Archive for September, 2010

Unfortunately, this is going to be another short post because of time constraints, although I will note that my positioning of Oregon State at #4 instead of Oregon was evidence of my failure at basic click-and-drag skills.  That was a clear mistake that Brian Cook caught and it certainly was not my intent – the Ducks should be at #4.  I’ll have some views on recent conference realignment-related stories coming up next week.  Until then, here are this week’s parlay picks for both college football and the NFL (home teams in CAPS and odds from bodog via Yahoo!):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

  • PENN STATE (-14) over Temple
  • Oregon State (+17) over BOISE STATE
  • Georgia (PK) over MISSISSIPPI STATE 

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 1-1
Overall Season: 3-5-1

NFL FOOTBALL

  • Lions (+11) over VIKINGS
  • Titans (+3) over GIANTS
  • Packers (-3) over BEARS

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Bears Games for the Season: 1-1
Overall Season: 3-3

As always, feel free to use this post as an open thread for the weekend’s games and non-expansion college sports news.  If you want to talk about conference realignment in general, please continue the discussion on the Big Ten Division-palooza post, while the college hockey discussion should be under the Big Ten Expansion Hits the Ice post.  Have a great weekend!

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

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SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

Frank the Tank’s Slant Ballot – Week 3

Rank Team Delta
1 Alabama Crimson Tide
2 Ohio St. Buckeyes
3 Boise St. Broncos
4 Oregon Ducks Arrow_up 7
5 TCU Horned Frogs
6 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_up 7
7 Texas Longhorns Arrow_down -3
8 Nebraska Cornhuskers Arrow_down -1
9 Iowa Hawkeyes Arrow_down -1
10 Wisconsin Badgers Arrow_down -1
11 Florida Gators Arrow_down -5
12 Arkansas Razorbacks Arrow_up 8
13 South Carolina Gamecocks
14 LSU Tigers
15 Utah Utes Arrow_up 4
16 Stanford Cardinal
17 Michigan Wolverines Arrow_up 6
18 Auburn Tigers
19 USC Trojans Arrow_down -7
20 Houston Cougars
21 Miami Hurricanes Arrow_down -11
22 California Golden Bears
23 Penn St. Nittany Lions Arrow_down -7
24 Arizona Wildcats
25 Fresno St. Bulldogs
Dropouts: Virginia Tech Hokies, Florida St. Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, West Virginia Mountaineers, Georgia Bulldogs, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »

I unfortunately don’t have time to explain my BlogPoll ballot or picks this week, so you can go ahead and fill in the blanks with any mocking/criticism of my opinions.  Here are this week’s parlay picks for both college football and the NFL (home teams in CAPS and odds from bodog via Yahoo!):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

  • ILLINOIS (-7) over Northern Illinois
  • Texas (-3) over TEXAS TECH
  • Iowa (+1) over ARIZONA 

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 1-0
Overall Season: 2-3-1

NFL FOOTBALL

  • Bears (+7) over COWBOYS
  • Patriots (-3) over JETS
  • BRONCOS (-3.5) over Seahawks

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 0-1
Overall Season: 1-2

Once again, feel free to use this post as an open thread for the weekend’s games and non-expansion college sports news.  If you want to talk about conference realignment in general, please continue the discussion on the Big Ten Division-palooza post, while the college hockey discussion should be under the Big Ten Expansion Hits the Ice post from earlier today.  Have a great weekend!

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

After around two decades of speculation and proposals, Penn State will be announcing today that it’s adding a Division I hockey program.  Now, as someone that attended Illinois, which only has a club hockey team, I have a fairly rudimentary understanding the hierarchy of college hockey that’s a bit different than the worlds of football and basketball.  (Note that the woman that cuts my hair lived in Grand Forks up until a couple of years ago, so I do at least have a monthly discussion about North Dakota hockey.)  Still, this is an important story from a Big Ten and national perspective since Penn State’s new program is going to have massive implications on the hockey world, and by extension, the overall athletic programs of a whole slew of universities.

