Wednesday, November 30

Buckeye Basketball Preview

Even with how disastrous the 2011 year has been for Ohio St football, Buckeye fans have reason for optimism. As has been noted several times on this blog, Urban Meyer is our new football coach and, after a brief one-year hiatus, OSU’s dominance over the Big Ten looks to continue. Also, Ohio St hoops is really, really good. Evidence of this was found in last night’s 23-point shellacking of #3 ranked Duke. I realize we are only a couple of weeks into this season, but if Duke is as good as people say they are (and they usually are), this will probably be the most impressive performance from any team all regular season long. The Bucks dominated from start to finish in every aspect of the game to notch their 29th consecutive home win. I’ll take a look at some of the keys and possible downfalls to an Ohio St title run in March, as well as the usual random thoughts that cross my mind. (If you want to read a more well-written and informed preview, check out Mark Titus’ piece for Grantland, but read mine first.)

Ohio St has a “core-four” of guys that will do the majority of the work this year (See: Duke game, 76 out of 85 points). I’ll briefly break down how each can contribute (or impede) the hopes of cutting down the nets, as well as what we can expect from the rest of squad.

Jared Sullinger, Forward
It really all starts and ends with this guy. He was probably the best player in the nation last year, averaging over 17 points and 10 rebounds a game. Since then he has shed some weight and just looks like an absolute monster. He was quick at 300+ pounds last year, now at 280 I don’t know if there is a quicker big man in the country.

There are a lot of reasons to be impressed with this guy, but two stand out for me. The first is his intensity. He has such a strong passion for the game and the will to win, and you can see it every time he steps onto the court. You can tell he is enjoying himself out there, but cross him and look out. His flexing/best-impression-of-a-mean-ape-face (pictured above) can be intimidating for the opposition as well as motivating/confidence boosting for his teammates. The other thing I really like about Sully is his foul shooting. While his 70% last season wasn’t spectacular, it’s still good enough to take the hack-a-Shaq method off the table. In the small sample size of this season, he’s upped that number to 83%. It is pretty tough to stop this man without fouling, and if he’s hitting from the stripe at an 83% clip, you might as well go home now.

Sullinger’s one slight weakness that I talked about a season ago was that he looked lost at times on defense when fellow big man Dallas Lauderdale wasn’t in the game to back him up. Knowing that Dallas would be gone this year, he has clearly worked on that part of his game as he looks like a much tougher one-on-one defender this season. The key for him will be playing aggressive D without getting into foul trouble, which has never plagued him before but could be more of a factor without the presence of Swat-erdale behind him.

I may not be going out on much of a limb here, but I’m calling Sully hoisting the Naismith Award at season’s end.

Aaron Craft, Point Guard
Last year as a freshman, Craft’s decision-making, defense, and passing ability looked like that of a sixth-year senior. He seems to have only improved each of those traits, as well as adding some range - averaging 15 points on 4/9 three-point shooting the past three games. Ohio St will need someone other than Sullinger and Will Buford to step up as a third scoring option this season, and Craft may be able to lend a hand here and there.

That being said, his game is still about controlling the ball, making expert passes, and playing Steve Wojo-like defense. Now, Craft isn’t and never will be the shooting threat that Jamar was, but his passing game reminds me so much of former OSU PG Jamar Butler. The way he sees everything on the court is astonishing. He makes near-full court passes seem like bounce passes from the foul line. Jared Sullinger is the team’s best player, but Aaron Craft may be the key to the season. (Also, I put the over/under on how many times an announcer informs us that he was the starting quarterback and valedictorian of his high school at 5,000.)

William Buford, Guard/Forward
Buford is a four-year starter and the lone senior on this Buckeye squad. If you want to be entertained, watch Will Buford. He’s never seen a shot he didn’t like, but he’s also never averaged less than 11 points in his four seasons in the scarlet and grey. The man is a scoring machine, and with a fabulous year actually has a chance to become Ohio St’s all-time leading scorer. My friend and I used to laugh watching him as a freshman and sophomore, because I literally don’t think he passed once in two seasons. He still doesn’t like to share the rock, but he has developed his overall game by a significant margin (his rebound, assist and shooting percentage numbers this season are all career highs, while his turnovers are down).

While I have no problem with Buf jacking up shot after shot, I would still like to see him try to get to the basket more. The problem with strictly jump-shooting players is that one cold night could be catastrophic if your team is counting on them. We all remember Will’s 2 of 16 shooting performance against Kentucky in last year’s Sweet 16 all too well.

Deshaun Thomas, Forward
The similarities of Thomas’ game last year to Buford during his freshman season were staggering. He never passed up an opportunity to shoot, even when that clearly was the wrong decision. If he can progress like Buf, however, Buckeye fans are in for a treat the next few years, because the guy can score. He really took over the Duke game when the Devils closed the gap midway through the first half. He has range, but definitely needs to get more selective in his shooting. Watching him and Buford on the floor at the same time is overly comical/enjoyable. Also, I’d like to now formally nickname him “Tank.”

The Rest
With the fabulous trio of Jon Diebler, David Lighty, and Dallas Lauderdale all graduating from last year’s seven-man rotation, no one other than the above four have any real playing experience. Now with the talent level of those four, Thad Matta isn’t asking a lot from the rest of his players, but their contribution, however little it may be, could be the difference between winning or losing a tight game in March.

Seven other members of the Buckeyes have seen decent minutes thus far, and the cast of characters is as follows: junior forward Evan Ravenel, sophomore guards Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert and forward J.D. Weatherspoon, and the freshman class of Shannon Scott (G), Sam Thompson (F), and Amir Williams (C).

The three I expect to be permanent fixtures of the rotation are Smith, Sibert, and Ravenel. The members outside the top four aren’t going to need to score, they’re going to be asked to play good defense and rebound, and these three guys seem to be the best at that. Smith has gotten the start at each game so far, so he obviously has the inside track to see the most minutes. I see him as sort of a David Light. (Get it, as in the watered down version of David Lighty? I am so damn clever.) He’s going to be challenged with the task of being that lockdown perimeter defender that Lighty was, plus he can do a little bit of everything, just not as good as Lighty could obviously (5.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals this season).

Sibert may be the only name you recognize from last season, as he was the 8th man and saw limited action here and there. Ravenel just looks like a beast, and is the only guy with real size other than Jared. Weatherspoon is probably the best scorer out of this bunch, but as I’ve stated scoring isn’t what these guys are needed to do. I understandably haven’t seen much of these freshmen, but Williams was the most highly touted and probably has the most potential.

The NCAA field is wide open this year, with North Carolina and Kentucky (along with Ohio St) looking like the heavyweights. The Bucks will make a trip to Kansas on December 10, and then should cruise through the rest of the non-conference schedule into the new year. The Big Ten is perennially tough, and this year is no different. Wisconsin is a top 10 squad and as always virtually unbeatable at home, and teams 3-9 in the conference could beat anyone on any given night (Penn St, Nebraska, and Iowa being the other three that just flat-out stink).

Seeing as the college basketball regular season means absolutely nothing, I don’t think it would hurt the Bucks to lose a game or two throughout the year. It’s always nice to win a conference title and securing a #1 seed in the tourney can’t hurt, but aren’t necessary elements to bringing home a title.

Jared Sullinger just needs to be Jared Sullinger. Barring an injury, he’s going to be a beast - no doubt in my mind. The keys for a Buckeye championship run will be for Aaron Craft to continue playing at an All-American level, Will Buford to be a consistent scorer, Tank Thomas to provide a solid third scoring option, and the rest of the crew playing good enough defense to not blow a game. Chin up, Buckeye fans - this is going to be an entertaining and successful b-ball season.


Discount Double Check

If you've watched any NFL football recently, and if you're reading this you have, then you have no doubt seen the State Farm commercial advertising their "Discount Double Check" service and featuring Aaron Rodgers. I will recap it nonetheless:

- Rodgers is talking insurance with a State Farm agent.

- A couple comes in and thanks said agent for performing a discount double check for them and they make Rodgers' touchdown gesture.

- Rodgers, confused, asks why they're doing his TD move.

- They say it's the discount double check move.

- Rodgers says, no, it's my touchdown dance.

- They laugh and say, "what, you're a dancer?"

- Rodgers says, "no I'm a quarterback."

- They laugh, the guy says, "I'm a robot" and they walk past him sarcastically. Joke's on you, Aaron Rodgers!

- Random Packer fanatic runs by the window, does the move, yells "Rodgers! Discount Double Check!"

First of all, the State Farm agent is a douchebag for co-opting Rodgers' move to sell insurance. I don't think a move is necessary for insurance sales at all, but if you need one, think of your own. Rodgers should throw a football at this guy's stomach.

Second, these customers are real assholes. What kind of idiots don't even recognize Aaron Rodgers? Make hilarious robot jokes all you want, but you're the ones living under a rock. Presumably this takes place in Wisconsin (why else would Rodgers be there?), which makes these peoples' ignorance even more egregious. This just doesn't work. Rodgers should spike them with footballs too.

Aaron Rodgers' team beat the steelers in the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, November 29

Urban Meyer quick hits

Like any Buckeye fan across Ohio and throughout the nation, I'm excited that Urban Meyer has officially agreed to become the head football coach at the Ohio State University, signing a six-year, $24 million deal (plus incentives for finishing the contract). Here are my quick takes on it.

- One day. That's all we gave those losers up north to enjoy their first win in The Game in eight years. One day. Now the spotlight is back on OSU, and the balance of power in the rivalry shifted way the hell back in our favor.

- One day.

- OSU's coach is named after a pope - Notre Dame's, not so much.

- I saw one column about "the problem with Urban Meyer" that was about how he works too hard. Damn, that sucks for us.

- He said at least five times in his press conference that he had "researched" or "done research" into various things. This appeals strongly to the scientist in me.

