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Did you know Tracy played on 5 major league teams?
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I will gladly accept bribery to put your site on this list.
My favorite site. Not for those easily offended.
This is a great NBA blog. The NBA (National Basketball Association) is a professional men's basketball league, consisting of 29 American teams, and one Canadian team. It was founded in 1946. Cincinnati used to have a team. I wish it did now.
Better Off Red
Jamie Ramsey is the Assistant Media Relations Director of the Reds. He takes you behind the scenes of a Major League team. And he writes funny captions for his photos.
Plenty of scenery and funny stuff on Big Smudge. I'll be honest, these guys told me they were fans of my show, and even if they didn't mean it, that gets them linked.
Bugs and Cranks
If it's about baseball, these guys usually have something to say about it. And it's usually funny.
Booze, Ladies, and Football.
Calling It Like It Is
A guy from Cincinnati, who uh, well he calls it like it is.
Chris Sabo's Goggles
A Reds fan stuck in Chicago does a blog. He says the purpose of the blog is to inform people of the Reds without the geeky stuff, like facts for example. My kind of guy.
You're probably thinking this website is about me. Actually, it's not.
Local college basketball blog by two guys...one a UC fan, the other an XU fan.
The Godfather of sports blogs.
My favorite baseball blog. I thought I loved the game, then I read these guys.
Stuff guys like. At least stuff normal guys like.
Hugging Harold Reynolds
Very funny sports blog with one of my favorite names.
John Clay's Sidelines
John is an outstanding writer who covers everything and anything UK-related.
Larry Brown Sports
The other Larry Brown, not the guy who's coached half the teams in the NBA.
Look At Me Shirts
Be the guy in the ironic shirt. Take credit for someone else's joke.
Mo Egger's Blog
Did you really think my blog wouldn't be on a list of "favorites?"
Do you like mind-numbing statistical analysis of the Reds? Do you treat every game like the fate of the world rests on it? This site is probably not for you.
Most negative man in America. And I usually agree with him.
Pro Football Talk
Not daily, but almost hourly reading for NFL fans.
Everything and anything Reds...and more, by Reds fans.
Rush The Court
The Ubiquitous college basketblog.
A little UK, a little Louisville. A lot of funny.
Anything and everything hoops.
A Cincinnati guy based in Vegas. What I'd write if I could write.
Because some things can't be taught.
I admit, I'm a geek.
Who Dey Revolution
No site better captures the frustration of being a Bengals fan better than this one. Fan empowerment at its best.
1) Winner keeps the keg. For a long time. Tonight, after a season filled with SMUs, Houstons, and Temples the Bearcats play a team people care about in a game people care about.
That's not to knock what the Bearcats have done to this point, which has been pretty fun to watch. But from the very point the 2013 schedule was announced this was the game we've been waiting for.
The stakes aren't nearly as high as we thought they might be, though they're still pretty high. When the season began, this year's Battle For The Keg Of Nails looked like a potential de facto AAC Championship Game and considering the preseason hype surrounding both Louisville and Teddy Bridgewater , I think a lot of us looked at tonight as an evening where the Bearcats would be trying to stop both a team and a quarterback looking to impress two different types of voters.
As it is, tonight's winner needs outside help to share a conference title and the Heisman race will be largely shaped by what comes out of the State Attorney's office in Tallahassee this afternoon. (There are literally millions of college football fans who won't admit it but are hoping that Jameis Winston gets charged with rape, meaning that there are millions of people who are hoping for at least the possibility that a woman was raped. These people are psychopaths.)
Nonetheless, it's a big game tonight, a multilayer-ed game with a ton of back-stories and angles to it. Some are calling it the biggest game in the history of Nippert Stadium. (Maybe it is, though I would give the nod to the 2008 Syracuse game that clinched an outright Big East title. That was arguably the most significant day in the program's recent history. Also, given the fact that the local NFL team won its first ever game at Nippert, you could argue that tonight is competing for the title of biggest UC game in the stadium's history) And Bearcat diehards are hoping that after tonight, it will no longer take an entire quarter to buy a beer and take a leak while local media members will say a not-so-fond farewell to Nippert's dank press-box.
It's the Cats and Cards for the final time. It's so much more.
*One of these teams will cling to conference title and BCS hopes. If Cincinnati wins, I spend my early Saturday afternoon following a football game between Central Florida and SMU. I really never thought I'd look forward to either watching or following those teams, but I'd really like to wake up on Saturday and still have conference title hopes for the Bearcats.
Central Florida is probably not going to lose to SMU, but it's not like the Knights have been dominant - they trailed USF in the fourth quarter and they needed a miracle catch to beat Temple, and the game is in Dallas so there's a chance, right?
Anyway, as we stand now there's both a trophy and a marquee bowl game still to play for. BCS numbers geeks seem to think that a UCF loss coupled with a UC win would mean the Bearcats would pass the Knights in the rankings, thus sending UC to a BCS bowl tilt.
Where they would be enormous underdogs against a college football power.
I've had friends of mine wonder if that's what UC really needs, especially right now with the national profile a little diminished because of the conference situation and with the memories of Tim Tebow throwing for 9,000 yards against them still fresh. I usually say nasty things about these friends under my breath before replying that yes, going to a BCS bowl game would be awesome. Mind you, this coming from a guy's who's endured the International, Fort Worth, Papajohns.com, New Orleans and Motor City Bowls. OK, so the likely non-BCS destinations aren't nearly as bad. Some are quite decent, actually. But the point is that once you get a sniff of being in a real bowl game, you don't want to go back to games named after department stores. And you can't break through and win one if you don't get to one.
