Monday, October 12, 2015

Odds, ends, and college football rankings

In case nobody noticed, and a lot of people didn't, the US Team just won another President's Cup in golf. What with the NFL and college football seasons in full swing and the major leagues slugging it out in the playoffs, it was easy to miss.

[Idle thought. Why do they call it the President's Cup? Most countries don't even have a President. There's kings, queens, premiers, prime ministers, emirs, and even a sultan or three, but very few Presidents outside the USA. And this time around the Americans took on an international squad in South Korea. Bet you don't know who the President of that country is. I didn't either until I looked it up. What with Rodman's buddy Kim to the north getting all the attention, one Park Geun-hye has flown under the radar south of the DMZ. But hye to you Park, whoever you are.]

It's kind of weird how the baseball playoffs have gone so far. A very good Pirates team got zapped in a one game wildcard playoff by the Cubs. And the mighty Yankees suffered the same fate at the hands of the upstart Astros. Somewhere the late George Steinbrenner likely twitched.

The Texas Rangers went into Toronto and won the first two games against the Jays, including knocking off ace David Price. In a best 3 of 5 format, the Rangers were sitting pretty. But then the Jays went down to the Lone Star state and returned the favor. It's now 2-2. So much for home field advantage.

Same with the Astros and KC Royals. Houston had them on the ropes up 2-1, playing at home, and enjoying a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning. Close out time. Oops, the Jays struck for 7 runs in the eighth to win 9-6. On to a deciding game 5 in that series as well. Very interesting stuff.

For entertainment value, it surely beat Bill Haas making a putt on the 18th hole against South Korean Bae Sang-moon in the final match to capture some obscure team golfing trophy. Bae Sang-moon's reward for coming so close? He just got drafted into the Korean military. Wow, evidently they take these things quite seriously in South Korea. Should have made a couple more putts Bae. Happy boot camp.

Most interesting of all are the college football rankings. Yep, Ohio State remains on top, though they've looked underwhelming so far. But hey, they're the defending champs, were ranked #1 in the pre-season, and somebody's going to have to knock them off for that ranking to change.

Baylor has been blistering everybody and the Waco Bears have rightfully earned #2 status.

TCU gives up a ton of points but somehow keeps managing to outscore everybody. They're kind of iffy at #3. But hey, how can you root against critters like horned frogs?

Utah rightfully belongs at #4. They've beaten some very good teams, both at home and on the road, including resurgent Michigan. Though pollsters would rather talk about the likes of the perennial "big boys", the absolute 62-20 mangling the Utes put on Oregon was impossible to ignore. These Salt Lake boys appear to be the real deal. Hardly what they uted to be. Sorry. Ahem.

Michigan State had climbed to as high as #2. But despite remaining undefeated, a few yawner performances against teams they should have clobbered has seen them slide in the rankings all the way down to #8.

Conversely, cross-state rival Michigan has been on the roll of rolls. Since a close opening loss to the above-mentioned Utah, the Wolverines have outscored their opponents 160-14, including 97-0 in their last three games. And not against patsies. BYU is decent, and Northwestern was ranked #12 before getting shellacked 38-0 at the hands of UM. Unranked in the preseason, the Maize and Blue has zoomed up to #12. They have earned it.

This Saturday, MSU travels to UM for a highly anticipated game. The Spartans have owned the Wolverines in recent years, but the expectations appear to have changed -- at least among Michigan, their fans, and the oddsmakers.

Somewhat surprisingly, Michigan is an early 7 point favorite over Michigan State. It would seem to defy logic. How can a #12 team be favored by a touchdown over the #8 team? Home field advantage is supposed to only be worth 3 points, right?  So how does that work and what do the wise guys in Vegas know that we arm chair/big screen fans don't?

Yet make no mistake. This game is absolutely HUGE in the state of Michigan. It's more than just bragging rights for a year for either school. It's a crossroads for both programs.

If MSU wins, and remember their higher ranking and recent successful history, the status quo will remain intact. Could happen. Head coach Mark Dantonio has done a masterful job of making the Spartans perennial contenders on the national stage.

But if UM wins, and remember they're a supposed 7 point favorite and playing at home, the swagger will be back in Ann Arbor. Could happen as well. Let's not forget first year coach Jim Harbaugh will have pulled this off with, for the most part, the same rag-tag bunch he inherited from former coach Brady Hoke. Those guys couldn't get out of their own way under the tutelage of the hokey-pokey man. Can one training camp under a different head coach make that much of a difference with the same crew? Maybe.

Prediction? This won't be a game for the faint at heart. There will be some serious hitting going on in the Big House from both sides. Hard to say which team is in better physical condition and how that may play out as the game reaches its latter stages. If either gets gassed, they're in trouble.

But Michigan State has looked wobbly of late while Michigan features the best defense in the land. MSU QB Connor Cook may well be an NFL prospect, and he'll have to show it in this game. The Spartans won't be able to run against the swarming Wolverine defense. Yet when it comes to smarts, and been there done that, MSU has the advantage.

Despite their recent lackluster showings, my feeble head tells me the Spartans will rise to the occasion and put Michigan in its place once again.

But my heart says it's time for Michigan to finally turn the tables, put a whupping on their recent nemesis, and dispatch the demons.

I suspect the 7 point spread will shrink as the game gets closer, but give me Michigan to cover regardless. Methinks Jim Harbaugh is the real deal and the Wolverines are back.

So there.

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