- Luke Fickell will apparently stay on as an assistant to Meyer, and I'm happy about that. I've picked on TCF's Brian McPeek in the past at times, but he nailed his article today, especially his eloquent essay defending Fickell. You put a guy who's never been a head coach in charge of a major program, in a year where they've lost their head coach to scandal, lost eight defensive starters, had two all-conference-level performers suspended for much of the year, lost a Heisman candidate QB, and started a true freshman QB. How, exactly, was this guy supposed to succeed? He was a fall guy and did the best he could. Yeah, we all can quibble with some of his decisions - taking too long to install Miller at the helm, the Wildcat plays - but I admire the way he handled the season and guided the team through an impossible situation. I'm disappointed at the venom and derision some Buckeye fans have sent his way, and I'm looking forward to him collecting a second championship ring here in a few years.

Go Bucks!

Monday, November 28

This doesn't make ann arbor any less of a whore.

Last Saturday, for the first time in nearly 3,000 days, the michigan wolverines were able to celebrate a victory over Ohio St. It sucked - a lot. I felt that the Buckeyes were going to notch their eighth straight win over that school up north, mostly because I thought our defense could slow down can’t-tie and that Boom Herron was going to run all over the scum defense. I might as well have predicted a Kim Kardashian relationship would last and Sarah Jessica Parker would win a beauty contest. can’t-tie had by far the best game of his career - rushing for 170 yards, throwing for 167 more, scoring five total touchdowns and not turning the ball over once. Boom, on the other hand, had 15 carries for just 37 yards, averaging only 2.5 per carry.

robinson played a fantastic game, and I’m going to leave it at that. Ohio St’s defense was the real disappointment in this one. The 40 points the wolverines scored were the most for them in the rivalry since 1946. Andrew Sweat not being out there made a huge difference, but this just didn’t look like an OSU performance. CB Travis Howard got beat time and time again, LB Etienne Sabino was on his ass every other play, and even John Simon didn’t have the impact that I was hoping for. It was just bad all the way around.

Offensively, Braxton Miller did some very good things and some very bad things. He was 14/25 for 235 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT (a desperation heave on 4th down in the final seconds), while rushing 16 times for 100 yards and another score - his best statistical game of his short career. But he missed several wide-open guys, and he missed them badly. I just keep going back to the final drive when the michigan defense somehow let DeVier Posey get behind them and Braxton wasn’t even close. Even after a disappointing 7-5 season, that might go down as one of the greatest plays/wins in this rivalry if he makes that throw.

But instead, the 2011 Buckeyes close the regular season at 6-6, finishing under .500 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1999. With all of the scandals/suspensions/departures in Columbus since last season, this was probably to be expected, but it just seems so foreign to someone who has seen so much Buckeye success in his lifetime.

So the streaks of consecutive Big Ten titles (6), BCS Bowl games (6), and victories over that school up north (7) all come to an end. But all is not lost - Braxton Miller has shown flashes of brilliance, and Ohio St announced this morning that Urban Meyer is officially on board to be the new coach of the program. I’ll leave you with the epic words of Harvey Dent…“The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you - the dawn is coming.”


Saturday, November 26

NFL Picks: Week 12

Last Week
Joe: 9-3-2 (wow)
Figgs: 7-5-2
Nick: 5-7-2

Figgs' $ Picks: 2-2
Nick's $ Picks: 3-1

Current Standings
Joe: 83-68-8
Nick: 76-75-8
Figgs: 69-82-8

Figgs' $ Picks: 10-16-1
Nick's $ Picks: 26-17-4

Thursday Night Football

LIONS (+7) vs Packers
Figgs: Packers. This is the first time since the Barry Sanders era the Lions are playing a meaningful game on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for them, it means Aaron Rodgers is coming to town. ($)
Joe: Packers; Let me say to everyone that Thanksgiving is my personal favorite holiday of the year. This year, I am thankful for a great slate of games on Turkey Day for once. I think Detroit will score alot of points on GB's defense, but I think Green Bay will score plenty more. Pack in a shootout, something like 45-35 is my prediction.
Nick: Packers. Why pick against the Pack until you have a reason to? ($ -3)

COWBOYS (-7) vs Dolphins
Figgs: 'Boys. Fins win streak ends here.
Joe: Dolphins; I've picked them several weeks in row now, and they haven't burned me yet. The Cowboys should win, but I'll roll the dice with the Fish getting 7 points. (Also, in case you didn't already notice, this game is a rematch of Super Bowl VI. I bet Czonka and the boys are still steaming over that loss, so I look for the revenge factor here).
Nick: Phish. Although I'm told the Dolphins aren't actually fish. Miami has been beating up on some bad teams in recent weeks, and the Cowboys have yet to find the next gear. Wouldn't be shocked to see Miami pull the upset.

RAVENS (-3) vs 49ers
Figgs: Niners. Suck it, Baltimore. San Fran is really good. ($)
Joe: Ravens; Standard home 3 point spread, and I would take whoever was at home in this one and give the 3. Since Baltimore is home, I'm taking them. Not much more to analyze than that.
Nick: Niners. I think the Niners are the second-best team in the league behind Green Bay. They could easily be undefeated, and I love them getting points here. ($ +6)

Sunday, 1 pm kickoff

BENGALS (-7.5) vs Browns
Figgs: BROWNS. Let's go ahead and start a winning streak.
Joe: Browns; We're getting more than a TD, so I feel I must pick us here. We tend to have wacky games with Cincy, so maybe we'll shock some people and win this one outright (or maybe not).
Nick: Bengals. Not picking us until we show that we can do something on offense.

RAMS (-3) vs Cardinals
Figgs: Cards. Just an awful team.
Joe: Cardinals; What the hell? Why not?
Nick: Cards. I'll take the points considering that Skelton hasn't been that bad.

JETS (-9) vs Bills
Figgs: Jets. You two talked me into it.
Joe: Jets; With Fred Jackson, the Bills seem to have completely come undone at the seams. Without him, they are quite simply a terrible football team. Jets, big.
Nick: Jets. This feels high, but the Bills have been aboslutely terrible the last few weeks.

JAGUARS (+3.5) vs Texans
Figgs: Texans. Houston's good enough/Jacksonville's bad enough to cover this without any QB.
Joe: Texans; All right, Matt Leinert, here's your 2nd chance. For some reason, he's always been my favorite of the USC QB's, and I'm glad he's getting another shot. The Texans should be able to cover this spread regardless of who's playing under center, quite frankly.
Nick: Texans. No reason for Leinart to even worry about throwing in this one. ($ -3)

COLTS (+3.5) vs Panthers
Figgs: Panthers. I'll join Joe on the Cam bandwagon for a week. ($)
Joe: Panthers; Bad team on their way up, while the Colts are just bad with no hope in sight other than either the Andrew Luck era, or Peyton returning next year to his old form.
Nick: Cats. The Colts can't do anything well, and at least the Panthers can score. ($)

TITANS (-3.5) vs Bucs
Figgs: Bucs. Not real confident here, but I just don't think Tennessee's very good. Then again neither are the Bucs, but I'll stick with them.
Joe: Titans; Honestly, they would be better off if Hasslebeck stays injured, so they can see how good Locker can be. Either way, I'll take them here because I've seen nothing positive out of the Bucs all season.
Nick: Titans. I stared at this one for awhile. Although I hate giving more than a field goal, the Titans have played well for four straight games, so I'll go with them.

FALCONS (-9) vs Vikings
Figgs: ATL. Just out of principal, although this line is pretty high.
Joe: Falcons; I wavered on this game for awhile, but now that Peterson is likely out, I'll take the Falcons to cover.
Nick: Birds. The Vikings were already a lousy team without AP, so I'll go with a Falcons team that's at home and fighting for a playoff spot.

Sunday, 4 pm kickoff

RAIDERS (-4) vs Bears
Figgs: Bears. Urlacher and the gang are good enough to win despite Hanie. ($)
Joe: Raiders; The Bears have the better team, but this is a QB driven league. And Carson Palmer > Caleb Hanie.
Nick: Bears. The Bears have a strong defense and still might win 12 games sans Cutler. I'll roll with them getting more than a field goal.

SEAHAWKS (-3.5) vs Redskins
Figgs: Hawks. "It don't get no better than solid."
Joe: Seahawks; The Skins have the worst QB situation I can ever remember, and they won too many games early in the season to have a shot at Luck. Tavaris and the Seahawks have quietly been playing very well in recent weeks.
Nick: Hawks. I'm pretty comfortable with the Seahawks defense and they're at home. That's really all I have to say about this one.

EAGLES (+3.5) vs Patriots
Figgs: Pats. Philly made their way back into the playoff picture after last week's win. Today they drop right back out.
Joe: Patriots; Banged up Eagle team still barely on life support. Brady and the Pats have turned it on the last couple of weeks after myself and national experts were starting to right them off. They just won't go away.
Nick: Patriots. The Pats aren't going to lose again unless they decide to rest their starters late.

CHARGERS (-6) vs Broncos
Figgs: Chargers. This is a terrible line, but I simply just won't pick Tebow.
Nick: Donks. Why are the Chargers better than the Broncos again?

Sunday Night Football

CHIEFS (+10.5) vs Steelers
Figgs: Steelers. Why in the world did KC get back-to-back primetime games? This one should be just as ugly as last weeks.
Joe: Steelers (reluctantly); I was gonna take the Chiefs when they signed Orton, but I realized he won't be starting quite yet (probably next week) so I can't justify taking Tyler Palko against Troy, Harrison and company.
Nick: Steelers. Sadly I just can't see the Chiefs scoring enough to cover this big number. ($ -4)

Monday Night Football

Figgs: NYG. I agree with these two - just too many points.
Joe: Giants; I still like the Saints alot, but I don't feel comfortable giving a full TD against Eli and company, who have always been road warriors.
Nick: Giants. Too many points - why isn't this the standard home three?

Thursday, November 24


In case you were wondering whether or not my Dad rules, just know that my infant nephew owns this piece of garb.

Wednesday, November 23

Moving on

The reasons I’m going to cut the recap of Ohio St’s loss to Penn St last weekend short are threefold.
1.) I’m on vacation and in a lazy mood.
2.) I hate writing about losses and frankly it’s starting to get old.
3.) We have more important things to talk about - namely playing that school up north in a few days and welcoming a new leader in Columbus.