The Bearcats can still get to one.
*The end of a rivalry. And no new ones on the horizon. College football is defined by rivalries. No one's making UC/UofL out to be either of the two rivalries that were on the main stage this past weekend, but the Keg of Nails has been a good rivalry. Don't let Louisville fans looking down their noses or hurt Bearcat fans tell you otherwise.
This year, there's more. Louisville got the spot in the ACC that Cincinnati desperately wanted. (And frankly, deservedly so.) The disappointment in Whit Babcock's voice when I had him on the air the day the news came down that Louisville and not Cincinnati would be leaving was audible. There's hurt feelings, there's a sense of "why them and not us" and if you're judging it soley by what's happened on the field between the two teams in recent years (which conference realignment is rarely about), there's a sense that Louisville's sudden prestige is a little undeserved. (The Cardinals needed overtime last season to avoid losing five straight in this series. Munchie threw 17 interceptions in a game dominated by this fake controversy.)
All this leaves UC without a rival.
Yes, there will be some name opponents to look forward to on future schedules. Yes, some good series can be developed with their AAC peers, though does the school want to be in the league long enough for any rivalries to take shape? And yes, they'll still play Miami every year, but calling the Bearcats and Redhawks rivals right now is sort of like looking at Obama and Boehner and commending their ability to work together.
An unfortunate thing about the collapse of Big East football, as least for UC, is that the Bearcats had started to develop some good rivalries. The River City Rivalry Trophy was a monstrosity and the two schools forced the rivalry angle a little too much at the outset, but Bearcats v. Panthers turned into a pretty good series. Same too - though without the trophy - with West Virgina. Throw in drivable distances for visiting fans, some very memorable games, and some pre-exisiting sports history and you've got games for fans to look forward to.
After tonight, we have....UConn? Memphis? Anyone?
I don't know that having a rival is essential to the success of a college football program. I do know that having one makes the season more fun. I do know that having an annual game against a hated opponent is one things most fans love about college football. And I do know that I'll miss watching UC play Louisville.
THIS is a cool giveaway. (And one that probably doesn't happen - at least with authenticity - without Louisville's cooperation) And I want one. If you happen to score one tonight and don't feel like fussing with eBay, I know someone who will take it off your hands.
*Exposure. Prestige. Perception. And stuff. Paul Daugherty covered a lot of this earlier this week....
Thursday is UC’s opportunity.
It’s a national-TV chance to show high school sophomores that it’s cool, prestigious even, to play football for the Bearcats. It’s a prime time chance for the big boys currently strangling UC’s football future to remove the unwelcome mat from their doorsteps.
Tuberville: “We will have five or six official-visit (recruits) here for the game. They’ll meet with professors (and) deans of the different schools we have. Those play a big factor in a kid’s decision.”
Maybe. A bigger factor is how your football team is perceived. UC might never change how the rest of the country sees its football team. That doesn’t mean the opportunity doesn’t exist. The platform exists Thursday. Time to seize it.
How many people will spend their evening watching Cincinnati and Louisville play football in a game that has zero national championship implications? I have no idea. I do know that your national sports-viewing menu includes a lousy Jaguars/Texans game (But hey, the Jags can still make the playoffs!) on the NFL Network and a Knicks/Nets game (Don't get me started on this one), so the lack of palatable choices elsewhere could divert some eyeballs toward the happenings at Nippert. And maybe there's a Heisman voter or two who wants to give Teddy Bridgewater a closer look.
Either way, the stadium will look great, and the atmosphere will be incredible. The place will look great on the national stage. It can't hurt to win the game.
*The end of Nippert as we know it. I'm not sure how sentimental to be about this. The people in charge of Nippert's renovations seem to understand that maintaining the integrity of what makes the place unique is essential to the project being successful. Nippert Stadium should still be quaint, just not nearly as much. There should still be a sense of history, just set against the backdrop of a more modern, comfortable stadium. You should still be able to get a feel for what Nippert looked like 90 years ago without having to wonder if it will take that long to make it from one end of the concourse to the other.
Nippert will be different, but it won't be that different.
For all of the talk of the added premium seating - which is an absolute necessity - I'm curious how the fan experience will change. We've talked about this for a while now, but things like narrow concourses, poorly-placed concession areas, limited sight-lines outside of the main seating areas, simply aren't tolerable in 2013.
They'll hopefully be a thing of the past by 2015.
Personally, I'm excited that after tonight, the tiny, cramped, antiquated home radio booth will get the wrecking ball. I'm not seeking any sympathy here, but our booth pales in comparison to almost every venue we go to. Our windows don't open. It's technically behind the times. It's a small room for four or five people to work in. These things don't matter to you, and they shouldn't, but they do matter to me.
The comfort level of the general press-box area ranks somewhere between smelly taxicab and a wet, moldy basement. The TVs rarely work. There's not much workroom. And there's nowhere to take visitors - bowl representatives, high-profile national media members, other school's admins, etc - when they visit.
That press-box can't come down soon enough.
Despite what it isn't and what its inconveniences are, when Nippert is full, particularly at night, it is a beautiful setting for college football, and as unique a place to see a game as any I've been to.
