception. Bet the mortgage he's going to have a significantly bigger role Sunday.

5. A couple of key matchups, please.

Given the battered condition of the Giants' secondary, it's going to be difficult for the unit to hold up if the Packers go to a lot of three-receiver sets.

As noted earlier, Favre is throwing the heck out of the deep ball. And though veteran Green Bay wideout Donald Driver is more a dependable receiver than a deep threat in his ninth season, a pair of young guys -- second-year pro Greg Jennings and rookie James Jones -- both exude big-play mind-sets.

Jones is a burner, but it's Jennings who plays much quicker than his stopwatch speed, and he has become Favre's go-to guy when the quarterback decides to go down the field. He has averaged nearly 30 yards per touchdown catch.

So the crippled New York secondary versus the Packers' spread looks is one matchup to watch.

Another critical one is how well the New York offensive line handles the Green Bay front seven. The Packers have a lot of depth on the defensive line, and their linebackers are very active.

Middle linebacker Nick Barnett will be a revelation for those who haven't seen him play before. And left end Aaron Kampman, a self-made player, is one of the best two-way defenders in the league. He figures to be a tall test for Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

UW Men's Hockey gets screwed, comes back with a vengence

Friday night the Badger men's hockey team got royally screwed by the refs in Denver.

The team was there playing the Denver University Pioneers - the #2 team in the country. Despite being down the whole game, Badger Matt Ford scores at the end of regulation making the score 3-3 at the end of the game, necessitating OT.

The video below clearly shows the goal being scored before regulation ended. You'll notice the refs making the signal for a goal, which means the head ref then went over and watched the replay that's below and somehow decided the goal did not count.

I have no earthly understanding of how you can watch the replay and not see that the Badgers are celebrating with about .7 seconds left, meaning the goal had to have already been scored.

The next day the WCHA released this statement:

WCHA Acknowledges Error Made in DU vs UW game Friday


The Western Collegiate Hockey Association has acknowledged that an error occurred on a goal that was disallowed in Friday (Jan. 11) night’s conference game between host University of Denver and visiting University of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin goal in question occurred as time expired, but according to the video replay system available to the referee, the puck was still in the crease when the clock in the available replay showed 0:00. But the game tape showed that the puck was in the net and back out of the net prior to 0:00.

The league regrets the error, and acknowledges that the goal should have counted.

Ok, so they admit the error. But do they plan to do anything about it? The press released offers no recourse for the Badgers in this really poorly handled situation.

In a week where the NBA granted a replay of the final 50 odd seconds of a game due to scorekeeper error, I would think the WCHA would find itself able to grant the goal, thus tying the game. The error happened on Friday and the Badgers were still in town for a game Saturday night. What the conference SHOULD have done was required the two teams to play the overtime period before Saturday's game.

But even if you want to argue against the playing of extra time, I feel THE LEAST the WCHA should do it grant the tie so that both teams get a point in the standings. As it stands, Denver received the points for the win (which they don't deserve and didn't earn) and Wisconsin ended up with nothing.

Of course, to prove that they weren't the peons in this situation and that they wouldn't take the loss lying down, Wisconsin went in on Saturday night and absolutely embarrassed Denver 7-2.

Prior to Saturday night, DU had allowed 2 or fewer goals in 15 of it's 17 wins.
Wisconsin scored 3 in the first period.

DU's starting goalie was pulled with 2 mins left in 2nd period. The other goalie has played 2:08 all season.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Holy Packer craziness

I'm not sure what it is about this season, but I feel as though the Packer playoff coverage has been ridiculous and over the top. As the game is tomorrow, it's reached it's frenzy today.

Tonight there will be a community pep rally at Lambeau. Each of the local tv station have hosted their own locally produced specials. On last night's 10:00 news, I'd say about 70% of the broadcast was Packer related.

There were at least 2 reporters reporting live from the Atrium at Lambeau Field the whole week. There was also a girl reporting live from the parking lot at Miller Park because that's where County Stadium once stood and the Packers used to play at County Stadium.

Come on guys, isn't this a bit of a stretch? They went into a random gas station and asked opinions about the rumor that Brett is coming back and then had graphics with people's email reactions as well.

And of course, this isn't "playoff" coverage. It's "road to the superbowl."

