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Random News: How to save College Football 101

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Random News: How to save College Football 101

Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010
11:57 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

I am going to save college football today. I already had my breakfast burrito. I took out the garbage. Might as well save a major sport before it gets too late in the day, you know? Nothing else better to do.

Speaking of burritos, college football is like a late night steak n' cheese burrito: they're both primarily consumed on weekends (while inebriated), some people have rather unhealthy cravings for them and, despite the occasional upset stomach, you would still take it in time and time again because it tastes good. And the makings of it can be greasy. Very, very greasy.

Unfortunately, despite all the good that college football has to offer (traditional rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan, New Year's Day bowl games, coaches like Joe Paterno, etc) there is a film that you have to peel off the sport every now and then. You can look no further than the Reggie Bush fiasco, SMU football in the '80s and two 6-6 teams playing in the Interstate Quality Furnishings Commerce and Trade California New England Jambalaya Associates -dot-com bowl on December 17th as proof. The rich always seem to get richer, the postseason is fairly anticlimactic and nauseating scandals involving recruits and dollars are commonplace.

All the Pine Sol in the world can't clean up the college football grease in one day, so I deciding to clean one area at a time: I'm debuting my enhanced playoff system. I am going to eliminate some of the rather annoying parts of the college football season and I guarantee it could snowball into positive changes elsewhere in the sport. I give you: NCAA brackets --football version-- with 32 teams fighting for the final dance in the new year. Here's how it breaks down:

Each of the 11 major conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, C-USA, MAC, MWC, Pac-10, SEC, Sun Belt and WAC) gets at least one team into the tournament. The independents -- Army, Navy and Notre Dame -- are treated as at-larges unless they're in the top 4 of the AP rankings. At-larges get into the tournament based on strength of schedule, good wins vs. bad losses (or heck, good losses and bad wins for that matter), won-loss record and so on. I'll even be willing to let the BCS computer mingle with the committee on Selection Saturday. More on that in a bit.

Most, if not all, 6-6 teams wouldn't qualify. Seriously...a 6-6 team that loads up on cream puffs like Eastern Montana Polytechnic State --and then soils the mattress in a bowl game -- should never be awarded a berth in postseason play.

An independent committee (read: one that isn't tempted by Samsonite briefcases full of cash) decides the field in the same capacity that the NCAA baskteball tournament is decided. Only this time it's on "Selection Saturday", which is aired just after the Army-Navy game...traditionally, the last major regular season game on the NCAA calendar. There's that word again...tradition. People love that word. The same four bracketed "regions" can and should be used. For instance, if we were to go by the current AP poll, Alabama would get the 1 seed in the East, Ohio State the top spot in the Midwest, Boise State tops the West, TCU does the same in the South.

The tournament begins 'around' the 10th of December. "December Madness" if you will. I still have to work on a catchy, TV-friendly title. Dash to December, maybe? Ehh. Anyway, the first round battles are still played under "bowl game" monikers at the bowl's original location. For instance, 1 seed Alabama would play 8 seed Missouri in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl (seriously...that is an actual game this year). Or, 1 Boise State would take on 8 Oklahoma State in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Every bowl keeps their original sponsor so nobody loses any money. Let's face it, the first round is obviously not the most prestigious when it comes to bowl names. But think of how exciting first round NCAA basketball games are. You would think the same could work for football. Heck, if an 8-seed beats a 1-seed, you would have people 20 years from now saying, "Hey...you remember that Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl from 2010, when Toledo beat the Buckeyes?"

The second round and third rounds are played around the 17th and 24th of December, respectively. The later the round, the more prestigious the bowl. The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds could be must-see television. Who's up for a 2 vs. 4 matchup in the Sun Bowl featuring high-octane Oregon vs. LSU's sack-happy defense? I'd watch. I'd also watch 3 Stanford vs. 4 Michigan in the Liberty Bowl. Pssh...they could hype the Jim Harbaugh angle forever on that one. Since college football loves money, you put of those Elite Eight games on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I mean, since most families sit around and watch TV on this day anyway, it should be a no-brainer for broadcast executives. Think of the tradition that Thanksgiving has with football and TV. Christmas would be the next logical step. Right? NBA could get the morning, college football get the night. And since there's nothing else relevant on during this 24-hour Christmas EveDay period anyway (seriously, how many times have we seen "It's a Wonderful Life"?), you would be tempted to watch live football.

The two Final Four games would always take place on January 1st. And those games are the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Period. Apologies to the Fiesta and Sugar. The NCAA loves tradition. The Tournament of Roses parade never has to move. Pasadena takes a huge sigh of relief. And the games at this juncture are never dull. Alabama vs. Boise State for the right to play in the National Championship Game. Demon Nick Saban vs. the little-engine-that-could Broncos. You're telling me you wouldn't watch that?

The (fill-in-your-corporate sponsor here) National Championship Game presented by (fill in another corporate sponsor name here) gets played on January 8th in a stadium that is decided in the same manner as the Super Bowl -- one year it's in Glendale, another year it's in Dallas...you get the picture. The two most battle-tested playoff teams fight for everything in one game. And one team smiles into the sunset. The end.

Hmm...that wasn't too hard at all.

C'mon, NCAA'ers. It can be done. Tradition stays, the weaker parts fade away. Trust me. This can work. Break out the gloves and start scrubbing.

Or something like that.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

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NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”


Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.

But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.

That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.

Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.

Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.

But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.

He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:

So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?

"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."

Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic. 

With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot. 

But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)

"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.

For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.