Make no mistake about it: there WILL be a Big Ten hockey conference.  There is no “if” here.  A large contingent of college hockey fans want nothing to do with the concept and are trying to talk themselves into thinking that Penn State will simply be satisfied in joining the CCHA or that Minnesota politicians will intervene a la Texas pols with the Big 12, but that’s just wishful thinking on their part.  We can talk all day about North Dakota’s and Denver’s rivalries with Minnesota and Wisconsin in the WCHA and how the smaller Michigan-based schools financially depend upon getting annual visits from Michigan and Michigan State every year, yet it will be of no use because (a) Penn State wouldn’t be adding a very expensive sport if it didn’t have assurances that a Big Ten hockey league (and the TV opportunities and ticket sales that come with it) would come to fruition and (b) pretty much all of the powers that be in the Big Ten except for maybe Minnesota wants the league to form BADLY.  Last year, the Big Ten actually had discussions with Miami, Bowling Green and Western Michigan about becoming hockey-only affiliate members.  Think about that for a second: considering how much we concentrated on how only elite and financially viable football programs could justify Big Ten expansion in that sport, Jim Delany and company have been so interested in forming a hockey league that they were considering to add MAC schools in order to make it happen.  That’s a pretty clear indication of the Big Ten’s modus operandi with respect to hockey.  I’m sorry WCHA and CCHA partisans – the loyalties of all of these schools are to the Big Ten first and foremost.

The Big Ten Network is certainly an important factor in the Big Ten’s desire to form a hockey conference sooner than later.  Unlike Big Ten-sponsored sports, the television rights for hockey games are controlled by the various hockey conferences (in terms of relevance to the Big Ten, the CCHA and WCHA) and individual schools can negotiate their own TV packages.  This is a pretty good deal for a school like Minnesota, which is the dominant school in a hockey-crazed market and where the Gophers have a lucrative deal with Fox Sports Net North, but it hasn’t been great for the availability of hockey games on the Big Ten Network.  (I’m going to talk about Minnesota a lot in this post since that’s the Big Ten school where hockey is arguably the most important while having very strong WCHA rivalries.)  Hockey is the clear #3 TV college sport in Big Ten markets after football and basketball, yet the lack of control over hockey TV rights means that there’s only a smattering of games on the network every year.  By forming the Big Ten hockey conference, all of those TV rights would be under control of the Big Ten and the conference can place more games on the Big Ten Network and even sell more widely distributed packages to outlets like ESPN.

Hockey is fairly valuable programming for the Big Ten Network.  Unlike baseball as of now, the hockey programs in the Big Ten are national powers and have fan bases that generate revenue and TV eyeballs in solid amounts.  Hockey games will almost certainly fill Friday prime time slots every week (when football and basketball games in the Big Ten are never played, anyway) and fill out an array of Saturday and possibly even Sunday time slots.  Also, in terms of subscriber revenue, hockey is going to provide more leverage for the BTN to garner higher rates in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from cable providers in the future.

(EDIT: In addition, and maybe most importantly, hockey is critical for the Big Ten Network in terms of building its online platform.  While all conference football and men’s basketball games are shown on television, most hockey games will likely end up streamed over the web, so that sport will become the primary driver for the BTN’s online content.  College hockey is actually a great vehicle for selling online streaming packages because it has a “sizable niche” audience – small enough where it doesn’t make financial sense to put every single game on TV, but large and passionate enough that the BTN can still make money selling those non-TV games online.)

Is hockey power Minnesota going to like giving up its local TV deals and WCHA rivalries?  Probably not, but the Gophers are going to get ZERO slack when their football program, which just suffered an embarrassing loss to South Dakota, is making literally tens of millions of dollars per year off of the backs of Ohio State and Penn State.  A school like Penn State risked a whole lot of local TV opportunities for football which dwarf regional hockey deals in order to support the Big Ten Network, so the expectation is the very least that Minnesota could do is allow the Big Ten leverage the one sport where the Gophers have a legit marquee team.

Now, the long-term hope is that a Big Ten hockey conference could spur other schools with high-level club programs such as Illinois and Indiana to create Division I programs, as well.  In fact, the Gopher hockey beat writer of the Star Tribune pointed out that Illinois in particular is being named as a potential hockey school.  As someone that loved going to club hockey games in Champaign (although I’m pretty sure the rink was constructed at some point right before the downfall of the Roman Empire), the prospect of an Illini varsity hockey program is spectacular.  Granted, it will be difficult enough to raise enough money for new facilities and enough scholarships to satisfy both the hockey team itself and additional women’s sports in order to comply with Title IX, but having a Big Ten hockey conference in place was the only way that adding hockey could even conceivably be an option for Illinois.  Neither Illinois nor any other Big Ten school is going to lay out all of that money so that it can play a bunch of games against the Ferris States of the world – they all need Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota to come to town annually to make it worthwhile.