Look, I'm as excited as the next fan. But shouldn't we win a playoff game before we start talking Super Bowl?

Maybe I'm being a wet blanket, but I just think this is way too much too soon. I'm sick of the Packers this week and the game isn't for another 24 hours. This is a whole lot of hype and it could lead to some major letdown.

I'm sorry, but I just don't need to know what the beat writer in Biloxi Mississippi has to say. I don't need to know what Mason Crosby and Jon Ryan think of the Seattle kicker. I don't need to see the Miller Park parking lot or where Brett Favre might have possibly thought about eating dinner once.

I'm well aware of how obsessed this state is, but I just think we should have something to go on, first.

This isn't the wonder team. It isn't infallible (just ask the Bears). Does anyone remember last year? I'm not sure I can believe that this team went from dud to stud in a year. We have flaws and a trip to the Super Bowl just isn't guaranteed. We have to get past Seattle and then we have to deal with Dallas, which we know we have a problem with. Shouldn't we all just take a deep breath and relax and enjoy the game, instead of whipping into a ridiculous frenzy?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I heart Dan Fitzgerald!!!

Seriously, not so much. In fact, I spend a lot of most games cursing Dan Fitzgerald and his poor shot selections. But tonight, he hit a three to ice a pretty turbulent game for Marquette.

The final score was Marquette 61, Seton Hall 56 but Marquette didn't get the lead until there was 4:46 left in the game. It seemed as though Marquette couldn't buy a basket and didn't help themselves with sloppy play and poor shooting and shot choices.

The scariest part of the night came late in the game when Dominic James went up for a wide open layup and Seton Halls' Jamar Nutter ran him down while he was in mid-air. James landed awkwardly on top of Nutter and was taken off the court a short time later, presumably for x-rays. He later came back and re-entered the game, but you can be certain their will be a "wrist watch" this week as we determine the fate of James and the fate of the rest of Marquette's season.


Random aside: Near the end of the game a graphic was put up showing Marquette's upcoming games. Notice something wrong with this picture??? Who knew UConn changed their logo!

And the closeup:

Completely unrelated, but it totally makes me laugh...

Championship pictures

Images from Nola.com, espn.com and si.com


Roundup style:

Stewart Mandel on SI.com

SI.com game recap

SI fan reactions

Ivan Maisel on ESPN.com

ESPN.com recap

Final AP ballot

Gene Wojciechowski column on Les Miles' "Wahoo!"

New Orleans local coverage on Nola.com

Monday, January 07, 2008

Congratulations to my LSU Tigers, 2008 BCS Champions!!!

As Glen Dorsey just said, it's great to be a Tiger tonight!!!

LSU 38, OSU 24

I know I should have some Big Ten love, but as a good Wisconsin fan, I hate OSU and I am so happy to see LSU back atop the rock!!

Go Tigers, Kick their Ass!!
This isn't even worth it anymore. I'm tired, I'm pretty bad at liveblogging and the game is over.

I couldn't be happier that LSU won the game. As the like lone LSU fan in the Milwaukee, I would have taken shit left and right.

I'm ecstatic that LSU proved everyone wrong and proved that they belonged in this game.

I'll be sporting my LSU gear at the gym tomorrow and playing the fight song on my ipod for the office to hear.

Geaux Fightin' Tigers, fight all the way!
10:39 pm CST - another TD. Richard Dickson has his 2nd TD catch of the game. I'm pretty sure they just said this is the first time Matt Flynn has thrown 4 TDs.

LSU's win makes them the first two-time BCS winners and the first two-loss winners.

I know the two-loss thing was a big deal coming in, but after tonight's performance, you can't tell me LSU didn't play as convincingly or as dominating as USC or Georgia.
10:34 pm CST - now that the game's in the bag, who's the MVP?

Chevis Jackson has the fumble recovery and the INT. There was the blocked punt. Do they give it to Doucet or Flynn or Hester? That seems to easy and not necessarily deserved.
10:31 pm CST - interception! Game over!

