It’s Friday morning, the NFL Season officially kicked off last night, the Gators play their final game before their SEC Opener ( next Saturday in Knoxville @ 8 pm…yes I’m already scared) in just over 24 hours and Season 4 of The Wire debuts on Sunday. Yet, all I can think about this morning is the impending release of Ron Artest’s solo debut. I can’t be the only one...can I?
Sadly, I’ll have to wait until October 31st (Don’t worry TJ, I’ll try to get an advance copy for Jacksonville) to hear it in its entirety. Though I am pretty sure that the lead single (Fever) should be pretty riveting even if it already pales in comparison to its accompanying b-side Working the Pole. Ron Artest, ladies and gentleman. If you’re looking for something to hold you over until Ron-Ron arrives to save the music industry as we know it, I highly recommend the new releases by DJ Shadow and The Roots.
Now, onto some more pressing issues. I was going to write some college football predictions this morning but it always feels a bit disingenuous to make my predictions on Friday morning when every other writer out there has already released their prognostications for the weekend. I’ll pick a couple winners for tomorrow’s bigger games later in this post but I’m going to touch on some other things while I’ve still got the energy.
- With all the build-up towards this weekend’s college and NFL games you may have missed this article on Reggie Theus and the impact he’s making on the program at New Mexico St. It’s a fairly interesting article about challenges of rebuilding a program in a remote location. One thing I don’t understand about the article is the writer’s initial doubt about Theus’ ability to be the head coach at the Division 1 level. Of all the things to be worried about when it comes to Reggie Theus (Will his hair leave grease marks on the back of his suit? Is he going to play the Gameboy version of NBA All-Stars that features him during games?), his ability to coach basketball should never be in question. I mean did you see what he did with that team of misfits on Hang Time?
- In other coaching news, the University of Memphis has hired (wait for it) Rod Strickland to be their new Director of Basketball Operations. What’s next, hiring the Three Six Mafia as the team’s strength and conditioning coaches? I can’t envision any scenario where this is a good idea for the University of Memphis. Unless of course, the Director of Basketball Operations primary job is to secure massive quantities of liquor, strippers, and steak gorditas at 3 am on a weeknight.
The Three Six would like you to work on your core strength this offseason.
- I’m not, nor have I ever been, a big Daunte Culpepper fan. The last time I could count myself as a fan of his was during his time at UCF, which was more a matter of state pride than anything. Despite his extreme physical gifts, he lacks many of the most important qualities that I like in elite NFL QBs. Maybe I’m just a picky Pete but it’s my opinion that he is average (at best) when it comes to things like pre-snap reads, going through his progressions, looking off his primary receiver, and use of double ended sex toys. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the completely gay platinum pepper that he wears as a charm on his necklace. He showed many of these weaknesses during last night’s fourth quarter as Troy Polamolu and Joey Porter made him look like Tony Banks after a night in Big Boi’s “boom boom room”. With that said, Culpepper is an enormous upgrade over every QB who has suited up for Miami in the 8 years since Dan Marino retired. His arm, pocket presence, and leadership ability alone will be enough for an extra 2-3 wins this year. Despite my doubts about Culpepper overall, I think his addition will be enough to push Miami over the top in the AFC East.
- I might as well get this out of the way now. I’ve become increasingly convinced over the past week that my main fantasy team is completely and totally fucked. Normally I wouldn’t panic so early in the season. In fact, I think it’s ridiculous to panic about your team at any point before week 5. However, there’s another factor at play here: Steve Smith. Two years ago, I picked up Steve Smith as my #1 receiver only to watch him go down in Week 1 with a broken leg. Despite this setback, I finished second in my league. Burned like Hildebrand after a trip to Tijuana, I stayed far, far away from Smith in last year’s draft. I think we all know how that turned out. Finally, this year, as I was debating what receiver I’d select in the third round (after nabbing Larry Johnson and Willis McGahee in the first two rounds) I had Steve Smith fall into my lap. As much as I wanted to stay away, the vision of him torching secondary after secondary last year was too much for my feeble little brain to overcome. So, reluctantly, I selected him. Of course, now Smith’s hamstring problem seems like a much bigger deal than anybody had imagined at this point last week and I’m convinced it’s something that will hamper his health and effectiveness throughout the season. Thanks a lot Steve Smith, for ruining my damn fantasy season before it ever got started. (Anybody with access to Steve Smith’s email should feel free to copy and paste the prior paragraph into a message titled “You, Steve Smith, suck like nobody has ever sucked in the history of sucking.”)
