Thursday, January 27, 2011

House Wants to Privatize Medicare

Congratulations America. You are now starting to see what you voted for last November.

The U.S. House is testing the idea of privatizing Medicare. Story HERE.

I'm sure those private, for profit healthcare insurance companies will do just anything then can to make sure the elderly get all the care and drugs they need.

Thanks voters...thanks a lot.

Contador, Doping and the Tour

Well, well, well...turns out there may be a reason Spanish cyclist Alberto Condador was so good over the past two runnings of the Tour de France.

He may have ingested performance enhancing substances. And, it's looking like he'll be stripped of his 2010 Tour title. Story HERE and HERE. He says it ate "bad meat" one night during the Tour and that the meat had some chemical properties that showed up as a banned substance. Right.

Now, a top level cyclist doping or taking performance enhancing drugs is like, well, baseball players taking steroids - it just is the way it is. The sky is blue, people breath oxygen and cyclists cheat - or at least most who actually win the races do.

But, I'm glad this dude has been questioned.

He had to sit out the 2006 and 2008 Tours because his team was implicated in blood doping cases.

In 2009 in particular the guy basically won the whole race on one day where he just ROCKETED AWAY up a steep mountain and away from all other racers. It seemed inhuman at the time, and well, maybe it was.

In 2010 he seemed to be having trouble early staying in the mix, but then by mid-way through the Tour he was in the top three. He sealed his win with a controversial move to race past the then leader Andy Schlek when Schlek had a problem with his bike chain. In cycling it's a no-no to do that. You don't win the race based on someone elses machine failing. But no matter to Contador...he went ahead and seized the moment and took off, never to be challenged again.

Anyway, who knows what Contador did or didn't do. I just think it's interesting that this issue is now. Too bad for the sport. I like the Tour, but so many of its top performers are accused of or actually do dope or take performance enhancing substances that it's disheartening.

More Palin This Week - Stupid, Cynical or Both?

This week we witnessed another example how Sarah Palin can combine her stunning lack of knowledge about history with her brazen ambition and willingness to turn anything any competitor says into a talking point...

Palin says the USSR a) won the race to space, and b) failed as a government because of overspending on it.

Right. Sooooo many things wrong with that.

Lets take them one at a time:

The USSR did not win the space race. Quick review - the USSR did launch the first successful man-made satellite (Sputnik) and the first successful manned orbit of the earth. Perhaps this is what Palin means when she says the USSR won "the race to space." But, if true, she COMPLETELY misses the point and CLEARLY does not know history. Why? Because the USSR's early wins so thoroughly freaked out the U.S.A. that we went on a concerted mission to win the space race by being the first to go to the moon and back. This was done in less than nine years...from scratch. We did it. The USSR never did, nor has any other nation. We won. The end. And this was Obama's point in his State of the Union when invoking Sputnik - he was using it as an example of how the U.S. can pull together and win big time, and we need to do so now with the economy.

The government of the USSR did not fail because of its participation in the space race.
First, the USSR ended in 1991 - 22 years after the U.S. moon landings and 30 years after the USSR's early space victories. Pretty difficult to draw Palin's conclusions from that massive gap in time alone.

Second, while the USSR may have - and probably did - fail because of a spectacular and unbelievable amount of spending on defense without the economy to back it up (not to mention decades of running police state) the space race was, if anything, a minuscule component. Sure, the USSR maintained a space program, but spending on it was not the cause of their demise. No, if you can point to any one element of spending that contributed to their demise it is indeed on defense. Their efforts to keep up and/or surpass the West in terms of jets, submarines, missiles, army, navy, intelligence and - significantly - something to defend against or defeat the mythical U.S. "Star Wars" shield did them in. So, her argument is obviously ignorant.

And oh, by the way, guess where the U.S. government spends the largest portion of its annual budget? You guessed it, just like the USSR it is on defense. So, even if you stretch Palin's space race position to the extreme and somehow include USSR defense spending...she's still comes off as out-of-touch because she apparently is unaware that we spend HUGE on defense too. Not good for her argument.

Palin is playing fast and loose. That's clear. Her's is a cynical attempt to garner media coverage. Two easy-to-spot proof points:

1. Though her lame space race argument, she is attempting to equate "big government spending" with failure of a state - implying that the current economic and budget situation in the U.S. is headed in the same direction courtesy of Mr. Obama. And, she's clearly trying to tie the notion of "communism" to Obama.

2. Because she is so completely off base with her assessment, she's appears to be banking on people not knowing history and, therefore, not questioning her twisted logic.  This is the scary part. There were probably people out their who saw what she said, and though "yeah, we're going the way of the Soviet Union here with all this talk of Sputnik and big government spending and debt."

My only question is whether Palin consciously is doing this as a calculated political move or if she honestly believes what she is saying? Is she stupid, cynical or both? No matter the answer, she's getting air time and either way it's insidious and frightening.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Republican Playbook: Starve the Beast...the Sequel

The conservative playbook...
  • You don't like the Federal government
  • You think it should be very small and keep out of the way of, well, pretty much everything.
  • You have a lot of reasons for this, mostly related to how much money you think you and your rich connections can make in a massively deregulated economy 
  • But, you live in a country that as of the 1930s has decided otherwise - not as much as some countries, but certainly it's the national consensus since the Great Depression that the Federal government has a role to play
  • Further, your party has not had a majority in Congress (both houses at the same time) since the 1930s, and you have not had the whole Congress and the Presidency since that long ago too. So, your ability to make change has been limited. See the previous point.
  • But, in 1995 you get control of both Houses if Congress and then from 2001 to 2006 you add the Presidency.
  • You know that the Federal government runs on money and one way to get it out of the way is to "starve" other words, if you don't fund the Federal government it will not be able to do things.
  • In the 1990s, you actually are able to make this happen - literally shutting the Federal government down. But, that backfired because...well, go back to my fourth point above. People didn't like that and you got blamed. Goodbye would-be President Dole.
  • In the 2000s, you had a balanced budget with no Federal debt (thanks Bill Clinton for your leadership to get that done), but you still don't like the Federal government, so what are you going to do?
  • Oh, how about running up the biggest budget deficit the nation has ever seen and doing so in six years time? Yes, that's what you did when you had the power to do so.
  • And you did this knowing that once the debt got so huge that you'd then be able to say that, well, there just has to be cut-backs to make things right. Goodbye Federal government programs and regulation enforcement.
  • Sure, you were banking on the American public forgetting that it was your leadership in the 2000s that bankrupted the nation, but that's a bet you are willing to take - especially since you were out of power since 2006 in Congress and since 2008 for the Presidency because you can just blame the incumbents for what you did. Easy.
And that ladies and gentlemen is what we're seeing now. The R majority in the House is demanding budget cuts and reductions in major programs (but not defense) as a bold and shameless attempt to "starve the beast." That's right, drive the nation into unprecedented debt and then use that situation as pretext to cut back on Federal government programs big time to "fix" the problem. And hey, if you and your buddies make a ton of money along the way, great. In your mind, that's all good. That's your America right...I got mine, screw you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Note To UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward

Hey Scott, remember last fall when, before your UW football team went out and proceeded to be thoroughly thrashed by Oregon by six touchdowns, you said in reference to the University of Oregon, "It's an embarrassment what their academic institution is."

Well, at the time your comments came off as shallow and petty - especially for an athletic director. Turns out that not only are you pathetic, you were also wrong.

