Monday, October 24, 2011

Palmer Performance (or lack thereof) Tops Another Wild Weekend

Maybe retirement wasn't such a bad idea. Of course it was too much to ask Carson Palmer to step in and play for the Raiders right away. Palmer hadn't played or practiced since last season before joining the Raiders this past Tuesday. It was as ugly as it gets, three interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown. The one returned for a touchdown was on a quick out that was blanketed, and was the kind of decision that would get a junior high quarterback benched. As I was watching this it was really hard to feel bad for Palmer because he's the one who made this bed. I also couldn't help but think of the following: If Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, or any of the other big-time franchise quarterbacks were in this situation, would they look this bad? Who knows? But I highly doubt it. And it was Raiders coach Hue Jackson who called Palmer a "big-time franchise quarterback" after the big-time franchise trade. But Palmer will have more chances to get it right, and I'm sure he will have good games and bad stretches, just like we saw in Cincinnati the past few years. Fortunately for Palmer, he has a couple of weeks to get ready for his next appearance. ``This bye week couldn't be at a better time,'' said Palmer. Not to pile on, but I would suggest this past week would have been a better time.

Can we please pull the plug on prime-time appearances for the Colts this season? Last night's 62-7 beatdown in New Orleans should be enough for one season. They are scheduled for two more Sunday night games on NBC, but those can be flexed out and replaced with other games. The only way that won't happen is if "you know who" makes his return in one of them. But while Peyton Manning hopes to return this season, there is no reason for the Colts to allow that to happen.

How did U.C. do it? With all of the mistakes the Bearcats made at South Florida Saturday, they found a way to pull out a win at South Florida and take over the Big East Conference lead with a 2-0 record. Zach Collaros shook off a couple of brutal interceptions to lead the Bearcats to the win, with Collaros scoring the winning touchdown with just 12 seconds left. A big plus for U.C. in the 37-34 win was veteran leadership mixed with big plays by some youngsters.

Speaking of U.C., the conference thing could be coming to a head. Missouri could let the Big 12 know as early as today that it is leaving for the SEC. Should that happen its possible West Virginia heads straight to the Big 12. The reports with the most common theme have West Virginia making the Big 12 a ten team conference. If they go to 12, it's Louisville, then BYU, or perhaps Cincinnati. There are differing reports on BYU, and nobody seems convinced one way or the other. It may not hurt Cincinnati's chances that it's new Athletic Director comes from a Big 12 school. Whit Babcock spent the past four years at Missouri as executive associate athletic director. I still feel the best fit for WVU, Louisville, and Cincinnati, is to find a way to make the Big East work as opposed to becoming an outpost in the Texas-Oklahoma top-heavy Big 12.

Xavier and U.C. rolled out their basketball teams this past weekend, and both schools have plenty to be excited about. X is ranked 15th in the preseason coaches poll and has a back court many think can get the Musketeers deep come March. U.C. is ranked 22nd and has room to improve, especially if Yancy Gates of this past March and late February is the same player for the Bearcats all of 2011-12. Also, if juco transfer Cheikh Mbodj (I may never spell it right again, so enjoy) is as good as I'm told, look out. Xavier and U.C. are among five teams within a two hour drive of Cincinnati in the top 25. Kentucky is ranked second, Ohio State is third, and Louisville is eighth. How's that for the best college basketball hotbed in the nation? Butler is 31st in the preseason voting.

We have a World Series, with a guarantee of at least six games. The Rangers won 4-0 last night and are tied 2-2 with the team Cincinnatians love to hate. The Rangers and Cardinals play game 5 Monday night.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where Will U.C. Them Next?

con·ster·na·tion   [kon-ster-ney-shuhn] noun
a sudden, alarming amazement or dread that results in utter confusion; dismay.
(the feeling of hardcore u.c. fans since Syracuse and Pitt defected to A.C.C.)