All of that said, it is an end of an era. And era endings do merit some reflection. A stadium I went to as a fan became a stadium I've worked at on fall weekends (with a few Thursday exceptions) for 13 years. The field I ran on to after a three-win team upset Wisconsin in 1999 became the one I looked down on as fans rushed onto it after clinching an Orange Bowl bid in 2008. In our tight little radio booth, I watched a program evolve from Cincinnati sports afterthought that few really got emotionally invested in to one that flirted with playing for a national championship. I watched from that booth as UC football started to matter. I watched a lot of really good games. I have a lot of really good memories.
I hope the old place helps create a few more tonight.
Bearcats 28 Cardinals 27
(If this game comes down to UC needing a field goal, my final memory of the radio booth at Nippert Stadium might be me throwing up in it.)
2) Walt Jocketty says that he's told Brandon Phillips that he's not shopping him. From Sirius/XM Mad Dog Radio....
Do believe him? Sure. They aren't shopping him now, which is mighty convenient, given the fact that Phillips's potential absence from RedsFest is becoming a bigger story than the event itself. And they could still shop him once the Cano deal gets done with whomever the Cano deal gets done with. And I'm guessing as soon as Walt hung up with Brandon, he scanned his texts and emails just in case another GM had any interest in his second baseman.
To be clear, there are worse things than having Brandon Phillips on the 2014 Reds. But if he's here, his contract is here and if the Reds are going to get any better, they're either going to have to be extremely creative financially or they're going to have to trade some guys they probably don't want a trade.
Dealing Phillips should be about getting some financial flexibility, nothing else. If he's here, where's the financial flexibility coming from? And if they're monetarily stuck, how do they get any better?
They could trade a Homer Bailey I suppose, but are you really better if you're plugging one hole by opening another?
You can trade some farmhands, but who are they willing to give up that another team really wants? And wasn't the farm system all but dried up a combination of steady player ascension to the Majors and a bunch of trades involving other minor leaguers?
I say this while keeping in mind the fact that Walt Jocketty's biggest moves have been unforeseen when he's made them and while remembering that Walt usually gets going after the Winter Meetings, but if you take him at his word regarding his second baseman while understanding Phillips' limited trade value, I gotta wonder....
How do the Reds get unstuck? More important, how do they get better?
3) Ken Griffey Jr. I talked a little yesterday about his induction into the Reds Hall of Fame next year is a deserving honor and started thinking about his candidacy for Cooperstown in 2016. More to the point, I started to think about how that vote will highlight why so many of us mock the process.
Junior will be a Hall of Famer on the first ballot. But he won't go in unanimously.
No one does.
It's every voter's prerogative to vote for - and leave off - whomever they want. If a voter looks at Junior's numbers and simply decides that he's not Hall-worthy, he or she might be out of their skull, but that's their right.
But what bugs me - and many others - is that the process is taken so uber-seriously by many of the voters that he'll be left off of ballots in his first year of eligibility.
That's pretty much it.
Furthermore, the same people keeping out known or suspected juicers solely because either they know the player cheated or think maybe perhaps they cheated will still keep Griffey off their ballots even though his numbers put into context against the steroid era are all the more impressive.
The most obvious first ballot Hall of Famer in recent history was Rickey Henderson, who got in easily in 2009 with 94.8% of the vote. This means that there were about 30 voters that year who looked at Rickey Henderson's numbers and said, essentially "naaah."
I know I know, there are Hall of Famers and there are absolute upper crust Hall of Famers, the best of the best. I get it. Some Hall of Fame choices aren't clear-cut. Barry Larkin, much as I hate to admit it. Jim Rice. Gary Carter Just to name some recent examples.
But Rickey Henderson? Come on.
Ken Griffey Jr? The man with the sixth-highest home run total in the history of the damn sport? Someone won't vote for him.
And these baseball writers wonder why we laugh at them.
4) Can Chuck Martin do what his former boss did? One day I was sitting in a bar on the west side and the new Head Football Coach at the University of Cincinnati walked in, accompanied by a marketing guy and a girl with some pocket schedules. There might have been nine people in the place, but within minutes, Brian Kelly was giving what amounted to a stump speech, trying to excite people about Bearcat football. For months before his team played a game (I know, he was the coach in the '07 International Bowl, which was a miserable experience), he did this same act all over the city, adding as many speaking engagements as possible, becoming a regular on local radio and TV and almost literally going door-to-door selling people on UC football.
Chuck Martin might have to literally go door to door to sell people on his Miami program.
Yes, he needs to improve recruiting. Yes, he needs to find ways to funnel good local talent to Oxford. Yes, he needs to match system with talent far better than his predecessor.
But he's got to start selling that program.
Tucked away in a tough place to get to, in a region that has more sports options than ever before, Miami football has almost become forgotten. I know Miami grads who couldn't have been more obnoxious during the Roethlisberger years that couldn't name a player on the current roster and who haven't been to Yager Stadium in years.
A couple of years ago, the school provided us with tickets to give away on air. No one who won them ever came to claim them.
How do Chuck Martin and the people he works for now get people excited about Miami University football? He might want to start by asking the guy he used to work for.
5) The feel good story of the high school basketball season comes from my alma mater. This is a cool story about a Scott High School Student, a basketball team, and a coach who gets it. Read it and watch the video.
Radio, RedsFest, and the place to win Crosstown Classic tickets.
