Monday, November 28, 2011

Bengals Still On Track

The Bengals are still on track to be in the playoffs heading into the final week or weeks of the season. Before we go any further on the that, I want to say I haven't seen the Bengals with a tandem that adjusts to the ball better than A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham. They've had individual guys who have done it like Carl Pickens, but to have two guys with the kind of fly ball skills of Gresham and Green is rare. Now that I have that off my chest, back to the playoff hunt. My friend Rocky Boiman convinced me on our "Sports Rock" show last night that the Bengals need 10 wins to make the playoffs. Nine is not enough. Rocky bases this on the fact that the N.Y. Jets have 6 wins now, and should easily get to 9 or 10 based on a healthy helping of cream puffs down the stretch. The Jets get Washington, K.C., Philly, Giants, and Miami. They could easily win four of those. The Bengals have Pitt, Houston, St. Louis, Arizona, and Baltimore. There's three wins there, but can they steal a game from Pittsburgh or Baltimore to get to 11? Perhaps. The playoffs are right there for the Bengals to grab. If they can find a way to avoid falling into the double-digit holes they've found themselves in lately, they have a real chance.

While the Bengals are heading to the playoffs, the U.C. Bearcats could be heading to another coaching search. I really feel Butch Jones wants to make a go of it in Cincinnati. But here is where the rubber meets the road: Support. Not just fans in the stands, although it begins with fan support. U.C. has a football budget that is near the bottom of the Big East. Considering the Big East budgets are at the bottom of the BCS conferences, that is an issue. A small Nippert stadium with no club seating and no luxury boxes is a big problem when it comes to expanding the budget. If the fans will flock to PBS, that will help. Funding in general lags for U.C athletics. Mick Cronin has the same problem in basketball, with a budget that was recently near the bottom of the budgets in the conference. That is saying something. Cincinnati is a great place to live. A lot of coaches, not all but a lot, would love to stay put here if the university had the resources to compete with the schools that win big. Imagine if U.C. had the resources of the big dogs. It's amazing the Bearcats compete at all in football the way things are. Imagine if the football program were on a near-equal funding basis. Until that happens, this coach thing is going to pop up every 2-3 years. New A.D. Whit Babcock has a lot on his plate. Funding, funding, and funding. There is no bigger issue.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Relax Buckeye Fans

Forget about a rare loss to Michigan. Your man is on the way. Even former Buckeye and Heisman trophy winner Eddie George believes Urban Meyer will be named Ohio State's next head football coach in the coming days. Do you think Eddie might have a connection or two with the folks who call the shots in Columbus? The real questions lie with Meyer, and maybe even he doesn't know the answers. Is he healthy and built for the long haul? Or is he coming back too soon? And because of health concerns, can he burn the recruiting and coaching candle at both ends like he did at previous coaching stops? My information says when Urban goes after something, he's all-in. There is no taking it easy. There is no delegation of duties to allow himself to slow down. He also won't allow the Buckeyes to slow down. After years of conservative play calling, get ready Columbus.

Should West Virginia beat South Florida Thursday night, U.C. fans would have to be torn. Sure, you don't want U.C. to lose the final game of the season to UConn. Sure, you never want Louisville to win the Big East title over the Bearcats. But if West Virignia, Louisville, and U.C. all finish with 5-2 records in the Big East, then it's very likely West Virginia gets the BCS bid. But if U.C. loses, and West Virginia is tied with only Louisville at 5-2, the it's the Cardinals winning the tiebreaker and getting the Big East bid. Does any U.C. fan really want West Virginia taking one last Big East bid before prancing off to the Big 12? I'm not suggesting U.C. would ever lay down for anyone, but I am suggesting if U.C. finds a way to lose to UConn (and that should not happen) then the loss will be a little easier for U.C. fans to stomach knowing the Mountaineers will not be leaving the Big East on a high note. Of course this is all assuming WVU gets out of the Big East next year. Stay tuned to Court TV for that show.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Undermanned Bengals vs Undermanned Ravens