Commentators just saying that Bo Pelini tells his guys they have to earn their right to rush the passer on 3rd down and LSU forcing OSU to 3rd and 15 earns them that right. Pressure on the QB and a wide open INT for the Tigers.
10:28 pm CST - a little less than 7 minutes left and 14 points behind it still seems like OSU doesn't get the gravitas of this game or that their time is limited. The commentators just seconded my emotion by saying how surprised they are that OSU seems to be taking their time.
10:19 pm CST - after booth review, LSU maintains the ball and after an unsportsmanlike penalty, LSU gets the ball on the OSU 46.
10:15 pm CST - SACK, FUMBLE, LSU recovers. Ali Highsmith strips the ball and it dribbles and bounces all over the field and LSU has the ball on the OSC 20 yard line!!!

GEAUX Tigers!!!
10:12 pm CST - OSU's going for it on 4th and 7 and Cheaty McSweatervest wants to talk it over.
10:11 pm CST - 3rd and 5...AND A SACK!!! Big stop by the LSU defense.
10:10 pm CST - Clearly I spoke too soon. Hello LSU, this game didn't end at halftime. Please come back to this game.
9:59 pm CST - Flashback to LSU's other NC in 1959 when Billy Cannon was the QB and he won the Heisman.

Little known fact that's glossed over whenever you get the LSU NC flashback. Cannon was imprisoned for counterfeiting - he kept the bills in ice chests that he buried in his yard. He was kept out of the CFB HOF because of this.

He also had a wicked cocaine habit and sold his Heisman trophy to support his habit. The trophy is kept at TJ Ribs restaurant in Baton Rouge.
9:54 pm CST - OSU with the touchdown. Gutsy move by Cheatypants McSweatervest, but 3 points would have been useless there. 31-17, OSU finally decides to answer LSU's 31 straight points.
9:54 pm CST - 3rd and 1 and LSU smacks Wells for a loss.
9:51 pm CST - OSU interception. Of course my saying that the game was all but over would jinx the whole thing and no OSU has the ball within the 10 yard line.
9:50 pm CST - the LSU band has three songs. That Geaux Tigers song they play for every first down is fun the first few times, but mostly you just wish they had a bigger repertoire.

Speaking of bands, this counts as the first time I've heard a band outside of the SEC play the Death Star March while their team is on defense, but OSU has had it in pretty big rotation tonight.
9:48 PM CST - It's becoming painfully obvious how crucial that roughing the kicker flag was. If OSU gets the ball back there and is able to score, it's a one TD game. Instead, LSU gets the ball back and scores, for all intents and purposes ending this game.

I'm certainly not adverse to LSU blowing OSU out, but having an actual game to watch for the next hour wouldn't have been bad, either.
9:37 PM CST - Two guys have Early Doucet wrapped up at the five yard line and Early shakes them off and it's 31-10 LSU.
9:35 pm CST - Dumb, dumb moves by OSU as they commit personal fouls 4 and 5 of the game. They stop LSU and have 4th & 23 and are about to get the ball back, instead Austin Spitler roughs the crap out of the kicker without touching an inch of ball and gives LSU the ball back at 1st and 10.

Next play, jawing starts up and OSU and Heyward gets another 15 yards.
9:28 pm CST - Stupid, stupid Matt Flynn. Intentional grounding, loss of down. Cheaty McSweatervest came running on the field to complain.

It's the first LSU flag of the game.
9:23 PM CST - Lafell with a beautiful one-handed catch.

Perrilloux is in the game - fakes the pitch and takes it himself.
9:22 pm CST - the guys on the OSU sideline are jumping up and down, trying to pretend they're still in this game.

LSU promptly picks up a first down on the first play, reminding OSU that they are their bitch!

Game Changing Performance

9:20 pm CST - Trinity College wins the $100,000 scholarship money. I think it totally should have been App. State, but I'm at least happy that it went to one of the smaller schools. That kind of money in the general scholarship fund of a school like that really makes a difference.

Live blogging the second half

The CuteSports boyfriend is spectacular and spent the first half setting up the wireless network who's components were purchased by the CuteSports brother and I received yesterday when my mom got home from visiting the brother for the holidays.

So from here on out, CuteSports is laptopped and wireless!! I finally joined the 21st century.

And therefore, I'll be attempting to liveblog the second half. It's my first foray into this whole live blog thing, so bear with me.


24 unanswered points, baby!

Sure, the first 5:00 were a little questionable, but even then I wasn't too worried because we were able to hold OSU to 3.

