Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Decision Day [UPDATE: It's Michigan State]

 [UPDATE:  It's Michigan State, of course.  Say la vee.]

Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn will make his college decision Thursday at 10am, which is notable because the Gophers are one of his final four schools along with Indiana, Michigan State, and Oklahoma. 

Nairn is a point guard originally from the Bahamas but who is now in Kansas.  He's risen up the ranks with a great summer, now hitting #61 on the Rivals Top 150 and #78 at 247Sports.  Naturally with better play you find better attention (especially since 2015 is said to be light in terms of elite point guards), which brought Indiana into the mix semi-late and it appeared the Hoosiers, along with Minnesota and Oklahoma, would be his final 3.  Then Tyus Jones started looking like more and more of a lock for Duke, Tyler Ullis signed on with Kentucky, and suddenly Tom Izzo was looking at a class without a point man to replace Keith Appling after this year.  Thus entered Sparty, and oof.

Nairn had said he would make a decision in the next couple of weeks and had scheduled home visits with all four head coaches for Wednesday, "unless we don't need them."  He then canceled all home visits so clearly his decision was already made and I gotta be honest, I don't feel good about this one at all.

Indiana can offer him an uptempo offense and they're a storied program, Michigan State can offer immediate playing time on one of the top programs in the country, and Oklahoma can offer immediate playing time and his best friend is on the team.  I am struggling to find any real way the Gophers can top any of these.  They certainly all have their flaws - the Hoosiers will still have Yogi Ferrell at the point and just signed a stud combo guard for 2014, Michigan State plays a slow down style that isn't ideal for Nairn's game, and Oklahoma is Oklahoma, but the Gophers are the Gophers too.

I suppose you can't completely rule Minnesota out, and he did take an official visit here (as he did to the other 3 schools as well) so it's possible he's already been won over, but I find it hard to believe he'll turn down the chance to run the show Day 1 at a place like Michigan State.  If the Gophers manage to land him it will be a huge get, and a great recruiting job by Richard Pitino.  I'm just not expecting it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Let's Talk Football

If you follow a little too closely on Twitter, you're aware that our football guy, TRE, has left DWG to pursue other opportunities.  This means that we have no football guy.  However, this being HATE WEEK with the HATED Iowa Hate-eyes coming to town means I really need to put something down about the game.  I don't follow college football per se, but I do watch most Gopher games and plenty of other games because I'm an avid follower of College Football Spreads and a big fan of gambling.  As such, I'm going to try to write something about Saturday's game.  Please be gentle.

The hated jerks from Iowa come to TCF as about a one point favorite, which means this could be a hell of an entertaining game as long as the Gophers win.  Those dudes are 3-1 which is great because the Gophers are 4-0 which means Minnesota is clearly the better team.  Their loss was to Northern Illinois who I thought was supposed to be pretty good because they have that quarterback who I've heard of, but they almost lost to Eastern Illinois who I don't think is a FBS team which means Iowa must be really shitty.  Plus I found some power rankings that had Iowa at #72 and Minnesota at #41, so, you know, CHAMPIONSHIP!

One other important thing when evaluating competition is to look at how the team has played, not just the results.  Since I have not seen one minute of Iowa football against a non-Gopher team in the last, say, 5-6 years, I'm going to solely have to rely on stats, which seems pretty dumb but I have no other options plus as they say in math "Numbers Never Lie."

The first thing that pops out at me is that Iowa can play some defense, ranking 19th in the country in yards allowed per game.  Of course they played Western Michigan and Missouri State as two of their opponents and those teams are terrible, but you know what they say about how those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw shoes.  The worst part is they're mostly good at defending the running game (12th) and not as good at defending the pass (46th) but that doesn't matter since the Gophers don't throw the ball nor should they.

Offensively Iowa is pretty terrible which plays into the Gophers' hands because their defense completely sucks.  They are god awful at throwing the football, and despite their QB (Jake Rudock) clearly being more of a runner guy than a thrower guy they still like to sling that pill like he was Mox.  I'm guessing it's mostly little slants and screens though because I don't really think Kirk Ferentz (he's still the coach, right?) is an idiot, just a jackass.  When they do throw it's probably going to Kevonte Martin-Manley (terrible name) who has 20 catches and nobody else has more than 7 thanks to "One Read" Rudock.  Their tight end only has seven catches which is weird because Iowa really seems like a team who would use their tight end a lot.

Iowa main running jerk is Mark Weisman who if I remember correctly is white so he's probably not very fast.  He averages 4.9 yards per carry which sounds kind of fancy but this is college and all the Gopher running guys are laughing at him, including both QBs.  There other two running backs are Damon Bullock (too tall at 6-1) and Jordan Canzeri who is only 5-9 so he's probably really fast and brittle.  They are terrible.

As for the Gophers they don't throw the ball unless they have to which is a pretty good strategy I think because I'm not certain they even have any wide receivers.  Sticking to running it with David Cobb and Rodrick Williams, both perfectly proportioned to be running backs, and Mitch Leidner who I'm betting will grow up to be a lumberjack or an alligator wrestler or something seems like a solid plan of attack.  Unfotunately, like I mentioned before up there, Iowa is pretty decent at stopping the run probably because they're all so fat and ugly.  This means at some point Leidner is going to have to throw the ball in the air.  Will this be successful?  NO ONE CAN SAY!  Leidner has never had to throw the ball as far as I recollect because he usually is too busy running people over and stomping on their heads.

Basically what's going to happen is Iowa's shitty offense is going to clash with the Gophers swiss cheese defense and Iowa will probably score about 21 points.  Simple enough, right?  The Gophers just have to score more, and to score more they'll need to hit on a few passing plays.  The difference in the game will be if they can do it, and I'd guess they probably can since they have Mitch Mother Fucking Leidner.

