Sunday, October 31, 2010

Top Twenty

Happy Halloween everybody. There is something I am very excited about and want to write about, but I am still trying to wrap my mind around it to get the words right. So as we prepare to take Sarah and her cousins trick-or-treating on this glorious autumn afternoon, I will simply revert to the topic that has dominated my blog this month -- college football -- by posting the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. Boise State

4. TCU

5. Alabama

6. Utah

7. Wisconsin

8. Ohio State

9. Stanford

10. Nebraska

11. Missouri

12. Oklahoma

13. Iowa

14. LSU

15. Arkansas

16. Michigan State

17. Arizona

18. South Carolina

19. Virginia Tech

20. Mississippi State

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Keep an eye out

Since I historically write a lot about politics, it probably seems strange that the closer we have gotten to next week's vital mid-term elections, my posts have become less and less political. But, because the electorate obviously understands the big picture of these elections, and my writings over time have made it clear that I never side with the Democrat Party way of doing things, voicing my opinions about the minutia of recent weeks has felt unnecessary and, frankly, uninteresting.

Still, I can't keep myself from commenting about the mid-terms, if for no other reason than to warn my fellow conservatives to keep their foot on the gas and to not assume anything before the final gun sounds. Polls suggest that the GOP is in good position to at least regain control of the House of Representatives, but given the Democrats' long history of chicanery (deceased Chicagoans casting ballots for JFK, Al Gore trying to overturn Florida's entire statewide election by cherry-picking which counties to recount, Black Panthers threatening white voters in Philadelphia) I am nowhere near ready to believe all those predictions that say a GOP sweep is inevitable.

If you don't think voting fraud is a genuine concern, consider what has been reported recently about Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District, where the incumbent, Democrat Patrick Murphy, is facing a challenge from Republican Mike Fitzpatrick. As reported on The Corner blog on National Review Online:

New reports are emerging that could spell trouble for Patrick Murphy's campaign after it was revealed that his campaign manager controlled a post office box where voters were being instructed to send their absentee ballots. The ballots were then re-mailed to the county Board of Elections.

A letter from a fictitious agency, the "Pennsylvania Voter Assistance Office," was sent to an unknown number of residents across the 8th district in southeastern Pennsylvania warning them that their ability to vote could be jeopardized unless they returned an enclosed absentee ballot in a pre-paid envelope that went to a private post office box in Bristol, PA...

At the heart of the controversy is the unusual practice of a party not only soliciting absentee voters, but specifically directing the ballots be returned to the party -- rather than directly to the board of elections.

While Democratic operatives insist there was no wrongdoing, the mere fact that ballots were directed to their private post office box before being received by the county raises a cloud of suspicion over the motive for receiving and holding the ballots.

In other words, local Democrats with the Murphy campaign are asking for trust in their word alone that no ballots were discarded or manipulated.

It is incumbent on me to state that neither Murphy nor any of his campaign workers have been charged with breaking any laws; and even if they were, they are entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.

But what we know is suspicious at the very least, and I guarantee you that if Murphy was a Republican, the MSM would be talking about the story ad nauseum and ringing alarm bells from coast to coast. This shows why we should remain vigilant in the days and weeks ahead, as the elections come to an end and as the results are sorted out.

For the entire National Review Online report as of this evening, go here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A lot of Auburn talk, and the top twenty

Auburn's win over LSU on Saturday was noteworthy for all the reasons the pundits are saying, and some the pundits are missing.

Of course it is impressive that Auburn ran for 440 yards against the SEC's top defense, but the more you look at the numbers, the more impressive they get. They ran for all those yards while throwing for fewer than 90, which means they did it without forcing LSU to choose between focusing on defending the run and focusing on defending the pass. And while no player this season had run for 100 or more yards against LSU, two Auburn players did it in the same game on Saturday.

For the first time all year, Auburn's defense looked like the kind of confident, take-no-prisoners unit you can depend on in the clutch. The front seven was ferocious, especially DT Nick Fairley, but even the previously soft secondary looked strong. In the second half, several of Auburn's sacks and QB pressures came after the QB had time to survey the field, which means they can be credited to the secondary preventing LSU's receivers from getting open.

That Auburn won a game like this despite starting most of their possessions deep in their own territory, including twice at their own one in the second half -- and despite giving up a momentum-killing turnover in the third quarter -- and despite failing to convert a 4th-and-6 with the game tied in the fourth quarter -- and despite giving up a tying TD right before halftime, then another one early in the fourth quarter -- and despite being flagged for costly penalties at several crucial moments -- and despite missing a field goal -- speaks to their resolve and resiliency.

From week to week, the whole team is improving and becoming more and more of a team; i.e., this is not just the Cam Newton show, it is a football team to be taken seriously. There are certainly reasons to doubt they can finish undefeated, and I must admit it is not entirely clear that they are even the best team in their own state, but they are "for real" and Auburn fans should be excited.

Now it is time to turn my football mind away from its focus on my alma matter, and objectively consider the entire college football scene. Having done that, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty.

