Sunday, September 30, 2012

Big Letdown

The Colossal Collapse In Chicago, Blowing it in the Windy City, whatever you want to call it, it was ugly for the USA at the Ryder Cup on Sunday.  I'm still stunned they blew this thing.  12 singles matches,  the USA needed to win 4, and halve one,,, and the Americans couldn't do it.  Ian Poulter was the catalyst for the Europeans.  He closed with a rousing victory on Saturday to keep hope alive, then nailed his match on Sunday to finish with a 4-0 record in matches he participated in.  Meanwhile, Tiger Woods looked about as excited at I would at a Cello recital. 

The Bengals looked good.  A nice, solid, no nonsense win on the road.  Jacksonville isn't very good and the Bengals should dispatch them.  The same thing should happen to Miami at Paul Brown Stadium next Sunday.

U.C.'s big win over Virginia Tech made some nationals noise.  It also vaulted the Bearcats into one national poll and knocking on the door of the other.  23rd in the coaches poll and 26th in the A.P. voting. The Cats should be 6-0 heading to Louisville at the end of October.  But I still maintain, watch out for Zac Dysert and Miami next Saturday night. 

Big Sunday

The Bengals are thin at defensive back.  So thin they had to call up practice squad corner Chris Lewis-Harris.  Nothing against the youngster, but it is comforting to know Blaine Gabbert is still completing barely 50 percent of his passes.   I still like the Bengals chances.  Jones-Drew may get his yards, and may get a couple touchdowns, but the Bengals are still the better team in Jacksonville on Sunday.

Nothing against the NFL, I love it!  But Keegan Bradley versus Rory McIlroy is must-see TV.  The USA has a 10-6 lead going into the 12 singles matches at the Ryder Cup on Sunday.  Coverage begins at Noon on WLWT-TV/NBC. (Bengals are at 4:05, so there's time to drink in some of what the Cup has to offer)  This thing has been awesome.  I love Bubba teeing off on the first hole while the fans are cheering loudly.  Ian Poulter played along with that Saturday, and Poulter is turning in a masterful performance this weekend.  The USA cannot blow this lead.  This is going to be fun.

Anyone in Cincinnati still on the fence regarding UC football?  Yep, there's a bunch of you and I don't get it.  Embrace this program.  It is achieving the best wins-per-dollar than perhaps any BCS team in the country.  Cincinnati loves blue-collar, right?  Coach Butch Jones has come in like Popeye after a can of spinach and whipped the Bearcats into a football version of Pete Rose.  Have you seen them finish plays, finish halves, and finish games?  These dudes are tougher than the gristle I used to eat in junior high when school lunches were really "school lunches."  But old views and stereotypes are tough to break.  I get that.  I don't get staying on the sidelines when you can support a team that grinds, digs, and fights for 60 minutes to beat a decent Virginia Tech team.. The game winning catch by Damon Julian was spectacular.  Munchie Legaux ain't perfect, and sometimes ain't pretty, but he displayed a serious bit of moxie in that final drive.  There should easily be a full house at Nippert next Saturday for the Miami Redhawks.  And don't sleep on Miami. Zach Dysert is one of the best collegiate quarterbacks you are going to see.  He can beat you so many ways.  How about 6 touchdown passes and over 100 yards rushing in Saturday's win at Akron.  Ridiculous.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reds Go Out With A Bang

The final regular season game sent the fans home with a good feeling.  The Reds have been good at these kind of wins.  They are 11-8 in walkoff wins and 29-19 in one run games.  The 2-run rally in the bottom of the 9th ended a couple of droughts.  The Reds had gone 16 consecutive innings without a run, and Todd Frazier belted his first home run since August 21st.  Frazier credited a tip he received this morning from Reds manager Dusty Baker.  Dusty paid another visit to the clubhouse today and the players said he was looking good and very upbeat.  Maybe that is the best news today, and the second best may have been the comments of Mat Latos.  He had another strong outing, and he claimed he didn't come close to having his best stuff.  But he gave a lot of credit to Reds pitching coach Bryan Price and assistant coach Mack Jenkins.  Latos said they've taught him how to pitch, and not just throw. 