It's official, A.J. Green is out for the Bengals, and Ray Lewis is out for the Ravens. I'm not sure how good I feel about the Bengals chances without one of their main offensive weapons. It's up to Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell to prove they can handle the load. Last week they didn't, even with some big-time help from Andrew Hawkins. Meanwhile, it's a fine mess the BCS has on its hands. It appears the top three teams in the SEC West standings will be the top three teams in the BCS standings. LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas. Reading some comments about what college football is coming to in a few years, this is exactly what the big dogs want. Only a select few with a chance to play in the major bowl games. But this thing is far from over. LSU and Arkansas play next week. Alabama still has Auburn ahead. The BCS has a chance to be the biggest mess ever.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

U.C. Did WHAT?! Lost To WHO?!

If I'm Mick Cronin, Monday night the U.C. basketball team will come out in plain gray sweatshirts and plain gray sweatpants. The old cotton kind with a string in the waistband. They will have plain white shorts with plain white jerseys. The way they played down the stretch against Presbyterian College, they certainly don't deserve to wear the Red and Black colors of the Bearcats. How in the name of George Smith do you blow a 15 point in the final eight and a half minutes over a team called the "Blue Hose"? Teams have been shocked before. In 2007 Kentucky lost an early season game against Gardner-Webb. Then duplicated that feat the following year against VMI. It's not the end of the world. Syracuse lost an exhibition to Division 2 Le Moyne back in 2009, and the Orange bounced back. But in order to bounce back you have to learn your lesson. We'll see if they can learn that lesson in two days, because the Northwestern State team they meet Monday night won 18 games last season. Presbyterian won just 13 last season, but that was their best since joining D-1 in the 2007. Couple the hoops loss with the football loss, and Saturday was one of the bleaker days for U.C. in awhile.

No Help For The Munch Man

Munchie Legaux was not good in his first start. He wasn't even close to good. His issues were made worse by little or no help by those around him. That means players and coaches. Unlike last week when Munchie seemed to settle in and play fairly well, this week he never had a chance. Munchie missed a ton of receivers, and when he was on target a receiver would drop it. Three or four drops in the first half were costly. When the Bearcats found themselves in second or third down and long, here came the pressure and the blitzes from Rutgers. Legaux had to run for cover. By the way, it seemed the Bearcats were always in second or third down and long. With that part of the offense struggling, Rutgers strangled the Bearcats running game. The game plan was to get running back Isaiah Pead rolling. Pead was bottled up for 28 yards on 14 carries. When the running game stalled the Bearcats offense had no other answers. And that is a problem. We'll hang that part on the coaches, because Munchie looked a lot better rolling out late in the game. I mean late, like when it was too late. The defense did a good job holding Rutgers to 10 points in the first half. But the field goal was set up by a 23 play drive. 23 plays is an incredible amount for one drive, almost unheard of. The defense also allowed Rutgers out of a hole on its own 6-yard line in the third quarter. The first play on that particular drive was a 22-yard run by Jawan Jamison. The second play was a 29-yard run by Jamison. Two plays, two runs, and Rutgers goes from its own 6-yard line to the Cincinnati 43. Rutgers would finish that drive with a touchdown and Jamison would finish the game with 200 yards. So the defense had moments where it contributed to the Bearcats demise. But the glaring issues were offensive. No, Munchie didn't get much help. But he certainly didn't help himself. It had to be a disappointing day for U.C. and Munchie needs to play better immediately if the Bearcats hope to avoid disappointment again next Saturday at Syracuse. That's something the coaches have six days to figure out.