1. Oregon

2. Michigan State

3. Auburn

4. Boise State

5. TCU

6. Utah

7. Missouri

8. Wisconsin

9. Alabama

10. Ohio State

11. Stanford

12. Oklahoma

13. LSU

14. Iowa

15. Arkansas

16. Florida State

17. Nebraska

18. South Carolina

19. Virginia Tech

20. Mississippi State

Thursday, October 21, 2010


In my September 6th post I made six predictions going into the second week of the college football season. I was undeniably correct in five of the six, and arguably correct in all six because even though I predicted Miami would beat Ohio State, I also said "Miami is clearly not at their level. My brain says that Ohio State will win, but...I am going to ignore my brain while making a prediction."

I have not waded into the "prediction waters" since then, but since I did good and now have more information at my disposal, why not stick my neck out again? Here are my forecasts for big games this week:

Oklahoma at Missouri. Considering that Mizzou is a major school from a BCS conference, its 6-0 start has has been relatively quiet. That won't remain the case if they beat Oklahoma, of course, but there's no point thinking about that because it won't happen. Oklahoma will use this big road game to erase any doubts the pollsters have about them being for real. Prediction: Sooners 28-19.

Nebraska at Oklahoma State. Last year's Oklahoma State squad was supposed to be the best in school history, but stumbled over itself under the weight of high expectations. Conversely, this year's squad began the season with little fanfare and is 6-0. Meanwhile, Nebraska is good but relies too much on a freshman quarterback whose passing abilities are suspect. This game is OSU's chance to make the battle for the Big 12 South a two-horse race between themselves and their in-state rival, and they will do just that. Prediction: Cowboys 26-21.

Wisconsin at Iowa. Whoever wins this battle of one-loss teams will control their own destiny for winning the Big Ten and playing in the Rose Bowl. Iowa is a top-flight team that has been overlooked in recent weeks because of an early-season loss to Arizona. Wisconsin is also a top-fight team and is coming off the program's biggest win in years; howvever, that means it must guard against the drop-off which often occurs the week after an emotional victory. Combine that with the fact that the game will be played in Iowa, and you can expect a Wisconsin slip. Prediction: Hawkeyes 31-24.

LSU at Auburn. I should not be allowed to predict this game because my emotions get the best of me where Auburn is concerned. However, with both teams undefeated and in the Top Ten, it would be cowardly to avoid it, so I won't avoid it. Auburn leads the SEC in offense; LSU leads it in defense; and on top of that Auburn's defense has been embarrassingly weak, so logic says I should pick LSU because of my belief that defense wins championships. But then again, I know the LSU Tigers have been prevailing in fluky games they have no business winning, and I know that over the past decade they have been outplayed by Auburn many times yet won anyway. Both teams are called Tigers, but Karma's a bitch and it is the Auburn Tigers that will prevail, in a game with far less scoring than the experts expect. Prediction: Auburn 22-18

Upset Special -- Michigan State at Northwestern. I have Michigan State ranked number two in the country, and stand by that based on how they have played and what has unfolded this season. But the fact of the matter is that it is very, very difficult to go undefeated, and with the Spartans scheduled to visit Iowa next week they are susceptible to "look-ahead syndrome." Northwestern is 5-1; smart; exceedingly well-coached; and looking to make a name for itself because it has had fine seasons back-to-back but received almost no attention for them. Plus, this game is at Northwestern. For the favored team, this is precisely the kind of contest that gamblers call "a trap." Prediction: Wildcats 23-19.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Seven Weeks In

My last three posts have either been about college football, or mentioned college football in them. Well, make that my last four. I haven't posted in two weeks, partly because of a business trip to Chicago, and now that I am doing it again it just feels right to write about this topic.

It also feels wrong in the sense that after writing in September about Sarah missing what would have been her first two official cheerleading appearances, I have not written about the three appearances she has since made. However, we have not yet downloaded the pictures and videos from them, so I decided to hold off on until I can include the visuals.

Anyway, back to my thoughts on college football:

I am surprised that Michigan State (8th in the AP and 7th in the BCS) is not ranked higher.

I am also surprised that everyone has stopped talking about Stanford; and while I'm at it, I might as well say I'm surprised that everyone has also stopped talking about USC.

From a rival's perspective, I am thrilled that Alabama has been knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and that Florida has been knocked from those ranks three times over. I have some good friends who are Florida fans, and I do not count some of them in what I am about to say, but -- generally speaking, Florida fans are the most obnoxious blowhards in America, have absolutely no sense of perspective, and constantly say things that show their relationship with reality to be superficial. In short, since I live in an area where I am surrounded by them and am usually forced to hear their high-decibel crowing from one end of autumn to the other, it is a fabulous feeling to have them silenced by mid-October.

Speaking about lack of perspective, allow me to look in the mirror and admit that I am sometimes guilty of that when it comes to Auburn, since I stew after each loss and tend to be overly critical of my alma matter's team. So I mean it when I say that Cam Newton is the real deal and probably the best quarterback in America. He is second in the nation in passing efficiency; fourth in rushing yards, including running backs; has 13 TD passes versus just 5 INT's; has 12 rushing TD's; and has led his team to an unbeaten record more than halfway through the season despite playing in the toughest conference in America. I am damn near ecstatic with the way he plays.

