Sep 162014
 

Believe it or not, we’re closing on a quarter of the season gone already. It’s the shortest one in big-time sports, folks. There are still a lot of unknowns, but some things are coming into focus.

I published 20 predictions just before the first game of the season. Let’s see how I’m doing so far, on a scale of Lock It In to Howler:

  • Akron wins enough to lose Terry Bowden. He’ll have a better job next year. (Status: Leaning Lock It In. Akron is playing solid defense.)
  • Alabama wins the SEC. I think the quarterback issue settles itself, the o-line jells, and it’s off to the races. (Status: Flip a Coin. Even with the offensive fireworks, I just don’t know. The secondary and special teams are both closer to wobbly than dominant.)
  • Auburn returns to form. That means 8-4 or so, with a solid loss to Alabama. Welcome back. (Status: Leaning Howler. Auburn looks just fine so far. If they win 10 games this year, I’ll get on the Gus Bus.)
  • Clemson ends six years of frustration and beats South Carolina. Reserve the Boom Boom Room now, Tigers. (Status: Leaning Howler. It’s an error to make too much of results against common opponents, but the Georgia games look pretty clear.)
  • Florida wins nine games, and Muschamp saves himself. Lest you think that’s too much of a rebound, go reexamine what happened to the Gators last year. They were annihilated by injuries in a way I’ve never seen. (Status: Leaning Howler. Calling upon your last bit of gumption to finally put Kentucky away at the Swamp does not instill confidence.)
  • Florida State does not repeat. In some quarters this team is practically anointed for ’14, like why should we bother playing the games? Yes, most of the team is back, but FSU won’t sneak up on anyone this year. I see three games on their schedule they could lose. (Status: Leaning Lock It In. However else FSU looks, they look vulnerable.)
  • Georgia slits its own throat and fires Mark Richt. Talk about “getting over the hump” intensifies after a closer-than-it-should-have-been win. Then, Georgia loses a game that can plausibly be blamed on bad coaching, and Georgia sends one of the best coaches in the league packing. (Status: Leaning Lock It In. There are several ways to blame dropping the Carolina game on bad coaching.)
  • Hawaii fires Norm Chow halfway through the season. He seemed a very promising head coach candidate, but he’s been awful. He doesn’t make it to November. (Status: Leaning Howler. Signs of life from the Warriors so far.)
  • Louisville keeps Bobby Petrino all year. Probably next year, too, and then this filthy snake’s contrition is once again overwhelmed by ambition and greed. (Status: Lock It In. Sometimes there is redemption. In this case, a snake is a snake is a snake.)
  • LSU loses three games for the third year in a row. Grumbling intensifies. (Status: Flip a Coin. LSU’s games have been perhaps less revelatory than anyone else’s in the league.)
  • Mississippi State wins nine; loses Dan Mullen. It’s a favorable schedule with nearly everyone back from last year. Coach gets an offer he can’t refuse. (Status: Leaning Lock It In. Solid team on the ground. I think Mullen takes an offer this year.)
  • Ole Miss underachieves. Absolutely everyone is higher on the Rebels than I am, it seems. They’ve lost five conference games in each of Hugh Freeze’s two seasons, and that sounds about right for the third one too. (Status: Flip a Coin. The Rebels look good so far against subpar competition. What’s that mean? Exactly.)
  • Penn State wins 10 games in James Franklin’s debut season. The schedule is favorable, and Coach Franklin is the real deal. No mere mortal puts up back-to-back nine-win seasons at Vanderbilt. (Status: Lock It In. The restoration of the postseason is icing. The Nittany Lions challenge for the league title.)
  • Tennessee goes bowling. Still think running Fulmer off was a good idea? Nevertheless, signs of life in Knoxville. (Status: Leaning Lock It In. Even with the very young lines, it still looks like the year UT started climbing back to me.)
  • Texas overachieves. Lots of folks are high on Charlie Strong, but there’s a lot of “he’s gonna need time” chatter too. Nonsense. Texas wins 10 games this year. (Status: Howler. Might not even have a winning season.)
  • Texas A&M finishes below .500. Yes, Manziel and Evans mattered that much, nearly wholly compensating for a rotten Aggie defense. But they’re gone. The decline is steep. (Status: Howler. Nice touch for the kid QB to break Manziel’s passing yardage game record right out of the chute, wasn’t it?)
  • Vanderbilt gets back to a bowl, but not by much. I think 7-6 would be a tremendous year for the ‘Dores. (Status: Howler. Anchor down…way down.)
  • Washington State is the surprise of the Pac-12. I think the Cougars could start as strongly as 5-1, on the way to 8-5 or so. (Status: Howler. That 5-1 start I tossed out there might actually be as bad as 2-4.)
  • The playoff structure generates substantial controversy. There were holes in the BCS paradigm that aren’t closed nearly enough in this Way Forward. Five undefeated teams? A major strength-of-schedule fracas? I don’t know, but something. (Status: Lock It In. Storm brewing. Hyper-scrutiny of committee members’ behavior is all of the context you need.)
  • Your national champion is: wow, who knows? I see as much potential for Alabama as anyone in the SEC to put it all together and hit overdrive. But, I think this could be a really strong Pac-12 year too. No Big Ten team has the horses for it all the way to the end. The Big 12 eats its own enough to remove itself from contention. From the ACC, it’s the Seminoles or no one, and I think they don’t quite get there. I have to say something definitive, and with Alabama plausibly in the mix, how do I pick against them? I’ll go Alabama 38, Oregon 27. (Status: Flip a Coin, but I said as much in the prediction, didn’t I?)
 Posted by at 11:25 am
Sep 022014
 

We did 52 hours this time last year, but this time was our niece’s wedding in western New Mexico. So Lea was gone for about 130 hours: Wednesday morning through Monday night. Here are five things we learned:

  • Nathan’s dog Molly is capable of “grumpy.” We’d seen sad before, but this time Lea was just gone too long. Molly would gaze hopefully at the door, and when it wasn’t her mommy who came through it, her face fell and she wandered off to lie down. She wasn’t having any of you trying to play with her at that moment.
  • The boys don’t necessarily pick poorly if you leave the menu to them. They chose salmon and asparagus for me to make for dinner last night.
  • The first college football weekend was a great thing. It gave us a schedule.
  • Inexplicably, both boys were ready for school with considerably less drama and more time to spare than when Lea is directing. As they sat reading with 20 minutes to go before departure, and only needing to put their shoes on, I asked “why can’t you guys do this for your mother?” Shrugs.
  • I didn’t sleep any better without her the fifth night than I did the first.

Welcome home, Lea. We missed you.

 Posted by at 9:30 am

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