Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Who's gonna win it? The Bucks?!?! The Bucks?!?

I was watching the Bucks' season opener in Orlando with Will and Jana tonight, and when I took Will upstairs to brush his teeth, pee, and read books, the Bucks were down three points in a back and forth game. After tucking him in and telling him his favorite story of the moment - the Tortoise and the Hare - I laid down and started thinking about writing a season preview for Milwaukee.

After kissing my son goodnight, I flipped the game back on and saw the Bucks down 28 to a decidedly average Magic team, apparently after being on the business end of a 28-4 run. And you know what? That's what kind of year this is going to be.

The Bucks have some guys who, individually, you think "Nice player, a team can win and get to the playoffs with him." But put them all together and you think "38-44, drafting 10th."

First of all, the coach. Larry Krystkowiak was a terrific pro for Milwaukee when we were kids, but I'll always remember him being taken off the floor on a stretcher after blowing out his knee in the playoffs against the Pistons. Sorry, but Krysto seems destined to be the next in a line of mediocre coaches to follow George Karl, a slight upgrade from Terry Stotts.

Let's start at point guard. I like Mo Williams, he takes and hits big shots, and his numbers look good, but there's something missing from his game that the big timers have. Better penetrating and passing ability? Better defense? Have a feeling he would be dynamite as a third guard on an elite team.

Michael Redd: Love him, don't care if we overpaid to keep him. In today's scoring-challenged NBA, if a guy can light it up like Redd can, you need to hang onto him. Seems to be a good person who doesn't hate playing in Milwaukee.

Charlie Bell is just a guy, no reason to have tried so hard to keep him, especially now that he's probably unhappy to be in Milwaukee. If he's playing more than 20 minutes per game we're in trouble.

Small forward: Desmond Mason and Bobby Simmons. Solid guys who should get you 10-12 per game, and you're okay if you don't need them to get you more. I like Mason as a character guy, he seems to be one of those rare truly interesting professional athletes, and he's a great dunker.

Power forward: Yi Jianlian and Charlie Villanueva. Yi is starting, ostensibly to get his energy in the game early and have another scorer coming off the bench. The cynic in me says this is a move to placate Beijing. Yi looked better than I thought tonight. In one sequence he made a contested jumper, but then let Hedo Freaking Turkoglu waltz right around him for a layup. He set a nice pick on Keyon Dooling later that the TV guys went nuts for ("those international guys are so fundamentally sound!"), but it was probably a moving screen. Jim and John then started comparing Yi to Nowitzki. Slow down there, guys, got lots of airtime to fill this season.

As for Chuck V, there was a three-minute or so stretch tonight where it seemed like he shot and missed every time he touched the ball (he finished 1-for-8 from the field). It was a performance reminiscent of Kevin Michalowski at our daily noon hoops game today ... only no one traded T.J. Ford for Kevin Michalowski. Not ready to give up on Villanueva, but the early returns ain't good.

Glad Andrew Bogut finally cut his hair. He's a decent player, will probably end up averaging close to a double-double. But he's not playing like a top pick. The three #1 overall picks preceding him were Yao Ming, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard. Have the Bucks caught a break since that coin flip in 1969?

Dan Gadzuric is fun to watch, his hustle and rawness is refreshing.

The roster is rounded out by men named Michael Ruffin, Royal Ivey, Jake Voskuhl, Awvee Story, David Noel, and Ramon Sessions, guys known only to their parents and hard core college basketball nerds like me.

The thing is, like all my other favorite teams, the Bucks play in a weak division in an inferior conference, so a seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs is not out of the realm of possibility.

The prediction: 38-44, picking 10th in June.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why you should pay attention to the NBA

About a month ago when I wrote this blog's first post, I mentioned that we would be talking about the Bucks here. Rob Jansen politely informed me that, simply put, nobody cares about the Bucks, so don't write about them.

I disagree, and think that living in Atlanta, where they haven't had an NBA team since 'Nique got traded to the Clippers, has jaded Rob on the NBA. Let's face it, interest in the league is down, and for good reason. The play can be ugly. The officiating is horrible (earlier today I daydreamed about defending Dwyane Wade and heard a whistle, he's heading to the line for two), and at least one of them is on the take. The Spurs, as much as they are a true champion of teamwork, consistency, and professionalism, are still pretty boring.

Still, there's lots to like about the league.
1. The Suns, everything about them. If they can win a title it will do wonders for the NBA's image. And it would be awesome for Alando Tucker to get a ring, really hope he gets a shot to play this year, but doubtful.
2. Devin Harris should make a big leap this year, if Avery Johnson can finally trust him.
3. Can't wait to see Kevin Durant.
4. Really like what the Jazz have going on. Deron Williams is one of my favorite players, even if he's an ex-Illini.
5. Really like what the Bulls have built. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are turning out to be better pros than I had imagined.
6. It's sort of like rooting for Microsoft, but I love LeBron, can't wait to see what he does for the next 15 years.
7. Ex-Arizona guys like Andre Iguodala and Richard Jefferson are fun to watch.
8. Great guys to watch who may not be household names: Al Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Paul Millsap, Brandon Roy, Andrew Bynum (he's got game Kobe!), Renaldo Balkman (was wrong to make fun of him on draft day last year), Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace, Daniel Gibson, Luke Walton.
9. If the Celtics get good again, we can finally hate them again.
10. Michael Redd could go for 50 any night.

This was going to be a Bucks preview, but I'll hold off on that until tomorrow. Feels like there's not much to report - staring at another late lottery pick - but there's just enough talent in just a bad enough conference to not write them off completely yet.

Please feel free to add to my top 10 list. No haters, please, saying you hate the NBA is like saying you hate K-Fed's album, everyone's doing it, we know already.

And can I get a show of hands from everyone who had a pair of 'Nique's Brooks?

I'm back, baby

Funny story: Internet, phone, and BlackBerry communications in our area were cut off yesterday afternoon because someone cut a wire in Amherst (were, as Andy says, everyone is named Konkol). Funnier story: our IT guy's email explaining the outage referred to our area as "the Iola metropolitan area." Any of you who have been to the Iola metropolitan area - and you're fogiven ifyou blinked and missed it - would agree there is most definitely nothing metropolitan about this area. But we appreciate the words.

Lots of things to cover that I wasn't able to, so this will be snappy.

-Responding to Will's post: I thought Dayne had been traded to the Texans last year, but according to Wikipedia, he was cut and Houston claimed him off waivers. Since Wikipedia is never wrong, my bad. Good assessment of his career, and the other guys'.

-Can't believe the UW-OSU game is on the Big Ten Network. The other early games Saturday are Purdue-Penn State, Northwestern-Iowa, and Ball State-Indiana. Is one of those games on ESPN? UW-OSU is the game of the day, followed by Michigan-MSU. Sorry to those of you that don't have the BTN, can't believe something hasn't been done about this yet. Schwalbach's rant is 100% correct.

-I really liked Georgia's celebration against Florida, and believe it was a big reason why they won that game. The aerial shot was really cool. That's what makes the college game better than the NFL.

-Didn't see the Trinity play, will have to YouTube it tonight. Ours was against Evans House, right?

-I did not see Sura had been cut. In truth, I've really lost track of him in the last few years, which is probably healthy. As long as I'm playing fantasy sports on Yahoo, though, I'll always be reminded of him - my horrible login "suraboyz" will likely be my handle forever.

-Is the World Series over? Does this mean Dane Cook can go away now? Seriously, a couple years ago they were a feel-good story, breaking the curse and beating the Yankees. Now they're just the slightly more tolerable big money East Coast team that buys a championship. I will grant that Boston's farm system has generated some key players like Pedroia, Ellsbury, Papelbon, Lester, Youkilis, and they got Big Papi off the scrap heap. Theo Epstein's a sharp dude, he's my idol.

-Anyone else catch the end of the Packers game last night? Don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but this is shaping up to be a fun season.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chris Chambers, Michael Bennett on the move

They probably won't get many headlines Monday morning, but Chris Chambers and Michael Bennett each scored touchdowns with their new teams Sunday, Chambers with San Diego and Bennett with Tampa Bay. I'm glad these guys are getting a chance - Chambers to play with a real team and a real quarterback, and Bennett a chance to get some carries in a situation were he's not stuck behind Larry Johnson, Reggie Bush, or four bums who Mike Tice likes to rotate.

The bigger issue is that here are two more ex-Badgers involved in trades (Bennett for the second time, I think) in a league where players are not traded nearly as often as the other major leagues. Jamar Fletcher, Ron Dayne, and Brooks Bollinger are other recent examples. These guys are in a kind of NFL limbo - not good enough to be untouchable, but not bad enough to give up on altogether.

Given their college pedigrees - Fletch and Dayne especially - it's surprising they haven't been able to establish themselves as key players on a team. Especially Bennett. I think most honest observers would have projected him as the best pro of this lot, based on his explosive 2000 season.

Note: Chambers, in my opinion, can still become a cornerstone guy. The Dolphins weren't necessarily dumping him, they're building for the future. Hopefully having a respectable QB like Rivers and weapons like Gates and LT around him will give Chris's career the boost it needs.

