Sunday, September 30, 2007

Adrian Peterson is animalistic

I've seen a lot of things in my life, I swear I have, but Adrian Peterson is awesome. Anyone who watched him in college knew this. Collarbone, shmallerbone. The dude runs faster than everybody else and also punishes those who seek to tackle him. For example, Nick Collins just sort of humped Peterson to the ground, over the course of about ten yards, and was injured in the process. Peterson was not hurt.

Adrian Peterson separates limbs from bodies.

The Packers defense is looking Badger-like at the moment.

One other thing

I am a man. I'm 32.

You are not with me, Leather

Obviously I love Brett. If I had to hook up with a guy, I'd probably pick Brett. But Chris Berman is seriously over the top. On NFL Countdown, he just said, "rooting for Brett Favre is like rooting for America. It really is."

Please make it go away.

I have no interest in the media making Brett the football version of Cal Ripken.

On the other hand, Tom Jackson just used a phrase that is a personal favorite of mine: "fair to middlin'." I think he was describing some team's defense. Whatever.

I think Middleton really ought to adopt that phrase as its motto, especially now that it is the best town in America with less than 50,000 people but more than 10,000 people on Tuesdays with a full moon. You know, like "Welcome to Middleton: we're fair to middlin'!"

In the words of George Harrison...

...My Dear Lord. We are the worst 5-0 team in the country. Our "defense" is terrible. I will grant that Sparty has some talent on the offensive side of the ball, but the fact that they ran the same 3 plays over and over and over and over, and were successful over and over and over and over does not bode well for the intelligence of our "defenders", nor for the coaching staff's ability to make adjustments (which, by the way, seemed to be a strength last year).

I agree with Mr. Man, the Illini should be favored because they may actually have an offense that is harder for our "defense" to handle. However, I do think that the coaches and press may be dumb enough to move us up rather than down in the polls.

Shouldn't I enjoy my team being 5-0 more than this? This sucks.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I am the Big Nostradamus

Among teams ranked ahead of Wisconsin, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas all lost this weekend. Rutgers and Oregon, ranked just behind Wisconsin, both lost, too. Oh, and Florida is losing and USC is in a close game on the road.

Despite our win, I predict that the Badgers will fall to 11th in the polls.

Dirk Kirkstreet, on the ABC broadcast of the USC-Washington game, just said that Oregon should be ranked ahead of Wisconsin as well as several other undefeated teams. He did not mention Ohio St. among those teams. He is a fraud.

Also, it's refreshing to hear BB say that "we are not a pretty football team."

Was Mark Dantonio out of his mind?

Um, why did he call for a run on 3rd and 8 from the Badgers 37 in the 4th quarter, down by 3? But I'm glad he did.

On the Badgers side, where the hell was Jack all day? Supposedly BB said something about how he woke up not feeling well, a comment even Barry couldn't understand when asked about it at half time. This left us with way too much hot Ben Strickland action. And, listen, I've never played organized football, but why are the coaches having Allen Langford give the receivers he's "covering" a ten-yard cushion? I mean, I like me a thick cushion--the thicker the waist-band, the deeper the quicksand--but ten yards seems ridiculous. But in Jack's absence, Casillas did his best Ikegwonu impersonation in the second quarter by hauling down Javon Ringer from behind (he he) at the end of his 70 yard run. Munchigan St. could only manage a field-goal on that drive, so that was sort of a big play, much like Jack's play on McFadden in the bowl game last year.

As far as Munchigan St. goes, Ringer, Caulcrick, and that Devin Thomas guy are all pretty damn good. I think. I qualify that with the "I think," because, to paraphrase the great Patches O'Houlihan, the Badgers defense looked like a roomful of retards trying to hump a doorknob all day.

Finally, Marcus Randle El (MRE) has done precisely one useful thing for the Badgers since coming to Madison. And that was getting a Munchigan St. defensive player, allegedly a good one, thrown out of the game with him today.

Yes, MRE is that big of an oxygen-thief.

In his years on campus, he has gotten arrested, injured, and made zero plays on the field. But he actually got on the field (baby steps) today. And then promptly got into a fight with an opposing player and got himself ejected.

At least he took one of the bad guys with him.

Kenny Williams is out of his mind

What the hell is Kenny Williams thinking? Paying A.J. Pierkidnifnsinfski $6 million a year for the next three years?

Let me get this straight: you want to pay an already-30-year-old catcher with a .309 OPB $6 million a year for the next three years?


Oh, and he also happens to be bat-shit crazy.

Well, on the positive side, I guess he does have a whopping 25 walks versus 472 at-bats this year. That's pretty sweet compared to All-Star and future Hall of Famer Fudge Rodriguez at 9 walks versus 500 at-bats at $10.5 million. On the other hand, fat Johnny Estrada has drawn 12 walks versus 442 at-bats for a ultra-sexy .296 OBP. And the Brewers got all that for the bargain rate of $3.4 million this year.

So we have a nice range of prices here. Fudge at $10.5 million for an OPS of .713 and a caught-stealing rate of roughly 30%, Piercnyyyskiofviski at roughly $6 million for an OPS of .712 and a caught-stealing rate of 24%, and fat Estrada for $3.4 million for an OPS of .699 and a caught-stealing rate of roughly 13%.

Just by way of comparison, Joe Mauer this year is making $3.75 million for an OPS of .802 (and a career OPS of .851) and caught stealing rate this year of 54% (no, really). And then there's Russell Martin, who is making $387,500 this year, while hitting at a .844 OPS and throwing out 34% of runners.

Bottom line: at $6 million a year for his age 31-33 years, A.J. Pierxxinzzzjnski is the chicken dinner.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Interesting Articles Day

First, there's this, which is awesome. "They're going at it pretty good." And I always thought the upper deck at Camp Randall was lame.

Second, the Bears have finally deigned to replace Sexy Rexy. (The older fool refers to Rex as "Mex," "because he's willing to do a job that most Americans will not do"-- that is, be the Bears quarterback. I also like Gross Rexman.) From a Packer fan's perspective, this is a slight negative-- Brian Griese, although washed up, will probably be a mild improvement. The better news is that the Dallas game left the Bears with injuries to their second best player, Tommie Harris, and one of their top corners, Nathan Vasher. Packer fans should hope those guys are still knocked up in ten days' time.

Third, I usually avoid talking about baseball, but Heavy P's comments last night about his dad, the semi-late, great Cecil Fielder, were crazy. The whole family is estranged from Cecil, according to my understanding, because he's a gambling addict who wasted away his career savings, and left the family essentially penniless. Prince seems especially pissed. Heavy P noted that he wanted to hit more home runs in a single season than his father did, and he'd like to win the NL MVP because Cecil never did. There are too many choice quotes to mention. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

They Have to Run the Ball, Blah, Blah, Blah

I'm not saying the Packers actually can run the ball, but I'm sick to death of the ridiculous idea that passing a lot is, on it's face, bad. You can feel the tone in any Packers report on the San Diego game-- "well, they're 3-0 but they've done it only by passing. If they were a real team, they'd run the ball."

All this criticism is based on the old-school theory that running the ball is the superior method of offense. And there's some merit to that-- (A) a running play generally uses up more clock than a passing play, because an incompletion stops the clock, so successfully running the ball deprives the other team of time to score; (B) running plays don't tire out offensive linemen like passing plays-- probably something to do with charging forward as opposed to back-peddling-- so when a team passes a lot their offensive line might start getting tired toward the end of the game, whereas the opposite is usually true with running; (C) a running play is less likely to produce a negative play than a passing play, whether through fumbles, interceptions, incompletions, or loss of yards via a sack. However, in retort (A) a controlled passing game can keep the clock moving about as well as a rushing attack, particularly one that depends on runs toward the sidelines; (B) offensive linemen can probably be reconditioned to have more back-peddling stamina; and (C) these risks can be minimized and the chances of a big gain are greater on pass plays.

