Seahawks Beat Panthers, Lost Earl Thomas

This fucking stinks.  Is it possible to put Kam, Bobby, Avril & Bennett in bubble wrap for the rest of the regular season and just take our chances with still making the playoffs and the 2-seed?

WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS?!?!?!

WHY CAN’T WE JUST HAVE OUR FULL TEAM FULLY HEALTHY AT ALL TIMES?!?!?!

Or, shit, how about fully fucking healthy for one fucking game?

The Seahawks beat the shitty Panthers 40-7.  Those 7 points weren’t even legitimate because the guy’s knee was down when he was short of the endzone, but they obviously didn’t have a proper angle to overturn it.  Cam Newton was suspended for the first series of the game for not wearing a tie while the team travelled to Seattle, which turned out to just be the first play of the game, which was an interception thrown by Derek Anderson that led to us scoring a field goal.

Russell Wilson had a pretty good game, 277 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.  Thomas Rawls had an explosive game with 106 yards on 15 carries and 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett had a 75-yard run for a touchdown, as well as 63 yards receiving on 5 catches.  Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse all had over 60 yards receiving apiece, with Graham catching another TD.

The defense didn’t get a ton of pressure on Cam Newton when he finally entered the game, but they played sound fundamentally, and they were able to strip a fumble from Jonathan Stewart.  Newton was just off-target most of the day – aside from a pretty bomb to Ted Ginn for that phantom TD – and his receivers were harassed by our secondary for most of the day.  Wagner, Kam, Wright all stood out, as well as the return of Mike Morgan who really made his presence felt with that interception at the top of the game.  I also thought Shead had a solid all-around game as well.

But, what does it matter?  Earl collided with Kam, resulting in Earl breaking his leg.  It means he’s out for the year, which is just fucking great.  Steven Terrell came in and played all right in his place, though the Panthers were able to complete that 55-yard bomb to Ginn on the first play after Earl left the game, which is pretty ominous.

The Seahawks are 8-3-1, for now owners of the NFC’s #2 seed, with Dallas firmly entrenched at the top with an 11-1 record, and Detroit on our heels at 8-4.  Catching Dallas is a non-starter, but holding down the fort at #2 is well within our capabilities, particularly when you figure Detroit’s and Atlanta’s schedules the rest of the way are pretty difficult.

The one cool thing about having a tie on your record is you don’t have to obsess over tie-breaker scenarios like most of these other teams.  I can just shut my brain off and let the overall win/loss record do all the work.

I dunno, I’m sad about what’s gone down.  I’m sad about losing Earl.  And, quite frankly, I’m a little terrified that we have to go into Green Bay next Sunday where it’ll probably be snowing and Aaron Rodgers will probably be licking his chops at the thought of looking Steven Terrell off of a receiver running deep down the middle.

I’m also deeply concerned about this team’s depth.  No one wants Steven Terrell in there starting over Earl, but you REALLY don’t want to see who’s 3rd or 4th in line if Terrell goes down!  Particularly when you figure Kam Chancellor is pretty injury-prone in his own right.

Best not to think about that.  Better to wonder what the fuck Dallas did to deserve such amazing luck with injuries in their own right.  Hell, the one guy who DID get injured – Tony Romo – only opened the door for their next franchise quarterback to lead them to the best record in all of football!  FUCK ME GOD JUST KILL ME NOW I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD!!!

The 2016 Washington Huskies Are In The Playoffs!

I couldn’t sleep Saturday night.  Literally, tossing and turning, all night, my mind abuzz with the possibilities that would come Sunday morning.  Not since I was a child grappling with a Christmas Eve night have I suffered such anticipation for what might happen the next day!  I finally just had to pop a Benadryl to zonk myself out for a few hours.  And, I mean, I was up late!  I watched the whole episode of Saturday Night Live for crying out loud!

Yet, there I was, 8am, wide awake.  Fuck.

Got out of bed and sat with my laptop on and the TV off.  Caught up on the previous evening’s Tweets, checked some e-mails, read the funnies, killed an hour.  9am.  ESPN’s College Football Playoff Selection Show or some damn thing.  Still, I kept the TV off.  I haven’t watched any of those rankings shows on Tuesday nights for the last month, and I wasn’t about to jinx it now.  These are the FINAL rankings!  The deciding rankings.  Stick to Twitter.

Wait a half-hour.

Washington’s in.  Turn on the TV!  Listen to the babies whine and cry about a 2-loss Penn State team.  Whine and cry about a Big 10 champion not making the playoffs even though it’s the best conference in college football this year.  Blah blah blah.

Within minutes, I’m back on my computer.  I’m in a text chat with my friends.  I’m confirming a Peach Bowl ticket with someone.  I’m looking for hotels near the Georgia Dome.  I’m on another site looking for plane tickets.  I’m going to Atlanta to watch the Huskies play the number one team in the nation in the College Football Playoffs!  It’s my first-ever bowl game, so I decided to make it count.  It’s a FUCKING arm and a leg, but you only live once, and with me, you gotta figure I’m on borrowed time!

I’m thinking about the sights I want to see.  I’ll be flying in Thursday, December 29th; I’ll have the entire Friday to be a tourist.  Coca-Cola Museum.  Sweetwater Brewery Tour.  College Football Hall Of Fame.  The aquarium, the zoo, CNN, MLK’s boyhood home, the Natural History Museum.  Centennial Olympic Park.  So much to do, so little time.

I know I’m terribly biased about the whole thing, but I honestly think the committee got it right.  I probably would’ve kept Ohio State at #2, with Clemson at #3, but that’s a nothing little detail.  Maybe the better team should be choosing before the coin toss anyway.

But, seriously though, you couldn’t put a 2-loss Penn State team in there over a 1-loss Washington team.  Obviously, had UW gotten screwed, I’d be much more passionate about this issue, but let’s be real here.  Penn State lost to a 4-loss Pitt team, and got absolutely destroyed by Michigan.  All they did all damn year was luck into a win over Ohio State and storm back against an overrated Wisconsin team.  Washington had a bad loss against USC, but it wasn’t the absolute drubbing Michigan put on Penn State.  And we throttled Colorado (legitimate top 10 team), Stanford, and Wazzu (on the road in the Apple Cup), as well as beat a ranked Utah team on the road.  You can rail against Washington’s non-conference schedule all you want, but going 3-0 against three scrubs is NOT the reason why we made the playoffs.  We were consistently the better of the two teams all year long, in just about every stat you can come up with.