Check this out Scott.

Next time, do everyone including yourself a favor and just keep your comments about sports and the athletic department.

And hey, if your football team continues to be out coached, out recruited and out performed by Oregon (you've lost seven in a row by more than 20 points) and most the rest of the Pac-10/12...then maybe look in the mirror for who to say nasty things about.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Way Out On The Right

Here are a couple fresh new examples of right wing agitation through the media...

Glenn Beck's fixation with an NYU professor and her writing from the 1960s turns into death threats against that professor now. Story HERE. Some good and entertaining perpective HERE. Who says that what is said via the airwaves doesn't affect what happens in reality?

Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (she who recently called for a "repeal of the President") has now said that the national debt is a form of "slavery." Story HERE. Wow, Bachmann must really have a low opinion of the everyday American and their collective memory because it is the specific and calculated policies of Republican government (controlled the full Congress 1995-2006, had the full Congress + President 2001-2006) that took us into the debt she now is claiming is slavery. Massive tax cuts, deregulation across the board, a spectacularly expensive and unneeded invasion of Iraq and domestic spending through the roof...those are the main things that the Republican party brought to the U.S.A during their time in power.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Music for the New Year

It's been a while since I've written about music, so with the New Year now upon us I thought I'd opine on some new music that I'm listening to now. Rock music in particular.

I've had many a conversation with friends about how that in terms of "rock" music (very broadly defined), it's all been done. There's not much out there new, breaking and compelling. I think this is true for the most part. It seems that most performers - diligently, innocently in some cases and in a calculated manner in others - are mostly going through the motions of re-creating something that's already been done and, more importantly to the music industry, that's already been proven to be a money maker.

As Joe Strummer once said (and I'm paraphrasing here as I don't have the quote in front of me), "real music comes from the street, not from the executive suites of record companies." What he means is that nobody was clamoring for Elvis to do what he did, nobody was asking for reggae music or David Bowie's glam rock, nobody was asking for rap, techno, disco or, those monumental musical developments were things conceived of and that grew organically from the minds of creative people holed up in basements, bars, back rooms and clubs and spread from there - they were not inventions suddenly birthed whole in record company offices.

And, of course, Strummer also said you got to "dig the new" and not focus backward. Check out and indulge what's new and happening.

With this in mind, I've been trying to find some new rock music that's legit and coming from a "real place." This is not easy, especially for someone who is now 41 years old, has a full time job, marriage and responsibilities. You just can't check much out in person and you have to rely on other resources to figure out what's going on.

All that said, I'm doing my best. Certainly music is subjective, I have my own likes and dislikes that some people might like and others not, and I don't claim to be somehow "plugged in" or more intuitive than anyone else. But, here are a few rock performers that I'm listening to right now who have put new music out this year already that I think are doing something different or bringing something interesting than attempting to copy or re-package a proven formula...

British Sea Power - this is an interesting band. They have a new album out called Valhalla Dancehall. I would call their sound rock, but it's an odd type of rock that incorporates non-traditional sounds. All I can say is, check it out. You'll either like it a lot or you will  think I'm nuts. Their earlier albums, particularly Do You Like Rock Music are excellent. Songs and albums on iTunes.

Mona - from the concrete basements and dingy bars of Nashville, TN, Mona is a an authentic young rock and roll band fighting the good fight. They've got an edge and I think may rise up in 2011. Think of them as the anit-Muse, anit-Nickelback, anti-Linkin Park. Where those bands are big, sweeping, enhanced and almost operatic rock, Mona is that band in the bar or small venue crankin' it out and speaking to you. Song Listen To Your Love is on iTunes.

Funeral Party - this is an L.A. rock band. But guess what? They're not trying to be a GnR or Motley Crue clone or re-create X or the Germs or Social D. No, they've got their own thing going on. Slightly poppy, slightly aggressive, slightly angular and at times with a tinge of a disco beat (yes), Funeral Party brings it in a different way. I'm liking what I'm hearing and plan on listening more. Song are on iTunes.

Glasvegas - one of my favorite new bands of recent years is set to come back with their second full album this spring. The early (and free) single to promote the album is really good to my ears...confirming why I like this band so much. The World Is Yours is a song that builds, rocks and soars with James Allan delivering a vital, heartfelt and epic voice to a song about how much a person can mean to another. If this is how their second album is going to be, wow. The first Glasvegas album is at iTunes, and the new single can be heard at the Glasvegas Web site...but as of now not downloadable in the U.S.

The Vaccines - this is  new band I don't know much about, but they have a couple singles out that you can find online. More pop that Funeral Party, more straight ahead rock than Glasvegas or British Sea Power, this could simply be a new quality pop rock band worth checking out. You have hunt the Internet at this point to find this band's songs. I've found them and if you look you can too.

Social Distortion - I am listening to their new album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. It's the first set of new music from Mike Ness and the crew in a long time. While their sound is established and they take a lot from performers like the Stones, Johnny Cash, the Clash and some others, I think it's safe to say that to get back to Strummer's statement, there isn't a massive market for this type of music. It's a labor of love by Ness who - thanks to earlier successes of his band in times in the past when scuzzy, countrified, outlaw cowboy rock were more marketable - continues to create wonderful rock and roll for those paying attention. All music by Social D is at your local record store and on iTunes.

OK, so there are six performers who have put out new music in the last four weeks. Check it out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Obama "Jumps the Shark" by Bringing In GE CEO

OK, I'm calling it. As of today, January 21, President Barak Obama has officially "jumped the shark" in my eyes.


Well, he has called in GE CEO Jeff Immelt as a special advisor for - get this - job creation and strengthening the economy.

Is he serious? Really? G.E.?

G.E. is a company that has maniacally and systematically chiseled its way out of paying ANY taxes and has outsourced and offshored thousands and thousands of jobs over the last decade.

And by doing this, G.E. has returned huge profits up and into 2011 for its small number of shareholders (a small number compared to those impacted by job loss and $0 taxes coming in from the company) and paid out huge bonuses to its leaders.

But hey, lets give G.E. the benefit of the doubt. Profit maximization is what they do. Darth Vader is an evil dude. Ron Burgundy wants San Diego to "stay classy." Scotty from Star Trek was "giving it all he can." These are is G.E. doing whatever it needs to to "maximize shareholder value" - including laying off huge number of employees and dodging all tax burden. Our government has bent over backwards to make these things possible for them and other companies over the past 30 years.

No, the real question is...why isn't Obama pursuing a policy to reverse the laws, regulations (or lack of them) and incentives that make companies like G.E. thoroughly screw over the American public rather than inviting a proverbially huge, pissed off and horny rooster into the sanctity of the hen house?

Put it this way...would Elvis go vegetarian? Would White Spy befriend Black Spy? Would Superman bathe in kryptonite? (side note, my Mac automatically has "kryptonite" in its spell checker dictionary) Would Captain Kirk go out drinking with a pack of Klingons?

No. They would not.

I think Obama's decision really exposes two things bare for all to see:

1) How intertwined big business is with our government. They run it people. Even a guy like Obama wants to or needs to have them involved, even with their abysmal track record of wrecking the economy. To some degree this has always been true, but in days gone by big business added to the public political conversation rather than moving to the private club and excluding everyone from getting through the door and participating other than their exclusive members.

