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Higher Learning Week 2

Michigan's late magic against Notre Dame brought back some old memories for Wolverine fans.

So what did we learn this weekend?

  1. Call this premature, but Michigan might be back. Sure there secondary is horrendous and their defense has issues upfront, but after that 35-31 thriller under the lights for the first time in the Big House it looks like Michigan might have it bearings underneath them to make a run at the Big Ten crown. Watching Denard Robinson lead Michigan to two go ahead leads in under two minutes showed that Michigan had its fight back after 3 punchless years under Rich Rodriguez. It reminded me of teams from Michigan’s past that fought until the end and never let any disadvantage seem to large. Credit first year head coach Brady Hoke who has instilled a toughness in Michigan that it hasn’t seen since the Lloyd Carr days. Hoke’s demeanor and teaching has Michigan looking good at 2-0 especially after Ohio State struggles against Toledo and Nebraska against Fresno State. If they can fix the problems in the secondary then Michigan could be a legitimate Big Ten contender and could make a run for the roses.
  2. Big teams are continuing to underestimate the little guy. Pittsburgh barely beat Maine, Ohio State had all sorts of trouble with Toledo, Kentucky didn’t put Central Michigan away until late, Clemson struggled versus Wofford, and West Virginia trailed Norfolk State at the half before blowing them out. I thought these early games were to be scrimmages for the big boys to get them ready for tough tests down the road. Big conferences are sleeping on their foes and it will catch up to them if they don’t start taking care of business. How can I take these guys seriously if they’re having trouble putting away teams with less talent than them?
  3. Oklahoma State should be watched and carefully. Their defense is suspect but the combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon is just too much for teams to compete with. After their beat down of Arizona it’s clear that not many teams can stop them on the offensive end as they are just too potent to be contained and they are getting better. Weeden threw 3 interceptions in week one but against better competition he contained his mistakes kept the Cowboys wheels turning. We find out just how good the Cowboys are in two weeks as they head to College Station, Texas to face Texas A&M. that should be a shootout and give us a gauge as to where Oklahoma State is on the totem pole.
  4. Wisconsin is looking like the team to beat in the Big Ten. The transfer of Russell Wilson has changed the makeup of this team dramatically as they now have a good passing game to go with their dominant run game. Their competition hasn’t been too fierce in the early part of the season but they have taken care of business with ease. UNLV and Oregon State have been mere appetizers for the upcoming main courses that they will face at Ohio State and Michigan State. If they can keep the consistency in those games like they have in the past two then the Badgers might make a run for the roses in January.

    Justin Blackmon and the Cowboys are looking good.

  5. The Big East had by far the most disappointing weekend of any conference. Syracuse and Pittsburgh struggled to beat FCS schools and before West Virginia blew out Norfolk State they were down 12-10 at the  half. Also Cincinnati got destroyed by Tennessee and Louis lost to FIU at home. This week doesn’t get any easier as Syracuse travels to L.A. to face USC, Louisville travels to Lexington for the Bluegrass Battle versus Kentucky, Pittsburgh goes on the road to face Iowa and WVU heads to Maryland to face a tough Maryland team. if they go into those games like they did this weekend then it’s not going to be pretty.

 

THE GOOD

Oregon bounced back from their loss to LSU with a 69-20 romp over Nevada where the offense go back to business racking up 603 yards of offense including 376 total yards by Darron Thomas and 7 touchdowns.

THE BAD

Oregon State’s start to the season has been miserable. A loss to FCS Sacramento State was followed by a massacre at Madison courtesy of Wisconsin this past Saturday. Their next 3 are against Arizona State, Arizona and BYU. It looks like wins will be hard to come by in Corvallis this year.

THE UGLY

Tommy Rees’s fourth quarter fumble that prevented Notre Dame from taking a commanding 10 point lead at Michigan. That was so Bad News Bearish.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Trent Richardson, Alabama: 26 carries, 111 yards and 2 touchdowns in Alabama’s 27-11 win at Penn State.