If it were up to me, I probably would’ve had Michigan ranked ahead of Penn State, but I guess you’ve gotta throw them a bone somewhere.  Now watch them get destroyed by USC in the Rose Bowl.

So, that leaves the Huskies playing Alabama.  I plan on writing about the game another time, but I’ll say again what I’ve been saying repeatedly over the weekend:  I’d rather play Alabama in the semifinals – when I’ve got a month to prepare for them – than have to play them in the Championship Game when I’ve got a little over a week (and really, much less than that, considering all the media hoopla that comes with the National Championship Game).  Of course, the flipside of that is Alabama has a month to prepare for us, but who knows?  Maybe they overlook us.  Maybe they come out over-confident because we’re just this nothing team from this nothing conference way out on the West Coast.

We’ll see.  I’ll try to do some digging and see if the numbers indicate any potential weakness.  In the meantime, here’s some interesting reading from The Ringer.

The 2016 Washington Huskies Are Pac-12 Champions!!!

Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d ever see this day come.  Part of that is from being a heavy drinker and liking to run around in traffic, but most of that is just looking at how far the program had fallen, and the landscape in college football.

Washington’s not a power school.  We like to think it is, as we look back at the good ol’ days of Don James and whatnot, but we’re not Alabama.  We’re not Ohio State or USC or Texas.  Ours is not a destination school; we’re not going to draw coaches like Urban Meyer or Nick Saban.  We can pull from smaller schools, or we can elevate up-and-coming coordinators to their first head coaching gigs, but ours is just a stepping stone school.  Come here, turn the program around, get a better job somewhere else, as Sark did.  Or, come here, make the program worse, and never coach in college football ever again, as Tyrone Willingham did.  Oh sure, you might get lucky and have everything click for a season, but that’s when you strike!  When the iron’s hot!  You parlay that to your dream job where you can compete for national championships every year, as opposed to once in a blue moon!

I would try to console myself from this line of thinking, by pointing to Oregon.  They rose from the ashes of nothingness to be a perennial college football powerhouse!  That’s true, but they also had a head coach with a gimmick system that it took the rest of college football too long to adjust to.  And a benefactor in Phil Knight who doesn’t mind pouring all of his riches into the school.  What are we talking about here, a one in a million confluence of wealth and genius?  Unlikely to be in the cards for a school like Washington.

And yet, here we are.  In Chris Petersen’s third year since coming over from Boise State.  He doesn’t strike me as a guy who would cut and run for a bigger job at a bigger school (but, then again, I suppose Boise State fans thought the same way).  In Washington, he’ll be able to earn the same as anywhere else; he’ll be the highest-paid coach in the conference at a minimum.  And, it’s so early in his run, he can really build a dominant program over the next decade and really bolster his resume!  He’s done it without a billionaire putting his name on the stadium and paying for recruits (allegedly).  He’s done it without a gimmicky offense that – oh by the way – won’t help you one bit in raising your NFL draft stock, because they’d rather go with guys who’ve run a pro-style offense.  I mean, this is as old school as it gets!  Solid recruiting on a foundation of recent success, building your team up in all areas, and then going out there and beating the snot out of everyone you play.  This is how Alabama stays so good every year!

WE’RE PAC-12 CHAMPS!!!

I just can’t say enough how cool that is.  Started from the bottom in 2008; now we’re here in 2016.  I couldn’t be more proud and more happy that I was so wrong about all of that I wrote above.

Last night, we beat Colorado 41-10, in spite of the fact that Jake Browning had a God-awful game.  Nevertheless, we were able to run the ball at will, gobbling up 265 yards on the ground, including 100-yard games for both Gaskin and Coleman.  Sheer domination up front, with some smart, powerful running by those two backs.

John Ross had one of the most impressive TD catches I’ve ever seen.  Browning was about to be sacked, trying to throw the ball away, and Ross ended up jumping as high as he could, snagging it with one hand, breaking a tackle, and scampering for 19 yards to paydirt.  Darrell Daniels had the other receiving TD on a nifty little catch inside the 10 yard line, breaking a bunch of tackles on the way to the endzone.

Game MVP Taylor Rapp had two interceptions right after halftime, one returned to the house.  The rest of our secondary played to their usual brilliance as we held Colorado’s QBs to a combined 81 yards passing.  Our guys up front were just as good, as we held their ground game to 82 yards and a 2.9 yards per carry average.  Just a totally dominating performance from a world-class defense.

The Huskies are 12-1, 12-game winners for the first time since our national championship in 1991.  I just want to sit here and bask in this for a while, as we only have until tomorrow morning at 9am before we know our fate.  Playoffs or Rose Bowl.  The Huskies are back!

The Seahawks Will Have Real Problems If They Don’t Beat The Panthers This Weekend

I was pretty, I dunno, laid back I guess, in my analysis of last week’s game.  While we’re all used to the Seahawks going on these terrific runs to close out their seasons under Pete Carroll (particularly with Russell Wilson behind center), it seems like every year they have at least one slip up.  A game they lose in November or December – en route to a solid playoff run – that they really should’ve won, but for whatever reason didn’t.

Last year, we lost at home to the Rams.  The year before, it was a road game in Kansas City.  The year before that, it was that crazy home loss to the Cards where Carson Palmer threw four picks and still managed to lead them to a late win.  The year before that, in Wilson’s rookie season, it was that loss in Miami against a pretty mediocre Dolphins team.

So, again, I wouldn’t take too much stock in their loss to Tampa last week.  On the road, across the country, a foe we don’t play very much, with injuries on both sides of the ball.

However, if we lose THIS week … we’ve got issues.

This week, we’re at home, on Sunday Night Football, against a team we’re VERY familiar with, who has had to fly across the country and stay out in San Jose for the week instead of going back and forth twice in two weeks.  And, whereas the Seahawks are getting their guys back – Bennett, Earl, Shead, and Britt have all practiced this week, so as long as they hold up through Saturday, they should play – the Panthers are the ones dealing with major injuries on both sides of the ball.  They’ve lost multiple O-linemen for the year, Luke Kuechly is dealing with another pretty severe concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin has been limited (though he figures to give it a go with a bum shoulder).  The Panthers are also, not for nothing, mired in a post-Super Bowl hangover season where they find themselves 4-7 and in last place in their division.

