Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Odds and Ends

This past Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were about as busy as I remember in a long time without being out of town at the NCAA's, the Orange Bowl, or other big events. Anyway, I checked in with the Bengals today and it seems all systems go for Cleveland. Some guys are dinged up, but it sounds like most, if not all, (including Maualuga) will be ready for the Browns. You never, ever, know in the NFL, but if there is ever a road game I think the Bengals can grab, it's this one. The Browns are a messed up group at this point. Dissension seems to be rampant in Cleveland.

U.C. should be able to cruise into Oxford and take care of business with the Miami Redhawks. Miami seems to have found something with quarterback Zac Dysert, but it won't be enough. U.C. will be bringing the Victory Bell back to Clifton. It's a very nice schedule set-up for the Bearcats. Play at Miami, then a week and a half off to prepare for South Florida. This way U.C. is not tempted to look past Miami because they know they have plenty of time to study up on the 4-0 Bulls.

How are the South Florida Bulls still not ranked? I'll tell ya: Wofford, Western Kentucky, and Charleston Southern, before the big win over Florida State. Why so many cupcakes? That's just dumb in my opinion.

There was a big play in the Rockies-Cardinals game over the weekend. Clint Barmes made an amazing grab and turned it into a game-ending double play. Then a fan sitting in right field posted some photos he took of the play, and well, it may not have been a catch after all. The television replays didn't have this angle. This is just the latest example of how mass media is changing thanks to the internet and small electronic devices that capure clear pictures and video. Click here to see the pictures taken by fan Craig Welling. A special hat tip to the Sporting News Blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pittsburgh Burning?

This is what happens when your team loses eight straight games to the Reds. Cincinnati wrapped up a three-game sweep Thursday afternoon against the Pirates, and the outrage was immediate. Most news outlets are attributing this behavior to the G-20 economic summit commencing in Pittsburgh, but we know better. Pirates fans are mad as heck and they're,,, well,,, I guess they're acting like Steelers fans! Seriously, the Reds really have it together right now, going 21-10 since August 22. It may just be fool's gold, and it may be another reason for the front office to stand pat in the off-season. I'm not liking that. I am liking Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Joey Votto, (his stroke is back), Scott Rolen (he's healthy), and Brandon Phillips (avg. up to .280). I still don't think they have enough to win in 2010. The big question mark is the health of the pitchers. Harang has to come back strong in 2010 for the Reds to have any shot at all.

Back to Pittsurgh, I hope these are the players The Steelers plan on sending to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

And Steelers fans, please behave yourselves. Knock off the bull in the stands and quit wanting to fight anyone that happens to stand up and cheer for the Bengals, or happens to yell "Who-Dey", or any other transgression that seems to set you people off. I know it's not just the Steelers fans every time, but each year it is the nastiest game in the stands with more trouble than any other event at PBS. And you, Steelers fan, are the common denominator. So welcome to town, have fun, and if you need it, call the jerk-line and security will take care of any issues you encounter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

U.C. Fun and It's The Bengals Time

It's time for the Bengals to show Pittsburgh a little swagger for a change. The unvarnished truth is that the Steelers come to Cincinnati not only expecting to win, but expecting to push the Bengals around. From crashing into Carson's knee with no fear of retribution, to the Bus spiking the ball at Bengals feet, to Hines Ward breaking the jaw of Keith Rivers. All of those things happened right here in Cincinnati. When was the last time you really thought the Bengals whipped Pittsburgh's posteriors? The Steelers have won the last five meetings. It's time for the Bengals to take the physical upper-hand in this series. With this defense, the Bengals should be able to do some damage against a struggling Steelers offensive line. It's time to dish it out to the black and gold. If the Bengals don't, shame on them.

How fun is this U.C. thing getting. Pete Fiutak of painted a scene that has the Bearcats taking on Florida in the BCS Championship game. Then before anyone had a chance to digest that, U.C. sophomore running back Isiah Pead declared U.C. the "top dog" in Ohio. Now people in Cincinnati AND Columbus are buzzing about this stuff. The NBC television station in Columbus requested the videotaped interviews from U.C. players about the issue. I've worked at WLWT for better than 25 years and I never, ever, recall a Columbus television station wanting anything from our U.C. football coverage outside of the occassional U.C.-Ohio State matchups. So Isiah stirred the pot and brought some attention to the Bearcats. He might have a future in marketing. Here's Isiah igniting the fuse, followed by Tony Pike's and Brian Kelly's comments.