EMBARRASSMENT OF THE WEEK

Matt McGloin's had better days.

 

Penn State’s passing game: 12-39 144 yards and 1 interception including Matt McGloin’s 1-10 stinker with 0 yards.

MY TOP 5

  1. Oklahoma
  2. LSU
  3. Alabama
  4. Boise State
  5. Wisconsin

HEISMAN TOP 5

  1. 1.       Kellen Moore, BSU
  2. 2.       Landry Jones,  Oklahoma
  3. 3.       Trent Richardson, Alabama
  4. 4.       Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
  5. 5.       Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

On tap for next week are a couple of big ones in the top five including LSU versus Mississippi State, and the game of the week featuring Oklahoma taking on Florida State. Also Michigan State can add to Notre Dame’s misery in South Bend and keep an eye on the Boise State-Toledo matchup. The Rockets gave Ohio State fits last weekend and the Broncos shouldn’t sleep on them.


Higher Learning Week 1 CFB

Yep... It's us again.

So to fully analyze the silliness that is college football I’ve decided to dedicate a weekly recap entitled “Higher Learning.” Get it? college? Learning? Education?… well it’s cool to me so deal with it. so let’s start it off shall we with five things I learned this weekend:

  1. As if we needed anymore proof that Boise State is a powerhouse program they gave us a new reason to be afraid of them… they beat an SEC team… in SEC country… and it wasn’t even close. Boise’s 35-21 beat down in the ATL was as impressive of a performance offensively and defensively as I’ve seen from them. They weren’t intimidated by the SEC name, the partisan crowd or the fact that they lost a ton of experience on both offense and defense. Fact is that as long as Kellen Moore is under center then it really doesn’t matter who’s there. Moore led a balanced attacked up and down the Georgia dome and the defense was stellar save for an 80 yard touchdown run by Brandon Boykin. Boise looks like they’re primed to make another BCS run and doesn’t look like it’ll be tested seriously until October 7th when they face up with Pat Hill’s always pesky Fresno State squad. Let the Boise hype begin.
  2. How about the Big 12 putting the Texas A&M controversy and the concerns about the future of the conference to the side and putting together a 10-0 weekend including Baylor’s 50-48 upset of then #14th ranked TCU . The conference flexed its offensive muscle as 7 of the 10 teams scored 42 points or more and looked unaffected by the constant banter surrounding the conference. It gets to flex more muscle this week as Oklahoma State faces a good Arizona team, Missouri takes on Arizona State, Texas faces BYU coming off of a win against Mississippi in Oxford and the battle for the Cy-Hawk trophy in Ames, Iowa between Iowa and Iowa State.
  3. LSU might be the team to beat in the SEC. Florida, Alabama and Auburn all won this weekend (Auburn barely) but LSU was the most impressive team this weekend. Jarrett Lee made Jordan Jefferson seem expendable with his performance against Oregon as he led the Tigers to 24 straight points in route to a 40-27 route at Cowboys Stadium. However, what was very impressive was the LSU front four that gave LaMichael James and the Ducks no room to run and stuffed them at every turn. If they can get by two tough road games against Mississippi State and West Virginia then we could be talking about LSU playing for the National Championship in New Orleans for the third straight time.
  4. I wouldn’t pencil in Alabama into the National Championship just yet. even after a sound 48-7 beating of Kent State you have to be very concerned of their QB situation. AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims threw two picks each and looked shaky at times. I can imagine how shaky they will be when facing 107,000 rabid Nittany Lions fans this weekend at Beaver Stadium. The Tide should roll to victory this weekend but not without some mistakes under center.
  5. The weather needs to calm down after this weekend. Lightning caused delays during games in Morgantown, South Bend and Ann Arbor and caused one fan serious injury in Morgantown. Hopefully mother nature will be on her best behavior going forward and people will be safe… and games can get finished in less than 8 hours.

THE GOOD

No comment.

Cincinnati beat up Austin Peay University 72-10 racking up 561 total yards and putting up the most points this weekend of any FBS team in the country.