Make no mistake, as long as they’ve got Cam Newton, they’re more than capable of going on a run to close out the season, but it just feels like this team is dealing with more than simple injury woes.  There’s a fundamental flaw with this team that’s going to keep them out of the playoffs.  MAYBE it’s simply the loss of Josh Norman!  They are giving up 275 yards per game through the air, compared to 234 last year.  I mean, that’s pretty steep.  I know if I were a Panthers fan, I’d be ripping their GM on a weekly basis.

Here’s the thing, though:  being familiar with a team – because you play them so much – isn’t necessarily a good thing.  With all things being equal, it usually leads to a game being relatively close and exciting.  But, if they terrorize our offensive line like they’ve been known to do in recent years, we could be in for another LONG day.

We’ll see how it goes.  I tend to believe the Seahawks – by getting everyone back healthy – will go out and crush the Panthers this weekend.  If we don’t, though, then you have to wonder what that means for the rest of our season.

Next week, we go to Green Bay, another team we’re VERY familiar with, and another supposedly great team having a bad season.  If we can’t beat the Panthers this weekend, what hope do we have of beating the Packers next weekend?  Then, we’re home for the Rams and Cardinals.  I don’t need to tell you about the Rams; and as for the Cards, they’d be the third team in four weeks who went to the playoffs last year and appear to be dead this year.

I mean, this is SUPPOSED to be among the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL!  And yet, every team (except the 49ers in Week 17) terrifies the living dickens out of me!

Except, not really.  I’m of the belief that the Seahawks should win out, because they’re clearly the most talented of the remaining teams on their schedule.  What I’m REALLY afraid of is the Seahawks themselves.  More often than not, if the Seahawks lose, it’s because they beat themselves.  Too many penalties, too many sacks and QB pressures allowed, getting too cute with roster construction (particularly along the O-Line), getting too cute with the play-calling, holding onto the ball too long, taking too long to settle down on defense (or, conversely, giving up too many big plays late), not getting off the field on third downs on defense, not converting third downs on offense.  These are all things that are within OUR control, and when we lose games, it’s because there’s a major breakdown in one or more of these areas.

The Seahawks just need to go out, play Seahawks football, stop losing so many key players to injury, and get the fucking job done.  Cat feesh?

Mariners Traded Alex Jackson For Two Starting Pitchers

I haven’t written about every single transaction the Mariners have made this offseason, because that would be crazy (there’ve been so many!).  If it’s just a move for depth, particularly in the minor leagues, I tend to not bother.  These sorts of players might get flipped again before they officially put on a Mariners uniform; if not, they’ll get a shot in Spring Training before likely spending the bulk of their seasons in Tacoma, only to be called up as injury replacements.  Or ineffectiveness replacements.  You get the idea.

For instance, the Mariners brought in lefty reliever James Pazos from the Yankees for some prospect.  Will he make an impact with the big club?  Who knows?

Then, you’ve got the two utility players we got from Tampa:  Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer; are these guys going to make a difference?  I have no clue.

But, this trade here with Atlanta, this one might have legs.  Alex Jackson was the final first round draft pick of the Jackie Z era.  He’s yet to climb out of A-ball and looks to be yet another in a long line of duds the Mariners have drafted in the first round since Adam Jones back in 2003 (pending the careers of Taijuan Walker and Mike Zunino, but come on).  The only other first rounder we have left from the Jackie Z era is D.J. Peterson, who’s probably as good as gone later this offseason, if the right deal comes along.

Alex Jackson might eventually pan out, but I’ll just go ahead and say I have my doubts.  He was going to start this year in A-ball yet again, which means if he didn’t make significant strides this year, his value likely would have plummeted.  In which case, we’re talking about selling a guy at the peak of his value.  And, by all accounts, the Mariners were able to snag quite a haul.

Rob Whalen is a guy who’s most ready to compete for a starting spot in 2017’s rotation.  He doesn’t have much Major League experience, just getting a cup of coffee in 2016, but he has extensive experience in the upper minors, and has good numbers to boot.  He’s certainly nobody who deserves a guaranteed spot on the Major League roster, but he’s solid depth we can stash in Tacoma to start the season.  And, who knows, if he blows up in Spring Training, then all the better.

Max Povse is the other pitcher we got in the deal, and he’s the one everyone’s raving about.  He cracked AA last year, but he has a high ceiling with his awesome fastball.  He becomes one of the top pitching prospects in our entire system, which sounds awesome, but is probably a testament to how shitty our farm is right now.  He’ll likely start in AA again this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Tacoma by the time we reach the summer months.

It’s a nice little deal, but this doesn’t change anything when it comes to finding a replacement for Taijuan Walker.  This just sets us up to be better in the event of injuries, and allows us to come from a spot that’s a little less desperate on the pitching side of things.  Obviously, the off-season is still young, and we’ve got a long way to go before this roster is finalized.

Huskies Are In Top 4 With 1 Week To Go

It’s Alabama #1, Ohio State #2, Clemson #3, and Washington #4; with Michigan #5, Wisconsin #6, Penn State #7, and Colorado #8.

Those are the teams we’re tangling with as we get ready for the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday against Colorado.  As always, first thing’s first:  Washington needs to win.

From there, things get pretty simple.  Alabama is the only undefeated team in that clump; most people believe they’ll still be ranked #1 even if they lose to 15th-ranked Florida on Saturday.  Regardless, consider Bama a lock.

Ohio State has concluded its regular season schedule.  By virtue of them beating Michigan last week, and Penn State beating Michigan State (just like in the presidential election, the state of Michigan continues to fuck over the entire country), and by virtue of Penn State having previously beaten Ohio State, it’s the Nittany Lions who advance to the Big 10 championship game against Wisconsin.  More on them in a bit.

Clemson easily secured their spot in the ACC championship game and will play 23rd-ranked Virginia Tech on Saturday.  They’re an interesting case, and I’ll get to them in a bit as well.

