Saturday, September 20, 2014

Twitter Exposes Cowardice: How Sports Writers Rule the World

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A few observations regarding the events we're all sick of hearing about:

1. Social media has empowered the public to sway massive organizations where once it could not. A few years ago, the NFL wouldn't have heard the angry voices in reaction to the two game suspension it originally handed Ray Rice for punching his now wife in the face. Rice would be suiting up to play this weekend and the story would have disappeared within another week or two, or after Rice posted a 100-yard rushing performance. There have been many, many incidents of domestic violence in the NFL before Rice jacked a woman in the jaw. Where was the outcry then? It was stifled because there was no Twitter. Social media allowed millions of appalled voices to be heard. Punching a woman in the face is not okay or acceptable. The NFL and its sponsors could not ignore those voices. Now Rice, Peterson and Hardy are essentially suspended indefinitely and the NFL is re-writing its conduct policy. Social media is a powerful thing.

2. Money talks. The NFL was backpedaling a little in response to public outcry, but when the Minnesota hotel pulled its sponsorship of the Vikings after Adrian Peterson was indicted for felonious child abuse, that got the Vikings' attention real quick. Peterson was deactivated immediately. When Anheuser-Busch expressed its concern for the NFL's handling of Rice and Peterson the NFL's back-pedaling got a lot more vigorous. 

3. Sports writers on Twitter, with their masses of followers, have a lot of sway. Probably too much. See No. 1 above. If the public at large has a voice, sports writers fan the flames of public opinion. The problem with that is that sports writers aren't always right. Sports writers are guys with 4-year degrees in English who watch a lot of sports and write about it. They don't necessarily share our religious beliefs or our morals, and they have no credentials in counseling or how the legal system works for that matter. What makes a sports writer qualified to be leaders of millions of people on controversial topics regarding morals and virtue? I would argue nothing, but if you look back on Michael Sam, the NFL controversies of late or the latest Jameis Winston debacle, sports writers led the charge. And more interesting than that, the institutions all caved in to the sports writers' demands. It's an interesting world that puts the sports writers in charge. Because sports is so ingrained into the fabric of our society, what happens in sports impacts all of society. Therefore, in a weird way, sports writers now run our society. I know that sounds funny, but there's an element of truth to it that is scary. I don't want to be governed by sports writers (even though I would like to be a sports writer). 

4. The most offensive thing about the NFL's recent controversies and FSU's last-minute full-game suspension of Jameis Winston is that these institutions think that by caving to public pressure they can save face. They can't. Roger Goodell will always be the guy who thought that knocking out a woman with the punch of a fist isn't worth more than a 2-game suspension. The FSU administration will forever be known by everyone for believing that winning football games is more important than a rape accusation, stealing or yelling extremely offensive things at women. By kicking Rice out of the league or suspending Winston for a full game at the last minute all the NFL and FSU have shown is that they're scared of public opinion. Being scared of public opinion makes you a coward - not a leader. Fear of public opinion tells us nothing about what you really stand for. It just tells us that you're scared of losing your job. That's why many people have less faith in Roger Goodell than ever before. 

Okay, I'm going to try to entertain my kids and watch college football at the same time now. Wish me luck. 



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Anatomy of a Weekend Pick 'Em

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How do you pick games? Do you look at statistics? Compare previous wins and losses and common opponents (if there are any)? Do you pick all favorites, or do you make your predictions instinctively, listening to your heart instead of your head?

Obviously, I'm no expert. That was established in Week 1 when I finished dead last in the OMRebelNation Pick 'Em. But I did okay the last two weeks, comparatively speaking, and pulled Jake's Picks out of the cellar. This is a pivotal week for me. I want to harness the momentum from week's 2 and 3 and make a big move in my league. The pressure is on, and so I'm thinking about my picks, and also I'm giving some thought to how I pick. There must be some science to it. I don't know what that science is, but hey, maybe I'll stumble into it if I keep trying.

THURSDAY

Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at Kansas State (2-0)
Series: AU leads, 3-0
6:30 p.m. CT • ESPN
Manhattan, Kansas • Bill Snyder Stadium (50,000)
Sirius: 84 • XM: 84

My head and my heart tell me Auburn (-9) will dominate the Wildcats. I know that strange things happen on ESPN Thursday nights, but that's just noise. I'm not going to let it get in the way of this pick. If the Wildcats struggled to beat Iowa State (32-28), they won't know what to do with Nick Marshall. That's my head. My heart tells me that the defending SEC champ should dominate a good but not great Big 12 team. Back to my head now: Auburn's covered 13 straight games. War Eagle.

MY PICK: Auburn (-9).

SATURDAY

Troy (0-3) at Georgia (1-1, 0-1 SEC)
Series: UGA leads, 1-0
11 a.m. • SEC Network
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190

After losing to South Carolina, I expect Georgia to play angry.

MY PICK: Georgia (-40.5)


Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at Alabama (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: UA leads, 23-14
2:30 p.m. CT • CBS
Last: UA, 38-10 (2011 at Gainesville)
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
Sirius: 91• XM: 91

A team that needed 3 OT's at home to beat Kentucky probably doesn't have a chance against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

MY PICK: Alabama (-14)

Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at SMU (0-2)
Series: A&M leads, 43-29-7
2:30 p.m. CT • ESPN2/ABC
Dallas, Texas • Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000)
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190

Texas A&M didn't cover against Rice. That gives me some pause, but then again SMU lost to North Texas 43-6.

MY PICK: Aggies (-33.5)

Indiana (1-1) at Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: IU leads, 6-3-2
3 p.m. CT • SEC Network
Columbia, Mo. • Memorial Stadium - Faurot Field (72,000)
Sirius: 135 • XM: 204

One of my readers called this game free money. I tend to agree. Bowling Green beat Indiana 45-42. Mizzou is playing good football, and it's at home.