I'll be in 700WLW's area (Do we call it an exhibit? A booth?) at RedsFest on Saturday. Come by, say hello, and talk baseball.
Also on Saturday, I'll be giving away some Crosstown Classic tickets.....
If you're a Xavier fan, I'll be at Stone Lanes in Norwood starting at 1:00 before Saturday's XU/Bowling Green tilt. I'll have Xavier tickets as well as tickets to the Crosstown Classic.
If you're a UC fan, I'll be at Murphy's Pub for Saturday's Bearcats/New Mexico game starting at 4:00. I'll have UC tickets as well as tickets to the Crosstown Classic.
Missed Mo today? OMG. Why? Catch up here.
Mo talks with the voice of the Colts Bob Lamey.
Mo talks with Reds' Tucker Barnhart about the offseason and Redsfest.
Mo talks with Miami Redhawks new football coach Chuck Martin.
Mo talks with Chris Fowler about UC vs. Louisville.
I may have to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about Andy Dalton, but at least I don't have a job that involves me having to pretend to care about a streetcar.
3:42 - Chris Fowler, ESPN
4:20 - Bob Lamey, Voice of the Colts
4:33 - Tucker Barnhart, Catcher of the Future
5:20 - Jayson DiManche
We're efforting Chuck Martin, who's being introduced as Miami's new football coach today in Oxford
Is it time to make nice with Brandon Phillips.
If he's staying and Choo's going, how are they getting better?
So now I'm not supposed to care about what conference you play in?
Why last night's Reds Hall of Fame announcement has me thinking about 2016.
Would you rather be right about Andy Dalton and be miserable or be wrong about Andy Dalton and be happy?
Couple of quick links....
Peter King spent a week embedded with NFL refs. The first part of his three-part series is excellent.
Zach Lowe writing about the NBA always gets linked to.
Here's a guy getting kicked in the face.
The radio show starts at 3:04 today on ESPN1530.
1) Ryan Hanigan. The Reds got a living, breathing human in return for a soon-to-be 34 year-old catcher who's coming off his worst offensive season and who was still due a raise. They did this all while signaling to everyone that they intended to dump Ryan weeks ago when they agreed to a deal with Brayan Pena.
This living, breathing human they got from the D-Backs actually plays baseball professionally.
Walt Jocketty might be the early frontrunner for Executive Of The Year.
This isn't meant to knock or demean Hanigan, who's had an imprint on the organization that should be felt for years, it's a statement about both about what he is and how the team feels about Devin Mesoraco. A part-time catcher who's an offensive zero heading into his mid-30s is simply not worth what he was going to make and between now and free agency, his value was only going to decline.
The move does put Mesoraco in the cross-hairs.
The Reds are taking Devin's training wheels off, and upping both the playing time and expectations for a former first round pick who's had limited success. It's time for Mesoraco to hit more and it's time for him to catch all of the Reds pitchers, not just some of them.
Maybe even the guy they somehow pried away in exchange for Ryan Hanigan.
2) The Reds Hall of Fame class of 2014. Those who voted on the modern player ballot got it right. Ken Griffey Jr. was, with no disrespect to the other candidates intended, the obvious choice. I wrote about this on August 1st. Instead of re-typing it, I'll just cut and paste...
The Modern Player Candidates for Reds Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is out. Among, Brantley, Graves, Franco, Sanders, and Ken Griffey Jr, Junior gets my vote. A couple of reasons...
*His stature in the game itself is immense. This is a first ballot National Baseball Hall of Famer, one of the best players of all-time, and he played a significant chunk of his season here, reaching milestones in a Reds uniform. There's a good argument that he's the best baseball player to ever play for the Reds.
*He ranks among franchise leaders in homers, slugging, and OPS.
*He's from here. Sorry, this factors in.
*Longevity. The guy played nine seasons here. They might have been disappointing seasons in terms of the team's record, but nine seasons is longer than anyone else on the ballot except for Danny Graves, who leads the franchise in a devalued stat and whose final three seasons here were unmitigated disasters.
*Halls of fame exist to tell a story. The Baseball Hall of Fame exclusion of Pete Rose, and now many, many others is silly because the sport's story can't be told without them. You might be able to tell the story of the Reds while excluding the other four deserving nominees. You're not telling the story of baseball's oldest franchise without including Ken Griffey Jr.
Dave Parker's inclusion is overdue. He might not have been a Red for long, and he's far more identified with the Pirates. But he put up one of the team's best individual seasons of the past three decades in 1985, when he was jobbed out of the NL MVP voting (Cobra over Willie McGee is something I will fight to the death.) and his four seasons in Cincinnati were productive even if not extraordinarily memorable. Plus, the dude was just a total badass.
Ron Oester. Meh. He played here for a long time. He's from here, which is consistent with the 2014 HOF class. He shaved his head in 1990. He was pretty good with the glove. I guess that's Hall of Fame worthy.
Jake Beckey has the third-highest batting average in the history of the franchise. He died almost a hundred years ago. That they're finally getting around to honoring him is a little odd, but you can't induct every player every other year.
3) A Brandon Phillips trade now seems unlikely. From Ken Rosenthal....
For much of the offseason, many in baseball expected the Cincinnati Reds to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips.
A deal, however, appears increasingly unlikely, according to major league sources.
The Reds discussed Phillips with the New York Yankees earlier in the offseason, and later received inquiries from teams on his 10-team no-trade list. None of those discussions was serious, sources said.