Michigan, by virtue of losing to Ohio State, finished their season with 2 losses in conference, and are thus on the outside looking in regarding the Big 10 championship game.  Had they won, they would’ve had the tie-breaker over Penn State, and all would be right with the world.  As it stands now, they’re 5th, ahead of both Wisconsin and Penn State; that feels huge to me.  Part of me expected them to fall behind one or both of those teams; this gives me a little more hope that the Big 10 champion might be iced out of the playoffs if Washington and Clemson win this weekend.

Sticking with Michigan for a bit, let’s not forget they beat both Penn State and Wisconsin.  They also handled Colorado (another Top 10 team at the moment) and gave Ohio State all they could handle (really, Michigan should’ve won that game, but their quarterback’s two interceptions – leading directly to two touchdowns – sealed their fate).  If we’re going to have Michigan outside of the playoffs, can you really put Wisconsin or Penn State ahead of them, even though one of those teams will technically be conference champs?

Wisconsin doesn’t impress me at all.  They have a win over 21st-ranked LSU (who is ONLY ranked – while having 4 losses – because they’re in the SEC and everyone sucks the SEC’s dick on the reg), and a win over now-unranked Nebraska (who fell out of the Top 25 thanks to their loss to 4-loss Iowa over the weekend).  The Badgers lost to both Michigan and Ohio State, so a piddling win over Penn State should hardly impress the committee enough to put them ahead of Michigan, let alone Washington.

On the flipside, Wisconsin has steadily, all along, been ranked higher than they should’ve, and higher than Penn State (even though the Nittany Lions are the only team to have beaten the Buckeyes).  There’s something about this Wisconsin team the committee likes, but when push comes to shove, I don’t think there’s enough there.

As for Penn State, they have a couple of piddling non-conference wins against Temple and Kent State, as well as a non-conference loss to Pitt.  In conference, they lost to Michigan, but aside from their home victory over Ohio State, they haven’t beaten anyone CLOSE to being ranked!  Shit, they didn’t even play Nebraska this year, who had been ranked the whole way until this week.

Granted, their victory over Ohio State trumps ANY victory on our schedule, but let’s be real here!  We have wins over two teams in the Top 20 right now, and with a win over Colorado, there’s a Top 10 win, with our only loss to a surging USC team that might be playing the best football of anyone outside of Alabama right now (yes, including Ohio State).  Penn State is probably the only team that can muddy the waters a little bit.

I’m firmly in the camp that Ohio State has done enough to deserve a Top 4 spot.  They have wins over Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin and a big one over Nebraska that looked a lot better a week ago, with their only loss on the road to Penn State in a nailbiter.  So, there go two spots right off the bat when you toss in Bama.

Assuming Clemson, Washington, and Penn State all win, I think that puts Penn State over Michigan simply due to the tiebreaker of having the conference championship.  Penn State beat Ohio State, who beat Michigan, who beat Penn State.  That triad of games cancels one another out, with the resumes as they are, I think you gotta go tie-breaker on that one.  So, we’ve got three teams, three conference champions, and only two spots to put them in.  Who gets left out?

I’d like to point out that everyone and their mothers believe a 1-loss Washington team trumps a 2-loss Penn State team, but everyone and their mothers aren’t on the playoff committee.  Let’s, again, really quickly, compare UW to PSU:

  • UW – Beat Colorado, Stanford, & Utah; loss to USC
  • PSU – Beat Ohio State & Wisconsin; loss to Michigan & Pitt

Penn State has had a marginally tougher schedule, and will have won the consensus “Best Conference In 2016”.  They will also have the chip of having beaten a team in the Buckeyes who are already in the playoffs.  Can you leave that team out, in place of a team from the Pacific Northwest, in a conference that’s allegedly having a down year, with that eyesore of a non-conference schedule?

Let’s leave that floating out in space for a minute.  I told you I was going to come back to Clemson.  They’ve been consistently rated ahead of us all year, they’re coming off of a season where they played in the National Championship Game and gave Alabama all they could handle, and they’re at least as good as they were last year in spite of losing a bunch of guys to the NFL.  In other words, they have something we don’t:  a recent track record of success.  Is a rematch of Clemson and Alabama in the National Championship Game something people would be interested in?  I have no idea, but I’m guessing probably YES.  My question is:  do they deserve to be ranked ahead of Washington?

For starters, in the ACC, they only play 8 conference games.  At the moment, the ACC is getting a lot of love from the committee, by having five teams ranked, including a 4-loss Pitt team (who has somehow beaten both Clemson and Penn State, but lost to the likes of VA Tech, North Carolina, and Miami).  Clemson has notable wins over 12th-ranked Florida State, 13th-ranked Louisville, and 14th-ranked Auburn, while their only loss is against that aforementioned Pitt team.  However, their championship game loses a lot of luster when you figure Virgina Tech is only ranked 23rd.

Again, Washington has those two Top 20 wins, and their only loss is to 11th-ranked USC (as opposed to Clemson’s loss to 25th-ranked Pitt).  Our loss is only going to look better as USC gets into the Top 10 after this week, as you figure one or more teams currently in the Top 10 will likely fall out.  Maybe that team that falls out will be Colorado if we beat them badly enough; but I can’t see Colorado falling any farther than 11th, which is still a better victory than anything Clemson has put up.  Virginia Tech likely won’t even BE ranked after this week when they lose to the Tigers!

So, that’s 3 ranked teams beaten per school, with the Huskies having both the more impressive win and the more impressive defeat.  Clemson might still have us on strength of schedule, but they only play 8 conference games to our 9; and their conference is 2 teams bigger, which just means the bottom of their league is MUCH worse than the bottom of ours.

I dunno.  When it’s all said and done, I dunno.  This Sunday at 9am it will be announced.  I have a hard time wrapping my brain around a Penn State team climbing three spots in the playoff rankings just because they lucked into a victory over Ohio State, and lucked even more into a championship game appearance against Wisconsin.  But, in all my days, I’ve come to expect the worst out of people.

