Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leftover Tuesday notes (but the frog legs are all gone)

A few more notes and observations from Tuesday:
  • Maybe they should wait to start the national rankings until mid-October, Randy Edsall said. No one has any idea how good anyone is until then. "The (early-season) rankings are just based on what happened the year before. I don't know if anyone really comes out of the woodwork."

  • The Huskies are still working on straightening out their red zone woes. Asked if he thinks the play-calling inside the 20 has become predictable, he said "We're calling plays based on what we see on film. We try to call things we think will work."

  • Don't expect Andre Dixon to get another 32-carry day like he did against South Florida. Edsall said that was probably a little too much. Of course, if Dixon's on fire and the game is close again....

  • More snap shots of the surreal. Guess who called the UConn athletic communications office to say they were coming up to the Runway to watch UConn play Rutgers on Saturday? Yep. Representatives from the Sugar Bowl. Read that again. UConn has drawn the interest of the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl!!! Whoda thunk it?!?

  • Palomar Community College in San Marcos, Calif. has been closed the past week because of the wildfires in southern California. Tyler Lorenzen, an All-America at Palomar last fall, says he's been keeping in touch with a lot of his former coaches and teammates to see how they are doing. "Around 30 of them have been evacuated from their houses," Lorenzen said.

  • D.J. Hernandez says Lorenzen has become like a brother over the past few months. "We're always arguing," D.J. says with a smile. "You see him in the morning, and I just make fun of him. He and his family are the most energetic people I've ever seen in my life. I see them at 6 in the morning and they're all (full of life) and I'm just like get away from me. He comes from a great family, and has something special that makes the guys around him better....but I wouldn't want to see him on Red Bull."

  • Spent most of the day on campus working on stuff for the paper. Was hungry as I headed home around 7:30, and stopped off at an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant in Vernon. I knew I was in trouble when I saw they had frog legs offered on the buffet. Actually, they were deep fried frog legs. They must have been jumping frogs because they were all about five inches long. The kicker is the plate was almost empty, so they went into the kitchen, came back and refilled it! Of course, it takes a lot more than that to spoil my appetite. I was just a little more finicky than usual about what I put on my plate. Still, I can't help but wonder who in Vernon is polishing off mass quantities of frogs legs?

Jeff Hathaway rips ESPN

Biggest news from the Tuesday media luncheon came from UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway, who ripped ESPN for its decision to stick the Huskies on ESPNU for the next two weeks.

That makes it four times since Sept. 22 that UConn has been relegated to the relatively obscure station, which is carried on very few cable systems in the state. Hathaway mentioned the financial concerns as well as the lack of exposure for the Big East's first-place team. There is no compensation to UConn for games broadcast on ESPNU. Anything on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC (part of the family) nets $100,000 for the school.

"I fully understand that the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut football program is being used by the network to leverage cable companies in our state -- which are so important for the network -- to add ESPNU to their platform. We understand that, we know that's what is happening. But without question, as I explained to commissioner Tranghese as early as this morning, as the team that's in first place in the Big East, our expectation is to be on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. We understand than an occasional game may be on ESPNU. I've relayed my concerns to the commissioner, that first and foremost, the first-place team in the Big East, is giving up exposure on a national basis that first and foremost drives recruiting and drives fan interest. Secondarily, in our revenue sharing program within the Big East Conference, teams on ESPNU are not compensated on a per-game basis as they are on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2.

"But I want to make it clear that our primary concern is exposure. This football program, our student-athletes and coaches have worked hard to put us in a position to be successful. This institution has invested mightily in this program over the years to put us in this position. We know that the exposure we should be getting today, we are not getting. The exposure we should be getting today relates to recruiting success. And we want everyone to know that our expectation is we should be on that platform."

The Big East Conference signed a long-term deal with ESPN in 2006 for men's and women's basketball and football that runs through 2013. It means the network can do with it whatever it wants in terms of placement and game time. Hathaway said UConn and the Big East plans to stay on this issue in an attempt to get better television exposure from the network.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Climbing to 13th on the BCS.

Just in case you haven't seen the BCS standings yet. Huskies go from 23 to 13. Dare we look so far ahead, but will UConn have enough juice to break past the field and into the top two even if they run the table? Should be fun to find out.

1. Ohio State 9-0
2. Boston College 8-0
3. LSU 7-1
4. Arizona State 8-0
5. Oregon 7-1
6. Oklahoma 7-1
7. West Virginia 7-1
8. Kansas 8-0
9. Missouri 7-1
10. Georgia 6-2
11. Virginia Tech 6-2
12. Michigan 7-2
13. Connecticut 7-1
14. Hawaii 8-0
15. Texas 7-2
16. Auburn 6-3
17. Alabama 6-2
18. South Florida 6-2
19. USC 6-2
20. Florida 5-3
21. Wisconsin 7-2
22. Boise State 7-1
23. Virginia 7-2
24. Wake Forest 6-2
25. Clemson 6-2

Introducing the No. 16 team in the nation

The polls are in, and UConn debuts at No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 while the USA Today/coaches poll has the Huskies at 20.

The theme of Edsall's conference call today was that with a lot of wins comes a lot of recognition. The sheer size of the weekly Sunday today, which had about twice as many media as usual including national outlets like Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, is a testament to that.

Edsall said the team had little reaction when he informed them of the ranking at a team meeting earlier today. "It's business as usual around here," Edsall remarked. Edsall said he went home, watched game film, slept a bit, and was in his office at 4:30 a.m. to watch more film and start prepping for Rutgers.

"We haven't accomplished anything yet," Edsall said. "We still have (another) game to play this Saturday, so all our focus and preparation has to be on who we're playing this week. I think this team is mature enough to understand that. We're not going to get caught up in that, they're not going to get caught up in that."

There are still too many points being left on the field, especially in the red zone, Edsall says. He's still looking for more consistency in what UConn does on offense. Take nothing away from the defense, which was terrific once again. But certainly, the Huskies caught a few breaks in terms of dropped USF passes and untimely USF penalties during the final drive. There's always ways to improve.

Game balls went to Tyvon Branch (special teams), Cody Brown (defense), the five offensive linemen and Steve Brouse (offense).

BCS ranking won't be released for a few hours, but in case you missed it, here are the polls.

AP Top 25

1. Ohio State (59) 9-0 1,615
2. Boston College (1) 8-0 1,501
3. LSU (3) 7-1 1,478
4. Oregon 7-1 1,417
5. Oklahoma 7-1 1,365
6. Arizona State (2) 8-0 1,310
7. West Virginia 7-1 1,286
8. Kansas 8-0 1,164
9. Missouri 7-1 1,121
10. Georgia 6-2 949
11. Virginia Tech 6-2 823
12. Hawaii 8-0 776
13. USC 6-2 742
14. Texas 7-2 728
15. Michigan 7-2 726
16. Connecticut 7-1 555
17. Alabama 6-2 547
18. Florida 5-3 532
19. Auburn 6-3 530
20. South Florida 6-2 392
21. Wake Forest 6-2 259
21. Boise State 7-1 259
23. South Carolina 6-3 196
24. Tennessee 5-3 165
25. Clemson 6-2 146
Others Receiving VotesWisconsin 132, California 131, Kentucky 123, Virginia 33, Penn State 30, Purdue 22, Brigham Young 22, TROY 13, Kansas State 12, UCLA 11, Oklahoma State 5, Illinois 4, New Mexico 4, Rutgers 1.
Dropped From RankingsKentucky 14, California 18, Virginia 21, Penn State 24, Rutgers 25.

