NCAA

Gamedays Are Back

College football kicks off tonight as #9 South Carolina visits #21 Texas A&M. A major clash to kickoff the “barely” advertised SEC Network and a juicy appetizer to wet our taste buds for another thrilling Saturdays of Fall. While most of our football obsessed nation is waiting for Sundays to arrive once again, down in the South Saturday is Football Heaven. It’s all they talk and care about, followed by Friday nights in a distant second. The NFL barely registers on Sundays in SEC country cause that is race day.sec

Professional sports are more entertaining than its collegiate counterpart, simply for have a collection of the world’s best talents competing against one another. However, college football comes the closest to matching its professional counterpart. There is no more exciting sports feeling than walking a college campus on a Saturday. The grills are smoking, every cooler is packed with beer, and hundreds of thousands of fans bristle with excitement in the anticipation of kickoff. The buzz is unparalleled anywhere else in sport.

I witnessed this first hand in college at Notre Dame. The population of South Bend more than doubled on Saturday Gamedays as fans poured in to watch the most losses over any four year stretch in school history. It didn’t matter, people still came to cheer and hope. Sports fans root for their team to feel part of something bigger, a community. Nowhere else in sports is that feeling stronger than in college football. The love of tradition and camaraderie pours over the throngs of tailgating supporters. The feeling only strengthens as fans step into the stadium to root on their team. The band plays the fight song, the crowd sings it word for word, and then the team marches out onto the field into pure mayhem of joy. Win or lose, it is an amazing experience that feels fresh every single time.

The greatest sight on Earth, so much free food and beer to be had.

The greatest sight on Earth, so much free food and beer to be had.

College football’s appeal goes beyond the excitement of tailgating and hearing the band play, the game itself has gotten much closer to the NFL level in the last decade. In the 90s, when I first started watching college football, the triple option was still a popular offense and something that would never be seen on Sundays. Now, college offenses have become so layered and advanced that NFL coaches actually borrow from the college ranks to improve their offense. No NBA team is looking to the college ranks to steal the “let’s pass it around the perimeter for 20 seconds then force up a three” offense. The Utah Jazz is the only team to borrow from college by starting five white guys. 

Five Bold Predictions for the 2014 Season

1. Two SEC teams will make the inaugural College Football Playoffs – Since a special committee is overseeing the selection of the four teams to compete in the first ever playoffs the SEC will be graded on a curve due to its recent success.

2. No Pac 12 team will make the playoffs – The Pac 12 is a slaughterhouse this year, tougher than even the SEC. No team will make it out undefeated and since the conference does not get the respect it deserves the committee will not be grading on a scale leaving the Pac 12 out in the cold. Apologies to the Duck, Bruin, and Tree nations respectively.

3. A QB will not win the Heisman – Todd Gurley will and he is a running back from Georgia. Gurley is a beast and with the departure of three year starter Aaron Murray he will be depended on immensely throughout the season. Total season stat line prediction – 1,836 yards, 15 TDs, 49 catches for 423 yards and 3 TDs. A monstrous season combined with being the lone SEC representation and Quarterback fatigue leads to the Heisman win.

We'll be seeing a lot of that beautiful smile this year.

We’ll be seeing a lot of that beautiful smile this year.

4. Wisconsin is the lone undefeated team when playoff starts– The Badgers toughest game of the year is this Saturday against LSU. Gary Andersen brings some of that Utah State flash to the offense, which combines nicely with the power running game and he out Madhatters the Madhatter Les Miles for the win. After the big victory the Badgers get to feast on this tasty schedule, vs W. Illinois, vs Bowling Green, vs. South Florida, @Northwestern, vs. Illinois, vs. Maryland, @Rutgers, @Purdue, vs. #22 Nebraska, @Iowa, vs. Minnesota. A cake walk of a regular season schedule which will allow them to add more wrinkles into the offense and gain momentum to topple Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship.

Where will the top ranked teams lose? #1 Florida State goes down on Thursday 10/30 at Louisville, as a lackadaisical Seminoles team is overwhelmed by a raucous, drunk Louisville crowd decked out in Halloween costumes. #2 Alabama falls on the road to a hungry LSU team on November 8th. #3 Oregon loses twice, first to Washington at home in a letdown game after defeating UCLA on the road, and then in the regular season finale at Oregon State as it has been too long since the Beavers won the Civil War. #4 Oklahoma loses on the road to the “Bro King” and part time Ryan Gosling impersonator Cliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.

5. Florida State will repeat  as ChampsWait, this isn’t bold, it is as safe as they come.  Is it though? So many people jumped on the FSU bandwagon over the summer that it began to tip and frighten everyone into nitpicking every little thing that could be wrong with this team. Thus leading to a ton of people jumping off the bandwagon and calling the team overrated or saying it will collapse under the pressure of repeating. Not me though, I’ll stick with the pick, FSU back-to-back.