And Vikings fans, tell me if I'm wrong on this prediction: Erasmus James is the next former Badger to be traded, for something like a conditional sixth-round pick, if he's not released outright.

A brief word on high school sports

This is a great time of year for a lot of things - like when Will goes out later today and brings home a lot of candy for me, er, him to enjoy - especially high school sports. I realize most of you won't care about the next four paragraphs, but I wanted to get them down somewhere.

-Our Iola-Scandinavia Thunderbirds rolled to the third round of the football playoffs with a 43-7 win over Manitowoc Lutheran. For those of you who don't know, I live right down the street from the football field, which is set in a beautiful location for high school football - a forest beyond the north end zone, Silver Lake beyond the east sideline - and yesterday was an atmosphere out of a movie script. Little drama - we've got some really talented skill players - but a great game nonetheless. Next up is a matchup with Stevens Point Pacelli, which, like most private school teams that have success, hears lots of grumbling about its money and recruiting. Should be a great game next weekend.

-Waupaca, the defending Division 3 state champs, lost to Mosinee 21-16 yesterday, burned by turnovers. Last year Comets' state championship win had one of those TV-type endings, with a last-second touchdown pass. Not in the cards this year, but another nice year (9-2) for a great program.

-West Bend East's season ended Tuesday with a loss to DePere. Seems the Suns entered the fourth quarter with a 26-25 lead and lost 62-26. Ouch. But it's good to see East back in the playoffs under Tony Michels, who was my eighth grade coach.

-Finally, and this one makes me smile more than the others: the West Bend East volleyball team is going back to state for the first time since 2001. Awesome! I think anyone our age or a little younger can tell you that being around that program in the '90s under Lynn LaPorte and then Kurt Shermacher was pretty cool. The girls were ranked nationally by USA Today, seemingly played for the state title every year.

Of course, Andy and I had a closer view than normal, what with Sara being a three-year starter. One of my fondest high school memories was in 1993, Sara's sophomore year, when the school turned out in Oshkosh for state, awesome crowd. Much like the baseball program, there were better teams that followed, but that '93 team set the tone.

One cool side note: Sara is now the JV coach at Menomonee Falls, which is also headed to state after being the #1 team in the Milwaukee area most of the season. Maybe a road trip to Green Bay is in the cards this weekend.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

UW-Indiana postgame thoughts

Watched the second half under the din of my father-in-law snoring on the couch behind me, an apt metaphor for the game on the whole. I'll take it, though - when Indiana plays that poorly, we should beat them by 30. I'll pick nits later, but let's lead with this thought:

Great game by the defense. This is the game we've been waiting all year to see from that unit. True, IU lost a few offensive linemen, but the effort transcended that advantage.

The defensive line played very well - good pressure on Lewis, but more importantly they shut down his running lanes. The linebackers were outstanding - Casillas and Levy in particular. And what can you say about Ike? Joe Hart's reference to Fletcher-Burress '99 proved to be dead-on - four catches for 17 yards for Hardy - as well as a fumble and a huge penalty. Langford got a right-place, right-time pick, Carter broke up some passes, and Pleasant and Royston were around the ball. And best yet: best tackling of the season, can't think of one blatant missed tackle.

Other thoughts:

-Too many stupid mental errors for the ninth game of the season. An offsides penalty made a third-and-1 into a third-and-6, an illegal shift nullified a terrific Donovan first down scramble, and a blatant offside on a kickoff.

-Great pressure by Hayden and Shaughnessy on Langford's pick.

-Took waaaaaaay too long to put these guys away, thanks to those mental errors and Donovan's fumble.

-Conversely, can't remember seeing worse ball protection than what Indiana showed today, they handled the ball like it was covered with butter.

-Loved to see Thigpen taunting our crowd after his long run, which everyone else knew was coming back because of a penalty on Hardy - which was a good call, Ike would have made that tackle.

-Did Gilreath give back his return record on that atrocious punt return in the third quarter? Oh well, he made up for it with a brilliant return in the fourth.

-Did anyone else notice how often Ike was around the ball on special teams? Is that a new role for him, or has he been on those units all along? Whatever the case, I like the assignment.

-Great to have Hubbard back. He only caught one pass for 30 yards, but he drew an interference penalty to set up a TD late in the third.

-Lance got off to a slow start, but came on late when the IU defense was tiring. Still, we really need PJ healthy next week to have a chance to win in Columbus. On Smith's TD runs he got a lot of nice blocking - Urbik, Rentmeester, and Turner's stood out.

-Speaking of Rentmeester, how great were his two runs, and Pressley's later? That's 45 yards on four carries for the fullbacks, hopefully that's not a gimmick and becomes part of the regular offense.

-Time of possession edge: 35:23-24:37, Wisconsin. Just what we needed.

-Aaron Henry is a playmaker. He caused one of Lewis's fumbles, and twice he was there to scoop up IU fumbles that were later (correctly) ruled down. He would have had big returns on both.

-Charles Davis, the color analyst, is very good. I thought so when he called bowls for Fox last year, and continue to think that for his work with the BTN. He deserves a shot at ESPN or ABC, but we'll see if his lack of a big name will hold him back.

-Well-officiated game.

-Lastly, did you see the video of the law school students trying to catch their canes? Homecoming legend has it that if you catch the cane after throwing it over the goalpost, you'll win your first case. Let me tell you, a lot of those canes hit the ground; too bad for their clients. Nerds!

What did y'all think?

UW-Indiana halftime thoughts

Overall pretty pleased with the effort thus far, but annoyed that it should be 20-0 or 24-0 right now, not 17-3. A touchdown on that drive puts the game away; now Indiana has life and gets the ball to open the second half. If Donovan is the more reliable, less mistake-prone QB between him and Evridge, I shudder to think about next year.

-Gilreath is about to break the school record for return yardage in a season. That's nice, but the cynic in me says that's because the defense has yielded so many opportunities for opponents' kickoffs.

-Even before PJ got hurt (major concern), thought it was a good move to get Brown in early and get him involved. Very nice TD run, very well blocked, especially Graham helping Vanden Heuvel.

-Love the play calling on the first two drives - pound the rock, wear down their smallish front. PJ was showing great patience letting the holes open. Zach and Lance need to slow down a bit. IU has done a nice job adjusting to slow down our running game, but the mid-range passing game is now open, and Donovan should be able to take advantage.

-But Donovan is still missing wide-open guys, like Beckum on the first drive.

-The third drive ended with a snuffed-out TE screen attempt. Why call that play when IU had stopped a similar play the previous drive?

-Love how Levy and Casillas are playing right now, this is what we were expecting all year.

-Kick/punt coverage units have been terrific.

-An option call on third and eight? No, no, no ... yes!

-I'd say something about Ike and Hardy, but don't want to jinx it.

Wisconsin-Indiana predictions

Wisconsin has handled Indiana fairly well over the past 15 years, going 8-2 against the Hoosiers since 1993. My favorite game was in 1994, our freshman year. IU came in ranked with a hot shot running back named Alex Smith, and Hill was still a big IU fan for football. We won 62-13.

But I just can’t shake the image of the two losses during that time:

-In 2001 Antwan Randle-El, Levron Williams and friends won 63-32 in Madison. I remember sitting in the press box at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh listening to the game on my Walkman, in total disbelief - touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. That game was the worst defensive performance by the Badgers since Alvarez took over. That game epitomized how badly the staff had missed in recruiting during the late '90s Rose Bowl years and left the program without depth. At least Randle-El was a worthy conqueror.

-In 2002 we collapsed late and lost 32-29 in Bloomington to a bad IU team. I didn’t even watch the game after we took what seemed to be a commanding lead, went shopping in West Towne with Jana. The best side story from that game: Bob Docherty (right), an Oshkosh North grad who went to UW along with Darrin Charles, was hurt that day and didn’t make the trip. He felt so comfortable with the game that he, too, didn’t watch the second half. Difference between him and me: he was a member of the team. After the game someone called him and asked him what he thought; he said something to the effect of “easy win, huh?” and his caller then informed him that the Badgers had lost. Soon Doc left UW and transferred back to UW-Oshkosh.

So while I was watching the replay of the UW-Northern Illinois game, the highlights that stuck with me weren’t of us running over an overmatched Huskies team, but the breaks showing Kellen Lewis and James Hardy against Penn State. The Hoosiers lost that one, because they turned the ball over four times in the second half, but put up 31 points on a damn good defense.

Indiana should also be plenty hungry – they’re still one win short of being bowl eligible for the first time since 1993, and they’re still playing for their popular deceased coach, Terry Hoeppner. They’ve got playmakers all over the field:

-Hardy (top), the best wide receiver in the country not named DeSean Jackson (that’s a toss-up).
-Lewis (bottom), who seems like Randle-El with a much better arm.
-Marcus Thigpen, great returner and slippery back.
-Two highly thought-of cornerbacks with girls’ names: Leslie Majors and Tracy Porter.
-A couple of other defensive playmakers in DE Greg Middleton and LB William Patterson.

