Time flies when you’re having fun.

No, not you Clay Helton. No, no, Willie Taggert. Not yet Scott Frost. Yes, keep looking sour Mark Dantonio. Hey! Someone check if Chip Kelly still has a pulse.

College football has already reached the halfway point. Some things are starting to come into focus, while others still remain murky.

It appears there are not a ton of really good football teams this year. The ACC is awful, the PAC 12 still doesn’t have a team to hang its hat on, the Big Ten has three quality teams(I think), the Big 12 is down to Oklahoma and everyone else, and the SEC runs West.

I definitely overvalued Texas and Michigan, and undervalued Wisconsin and Penn State. I’m still riding my pick to win it all, the LSU Tigers.

Let’s hit it around the nation with a Two Cent conference check in.

ACC

This is a very simple conference to analyze. Clemson. That’s it.

Clemson will probably be favored by 20 points in every game they play.

Someone will be required to win the Coastal division and play Clemson in the ACC championship game. It looked like Virginia may be decent, but then they lost to Miami(Fla), who had just lost to Virginia Tech, who had just got blown out by Duke, who just lost to Pitt, who lost to…you guessed it, Virginia. What a mess!

So, it could still be Virginia, and I wouldn’t count out Pitt. Pitt may be sllloooowwwwly turning a corner.

One thing is certain in my eyes. With this pitiful strength of schedule, if Clemson should somehow blow one of these cakewalk games they should be out of the playoff picture. Remember, the committee said previous years don’t factor in to their decision making(insert eye roll emoji here).

Keep touching Howard’s Rock.

SEC

The strength of the SEC is in the Western division.

Alabama and LSU are headed for a titanic confrontation in Tuscaloosa on November 9. The loser is by no means out of the playoff picture. Then there is still Auburn lurking in the West division, with matchups against both LSU and Alabama.  As a matter of fact, Auburn may be who decides the winner of this conference. They have already lost to Florida, and still have Georgia on the schedule in addition to the two West front runners. Apparently Gus Malzhan ticked somebody off at SEC scheduling headquarters.

The East may come down to the former Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party that annually pits Florida and Georgia in Jacksonville. Georgia has looked lethargic all season, and flatlined in an overtime loss to South Carolina that led to this scene.

Photo courtesy 11alive.com.

After beating Georgia “between the hedges”, the Gamecocks ate some of the hedges.

Florida made me a believer in a loss at LSU. I’ve doubted them all year, but they stood toe to toe in Death Valley with the Tigers for three quarters.

The X factor in the East is Missouri, one of my surprise team predictions to start the season. They have an easy schedule, but must prove they can win on the road. Their only road trip ended in a season opening loss to Wyoming. They get Georgia on the road and Florida at home. Most people forget Missouri is even in the SEC, so they are looking to make the rest of the college football world aware.

I’m still sticking to Hold that Tiger.

Big 12 

This is a fairly easy conference to analyze. Oklahoma, with its win over Texas, is head and shoulders above the crowd.

Baylor is a nice story, with Matt Ruhle finding the magic potion in Waco. Iowa State is finding its sea legs after a sluggish start. Texas will get healthy and be better late. Those are the only teams that could potentially upset the Sooners.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they most likely will have to beat the Longhorns for a second time in the Big 12 title game. That won’t be easy if Texas heals up over the next month. I would never bet against Lincoln Riley, easily the best young coach in college football.

Boomer Sooner.

PAC 12

The PAC 12 has an identity crisis, some say. What they really have is an LA problem.

UCLA is one dramatic comeback on the Palouse from being 0-5 and headed toward a winless season. Chip Kelly, who honestly looks like he could care less, could be unemployed at season’s end.

Across town, Clay Helton will join Kelly on the unemployment line. Helton, king of the moral victory, has gone 15-16 with the USC Trojans since Sam Darnold left. Just like at UCLA, there will be a new AD at USC that will be charged with cleaning house.

USC, after a close loss at Notre Dame, still has a shot to win the conference. They certainly have the talent, but must be consistently good rather than sporadically good. The coaching may not allow for that.

Utah and Arizona State both could step up in the PAC 12 South if USC stumbles. Herm Edwards deserves credit for making the Sun Devils successful. Utah May rue slipping up against the Trojans back in September.

In the PAC 12 North Oregon leads the way, and is the most complete team in the league. Justin Herbert is quietly one of the better quarterbacks in college football. Oregon is also the PAC 12’s only shot at the playoffs, and it is an extremely outside shot. To run the table, Oregon must win on the road at Washington, USC, and Arizona State. It won’t be easy.