2) Obama is epically naive. He wants to play nice. He wants to bring in big business to work together to find solutions. But big business is not interested in the general welfare. It's interested in profit maximization. Immelt and his crew, and other big business, are only doing this to influence government so they can profit in some sector or another (probably in new sources of energy and perhaps healthcare). G.E. has a clear, consistent and very obvious track record of actively NOT caring about "all boats rising with the tide." You might say that their approach is, "we want our G.E. yachts to rise with the tide and everybody else...we hope you can swim."

So...just like Arthur Fonzereli out on the California coast in his leather jacket, swim shorts and water skies with a striped-shirted Richie Cunningham driving the ski boat up to the ramp to beat "the California Kid," Obama has jumped the shark and sent his reality program called the U.S. economy into a future of increasingly lame, increasingly sickening episodes that only end with a cheap imitation of past glories...ultimately to putter out and fail.

Thanks Mr. President.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Repeal the President?" Really? So Says One Representative

Remember a while back when I predicted that the new Republican majority in the House would attempt to repeal the healthcare reform law AND attempt to impeach Obama? Also remember how I suggested that Republicans might work these two maneuvers hand-in-hand?

If you don't remember, my original post is HERE.

We now know that part one of my prediction is well under way given events in the House this week. The Republican majority indeed did vote to repeal the healthcare law. For a quick review of the big time B.S. arguments the Rs are using against the healthcare law, see this article from the Washington Post HERE. Meanwhile, the Democratically controlled Senate has said it will never bring repeal up, so it's likely to die right there as a symbolic vote by House Republicans. Or is it?

I ask because I find the following comments from Representative Bachmann (R-MN) this week from the floor of the House very interesting and a bit scary:

"This is not symbolic, this is why we were sent here and we will not stop until we repeal a president and put a president in the position of the White House who will repeal this bill, until we repeal the current Senate, put in a Senate that will listen to the American people and repeal this bill."

Article HERE.

"Repeal the president?" Put a president "in the position of the White House" who will repeal this bill? Really? What's she talking about? Is she talking about an extended campaign to elect Republican majorities into the Senate and the White House? Or, is she talking about something more aggressive?

Sure, Bachmann is a blow hard nut job. But, remember, the House is the body that can initiate and prosecute articles of impeachment against the president. They did it last time a Democrat was president (and he was in his second term...not even a threat to win re-election like Obama is now) and I don't think we should underestimate what they're capable of this time around.

All I'm saying is, hey, they DID vote to repeal the healthcare law and they DID impeach a Democratic president last time they had the opportunity. We may be seeing the beginnings of the later scenario playing out again. Something to think about.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Would You Say This?

If you are an elected politician, especially a brand new first timer, why do you say the following as did the newly elected Republican governor of Alabama...

"Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
  • Is it because you feel morally superior to others?
  • Is it because you assume that 99% of the people listening agree with you anyway?
  • Is it because you want to convert your state's residents to your religion above all other causes?
  • Are you sending a message that non Christians will not be treated the same under your administration?
  • Do you feel that your beliefs outweigh the law?
Or is it because you are a first class moron with monumental religious superiority complex?

Tell you what, replace the words "has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior" with "who is a Jew" or "who is black" or "who is a Democrat" or "who is female" or "who is more than 65 years old" and I think you'll get the picture of how monumentally stupid and blinded this guy is.

In any case, this is the corrosive and divisive side of religion rearing its head in a scary way. The governor of one of the states has very publicly said that he does not view all citizens the same way based on his religious beliefs. That there is a religious condition to be met in his eyes before you can be seen as worthy.

That's quite a message if you live in that state and you're not the same religion as him. Are you going to be targeted for special treatment by state agencies? Are you going to have the same protection under the law? Are you going to have access to the same state services as others? Will I have to convert to another religion just to get what I need? To vote?

Here's something else to think about. What's scarier? The governor saying what he did or large number of people nodding their head in agreement?

Here is a little reminder for both the new governor and those agreeing with him...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Recognize that? See that first part? Yes, it's the FIRST AMMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION that, among other things, explicitly forbids government establishment of religon.

Seems to me that Mr. Governor is pretty far down the path of violating this.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. - 3 Quick Ways to Remember or Learn About the Man

It's Martin Luther King Jr. day here in the United States. Many people have the day off from work and may not think too much about the man, what he stood for and what he helped accomplish in the United States in terms of civil rights...not just for people of color, but all Americans.

While it would be far beyond my power and to divert people away from enjoying a day off from work, nor would I want to, I do think MLK Jr. deserves some reflection and I think it's very possible to do so in a meaningful and relatively quick way.

For example, here are three easy things to do:

READ UP - you don't need to read a book to get the basics about MLK Jr. (although that would be best), but for a quick review, check out the Wikipedia page on the man HERE.

MUSIC - listen to the song "Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2. It's about MLK Jr., what he stood for and the price he paid for those convictions. If you don't already have this song, it costs 99 cents on iTunes.

PICTURES - there are loads on the Internet of the man, the events he led and where he went. Click HERE for the Google image search results for King. Below is a photo I took on our trip to Memphis a few years ago...sadly, it's where he was shot and killed.

So, that's what...a few minutes to listen to and ponder a song, 5-10 min. reading and say 5 min. checking out some pictures. Do it. You'll come away knowing more all in 15-20 minutes...and that's a better use of your time than reading about who gave the most outrageous speech at the Golden Globe awards last night.

NOTE: The picture above is not authorized for use without prior written permission from me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Glasvegas Song - The World Is Yours

One of my favorite bands of recent vintage is Glasvegas.

As the prepare to release a new album later this year, they have now posted a song from the forthcoming collection on their Web site.

The song is called "The World Is Yours" and can be heard (streaming) by clicking HERE and then hitting play on the player at the top of the page. It's not available for download in the U.S., so the streaming is all that's available at this point. But I like it!

Feel the song build from a mid-pace driver below a desperate vocal delivery by singer James Alan into a soaring and heartfelt crescendo.

"I need you more than you need me. Since my eyes saw yours...If I'm your world, then the world is yours. The world is yours."

Anyway, check it out.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Last Football Post For Some Time - 2010 Season Ending Thoughts

I've had fun writing about the 2010 college football season, with a special focus on the Pac-10 and my Ducks. But, like the Ducks' narrow defeat in the big game last Monday and indeed the Pac-10 itself (it becomes the Pac-12 next season), all good things must come to an end. So, this will be my last football related post for quite a while.

First, for anyone - like, maybe all two or three of you! - who tuned in and read my stuff, thanks. I hope I offered some insights and a little humor.