- I’m as excited as I’ve been in four or five years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season to get underway. In the time since their glorious Super Bowl victory there’s always been some lingering questions going into the season. Last year there were a couple of major concerns. Most notably, how the hell are they going to score when Brian Griese gets drunk and trips over his dog again? My answer was generally something like, “They won’t. Not with that fairy pants Chris Simms running the show they won’t.” By the time the Bucs went into San Francisco sans Simeon Rice (after that memorable incident involving a chinese hooker, some firecrackers, and a ham sandwich) and dropped one to a pathetic 49er outfit I was ready to throw the season away. Then something completely unexpected happened, Chris Simms figured out how to effectively quarterback. I certainly never saw that coming as I’ve been denigrating the abilities of Phil’s son ever since he stole Major Applewhite’s job at Texas.
Despite my extreme skepticism, I finally became convinced that Simms was capable of leading this franchise during the Bucs’ thrilling regular season victory over Washington in Tampa. By the time the season ended, the Bucs had Cadillac back in form, a young QB growing with each game and the same stellar defense that’s been a fixture in Tampa since Trent Dilfer was tripping over his center’s feet. Other than the aforementioned Super Bowl year, last year may have been the most enjoyable Buccaneer season of my adulthood (There were no enjoyable Buc seasons during my childhood).
With a new season about to kickoff, I am (as are most NFL fans) full of optimism. Sure, the Bucs play in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions (second to the NFC East) and the offense is still fairly unproven. However, this team has a chance to be as complete an overall unit as any that’s graced the fields of Raymond James Stadium. There’s never been a Tampa offense with this many weapons. Both Cadillac and Joey Galloway are legit gamebreakers who have also shown the ability to carry an offense at times. Simms should continue to develop into a good NFL QB. The o-line, for years a weakness, came together late last year and seems to be improved. Michael Clayton, Alex Smith, and Doug Jolley are all very capable receivers in the middle of the field who can cause matchup problems. Hell, even David Boston has shown some signs of life in camp (Unfortunately he’s not shown anybody those purple contacts he used to wear around like some kind of gay). If the Bucs defense can hold up (an increasing concern as the defense continues to get older and older and older) to it’s lofty standards there is no reason why this team shouldn’t make the playoffs and even challenge Carolina for the division title. Of course, all this goes flying out the window if Brooks, Rice or Barber (or maybe even Brian Kelly) go down with a major injury.
As much as I love the Bucs, they consistently take a back seat to my allegiance to the University of Florida, except for a good chunk of the Ron Zook era (shudders). I’m going to keep my thoughts on the Gators to a minimum this week as it’s safe to say I’ll be doing plenty of writing about next Saturday’s showdown with Tennessee during most of next week.
Florida takes on UCF tomorrow at 6 pm for the first time since 1999 when Steve Spurrier coached up the boys in Orange and Blue to 712-3 victory (or at least something very close to that). UCF is a much different program these days. George O’Leary has instilled the program with some much needed discipline after the Mike Kruczek era. The school is set to open a new on-campus 45,000 seat football stadium (replacing the ancient, and far from centrally located Citrus Bowl) next year against Texas and they are fresh off the school's first ever appearance in a Bowl game. As different as the program may be, I’m still not giving the Knights much chance tomorrow. I’m envisioning something like 37-13. Just good enough to keep Gator fans from going on a suicide watch and just enough problems to give Urban Meyer material to get his troops motivated for Tennessee. I have one more prediction for tomorrow night’s game: I’ll be drunk. Very, very drunk. A few more notes:
- In last week’s preview I called Tony Joiner "a linebacker in a safety’s body". I wrote that based more upon practice reports than anything I’d personally witnessed. Luckily for me, I couldn’t have been more on the money. When I saw him up close last Saturday I immediately yelled out, “Tony Joiner is fucking huge!”. Seriously, the guy has arms the size of my thighs. Additionally, he seemed to acquit himself well in coverage, only giving up one reception that I noticed while also grabbing a pick en route to garnering defensive player of the game honors. If Joiner can continue to play cromulently in coverage, the secondary at UF should evolve into one of the team’s strengths.