Even with all that, I think we outscore them tomorrow and win. But look at the point totals they’ve given up this year:

Western Michigan 27; Akron 24; Illinois 27; Iowa 20; Minnesota 20; Michigan State 52; Penn State 36.

Actually, those numbers are sort of similar to the Badgers’ defensive numbers. If this is in Bloomington, I might be predicting an IU win, but we’ve gone back to winning most of the time in Madison.

I think Beckum has a big game, as do PJ and Smith. The big matchup is Ike and Carter against Hardy, we’ve got to hold him to one touchdown. And Mehlhaff has to get more of his kickoffs into the end zone than not, to keep the ball away from these dangerous returners.

Two good points from the Cap Times experts today: control the ball and keep it out of IU's playmakers' hands, and can Ike shut down Hardy like Jamar Fletcher shut down Plaxico Burress in 1999?

Prediction: UW 38, Indiana 34

Wisconsin-Northern Illinois/Mr. Belding thoughts

Love the Big Ten Network. Last night after watching Friday Night Lights on DVD, I turned on the BTN's Friday Night Tailgate to find the fat guy with glasses interviewing Dennis Haskins - Mr. Belding from Saved By the Bell - at Purdue. And let me tell you, Beldo is fat! I'll be he's put on 50 pounds since the SBTB salad days; the picture at right is from 2004, and he's even heavier now. Apparently Haskins tours college campuses encouraging students to pursue their dreams. Inspirational.

At the end of the interview, Haskins delivered a great line: "Jordan! My office, now!" Mike Hall, the host, follows up with "Now that is great journalism! I feel like listening to Kasey Kasem and dancing The Sprain." Made my night.

I also love the Big Ten Network because yesterday they showed the UW-Northern Illinois game, which I missed last Saturday. Northern is obviously in bad shape, so not too much to comment on, certainly nothing negative. Some thoughts:

-Glad to see Pressley getting some carries. No reason not to use the fullback to mix things up a bit, especially when he was a successful tailback in high school. Fullback dive was always a great play in old school Madden, a quick hitter for 3-4 yards.

-Another touchdown for Garrett Graham, who I predict will be an all-Big Ten tight end in two years.

-Loved PJ’s long TD run, and my favorite part: Kyle Jefferson maintaining a block on NIU’s safety that let PJ get beyond that last level, which he needs help to do. PJ went over 1,000 yards in the game, good to be back on that track, third year in a row with a 1,000-yard rusher.

-I think UW is really going to miss Jae McFadden against Indiana.

-Glad to see Mike Newkirk get a sack and three hurries. Seems like he’s really been struggling, and not because he’s not working hard, so to see him rewarded like that was nice.

-UW’s time of possession edge: 39:37 to 20:23. Wow.

-Nice game for DeAndre Levy with 2.5 tackles for loss. It’s easy to forget he led the team in sacks last year, but he’s an important part of the team’s pass rush. The Badgers had 10 TFL overall, very encouraging.

-Shane Carter obviously needs work tackling and angles, but he’s got great ball skills. I see him being a big part of trying to contain Hardy.

-Another penalty on Langford. Didn’t expect him to regress this season.

-Good line by Larrivee when they brought Alvarez in to the box in the third quarter: “And now someone who’s popular not only here but in Nebraska.” Barry chuckled and brushed it off, but that’s a legitimate issue. Let’s discuss next week.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ben Strickland - a great story

A really great story about one of Wisconsin's captains was just posted to the Cap Times website. It's about Ben Strickland, a special teams standout and defensive back reserve, and written and reported by Jim Polzin.

Basically, the kid gave up his scholarship so that one of his best friends, long snapper Steve Johnson, could have one. He works in facilities maintenance to pay for school. He's an academic all-Big Ten choice. And he works with special ed kids.

If Will turns out to be half the young man Mr. Strickland is, we'll be pretty happy.

Give it a read, and if you feel like commenting, please do it after the end of Jim's story, not here.

(Cap Times photo by Michelle Stocker)

Who's #1? Boston College - and it's not even close

I'm not sure how this weekend is going to shake out, but in my mind, there should be no question about who is ranked #1 in college football: Boston College. Last night's win over a very good #8 Virginia Tech team, in Blacksburg, is the defining win the Eagles needed to establish themselves as the top team.

Here's BC's victims list: Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Army, UMass, Bowling Green, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech. I count two good wins there - Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Maybe throw Wake in there. The Eagles close with Florida State, Maryland, Clemson, and Miami, and probably the ACC title game. Lots of chances for good wins, but I suspect they lose at least one of those games.

Now let's look at OSU's resume (I know, we've done this before): Youngstown State, Akron, Washington (thought of as the Buckeyes' best win - the Huskies are 2-5), Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue, Kent State, Michigan State. Wow. This isn't OSU's fault - they simply played who's on the schedule. But in my book, that is ZERO impressive wins. They'll have a chance to earn some points in that ledger in the next four weeks: Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan. If they run the table there - and it would not be surprising if they did - they would be a deserving #1.

Overall, though, the message is clear: mediocre year for college football - makes it fun for the fans, but there's no teams like '05 Texas or '04 USC that will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.

Wisconsin's most disliked former athletes

A couple days ago I wrote a short post about Journal Sentinel poll asking users to name Wisconsin's most disliked former athlete. It's generated much more response than anticipated -- Badgercentric readers have come up with a much more thorough list than the MJS poll, including one Mr. Chuckie Carr (right) -- check it out for yourself.

Click here for post

Who let the Nard Dog out?

Got the day off, boys, we could be in for a prolific day on Badgercentric ...

Back to normal Thursday nights for the Tappas, and back to 30-minute episodes of The Office - thank goodness. Last night's episode was pretty good, not classic but enough laughs to go around. Solid B. Highlights:

-Who let the Nard Dog out? Classic Michael/Andy. (BTW - I Googled Andrew Bernard and the first result was for the director of the Center for International Business - at Dartmouth, not Cornell! The Office Andrew Bernard write-up on Wikipedia says that his character, and Jim Halpert, are both named after childhood friends of executive producer Greg Daniels. So if Burch, Schwib and I ever hit the big time with Mike Caution, expect to see characters named Scott Froehlich and Josh Grieser. But I digress ...)

-I'm probably alone in thinking this, but a cereal-based restaurant, a la Mike's Cereal Shack, would be a great idea. Maybe this is because I've eaten cereal for breakfast every day for the last 28 years. And because my son prefers eating cereal for dinner (we don't let him). And because there are so many awesome kinds of cereal out there. And because Jerry Seinfeld is a huge cereal fan. Let's file this idea away for retirement ...

-I've spent a god 30 minutes or so in Second Life, and never encountered Dwight Shelford. Too bad, because unlike the rave reviews it was getting at the start of this year, Second Life is so boring and complicated that a Dwight alter ego would be the best thing about it. One of my big ideas at the start of the year was to build a parallel version of some of our company's properties in Second Life; glad I never pitched that idea to anyone important, because SL is not what it was hyped to be, and my guess is Linden Dollars will be worth less than Chuck E. Cheese tokens by the end of the year.


-Ryan to Michael: "That's good - they're creative, you're not."

-Michael: "I was five years old - I couldn't even talk yet."

-Kevin's nickname: Kool-Aid Man. Dead on!

-"Limitless paper in a paperless world."

-Lastly, back to Second Life: It's about time someone made fun of Jim and he wasn't able to deflect it or come back. I'm guessing that Jim is the character most of us (dudes) watching the show identify with, or at least I'm hoping that's the case, but let's face it, he needs to be humbled every once in awhile, to have that smirk wiped off his face. And the fact that his SL avatar is a sports writer makes it all the more fitting for this crowd.

Vote in the poll: which version of the Dunder Mifflin commercial was better?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Freshman WRs: Kyle Jefferson vs. Arrelious Benn

Opened up the Sporting News yesterday and saw the magazine had named Illinois WR Arrelious Benn to its all-freshman team. It gave me pause. Yes, he was the most-touted incoming freshman WR, and he had one awesome game with some spectacular plays. And he has a lame nickname, Regis, which should work against him.

But is he better than UW's Kyle Jefferson? I ran the numbers:

Jefferson: 18 catches, 324 yards, 18.0 avg, 2 TD, 64-yard long
Benn: 38 catches, 459 yards, 12.1 avg, 1 TD, 33-yard long (also a 90-yard TD return)

Total catches and yards favor Benn, yards per catch, touchdowns, and biggest play favor Jeff. Benn has been the Illini's #1 receiver since arriving in Champaign, while Jefferson was behind Swan, Hubbard, Beckum, and probably Graham in the receiving pecking order. He's now #1.

So right now, I can see giving the nod to Benn, but discounting the Northern Illinois win, Jefferson had three straight big games against Big Ten teams - long TD against Michigan State, TD against Illinois, 124 yards against Penn State. It could be argued he was the Badgers' best player in those two losses.

I think that by the time the season is over, Jefferson will clearly have had the better season and be every bit the player Benn is. Whether or not the media at large will notice is another matter.