Game Recap
For the third straight game, Ohio St’s defense put themselves in a 10-0 hole. The D then turned it on and kept their team in the game for the third consecutive contest as well, but the OSU offense was again too anemic to overcome the early deficit. Braxton Miller’s 24-yard TD run at the beginning of the second quarter made the score 10-7, but Stephfon Greene immediately answered with his second score of the game to put the Lions back up by ten. Jake Stoneburner, who has been virtually invisible since his hot start, caught a touchdown from Brax to cut the PSU lead back to three. That was as close as the Buckeyes would get. Penn St added another FG as time expired in the first half to make it 20-14 at the break.

Watching both Ohio St and Penn St’s offense struggle mightily all year long, I mentioned how no matter what the over/under is on this game that the under would be a good bet. The line was set at 38, and after 34 first half points, these two were well on their way to make me look like a fool. Then the inept offenses (as well as the dominating defenses) that we’ve come to expect from these two squads came out in a scoreless second half to hit the under after all.

Both teams squandered golden opportunities, starting with Ohio St when Jordan Hall, lined up in the wildcat, and Boom Herron fumbled the exchange near the goal line. I don’t know who was actually at fault, so I’ll just blame the play call. I talked about how stupid the wildcat is for OSU last week, and they did their best to prove me right in this game. I think it’s safe to say that we will not see this again. While I’m complaining about the play-calling, what the hell where we doing with Carlos Hyde? The man is pushing 250 pounds - he is a “pound it up the middle” guy. Yet Ohio St used him like his was Jamaal Berry in this game. He was returning kicks, catching swing passes, and running the aforementioned wildcat. As much as I hate the formation with Hall or Boom back there, it get’s infinitely worse when you run it with Hyde. It may sound like I’m piling on Carlos here, but I’m more upset with the coaching staff for using him incorrectly (as well as piling on Hyde - he did have a crucial fumble after all).

Penn St blew their chance when they had a first-and-goal and a couple of OSU penalties gave them eight cracks at the end zone. EIGHT. The Lions were unsuccessful each time, including a 4th down from the 1. I am usually aggressive and say teams should go for it on 4th down more often, but I think Penn St blew this call and should have elected for the field goal to put them up two scores. I didn’t matter, however, as Ohio St couldn’t manage even one score. An intentional grounding call on Miller on the game’s final drive halted any chance at a comeback, and the Buckeyes dropped their second in a row.

Urban Meyer
Although it won’t be official until next week, reports are that Urban Meyer has inked a seven-year, $40 million deal to become Ohio St’s next head ball coach. I’ve been saying this was going to happen all year long, and thought it was laughable that Penn St fans actually though he’d choose them over OSU. Critics of Ohio St’s choice say that he will be there for three or four years then leave, and they’d rather have a lifer like Jim Tressel (who would have been if not for the scandal). First of all, Jim Tressel’s just don’t grow on trees - we were very lucky to find him back in 2001. More importantly, if Meyer is only there for four years and brings us four Big Ten titles and a National Championship (certainly a plausible scenario), I’d be on board with that. Welcome to Columbus, Coach Meyer. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

michigan Week
As I write this, it has been 2,923 days since Ohio St has last lost to that school up north. This is always one of my favorite weekends of the year, made even better by being able to celebrate a victory each of the last seven years. As an added bonus this year, I’ll be joining my FCF cohorts Nick and Andy in Cleveland for the Pigskin Classic, a pre-game 5k race and tailgate leading up to us watching Ohio St embarrass those asshole for an eighth straight time.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I don’t care for those fellows from Ann Arbor much, but I will give some credit - the 2011 wolverines are a better team than they have been in years past. Add that to the fact that Ohio St has their worst team since 2001, and michigan is favored by eight points. It’s just going to make it that much sweeter when the Buckeyes win in the gay house.

The game plan for Ohio St is clear - stop can’t-tie from running. Andrew Sweat returning to action would go a long way, but that doesn’t look probable. If he’s out, Storm Klein will likely get the task of spying can’t-tie, and his success could determine the outcome. On the offensive side of the ball, it will be a steady dose of Boom Herron. Boom has typically saved his best for his rival, scoring two TD’s as a freshman in a backup role to Beanie Wells in ’08 and rushing for 175 yards in last year’s beat down. I’ll expect a similar performance this weekend, and to keep the streak going.
Prediction: Ohio St 28 michigan 20


Tuesday, November 22


As you may have heard, Justin Verlander Justin Verlander won the AL MVP award.. I support this - I can hear arguments for Ellsbury, Bautista, Granderson, and Cabrera, but Verlander is a solid pick.

So solid, in fact, that he appeared on 27/28 of the BBWA AL MVP ballots, left off of only one: Ohio's Jim Ingraham. Ingraham has "defended" his choice in the above-linked article, a piece of writing so devoid of logic that I had to work it over for a while.

While I'm on the topic of anti-logic, how about Yankee pitcher David Robertson getting a 10th-place vote? Is his Mom on the committee? It's OK, I hadn't heard of him either. Wow.

But back to Ingraham's decision and poorly-reasoned explanation. Let's go.

Jim Ingraham: Why I left Justin Verlander off my MVP ballot
Jim Ingraham: Post-Hoc Reasoning.

I was one of the 28 voters for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
As we will see, you should be immediately relieved of this responsibility.

I had three Detroit Tigers on my ballot. None of the three was Justin Verlander, who won the award, getting 13 of a possible 28 first-place votes. I was the only voter who didn't include Verlander anywhere on his 10-player ballot.
The only acceptable line following this admission (which I give Ingraham credit for being honest and transparent about, at least), would be, "and I was mistaken."

This was my reasoning:
Taking remarkable liberties with that word.

The short version is I don't believe pitchers should be eligible for the MVP Award.
Oh, Jim Ingraham. It doesn't matter who you think should be eligible; pitchers are eligible. If you have a problem with the rules, take it up elsewhere. It says right on the ballot you were sent that pitchers are eligible.

My not voting for Verlander had nothing to do with evaluating what Verlander accomplished this season.
Well then, you screwed it up, didn't you? That's the entire point of the award. If you didn't evaluate Verlander's season, then you literally could not have done a worse job.

It was one of the great seasons by any pitcher ever. Nobody has to convince me of Verlander's greatness this season.

I cover the Indians, who are in the same division as the Tigers, so I've seen Verlander's greatness first-hand.
Irrelevant. We have TV now - anyone can watch Verlander.

He's the only pitcher I saw this year who I felt had a legitimate chance to pitch a no-hitter every time he took the mound.
Yeah, intellectual concessions, I know this tactic. Get to it, man.

I know Verlander is a great pitcher. I also know, by the nature of his job, he did not appear at all in 128 of the Tigers' games this year. That's 79 percent of the Tigers' season. I can't think of any other sport in which a player who didn't play in 79 percent of his team's games could be voted the Most Valuable Player in his league.
"I lack the imagination and sense to understand the way in which baseball differs from other sports."

Obviously, I'm in the minority in this year's MVP voting. I expected to be.
And you still didn't realize you were making a weak point? Did it at least occur to you that the reason no one agreed with you was that you were wrong? Did you ever kinda want to look at the numbers and see how pitchers' contributions compare to position players'?

I'm sure many wonder why I didn't at least have Verlander somewhere on my ballot — second, third, fourth — if not first. My answer to that is this: If Verlander was going to be on my ballot at all, he was going to be first.
Speechless. I cannot imagine what it is like to write something this illogical. I can't make my fingers do it.

But once I decided I didn't think it was fair to compare pitchers with position players for this award,
"Because I don't understand WAR or any other metric that allows for such comparison, and nor do I care to."

meaning I wasn't going to give Verlander a first-place vote, it would have been hypocritical of me to have him anywhere else on my ballot. He was either going to be first on my ballot or not on it at all.
Wow, you said it twice! This is absolutely insane. Is that more hypocritical than being selected for a prestigious task and putting your own ego before it?

Again, I realize I'm in the minority, and I don't begrudge any of my peers who did vote for Verlander. I can understand their argument for voting for him, and I respect the reasoning of those who did. I just don't agree with it. That's the whole purpose of the voting process. Sorting out opinions.
This is not the purpose of voting on baseball awards. Not at all.

In the 34 games (21 percent) of the Tigers' season that Verlander appeared in, he was obviously overpowering, and in most games virtually unbeatable. But in 128 of the Tigers' games (79 percent), he was no factor at all.
Verlander averaged 7 1/3 innings per start, and I simply won't let you pretend that his going deep into nearly every ballgame didn't help the Tiger bullpen in those other 129 games.

Twenty-one percent of an NFL season is three games.
3.4. You rounded down and I noticed.

I highly doubt an NFL quarterback could be voted MVP if he only played in three games.
This is totally inapt and dishonest. More than anything else in this horrible article, this sentence rankles me. If you don't understand the differences between baseball and football any better than this, then you should not write about sports professionally.

Look, Verlander faced 969 opposing batters this season; MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury had 729 plate appearances. Ellsbury had 394 fielding chances to Verlander's 50 (and Verlander batted four times). That means Verlander was involved in 1023 plays and Ellsbury in 1125, where in nearly all of Verlander's he was far more involved in the outcome (pitching) than many of the routine flyballs Ellsbury no doubt handled. Don't give me this NFL QB "three games" rubbish.

I also believe there is a grind to the 162-game major-league season that position players have to deal with that starting pitchers don't. Position players must be physically and mentally prepared to perform at a high level in 140 or more games per season.
Ingraham just got mauled in the comments, as well he should have. 21/24 negative as of my writing.

It's a great achievement for the position players at the top of the MVP voting to be able to stay healthy and to perform at the high level they did over the long marathon of a major-league season. Starting pitchers aren't required to do that.
Yeah, throwing 100 pitches at ~90 MPH every five days is easy - that's why starting pitchers never get injured or develop elbow/shoulder issues.

That doesn't mean starting pitchers are any less important than position players. But to me, it does mean trying to compare the relative worth of a player who plays in 150 games to one who plays in 34 is very difficult. A pitcher and a position player are two completely different jobs.
WAR. It's not perfect, but it's useful and it blows up your whole spot.