- If you’re watching the game tomorrow, look out for freshman Jarred Fayson. Fayson is a former high school QB from Tampa who was an All-American last year as an athlete. He’s worked his way into the rotation at receiver already and should see some time tomorrow. Reports from practice have him being nearly as fast and just as elusive as Percy Harvin. If he’s even close to that, the Gators offense may set an NCAA record for the number of reverses and wide receiver options run in a year.
- One more thing to watch: Kickoff coverage. Gator freshman linebacker Dustin Doe is a freaking missile on kick coverage. He hit a guy so hard last week that the entire group of people we were watching with (at Vitas’ house) yelled “Boom!” in unison. I even high fived Vitas and I hadn’t high fived somebody since OJ was acquitted.
Oregon vs. Fresno State: I think everybody is getting a little ahead of themselves with Oregon. Yeah, they looked good against Stanford but it was Stanford and this wasn’t Men’s Volleyball. With that said, I think Jonathan Stewart is a future All-American at tailback. His size/speed ratio (thanks Jerry) is amazing. When was the last time you saw a 234 lb. guy return a kickoff, on purpose? Stewart does that and just about everything else Oregon needs him to do. I’ll take Oregon by 6.
South Cacalack vs. Jawja: This game seems to go the same every year. UGA starts out slow. USC takes advantage of UGA’s sluggish play and stakes itself to an early lead. Eventually UGA and Mark Richt take their balls out and make a few plays on offense with their vastly superior talent. All the while UGA’s defense if suffocating a USC offense that can’t seem to take on more than 3 guys rushing at a time. If this were a passing camp or a seven-on seven drill I’d go with SOS and the Cocks. It’s not and Georgia may have the nations best d-line (Hello Quentin Moses!). Georgia takes the lead in the fourth and wins by 10.
Notre Dame vs. Penn State: I’d really, really like to pick Penn State here. I try to make it a rule to pick any coach who rolls up his khakis. However, I think that Notre Dame’s passing game is too strong. Sure, it’s not as strong as Joe Pa’s bifocals, but what is? The inexperienced Penn State secondary will be tested early and often in this one with unfavorable results. Penn State will hang tough but inexperience and the crowd in South Bend will prove too much to overcome. ND wins by 7.
Related note: After PSU QB Anthony Morelli threw his first TD pass last week against Akron, he was stalking the sidelines while talking shit and gesturing to his teammates. That is, until Paul Posluzny walked up to him and made the cut it out gesture (hand back and forth under the chin, not the one popularized by Dave Coulier). Morelli immediately stopped and walked back to the bench. It’s seeing things like this that make watching football all day worth it.
Ohio State vs. Texas: I could care less who wins this thing. All I want from this game is something as exciting and close as last year’s matchup in Columbus. Troy Smith always seems a little shaky to me when he’s forced to be primarily a pocket passer. He’s much better when he’s rolling out or scrambling. Texas’ defense was really overlooked last year because of Vince Young and that offense, but they were a dominant unit last year. While the loss of Tarell Brown hurts, the defense is still loaded with speed, experience and size upfront. I’d love to take Texas here but it’s tough for me to put my faith in a young QB who has never faced the kind of talent (albeit inexperienced talent) that OSU possesses on defense. Even if he has a name that makes him sound like the title character of a porn set in the wild west (Colt McCoy’s Bronze Buckaroos?). Pay special attention to OSU linebacker and former Gator signee (shaking fist at UF admissions department) Larry Grant as he’ll be a focal point of the OSU attack. The verdict: THE Ohio State University wins by 4 and we all get our goose on, well at least I will.
Finally, I wish good luck to John and Duper on theri quest to consume 40 beers while watching sixteen hours of college football in Montana tomorrow. I hate you both. No really.