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From the Obstructed Seats

A Blog With Unique-and Probably Wrong-Perspectives

The Obstructed NCAA Preview for Week 5

We have now fully hit that point.

The out-of-conference games are over.  And save for a late season tilt with Louisville at Houston and the rivalry week games of "ACC vs. SEC," the next major out-of-conference games will be the bowl & playoff games in late December/early January.  Which means one thing now: the games mean way more for the majority of the schools.  

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Last week was not a great week as I went 8-5 and now 28-12 for the season.  Michigan State let me down more ways than one while LSU, UCLA, Indiana, and Arkansas all followed suit.  But let's see with conference play how well these go (and I am hitting the major games).  This week, we get THREE top 10 games.  Should be a fun one.

(7) STANFORD @ (10) WASHINGTON, 9:00, ESPN:  The Cardinal and Huskies showed they could win in hostile environments and do it with defense in both.  Stanford did it with defense and showed they could win when McCaffrey wasn't rolling.  It feels like the physical defense of Stanford is tough to figure out in the PAC-12, home or road.  Washington has a good balance of offense and Jake Browning is getting better each week.  That might spell trouble as the Huskies also "get it" with their interior play.  This might be another low-scoring game, but winning in Seattle is tough even in college and the Huskies have a better balanced attack than Stanford, especially if they can contain McCaffrey.  This will be low scoring and close, but I have to go with the home team.  MY PREDICTION: WASHINGTON 20, STANFORD 17

(14) MIAMI @ GEORGIA TECH, 12:00, ESPN2:  Mark Richt coaches his first game back in the state of Georgia since he got fired at Georgia.  Ironically, it will be in the last place he coached for the Bulldogs: Bobby Dodd Stadium.  But Miami is rolling and albeit they haven't faced anybody, this will be the Canes first test.  Richt will preach to the Miami defenders to stop the option that Tech has.  However, given Miami's great success against Georgia Tech since joining the ACC, it might not mean much.  The Canes are very talented this year and Richt has righted the ship early.  Miami has won 6 of the last 7 and Richt has owned the Jackets when he was at Georgia as well.  Georgia Tech is coming off an embarrassing loss from Clemson last week largely because they do not have the talent like the Tigers or in this case, like the Hurricanes.  MY PREDICTION:  MIAMI 34, GEORGIA TECH 14

(22) TEXAS @ OKLAHOMA STATE, 12:00, ABC:  Texas had all the momentum after the Notre Dame and then blew it in California.  For all the talk about how the offense is vastly improved, they really fell back on defense, which was Charlie Strong's strength.  But it seems like the Longhorns are giving up points all over the place.  On the other side, the Cowboys are reeling from a road loss to Baylor.  They didn't play that bad and I guess giving up 35 points to Baylor at home would be equivalent to a defensive moral victory in some cases.  But they made one too many mistakes on offense to have a shot.  That said, they should respond well this weekend.  I don't think Texas is stopping many teams right now.  MY PREDICTION: OKLAHOMA STATE 45, TEXAS 35

NORTH CAROLINA @ (12) FLORIDA STATE, 3:30, ESPN:  Is Florida State on upset alert?  Possible.  The Noles defense is getting shredded the last few weeks and the Tar Heels have a good offense, so that will bode a bit of a problem.  That said, Florida State has Dalvin Cook and UNC has had their issues stopping teams as well.  But Mitch Trubisky has gotten better as the season has gone along as well so this could be an upset brewing, pending on which team comes up with the big defensive stop.  This could be an offensive slugfest the way this looks.  But right now it seems like the Seminoles and Tar Heels are (dare say it) one-dimensional.  You could very easy get a PAC-12 score here, but I think Florida State gets the home field edge.  MY PREDICTION:  FLORIDA STATE 44, NORTH CAROLINA 39

(11) TENNESSEE @ (25) GEORGIA:  We will see how much carry-over the Volunteers win over Florida has this week.  How the Vols played in the second half against Florida is what I think everybody expected them to play.  But this is their first true major "road test" (not counting Bristol as a road game) and in a hostile Sanford Stadium.  That said, the Bulldogs have been a mess since Week 1, squeaking by against Nicholls and Missouri in back-to-back weeks before getting stomped on by Ole Miss.  If the Vols defensive line attacks Jacob Eason, it will be a repeat of the 2nd half for Tennessee and all last week for Georgia, but if the Volunteers WANT to win this game they must get more productivity from Joshua Dobbs.  He has not been doing much this season at all and he was a sleeper for the Heisman.  But the good news is, Kirby Smart has had difficulties with mobile quarterbacks since his Alabama days and it showed last week against Ole Miss.  Maybe Georgia is what the doctor ordered for Dobbs.  MY PREDICTION:  TENNESSEE 31, GEORGIA 24