USA Today Poll
1. Ohio State (56) 9-0 1,495
2. Boston College (3) 8-0 1,414
3. LSU 7-1 1,324
4. Oregon (1) 7-1 1,280
5. Oklahoma 7-1 1,269
6. Arizona State 8-0 1,221
7. West Virginia 7-1 1,177
8. Kansas 8-0 1,108
9. Missouri 7-1 983
10. Georgia 6-2 791
11. Hawaii 8-0 769
12. Texas 7-2 753
13. Virginia Tech 6-2 736
14. Michigan 7-2 701
15. USC 6-2 679
16. Auburn 6-3 454
17. Florida 5-3 451
18. Alabama 6-2 439
19. Wisconsin 7-2 422
20. Connecticut 7-1 419
21. South Florida 6-2 291
22. Boise State 7-1 218
23. Kentucky 6-3 159
24. Clemson 6-2 145
25. South Carolina 6-3 131
Others Receiving VotesVirginia 119, California 118, Wake Forest 115, Purdue 107, Tennessee 64, Penn State 53, Illinois 21, Kansas State 20, Brigham Young 13, Oklahoma State 11, Cincinnati 8, Texas Tech 8, Vanderbilt 4, Houston 4, Colorado 2, Florida State 2, Oregon State 2.
Dropped From RankingsVirginia 18, California 20, PENNST 22.

South Florida win highlight video

Got the new highlight video from Jared Nuss. This one with a little country style. Well done, as always.

AP poll should be out soon. My guess is 20. Edsall has a teleconference at 4, so check back for the scoop.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Biggest win in UConn football history: the aftermath.

This postgame blogging may eventually kill me. It's like going 15 rounds with Apollo Creed, then finding out there's still a couple more rounds left.

  • Did you see Randy Edsall waving his arms like a mad man to help whip the crowd into a frenzy near the end of South Florida's time out? He may need rotator cuff surgery in the offseason.
  • Randy also apologized profusely for using "bad language" during his live postgame interview on ABC. He said he just got caught up in the emotion. From all accounts, Randy simply said "It was a hell of a win." What is this? Mayberry? Gee whiz, Randy. A priest wouldn't require a single Hail Mary for that non-slip of the tongue.
  • Huge play for Greg Robinson on the Grothe boot leg. Robinson has a limited role that doesn't give him much glory, but that was as big a defensive stop as there's ever been in Uconnland.
  • There must have been 40 media members surrounding Jim Levitt outside the USF locker room after the game. I was on the outside, but was told he answered every question with one word responses. Yes. No. Warrior (when asked about Matt Grothe). That's my Leavitt.
  • Fans came up huge once again. They were loud against Louisville, and loud again today. Maybe a lesson was learned on how effective a 12th man they can be from that Virginia game two weeks ago. At any rate, bravo to you all.
  • I wondered why security guards even bothered to try and stop the kids jumping out of the student section and onto the field after the game. There were 10,000 other people already on the field, and security was trying to randomly grab kids. No one went for the goal posts, so let them have their fun.
  • Andre Dixon. Wow.
  • I haven't studied the scores from around the country yet, but I'll take a stab. UConn could climb to 15 in the BCS and just might break 20 (19?) in the AP poll on Sunday.

See you Sunday.

Sun Bowl's big cheese at the Runway

Just got word that it's not just some regional directors from the Sun Bowl who have made the trek here to East Hartford today. It's John Folmer, the president and CEO. Guess they're fairly interested in this game.

Also, true freshman Anthony Sherman gets the start at fullback. Alex LaMagdelaine will start at left guard.

In case you wanted to know, they turned on the defogger, and the windows are nice and clear in the press box now.

Greetings from the steamy press box

This could be interesting. The windows in the press box here at the Runway have completely steamed over. It's like looking in a bathroom mirror after a hot shower. Can someone turn on the defog button?

Rain wasn't too bad coming in here, but it's supposed to get nasty right around kickoff. It didn't hurt the Huskies last week against a good Louisville offense, so maybe it's for the best.

Just a quick thanks to Ray Dunaway of WTIC-1080 and producer James DiGuiseppe for having me on the UConn pregame show this morning. I had a great time.

One interesting pregame note:

Representatives from the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas are here at the Runway, and you can bet they have their eyes on both teams.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Runway Challenge Week 9

Not much news out of the Thursday teleconference. No decisions on whether Lawrence Green or Alex LaMagdelaine will start on the o-line. Same with injured Anthony Davis at fullback. Still about 1,000 tickets left for Saturday's game, which is looking more and more like another rainy day game.

Figured since UConn became bowl eligible last weekend, I'd take a look at the big picture and see just where the Huskies might end up for the holidays. Unlike Pitt last season, even a 6-6 record will get UConn a bid somewhere unless there's some major upheaval over the final month.

First, here's each team with their remaining schedule and my ultra-conservative predictions in parenthisis.

CINCINNATI (6-2, 1-2)
11/3: at South Florida (L)
11/10: UConn (L)
11/17: West Virginia (L)
11/24: at Syracuse (W)
Predicted record: 7-5 (2-5 Big East)

UCONN (6-1, 2-0)
10/27: South Florida (L)
11/3: Rutgers (L)
11/10: at Cincinnati (W)
11/17: Syracuse (W)
11/24: at West Virginia (L)
Predicted record: 8-4 (4-3)

LOUISVILLE (4-4, 1-2)
10/27: Pitt (W)
11/8: at West Virginia (L)
11/17: at South Florida (L)
11/29: Rutgers (W)
Predicted record: 6-6 (3-4)

PITTSBURGH (3-4, 1-1)
10/27: at Louisville (L)
11/3: Syracuse (W)
11/17: at Rutgers (L)
11/24: South Florida (L)
12/1: West Virginia (L)
Predicted record: 4-8 (2-5)

RUTGERS (5-2, 2-1)
10/27: West Virginia (L)
11/3: at UConn (W)
11/9: at Army (W)
11/17: Pitt (W)
11/29: at Louisville (L)
Predicted record: 8-4 (4-3)

SOUTH FLORIDA (6-1, 1-1)
10/27: at UConn (W)
11/3: Cincinnati (W)
11/10: at Syracuse (W)
11.17: Louisville (W)
11/24: at Pitt (W)
Predicted record: 11-1 (6-1)

SYRACUSE (2-5, 1-2)
11/3: at Pitt (L)
11/10: South Florida (L)
11/17: at UConn (L)
11/24: Cincinnati (L)
Predicted record: 2-9 (1-6)

WEST VIRGINIA (6-1, 1-1)
10/27: at Rutgers (W)
11/8: Louisville (W)
11/17: at Cincinnati (W)
11/24: UConn (W)
12/1: Pitt (W)
Predicted record: 11-1 (6-1)

Which would make the Big East standings as follows:
1. South Florida (6-1), wins tiebreaker, auto BCS
2. West Virginia (6-1), gets at-large BCS bid
3. Rutgers (4-3)
3 (tie). UConn (4-3)
5. Louisville (3-4)
6. Cincinnati (2-5)
6 (tie). Pitt (2-5)
8. Syracuse (1-6)

And the bowl shake out:


BCS National Championship game: LSU vs. Ohio State
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. West Virginia
Orange Bowl: Boston College vs. South Florida
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Missouri
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Hawaii

The rest of the Big East:

Sun Bowl: Rutgers vs. UCLA
Meineke Car Care Bowl: UConn vs. Clemson
Papajohns.com Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Southern Mississippi
International Bowl: Louisville vs. Ball State

For UConn, best-case scenario is to win out and earn a BCS bid (odds: 100,000-1), more realistic best-case scenario: beat either Rutgers or South Florida in addition to Syracuse and Cincinnati, the Sun Bowl is looking good. Realistic worst-case scenario and worst-case scenario: The Huskies beat only Syracuse and lose the rest, or just lose the rest: International Bowl.