Win By Oregon = Ducks > Tide

Really Alabama? It's late season and you have Georgia Southern on the schedule? I have maintained for years that if you want to be considered for a national championship, then you should not play 1-AA or FCS teams after September. You know how this BCS things work. If you drop a game early in the season, you have a chance to climb back into the national championship picture. But if you lose one late, you are sunk. So what does mighty 'Bama do? Schedule a freebie late in the season to help guard against a late season loss. That is garbage and 'Bama knows it. Florida does this stupid little trick too. I despise it, and if you think you are good enough to win it all, then you don't schedule cupcakes past September. Honestly, I think the FBS teams should only be allowed to schedule these teams in the first two weeks of the season. I think there is still room for these games, because the big payday of playing at Alabama will make the budget for Georgia Southern. Remember 2004 when an undefeated Auburn team was left out of the national championship game because of a cupcake filled non-conference schedule? Unfortunately for the Tigers, three teams made it through the regular season undefeated, so it was the Tigers getting left out. I realize Alabama played L.S.U. to a closer game than Oregon. But in my opinion, teams have yet to round into shape in September and the goal is to get better as the season goes along. I feel Oregon is a much better team now than the one that lost 40-27 to LSU back in September. LSU and Alabama may be better now too, but 'Bama should prove it. And you don't prove by playing Georgia Southern in November. So if Oregon beats USC tonight, I fully expect the Ducks to leapfrog 'Bama and land squarely into position 1-A for the national championship slot. But this is the BCS, and perennial powers seem to get a little more of a pass than the serfs of the college football world. We'll see if the BCS can get it right.

Friday, November 18, 2011

MLB Moves Do Not Move Me

I've read a lot of positive things about baseball's latest moves but you won't find those things listed here. An extra wildcard team that qualifies for a one-game playoff with the other wildcard team is gimmicky. I guess if your team is in the game it beats going home, but one game, winner advances? Why not just have a Home Run Derby bewteen the teo squads to save all of the pitching for the real playoffs? So a team that might finish 10 games ahead of another in the standings will have to win a one-game playoff with the lesser team. And baseball prides itself on having a long season so the best have to prove themselves. Then they are affored one whole game to prove the point. Does that make sense? The other big move affects the Reds and that is Houston heading to the American League. It's nice that the Reds will finally play in a division that isn't the biggest in MLB. But with 15 teams in each league, there will be interleague games from the start to the finish of the regular season. No thanks. I'd rather have the Astros back in the N.L. Central. Although baseball may pare back the number of interleague games each team may play, it's still going to stink having interlelague games the entire season.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NKU Still Waits For D-1

It's too bad that the Ohio Valley Conference said no to NKU joining and therefore delaying the Norse from becoming Division 1. The feeling I had was that the OVC would welcome the Norse. We know Eastern Kenbtucky, Morehead State, and Murray State were ready to bring in the Norse. But they did not get the needed 75 percent approval. Why? It appears a lot of schools felt the Norse would become dominant because of its facilities, possible geographical recruiting advantage, and funding of programs. I can't disagree with the OVC schools fearing the Norse. We were kicking this around the office last weekend and I felt strongly that NKU would dominate the OVC in basketball and have an excellent path to the NCAA tournament every year, men and women. The fact they have a new arena in a metropolitan area woul be huge. But forget the OVC for now. I had always hoped the Horizon League would be the destination for NKU. The Norse would fit well with these schools:Butler, Valpo, Cleveland St, Wright St., Detroit, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay, Loyola, Illinois-Chicago, and Youngstown St. But that's an even 10, and the Horizon is not interested in expansion at this time. This means it may be the Atlantic Sun or the Summit League. Both recently lost teams to other conferences so it stands to reason they need to add schools. The Summit offers closer schools like IUPUI and IPFW. The Atlantic Sun has four schools in Florida, which might give NKU a nice recruiting boost by telling kids they'll actually be seeing the sun on some trips during the deep winter months of basketball season. I feel the Horizon or OVC are better options but right now it is not NKU's call. The Norse have to take the first step of getting into a Divison 1 conference. That will happen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bengals Lose, But Did The Prove Anything?