(8) WISCONSIN @ (4) MICHIGAN, 3:30, ABC:  The Badgers finish their Great Lake State two-step in Ann Arbor with the powerful Wolverines.  Most people were VERY surprised on how the Badgers dismantled Michigan State last week, especially in the air with their freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook.  This might give a very much-needed dimension to the Badgers offense, which has historically been relied with the run.  But Michigan has an awesome defense which will create issues for both parts of Wisconsin's offense.  But the big question will be can Michigan be able to do what they have done so far and put up points by the gallon on the Badgers?  If they can do that, the Wolverines will really have a nice argument for being a top 3 ranked team next week.  I think this will be a good defensive game, but Michigan will distance themselves in the 4th to Wisconsin and re-gaining the smack talk of Big Brother took care of Little Brother again.  MY PREDICTION: MICHIGAN 28, WISCONSIN 20

WAKE FOREST @ NC STATE, 3:30, CHSS(?):  Maybe I am thinking a lot over this Wake Forest squad since they are 4-0 and NC State is 2-1, but the Deacons defense is pretty good and could give a major team fits.  So they are my one to watch until something happens with them.  NC State is off a bye so are ready, but how good are they really?  The East Carolina game sticks out like a sore thumb, but the Wolfpack offense can move the ball.  Can they move it on Wake Forest is the question?  The Deacons are starting to add in some offense on top and that is a bit scary.  Logic says Wake Forest should win that game, but playing against NC State in Carter-Finley gives anybody fits.  MY PREDICTION: NC STATE 20, WAKE FOREST 17

OKLAHOMA @ (21) TCU, 5:00, FOX:  Could the Sooners, the Big 12 favorite and a playoff projected squad be in SERIOUS trouble after this week?  Yes.  The Sooners go to Ft. Worth against TCU, who has given them fits for the last few years.  And the Frogs looked to have recovered since the heartbreak from Arkansas.  The Sooners just look inept on offense as Baker Mayfield is trying to do way too much, which is hurting the team and Oklahoma hasn't stopped anybody at this point.  Add in the fact that it is a road game for the Sooners and you might see some people in Norman start barking about Stoops after this game is over.  MY PREDICTION:  TCU 45, OKLAHOMA 35

MINNESOTA @ PENN STATE, 3:30, B10:  Probably not a MAJOR game, but the Gophers are undefeated and James Franklin looks to be on the chopping block in Happy Valley.  The Nittany Lions look a bit overwhelmed so far this season and hasn't impressed, even in their wins.  That is a big problem especially for a program like Penn State.  Franklin has not delivered to this point.  The issue will reside that if Penn State loses, he will be in serious trouble for his job.  But I think for one week, Franklin can breathe a sigh of relief.  Minnesota hasn't played anybody to this point and I think on a talent-level (notably in the speed department), Penn State wins this one.  MY PREDICTION:  PENN STATE 30, MINNESOTA 21

(18) UTAH @ CALIFORNIA, 6:00, PAC-12:  Maybe there is a change happening in the PAC-12.  Defenses are starting to take over.  We are seeing it in Stanford, Washington, and Utah while the likes of Oregon, Washington State, and Cal are falling back.  The Utes defense is sound and gets enough offense to carry them to win games and it makes me believe they are the favorites in the PAC-12 South.  On the other side, we know the Bears can put up points as we have seen, but they need to make stops in order to win.  They failed twice against San Diego State and Arizona.  Yes, it is in Berkeley, but I don't think it matters much.  MY PREDICTION: UTAH 35, CALIFORNIA 31

MEMPHIS @ (16) OLE MISS, 7:00:  HAD Ole Miss not blow that game to Arkansas in Oxford, the playoff selection committee would have had a big issue on their hands with the 4th playoff team (as Ole Miss would have notched the SEC West division and sent Alabama home) between the Rebels and Stanford.  And the reasoning would have been with Memphis as they gave Ole Miss a nasty loss.  After last week, it seems like the Rebels recovered from their two 20-point blown lead losses to Florida State and Alabama and will take out their frustrations from Memphis last year.  The Tigers are 3-0 though so it could be interesting for a while.  MY PREDICTION:  OLE MISS 48, MEMPHIS 16