Furthermore, ultimate success in the NFL, particularly in comparison to college football, is more dependent on the pass. Look at the Super Bowl winners since the late 80s-- with the exception of Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, every other winning team had a Pro Bowl level qb, and most teams had a far more talented passer than runner. (The only glaring exceptions being Emmitt Smith over Aikman and Jamal Lewis over Dilfer.) Further, as Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently noted (Packer Insider subscription only), running the ball doesn't even guarantee you success in the regular season. Only three of the NFL's top ten rushing teams made the playoffs last season. All three, San Diego, Kansas City, and the Giants, were immediately eliminated. The NFL is a passing league.

So the idea that a team is always "forced" to pass because it would rather run the ball is moronic and antiquated. Twenty-five years of the West Coast offense should have cleared it up by now. To put it plainly-- You Can Be A Good Team And Pass Most Of The Time. In fact, if your quarterback is is significantly better than your running back, you'd be a fool not to. A good coach lets puts the game in the hands of his most talented players .

A good coach also looks at match-ups. The Packers wisely noted that San Diego's rushing defense was significantly better than its pass defense, and that its personnel got worse the more defensive backs it put on the field. So the Packers played to their strengths--Favre's arm and decent pass protection-- and played against San Diego's strength-- forcing them to sub out several members of their talented front seven and sub in several less talented defensive backs. Thus, passing that often was a wise move, and the Packers should keep doing it, especially against top-tier rush defenses, like Minnesota. Maximize your special players (Favre & Driver) and minimize the other teams' (Pat and Kevin Williams).

This theory does work in the opposite direction-- for example, when the Packers play the Broncos later this season, who have held opposing quarterbacks to a 59.8 passer rating so far thanks to Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, it looks like they might be wise to run the ball a bit more. But passing most of the time against the Chargers was the right move, and generally will be the right move considering the strengths of this offense-- Favre, Driver, Jennings, Jones and the offensive line's pass protection.

There are some excellent folks out there, like Silverstein, who recognize this. But it sure seems a lot of pundits have failed to figure out the difference between being forced to pass and choosing to pass. But I guess that would require some more analysis besides just looking at the box score. Everyone's fired.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Night Game Notes

The BEST place to tailgate before the game is definitely Randall Court. Kudos to the 5 houses that all had atleast 3 barrels going. No lines, free beer, near Camp, 2 story beer bongs, high energy, drunks, the band came waltzing down the street and played songs for 10 minutes. Trust me on this, Go to Randall Court. Don't tell old people.

Tyler Donovan does not see the field well. We may have gotten seriously spoiled with our last 3 QBs, 2 of which are in the League, but this is not good. It's not as noticeable on TV, but at the game it is excruciating because you see guys running wide open. TD is a gamer, he is elusive in the pocket and he is 6-0 as a starter, but I don't think he can fix this. Defenses that disguise coverages, like Iowa, will cause him major problems because he sets his mind after his pre-snap reads.

Lance Smith is fun to watch. He's so fun to watch that Bret is saying things like "We're still evaluating his situation with road games". (Seriously though, some dumb co-ed took his $5? Tell me again why boosters are bad? This guy runs like the wind on the 9th ranked team for a sport that pays all of our bills and he is battling some ho for $5?)

Damn do we look good when the other team brings in a FB and a TE. Downhill running to the ball.

Aaron Henry #7, continues to make plays. He's from Immokalee, right outside of Naples, so we're pretty much connected that way.


What a day. The packers are good this year. Bottom line. Barring injury we have the talent to be in any game on our schedule and that is exciting to me after having felt like we might very well have had the worst roster in the league at several points over the last two years.

1- We are well coached. the false start by Coston was the first one i can remember seeing this year and the next time we were on the goal line they ran right behind him.

2- SD completed their first 15 passes and we got 3 points out of 2 trips to their goal line and we still smoked their assholes out. We should've won by 20.

3- We shut down the most dangerous weapon in the league, and on the one play he did get free we still put 3 bodies on him.

4- It's uncomfortable when Chris Berman talks about Favre.

5- We have 3 Donald Drivers.

6- Marshawn Lynch.

7- I've never been so confident going to the dome. That's obviously a bad thing.

8- I don't know if i want grossman or griese. But I'm happy to have either. Don't take shitty bear quarterbacks for granted.

9- Redskins are in the NFC East. East is the new Central. We're going to be 6-0.

10- Adam Archuletta got destroyed.

I did not expect this. I don't care if its early and we aren't this good. We are well coached, our defense is our strength, and we will not be losing at lambeau field. We will at least have 9 wins. Count that. I love it.

Mariotti, what say you?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Paper Tigers?

Shouldn't I be more excited that the Packers and Badgers remain undefeated? Yet somehow winning ugly is not all that satisfying (in the case of the Badgers), nor is winning without any running game to speak of (Packers). It is exciting that Brett tied the record and that he will likely break the TD record before the INT record.

In the case of the Badgers, the jury will remain out until they have completed the gauntlet of the suddenly scary Wolverines, the apparently formidable Buckeyes, and the up-and-down Nitany Lions. We can hope that the vengeance factor plays a role against the Wolverines, and the Penn State is down and not up. If we can beat the Buckeyes at the O (now that they have closed the bottom part of the Horseshoe) I think we can consider ourselves a legitimate team. Alas, I do not see us in the National Championship game, even if we go undefeated. I think that USC, LSU, and OU will likely all also go undefeated, and the likelihood of 2 of the 3 losing is fairly slim. Florida may also not lose a game ever again with Urban Meyer at the helm, so they should also be in the mix. But I am getting ahead of myself. Sparty is next, and they can clearly score some points. They have fired the insanest coach in the world, and so may be less prone to blowing huge leads...Oh, and I would also like to take a moment and bask in the warm glow that is the 0-4 start for the Irish. It makes feel all cozy inside.

As for the Pack, it is hard not to be excited about the 3-0 start. Before the season I would have been happy with 2-1 and not horribly disappointed at 1-2. Even with their blemishes and lucky breaks, I think the Pack has shown that they are a legitimate NFC playoff team. I think they are better than the Lions and 'Queens, and should be able to split with the Bears. The AFC clearly has the two best teams in the NFL, and possibly the third if Pittsburgh is for real. The Chargers are clearly going to suck under Norv Turner (as every other he coached team did), so today's win is less exciting than it seems. Still, I am hopeful for some January football in Green Bay. If somebody has the time this week, could they page the 2003 Packers offensive line and tell them that we would like them back? That would be great.

If they can win like that . . .

than they Badgers should be alright. I know the game was at home and Iowa is green and had a bunch of injuries. But Wisconsin turned the ball over three times, and in bad areas on the field-- each turnover resulted in Iowa having great field position, and Donovan's fumble, in particular, killed a likely Badger scoring drive. By doing so, the team essentially spotted Iowa points. And the defense didn't get even one turnover to even the margin. How many teams usually win with a -3 turnover margin? Almost none, I'd wager.

The reason this was possible is that the defense, with the exception of forcing turnovers, finally stood up and played a solid game. Even with those three terrible turnovers, Wisco only allowed 13 points, and the touchdown came on a fluky play that was Michael Irvin-esque pass interference. Finally, guys looked assignment sure, and the linebackers played like the studs they are-- Levy, especially, looked awesome, though he did drop that pick. And coach Hankiwitz and the rest of the defense staff finally opened up their bags of tricks-- how many times did the nickel back, Aaron Henry blitz? Hell, I think he's now the team's sack leader. Did you see the zone blitzes UW ran? (Shaugnessey had his almost interception on one of them.) They weren't totally dominant, obviously-- Iowa had a couple decent drives, and UW failed to create a turnover. But generally, the D stalled Hawky when it counted, flew to the ball, and made excellent tackles. Well done, defense.