Probably. The consensus is the Steelers are still among the elite of the AFC, and by golly, the Bengals were still right there with them. Many will point to the two fourth quarter interceptions as the Bengals demise, but I think it was the beginning of the game that sunk them. The Bengals have a good defense. They should not allow anyone to march down the field on their first two drives, score touchdowns, and build a 14-0 lead. After that, the defense was very good. On those first two drives the Steelers seemed to take advantage of a juiced up Bengals defense, and an aggressive mindset of the line. Mixing in the end-around plays had the Bengals off-balance. It was a little disappointing that once the Bengals tied the game at 17 in the third quarter, they allowed Pittsburgh to answer with an 81-yard touchdown drive. Still, allowing just 10 points after the midway point in the opening quarter shows the Bengals defense was able to get its act together. The game shows the Bengals are in the playoff race for the long haul.

I'm still not sure, and we will never know if someone made the wrong read on the last interception. Andy Dalton appeared to be reading a slant, while Jerome Simpson appeared to be squatting in a seam. That cannot happen in that situation, but at least it's not an epidemic like in years past.

Collaros Surgery, More Munchie

U.C. Quarterback Zach Collaros will need surgery on his injured right ankle. He will miss the final three regular season games, but could return for a bowl game. The surgery wil be performed Monday. It turns out Collaros fractured the ankle as he was sacked in the second quarter of Saturday's loss to West Virginia at Paul Brown Stadium. He was replaced by backup Munchie Legaux. I talked a little about Legaux in the previous post. I was on the field when he entered the game and I couldn't help but notice the similarities in stature between Munchie and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Munchie is listed as being a little taller, but Smith appeared bigger to me than 6 foot 3. Munchie, like Smith, considers himself a throw first quarterback, but both have the ability to bust loose. I saw the Munch Man for little more than a half, but I don't think it is far fetched to see him becoming as good as Geno Smith. Munchie was recruited by a lot of BCS schools such as Oregon and Tennessee, among others. He was a one time commit to Colorado. In doing some research this morning I came across a college football message board that included fans from several schools and he is a hit with the fans. Of course they were fired up about the name. Munchie's name will bring notoriety, but I believe his play will soon be the bigger reson for the notoriety. As Paul Dehner said on, Munchie already started selling season tickets for next year. Paul's column on Munchie's first big taste of college quarterbacking is a good read.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bearcats Future, Bengals-Steelers

U.C. lost a game and a leader on Saturday. But a new leader for the future could be emerging. More on Munchie in a moment. U.C. had more than enough chances to beat West Virginia. If it wasn't the defense letting the Mountaineers out of a hole, it was the U.C. offense or special teams putting the Cats in a hole. You hate to see a kid who cares as much as Zach Collaros go down with an injury. You really hate to see his senior year end this way, so hopefully the news is betting on Sunday. But the future could be in good hands with backup Munchie Legaux. His first several passes were closer to the top floor of the Carew Tower than his wide receivers. But after settling down he looked pretty special. Tall, (listed at 6-4 1/2,, appeared to be maybe a little taller to me) good running ability, and some serious zip on the ball once the nerves disappeared. I'm anxious to see more of him. U.C. still controls its own fate but it may take some Munchie Madness to win out and take another Big East title.
While at the game I talked to a couple of men in Orange sports coats. Orange Bowl reps. I'm not sure what they do exactly, because it's not like there's a whole lot of choices they can make with the automatic tie-ins, but it was neat to see them there. I let them know what a good job they did with the hospitality when U.C. was the three years ago. It was stellar.

Can the Bengals make it six in a row? Heck yeah they can, but will they? I'm really anxious to see Andy Dalton, the cool customer, handle his first outing against the Steelers defense. I haven't seen much that is too big for Dalton so far, so I suspect he'll be all right. The wind could turn out to be a big deal in this game. We could get gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Also big, will Carlos Dunlap be able to play and keep that strong defensive line rotation at the top if its game? I saw Adam Jones at the U.C. game hanging with his former mates on the West Virginia sideline. He sounded like a guy resigned to missing the Pittsburgh game, but he said he would definitely be back for Baltimore. At any rate, I'll join the Enquirer's Joe Reedy in predicting a Bengals victory. I'll go with 20-17, with the Steelers missing a game-tying field goal at the end as a gust of wind blows the ball wide left.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Joe Pa Fired, But It's Not Over