Quack, quack, I guess.

Big Ten

This seems like a three horse race, but of all people, Minnesota, would like a seat at the trough.

The suddenly very shiny Golden Gophers have a great chance to be 8-0 when they host Penn State on November 9. P.J. Fleck has these Gophers rowing the boat, but rowing under the radar. I thought Minnesota had a real chance to win ten games this year, and they may just do that.

As for those Penn State Nittany Lions, they got their best win of the season on Saturday in Iowa City. I’m still not sure how good Penn State is, but looking at their schedule leads me to 11-1. These other Big Ten teams just aren’t that good( don’t tell the boat rowers in Minny). Iowa is among the teams that are average. A white out game awaits on homecoming in Happy Valley this week against Michigan.

Wisconsin is rolling. Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman candidate. The question for the Badgers will be if a good team shuts down the run game, can quarterback Jack Coan make big plays. They have a big one in two weeks at Ohio State. A trip to the playoffs will be part of that storyline. A trip to the Big Ten championship game may be on the line November 30 in Minnesota.

Does it look like the Ohio State Buckeyes miss Urban Meyer?

The biggest difference I see is they are stepping on the throat of lesser opponents, rather than allowing them to hang around as often happened under Meyer. The other big difference is at quarterback. Justin Fields is better than the previous Buckeye quarterbacks because he is an equal threat with his feet and arms.

This certainly seems to be the year Ohio State makes the playoffs. In addition to having an ultra talented team, the Buckeyes have a very favorable schedule. They get Wisconsin and Penn State at home, and finish at what certainly looks like a weak Michigan team. A possible rematch with Wisconsin could then await.

Hang On Sloopy.

Final Four?

As much as I pound the drum for an eight team playoff, by season’s end there may be only 4 deserving teams. So many teams seem average this year.

Right now the four playoff teams will come out of my latest Two Cent Top Ten:

  1. Ohio State
  2. LSU
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Alabama
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Clemson
  7. Penn State
  8. Oregon
  9. Florida
  10. Georgia

Honorable mentions go to Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Baylor.

Minnesota and Baylor will face reality eventually, and until Notre Dame commits to joining a conference then one loss will be enough to knock them out of the playoff picture.


Two Cent Takes

College Football

~What would the Big Ten be like if Iowa, Michigan State, and Michigan hired coaches that weren’t super conservative? Kirk Ferencz and Mark Dantonio are so conservative they rarely give their teams a chance to win big games consistently. Oh, every once in awhile they spring an upset, but never consistently. Those two make Jim Harbaugh look wild and crazy. Paul Chryst is also way too conservative, but he seems to have perfected it at Wisconsin. Usually it costs him late in the season, too.

~PAC 12 officials sink lower with each passing week. They didn’t disappoint in the USC/Notre Dame game. And, of course, they put the screws to their own conference’s team. A ridiculous roughing the passer call allowed Notre Dame to extend a drive and eventually kick a field goal. See for yourself.

Then this was marked as a first down.

For those that don’t know, Jake Olson is blind, and even he could see this was bad.

For good measure, this was not called on the onside kick at the end of the game.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is ten yards onto the field at the time of the kick.

Look, PAC 12 refs, Clay Helton can lose games on his own. He doesn’t need any extra help.

~Speaking of officiating, why are we even bothering with instant replay? Every week their are targeting calls, catch/no catch calls, and others that still get missed with replay.

This was called a touchdown on the field for Penn State, then overturned during replay.

Photo courtesy 12up.com.

Yikes. But, hey, those constant delays sure are great.

~One of the people going nuts in Iowa City over that call was this guy.

This is an intelligent man. He’s an adult, for the most part. He is a fanatic. Penn State is having a good season, so he is turning it up a notch. The whiteout game next week awaits this fanatic. Do you, brother fanatic, do you!

NFL

Speaking of replay, here is a guy who should know, voicing his disappointment with NFL replay.

~ Baker Mayfield talks way better than he plays. Three more interceptions and another loss has the Super Bowl Browns at 2-4. Maybe announcing would be more his thing. He could do us all a favor and replace Booger on Monday Night Football.

~I knew the Eagles were in trouble this week when linebacker Zach Brown decided to run his mouth about Kirk Cousins. All Cousins did to shut him up is throw for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns. When will players learn to keep their mouths shut. A straightened out Vikings squad looks very good right now.

~Of the 59,000 people that bought tickets for the Dolphins/Redskins game, how many were on a prison release day trip?