No guarantees, so I'm only going to make one prediction:  there are going to be a lot of people running into each other and falling down.

Also if you ask WonderbabyTM what Iowa is like she will answer "it smells like poop."  From the mouths of babes.  Also it really does smell like poop. And poor people.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Isaiah Whitehead will make his choice today [UPDATE: Seton Hall]

UPDATE:  It's Seton Hall.  They're also hiring his high school/AAU coach as an assistant, which I thought was illegal.  The whole thing got awfully stinky there towards the end between St. Johns and Seton Hall.  On to the weekend, and a big one it is.

At 1:30 central time, future superstar and one of the best scorers in the entire class of 2014, possible one-and-done talent Isaiah Whitehead will make his choice of which college to attend.  He has narrowed it down to St. Johns, Seton Hall, Indiana, Pitt, or Minnesota.  All the recruiting experts are saying signs point to St. Johns.  I think Indiana is a pretty good bet since Whitehead had originally said he would decide some time in November but then pushed the date up dramatically to today which just so happens to be the day before another highly regarded Indiana recruit, Robert Johnson, said he would announce and Johnson and Whitehead play the same position.  Finally, he tweeted this earlier today:

Which makes idiots like me think the Gophers still have a shot, despite Whitehead never visiting the campus (which does happen, remember Ja'Quan Newton?), mainly because I would really, really like for this kid to become a Gopher.

I'd say:

St. Johns 45%
Indiana 30%
Seton Hall 15%
Minnesota 10%

So you're saying there's a chance.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Gopher Target Heads Elsewhere

And the hits (actually misses) just keep on coming for the Gopher hoops team, as another top recruit, this time PF Paul White (#57 overall by ESPN) has signed on elsewhere.  White will be taking his talents to Georgetown, which shouldn't be a major surprise since he had a major boner for the Hoyas before they seemingly backed off after he broke his arm (which seems pretty dickish) but, like the timeless classic Mean Girls taught us, more rumors are a bunch of crap.  White becomes yet another top 100 recruit to put the Gophers in his final grouping but then land elsewhere (SF Terry Larrier (#59) also just signed with VCU, but the Gophers only made his Final 10, not Final 5) joining what at this point seems like an endless parade of near misses.

As long as Lourawls Nairn (the fact that he didn't sing with Michigan State during his official this past weekend makes me feel very good), Isaiah Whitehead, Josh Martin, Rashad Vaughn, and Reid Travis remain unsigned there is still potential for this to be an amazing class (although with Duke putting on the full court press it's hard for me to believe Travis won't be a Blue Devil *pukes*).  Even some of the back-up plans like Riley LaChance, Bonzie Colson, and Marial Shayok could help make this the best class since Tubby's first or even better.  But, and it seems like I'm writing this a whole lot lately, it doesn't matter how many top 5s or top 3s you can get in if nobody actually signs to play.  I would like it very much if somebody would just say yes.  Anybody.

I suppose I should elaborate on LaChance, since this is the first time he's hit the blog.  He's a point guard out of Brookfield, Wisconsin who is visiting the U this weekend (along with Martin), a good sign considering the Gophers just recently got involved with him.  He's ranked as the #97 recruit in the class by ESPN, and is a good ball-handler and passer and a dead-eye shooter, one of the best in the class.  He's got some physical limitations and isn't all that strong or athletic, but he should make up for that with grittiness and hustle (yes, he's white).  Sounds like overall an excellent player to fit in Pitino's system in that shooter role - you know, like the third guy down the court who spots up for the 3 ball if the early transition bucket isn't there.

This is a big weekend for the Gophers.  Not only are LaChance and Martin taking official visits here, but Nairn is taking his final official to Indiana and will likely make a decision between the Hoosiers, Gophers, Spartans, and Oklahoma.  The Gophers could, conceivably, go from 0 to 3 commitments by Monday.  At least that's the hope.  There are some reports that Milik Yarbrough is visiting as well, but I think he's more of a Plan B kind of guy.

But maybe it's time to grab a guy from that plan.  I dunno.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Western Illinois Has a Football Team

Crazy right?

If you're going to WIU, the closest cities near you are Davenport, Iowa and Peoria, Illinois.  You're damned close to Missouri too.  Did you know there's a Mexico, Missouri?  That's weird.

Situated in Macomb, IL, WIU has a total enrollment of 13,600.  The university was founded in 1899 as the Western Illinois State Normal School.  They had to identify it as a normal school to separate it from the loony bins.  Fact.  According to Forbes, they are the 413th best university. US News and World Report has them 49th in the region.

Their athletic teams are called the FIGHTING LEATHERNECKS, but their mascot and logo is a bulldog, which is pretty goddamn confusing.  Even more confusing is that the female sports teams were known as the Westerwinds until 2009.  The bulldog mascot has to do with WIU's connection to the Marines.  WIU is the only non-military institution with permission to use the USMC official seal.  The bulldog is named Colonel Rock or Rocky. 

Oh snap, also, they received their land for the university from the Illinois freemasons.  So there's probably a secret handshake at WIU. 

Famous Western Illinois Alumni include:

Bryan Cox - former NFL All-Pro linebacker
Rodney Harrison - former NFL All-Pro safety
Frank Winters - former NFL center for the dirty Packers
Joe Decker - Guinness record holder for world's "fittest" man
Gene Lamont - former MLBer and current Tigers bench coach
Mary Matalin - Republican strategist and James Carville's wife
Rick and Paul Reuschel - former MLB pitchers
Robert Nardelli - former Chrysler and Home Depot CEO, one of CNBCs' worst CEOs of all time

Kind of a wacky and wild list there.  So, the university is in the middle of nowhere, has freemason connections, has mascot confusion and a bunch of interesting alumni.  What about their football team?