On to the weekly picks

Game 1: RUTGERS (+6) over West Virginia: Rutties won't be pushed around on their home field, especially in rare instances when its the underdog.

Game 2: LOUISVILLE (-11) over Pittsburgh: Panthers and Dave Wannestedt welcome the team and the coach that have kept them from being the biggest disappointment in the Big East Conference.

Game 3: OREGON (-3) over Southern California: The Mighty Ducks have dreams of national championship game. This could be the one that sends them quacking, I mean packing. Next week's game with Arizona State will be no picnic, either.

Game 4: Florida (-8.5) over Georgia (at Jacksonville): Not exactly a neutral site. Gators bounced back nicely against Kentucky, and should keep it rolling.

Game 5: South Florida (-4.5) over CONNECTICUT: Huskies are 6-1 against the spread this season, Temple being the lone hiccup. Why jinx them? You can thank me later.

Game 6: Virginia (-3) over NC STATE: Wolfpack have been blown out by every quality opponent they've faced this season. More telling: they only scored 10 points against the chunk of Swiss cheese that is the Louisville secondary. Cavs D is nasty (just ask UConn). No worries here.

Game 7: Kansas (-3) over TEXAS A&M: The Jayhawks may well be undefeated heading into the regular season finale against Missouri. Will their weak schedule be enough to propel them to national title game if they run the table?

Game 8: TENNESSEE (-3) over South Carolina: Was just starting to believe in the ol' ball coach until the stinker against Vandy. What was that all about?

Game 9: Ohio State (-4) over PENN STATE: Michigan loses to Appalachian State. Minnesota the worst team in Division I-A. JoePa in a road rage incident. Three Michigan State players knock off a store near East Lansing. The list goes on and on. What's going on in the Big 10?

Game 10: Cal (+3) over ARIZONA STATE: Golden Bears are overrated, but I don't think Sun Devils are going undefeated.

Game 11: North Carolina (+6) over WAKE FOREST: Demon Deacons just don't blow opponents out.

Get your picks in now by clicking "comments" at the end of this post.

Last week's results
1. Will L 10-5
2. Pete 9-6
Kevin 9-6
4. Caleb 8-7
detroittigershater 8-7
Dan 8-7
Sammy 8-7
SeanO's ghost 8-7
Mitch Kumpstein 8-7
P.J. 8-7
11. Ian 6-9
Vinny from East Haven 6-9
13. Chip 5-10
14. kooch 4-11

Overall standings
1. SeanO's ghost 54
2. Ian 53
3. Kooch 51
4. Sammy 49
5. Chip 48
6. Vinny from East Haven 46
7. Will L 44
8. DetroitTigersHater 43
9. Caleb Mandrake 42
10. Dan 41
11. Pete 37
Kevin 37
13. sturge-rock 22
14. Mitch Kumpstein 16
Alex 16
16. Steve P 8
P.J. 8

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No Jim Leavitt. Most anticipated Tuesday press conference of the year is ruined.

There was a little extra jump in my step this morning as I made the long drive from New Haven to Storrs for the weekly Tuesday media luncheon. In fact, I had circled this Tuesday on the calendar months ago. The reason for the excitement? Do you need to even ask? Part of the luncheon would include a teleconference with South Florida coach Jim Leavitt, the man who almost single-handedly made blogging enjoyable for me here at the New Haven Register.

Leavitt, however unintentionally, has become my favorite interview subject simply because he has taken the press conference to uncharted levels of dullness. He's beyond Bill Belichick boring. He's Mr. Vargas from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off rolled into one (with a green South Florida visor permanently attached to his head). But in that dullness, he provides endless opportunities for (mostly bad) jokes for yours truly. I spent most of the 90 minutes driving up this morning thinking up new material for Leavitt. After all, I recently found out Leavitt was a member of Pi Lambda Theta at the University of Missouri and was doing work toward his Ph. D in psychology when he decided to coach full time.

Then, I arrived at the Shenkman Center to the horrifying news that Jim Leavitt turned down the request to be interviewed by the Connecticut media today. A couple of my colleagues jokingly blamed me and the Runway blog as the reason why. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Still trying to get over it, I'll move on to the news and notes of the day.
  • Not a real surprise, but Andre Dixon has officially supplanted Donald Brown as the starting tailback. Dixon's been great, and handled most of the carries the last couple of weeks. Brown, even before his injury, just wasn't running the same as last season. "I just want Donald to settle down," Randy Edsall said. "What I mean by that is I think there might have been too much pressure he put on himself because of the expectations others had set for him coming into this season based on the success he had a year ago. And again, I firmly believe this, I think he's been pressing way too much. I think he's over thought and over analyzed things. He needs to get back to being Donald Brown. Being that guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder like he did a year ago, and not worrying what expectations he should have other than the expectations we have for him here within the program and the expectations he has for himself. He'll be fine. I saw things when we practiced Sunday that made me feel good. I think he's turned the page."

  • Lawrence Green is back atop the depth chart (or at least tied with Alex LaMagdelaine) at left guard just over six weeks after tearing the MCL and PCL in his left knee. No surgery, just extended rehab and a reinforced knee brace. Green says he's between 90 and 100 percent, and feeling strong. Any doubts? He did a nice job filling in when Donald Thomas went out for a few plays with an injury, and was one of the guys who helped propel Andre Dixon across the goal line for the winning TD against Louisville on Friday.

  • Edsall mentioned how when USF was admitted to the Big East a few years back, he said he felt the school would be the one to rise to prominence quickly because of its location in the heart of the talent-laden Florida high school football scene. "He's in a fertile recruiting area, which we're not," Edsall said. "They have a lot more players to choose from in a condensed area in-state. They have a lot of talent to recruit from, and they've capitalized on that to get very good football players and done a good job of coaching them up."

  • Asked about the now infamous fair catch, Edsall channeled his inner Mark McGwire and said there would be no comments on anything other than the South Florida game. I like it. In fact, it's now my new policy. Don't like something I write? Sorry. I don't want to talk about the past. I'm only focused on my next story.

  • Wonder if Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has any regrets about Scott Lutrus yet. The Terps had multiple chances to get Lutrus, who had only UConn and Ivy League schools interested while he was starring at running back and linebacker in high school. One of Lutrus' coaches at Brookfield High played with Friedgen at Maryland and sent him game film during his junior season. "They said 'I don't think so'," Lutrus said. "They sent film again my senor year, they said 'we'll think about it'. When they found out I got an offer from UConn they said 'don't wait. you have the offer, you have the chance, take it.'" Lutrus, coming off an 18-tackle game, is looking more and more like one of the special ones. Too bad for Friedgen.

  • Dan Davis said the Huskies had literally no reaction when informed they had cracked the BCS standings at No. 23 on Sunday. "Everyone was kind of like 'Oh'," Davis said. "I think it was Lindsey Witten that said it doesn't matter because they only take the top 8 for the big bowl games anyway." Davis said the team isn't content, and focused on playing the rest of the season before worrying about the bowl scenarios and potential.

