Nothing like a dark and dreary column on the world of sports to remind you it’s already dark at 3:30.
Yup, you read the headline right. I’m actually going to lead off my weekly rant about college football. I’ll still dive into everything else per usual, but enough is enough with this whole College Football shenanigan. That’s my top take from this week, and the rest are just as steaming hot. Catch up on the things that got to me from last week, before we cannonball into this week’s palooza.
1. It’s time for an 8-team College Football Playoff
I’ve made it perfectly clear that college sports really aren’t that high on my priority list. Considering that I’m a New Englander and the best best college football team in the region plays in D-IAA, it’s kinda tough to get into it. But after the madness that went down this weekend, I’m sucked right back in.
And with that said, I’m also mad as hell. We saw the No. 2, 3 and 4 team lose this past weekend. There was already chaos with the seeds in the first couple CFP ranking, and now that three teams went down on the same day, peace and happiness are about as far away as humanly possible.
It’s clear that unless a meteor hits that Alabama will be No. 1. They’re head and shoulders better than everyone they’ve played, and they look pretty damn invincible. Even a loss in the SEC title game probably won’t keep the Crimson Tide out of the playoffs. But after that? It’s a cluster of all clusters.
In last week’s CFP rankings, it went Bama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington, with Ohio State and Louisville on the outside looking in. There was plenty of hubbub over the Huskies being absent from the first ranking, and rightfully so. But then after the mess of this last weekend, where the 2-4 seeds go down in shitstorm fashion, holy moly do we have a mess on our hands.
So the state of college football as it is now, we have two unbeaten teams (sorry Western Michigan, you aren’t going to make it unless everyone else folds their program) and a bunch of 1-loss and 2-loss teams. I’ll make the argument that there are about 10 teams deserving of a spot to compete for a national championship. And yes I know that includes the likes of Penn State and West Virginia. It’s a stretch, but it’s possible.
A lot of these teams have to play each other still, meaning that these upcoming rankings will be further convoluted and nothing will ever be settled and agreed upon.
So, that’s my lengthy way of saying: We need an 8-team playoff. There are too many scenarios and circumstances where good teams get screwed because of some shitty alliance on the selection committee. It’s a known fact that these “student”-athletes aren’t really missing much with another week added to their schedule. Hell, there’s usually a MONTH in-between conference championships and the national semifinals already. Why not add in another game while everyone suffers through the Who Gives a Crap Bowl in the Bahamas.
The NCAA and CFP committee gets more fat and happy with more money (surprise) and the fans get a national champion in a better format that doesn’t screw the fifth and sixth best teams in the country.
2. I hate fade routes
No, this is not me being a bitter Patriots fan. But, the timeliness of the awful play call at the end of the New England Patriots – Seattle Seahawks game works out well for my argument.
In front of a huge national audience (hey, that’s something new for the NFL this year), the Patriots had a chance to tie the game on a fourth-and-goal with 19 seconds left in regulation. And the best play call that team – loaded with a Hall of Fame head coach, quarterback and tight end – could come up with is a fade route with a jump ball.
Are you freaking kidding me?
I’ve always hated fade routes. And no Brendan, it’s not because Plaxico Burress ripped my heart out with one. The fade route is simply a dumb, easy play call to make with your biggest, and often best player. Especially with the flag-happy ways of the NFL these days, you’re hoping almost as much for an illegal contact/pass interference/holding penalty as you are for a touchdown.
That’s plain dumb.
When you have a gifted physical specimen like Rob Gronkowski, at 6’6″, 265 pounds, matching up against a safety in Kam Chancellor at 6’3″, 232 pounds, you’re best call is effectively a jump ball? How about a comeback route where the guy who is three inches taller and 33 pounds heavier can body his defender and shield the ball. Literally everyone in the stadium knew where the ball was going on the final play. And I’m ok with that. You have a freak of nature – even with a punctured lung – in a one-on-one matchup with another physically superior athlete on the other side.
Instead of tossing one up 50-50, why not use the strong, right arm of your superstar QB and have him fire one inside to have Gronk collect with his hands and back to the defender? You’re still as likely to get a flag for illegal contact, but now you’re giving your best weapon a chance to use both his size and hands to catch the ball instead of just his vertical skills (which were definitely impacted by his injury).
And no, that wasn’t pass interference either. Gronkowski initiated contact and both guys were hand fighting with the ball in the air. Just change the play call, not bitch that there wasn’t a flag on a dumb move to begin with.