The Fighting Leatherneck Bulldogs are 2-0 with wins over Hampton and a dude named Quincy.  They handled both of those teams easily, with a total of 76 points for and just 15 against.

Nikko Watson and J.C. Baker are the main threats in the running game with a combined 353 yards on the year.  Redshirt freshman QB Trenton Norville has 362 yards passing with Hi-C Scott and Fredson Salomon getting the bulk of the action at WR.

Their defense has intercepted the ball 7 times already, with 6 different players having at least one.  Defensive back Johnathan Rollins has 2 INTs.

Their kicking game seems to be a work in progress.  Nathan Knuffman is both their placekicker and punter and while he seems to be ok at punting, he's 0-3 on the year for FGs.  2 of the attempts have been blocked.  Possibly by Nathan kicking the ball into his line.

None of this really matters as the Gophers should be able to exert their will over the Leathernecks.  Hopefully this game is a nice confidence booster for Nelson and we can get him out of there relatively early and get Mitch Leidner some work as well.  Coming out of the game healthy would also be nice as we've lost key players in both games with Boddy-Cahoun ripping about 42 knee ligaments against NMSU.  Sucks.  Donnell Kirkwood will reportedly suit up, but remains doubtful to play.  Freshman Berkley Edwards may be available the following week as well.

Projected outcome: 

Gophers 48, Bulldognecks 13

WIU All-Namers:

Hi-C Scott, WR
Fredson Salomon, WR
Sterling Mack, LB

Pretty weak group of names.

What They're Saying on Twitter:

C'mon Don Jon, get a keg bro.

The Masons will be banging on this dude's door in 3, 2, 1...

2 CHAIIIIIIIIIINZ...let's hope he stays there.
Yeah, there isn't much football chatter.  What are you gonna do?

Oh, here's one.  Let's go no world shocking for now.

Gopher hunting!!! Do they eat gopher in bumfuck Illinois?  Sounds like coach Neilson and the boys have the right attitude coming in at least.

WIU Volleyballers

Same story?

Let me tell you a story.  There was once a point guard out of Massachusetts named Naadir Tharpe.  Now young Naadir was a really good point guard.  In fact, ESPN ranked him as the 17th best PG in his class and the 86th overall player in the class of 2011.  Naadir at one point had narrowed his list to Minnesota and Rutgers.  Then Rutgers signed a different point guard (Myles Mack, maybe) and Tharpe canceled his official visit to see the Scarlet Knights.  He took an official to Minnesota and it was reported that he enjoyed his time in Minneapolis and really liked Tubby and everything seemed great and Gopher fans were counting the days until he signed on.  And yet there was no commitment.

Some time passed, and suddenly Mr. Tharpe was a little more in demand.  There was an offer from NC State.  There was an offer from Oklahoma.  But we weren't worried.  His only official visit to any school was still Minnesota and confidence was still high.  Then Josiah Turner committed to Arizona and Anthony Wroten signed on with Washington and it turned out that those were the two PG targets of a little school I like to call Kansas.  The Jayhawks were suddenly late in the signing period without a PG on their radar and they needed one.  So they called Tharpe.

He schedule a visit to Lawrence, but it turned out he really didn't need to see anything because after Bill Self called with an official offer to become a Jayhawk it took Tharpe less than 48 hours to accept and like that, he was gone.  He redshirted and then was a back up last year, averaging 20 minutes per game and scoring 5.5 pts and tallying 3.1 assists, and to Self's credit he hasn't recruited over him and now Tharpe is in line to run the offense for one of the best college basketball programs in the country.

Here is what I wrote back then:
So basically the Gophers are the nice, safe, mildy attractive chick while Kansas is the super hot chick with the killer rack who puts out.  I'd like to make some kind of pro-Gopher joke here, but I can't.  Why wouldn't you pick the hot chick with the sweet ass?  The only thing the dumpy girl has to offer is you know she won't upgrade to a better guy in a year.
 Why is the relevant now?  Because do you remember way back on Tuesday when I wrote about how Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn was the most important recruit for the Gophers after J.P. Macura turned traitor?  Well, Mr. Nairn just got a call from Michigan State and you'll never guess what happened.  Despite having trimmed his list to Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Indiana and saying those were his only 3 official visits he has now already scheduled a visit to East Lansing.

The Spartans were after 3 point guards:  Tyus Jones, Tyler Ullis, and Quentin Snider (all but Ullis were/are also Gopher targets).  Snider committed to Illinois today (F that guy) and it sounds like Izzo is conceding Jones to Duke and Ullis to Kentucky, so he needed somebody since Keith Appling is gone after this season and their only other PG is that shitbox Travis Trice.  So enter Sparty into the Tum Tum sweepstakes and they have told him he'll be the guy at PG from Day 1, which I think was the Gophers #1 pitch.

This is another reminder of how important your brand is in college basketball, and the Gophers just can't compete with Kansas or Michigan State.  I'm not saying it's a lock that Tum Tum is heading to East Lansing, but the parallels between this situation and the Tharpe thing are too similar to be ignored.  And it just sucks because Izzo is a whiny little leprecaun man who reminds me of the Lucky Charms guy on cocaine.

There is some good news in that a bunch of recruiting analysts much smarter than me have switched their projections on Isaiah Whitehead to the Gophers, but I just don't know.  It seems like once one guy makes a prediction everybody suddenly switches to the same prediction and Whitehead isn't really giving any clues. I'd feel a lot better if Robert Johnson, another highly regarding wing, would just commit to Indiana already and I think I read he's going to make his decision soon so just hurry up already dick.  It just sucks.  I just checked the predictions thing and 50% of the analysts at have him going to Michigan State and they just fucking contacted him.  Ugh.  I quit.