Having Glen Dorsey and Early Doucet healthy make all the difference in the world for LSU.

Over on RollBamaRoll the discussion over who deserved to be in the NC game was going on. I do understand that there is controversy and I'm not at all headlong rushing into the blind-faith LSU following. However, I do think that once you discuss all the other possible teams, this was the only situation that made sense.

There's a full discussion in including my comment, here.

#11 Marquette 64, West Virginia 79

I didn't watch the game, so you get the ESPN recap instead. From what I can tell, West Virginia pulled a fast one and Marquette was clueless. As it seems to have worked incredibly well, I can't imagine why more teams don't do this.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) --- Bob Huggins couldn't take all the credit for his first signature victory as coach at West Virginia.

Calling on Southern California coach Tim Floyd and quickly installing a triangle-and-2 defense, the Mountaineers routed Marquette (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) 79-64 on Sunday for Huggins' 601st career victory.

"I was hoping that would get them out of rhythm," Huggins said. "I have never done it in my career, so there is no way they could have known we were going to do it. I watched the USC-Memphis game and saw how USC really bothered a good Memphis team, so I called Tim Floyd. He helped us out."

The Mountaineers surprised Marquette and coach Tom Crean, who seemed to be expecting Huggins' trademark, physical man-to-man defense. The result was 14 turnovers and a number of easy baskets.

Alex Ruoff hit five 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead the Mountaineers in their first victory over a top-10 team since beating then-No. 2 UCLA last Feb. 10.

Joe Alexander added 19 points and Da'Sean Butler hit three 3s and had 13 points for West Virginia, which cruised to a 10-1 start before dropping a pair of games to Oklahoma and Notre Dame. The losses seemed to give credence to Huggins' claim that the hot start was merely "fool's gold."

Nothing looked foolish about West Virginia's 13th straight home win, and sixth straight in Big East openers.

Ruoff, who predicted that West Virginia would win before the game, made timely 3s to continually hold off Marquette. He made one from the corner to cap a 6-0 push to start the second half, then made three in as many minutes as the Mountaineers (11-3, 1-1 Big East) built a 66-54 edge with 2:56 left in the game.

"You never want to start conference play 0-2," Ruoff said. "Really, our level of play has been down [lately]. We got back to that level of intensity."

Lazar Hayward and Wesley Matthews scored 13 points each to lead Marquette (11-2, 1-1), which had won even in a row since a four-point loss to Duke (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) in late November.

But the Golden Eagles' sensational backcourt of Jerel McNeal and Dominic James was held to a combined 20 points on just 8-of-20 shooting, and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.

The Mountaineers' zone defense created nine turnovers in the first nine minutes and allowed them to build a 21-11 lead with 9:48 left in the opening half. But just when West Virginia seemed poised to run away with it, a 12-0 spurt gave Marquette a 23-21 lead with 4:27 left in the half.

The Golden Eagles trailed 29-28 at the break, then used an 8-0 run in the first four minutes of the second half to lead 43-40 with 14:50 remaining. But West Virginia immediately answered with 11 of the next 13 points, including a key jumper by Alexander to take control with about 10 minutes left.

West Virginia extended the lead to 73-56 on Ruoff's free throw with a minute remaining.

"We didn't match their energy," Crean said. "It took us three to four possessions to get used to the triangle and two [defense]. We were lethargic and it carried through the whole game. When you play like that, you're not going to be able to compete in the Big East. That's just an inexcusable effort."

The Mountaineers were 22-of-29 on foul shots, and made 13 straight over the final 1:51 to seal the win. Darris Nichols scored six of his 12 points from the line during that stretch.

The more physical Mountaineers also had a healthy rebounding edge (38-26), taking advantage of the three- and four-guard offense Marquette employs.

"The team was really into it," Huggins said. "This is the best job they have done with the scouting report all year. In two days, the team digested it and knew who we wanted to guard and where we wanted to guard them

More Mandel goodness

NEW ORLEANS -- For the better part of two months, as two-time No. 1 team LSU seemed to become progressively less dominant, losing two SEC games and barely surviving several others, we heard the same, repeated excuse: The Tigers were "banged up."

Only here's the thing: It wasn't an excuse.

