Monday, November 29, 2010

Almost in the Rear View

This weekend, there are a handful of huge games to be played before college football's "pre-bowl season" will be behind us. I say pre-bowl instead of "regular season" because a few of this weekend's contests -- namely, the conference championship games -- are really post-season affairs. But while the athletes must keep their eyes on what's in front of them if they are to achieve their goal, the fans should pause for a moment to remember all the great battles that played out in the "Rivalry Weekend" that just ended.

The biggest and best was the Auburn-Alabama showdown on Black Friday, also known as the Iron Bowl. You might say I am biased because I am an Auburn grad, but I dare you to deny that the Tigers' unfathomable comeback from a 24-0 deficit, on Bama's field, in front of an ear-shatteringly hostile crowd, was the game of the year in all of football. Considering how disastrous the first quarter was, it is incredible that the players remained on an even-enough keel to turn things around.

It speaks volumes about Auburn's coaches that they were able to keep the team grounded while making key adjustments. Defensive alignments were switched up, and Bama was held to zero third-down conversions during the last three quarters. The offense began to utilize a not-so-obvious unbalanced line, and to shift both its running and passing attacks to the perimeter, and suddenly it looked unstoppable in the second half.

So much for all that MSM crap about Nick Saban's indomitable genius. One year ago, after the Tide had won only two consecutive games in the series after losing the previous six, all the media could talk about was how Bama owned the series and owned the state and how they would remain on top for as far into the future as anyone could see. However, after Saturday's smackdown the reality is that Auburn has won seven of the last nine Iron Bowls and Bama is reeling.

About those 24 points that were overcome, it must be noted that never in history had Auburn won a game after trailing by that many and never before had Bama lost after leading by that many. Because some Bama bloggers have whined that the Tide gave the game away more than the Tigers took it away, allow me to remind them of some things: 1) one of Bama's scoring drives was kept alive by an outrageously bogus "excessive celebration" flag; 2) one of Auburn's first half drives ended after Darvin Adams was called out of bounds on a catch, although replays showed he was inbounds; 3) two of Auburn's defensive linemen had to sit out the first half; and 4) Mark Ingram's second quarter fumble was not an inexplicable case of Ingram getting butterfingers, but a result of Antoine Carter punching the ball out of his grasp from behind.

I have rambled on and on about that game and I promise I am about to stop, but first I have to mention a few other things which speak to the character of my alma matter's team. It has to count for something that they converted two fourth downs in the final quarter; that they have beaten five teams currently ranked in the BCS Top 25; that they are 12-0 despite trailing in eight of their games; and that four of their comebacks have been from deficits of 13 or more points.

But of course, college football is a grand thing all across the fruited plain, not just in the Southeast, so I must admit that there were other games this past weekend that were every bit as exciting as the Iron Bowl. Nevada's upset of Boise State on a frigid night in Reno, in which they pulled off their own massive comeback to force overtime, was one for the ages. And while Boise State fans are disappointed that their Broncos went so quickly from being in contention for the national title to being relegated to an afterthought bowl, they should be happy that QB Kellen Moore proved he is one of he nation's elite. His 53-yard pass to Titus Young right before the end of regulation, to set up what would have been a game-winning field goal, was a model of perfection. So was Young's catch. Unfortunately for the Broncos, their kicker just wasn't up to the challenge.

Meanwhile, watching the Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State was as fun as it gets, especially that wild stretch when the teams combined for four touchdowns in a span of 92 seconds during the fourth quarter. The only downside is that the 47-41 final may serve only to prove that these teams play no defense, just like their detractors have been saying for months.

Here is another observation: Wisconsin might be the hottest team in the land. They are a running team but have put up 70+ points on three occasions, and did not miss a beat when their best RB was lost to injury a month ago. Plus, they have one of America's best all-around tight ends and best defensive linemen.

In closing, a final thought about Auburn: As awesome as their regular season was, and as epic as their Iron Bowl win was, the SEC Championship Game against South Carolina will be their biggest challenge so far. South Carolina is playing much better, and with much more confidence, than when Auburn beat them in Week Four. It is extremely difficult to beat the same team twice in one year, and in fact, that feat has never been accomplished against a team coached by Steve Spurrier. On top of that, after the kind of win Auburn just pulled off in the Iron Bowl, it is legitimate to worry about them experiencing a let-down as they prepare to face a three-loss team they previously defeated. But despite my jitters, I believe this team has the necessary maturity to pull through.