A couple quick comments while I finish my last few beers while sitting on my balcony looking out over Hollywood because I'm awesome:

-  We went to this Mexican/Sushi joint right on Venice Beach for dinner tonight and it was pretty hilarious (to me) because there were a few people there who just would not eat sushi.  I'm not even a sushi fan really, and especially not in Minnesota (and seriously what's with you people who get a sushi tray out of the deli, I mean really) but why would you not get it from a place that is right on the ocean when that's their specialty?  I mean there were just trays and trays of sushi coming out (final bill was over $1,500) so these few people were just sitting there watching everybody eat and then they finally ordered and got either ribs or a burger.  Ribs or a burger.  At a sushi joint right on the Pacific.  Like I said I'm not really a big sushi guy but I'm not some weirdo who is grossed out by it and won't try it I just never have found anything I loved (I do love a nice ceviche).  Then the yellowtail sashimi came around and my life was changed.  I ate as much of the appetizer as I could and then ordered it for a meal.  I may have to try some back in Minnesota.  Unless they have ribs.

-  Speaking of seafood, I'm a huge fan of calamari.  Love it.  Made sure we always had at least two orders for an appetizer at each dinner this week just so I could get enough.  Also a huge fan of buffalo sauce.  Yet, somehow I had never had them together.  At our dinner Wednesday night the calamari came with buffalo sauce. So.  Freaking.  Good.  It's the perfect combination.  I mean calamari is usually served with a spicy sauce so why not buffalo?  I wish I had some right now.  I would eat it.

-  Man I really wish I could just pee off this balcony.  Turns out that's frowned upon.

-  I'm pretty sure I passed a porn star on the street today.  I was walking to the market to get some beer when we had a break from meetings and there was this blondie with super short shorts and a top that was both revealing on the top and bottom and she was with some dude and when I passed he was saying, and I shit you not, "Yeah it can be rough, even if you don't feel like having sex you have to perform" so I guess that's something.

-  I had a chance to try both Fatburger and The Stand out here, as far as regional burger joints.  I still think In-and-Out is the best, but I'd put The Stand second, mostly because their pickles are outstanding (and readily available - seriously they have a place to just go and fill up a cup with pickle slices and they're so good).  Fatburger is basically the same as Whataburger that I had in Texas, just a big ass burger freshly cooked with any toppings you want.  Both are definitely better than Sonic.  I've had Five Guys and I'd put it above Fatburger/Whataburger right now, but I need to have it again to double check.  I still think Dairy Queen has an underrated burger, by the way.  Not as good as most of these but way better than any other fast food and I'd even put it against Sonic.  I remember when they put a Sonic right by my house and I was like man we gotta try that but the line was crazy for a like a month and finally we had it and it was like lol what.  I almost had Umami Burger one day out of a food truck but the line was really long and I was hungover so I just went back to the hotel and ordered a really terrible steak from room service instead.

-  We went to the California Science Museum, which is really terrible, and they had Endeavour which is a space shuttle.  This paragraph is now over.

-  I mentioned last time how this hotel was crazy expensive and the beers, like a Coors Light, are $9 at the bar.  We ended up at this bar two of the nights I was here and I just ended up going back to the room and grabbing my beer out of the fridge and carrying them down in my pockets and drinking them at the bar.  Classy, right?  Yes, my company will pay for a $1,500 dinner but not a $9 Bud Light.  Say la Vee.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Greetings from the City of Angels

That would be Los Angeles, just so you know.  I know back in the day when I used to travel all the time I would just fill up the hotel room sink with a bunch of beer and ice, drink it all, and just blog like crazy.  I would like you to know that I've grown up from those days - the beer is in the fridge. 

-  I was at the Dodger game tonight (more on that later) and I opened up Twitter on my phone to tell everyone how cool I am for being at Dodger Stadium and what do I see?  J.P. Macura committed to Xavier.  Shit.  Everything Pitino has been doing with recruiting has been impressive so far with getting on so many top 5 and top 3 lists for a whole bunch of really good prospects, but none of that matters if nobody actually, you know, signs on to become a Gopher.  Right or wrong (actually obviously wrong) Macura was the one everybody just kind of assumed would be a Gopher.

He was a Minnesota kid, and although he was highly regarded (#104 according to Rivals) he wasn't so highly regarded that the big time programs would be after like with Rashad Vaughn, Tyus Jones, and Reid Travis (recently offered by Duke by the way - FML) and so the Gophers would have an edge despite the late start for Pitino in chasing him.  There was also the perception, for some reason, that the other two schools in the hunt (Xavier and Creighton) were lesser programs and that also gave the Gophers a real good shot.  Well, oops.

The new Big East is a pretty damn good hoops conference (Xavier, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St Johns, Seton Hall, Butler, and Villanova) with some pretty good history among those individual programs, not to mention between each other in the old Big East, so you can certainly see why Macura would be interested.  Minnesota's enrollment is north of 50,000, while Xavier is just shy of 5,000, so if the kid wants smaller class sizes and student body (I have no idea if this was a factor) there's a dramatic difference.  And it's not like J.P. didn't do his due dilligence, he unoffically visited the U like 5 times, but Xavier showed up to visit with him today and left with his verbal, so good on them. 

There's no doubt that this sucks.  Even though Macura wasn't the highest rated player Pitino has worked to have a shot with, he was the most likely to become a Gopher, or so we thought.  Those who are talking themselves into the fact that Macura didn't commit to Minnesota because he's worried Pitino will recruit over him with a higher rated wing (hi gopherhole) are just chasing unicorns (along with those thinking oh well he wasn't a program changer anyway or Pitino is after bigger fish anyway).  Although I remain confident, there is nothing really to be confident about and that's the honest truth. 