It's no coincidence that LSU's last truly dominant performance -- a 48-7 rout of eventual ACC champion Virginia Tech on Sept. 8 -- was also the last time the Tigers had their full complement of weapons. It was during practice the week following that game that LSU's top receiver, Early Doucet, suffered a torn groin muscle, sidelining him for the next five games and touching off a staggering string of injuries to key players that ravaged the Tigers on both sides of the ball.

In the culminating moment, LSU played the Dec. 1 SEC championship game against Tennessee without both starting quarterback Matt Flynn and All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

"The last game we were really healthy was the [Oct. 6] Florida game," defensive end Kirston Pittman said of his team's defense. "We didn't have a lot of the guys that were starters, and when they came back they weren't 100 percent. It took a toll on us."

Asked when LSU last fielded a fully healthy offense, center Brett Helms replied, "The beginning of the season."

Now, after having five weeks since their last game to heal, the Tigers head into Monday night's BCS Championship Game against Ohio State fielding their healthiest team since that long-ago Virginia Tech game, and the expectation among LSU followers is that their performance will reflect it.

"I really believe," said Pittman, "that when we're healthy, we can't be stopped."

Pittman was speaking specifically of the Tigers' defense, which was dominant enough early to finish the regular season ranked third nationally (283.9 yards per game), behind only Ohio State and USC, yet was unquestionably a shell of itself late in the season, allowing 466 yards to Ole Miss in a 41-24 win on Nov. 17, 513 yards to Arkansas in a triple-overtime defeat six days later.

It's no coincidence that nation's most decorated defensive player, Dorsey, who suffered a painful knee injury on an apparent chop-block in the Oct. 20 Auburn game, was not himself in those games. Known for his ability to shed double-teams with ease and disrupt opposing offenses, Dorsey attempted to play through the injury but was notably less explosive, eventually reaching the point where he had to sit out.

"I was in pain," said the reigning Lombardi, Outland and Nagurski winner. "There were plays where I could usually go destroy somebody, and I'm just watching it happen. Things I could normally do, I couldn't do them."

The magnitude of Dorsey's injury was only compounded by those to several other defensive starters.

Fellow defensive tackles Charles Alexander (knee) and Marlon Favorite (ankle) and middle linebacker Darry Beckwith (knee) all missed games, while safeties Craig Seltz and Curtis Taylor were banged up late. Cornerback Chevis Jackson missed most of the Alabama game with an eye injury.

LSU was forced to rely heavily on younger players, and at times it showed.

However, with the exception of Alexander, whose season ended in week three, all affected players -- including Dorsey -- are expected to be 100 percent for Monday night's game.

"It's going to be wonderful to put some guys on the field that haven't played full strength for quite some time," said head coach Les Miles. "We'll look forward to seeing some guys not only play, but play very well."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, starting quarterback Flynn was never fully healthy after suffering an ankle injury against Virginia Tech (he missed the next week's game against Middle Tennessee) and a shoulder injury against Arkansas. He, too, says he'll be 100 percent against Ohio State, as does his coach.

"He's practiced every play as the first-team quarterback would have," said Miles, "and he's healthier than he's been, both ankle and shoulder."

LSU's injury rash was not without its upside, as it allowed the Tigers to develop several productive youngsters. Doucet's early injury threw several previously untested receivers into the fire, most notably junior college transfer Demetrius Byrd, who caught LSU's memorable game-winning touchdown against Auburn, and freshman Terrance Tolliver.

Doucet still led the team in catches (50 for 474 yards) and fellow starter Brandon LaFell in yards (641 on 48 catches), but five different players finished with at least 200 receiving yards.

"The corps of receivers was able to grow, and that's why you don't see any one guy with 100 catches for 1,200 yards," said offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. "Our team has developed because of the opportunity to play through a lot of injuries. Now, at the end of the year, we have a very confident and talented receiving corps going into the [national] championship game."

Meanwhile, on defense, youngsters like freshman defensive tackle Drake Nevis, sophomore tackle Al Woods and redshirt freshman cornerback Jai Eugene gained valuable experience, while sophomore defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois -- a freshman All-American last season who was suspended the entire regular season -- filled in for Favorite in the SEC title game and made a noticeable impact.

After struggling just to find two healthy bodies late in the season, the Tigers should be able to rotate a stable of healthy and experienced defensive tackles against Ohio State alongside ends Pittman and Tyson Jackson.