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

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Wisconsin

5. Ohio State

6. Stanford

7. Michigan State

8. Arkansas

9. Nebraska

10. LSU

11. Texas A&M

12. Alabama

13. Virginia Tech

14. Nevada

15. Oklahoma

16. South Carolina

17. Boise State

18. Missouri

19. Oklahoma State

20. Mississippi State

The picture at the beginning of this post, showing the scene at famous Toomer's Corner a few hours after the Iron Bowl, is courtesy of my good friend and fellow alum Rendi Hall.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Erika and I are extremely thankful this Thanksgiving, and this ultrasound picture shows why. When this was taken on Monday, our baby measured 8 weeks and 4 days old and we could see and hear the heartbeat. At one point we saw our baby move. If you look closely you can see the arm and leg buds starting to form.

I have written before, once in 2008 and once in 2009, about the fertility problems that have plagued us for several years. Erika got pregnant with Sarah, naturally, the very month we first decided to have kids -- but ever since Sarah was born, our attempts to have another child have been a struggle. Failed attempts to conceive naturally led us to IUI's, which also failed, and then to IVF's. Although the IVF's did result in two pregnancies, both ended in miscarriage.

While going through these struggles, Erika's "numbers" were always good and so were mine, but this year her FSH was only 22. Without getting into all the scientific mumbo jumbo, that means her chances of becoming pregnant, by any means, had shrunk to somewhere between slim and none. We tried a final IVF, which failed, and then we gave up and started wondering how we could possibly afford to adopt.

Then her period didn't come in September. God has a way of blessing you when you least expect it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Twelve Weeks In

With college football's "rivalry weekend" just ahead and the regular season nearing its end, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. LSU

7. Ohio State

8. Stanford

9. Michigan State

10. Alabama

11. Nebraska

12. Arkansas

13. Oklahoma State

14. Texas A&M

15. Virginia Tech

16. South Carolina

17. Missouri

18. Oklahoma

19. Mississippi State

20. Nevada

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eleven Weeks In

We are 11 weeks into the college football season and Auburn is 11-0, so I am happy. And until any real reporting occurs, I am not losing any sleep over the Cam Newton drama that has been swirling for the last 11 days. If you have read this blog over time, you know how I feel about the media, and the faux reporting in this drama does nothing but confirm why I hold the media in low regard. The stories consist of somebody writing that somebody else told them that somebody else said x, y, or z. The sources are unnamed, or several degrees removed, or not quoted, and no evidence is given. Even the story about Newton's father admitting to having solicited cash was a report that he was alleged to have admitted to it. Lost in all this non-news are the true stories which show Newton's good character, like this one. Unless something solid and credible surfaces, the only opining I will do about Newton will relate to how he performs on the field.

Another example of media malfeasance is the way the Oregon-California game has been described. Everyone is saying Oregon might have lost if Cal didn't miss that late field goal, but nobody is bothering to mention that the reason the score was close enough for Cal to try that kick is that Oregon missed two field goals earlier in the game. Come on, guys. If you want to play "what if" with Cal's kick, you have to also play it with Oregon's, in which case Oregon would have won by even more.

Kudos are long overdue for Northwestern QB Dan Persa, one of the most underrated players in the country. Last season he lit up scoreboards and guided the Wildcats to a New Year's Day bowl game in which they almost beat Auburn, and this year he has them sitting at 7-3. Yesterday he orchestrated fourth quarter touchdown drives of 85 and 91 yards to erase a 10-point deficit and defeat Iowa. Unfortunately, he ruptured his Achilles tendon after completing the winning TD pass, a 20-yarder to Demetrius Fields with just over a minute remaining in the game.

Kudos are also owed to our service academies. Air Force and Navy have already clinched winning records this season, and Army only needs to win one of its last two games to do the same. If that happens, this will be the first time in 14 years and only the second time in 47 years that all three academies will post winning records in the same season.

And finally, based on the season to date, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. LSU

7. Ohio State

8. Stanford

9. Nebraska

10. Alabama

11. Michigan State

12. Arkansas

13. Oklahoma State

14. Missouri

15. Virginia Tech

16. Iowa

17. South Carolina

18. Texas A&M

19. Oklahoma

20. Mississippi State

Monday, November 8, 2010

College Football Ten Weeks In

First, I must tip my hat to Joe Paterno for earning his 400th victory. He has always done it the right way: 61 years as a coach at the same school, including 45 as the head coach, with only five losing seasons. The game has never passed him by, and let's not forget that his teams have always had high graduation rates. Joe Paterno embodies what college athletics are supposed to be, and I doubt there will ever be another coach like him.