Some fans are panicking.  Some are almost absurdly confident.  The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle.  There's no doubt Pitino has made some serious recruiting inroads, and the Gophers remain very much in the game for some very good players.  The most important right now is probably Lourawls Nairn, ranked #61 by Rivals who has narrowed his list to the Gophers, Oklahoma, and Indiana.  If Pitino can ink him we can all throw a party with sombreros and pie and move on with confidence.  There are still a handful of others who could make us all feel warm and happy (Isaiah Whitehead, Paul White, Josh Martin) as well as the remaining three Minnesota kids, but recruits are committing all over the place right now and I would feel much, much better if the Gophers could sign one of them.  Any one.

-  We went to the Dodger game tonight which was cool.  It was supposed to be the whole group of 20 or so who are out here for this work thing, but everything fell apart and it was just me and one co-worker.  We cabbed it out there (nearly an hour, stupid LA traffic) and as we're getting out of the cab I say, "You brought your ticket right?" because I had purchased them (corporate card, of course) and printed his out and gave it to him before we left Minnesota.  He says, "oh shit no, it's in my laptop bag."  I chuckled because of course I assume he's kidding.  He wasn't, and he's like, what do we do now?

Luckily I'm like Jason Bourne and quick on my feet, so I'm like "boom smartphone" and pull up the ticket and we should be good to go.  Well the 100-year old man at the gate is like, "no, you have to have a printed ticket" and I ask if there's anywhere to print them here assuming he'll say no and we're shit out of luck.  Fortunately, however, he says we can go to Lot G where they actually have Stubhub ticket booths to print tickets.  Nice.  We walk halfway around the stadium and get the ticket printed and we're good to go.

Then we get in and I look where we are and we are walking in by section 52.  Our tickets are section 53.  This is working out well.  We look around, however, and can't find 53.  So we ask the usher dude who kind of chuckles and says, "you're on the wrong side of the stadium guys."  Turns out the even sections are on one side of the stadium and the odd are on the other.  We walked in by the right field foul pole and our seats are by the left field foul pole only we can't get there going through the outfield sections and have to pretty much walk all the way around the stadium.  So at least we got to see pretty much all of it, which was nice.

-  Dodger Stadium was really nice, and you'd never know it was built in 1962 and is the third oldest major league ballpark still in use behind Fenway, which is a dump, and Wrigley, which I'm ashamed to admit I still haven't been to.  It's got that thing all the newer ballparks have where you can see the game from the concourse no matter where you are (which came in handy tonight) and was just a real nice, pleasant field.  We had seats right by the Dodger bullpen in the third row in left field and I never had a ball hit anywhere near me.  Still have never caught a ball at a major league game which seems ridiculous considering how many games I've been to in my life.  Stupid probability.

-  Juan Uribe hit 3 home runs which was pretty cool because I can't recall ever being at a game where somebody hit 3 home runs.  You know how many homers he hit last season?  Two.  The year before that?  Four.  So this was the rarest of rare occurrences and I think it makes me pretty awesome.

-  There were way more non-white people there than at Target Field.  Like way more.

-  Carlos Marmol throws really, really hard.  That's not breaking news, but we were right next to the Dodger bullpen and a bunch of guys warmed up and you could hear the catcher's mitt pop but when Marmol got up it was a whole different sound - like when he first aired it out everyone in the section's head just jerked in that direction to see what was going on.  Of course, he has no idea where he's throwing it, but he has no idea where he's throwing it pretty fast.

-  Dodger Stadium is pretty spendy.  I got what they're famous for - a Dodger Dog (good as advertised) and garlic fries (not nearly as good as I expected) plus a domestic light beer and the total was $24.  I guess it's pretty stupid to continue to get surprised by stadium/airport/movie theater/hotel prices, but I've never said I'm not stupid. 

-  Speaking of that, this hotel I'm at might be the fanciest I've ever stayed in, and I've stayed at the Cornhusker Inn in Lincoln, NE.  And a water costs $4.  I'm not talking some fancy water from the mini-bar either, just regular old bottled water.  The mini-bar water is $7.50, as is a bag of chips that would normally cost 99 cents.  Snickers?  $5.  I know, I know, I sound like a cranky old man.  I kind of want to kick my own ass right now.  Let's just move on.

-  This commercial with James van der Beek is easily the greatest commercial ever.  In case you haven't seen it:


-  I finally started watching Breaking Bad, and let me tell you that the hype is totally valid.  It's so awesome.  I think I've been watching for two weeks and I'm already up to Season 5, Episode 6.  I can't describe it, it's seriously amazing.  Every time you think you know where they're going, they go somewhere else and every episode is good.  My favorite shows have been the first 3 seasons of Lost and Game of Thrones, and I think Breaking Bad might be better than either.  We'll see how they wrap it up here in a couple of weeks, but if you can get to it, start watching it.  DO IT.

-  That's all I guess.  See you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Well then.

IPB Image

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gophers vs New Mexico State Aggies Preview

You won't find it on TV and it's occurring in the middle of a desert wasteland, but there is apparently a game on Saturday.  BTN2GO will be showing the game, so you can watch on your computer or if you're extra fancy like me you'll plug your laptop into your TV for maximum enjoyment.

Unless you've medicated away the memory, and lord knows we've all tried, you remember the Gophers lost 28-21 to these same Aggies at TCF in 2011.  This was Jerry Kill's second game as the Gophers' head coach after coming off of a hard fought game at USC the week prior.

New Mexico State is the #150 college football team in the country according to Sagarin rankings.  Despite that, they do have a blog!  Cruces Sports has 5 keys for the game on Saturday.  In summary, the keys are that the Gophers need to suck and the Aggies need to pull a second horseshoe out of their collective ass to get the win.  Sure, there's other stuff about running games and defense and stuff; but really it would take a colossal screw up for the Gophers to blow this one.  Am I setting myself up for ultimate disappoint and taunting the jinx monsters by saying this?  You bet I am.