Five Good Bets for the Weekend

1. Rice (+21.5) over Notre Dame – Notre Dame does not cover big spreads, especially in its opening game. It is far too high and moved a half a point in the last two days giving Rice a three touchdown advantage. Notre Dame will win the game, but not by three touchdowns. As an added insider tip, I will be attending the game on Saturday and they’ve lost four of six games that I’ve attended since graduating with the most losses of any class in Notre Dame history.

2. Georgia vs Clemson (O/U 54.5) – Take the over. It is set too low since both teams have new quarterbacks, but there are so many weapons on each side of the ball and a ton of new defensive players for each team as well.

3. Florida State (-18.5) over Oklahoma State parlayed with the under (O/U 63.5) – Florida State’s defense is tremendous and given months to game plan for the high octane Oklahoma State offense will lead to it dominating on Saturday. This will keep the scoring down and Florida State will cruise to a 38-10 type victory.

4. Wisconsin (+5.5) over LSU – The Badgers are going to win the game, getting the 5.5 is just a bonus.

5. Alabama vs West Virginia (O/U 55.5) – Take the under, Nick Saban still hasn’t selected a new quarterback and will rely on his defense to annihilate any hope West Virginia has. It will lead to a victory, but not many points will be scored.

The Tallahassee Police won't reveal this, but we've confirmed that is Jameis' "O" face.

The Tallahassee Police won’t reveal this, but we’ve confirmed that is Jameis’ “O” face.

College Football Playoffs

First Round:

1. Florida State over 4. Georgia

3. Alabama over 2. Wisconsin

Championship

Florida State over Alabama

 

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March Sadness: Most Of Us Suck At Gambling And The Lottery

We’re down to the Sweet 16, and as usual, a team in my Final Four (and NCAA Championship Game) has withered, died, and been buried. This year, I made the mistake of picking Wichita State to lose to Florida in the season’s final showdown. I was shocked to hear that all the experts picked the undefeated Shockers losing so early. Turns out, they’re called “experts” for at least some reason.

Wichita-State-Logo

Luckily, it’s another one of those wacky years where anything can happen, so I’m still alive in my office pool. Thank god so many people picked Kansas. Now I just have to hope the trendy Michigan State pick fails, too. Oh, an upset of Arizona wouldn’t hurt, either. Damn it. I’m not going to win this, am I?

My most recent failure to select all Final Four teams correctly got me thinking a lot about how us Americans love get rich quick schemes. Part of our identity as Americans is rooted in a shared belief that anyone can make it anywhere with hard work – but another very real, shared communal thought is that we can (and maybe will) become wealthy with a good stroke of fate.

This applies to contests, the lottery, gambling, and all kinds of sweepstakes. I’m as guilty as anyone else of thinking that spending a few bucks here and there might lead to making millions – or hundreds. Full disclosure: I filled out my bracket on Yahoo this year, pressed submit, and honestly had the thought, “I’m going to make $350 for these awesome picks. No one in my office can touch this. This is my year. My ticket.”

Then Wichita State lost, and I was reminded that things don’t work that way. While I won’t completely rule out ever getting lucky and winning some money, I’ve come to grips with the idea that I’m no one special in the sweepstakes lifestyle. In a way, my luck gambling is symbolic of the average American’s struggle. While there are plenty of lottery winners and gambling gurus, most of us don’t get rich quick.

Now this begs the question, if I know I’ll lose almost every time, why the hell do I keep entering my bracket into a pool, buying lottery tickets, and purchasing those penny scratcher games?

I blame The Gold Rush of 1849, the movie Blank Check, and J.K. Rowling selling a book about a wizard that she wrote on napkins in a coffee shop. In our country, we too often celebrate the person who made the quick buck instead of the new 60-year-old multi-millionaire who worked his or her ass off for everything she got (clarification: I don’t think J.K. didn’t work hard, but her story is a rare one).

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As a society, we’re obsessed with who won the lottery. “What state were they in?” “Oh, they bought it at a gas station, seriously?” “It was a teacher? I’m a teacher and I didn’t win, damn it!” “Why God, why not me?”

Soon everyone who bought a lotto ticket, or entered a bracket, or put some money down on a three-team parlay and lost turns on the winner in rage. Hate rears its ugly head, and we view the winner of whatever contest we entered as our enemy. They took our god damn money. We deserve it, not them! How is it that they get it to be a millionaire now and not me?

I understand the initial anger. It sucks to lose. But why not have a little perspective when it comes to this kind of stuff? After all, is it really losing? None of us average, hard-working folk have a greater claim to instant treasure than another one of our kind. If you buy a lottery ticket or opt into a bracket, you’re just as likely to lose as most of the other money-hungry entrants. There’s no point in harboring irrational hate in your heart. Someone else won, good for him or her! Maybe it’ll be you next time, but most likely it won’t.

The sad thing is that many people work very hard their entire lives and don’t get rich, either. For them, becoming a billionaire isn’t in the proverbial cards. But don’t let that get you down. It’s much nicer subscribing to the old American axiom that anyone can become Daddy Warbucks with hard work and determination.