The flipside is the potential fallout in the WCHA and CCHA when the Big Ten teams leave.  Dave Starman of USCHO has a better evaluation of the possible domino effect than I could ever put together, so be sure to check him out.  (The one caveat is he’s still holding out the possibility of Penn State joining the CCHA, which I see as a futile discussion.)  Can a school such as Lake Superior State survive without home dates from the Big Ten schools in the CCHA?  Could this be a preview of Notre Dame’s ultimate intentions for other sports, where it has a choice of staying the Midwest-based CCHA, head west to the WCHA, maybe head out to Hockey East to give it an East Coast presence, or create a entirely new conference altogether?  (How about a conference headed up by Notre Dame, Boston College, North Dakota and Denver?  That would be an extremely strong contender to the Big Ten.)  The possibilities are as endless as all of the permutations put together of BCS conference alignments in the blogosphere over this past year.

Still, the ultimate upshot is that college hockey is going to get a massive boost in exposure when the Big Ten forms its league and elevates the sport across its TV platforms.  Kudos to Penn State for taking a leap into Division I hockey that is going to open up opportunities for Illinois and other Big Ten schools.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from You Hoser)

Well, as evidenced by my BlogPoll ballot this week, I’m setting forth a complete mea culpa on both Boise State and TCU.  Granted, the Virginia Tech defense on that last Boise State drive had more potmarks than an Edward James Olmos side profile, but it was undoubtedly an incredible display of leadership by Broncos QB Kellen Moore.  Now, do I think that Boise State deserves to be in the national championship game as an undefeated team?  I’ll be honest – it would be difficult to rank Boise State over an unscathed SEC, Big Ten or Big 12 team with the strength of those conferences this season.  However, there’s no reason why an undefeated Boise State team should get jumped by a one-loss BCS conference school.

Looking ahead, we’re jumping into one of my favorite weekends of the sports year: a full boat of marquee college football games on Saturday, the start of the NFL season on Sunday, baseball pennant races getting serious (or in the case of the White Sox, getting killed off – gawd I HATE the Twins), the US Open finals (with hopefully a Federer-Nadal matchup on Sunday) and even some quality golf here in Chicagoland with the BMW Championship.  (I attended last year’s tournament in Cog Hill, which seems like 8 decades ago since that was essentially the last time that Tiger Woods looked invincible and there wasn’t any thoughts of him banging IHOP waitresses.  The day that I went, he set a course record score of 62 with a 9 under par with an insanely massive and adoring crowd following him at every hole.  I’m getting a little frightened that we may start speaking of Tiger in similar tones as Bo Jackson as a freakish “what if” athlete as opposed to Michael Jordan, who completely reached his maximum potential.)  Here are this week’s parlay picks for both college football and the NFL (home teams in CAPS, odds from bodog via Yahoo! and note that the Illinois game is offline since the Illini are playing Division I-AA Southern Illinois):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

  • Florida State (+7) over OKLAHOMA – I’m very surprised that Oklahoma is giving this many points after looking completely pedestrian in what should’ve been a blood money home game against Utah State last week.
  • Michigan (+4) over NOTRE DAME - The prospects of a Michigan turnaround this season was a bit more convincing to me compared to Notre Dame following last week.  I’ll take the points again in South Bend.
  • TENNESSEE (+12) over Oregon – This looks like a classic Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!” line – Vegas oddsmakers seem to be banking on people being smitten enough with Oregon’s 72-0 opening performance that they’ll give double digits points even though it’s a road game in a tough SEC environment with over 100,000 opposing fans.  I’m just taking all of the points that I can this week.