  • Rob Lunn had not one, not two, but three Red Sox caps with him today for his WTIC-1080 pregame radio interview with noted Yankees fan Joe D'Ambrosio. He unsuccessfully tried to get Joe D to wear one for the interview. It should be noted that Lunn is a Red Sox fan from New York, a fact not lost on myself or Joe D and a reliable source for breaking Lunn's chops. Lunn justifies it because he's from upstate. I say that only means he should be rooting for the Blue Jays. And yes, I'm still bitter about the Yankees latest early postseason exit.

A few tidbits from the South Florida media guide....

  • Quarterback Matt Grothe is an avid outdoorsman. His personal bio reads, "He enjoys both hunting and fishing." Whoa. Hunting AND fishing? Did someone alert the Discovery Channel?

  • Among those listed in the section titled "Prominent USF Grads" are Mark Consuelos (better known as Mr. Kelly Ripa) and Tony La Russa (whose name is spelled incorrectly in the guide). That's respectable. Also listed... comedian Gallagher (somethings are better kept unpublicized). But here's the kicker. Melissa Howard, a former cast member for MTVs "The Real World". The Real World? Seriously? Guess there weren't any "The Price is Right"contestants or "American Idol" rejects to choose from.

I'm done. For now.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The frantic post-game

Deadlines can be a bitch. Filed my game story just in time for our final 12:30 a.m. cutoff. Hopefully it makes sense. Some good quotes came out of the press conferences, but there's not a lot of time to make things clear and concise in situations like these.

Everyone saw Larry Taylor signal for a fair catch. ESPN's replays confirmed he raised his arm, and that's why Louisville's Bilal Powell pulled up. But the referee, apparently, never saw the signal and never blew his whistle. Taylor took off, the rest is history. Here's what they had to say...

"They didn't give me any explanation," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "The explanation they gave me was that he didn't make a fair catch signal. The back judge told me he did not make a fair catch signal. I called time out and asked the head official if I can review that and he said "I'm not sure", quote unquote "I'm not sure". My personal opinion is that there was absolutely no question he called for a fair catch. But that's my personal opinion. That and 50 cents will get you a cup of coffee, if you're lucky."

"I saw he caught the ball, ran down the left sideline and then scored a touchdown," Randy Edsall said. "Until I see the film, that's what I saw on the field."

Larry Taylor always wears a wide smile, so it wasn't especially telling that he was grinning both on the sidelines and in the post game interview room. Taylor was adament that he never signaled for a fair catch.

"Fair catch?" Taylor said. "That wasn't no fair catch out there. That was fair play. The referee didn't call anything. But I didn't call for a fair catch anyway."

It took me a couple of listens to my audio tape of Taylor to finally figure this out, but it's a pretty interesting quote. Taylor said the referee said something to him just before the punt.

"He said to make sure I get my hand up high so he could see it," Taylor said.

A reporter followed that up with this "Why did you put your hand up?"

Taylor said, "I didn't really put my hand up. I was playing a mind game with the defender. I don't feel I got away with anything. The referee never blew the whistle."

I asked Taylor if the reason he ran because he never heard a whistle.

"Once I caught the ball, I just ran."

By rule, a fair catch is signaled when a player raises one arm above his head and waves it from side to side more than once. You can nitpick and say Taylor never waved his arm, he just stuck it up there. If that's the case, then by rule the ball never should have been advanced. An invalid fair catch, in this case a player who raises an arm but pulls it back before a wave, can not be advanced more than two steps, according to the NCAA football rulebook.

That's it for tonight (or is it this morning?)...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Two minutes to kickoff

Just before 8, and it's not only raining cats and dogs, the wind gusts are pretty severe here at the Runway. My prediction of a high scoring game may be way off. Crowd should be sparse, too. Sometimes ESPN can hurt. It's too easy to stay home on a night like this.

Couple of other notes:

No word on who the mystery injury was, but we've been assured whoever he is, he is playing today. Couldn't get much more other than the mystery player has a pretty good backup. Sometimes I hate my job.

Also, there are representatives from the Fiesta Bowl and the Meineke Car Car Bowl here scouting both teams. Small crowd tonight at the Runway might come back to hurt UConn...not something bowl reps want to see, even in bad weather.

The really, really early show

Left my house at 2 p.m., a full six hours before kickoff, to head to the Runway in anticipation of the traffic apocalypse we were told was inevitable. Experienced no traffic at all, and got to Rentschler at 3, in a downpour, with five hours to kill. I'm sure traffic is worse now, but there sure didn't seem to be a heck of a lot of cars at Cabella's. I would have gone inside to see what the hubbub was all about, but I'm a man of principle. I'm the guy who refuses to even glance out the corner of his eye when passing an accident on the highway because of my disdain of rubber-neckers and, as Montgomery Burns would call them, slack-jawed gawkers. Cabella's forced me to leave my house at least two, maybe three hours, before I would have because of their thirst for publicity. So, I'll buy my bright orange camoflague and night-vision goggles elsewhere.

Apparently, the rest of the media was thinking the same as me. It was a near full house in the press box at 3. With five hours til kickoff, everyone is gorging themselves at the Dunkin' Donuts table. They have their new flatbread sandwiches and individual pizza for us, so, I felt obliged to try both. Surprisingly, the pizza wasn't awful. They skimp a bit on the meat in the flatbread ham and swiss. It's mostly bread. An air sandwich. I recommend passing on it.

Did someone let Joe Morelli into the press box? Mike and the Mad Dog, the televised YES broadcast, is now blaring from the televisions. Not a big fan. I have the iPod on.

Otherwise, it's going to be a really wet one here tonight. Forcast calls for it to get really heavy after sunset. Could cut into offense, or at least slow the Cardinals. I expect it will have a big effect on the crowd, too. Might be lots of empty seats.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Runway Challenge Week 8, the Manny edition: Where we don't care if the Red Sox lose either

The short week is cutting into my blog time today. But I wanted to get the picks up in time to include Friday night's UConn-Louisville game. No lead in topic or observations today. Just the picks, including a bonus over/under game.

Game 1: Louisville (-3.5) over CONNECTICUT: Louisville is 13-4 when Brian Brohm tops 300. Of course, they are 9-2 over the last two-plus seasons when he's held under 300. I say, let Brohm have his yards!

Game 1a: Louisville at CONNECTICUT over/under 62: Bet the over!

Game 2: Cincinnati (-10) over PITTSBURGH: Dave Wannestedt tore his Achilles tendon and missed practices this week to recover from surgery. Some guys will do anything to avoid answering for botching a game beyond belief.

Game 3: FLORIDA STATE (-6) over Miami-Fl.: Remember when this was the can't miss game of the fall? Now, both are middling teams in a middling conference.

Game 4: Mississippi State (+24) over WEST VIRGINIA: Bulldogs have been a pain in the neck (opener vs. LSU aside) to ranked teams and should find a way to cover.

Game 5: Southern California (-18) over NOTRE DAME: Petey Carroll was an NFL failure, hailed as a genius in college. Charlie Weis hailed as a genius in the NFL, a big fat failure in college.
Game 6: Texas Tech (+4) over MISSOURI: Graham Harrell on pace for 5,850 passing yards and 58 touchdowns, mainly by running up the score in an attempt to gain notice in a state dominated by Texas Longhorns news. This continues a Lone Star state tradition made famous by David Klingler and Andre Ware.

Game 7: Florida (-7) over KENTUCKY: Wildcats just knocked off No. 1 LSU, and are getting a touchdown at home? This is too obvious, which is why I'm defying logic, taking a page from George Costanza's book and doing the exact opposite. I also just ordered lunch. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted...with a cup of tea.