Also speaking as an Auburn man, I have to say (because nobody else will) that the poor officiating in Saturday's game went both ways. Looking at the write-ups in the national media, a lot is being said about two of Auburn's touchdowns being assisted by controversial calls...but nothing is being said about the bad call that led to an Arkansas touchdown. With Auburn ahead 30-21 in the third quarter, Arkansas went for it on 4th-and-6 and was stopped well short of the first-down marker, but a generous spot by the refs granted them a first down and they scored on the next play. In other words, that troika of calls netted the Tigers only 7 points in a game they won by 22, so for the media to focus on the two flags that benefited Auburn while completely ignoring the one that harmed them represents one more example of the anti-Auburn bias that has been evident for years. And I am not even including the pair of iffy pass interference calls that went against us, or the phantom holding call that wiped out a long reception by Darvin Adams. All I am saying is that Saturday's win was legit, not gift-wrapped, and media statements that disparage it should be ignored.

Finally, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty.

1. Oregon

2. Michigan State

3. Boise State

4. TCU

5. Oklahoma

6. Auburn

7. Utah

8. LSU

9. Wisconsin

10. Alabama

11. Ohio State

12. Stanford

13. Missouri

14. Iowa

15. Arkansas

16. Florida State

17. Oklahoma State

18. South Carolina

19. Mississippi State

20. Nebraska

Update, 10/21/10: Speaking of Cam Newton, as if his play wasn't enough, this article gives even more reasons to like him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More college football

I have already shared some of my thoughts about college football this year. Here are some more:

Mark Richt will not be back as Georgia’s coach unless the Bulldogs beat Florida and Auburn and Tennessee.

You might think that by losing to Oregon on Saturday, Stanford failed to play like the team I described in my September 27th post. On the one hand you would be right; but on the other hand I did rank Oregon ahead of Stanford in that post, so I will counter by saying I was proved just as much as I was disproved!

Speaking of Oregon, they are a legitimate national title contender. If they finish undefeated and Alabama loses a game, it would not be an injustice for Oregon to play in the title game despite Alabama having a tougher schedule. After all, it’s not like the Ducks are playing chopped liver.

And speaking of Alabama, I am not surprised they beat Florida but am very surprised they beat them so easily. When you consider that Urban Meyer has failed to develop any offensive plays suited to John Brantley’s considerable skills, despite knowing for the last couple years that Brantley would be this season’s starting QB, it just may mean that he is not as good a coach as everyone thinks.

I continue to be enthused by Auburn’s play. I love that our top three RB’s all performed very well on Saturday; that Cam Newton completed nearly 75% of his throws; and that for the first time I can remember we went an entire game without punting, unless you count Newton’s quick-kick when it looked like we were going for it on 4th-and-2. Still, I expect to lose a couple games along the way because our secondary keeps allowing receivers to get open downfield.

Lastly, here is the Stanton’s Space Top Twenty:

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Oregon

4. Boise State

5. TCU

6. Oklahoma

7. Michigan State

8. Auburn

9. Utah

10. LSU

11. Wisconsin

12. Stanford

13. Nebraska

14. South Carolina

15. Florida

16. Arkansas

17. Arizona

18. Iowa

19. Miami

20. Michigan

Friday, October 1, 2010

et ceteras

Perhaps you have heard of Molly Norris. She is the Seattle cartoonist who realized that when Islamic terrorists seek to kill anyone who draws a picture of the prophet Muhammad, they are acting as enemies of freedom, so she decided to stand up for freedom by announcing an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” Predictably, Muslim leaders responded by calling for her assassination, and our government has said nothing in her defense. The MSM, which routinely accuses Christians and Jews of intolerance, has done nothing to oppose this Islamic assault on what it claims to cherish more than anything else: the right of free expression. Everything about Norris’s plight is an outrage, and an excellent column about it can be found here.

Federal income taxes are scheduled to go up in January for each and every income class. That will make money even tighter for American earners, and tighten the noose that is already choking our economy. Knowing this, Republicans have been calling for tax rates to be frozen at current levels instead of being raised -- but the Democrats, who control every branch of the federal government, have decided to postpone any vote on the issue until after the elections. Need I say more about the Democrats’ intentions?

Have you heard that because of provisions in Obamacare, McDonald’s is considering dropping the health insurance it provides for its hourly employees? This is not an isolated instance, as a slew of other employers -- including Verizon, AT&T, John Deere, and Caterpillar -- have also announced that Obamacare’s costs are causing them, for the first time ever, to consider dropping their employees’ health insurance. I hate to say I told you so, but…

Finally, I notice how negative I sound in the paragraphs above! But like I have said before, I am not a negative person and can not close on a negative note, so I will switch to the more pleasing topic of college football. In my most recent post I wrote that Stanford is “one of the best-coached teams in the country” and “a darkhorse in the national championship race.” Two days after I typed those words, an excellent column about Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh was published on Yahoo Sports. To read it, go here.