I've been voting on these awards for 27 years.
Sorry, but you should be immediately disenfranchised.

I take this process very seriously.
No, you take yourself very seriously. If you took the process seriously, you would read and follow the instructions.

Verlander is a great pitcher. The best in the majors this year. My ballot is not my way of saying he wasn't. My ballot is my way of saying it's unfair to both groups to have to compare pitchers and position players for this particular award.
Your ballot is self-serving and wrong.
I'm going to add the WAR for each player he put on his ballot here. Know that Verlander's was 8.6.

Ingraham's MVP ballot:
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (8.5 - amazingly, he actually got the best position player right)
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (7.2)
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (7.1)
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox (6.9)
5. Robinson Cano, Yankees (4.6)
6. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (6.8)
7. Curtis Granderson, Yankees (5.2)
8. Alex Avila, Tigers (5.4)
9. Michael Young, Rangers (2.4, easily the worst player to crack the Top 10. Every other player to get any vote had a higher WAR than Young. Bizarre. Verlander was worth 6 more wins to his team than was Young.)
10. Victor Martinez, Tigers (2.9)

Hopefully the BBWA finds someone more qualified to handle this voting next season.

Monday, November 21

Dark Days

This ain't no fun. Ain't no fun.

By "this" I mean the sports fandom espoused by this blog, being the three pro Cleveland squads plus Ohio State. Things are not well for really any of them and it keeps spiraling worse. Earlier this week I blasted Boston super-dummy Dan Shaughnessy for moronically asking earlier this season "Have there been worse days in the history of New England sports?" less than four months after, for instance, the city's hockey team won the Stanley Cup. It was probably the most egregious instance of ungrateful sports fanhood and lack of perspective I've ever seen, and infuriates me even more when I look at the state of my favorite clubs. Seriously, if I ever write something like that if/when the Tribe wins 90+ games, the Browns are in first place, and the Cavs hold the Larry O'Brien trophy, come here to Cleveland and punch me right in the face. It's things like this that keep my Sam Adams boycott (in place since fall '07) going.

But back to Ohio and teams that humans, with souls, root for. Nick does, too. I'm very, very aware that Cleveland is renowned for its sports futility, but even by those standards, things are remarkably bleak here in northeast Ohio. To steal a bit of Shaughnessy magic, this might be the worst collective time for our clubs that I can remember. The Buckeyes lost their beloved coach who led them to their first title in over 30 years and who was on his way to Icon status to a stupid tattoo scandal and scuffled to a finish in the bottom half of the Big 10 (michigan game pending - that could help); the Browns fucking suck (though I was jacked about yesterday's win), the Indians play in an unfair league and just turned a 30-15 start into a 50-67 finish, and the Cavs...well, you know what happened. They can't even catch a lockout break - Cleveland's two of the top 5 lottery picks will be sitting this year like everyone else.

It sucks, and there's not one single good team to fall back on. Hell, even the Lake Erie Monsters are struggling. As far as I can go back, we nearly always had at least someone who was reasonably good. Check it out, without being overly specific about what "good" constitutes let's say the Bucks had to get 2nd or better in the Big 10, and the pro teams had to make the playoffs.

2010: Buckeyes, Cavs
2009: Buckeyes, Cavs
2008: Buckeyes, Cavs
2007: Buckeyes, Browns, Cavs, Indians (all this right before I arrived in the 216)
2006: Buckeyes, Cavs
2005: Buckeyes, Indians (playoffs or no, 93 wins was a hell of a run)
2004: Buckeyes
2003: Buckeyes
2002: Buckeyes (fuck yeah), Browns
2001: Indians
2000: No one
1999: Indians
1998: Buckeyes, Indians, Cavs
1997: Buckeyes, Indians
1996: Buckeyes, Indians, Cavs
1995: Buckeyes, Indians, Cavs
1994: Buckeyes, Browns, Cavs
1993: Buckeyes, Cavs
1992: Buckeyes, Cavs
1991: No one
1990: Cavs
1989: Browns (Halcyon fucking days of yore - four straight playoff appearances?), Cavs
1988: Browns, Cavs
1987: Browns
1986: Buckeyes, Browns

The only two years in my 25 as a staunch Ohioan sports fan without a playoff club or "good" Buckeye squad were 1991 and 2000 - these apparently happen once every decade or so. But even in 2000, the Tribe won 90 games and battled for the Central title, the Bucks won eight games and played in the Outback Bowl, the Browns' return was still novel, and I got into hockey with Mario Lemieux's return to the NHL.

Really, the only year quite as barren as this one was '91. The Buckeyes won only eight and lost something called the Hall of Fame Bowl, the Indians lost a preposterous 105 games, the Cavs submitted a sixth-place finish in their division, and the Browns notched all of six wins. In fact, the parallels are striking - the Browns will probably win five this year, and 2011 has a better Tribe club but a worse Cavalier club - but 1991 and 2011 are pretty much neck and neck for the title of worst overall Cleveland sports year since I've been on board.

I just hope one of them can get good soon. OSU will soon get a marquee coach and the young guys playing this year will mature, so they'll likely be better soon. If the NBA comes back, the Cavs have some promising youngsters. It's hard to see a path to the top for the Tribe right now, but the cupboard is far from bare. The Browns will always suck, let's face it. Still, we press on, because we are Cleveland fans and we care.

Sunday, November 20


I'm psyched for the game today.

Yes, the Browns game. Yes, the game pitting two 3-6 squads against each other on a potentially rainy Sunday afternoon in Downtown Cleveland. Yes, things are pretty bad across our sports spectrum right now, but what kind of a fan would I be if I couldn't still get excited for a Browns game? So, instead of betting against our boys like certain members of FCF who will go unnamed (it's Nick), I bet on them by purchasing tickets to the game today, where I fully intend to cheer them to victory.

You see, as I'm getting older, I'm finding myself more interested in boiling sports back to their essence - the games and the competition. When I was a kid, that was all that mattered, because I didn't know what the fuck a salary cap or a mid-level exception was. As I moved into my teens and twenties, I of course learned more about the intricacies of the games on and off the field, and now that I know all of that, I'm starting to think: no thanks. I wonder if maybe I'd get more out of the Browns if I just watched the games on Sunday, read the injury reports and box scores, and called it a day. I don't know.

What I do know is that, even though times are tough (as tomorrow's column will detail), my main reason for being a fan is what it always has been, and damnit, I'm excited to win a ballgame today.

Thursday, November 17

NFL Picks: Week 11

Hey, it's Andy this time. Pretty heated competition this year, with newcomer Joe holding a two-game lead over Nick, and Figgs...hey, how about that Joe and Nick?!

Anyway, I'm enjoying my season off of the competition and checking in on the fellows' picks. This week I thought I'd add some commentary to the games as well because, damnit, I'm a cofounder of this blog. I WILL LOCK YOU OUT IF YOU CROSS ME! OK, that was unnecessary.

Last Week
Joe: 8-8
Nick: 8-8
Figgs: 5-11

Figgs' $ Picks: 1-1
Nick's $ Picks: 2-3

Current Standings
Joe: 74-65-6
Nick: 71-68-6
Figgs: 62-77-6

Figgs' $ Picks: 8-14-1
Nick's $ Picks: 23-16-4

Thursday Night Football

BRONCOS (+6.5) vs Jets
Figgs: Jets. It's time for this Tebow lovefest to die down at the hands (or should I say feet?) of Rex Ryan.
Joe: Jets; I just can't imagine the Broncos will continue winning games running the option and completing 2 passes a game. Going from Brady to Tebow must be a wet dream for Rex Ryan and the Jets defense.
Nick: Jets. The Jetropolitans have always been better at stuffing the run than rushing the passer, and fortunately for them the Donks don't pass. Joe, do you think Rex Ryan wet dreams are brought on by sleeping next to his wife's feet?
Andy: Yeah, I'm here. Do they still show these Thursday things on the NFL Network? Hasn't that thing failed by now? Parks and Rec was solid tonight, as usual. I shut off the TV when The Office came on - just not into it anymore.

Sunday, 1 pm kickoff

BROWNS (-1) vs Jaguars
Figgs: BROWNS. Vegas is seriously still picking us? I can't figure out why, but count me in.
Joe: Browns; Not because of confidence, simply out of hope.
Nick: Jags. I'm not proud of this. ($)
Andy: Believe it or not, roughly five days ago, I spent $30 on a ticket to attend this game in person, and I am not Blaine Gabbert's or Colt McCoy's mother.

RAVENS (-7) vs Bengals
Figgs: Cincy. This might be the first time I've picked them all year, but Baltimore is really pissing me off.
Joe: Bengals; They disappointed me bigtime last week against the steelers, but I still like them and think this game could go either way. So if you're giving me a full TD, I'll take it.
Nick: Bengals. Too many points. ($ +9)
Andy: I hate the Ravens, in case I've never mentioned this before. I have total Ohio solidarity when it comes to the AFC North - Baltimore and Pittsburgh can jump in a lake. I mean, obviously I want the Browns to win no matter what, but I'd much rather see another Ohio team take it if Cleveland can't.

FALCONS (-6) vs Titans
Figgs: ATL. I really like this under a touchdown. Tough to win in the Dome, and the Birds need this one to boot.
Joe: Titans; For some reason, I struggled with this game more than any other. I just have a gut feeling Tennessee at least keeps this one to about a FG. (As a bonus, I believe this game got moved to 4:15, so we have another option after we watch the Browns lose.)
Nick: Falcons. The ATL really needs to bounce back to stay in the wild card hunt, and their defense is much better than Carolina's.
Andy: I'm just happy to see Figgs back picking Atlanta every week again, getting back to FCF's roots. I'm also looking forward to my annual post where I mess with the team names and call ATL the "Dirty Birds" and Tennessee the "Titties." I am 14 years old. I was just in Tennessee, less than an hour from Nashville, and no one seemed even vaguely aware that they have an NFL team. There was a bunch of michigan shit all over the place in bars and such from when GM sent people to nearby Spring Hill to launch Saturn, and now there's a bunch of unemployed michigan fans there.