The offense was a different story. I didn't want to mention it in the pre-game post, but until last night, Donovan hadn't turned the ball over all season. Yeah, that ended pretty quickly and in irritating fashion when Donovan stood and watched a blitzing linebacker run right at him and hit him at fully speed on Bucky's first offensive possession. The ball went flying out, and Iowa recovered twenty or so yards behind the line of scrimmage, killing what had looked like a solid scoring drive. Sadly, what happened here was symptomatic of Donovan's main problem as a quarterback-- he has tunnel vision. He doesn't see the whole field, and apparently, doesn't even see things right in front of his face. On that fumble, PJ had left the backfield and was split out wide. He was open. The Iowa linebacker saw the backfield was empty, realized no one would be there to pick him up , and blitzed. Throw the ball to PJ! He's your blitz release valve, as it were. That's a recurring problem-- Donovan forces middle-deep balls and misses wide open guys in the flat. We have pretty good skill position players-- give them the ball short and let them run.

Also, although Donovan's passing did not inspire confidence, fans should take heart-- the Badgers were able to run the ball against an excellent defense. I'm going to be positive, and take this as a sign that the offensive line is finally rounding into shape. Because I don't believe there's a better defensive line than Iowa's in the Big Ten. So if UW can run on the Hawks, that bodes very well for the rest of the season.

So I'm playing Professor Positive with this game-- the passing game was bad, UW drastically lost the turnover battle, but still the Badgers triumphed. I think that shows improvement, as bizarre as it may sound. Hope that continues.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Idiots Under The Lights

So in about 12 hours, the University of Wisconsin Badgers open the Big Ten football season by hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes. As has been well documented on this site and in other locations, UW has a young, talented team (with a few questionable key parts) that is struggling to put it all together. Iowa looks a bit lopsided-- they have a veteran defense, headlined by an excellent defensive line, but a mostly inexperienced and, so far, middling offense.

In terms of specific personnel, keep an eye on Mitch King, a defensive tackle who absolutely killed the Badgers in Barry's last home game two years ago, and their hilariously named linebacker Klinkenborg, a physical run stopper. They have two solid running backs in Albert (I anoint him today's honorary Frenchman, and thus I am pronouncing his first name as "Al-Bear") Young and Damien Sims, and a solid TE, but green wideouts (the starters were lost to off the field troubles), a new sophomore QB (who was a well thought of recruit), and several new faces on the offensive line.

Here's what I foresee-- UW will have trouble moving the ball, but hopefully, so will Iowa. I think Iowa will likely win the UW O-line/Iowa D-Line match-up for most of the game, and thus, PJ and Lance will not have a lot of room to run. With TD behind center and not exactly having proven himself as a great passer, and with Hubbard injured, Iowa will sell out to stop the run. On passing plays, Donovan will get a fair amount of pressure, so hold onto the ball, Tyler, and look to break runs when you can. Teams have never really been able to account for mobile quarterbacks, and UW should look to take advantage of TD's legs. But Beckum and Swan should be able to get open, so if Donovan can deliver accurate balls, perhaps on rollouts or other moves designed to buy time in the passing game, UW should be able to break plays occasionally.

People seem to think that the Badgers' D will finally step up-- after three games to get the kinks out, and with a match-up against a more conventional-style offense. But Al-Bear and Sims are pretty good, and though the Iowa offensive line is green, the Badger D-line and linebackers have underperformed to date, even against powering offensive lines like those possessed by the Citadel and UNLV. (That's a little irony there.) So, I think Iowa will be able to break some runs from time to time, though they should have difficultly passing. I'm hopeful that the wood will finally be laid down by the defense, and we'll see a really strong, complete game out of that unit, but I'm not super optimistic. I'd predict a pretty solid game for the Badger D, but one more attributable to Iowa's inexperience and nerves.

I'd look for a score with the winner in the high teens and the loser in the low teens. A tight, semi-ugly, tense game. To win, UW will likely need DeBauche to snap out of his funk and punt decently, as bizarre as that sounds. And the turnover battle could be big-- if UW can avoid giving the ball to Iowa, and keep the field long, that'd be a huge advantage. You'd hope, with the Badgers better offensive talent and home field advantage, that they'd come out on top. But we shall see...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Pack is Back?

Or are the Giants just terrible on defense? After watching Sunday's 35-13 victory over the New Jersey Gigantes, I think it's the latter. Until the fumble/interception series where the Giants defense decided to surrender, the game was quite close. Hell, it was 14-13 going into the fourth quarter. And the Giants had the Packers' D somewhat on the run in the first half-- no sacks, no turnovers, few pressures, several big runs and catches after missed tackles, the big touchdown to Burress. Without a few boneheaded penalties by the Giants, New Jersey would have had far more points than the ten they had at halftime.

Although the D started playing better as the game went along, the main thing that shut down the Giants offense was the Packers offense-- by holding onto the ball. And they way they did it was through controlled, short passes. In fact, on the touchdown drive that made it 21-13, the Packers threw 9 straight passes. And none, from the line of scrimmage to the point of reception, went longer than ten yards. You'd think a legitimate defense and a competent coordinator would have figured this out. You know, maybe thought, after about the sixth straight pass,"ok-- let's cover receivers man to man, and get close to the line of scrimmage. Maybe we'll keep one safety back in case Driver gets loose, but that's it. Everyone else should be in their man's face." But either this didn't occur to the Giants, or their personnel were too incompetent to carry it out. Because there were Packer receivers, either tight ends, backs, or wideouts, running open on short routes on almost every pass play. Now maybe the Packers were just in a groove, and even a talented defense would have had trouble shutting down all the options. But I don't know. I chalk up the offense's success, which kept the NY offense off the field, more to the Giants' defensive incompetence than to the Packers' execution.

For example, until the hilarious DeShawn Wynn touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the Packers running game had done basically jack squat. I understand that the Giants' best defenders are D-linemen, but still. There were several swinging door plays, where guys like Colledge or Tauscher just let defenders run right past them and kill the back for lost yardage. Ugh. Thankfully, the pass blocking, especially toward the end of the game, was decent. But if you've shut down one aspect of a team's offense, like the running game, you'd think your team would have a huge advantage on defense-- you've forced the offense to pass, so play the pass! But the Giants were incapable of doing so, or too dumb to try. So what I'm saying is, that while the Giants game was encouraging, no one should get too excited. That was a seriously flawed team the Packers beat, and the game was close until the last ten minutes.

Here are my concrete thoughts about the team's performance. The offensive line performed only slightly better than the Eagles debacle. The run blocking was generally mediocre with frequent bursts of terrible. Thankfully, it appears that most of those huge busts for losses can be corrected-- because on each it was clear that someone screwed up-- they weren't physical breakdowns. The pass blocking, except on a few occasions, was pretty good. The backs (Jackson, Wynn, Grant, and Hall) caught the ball well out the backfield, and showed up occasionally on running plays, with Wynn's TD runs being the highlight of smart running. And it's hard to get too upset with the team's running backs when every four plays a defensive lineman bear hugging them three yards deep in the backfield.
Favre played an excellent game. He "managed" things well, yes. But he had several great passes-- the feather to Lee in the corner of the end zone, the zinger to Driver on a broken play, and the perfectly placed bomb to Jones in the second quarter. Driver looked like himself, after playing slow and gimpy the last game.
The offensive coaching staff deserves credit too-- they accommodated their shaky offensive line and non-existent running game by calling quick pass after quick pass. I don't know how that will work against a team that has a better secondary. But it certainly worked against the Giants' iffy linebackers and defensive backs.

As for the defense, the first half was not impressive, though the Giants do have a very good offense. The Packers got lucky with some penalties, and the Giants missed some opportunities. Woodson looked bad when he had to tackle-- like he was doing Deion Sanders impersonations. Al had multiple penalties. Hawk drew a penalty and missed a couple tackles. But when they got the lead in the second half, and got some time off the field due to the offense's nice drives, they started playing downhill. It looked like the Packers' depth wore out the Giants, especially New York's offensive line, because in the last quarter the Packers were getting consistent pressure. Kampman had a great forced fumble, KGB was in Manning's face on nearly every passing down, and Williams' interception was hilarious. (What was Manning thinking on that one?) Then, after the Pack ran up the score, the line knocked out the Round Mound of Touchdown, Jared Lorenzen, after about five plays. Also awesome. In addition, I was glad to see that they held up, and didn't surrender that last minute touchdown to the Giant's third string qb. I hate it when my teams give up meaningless last second scores.