THE BAD

TCU’s defense. Gary Patterson’s bunch has been a force on the defensive end in the last few seasons ranking in the top ten nationally. Against Baylor they resembled the Bad News Bears allowing 50 points, 564 total yards and giving Patterson an aneurysm.

THE UGLY

Maryland’s uniforms… yuck.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Kellen Moore: 28-34, 261 yards and 3 TD’s in a 35-21 beat down of Georgia.

EMBARRASSMENT OF THE WEEK

Notre Dame’s effort against South Florida. Dayne Crist could be permanently benched, the offense looked stagnant and Brian Kelly dropped about 30 F-Bombs on NBC… oops.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s best matchups Alabama faces Penn State at State College, and Notre Dame heads to Ann Arbor to play Michigan under the lights at The Big House.


Tourney Time!

The Buckeyes are the team to beat on the road to Houston.

With all due respect to the Colorado Buffaloes being 21-13, losing to Harvard, and San Francisco and beating such power houses like Maryland Eastern Shore and the Citadel don’t make you a tournament team. Even if you did beat Texas, Missouri and Kansas State three times.

 

I know you thought you should’ve been in but your yawn of a start didn’t make up for a flurry of a finish. I mean where do you think you are, the Big Ten?

 

As with every year the selection of the field of now 68 is not without some controversy. USC, Clemson and Penn State in, St. Mary’s, Missouri State and Virginia Tech out.

 

However, you must deal with it. The best part is now we can watch it all unfold in the way that a national champion should be rewarded, in a playoff. Hi BCS.

 

This year the field expanded to 68 teams, which essentially allowed three more crappy teams to make the field and create two more “Play-in” games to feed our growing appetites for basketball.

 

The field is pretty interesting. For the second straight year the number 1 seed overall gets the toughest bracket (Ohio State would love to trade with Pittsburgh right now) and Duke is a #2 disguised as a #1 (going to Anaheim 4 hours away from #2 San Diego State).

 

But this year there are 11 Big East teams, shattering the record of 8, a larger amount of mid-majors that could be primed for big runs (Oakland and Belmont), and about 9 teams that can win it all.

It would've been fun to watch St. mary's, but oh well.

As much as I like Ohio State their depth concerns me. As much as I like Duke location concerns. As much as I like Kansas their expectations concern me (I learned a long time ago that when everyone picks Kansas, pick against them). And as much as I like Pittsburgh I don’t think one Big East team can win this tournament…

 

But I think they’ll make it interesting.

 

I don’t expect much from the Big East except to kill a bunch of brackets and then fall. St. john’s, Marquette, West Virginia and Cincinnati could make someone’s life miserable and then fall the next game. The last thing I want to see being a top seed is a mid-level big east team waiting for them because disaster might ensue.

 

So what’s going to happen? Well before that, lets take a look at who should have and shouldn’t have made it.

 

ST. MARY’S 25-8

They won their conference, were ranked for last half of the season, played in a relatively decent conference and have a great history in the tournament and they played tough games versus St. John’s and BYU. Plus they had 25 wins (more on this later.).

 

MISSOURI STATE 25-8

They took Tennessee to the limit and won their regular season conference in the Missouri Valley, which year in and out is very competitive.

 

THE BIG TEN FOUR: PENN STATE (19-14), MICHIGAN STATE (19-14), ILLINOIS (19-13), MICHIGAN (20-13)

Here is my biggest problem with the tournament committee. It’s this thing called overvaluing a conference. The Big Ten was heralded as the best conference in the country and didn’t live up to it.

 

It was a top-heavy conference that featured three really good teams (Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin) and the rest of the conference was mediocre.

 

These four teams only got in because of their namesake. Critics will tell you that they played tough schedules and should be rewarded for how they played. Ok, I understand you play a tough schedule… BUT YOU LOST 13 GAMES, THAT MEANS YOU’RE NOT THAT GOOD!

 

Two weeks ago Penn State was 15-13 including losses to Maine, Maryland and Ole Miss.