ADDITION: In response to a comment left this morning: to clarify, this post is by no means meant to downgrade Benn. His numbers, playing with an erratic passer like Juice Williams, are impressive; also, his body and strength right now are more suited for the physical rigors of Big Ten football than Jefferson's - and most wide receivers'. I'm just saying we've got a good one, too. It will be interesting to see how much weight Kyle can put on while retaining his skill set.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who do you dislike most?

The Journal Sentinel had an interesting poll on its site today: which former state star do you dislike most:

Tony Mandarich
Gary Sheffield
Gary Payton

Sheffield is the runaway winner, with 72% of the vote, compared to 16% for Payton and 12% for Mandarich. Not surprising, given the way he forced his way out of Milwaukee.

I cast a write-in vote for Travis Diener.

Bo Ryan-Soulja Boy II

After writing last night's post, I couldn't get that number out of my head: 54,000 views of Bo Ryan Cranking Dat Soulja Boy on YouTube. The number is now up around 63,000.

I did a search for roughly that phrase on Google's blog search function, and found a lot of people talking about it - viral marketing working for Bucky hoops. And yes, my post has made its way into the top 10, hurrah.

A sampling:

Mark Stewart's blog explains a bit of the back story

Best Week Ever picks up on my America's Funniest Home Videos critique; some interesting comments

Scrapper Nation shows just how out of hand this has gotten - check out the Texas football team doing it on the sideline, during what seems to be the game. Bo is cleaning up in this poll.

An Illinois fan seems to want Bruce Weber to Crank Dat next

A comment on this blog says Bo's video is the best thing he's ever seen, and references Mark Madsen - correctly implying that Bo is the better dancer.

The top post here says " this must be how he relates to the inner city kids when out on the recruiting trail."

After listening to this song more than 30 times, I really hate it, it's pretty bad. Give the kid a lot of credit for using the web to promote himself, great move. He's created the Macarena of 2007.

And for one last laugh today, check out this Barney compilation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bo Ryan Cranks Dat (Soulja Boy)

Mr. Erik Olson tipped me off about this video last week, saying it deserved its own posting:

He was right.

Mind you, this ditty hasn't reached Scandinavia yet, but I'm expecting it will be by 2009, so I'm sort of absorbing a lot at once here. Catchy song, haven't been able to get it out of my head since Friday.

What do we think of Bo putting this out there on YouTube? Obviously it's part of the well-known practice of using the web's viral qualities for marketing purposes. And not a bad idea, either. Even after a decade of sustained success, most basketball fans still equate Wisconsin basketball with 45-44 scores and post players called "blockers."

So why not make a short, fairly well-produced video showing that the Badgers' coach is not a 90-year-old from the sticks who longs for the days of peach pail baskets and jump balls after every score? He is, in actuality, a cool guy fluent in urban music and dancing (even if that Hambone video of Bo slapping himself sort of works to counter this notion).

It's incredible -- the different variations of Bo Ryan Does Soulja Boy have racked up something approaching 54,000 views on YouTube. Those people probably come away thinking Badger basketball isn't as lame as they've heard, which can only be positive.

So for the most part, I like it. The cynical part of me thinks it's a cross between a staged video clip of Dad Getting Hit In Groin By Son's Baseball Bat submitted to America's Funniest Home Videos and George W. Bush dancing with Ricky Martin at his 2000 inaugural festivities. But when a simple YouTube search yields a video titled "Roy Williams Gettin Down," you realize what it takes to keep up with the Joneses in college sports today.

By the way - lots of interesting Badger basketball-related clips on YouTube, something to explore this winter if the team is struggling.

I'm back

After spending almost an entire day at the Philadelphia airport - and let me tell you, there's a reason Philly won a poll for the city with the least attractive people - I'm back from Atlantic City. So you can expect more awesome posts on a more regular basis. After being accused of mailing it in from a certain Mr. Jansen, I am more motivated than ever to go 1-0 with my posts this week.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Easy win for the Badgers

Been working all day but just learned a little bit about today's win. Sounds like we pounded the rock, Hubbard was back, Carter got a couple more picks, and some other reserves got in. How are we feeling about today's game?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Last night's Office

As has been mentioned before, last night I was watching a building be destroyed, and as such missed The Office for the first time this season.

According to Mr. Austin, I didn't miss much. His two cents:

Steve Carell was on Bob & Tom this morning. He believes The Office is better packaged into a 30-minute show. Last night’s episode was the least funny of the season so far ...

Best part was Pam and Jim staying at the new Scranton area B&B – the Shrute Farm. Mose is hilarious. It had a few laugh-out-loud moments. Bob & Tom asked about Creed – who apparently was a guitarist in the band Grass Roots in the 60s. Creed speaks from experience.

Anyone else have commentary? Don't worry about spoiling it, I won't watch it until reruns.

Atlantic City highlights

As reported Wednesday, Jana and I are in Atlantic City for the Atlantique City show this weekend. Lots of cool sports collectibles here, hope to get some photos later today.

Last night after dinner we got out to the Boardwalk in time to see the Sands imploded. Very cool. Most impressive to us was the way they were able to destroy a large building without having much an effect on the surrounding buildings.

And the top photo is for my brother - a real Mannequin Skywalker from the Worst Star Wars Movie Ever.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Greetings from Atlantic City

As I write this, I am looking out at the Atlantic City skyline, and let me tell you - it's neat, but Vegas it ain't. There's a Trump Plaza, Caesars, Bally's, Tropicana, and some others, but there's something missing. Mainly, skin, and guys on the street slapping cards together every three feet. But this trip isn't about sex appeal, it's about antiques baby; we're here to run the Atlantique City antiques show.

It's a pretty all-consuming,24/7 experience, which means you won't be reading much of note here from me until I get home Tuesday, and even then I may be comatose the rest of the week recovering. I would encourage you to read the comments of the post below this, some good discussion of college football's elite programs going on.

Oh, and I hear they're going to implode the Sands tomorrow night, should be able to see that from my window. That should be pretty awesome!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marquee college football programs

During an email exchange with Will, Jim, and Schwib, Will raised the following discussion topic: My former boss and I would have this discussion all the time: what are the true marquee football programs? We came up with a list and I think most of the time, these programs are going to compete/have the best chance for a national championship. Think Stewart Mandel did something this on earlier this season as well.

Ohio State
Notre Dame

Just outside
West Virginia
Florida State

I would add Florida State and Oklahoma to the first list, drop West Virginia from the second list (Will objected, and I still don't buy it), and add Penn State to the second list. Five years ago Nebraska is on that first list, now they’re not on either; we might be wrong about that if we're including Alabama and Notre Dame. Tennessee might be on the second list, but they've struggled lately. Before last year I wouldn’t have had Florida on the first list.

In my mind you have to have won a national title in the last 20 years to qualify for the first list.

Discussion question: Does Wisconsin have a chance of ever reaching the top list? If so, when is the earliest it can happen, and what events must precede it? Or is that second list where we max out?

The common thread for those schools is 50+ years of tradition - except for the Florida schools, but they play in the most talent-rich state in the country. I would argue that if Oklahoma, Nebraska, and West Virginia can reach elite or near-elite status, then in time, so can we. But we have to win 8-9 games or more every year for the next 25 years and play in at least five BCS games (we've played in two already), including one title game. This would give us 40 years of sustained excellence. But we still need a home run or two, not just singles and doubles.

That's what makes this season's shortfalls so disappointing: we aren't perennially on the short list of BCS contenders, which makes it harder to climb in. This year we were, but unless something unforeseeable happens, we blew it.

It's obviously crazy to think that far ahead, but fun at the same time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Minnesota tickets! and other Monday Badger thoughts

Got the email from Toohey today that we've got tickets to the UW-Minnesota game, the last of its sort at the Humpty Dome. Very excited about heading to the Twin Cities in a month to hang out with the More Points crowd for one more game this season ... unless we reconvened in Tempe in late December, a possibility Jimmy raised in a comment yesterday.

Tim's email said the tickets cost $64, which is fine, will gladly pay it. But, unless these are really good seats - and I can't imagine the U giving Badger fans really good seats - it seems high. When Andy and I went to the opener against Washington State, we had seats on about the north goal line, about 40 rows up, and they were $39. Decent seats, decent price.

But $64 for a University of Minnesota football ticket? My high school economics teacher wasn't that great, but he taught us enough about supply and demand for me to know that when a school puts a mediocre product on the field for 40 years and plays in front of half-empty stadiums, a $64 price tag is high. Guess paying off Clem Haskins' old tutors isn't cheap.

-On the ride home from work tonight the local radio news reader, paraphrasing Bielema's presser today, said the coach believes the team lost the 1-0 focus these last couple weeks. And I threw up in my mouth.

-Reading the quotes from the press conference, I see Chris Maragos was the scout team MVP for the second time this season, and BB expects big things from him in the future. We might be in bigger trouble than I thought.