Game 8: SYRACUSE (-3.5) over Buffalo: Almost decided to go Costanza and pick the opposite again, especially since Buffalo has been much improved this season. But my theory is this...Syracuse will relish its final chance to beat up on a lesser opponent this season and kick the holy crap out of the Bulls.

Game 9: COLORADO (+3.5) over Kansas: Jayhawks take over reigns from UConn and are now the undefeated team no one respects. Colorado, a team no one can figure out, should hand them their first.

Game 10: Oregon (-11.5) over WASHINGTON: Ducks have ugliest uniforms in the history of college athletics.

Game 11: OKLAHOMA STATE (-3) over Kansas State: I just can't get excited about anything in the Big 12, not even Mike Gundy press conferences.

Game 12: MARYLAND (-4) over Virginia: No home crowd to save the Hoos bacon this week. By the way, found out Hoos is short for Wahoos. Still makes no sense. But there you go.

Game 13: LSU (-10.5) over Auburn: Andre Woodson and Kentucky shut James Carville up pretty quick. If only CNN would do the same.

Game 14: PENN (+15) over Yale: Bulldogs are for real, but haven't played well at Franklin Field since the first George Bush (also a Yale alum) was in office.

Last week's results
1. Ian 9-2
2. Caleb Mandrake 7-4
Dan 7-4
kooch 7-4
5. Chip 6-5
Will L 6-5
7. Sammy 5-6
Mitch Kumpstein 5-6
SeanO's ghost 5-6
Vinny from East Haven 5-6
11. Kevin 4-7
Detroit Tigers Hater 3-8

Overall standings

1. Kooch 47
Ian 47
3. SeanO's Ghost 46
4. Chip 43
5. Sammy 41
6. Vinny from East Haven 40
7. DetroitTigersHater 35
8. Will L 34
Caleb Mandrake 34
10. Dan 33
11. Pete 28
Kevin 28
13. sturge-rock 22
14. Alex 16
15. Steve P 8
Mitch Kumpstein 8

Get your picks in by clicking the "comments" key below, then doing a quick cut and paste on the template set up inside.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Donald Brown will play against Louisville

Because of the short week, UConn has pushed up Randy Edsall's Thursday teleconference to today. Wasn't expecting much happened in a day, but it was fairly informative.

  • Donald Brown is now "95 percent", and will definitely see action against Louisville. Andre Dixon will start, but Edsall said Donald will play and is hoping to get something from him.
  • Lawrence Green is also better. Alex LaMagdelaine will still get the start, but Green, out the last six weeks, has made a lot of progress. "He's closer to the point where he can be getting full-time game reps," Edsall said.
  • Edsall also addressed why he's handled injury reports so secretly. He says is was a collective decision between himself, the team trainer and doctor to be as private as they can regarding specifics of injuries. He cited the HIPAA laws which protect a patients privacy. Edsall wasn't asked, he just said this is why we're doing this. I appreciate that.
  • Paper work is already being filed to attempt to get Aaron Bagsby a medical redshirt. Bagsby was injured early on in the season (it was a shoulder), only played in the Duke game and is out for the rest of this season.
  • Edsall said another player on the two-deep was hurt in practice Tuesday. He declined to name who, or how severe, but said "it shouldn't really affect us (against Louisville)."

So that's that. On an unrelated note, exactly one person asked about the pictures I took on the Virginia trip and why they haven't been posted. So Wayne Norman, here you go.

Since I flew into Washington D.C. and was driving to Charlottesville Friday, I decided to make a detour to see Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, which is only about 15 minutes from Reagan Airport. My Hertz-issued GPS seemed to have trouble pinning down the most direct route, however so it took me closer to an hour to get there. The front lawn was groomed for lawn bowling (predecessor of modern day cookout staples like jarts and bocce). The lawn was big enough to play host to the UConn-Virginia football game.

The front of the mansion, just the way George left it. They give tours of the inside, but no photos allowed. Too bad, because it's pretty neat. Lots of original furniture and wall decor. No bathroom, however.

The back porch, where the general and his wife barbecued and sunbathed (I assume) with an incredible view.

View of the Potomac from the back yard. Mount Vernon is something like 8,000 acres, most of which was farmland (where George, an innovative farmer, made most of his scratch). But they knew how to take advantage of the scenery.

All you need is this chair, that view, and a cigar to make for a gloriously lazy afternoon

The original tomb where Washington and his wife were laid to rest. Even before his death in 1799, Washington knew he wanted a better tomb and had commissioned a newer and bigger one to be built elsewhere on the massive grounds of Mount Vernon.

The new tomb, where Washington and wife Martha were moved around 1831. Every day, they open the steel gate for a wreath ceremony. I happened to be there at the right time. George Washington is in the tomb on the right, in the sunlight. Martha is on the left. It wasn't nearly as creepy as this photo may indicate, but it was moving to be there.

An empty Scott Stadium. Notice part of the grass incline with festival seating behind the far end zone. That really got packed. I'd have posted a few shots of a full stadium, but unfortunately, my camera's battery crapped out right after this photo.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday notes: New ways to avoid answering questions

Tuesday media luncheon is over. Here's what I got for you all...

Donald Brown is practicing this week. Randy Edsall refuses to shed any additional light on his situation. Take that update for what it's worth, which isn't much. Edsall then got a bit testy when asked who would be starting Friday night against Louisville.

"We have three tailbacks, men, that are going to play," Edsall said. "Don't get caught up in who's starting and who isn't. That's irrelevant. That's irrelevant. We have three guys who play in games. Who cares who starts? I don't care who starts. I like every one of them. Whoever plays will go in and do the best job they can. Don't get hung up on that. It doesn't mean anything."

I agree with the statement, except with the part where Edsall makes it sound as if Lou Allen is part of a three-headed rotation. UConn has played two close games this season (Temple and Virginia), and Allen has four carries for minus-2 yards combined in those games. It seems clear there's Dixon and Brown, and Allen getting carries when they can get him in the game (usually short yardage situations).

My main issue is with Edsall deflecting the questions about Brown's situation by getting surly after a fair question designed simply as a follow-up on whether Brown is healthy or not. He said Brown was fine all last week, then decided he wasn't healthy enough to play sometime around Friday. We all know Brown and Dixon will share carries for the rest of the year. They've been doing it since Dixon returned to the team. Obviously, things will change if Brown can't play. Tabbing someone as "questionable" with an injury is just as effective. It's saying something even though it means little, plus, it keeps jerks in the media (and by jerks I mean myself, of course, and only myself) satisfied because at least I have something to tell the readers.

Now, I understand much of Edsall's shroud of secrecy routine is to keep the opponent guessing. Louisville is preparing for both Dixon and Brown, and it makes things much easier if it knows ahead of time that one of those two is out of the equation. But don't get into a condescending rant on how everyone should know that who starts and who doesn't start makes no difference, and then say 10 minutes later that one of the main reason's the UConn defense has been so effective this season is because they've had the same 11 starters for seven straight games (which happened on Tuesday).

Neither Brown nor Dixon were made available to the media on Tuesday.

Some more notes...

  • Edsall said he hopes the crowd at the Runway makes enough noise to disrupt the Louisville offense the way Virginia's crowd completely disrupted the Huskies on Saturday. Does the Rentschler crowd have it in them? Tough one. If last Oct. 20, when thousands upon thousands left a night game at halftime because it was "too cold" (in October!!) despite still being in the game with nationally-ranked West Virginia, is any indication...probably not. Until I see differently, it's just not that type of crowd at the Runway. Prove me wrong, people. Prove me wrong.

