Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Killer Kowalski

Killer Kowalski dies.

Kowalski, who legally adopted the surname in the 1960s, became the biggest, baddest villain of them all. Reviled wherever he appeared, he filled the arenas and armouries that hosted North America’s wrestling scene as fans came to jeer.

The rise of television made Kowalski’s flickering image a familiar one for millions who watched as he stomped on, manhandled and mangled adversaries week after week. No tactic was too underhand for Killer Kowalski, who developed a number of trademark moves to make his brand of mayhem stand out from the rest. The kangaroo hop entertained and inflamed the public during moments when his adversary was hors de combat.

Away from the hype Kowalski was a completely different person— a quieter and more contemplative man. A devout Roman Catholic who attended Mass regularly, he meditated before every performance and also spent many free hours enjoying classical music, admitting a particular fondness for Chopin.


Monday, September 29, 2008


Taking the shine off the weekend- Phillies win, Mets lose, the whole lot of NL candidates looking increasingly vulnerable to a Philadelphia baseball team playing well- would take some doing.

Yet the Eagles managed it- with one of the most dispiriting losses I can remember, well, since last year when they played the Bears.

It was a complete display of why the Eagles are a .500 outfit- remaining an utter coin flip to win the wild card only due to the last-place schedule.

How can you lose an NFL game when the opponent gives you four turnovers? Well, you commit real turnovers, plus commit some ipso de facto turnovers: missed FGs are a field position killer nowadays (Yo Coach- no more 50 yard attempts ever for Akers), not a few sacks too (almost an automatic punt- plus ten yards of field position).

But a real 9-7 team is defined by situations like this: why does the offense not have a single thing it can count on as a plus week after week?

For instance, despite starting with an all-pro, the Eagles have so bungled the running back position so badly it defies description or belief. Look, Brain Westbrook is a great player- but he puts an unreal strain on your roster. He misses games- and even in the games he plays his touches are actively managed. The other running backs have to play. And yet....

Did anyone notice that once Correll Buckhalter got hurt, the Eagles did not have an NFL caliber RB on their roster? I’m not talking very limited back-up; I’m talking should not be in the League. Boy, the Dolphins stole one on Philadelphia with Lorenzo Booker. He can’t block, carry the football or catch it. He has no NFL level skills that I can observe and he doesn’t seem to know some of the plays. To wit, he isn’t a barely marginal back-up; he simply can’t play. So far, Tony Hunt is a complete bust as a first day pick. No offense Tony, but it isn’t hard to take snaps away from Buckhalter. And yet, he is last night’s absolute manifestation of the singular worst trait of the Reid administration in Philadelphia: the bigger the play- say 3rd and Goal inside four minutes- the more likely someone named Tony Hunt or Reno Mahe or Thomas Tapeh or Dorsey Levens gets the call.

Three plays from the two- and they can’t score. In the absence of Westbrook, the best player on the team is McNabb- and we take it out of his hands repeatedly to give people like Buckhalter and Hunt repeated shots? The funny thing is that the Eagles have been a good red zone team for large portions of McNabb’s tenure- but that was cause his mobility compensated foe his dearth of skill position weapons- both running and passing. He opened up options and opportunites down low.

Not anymore. He hasn’t been a top player for four years now- how much more of this ennui before Kolb deserves a look?- and don’t look now, McNabb has been pretty bad-to-average six quarters running. Bad-to-average is McNabb half the time now. And yup, he’s hurting again.

And I’m pretty tired of the rock around the defense attitude too. They get a great pass rush. The linebackers are death against the run. The corners have played well. So why does Kyle Orton trash’em for three touchdowns in the first half. Same reason Dallas did, the safeties are a real problem. Dawkins did zero last night except observe the multiple scoring strikes as he lingered in soft zones all night. He’s real vulnerable deep now. Considine defines utter bust. Mikell is a decent player- and ecnet plus bad plus bust equals problem.