A trade still is possible if a team makes a substantial offer, but the Reds are not actively shopping Phillips, sources said. Clubs in need of second basemen also can consider free agents such as Robinson Cano and Omar Infante.
I'm going to guess that the "substantial offer" the Reds are hoping for isn't coming. And given the fact that BP's ten and five rights kick in at the end of the season, the Reds front office better start thinking about ways to make nice with their second baseman for the sake of a relationship that has years, and a lot of money, left in it.
The questions now are, how do they get better and how do they find financial flexibility for both the short and long term?
4) So now your conference doesn't matter? I've spent the past two years listening to and engaging in endless conversations about conference affiliation and how important it is. Gotta be in a good, steady, prestigious league, right?
So how can you not expect me to look at your league first when it comes time to rank teams and choose them to play in a national championship game?
There hasn't been a hotter topic in college sports than conference realignment, a discussion which has essentially been about being affiliated with the right schools to bolster a school's on and off-field profile. It's drastically changed both football and basketball, destroyed rivalries, helped legitimize new TV networks, and flat-out changed how certain universities are perceived.
Yet, I'm not supposed to look hard at the Big Ten when determining whether Ohio State should be ranked ahead of Auburn? Or Missouri?
5) Wanna win tickets to the Crosstown Classic?
If you're a Xavier fan, I'll be at Stone Lanes in Norwood starting at 1:00 before Saturday's XU/Bowling Gree tilt. I'll have Xavier tickets as well as tickets to the Crosstown Classic.
If you're a UC fan, I'll be at Murphy's Pub for Saturday's Bearcats/New Mexico game starting at 4:00. I'll have UC tickets as well as tickets to the Crosstown Classic.
If you're a fan of neither, I expect you to be at both.
As I mentioned this morning, it's been a busy day for me and should be a busy day on the show. A lot happening today, including a pending trade involving Ryan Hanigan being dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Frankly, I think any deal where the Reds get a living, breathing human complete with two arms and two legs in return for a 34 year-old part-time catcher coming off of his worst offensive season is a good one.
Hanigan's best attribute is that he throws out base-stealers, which is great. That one quality isn't worth what he'd be making in 2014, not with steal attempts around the Majors at an eight year low.
Here's today's rundown....
3:20 - John Fay, Cincinnati.com
4:04 - Joe Reedy, Cincinnati.com
4:33 - Mike Leake
5:20 - Brendon Kay
5:42 - Jesse Palmer, caling UC/UofL Thursday
The Hanigan deal, it's inevitability and the player it puts in the hot seat.
The Bengals, past playoff failures and what they mean for future playoff results.
Putting the Big Ten's problems in perspective.
UC plays Louisville for the last time for a while on Thursday? Who's the Bearcats' biggest rival? Do they need one?
A ton to get today, and we're giving way RedsFest tickets. The fun starts at 3:04 today on ESPN1530.
I've had some additional broadcast duties thrown my way tonight. I will be filling in for Dan Hoard, calling play-by-play for tonight's UC basketball game. There has never been a steeper dropoff from the regular announcer to the fill-in. Anyway, this coupled with the regular prep for the radio show and a side trip to go interview Brendon Kay for Thursday night's pregame show means I won't have time to blog this morning.
We do have one killer radio show this afternoon, with Joe Reedy, Mike Leake, and ESPN's Rece Davis on the guest list. Catch it at 3:04 on ESPN1530. Here's a Channel 5 newscast from 1987.
Yes, Sears had a Back To School Sale today. Also, the cameraperson (Lindsay) was trying to shoot today's rundown video like she was filming an episode of The Real World.
It's the Rock and Mo Football Show on ESPN1530.
3:04 - Marvin Lewis
5:50 - Dave Lapham
Was yesterday's Bengals win the blueprint for postseason success?
Andy Dalton something something something something.
Is this the best Bengals defense in their history?
Do you like football?
Crazy endings and now in college football, crazy arguments.
Should Mike Tomlin be barred for life?
It is going to be an incredible three hours. We invite you to listen starting at 3:04 on ESPN1530.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
1) The Blueprint. If somehow, some way, this team has defied the odds, common sense, and its own history and is still playing two months from today, we'll look back on yesterday.
Yesterday's win over the Chargers wasn't just important for what it meant in the standings, although the fact that it helped them maintain a two game lead in the standings while allowing them to keep pace with both New England and Indianapolis is significant. The San Diego game will be the one where we look back at the day when the Bengals finally - and forcefully - established what they are.
Forget the Andy Dalton debate, at least for a few minutes. Stop searching for style points. For the Bengals to get to where we want them to go, they're going to have to win a lot of games that look just like yesterday's.
It might have lacked the craziness of some of their previous games. Frankly, it might have been their most ho-hum game of the season, assuming any game where you spend the entire fourth quarter nervously pacing can be considered "ho-hum." It was also their toughest, most hard-fought, and as of today, their most significant victory of 2013. And it was the one win that most future wins will have to resemble.
The running game returned in a big way. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, his fumble aside, ran as hard and he has as a Bengals. Giovani Bernard lacked pizazz but not production. And both were aided by an offensive line that was as good as we've seen it all season. (Andrew Whitworth was forced to play guard because of the Clint Boling injury. I think he's better suited to play there.) Most important, the Bengals stuck with it, using the pass to compliment what they were doing on the ground and never really getting too cute with the playcalling, instead sticking with what worked.