The Dolphins elected to go for two after scoring a late touchdown rather than kick the point and go to overtime. Did the Dolphins do this to:

  • A. Throw the game to help them stay in front for the number one draft pick.
  • B. Decided fans had seen enough of this scintillating football game.

~Sam Darnold is a different maker for the Jets. They were my surprise team, and I still think they will win some games with a healthy Darnold back at the helm.

As for Dallas, they join the Eagles at 3-3. Maybe this is another division that first to nine wins takes the division.

~That 49ers defense is for real. The running game is impressive, too. Is it possible the NFC goes through San Francisco?

~That thump you heard was Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn’s head dropping in the bucket after Arthur Blank drops the guillotine. That seems likely sooner rather than later.

~The Steelers won a road game with a third string quarterback named Duck. Well, it was sort of a road game.

Those are Terrible Towels waving in LA. The Chargers have the worst home field advantage in the league, and Steelers Nation made it worse.

The Steelers play in a horrific division, so they are still in it. After a bye next week, where hopefully they can get some guys healed up, they play three straight winnable home games. The defense is going to carry them, and currently it looks a little like the Steel Curtain days.

Sunday night the offense looked like the early ‘70’s version of the Steelers also. Run, run, and run some more. They brought in Zach Banner as an extra lineman and ran it down the Chargers’ throat. Duck is a great story, but getting Mason Rudolph back will help balance the offense a bit.

The Chargers are clearly dealing with the Two Cent jinx.

You’re welcome, Mr. Rivers.

Basketball

~When is enough money enough? Why is the NBA even dealing with China? Look what happened when UCLA went over there to play. It turned in to a fiasco. There is plenty of money to be made without involving China.

Baseball

~After a tremendous divisional round of the playoffs we will see if baseball has any excitement left.

The Nationals have taken an early 2-0 lead on St. Louis and play the next three days in a row at home. Maybe they just needed to get rid of Bryce Harper to have success in the playoffs. The Cardinals are tougher to kill than a vampire, so don’t count them out just yet.

The Astros and Yankees is a clash of teams with loaded rosters. The Rays extended the Astros to five games, while the Yankees swept the Twins. This hindered the Astros preferred pitching rotation. Sunday night the Astros drew even with the Yankees 1-1, with an 11 inning marathon ended by a Carlos Correa home run blast into the right field bleachers.

The game lasted 5 hours and ended at 12:58 EST. This is a problem that baseball doesn’t seem interested in addressing. It sure isn’t helping baseball’s perception problem.

It should be a fun rest of the series. Here is hoping we get to see Gerrit Cole pitch a game seven. He has been unbelievable, which leads to my a Final Thought.

A Penny for my Final Thought…

Today, October 14, is my birthday. Yea, yea, happy birthday. I can’t truly celebrate my birthday.

You see, on October 14, 1992, Pittsburgh Pirates baseball would effectively cease to exist. Oh, they still play games. Heck, they even made the wildcard three years straight from 2013-2015. But I’m talking about division winning, World Series caliber baseball.

At 11:52 PM Sid Bream, one of my favorite former Pirates, slid past the tag of catcher Mike Lavallierre, and the Pirates winning ways slid off into the abyss. It was the third season in a row the Pirates had been eliminated in the NLCS. It was also their best chance, taking a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning. For my own mental health I won’t relive all the things that went wrong, some the Pirates doing some not, to get to that awful outcome. All Pirates fans knew this was it for this roster, who would lose many key parts to free agency.

I had celebrated my birthday earlier that evening and was prepared to go bonkers, as any fanatic would, when the Pirates recorded the final out. What a great birthday present it would be.

That final out never came.

It would lead to 20 straight losing seasons, and one of the worst stretches of sucking in the history of sucking.

Pirate fans are now left to watch their favorite Pirates play in the playoffs for other teams. Gerrit Cole was a part of the wildcard teams in Pittsburgh, but was traded because, well, that’s what the Pirates do. He has been an absolute joy to watch pitch for Houston.  This is as close as I get to watching the Pirates play playoff baseball.

I grew up with the ‘70’s Pirates winning divisions, not to mention the 1979 World Series. There were some bleak years in the mid ‘80’s, but then the Pirates rose back up in the late ‘80’s, and had that three year run to start the ‘90’s.

Then 27 years ago today, like an anvil hitting Wile E Coyote in the head, the most fun part of baseball was taken away.

Late on that October 14 night Sid Bream’s slide across home plate left me sitting on my couch speechless. For the last 27 years most of the words I have for the Pirates can’t be printed.

Happy Birthday?

The Pirates have seen to it that October 14 only reminds me that the last truly fun season of baseball ended in misery.

Just my two cents…