What do 14 losses, 3 20 point losses and no consistency all year get you.. a ticket to the dance of course.

Illinois was 6-9 in their last 15 and lost to UIC by 3.

 

Michigan lost every game they played versus a top 25 team and went 0-6 against the top 3 in their own conference.

 

And Michigan State lost by double digits to the following teams: Syracuse, Purdue, Iowa by 20, Wisconsin by 24, Ohio State, Purdue by 20 and Penn State.

 

And these four teams were worthy of not only making the tournament, but also avoiding the play-in games?

 

Why not include Northwestern?

 

I guess having Gene Smith at the head of the committee does wonders for your conference.

 

And now, the field (not covering the play-in games because those are the only game s that those teams are winning).

 

EAST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: OHIO STATE

BEST PLAYER: JARED SULLINGER

DARKHORSE: NORTH CAROLINA

UPSET SPECIALS: MARQUETTE OVER XAVIER

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND- WASHINGTON-GEORGIA. DOWN THE ROAD: OHIO STATE-KENTUCKY

I thought as the number one seed in any playoff that you were supposed to have the least challenging field to deal with as reward for your regular season. Guess I was wrong.

 

OSU has to potentially play Kentucky and Syracuse or North Carolina on their way to the final four and all three teams are peaking right now and have an equal share of claim as the top team to contend for a trip to Houston.

 

The region is stacked as West Virginia is a potential roadblock for Kentucky and Washington could do damage to UNC or Syracuse. Also George Mason could pose a little bit of a threat to OSU in the second round with Cam Long looking to take advantage of freshman Aaron Craft.

 

This bracket is also the lottery showcase with UK’s Terrance Jones and Brandon Knight, OSU’s Jared Sullinger and UNC’s Harrison Barnes looking to make statements before they potentially put their names into the for June’s draft.

Looking for a lottery pick this June? Then this regional is for you.

You’ll also want to get a peak at UW’s Isaiah Thomas, Xavier’s Tu Holloway and Princeton’s Kareem Maddox. Thomas is a guard in the same vein of Nate Robinson while Tu Holloway is flashy point guard who can shoot the lights of any opponent and Maddox is a post up player who can score in buckets.

 

I like Ohio State to win the region but two things concern me, the lack of depth and lack of killer instinct. If Sullinger or Dallas Lauderdale gets into foul trouble then its slim pickings on that bench that runs seven deep at best.

 

The good news is Kentucky only rolls six deep and Syracuse and UNC flip flop between lots of bench production and dead weight.

 

FINAL 4: OHIO STATE

WEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: DUKE

BEST PLAYER: DERRICK WILLIAMS

DARKHORSE: SAN DIEGO STATE

UPSET SPECIALS: OAKLAND OVER TEXAS AND MEMPHIS OVER ARIZONA

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: MEMPHIS-ARIZONA. DOWN THE ROAD: SDSU-UCONN

I really want to pick UCONN but playing 5 games in 5 days will catch up to them like playing 4 in 4 caught up to Syracuse years ago. UCONN matches up well with Arizona, Duke and SDSU potentially, but the wear and tear of the Big East season and tourney will affect them after the Bucknell game.

 

How does Mizzou feel about playing a Cincinnati team that’s playing it’s best ball of the year while they’re playing their worst? Mike Anderson’s team has had a miserable second half and should be a quick exit.

 

Oakland scares me as a dark horse sweet 16 team. They played a tough non-conference schedule, which included a win at Tennessee. Texas, Arizona or Memphis doesn’t have an answer for Keith Benson in the middle and he should put up big numbers.

 

This bracket has San Diego State’s name written all over it. Their athleticism should get them through the 2nd and 3rd rounds easily and they have the bodies to match up with UCONN in the sweet 16.

Don't be shocked if the Aztecs make a run.

If they play Duke though how will they respond? Duke’s defense and rotation of about 9 players will frustrate the Aztecs and the Devils experience outweighs their athleticism. Also with the way Nolan Smith has played all year I don’t see a guard in this tourney stopping him. Even Kemba Walker.