Consternation is running rampant among the U.C. crowd these days. Check a message board and you will see that conference realignment is the big buzz. The same thing happens at the U.C. football games. Where will U.C. end up when the "haves" of the college football world decide who will become the "have nots"? It appears U.C. is down to a couple of scenarios: A Hail Mary invitation to the Big 12 or remain in a reconstituted Big East. As crazy as it would be to compete in a conference with Texas and Oklahoma, I feel a reconstituted Big East with Louisville and West Virginia is the best scenario for the Bearcats. Should the Cardinals and Mountaineers get invites to the Big 12, U.C. has to close the eyes, tap the shoes, cross the fingers, and pray the Bearcats get an invitation too. Without the 'Ville and WVU, there won't be enough left for the Big East to configure a strong enough conference to remain an automatic qualifier in the BCS. Should U.C. go to the Big 12, I worry about recruiting. With several schools from Texas in the Big 12, I can't imagine U.C. will be pulling major talent out of that state. Meanwhile, do kids in U.C.'s recruiting hotbeds of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Florida want to play in the Big 12? The more I think about it the more I convince myself that recruiting would be fine. But with the bulk of U.C.'s recruiting coming in Big Ten territory, games at Iowa State, Kansas, and K-State might be a tough sell. Certainly having Louisville and West Virginia as partners in the conference would help. Still, to me, it feels too much like an outpost. Plus it would not be as smooth of a path to a BCS bowl game. U.C. has proven it can compete with the schools in the Big East. The Bearcats have come a long ways in five short years of BCS football. That's why the timing of this conference shakeup is so bad for the 'cats. Another five years like the past five and I have little doubt U.C. would be filling Nippert Stadium on a regular basis, and filling PBS for the big games, making U.C. an attractive BCS player . Why such little doubt? Students are going to the games these days. That breeds an alumni base that sees U.C. football games as "thee" thing to do on Saturdays in the fall. Many say it was the Brian Kelly factor that put U.C. on the map. Kelly did a great job creating buzz and he backed it up with winning. He is reviled for the way he left, but U.C. fans need to understand that Kelly's big way of thinking showed Cincinnati that it can done at U.C. But without the BCS carrot dangling in front of a city that considers itself major league, even Kelly would have had trouble getting overflow crowds. That's why another five years in the Big East would have solidified the football program and there wouldn't be this consternation every time an earthquake hits the conference landscape. I think it could be done in the Big 12, but I know it can be done in the Big East. But only if the Big East keeps the automatic qualifier.

Hey! Who Kidnapped The Bengals Front Office?

Are you kidding me? The Bengals front office did this? They pulled the trigger on a deal that makes perfect sense? It's so out of character that I expect the NFL to show up at the Bengals offices asking for urine samples. Lucky for the Bengals it was Hue Jackson's starting quarterback who went down with an injury last Sunday. Jackson is a former Bengals assistant and is very fond of Palmer. But give the Bengals credit for being shrewd and squeezing more out of Carson Palmer in one trade than the Bengals squeezed out of him in three of the past four seasons. I'm still sitting here late on a Tuesday night, stunned that the Bengals get a first round and at least a second round pick for the fading Palmer. The Raiders must have had patches over both eyes the past several seasons. Who knows? Maybe Palmer steps in and lights it up for Oakland right away. Maybe Chad's route running is what made Palmer look like a frightened Barney Fife trying to figure out how to shoot a gun straight. We shall see. But kudos to Mike Brown for dropping the stubborn mule act long enough to raid the Raiders of valuable draft picks. It's the latest in a string of decisions by the Bengals front office that makes you wonder. Has Mike Brown gone mad? Has he been kidnapped and an impostor has taken his place? No, that can't be it. It was vintage Brown at the January press conference announcing the return of Marvin Lewis as head coach. It was vintage Brown at the pre-training camp luncheon sticking to his mantra that a deal is a deal and if Carson wants to take his ball and go home, so be it. So I really believe it is the real Mike Brown still in the Bengals main office making the main decisions. But what a roll this guy is on. If steps up to a craps table, I'm laying my chips right next to his. In the draft, the Bengals resisted a nice trade offer for their first round pick from Atlanta. I thought it would have been a smart trade, until the first day I saw A.J. Green in training camp. Difference-maker, that's the phrase that jumped into my head. What a great pick. The Bengals also did something in the second round that goes against the old grain. They had decided on an offensive system, and set their sights on the perfect guy to run that system. Andy Dalton looks right at home in Jay Gruden's system. Hopefully for the Bengals these decisions are a trend and not a hiccup in 20 years of futility. The Bengals have a locker room that values team play, a businesslike approach, and good old execution of the plays. All of that makes it a locker room with great chemistry. It may not be good enough to make the playoffs this season, but I am no longer betting against them. Now it's time for Brown to resist pulling in troubled players who can be had for less than market value. If he can resist that, the league may want to skip the urine thing and go straight for the DNA.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good News For Reds?

There may be good news in the wake of Reds G.M. Walt Jocketty "angrily" denying speculation/reports that the Reds would at least listen to offers for Joey Votto. Maybe the Reds have plans to raise their payroll in the future to the $100 million range. I don't believe it for a second, but that is the only logical reason the Reds would have zero interest in entertaining offers. In a perfect world Walt Jocketty's denial would make perfect sense. If all payrolls were equal there would be no reason to even think about trading a player as valuable as Votto. But baseball economics is far from a perfect world. Perhaps Jocketty is trying his best to keep the Votto camp happy because they are not totally sold on trading Joey just yet. That is a distinct possibility since coming to grips with trading a great player is a tough thing to do. Plus, they are still at least a year away from having to face the reality of having a $17 million man on the roster. But unless the Reds are going to raise their payroll significantly in the next couple of years, not listening to offers is negligence.