MISSOURI @ LSU, 7:30 SEC: Speaking of Tigers, the 2nd Tigers battle happens with LSU and Missouri.  Of course the big news was Les Miles got canned an Ed Orgeron is now the interim coach (and proceeded to fire Cam Cameron after) and said he would open up the much maligned and predictable Tigers offense.  But the question is, can the players familiarize their offense within one week, especially since Missouri is rolling themselves with their offense?  I don't know.  It is possible.  But I think too much upheaval happened this week for giving me a nod to LSU.  So I will go with Missouri in an upset.  MY PREDICTION:  MISSOURI 24, LSU 17

(17) MICHIGAN STATE @ INDIANA, 8:00, BTN:  Well, many didn't see Michigan State's implosion against Wisconsin coming.  However, they get Indiana, a team that Sparty has owned.  The Hoosiers are also coming off a loss as well to Wake Forest, so they are also in the "we must play better" mentality.  But I think last week was a perfect storm on Michigan State.  I don't see them having two straight disastrous outings in a row, even if Indiana is improved and the game is in Bloomington.  MY PREDICTION: MICHIGAN STATE 31, INDIANA 27

(3) LOUISVILLE @ (5) CLEMSON:  I think many have been comparing Louisville and Lamar Jackson to 2013 Florida State and Jameis Winston.  And for good reason.  They are rolling.  It is going to be hard to stop the Cardinals regardless as Jackson is putting up video game numbers while the defense is just stomping on everybody on top.  However, one does wonder how great Florida State is and it isn't like the rest of the schedule has been mind-boggling for the Cardinals.  Clemson, while still trying to establish an offensive identity, is relying with a strong defense, and maybe the best defense they have had in Dabo's run the last 4 seasons.  This could be an interesting game of cat and mouse.  Honestly, I think the Tigers will play physical enough to take Jackson out of his rhythm and frustrate the Cardinals while Watson finds his footing for the first time in 2016 (exclude SC State).  And Death Valley at night?  Not sure if Louisville is ready for that step, but they will fight in this game.  MY PREDICTION:  CLEMSON 38, LOUISVILLE 31

ARIZONA STATE @ USC, 8:30, FOX:  The Sun Devils are undefeated to this point thanks to their offense, but still give up way too much on defense.  And they have a road game, where they are not overly great.  USC is at home for the second time this season and played well in their loss against Utah as Sam Darnold established the Trojans identity.  This doesn't bode well for Arizona State and the Trojans rebound while the Sun Devils sputter and many realize their defense is their ultimate downfall.  MY PREDICTION: USC 45, ARIZONA STATE 38

That is it for now.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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LSU

Trying to Make Sense of the Senseless Firing of Les Miles

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

In my week 4 recap,  I was way off on my logic that had Les Miles being canned after the season, but I am dumbfounded by the move.  Don't get me wrong, I think LSU should have fired Miles.................either at the end of last year or the end of this year.  Keeping him on after the mess the University did during the final week was nonsense by them.  It was to be only outdone by this nonsense of firing him after 4 games.

Don't get me wrong, Les Miles doesn't rank as one of the top ten coaches in college football-at least in my eyes.  The inability to adapt to what defenses throw at him, his stubbornness to rely on other quarterbacks when one isn't working, recruiting 4 or 5-star players to perform at 2-star levels, showing what seemingly a lack of discipline to players who have been in trouble with the law, and his late-game coaching nightmares that finally averaged out from the lucky breaks he had 6-7 years ago is what makes him not regarded as a top tier coach.

But with ALL OF THAT SAID, Miles, who had coached LSU for over a decade, gets canned a third of the way through in the season.  Definitely not the way a coach would go out, possibly at the end of his career, or a way a coach SHOULD go out with everything he has done.  Yes, I understand the fact the Tigers for the last 4 years have become Alabama's whipping boy and the legitimate threat to a national title is no longer there.  But the fact Les Miles did keep the program afloat after Saban left does say something and he DID win a national title in 2007 so that begs the question, WHY did LSU fire Les Miles?

Is the program in disarray?

Yes, I know LSU is a team who ranks up in the top 5 every year and has one of the best plucking grounds for football players in Louisiana so the future ALWAYS looks bright in Baton Rouge, but you have to wonder a few things.

While college football is supreme in LSU, quite possibly the university itself was tired of Miles.