As for me, I’ve still got a feeling I can win this office bracket. Then I’ll use that $350 I win on a bunch of lotto tickets. That’s got to work, right?

Justice Demetrio

All rise. The Justice is back on the bench to right the injustices that plague America. This week a case comes before the bench due to the noise made from the Justice’s place of birth Evanston, IL.

Last week athletes from Northwestern University filed to unionize in order to receive wages for playing college sports. The debate to pay college athletes has been around for over a decade, but it continues to pick up more steam every year making it a hot topic. The time has come for Justice Demetrio to solve this issue for good.

Case #000000003 NCAA Athletes vs. The NCAA

The NCAA is a shady organization, there is no other way to put it. People opposed to the practices compare the use of college athletes to slavery. While it is always a bit much to compare anything to slavery, the NCAA does take advantage of a free labor force, to limit overhead, and increase profit margin.

Anyone who went to college and is paying off college loans monthly with no end in sight, would argue college athletes get a huge advantage with full scholarships. A fully paid college experience does save these athletes a lot of money and their respective universities provide an education that will be invaluable to them for the rest of their lives.

However, the NCAA cashes in a ton of money from these players likeness via jersey sales and video games, not to mention the enormous TV deals. It goes beyond the basic student-athlete agreement. Since, it treats these athletes more as commodities than students the athletes feel they’re entitled to a piece of the profit pie. Many athletes come from economically deficient backgrounds, and while a scholarship plus room and board is nice, it does not feed them or provide clothing. Both of which are difficult to come by for some of them.

It seems ridiculous that a player whose jersey sells out and is featured on ESPN all week does not have enough money to properly feed himself. There is also the pressure to provide money for loved ones struggling at home. Since the NFL requires players to wait three years after high school graduation before being allowed to enter the draft, there are players who are due for multi-million dollar contracts to play on Sundays that have to wait it out three tough years.

Verdict:

An education is a valuable commodity and many people would give an arm and a leg to get out of college debt. The NCAA is corrupt and cashes in on an advantageous situation. Something does need to change, but let’s be honest only College Football, and to a much lesser extent, basketball, bring in any money. I don’t think many people are marking their calendar’s for the Men’s Volleyball Championships, well besides Michael Juettner, boom. Juettner Slam! Many student athletes are actually getting a great deal with a full scholarship to play a sport they love. Especially with Title IX, the large number of football scholarships has allowed for more women to go to good schools and continue to compete at the sports at which they excel.

It is too difficult to determine how to pay players, who deserves it, and how much to pay them. There are really only a dozen players or so that move the needle in jersey sales and bring in extra profits. Is the woman who sits on the field hockey bench suppose to make the same amount of money as the starting QB at Alabama? Even in the big money sports, do all players deserve the same? Despite the fact that they never play and no one even knows their name, let alone would buy a jersey.

There will never be a fair process to pay these athletes and someone will continue to complain. The NCAA starting to pay athletes is going down a rabbit hole, the classic give a mouse a piece of cheese situation. The Justice cannot justify forcing the NCAA to pay athletes, it is just impossible to regulate and find a fair way to pay players money proportionate to their skills at an institution of higher learning.

The NCAA has created a beautifully corrupt home and it will continue to get to benefit from beating the system. However, there is an opportunity for someone to come in and provide competition to knock it down a peg.

What if there was a developmental, professional league that served as the minor leagues of the NFL? Instead of having to sign at a school and wait out three years of college ball, talented young football players can sign with this new professional league and get paid right out of high school.

There is no competing with the NFL, but the opportunity to make money right out of high school, at least legitimately and not under the table, would be enticing to talented young athletes. It may take a few years, but once the talent starts pouring in this league could take off and serve as a good alternative league to the NCAA. It’s certainly hard take on the big boosters from the big Universities, but there are enough football addicts out there to draw decent ratings.

The best thing for this league is to be sponsored, maybe even owned by the NFL. After all wouldn’t teams benefit from having a  developmental league in order to be able to better evaluate players. It can also be an opportunity to train these athletes to the rigors of the NFL off the field at a younger age, which could cut down on the number of off the field arrests and incidents. It would make sense that the NFL would be supportive of this new league as it would also create some distance between itself and the stink of the NCAA.

However, if the NFL was afraid to challenge the NCAA in order to maintain  its friendly relationship, then I’m sure there are plenty of billionaires who would be interested in stepping up and starting this league. One billionaire comes to mind over any other. A man who once had the cajones to challenge the NFL with a competitive league that’s right, the Justice’s good friend, Vinny Mac.

Vince McMahon thrives on challenging authority and the status quo. He would love the attention he’d get for starting this new under 25 league as a way to compete with the “corrupt” NCAA. Vinny Mac does not like to pass up a great PR stunt. He can even bring back some of the principles of the XFL and provide a hard nosed alternative to the softer rules of the NFL. Plus it would be exciting to see him do this again.

Court Adjurned.