In sum, the performance was uneven-- a good passing attack, a poor rushing game, good special teams returns and coverage but bad kicking, good defense in the second half, but iffy in the first.

As far as next week goes, even with Norv Turner at the helm (Chargers' GM A.J. Smith can draft, but he is not a good judge of coaching talent), the Packers will have to turn in a far more solid performance against San Diego if they want to have a chance to win that game. Personally, I'm pessimistic about their chances. It looks like Jennings and Morency still won't be back, and the O-line is likely to go backwards on run downs (the enormous Jamar Williams) and get shredded on passing downs ('roid freak Shawn Merriman). And the Chargers, although their rush defense is better than their passing D, have far better athletes in the secondary and in their linebacking corps than the Giants. What I'm saying is-- the short passing game may not work next weekend. And if that happens, it could be ugly, because the Packers will not be able to run the ball, and will not be able to protect Favre on deep drops. I think the D can hold up against LT for a little while-- but they're going to need a lot of protection, which I don't think the offense will be able to provide.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Slip Sliding Away

The Wisconsin Badgers football team has sunk two slots in the AP poll-- to 9th nationally. The team remains 7th in the Coaches Poll. There are a couple things to take away from this--

First, this is definitive proof that the media pays more attention to every game than assistant coaches or athletic department sports information assistants, or whoever else actually fills out the Coaches' Poll. That's because the Badgers, again, looked quite good for about twenty minutes on Saturday, but appeared seriously flawed the rest of the time. I've watched almost every snap this season (I missed the first three minutes of the UNLV game) and I'd rank them in the 10-15 range. There's potential on defense, but the team's defensive players often have the sort of slow reactions that come when you don't really know what you're doing. Not good. The running game is only ok because the offensive line is only ok, and the guy who may be our most talented running back can't play away games; the talent at tight end is excellent, but the wide receiver depth is iffy, and Donovan is dangerously mediocre at quarterback-- decent mobility, but lacking size, arm strength, accuracy, and good vision.

Second, despite all that, isn't it funny to win twice and move down four spots in the polls? Weirdness. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Hawaii, formerly the 25th ranked team, spanked UNLV in Vegas, winning by five touchdowns, while the Badgers barely beat the Rebels on the same field only a week earlier. (Maybe the Badgers' last minute win broke their spirits?) On a happier note, Washington State has beaten the two opponents it's played since losing to Wisconsin, putting up big offensive numbers against San Diego (aka Whale's Vagina) State and the University of Idaho Vandals. It's never too early to start rooting for the teams that your team has already beaten. Who does the Citadel play next week?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

You Can't Always Get What You Want

On Friday, I entered what I believed to be a reasonable request for a solid Badgers' performance against the Citadel. I got what I wanted, for about twenty minutes in the second half when the Badgers scored 24 unanswered points. That was excellent. The offense was running the ball with authority. The defense was smartly aggressive.

The rest of the game left a lot to be desired, however. The defense in the first half was embarrassing-- marked by sloppy tackling, confused play, and slow reactions. Jackie I. got knocked out on the first play of scrimmage with a "thigh bruise" that hopefully won't keep him out of the Iowa game. He was down on the field, not getting up, for several minutes. That was seriously scary, and his absence certainly didn't help the defense perform any better. Then when the coaches started putting in second-stringers in the second half, the Citadel began piling up the yards again, and they actually scored a touchdown with about ten seconds left. Meaningless, yes, but not a fun way to see a game end if you're a Badger fan. 45-24 looks and feels way better than 45-31.

The offense was generally ok throughout. However, Donovan was sacked for big losses several times. A few of these were clearly the fault of the offensive line--for instance, redshirt frosh Gabe Carimi was beaten solidly for one sack. But others came on overload blitzes: you could see the players coming, and Donovan failed to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Maybe he's not supposed to because this is a early season game against an overmatched opponent? But the result, especially on a few slow developing playaction passes, was serious negative gains. In the Big Ten, I hope to goodness that TD recognizes what's coming and audibles. It's also a little disturbing to see him get taken down so easily in the pocket. Maybe watching McNabb last weekend gave me overly lofty expectations, but I'd expect a "mobile quarterback" to shake off pressure a little more frequently. I was also heartened to see that I'm not crazy-- Donovan just has trouble seeing the whole field and going through his progressions. That is, he keeps not seeing wide open receivers. If UW is going to beat top tier opponents, he's going to have to see those routes. My other qualm with Donovan is his penchant for throwing balls high to open receivers, making them extend their arms and jump, and leaving them vulnerable to big hits from defenders. I can remember at least two unnecessarily high passes-- one to Beckum at the sidelines that resulted in Travis landing just out of bounds, and one to Swan that led to him getting smashed in the kidneys and leaving the field for a few plays. Throw tight, low balls and protect your receivers.

Today's Packer game raises another unfulfilled want-- to play the Giants without Manning, the Younger, at quarterback. But it looks like he's going to start. That should make the game far more interesting, in a bad way, from a Packer fans' perspective. The Giants showed an explosive offense last weekend with Burress, Manning, and Shockey, although that could be attributed to several key injuries on the Dallas defense. But at the least, the Giants look to have a more capable offense than Philly. The Packers will definitely have to get a contribution from their offense this week in order to be in this game. And on the plus side, the Giants defense looked terrible last week, and their most effective pass rusher may be out. But on the minus, it again looks like Greg Jennings and Vernand Morency will miss this game, meaning the Packers will play with the exact same front line offensive personnel as last week. That again, was not what I was hoping for. The Packers need far better offensive execution, particularly on the line, if they're going to come out of New York with a win. Can they get it from the same players? Dubious . . . .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Up, Down, All Around

It's funny how your feelings about your teams' performances relate to your expectations. For example, everyone, including the betting gurus, expected UW's football team to pound UNLV. But they played poorly and barely won, and Badger fans all over the place are upset and disappointed, and may have revised their expectations for the team from here on out. In contrast, last Sunday, the Packers barely won, but no one expected anything from them, so fans generally felt positive about the victory, and maybe their expectations for the team grew a bit. Ah, people are so easily influenced-- myself definitely included.

For example, I'm looking forward to seeing the Badgers play the Citadel this weekend in Madison, but that excitement is mixed with a heavy dose of reservation. And that's completely due to their poor showing in Las Vegas. I wonder--which game showed the real offense? The struggle against UNLV or the aerial show against Wazzu? Was Wazzu's pass defense just really terrible? If they have trouble scoring on UNLV, why wouldn't they have difficultly with, and maybe even lose to, the Citadel? The Citadel has won a bunch of games in a row, and its last loss was to Appalachian State, the depants-er of Michigan. The Citadel also runs a spread option, the same formation that UNLV used to move the ball on UW. So seriously, I'm nervous, as ridiculous as it may sound.

And Hubbard's injury at the hands of that dickhead UNLV player has me even more nervous. Hubbard's a great athlete, an excellent blocker, and a legitimate deep threat. He opened up the passing game tremendously, even if he hadn't caught a ton of balls this season. None of the reserves will be able to make up for his loss, but Xavier Harris, Marcus Randle-El, and Kyle Jefferson will try. Harris is a true sophomore who started out strong in camp last year, caught a few passes in some early games, and then didn't see much action. He runs solid routes, and has excellent hands and good size, but doesn't appear to be the athlete that Hubbard is (to be fair, few are). Randle-El is a quick, shifty redshirt junior with good hands. He lacks size and great speed since his return from an ACL tear last fall. Jefferson is a true freshman who's big and fast, but he's rail thin and obviously green. It'll be interesting to see if any of them step up tomorrow or in the weeks until Hubbard returns.