  • There are a limited number of tickets left for the game on Friday.

  • Lt. Paul Vance of the state police spoke following Edsall Tuesday about the anticipated traffic problems for the Louisville game. It's the perfect storm for a traffic apocalypse. An 8 p.m., nationally-televised game. Rush-hour Friday traffic. The grand opening of a massive sporting goods store, located in the middle of the Rentschler parking lots. Could be 60,000 cars in the vicinity. I'll be leaving for the game around noon. On Thursday.

  • Personally, I'll be thanking Cabela's management for the vulture-like planning of their grand opening by never stepping foot in the store. (Not that I would anyway...I already own a turkey call, get my beef jerky wholesale and purchase all my firearms in seedy back alleys).

  • How do you prepare for Brian Brohm and the vaunted Louisville passing game? Aside from renting Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker for a couple days, there's not much that can be done to simulate the Cardinals. Scout team players (or most first strings in the country) aren't quite at the same skill level, though I would think Notre Dame transfer Zach Frazer running the scout team offense is about as good as most teams can prepare.

  • Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said UConn's defense will be the best his team has faced all season. Pretty major compliment. He then lost a bit of credibility when he also said Tyler Lorenzen will be the best quarterback his team has faced. Did Kragthorpe forget his team played Kentucky last month? Nothing against Tyler, who is a big, athletic, talented quarterback and perhaps the second-best the Cards have faced to this point. I'm just not ready to say he's better than Andre Woodson right now.

  • Lorenzen was asked to clarify why he went back to regular cadence late in the Virginia game when the crowd of 60,000 was screaming at ear-splitting levels and he had been working the silent count all game to that point. "Um, I'm not supposed to talk about that is what I was told," Lorenzen said.

  • Louisville receiver Mario Urrutia missed the last two games with injury but has "a good chance" to play on Friday. Not good news for the Huskies, though Harry Douglas is the guy who really gave them fits last year in Louisville.

  • Safety Robert Vaughn is second in the nation in interceptions per game. Kicker Tony Ciaravino is second in the nation in field goals made per game. The Huskies could do with a little less of the latter against the Cards. Touchdowns are as vital as ever in the red zone this week.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Great day for football

Sitting here in the open-air press box at lovely Scott Stadium, the on-campus football field here at UVA. They are a dying breed, but I love open-air press boxes. Makes a reporter feel like he's actually at a football game, as opposed to the distant, sterile, vacuum-sealed press boxes at most modern stadiums. Even when it was cold and rainy at Yale Bowl, I didn't mind. Well, maybe I minded a little when it rained. But a warm bowl of clam chowder cured all ails even on the chilliest afternoons in New Haven.

Always an exciting moment at any college game: when they open the gates and swarms of college kids sprint toward the student section seats like Pac-Man Jones sprinting back into a strip joint. Funny part about Scott Stadium is the kids who really, really want the front row seats have to navigate a steep embankment behind the end zones. Guess no one was too hung over, because not one person wiped out and went rolling down the 500-foot hill. Oh well.

I've been to UVA a couple of times before, so I knew what a great campus and town it was. But there's a discernible buzz for the game this afternoon. Folks are pumped. Got here around noon and just walked around a bit, and there were people in orange shirts everywhere. Can't imagine they've been this excited about the football team down here in a while. But the great thing is, they're pumped not just because they're 5-1 and looking like an ACC contender, but because of the opponent. UConn is undefeated and generating, dare I say, the same energy the Yankees instill amongst visiting crowds whenever they hit the road. OK, maybe I'm overstating it. No, I'm definitely overstating it. But you get the idea.

Media is all here and dressed well. Yep, Shawn Courchesne got his luggage last night and didn't have to break out the Target-wear slacks and polo shirt. Kudos to Desmond Conner for a sharp Hounds tooth jacket, too. Team Courant wins the best-dressed award.

Can anyone tell me what a Hoo is all about? Suppose I could just Google it, but I'm not in the mood.

Just checked on the Yale-Lehigh football score. Lehigh's quarterback is none other than Sedale Threatt Jr., son of the former Golden State Warrior who was a staple of my Rotisserie basketball teams back in the early 1990s (when I loved the NBA. haven't watched a game in close to 10 years). The Bulldogs are a juggernaut this season, mainly because of New Britain native Mike McLeod, who may be the best Ivy League running back since a pre-Hill Street Blues Ed Marinaro was lighting it up at Cornell about 40 years ago. McLeod is only a junior, and will likely hold every major rushing record in school history before this season is finished.

Reading a tremendous book just released called "Running the Table: The Legend of Kid Delicious, the Last Great American Pool Hustler" by L. Jon Wertheim. Just started, but I'm hooked. A true story about a fat Jersey kid who discovers he's a natural on the felt, and eventually criss-crosses the country visiting seedy pool halls and hustling suckers out of tens of thousands of dollars before turning pro. The most interesting part: he honed his skills at Chicago Billiards, a legendary spot for high stakes games amongst the best hustlers in the country. Location? Right off I-95 in West Haven! The place no longer exists, but ask any pool player worth his salt about the place, and it'll bring a smile to their face. Some terrific stories. It's already in the works to be made into a movie. I highly recommend it.

Game time's in an hour. Enjoy. See you postgame.

Checking in from Charlottesville

You live and learn. I figured I'd save the Register a few bucks (and myself a few gray hairs) by flying to Washington DC, avoiding the connection to Charlottesville on one of those tiny planes designed by the Wright Brothers, and driving the 120 miles from Reagan Int'l Airport. Not a good idea.
The bad:
  • I sat next to a crazy old lady (one of those women who looks like she may have smuggled two or three of her cats onto the airplane) who ordered a "C.C.", then coiled back in horror, making a crucifix sign with her two index fingers when the attendent gave her one of those mini bottles of Canadian Club whiskey. "I don't drink that" she hissed. Turns out she just wanted a Coca-Cola, but felt the need to refer to it as "C.C." I did my best to avoid eye contact for the rest of the flight.

  • The flight from Bradley to DC was only an hour, but it took 45 minutes to get through the line for a car at Hertz. The largest car rental company in the world decided two people (one of whom was a trainee) was enough to work the desk on a busy Friday afternoon. Nice planning.

  • The GPS kept changing its mind and altering my directions in the middle of my drive, even though I was following its route perfectly. Hertz calls their GPS "Never Lost". I got lost trying to navigate through Alexandria. I fully expected it to direct me into a lake ala Michael Scott, who steered his car into Lake Scranton because the GPS system told him to on an episode of "The Office" last week.

  • The traffic in DC/Northern Virginia is ranked a tie for second worst in the country with Atlanta (according to the deejay I was listening to), and I caught it at rush hour. The anticipated two hour drive to Charlottesville took closer to 3:30. At least the GPS stayed true once I hit I-95.

The good:

  • Made a side trip to visit George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, which was well worth it (even if it caused me to hit rush hour traffic). I've been to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, which isn't far from Charlottesville, but took advantage of the chance to see Washington's crib. I'll tell you this...our forefathers knew how to live. The view from the back porch at Mount Vernon overlooking the Potomac River is incredible (I'll post photos when I get back home). If I had a cigar and a glass of scotch, I'd still be there. The architecture and grounds at Monticello are better, but you can't beat the view at Mount Vernon. I'm also a Revolutionary War buff, and a big fan of Gen. Washington's, and there was plenty to soak up in the museums. Only wish I had more time there.