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-1-1

Illini Games for the Season: 1-0
Overall Season: 1-1-1

NFL FOOTBALL

  • BEARS (-6.5) over Lions – The Bears are probably going to be about a 9-7 team, which means that they aren’t necessarily going to be that good, but they also aren’t going to be as horrible as a growing number of national commentators seem to believe.  I still have some faith in Jay Cutler and am not going to stick a Jeff George label on him just yet.  Having Chester Taylor behind Matt Forte will vastly improve the Bears’ running depth and the defense has the ability to harass opposing quarterbacks with Julius Peppers added to the fold.  Now, the offensive line (or lack thereof) definitely scares the freaking bejeezus out of me and it wouldn’t surprise me if Cutler is decapitated by week 3, so that’s kind of a negative.  However, is that enough to dissuade me from my belief that we can at least pound Detroit at home?  Heck no.
  • Colts (-2.5) over TEXANS – There’s no franchise that has collectively wreaked more havoc (AKA fucked me) over the past 5 years on my game picks and fantasy football rosters than Houston.  I’m staying away from them until further notice, especially when Indy is involved.
  • Ravens (+2.5) over JETS – Oh, how I love virtually everything about Rex Ryan.  I love how the world found out via Hard Knocks that he’s exactly like his caricature on Kissing Suzy Kolber.  I love his speeches here and here.  (Just once, I would love to hear Lovie Smith call the Bears a “fucking slapdick team”.)  I love this in-depth piece about him that’s going to run in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.  I love his family lineage as the son of Buddy Ryan, who is the architect of the 46 defense and the defensive coordinator of the ’85 Bears.  However, I don’t love the amount of hype heaped upon a team that went 9-7 last year and definitely don’t love the QB play of Mark Sanchez (20 interceptions compared to 12 TDs last year).  Plus, Ray Lewis and the Ravens defensive unit has a mountain of bulletin board material from its former defensive coordinator.  So, I really like taking the points here since I believe Baltimore is winning this game straight-up.

Once again, feel free to use this post as an open thread for the weekend’s games.  If you want to talk about conference realignment, please continue the discussion on the Big Ten Division-palooza post.  Have a great weekend!

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

I’m bringing back my weekly parlay picks this year, where I pick 3 college football games and 3 NFL games each week against spread (always making a pick on the Illinois and Bears games, if applicable).  Basically, it’s an ongoing experiment/validation that it’s a good thing that I don’t live within driving distance of Vegas and how no one should EVER play a parlay in real life.  Here are my picks for the college games this week with hazy illogical reasoning (home teams in CAPS with odds from Bodog.com via Yahoo!):

(1) Illinois (+12) over Missouri (neutral site in St. Louis) – This is just a feeling based on the line itself (because frankly, there’s no good concrete evidence to support putting money on the Illini).  It simply seems like too large of a spread for a neutral site rivalry game when the favorite just “permanently suspended” a star player.  Besides, I have to get the homer pick out of my system early since Illinois probably won’t cover for the rest of the season.

(2) Purdue (+11) over NOTRE DAME – My initial impression is that Purdue is going to perform a bit better than expected this season and the weird overconfidence vibe that I’m getting from South Bend (that Brian Kelly is somehow miles different than the previous 3 Notre Dame head coaches) could turn this into a trap game for the Irish.

(3) Virginia Tech (+1.5) over Boise State (neutral site in Landover) - I know, I’m going to be called a non-believer in Boise State.  However, Virginia Tech is not some Pac-10 team with a gimmicky offense or an overconfident power school heading into a bowl game.  These 2 schools are neck-and-neck in the rankings, yet the Hokies have been placed as underdogs despite being the virtual home team.  I’ll gladly eat my words (and adjust my BlogPoll rankings) if Boise State proves me wrong, but as of now, I love taking the points here.

Feel free to use this post as an open thread for the weekend’s games.  If you want to talk about conference realignment or the Big Ten divisional setup, please continue the discussion on the Big Ten Division-palooza post.  Have a great Labor Day and enjoy the actual football action!

(NOTE: There’s no real reason for the posted picture, other than it needs to be exposed for the world to see and will be my laptop wallpaper for the next 15 years.  Yes, I’m about as street as the Kenny G look-alike from Color Me Badd.  Why do you ask?)

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from Rap Radar)

As we pull away from the images tonight of people burning Jim Delany UNC jerseys all across the state of Ohio and on a day that BYU officially declared its independence in football,  joined the WCC for non-football sports and announced long-term deals with both ESPN and Notre Dame (with BYU killing off a self-termed “prenuptial agreement” with the WAC in the process, meaning that even Mormons know that it’s something that you need to have ‘cause when she leaves your ass, she’s gonna leave with half), the Big Ten has finally ended months of speculation by announcing the following division alignment:

ROTEL DIVISION
Michigan
Nebraska
Michigan State
Iowa
Minnesota
Northwestern

BARBASOL DIVISION
Ohio State
Penn State
Indiana
Purdue
Wisconsin
Illinois

PROTECTED CROSS-DIVISION RIVALRIES
Michigan – Ohio State
Nebraska – Penn State
Michigan State – Indiana
Iowa – Purdue
Northwestern – Illinois
Minnesota – Wisconsin (EDIT – Oops on somehow forgetting this one initially. Badger fans were already pretty raw.)