The running back situation also seems to be in flux. Several articles today stated that true freshman Zach Brown, he of the awesome grille head shot, will get the majority of the back up carries this week, ahead of Lance Smith ("Rance Smith!") and John Clay. In fact, the Capital Times actually said that Clay "looms as a redshirt candidate." Huh. It's understandable that the coaching staff would move Brown ahead of Lance because the Badgers have a bunch of key road games this year (at Penn State, Illinois and Ohio State) that Lance can't play in. It makes more sense for the team to use Brown in games like this one in order to get him acclimated. You have to feel bad for Lance though. He loses the road games, and now he's basically losing the home games as well. Although I wouldn't be surprised if the depth chart at running back remains fluid all season. If Brown is just ok on Saturday, but not great, you'd have to think the coaches would go back to Lance for tough home games like next week's match-up with Iowa. They just want to win. Regardless, it will be neat to see what Brown does on Saturday.

The John Clay thing is interesting as well. Going into last weekend, it sounded like Clay was going to get a serious look at UNLV. Unfortunately, that game turned out to be far tighter than everyone anticipated, and even Brown only saw the field for a few carries. Now, it looks like Clay may not see any action this entire season. Do you think that the reports on Clay's talents were overstated, because if he was that good he'd be playing already? Or is the playbook just that complicated, and he was late coming to camp? Or do UW coaches, seeing that Lance and PJ still have two plus years of eligibility left, just want to maximize his eligibility? Mysterious...

Come Saturday, I'm also looking to see if the offense will receive a boost from the likely return of team captain Andy Crooks, who's been milling about on the sidelines for the past two weeks. Garrett Graham's been taking his snaps, and while Graham is probably more mobile, Crooks is a little craftier, and certainly a more physical blocker. I hope the running game picks up with Crooks sealing the edge a little better.

I also am hopeful that the defense will finally dominate. The expectations for that group were very high coming into the year. The loss of Jamal Cooper hurt, it's true, but he didn't play that much last season either. The D tightened up against Wazzu in the second half, and didn't give up many points to UNLV, considering the time of possession problems, but I'd like to see them creating more havoc. The D has one true turnover this season, Shane Carter's interception against UNLV, and only three sacks, two coming on UNLV's last minute attempt at a touchdown drive, when the Badgers knew they'd be passing. Great defenses dominate physically. I think many of the guys on the Badgers' D are capable of that, so I hope they can finally put together a complete performance.

Really, I'm just looking to enjoy watching a game, hopefully a solid victory. Before, I would have expected it. Now, after the near debacle in Vegas, I'm just hoping it's not too much to ask.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jimmy Leonhard

Is now the starting free safety for the Buffalo Bills. He entered last week's game when Ko Simpson broke his ankle. Leonhard went on to record his first career INT.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Starr Fuimaono is a Huge Jerk

That's the name of the UNLV jackass who shoved Wisconsin wide receiver Paul Hubbard into the ground, then bent him over backwards for no apparent reason. Hubbard didn't have the ball. In fact, at the time, the ball carrier, Wisconsin running back PJ Hill, was literally buried under six or seven linemen. The play was dead.

But "Starr," maybe because he has a woman's first name, ignored that, and decided to try to end Hubbard's season. So, with Hubbard on the ground on his knees, and his lower legs trapped underneath him, Starr Fuimaono continued to violently push at Hubbard's upper body. He literally forced Hubbard's torso flat to the ground, again with his lower legs trapped underneath him, bending his body unnaturally in half. Again, the play was over and Hubbard did not have the ball.

As Wisconsin quarterback Tyler Donovan said, the play made him sick to his stomach. And that's accurate-- watching it literally makes you nauseous. Why would one player try to deliberately injure another, away from the ball, after the play is essentially dead? What motivates someone like Starr Fuimaono to act so evilly? I can't tell you.

I can tell you that Hubbard is going to miss the vast majority of this season due to a knee injury caused by Starr Fuimaono's despicable play. I can tell you that Hubbard was a fifth-year senior, who had hardly ever played football before arriving at UW. That he came to UW on a track scholarship, and worked dilligently for five years of his life to try to contribute to the football team. That until last year, his fourth with the program, he had never caught a pass at UW. That last season he was inconsistent, mixing great catches and blocks with dropped passes and poor routes. That he was finally putting things together late last season, catching the only touchdown in the Badgers' win over Penn State, and another touchdown against Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. That he busted his butt all offseason, and had a great training camp. That he was primed to haver his best season, again, after working and waiting for five long years. That he was going to cherish his senior season, his final year at Wisconsin. And that the promise of this season has has been taken away from him, by a senseless and cruel act by Starr Fuimaono.

Starr Fuimaono is a sophomore from southern California, according to his bio on UNLV's website. UNLV football has struggled in the past few years, and despite playing the Badgers tough, could struggle again this season. Maybe Starr's not mature enough to understand what it's like to work so hard for something, and to see it taken away from you by a stupid and thoughtless act. Maybe when he's a senior, and he's hoping that this one year, his team will win their conference, or finally make it to a bowl, or he'll make a big play against a rival that wins a game; maybe then he'll understand how precious a final season is. How dreams can be dashed so quickly. He must have learned a little already-- Donovan, avenging Hubbard's injury, ran past Starr Fuimaono for the game winning touchdown. There's a small taste, Starr.

"We were just off. We were off."

-- Packers' Offensive Line Coach (and former center) James Campen, September 10, 2007.

At least someone is acknowledging the suck-a-thon. I generally think Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are doing an okay job so far, but the Professor Positive, refusing to level with the media thing has got to stop. When people stink up the joint, admit that they played poorly and move on.

Thompson also needs to explain whey he makes certain moves. I'm sure many fans would feel better if Thompson, for example, explained that he had Harrell rated right next to Marshawn Lynch, and well above any of the wide receivers available at sixteen. What he may not realize is that the Packer board and Harlan aren't the sole owners. He is not accountable just to them. There are thousands of owners all over the country, myself included. I want to know why the hell he does things, and the press is my only method for finding out. So cut out the unnecessary obfuscation, Ted, and level with the media. The people who own your team want to know why their most important employee is doing what he's doing. Sheesh.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I hope people got a chance to watch the Packers game, because that was hilarious. Not only did the Packers manage to beat the City of Brotherly Love 16 - 13, but they did so with their offense only contributing three points to the cause. Hell, the 9 to 7 victory over Minnesota last year was a more impressive offensive showing. To be plain, the offense was so inept, the Packers should have lost the game. With Westbrook and McNabb, Philadelphia is a more talented team, and if the two teams played 10 games, I'd pick the Eagles to win 6 or 7, at least at this stage in the offense's development. The Eagles will definitely challenge Dallas for the NFC East. Here are some take aways:

First, the defense looks close to as good as advertised. They got almost no help in terms of time of possession from the offense, but only gave up thirteen points to a team with a top tier quarterback, offensive line, and running back. (That same team put up 31 points on the same personnel, minus Bigby, last season.) Thanks to players like Johnny Jolly (three batted passes) stepping up, McNabb completed less than 50% of his passes, and threw for under 200 yards-- both surprisingly bad stats for such a good player. The box score says the defense only had one sack, but they tackled McNabb for little or no gain on several scrambles, and flushed him repeatedly. (Though, sadly, KGB looked ineffective; get healthy Mike Montgomery!) If McNabb wasn't so damn mobile and strong, the D would have had at least four sacks. Against a worse offensive line and less mobile quarterback (hello, Jack Kitna!), the pass rush should be fun to watch. Barnett's interception was one of the best plays I've ever seen him make, and he had a pretty good game otherwise, swooping around to make 9 solo tackles, though he did give up the D's one touchdown. Al's elbow injury was scary (easy there, Atari!), but he came back on and played decently, so hopefully it's manageable. If folks can stay healthy, this could be an excellent unit this season. The early results are good.