Next, here's my quick re-cap of the season...
  • Ducks - I am very proud of their season and how the dominated virtually every team they played during the regular season, the fact that they won the Pac-10 for the second year in a row and that they represented so well in the big BCS championship game - narrowly losing on the last play of the game to a GREAT Auburn team. And, they finished #3 in the rankings. I admit that just after the game I was crushed that they lost. Crushed. Knowing how hard it is to get to that game, and being so close to pulling off "the big one"...only not to do so and have crazy stuff contribute to the outcome (was that guy's wrist down? And, sure looked like Harris picked Newton but they didn't give it to him) was pretty hard to take. Anyway, it stings worse when its your school. But, with a week to ponder it now, hey, the Ducks did great all year long...including that game. Very proud. What a wonderful season. They'll be loaded again in 2011.
  • UW - nice recovery to their season and bowl win. Husky fans have reason to be optimistic. They will need to replace at QB, so that could be a mitigating factor to winning more than 6 games next season, but hey...going in the right direction.
  • Stanford - look out. These guys will challenge for the league title or more next season.
  • Rest of the Pac-10 - nobody else really had a season to "write home about," but each team offered some bright spots - even WSU. No doubt next pre-season we'll see predictions of ASU or UCLA finally rising to the top of the league as we do every year.
So that's it folks. With the small exception of some spring practices, college football really doesn't focus in until August - a good eight months from now. Not sure if I'll repeat my week-by-week posts next season, do something different or just give all you people a break and not do any of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Most Viewed Pictures - And What They Can Tell Us

A quick check in on the top 10 most viewed photos on my Flickr Photostream and what the stats may tell us:

As of today, the top ten most viewed pictures I've taken and posted on Flick are:
  1. Close Up of Taj Mahal - 1,770 views
  2. Naked Bike Riders at the Femont Solstice Parade - 610
  3. Aircraft Carrier Yorktown in Charleston, SC - 573
  4. Beijing Olympic Stadium - 532
  5. Former South Vietnam Capitol Building - 486
  6. Don't Tread On Me Flag - 454
  7. Modern Ho Chi Mihn City - 392
  8. 2009 Gay Pride Parade - 364
  9. Modern Skyline of Ho Chi Mihn City - 337
  10. Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza Ruins -336
These pictures are not necessarily the ones I think are my best shots. You can see some of those by clicking HERE.

But, I think these results show that:
  • A lot of people are interested in military history - particularly the Vietnam era
  • The Beijing Olympics was a huge interest to people - so much so that even though nobody has looked at my picture in a LONG time, it still is near the top of the most viewed list
  • Loads of people want to know what the Taj Mahal looks like close up - not sure why, but it's pretty obvious
  • Interest in the "Don't Tread On Me" symbol, flag and saying has shot up in interest along with the Tea Party
  • Hey, pictures of naked bike riders or a Gay Pride parader are always going to get some views

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Gun Itself Doesn't Kill, But...

A gun alone does not kill anyone - it just sits there.

A gun in the hands of a person has a much better chance of hurting or killing someone - either the user of the gun or someone else.

A gun in the hands of a mentally unstable person has a much higher chance still of killing someone.

A gun that is extremely easy and affordable to get makes it easy for people - including mentally unstable people - to obtain and use...and that increases the chances of someone getting hurt.

An easy to get gun in the hands of a mentally unstable person who our public schools and healthcare system have failed to spot and help is a major threat to kill someone.

Mentally unstable people who our school and healthcare systems have failed to identify and help who have obtained an easy to buy gun continue to kill people in the U.S. Colombine and Virginia Tech are high profile examples.

And a mentally unstable person who has easy access to guns, who has not been helped by our public institutions and who listens to the increasingly hostile political rhetoric - particularly on the right - is a powder keg waiting to go off and kill people. This is what we saw in Tuscon last week.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

OK, So Mabye I'm Not AS Upset As I Thought

OK, after sleeping on it...I'm going to soften my reaction to the Ducks' three point loss to Auburn in the championship game.

Yes, the Ducks played pretty well. Yes, they tied the game up late in the fourth quarter. Yes they "contained" Newton quite well. Yes they still could have still won. Yes they only lost on a last second field goal by Auburn. And yes, the season is one to be proud of.

It just came down to two things:
  • Oregon made a few little mistakes like getting caught for a safety (2 pts. to Auburn) and deciding to not kick a field goal and go for a TD on 4th down (didn't make it and essentially gave up 3 pts.). That's 5 points right there. Had they kicked the field goal and not given up the safety, that probably would have won them the game had other things gone the same. Throw in a couple tournovers on drives that were looking promising for at least a field goal and...well, you have enough mistakes to cost you.
  • The game flow went the way of Auburn, not Oregon. Auburn did pretty much bottle up the Oregon running and kick return game, they played decent enough pass defense to keep the Ducks from scoring too much and the Auburn offense had 2-3 really long, really good drives that they paid of with TDs....including one to end the game. Hey, if Oregon stops 'em on that drive, they could have maybe scored to win or forced overtime...but they didn't.
Heavy sigh.

Oh well. I'm over the shock of it, and still not feeling great about being THAT CLOSE to winning the big one only to come away short. But, I'm feeling a lot better.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Oregon Loses BCS Title Game to Auburn

Despite a great effort, the Oregon Ducks lost the college football BCS National Championship game to the Auburn Tigers nonight by the score of 22-19.

While disappointing to me, Auburn definitely earned the win...nothing cheap or lucky about it. Oregon was beat by a better team, and Auburn is clearly the best squad in college football this season. Congratulations to them.

Countdown To "The Natty" - Gameday Review

OK all you Oregon Duck, Auburn Tiger and college football fans, the big day is here - the BCS Championship Game kicks off later today in Glendale, AZ.

I've been counting down the days to this game with a series of questions and attempted answers on issues about both teams. I've called it "Countdown to the Natty."

To brush up before you settle in and watch the game, below are all the posts in one place for a review prior to kickoff.

Just click on the headline to access each post:


Countdown to "The Natty" - Who Will Win the Game?

Well, here we day for the college football National Championship Game.

If you've been reading along on this blog over the past week or so toyou will have read my thoughts on various aspects of this game via the "Countdown to the Natty" series I've published.

But, really, there's only ever been one question...and it's the only remaining one to addres. That is....

Who will win this game?

I've given this a lot of thought. I've gone back and forth many times. I think it's going to be a close game. I think Auburn has the best player in the country. I think Oregon has weapons galore. Will Cam Newton dominate? Will Oregon wear out the Tigers? There are so many angles and aspects to consider. One thing is for sure to me, whichever team'll know that they are truly the best college football team this season.

But no more delaying. The time has come to man up and make a prediction.

Therefore, I will go on the record and say that I think the winner of this game will be...


Yes I am bias. Yes I am a huge Oregon fan.

But I'm also someone who has seen all the Oregon games, seen several Auburn games and many of their highlights. And, the one time I picked against Oregon this season (vs. Stanford...a big team with a great QB...sound familiar?) I was proven quite wrong by the Ducks.

So I'm going with Oregon.

Barring an injury that takes out either teams' QB, I think the game will go like this:
  • Auburn takes the early lead, maybe even by a couple TDs.
  • Newton looks unstoppable.
  • Oregon's offense scores, but not at the same pace as Auburn.
  • Queue the non-stop praise for Newton and the Tigers by the announcers.
  • But, by halftime lo and behold its only a 7 to 10 point lead for Auburn.
  • The third quarter starts similarly with both teams having a possession and likely scoring.
  • But then by the mid third quarter Oregon's offense really starts to click as Auburn's D gets tired...and the Oregon D starts to slow down Newton. Advantage Oregon with a score.
  • Oregon then gets a special teams score...or it could be a turn over that is cashed in with a score
  • It's even or a one score game going into the fourth quarter.
  • The dynamics in favor of Oregon continue and Oregon takes a 3-7 point lead with 6-9 minutes left
  • Auburn gets the ball with a chance to drive, score and re-take the lead...but cannot.
  • Oregon gets the ball back and grinds out the last 4-5 minutes and wins the game as Newton sits on the bench watching it happen.
I suspect there are small probabilities out there that Auburn and Newton absolutely dominate the Ducks or that Oregon flattens the Tigers from the opening kick...but I really doubt those scenarios will happen. Both teams are too good, too motivated and too well coached.