Let’s put aside the fact that the Big Ten has ignored my advice and legions of fans across the country and then called up my 13-month old twins to punch in random letters on a Garmin system for the geography of this division split.  (On a side note, right when the Big Ten Network special about the divisions started, the twins simultaneously started screaming in sounds that I thought would only be possible if a hyena breeded with Mariah Carey.  As a result, I apologize in advance if my writing is a little punchy.)  Believe it or not, I don’t want to just be a hater that’s gonna hate.  In fact, there are a few positives as to how the divisions shake out:

(1) Maximum Marquee Matchups – When Jim Delany continuously harped on “competitive balance” as the main factor determining the divisions, that was really code for “We need to split up Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska evenly.”  Even though schools such as Iowa and Wisconsin have been quite strong performers on the field over the past 2 decades (making a KISS East/West split within, in my humble opinion, acceptably balanced) wasn’t as important as getting 2 of the 4 “marquee brands” into each of the divisions.  I still believe that Michigan – Ohio State would’ve been better off as a division game, but at least the Big Ten made the wise decision to continue to make that into the final game of the season.  The chances of a rematch in the championship game the week afterward is fairly weak (as Mr. SEC pointed out, cross-division rivals Alabama and Tennessee have never met in the SEC Championship Game) and even if it were to occur, the ESPN hype machine that makes Yankees – Red Sox Grapefruit League spring training games seem like Armageddon will run at full tilt.  I also don’t believe that there’s any chance that, in the event that both Michigan and Ohio State already have their division games clinched heading into their rivalry game, the teams will mail it in like playoff-bound NFL teams in week 17 because the bowl system and BCS ranking criteria (whether for the national championship game or at-large berths) demand that schools don’t take any week off.  Beyond that, the TV networks are going to be giddy over being able to broadcast Ohio State – Penn State, Michigan – Nebraska and Penn State – Nebraska.  Whatever you may think of the division alignments right now, there’s no doubt that all of us Big Ten fans (and more importantly, sports fans across the country) are tuning in for those matchups.

(2) Setup for the Illini Dynasty – I try not to be an Illinois homer here, but when I see 2 division annual games Indiana and Purdue and the cross-divisional preservation of the LOL Trophy game with Northwestern (OMFG I miss the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk), the Illini might actually make it to consecutive bowl games within the next 4 decades.  Will we fail despite being given a cupcake schedule (at least relative to other Big Ten teams), the largest alumni base of any school in the nation’s third largest market, and a prime recruiting location between Chicago and St. Louis?  Absolutely!  But, we can’t say that Jim Delany didn’t try to help a brother out.

(3) The Death of the Altoona Bowling League Trophy With a Lion Mold-a-Rama Pasted on the Side (AKA Land Grant Trophy) – YES, THAT TROPHY DESERVED TO DIE, AND I HOPE IT BURNS IN HELL!

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t issues here.  For one, Wisconsin is going to put more miles on the road than the Barbasol truck driver.  Wisky has ended up being the only school that doesn’t have ANY current protected rival within its own division, lost the Heartland Trophy game with Iowa and aren’t getting the opportunity to start a natural annual rivalry with Nebraska.  At the same time, hearing that Iowa and Purdue would have a protected rivalry felt like one of those reveals at the end of “Dating in the Dark” where the guy finds out the girl he’s been hitting on all week has back hair.  (I have a preternatural love of all varieties of blind dating shows, just like all red-blooded American males.  Am I right?!  Hello?  Anyone?)  That matchup just sticks out badly.

Overall, I’m numb from the divisional alignment discussion, although I REALLY wish that I knew about the Big Ten Division Creator before today since it’s on the level of the NBA Trade Machine as a time waster.  (Never fear – there is also a Pac-10 Division Creator.)  Processing the division split over the course of the day (with the knowledge that the date of the Michigan – Ohio State game wouldn’t be moved), I’ve basically come to the conclusion that it could’ve been worse.  It still smacks of the gerrymandered divisions of the ACC, but at least the setup allows for a full slate of compelling games on paper.  Regardless, actual football games will be played tomorrow, so be sure to grab your Rotel and Velveeta.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from mpopek’s Twitpic page)