 

FINAL 4: DUKE

SOUTHWEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: KANSAS

BEST PLAYERS: BEN HANSBROUGH, MARKIEFF AND MARCUS MORRIS

DARKHORSE: LOUISVILLE

UPSET SPECIAL: RICHMOND OVER VANDERBILT

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: VANDY0RICHMOND. DOWN THE ROAD: KANSAS-LOUISVILLE, NOTRE DAME-PURDUE, NOTRE DAME-LOUISVILLE, PUDRDUE-KANSAS

At first I thought that the Southeast region was the lightest. Then I looked at this region and though, “are there any good teams besides Kansas, Louisville or Notre Dame?” no.

 

This region has all the excitement of the Wisconsin-Penn State game on Friday.

 

Vanderbilt wont handle Justin Harper or Kevin Anderson and the inside out game that Richmond plays. Georgetown doesn’t know if Chris Wright will even contribute once he returns from his hand injury. And vastly superior competition next round will roast TAMU, FSU and UNLV.

 

Purdue however intrigues me. Etwan Moore and JaJuan Johnson pose a sizeable threat to the bracket with their experience but they lost to Richmond on neutral soil by 11 back in November and they were 0-3 on the road versus ranked teams this year. Plus they just lost by 18 to Michigan State in Indianapolis and they scares me more than any other stat.

If this man keeps his head, then the Irish can go far.

I like Louisville because they can score and defend and they get clutch performances from Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles when needed. Also there aren’t better guards in this region than Knowles and Peyton Siva. They can take over a game and cause headaches for whoever plays them.

 

Kansas is Kansas. Arguably the most complete team in the nation, as they are athletic at all positions and deep. The Morris Twins are absolute monsters in the paint or on the wing and the team as a whole is an offensive juggernaut.

 

The problem with them is their consistency at all positions. I don’t trust Tyshawn Taylor at all and Josh Selby is still trying to fit into the offense. Plus in their two losses their lack of focus and execution murdered them and almost cost them against Nebraska, Iowa State and Michigan.

So I’m taking Notre Dame. Why? The fight in this team runs from top to bottom. They back down from no one in any situation. Look at the UCONN game two weeks ago when Ben Hansbrough fouled out of the game with 8 minutes left. They weathered the Kemba Walker hurricane and a raucous crowd to pull themselves together and pull out a huge win.

 

They can shoot anyone’s lights out and can overcome their lack of athleticism with their experience and hustle.

 

(Side note: this is all pending on whether or not Hansbrough can keep is head in check. He almost cost them the UCONN game and did cost them against Louisville at the Garden. When he’s on he’s the best shooter in the country, when he’s off his volatile nature becomes a huge detriment to the team. )

 

FINAL 4: NOTRE DAME

SOUTHEAST REGION

BEST TEAM: PITTSBURGH

BEST PLAYERS: JIMMER FREDETTE, JACOB PULLEN AND DWIGHT HARDY

DARKHORSE: ST. JOHN’S

UPSET SPECIALS: UTAH STATE OVER KANSAS STATE, BELMONT OVER WISCONSIN, GONZAGA OVER ST. JOHN’S AND WOFFORD OVER BYU

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS GONZAGA. DOWN THE ROAD: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS KANSAS STATE, PITTSBURGH VERSUS ST. JOHN’S, KANSAS STATE VERSUS BYU

Um… yeah… this region is a cluster****.

 

The committee must’ve wanted to play head games with everyone with this region.

 

It’s technically a bunch of guard dependent teams who wouldn’t make the sweet 16 in any other region.

 

The top 4 seeds could either maker final four runs or be done before week 2. By the way, how in the blue hell did Florida get a 2 seed? Did the committee realize that they lost to UCF, Jacksonville, South Carolina, Mississippi State and got drilled by Kentucky on Sunday? Just saying.

 

The bottom line is that this will be he most fun region of the four. You’ll see Jimmer drop 40. Belmont rain three’s and Pitt bludgeon their teams to death.