No, the main reason I think it'll go this way is that its the way all but one Oregon game went this year. And even in that one "off" game (at Cal), the Ducks still shut down the other team's offense.

Meanwhile, I think Auburn has shown that while they can play spectacular at times, they have been challenged in getting and keeping a lead. Obviously, they've had the lead at the end of each game, but several times it was really in doubt. They look more vulnerable than Oregon and Oregon has proved it can take advantage of vulnerabilities.

I am sure that I've now jinxed the Ducks and they'll lose 52-10, but in trying to look at it as objectively as I can before hand, I think Oregon wins. I think they are the slightly better team.

Here's hoping, and...


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Countdown to "The Natty" - How Does Oregon Win?

How does Oregon win?

Contrary to what you hear from the media, Oregon has a chance to win this game - a good chance.

Here's how...

Run the ball effectively. The Oregon offense is predicated on the run. It's what got them where they are this year. So, getting the run game going will be paramount. It may take some passing first to get things loosened up, but by the start of the second half, Oregon needs to be running the ball consistently well. Having LaMichael James back at 100%, along with Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff ready to roll too...not to mention QB Thomas...will give Oregon plenty of weapons to run with. And, the O line has proved itself all year long - even against "big" defensive fronts such as Auburn has.

Contain Newton. Nobody is going to stop Cam Newton. He will get his yards and he will score. But, instead of letting him "go off" like we saw vs. South Carolina and some other teams this year, if Oregon can contain his running I think they'll be in good shape. I say limit his running because Oregon has a fast defense that can catch him on the ground and it has good DBs who can cover the passing game. Oregon should take advantage of that and try and stop the Cam Newton the running back and dare Cam Newton the thrower to beat them. I know that's risky as Newton is a good thrower too, but he's not SPECTACULAR. And, I don't think the Oregon D can try and stop him in every aspect of his game. I am not naive. I know Newton will have big plays in this game, but again...if he can be "limited" it will be a win for Oregon because that will translate into several stops where they don't score and Oregon gets a chance at a punt return and back on offense.

Get turnovers/avoid turnovers. I don't think Oregon can go toe-to-toe with Cam Newton and expect to win unless the get 1-2 turnovers to give Oregon's offense the ball. Could be a tip-pickoff, a straight pick on a deeper ball or jumping on a fumble. But I think Oregon needs some turnovers more than Auburn does. Meanwhile, Oregon must finally have a game where they don't fumble or throw an interception. During the season, Oregon was so much better than the competition that they could overcome those mistakes. But this is not the case with Auburn. I actually am expecting at least one fumble against Auburn. But if that's it, then they'll be OK.

Special teams. I think the Ducks need two big plays in the kicking game. Could be a major kick return, a long field goal in the clutch or a fake kick of some sort. In any case, I think two is the number the Ducks need to shock Auburn and keep Newton off the field a bit longer. And of course, Oregon needs to bottle up Auburn kick returners.

Wear them out. This has three aspects: 1) run the hyper tempo offense in the first three quarters to wear down the Auburn D to set up a big fourth quarter, 2) rotate in a lot of fresh players (especially on defense) so they're fresh while Auburn is tired. This has worked in every game Oregon has played, and it'll need to work in this game.

That's the road to victory for the Ducks. Certainly if Oregon does all these things they will win...maybe by a lot. If they do some, they'll have a chance. If they fail on most...look out. In the end, it'll be a matter of doing their best in each these areas to win a close game.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Countdown to "The Natty" - What Can Bowl Results Tell Us About How UO and Auburn Match Up?

What do the results of various other bowls tell us about Oregon and Auburn?

The Ducks and the Tigers shared no common opponent in the 2010 season. But, perhaps we can get some further sense of how they might match up by looking at how the teams they did play faired in bowl competition here recently over the past couple weeks.

Lets start with Oregon opponents in bowls...

Stanford defeated Virginia Tech by the score of 40-12 in the Orange Bowl.
This was a close game for the first half and an absolute beat down by Stanford in the second half. Coming into the game VT was ranked #13 and had won 11 games in a row - including running the table in ACC conference play. So, a quality opponent for sure. Stanford was #4 and had only suffered one loss during the season, and that was to....

...Oregon. Yes, the Ducks beat Stanford this season by the score of 52-31. That's right. That Stanford defense that smothered VT and limited their offense to only 10 points (they got the other 2 on a safety)? Well, the Ducks rolled up 52 points against them. 52!

I think the Stanford win really signals how good Oregon is and bodes well for how they'll fare against Auburn.

Washington defeated Nebraska by the score of 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl. This was a surprise - at least to me - because Nebraska annihilated Washington earlier this season by the score of 56-21 in Seattle. Who would have thought, then, that the Huskies would come out and dominate the line on both sides of the ball to a) hold #18 ranked Nebraska to one TD, and b) push the Huskers' D around enough to score several times? Not me. Buy hey, UW did it...and did so without a great game from QB Locker. He had a total of five completions for 56 yards and no passing TDs. Hence, kudos to the UW defense big time.
Oregon beat Washington by the score of 56-13 in November. Yep, the killed 'em by six touchdowns. So, what the Holiday Bowl win by a then 6-6 Washington squad over a ranked team tells me is that Oregon's beat down of the Huskies has some merrit beyond just beating a bad team. I mean, lets not put too much on is UW after all...but still it's a good sign that Oregon dominated a team that just beat a good Nebraska team.

Oklahoma State stomped Arizona by the score of 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl. This 26 point drubbing was not close at any time. Arizona's lone TD came late after it was well settled. The Cowboys outclassed the Wildcats in every aspect. It was clear to me that the UA defense could not defend against the potent OSU attack, and that Arizona QB Foles was off his game with four interceptions thrown. Throw in a fumble on the game's opening kickoff that led to a OSU touchdown and...well...the Wildcats never had a chance.

Oregon beat Arizona by a score of 48-29 in November. Foles had a better day in that game, and the Wildcats hung tight in the first half. They were able to secure two turnovers - but they also gave up two. In the end, Oregon finished them off nicely in the second half and won by nearly three TDs.

Arizona was not that good a team this year and Oregon's win by 19 is in the ballpark with Oklahoma State's easy victory. Not much to learn here - just that better teams can and do beat Arizona.

As a group
The Pac-10 the teams that Oregon beat...and in fact dominated...during the regular season are 2-1 in bowls against ranked teams. This seems to suggest that the Pac-10 is solid and Oregon is pretty dang good and will be a stiff test for Auburn.

OK, teams that Auburn beat in 2010...

Ohio State beat Arkansas by the score of 31-26 in the Sugar Bowl
Ohio State's "non-SEC" defense held the supposedly great Arkansas offense 24 points (the other two were scored on a safety) and the actual SEC defense from the Razorbacks looked like swiss cheese for large portions of this game.

Auburn beat Arkansas by the score of 65-43 during the regular season. A nice win for sure. But, one of the premier teams in the SEC just got beat by a Big Ten team...a Big Ten that is having a horrible bowl season overall.

South Florida beat Clemson by the score of 31-26 in the Car Bowl
Clemson is a team that Auburn only beat by three points, and did so in overtime. So, the fact that an unranked South Florida squad from the Big East beat them raises an eyebrow in wonder about the quality of that Auburn win earlier in the season.