-Someone, I think Will, made the comment earlier that those of us in Vegas knew there was something wrong with this team and that it probably wasn't a title contender. I will be honest and admit that I didn't feel that way at the time - fully expected them to return home, throttle The Citadel for 60 minutes, roll through the first three Big Ten games, then battle Penn State. Must have been those cardinal-colored shades I picked up before the flight.

-As much as I realize the passing game needs Jefferson and Gilreath to continue getting acclimated with Donovan, what I would really like to see is for the Badgers to run the ball about 60 times for 400 yards, with Brown and Smith splitting the second half. That's what I thought going into the Citadel game, too, and that game didn't go so well, although we did run the ball as well as we should have. I also remember five years ago, watching UW play Northern Illinois with my dad at my aunt Karen's house, and watching Bollinger get sacked 10 times, so you just can't take anything for granted.

-Jim's story today touches on whether or not a bye week would be good for the Badgers this week. I think it's a good thing they're playing so they don't stew over the Penn State game. In another season, I might think a bye is perfect here in week eight. Something you just can't tell until a season starts going.

-Kyle Turris is off to a great start for the Badger hockey team, two goals and four points in two games. You'll be hearing his name a lot, even if you're a casual fan, especially our friends in Phoenix (Coyotes draft pick).

-For Andy: Diamond Taylor was at Night of the Grateful Red, per Schultz in the Cap Times. He's spending a lot of time in Madison. We have to get this guy, can't think of a better name in Badgers hoops history.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Big Ten, national thoughts

Wow, another great Saturday of college football. These last few weekends clearly illustrate why, in my opinion, the college game is better than the professional game. USC or LSU loses? They may not get a chance to play for the title. They don't have the option of coming back through a playoff to win it all, so they have to be perfect week after week, or hope that the other top teams are as imperfect as they are.

Ohio State will probably be #1 later today, and at the risk of pulling a Craig James, I'll say that the Buckeyes will be the least deserving top-ranked team in my lifetime - not overrated, but undeserving. Their best win so far is at Washington, which is 2-4, 0-3. Having said that, OSU's remaining schedule is, on paper, challenging, and if they get through the regular season unbeaten, they will have earned my respect.

This is one of those years when you can't just blankly stare at records when ranking teams - you have to factor the quality of the wins and losses.

Here's how I would rank the top 10, even after the events of Saturday, October 13:

1. LSU - Les Miles was right about the SEC
2. Cal - he was wrong about the Pac-10, though, which is almost as good
3. Oregon
4. Ohio State
5. Boston College - not a much better resume than OSU
6. South Florida
7. South Carolina
8. Kentucky
9. USC
10. West Virginia

Big Ten thoughts from the weekend
Ohio State: Season starts next week.
Michigan: Would actually be my pick right now to win the Big Ten. Shows you how down the league is this year - UM and OSU are shells of what they were last year, when they were both legit well-rounded beasts.
Illinois: Figured this was bound to happen at some point, just wish it would have been last week. So much for my Mendenhall for Heisman campaign. And Juice is just not consistent enough passing yet.
Indiana: Figured this was bound to happen at some point, hope it happens again in two weeks.
Penn State: Looking like a solid #3, great chance to knock off Ohio State.
Wisconsin: Fading fast, could really use a bye week. A 1-6 Northern Illinois team should be the next best thing, but any of us who were in Vegas can tell you about these sure thing wins.
Northwestern: Give these kids and coaches a lot of credit for gutting out two straight OT wins. Still think they won't get bowl eligible, but if they are, Fitzgerald should be conference coach of the year.
Michigan State: There, our win two weeks ago looks better now. Can beat Ohio State.
Purdue: We've seen this Boilermaker team before. What a tease.
Iowa: Snapped an eight-game Big Ten losing streak with yesterday's win over Illinois. An eight-game Big Ten losing streak. And to think, 20 months ago I was pulling hard for Kirk Ferentz to be the Packers' next coach. The win does show that the Hawkeyes are as competitive, if flawed, as they showed in Madison.
Minnesota: C-A-N-T-S-T-O-P-A-N-Y-O-N-E! Can't stop anyone! Can't stop anyone! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaait 'till next year! We sure as hell had better win that one, will probably be 68-67 in five OTs.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wisconsin-born UW quarterbacks

Not to immediately change the subject, but in the event people don't want to talk about the game ...

This morning's Cap Times had an interesting story by Jim about the dearth of Wisconsin-born QBs starting for the state university. Remember the last one before Donovan? Bud Keyes, in 1987, Milinovich's freshman year.

Link to Cap Times story

Jim does a nice job of breaking down the reasons for this, and the names/hometowns of the QBs we've brought in over the past 20 years. It's a nice trip down memory lane. I have some thoughts on the matter, feel free to discuss.

Appleton Post-Crescent story from a few weeks ago

Appleton Post-Crescent photo of Donovan

Wisconsin-Penn State postgame thoughts

Well, we won't have to worry about rankings or conference races or anything like that for awhile. Maybe I should just move back to Ohio; the two years I lived there, the only two years I've lived outside of Wisconsin since 1983, were Rose Bowl years.

This team reminds me of the 2000 team. High expectations and top five ranking at the start of the year, some turmoil, getting by with some close wins early in the season, then it all snaps. That team had the Shoe Box and a bunch of NFL players; this team had/has a couple of bad seeds and some players who might become NFL players. That team had a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season, and I don't see that, but 4-4 in Big Ten play and a lower-tier bowl is reasonable.

This thought has been popping into my head lately: this team looks poorly coached. But that probably isn't the case, because the same staff did a great job last year (minus the always underrated Henry Mason, and DelVaughn Alexander, his replacement, has done a credible job considering his two starters have gone down). Last year's team got better every week during conference play; this year's team seems to be getting worse. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and blame the injuries, but if we cut down on all the mental errors, we have a shot in this one.

Shaughnessy played well today. He's not dominating, but he's been strong.

Was Royston in for Pleasant? Was it injury related, or performance related? Does it matter?

Injuries to and defections on the front seven have been fatal. As much as we can point at the LBs and DBs missing tackles, today their backs were getting to the second line with a full head of steam, untouched through the line. I don't think those players are worse than they were last year, they're dinged up and the depth behind them is non-existent.

Offensive line play has been okay, not horrible, not terrific.

Xavier Harris made a catch, slightly encouraging.

Really upset that we gave up on the run in the second half. The game was decided four minutes in - why not work on getting a rhythm in the run game rather than racking up desperation passing yards against a semi-prevent and setting Donovan up to get battered?

Penn State has a chance to run the table in the Big Ten, but they won't win it. Good team, but we made them look better than they really are.

Aaron Henry had a nice sack on a blitz, first time I remember seeing him since The Citadel game.

Good catch out of the backfield by Brown. He's not as big an asset as Smith at RB, but he's not a liability either. Smith's absence didn't cost us either of these last two games.

Guessing the shore sheet will show a lot more explosive plays - 20+ yards - yielded by the defense, but there were probably even more plays from 15-19 yards that were just as painful. No one has had to grind out scoring drives this season, the scores come quickly.

PSU's second string QB made a run where Casillas made the tackle about 5-7 yards after he could have. The defense is playing either tentatively or, as stated in the last post, overly aggressive. It's a mental thing as much as anything now. We can talk about the new starters, but guys who played really well last year are struggling, too.

The second half's boring nature allowed me to watch Kentucky-LSU and Boston College-Notre Dame a lot and see Woodson and Ryan. They're good, not wow! good today, but doing what they have to do.

Offensive prediction recap, actual numbers second:
PJ: 23 carries, 29 yards, 1 TD - 19 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD
Donovan: 19-29, 211 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT - 16-29, 220 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
Beckum: 8 catches, 94 yards - 5 catches, 70 yards
Jefferson: 3 catches, 49 yards - 6 catches, 124 yards - great game
Graham: 1 catch, 7 yards, 1 TD - 3 catches, 18 yards, 0 TD

Think I picked up that Musberger will be calling the NASCAR race on ABC tonight - sounds like a premise for an SNL sketch, with Kevin Nealon as Musberger. "Hang on a second - HE'S TAKING TWO NEW TIRES, FOLKS!" I'll skip that.

Wisconsin-Penn State halftime thoughts

Great start.

Second straight ABC game where they showed Donovan's picture when introducing the opposing starting QB. Good thing for Morelli, he is pretty ugly.

PJ introduced Donovan as "Triceps," which reminded me of one of Burch's 16 nicknames, "The Quad." Nothing like making nicknames out of underrated body parts.

Looking at Ike, I notice he has one long sleeve, one short. Saw this on Wake Forest's DBs the other night and I think a couple others today - fluke or trend? Would have been a good look on Schwalbach in '93.

Really nice touchdown drive - Donovan, PJ, Jefferson, Graham, Beckum all chipped in. Beckum was split wide left on his big catch, have to do that today against Connor and Lee.

Have a thought on the defense giving up big plays: the guys are so eager to make big plays themselves that they are running themselves out of position. Kinlaw's first run of the game was a perfect example, as Casillas ran right into a block rather than waiting for the garbage to clear out.

Donovan's first pick - totally Gilreath's fault. Two weeks ago he had another INT when Jefferson dropped on near the goal line against MSU.

