Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 Tulane Football Preview

Starting my Tulane football preview, I began with the normal block and tackle approach: figure where Tulane ought to be better and worse, weigh the schedule, make a call.

To that end: Last season, they went into the season expecting Matt Forte to be a “plus” player. As the season progressed, serendipity added the defensive front to that positional plus list. But really, that was it. And two “plus” League positions equaled three I-A wins.

In 2008, Tulane surrenders those assets. And I do not know where kismet might give them even one back: the offensive line was a nice surprise last year- maybe that group?- the wide outs underachieved- could they move up? Still, if the quarterback play is still uncertain, why would they? Even if you like Moore, Kemp, etc.- are they really contributing at a high level before October 15 or so? C-USA coaches are doubtful too- not one pre-season all League player in a League that demands five scores a game to be good.

But I was unsatisfied with that approach. I almost wanted to take a holistic approach- light some incense and inquire “what really is Tulane football?”

In the decade before Toledo’s arrival, we knew the dysphoric answer to that question (let’s leave the Katrina year out of the discussion here). You could count on Tulane to win four I-A games a year at a minimum. During the Scelfo regime, they finished once in CBS Sportsline Top 50 and never in the bottom 30. Consequently, if the question was “what is Tulane football?”- the answer was they were a third quartile team, year after year: never good, never terrible, more than a tad below mediocre.

Last year, the Wave busted that standard: won three I-A games, finished bottom quartile.

And candidly, that is just it. If you can rationalize the elevation of Tulane back to that third quartile- mix in a schedule of UAB, ULM, Army, Rice, SMU, Memphis- there is rational hope for six wins.

And I have moved off the two-win number I’ve carried most of the summer- largely due to a pair of cognizant e-mails this summer. One pointed out that a two win prediction carried with it a tacit admission that ULM and Army had surpassed Tulane (i.e the Wave should probably be anticipated to beat them in New Orleans). I agree with that. Another from a popular poster at yogwf pointed out that the last place C-USA team usually is a team punished by circumstances: injuries, etc.- to wit, the most unlucky member of a bad lot- something that is hard to forecast. Tulane might be bad- but ill-omened as well? Heck, I’m not testing my own karma there.

Still, in the end, I suppose I don’t believe. To me, to paraphrase PJ O’Rourke, Toledo’s achievements so far are the kind that can’t be easily quantified; for example, as in the “achievement of Winnie Mandela” versus those of Nelson. So, I figure them to be something like last year- possibly better at quarterback, definitely worse at tailback, probably more suspect on defense. That puts Tulane right in the mix with the aforementioned six programs listed just above. Split those six- plus a 50-50 chance to upset one of the other four games featuring non-SEC teams- and you get an over/under of 3.5. I’d lean toward three- but two or four would not astonish.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Vacation

Folks, Frank Helps You Think It All Out is going on vacation for a bit. It is time for my annual trek to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 and to see Miss Food City, Jennifer Whittington, in person.

Next week I’ll be back with the 2008 Tulane football preview- still the most accurate prediction service going!

Hopefully, the Phillies can hang in there until I get back. I'm increasingly doubtful- as no one hits! Somehow we've managed to get back to where Myers is the most reliable starter.And frankly, Billy Wagner leaving their 'pen can only help the Mets.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Genuine Risk is Dead

The Daily Racing Form reports that Genuine Risk is dead.

Genuine Risk won the Kentucky Derby in 1980. Remarkable enough in itself- but truly remarkable in that she won- only the third filly in history. Regret won in 1915; Winning Colors won in 1988.

The video below shows her crowning achievement: her Kentucky Derby win, Jacinto Vasquez up:

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BlogPoll 2008

Preliminary calls for the BlogPoll are out- hosted here as always.

A lot of folks are much wiser than me about the ins and outs of, say, the Pac-10. I go with my gut and a smattering of anecdotal observations- which I will share as required. But basically, I love the SEC; it worked last year- and no doubt it will this year too. I’m sure one of the top three in this poll will be in the BCS Championship game- and would win say, the Big Ten outright. No one can tell me Ohio State is winning consistently, on the road, in the SEC. Thus, my top troika:

1 Florida
2 Georgia
4 Southern Cal: only non-SEC team I believe could win games consistently in the south’s more tricky environs.
5 Auburn
6 Ohio State
7 Oklahoma
8 Texas Tech
9 Boise State: schedule screams 11-1 and they are a serious, very credible BCS threat versus a South Florida/Wake Forest-style champion
10 Kansas
11 Tennessee: aggressive- but you think the Illini or Penn State could whip them two out of three? Not me.
12 Clemson: ACC is down, again, this year- so 10-2 is right there for the Tigers.
13 West Virginia
14 Illinois
15 Texas
16 Penn State
17 Alabama: what can I say? I think they’d beat everyone below this spot straight up.
18 Pittsburgh: they get Iowa at home, at Notre Dame- a split there means 4-1 out of conference.
19 Missouri
20 Michigan: currently vogue to leave Michigan off- but all Tulanians understand Rodriguez really knows what he is doing. People, he was the brains behind 12-0- at Tulane!
21 Florida State: holes, but some top tier talent, and the ACC schedule helps.
22 Virginia Tech
23 South Carolina
24 Tulsa: I’m the only C-USA voter, so my pick for league champion is getting on my ballot.
25 Wisconsin: yes, I'm not “pretending” I think ASU is actually good

Just missed: Notre Dame, Oregon


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Frank Helps You Think It All Out is about nothing if not accountability.

So before the submission this year’s pre-season BlogPoll, due respect means a look at how last year’s pre-season picks turned out.