New Mexico State took on Texas last week and received a 56-7 whipping.  Senior QB Andrew McDonald actually had an OK game going 32-46 for 242 with 1 TD and 1 INT.  He also ran for 50 yards and was their leading rusher.  Senior RB Germi Morrison only got 25 yards on 12 carries.  They actually led early in the first quarter 7-0.  I bet that was neat for them.  "Hey, we're beating Texas!" Then, *freight train* happened.  Texas had 4 scores of 50+ yards; 3 of them through the air.

Besides McDonald and Germi, other notables are WR Joshua Bowen, LT Davonte Wallace and LB Bryan Bonilla (couldn't find evidence of relation to Bobby, although Bobby has a son named Brandon that is a pitcher for ASU).

The aforementioned blogger in Las Cruces has a 38-24 Gopher win projected which sounds about right to me.  The secondary will be challenged again with a senior QB throwing a bunch of passes, so big plays will be important -- both creating them for the Gophers and stopping the Aggies.  I would love to see a wide receiver step up in this game as Engel kind of pissed me off when I reviewed the game this week.  If Engel makes a couple of plays against UNLV, maybe my Nelson passing ulcer would have shrunk a little.  That was game #1 though and improvement can happen.  No really, I've seen it.

NMSU Aggies All Namers:

#3 King Davis III - Fr QB
#11 TRE Wilcoxen - Fr SS
#21 Anthony Edwards - Sr SS and Goose
#25 Germi - rSr RB
#30 Yolandus Pratt - Sr RB
#40 Robert Wagner - rFr LB and Number Two
#55 Valerian Ume-Ezeoke - Jr C
#87 Prentavious Morehead - Fr WR

Here's What They're Saying on Twitter:

Can't wait to see all of that speed!

Let's go no guns for now.

Aggies have menopause.

On to the girls:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Big Ten Football Week in Review

The Season Has Landed

When you're jettisoned from your usual tailgating lot and forced to wander the desert to find @FrothyGopher's secret internet nerd friends in order to find a place to stand and drink before Gopher football, your season is off to a pretty bad start.

The great Minnesota grease together forced a number of us who park in the spacious St. Paul tailgating lots to find alternative means to imbibe liquor before the game.  Initially, we had decided that maybe we'd actually go to the Fair and then head over to our useless Washington Avenue ramp parking spot before heading into the game.  Then we looked at the forecast and decided we'd succumb to the heat.  We nearly died anyway though; mainly because we're dumb.  After having several lunch beers at Cowboy Jack's in Woodbury, we bought beer and a couple of those styrofoam coolers to load up with ice/beer goodness.

On paper this plan was solid.  Frothy tells me the ramp is just a couple of blocks from the lot where his friends are.  We park, then simply carry the styrocoolers to the lot.  We're big strapping guys, and 12 pounders each plus a 8.8lb bag of ice isn't that much to carry.  With Frothy as my sherpa, we headed out into the heat.  After going down six flights of stairs with a cooler we both look like we had just finished a marathon.  So, you know, off to a bad start.  Then this happened:

The dashed line was pretty much a straight path through to the tailgate lot.  Instead of doing that we wandered the earth like a very sweaty Caine from Kung Fu.  As new freshmen were entering the Students' Cooperative they were able to witness two full grown men making a terrible, terrible mistake that involved alcohol, but not in the way one might think.  One girl gave us a funny look before she jumped in her car and sped away.  Sorry, Ashleigh. 

So, that happened and in the future I would just go to Stub and Herbs like a normal person and drink delicious Surly beers. 

As for the game, my fears on the passing front were realized as Nelson only went 10-22 for 99 yards.  Not all of the onus is on Nelson for the poor percentage, but I feel like most of it is.  He missed some throws pretty badly.  He also had a couple of balls that could have been caught and the o-line wasn't doing him any favors at times.  What he can do though is run like the dickens.  On his 48 yard run, I timed him from the 50 yard line to the goal line and I came up with 6.2 seconds.  Now granted, he had a step or two start from behind the 50, but he also slowed up in the last 10 yards or so and wasn't running in a straight line.  That comes out to a 4.96 40 time with quick goat math.  He ended up with 12 carries for 82 yards and 2 TDs on the ground.

On defense, there were a number of great plays, but there was also a scheme that allowed shitty UNLV to move the ball quite easily at times.  UNLV's first drive was well executed as they softened up the linebackers and secondary with quick passes before handing off to Cornett for a long run right up the gut.  You have to credit the UNLV offense and Nick Sherry for executing as well as they did early too.

Momentum may have started to turn just before the half when the Gophers put a quick 39 yard drive together ending with a Maxx Williams TD reception after getting a good 3 and out stop.  The second half of course is when the dorrs got blown off this mutha starting with a Marcus Jones 98 yard kickoff return for a TD (unofficial TRE time 11.5 seconds) and then a Martezz Shabazz TD return off an awesome field goal block by Ra'Shede Hageman. 

Going into the 4th quarter, Boddy-Calhoun's 89 yard interception for a score pretty much sealed it for the Gophers.  Later on, Kill was really rotating in players and we saw some 3rd teamers even get time.  Some solid experience was gained.  This was a solid win to build on and hopefully a road win at New Mexico State is coming on Saturday.  People will say "but, but, but they only did well because of big plays."  Consider those 3 extra touchdowns means 3 more kickoffs (more time on D) and maybe, just maybe, this is a team that can create some of these types of plays.  Hageman being a force on the field goal block and Boddy-Calhoun's great jump on that pass weren't necessarily flukes. 

Cop considers storming the field.