"Our defensive line is fresh," Miles said of what was once considered LSU's strongest area. "There were a number of guys that were nicked and not as full speed as they should have been."

While there's no denying the Tigers' defense was inordinately banged up late in the season, the question many are wondering heading into Monday night's game is whether that was truly the biggest factor contributing to LSU's uncharacteristic performances, which date back as far as its Oct. 13 triple-overtime loss at Kentucky.

Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini mostly downplayed the injuries in his comments this week, but also became notably defensive whenever a reporter brought up his unit's perceived "struggles" late in the season, insisting at one point that "nobody marched up and down the field on us."

Arkansas star Darren McFadden -- whose team ran for 385 yards (the most allowed by LSU in a game since 1993) in its 50-48 win on Nov. 23 -- would likely disagree with that assessment. Will Ohio State counterpart Chris Wells find significantly tougher resistance from Dorsey and the rest of the refreshed Tigers, or will he able to exploit the same holes as the Razorbacks and others?

"At the end of the day, we played good enough defense to get ourselves in this football game," said Pelini. "We feel we're the best defense in the country and we'll try to go out Monday night and prove it."

Only one thing is certain: The Tigers won't be able to use injuries as an excuse if that doesn't happen.

Interesting thoughts from Stewart Mandel of SI

Mandel has a weekly mailbag where he answers readers' questions. After the Rose Bowl, there were lots of questions about the set-up of Big 10 vs. Pac 10. There was also a lot of USC love.

I thought this one was worth sharing.

Stewart -- did I miss something? Since when does beating Arizona State and Illinois get you crowned likely national champs and the hottest team in college football? Oh, I forgot ... USC was the only team with injuries this season. Do you crown these guys too?
--Dustin, Lake Charles, La.

No, I'm as puzzled by the continued USC infatuation as you are. Even before the Rose Bowl beatdown of Illinois, there seemed to be a huge segment of the public and media that still believed the Trojans were the best team in the country, despite almost no tangible evidence to support that. This is a team that beat two -- I repeat, two -- teams with winning records during the entire regular season and lost to a team (Stanford) that finished the year 4-8.

Yes, I understand USC -- and John David Booty in particular -- was banged up in that game. You know who else suffered a boatload of injuries this season? Oregon. The Ducks were playing without three of their top four receivers and their No. 2 tailback when they beat the Trojans on Oct. 27. If you want to argue that USC could have won the national championship if it had stayed healthy, I'd counter that they might not even have won the Pac-10 had Dennis Dixon stayed healthy.

No question, USC, once healthy, was one of the top teams in the country by the end of the season, but there are still at least three other teams -- Ohio State, LSU and Georgia -- I'm more impressed with based on their seasons as a whole. As far as I can tell, the continued perception held by those who still believe USC as the top team in the country is based primarily on their track record (six straight seasons of at least 11 wins is pretty darn impressive) and the fact the Trojans were picked as such before the season. (Which is itself amusing, considering all the complaints I hear about preseason polls).

The fact is, USC did not look remotely like the No. 1 team in the country until the 11th game of its season, Thanksgiving night against Arizona State, and the Sun Devils wound up getting crushed by the two other best teams (Oregon with Dixon and Texas) it faced. The Trojans then beat up on what we figured all along would be an overmatched Illinois team. If you want to ignore their first 10 games and anoint them based on their final three, be my guest, but I personally tend to favor those who show consistency over a slightly longer period.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Outback Bowl recap

The thing about this game that's stuck with me for two days is that we just looked so completely unprepared to even be on the field and I can't figure out why.

We had at least 5 illegal formations - 2 of them were for penalties and we were forced to take timeouts on 3 of them. We didn't have new personal. There were no coaching changes. So why did this happen? We had 6 weeks to prepare for this bowl - longer than any other conference - and we looked like we just walked onto the field for the first time.

We were abysmal on 3rd down. It seemed as though our secondary was non-existent. By the middle of the second half, Tennessee was 10 of 13 for 178 yards on 3rd down passing. That stat should haunt our team like 4th and 26 haunts the Packers.

It wasn't so much that we were out-played but that we seemed to be out-coached. It seemed as though no defensive player was ever in the correct position. Tennessee had completed passes to 8 different receivers in the first half alone.