Second, the offense was as bad as the pessimists feared, but the fault does not necessarily lie where people expected. The pundits predicted that the Packers would struggle on offense because of inexperience, injury, and lack of talent at the skill positions. Yes, Driver did seem to struggle to get open against the Eagles' good corners, Jackson dropped a pass that could have been a ten yard gain, and Bubba continues to not look fast. But these issues were not the source of the offense's ineptitude.

Here's the main problem-- the offensive line played like garbage. Especially the Packers' lone Wisconsin alum-- Mark Tauscher. Yes, I'm calling you out, Grizzly Adams. Tauscher gave up at least one sack directly, gave up too many pressures to count, let ends breeze past him on several run downs, and took a pathetic ankle dive at a Philly DT during a broken play that led to Favre being sacked again. Clifton got soundly beat for another sack, and Colledge either thought Wells was helping him out or just got owned on an additional sack. If it weren't for Favre's in the pocket shenanigans, like the one that resulted in the 18 yard shuffle pass to Wynn, the team would have given up even more than the four officials sacks noted in the box score. Brandon Jackson didn't look explosive, but he had almost nowhere to run the entire game. On the whole, it was a terrible outing by what is supposed to be an improved line.

And Philly's defensive line is just pretty good, not elite. If this had been the Bears or the Chargers (two of the Packers' next four opponents) it would have been far worse. Tauscher needs to get his act together, and the line needs to play far better, and quickly. Based on last night's performance against the Cowboys, the Giants, the Packers next opponent, don't have too fearsome a front four. But after that, things will get rough quickly in the form of the Chargers Vikings, and Bears. Uh oh.

Now, the offense should be improved with a healthy Greg Jennings and Vernand Morency, both talented guys who have at least some experience. (The return of Jennings, for example, will boost the entire passing game. Not only will he be a threat in his own stead, but he'll force opposing teams to cover James Jones with their nickel backs, rather than their starting corners. Advantage, Pack Attack.) It sounded like Vernand was close to playing this week, and I don't think Jennings' pulled hammie was too serious.

Third, the special teams are much improved, but no one can expect this sort of luck every week. The first fumble/touchdown was a great play by Jarrett Bush, just leveling Philly's returner a millisecond after he caught the ball, and then crazy luck in favor of the Packers, with Sega helping hurl the ball into the end zone and Tracy White ending up on top of it. That's a lot of things playing out for the Packers on that one play-- a receiving team will often jump on a fumble, and punt returners should call for fair catches in when the gunners are that close. But still, Bush made it happen with his great hit, and the other players were aware enough to chase the ball.
The second and deciding punt/fumble was a total fluke though. The best play was by Brady Poppinga (my favorite name on the Packers) dodging the returner so as not to draw a penalty. The initial camera angle made it look like Brady bumped him, but really he made a heady move to twist out of the way to avoid contact. Then the Philly returner flubbed it on his own. Craziness.
The returns looked decent, especially with back up guys at the returner spots. When Blackmon gets healthy, and with the apparently improved special teams blocking, returns could actually be exciting, and not just an excuse for FOX to run another three minutes of commercials.

Crosby looked good as well, as everyone must have noticed. His 53 yard boot in the first half rewarded my decision to draft him in both of my fantasy leagues. (The theory was, he has a big leg and the Packers are going to have difficulty scoring TDs this season, and all kickers are basically even. ) So far, the choice of Crosby over Rayner has played out well for the Packers, but it's a long season.

In summary, I guess we have what we thought we'd have, albeit for slightly different reasons. The skill positions aren't great, but the offense's troubles are mainly in the line, and it's the veteran guys, like Clifton and Tauscher, who need to get their acts together. The special teams look younger and more aggressive. The defense is solid, and has a chance to be special. But it needs help from the offense, at least in terms of ball control and time of possession.

A crazy first game, leading to a win over a superior opponent. The Packers are undefeated at home this season. First time anyone's been able to say that since 2002.

Vegas Notes

I was both frightened and excited about the number of Jean Shorts that Badger Fans are willing to bring to the Desert in September. They were everywhere, in the casinos, on the streets, at the game. It was the mass self-deprecating joke of the weekend, nobody could get over it.

The Hard Rock Casino was a bitching good time, but on the night that Snoop perfromed at the pool and $0.50 performed at the interior club Body English, I was pleased to leave with my valuables and bone structure intact.

Nobody in my crew wanted to touch the 27 point line, so we set an over/under for how many girls (under 40, non-UNLV fans, between 4-11PM) that I could high-5 on Saturday. We set this at 5-ish AM after a night at Pure. The over/under: 127. I took the over. They pooled $100.

Now this number was set ridiculously high, mostly because we were headed to the Badger Huddle, an immense outdoor Badger party just outside the stadium. Everyone figured you'd only be limited by your vigor. But this wasn't the case because the party had all-you-can-eat burgers, dogs, brats and all-you-can-drink beer. So literally everyone was walking around double fisting some combination of beer-brat-burger, or in many instances triple-fisting. Also, not a huge proportion of the Badger fans were young women. Buyer beware on taking this bet, by the end of the night my first instinct upon seeing a girl was to high-5 her. I could not turn this off. It was like playing a video game for 8 hours and then going to sleep, you can close your eyes, but you'll still be seeing the video game.

Numbers 2&3 were models wearing barely-there swimsuits just outside the casino for a photo shoot. I'm pretty sure it was because Limp Bizkit was there. Either way they were BY_____FAR the hottest girls I high-5'd and they gave me sarcastic looks while submitting to my request. They then sprawled themselves over a TransAm with 4 other hotties for the rest of the time we waited for our cab (Vegas!). Number 44 gave me a full on booty-grind dance for a few miuntes in the middle of this huge field-party, she was the best. Number 50 was a girl I knew from Madison, shockingly the only one. Number 94 was the first that happened inside Camp Randall West. Number 128 finally occurred just as we commandeeered a bus and got outta dodge.

The PA announcer mentioned that UNLV has had 4 sellouts in their history, all UW games.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

But at least there was this

Just a beautiful play:

Oh my dear god that was terrible...

Okay, so I guess it could be worse-- the Badgers could have lost rather than squeaked out a last minute 20-13 win. But my goodness that was painful. The offense sparked and sputtered, Paul Hubbard was injured by some douche bag UNLV defender who bent him over backwards away from the ball after the play was basically over, the receivers had multiple drops, Donovan looked off, the line didn't pass block well, PJ got overworked because Lance was at home, the D forced tons of third downs but couldn't get off the field, they ran the ball well for just one possession, the return and coverage units were almost uniformly bad, and DeBauche punted like a high school sophomore.

But to use a stupid cliche, you have to hand it to UNLV, or at least to some of their players. Beau Bell, #2, looks like he's going on to the next level. He was everywhere on defense. Their qb is shifty, and had several nice throws, and UNLV's white wide receiver, #80, ate Allen Langford up. The game also reminded me of how UNLV fans suck. I hate their stupid "Reb-Els" chant, maybe because I was overexposed to it during Wisconsin's early NCAA basketball tournament exit. They don't expect anything out of their teams, but when they're winning they're insufferable, rubbing it in constantly. Apathetic losers, but terrible winners.

Plus, since the stupid contest was on "Versus," which may be the worst cable sports network in history, I ended up watching it in a smoky, sticky and crowded bar that I had forgotten I used to hate. Some sad, homely and obese Irishman kept leaning into me and requesting refills on his 32 ounce Miller Lights, and there were far too many TVs on the LSU beat-down of Virginia Tech, despite the fact that game was completely uncompetitive, leaving me and my uncle to stare in horror at a blinky, dim 23 inch set, as we breathed in secondhand smoke. In all, a terribly grim evening.