PSU's second pick - totally Langford's fault, bit on an inside move when he had safety help inside, then was slow to recover. I thought he was supposed to be our technically sound cornerback.

Bad holding call wipes out nice draw by Brown - this team can't afford penalties like that, and the false start on Urbik earlier.

I think Williams' fumble on the punt return was a legit fumble and no penalty was warranted. Our gunner (is that Daven Jones? Nice play) seemed to get there right after the ball did, clearly contrary to Maguire's knee-jerk analysis. No replays after the commercial, though, would have been nice to see it again.

Royster TD run - Ike runs himself out of the play as if he was covering a guy man-to-man on a pass, when Morelli never looked for a split second as if he were going to pass. Well executed play by PSU, but shouldn't have gone for six.

Why not try a field goal at the end of the half? That's in Mehlhaff's range?

Don't give up on the run in the second half. PJ's horrible fumble aside, we're running pretty well. Get Brown some reps. Unfortunately the game situation will probably dictate less running, more passing.

Jimmy's TCT in-game blog.

Badgers' Midnight Madness

Last night the Badger basketball team had its first practice, at the Kohl Center in front of fans; I don't think it was technically a Midnight Madness, but that's the generic term, so we'll use it here.

State Journal story and photo

I saw a couple highlights on the Big Ten Network, parts of the three-point shooting and slam dunk contests. Here's the part I found most interesting:

"... (Brian) Butch made his way down Section 108 sporting boxing gloves and a towel over his head. He then sparred with redshirt freshman guard Brett Valentyn near midcourt."

Butch, despite his flaws, is one of my favorite Badgers. He's got to realize how goofy he looks doing certain things, like sparring with redshirt freshman guard Brett Valentyn near midcourt, but he doesn't care. Wish I had more of that attitude. Reminds me a bit of another Butch we know.

One other thing after watching several other Midnight Madness highlights from around the Big Ten: not much spectacular dunking in store for conference fans this year - some really lame efforts in schools' respective dunk contests. Marcus Landry's was the best I saw.

Looks like it was called Night of the Grateful Red. I like Midnight Madness better.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Room for Kanye?

Jim made this comment earlier today that deserves its own post:

I texted a couple of you guys today. I saw Kanye West in the O'Hare airport. It was the second sighting for our group, as Willy and Kanye shared a flight from New York to Vegas. Maybe he wants to join our tight-knit community.

I fully expect him to be on my Appleton-to Detroit-to-Philadelphia flight Wednesday morning, and if he's not pissed off about some perceived slight I'll holla at him. Maybe he wants to run with us at Crazylegs '08, or walk with Schwib and the girls. He'd probably be good at Garage Ball and/or Yard Ball, if he lost the shades.

Question for observers: what do we think about his new album? Particularly Stronger and Good Life? Personally, I like them. This spring, Toohey made the comment that he had no songs on his iPod from this century; upon further review, I've got some of those, but few from the past 2-3 years, mainly just Kanye songs. His antics are sort of annoying, but I like the music.

Wisconsin-Penn State preview

My first memory of Penn State came in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. They were playing Miami that year, and Miami had beaten my favorite team at the time - Oklahoma - earlier that season, and I wanted them to lose bad. Then they showed up at the stadium wearing fatigues and cultivating a bad boy image. I really wanted them to lose bad. Knew next to nothing about Penn State - the only player from that team I can remember is Shane Conlan - but I was a big fan that night. And they won.

Time wore on, and when PSU joined the Big Ten I was happy, it was a nice expansion for the league. Joe Paterno's 1994 team was awesome, with Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter (my wife's favorite player from that team), Kyle Brady, etc. They should have won the national title that year, not Nebraska. I remember watching their bowl game at Froehlich's that year with him and Burch yelling "Penn State! (clap clap) Penn State! (clap clap)"

And for the most part they've remained one of my least-hated teams in the conference. We've had some great games with them (even losses) and great wins against them over the past 15 years. A few things bother me about their program now, though:

1. Lot of troublemakers in the program ... although we could apply the glass house rule here, too.
2. JoePa's rant at the end of the first half of last year's game, when Bielema had the kick coverage team go offside time after time, was ridiculous - there was nothing being done against the rules of the time. It wasn't the first time Paterno had gone apesh!t on a ref recently, and that sort of behavior is unbecoming when it's consistent.
3. After Erasmus James took out Michael Robinson a couple years ago, Robinson's mom prayed for Ras to get hurt, and he eventually did.
4. Will said that when he went to the '05 game at Beaver Stadium, the fans were not as classy and dignified as I had previously thought, in fact it was just the opposite. That and the Badgers' loss made it a less than pleasurable experience for Will.

On the field this year, the teams look pretty even - flawed squads with some talent who were legitimate preseason contenders but are now on track to go 5-3 or 4-4 in the Big Ten and fight for a berth in the Outback Bowl. Either team could get hot and run off a bunch of wins, but their performance to date doesn't indicate that's likely.

Both teams lost at Illinois by about a touchdown. PSU somehow played a worse non-conference schedule than UW. PSU lost at Michigan, but UW probably would have lost that game at that time as well. PSU had an easier time with Iowa at home, but they caught the Hawkeyes two games further into what looks to be a monumental collapse.

Luckily for Bucky, PSU's QB, Anthony Morelli, is immobile. Unluckily, he's got a nice arm and talented wideouts. I think we can handle them. Their best back is one of the scofflaws and he's out, but his replacement is fine.

PSU's defense seems to be as good as usualy, featuring great linebackers. Dan Connor and Sean Lee get a lot of press, and they should - they were probably better than Paul Posluzny last year, and he was pretty damn good himself. We'll have a tough time running on them, but I thought the same thing last year and PJ had his best game of the stretch run. Many analysts are saying our passing game is shot with Swan out, but I think otherwise. Still, it'll be tough to move the ball on these guys.

PJ: 23 carries, 79 yards, 1 TD (whoops, originally typed 29 yards, my bad)
Donovan: 19-29, 211 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Beckum: 8 catches, 94 yards
Jefferson: 3 catches, 49 yards
Graham: 1 catch, 7 yards, 1 TD
Ike: First pick of the year
Shaughnessy: 1 sack, generally disruptive
Hayden: 1 sack
Levy: 1 sack

Score: Penn State 20, Wisconsin 17

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lanch party!

Can we go back to 30-minute episodes of The Office? These hour shows every week are just too much. What was the focal point of tonight's episode again? Bad pizza? Kidnapping? Ryan's a tool? IM gags? Pam and Jim discuss relationship minutiae that no one else would find remotely interesting?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I give it a C, since there were still some funny lines and moments. Will's point about the British version wrapping things up after two seasons looks prescient. As much as anything, the Jim-Pam thing could have ended on the right note, not with the two talking about yogurt on the roof. Were my expectations too high entering the season? Was the show ever really as good as it was in my mind?

So many of these plot lines center around intra-office romances or hook-ups -- potential, imagined, current or past: Jim-Pam, Michael-Jan, Ryan-Kelly, now Darrell-Kelly, Roy-Pam, Roy-Angela, Meredith-Michael, Toby-Pam, now Meredith-Jim, Angela-Dwight, now Andy-Angela. What's next, Dwight has a torrid affair with Phyllis and she breaks up with Bob Vance of Vance refrigeration? It's becoming like Friends with ties and less Italian stereotypes.

Anyway, there were still parts that made me chuckle:

Kevin on the Lunch Party sign: "Maybe you could just change the U to an A."

"Three reams - in your face!" (Not as funny now as I remember it being at the time.)

Angela to Pam: "I would like to have a relationship with a man."

Kevin on Pizza by Alfredo: "It's like eating a hot circle of garbage." (Ditto from the three reams comment.)

The staff in unison: "A medium amount of good pizza."

Did Rainn Wilson forget to shave before shooting this episode? Or is that stubble just meant to illustrate how he's falling apart without Angela.

Also, another couple of outbursts from Carrell that we haven't seen from his Michael Scott in awhile.

I think there's one more hour-long episode to go before we can get back to normal, can't happen soon enough.

Heisman handicap

Eleven years ago this autumn I did a weekly Heisman scorecard in my What's on Tapp column. For much of the semester, I promoted Orlando Pace's non-candidacy, thus dashing my credibility with my 12 readers. Did Danny Wuerffel end up winning that year?

Anyway, let's take a look at this year's field as of October 11.

1. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
2. DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal
3. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
4. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
5. Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky
6. Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii
7. Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon
8. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
9. Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri
10. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (Just like my old Pace pick - the best player in college football, but can't win it because of his position. Thought Woodson winning in '97 might break that stalemate, but we haven't seen it since.)
11. PJ Hill, RB, Wisconsin
127. Mike Hart, RB, Michigan

As you might have guessed, I'm a big fan of Mendenhall, was even before last week. He's putting up big numbers against good teams, and has several marquee games left. Illinois's passing attack is iffy, so he'll get plenty of chances.

