Monthly Archives: April 2007

Rating the Non-Conference Slate, Part 6: SEC

We haven’t exactly been saving the best for last here at asimsports. In fact, I’ve just been going in alphabetical order, or if you really want to use a big word to use at cocktail parties, lexicographical order.

So, here we go with the Southeastern Conference:

  1. Georgia (2 legit, 1 DI-AA): Oklahoma State, Western Carolina, Troy, @Georgia Tech. It pains me to say a team that has not traveled outside of the South for a non-conference game since 1965 when they visited Ann Arbor has the toughest OOC schedule in the SEC, but here it is. They are one of only 3 SEC teams to even play 2 BCS opponents of any sort, much less two legit BCS teams. Next year, however, UGA will actually be going to Arizona State with the return trip to Stillwater in 2009.
  2. South Carolina (2, 1): UL-Lafayette, South Carolina State, @North Carolina, Clemson. Actually going to UNC is a nice touch here – too bad UNC kinda sucks.
  3. Auburn (1, 1): Kansas State, South Florida, New Mexico State, Tennessee Tech. If you recall my statement from earlier about 3 SEC teams playing 2 BCS opponents, you’ll know it’s all downhill from here. There’s some marquee matchups below, sure, but still. Also, I was going to make fun of USF here, but then I remembered they’re probably better than Kansas State. Alas.
  4. Tennessee (1, 0): @California, Southern Miss, Arkansas State, UL-Lafayette. Zounds! A SEC team traveling not only out of the South, but clear across the damn country! Unbelievable! Of course, it rapidly goes off a cliff after Souther Miss with two Sun Belt teams, but hey.
  5. Louisiana State (1, 0): Virginia Tech, Middle Tennessee State, @Tulane, Louisiana Tech. Perhaps the best OOC matchup for the entire SEC is LSU-VT. Absolutely nothing after that, though. Also, “at” Tulane? I’m sure the Green Wave will be the ones filling the Superdome to capacity. Yeah.
  6. Alabama (1, 1): Western Carolina, Florida State, Houston, UL-Monroe. The FSU game is actually going to be in Jacksonville, a move I wholly commend. I’m all for neutral site marquee matchups and I hope that series continues.
  7. Mississippi State (1, 1): @Tulane, Jacksonville State, Alabama-Birmingham, @West Virginia. @WVU isn’t bad, but is overshadowed by the better and more interesting matchups above. Also, Miss State is really bad and probably got scheduled as a BCS conference patsy.
  8. Mississippi (1, 1): @Memphis, Missouri, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State. You know, I (and some other Tennesseans I know) consider Memphis part of Mississippi anyway, so is that really much of a road game? Between that and Mizzou is a nice attempt to make this look like a real schedule, but I know better. Also, 2 Louisiana schools and the UL-UM pick’em isn’t one of them? Shocking.
  9. Florida (1, 1,): Western Kentucky, Troy, Florida Atlantic, Florida State. Shame on you, UF. 2 Sun Belt teams, a DI-AA team that is moving to DI-A in football in 2009 because of Title IX. (You read that correctly.) If you didn’t have to play FSU every year, who would you play as the 4th team? (I firmly believe UM, FSU, and UF should all have to play each other.)
  10. Vanderbilt (1, 1): Richmond, Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH), Wake Forest. The Vandy of the ACC meets the Wake Forest of the SEC! Exciting! At least they’re not being scheduled as a BCS patsy this year.
  11. Kentucky (1,1): Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, Louisville, Florida Atlantic. Once again, if they didn’t have to play Louisville….
  12. Arkansas (0, 1): Troy, North Texas, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Florida International. 3 Sun Belt teams and a DI-AA Team. This may the worst schedule in major college football. I’m pretty sure there’s a Houston Nutt cellphone joke to be worked in somewhere, but I just can’t muster the spirit for it.

Well, that was depressing. Conclusions in the near future.

Rating the Non-Conference Slate, Part 5: Pac-10

It’s time, kids, for the round-up of the wondrous conference with only 3 OOC games.