3. Michael Fulmer was rightfully awarded the AL Rookie of the Year Award
So I know that Brendan, Matt and I vehemently disagreed on this topic a little while ago, but with the news coming that Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer was named the American League Rookie of the Year earlier this week, I feel that it should be addressed again. This was absolutely the right call, regardless of what the Yankee faithful are proclaiming.
Fulmer was in the big leagues all season long. Gary Sanchez was in the show for two months. Sure, he had a crazy two months. That’s a streak. Fulmer was the top rookie pitcher in WAR (a stat Matt and most baseball fans love) by a full number. He was the ace of his team that nearly got in the playoffs, and he did it from April through September. That’s not a streak, that’s a solid sample size.
What Fulmer did in that time was build an impressive resume that stood the test of time. Sanchez built a quality beginning, but he’s missing the middle and the end. When you compare the two side-by-side, and I’ll go back to WAR once again, Fulmer still has the edge at 4.9 to Sanchez’ 3.0.
Blame the Yankees for not making a spot for this superstar as he toiled in the minor leagues and the team wallowed in the middle of the American League pack. If he put up comparable numbers (if he hit the way he hit for the entire year he would have put up one of the best seasons ever, and not even for a rookie) for the entire season in New York, and hell I’ll even say from June until September, he would have been the choice. But the organization deciding to keep him in the minors ultimately cost him the award.
Fulmer shined for the Tigers all season, and nearly pitched them to the postseason. To me, when you’re the Rookie of the Year, you do it for the entire year, not the final two months of the season.
P.S. – He’s a plumber in the offseason. How crazy is that?
4. It’s time to consider that the Boston Celtics aren’t as good as everyone thought
All around this region, I’ve been hearing about how the Boston Celtics are on the rise, and how that now with Al Horford, they were at least ready to contend (sort of) in the Eastern Conference. Well, 10 games into the season, that mantra has come to a screeching halt.
After an extremely disappointing loss to the New Orleans Pelicans – one of the three worst teams in the league – on Monday night, it’s time to reevaluate the Celtics as a team. Here’s my take: they’re not much better than what they were last year.
Maybe by season’s end they’ll have a better seed or a couple more wins then 2015-16, but the fact of the matter is that Boston is still a middle of the road team without any championship aspirations. They’ve yet to win a playoff series under Brad Stevens, they’ve yet to do anything of big substance with their plethora of draft picks, and they’re still miles away from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Celtics fans can celebrate all they want over acquiring a free agent like Horford, but it seems like the team has rested on their laurels of now having a superstar on the team that can cover up the fact that the rest of the squad is basically average. Last year Boston surprised NBA fans by playing balls out in every game. What happened? A six-game defeat in the first round of the playoffs. Is that worth celebrating? Nope.
What’s happening now? A team that might have two All Stars is playing lazy, and giving up wins to teams like New Orleans, Washington and Denver. According to what everyone said, the Celtics are better than these three teams.
Through the first 10 games of the season, it doesn’t look like that’s the case.
5. Speaking of bad teams, the New York Islanders are in serious trouble
Sorry Brendan. this one has to hurt. But what in the hell happened to the New York Islanders? After reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time this millennium, they’ve completely imploded. John Tavares is wasting away in Brooklyn as the goaltending debacle, poor defense, poor ice and lackluster free agent signings (looking at you Andrew Ladd) are knocking this franchise down multiple pegs.
I’ll admit that I was high on this team heading into the season. They’re still young, fast and had two capable goaltenders. What we’ve seen so far on the young season is that New York is undisciplined, unengaged and simply not a good hockey team. They can’t score. They sure as shit can’t stop the puck, and they’re not really trending in the right direction.
The quick way to address these problems is to do what all teams do: fire the coach. In this case, I think the Islanders would be pretty just in firing Jack Capuano. After listening to Brendan plenty of times, and tuning in on several instances, the Islanders just aren’t responding to the man in charge. The team is dealing with injuries, but they aren’t as bad as the product they’re putting out there on the ice.
But now it appears as though Capuano and GM Garth Snow might be a package deal? If there’s any truth to the rumors that Capuano lives in Snow’s basement, this whole mess just hit another level. If the Islanders brass decided to can both the coach and GM it would send a message to the players that this season is just about over. If they can just the coach, the message can be similar to what the Penguins had last year.
I’m not putting this in the spin zone and saying the Isles can make a Cup run with a different coach, but at least you can create an argument for it. If both the coach and GM go, it’s a signal for a complete reset on the season. It might not be time to pull the plug completely, but the hand is reaching toward the outlet.
That’ll do it for us. We’ll be back next week with some more hot takes for your Wednesday reading enjoyment. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 and Brendan at @MurraySportTalk for more, or to tell me us we’re morons. Either way, have at it.