Jackson is the most exciting player in college football, but it's just so hard (that's what she said) for a wide receiver to win it. Jackson recently had a dry stretch, and he can't afford any more. He also has some showcase games coming up, could put him in the lead.

Arkansas and Kentucky will lose too many games for McFadden and Woodson to win, and the ACC is too pathetic for Ryan's chances.

Hart is the most overrated player in college football. In this week's TSN Heisman watch: " He's back - 215 yards and three touchdowns against Eastern Michigan." EMU? Way to go Mike! It's increible the weight college's brand names carry, and unfortunate.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Baggo or Cornhole?

In the dictionary, next to the term "bipartisan," there is a picture. Not of politicians working across the aisle, but of me and renowned Gopher fan Chris Toren cleaning up the competition on a brisk Saturday morning in October 2005, awaiting the start of the Best Badger Road Game Ever at the Humpty Dome (sorry Jimbo). We were having a grand time, talking about children, Chris's experience at business school, and our total, in inexplicable domination of that day's round of Cornhole.

Or is it Baggo?

Had to laugh last night when I opened up Newsweek and read a story about the controversy surrounding the name of this game, which is becoming more and more popular by the college football Saturday. Apparently, there is an American Cornhole Association, which only proves that there's an association for every damn thing out there.

Check out that ACA website, it's pretty insane.

The Newsweek story spends too much time dissecting which term for the game - Cornhole or Baggo - is likely to make the guys from Superbad giggle, but it does point out why the game has gained popularity. Primarily, it's because you have one had free to hold a drink. Explains why I don't do judo anymore.

The first time I thought this game might have legs was at Schwib's wedding, when Todd made a pimped-out Badgercentric version of it for the groom (and, presumably, bride), and we played it during the reception, inside. Got any pictures of that bad boy you could share with us Matt?

When Andy and I were walking to the season opener against Washington State this year, Randall Street was full of Baggo/Cornhole contests, in addition to Beer Pong tables and Testicle Toss games (another game that goes by many iffy names - you know, you have two golf balls held together by rope and you try to drape it over a PVC pipe frame). Did we have any of these games when we were in school, just 10 years ago? Not to my recollection. If we did, maybe we wouldn't have spent so much time running into refrigerators, busting windows with army helmets, and stopping fans with our tongues.

All I know is that when we get together and play Cornhole/Baggo, whether it's family or friends, a good time is had by all. Except for the guys who lost to Tappa and Toren after being up 19-4.

Badger wide receiver situation

Been doing some thinking on the Badgers' situation at wide receiver without Swan, and I'm not feeling as bad about it as I did at first. That is to take nothing away from Swanny, great player, great story, etc. Here's why:

As predicted before, I see Chryst using Beckum split wide more often, with Jefferson as the second wideout. If he wants to go two-tight end, he can go with Graham and Turner or Crooks. Becks might not be as precise a route runner as Swan (or he might be, haven't broken down the tape on this one ... or any other one), but he just finds ways to get open. And Jefferson has shown he can make plays.

Just don't see the other guys mentioned as possible "step up" candidates - Maurice Moore, Daven Jones, Marcus Randle-El, Gilreath, Xavier Harris - making an appreciable impact. Surely not right away against a good Penn State team. Maybe Gilreath, we have evidence of his quickness. Prove me wrong, guys.

This reminds me of the 2002 season, when Evans got hurt and Williams and Orr stepped in as starters as freshmen (anyone remember if they were true or redshirt?) and put up good numbers, but it was definitely not smooth sailing for that year's offense, or team.

BTW, read on the JS Badger blog that Williams had just signed with the Rams, didn't know he'd been cut by the Niners.

One other Badger note: the beat writers are making note of how much Donovan threw against Illinois, and for good reason, it was too much. That was dictated more by game situation - playing from two scores behind much of the game - rather than original intent, but it can't continue if this program is to have success.

Every time a Badger QB throws a ton of passes for a ton of yards, all I can think of is the loss to Minnesota in '93, when Bevell moved the team up and down the field but had five picks. That game cost UW a chance at a national championship, at least in Barry's mind. Just hope the day our QB threw 49 passes and two picks at Illinois doesn't cost us in the same way, although the way our D is playing we might lose again.

Allan Houston and Vinny Testaverde sign: Is this 1996?

Two quick things from today's headlines from the "I Love the '90s" department:

-The Knicks signed Allan Houston today.

-The Panthers signed Vinny Testaverde today.

In other news, Bob Dole is positioning himself as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Prince Charles and Princess Di are getting divorced, and I'm listening to Chumbawamba on Bowen Court.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Another brush with greatness for Will: Judd Apatow

Here's a text message/email you're not going to get from me on an average weeknight close to home:

"A-Rod just walked into the bar I'm at."

Here's another:

"... so I am walking back to my desk earlier this morning ... and I literally almost bump into Judd Apatow. Turns out he was here for a meeting ... anyway, they invited the whole staff to later met with the guy and he was really, really cool. Talked about some of his upcoming projects and answered one of my questions and didn't make me feel like a tool in the process."

This email came from, you guessed it, my dad - Judd was in Sheboygan today checking on some insurance details.

Actually, you might have guessed it came from our good friend Will, who once called me to tell me that he'd seen Sandy Duncan while working at Blockbuster over the summer. You've come a long way, Willie!

Very exciting to hear about Will's brush with greatness. The Scandinavia Tappas are big fans of most everything Judd, and would loved to have been in the audience. Our one serious question would have been this: "Did Undeclared ever get close to being picked up by another network after Fox dropped the most awesome half-hour show ever?" (What was your question, Will?)

I thought we'd take a moment to hit the filmography and pass out some grades on projects Mr. Apatow has been associated with, in reverse chronological order:

Knocked Up: C - not bad, but Jana and I were hoping for more. We love Seth Rogen, but not as a leading guy. And oh my goodness, was he terrible on SNL last week. To me the best parts of the movie were Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, Judd's wife.

Talladega Nights: B-minus - Had a carafe of wine on our anniversary, walked to the theater, saw this, laughed, went home happy.

40-year-old Virgin: A - His best work, hilarious and touching at the same time. This is how Knocked Up was hyped, but it just didn't get near it. (And if you haven't seen the DVD extras with the Rudd-Rogen "you know how I know you're gay?" extended sequence, you must.) Jonah Hill made about a 90-second appearance in this movie, and it was far better than his time cussing through Knocked Up, and I would wager better than his starring role in Superbad, which I have yet to see. Also love that he cast his wife as a drunken lady of loose morals who pukes on Steve Carrell. Romany Malco, now on Weeds, really had his coming out party here.

-Kicking & Screaming: A-minus - Great flick, Ditka was really good in it.

-Anchorman: D - Felt like one long inside joke that I wasn't let in on. Pretty much everyone who's seen this totally disagrees with us on this one, but I'm standing firm. Although I did like "Whammy!"

-Undeclared: A - you probably didn't see this when it was on in 2001-02, but this show about four college suitemates was terrific. It was Rogen's best work, he was totally natural and semi-improvisational, and Jay Baruchel was an inspired lead who who haven't really seen again since his overeager role in Knocked Up. Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Will Ferrell all guest starred, but the show was so strong on its own that they seemed like unnecessary distractions. Jason Segal as a dude whose girlfriend went off to college but couldn't let go was so spot-on, reminded me of 100 losers we knew in Madison.

-Freaks and Geeks: B-plus - we just got done watching the DVDs of this show's one season. You've probably read critical acclaim for this show at some time or another, and it deserved it. What made it great was that it accurately depicted teenage life, but didn't go for the cheap, formulaic ending like other classic high school shows - 90210, Dawson's Creek, or Saved By The Bell.

Also worked on some '90s stuff of note - Larry Sanders Show, Cable Guy, Celtic Pride, The Critic - that I was too busy racing slot cars and playing Ping Pong to watch.

So that's my hero worship post for the week. I'll be in Atlantic City next week for an antiques show we run, and there's an outside chance I'll bump into the last surviving Munchkin from Wizard of Oz - we'll cover his career and the rest of the Lollipop Guild then.

Baseball playoffs

The number of games it took was not quite right, but I correctly predicted three of the four first round winners in the MLB playoffs: Arizona, Boston, Cleveland. Still don't have any idea who plays for Colorado. Apparently someone named U. Jimenez started their clincher against Philly.

So the Yankees lose in the first round again. Tough to see Joe Torre go out like that, he's a class act and doesn't deserve the treatment he gets from Steinbrenner. However, the Boss is paying this crew $215 million and probably should be seeing better results. Hiring Joe Girardi would be a good move, he was smart to hold out for something better after the Marlins inexplicably fired him.

For those who watched that game until the end: was the crowd reaction after Abreu's ninth inning homer weird or what? It was pretty much 50,000+ people clapping, but not screaming. It was the appropriate response, as the Yankees were still down two, but it was still sort of eerie.

Updated predictions:
Indians over Red Sox in seven
D-Backs over Rockies in six

World Series
Indians over D-Backs in five

Monday, October 8, 2007

Titan shout-out from Ike!