The Badgers should fall several spots after this near disaster. Texas and Oklahoma will definitely move ahead, as should California. And it's deserving. In no way, did the Badgers look like the 5th best team in the country tonight. Plus, maybe it's for the best-- a little less attention, a slightly smaller target on their backs, and a little more time to focus on getting better. Maybe at some point later in the season, the Badgers will be a top 5 team. But they sure ain't now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Previews, previews

So today the Wisconsin football Badgers play their first road game of the season, on the periphery of Sin City against the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. Wisconsin, currently ranked 5th in both the AP and the Coaches' polls, is a 25 point favorite, according to the line in today's paper. UNLV is unranked, and coming off their first road win in several years, a close victory over the Aggies of Utah State.

Anyone else remember the last time a high ranked Wisconsin team played an overlooked UNLV squad? Uh, right . . . the Wisco men's basketball team's total pants-crapping against UNLV in the second round of the NCAA tournament this spring. I was there, and it sucked, hard. Thus, the theme of my Badgers preview is this-- vengeance! Let UW cover the spread and kick some ass.

Seriously now, UNLV has a redshirt freshman at quarterback who's starting his second game. He ran for a bunch of yards on Utah State, so apparently is quite mobile. Their running back is a big stolid guy who transferred from a juco, and their wideouts are apparently pretty good. The run a four wide receiver spread, which I imagine UW will try to deal with through their base package (with Casillas and Levy matching up on wideouts), but may have to counter with their Nickel. I haven't heard much about their defense, except that it was rated poorly last season, but they have one good linebacker, who's first name is Beau, and last name begins with B. Anyhow, I'm hoping UW will be able to run on them, and I hope fans will see a better performance from the defense-- improved angels of pursuit and surer tackling. I could definitely see UNLV having some success early on offense, like last week. But again, Wisconsin should figure it out and shut them out as the game progresses, and they should be good on offense throughout.

The Badgers don't have Lance, and they shouldn't use up PJ on the Rebels so Zach Brown and John Clay, hopefully, will get plenty of carries. It'll be neat to see what they can do. Hell, it'd be neat to see the game at all. The stupid thing is being carried on Versus, which my carrier only gives to you on the "every conceivable channel known to man" package. Thus, it looks like I'll be wasting money at some late night establishment-- the game comes on at 9 pm Central.

The Packers game, well, who knows what to expect? Philly shredded the Packers through the air last season in Ahmad Carroll's final performance in a Green Bay uniform. McNabb ("McSchnabb") is back and looks relatively healthy, though returning from ACL tears can take a while, and often folks are never quite the same afterwards. Their running back, Bryant Westbrook is a player, both carrying and catching the ball, and was probably a first round draft pick in your fantasy league. Their wide receivers remain unproven, though the signed the Rams' white boy speedster Kevin Curtis in the offseason. They have a very good secondary (Dawkins is getting old but is a perennial Pro Bowler), but relatively unproven linebackers and an aging and/or inexperienced defensive line.

This game could be tight, as it will be apparent strength (Philly's McSchnabb directed offense) vs. apparent strength (the Packers' (hopefully) solid defense). Philly fans and most Vegas prognosticators think the Packers secondary still sucks, a la last season, and are predicting a big day from the Eaglet's passing game. It'll be interesting to see how the D holds up, after another year under Bates, another off-season to mature for the younger players, and Atari "Sega" Bigby replacing Manuel at safety.

My expectations for the Packers' offense, and thus for their scoring potential, are low. Jennings tweaked a hammie this week, Driver is still coming back off his scary sprained foot, Morency may not play, and Brandon Jackson was recently concussed. (Why the eff don't all NFL players wear the concussion prevention helmets? Morons!) And it's not like the offense was setting the world on fire in the preseason, even with most of these guys healthy.

I think the Eagles are a playoff team going into the season, so it could be tough. The Eagles are favored by Vegas and pretty much everyone else out there. For the Packers, and especially for the defense, it's put up or shut up time. The Packers look better than last season, but fans are nervous, and personally, my expectations are low, largely because I have serious doubts about the offense and I think their schedule is tougher than last season. It's time to put these alleged improvements to the test-- a good showing against the Eagles, even, daresay, a victory, would do wonders for fans and the team's image.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Tracy Webster Has Left the Dark Side

The Chiccy-G Sun Times reported yesterday that University of Wisconsin graduate Tracy Webster has resigned as an assistant men's basketball coach at Illinois, in order to take a similar position under the new Kentucky coach. As a Wisconsin basketball fan, all I can say is "Thank goodness." Tracy captained the run of decency under Stu Jackson in the early to mid 90s, overlapping with Michael Finley and Rashard Griffith, and leaving UW as its all-time assists leader. In addition, he once yelled at me to get the hell out of the Field House because a friend of mine and me were had snuck in and were shooting baskets, and thereby holding up an off-season practice.
He also helped lead the Badgers over a Chris Webber-less Fab Five Michigan team in the best UW game I ever saw at the field house. The Wolverines were coming off back to back title game appearances, and the Badgers were struggling to qualify for the tournament, something they hadn't done for decades. The win put them over the edge. I think Tracy threw a half-court alley oop to Rashard at one point. In fact, the game was so glorious, that I totally blew my chances with this smoky-eyed sophomore girl I had been pining for by forgetting to call her. (Through an intermediary, she had given me "permission" to call her that night, and after I failed to do so, said "permission" was withdrawn. Ah, high school.)

So most Badger fans have awfully fond memories of Tracy. Thus, seeing him mill around the Illinois bench the past few years has been "awkward" to say the least. And at last, like a ride in the elevator with your boss, the awkwardness has been brought to an end. The Sun-Times seems to believe Tracy's move indicates a further sinking of Illinois' chances to recruit top-tier Chicago area high school basketball stars. (The top tier guys have been skipping out on Champaign for places like Kansas, Memphis and North Carolina since Weber's been coach.) Further excellent news. Well done, Tracy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oh No, Rance Smith!

Now comes word that mercurial running back Lance Smith ("Rance Smith!") has been suspended for all of the Badgers' road games. This punishment appears to stem from the girlfriend/cab fare/shoe-stealing incident in July. I guess we jinxed Rance with all the talk about his quickness yesterday.

Besides the game at Minnesota and Saturday night's match-up at UNLV, this includes outings at Penn State, at Illinois, and at Ohio State. Uh oh. (You think Lance, an Ohio guy, would have been fired up to play in Columbus?) This means that for those key road games, the back up running backs will be true freshmen Zach Brown and John Clay. Clay is apparently quite talented, but missed half of training camp, and Brown tweaked his knee in one of his half dozen or so carries against Wazzu. Brown also looks (for better or for worse) like this--
Personally, I think the gold grille is awesome. Since you can only expect Brown and Clay to know some of the offense, the offensive play calling will be limited whenever they step on the field. So neither can really replace Lance, although they should be able to spell Hill for limited periods of time. All Badger fans should pray that P.J. stays healthy, because if he goes down on the road, like against a hard hitting Penn State or Illinois team, the Badgers' offense might turn vanilla in a hurry.
(In Zach's defense, you can find a more traditional headshot here.)

Remaining Questions

Now that we've all had time to settle down after the football Badger's first game, it's time to discuss some remaining issues.

First, although the Badgers threw all over the Cougs, ("I can't control my heart rate Daddy, I gotta cougar on me!") what are the season-long prospects for Donovan?
I think he passed quite well in some short bursts, but generally his arm strength and accuracy left something to be desired. I'd say he had maybe three ideal passes-- the touchdown bomb to Swan, the first touchdown pass to Swan in the corner, and the scramble first down pass to Xavier Harris. On a bunch of other passes, longer gains were there to be had if he had thrown the ball more quickly or accurately. In fact, it looked like all the incompletions were traceable to him-- because the Badgers had guys open all day, and he was hardly under pressure. Honestly, passing the ball is not going to get any easier this year, and a lot of underthrown balls that were recovered for catches by aware receivers could be interceptions against better teams. Also, maybe Wazzu's linebackers are fast or something, but I expected him be a little more effective on the run. Then Evridge comes on toward the end, and the one throw they let him take (a 20 yard pass to the third tight end, Graham) is a bullet. Hmmm... I think my opinion on Donovan is a push-- we'll see if he gets any more accurate in the remaining pre-Big Ten games. He at least didn't buy into the hype of his "awesome" game, telling Chryst when they pulled him "
We left some things out there today" and telling the media "there are still things we can work on." Yes, that's certainly the case.