I’m trying to see if there’s any solace in looking at prior seasons.  Last year, Clemson and Bama were ranked 1 & 2 going into their conference championship games and both teams took care of business.  Oklahoma was 3rd going into the final week, but the Big 12 doesn’t have a championship game (they will again, starting in 2017), so they were idle.  Iowa and Michigan State were 4 & 5 and playing one another in the Big 10 title game; Michigan State would go on to win.  Ohio State, for what it’s worth, had 1 loss but was ranked 6th going into the final week; they ended up getting jumped by Stanford, who won the Pac-12 title, but neither team could crack the top 4.  The Spartans ended up jumping over Oklahoma, who managed to keep their spot in the playoffs in spite of being idle.

In 2014, Bama and Oregon were ranked 1 & 2 going into their conference championship games and both teams took care of business.  TCU was ranked 3rd, but again they’re a Big 12 team without a conference title game; they whupped up on Iowa State in their final game, but would nevertheless fall to 6th in the final playoff rankings.  They were passed by Florida State and Ohio State, who both had more impressive conference championship wins; as well as Baylor, who were co-Big 12 champs with TCU, but still beat a more formidable opponent in their final game.

On the one hand, there’s some relief in knowing that having a huge matchup in your last game wins you some brownie points.  On the other hand, TCU’s schedule in 2014 was pretty shitty.  Aside from Baylor, Kansas State was the only other ranked team in the Big 12 (including neither of the Oklahoma teams, nor Texas).  As such, TCU’s only significant win was over K-State.  So, they got bitten pretty hard by the lax schedule and the down conference.

Fortunately for Washington, USC and Stanford turned their seasons around in the second half.  Those are two established programs who are currently in the Top 20.  Yes, Oregon laid an egg this year, and UCLA was probably the conference’s biggest disappointment, but with wins over Colorado and Utah, I would HOPE that’s enough.

Anyway, I’m rambling.  It’s in our hands in one sense – beat Colorado and we SHOULD be in – but it’s out of our hands in the biggest sense – a committee of fallible human beings with biases and potential grudges ultimately have final say.  Pretty fucked, but I still think I’d rather have the smallish committee over a nation of media types with their flagrant east coast bias, or coaches who don’t know their heads from their asses.

We’ll see if I’m singing a different tune come Monday.

The Seahawks Regressed, Lost To The Bucs

I’m having a hard time giving a shit about the Seahawks losing to Tampa, if I’m being honest.  Have you heard about this local university football team that’s been kicking ass and taking names this season?  I’m on too much of a high (or, at the very least, an upside down rollercoaster), and it’s overwhelming my feelings about the Seahawks right now.

I want to say I saw this coming, but that’d be a lie; I picked the Seahawks to win in my local pick ’em pool and suffered accordingly.  But, let’s just say the outcome doesn’t necessarily shock me.

Earl Thomas was out, DeShawn Shead was out, Michael Bennett was STILL out, and, fuck, who knows?  Maybe more important than all of those guys was the fact that Justin Britt was out.  From the looks of things, it didn’t feel like Joey Hunt did a terrible job – though, I did see him get turned around on some stunts and whatnot – but this was just a total breakdown from every offensive line position.  Hell, Garry Gilliam was pulled in favor of Bradley Sowell, for Christ’s sake!  But, he wasn’t the only one fucking up, leading to pressure on over 60% of our passes.  Ifedi looked like he took a step back, Glowinski was getting burned on the reg, and Fant looked exactly like an undrafted rookie should look in protecting Wilson’s blindside.  Considering all the progress the Seahawks had made to this point in the season, one has to wonder if Britt not being there really threw this line for a loop.  He calls out all the protections and whatnot, and by simply losing the continuity the line had shared in recent weeks, maybe that was the catalyst to the Bucs’ front four absolutely destroying us.

Either way, it led to Wilson being held to 151 yards passing with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.  He was able to salvage something in the run game for the first time all year, thanks to 80 yards on 8 carries (and he could’ve had A LOT more on some zone reads he ended up handing off when he should’ve pulled it).  Nevertheless, you’re never going to do well when you’re giving up 6 sacks and however many pressures.

Make no mistake, though, Wilson was off.  He was off-target on most of his deep throws; pressure in his face or no, he’s usually better able to drop those balls into the arms of his receivers.  I don’t know if it was tentativeness from expecting the pressure to get to him every snap, but it also looked like the receivers were having a hard time getting open.  I think maybe Darrell Bevell tried to stick to the down-field passing game too much, when we maybe should’ve gone back to the quick passes earlier.

And, if I never see the fucking fullback dive on 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1, it’ll be too fucking soon BEVELL!

But, I mean, what can you do?  I can’t put it all on any one person, because this is the team we’ve constructed.  It’s bound to be better once we get totally healthy (IF we get totally healthy), but the O-Line is probably going to struggle more often than not against really good front fours.

Did we underrate Tampa’s pass rush?  Probably a little bit.  It’s also probably a totally different football game if it’s played in Seattle, not for nothing.

Anyway, I’m not too worried about this one.  Sure, it sucked, and watching a Seahawks game when the offense is totally incapable of moving the football is worse than being strapped into a chair with your eyes forced open, facing a 48-hour Big Bang Theory marathon, but nothing has changed from where we were last week.  The Seahawks still hold the 2-seed (and, after the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving, you had to know it was going to be HIGHLY improbable for the Seahawks to pick up two games on Dallas in the last 5 weeks, so the 1-seed was never likely going to happen anyway), with a half-game lead over Detroit and Atlanta.  Detroit has three of its last five on the road, and has to face the Giants, Cowboys, Packers and Saints the rest of the way.  Atlanta, you figure, has it a little better (which is why I was rooting for Arizona to beat them this weekend), only having to face the Chiefs and Saints (both at home) and the Panthers on the road for their tough games.

As for the division, thanks to everyone else being terrible and all losing this weekend, we still have a 3-game lead over the Cards with five weeks to go.  The way Palmer & Co. are playing, go ahead and salt the division away right now.

So, nothing is fucked here!  We’re home for 3 of 5, we get the plummeting Panthers this weekend on Sunday Night Football, and all should be right with the world!

Huskies Dominate In Apple Cup, Win Pac-12 North

I’m going to save my insanity about the College Football Playoffs until after they announce the updated rankings.  In the meantime, let’s just enjoy this, huh?  The Huskies are BACK, baby!

What an incredible feeling.  I know it’s not over yet, and we’ve got one more major hurdle before we win the conference title, but for all intents and purposes we’re at least co-champions in the regular season, which is a far cry from where we were just 8 years ago.