The University of Central Florida beat Georgia by the score of 10-6 in the Liberty Bowl. That's right. UCF beat Georgia. Auburn beat Georgia 49-31 near the end of the season. So, Auburn gave up 31 points to a team that UCF held to 6. Hmmm. Just sayin'.

Florida State beat South Carolina by the score of 26-17 in the Chick Filet Bowl. Another bowl loss by an SEC team. Auburn beat South Carolia twice this season - once in the regular season and once in the SEC championship game. In the first game, Auburn was on the ropes and only four South Carolina turnovers in the fourth quarter enabled them to eek out a come from behind win. In the SEC championship game, Auburn dominated them pretty much all game long. The first game is evidence that Auburn is beatable. The second game is evidence that they are just much better than South Carolina.

Pittsburgh beat Kentucky by the score of 27-10 in the Compass Bowl
A three score win from a Big East team over an SEC team. Auburn beat Kentucky by a the score of 37-34 in the regular season. Ah, OK. So, Auburn gave up 34 points to a team that the Big East's third place team held to 10. Hmmm. Not too impressive.

Mississippi State beat Michigan by the score of 52-14 in the Gator Bowl. Ah, a win by an SEC team against a squad from another conference. Finally. I am not impressed with Michigan this season and I think that one reason the score of the Gator Bowl was so lopsided was, well, MSU wasn't playing a very good team. But in any case, it's a bowl win by a team Auburn beat - barely - earlier in the season by the score of 17-14.

Alabama beat Michigan State by the score of 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.
Auburn beat Alabama on the road this seaon - an impressive feat for sure. That win combined with Alabama killing a very good Michigan State team in the Capital One Bowl stands out as prehaps the best evidence that Auburn is the real deal.

LSU beat Texas A&M by the score of 41-24 in the Cotton Bowl
While a fairly close game in the first half, by the early third quarter LSU asserted itself and you knew this one was in the bag for the Tigers. Auburn beat LSU 24-17 earlier in the season - a close game that Auburn played well in but only won by a touchdown.

To note, Auburn did not play two other SEC bowl teams this season - Florida and Tennessee. UF won their bowl, UT lost.

As a group
Teams that Auburn played in 2010 won 3 bowl games and lost 4 bowl games.

This tells me that the myth of SEC and "southern" football (Clemson is in South Carolina, but plays in the ACC) dominance is very over-rated...or at least this year and for the teams Auburn beat. Put it this way: If SEC competition and who Auburn had to play was SO GREAT, then why did so many teams Auburn beat suffer defeats in bowl games when playing teams in the Big 10, Big East and Big 12? If the south is really that dominate, wouldn't the results have been more like 6-1 or 5-2? I think this is something to keep in mind when you hear the talking heads on TV pretty much give Auburn the win over Oregon based on the fact that they're from the SEC. These bowl results show weakness to me in Auburn. I'm not saying this means Auburn won't win...just that they are not as great as advertised.

Happy Birthday Elvis

Jan. 8 is Elvis Presley's birthday. Today he would have been 76 years old.

Long live the King.

Here are some pictures of Elvis-related stuff that I took on our trip to Memphis a few years ago.

From top to bottom, they are Elvis' Graceland mansion, Elvis' grave on the premises of Graceland and Sun Studios where he recorded his first hits...

All pictures taken by: Marc Osborn. Not for use without permission.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Republicans Start Their Bid To Repeal Healthcare Reform

After the elections last November delivered a Republicans a majority in the House, I predicted several things would happen.

One of them was an attempt at repealing the healthcare reform law passed by Congress and championed by President Obama.

Well, just days into their new majority, sure enough the Rs are starting the wheels turning for their attempt. Also ominous is that several Democrats seem to be willing to go along with this. See the story HERE.

Certainly, the Senate (still with a Democratic majority) would have to vote in favor of repeal and then Obama would have to sign such a repeal. The first of these is unlikely and the second won't happen. He'd veto a repeal.

But even then, I think efforts would continue with politicians jocking for votes to override an Obama veto.

And that's why its ominous that some Democrats seem willing to go along with this. My other prediction on healthcare was that there is so much money involved in healthcare that some Democrats would buckle - especially in the Senate - an potentially a veto proof majority for repeal would materialize.

We shall see.

Coutdown to "The Natty" - How Does Auburn Win?

Auburn fans and the media will tell you the way Auburn will win this game is to simply show up. That's right. Why even play this game? It's a forgone conclusion that Auburn will win and win big according to them.

Excellent. Keep thinking that everyone. Oregon will have some surprises and I love how they are now the clear underdog.

Back in reality, I think to win this game Auburn will have to do three things equally...1) deal with the Oregon offense all game long better than any team has this year, 2) try and bottle up Oregon's kick returners more than any other team this season and 3) find a way to break down the fast, fresh Oregon D better and more consistently than anyone all year long and without turning it over.

Taking these each in order...
  • If the Auburn D can disrupt the timing of the Oregon run game, get pressure on QB Darron Thomas and maybe force a turnover or two I think Auburn will be well on their way to a victory. But, there is an additional burden for Auburn on this one. They need to be able to do it for 60 minutes of football. Many teams on Oregon's schedule this year stopped Oregon - especially early in games. But, they could not do it consistently and certainly could not do it in the second half when they are fatigued. I think this is the area where Auburn will be most challenged. But hey, if they can do it all game long, they'll probably win.
  • Auburn better be good at covering kicks, as well as kicking itself. Oregon has a lot of weapons who can run it back every time they touch the ball. And, its not for sure the Ducks will kick a field goal, kickoff or punt (from anywhere on the field) and instead run a fake. If Auburn can limit Oregon to zero special teams TDs and not give up a big return, they're also on their way to winning.
  • And finally, Auburn needs Cam Newton to get the AU offense rolling to score a lot of points and - ideally - keep the ball for a while. A big game from Newton probably means a win for the Tigers. But watch out, Oregon's defense causes a lot of turnovers and they rotate in players two deep so they're fresh while the opposition is tired.
The way I see it, if Auburn can accomplish these three things, they will win - perhaps by a couple scores. That's their path to victory. If they only cover off on, say, one of them, I think they very much expose themselves for a loss - possibly a spanking.

Hypocricy In Action - Rs Plan to Repeal Healthcare Would Spike Budget Defecit

Who is championing fiscal responsibility?

I think it's pretty obvious who is NOT.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, Republican plans to repeal healthcare would spike the U.S. Federal government budget deficit by $230 billion dollars.

Check it out HERE.

Switching To Pencils

In 2011 I am now using pencils at work instead of pens. Why? Not sure. It just struck me that I should do it.

Maybe its a nostalgia trip or perhaps an intuition to use the more natural wood product instead of plastic or metal implements. It was just very clear to me on my first day back at work after the New Year that it's something I should do.

Oh well, I'm going to stick with it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Surprise! Rs Appear to Quickly Forget Plege of Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility

U.S. citizens elect a Republican majority in the House and on their very first day in power we are again reminded of how they operate.

After running on how Congress (run by the Ds) were secretive and running up the budget, the new R Speaker of the House is balking on being transparent on his party's plans to repeal healthcare reform and the impacts of such a maneuver.

Story HERE.

I don't mean to say "I told you so" about Republicans running on one set of ideas and messages and then immediately doing the opposite as soon as they are in office, but...I TOLD YOU SO.