Around the Big Ten

I titled this the week in review, and then I went on and on about the Gophers, so here are some quick hitters from the rest of the conference:

Indiana 73, Indiana St 35 --  Larry Bird weeps as the Hoosiers wipe the floor with his alma mater.  35 points allowed though?  The defense did stop the Sycamores 9 straight times and two of the TDs were special teams/defensive.  (recap) They get Navy this week. Navy's triple option offense can cause issues for teams.

Michigan State 26, W. Michigan 13 -- The Spartans had to fight against almighty God (no, not Notre Dame) as the weather pounded them into a delay.  Needless to say they expected a bigger margin against Western Michigan and the natives are getting restless in Lansing according to Joe Rexrode.  They face USF in week 2.

Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34 -- Scheelhaase threw for 416 yards, but the Illini still nearly shit the bed against an FCS team.  The Salukis had a shot to tie it up with less than a minute to play but turned it over on downs on the 3 yard line.  So, if you had any lingering bad feelings about the Gophers performance against UNLV, you can rest easy knowing we're not Illinois.  Dave Wischnowsky says even the wins don't feel good at Illinois.  We've been there.

Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20 -- The #2 Buckeyes didn't blow the doors off of Buffalo, but easily cruised to victory nonetheless thanks to 23-0 first quarter.  Urban Meyer wasn't pleased with the mistakes that were being made, indicating, "in a tight game, you're going to lose."  Bradley Roby returns for week 2 against San Diego St.

Wisconsin 45, UMass 0 --  This game pissed me off more than any other as I had the Badgers -45 and in the waning seconds they were on the goal line.  Now I was in a bar, so I couldn't tell for sure, but I thought they might have got in on the very last play.  The sportsbook disagrees though.  Tennessee Tech comes in to town this week.  And apparently they have this brand new defensive strategy called forcing turnovers.

Purdue 7, Cincinnati 42 -- *sadtuba*  Two fumbles lost and two interceptions does not a good game make.  Worst of all the opposing quarterback was named Munchie.  Purdue gets Indiana State next week.

Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9 -- Michigan's tune-up before facing Notre Dame this week went extremely well.  Drake Johnson's ACL tear will press 240lb freshman Derrick Green into action behind Fitz Two Saints.  Green was apparently one of, if not the top high school tailback in the nation. 

Penn State 23, Syracuse 17 -- Penn State held on for the victory in a tight contest.  Penn State freshman QB Christian Hackenburg threw for 278 yards and two 50+ yard TDs.  Time for some MACtion this week agaisnt Eastern Michigan.

Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34 -- Disaster for Nebraska was barely averted as Wyoming was in the fight all game long.  Nebraska had two 100 yard rushers in the game and Wyoming QB Brett Smith threw for 383 yards and 4 TDs.  The Cowboys had a chance for an onside kick to go for the tie or a win, but couldn't recover the ball.  They did get one last shot from their 6 with one minute left, but alas could not perform the necessary magic.  Nebraska's defense has a lot of 'splaining to do this week as they can't let Southern Miss hang another 600 yards on them.

Northwestern 44, Cal 30 -- Cal was also able to do some serious moving of the football with freshman QB Jared Goff going for 445 yards, second in school history, but also throwing three interceptions.  Two of those resulted in Wildcats touchdowns.  With Venric Mark hurt, Treyvon Green was relied upon for 129 yards and 2 TDs.  Northwestern gets Syracuse next week.

Iowa 27, Northern Iowa 30 --  HA HA!

For the complainers from last week:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Morneau, Gopher Football, Hoops recruiting, and stuff

Plenty of stuff happening out there.  Crazy world.

1.  Justin Morneau traded to Pittsburgh.  I know trading Justin Morneau makes your heart hurt and I get it.  He's been a Twin forever and for you people with human emotions it makes you sad that he's gone.  Just look around at all the Twins' blogs and newspapers and there are nothing but heartfelt good-byes, and with good reason.  But objectively, trading him was the correct move because he won't be around to be part of the team when they're good again, he's not that good anymore (although a hot August is probably what got him traded), and it made sense to try to get something for him rather than nothing when he walks at the end of the year.

What they got was actually better than I had expected, but isn't a team builder kind of a trade which just tells you how much Morneau has slipped since that damn concussion.  The Pirates sent the Twins back of Alex Presley, a definite major leaguer but more of a depth/4th outfielder type, and rp Duke Welker, who is a fireballer with little idea where it's going after it leaves his hand, making him an intriguing lottery ticket.

Presley is 28 and still doing the bounce around from AAA to the majors thing for the Pirates, but he should slot in nicely for the Twins since he can play all three outfield positions and has a little bit of speed and a little bit of power.  He's not much of a walker (which you know the Twins love) and so far this year he has 19 strikeouts against just one walk which is not real good but he's an ok player even with limited upside.

More upside comes from Welker, who is 6-7 and throws in the mid-90s and strikes out about a batter per inning but also walks more than 4 batters per 9 (that's really shitty for a reliever).  His other numbers look pretty good - 2.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP - and he already hit the show for a bit with the Pirates (4 batters faced, 4 outs, 1 K) so he could be ready by next year (or even this year).  The Twins pride themselves on getting their pitchers to throw strikes, right or wrong, and if they can help Welker out with his command without hurting his stuff or going with the "pitch to contact" nonsense he could be a nice middle reliever.

Yes, it sucks that the Morneau era ended and how it ended. He went from one of the best hitters in all of baseball to a below average first baseman, hitting .286/.358/.511  prior to that stupid concussion and .256/.317/.412 after, essentially become a league average hitter which becomes well below average when you're playing at a premium offensive position.  It's hard to believe a concussion could have that kind of impact on someone's ability, but it's not like it's unprecedented and the Twins' training staff has proven itself to be pretty much incompetent over the years so, you know.  I was already going to be rooting for the Pirates, but this gives me a little more incentive.