So, ESPN’s number three team is all square: 2-2. They’re 0-1 in the division and 1-2 in conference- and facing an absolute must win five weekends into the season. Right now, I’ve moved from 50-50 make the play-offs to probably won’t make the play-offs. Westbrook and McNabb are already hurt; the quarterback is in real decline: up one half, down the next, more and more down efforts and hurts. Worse, they still have five division games left. They’ll be underdogs in both road games- sweeping the home triad seems very unlikely. They probably need to win at Washington just to avoid a 2-4 division mark. They’re sneaking up on five losses, without even considering the out of division games, real quick.

The defense, and the last place schedule, probably inoculate Philadelphia from real disaster. But the League so-called number three team faces a real potential end of the season game next Sunday. Lose it, and they’re two behind Washington , New York and Dallas (tie-breaker) . Either way, 8-8, 9-7 seems pretty likely.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

The East Falls!

The East Falls! Again!

Praise God- and not our strength for it.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Personal Foul Tulane is How We Roll To Victory

Well, SMU came through late and got Frank Helps You Think It All Out a backdoor cover- squaring are season mark.

It was nice to showcase C-USA in all its shoot-out glory last night: defenses taking entire halves off, curious officiating, the commitment to score, score, score some more. “Personal Foul Tulane is How We Roll” got a workout too; please remember I own the t-shirt rights.

So, what do we have? Again, I know I am prone to overanalyze the Green Wave- one of the greatest psychiatric experiment going in college football. For example, Tulane plays an increasingly life-or-death struggle against one of the worst five teams in the country in their own building, committed a bunch of ill-disciplined penalties, a few turnovers, shaky special teams play- and an entire second half that would get them beat by two-three scores versus a top C-USA team. Everyone watching was praying that Jones would eschew the on-side kick late- knowing our Toledo-style special teams were almost guaranteed to fail in that spot.

Yet, the large consensus of fans think Tulane played pretty well. Who am I to disagree? C-USA is a weird League.

Shoot, Anderson did his job- generating a cartoon number- as did the entire offense in the first half. I hesitate to put the defense in the plus bucket- as SMU was a joke in the first half- and frankly, we’ve seen the defense play better in each of the first three games. And in the second half, the defense looked bored and played pretty dumb for long stretches. But if I give’em a pass in the first half, I’m inclined to give a pass for the second half too. I mean, gosh, defending SMU in that first half almost had to produce a horrid ennui.

I dunno. The Green Wave has a pair of home wins against two teams in the bottom ten or so outfits in college football. This surely validates Tulane isn’t in the worst ten teams in college football, but little else. Pre-season, my fair over/under was 3.5- pride makes me loathe to move off it in light of inconclusive evidence.

But I probably should. Frankly, the best argument for moving it to five or so is that Tulane figures to face many, many more denizens of the utter bottom- they could play five, six games against the worst fifteen teams in football.

And again, since there is now evidence they are better than that "level", you could move the Green Wave up.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Week, Another Poll

BlogPoll is out; you can find it here.

Below is my ballot. I’m sort of heartened by the number of mid-majors on there and in the actual poll. None are reaches either: BYU, TCU, Utah, East Carolina, Boise State.

3Southern Cal--
7Alabama 1
8Missouri 1
9Boise State 5
11Ohio State--
13Texas Tech--
14Penn State 1
15Kansas 2
16Brigham Young 2
17Vanderbilt 8
18South Florida 1
19Clemson 1
20Wake Forest 2
21East Carolina 14
22Oregon 6
23Tulsa 1
24Illinois 2
25Colorado 1

Dropped Out: Tennessee (#21), Florida State (#23).


I Kinda Like the Mustangs Here

This is gonna have to be quick- as a market bailout is due here momentarily.

Look, Tulane should absolutely hammer SMU in this spot. The Mustangs are awful, largely uncompetitive in I-A play so far. At the very least, Tulane has been damned competitive on defense- which has covered for horrendous special teams and an up and down offense/quarterback. But really, this one should be over somewhere in the second half.