  • Say what you will about Colt Brennan not being NFL material, but the guy is fun to watch. What a second half comeback! Brennan attempted 75 passes and threw for 542 yards in beating San Jose St. in overtime.

  • Looking forward to seeing Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford Courant and his new Target wardrobe at the game Saturday. The airline lost Shawn's luggage, so he was forced to pick something up at Target -- presumably from their Vijay Singh collection. Or is it Ian Baker-Finch?

  • Rumor has it Morris Day and the Time are staying at the same hotel as the Huskies in Charlottesville. I had no idea they still existed. Loved the old MTV video for Jungle Love back in the day, though.
See you at the game.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Notes and Runway Challenge Week 7

A few notes from Edsall's Thursday call before a few observations and the picks.

-- Lawrence Green could see action on Saturday. Edsall said he won't start, but he's ready to go if needed.

-- All other UConn players are fine. UVA, on the other hand, is hurting a bit. Cedric Peerman, one of the leading rushers in the ACC, is doubtful according to Al Groh. Starting cornerback Chris Cook could be out, too.

-- Mike Hicks will start over Dan Ryan at right tackle.

-- Virginia's Scott Stadium is sold out for Saturday. That's 61,500, first sellout of the season for the Cavs. Edsall has been pumping in crowd noise to simulate the atmosphere this week.

-- We all know UConn's top four receivers. Five through seven would be Ellis Gaulden, Marcus Easley and Kevin Poles, Edsall says. Rob Theoudele, whose been on the field a bit this year (and dropped a couple of passes), is still there. But he's been passed by the others.

For the randomness...
  • Gotten a lot of feedback from my Wednesday story (and blog blurb) about the Huskies set to crack the AP top 25 should they beat Virginia. Some agreed. Most thought I was nuts. But it will happen.

  • Relax Greg Robinson and Steve Kragthorpe. Last night may have clinched it for Dave Wannestedt as the worst coach in the Big East. I didn't watch the Navy debacle live, but the replays told it all. I can perhaps see the logic of passing up a chippy field goal to send the game to another OT and going for the win (well, if you really, really had a persuasive argument)...but putting it all on the line for a fade pattern? Why? Unless you have Randy Moss or Yao Ming, that's awful. You're taking the entire team out of the equation and resting the game on a jump ball (into double coverage, no less). Not hard to see how the Wannstache was run out of the NFL.

  • Can't get on the Pitt defense too much for its struggle against the Navy triple option. After all, UConn had no clue how to defend it either last season.

  • Navy's quarterback is Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada.

  • Not only was Joe Paterno in a road rage incident, he was the instigator. Let's see. He's 80, wears coke bottle lenses borrowed from Mr. Magoo and has a reputation for being an old crank. I'm going out on a limb and guessing it was probably his fault.

  • I couldn't get tickets to the David Lee Roth/Van Halen show at Mohegan Sun over the weekend. It sold out in less than 30 minutes, and I wasn't about to pay $300 a ticket on stubhub.com after paying $100 to see Eddie, drunk out of his skull, butcher every tune at the Hartford Civic Center back in 2004. But all reports are that Eddie was unreal, Dave was subdued but sounded OK (he's not much of a live vocalist) and 16-year old Wolfgang Van Halen held up just fine in replacing Michael Anthony on bass. It'll never capture the same magic as this clip from the glory days, but it's nice to know the guys still have it.

  • Had enough of the Frank TV promos during the baseball playoffs on TBS? I love impressionists as much as the next guy, but this show is destined to fail. That's because the joke is in the impression, not the material of the impressionist. Don't see how this show can go 30 minutes without bombing like Dane Cook's stand-up routine (bad example. People in the audience laugh at Dane Cook for some reason. Maybe they feel obligated.) But I'll watch anyway. Incidentally, UConn football sports info man Leigh Torbin does a spot-on impression of Yankee radio broadcasters Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling doing the out-of-town scoreboard. Also heard a couple UConn football players do a pretty good Randy Edsall, too, though I'll withhold names to protect the innocent. But here's one of my favorite impressions...comedian Pablo Francisco doing the movie voice-over guy. Great stuff.

On to the weekly picks....

Game 1: Rutgers (-17.5) over SYRACUSE - Lost any faith I had in Orange covering after miserable games against Miami-OH and West Virginia. Also, odds on Greg Robinson returning to coach in 2008 are now 300-1.

Game 2: SOUTH FLORIDA (-12) over Central Florida: This is why spreads are tough. UCF nearly knocked off Texas last month, hammers two C-USA opponents, then gets drilled by East Carolina last week. Meanwhile, USF couldn't cover against Florida Atlantic. Good thing gambling is illegal.

Game 3: Illinois (-4) over IOWA: Leigh Torbin correctly warned me I was making a mistake picking Wisconsin over the Illini last week. I'm pretty sure Jeff George is back at QB, playing incognito (although it could be Kurt Kittner. Maybe Tony Eason). Either way, we'll go with Illinois.

Game 4: MICHIGAN (-6) over Purdue: Looking forward to seeing how Bloomfield's Kory Sheets stacks up against Mike Hart of Michigan. Saw Kory run for 403 yards in less than three quarters (in a state high school playoff game, no less) a couple years ago. He's pretty good.

Game 5: Connecticut (+3) over VIRGINIA: Huskies healthy. Cavs not. Could be the difference.

Game 6: Boston College (-14.5) over NOTRE DAME: If Notre Dame isn't pitiful enough, they've exhumed the remains of the Gipper (George Gip, not Ronald Reagan), presumably to play quarterback for the Irish in this game.

Game 7: Louisiana State (-10) over KENTUCKY: Did you see the piece on political commentator/Michael Stipe lookalike James Carville in Sports Illustrated this week? Well, it's not much of a piece. It's a page of Carville spouting off about how great LSU football is. Stick to pumping the Democratic party, James.

Game 8: Missouri (+10.5) over OKLAHOMA: I'm not a Mizzou believer just yet, but this line is too much to pass up.

Game 9: CINCINNATI (-10) over Louisville: If someone told you in August this would be the spread for this game, how much would you have laid down? A paycheck? A mortgage payment? Your kid's college fund? Now, I have little doubt Cincinnati will score close to 50 and cover.

Game 10: CALIFORNIA (-14) over Oregon State: A great Cal team against a Beavers squad that was lit up by UCLA.

Game 11: Auburn (+3) over ARKANSAS: Since I have nothing else to add...Red Sox over Indians in 5; D-Backs over Rockies in 7. Red Sox sweep the World Series. Get your vomit bags ready.

Last week's results (great for SeanO, lousy for almost everyone else)

1. SeanO's ghost: 9-2

2. caleb 8-3

3. Dan 7-4

4. Sam 6-5

6. Will 5-6

7. ian 4-7

tigershater 4-7

sturge-rock 4-7

pete 4-7

kooch 4-7

12. chip 3-8

mitch 3-8

Overall standings

1. SeanO's Ghost 41

2. Kooch 40

3. Ian 38

4. Chip 37

5. Sammy 36

6. Vinny from East Haven 35

7. DetroitTigersHater 32

8. Pete 28

Will L 28

10. Caleb Mandrake 27

11. Dan 26

12. Kevin 24

13. sturge-rock 22

14. Alex 16

15. Steve P 8

16. Mitch Kumpstein 3

See you in Charlottesville. Anyone can still enter, so get your picks in. Just click the "comments" key below, then cut and past the template.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Back from the bye: Tuesday lunch ramblings

Some quick hits from Tuesday's weekly media luncheon...
  • Lots of questions regarding UConn's potential place in the national polls and what could happen with a win at Virginia on Saturday. Randy Edsall wasn't too interested in discussing any of it. "“There’s no sense talking about that because there’s nothing there,” Edsall said. “Nothing matters to us except winning … I don’t even want to talk about anything else.” Quite frankly, he's right. Why waste time talking about not being ranked or the significance of a potential ranking? There'll be plenty of time for that if and when it happens. Edsall, rightly, is more concerned with his team preparing for and then executing on Saturday. If they can do that, the attention in the polls will come. Of course the media, myself included, will write plenty about a looming national ranking anyway. Hey, it's still a story even if Edsall isn't willing to talk about it.