The Penn State Board of Trustees had to make a stand. It is the type of stand that should have been made years ago by others. How so many people at an institute of higher learning can be aware of sexual abuse of minors and allow nothing to come of it for a decade, if not longer, defies any application of civilized logic. Joe Paterno's firing as Penn State head football coach on Wednesday night will eventually be seen as way too little, way too late. For now, many students are angry with the decision to fire Joe Pa and that emotional response is to be expected. Paterno hoped to finish out the season and coach his final game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. But that would have been a circus, and it would have further eroded faith in an institution and the man who did so many great things in 50-plus years at Penn State. Paterno should have done the more honorable thing and resigned before the board had to take action. But that inaction by Paterno pales in comparison to the inaction by Paterno, his athletic director, and others at the university, when the abuses by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky came to light. The allegations are so sick I had trouble reading the entire grand jury report.
Perhaps Paterno was not made aware of the seriousness of what the eyewitness saw but even Paterno admitted, "it was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw." That in and of itself should have set off more curiosity from the head honcho of the Nittany Lions. Once Paterno told his A.D. about the eyewitness account of the abuse, did Joe Pa never think about it again? Did he ever wonder why nothing had come of it? Did it occur to Paterno that if the allegations were serious and true, Sandusky should have been serving a prison sentence as opposed to still hanging around the program? And it is not just Paterno. All of the adults involved in this should have been wondering why nothing more had come of this situation. Well, that time has come. Everyone involved will have their feet put to the fire. That may not help the poor victims, but those who overlooked these crimes against children need to be held accountable. Joe Pa may be fired, but this story is far from over.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Free Agency Begins, But Should Reds Play Ball?

We know the Reds needs. Another hammer of a starting pitcher, a closer, and anyone who can play the outfield that doesn't strike out more often than Dusty Baker bites through a toothpick. Left field would be the crying area of need, with third base and perhaps insurance at shortstop at the top of the list position fixes. Good Luck finding any of the above on the list of free agents that hit the market this week. In left field, the bin includes 39-year old Raul Ibanez, who made a mere 12 million dollars last season. I don't see the Reds going that route, and Ibanez appears to be the best of the lot. Others includes Cody Ross and Juan Rivera, not exactly what the Reds need. Third base, forget it. Absolutely nothing, unless Wilson Betemit is your guy. As for insurance at shortstop, how about Jose Reyes? Just kidding. He would solve a lot of issues, but Reyes will break the bank, a bank the Reds don't have. Jimmy Rollins is out of the price range as well. So it appears the best the Reds could do in free agency at shortstop is insurance for Zack Cozart. A guy like Clint Barmes would fill the bill, so would Yuniesky Betancourt. But they'll be looking for money and more playing time than the Reds have available. It's no better among the starting pitchers. With the Yankees keeping C.C. Sabathia off the market the pickings go from slim to none. The best available seem to be Erik Bedard, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Paul Maholm, Roy Oswalt, and Rich Harden. Anyone see a hammer to team up with Cueto at the top of the rotation? Buehrle certainly has credentials, but I don't know if his stuff will work at Great American Ball Park. Hamilton High School grad Aaron Cook is out there. If healthy, his killer sinker is perfect for GABP. He might be worth a chance. Another sinkerballer on the market is Brandon Webb. But he spent an entire season with the Rangers trying to come back from shoulder woes, and it just didn't happen. It will still be worth a look at him before spring training to see if he's coming around. Long story short, the Reds are going to have to make deals to improve their club. That means anything can happen. Would they really deal Votto? I doubt it. Brandon Phillips? I doubt that too, although if they think Brandon or Joey are going to be impossible to sign, the Reds may have to do some serious soul-searching to fill their holes. It's not going to happen through free agency, whether they had money to blow or not.