Andy Dalton was neither great nor terrible, which for at least yesterday, was good enough. The three most important pass plays of the day - the touchdown to AJ, the sideline pass to AJ, and the long catch and run by Hawkins - were perfectly thrown balls. His one pick was at least akin to a punt (and thrown like one) and no Dalton passes resulted in the other guy celebrating in the end zone.
At some point this season, the Bengals will need their quarterback to more prolific that he was yesterday, but they can win games with the Andy Dalton we watched yesterday.
And they can win big games with that defense.
What else can you say about the D? We had Vontaze Burfict covering more ground on a bum ankle than most linebackers can cover with two healthy wheels. We had Philip Rivers dealing with collapsing pockets. We had three takeaways, including a welcome-to-the-team moment from Dre Kirkpatrick against a guy who'll end up in Canton.
We had a defense that held Philip Rivers to his second-lowest completion percentage and his lowest passer rating of the season.
We had a defense that held the same Chargers team that dropped 41 on the Chiefs to just ten points.
We have a defense that more than anything else we talk about, gives the Bengals more than a puncher's chance in game game. Against any opponent. In any stadium.
It would be great if the Bengals could bottle the weather they played in yesterday and bring it east. I'd love nothing more than to not have to wear a winter coat to PBS on Sunday. But there's a likelihood that every game the rest of the way will be played in cold weather, with the running game at a premium and low-scoring games probably becoming the norm.
The way they won yesterday will be how they have to win next week, next month, and maybe, just maybe, two months from today.
2) Is this the best Bengals D ever?
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
I repeat, you simply cannot say enough about the Bengals' D.
They've faced four of the NFL's top 12 highest-rated quarterbacks, as well as Tom Brady. Here's how they've played compared to their current season statistics....
Ben Roethlisberger: Lowest completion percentage of 2013 at 54.1% (compared to 64.4 for the season) and his lowest passer rating (73.1) of 2013 (compared to 92.4 for the season).
Aaron Rodgers: 60.5 completion percentage/64.5 rating against the Bengals. 66.9% and 108 for the season (Aside from the game he came out of due to injury, Rodgers worst yardage day came against Cincinnati and the only game where he threw more picks than TDs was played against the Bengals.)
Tom Brady: Posted both his lowest completion percentage and passer rating of 2013 (47.4% and 52.4 compared to his season totals of 60.7% and 88 for the season). They broke his streak of 52 straight games with a TD pass.
Matthew Stafford: Had a pretty productive day (357 yards and three TDs) but did post his third-lowest completion percentage of 2013 (54.9% compared to the season total of 59.2%)
Philip Rivers. Lowest completion percentage (62.2%) of 2013, which is very good considering he's completed 70% of his passes. His 80.0 passer rating was his worst of 2013 and well off his season total of 104.4
They've had just two backs go over 100 yards on them. They're within striking distance of the franchise sack record set last season (36 through 12 games). And in an era when teams are routinely putting up comical offensive numbers (nine teams have already scored 30 or more this week), the Bengals have given up just 30 once, and that effort by the Packers came with a fumble return for a TD and field goals forced by the Bengals defense after being given short fields after turnovers.
In their last five games, the defense has given up nine against the Jets, 13 against Miami, 20 against Baltimore (seven of those came on an 11-yard drive and three more came in OT), 13 to the Browns, and ten to the Chargers.
Mind you, this is 2013. It's never been easier or more advantageous to play offense. Middle East election laws are less tilted than NFL rules are toward quarterbacks and wideouts.
And yet this defense keeps stopping opponents, sometimes good opponents.
And all the while suffering the team's most critical and damaging injuries.
Their best defensive lineman last played more than a month ago. Their best DB was done for the year before the season was half-over. They've got old guys and unheardofs in the defensive backfield, three former undrafted free agents logging playing time at linebacker. And they've had to thrive often this season in spite of an offense often hellbent on giving the other team the ball.
What more can you ask?
What other Bengals defense has done this much?
I can't recall a Bengals defense that's been this good, that's continually had to do what this unit has been called on to do. None have ever had to play under the league's current rules. And their better defenses that I can recall had the fallback of more explosive offenses. I probably need someone who goes back further than I do to answer this question, but any comparison to Bengals defenses of yesterday has to put into context other defenses against what the league was and what it is now.
I think this is the best Bengals defense I've seen.
3) The problem isn't the arguments, it's that the arguments exist.
First off, wow. If you're entire sports-viewing weekend consisted of nothing but Ohio State/Michigan and Auburn/Alabama, you were sufficiently entertained. Conference championship weekend and the entire bowl season will both seem anti-climatic compared to the two wildly entertaining epics in Ann Arbor and Auburn.
Now to the debate.
If it's up to me, and I think we can all be glad, it isn't, RIGHT NOW (those words are key), I'd put Auburn ahead of Ohio State. But before you fire off your nasty email to me.....
The problem isn't my argument, it's that such an argument has to be made in the first place. The problem is that college football, as good as it is, still leaves room for individual interpretation. I admit that I'm not completely comfortable with arguing against a team that won all its games playing for a championship. The only thing I truly loathe about college football is that a team can do everything you ask a team to do, which is win all its games, and they still may not play for the big prize at the end.