Next, I must identify my top twenty teams. Keeping such a list in first-second-third order, updated after each week's results, can be challenging after weeks like the one that just ended. What are you to do when teams you think highly of, and have been giving high rankings to, get trounced at home? But whatever...I have been posting the Stanton's Space Top Twenty for several weeks now and I am not going to stop, so here it is:

1. Oregon

2. Auburn

3. TCU

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. LSU

7. Ohio State

8. Stanford

9. Nebraska

10. Alabama

11. Iowa

12. Arkansas

13. Michigan State

14. Oklahoma State

15. Mississippi State

16. Missouri

17. Texas A&M

18. Oklahoma

19. Arizona

20. Utah

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Day

6:55 a.m. -- I leave for work and find myself happy that I early-voted on Saturday, because that means I won't have to wait in line today.

2:28 p.m. -- I leave work early for my annual appointment at the ophthalmologist.

4:15 p.m. -- I leave the ophthalmologist's office, happy that he confirmed what I already knew: namely, that my eyes remain in excellent shape after 22 years of diabetes.

6:34 p.m. -- We leave the house to attend Week Nine of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course.

8:13 p.m. -- While sitting in that class I receive a text message from my brother, informing me that although it is early in the counting, Rick Scott is up by 4% in the Florida governor's race.

9:53 p.m. -- Back home, I check and see that Scott is now up by more than 5%. But more importantly and more gratifyingly (is that a word?) I see that Marco Rubio has officially won Florida's open Senate seat. It appears that the final tally will show he received more than 50% of the vote even though it was a three-way race. On many levels, this is very good news for conservatives.

9:54 p.m. -- I see that Democrats have won both the senate and congressional seats from Delaware. This was expected, but I still don't like it.

9:55 p.m. -- I see that Democrat Joe Manchin has won West Virginia's open Senate seat, which is disappointing because it was thought that Republicans might pick it up. Still, it is encouraging that Manchin won it by campaigning against Obama.

10:07 p.m. -- In Arkansas, Republican John Boozman (great name!) has unseated incumbent Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln. Since the 1860's, there has been only one other Republican Senator from that state.

10:17 p.m. -- Watching the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen, I note that Republicans are ahead in three of the four Pennsylvania races whose results I see. Although the counting is still going on, this is an encouraging sign.

10:23 p.m. -- Still watching the ticker, I see that Republican Kelly Ayotte has an insurmountable lead (64% to 33%) over Democrat Paul Hodes in the New Hampshire Senate race. This surprised me, but apparently it is not a shock to many national observers.

10:25 p.m. -- It looks like Pat Toomey is going to lose the Pennsylvania Senate race. Bummer.

10:27 p.m. -- I am watching Geraldine Ferraro and listening to her, and she is annoying the hell out of me.

10:37 p.m. -- The Republicans just picked up a congressional seat in New Hampshire. Is the Granite State going back to being red, or did I miss something?

10:38 p.m. -- The Republicans just picked up two congressional seats in Ohio. This is good.

Also at 10:38 p.m. -- Republican Mike Lee won the Senate race in Utah. As you may recall, he is an upstart conservative who upset "establishment Republican" Tim Bridgewater in the primary. He is what the MSM derides as a "Tea Party candidate," and his victory is a good sign for America.

10:54 p.m. -- Toomey just pulled ahead in Pennsylvania! Maybe I was speaking too early with my 10:25 entry.

11:02 p.m. -- More good news: Republicans have picked up at least three congressional seats in Pennsylvania.

11:06 p.m. -- I might as well state that with the exception of Rubio's victory in Florida, all of the wins and losses mentioned above are based on news outlets "calling" elections based on returns. Therefore it is possible, but highly unlikely, that they could change before the night is over.

11:18 p.m. -- It is safe to say that the GOP has picked up the open Senate seat in North Dakota, where, with 87% of precincts reporting, John Hoeven is trouncing Tracy Potter by a margin of 77% to 22%.

11:28 p.m. -- In Wisconsin, Russ Feingold goes down! And Scott Walker wins the governor's mansion to boot! This is a very good night for the GOP in a state that usually goes blue.

11:30 p.m. -- Although Republicans have fared poorly in New York tonight, they did just gain a House seat.

11:43 p.m. -- Of the four tallies from Washington state that I just saw on the ticker (three House races plus the Senate race) the Republican is ahead in each one. Almost two-fifths of precincts have yet to report, so there is a good chance the numbers will turn around, but things are looking better than I would have expected out there.