The only question is can you swallow the price. The New York Post puts the Wave up -18.5.

There is a fair question: should a team with no real definitive plus C-USA offensive skill players be favored over anyone by three-ish scores?

You would think not. But the Mustangs couldn’t hang at all with TCU (down twenty at the half) or Texas Tech (down 43-0 at one point). Tulane probably isn’t as good as either of those teams- so SMU's opener at Rice is probably more indicative.

Well, they stayed with Rice for a quarter (although Rice features that real scary Chase Clement at quarterback)- and that is about it.

I dunno- all three of their bad beat downs featured teams absolutely designed to score a bunch on them- and that isn’t Tulane yet. Our defense probably keeps them at a real manageable number- south of 17- but Tulane probably needs something like 40 to cover here, and I’m not sure they possess that sort of consistency yet.

I liked Tulane earlier in the week- but now, I feel less confident. It is a big mountain. Sure, the Wave wins easily by two scores- but now that is not enough to get the new and improved -18.5. I’ll give the Mustangs the points- confident the Wave will win.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ESPN Knows The Score

ESPN’s power rankings are an absolute fiesta of NFC East power- with the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles clocking in at the top three positions.

The Eagles find themselves there with a pretty thorough drubbing of Pittsburgh- at least on defense. Its funny- but the Eagles entered the game with real questions in the defensive secondary. Any witness will tell you, Dallas utterly torched that group the proceeding week.

So while Pittsburgh couldn’t do anything on offense all day- the game never answered any questions about the pass defense. The Steelers completely failed on the singular fundamental football question: can we block people?- that no rational observer could make any determination about whether the Eagles could now cover people. Did the ‘backers and safeties that looked so bad versus Dallas secondary receivers get better? Who knows? Roethlisberger never had a chance.

So that question will wait for another week.

As to the Eagles offense... well, with Westbrook, pretty good! Baskett seems to have improved in his second year, and DeSean Jackson seems to be a credible NFL player, and McNabb is as ever an efficient, high percentage, low risk, distribution machine.

Without Westbrook, not too good. Once he departed, Pittsburgh immediately got real passive on defense, played those extra defensive backs at any opportunity- and the Eagles lack, again, a receiver who can generate his own space. LJ Smith continues his regression and Lorenzo Booker is not yet a plus player in either the run or pass game. Plus, he missed a key block. Buckhalter clealry deserves a tip of the cap for stepping up to play a ton of snaps as the back-up to the in-game hurt tailback and fullback- and his catch-and-run for the games only score was a nifty play.

But let’s face it, the Eagles scored one touchdown, were thoroughly mediocre-to-bad on offense because guys like Buckhalter and Baskett are key players, not in spite of them.

Ultimately, they’re stuck in a tough division, with real liablilities: the third best team in said division, real vulnerable to a skill position injury. Frankly, anything other than a season long struggle to the wild card is hard to imagine. The combination of their brutal division schedule, couple with some other soft NFC divisions (which will keep some second place NFC team on a route to ten wins), means the Eagles need a healthy offense and three wins in their remaining five division games just to get in the play-offs.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Miss

Sorry about the light blogging schedule. This has been a hard week for the Wall Street trading professional- leaving little time this week to follow the news of the week. Perhaps Frank Helps You Think It All Out has let you down recently. The picks of the week have started out iffy!

But what a week it has been: Phillies! Eagles! The Green Wave! All three are up from recent nadirs.

We’ll start with Tulane. I admit it up front; I did not see the game. Frankly, I couldn’t work up any interest to squint at the internet or whatever the viewing option was this weekend. I went to the beach.

So I have not comment on the game per se- other than some state of the program observations. Look, all wins are good. And this win is sweetened by, let’s face it, Tulane had to have it. It would be outright bad to lose to an in-state rival we semi-recruit against. Tulane simply must win the few games it plays a demonstrative favorite. Lose that game, and the road to a disasterous, 2-10ish campaign was real bright.