  • Should UConn beat Virginia on Saturday, I'd expect the Huskies to come in around No. 20. A win won't come easy, though.

  • Perfect timing for a bye week, Edsall said. Counting practice in August, the Huskies were eight weeks into the season with seven remaining, which can be construed as midseason. It also gave some valuable time to heal. Donald Brown and Tyvon Branch are "fine", and Lawrence Green returned to practice Sunday for the first time since his knee injury on Sept. 1 at Duke. Green is listed as the backup to Alex LaMagdelaine. Once he gets back into game shape, he should re assume his starting role. The only injuries are to Aaron Bagsby (his shoulder just hasn't come around) and Gary Mack, both backups. Kijuan Dabney, whose been backing up Robert Vaughn for the last few games, was finally listed on the depth chart.

  • Also from the depth chart is the move of freshman Greg Lloyd Jr. from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker, where he'll backup Danny Lansanah along with Aaron Bryant. It's a natural move, Edsall says. It also gives depth to the most important position on the defense. At right tackle, Mike Hicks and Dan Ryan are listed as co-starters. Neither has been especially dazzling so far. The competition continues.

  • From the boxscore of an incredible Monday Night Football game...Dallas FB Deon Anderson -- four catches, 39 yards. Terrell Owens -- two catches, 25 yards. Edsall spoke about how proud he is that Deon has taken advantage of the opportunity, but mentioned his favorite part of the game may have been when Mike Tirico announced "Deon Anderson, the fullback from UConn" after his catch. "That helps with recruiting," Edsall said.

  • The week off allowed the players to take Saturday off. Many of the locals headed home. Dan Davis and Andre Dixon, both from Northern New Jersey, attended the Rutgers-Cincinnati game at Rutgers Stadium. "The place was bananas," said Davis, who also mentioned the game moves by a lot quicker when you're not playing.

  • I'll reserve comment on another stellar Yankees postseason other than to say I'm not the least bit surprised. These guys haven't hit in the playoffs since Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. But forget the talk about Joe Torre's impending dismissal (which I support). Do we finally have enough to send Suzyn Waldman packing...preferably on her way to the Lifetime Channel or W Network? If her infamous shrieking (Rahw-jah Clemens is in Jaw-gez' bawx!!! Oh, my goodness gracious!!!), her incessant rooting, her rampant ineptitude, sticking her tongue in Joe Torre's ear during every interview (wait, did that happen? maybe not, but you get the picture)...if all that wasn't enough....Crying on the air?!!? Are you serious? A proud moment for sports broadcasters everywhere.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Runway Challenge Week 6

This is going to take a little getting used to. In the past, if I was on vacation from work you could bet I was on beach somewhere with a drink in my hand. Hawaii. Cabo San Lucas. Bahamas. I rarely missed a chance to get away. Took advantage of the bye to take vacation time this week. But my big trip has been driving over to Target to purchase another load of butt wipes and Huggies (my son is in the process of setting a record for most used diapers in a month. Someone please alert the folks at Guinness.) But I wouldn't trade it for anything. The kid's great. He even lets me sleep a couple hours at night.

Don't know if I can take another year of watching the Yankees blow it in the ALDS. Had to turn the channel after watching Joe Torre neglect to bunt Derek Jeter in the top of the fifth, costing a chance to tie the game at 4-4. Then, he removes Chien-Ming Wang with two outs in the fifth for Russ Ohlendorf? The chances of Wang getting the third out are infinitely better than Ohlendorf, he of the 6.2 career major league innings, trying to get through an inning without wetting his pants. The move might have held a shred of credibility if Torre hadn't bought in Phil Hughes in the seventh with the score 11-3. Granted, both Ohlendorf and Hughes are rookies. But why would you insert the guy whose barely pitched with the game still within reach, then bring in the dependable one to mop up? Shrewd. No doubt Don Zimmer was the brains behind the operation for all those championships. Can we get him back? I think he's in Florida watching the People's Court with Morty Seinfeld over at Del Boca Vista.

On to the picks:

Game 1: Wisconsin (+3) over ILLINOIS: Does this line make sense to anyone?

Game 2: SYRACUSE (+27) over West Virginia: Orange coming off big win (if you don't count last week's pathetic performance against Miami-OH, which I forgot about. Hey, I've got the Winnie the Pooh song running through my head 24 hours a day, people. Cut me some slack), 'Neers off big loss. Orange will still cover, though I'm, having second thoughts.

Game 3: TEXAS (+12) over Oklahoma: Feeling the underdogs this week

Game 4: Georgia (-1) over TENNESSEE

Game 5: Cincinnati (+3.5) over RUTGERS: How good are the Bearcats? Was Rutgers a one-year wonder? We find out Saturday.

Game 6: South Florida (-16.5) over FLORIDA ATLANTIC: Seems like it should be at least 21 points.

Game 7: Arizona State (-9) over WASHINGTON STATE: Sun Devils relevant again?

Game 8: CLEMSON (-6) over Virginia Tech

Game 9: Ohio State (+7.5) over PURDUE

Game 10: LSU (-7) over Florida: Yep. The national champions and runner-up are each getting at least a touchdown in week 6.

Game 11: Nebraska (+6) over MISSOURI

week 5 results
1. Dan 9-3
pete 9-3
kooch 9-3
4. Chip 7-5
kevin 7-5
sammy 7-5
tigershater 7-5
caleb 7-5
will l 7-5
ian 7-5
vinny 7-5
12. seano's ghost 5-7

Overall standings
1. Kooch 36
2. Ian 34
Chip 34
4.SeanO's Ghost 32
5. Sammy 30
Vinny from East Haven 30
7. DetroitTigersHater 28
8. Kevin 24
Pete 24
10. Will L 23
11. Caleb Mandrake 19
Dan 19
13. sturge-rock 18
14. Alex 16
15. Steve P 8

Get you picks in...you know the drill

Monday, October 01, 2007

Akron win highlight reel

Some new video courtesy of Jared Nuss. Outstanding work by Jared. Wish I could say the same for Ozzy, who turns 59 in December and whose new song "I'm not going away" is the soundtrack for the highlights. Apparently, every song Ozzy's new album is about how he doesn't want to stop rocking or go away. I think Ozzy's stuff is great...he's one of the defining metal voices of all time. But his last two albums have really stunk. Maybe it's time to stop, Oz.

Anyway, the video is still tremendous and the song still works for the highlights. My favorite part is Scott Lutrus steamrolling the Akron QB like an 18-wheeler running over a possum frozen in the headlights. Great stuff. Good work by the offensive line too. Dixon and the Donald had some room to run Saturday.

The team will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, mainly to keep in tune. Randy Edsall said Sunday that game-planning will start toward the end of the week. Seven UConn assistant coaches will hit the road to recruit Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It's an official evaluation period, so they'll be, uh, evaluating.

I'll be checking in throughout the week.