So, without further delay, I give you my completely subjective and arbitrary rankings of the Pacific 10’s out of conference schedules:

  1. Southern Cal (2 legit, 0 DI-AA): Idaho, @Nebraska, @Notre Dame. Even if USC kills Nebraska, the Pac-10’s crown jewel has 2 non-conference road games against marquee teams.
  2. Washington (2, 0): @Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State. Home game with OSU is huge, and they also go across the country to the Carrier Dome. Boise State isn’t terrible either.
  3. Oregon (1, 0): Houston, @Michigan, Fresno State. Once again, another team wishes Fresno didn’t suck last year. Houston didn’t, which helps, but the biggest thing here is the away game in Ann Arbor.
  4. Washington State (1, 0): @Wisconsin, San Diego State, Idaho. SDSU is at a “neutral” site (Seattle), and the Idaho game is once again in Pullman, shockingly! (Not.) @Wisconsin is the beef here.
  5. California (1, 0): Tennessee, @Colorado State, Louisiana Tech. Rematch of last year’s debacle in Knoxville, and they also play a Mountain West team on the road for some reason. A solid 5 spot for the Bears.
  6. UCLA (1, 0): BYU, @Utah, Notre Dame. ND also has lots of games against Pac-10 teams for whatever reason. UCLA also hits the Utah circuit but resisted the temptation to schedule Utah State.
  7. Stanford (1, 0): San Jose State, Texas Christian, Notre Dame. Notre Dame again. SJSU makes the 30 minute drive up the 101 to Palo Alto. TCU isn’t terrible, but this lacks the meat of the WSU, Cal, and UCLA schedules.
  8. Arizona State (0, 0): San Jose State, Colorado, San Diego State. ASU shouldn’t need to use their fine ladies to distract these three teams. The key word there is “shouldn’t”.
  9. Oregon State (0, 1): Utah, @Cincinnati, Idaho State. One of only two Pac-10 teams to schedule a DI-AA team. Not exactly inspiring DI-A choices, either. Could switch places easily with ASU due to having to go on the road, though.
  10. Arizona (0, 1): @BYU, Northern Arizona, New Mexico. Ugh. @BYU is decent, but canceled out by being one of only 2 Pac-10 teams to schedule a DI-AA team.

So, yeah, I goofed in my original writeup that only 1 Pac-10 team scheduled a DI-AA team: I forgot to count Idaho State as DI-AA. My bad. Anyway, within a few days the last remaining conference should be posted, the SEC. And I’ll follow that up with a summary and my final thoughts. Until then…

“Sports That Could Possibly be Abbreviated ‘Bball’ for $500, Alex.”

Immediately after getting home from work, some friends and I took in the 2007 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game.

It wasn’t exactly a clinic. Ohio State looked lost most of the night and had trouble getting any sort of outside game that was desperately needed against Florida’s zone defense. Unlike the game in January, the favorites came out on top this time around.

After the end of the night (and hence the lateness of these posts), I poetically segued from the end of one season to the beginning of another. I recorded the Braves’ opener (10:00 am PDT) to view tonight and kept myself willful ignorant of the results.

What a thrill to be back into baseball. I never got into the groove last season – I left for Europe when the season was still young and came back to a team that was realistically out of the playoff hunt. I watched the remaining games, but without my usual zeal. As I watched yesterday’s game, I found my baseball senses were still in great shape – twitching as though I were behind the plate calling the balls and strikes, cringing at the bad swings at fastballs best described as “on the same plane as the batter’s eyeballs”.

Some of the Braves looked a lot more ready for opening day than others. Particular examples that stand out are Edgar Renteria, Chipper Jones, and of course, Brian McCann. Chipper got on base 3 times, McCann was completely himself (i.e., the best young catcher in the National League), and Edgar hit the tying and go ahead home runs. Andruw looked like he was trying to hit the ball to Pittsburgh most of the time, and the bottom of the order after McCann looked completely out of sorts. (I still prefer Chipper batting 4th and Andruw batting 3rd, honestly.)

John Smoltz pitched well, but he was on the hook for the loss after the 6th. Getting him off the hook was Edgar, who took an 0-2 fastball from Brett Myers in the 8th and just belted out beyond the center field fence to tie the game.

The so-called “Big Three” relievers had an interesting debut today. Mike Gonzalez came on in the 7th and proceeded to watch Brett Myers on four straight and give up a double. He then found the strike zone again and struck out the next two Phillies (including Ryan Howard) and retired the side.

Wickman pitched the tied ninth and got two quick out before allowing a double. They opted to walk Howard this time (one of the cases where I agree with that call) and got Utley to hit pop-up into foul territory that was corralled by Chipper.

Kelly Johnson coaxed a lead-off walk in the 10th, and after failing to get a bunt down, Edgar decided to take the next pitch into the right-center field bleachers. A perfect bottom of the inning by Chad Paronto later and the Braves secured the 1-0 start to the season.