That 2008 season, where the Huskies went 0-9 in conference (including losing the worst Apple Cup I’ve ever seen in my life) and 0-12 overall, was a big part of the reason for this blog even existing.  Then, we brought Sark in, he got us going on the right track, and we built upon that tenfold with Coach Pete.  It’s been quite the journey, but now here we are, hopefully around for an extended run of greatness.

Of course, if we lose to Colorado on Friday, we’ll probably get saddled with an inferior opponent in the Alamo Bowl, leaving nothing but regret in our wake, so let’s try real hard to win this conference championship!

The Cuogs, last Friday, posed no challenge.  We jumped out to a 28-3 lead after one quarter, and from that point, it was just one long game of keep-away en route to a 45-17 victory.  Browning got back on track, completing 21/29 for 292 yards and 3 TDs (vs. 0 picks).  Lavon Coleman was the rushing star, even though he only ran for 82 yards on 10 carries, he was able to plunge a couple across the goalline.  Gaskin had 50 yards and a TD of his own.  Dante Pettis caught 3 balls for 86 yards and 2 TDs, and John Ross chipped in 8 catches for 80 yards, a TD, and 37 yards rushing on 2 carries.  Don’t forget Chico McClatcher’s 6 catches for 80 yards.  And, big ups to Pettis for completing another pass for 50 yards on a trick play (the fact that we went to that well a second time, and it didn’t work, sure drew the ire of the announcers for some reason; as if there can be TOO MANY trick plays in a football game!).

On the flipside, we held Luke Falk to 269 yards and 1 TD against 3 INTs.  As a team, they ran for 65 yards.  Budda Baker had another outstanding game (including 2 tackles for loss and a pick); D.J. Beavers had a monster game in his own right with a pick of his own, as well as a fumble recovery.  We weren’t able to get a ton of pressure – only 2 sacks on the day – but we were sound in every other aspect of the game.  When you’re up 25 after one quarter, it’s not like you need to send blitzes every other down.

As noted above, we play Colorado this Friday in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship.  The Buffaloes also went 8-1 in conference, with their only loss coming to USC during their resurgence, so consider both of us pretty lucky we don’t have to face the Trojans again this year.  Colorado’s other loss came in their non-conference schedule, when they went to Michigan and got pounded.  The Buffaloes run and pass the ball pretty well, but they might actually be better on defense than they are on offense.

This will be a game of the two best secondaries in the conference, and among the two best secondaries in all of college football.  Overall, though, I don’t think we’re talking about a defense that’s anywhere near as good as what USC is packing, so it would be a bit of a surprise if we weren’t able to move the ball on them.  The question here is:  will the big play be available to us?  I’d like to go back and see how many of our scoring drives featured a play of at least 35 yards, because I have a feeling the percentage is pretty high compared to the national average.  Fortunately, Browning is one of the more accurate passers, so if we have to play the dink & dunk game, we can do that.  He did just pull himself out of a 2-week funk though, so let’s hope he comes out on fire like he did against Wazzu.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you what’s on the line if we win this game.  Rose Bowl at the VERY worst.  You might not be able to tell just from reading this post, but I’m trying to pump myself up and not be disappointed if the Huskies are iced out of the College Football Playoffs.  The Rose Bowl is a helluva consolation prize!  And, if I can swing it, I plan on going there to see it all in person.

But, that doesn’t mean we can’t hope for more.  Let’s go Dawgs.  One more win and then let the chips fall where they may.

Mariners Traded Walker & Marte For Segura, Haniger, & Curtis

In a Thanksgiving Eve shocker, the Mariners and Diamondbacks made a 5-player deal.  The Mariners essentially gave up on Taijuan Walker ever being an ace starting pitcher because they felt they couldn’t wait for Ketel Marte to finally develop into an everyday, starting short stop.

Walker was drafted in 2010, had a couple cups of coffee with the Mariners in 2013 & 2014, then got a rotation job in 2015.  For the last two seasons, he’s flashed brilliance, but more than anything has wallowed in inconsistency.  There’d be games where he’d overwhelm the opponent, followed by games where he struggled to get to three innings.  When he was coming up through the organization, in large part he was overshadowed by other starting prospects like Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, but Walker always had the highest ceiling.  With his make-up, his fastball, and his devastating change up, many had him pegged to be the heir apparent to Felix Hernandez.  In many people’s eyes, he was as untouchable as Felix Hernandez himself, which is why this trade was difficult for a lot of people to stomach.

You can’t help but remember the prospect, and how highly he was rated within this organization and among the best in all of Major League Baseball.  Walker was always talked about in terms of the king’s ransom he could get for us, but we always opted to keep him because he was more valuable than anything we could get back for him.

Well, here he is, 26 years old (he’ll be 27 next August), after two years in the Majors, and it turns out he’s worth … this.

Part of me thinks we’re giving up too early on the kid, but at some point you have to ask:  how long should we wait for him to make the jump?  The main problem with this team the last couple years, as we brought in Cano and Cruz, and as Seager proved himself to be one of the best third basemen in all of baseball, is that for a team THIS CLOSE to reaching the playoffs, we were trying to have it both ways.  We were a veteran team, but we were also trying to break in a bunch of young players.  We over-spent on some veterans, and so we were trying to cut corners at some pretty high-profile positions to get by.  When you’ve got so much of a core that’s ready and capable of making a deep playoff run, you can’t be waiting around for all these young guys to take it to the next level.

Taijuan Walker might very well develop into an Ace of sorts.  It’s been alluded to that a lot of his issues are related to maturity and/or confidence and/or work ethic.  That’s aside from the obvious issues with his mechanics breaking down, and his frequent injuries (that probably helped in throwing off his mechanics in the first place).  I mean, you don’t just send down your third or fourth best starting pitcher to Tacoma – in the middle of a Wild Card chase – unless the kid has some real issues to work out.  If it is by and large related to maturity, then obviously in a few years he should be ready to truly break out.  Or, maybe it’s this trade to Arizona – with his first ballclub essentially giving up on him – that’s the wake-up call for him to finally bloom.  Maybe, if we’d kept him forever, he’d never take stock of his career and make the changes necessary to be great.  We’ll never know.