Countdown to "The Natty" - The Role of Special Teams?

What will the role of special teams play in the game? Who has the advantage?

Yes, special teams will be very important in this game.

Some games - even most - do not hinge on a big special teams play. Rather, kickoffs, punts and tries for extra points for the most part go as everyone predicts and that's that. Fine.

However, I think in the championship game this year, the teams are so evenly matched that special teams play may be an area where one of the two squads can carve out an advantage.
For Oregon, their special teams have had a VERY good season. Whether its kickoffs and returns, punts and returns or extra points, the Ducks have really performed. Long kick returns by fast and elusive players, fake kicks, great's all there.

Cliff Harris is the nation's leading punt returner with four TDs this season, and if the Ducks can stop Cam Newton and force a punt or two, he'll have his chance to score again. Oregon's kickoff returners are also very fast and can break long runs.

Oregon's kickers are what I would call slightly above average, but not spectacular. Their punter is good, but has been out sick for the last few weeks. The Ducks' field goal kicker was consistent all season long until just at the end when he missed a few he should have hit. I would also say that he's not a proven commodity beyond the 35 yard kick range. He's made ones from longer than that, but not a lock.

The Ducks have also executed some nice trickery. For example, they've converted two-point TD conversions several times this season out of odd formations - mainly to stun and demoralize the opponent more than needing the extra 1 point beyond a normal kick. They've done surprise onside kickoffs, and fake punts to great effect. I would not be surprised to see any or all of this again Jan. 10.

The only negative for Oregon's special teams is that - more than most years that I can remember - kick returners have an unfortunate habit of fumbling the ball. It seems like very fourth or fifth kick return features the ball on the turn. Some Oregon gets back, some they lose. Up to now, it hasn't mattered as the rest of the team is so good they overcame these mistakes. I doubt that will be the case against Auburn.

In short, special teams for the Ducks are strong, diverse and a proactive weapon. If they can avoid fumbles...look out...they could be a difference maker in Oregon's favor.

Moving to Auburn, well..special teams is one area where Cam Newton is not on the field. So, he can’t hurt Oregon on kicks and returns. So far as I know! That right there is a bonus for Oregon.

I am not as familiar with Auburn's special teams play, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and flat out assume they are above average. But, I notice they've only had one TD on a kick or punt return all season, and they are only averaging eight yards on punt returns and 22 yards on kickoff returns. Decent I guess, but nothing spectacular. They have a field goal kicker with a 75% success rate with a long of 48 yards. Again, decent enough, but nothing to write home about. And their punter averages 39 yards per kick.

I assume Auburn is not above trickery either and I expect they'll try something at some point in the game off a kick.

OK, so after all that, here's my thought...

Auburn's special teams are average and don't likely offer Auburn an advantage. Oregon's special teams are above average...with the potential negative of fumbles. If Oregon can avoid fumbling on special teams, I think the net advantage goes to Oregon...and that this could account for a TD for them. Thus, making a difference in the game.

We shall see!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Countdown to "The Natty" - Is Stopping the Oregon Run Enough?

If Auburn successfully sells out to stop the Oregon running game, is that enough to win the game?

That’s the conventional wisdom on stopping Oregon – bottle up the run and then play tight man coverage on the receivers and dare the Ducks QB to beat you through the air. Cal is the only team that effectively put that combination together against Oregon for most of a game. Cal still lost.

Look, it’s entirely possible that the Tigers will shut down the Duck run. Lord knows, the media and Auburn fans are crowing about their great "SEC defense."

I actually do not think it's likely they'll be very successful, but its possible. For the sake of arguement lets say they do bottle up UO running backs – especially early in the game. They’ll do that by crowding the line and selling out to clog up all running lanes inside with their big uglies, potentially even bringing up a safety to protect the middle, and then containing the outside run close to the line with LBs moving side-to-side (and those LBs from Auburn better be fast to do that).

OK. What does that leave open? Yep. The pass. Some teams when they become “one dimensional” like that on offense cannot capitalize on what the defense is giving them. News flash: Oregon can capitalize.

QB Thomas has at corps of talented and speedy receivers that can burn the not-that-great Auburn DBs if the Tigers are too focused on clogging up the line against the Oregon run and leave those corners "on an island" by themselves.

And, if Auburn’s D harasses Thomas with some pressure off the edge or bull rushing up the middle, he has the wheels and the moves to get out of it most times…usually then throwing a completion or running for yards.

To conclude, while I think it’s possible for Auburn to take away the Oregon run for chunks of this game, but a) I don’t think they can do it all game long, and b) even if they do, Oregon has the talent and scheme to make Auburn pay. And watch out for mid-third quarter and all of the fourth quarter. That's when defenses facing Oregon start to really wear out.

Therefore, I think the answer to today's question is, no...stopping the Oregon run would not be enough to win the game for Auburn.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Is A 12 Point Win In College Football A "Beat Down?"

Is a 12 point victory in college football a "beat down?"

According to the Husky Honks on KJR radio, it is.

That's because its the margin of victory for their beloved UW over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl last week.

My opinion?

The win was an impressive, unexpected and well deserved win...but far from a "beat down."

No, Nebraska's early win over the Huskies by the score of 56-21 was a beatdown.

So was the Oregon win over the Dawgs by the sore of 53-16.

Not to mention the 41-0 win by Stanford over Washington.

And of course Arizona beat the Huskies 44-14.

Those are beat downs.

Seems like Husky Honks should know one when they see one.

Hey, feel good about your bowl win, but please...don't make it more than it was.

Countdown to "The Natty" - Who Can Contain Who?

Can the Oregon defense contain Cam Newton? And conversely, can Auburn’s defense contain Oregon’s O?

Simply put, Cam Newton is the key to this game. If he plays sensational, Auburn wins. If he plays average or has a bad game, it’s over for Auburn.

There are two things that lead me to believe this:
  • First, Cam Newton is the single reason Auburn is undefeated. Running, throwing and even catching – he is a force of nature and has delivered the goods. I certainly have not seen all of Auburn’s games, but I’ve seen a lot of highlights and if he produces like he did against many/most opponents then Oregon is in trouble. If he comes back to earth a bit with a pick or two and limited running yards, I think this is a big blow for Auburn’s chances.
  • Second, an “on fire” QB beat Oregon in last year’s Rose Bowl. Suddenly displaying savvy decision making and an uncanny knack for passing the ball dead on the money that had gone unseen all season long, Ohio State QB Tyrell Pryor is the primary reason the Ducks lost to the Buckeyes in the 2010 Rose Bowl. If Cam Newton performs similarly, look out.
OK, so...can Oregon’s defense contain him?

“Contain” is probably the key word because I suspect Newton will have his moments no matter what. But, Oregon has displayed an ability to contain QBs this year when they needed to – particularly in the second half of games. Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley all come to mind.

The Duck DBs are really good and typically teams that go to the well too often with passes get picked off. Also, Oregon’s conditioning on D usually shows up in the third and fourth quarters and that’s when I see the Ducks starting to get pressure on the opposing QB and their running game. Both these things – solid DB play and consistent pressure up front – will be needed to win against Auburn. I think they can do it. If not, Newton will eat them alive.

Now, as for Auburn’s defense stopping the fast paced, multi-faceted Oregon offense, I think this is a tall order for the Tigers. I won’t say they won’t force some punts or three-and-outs, but nobody but Cal this season had the talent to go toe-to-toe with Oregon’s offense and Cal still lost. I doubt Auburn will be able to do it all game long.