Other than that, I dunno. If you have Tulane at any win total between three and seven, you have them getting the UL-Monroe game and sitting at one up, two down at this point.

I had a pre-season “fair” over/under of 3.5- and took the under. Really, I thought the Wave had three gotta haves and should gets: Louisiana-Monroe, Army, and SMU- but admittedly, I figured they’d blow one of that three, but steal another elsewhere.

Well, the Warhawks are in the win column and you can add in this new fact. To wit, I officially missed on SMU; they’re horrid. Jeez’em crow. That program is a real blow to those who think throwing a zillion dollars at new stadiums and coaches is the way to fix a moribund football problem. Anyway, it is very hard to imagine Tulane losing this Thursday to that mess- particularly with the Green Wave defense playing at the top of their range. The 17.5 is a stiff price to pay for that opinion- particularly on a short week- but right now I’m inclined to lay those points.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

No Excuses

I don’t really have a strong opinion about this weekend’s game with the Louisiana-Monroe. And with the markets screaming around me, I doubt that will change any time soon.

Sure, I have Tulane in the three-win bucket. And really, to get to three wins, this is one the Wave probably needs to get. So when the line opened with Tulane favored around a field goal, I was pretty ready to take the Wave.

I do think they’ll win. But the line has now expanded to six- and that is a lot more chancy. The Warhawks have shown, when motivated and in a big spot, they can play a better team close. Tulane is not as good as Arkansas (who the Warhawks lost to by a point)- but Tulane figures to be more engaged mentally than the Razorbacks in this spot.

It feels very rivalry like. The Wave is playing well- near what I figure is the top of their range- but the 0-2 mark Tulane sports probably keeps them from any regression on the effort front. And Louisiana-Monroe has to have this game at the top of their calendar.

Two teams in the same class, playing on a neutral field. Both partisans ought to be in attendance. I guess I would not be surprised if either team won- and although I suspect the Wave will win- six points feels like a stiff price to pay for that opinion.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Horrid and Boring

Tulane put its 2008-2009 men’s basketball schedule out there yesterday about as quietly as possible. Even a brief look will tell you why. Jeez, were they even trying? A program struggling to build interest needs to be building optimism and intrigue- not be horrid and boring. And this schedule is both.

There are some good posts here. This particular sample is angry, but I kinda get his vibe:
With this lousy schedule, there's no reason to play Grambling when you could play La Tech. There's no reason to completely disrespect the season ticket holders, which is what this home ooc schedule absolutely does. That's cheap, that's win-inflating. Not a good sign. And for good measure, it will help to ensure LOW attendance.
Candidly, I don’t blame the season ticket holder for being mad. You can justify the schedule and make semantic arguments- but who is going to sit there, night after night, and put up with game after game of Nicholls State and North Carolina A&T and Albany State and McNeese State and Binghampton? Then exciting conference play begins: Bring on Rice!

In case Tulane missed it, television is semi-good these days! This basketball program has fallen so far, has so little in terms of interest.

I understand why we can’t get ACC & SEC teams in here- Tulane has a small building and we just might win- but why not Louisiana Tech or UNO (play twice like they used too)?

Why don’t they consider bringing Perry back? You think both might attack this situation with 100% more humility.

And why is LSU not playing the Wave? For shame. I know Tulane beat them last year (never good when you are supposed to be the patsy in the relationship), and went 4-0 versus the SEC/Big East last year. But this isn’t like football- where LSU has a real tangible argument about the paucity of available dates. No excuse. Get that done.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Wasn't All That Encouraged

The media is agog at the admittedly entertaining shoot-out the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys played last night. But honestly, I wasn’t all that encouraged.

First of all, the defense could not stop anyone. And Brian Dawkins was flat-out bad. You can’t play safety in the League if you cannot run with tight ends. He was chasing a lot of guys last night- and the Cowboys hit numerous big plays over the middle: how about that awful field goal drive to end the first half that gave the Cowboys not three free points, but made it a one score game again?