It’s also highly likely that he’s already reached his ceiling, and 2015/2016 is as good as it gets for him.  That he’ll be some variation of what he’s been for the next 5-10 years and then call it a career.  I tend to believe, with the switch to the National League, that should be good for a moderate boost to his numbers.  They have the fucking pitchers batting and everything; that’s a free out 9 times out of 10.  But, I’m more inclined to believe that Walker might top out as a #3 type pitcher, but not really a dominant Cy Young contender.

In which case, I think we’re selling on him about as high as we could’ve hoped.  If you’re like me, and you don’t believe he was primed for a huge improvement in 2017 – if you think he pretty much would be this up-and-down guy we’ve seen the last two years – then the longer we would’ve kept him, the lower his value would’ve gotten.

Quite frankly, getting a starting short stop, who’s a whiz with the bat at the top of our lineup, for even an improved version of Taijuan Walker, is well worth the swap.

That’s because there was no way in hell Ketel Marte was ever going to make the leap, ESPECIALLY not in 2017.  Let’s face it, the Mariners are in Win-Now mode.  Cano is still great, but he’s getting up there.  Cruz has probably peaked, so the question now his how fast will his decline torpedo his career?  King Felix was decidedly off his game in 2016, so who knows that that means going forward?  The Mariners might just have this one shot in 2017 to get to the playoffs and see what happens.  Come 2018, everything might fall apart.

So, enter Jean Segura.  He was one of the best players in all of baseball last year, and we get him for a couple of prospects.  Even if he doesn’t quite reach his lofty peak of 2016 – which, not for nothing, I wouldn’t expect him to – he’s still bound to be better and more consistent than Ketel Marte.  He hits well, gets on base, steals bases, and has some pop in his bat.  And, you gotta figure he won’t be so prone to the bone-headed fielding mistakes, which gives me peace of mind already!

If Walker and Segura are the main components of this deal, Marte and Mitch Haniger pose as the high-level prospects of the deal.  Marte definitely has all the tools, but like Walker, I think he needs a few more years’ worth of maturity to take his game to the next level.  One would hope Haniger doesn’t have that problem, but he’s also not necessarily someone we’re counting on.  I’m told he’s a good defensive outfielder, who gives us depth in case Leonys Martin gets injured.  He’ll be thrown onto the pile with Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia and Shawn O’Malley and whoever else in this team’s outfield battle.

Speaking of, you figure Martin is a lock for center, so that’s nice to not have to worry about.  Seth Smith is locked into at least a platoon job in one of the corner outfield spots (likely left field); Danny Valencia has experience playing outfield and should find himself there when he’s not covering first base.  I still sort of expect Guti to come back and maybe take over the other half of the Seth Smith platoon, as well as probably another cheap veteran signing to compete for a spot.  Otherwise, in effect, we traded one inexperienced spot (short stop) for another (right field).

But, at the very least, we’ll be athletic.  With all the studs in our infield, we can really maximize our defense in the outfield.  I just hope that one or two of these younger outfielders can show SOMETHING in Spring Training.

The final piece of the deal is lefty reliever Zac Curtis.  It’s pretty blatant how hard the Mariners have gone after trying to bolster their bullpen from the left side.  Consider Curtis another arm on the pile.  He’ll get a shot in Spring Training, but in all likelihood he’ll need to go to Tacoma to start out.  It’s depth, which is nice, but he’s really just a throw-in guy.  The Mariners gave up a lot of potential upside in this deal, so you figure getting one bona fide regular, one upside guy back in Haniger, plus a reliever, is a pretty good return value.

This sets us up for a nice little lineup, that could look something like this:

  1. Jean Segura – SS
  2. Seth Smith – LF
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz – DH
  5. Kyle Seager – 3B
  6. Danny Valencia – 1B
  7. Zunino/Ruiz – C
  8. Leonys Martin – CF
  9. Right Fielder

From top to bottom, that’s not bad.  The first six guys in the lineup are proven veterans; the catcher position is both veteran with some pop; Leonys Martin had a great first year for the Mariners and if he continues to give us that, we’d all be ecstatic; and you figure the right fielder will at least have some speed and some on-base ability, so if nothing else he’ll help give the top of our order someone to hit in on occasion.

Of course, on the flipside, the pitching staff is very much in flux.  I won’t try to cobble together a predicted bullpen – as everything is still WAY too fluid right now – but you figure Edwin Diaz and most likely Steve Cishek will feature pretty prominently.  It’s the rotation that’s currently the cause of most concern though.

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. James Paxton
  4. Ariel Miranda

That 4-hole was vacated by Walker in this deal, so who fills it?  For what it’s worth, I think this bolsters Miranda’s chances of making the Opening Day roster, so long as he doesn’t completely fall apart in Spring Training.  Even so, he’s no more than a 5th starter right now, and we’ll likely be looking for a right hander to fill that gap between Paxton and Miranda.

There’s obviously Nathan Karns, but he ended the 2016 season in a bad way with injuries, and I still have yet to hear about whether he’s recovering and whether he’ll be ready for Spring Training or not.  Beyond that, the cupboard would appear pretty bare.  Dipoto is already on record as stating that starting pitching is his next target, likely via free agency to start.  But, I wouldn’t expect a huge splash in this arena.  Figure some sort of mid-range deal, maybe for a guy looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued or just plain down 2016 season.  And, you figure, a few smaller deals to bolster our starting pitching in Tacoma, as I don’t feel like there’s too much coming up through the system at the moment.

Considering you figure the hitting is going to be improved in 2017, barring injuries, and it was already pretty good (at least, good enough to keep us in contention) in 2016, the 2017 Mariners will only go as far as its pitching can take it.  This was also true in 2016, so what I’ve said to you just now isn’t anything you didn’t already know.  But, you have to think that we’re coming from a stronger starting point than we were last year.

Last year, we weren’t sure Iwakuma could stay healthy for a full season; now we know he can (whether that just means he’s more likely to get injured in year 2 remains to be seen, but that’s neither here nor there).  Last year, Paxton started out the year in Tacoma; this year, you figure he’ll be ready from the jump to build upon an exciting breakout season.  And Miranda showed a lot in a lot of high-pressure situations, while still being coddled a little bit in his innings counts; it’ll be interesting to see how he fares when the reigns are loosened a bit.