Quote in Potrykus's story today (which also nicely breaks down that Donovan incompletion I referenced Saturday):

"We were playing undisciplined football," UW cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said of the defense. "And you play that way against Illinois or . . . I don't know, UW-Oshkosh, it doesn't matter. If you play undisciplined football, you're going to get beat."

Now, Oshkosh has made great strides since Phil Meyer took over when Schwib, Frank and I arrived in town seven years ago, and Pat Cerroni has done a good job keeping the program moving forward since Phil left to coach with Brewster at the U. But Ike might be getting a bit dramatic here, and I hope his comments aren't seen as disparaging. He should have said "... I don't know, Minnesota."

Oh, and we're discussing Swan's season-ending injury, as reported by Millie and Jim Polzin of The Capital Times, in this comment thread.

G Force

One last thought from the Packer game before moving on:

Apparently, there is a movement to call the assembled mases at Lambeau the "G Force." Last night we were handed white shirts intended at achieving a white out, but the effort fell short. Guess the Bielemization of state football fans has its limits.

But G Force? The Packers are the most tradition-rich franchise in the NFL, play in a shrine - you can tell the first time visitors to Lambeau, they carry around their cameras like tourists at Disney - and have a unique legion of die hard fans. Did they really need a nickname that sounds like a Great America ride?

Also lame: "Tundra Line," which is about 15 okay high school drummers playing the drum at slightly-faster-than-normal rates in the end zone before quarters. It's like the Bucket Boys (a staple at the Big Ten Tournament, four kids from Chicago banging sticks on buckets for 10 minutes, incredible act) without the tempo, rhythm, or showmanship. They're trying hard, though.

The angry Packers blog post

Because Jimmy asked for it ...

Ever since the 1998 season, when TO caught that last-second pass to beat the Packers in a first-round playoff game in San Francisco and I just about destroyed my Fremont apartment, I've resolved not to get that worked up about Packer outcomes. And I've been pretty successful; the fourth-and-26 year notwithstanding, the team's general decline has made this easier.

But this year was building toward something special, something worth getting really excited about, and I think all of us Packer fans smelled blood in the water last night as the Bears ambled into town. And most of us saw what happened next.

The Packers lost. Back to keeping everything in perspective when it comes to the Pack. Probably better for the blood pressure.

It would not be correct to lump "Bears" and "won" in the same sentence of this game recap, because it would be a stretch. In truth, last night the Packers out-Beared the Bears. Turnovers, defensive breakdowns, unimaginative play calling. Etc.

-Got to Lambeau about an hour before the game started, much earlier than usual, and the stands were packed much earlier than usual. Great atmosphere. Our friends Kevin and Missy, who took us, have great seats, in the northwest end zone - great proximity to the bathrooms, never had to wait in line, which is huge.

-UW band played several times, they were terrific, third time I've gotten to see them play this year. The daughter of the friends who took us to the game is thinking about attending UW and trying out for band. In the fourth quarter, the tubas, as is their custom, marched in the south end zone and spelled out something funny pertaining to the opponent: "Nice clipboard Rex." All this gave me the opportunity to tell the life story of Zach Dachel, which I'm sure was not interesting to anybody but me.

-Best pair of jerseys: a pair of dudes walking, one wearing a Chmura jersey and the other a Grossman jersey. They got more jeers than Taylor Hicks, who made an awkward appearance on the scoreboard in the second half.

-Other great jerseys in attendance: Chuck Cecil, Wayne Simmons, Jim Miller (!), Don Beebe, Abdul Hodge.

-Here's one for my college roommates: Marlena from Days of our Lives was there.

-Urlacher was a complete non-factor. Don't bring up the interception, any one of us could have made the play, which was the dumbest pass I've seen Favre throw in years. Hell, Deshawn Freaking Wynn faked Big Bad Brian out of his jock several times. He'll be in trouble without Briggs next year.

-The Bears fan behind us had a severe man crush on Devin Hester, and was upset every time we pooch kicked it. I was too - giving the Bears the ball on the 40 every time was a horrible disadvantage for the defense. After the game, the Bears fan traveled back to Chicago in a limo.

-One player on the Bears impressed me: Greg Olson. On the drive in, I was talking about how I wanted to Packers to pick Olson in the April draft, after Marshawn Lynch went to Buffalo, and then they go and pick a projected third rounder who plays in the deepest position on the team. Really cost them last night. My buddy Dean said Harrell had some unassisted tackles last night, but I sure didn't see them.

-Bears are an 8-8 team. They look like the team I thought the Packers would be before the season. Benson is nothing special, and neither was the blocking for him. Defense just fell on the ball when we coughed it up on routine tackles.

-The Bears did make the better adjustments in the second half, taking away the slant that Favre worked to death in the first half. After the pick, McCarthy got really conservative, and Chicago teed off on the run.

-The TD pass to Jennings happened right in front of us, what a beautiful throw and catch.

-Morency looked good when he got in.

-A Bears fan five rows in front of us got kicked out. The guy, wearing an orange Urlacher jersey and wacky orange-and-blue hair piece, turned around and started aggressively taunting the rest of our section after the Woodson fumble. A mild-mannered guy two rows in front of me pushed him, the Bears fan pushed back, and the guy who threw the first push ran with his wife to get security. The entire section fingered the Urlacher jersey guy for the cops, and he got the boot. I thought it was great, but Jana could not get over that the Packers fan who pushed first was not ejected; as usual, she was right, but that annoying Chicago fan (is that redundant?) got what he deserved.

-I believe that on the game-winning TD pass Griese was actually looking for the running back (Peterson?) who was well-covered, then looked up and realized no one was covering Clark. Great play call.

-Wells being out at center really hurt, both the running game and the two-minute offense. At least twice on the Packers' last drive Favre had to pump his foot twice before Spitz snapped the ball, which may have cost them a play. Spitz also had a hold. I hear Wells has an eye injury, that'll slow down the momentum the running game was building.

-McCarthy's two challenges were ill-advised to say the least. Losing the second one was huge for play calling on the last drive.

Overall, no one expected the Packers to be 4-1 at this point, with a chance to be 5-1 going into the bye with a two-game lead on Chicago. Hmmmm ... switch just a couple of those words and numbers around and we could have been talking about the Brewers in early July.

#19 - really?

Before going into my Packers game rant that Jimmy was looking for, here's a short one modeled after the Seth Myers-Amy Poehler Weekend Update segment: Really?

So Wisconsin loses, on the road, by five to a team that was favored to win by 3.5, a team that is ranked 18th in this week's poll, and the Badgers fall 14 spots to #19. Really? It's not like we lost to Stanford at home.

Mind you, this is in the AP poll, and we all know how sharp sportswriters are. ;) We're #15 in the USA Today and Harris polls. And, as I discussed several weeks ago, there's a very good chance that we are, indeed, only the 19th best team in the country. But for rankings' sake, that loss did not warrant that far of a drop. It's a reflection of just how badly voters wanted to drop UW.

Again, none of this matters in the grand scheme of things - if we win things will take care of themselves, Big Ten- and BCS-wise, but you really wish the voters would put more thought and consistency into it.

Overall, I'm getting a kick out of the poll and all the non-traditional teams in it: Kentucky, South Carolina, Hawaii, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri. It's good for the sport.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Week 6 Big Ten recap

Well, like everyone said the conference is down this year, and much like the Brewers failed to take advantage of a weak NL Cenral this year, I fear the Badgers will not seize the opportunity at hand. A rundown of the teams following yesterday.

Ohio State: Beat Purdue convincingly. During the broadcast, Herbstreit said this could be better than last year's team. Here's a thought for sports broadcasters: don't hire analysts who are sooooooo close to their alma mater that they can't think clearly and let them cover said alma mater's games. Here's who the mighty Buckeyes have beaten this year: Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue. Wow, a real murderer's row. Up next: Kent State. And this team will be ranked #2 or 3 later today? All that said, this is clearly the best team in the Big Ten at this moment.

Illinois, Wisconsin: see yesterday's game report.

Michigan: They're back? Why is that again? Because they beat a 2-4 Eastern Michigan team by 11 in front of the most consistently quiet 100,000+ crowd on the planet? Their other victims since being embarrassed to open the season are Notre Dame, Penn State, and Northwestern. Impressive.

Indiana: Better than I thought, I see them finishing 4-4 or 5-3 in conference.

Purdue: Just not ready for prime time yet. Are they ever?

Penn State: Came back nicely yesterday after back-to-back tough losses, should be favored by about 5 over us this week. Will lose another couple games in conference.

Michigan State, Iowa: Those heart-stopping wins we had to open the Big Ten don't look so good any more, do they? Oh well, it's good for recruiting.

Northwestern: Didn't see that one coming yesterday, Michigan State's defense is atrocious.

Minnesota: Big stretch against Northwestern and North Dakota state will determine whether they finish with one, two, or three wins this season. My guess is they win one game. NDSU is #2 in Division 1-AA; their running backs coach is a guy from Iola, Tim Polasek.

Long way to go. If you made me bet right now, I'd say Ohio State wins the conference with one loss, to Wisconsin.