Paul Domowitch doesn’t want to pin the loss on McNabb. I don’t either. But still, how good was McNabb really? Again, very little offense, and nothing sustained, in the red zone. 281 yards passing in 37 attempts isn’t very good- and take out the "pretend" TD strike to DeSean Jackson – and McNabb is real close to pretty mediocre: 220-ish yards in 36 attempts, a fourth quarter turnover that defined brutal and game-changing. A veteran player simply cannot put the ball on the ground there. Throw in some sacks… I dunno- I thought the quarterback was a “C+” player last night.

Pus, the Eagles got a zillion breaks last night vis-à-vis scoring the football last night. They scored four touchdowns: one on defense, one on a nifty bubbly screen to Westbrook, and two were the referee put the ball on the one-yard line and gave’em four cracks to bust it in. They kicked a lot of field goals. Philadelphia was very effective moving the ball between the twenties for long stretches- but not so good in the red zone. Again. And it won’t get better- because Westbrook is the only player with any capacity to hurt opposing defenses in tight quarters. You wonder how many gift touchdowns the Eagles would have need to actually win this game? Four? Five?

And Philadelphia also couldn’t run it a lick or rush the passer.

Ultimately, the game was probably a free one. Unless you have the Eagles winning an insane 13-14 games, you are probably carrying this outing as a “loss”. But honestly, I saw nothing that moved me off my ten win forecast. They had a ton of fortune to stay with a team that was better than them- but not enough to win. And Westbrook, coupled with a merely good McNabb, is not enough to score touchdowns against quality defenses.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Pirates Return To New Orleans

The New York Post line puts East Carolina -13 over Tulane- the exact same line as last year- which I must admit surprises me some. East Carolina seems better than 2007 version- and frankly, the Wave showed no signs of hanging with them last year. So why would they now?

This game isn’t so much about East Carolina. I mean, we all "get" the Pirates, right? They’re a class C-USA team- and they can score the ball. They’re not going to be intimidated by the ennui filled Dome- if anything, playing indoors on the fast track, probably moves them up some. And while East Carolina is coming off a pair of big efforts, which means they might struggle to pitch an "A" game here, they’re conversely also on a bit of roll. The Pirates have played two games of a shakedown cruise, versus one for Tulane. I can’t imagine they’re coming to New Orleans flat- and at this point in the season, having two games under your belt versus one effort means you’re still fresh but with twice the recent game experience to work out the kinks.

Still, the line is pretty generous. You need to sort out whether you think Tulane can duplicate its Alabama effort again. I’m pretty dubious. I don’t believe three and a half good quarters against Alabama actually equals "good"- just like two and a half good quarters against LSU last year ultimately was not determinant of the sort of squad Tulane fielded for the most of the season. Really, if the Wave can’t play an emotional, physical game over their heads last Saturday- when were they gonna play it?

And their defensive success is going to be very hard to duplicate. With Alabama, the Wave was able to load up against the run- and dare Alabama to throw the football- which Alabama was either unwilling or unable to do. The Tide was real one dimensional.

Conversely, East Carolina brings in the one thing our League does well- the lethal C-USA offensive machine behind center- the one that C-USA fans know all too well: high completion percentage, big play, touchdown machine. There is real C-USA firepower here- and the Wave defense could play well and still allow thirty-plus points.

Ultimately, I just don’t believe Tulane is all that better than the Green Wave team that these same Pirates drilled badly last year. Tulane scored twelve last year- and might be hard pressed to better that number here- while again, I can see East Carolina playing a game into the thirties on offense. Part and parcel of having Tulane at three wins is a belief that they’re simply not in the class of East Carolina.

We hit last week- as Tulane garnered a backdoor cover versus the Crimson Tide. Last year we took Tulane to cover in this spot- got beat- and we're not making that mistake again. We’ll look to run our mark to 2-0 by taking the Pirates here and giving Tulane the 13-point headstart.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BlogPoll Ballot

---> Update: The BlogPoll (Week 2) is here.

My vote for this week's BlogPoll is below.