This is my ballot top fifteen from last year- versus the final AP:

1 Florida (finished 13)
2 LSU (finish 1)
3 Southern Cal (exact)
4 Wisconsin ( finished 18)
5 Texas (finish 10)
6 Michigan (MISS)
7 Auburn (finish 15)
8 Virginia Tech (finish 9)
9 Oklahoma (finish 8)
10 Ohio State (finish 5)
11 West Virginia (finish 6)
12 Tennessee (exact)
13 Georgia (finish 2)
14 Penn State (finish 27th- other receiving votes)
15 California (MISS)

I candidly think it is pretty good. I missed with Michigan bad - but many did. And Wisconsin pick wasn’t so great. But the rest is pretty good.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


The Phillies flirted with disaster all weekend- part and parcel of their .211 BA, 3-run per game offense for the month of August. You can’t demand, or act disappointed, if one professional baseball team doesn’t sweep another. But the Phillies can’t afford to be losing two-of-three to Pittsburgh at home either. They didn’t- but they flirted with it all weekend: drop the first game, touch-and-go all day yesterday.

They went 3-3 for the week; the Mets 4-2. So it was a good week for New York. The Mets picked up a game and now have eight straight against the pathetic outfit in Washington and the not-so-good Pirates. All while the Phillies go out West, without a day off, for seven. The way the Phillies are hitting, and with Lidge out, I’d sign for four wins now- and three is a real possibility. Candidly, if the Phillies are sitting here at this time next week, still up at least two on both the Mets and Marlins, I’ll be very satisified.

Conlin takes time to smash Brett Myers today- an always easy, fun target in Philadelphia. You know, we get it out here. Smacking your wife is inexcusable. He’s difficult in the clubhouse. And not having a very good year.

But you know, the guy- when the chips are down- has repeatedly stepped up and taken bullets for this club. He went to the ‘pen last year and saved the season- a decision that carried real professional risk for him. People forget just how bad that situation was. Myers could have said “no”- and watched the Phillies slide hopelessly into an 88-loss campaign. Or give up a young player (Kyle Kendrick?) for some sort of Tom Gordon-style stop gap.

Despite his success as a closer, and his desire to stay there, the Phillies moved him back to the rotation this year. Again, no fuss- no public rants about the Phillies taking him out of a role he liked and was good at. Took his demotion like a man- and, in case we’ve missed it, been damn good lately.

Frankly, if you’re pitching into the eighth inning with one earned run, you can fuss all you want about coming out. We need more pitchers faced with that sort of horrid eighth inning attitude problem.

Lastly, the guys over at We Should Be GMs made me laugh- although I don't know exactly why- with this Isaac Hayes tribute:
Who's the right handed stick
That hits longballs for all the chicks?
You're damn right

Who is the man
That would hit the wall for his pitcher man?
Can ya dig it?

Who's the cat that won't strikeout
When there's runners all about(Shaft!)
Right on

You see this cat Burrell is a bad mother--
(Shut your mouth)
But I'm talkin' about Burrell
(Then we can dig it)
He's a complicated man
But no one understands him but his woman
(Pat Burrell)
RIP Isaac.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Some Ennui Here

David Murphy writes in a column entitled “Gordon Has Another Set Back”:
Just received word here in the press box that veteran reliever Tom Gordon left his rehab appearance tonight in Florida with discomfort in his right elbow. It is apparently serious enough that the righthander will fly back to Philadelphia and see team doctor Micahel Ciccotti tomorrow.
He writes wisely. This is a set back for Gordon- not the Phillies. Gordon is the Turk Wendell of our age- but he just won't go away. I honestly can’t think of a single guy on the Phillies 40-man roster who I want to see cede innings to Gordon from here on out.

Concerning the Phillies, the tone in the Philadelphia Daily News is rather jaunty: Phillies Catch Marlins Hook Line and Kendrick’s Sinker. I will quickly note I was surprised to read in the article that Kyle has 20 wins, versus 9 losses, in 42 MLB starts. That is darned impressive for a guy whose openly admitted organizational ceiling is number four starter.

But, since I was unimpressed by the Phillies swoon before and just after the all-star game, the flip side is that I am equally unmoved by this recent stretch of wins. The schedule has gone from brutal to softer- from what passes for quality in the American League (Red Sox, Angles) to “quality” National League teams (Florida, St. Louis, New York).

It is the exact same group playing the exact same 89-win game: good core hitters, good ‘pen, mediocre rotation, a declining Rollins, etc. Both the swoon and recent turnaround are more about the opposition than the Phillies themselves.

Still, today’s game carries some juice. Right now, the two biggest questions the Phillies face this season are their season long difficulties against the Mets and Marlins- coupled with Cole Hamels recent struggles. Both come full circle today. Hamels has a big opportunity as a big 12-10 Vegas fave- to bury the current second place team four back in the loss column and get himself right. Lose- and the Marlins are back to two back with continuing momentum head-to-head with the Phillies.

It is a long season- but the Phillies have a chance to do some real damage to Florida today. If we’re honest, Hamels entire body of work this season has been shaky for a true top of the rotation starter. Philadelphia could use him getting right, real quick, this afternoon.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Best Rivalry in the 80's

Since I just don’t have too much interesting to say about the Phillies, I’m going off topic. I wrote about Curlin a few weeks ago, and as part of looking for clips to illustrate his career, I stumbled on a lot of great video.

This video below is the 1989 Preakness: Sunday Silence versus Easy Goer- and in my opinion, the best of their four big match-ups: Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont and Breeders Cup Classic. And probably the best “classic” horse race I ever saw- complete with yet another classic call by that American treasure Tom Durkin (ed. note: you can listen to another awesome Tom Durkin call here):

As with any great rivalry, you can’t think of one without the other- the great thoughbred rivalry of the 1980’s. After this narrow miss above, Easy Goer did get the Belmont- setting up this final clash billed as the Race of the Decade:

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