It was weird watching this – they showed occasional highlights from last season. Normally, I’d remember these, but it was a reminder this year that even though I tried to keep up online I really had no idea what was going on. What I knew even before I left, though, was how terrible the bullpen was. If this website existed back then it would probably have several posts dedicated to the so-called “reliever” by the name of Chris Reitsma, one of the few people I’ve ever truly hated. (He was that bad.) Needless to say, had he been pitching today, the Braves probably would’ve lost 7-2.

The funniest part was listening to the announcers skip around the topic, saying everything they could about the bullpen last year without out-and-out saying, “Boy, those guys really sucked.” Here was the most damning factoid they presented: John Smoltz had a damn fine year last year at 16-9. He had 10 no-decisions, 6 of which were caused by blown saves, a stat the Braves led the league in last year. Yes, that’s right, with competent relief, he could’ve easily had 19 or 20 wins. Considering neither Cy Young award winner last year had 20 wins, that’s saying something. (Though perhaps it says more about the over-importance on a team-based stat for a pitcher’s performance, but that’s a post for another day.)

Anyway, it’s April, so like the fans of every baseball team, I’m feeling optimistic about this season. Well, except for fans of the Nationals. They don’t have much to look forward to.

Rating the Non-Conference Slate, Part 4: Big XII

Today’s rankings will example the Big XII conference. Short and sweet because I’ll also discuss the NCAA title game and the Braves’ opener.

So, here we go for the Big XII:

  1. Colorado (3 legit, 0 DI-AA): Colorado State, @Arizona State, Florida State, Miami (OH). CSU and CU is a huge rivalry game and will be played at a neutral site this year. Add that and FSU to a road game at a BCS conference team and you probably have one of the Big 12’s best non-conference slates. While others have 1 really good name, CU has 3 decent ones and no I-AA teams.
  2. Nebraska (2, 0): Nevada, @Wake Forest, Southern Cal, Ball State. You could certainly schedule worse mid-majors than Nevada. Surprising road game @Wake, but between that and their game at @USC last year they’ve shown a willingness to travel for intra-BCS games. USC completing the home-and-home also helps.
  3. Missouri (2, 1): Illinois, @Mississippi, Western Michigan, Illinois State. Game against Illinois is in Kansas City, so probably not much of a neutral site. @Ole Miss earns some brownie points, but the fact they’re ranked here speaks more to the quality of the rest of the schedules in this conference.
  4. Kansas State (1, 1): @Auburn, San Jose State, Missouri State, @Fresno State. Apparently this is a response an oft-repeated criticism of KSU scheduling soft opponents. I don’t think they counted on Fresno going 4-8 last year, though. @Auburn is the highlight here.
  5. Oklahoma State (1, 1): @Georgia, Florida Atlantic, @Troy, Sam Houston State. It boggles the mind that any Big 12 team would on the road to Troy after the Missouri game a few years back. KSU gets the nod, however, for going to Auburn over UGA.
  6. Texas A&M (1, 1): Montana State, Fresno State, UL-Monroe, @Miami (FL). Once again, shame about Fresno going 4-8 last year, otherwise this looks significantly better.
  7. Oklahoma (1, 0): North Texas, Miami (FL), Utah State, @Tulsa. I suspect Tulsa is having record season ticket sales this year. Just a hunch.
  8. Iowa State (1, 1): Kent State, Northern Iowa, Iowa, @Toledo. 2 MAC teams and 2 in-state rivals. Not much to get excited about here, which is probably also applicable to ISU’s season as a whole.
  9. Texas Tech (0, 1): Southern Methodist, Texas-El Paso, @Rice, Northwestern State. TTU hits the old Southwest Conference circuit and will probably be the most well-attended at Rice Stadium (capacity: 70,000) in a long time.
  10. Texas (0, 0): Arkansas State, Texas Christian, @Central Florida, Rice. Nothing much to see here, yes, Arkansas State is DI-A….wait, hold on. @Central Florida? How on Earth did that happen? Did Texas schedule a 4 for 1 deal?
  11. Baylor (0, 1): @Texas Christian, Rice, Texas State, @Buffalo. @Buffalo, eh? I guess they wanted a break from the Texas heat.
  12. Kansas (0, 1): Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International. I don’t really even have anything witty to say about this schedule, and I can’t think of a good Mangino joke. Alas.

Don’t forget to check out our next installment as we investigate that haven of round-robin scheduling, the Pac-10.