Monday, September 21, 2009

When Is U.C.'s Next Real Toughie?

It's time to play that time-honored game, "When is the next tough test for the U.C. football team?" You, Tony Pike, you are not allowed to play. Brian Kelly and staff, you're out too. The players and coaches have to approach every game like it's tough, and if they don't, they'll find themselves fighting for a win that should have been a gimme. Plus, they actually have to play the game and deal with injury issues that might hamper key players. But me, and you, we can play the game all night long and as loud as we desire. Rutgers was supposed to be a tough test and U.C. blasted the Knights. Oregon State was a tough one, but a 10 point win in that venue raises the Bearcats pedigree a few notches. Especially with the defense clamping down when needed. So let's peer into the future, and look at the upcoming opponents.

Sept. 26 Fresno St. at Nippert Stadium
Fresno played Wisconsin tough at the Badgers home field. Then the Bulldogs returned home to play Boise and lost by 17. Now they come back to the midwest to play a noon kickoff at Nippert. Fresno is good, but not that good. Plus the Bulldogs surrender a lot of points. A porous defense is not a good recipe against the Bearcats. Oddsmakers opened the line at U.C. -14. It's already up to 16 1/2. U.C. will be 4-0 by 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Oct. 3 Miami, Oh at Yager Stadium
Do I have to explain this one? The Bearcats should save room on the bus and just leave the Victory Bell in Cincinnati. I know, Miami's offense exploded in the final 23 minutes at Western Michigan over the weekend. After starting the season with 10 scoreless quarters, the Redhawks put up 26 in the final quarter-plus at Western. But Miami allowed 48 points at Western. How many will the 'Cats ring up?

Oct. 15 South Florida at Raymond James Stadium
This game appeared to be a tough one at the time it was announced. A Thursday night game on the Bulls home field will not be easy. But the Bulls best quarterback in school history is now out for the season. Matt Grothe tore a knee ligament during Saturday night's 59-0 pasting of Charleston Southern. His replacement is redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels. Daniels appears to have enormous talent. After replacing Grothe Saturday night, he completed 10 of 13 passes with a touchdown, and ran for another 105 yards and a two touchdowns. We'll find out more about South Florida this week when the Bulls meet Florida State. U.C. has beaten the Bulls in their last three meetings. The Bearcats coaching staff gets 12 days to prepare for this game. That's a good thing for U.C., a bad thing for opponents. When U.C. finishes with the Bulls young quarterback, it will be four straight over South Florida. I believe that, and I also believe this is the next tough one! But this is fun, so let's keep going.

Oct. 24 Louisville at Nippert Stadium
The Cardinals seem to be emerging from the fog of the past couple of seasons. After the way they went after Kentucky, I don't think this game is a layup. But it's at Nippert, it's Homecoming, so the 'Keg of Nails' will be available for another year in case the 'Cats need to bust it open and use the nails for facility upgrades.

Oct. 31 Syracuse at Carrier Dome
It's Halloween, and the 'Cats have to play a team nicknamed the "Orange". Wow, talk about karma! Seriously, this is not the laugher one might have expected at the beginning of the season. New coach Doug Marrone has brought a nice attitude to the Orange. Plus, Greg Paulus is proving to be more than a curiosity as the Syracuse quarterback. Paulus shredded a depleted Northwestern defense for 346 yards Saturday as the Orange picked up its first win under Marrone. But a three-point win over Northwestern at home isn't in the same class as a 10-point win at Oregon State. U.C. is still a cut-and-a-half above Syracuse and will carve up the Orange like a Jack'o lantern.

Nov. 7 Connecticut at Nippert Stadium
Remember that truck that ran over the Bearcats in the second half of last year's game at Storrs? Donald Brown plays for the NFL's Indy Colts now, but U.C. should still be a little wary of the Huskies. Quarterback Zach Frazer is the transfer from Notre Dame, but he's a little dinged up right now. Maybe UConn is better off with Cody Endres running the show anyway. Frazer had fired 7 interceptions in three starts this season. Endres made his first career start against U.C. last year and helped engineer the 40-16 thumping. If this game were in Storrs, I'd be a little more worried. But UConn plays at Pitt, home against Louisville, at West Virginia, and home verus Rutgers, before coming to Nippert. Will they have enough left to beat a very good U.C. team on the 'Cats home turf? Nope.