Noting too crazy. I have Boise State ranked high- but again, they have 12-1 written all over them, plus they're a real hard challenge to a Big East style champion in a BCS game. I have East Carolina pretty high also- but as of two C-USA voices in the poll, I'm not apologizing. Some folks have Mizzou higher too- but what can I say, I'm not sure they're better than Texas (particularly traveling there) or Kansas?

I moved Alabama down because, and I can't believe I am writing this, Tulane exposed their offense (particularly at quarterback) and how to defend them more than a little.

And any of my top three SEC teams would play a more credible BCS Championship game than many recent representatives of non-SEC schools.

3Southern Cal--
6Oklahoma 1
7Kansas 1
8Ohio State 2
9East Carolina 14
10Texas 3
11Texas Tech--
12Missouri 3
13Boise State 4
14Alabama 4
15Penn State 1
16Wisconsin 2
17Clemson 3
18Tennessee 1
19Florida State 1
20Illinois 1
21Brigham Young 1
22Oregon 4
23Utah 3
25Vanderbilt 1

Dropped Out: West Virginia (#12), South Carolina (#17), Mississippi (#25).


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Wave Plays Credibly

Encouraging. I thought Tulane was a lay-up to cover the thirty- a pretty dumb line in retrospect- but I’m surprised Alabama struggled so badly on offense. So, certainly a “win” for the seven-eight win crowd. If Tulane can duplicate that effort regularly, they can absolutely manage a winning C-USA season.

The defense was very, very good Saturday. They loaded up against the run- dared quarterback John Parker Wilson to beat them- and categorically he could not. The Tide doesn’t normally ask him to do much- he plays a lot more games under 250 yards passing that over it. And the Wave was not shy about putting the mantle square on him. Good game plan, good execution. The defense did enough to win the game against a whole lot of teams in Division I.

The offense was a little less impressive- but they didn’t turn it over in the passing game despite fifty attempts- and that gave them a chance to steal it for a long time. I must admit, I was very encouraged to see them throw it so much: does it mean the promised four yards in a cloud dust, bullying offense is done?

Heavens, I hope so. Last year, with Forte and Scelfo, they were forced into looking for excuses to rush the football. I get that. But you can be too smart. The whole C-USA experience, from how it is officiated, to the utter dearth of good DBs, to the stockpiling of stockpiling all speed and athleticism into the skill positions, the resultant surplus of skill position players capable of cartoon numbers, screams throw the football. If Southern Miss has given up on bulk and grit- and they ruled for a long time on bulk and grit- one might be foolish to embrace that approach.

Plus, isn’t it nice to finally not be wasting snaps and development time at the quarterback position? You can justify- barely- the time Scelfo spent a the position last year- but you cannot argue it was advancing the program. Yes, the four yards plus generated per attempt Saturday simply won’t hack it. And outside of one big pass play, the Wave generated something semi-ugly like 170 yards in 48 attempts, plus five sacks. Ugh. But you gotta love the zero interceptions. Point is, maybe this guy can play- and accordingly, Moore is a lot better use of the time at the position.

Special teams were bad- but every regime has an unsolvable problem- and this appears to be Tulane’s current on-field dilemma.

What does all mean? Look, part of my Tulane +30 forecast in this spot was that we’d seen this before: with an even worse quarterback situation, they played a much better LSU team credibly for 2.5 qtrs. Alabama is not in the same class as the 2007 Tigers, so I for one am not too surprised the Wave played damn credible for three plus quarters.

But is it sustainable? Frankly, last year is wasn't. They played sprightly versus LSU- then weren't so good other Saturdays. Teams in college routinely get up for this sort of big game, while the dominant power sort of sleep walks throught it. With East Carolina coming in, they’ll need back-to-back emotional, physical efforts. This game is sort of a free one for Tulane- even if you think they’re winning eight games- you’re probably carrying this one as a loss. But I think ultimately it will be a better barometer of the season for the Wave. Another good effort and you can move the Alabama game game from a one-off to a real trend.

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