1.  Had the university finally had enough of Miles?  It always felt like since 2007, when Miles nearly left for his alma mater in Michigan, the Tigers were angry that he even considered leaving.  It seemed like from that point onward, the University and Miles were not on the same page.  And I recalled before the 2010 season, ESPN radio (can't remember who said what) but they talked about Miles possibly getting fired after the 2010 season by LSU given they had fallen back behind Alabama.  However, Miles dodged a major bullets (in spite of himself) and won 10 games followed by an SEC Championship and a National Championship appearance.  But the slip-ups on the field and how he handled the Tyrann Matthieu situation where he tried keeping him as long as he could (to which it sounded like the University was the one who axed Matthieu from LSU, not Miles)

LSU fans supported Miles but didn't really fall over for the guy.

2.  Did the boosters have enough of Miles?  Never thought the overall fan base at LSU was overly keen with Miles.  The student base over the years loved him for his antics, but not sure they were the ones help paying for his salary down in Baton Rouge.  If you go to places like Alabama where Saban is the 2nd Coming of Bear Bryant, Michigan with Harbaugh, Ohio State with Meyer, and other spots, you never had that vibe that Miles was in the hearts of LSU fans and boosters alike.  

Miles and Cameron have been close friends throughout the years.

3.  His unwillingness to change mid-season.  I think the University gave Miles an ultimatum: fire Cam Cameron or he goes too.  Miles and Cameron, who were coaches together under Bo Schembechler, have been close friends.  Miles probably didn't have the heart to fire his friend.  And I guess that is understandable, even on a level of college football where it is all about winning.

Leonard Fournette was seen being very angry and frustrated at everybody-including Miles during the final drive for LSU Saturday.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

4.  Possibly the inmates were finally running the asylum?  As mentioned before, LSU has had their share of altercations with the law over the years, especially the last 6-7 years.  Tyrann Matthieu, Jeremy Hill, and others have been in the news for off-field altercations.  The fact Miles had done nothing for any major source of punishment probably gave a sense that the program was not being properly ran and PERHAPS there might have been a fear that LSU would fall into the same category as Baylor soon.  But also, Leonard Fournette, who is a very composed player in his time in Baton Rouge, was seen yelling at teammates in the 4th quarter and even having words with Miles where Miles said nothing about it.  If the players start tuning you out, the rest of the season will spell disaster.  It would also mean the recruits LSU has in place for 2017 might reconsider their commitments if that was the case.

5.  More than meets the eye?  Maybe there were violations Miles has done that we don't know about yet.  After all, there was the rumored scandal at Oklahoma State that happened when Miles was the head coach there, to which he denies.  Maybe there was wind of that happening in LSU?  I don't know. 

But whatever the case was, this seemed to be one of the oddest, strangest moves in college football and probably one of the most nonsensical moves that a program could have done.  Only time will tell the true reasons of why LSU did not have the audacity to let him go at the end of the season.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Jose Fernandez-Loss of a Future Baseball Icon

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Devastated.  Stunned.  These are the two words that I can only say about the untimely passing of Jose Fernandez.  

Sports are not immune to tragedies in this world.  We can go back to the plane crashes at Marshall in the 70's, the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash featuring former NHL players such as Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek, among others, abrupt health issue deaths such as Korey Stringer (Minnesota Vikings), Reggie Lewis (Boston Celtics), and Darryl Kile (Astros/Rockies/Cardinals) and of course vehicle accidents such as Drazen Petrovic (Nets), Nick Adenhart (Los Angeles Angels), and Jerome Brown (Philadelphia Eagles) among others.  

But this one sticks out.  I wasn't around when the Marshall players lost their lives in the 70's.  It was talked about a good bit when the plane crash happened with the hockey team, but since Atlanta (where I am near) had just lost the Thrashers to Winnipeg, nobody was in any mood to hear about hockey.  And for the others, while it was painful to see the likes of Petrovic and Jerome Brown pass untimely, they weren't considered a face of their respective sports.  The only person I think comes close is Sean Taylor, the Redskins Pro Bowl safety who was murdered.

Many people think if baseball is in good hands, they were in good hands with the young players of Trout, Harper, Kershaw, Bumgarner, Posey, the Mets rotation when they are healthy, and Fernandez.  But to me Fernandez stuck out more than save maybe Trout and Harper.  

Fernandez as a kid.......well, a teen

Fernandez was a Cuban defector, coming over from Cuba to Tampa in his early teens and started pitching.  And he could pitch.  In his senior year, he went 13-1 with a 2.35 ERA after winning an appeal to play (Florida deemed him ineligible to play since he was in Cuba in 06).  The Marlins drafted him 14th overall in the 2011 Player Draft. 