Regardless, the Mariners were always going to go out and get a veteran starter to compete in Spring Training (or, at least, force some competition at the bottom of the rotation among Walker, Paxton, and Miranda).  With Walker now gone, this changes nothing.  The Mariners could very well go out and sign TWO guys, leaving them with the option to start Miranda in Tacoma until he’s needed, because as I always like to remind everyone, it’s damn near impossible for the same five guys to make ALL the starts in a single Major League Baseball season.

As always, it’s best to look at all the moves as a collective, when we get to Spring Training.  On its surface, I like the Walker deal mostly because I have my doubts about the pieces we gave away, and I also like shoring up a prime spot like short stop.  But, if this means we’re only able to bring scrubs into our starting rotation, then obviously you have to look at the Walker trade in a different light.

And, like I always say, I don’t want no scrubs!

The Huskies Are 5th, Turn Their Attention To Wazzu As I Turn My Attention To The Big 10

Not surprisingly, with Louisville losing to Houston last week, the Huskies had no one in their way to get to the 5th spot.  And so here we are, the week before the week before.

As always, understand that what I talk about below all hinges upon the Huskies winning on Friday, and then winning again in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  It’s officially down to four teams now in the Pac-12:  the winner of the Apple Cup in the North vs. either Colorado or USC in the South.  Colorado hosts Utah on Saturday; if they win, they’re in.  If they lose, USC is in, because USC has completed their conference schedule (they host Notre Dame this weekend).

As I also predicted, it was more important for Colorado to beat Washington State than the other way around.  Had Wazzu won, they might have jumped into the Top 15, but it would’ve also forced us into a rematch with USC, and right now, I’m all about trying to avoid the Trojans at all costs.  This way, Colorado jumps into the Top 10 (they’re currently 9th, and may get higher if they beat Utah, depending upon how the rest of the Top 10 shakes out this weekend), making a potential showdown between us and them a juicy affair on December 2nd.

Now, obviously, I’m well aware that this could be a Beware What You Wish For situation, as my over-confidence could be devastating if the Buffaloes beat us.  But, I see two teams in Washington and Colorado who have both lost to USC this year, and I can’t help but worry that those Trojans are some sort of juggernaut and we’re just lucky it took them so long to find their quarterback earlier this season.

Anyway, that’s that.  More on the Pac-12 after this weekend.

I’m here to talk about the Big 10, and how it’s VERY possible that we’ll be royally fucked even if we do win out.

Alabama is in the top spot; they play Auburn this weekend, and most certainly they will win that game.  Even if they lose, they’ll still be in the Top 4, and they’ll still get to play Florida in the SEC Championship Game.  The only way Alabama falls out of the Top 4 is if they somehow lose their next two games, but that would be utter chaos and is hardly even worth writing about.  Alabama is going to win the SEC, period.

Clemson is currently in the 4-hole.  They host an okay South Carolina team, are already in the ACC Championship Game, and will go on to play either Virginia Tech (most likely) or North Carolina (less likely).  Clemson only falls out of the Top 4 if they lose one of these games, but I can’t imagine that happening.

That leaves the Big 10, currently hogging the 2-hole and 3-hole (Ohio State & Michigan, respectively).  The Big 10 is also hogging the 6-hole and 7-hole (Wisconsin & Penn State, respectively).  Here’s how crazy the Big 10 is:

Ohio State hosts Michigan this weekend.  If they win, and Penn State beats the hapless Michigan State team, Penn State plays for the Big 10 Championship against either Wisconsin (if they beat Minnesota) or Nebraska (if they beat Iowa and Wisconsin loses).

Now, let’s say all the teams who are SUPPOSED to win actually win.  That means Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all win.  Obviously, that knocks Michigan out of the Top 4.  But, if you think Ohio State is going anywhere, you’re crazy, because they will have only 1 loss, and how are you going to punish a team that’s ranked 2nd in the nation, just because they weren’t involved in their conference’s championship game?

By the same token, if it’s Penn State vs. Wisconsin for the Big 10 title, the winner of that game will only have 2 losses on the year (Penn State lost to Michigan and the sometimes-frisky Pitt; Wisconsin lost to Michigan and Ohio State).  The committee is on record as saying they prefer conference champions over all their other criteria, so how do you keep out a 2-loss conference champ (especially if it’s Penn State, who has a regular season win over Ohio State on their resume)?  Wisconsin has less of a stake in that race, because they lost to Ohio State, but you have to wonder if the committee would choose a 1-loss Pac-12 champ over a 2-loss Big 10 champ?  Really, Wisconsin’s only legitimate win (aside from a hypothetical Big 10 championship win) is over Nebraska, as LSU and Michigan State are both unranked now.

It’s my belief that if Penn State wins the Big 10, the committee will choose both them and Ohio State, meaning it will come down to either Washington or Clemson.  At that point, what do you do?  Clemson would have wins over Louisville, Auburn, and Florida State (currently 11th, 13th, and 14th respectively), but their ACC Championship Game opponent would be pretty weak.  Washington would have wins over either Colorado or USC (currently 9th & 12th, respectively), Utah, Wazzu, and Stanford (22nd, 23rd, & 24th, respectively).  Of course, if both Washington and Colorado win out, Utah and Wazzu would likely fall out of the Top 25 entirely, which would take away at least two of those wins against ranked opponents.

I dunno.  My hunch – if all this came to pass – is that it would be Alabama at 1, Ohio State at 2, Clemson at 3, and Penn State at 4, with Washington at 5 and playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.  Ugh.  After ALL that.

Of course, if you want a simple rooting guide for the weekend, I’ll dumb it down for you:

If Michigan wins, all our troubles are over.  A Michigan win over Ohio State knocks the Buckeyes out of the Top 4.  That also prevents Penn State from playing for the Big 10 championship, because Michigan holds the tiebreaker over them by beating them earlier this year.  That puts Michigan against Wisconsin in the title game, and at that point, I’m secure enough to go out on a limb and say that the loser of that game will be knocked out of the Top 4.

That’s the easiest and clearest path for Washington to make the playoffs:  Michigan needs to beat Ohio State.  That game starts at 9am on Saturday.  Get up early and root root root for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines!  Yeah, I know, I’m sick about it too, but what are you gonna do?