It seemed as though every time a Vol caught a pass, there was no one within 5 yards. I guess I could understand if the game started this way and we eventually adjusted our defense. But that didn't happen. Through the end of the game, Tennessee had their way with our secondary.

Guys were trying so hard to jump routes that they were completely unable to make a tackle. This would have been understandable if it weren't obvious that they were jumping the route 2 steps too late. If that's the style you're going to play, you have to come up with some interceptions to show for it and we did not.

The announcers did have some interesting nuggets of information that I thought worth writing down:

Wisconsin had an average time of possession of 33:50 for the season, leading the FBS.

Wisconsin scored 105 points in the final 2:00 of the 1st half over 14 games.

Our 3 running back, Hill, Smith and Brown combined for 2,000 yards rushing and 22 TDs. The bulk of that was PJ Hill's of course, but it's a heartening stat for the future.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I suck at picking bowls..

26 games have been played. I'm 12-14. Ouch.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Oh Hawaii...

We all saw this coming I'm sure, but Hawaii is currently being embarrassed by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. No surprises there.

What I find fascinating is how hard the commentators are working to try and make it seem like Hawaii should be there in the first place. They keep saying how out of character the play is for Hawaii and Colt Brennan.

NO, this is just how they match up with teams that don't suck!

I can't imagine the commentators actually believe the rigmarole they're spouting, but I'm also not sure how they've kept it up for so long.

Brennan's been a man running for his life all day because his line can't handle the strength and quickness of Georgia's line. They're outclassed. Period.

Instead, you here comments like "That's the worst pass you'll see from Hawaii all year. Colt Brennan has a 71% completion percentage and if you freeze that, you'll see there's no one in the area. That's not like Hawaii at all."

NO, that's not like Hawaii when they're playing WAC opponents.

I wish someone would get the pair that's apparently required to say that Hawaii had no place being there. Being undefeated clearly didn't mean anything. No offense to the rest of the WAC, but Colt Brennan clearly holds all those records because he never played anybody.

Hawaii was up in arms last season about being left out and is proving here that they can't keep up with the big boys - hell, Georgia didn't even play in their own conference's championship game. If the WAC wants to be taken seriously, they need to send us more teams like last year's Boise State. They at least proved they were correctly placed in their BCS game.

I'm sorry Hawaii, but if you're going to bitch and moan and talk so much shit, you'd better have the chops to back it up. You didn't just lose your bowl game, you got embarrassed.

4th & 2

Really, really odd choice of play call. I was all for going for it because I don't think the 3 does us any good. We can't stop them, there's plenty of time left and they are absolutely going to put points on the board. We need the 7.

But I don't understand why you don't stick with what got you there. PJ Hill will get those less than 2 yards straight of the middle, no doubt. We have less than 100 yards passing all game, clearly passing isn't going to win us this game. Stick with the run, its taken you up and down the field.

Why do coaches think that trick plays are necessary in bowl games?

I so heartily disagree with that play call.

Hello, O-line?

Remember that Wisconsin has one of the biggest O-lines in the country, averaging about 6'6" and 315 lbs. So why is Tyler Donovan constantly getting knocked around? Where's the protection?

More Outback Bowl

We here at Cute Sports Central are confused by the play of the secondary. Sure, giving up the big play was a definitely problem for this team this season, but why do we look like we're 3 steps behind every receiver?

Casillas is a much better player than that, even if the rest of the secondary is made up of backups and youngsters. So why the hell is the pass coverage so sad?

Early Outback Bowl thoughts..

The commentators just came out with the nugget that over the past 12 years the Badgers bowl game has gone as the last game of the season. If they win the final regular season game, they win their bowl. If they lose, they lose their bowl.

Also, the mental errors are driving me nuts. Stupid, stupid penalties and the need to take 2 timeouts already is leaving us around Cute Sports central really fed up. We're still just in the first quarter!

Thank god PJ Hill looks like he's back in form. A graphic went up that showed the production of our three backs this season. They combined for 2,000 yards and 22 TDs. And Hill by far carried that load.

No other Wisconsin quarterback in recent memory would have scored the TD Donovan scored. We are just not normally that mobile or that willing to take a hit. It's huge to have Donovan's mobility.