Nov. 13 West Virginia at Nippert Stadium
West Virginia missed a great chance to wave the Big East flag last Saturday at Auburn. The Mountaineers took a lead to the fourth quarter, then came four turnovers and the game slipped away. The Mountaineers committed 6 turnovers in the game, including a whopping 5 interceptions. You never take anything for granted against West Virginia, especially a win. This will be tough, but can it be any tougher than that win U.C. escaped Morgantown with last season? Plus, West Virginia has been ok under Bill Stewart, but not great. U.C. protects the home turn on a cool Friday night under the Nippert lights.

Nov. 27 Illinois at Nippert Stadium
The Illini could be playing out the string by this point. They lost star linebacker Martez Wilson for the season with a neck injury. Juice Williams will return from a leg injury this weekend to face Ohio State. Illinois faces Penn State and Michigan State the following weeks. It could be lights out after that stretch of big games. But if Williams and his offense are healthy, this will not be a layup. If U.C. happens to be undefeated or a one loss team at this point, it will give Illinois a reason to get up in late November. But if the Bearcats are rolling along at that pace, this Illinois squad isn't going to derail them.

Dec. 5 Pittsburgh at Heinz Field
Since the schedule was announced, we all knew it could come down to this. Hopefully for U.C. and Pitt fans, it will come down to this game. Little freshman running back Dion Lewis is averaging 5.9 yards a carry. Bill Stull is completing 70-per cent of his passes and has 6 touchdown throws against just one interception. The Panthers held Navy to 2.8 yards per rush. Navy picked up 4.2 per carry against Ohio State. So this team is good. Pitt has won its first three games for the first time since 2000. The Panthers have a somewhat deserved reputation of fading down the stretch under Dave Wannstedt. That wasn't the case last year. It probably won't be the case this year. A win at N.C. State this weekend should get the Panthers in the top 25. If all goes according to plan, and it almost never does, this will be the game of the year in the Big East.

Monday, September 14, 2009

24-Hour Rule

I firmly believe in the 24-hour rule. When something bad happens in your line of work, you have 24 hours, at most, to think (or whine) about it. Then you better move on. In television, like anything else, things go wrong. Sometimes it's self-induced, sometimes it's not. I've been so mad some nights I want to drive up to Clifton and chop down our tower. But by the time 24 hours passes, the whining, brooding, and stressing better pass too. The Bengals better use that rule after Sunday's events, and if the locker room on Monday was any indication, it appears they are following the rule. That doesn't mean they are going to beat the Packers. It doesn't mean they'll be a better team than the one we saw lose Sunday to an inferior bunch from Denver. It only means they are handling this in the best way possible. But what else can you do?
As for fans, forget the 24-hour rule. Bengals fans will be sick about this for a long time. They should be. Some may completely give up, thinking this team truly is cursed. For the record, I think it is cursed. The older I get, the more I believe in Karma. I'm just not sure who did what to whom in the Bengals organization to hack off the football Gods, but it happened. Too bad that can't be solved in 24 hours.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Six-burgh or Sick-burgh?

Reeeeeeeeal American Herooooooooes! Here's to you, Mr. Ate-up Pittsburgh Steelers fan. When the rest of America returns to work on Monday, you shower in one more warm can of IC light, just so you can pretend it's Sunday again! And when your team wins the big one, you don't silkscreen a tee-shirt, you silkscreen your Primanti Brothers-fed biceps!

Yep. That's exactly what you think it is. In honor of the NFL kicking off a new season in Pittsburgh, I thought I would allow a peak into the sick world of a Steelers fan. A former co-worker and friend of mine has added tattoos after the last two Steelers Super Bowl wins. He really is a good guy. He just happens to have this illness, or maybe perversion is more fitting. Last year he landed a sweet job in Pittsburgh so I don't have to see his Jerome Bettis or Hines Ward or Big Ben or Willie Parker or you-name-it-he-has-it jerseys every day. Or the Steelers-gold vehicle. Or his Steelers electric train that circles his Steelers Christmas tree decorated with Steelers ornaments. I'm not making this up. He would shave a few points off of his IQ just to say he has something in common with Terry Bradshaw! And those tattoos, oh those tattoos! But I do miss our bantor every day, and darnit, even a diehard, sick, perverted Steelers fan can make the world a better place. And yes, even qualify as a Real American Hero. Cheers Mikey!!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Keeping U.C. Football Healthy