Second, are the Badger's BCS hopes screwed because of lack of depth on the defensive line? UW had serious trouble stopping the run on Saturday, as the Cougs managed just about five yards a carry. The D stiffened as the game went on, but that development was disconcerting. Then you look at the D-line, and notice that the Badgers basically have a rotation of only three defensive tackles, Nick Hayden, Mike Newkirk, and Jason Chapman, and a rotation of four defensive ends, Shaungisillas, Kurt Ware, redshirt frosh Kirk DeCremer, and the enigmatic Brandon Kelly-- not that great depth to begin with. But since Ware is still gimpy after tearing cartilage in his knee, Newkirk was playing end for a lot of the game. So the lack of depth at end exacerbated the lack of depth at tackle. Now maybe the Badgers linemen getting gassed wasn't the reason Wazzu ran on them. Maybe it was inexperience, or poor positioning, or being rusty after not tackling as much in practice. But the depth problems couldn't have helped. I'm concerned that against real running teams, Wisconsin will get worn out and run over. Here's hoping some of the back-ups, like Richard Garner and Jeff Stehle, develop during the season.

Third, what's going on with the Badgers' running game? They certainly don't seem to be able to consistently move the ball on decent defensive fronts. They couldn't do it against Arkansas, Michigan, and now, couldn't really do it against Wazzu. Maybe the alleged maturity of the returning linemen was overstated. What are the Badgers' chances of beating legit teams if they can't really run the ball? Or are we overreacting? Did the papa of Papa Sal have it right that guys were just missing the holes? Will a healthy Chris Pressley make running against good opponents possible?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Madison Notes

Lots of WSU fans, more than any other non-Midwestern school. Nobody has traveled to Madison like that. There were hordes. They call themselves the Cougs. The are loud and drunk and pretty cool. There were no hot Cougars.

Lance Smith is BY FAR our best back. (Of course, he was last year as well, but fell outta favor with coaches). PJ Hill forgot that he is fat with a big ass and that he should just try to run into people every time, because he cannot run around them. Lance Smith looked like a slalom skier out there, or better yet a basketball player driving to the lane and jump-stopping around people only he was jump-running around people who were trying to tackle him. Very fun to watch. Bottom line is this: the first guy tackled PJ every time. The first 2 guys were missing Mr. Smith. I expect to continue to see PJ early here in the season, but my bet is Smith for crunch time minutes against good teams. Brown looks fast as advertised. That sound in the distance is Johnny Clay getting more reps.

Chris Pressly was devastating. Ss and CBs avoided him so consistently it was comical. Charging LBs ran into him and stopped moving for the rest of the play, he was an eraser.

Looks like teams may need to scrap the put 8 guys in the box and hope WI can't pass as Plan A. Way too much talent receiving the ball.


The scene: 30 of us were at Essen Haus after the game on Saturday, drinking and hitting on everything with boobs.

The wild card: Outta nowhere, a tall, handsome, definitely athletic dude walks in with 3 hotties of varying ethnicities.

The convo: So one of my (hammered) buddies goes to congratulate him on the big win and says, "Way to go Number 2". and the guys says "92" and my friend says "Naw, Number 2" and the guy says "92" my friend says "Casillas?" the guy says "Naw, man, I'm Shaughnessy" so my friend regroups and goes with "hey, nice sack today, pretty much the only pressure you got all day though". Shaughnessy was like "what? I was up in that motherfuckers face all day1" My friend regrouped again and went with "fuck yeah, you did".

The conclusion: Shaughnessy is getting much hot college ass, and I will be calling him and Casillas "Shaughnesillas" for awhile.

Monday, September 03, 2007

1,000 Miles Away on Opening Day

It is bittersweet to be in Denver, Colorado on the first day of College Football season--those stupid Thursday games don't count. I first realized this when I watched the Badger's opener 3 years ago from my couch, 1,000 miles from Camp Randall. (As I sat there I realized that I could have chosen UW over CU for med school and I probably would've been at the game. It was then that I realized that four seasons of football games does not constitue enough reason to return to Madison, where I probably would've gone crazy and shot myself. But, I digress.) I think being further away allows me a less biased view of what is going on with Bucky, as it is difficult for me to drink the Kool-Aid served thoughout the Madison area, primarily due to lack of access. The obvious exception to this was the basketball team last year, in which case the entire country was drinking the bright red Badgernation beverage. I had a huge, red Kool-aid mustache right up until Butch annihilated his elbow. I say all of this by way of introduction, as this is my first post on Mr. Man's fine site.

As I watched this season's installment of what do the Badger's actually look like I was initially underwhelmed. During the first quarter I sat there thinking, "Dear God, what will happen when we play a team with any semblence of a pass defense." As the mighty Mr. Man predicted, "Stumpy Guns" was able to pick apart a slow, overmatched defensive backfield. Yet, as with last year, when defenses filled up the box PJ got nothing going. The defense on the other hand, looked as it did last year under Bielema. A little questionable at first, but then making good adjustments to shut down the other team. I won't touch the punt units, because they were almost comically bad.

As the game wore on, I started to be impressed by what seems like a blue-collar attitude that the team seems to take. They look like they work hard on every play, and they were very consistent and eventually wore down Wazzu. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a pattern with this team. It is clear that they are not going to blow people away on offense with many big plays, so they will need that consistency all year.

A day after the game, my father pointed out a couple of things that I hadn't thought of. If the Badger's punting game was better/luckier, they may not have allowed a touchdown. All three WSU scores came off a punting-game gaffe. This made me more encouraged about the defense. He was at the game and noticed that Hill and Smith were not recognizing cut back lanes early in the game. He said Hill could easily have had 3-4 big gains if he had seen those cuts. Both of the backs seemed to start finding those gaps in the second half, which is encouraging.

One more thing I began to ponder as I suffered through Bob Griese and Paul McGuire's commentary: Does"Stumpy Guns" really not have the arm strength, or does he underthrow the ball to Swan on purpose. Here is a possible theory (technically, making it a hypothesis): The obnoxious color guys kept ranting about how great the chemistry between Swan and Donovan is because they played together on the scout team 4 years ago, and then with the second string, and how Swan has always felt more comfortable with Donavan, etc. Suppose Swan knows that Donovan will throw the ball short, allowing him to react better than the d-back. The only reason I think this is a possibility is that the "Guns" threw that fly pattern to Swan perfectly, 50 yards downfield. He clearly did not have an arm-strength problem on that play. Is there validity in my hypothesis or is it the Kool-Aid talking?

What a weekend!

Wisconsin beats the spread and the offense looks surprisingly decent, despite the team fumbling two punts, getting no turnovers, and being unable to tackle. (More discussion of this game in the days to come.) Notre Dame gets annihilated on national television 33-3 to an unranked Georgia Teach team. And craziest of all, Michigan loses to Appalachian State, the I-AA champion of the past two seasons. (Appalachian State is located in Western North Carolina, for those of you that were wondering.) Now, Appalachian State would probably beat about half of the D-I teams out there. But still, a weekend of great hilarity. I'm off to the gym to watch Clemson and Florida State. (My hope is Bowden Senior has a senior moment and wanders onto the field during a kick return.) I'll leave you with this oh so appropriate tune.

Now playing: Spoon - The Underdog
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Camp Lambeau is on the record as being for- drafting Mike Hart.

He was the best back in the country last year too.
And the the packers will never play ASU (appalachin stayte).

Keep your chin up blue. Its only the worst upset ever.
We're going to punch holes in your dead body.