Also, if you have found yourself saying, "Well he's a free agent after the season the Twins' could just resign him" please go ahead and hit yourself in the nuts with a pitch fork.

2.  Gopher football is undefeated.  Even if the win was only over UNLV a win is a win and Gopher football needs to take whatever they can get (especially since I bet on the OVER 5.5 season wins).  It wasn't exactly an impressive win, and Philip Nelson's QB style seems to be making one read and either forcing it to that read whether he's open or not or just pulling the ball down and running.  Luckily, UNLV's quarterback seemed to come from the same QB school.  The Gopher gameplan was also less than imaginative and looked like something out of Tecmo Bowl (not Super Tecmo Bowl, just regular Tecmo Bowl) but the Rebel's offense looked more like they were drawing the plays up in the dirt while in the huddle so the Gophers had the advantage there too.

I'm no football expert, but it looked to me like the Gophers have a really crappy offense, a decent defense, and ended up blowing UNLV out thanks to three big plays (kick return TD, Interception TD, and blocked kick TD) that are non-repeatable in any meaningful way.  That's a clear indicator of an overstated spread (they're favored by 17 pts) in their next game against New Mexico State, so go ahead and join me in betting against the Gophers because there's no way they should be favored by 17 on the road no matter who they're playing.

3.  A whole lot is happening recruiting-wise, and we're still waiting to hear any good news.   Kyle Kuzma committed to Utah.  Wade Baldwin signed up with Vanderbilt.  Quentin Snider dropped the Gophers out of consideration.  J.P. Macura, who was supposed to be a sure thing, keeps doing things like visiting Purdue and Xavier.  Rakeem Buckles didn't get his waiver to play immediately and will remain at FIU.  And Lourawls Nairn visited this past weekend and left without committing to Pitino, even though he's explicitly stated multiple times he was going to take all 3 of his planned official visits (Oklahoma, Indiana) before making a choice we're all panicking anyway.

There remain enough intriguing options and realistic possibilities that there's really no reason to panic, but the raging optimism from a month or so ago has certainly flagged.  Along with Nairn and Macura there's still some optimism around Isaiah Whitehead, even if he hasn't yet set an official visit here, there's a realistic shot at two of the local kids (Travis and Vaughn), and Paul White, Josh Martin, and Marial Shayok are taking officials to the U.  I'm not worried at this point, but I would like it a whole lot if somebody, anybody, would just make a verbal to the Gophers.  Just so I know it's possible.

4.  I discovered Breaking Bad. You know how when everybody is saying something is awesome it almost always sucks like Rudy or Glee or Jennifer Lopez?  Well this is the opposite of that.  Everyone who watches the show says it's pretty much the best show ever, and they're right.  If you're not watching it yet, start.  If you are, you know what I'm talking about.  You just never know what's going to happen next and it's never boring.  It's been like a week since I started watching and I'm on Season 3, Episode 5 already.  Sure, I'm ignoring my family and haven't gone to work in a week, but at least I'm catching up on my pop culture and will be able to act all snooty to people who haven't watched this show yet.  "I mean really, Audrey, you can't talk about great TV if you've never watched Breaking Bad." *rollseyes *sipsbrandy

5.  Josmil Pinto made his major league debut, going 2-4 with a double.   This is significant to me because with Morneau now on the Pirates and Chris Parmelee proving to be terrible the door is wide open for Joe Mauer to move to first base full-time, and after this concussion mess it seems more likely than ever the Twins will go in that direction.  The question then becomes who is the catcher of the future, and it's probably either Josmil Pinto or Chris Herrmann.

They're both considered around the same prospect level (Gleeman has Herrmann at #20 and Pinto at #37, John Sickels has them both in his OTHERS TO CONSIDER which means just outside the top 20).  Herrmann's been up since July, and although he hasn't been great he hasn't been terrible either, showing a pretty good batting eye and some decent pop in his bat while being a halfway decent defensive catcher and outfielder, although Pinto's minor league numbers were much better this year than Herrmann, hitting .309/.400/.482 between New Britain and Rochester.

Neither Herrmann nor Pinto is likely to become a big-time impact player, but both are likely to become useful players and either (or both) has a chance to evolve into a full-time starting catcher and hold down the job for a while.  Pinto probably has the better bat, but Herrmann is much better defensively and offers the additional benefit of being able to play the outfield competently while Pinto is either a catcher or DH.  While the Twins have tons of questions and not many answers with the squad right now, catcher is one where they can probably feel good - Mauer or no Mauer in the mix.  Seems weird.

6.  Johnny Manziel can play some football.  I know everybody likes to jump on Johnny Football and tear him apart for doing things like going to a casino and watching a basketball game because everyone is jealous and people generally suck, but let's not forget that this dude can play some fucking football.  After he served his weirdo 1st half suspension, he came in for the second half and went 6-8 for 94 yards and 3 TDs as the Aggies beat Rice 52-31.  Watching the highlights made it clear Manziel is one of the best Qbs in the country, as if winning the Heisman last year didn't prove that already.  80% of college QBs can make one read and then it's time to run (like P. Nelson), and another 15% can go all the way to a second read and that's it.  There's only like 5% who can play QB like a real, actual QB, and that's why it's so much fun to watch guys like Manziel and Andrew Luck back when he was in college. 

7.  Not how I'd get fired up for the NFL season, but over at the blog Pat is Crazy long-time friend of the blog Joe U. (that's his quote up on the banner) decided to re-watch the 1998 (or 1999 depending on how you want to define it) NFC Championship game, also known as the game that destroyed the ability to actually enjoy sports for many, many Minnesota sports fans.  And he blogged it, live blog style.  Don't make his pain meaningless, go read it.