I wish it was cut and dry - and starting next year it will be (maybe) - you win all your games, and you play for the title. Every other freaking sport on earth works that way.
College football doesn't.
Don't blame me, blame it.
What I hate about this very argument is how we frame it. SEC hacks will claim that anything other than an Auburn (or perhaps eventually, Missouri) title game appearance is a downright slap in face to the school, the league and the sport as a whole. They'll drone on and one about the egregiousness of the Tigers being left out of the championship game and how it's one of the worst exclusions in history.
Auburn might have a case. In fact, I think it does, but when you're being left out of a championship game in favor of a team that never lost, we're not exactly talking about a crime against humanity.
The problem is, it's not about which team deserves to be left out less or which exclusion is more egregious. It's about making subjective interpretations about which team is best, which had the best season, and for some - which team would help give us the best title game.
Therein lies the problem, the human element means everyone is up to their own devices, own biases, own prefaces, and own individual criteria.
And so given that freedom, I give preference to the team with the tougher schedule. And I'm willing to forgive a blemish.
I'm making this simple, because it is simple. Ohio State's schedule was not as good as Auburn's. Each team played cupcakes. The Buckeyes played more. That's not completely their fault. In fact, it proves that Urban Meyer's plea for his conference peers to recruit better was justified. The Big Ten isn't very good and while Auburn didn't exactly play a who's who of college football before SEC play, they simply play in a more challenging league.
Their one blemish in excusable. They lost at LSU is a stadium where the home team has lost just once in 32 games. I'll forgive a blemish if you give me reason to. Auburn did.
The Buckeyes and Tigers were three and four respectively in last week's rankings. Each won extraordinarily close games that were within a play of being lost. Had Alabama's kick at the end of regulation gone through the uprights and had Brad Hoke's two-point conversion try (which I loved) worked, which team would have dropped more?
Probably Ohio State.
So why, given the razor-thin margin each team won by, can't the Tigers pass the Buckeyes?
Again, I hate making this argument. But the sport is making me make one. I wish "but they won all their games" was enough.
But it isn't.
The argument that a team should automatically play for a title simply because it won every single game doesn't work. Schedules and conferences must be combed through, and every season must be put into context. Let me ask you this....
If UC, playing in a massively inferior AAC, won every game on their schedule, one that included Big Ten dregs Purdue and Illinois, would an "They won all of their games in a AQ league. Enough said." argument hold water?
I'm as big a Bearcat fan as you'll ever find, and I'd laugh at that.
And while we're at it, past seasons don't count either. The Buckeyes' streak of 24 straight wins is an incredible accomplishment, but for the purposes of placing teams in BCS bowl games, they're currently 12-0. UK didn't get to go to the NCAA Tournament simply because they won it the year before this past March. The undefeated season of 2012 was nice. It has no bearing on this season.
(Similarly, OSU's failures in past BCS title games should have nothing to do with this season.)
Look, if Ohio State ends up in the championship game, there'd be no reason for outrage. And given how good they are offensively, I'd give them a damn good chance to beat Florida State. They do deserve a chance.
But the system allows me to use my own criteria, and given that freedom to apply it to both OSU and Auburn, I think the Tigers deserve it more.
At least this week.
4) Xavier went to the Bahamas and lost three games. They played in one of the more entertaining games of the young season on Thanksgiving night against Iowa and lost. Then they seemed to let that defeat fester for the next two days, sleepwalking against Tennessee and often looking disinterested against USC. Maybe the time frame caught up to them. Maybe they missed Erik Stenger. Or maybe this team lacks the toughness it will need by the time the real important games get here.
They have a month to find it.
5) Radio, RedsFest, and Tickets. Rocky Boiman and I kick off a full week of radio today on ESPN1530, starting at 3:04. With the Bengals, a huge college football week, and RedsFest, it will be a busy week.
Speaking of RedsFest, I will be hanging out in the 700WLW area from 11:00 until 12:30 on Saturday. I'm also thinking of going on Friday afternoon for a little while just to walk around.
And today we'll be announcing two places where you can win Crosstown Classic tickets. One will be a Xavier bar, the other will be a UC establishment. I'm sure the wait to find out where will be unbearable.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I also hope you aren't reading this while sitting in some mall store waiting for your significant other to make up her mind on buying some gift that the person it's intended for is going to take back anyway.
If you're out helping the nation's economy tonight, you can catch me filling in on SportsTalk tonight, after the UC game on 700WLW.
1) Bengals v. Chargers. First off, I was pleased with last night's result in Baltimore. Either the Steelers or Ravens were going to pull within a game and a half of first place, and while the Bengals have lost to Baltimore, I was pulling for them.
The Steelers look to me like a team more capable of reeling off wins than the Ravens do.
I still say it's going to take ten wins to capture this division. I just don't see the Ravens (Vikings, @Lions, Patriots, @Bengals) winning out and getting to ten. The Steelers, who now have zero chance to get to ten wins, had a more favorable schedule (Dolphins, Bengals, @Packers, Browns) and while getting to ten wins would have been an uphill battle, they seemed more likely to do so.
Tiebreakers being what they are - I simply looked at the Steelers as the bigger threat.
Of course, it will help if the Bengals start playing better. Yes, it would help if Andy Dalton would start playing better.
Maybe a bye week helps, but the Bengals offense we've watched these last three games ain't cutting it in December and January big-boy football games.