DOLPHINS (-2) vs Bills
Figgs: Jills. Two weeks ago this line is Bills -7. The Fish have proved they aren't totally inept, and Buffalo has proved they're not a playoff contender, but I still think they are the better team. ($ - SU)
Joe: Dolphins; I have sold every one of my shares of Bills stock. The fish have improved every week and Matt Moore is at least serviceable, and I'd argue that he's a better option than Henne anyway (I doubt I'll get any disagreements from this panel on that one).
Nick: Bills. I've been ready to pick the Fish all week, but I'm going to give the Bills one last chance. If they lose this one their season's over.
Andy: I had this sweet Marino jersey when I was like 10, plus this small Dolphins nerf football. I also very much enjoyed Ace Ventura. On the other hand, Buffalo had Mark Kelso and his giant helmet.

VIKINGS (+1) vs Raiders
Figgs: Vikes. Tough call, but I like Minny at home. They are better than their two-win record.
Joe: Raiders; I've loved them all year (perhaps too much at times), and I see no reason to go against them here. Palmer looked great on Thurday night and I think he's found his rhythm.
Nick: Vikings. I'll take the Vikes at home and getting a point against another mediocre team.
Andy: I'm pretty sure I just saw Figgs "Like" a team at home that is currently sporting a 1-3 mark there. I'm also pretty sure I saw Joe forget everything Carson Palmer has done since 2005. Something seems unnatural about this matchup - maybe it's the notion of the Raiders in a dome.

LIONS (-7) vs Panthers
Figgs: Lions. I skipped this one and came back to it because I couldn't decide. I guess I'll take Detriot to bounce back at home.
Joe: Lions; Probably the 1st time I've gone against Cam, but I think the league has started to figure him out somewhat. Tennessee crushed them, and Detroit is better than Tennessee.
Nick: Lions. It's a bounce-back game that they need to stay in the playoff hunt.
Andy: This matchup of two big cat teams reminds me of this girl who lived next door to me in Pittsburgh who had a surprisingly clever plan to realign the NFL by genre of mascot. There would be a Big Cat division (Lions, Panthers, Bengals, Jaguars), an Adventurers division (Bucs, Raiders, Vikings, Patriots), a Birds division (Eagles, Falcons, Cardinals, Ravens), and so on. In a related note, both she and her roommate had really big breasts - I'm pretty sure objects orbited their apartment.

PACKERS (-14.5) vs Bucs
Figgs: Pack. No chance I'm picking against these guys right now, or probably for the rest of the year for that matter.
Joe: Packers; Again, they always have blowout potential, and the Bucs have been a huge disappointment this year in my opinion.
Nick: Packers. This is a ton of points, but I have faith in Green Bay's offense and Tampa Bay's generous defense.
Andy: Hey, did anyone notice that the Packers are good? You realize that they're averaging a 14.9-point win in their nine games and that the Browns are averaging 14.6 points scored a contest? Yes, the Packers' average margin of victory is higher than our total points per game.

While I'm here, every team in the AFC North has at least 100 points in point differential over us. That's rough. Only two other NFL clubs are that far back of the group (Minnesota in a ridiculously strong NFC North, and the hapless Colts). We're fourth-worst in SRS according to, topping only the Rams, Chieves, and of course Colts.

Speaking of the Colts, my goodness are they awful. Their average result is a seventeen-point defeat. AVERAGE. For comparison, the '99 expansion Browns averaged a 14-point loss every time they took the field (and beat Pittsburgh once) and the '00 Browns a 16-point loss every game (also a win over Pittsburgh). Remember those awful teams? Indy is, so far, worse.

REDSKINS (+9) vs Cowboys
Figgs: Skins. Not confident here at all, but a road team giving nine seems too high.
Joe: Redskins; Dallas should win, but they don't seem good enough to give this many points on the road.
Nick: Cowboys. The Redskins suck, and Dallas might be ready to turn a corner.
Andy: Remember when Deadspin posted a link to that article lampooning Redskin owner Dan Snyder on their site for over 200 straight days until he dropped that stupid-ass libel suit against the Washington city paper? That was awesome. I will NEVER support a team owned by that megadoucher.

Sunday, 4 pm kickoff

49ERS (-9.5) vs Cardinals
Figgs: Niners. Not too sure about this one either, but SanFran proved they were for real last week. Playing in the West, if GB has a slip up or two they could be playing the NFC Championship by the bay.
Joe:49ers; They are beyond for real. I thought the Cards might keep it close, but then I thought about Patrick Willis and company vs. John Skelton, and this decision seemed a lot easier.
Nick: Niners. SF is pretty darn good, I guess Jim Harbaugh was a solid hire.
Andy: If his name was "John Skeleton," do you think we would feel better about him? Would we maybe call him "Johnny Bones"? I would take Johnny Bones on the road getting 9.5. To steal some Nick thunder, Patrick Willis might be the league's most underrated player. Casual fans have no idea who this cat is, maybe because of his nondescript name. What if he was Patrique Willington? You'd know him then.

RAMS (-1) vs Seahawks
Figgs: Hawks. BEAST MODE BABY! ($)
Joe: Seahawks; Tavaris Jackson makes them a pretty good bad team. The Rams have been an even bigger disappointment than Tampa has this year.
Nick: Shehawks. ($ +3)
Andy: Is it weird to anyone else that the 'Hawks' only road win this year was a straight-up pasting of the division-leading Giants? I didn't correct Joe's spelling of Seattle's QB's name because I think it's better than the actual one with its superfluous first "r".

BEARS (-3.5) vs Chargers
Figgs: Chicago. SF wasn't the only team to prove they were a legit contender last week. The Monsters of the Midway are back, and I would not want to play them right now.
Joe: Bears; Until they prove otherwise, I will pick them every week. I've already stated numerous times in previous weeks how I feel about the Chargers.
Nick: Bears. My favorite game on the board. ($)
Andy: I wanted to buy Matthew Stafford a coke after that game in Chitown last week. Goodness did he look bad. Also: it's easy to forget that Chicago was one win away from the Super Bowl last year.

Sunday Night Football

GIANTS (-6) vs Eagles
Figgs: NYG. Vince Young? No thank you.
Joe: Giants; The Eagles have totally tanked this season. After losing to the Cards at home, I can see them completely going through the motions the rest of the way. The G-Men look to be for real. I was impressed with them last week in a losing effort vs. San Fran.
Nick: Giants. This should be over a TD with Vick out.
Andy: As I write this, Joe has already made his pick even though no line is posted. That, my friends, is dedication to craft. I mean, Nick sometimes doesn't even make picks even though the games have kicked off. I haven't made a pick all year, for that matter.

Monday Night Football

PATRIOTS (-14.5) vs Chiefs
Figgs: Pats. Lot of points here, but brady at home in primetime is tough to go against. (I feel like I said something very similar to this last week.)
Joe: Pats; Thought about the Chiefs since this is such a high spread, but they have been awful the past few weeks and Brady was vintage Brady last week against a much better Jets team.
Nick: Pats. Would love to take my boy Tyler Palko, but I can't justify it.
Andy: When the red sox missed the playoffs earlier this year, Boston dorkwad Dan Shaughnessy rhetorically and hysterically (and not obviously jokingly) asked, "Have there been worse days in the history of New England sports?" Fuckity fuck fuck this makes me mad. So your baseball team, which has won two World Series in the past eight seasons, missed the playoffs by one game, your football team, which has won three of the past 10 Super Bowls is leading their division, and your hockey team IS THE DEFENDING STANLEY CUP CHAMPION, and that's your all-time low point? Fuck you.

Figgs $ teaser: Jets (PK)/Falcons (PK)
Figgs $ parlay: Browns (PK)/Falcons (PK)

Wednesday, November 16

Blocked PAT spoils Ohio St comeback

This past Saturday I sat on the couch with my AJ Hawk Gameday jersey on, my Ohio St football in hand, had previously watched the Ted Ginn Highlight Reel and listened to “Welcome to Buckeye City” to get pumped up, and was drinking Yuengling (my OSU Gameday Beer) - just as I have every Fall Saturday afternoon for several years. But despite all of that, I could have sworn I was watching the Cleveland Browns last week.

I just kept waiting and expecting Ohio St to turn it on and start to roll the inferior Boilermakers. But just as if they were wearing Brown and Orange, OSU squandered opportunity after opportunity, the kicker coming when Drew Basil’s extra point was blocked after the Buckeyes scored the not-quite-game-winning touchdown. Ohio St had their chances in overtime as well, having to settle for a field goal on their first possession and not getting Purdue off the field on a third-and-twelve on the Boilers' turn with the ball, which led to the actual game-winning touchdown as Ohio St watched their hopes of a seventh straight Big Ten title slip away.

Game Recap
Ohio St got the ball first and started a trend that we would see often in the first half - rush for two yards, rush for two yards, incomplete pass, punt. Purdue starting QB Caleb TerBush drove the Boilermakers down the field and Lou Groza candidate Carson Wiggs put Ohio St in a quick 3-0 hole. After the Bucks continued said trend Purdue was again set up in good field position, and TerBush again led a quick scoring drive. This time he hit Akeem Shavers for a 4-yard score to make it 10-0 Boilers.

Ohio St switched it up on their next drive, this time going with rush for two yards, rush for two yards, sack, punt. After forcing a punt and getting the ball right back, OSU started from their own 32 and had their lone exciting drive of the half. Braxton Miller found his running backs, completing a pass to Boom Herron that went for 20 yards and a 38-yard touchdown to Jordan Hall to cut into the Purdue lead.

Between two more punts from each team, the Boilermakers sustained the longest drive of the first half, moving the ball 88 yards and scoring on a Ralph Bolden 7-yard TD run. The Buckeyes went to the break trailing 17-7.