 

However, I’m beyond interested to see how St. john’s does. Before D.J. Kennedy went down with a torn ACL I thought that they were a real final 4 contender. Then that happened and I backtracked. Now? I don’t know.

How far can the Johnnies go? This man holds the key.

I know that they depend on Dwight Hardy just as much as BYU depends on Jimmer, and that they struggle to find offense in some areas at times. But looking at this region I feel that it’s theirs for the taking. Except for their opening game against a peaking Gonzaga, the Johnnies can beat anyone in the bottom half of their bracket and for one game they can take out Pitt, K-State or Wisconsin.

 

But I’m taking K-State because Jacob Pullen pulled himself together and brought this team back from the dead. A month ago the Wildcats were NIT bound when Pullen stopped caring about the NBA and put the team on his back. Even with Wally Judge gone the Wildcats rallied behind Pullen and the inside tandem of Curtis Kelly and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and ran through Kansas, Missouri, and Texas on their way to this 5 seed.  Why stop now? Besides, Colorado aint playing so they don’t have to worry about playing a team they cant beat.

 

FINAL 4: KANSAS STATE

Yeah I know my final 4 is the same as the beginning of the year (except for Syracuse, stupid East regional.) but why turn away now? OSU, K-State and Duke are playing their best ball of the year and Notre Dame fulfills my Big East obligation. So you know that means that I’m sticking with the Buckeyes to win it all.

 

Ok enough talking, Thursday get here already (Tuesday for those interested in the “first round.”), let the games begin!

 

 

 


Are The Yankees The Next Empire To Fall

Was the Soriano deal a sign of a possible downturn for the New York Yankees?

Did you notice a trend that has happened in sports in the last ten years?

The death of the traditional power.

Think about this for a second; how many traditional sports powers took hits to their pride and luster in the last 10-15 years?

In college football Notre Dame still thinks that they will wake up the echoes in a matter if time and Michigan still considers itself to be the gold standard even when no when, I mean no one, wanted its head coaching job after the ousting of Rich Rod. Throw in Miami and Florida State and four of the games premier programs are in the middle of the pack as far as relevance .

In college basketball its Kentucky who still prides itself on being an elite program but hasn’t made a final four since Tubby Smith’s first year. Arizona, though they have an excuse, and recently UCLA, which is stunning especially after the run they had at the beginning of Ben Howland’s regime, have all fallen to the middle of the pack in recent years.

In hockey its been the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. Did you know once upon a time in the 90’s that the Habs had the same number of championships (24) as the Yankees? Ever since their last cup in 1993 the franchise has been plagued by unfortunate injuries (the Saku Koivu cancer cancer scare), lackluster performances (have they had a player in the top 20 in scoring in the last 20 years?), and scandal (hi Kostitsyn twins). Oh yeah don’t forget the whole Patrick Roy asking out of Montreal fiasco that has probably led to a curse on the team. Not that we’re counting or anything.

Dont get me started on the Maple Leafs. They havent won a title in over 40 years and in the last 10 they’ve resembled the Toronto Raptors more than the franchise that has the second most cups (13) to the Habs.

(Side note: Shouldn’t Gary Bettman step in and help fix this team. The NHL needs to Leafs to be good just like the NBA needs the Lakers, or baseball needs the Dodgers to be important. This is one of the leagues flagship franchises in the country’s capital. The hockey hall of fame is there for goodness sakes. The fact that the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in seven years and haven’t been relevant since their last division title in 2000 is a little more concerning than the fledgling Phoenix Coyotes, who should still be in Winnipeg. Yep, Bettman is back on my bad side.)

There haven't been many good times in Toronto for awhile.

In the NFL its been the Cowboys, Redskins and Raiders. All of these franchises have slid to mediocrity due in part to their ridiculous owners and their bad habits of spending money while letting the football side of things slip through their grasp.