And for those of you out there thinking to yourselves, “but Marc, didn’t Ohio State’s big defense shut down Oregon in the Rose Bowl…and won’t the SEC battle tested Auburn D do the same?” I would say to you that yes Ohio State did do a good job, but this year’s Duck team is different than last year’s…mainly at QB, but also the team now features some additional stars such as Josh Huff and David Paulson. This means now the Oregon QB is a real and consistent threat to throw down field. This was not the case with Masoli last season…and certainly not in the Rose Bowl. So, I think having this legit threat will boost the Duck’s chances of exploiting the Auburn D.

In the end, I think the team that slows down the other’s offense consistently will likely win this game. Sitting here right now, I’m thinking Oregon’s defense has a slightly better chance at this (but not easy at all) because they have to limit one guy – Cam Newton – while the Auburn D has too many weapons to try and shut down in any one play and all game long.

Monday, January 3, 2011

This Just In - World Ending on May 21

I see that another group is predicting that the "end of the world" is coming. Yes, they specifically believe that on May 21, 2011 Jesus Christ will "return to Earth" and usher in Judgement Day and the end of the Earth.

This kind of thing happens every year, and it's not necessarily tied to the Christian religion. After all, there are many ways the world could "end" and they don't all have to be via Jesus Judgement Day. But that's the most popular one year-in and year-out.

Anyway, my big plan for proving these nuts wrong is... do nothing.

That's right. I'll prove these religous fanatics that they are wrong about the end of the world and Judgement Day coming on May 21 by simply not doing or saying anything...and when the sun rises and we all get through that day and the clock strikes midnight signaling the start of May 22, we'll all know that the prediction of the end of the world was false. Again.

And we can then look forward to the Christian nuts who will use the same Biblical text they predicated their prediction on to either a) justify why they were wrong, or b) come up with a new date for when it all comes to an end.

Ah, religion.

Countdown to "The Natty" - Does Winning the SEC Give Auburn an Advantage?

Is the fact that Auburn plays in the SEC and won that league this year reason enough to believe they will win the big game?

No, it is not.

The SEC is an excellent league, that’s for sure. But, the mere fact that Auburn plays in that conference and won it does not mean they are automatically better than any other undefeated team in any given year nor does it mean they will easily win the game against Oregon.

Yes, the SEC has depth, has consistently fielded high ranked teams and won most of the BCS-era national championships. Give them their due. They're good.

But on the other hand there are some areas of softness: 1) SEC teams don’t always play each other each year, with good teams often avoiding playing each other, 2) SEC teams (like teams from most conferences other than the Pac-10) play four non-conference games each year and you guessed it, they mostly schedule “cream puff” opponents, and 3) SEC teams typically only play four road games each year.

So, between playing a quarter of their schedule against cream puffs, more than half of it at home and not playing every other team in their league…yes, the SEC teams do manage to inflate their records and generate high rankings, but in those maneuvers there is reason to question the all-mighty status of the SEC when it comes to playing teams from other conferences. There is some evidence of this, for example, in how SEC teams are faring vs. other conferences in the bowl season. So far, the SEC teams have won 3 games and lost 4. If they were so dominate from top to bottom, wouldn't it be more like 6-1 or 7-0 at this point? Wouldn't Georgia be able to beat South Florida? Wouldn't Tennessee be able to beat North Carolina? Etc.

All of this simply means to me that the SEC winner is not automatically better than an undefeated champion from another conference. It just means that they are a very good team from a very good conference. That’s it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Countdown to "The Natty" - Will Oregon's Pace Wear Down Auburn?

Will Oregon’s fast paced approach wear down Auburn enough to make a difference in the game?

Yes, I think it will. Here's why...

Everybody knows about Oregon’s “blur” offense: manic pace, quick strike, lethal execution, multiple weapons, options galore, and speed, speed, speed. Not only does it cause confusion for the defense every down, but it prevents the other team from substituting players. This breeds defensive mistakes that Oregon can capitalize on, and – over the course of a game – it wears defensive players down so that in the fourth quarter they are exhausted…and cannot keep up with Oregon.

I think this will be the case again in the big game. It has in all 12 other games Oregon has played, so I don’t see it being any different on Jan. 10. There are some in SEC land who I see saying things like, "well, that may work out there in the Pac-10, but our defenses are chalked full of such great players that it won't be a problem." OK, go ahead and keep thinking that. Please. I don't dispute that Auburn (and maybe even the SEC generally) has really great defensive talent. I don't. But, that talent doesn't have to deal with what Oregon dishes out. We'll see where the defensive talent for Auburn is in the third and fourth quarter after their butts have been run ragged all game long and their sucking wind...and Oregon's offense is not.

All that being said, I think there's another element where Oregon may have an advantage when it comes to wearing out their opponent. Defense. That's right. I think Oregon's defense will be in better shape, fresher and able to deal with "the Cam Newton show" a lot deeper into the game than will be the case for Auburn's defense vs. Oregon's offense.

Two reasons why:
  1. Oregon’s defense practices all the time against a fast paced spread attack. They know it well. So, notwithstanding the talents of Mr. Newton, Auburn is not going to operate an offense or a pace that Oregon has not seen before. Yeah, they'll have to find a way to bring Newton to the ground...he's a load...but, I don't see Auburn bamboozling the Oregon defense or wearing out because of a fast pace.
  2. More importantly, Oregon has great depth on defense, so they can substitute players in and out all game long to keep them fresher over the course of the contest. This pays off handsomely in the second half when, typically, Oregon’s D starts to dictate to the opponent’s offense and come up with turnovers.
 I think both of these defensive factors could be key in how the game comes out.

 So there you go. Yes, I think Oregon's pace on offense and freshness on defense will be a factor as it will wear out Auburn to a degree that in the second half Oregon can assert itself and - potentially - win.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Countdown to "The Natty" - Do Tight Wins Signal Trouble for Auburn?

Should we read anything into the fact that Auburn won four games by three points or less and two more by only one touchdown…often in come from behind efforts…as a sign of potential weakness compared to Oregon who dominated all but one opponent the entire season?

Or, should we see those series of events simply as evidence of a resilient, talented and motivated team?

Well, honestly, it's probably a mix of both with some luck thrown in...and the ball did bounce to Auburn's benefit an awful lot this season.

Certainly Auburn and SEC fans will say that the close wins are just evidence of the SEC being "the best conference in America." Pac-10 fans will say, barely won six games while Oregon dominated all but one team it played.

But for the sake of argument, I'll say that yes...the fact that the Tigers had many close games and almost lost a few if not for some last minute magic and luck is indeed something they should be concerned with when playing Oregon.

Why? Those close calls by Auburn tell me that they're beatable. They are not a juggernaut that cannot be stopped. Nope. They are human. They can be defeated. There are things about that team that can be exploited. And for Oregon, they've been able to pick out such weak points in every team they've played and taken advantage to win every game they played...including that tight one against Cal.

Yes, a big reason why Auburn was able to come from behind and/or close the deal on close games is that they are talented and highly motivated. But, if teams like Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, Clemson, LSU and Mississippi State can give Auburn a run for their money - in some cases right down to the last minute of a game - then Oregon can too.

And, unlike those other teams...Oregon is better. They may be able to do what those other squads could not - finish off Auburn.

But that's part of the fun...we shall see.