MY PICK: Mizzou (-13.5)

Northern Illinois (3-0) at Arkansas (2-1, 1-1 SEC)
Series: ARK leads, 1-0
6 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Fayetteville, Ark. • Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Sirius: 126• XM: 205

Northern Illinois is a good team. Its 3-0 record includes a win over Big 10 Northwestern and UNLV. Nonetheless I still expect Brett Bielema, who was positively giddy about the Hogs 400-yard rushing performance against Texas Tech last weekend, to run the ball 60 times for 600 yards.

MY PICK: Arkansas (-13.5)

Mississippi State (3-0, 0-0 SEC) at LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: LSU leads, 71-33-3
6 p.m. CT • ESPN
Last: LSU, 59-26 (2013 at Starkville)
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)
Sirius: 84 • XM: 84

Because of LSU's less than stellar offense Mississippi State is a trendy pick to get the upset in Baton Rouge. I even find myself wanting to pick the Bulldogs, but then I see that Les Miles hasn't lost to Mississippi State since he's been at LSU. The Bulldogs haven't beaten the Tigers in their last 14 tries. Since Dan Mullen took over Mississippi State has lost to LSU as follows:

2009: 30-26
2010: 29-7 (Baton Rouge)
2011: 19-6
2012: 37-17 (Baton Rouge)
2013: 59-26

Add to that the fact that LSU is 43-3 under Miles on Saturday nights in Death Valley. Two of the three losses were to No. 1 Florida in 2009 and No. 1 Alabama in 2012. If you're going to beat LSU at night in Tiger Stadium you pretty much have to be No. 1. The numbers stack up against the Bulldogs.
The Tigers will win, but I don't think LSU will cover.

MY PICK: Mississippi State (+9.5)

South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Series: SC leads, 19-4
6:30 p.m. CT • SEC Network
Last: SC, 35-25 (2013 at Columbia)
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190

Poor Vanderbilt. If I had one of those Vegas hotlines where I charged $50 to give you my lock of the week this would be the game I would give you. Vanderbilt is awful. Just awful. There's no way South Carolina doesn't cover. No. Way.

MY PICK: South Carolina (-21.5)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Can't Stop the Rebs

Bo Wallace doesn't play favorites.

Four different receivers have 100-yard games so far this season, including Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Evan Engram and Vince Sanders.

Defensive coordinators who think double-covering elite receiver Treadwell is the answer to Ole Miss' aerial attack, do so at their own peril, because Wallace isn't looking for Treadwell - he's looking for the open receiver.

The attention Treadwell is drawing from safeties has freed other receivers up, but it has meant less catches than a year ago when he was the leading the Rebels in receptions from the slot.

All the extra attention makes Treadwell just as valuable as 100-yards per game would though.

"I’m pleased with what he’s doing to free up other people," Freeze said at his Monday press conference. "Do you wish you could get him the ball some more? We line him up in different places trying to get him the ball. We did that the other night and they caught us in some tough looks with it, and then when he’s by himself he’s getting a lot of attention. We’re not going to start trying to force it when other things are open which obviously work for Bo (Wallace) to have the day he had. I hate the kids have to deal with all that stuff all the time. It goes back to it being about the team and the we before the me. Everywhere you read some of it, but I’m glad he doesn’t feel that way. He’s one of the best receivers in the country and we’ll continue to try to use him and get him the ball everywhere we can, but we’re going to be smart about it.”

Florida at Alabama Headlines the Weekend

With Ole Miss enjoying an open date this weekend we're free to spend our time scouting the rest of the conference, and by conference I mean the SEC West, which is loaded from top to bottom with five of the nation's Top 10 teams and two others that should probably be in the Top 25. While the last two weeks have been cupcake central for most of the conference, we've got several juicy matchups that will begin to establish a true pecking order.


THURSDAY

Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC)at Kansas State (2-0)                                           
Series: AU leads, 3-0
6:30 p.m. CT • ESPN       
Manhattan, Kansas • Bill Snyder Stadium (50,000)                            
Sirius: 84  • XM: 84


SATURDAY

Troy (0-3) at Georgia (1-1, 0-1 SEC)                                                           
Series: UGA leads, 1-0
11 a.m.  • SEC Network                
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)                                                
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190      


Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at Alabama (3-0, 0-0 SEC)                                   
Series: UA leads, 23-14
2:30 p.m. CT • CBS                                                                                           
Last: UA, 38-10 (2011 at Gainesville)       
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)                          
Sirius: 91• XM: 91

               
Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at SMU (0-2)                                  
Series: A&M leads, 43-29-7
2:30 p.m. CT • ESPN2/ABC
Dallas, Texas  • Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000)                                  
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190


Indiana (1-1) at Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC)                                                   
Series:IU leads, 6-3-2
3 p.m. CT • SEC Network
Columbia, Mo. • Memorial Stadium - Faurot Field (72,000)           
Sirius: 135 • XM: 204      


Northern Illinois (3-0) at Arkansas (2-1, 1-1SEC)                                  
Series: ARK leads, 1-0
6 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Fayetteville, Ark. • Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)     
Sirius: 126• XM: 205


Mississippi State (3-0, 0-0 SEC) at LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC)                          
Series: LSU leads, 71-33-3
6 p.m. CT • ESPN                                                                                              
Last:LSU, 59-26 (2013 at Starkville)                                           
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)                                          
Sirius: 84  • XM: 84


South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC)                
Series: SC leads, 19-4
6:30 p.m. CT • SEC Network                                                                        
Last:SC, 35-25 (2013 at Columbia)                    
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)                                
Sirius: 108  • XM: 190