The goal for the Reds is to stay healthy for the next 6 games.  Interim manager Chris Speier allowed you want to make sure guys get their at-bats and are as sharp as possible heading into the playoffs.  But nothing trumps making sure the team is healthy.

Jay Bruce would like to know as soon as possible who the Reds will play in the first round of the playoffs.  Todd Frazier is just the opposite.  Todd says if he looks at too much video and clutters his brain, the worse he is at the plate.  Sort of like many of us on the golf tee.

Back to Dusty.  He yelled at me on the street Wednesday afternoon.  He said, "Hey man, I just saw you on television."  He sure did.  About 45 minutes earlier I had run an update on his condition during our noon news.  He looked and sounded great, and the pickup he was driving is best described by one of Dusty's favorite phrases: "Big Time!"

You knew the real refs would be back quicker than you can say "Touchback,  err  Touchdown!,, err we don't know for sure, but let's just stick with something and hope no one really notices."  The whole nation noticed and the NFL had to do something pronto!  Cincinnati gets Ed Hochuli.  He's had plenty of time to get pumped for this season.

U.C. can elevate the football profile "big-time" with a win against Virginia Tech this weekend.  I think the Bearcats can run on the Hokies, and I think the Bearcats think they can run on the Hokies.  I know Va Tech is favored, but I think its more of a tossup. If I were sure the U.C. defense will continue to hold up, then I would boldly predict a victory on Saturday.

By the way, I'm told former UC linebacker J.K. Schaffer had tryouts with the Bengals and the Patriots this past week.  Both teams like what they saw, but it's still a numbers game.,  I look for J.K. to be with someone soon.  

The Bengals could use some help on the defensive side of the ball.  They brought back safety Chris Crocker Thursday.  Safety and linebacker seem to be the positions where better production is a must.  I'm not sure they have the personnel on hand to make it happen, but if they do, this team could end up making another run to the playoffs.  Andy Dalton appears to be taking that second-year stride that is so important to young players.  The wide receivers are showing big play ability and tight end Jermaine Gresham continues to emerge as a reliable weapon for Dalton.  The young guards on the offensive line appear to be getting it done.  Benjarvus Green-Ellis looks to be an excellent pickup.  How is that for a dose of "Bengals Optimism"?  Seriously, this team could be 5-1 going into the home game against Pittsburgh.  But if the defense doesn't get shored up, the wheels could come flying off this thing in a hurry. 

It's Ryder Cup time.  I know it can be a little confusing with the different formats but this thing has become a big deal.  Catch some preview action on the Golf Channel for a little perspective.  I watched the "War by the Shore" special earlier this week.  It's about the 1991 Ryder Cup when this thing really took off and the players started playing for blood.  I'm not sure they are going to replay it, but it was good viewing and allows a greater appreciation of the event. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Notre Dame Leaving Big East Means What?

The Irish are off to the A.C.C. and the Big East is minus another institution.  How badly does this damage the Big East?  It certainly damages the conference in terms of public perception.  There could be real damage as well.  There is merit to the argument that the Big East should have told Note Dame years ago to go all-in with the Big East or take a hike.  I felt that should have happened the first time the A.C.C. raided the Big East when Boston College, Va. Tech, and Miami took a walk.  What did the Big East gain by kicking the Irish can down the road?  It's not like the Big East needed the Irish to keep the conference relevant in basketball. But by allowing Notre Dame call the shots and decide when to walk the Big East gets a kick in the teeth at a most inopportune time.  The Big East is embarking on the most important television contract talks in the history of the conference.  The survival of the league depends on these talks.  NBC has the Irish locked down for home games until 2015.  How nice would it have been for NBC and the Big East to build other games around the Irish football games with N.D. still a quasi-member?  It would have been especially attractive if Notre Dame would have agreed to play a few more games against Big East teams.  Even if it were only three games instead of the five games the Irish will play against A.C.C. teams, it would still give NBC perhaps 10 games of the Notre Dame schedule.  That would have been very attractive.  And that would have given the Big East a nice little return for allowing Notre Dame to use the conference as a dumping ground all of these years for basketball and other non-football activities.  The Big East held out those hopes but I can't blame Notre Dame for bolting after the recent trauma suffered by the conference.  Perhaps if Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia were still on board, the Irish would be too.  So now the Big East will have to hope NBC looks at the Big East the same way it did 24 hours ago.  The network should still be looking for games to put on the main network and certainly will be looking for inventory for the NBC Sports Network.  But it's not the nice, tidy package it could have been with Notre Dame in the Big East.  And public perception aside, that's the real reason the Big East should be concerned with this move.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bengals In For Long Season