Taking away three kneel-downs, of the Bengals last 46 drives going back to the beginning of the Miami game, the offense has scored just seven touchdowns. One came on the short field after the Harrison pick against Cleveland. Another came on the Hail Mary pass that completed a very disjointed final few plays.
In that time, the Bengals have turned it over 11 times.
This isn't about blaming one person or one position, it's about hoping, and figuring out, how they get better.
Nearly one in every four possessions in the last three games has resulted in a turnover. (The ratio is even worse if we count the walkoff safety as a turnover, which the NFL does not.) Is this solely a reflection of the Andy Dalton's ineptitude? Of course it isn't. The offense's problems go beyond issues at quarterback, but there's no denying that Andy's play as well as the output of the offense both have to improve.
The defense and special teams have done a great job of at least keeping them in games, but there's probably going to be times when instead of the other way around, the offense is going to have to bail of the D.
That might have to happen this week.
The good news is that the Chargers can be had on D. The bad news is that the offense I've watched these last three weeks just can't be trusted. Especially on the road. Especially against a quarterback having as good a season as Phillip Rivers.
The Chargers have been one of the more difficult teams in the league to figure out - giving away games against the Texans, Dolphins, and Redskins while winning against the Colts, Cowboys, and last week hanging 41 on the Chiefs. But Rivers has been great, and he's capable of putting up the kind of number that right now, I just don't think the Bengals can match.
I think the bye week will help a little, even if just to give the Bengals a badly-needed mental break. I never count out a Mike Zimmer-coached defense. And there's reasons why the Chargers enter December below .500.
But I just don't trust the Bengals enough offensively right now.
The race is going to tighten up, and while I think the Bengals will still win the division, the next few weeks will be a little more uncomfortable than I originally thought. Given the other race the Bengals are in - a game behind New England and even up with Indy - every loss the rest of the way will have major consequences.
Get ready to deal with them next week.
Chargers 27 Bengals 23
2) A 2-1 Turkey Day has me at 93-88. The Bears are brutal against the run. The only thing the Vikings do well is run. They'll do it well enough to pull off the upset. Minnesota (-0.5) wins at home over Chicago....A few weeks ago, the Browns beat the Ravens and inched a little closer to first place, setting up that "epic" Battle of Ohio two weeks ago. For a few days, I got emails from swagger-filled Browns fans. For some reason, the emails have stopped. Jacksonville (+7.5) keeps it close against Cleveland....The Colts aren't the world-beaters everyone made them out to be a month ago. They're not the dogs people are making them out to be now. They're a good team with a bad offensive line, a shaky running game, and in need of more pieces on defense. They've got injuries to key positions, but enough left to comfortably make the playoffs. They'll all but clinch their division this week. Indy (-4.5) beats Tennessee....Either the Jets or Dolphins will be a .500 team at the end of the first week of December. Your 2013 National Football League, ladies and gentlemen! New York (-1.5) behind their D over Miami.....I'd have a hard time picking the Patriots this week after such a long, emotional game against the Broncos if they were playing almost anyone else. But they're playing the Texans. LOL. Texans. New England (-8.5) cruises over Houston....The Eagles win the best game of the weekend (you read that right), but I'll happily take the points and pick Arizona (+3.5) to cover....No one's talking about Cam Newton's disingenuous smile anymore, are they? Carolina (-8.5) beats fiesty Tampa Bay. Fiesty....Enjoy this turd, Canada. Atlanta (+3.5). Not Buffalo.....The 49ers are about to get going offensively. San Francisco (-9.5) drops St. Louis....No pass rush, no chance for the Chiefs. Denver (-4.5) bounces back against KC....I might have to make alternate plans for my Sunday night. New York (-1.5) wins. Washington loses. No one cares.....Homefield is worth a touchdown for both the Saints and Seahawks, so I'm picking Seattle (-5.5) by that much over New Orleans.
3) Me, the couch, a remote, and probably some beer. I wish the UC/Louisville game was this weekend because I think it's going to be a great game and the atmosphere should be incredible.
But I have to wait 'til Thursday. As a consolation, I get a pretty solid day of college football tomorrow, from noon to midnight. Throw on top of at a full slate of games (to compliment the college hoops Ill be watching) and I've got enough worthwhile college grid action to make me glad that te Bearcats and Cardinals are waiting a few extra days. As bad as last weekend was, this one has the potential to be a pretty memorable college football weekend.
Ohio State v. Michigan. It's not going to be much of a game. The Buckeyes will hammer the Wolverines because they'll dominate them up front, then every Buckeye fan will turn to the Gators, Tigers, and Johnny Football for help. They won't get any. Buckeyes 42 Wolverines 19
Kentucky v. Tennessee. This is not the biggest game in the SEC this weekend. Hold The Rope 24 Wildcats 13
Miami v. Ball State. Why wait 'til Saturday to complete a winless season, right? Get this over with, then hire Kerry Coombs. Cardinals 35 Redhawks 2
4) Can we send some bananas to the Bahamas? Xavier lost a really good game to a solid Iowa team last night. No shame in that. But I thought we might be past the "Semaj Christon can't play because of cramps" portion of his Musketeer career. Figure out what the problem is and fix it.
5) Radio Show Stuff. 6:30ish until 9:00 today on 700WLW. 12:05 - 3:00 on ESPN1530 and 700WLW. 3:04 with Rocky Boiman on ESPN1530. Now you know. Enjoy your weekend.