Somebody get the Lindner family on the phone and convince them to shower Brian Kelly with multiple UDF stores, Great American Insurance annuities, and maybe throw in a banana farm in South America. Cincinnati, not just U.C., needs to get even more creative to make sure Kelly and his merry band of assistants continue to rob from the collegiate football rich and give to the poor, long-suffering, football fans of Cincinnati. The man is a treasure, an asset to the local community, bringing cheer and good publicity to an area sometimes lacking in both. U.C. football is enjoying a kind of success and popularity that hasn't been experienced in over 50 years, if ever. So how can U.C. keep the ball rolling into the future? We all know the answer is to keep Brian Kelly. If Washington and Tennessee made runs at BK last year, you better believe more teams will come knocking at the end of this season, and they'll be holding bigger and better offers. Mark my words. Sure, if Kelly leaves, U.C. might catch lightning in a bottle again and find a great coach. But why take the chance?
In the past coaches have done some of the things needed, but not all. This current regime is the total package. Check-off all of the following on the U.C. football to-do list:

1. selling the program to recruits and parents
2. maximizing the talent on hand
3. playing an exciting brand of football on offense and defense
4. engaging the administration, alums and students
5. getting the greater Cincinnati area to actually pay attention
6. making U.C. football relevant on a national scale

Coaches in the past have made some inroads on some of the above points, but not all. Kelly and his staff had a major leg-up on point six because of the Big East conference. As much as the national pundits continue to try and ignore what is happening in Cincinnati, Kelly is grabbing their attention once again. Monday's butt-stomping at Rutgers put to rest the prevailing national attitude that U.C. was a one-hit wonder in 2008 and merely the product of 10 seniors starting on defense. Once again, Kelly and his very capable staff have shown an ability to take their 22 best players and beat you, or take your 22 best players and beat you. So why gamble on losing a good thing? Just make sure Kelly goes nowhere. Give him a huge balloon payment if he stays 5 years, 10 years, whatever it takes. I realize most fans don't have the money to make that happen, but somewhere among U.C. alums and local fat-cats there has to be a collegiate football fan that loves winning. Right? Meanwhile I suggest the rest of U.C. football fans follow these steps to help ensure Kelly remains past 2009:

1. Sell out Nippert Stadium every game
2. Root very hard for Notre Dame and a 10 win season for big Charlie
3. Do the same for Boston College, just in case
4. Eat lots of ice-cream and hope the Lindner family likes winning football too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Glad This Didn't Happen At The Bengals Game

I thought the Bengals looked good, but they should against the team the Colts threw out there. But the Bengals first team, second team, and beyond did a nice job, making hard decisions that much harder for the coaching staff. But as soon as I got home from the game and post-game radio coverage, I fired up some college football. Opening night, 16th ranked Oregon and 14th ranked Boise State. Boise wins 19-8, but after the game came some real fireworks. Boise defensive end Byron Hout hit Oregon tailback LeGarrette Blount on the shoulder pads and said something that must not have been nice. Blount responded with a right to the chin. Then Blount tried to go after a fan, no doubt the fan was being a clown. Two huge back to back no-no's by Blount. Anyway, I recorded the replays off the game coverage for a little late-night, early-morning entertainment. By the way, Blount's team not only lost, he was held to -5 yards rushing on 8 carries and was tossed for a safety. At least he can't lose yards while he's suspended.

I am so glad college football is back, and I'm fired up that Friday night is the last night of NFL preseason football. So the pros, the colleges, and the high schools are all playing for keeps.

I wish I could tell you who the Bengals are going to keep at running back, but I can't. Do they keep 1 fullback and 4 running backs? If they cut DeDe Dorsey he's gone. He'll get picked up by someone. But they can't cut Brian Leonard. I think if they cut Vakapuna or Pressley, I'm thinking they can get at least one of them back on the practice squad, and Leonard becomes an emergency fullback if Jeremi Johnson gets injured.

By the way, Dorsey's blocked punt came against Colts punter Pat McAffee. McAffee was the kicker for West Virginia last year and hit the 52 yard field goal against U.C. that sent last year's game into overtime and U.C. fans into cardiac arrest. McAffee had a big second half in that game with several booming punts. He and Kevin Huber went toe to toe in that one. Of course it was Huber's 'Cats coming out with the win in o.t.