Fernandez with Puig in 2013

It took him only 2 years to make it to the bigs.  He wins Rookie of the Year in 2013, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP, giving the again talent depleted Marlins hope (they had their umpteenth time fire sale after the 2012 season) hope alongside Giancarlo Stanton.  When 2014 arrived, Fernandez became the youngest Opening Day starter since Dwight Gooden, but after 8 games, his season ended with the "now normal" Tommy John surgery.  It also wiped out a large chunk of Fernandez's 2015 MLB season as well (he only started 11), but when he pitched, he was lights out.  He went 6-1 with a 2.24 ERA and obliterated hitters with his fastball.  In 2016, Fernandez kept on dealing going 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA before the tragedy.  And the guy was striking out EVERYBODY he saw within a 5 mile radius it seemed.  The Marlins were supposed to pitch him against Atlanta on Sunday before pushing it back a day to face off against division rival and a team the Marlins are chasing in the Wild Card, the Mets.  And had things panned out, might have decided the Cy Young race.

The thing with Fernandez, while his numbers are very impressive and you could probably multiply what he did this year for the next 8-10 years, thus giving him a worthy Hall of Fame career, was what he possibly meant to an entire fan base.  The Marlins since their inception in 1993, have NEVER drawn great, even when they won it all in 1997 and 2003.  When the new park was built, many believed it would attract the masses as the Marlins had been playing in a football stadium.  Obviously it didn't pan out, and the Marlins sold their team again before the 2013 season.  And they drew as much as the old park did.

But then there was a light somewhat.  This young, 21-year old phenom who lit it up both on radar guns and the stats.  And while Miami lost 100 in 2013 and fans struggled to get to the gates, Fernandez gave them hope and fans came out to see him.  While he lived in Tampa as a teenager, Fernandez was a guy fans in Miami could rally around as Miami is a place with a lot of Cuban ancestry.  In other words, Fernandez was one of their own.  But it wasn't what Fernandez did on the mound or where he was from.  The guy had PERSONALITY.  He would show emotion (a lot of it at times, which probably made him Public Enemy #2 in Atlanta) when he did something.  He would be smiling, laughing, and cutting up like he was a kid on any baseball field in America.  He came off LOVING the game.  You don't see that at times with certain superstars in any sport, much less baseball.  

Marlins Park as mostly as it is, half-empty

Marlins Park when Fernandez took the mound. The open seats were blocked off but they filled nicely.

For me, all of those things might have changed how the baseball world might have changed with their views on Miami fans.  And for me, after being at the Marlins Park and the old park, the vibe changed greatly  They seemed more into it at Marlins Park especially with Fernandez on the mound.  He got all the major cheers whenever he was announced in any manner.  He had Miami in the palm of his hands.  And he was going to have Miami grow because of it.  You sensed there was a difference with the Marlins fans and Fernandez, that he would have been the guy to make professional baseball in Miami legit.  

I took this picture of Fernandez in Marlins Park against the Mets this year. 7 IP 14 K's and outdueled Matt Harvey in a 1-0 Marlins win.

Every year I go to see a different MLB ballpark in this great country (and Canada) of ours.  I have done it now for about 12 years.  I have seen players that have won Cy Youngs or MVP's and seen some of the best around.  I have been fortunate to go to Chicago to see Chris Sale pitch.  I have been fortunate to go to Houston to see Roger Clemens pitch.  I have been fortunate to see Madison Bumgarner pitch in San Francisco.  I have seen Trout vs. Cabrera in Detroit.  I have seen a lot.  But one of my favorite moments was seeing Jose Fernandez pitch.  He was at the time, the guy I would start my rotation around for the next 10 years if I could draft one.  I was so excited heading into Marlins Park that day because he pitched and he didn't disappoint, going 7 IP with 14 K's.  And at that point I believed he was going to be baseball's best pitcher for the next 10 years, even over the likes of Kershaw and Bumgarner (maybe that is my hope speaking, but that's how I felt).  

Everybody has the "where were you" moments when some tragedy happened.  This ranks up there for me.  The only other feeling I have similar was when Chris Farley passed in 1997.  It stung.  For me, this stings maybe more.  Fernandez wasn't my favorite player, but he was a guy I loved watching play ball.  

Fernandez was exciting to watch because not only he was great, but brought emotion.  Yes, he did irk opposing teams with his attitude at times, but he also had that child-like innocence you can't see from other players anymore.  And he reminded me of a kid enjoying the game when he pitched.

What becomes of the Marlins and their future is a question, but for a later date.  Today is a day of great sadness as Miami, the Marlins, and the baseball world lost what would have been a future icon of this game.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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