11:49 p.m. -- It looks like we have this one in the bag. Looking at the district-by-district map, the entire country is a sea of red broken by only a few isolated spots of blue, and the Republican wave is so enormous (apparently the biggest in 78 years) that the GOP will definitely take control of the House. In fact, John Boehner just gave a speech as the presumptive new Speaker of the House. And although I doubt Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate given how few Senate seats are being voted on, they have already gained four seats to break up the Democrats' filibuster-proof super majority. I am cracking open a victory beer.

12:11 a.m. -- The Republicans just won the governorship of Michigan in an ultimate "it's the economy, stupid" moment.

12:12 a.m. -- Switching back to my home state, I should mention that at least two high-profile Florida Democrats have been booted from Congress, and Rick Scott is holding onto a two-point lead in the governor's race with only a handful of precincts outstanding.

12:28 a.m. -- Fox News just called the Nevada Senate race for Harry Reid. This makes my blood boil because I consider him a lying Marxist scumbag who has done nothing for this country but harm it. And when you consider this and this, in conjunction with Reid's long history of prevailing in close elections, I can not shake the feeling that his win today is not above board. Fortunately for America, however, the GOP wave has greatly diminished Reid's power no matter what.

12:51 a.m. -- The Republicans have gained 56 House seats, far more than they needed to take control, so we DO have this in the bag!

Also at 12:51 a.m. -- Toomey has won Pennsylvania, so cancel my 10:25 entry.

12:56 a.m. -- Although I still expect us to come up short of taking numerical control of the Senate, I like what I am seeing from a philosophical-shift perspective. Not only did Toomey win in traditionally blue Pennsylvania, but Mark Kirk won in traditionally blue Illinois and Ken Buck is leading in lately purple Colorado.

1:04 a.m. -- I just saw the numbers in the Florida Senate race, and couldn't help but notice that even though it was a three-way race, Rubio received greater than one million votes more than second place finisher Charlie Crist. And back when he first announced his candidacy, he was considered a can't-win curiosity. All I can say is: 1) Wow! and 2) I am happy.

1:10 a.m. -- I should be going to bed, but I am not the least bit tired. I am cracking open another victory beer, even though I am disappointed that Dino Rossi is trailing in Washington and Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are both trailing in California.

1:16 a.m. -- Brighter West Coast News just showed up on the ticker. In Oregon, Republican Chris Dudley, who many of us remember as an NBA player from the 1990's, has a two-point lead in Oregon's gubernatorial election.

1:50 a.m. -- Nothing above has changed in the last 29 minutes, except that it is now looking like Republicans will gain more than 60 House seats. I have to get up soon for a challenging day of work, so I am calling it a night...and on balance, a good one!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Eve

Last week I wrote about one reason we conservatives should not be overconfident going into tomorrow's elections, and I might as well take this opportunity to mention that there are other reasons as well. Therefore, I am not "into" the idea of making any predictions...but like I also wrote, the electorate obviously understands the big picture in these elections, and this means I can't resist the temptation.

On the federal level, I predict the GOP will regain control of the House with about 10 seats to spare, but come up a few seats short of regaining control of the Senate. Pundits will depict the latter as a Republican defeat, but it will actually be a victory because it will eliminate the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority, which has been allowing them to legislate against the people's will without check.

In my own state, Marco Rubio will hold off a late rally by disgraced narcissist Charlie Crist, and accede to the Senate by a wider margin than was being indicated in last week's polls. Controversial gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott will benefit from the Rubio wave and get pushed across the finish line just ahead of Democrat Alex Sink -- keeping the governor's mansion in GOP hands despite recent polls that show Sink leading.

Out West, Republicans Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman will fall short -- by a frustratingly small number of votes -- in their surprisingly competitive attempts to defeat Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown in California.

And in a shocker's shocker, Republican Dino Rossi will become the next U.S. Senator from Washington state by defeating incumbent Democrat Patty Murray. This might ease any lingering sting from the 2004 gubernatorial election, which was won by Rossi only to be overturned in what was arguably the most egregious example of voter disenfranchisement in American history.

Tomorrow is an opportunity for us to start reasserting our control over the government by throwing Obama's power mad minions out of office. We all know what we have to do, so let's do it. Hopefully my predictions about Fiorina and Whitman won't come true, and hopefully the Republicans will win more Senate seats than I predict. We shall see...