The Redskins haven’t won a division title since their Super Bowl run in 1991 and have been a running joke since Daniel Snyder took over. They’ve made the playoffs three times with only one win to show for it. However, what’s defined them is their penchant for over paying players well past their prime. Bruce smith, Deion Sanders, Mark Brunell, Jason Taylor, and that’s for starters. Throw in their horrible coaching history lately (hi Jim Zorn, and Steve Spurring) and you wonder why fans want Dan Snyder’s head on a stake a la MacBETH.

For the Cowboys its a combination of Jerry Jones overbearing style and the lack of productivity on the field that has hindered them.

In the 90’s Dallas owned football with three titles and a high-powered offense anchored by three hall-of-farmers. Then after their last Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 30, the team hasn’t seen a playoff victory.

They’be been plagued by bad QB play, poor decision making by Jones, which includes firing Bill Parcells and trading two number one picks for Roy Williams (I’m sure the Lions still can’t believe that one) and not getting much from heralded draft picks (Mike Jenkins that’s you). Be honest, what do you know about the Cowboys now, a franchise with a rich history from Roger Staubach to Troy Amman, or their ridiculously expensive stadium with a 80 yard flatscreen in the middle of it?

As far as the Raiders go… let’s put it like this; they haven’t been over .500 since getting smoked by the Bucs in Super Bowl 37 over 8 years ago. If you want to know why then take a look at Hue Jackson’s press conference to introduce him as the team’s new coach this past week. Owner Al Davis, looking as decrepit as ever, sat at the table and ranted about Tom Cable’s personal life, comparisons of Jason Campbell to Cam Newton, and seemed more out of his mind than normal.

This is the guy who blew up Lane Kiffin at a press conference years ago, fined Cable for not executing a game plan he wrote out, drafted JaMarcus Russell, and has made so many horrible personnel decisions that no coach or player should come near Oakland. Poor Hue Jackson, I don’t think he knows what he’s getting into.

Before the Boston Celtics climbed back into contention in the NBA they had grown into a punch line. Gone were the days of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and in were Dino Radja and Antoine Walker.

Their most memorable moment during that time came during a Rick Pitino news conference after another loss where he told the media and essentially the fans to get over themselves and that “Larry Bird ain’t walking through that door.” Right he was, though fans would’ve rather had a near 50 Bird than Ron Mercer.

So in essence every sport has seen its top franchise go through the motions and fall from grace in a haze of greed, nativity, or ignorance. Well everyone except baseball.

In the last 15 years the top tier teams in the sport have stayed on top without much static.

Sure past champions like Kansas City, Toronto and Oakland have seen their share of bad times, but their history is nothing like the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers.

(You’re probably wondering what about the Cubs? Flagship franchise? Yes. However, they haven’t won a damn thing in 109 years so they don’t count. Sorry Cubs fans.)

These were the bad times in Boston.

Baseball has largely protected its top franchises by not introducing a salary cap, which allows the Braves, Phillies and Angels to out spend every other team in the league and stay where they are.Sure these teams haven’t made the playoffs every year, but they always bounce back from lackluster seasons.

The Red Sox will be favorites this year after finishing third in the AL East last year in part to overspending for Carl Crawford and giving away the farm for Adrian Gonzalez.

It’s hard for any of these teams fall off of their perch and fall victim to the same plague that’s infiltrated each league over the past 15 years. Or is it?

Last week the New York Yankees announced the signing of former Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano to be the 8th inning setup man for closer Mariano Rivera and eventually replace him.

No big deal, just the Yankees spending their endless funds to fix a problem like not having an eighth inning stopper.

However, GM Brian Cashman didn’t want to spend the money on Soriano and wanted to keep either Joba Chamberlain in the setup role or David Robertson. Owner Hal Steinbrenner overruled Cashman and handled the negotiations himself while Cashman sat in the corner and pouted.

Both sides say everything is fine but I’m not buying it.

Cashman is the game’s best GM and built a dynasty in the 90’s while the young Steinbrenners sat back and watched from The Boss’s luxury box. Cashman knows what he’s doing and what to do to keep the Yankees successful.