They won't be sneaking up on anyone this season.  Last year the Bengals got off to a good start in the first half of the season and were the surprise of the NFL.  There is plenty of time to right the ship but based on game one in Baltimore the ship has a lot of leaks.   The Ravens came out and attacked the Bengals with a serious passion.  To the Bengals credit, they withstood the initial onslaught and still had a chance at halftime.  But oh, that second half was brutal.  This team has problems.  The defense was shockingly poor.  That was a common theme and a major disappointment.  The Ravens found guys wide open, Ray Rice found enought running room to push the ball forward, and Joe Flacco looked like the real deal.  The Bengals appeared to be little more than spectators as the Ravens ran their new no-huddle offense.  The best thing for the Bengals is the schedule.  With Cleveland at home next Sunday the Bengals have a chance to work on that defense.  The Browns offense appeared as inept in its opener as the Bengals defense appeared Monday night.  It is too early to call it a must-win for Cincinnati, but it really is a must-win.  If the defense doesn't improve in a hurry this season will get ugly.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Anyone Else Worried?

I jokingly (maybe half jokingly) have said repeatedly on our "Sports Rock" show that I lay awake at night worried about the Bengals offensive line and running game.  Obviously the two go hand-in-hand and with the three different interior lineman from last season I'm holding my breath.  I still think the defense will be ok, but there is a little concern there as well.  But when your guards are a rookie and a second year man, and the center is a rookie or a new guy, you can only wait until the real bullets start firing to make a sound judgement.  But I remain concerned.

Apparently Dez Wells will land at Maryland and we wish the young man the best of luck.  But the curious case of Dez may never be completely settled in my mind.  I find it incredible that fellow students would sit on a a board and vote to expel Dez from school based on the available information.  The statement from Xavier left open the possibility that perhaps there was more to this than what was heard by the grand jury.  That could explain a lot, but we may never know for sure.  And it is unfair to speculate on the issue publicly but Xavier left that can of worms open.  Sadly, because of the way this went down publicly, there could be negative recruiting in the future.  Kids will be told if you go to X you better live like a monk.  Otherwise you could become a potential target or scapegoat.  That is not good for anyone.  Not the program and not the potential recruits who would be missing out on living and growing in our fine city.  I'm not sure what Xavier's next step should be, but I am sure there had to be a better way to handle the situation.

I'm sticking with September 25th as my date for the Reds to clinch the National League Central Division.  As soon as it happens, we can starting complaining about the idiotic playoff schedule that puts the team with the better record on the road for the first two games of the series.  Imagine that, a 5-game series, you have the alleged advantage, but you have to go in someone's house and pull out a win or be squarely behind the 8-ball.
Like I said, plenty of time to worry about that later.

U.C. opens the football season against Pitt on Thursday night.  Two things, Munchie Legaux and the middle of the defense.  To me those two items will be the biggest determining factor in U.C.'s success this season.  Munchie is the quarterback and that is the most important position on the team.  He handles the ball every offensive snap and he is expected to the on-field leader of the team.  The middle of the defense lost stalwarts Derek Wolfe and John Hughes at defensive tackle, and middle linebacker J.K. Shaffer.
Another thing to look for, a crowd.  If it's not a sellout I'm told it will be very, very close.  Fan support is huge for college athletics so it's time for U.C. football to consistently fill Nippert.  The team has played more than well enough since joining the Big East that it should be considered money well spent by local sports fans.