After forcing an immediate three-and-out on Purdue’s opening drive of the second half, Hall, Braxton and Carlos Hyde each had rushes of 10+ yards to set up Ohio St’s second touchdown of the day, a six-yard run by Miller. With the score within three and the Buckeye defense finally playing up to their normal level, I thought this game had 28-17 OSU written all over it. But that was not case. While the defense kept up their high level of play, the offense sputtered as a banged-up Boom was continually bottled up at the line of scrimmage. The two squads entered the final quarter with the Boilermakers up 17-14.

The 4th quarter began with Ben Buchanan punting out of his own end zone and Purdue starting with the ball across midfield. Bolden’s 13-yard run was all Purdue could muster, but it was enough for Wiggs to knock in a 44-yard FG to extend the lead. This was the first point in the game where I was legitimately worried that the Bucks were going to blow this. Ohio St’s ensuing six-minute drive led to 0 points and another Buchanan punt, but now it was Purdue’s turn to be in tough field position, and after a three-and-out OSU was looking good set up near their own 40.

Trailing by six with just over six minutes to play, it was do or die time for Ohio St. Boom did, breaking a 21-yard run on the first play of the drive. With the ball in Boilermaker territory, Herron and Hall persistently pounded it on the ground, setting up and 4th and 3 from the 13 with about a minute remaining. Braxton scrambled around, leaped over his own lineman that fell to the turf, eluded several Purdue defenders and made what appeared to be a season-saving play when he hit Jordan Hall for a score. With the game tied at 20-20, Drew Basil had his potential game-winning extra point blocked. Then he compounded his mistake with a short kickoff that was returned to the Purdue 40, and after a 15-yard pass from backup QB Robert Marve to Ralph Bolden, the Boilers found themselves at the OSU 46 with 37 ticks left and one of the nation’s best kickers on their side. Safety Orhian Johnson never gave Wiggs the chance, as he intercepted Marve’s next pass and sent the game into overtime.

Ohio St got the ball first and immediately put themselves in a hole after a Boom 1-yard loss and Braxton 5-yard sack. Miller then hit T.Y. Williams for a completion but was just short of the first down marker, setting up a 4th and 1. The Buckeyes elected to kick, and Basil’s FG gave Ohio St its first lead of the game. On Purdue’s OT possession, Marve ran for a first on 3rd and 4 to keep the drive alive. After a short run and negative yards on a screen pass, they were faced with a 3rd and 12 from the 15-yard line. Marve delivered the backbreaker, connecting with Gary Bush for 14 yards and giving the Boilermakers first and goal. Marve’s game-winning QB sneak on the next play was inevitable - the real killer was not stopping Purdue on that third and long. Ohio St, shocked for the second consecutive time in West Lafayette, loses 26-23 in OT.

Game Ball

Big Ten
As a surprise to no one, Penn St was defeated at home by Nebraska, 17-14 (of course just missing the 3.5 point cover - it was just that kind of day for me). This set up Ohio St’s opportunity to win the conference, which they of course blew. In a game that was much more of a blowout than the score indicated, michigan dominated Illinois 31-14. Boy are the Illini bad. can’t-tie was injured in the third quarter and didn’t return in this one - his status for this coming week is uncertain, although I bet he plays. Michigan St easily disposed of Iowa, 37-21, to take total control of their half of the Big Ten, while Wisconsin trounced Minnesota 42-13. Northwestern played possibly the most meaningless game of the year, beating the Rice Owls 28-6.

The Nittany Lions propped the door wide open for Ohio St this week, and we promptly shut it. There is still a tiny hope for the Bucks in the conference, needing of course to win out and also get a Wisconsin loss to Illinois this week (fat chance) followed by the Badgers beating Penn St in the finale. This would create at least a three-way (possibly four-way if Purdue wins out) three-loss tie at the top of the Leaders Division, and I would have no idea what would happen then. Of course, all of this will be moot once Wisconsin dicks all over Illinois on Saturday. What we’ll be left with is Michigan St facing next week’s Wisconsin/Penn St winner for the conference title.

Doug Calland was a busy man
Doug Calland, naturally, being Ohio St’s head trainer. WR Philly Brown, DT Jon Hankins, LB Andrew Sweat and RB Boom Herron all left the contest with injuries, with Boom being the only one OK enough to return. Now, I’m certainly not going to blame this loss on these injuries - we absolutely could have and should have beat Purdue with our second-string - but they are significant enough to make note of it. I don’t have any updates on these players’ current statuses, but hopefully they return to health for the upcoming game with Penn St.

Wildcat shmildcat
I really don’t like the wildcat formation from the Buckeyes. I don’t know where it came from, but Ohio St continued to run it throughout this game and I want it gone. It wasn’t terribly unsuccessful, but I just don’t get the point of it. Neither Boom nor Hall is ever going to throw from this formation, so the defense obviously knows what’s coming. Also, while putting a runner in at quarterback may make sense at times, it doesn’t if you do it at the expense of sitting your quarterback THAT’S ALREADY A RUNNER! When Brax is back there with Boom or Hall, the defense needs to be prepared for three options - a Braxton run, a Herron/Hall run, or a Braxton pass/roll out. When Boom or Hall are in the wildcat, they have one option to prepare for - a Herron/Hall run. Does this not make sense to anyone else? Am I missing something here?

Boiler Up
What the fuck does this mean? Several people in the stands where wearing these t-shirts at the game, and I found it quite stupid and irritating. I much prefer Urban Dictionary’s version.

Up Next: vs. Penn St (8-2, 5-1), 3:30, ABC
Man, this game would be a lot more fun if the Big Ten Leaders Division were on the line. When you think about it, this will be Ohio St’s first meaningless game in seven years. Now, hear me out here. Certainly I don’t mean “meaningless” where I’m not going to watch it or cheer hard for OSU or be really pissed if we lose, but in the context of the bigger picture, national and conference championship-wise. This will be the first game since Ohio St didn’t win the conference title in 2004 where whether we win or lose it will have no bearing on a national or conference title race. That is depressing. That being said, I fully expect the Buckeyes to regroup at home and pile on Penn St while they’re at their lowest.
Prediction: Ohio St 23 Penn St 13


Friday, November 11

Wednesday, November 9

NFL Picks: Week 10

Last week Joe stretched his lead while I lost more money and the Browns were...well the Browns. Let's start turning some things around this week.

Last Week
Joe: 8-6
Nick: 7-7
Figgs: 6-8

Figgs' $ Picks: 1-2
Nick's $ Picks: 2-2

Current Standings
Joe: 66-57-6
Nick: 63-60-6
Figgs: 57-66-6

Figgs' $ Picks: 7-13-1
Nick's $ Picks: 21-13-4

Thursday Night Football

CHARGERS (-7) vs Raiders
Figgs: Chargers. No DMC, no run, no win.
Joe: Raiders; I was prepared to take the Bolts when I thought the line would be between 3 and 6, but getting a TD, I'll go back to rolling with the Raiders, although they have looked terrible since Campbells injury. San Diego has been the classic underachiever we have come to see from them in recent years.
Nick: Chargers. The Bolts played their best game of the year in a losing effort last week, and I'm willing to roll with them here considering that Darren McFadden (aka The Raiders Offense) is on the shelf. I'm also teasing the Chargers with the Ravens, FYI.

Sunday, 1 pm kickoff

BROWNS (-3) vs Rams
Figgs: BROWNS. We need to do something to make us beleive that we are at least close to being semi-respectable.
Joe: Browns; No good reason to pick us, especially giving points. But we should beat the Rams, right?
Nick: Rams. Not giving points with the Browns anymore. Is it Draft Day yet?

BENGALS (+3) vs Steelers
Figgs: shitsburgh. Other than the Bills (not exactly a Super Bowl contender themselves), Cinncy still doesn't have a quality win.
Joe: Bengals; Toss up game in my opinion. Give me the home team getting points in this one any day of the week.
Nick: Steelers. I like what I've seen from the Bengals, but they've had quite a cupcake schedule thus far. You're going to compete for the North title with a rookie QB? Prove it. ($)

CHIEFS (-3.5) vs Broncos
Figgs: KC. Like I'd ever pick that homo.
Joe:Broncos; The Chiefs may have blown their load during their 4 game winning streak. A 28 point home loss to a winless team doesn't deserve being favorites against a man with Jesus on his side.
Nick: Donks. Not really sure what to make of either club, but I like getting more than three points. Timmy Tee!

COLTS (+3) vs Jaguars
Figgs: Jax. Yeah, this game really blows.
Joe: Jaguars; This might be "That" game Figgs talks about every week. The Jags aren't good, but the Colts have 0-16 written all over them.
Nick: Jags. If you're betting this game, then you might have a gambling problem. ($)

COWBOYS (-6) vs Bills
Figgs: Jills. Like Joe said, just too many points for a team playing as mediocre as Dallas.
Joe: Bills; The Jets might have exposed the Bills for being kind of a fraud, but Dallas certainly hasn't impressed anyone this year and 6 is an awful lot for a team like them to give here.
Nick: Billskis. Remind me why we think the Cowboys are good again? Oh, and Miles Austin is out? I'll roll the bones on the Bills. ($ SU)

BUCS (+3) vs Texans
Figgs: Bucs. Toughest game on the board for me. Houston's a little better of a team, but I don't know if they're -3 on the road better.
Joe: Texans; They are finally living up to expectations this year, and the Bucs have seemed to take a step back this year, instead of the step forward I thought they would take. I like Houston here, maybe in a blowout.
Nick: Texans. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.

PANTHERS (-3.5) vs Titans
Figgs: Cats. They've been so close in many of these losses, at home against this Titan team seems like a good time to break out.
Joe:Panthers; Tennessee looks very beatable and the fighting Cams are coming off a bye and prime for a big performance at home.
Nick: Panthers. Not wild about giving more than three, but the Titans have lost my trust.

DOLPHINS (-4) vs Redskins
Figgs: Skins. The better of two bad teams I guess.
Joe: Dolphins; Wow, Fish giving 4! And even more surprising, I like them in this one. The Redskins have been brutally bad after a hot start. Matt Moore is still Matt Moore, but that being said, the Fish actually have the better QB in this game. The Mike Shanahan watch is officially on.
Nick: Phish. The Dolphins are rounding into form as a "good bad team." Can John Beck be the man, for Shana-han? I vote "no."