What Steinbrenner did was undermine Cashman and used his power to make a decision that may or may not work and also costs the Yankees a first round draft pick. That’s the kind of decision you would see Al Davis make. Uh oh.

Ok so that’s one little thing so what? Well, look at the Yankees future for a second if you will; the Yankees have been able to stay competitive after their dynasty years in the late 90’s and 2000 thanks to their huge budget and the ability to get whoever they want for any price. While they haven’t been winning championships at the rate that they would like, the Yankees are still the class of the AL East and remain the team to beat.

However, look at the current contract situations that the Yankees have:

Mark Teixiera- 8 years/180 million dollars, signed til he’s 37
A.J. Burnett – 5/82.5, signed til he’s 39
C.C. Sabathia- 7/161, signed til he’s 37
Alex Rodriguez- 10/275, signed til he’s 43
Derek Jeter- 3/51, signed til he’s 40
Jorge Posada- 4/52, signed til he’s 41
Mariano Rivera- 2/30, signed til he’s 43

In other words half of the Yankees main players on their roster are all signed well into their late 30’s or 40’s and are owed a boat load of money.

Guys like Rodriguez, Jeter and Posada are already on the downside of their careers and aren’t worth the money.

Not to mention there is the possiblility at other long term deals for Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes looming, which will add more money to their books.

The Yankees are used to shelling out lots of cash but right now there’s too much tied up in players that won’t help them contend in three years and could lead to the Yankees becoming baseball’s Cowboys.

As great as they've been, the deals given to A-Rod and Jeter could lead to the Yankees downfall.

There is no balance with them right now. There’s lots of old guys and not enough youth. Sound like Dan Snyder to you?

Another problem are the deals that the Yankees have made, which cost them two viable parts that they could use right now and both could’ve added some much needed youth to their everyday roster.

Last year they traded Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy for Curtis Granderson essentially in a three team deal. Jackson and Granderson play the same position and Jackson hit for a higher average, stole more bases and had a higher in-base percentage than Granderson. Not to mention he’s five years younger and the perfect leadoff hitter that the Yankees so desperately need.
Kennedy went 9-10 last year for the Diamondbacks with a 3.80 ERA. While his numbers don’t seem too impressive Kennedy got stronger and stronger towards the end of the year. He’s currently penciled in as their third starter while the Yankees have no viable options in their rotation past Sabathia, Hughes, and Burnett. I’ve seen the Leafs give up on a few young guys in the past few years haven’t you?

Lastly the Yankee luster isn’t what it used to be. Guys now a days grow up hating the Yankees instead of idolizing them. No one fawns over Jeter the way they did Mickey Mantle, there’s no appreciation for Posada like there was for Yogi Berry. In the 60’s if a guy like Zach Greinke was on the market he would’ve been a pinstripe in a heartbeat, same for Cliff Lee. Now, they’d rather be a Brewer or a Phillie.

Still, the Yankees can out bid whoever they want to get their man. However, they also set the bar for other teams with just as deep of pockets to follow. How do you think the Sox got Carl Crawford or the Nats (yes, the Nats) got Jayson Werth? It’s the Yankee model; overpay for them and dare someone to leap up and get them.

So now its no longer about the pinstripes and the aura of the stadium and the pressure of the media. If you were Werth wouldn’t you rather take 126 million to play in a small market and not have the pressure of facing 1000 media faces a week wondering what’s wrong with you?

Maybe I’m going crazy, or maybe I see the writings on the wall. I know the Yankees have had to good a run of gluttony and capitalist pleasure to not have it come to a screeching hault. We’ve toed the line of smart and senseless way too long to not have it blow up in our face and I feel were getting to that point.

If the Yankees don’t solve their spending problems and incorporate some youth and practice patience then they may resemble the Celtics of the late 90’s or the Raiders of right now. They run the risk of losing their luster like Notre Dame and could become a legendary afterthought like the Habs.

Call me crazy, but Soriano deal might be the first in a long line of problems for top to bottom from the Yankees. I might be wrong, but I’ve seen it all before.