Blackhawks

Random News: How to save College Football 101

262488.jpg

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.

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Let's be honest: The Blackhawks dominated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. The final score was 6-4, but there was never a doubt as to which team was in the driver’s seat from start to finish.

So going into Game 2, the Blackhawks knew the Oilers would come out desperate.

"We’d be naïve," head coach Jeremy Colliton said before the game, "if we don’t think they’re going to throw everything they have at us."

And that's what the Oilers did. To be more exact: That's what Connor McDavid did.

After scoring 2:34 into Game 1, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner scored 19 seconds into Game 2 and then again 3:46 later to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead before the Blackhawks even knew what hit them. He completed the hat trick in the second period, giving him four goals through two games so far.

It was clear from the first shift Game 2 would have a different feeling than Game 1. The Oilers, this time, were in control and they followed No. 97's lead.

"They were much better as a team than they were in Game 1, so give them credit there," Jonathan Toews said following a 6-3 loss on Monday. "And to add to the fact, I don't think we made things as hard on them as we did in the first game. So everything we did in that first game, we've got to step all that team game up a notch.

"McDavid's obviously a focus for me, and when we're not making things hard enough for them offensively, then we get ourselves in spots where we end up taking penalties, and you know what happens on the power play, a guy like McDavid's going to make you play. A couple times early in the game, we give him grade A chances and he's not making any mistakes. You know what we're going to get out of him every game, so we've got to be better on him."

You just knew McDavid wouldn’t let his team fall behind 2-0 in a series that easily, especially as the No. 5 seed in their own building. He certainly looked extra motivated to be a factor at even strength after being shut down in Game 1 — all three of his points came on the power play.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

This was a virtual must-win for the Oilers. Only one team in NHL history has overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series: New York Islanders in 1985 after losing Games 1 and 2 in overtime to the Washington Capitals then rallying to win the next three.

"Connor led the way," Oilers forward Tyler Ennis said. "He set the tone for us and gave us a spark. That's exactly what we needed, and everybody followed."

Credit the Blackhawks for clawing back and showing the kind of resiliency that helped them win Game 1. They fell behind 2-0 and tied it up at 3-3 before McDavid's hat trick put the Oilers back in front 4-3.

The game got away from the Blackhawks in the third period, where they were out-chanced 10-1. But that what was bound to happen for a team that was playing catch-up all game.

In the end, the Blackhawks won't sugarcoat their overall performance. It was no secret the Oilers would come out hungry, and the Blackhawks simply didn't match their intensity.

"Ultimately, we didn’t play to the level we need to to beat this team," Colliton said. "We knew going into this series it would be a challenge. ... It’s a 1-1 series, I’m sure no one picked us to sweep them. They won a game, now we have to find a way to be better on Wednesday, and we will."

What José Abreu knew was coming: White Sox wins and playoff-style baseball

What José Abreu knew was coming: White Sox wins and playoff-style baseball

This is what José Abreu has been waiting for.

This is what Abreu knew was coming.

This is what Abreu was talking about when he spent the entirety of last year saying how badly he wanted to be part of the franchise’s bright future.

“Something very big,” he said last summer, forecasting what the White Sox were building, “and I don’t want to leave here.”

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

He later admitted he never even considered playing for another team during his brief time as a free agent last offseason. Heck, he didn’t even really make it to the winter, signing his new three-year contract to stay on the South Side before Thanksgiving.

He believed in the future. And now he’s seeing it.

The White Sox won their fifth straight game Monday night, a 6-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that was dripping with playoff feeling, the kind of vibe that’s been absent from South Side baseball during the majority of Abreu’s time here. He’s yet to play for a team that’s finished the season north of .500.

But Monday, he delivered the game’s clutchest hit: a two-run homer that sent a 4-2 deficit to a 4-all tie in the seventh inning. A wild pitch brought the go-ahead run home the following inning, and the White Sox were winners.

Abreu’s personal heroics alone aren’t what’s made this year different. Those we've seen before. It’s what’s going on around him.

On the same night Abreu blasted that ball to center field at Miller Park, the young players who enticed him to stick around showed what they can do, too. Luis Robert had a single, a pair of walks and two stolen bases. Yoán Moncada had three hits, including a ninth-inning home run. Nomar Mazara picked up a single in his first game in a White Sox uniform. And Nick Madrigal took a four-pitch walk that ended with that game-winning wild pitch.

Expand the scope to the last five games, all White Sox wins, and there’s a heaping helping of the kind of stuff Abreu knew was coming: Lucas Giolito turning in an ace-like performance last week in Cleveland, Robert and Eloy Jiménez both coming a triple away from the cycle Saturday in Kansas City and Madrigal knocking out four hits Sunday.

“It’s always good to be around this team we have right now, this group,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo on Monday night. “A lot of energy and passion, that motivates you more every day. … I was looking to make good contact in that at-bat (that resulted in the home run). It was very special. I want to keep doing those things for this team.”

RELATED: Streaking White Sox turn slow start around: 'All these games are must-win'

Of course, what made Abreu’s multi-year contract feel like an inevitability — apart from Abreu saying on multiple occasions that he’d sign himself if the White Sox didn’t put the papers in front of him — was that the relationship was a two-way street. Abreu voiced his love for the White Sox, and they returned the favor, talking about everything he’s brought to the team as a team leader and a role model for the young players.

A lineup that’s been so productive this season is well stocked with members of the José Abreu Mentorship Program. That lineup is capable of doing things no other White Sox lineup Abreu’s been a part of could do. And, whether this year or down the road, that could include the biggest of things.

“Frankly, my happiness for a guy like José will come once we're able to present him with a ring,” general manager Rick Hahn said before Opening Day, “because that's what he deserves based on what he's meant for this organization and his performance on the field. Certainly look forward to, hopefully, the opportunity to do that in the coming years with him.”

Abreu didn’t have to wait long to get a taste of a different kind of baseball, with Monday night’s game — just the 10th of this season — featuring a parade of edge-of-your-seat moments.

One of those intense moments? Abreu’s at-bat in the fifth inning. With Robert on base ahead of him, Abreu fought off one pitch after another in an 11-pitch at-bat. It ended in a strikeout, but it allowed Abreu to see just about everything Corbin Burnes had to offer. Two innings later, Abreu homered off Burnes to tie the game.

"Those at-bats put you in a good position for next time you face the pitcher," Abreu said. "That at-bat was the key for me to get a homer in the next at-bat. I saw those pitches and was prepared for what he wanted to do. Even though I struck out, that was a really key moment and at-bat for me."

That’s the kind of player Abreu’s been all along. Now, he’s doing it in the middle of a potent lineup on a team with realistic postseason expectations.

RELATED: Nick Madrigal's four-hit day shows what White Sox newest core member can do

Intensity was hard to come by for viewers over three rebuilding seasons that featured a combined 284 losses. One five-game winning streak won’t wash all those rebuilding-era losses away by itself, but the White Sox are over .500 and in second place in the AL Central. That’s playoff position in this bizarre season with an eight-team American League playoff field. Fans are starting to get a little giddy, and the players are certainly recognizing a different feel in the clubhouse after they turned around a 1-4 start.

But this is Abreu we’re talking about.

Moncada might be stylish, Robert might be fast, and Jiménez might be fun-loving. But they all have one thing in common learned from their time in the José Abreu Mentorship Program: They work hard.

And so with the White Sox streaking, leave it to Abreu to deliver the most Abreu of messages.

“We can’t get too comfortable. We need to do our job and keep working because we need to get more results,” he said. “This is no time, by any means, to get comfortable and think we are a finished product. We need to keep working.”


SUBSCRIBE TO THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.