FALCONS (E) vs Saints
Figgs: NO. Definitely the non-Browns game I'm looking most forward to this week. Like Joe said, it's time for the Saints to prove they belong in the top tier of the NFC.
Joe: Saints; They have stumbled a few times this year, but I still think they are the 2nd best team in the NFC behind only the Packers. This is a big one for them to show it, since they would fall behind the Birds in the standings with a loss.
Nick: Falcons. My numbers have the Falcons as the better team, and they're at home. Gimme Georgia Dome.

EAGLES (-14) vs Cardinals
Figgs: Philly. This is a ton of points and I don't feel real confident here, but my gut tells me Eagles win big.
Joe: Eagles; I don't even need to wait for the spread. If they want any shot at the playoffs, they need to basically win out. John Skelton and co. coming out east are prime for being blown out. Even if Kolb plays, I think Philly will do their best to show why they were willing to let him go.
Nick: Eagles. The eagle is a far more fearsome creature than the cardinal. Still, I probably should consult Sean, our resident expert on the birdies.

Sunday, 4 pm kickoff

BEARS (-3) vs Lions
Figgs: Lions. Another real exciting matchup. The Bears aren't a flashy team, but they can beat some people. I just don't think Detroit this week is one of those people.
Joe: Lions; The Bears are hot, winning 3 in row since losing to Detroit in their 1st meeting, but I still love the Stafford to Megatron connection. Their D physically dominated Cutler once, no reason they can't do it again.
Nick: Bears. Tough call, especially with the Lions coming off a bye. Jahvid Best being concussed sealed the deal for me. Also, I'm definitely going to rant for 30 seconds tomorrow about how Jay Cutler gets to have sex with Kristin Cavallari. She's hot and it's bullshit.

SEAHAWKS (+7) vs Ravens
Figgs: ratbirds. After that atrocious performance against Jax on MNF where I lost $ on them, I didn't plan on betting on them again this season. I just can't seem to stay away from this one though.
Joe: Seahawks; I think Baltimore is several TDs better than Seattle, but I'm playing the %'s here. They have let down twice against bad teams so far this year, once after beating Pittsburgh. I think the same thing might happen here.
Nick: Ravens. Considering that I don't have to give more than seven, I'll roll with the much more talented bunch.

49ERS (-3.5) vs Giants
Figgs: Giants. Wow what a great week, another potential playoff preview. Tough call but Joe talked me into it.
Joe: Giants; Again, they are better on the road than at home. I like what San Fran has done so far, but last week's Giant win in New England was one of the most impressive wins any team has had this year. I believe the Giants are the better team here, so I'll gladly accept points.
Nick: Niners. Probably a fair line, but I think the Niners might be the second-best NFC team. We're lucky we actually get two good match ups with just three late games on the slate.

Sunday Night Football

JETS (-2) vs Patriots
Figgs: Pats. Both of these teams look like Super Bowl teams one week and chumps the next. I guess I'll go with brady in primetime. ($ +2.5)
Joe: Jets; They seem to have corrected alot of their weaknesses, while the Pats weaknesses have gotten worse. I don't love the Jets, but with Buffalo coming back to reality, I think this is the Jets division to lose.
Nick: Jets. Jumping off the Patriot bandwagon and onto the Jets'. No reason why this shouldn't be three at home, but it's good for me. ($)

Monday Night Football

PACKERS (-13) vs Vikings
Figgs: GB. I <3 Aaron Rodgers.
Joe: Packers; The Vikings kept it within the spread in their 1st meeting, but that was in the dome. The Packers always have blowout potential vs. anyone, so I'm not gonna worry about 13 being such a high number.
Nick: Vikes. The Pack is the best team in the league, but their last game was close. Thirteen points is too high, especially because Ponder has been impressive and the Vikes are coming off a bye.

Figgs $ teaser: Chargers (PK)/Ravens (PK)/Packers (-6.5)
Nick's teaser: Chargers (-1)/Ravens (-2)

steeler stupidity!

Two quick things from the Pittsburgh camp, since we don't see them until December:

So it's going to turn into if you're going to fine me $40,000, I might as well put him to sleep for real or I might as well blow his knee out.
- steeler Ryan Clark on a fine issued him by the NFL for a hit

Stupid. Even if the hit was legal: stupid thing to say.

I want to die. This feeling feels like death. Nothing else can describe this. The pain is that bad...[today] will be miserable. I will have to deal with angry people, all because of this game.
- steeler fan Phil Gennaro after their MNF loss to the Ravens

Stupid. Hey Phil, do me a favor and cry me a fucking river. Your team is 6-3 and oh by the way has won two Super Bowls in the past six seasons. Wow, what a sense of entitlement and lack of perspective. You wanna "feel like death"? Try being a Browns fan for one goddamn season, you whiny loser.

Tuesday, November 8

Three 100-yard rushers lift Buckeyes past Indiana

Ohio St didn’t have their best stuff in The Shoe this past Saturday, but it was enough to beat the Indiana Hoosiers for the 17th consecutive time - and that’s all that matters. Braxton Miller had the most inefficient passing game of his young career (5/11, 55 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT), but he combined it with his best rushing game. Brax ran the ball 14 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns, including an Ohio St QB record 81-yard score. Miller wasn’t the only runner able to carve up the Hoosier D, as Carlos Hyde had almost identical stats (15 for 105 and 1 TD) and Boom Herron went buck-wild (14 for 141 and 1 TD). It was the first time since a game against Northwestern in 1989 that three different Buckeyes topped the century mark, when Scottie Graham, Carlos Snow, and Dante Lee did it. I think we all remember that powerful Graham/Snow/Lee attack well.

Occasional off days from your run-first, true freshman quarterback are acceptable - especially when you get the W anyway - but I’m not as quick to give the defense a pass on this one. The typically vaunted OSU defense let Indiana control the ball for over 30 minutes while gaining 333 yards and picking up 19 first downs. While these aren’t game-changing numbers, they are up from IU’s averages, and we have come to expect nothing less than dominance from this Buckeye D. Let’s hope that this was just an anomaly and they are back to top form this upcoming week.

Game Recap
Drew Basil started the game off by kicking the ball out of bounds and setting the Hoosiers up with good starting field position. Indiana’s own true freshman starting quarterback, Tre Robertson, led a good drive deep into OSU territory, but John Simon stuffed Robertson on third-and-short from the 15 and IU was forced to settle for three. Ohio St gave the ball right back to Indiana when Braxton was sacked and fumbled on their third offensive play, giving the Hoosiers another early opportunity to score. And score they did, when Stephen Houston took a draw five yards through a massive hole and into the end zone, putting Indiana up 10-0.

The 105,000 plus in Ohio Stadium (myself included) didn’t have to wait long for another big play. On only the second play of the series, Braxton ran a QB draw up the middle and was quickly off to the races for an 81-yard touchdown to put the Buckeyes on the board. A holding penalty put Indiana in a 1st and 20 hole that they couldn’t get out of, and quickly Ohio St was back in possession. Carlos Hyde saw his first action in two games on this series, which ended with Drew Basil’s 11th straight FG conversion to tie the game. The big play came on a 26-yard completion to Chris Fields on 3rd and 19.

Following another quick Indiana punt, Boom ran 48 yards up the middle on the drive’s first play to set up Basil with another field goal. Indiana kept the ball in Robertson’s hands on their next possession, as he either threw or ran himself on seven out of the ten plays. John Simon had another third down stop, and Mitch Ewald knocked through his second FG of the game to knot it up at 13. After Ben Buchanan’s first punt of the game, the half ran out on the Hoosiers and we went to the break all tied up.

Another long Herron run to start the second half had Ohio St in position to score again, but Miller turned the ball over for the second time in the game when he was intercepted by Alexander Webb on the two-yard line. Indiana didn’t want to take any chances in the shadow of their goal line, and went three-and-out at once. OSU didn’t waste any time once they got the ball back in Hoosier territory. Braxton had a 13-yard run followed by runs of 20 and 15 from Boom, the latter putting the Buckeyes across the goal line and back on top.

Every time I was ready for the Ohio St defense to bury Indiana, Robertson would bring them right back. This time was no different when he hit Kofi Hughes for a 34-yard score to draw even again. When OSU got it back they held it for nearly seven minutes (the longest drive of the game), going 80 yards on 13 plays. Brax capped the drive with another quarterback draw, this time scoring from 20 yards out. The third quarter ended with Ohio St on top 27-20.

Indiana tried to match Ohio St with a long drive of their own, only they couldn’t finish theirs as Ewald missed a FG attempt. Miller had a 13-yard first-down run on third-and-long to run some time off the clock but was later sacked and the Bucks were forced to punt and give the ball back to the Hoosiers with about six minutes to go. Finally, the Buckeye D came up with the big play we were waiting for when Travis Howard picked off Robertson near the OSU 30. It was the only turnover caused by the Bucks, but it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.

I was hoping for Boom to come in and run the clock out, and was not happy to see Hyde take the field. I’ve liked Hyde all year long and was glad to see him get his carries in this game, but this just felt like a drive that had #1 written all over it. Carlos quickly shut me up, however, as soon as he broke one for 47 yards to set up his own score to put the game away, 34-20.

Game Ball
Obviously the running game won this game for Ohio St, so top rusher Dan Herron will take the honors this week. Herron averaged 10.1 yards per carry in this contest. Yikes. I used to think that Boom was just a very good college running back that benefited from a great line and a run-oriented offense and was too small to make it in the pros. But he has been running with a purpose in his three games since returning from his suspension and really has me thinking that he could be a great value for an NFL team that takes him somewhere in the middle rounds. Even if he doesn’t succeed at the next level, he is rapidly approaching the historic fraternity of great Buckeye RB’s - Eddie, Archie, and Beanie.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Herron (2), Roby (2), Simon

Big Ten
The biggest headline in the conference over the weekend had nothing to do with the football field, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The headliner (game-related) was Iowa knocking off michigan 24-16. To make things even better, can’t-tie threw three incompletions from the three-yard line to end the game. For the life of me I can’t figure out why he wasn’t running on at least one of those plays, but I’ll take it. Three weeks ago, when that school up north was 6-0, I said I still like my chances on my bet of under 7.5 wins this year. Here they sit at 7-2, traveling to Illinois this week before getting Nebraska and Ohio St in the gay house. I stand by my bet.

Michigan St and Nebraska both got scares from inferior opponents at home - the difference being that Le’Von Bell’s late TD helped MSU defeat Minnesota, where the Cornhuskers weren’t so lucky as they went down 28-25 at the hands of the Dan Persa-less Northwestern Wildcats. The only favorite in the conference that didn’t have a hiccup was Wisconsin, who took their frustrations of a two-game losing streak out on Purdue in 62-17 fashion.

With bitchigan and Nebraska losing, the Legends Division is Michigan St’s if they want it. The Spartans still play at Iowa and Northwestern (with a home against Indiana in between), which will not be cupcakes, but they will certainly be the favorites heading into both. If Iowa were to pull another upset this week over Sparty, a four-team, two-loss cluster-fuck would ensue, which I have no idea and don’t care enough to attempt to figure how that would play out.

The Leaders side looks the same as last week, with idle Penn St still unbeaten at the top and Ohio St and Wisconsin two games behind (which is ironic, seeing as is sounds like PSU is usually the one from behind - FACE!).

More like Pedophile State University
Although I did just get two rips on Penn St there, the scandal surrounding Penn St and former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is no laughing matter. This is one of the worst things I have ever heard involving a college football program. It appears Joe Paterno will be on his way out before these last few games of the season, and certainly the NCAA is going to come down hard on the Nittany Lions (kind of like how Sandusky ca…never mind) once everything is out in the open.

Ohio St may have a situation here similar to when you did something wrong and your parents were pissed at you, then a sibling of yours did something WAAAY worse and they suddenly forgot about whatever it was you did and focused solely on punishing them. C’mon NCAA, free tattoos? Is that really what’s important here?

“Simon and Goebel on the tackle.”
Being at the game often made it difficult to see who was making plays for the Bucks due to being far away from the action and the lack of replays, so I frequently had to rely on the PA announcer. It was unbelievable how many times that he uttered the above phrase. I started keeping a running count at some point in the second quarter, but had been tailgating all morning and forgot what I got up to. Either way, for an overall team defensive performance that I already mentioned was subpar, John Simon and Garrett Goebel were animals out there.

Up Next: @ Purdue (4-5, 2-3), 12:00, Big Ten Network
The Boilermakers are coming off a slaughtering at the hands of Wisconsin, and I don’t see things getting any better for them this week. Ohio St’s defense wasn’t itself against Indiana, and I expect them to come back and completely shut down this weak Purdue team. In fact, I’d be surprised if they allowed a single point.
Prediction: Ohio St 33 Purdue 0


Monday, November 7

Browns! Texans! Blogs!

There's been a serious dearth of Browns coverage here on FCF so far in 2011, which I think stems from 1) them being one of the dullest NFL teams one could imagine so far, and 2) our lead Browns writer sleeping on the job.

Luckily, I'm here, and after three days of serious birthday partying, I'm fully detoxed and ready for some Browns. Because of said parties, I'm relaxing at home today instead of seeking adventure downtown, and thought I'd liven things up with some real-time observations about the Clevelanders today as they battle the Texans.

By the time you read any of this, the game will long since have ended. It could have been a thrilling Browns win, another desultory loss, who knows. That's one of the reasons sports are so fun - no matter what, they remain unpredictable. Editor's note: having now seen this game, I realize that it was in no way representative of why sports are fun.

The Browns have a habit of using Sunday afternoons as an opportunity to ruin the goodwill built up by a college football Saturday, and today finds them set up nicely to do just that. The Buckeyes scored their third straight victory yesterday, a nice 34-20 win over Indiana, and michigan's ineptitude finally caught up with them in a 24-16 loss at Iowa. I can't think of a sequence epitomizing a player more than Can't-tie tossing four straight incompletions from two yards out to effectively finish off the wolverines' hopes of winning their side of the Big 10. Things are good in the football portion of my mind.

And then there's the Browns, a team that obviously I love, but one that is perpetually looming on Sunday, as Timothy Olyphant's character put it in Go, "just waiting to suck." There doesn't seem to be any amount of Buckeye goodwill they can't erase - even when Ohio State notched the program's biggest win of my lifetime in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl (Jan 3, 2003), the Browns promptly went out and lost their most heartbreaking game of the past 20 years (Jan 5, 2003).

But hey, maybe today will be different, and maybe the Browns will consolidate some of those gains with a surprise win over the Texans. Ed: nope. We're 10.5-point 'dogs missing our top two RB's, so things aren't exactly set up well for the Browns to even their mark at 4-4. But hey, things didn't look great heading into the New Orleans or New England games last season.

On the field
I have no problems with the Ian Eagle - Dan Fouts broadcast tandem.

We've been outscored 44-3 in the first quarter of games this season. How is that even possible?

Someone advanced the theory to me earlier this week that the Browns are the worst team in the NFL, a classic case of someone saying something into which they have put absolutely no thought. I mean, we're not good, but the Browns are 3-4 and have better point differentials than eight other clubs, a quarter of the league. There remain two winless teams in the NFL, both of whom the Browns have defeated head-to-head. At the very minimum, you have to put the Browns ahead of those two clubs. Calling the Browns the absolute worst in the league is just silly.

1st quarter
Texans @ own 18, 15:00

Seeing Lawrence Vickers makes me miss...Lawrence Vickers.

I also miss the days when the Browns used to wear brown jerseys. This all-white all-the-time is nonsense. If Shurmur wants to pay tribute to Paul Brown, wear a fedora or something.

The Texans march 82 yards with ease against the Browns to take a 7-0 lead on a 27-yard TD run from perrennial all-pro Ben Tate. Browns tackling on that drive was absolutely terrible.

Browns @ own 25, 9:43
I didn't even have time to write about how we seem to have more negative-yardage opening drives than positive ones before Ogbonnaya fumbled the Browns' first offensive play. But: we gained three yards!

Texans @ Browns' 28, 9:37
Matt Schaub to a comically-open Owen Daniels makes it first and goal Texans, before noted speedster Schaub runs in a QB draw from the two to make it 14-0 Texans. It's entirely possible that, between the time zone change and Daylight Savings Time ending, the Browns were unclear about the actual start time of this game.

In a related story: the Browns have now been outscored 58-3 in first quarters this season. That's unreal. I'm raiding my fridge already.

Browns @ own 48, 6:59
Not we're getting called for face mask penalties on ballcarriers. This I have never seen. It takes some of the luster out of Cribbs' 66-yard kick return, but still decent field position. Offensive face mask, wow. Nick correctly txts me, "what a crock of shit."


We should have plowed into the line there on 3rd and 1, twice if necessary. Shurmur is one of the least bold coaches I've ever seen operate. His sideline manner makes Jim Caldwell look positively histrionic. He (and you) should read Joe Posnanski's article about playing to win from a few days ago.

Thankfully, Phil Dawson is an absolute monster, banging through a 50-yarder to cut the gap to 14-3 while doubling the Browns' season-long first-quarter output. Seriously, between him and the suddenly-amazing Drew Basil, I can't remember the last time I was upset by a missed FG. A blocked FG - that's another story.

Texans @own 25, 3:36
I continue to be amazed by how many holding violations occur in football. You know it's illegal. You know it's a 10-yard penalty that kills drives. So why do you keep doing it? This seems to me like the deterrent provides more than enough incentive to pretty much eliminate holding, but apparently not.

Another dumb punt - thanks, Gary Kubiak. Your club has run the Browns up and down the field all day so far, and you just kick it away instead of trying to get a half yard? The Football Gods duly punished him with a touchback.

That guy in the McDonald's commercial is going to have a horrible rest of his life.

2nd quarter
Browns @ own 20, 15:00

Another punt on 4th and 1. We're bad AND gutless. I actually forgot the game was still happening at this point, probably because we're not particularly interested in winning. Shurmur wants to keep these games close and maybe keep his job another year.

Texans @ ~own 35, ~11:00
Yes, Pat, this is the defense in whose hands you are frequently so eager to put the game.

Arian Foster runs through a bunch of arm tackles an route to a 19-yard TD run making it 21-3 Texans. I'm really, really regretting having started this blog effort.

Browns @ own 31
Three plays, negative one yard. Poor McCoy. I've heard a million times about how this season is about finding out whether McCoy is our guy, but all I've really found out is that it's hard to play quarterback with the likes of Artis Hicks and Jason Pinkston in front of you.

I don't deserve Browns football this bad, nor do I deserve talking baby commercials. This just seems gratuitous.

Texans @ own 40, 5:30

Browns @ own 20, 4:55
Third and long seems to be this club's motto.

The Browns collect one nice first down on this offensive drive, then allow a 50-yard return from Houston's Jacoby Jones. Sounds about right.

Hey, can I tell you something? I've been working on this spreadsheet to track my athletic training week by week. It's going to be bad-ass - I've got all sorts of color coding and formulae and stuff. Really cool. I mention this because I didn't want you to think I was only watching the game, because there's three hours gone forever.

A TURNOVER! AN INTERCEPTION! Mike Adams lays the wood to Owen Daniels as the ball arrives; D'qwell Jackson grabs the ensuing pop fly and takes it back to the Cleveland 41. Maybe we can grab a few points and some momentum before half?

Browns @ own 41, 2:13
One-yard rush to start. Then incomplete pass.

I will now stop complaining for a while because the Browns actually went for a 4th and short and got it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish to express my sincere hope that Coach Shurmur learned something from having done so.

Bad pick by McCoy (possibly because Little wasn't looking) and moronic penalty from the useless Shawn Lauvao gives Houston three more before half, making it 24-3 Texans at the break. Ugly.

3rd quarter
Not going to lie to you - I zonked out on my couch after Dawson made yet another 50-yarder, woke up and saw the 30-12 final score, and shut off the TV.

Go Browns!