Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A playoff cycle for the books!

The first six-touchdown performance in the history of these "shoulda-coulda-woulda" Division 1-A football playoffs...the first second-round loss by a Number One seed in six years...a team that'd been 0-2 in playoff appearances finally rising up to win a pair of postseason contests...a Mid-American Conference team making the Final Four for the first time...and a new color in the throne room.

Well, I'm just going to cut to the chase and tell you how the 2016 edition of this version of a big-school NCAA football playoff went down: 

FIRST ROUND (seeding in parentheses): Michigan (9) 63, Oklahoma State (24) 21; San Diego State (16) 28, Toledo (17) 7; Colorado (13) 30, USC (20) 23; Wisconsin (12) 31, Nebraska (21) 0; Florida State (19) 41, Western Kentucky (14) 34; Stanford (22) 24, South Florida (11) 21; Louisville (18) 28, Temple (15) 14; West Virginia (10) 31, Appalachian State (23) 27

SECOND ROUND: Michigan 37, Alabama (1) 22; San Diego State 28, Boise State (8) 7; Ohio State (5) 21, Colorado 13; Washington (4) 42, Wisconsin 10; Penn State (6) 46, Florida State 7; Clemson (3) 30, Stanford 21; Oklahoma (7) 28, Louisville 21; Western Michigan (2) 19, West Virginia 3

QUARTERFINAL ROUND: Michigan 42, San Diego State 17; Washington 13, Ohio State 12; Penn State 38, Clemson 27; Western Michigan 35, Oklahoma 28

SEMIFINAL ROUND: Washington 20, Michigan 6; Penn State 34, Western Michigan 20

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Penn State 29, Washington 13

Now...on to the highlights!

FIRST ROUND: Freshman RB Chris Evans (12) keyed the Wolverines' rout of the Cowboys by scoring six TDs- four on the ground, one on a catch, and the other on an 84-yard punt return- to break Ki-Jana Carter's one-game record of five, set in 1994 (still the mark for a championship game)...after two first-round failures (1986 and 2015), Aztecs rode RB Donnel Pumphrey's 18-carry, 200-yard spree to victory over the Rockets...Hilltoppers' 30 first downs (and 574-527 yardage edge) weren't enough to stop the Seminoles, who won the game when WR Kermit Whitfield ran it in from seven yards with 3:05 to go in the fourth quarter...in a battle of Mountaineers, West Virginia pulled it out with 4:15 left in the fourth on RB Justin Crawford's two-yard scoring jaunt after K Michael Rubino's 48-yard field goal gave Appalachian State a brief 27-24 lead...Buffaloes avenged a 20-5 loss to the Trojans when QB Sefo Liufau scooted to paydirt from the USC 11...Badgers capitalized on Husker QB Tommy Armstrong's absence (due to an injury against Iowa) by limiting Nebraska to 229 total yards and by avoiding turnovers and penalties...RB Christian McCaffrey (20 runs, 133 yards, 2 TDs) helped Cardinal overcome Bulls' 14-10 halftime lead.

SECOND ROUND: Broncos dismissed the Men from Morgantown by holding WVU to a sickening 76 total yards (44 on the ground, 32 in the air)...RB Saquon Barkley (23 rushes, 101 yards) and QB Trace McSorley (two TD passes, two rushing scores) keyed Nittany Lions' dismantling of Seminoles...QB Baker Mayfield hooked up with WR Dede Westbrook for a 54-yard TD to advance Sooners over Cardinals (and their Heisman-winning QB, Lamar Jackson)...McCaffrey took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score, but Tigers overcame all that with QB Deshaun Watson's three TD tosses (and 20-of-29 passing for 187 yards)...the Pumphrey Express flattened Boise State (he gained 131 yards on 23 tries and scored a TD)...QB Jake Browning's four air scores (18-29-359 yards-2 INTs on the night) helped Huskies oust Badgers...Crimson Tide outgained Wolverines, 334-253, and kept Evans out of the end zone- but six sacks by Michigan's defense led to Alabama's demise (six years after Wisconsin embarrassed top-seeded Auburn, 28-21, in the second round). 

QUARTERFINAL ROUND: 19 Tiger penalties (for 131 yards) caused Clemson to waste Watson's 38-49-358 yard-3 TD-2 INT effort...for the first time ever, a team from the Mid-American Conference reached the semifinals- because WMU QB Zach Terrell flipped a one-yard scoring toss to WR Corey Davis with 4:54 remaining in regulation to kick the Sooners out of the playoffs...in what was a game of three-pointers, WR Aaron Fuller won it for the Huskies by running a punt back 80 yards to daylight (after returning just one other punt during the season- and that for five yards)...QB Wilton Speight's five TD throws (he went 20 for 31 for 311 yards and two picks) helped the Wolverines bury the Aztecs.

SEMIFINAL ROUND: Terrell outdueled McSorley (316 passing yards to 290), but Trace flicked three air scores to Zach's two- and got help from Barkley, who ran 24 times for 121 yards...Huskies held Wolverines to 272 total yards- 54 on the ground (in 28 carries); meanwhile, Browning and WR Chico McClatcher hooked up for two scoring strikes.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Barkley (this season's playoff MVP) toted the Nittany Lions on his back by scoring a pair of TDs (while running 24 times for 88 yards).

Result: Penn State won it all for the first time since 1994 (when the team from State College, PA crushed Kansas State, 63-14, in Carter's monster game).

The Nittany Lions kept the "shoulda-coulda-woulda" crown in Big Ten Conference hands (Iowa was last season's champ after stopping Alabama, 14-7, in overtime).

The Blue and White became the fourth club in the history of these playoffs to win it all under two different head coaches- joining Nebraska (Tom Osborne in 1982, 1989, 1990, 1993, and 1997 and Frank Solich in 1999), Miami (FL) (Dennis Erickson turned the trick in 1992, followed nine years later by Larry Coker), and Ohio State (which won in 1996 under John Cooper, then did it again in 2005, 2007, and 2010- all on Jim Tressel's watch).

And 22 years after Joe Paterno brought the crown to Happy Valley, James Franklin got it done...and became the first African American to head up a champion in this version of a D-1-A playoff. 

Had Washington come through, Chris Peterson would've made "shoulda-coulda-woulda" history, too...as the first head coach to take two different teams to the top. (His Boise State squad went all the way in 2006 and 2008.)

This playoff cycle was truly one for the books.

Can the 2017 playoffs top that? 

I'm Jim Boston...thanks for reading this blog!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good riddance to 2016

For billions (well, at least millions) of people all over the world, 2016 was a trying, bad, horrible, no-good twelve-month period.

From personal problems all the way to global issues, this year was a testing one...to say the least. 

The way I see it, the clincher came on 11-8-2016.

Because 62 million Americans preferred this man to run this country's government (and he got the magic number of electoral votes as a result), most of the world's remaining 7.1 billion people (including the 65 million US voters who wanted the first woman who ever won a major political party's presidential nomination here in these fifty states) received coal in their stockings. 

The Chinese didn't term this "The Year of the Monkey" for nothing...and they weren't talking about a dance from the 1960s. 

I hope we all can survive 2017...let alone see it turn into a Happy New Year. 

There's good college football ALL OVER this country

That's right, folks...the South (and the Southeastern Conference in particular) doesn't have the corner on how the collegiate game (especially the NCAA Division 1-A kind) should be (let alone IS) played.

I'm just now getting this put up, and I apologize for the delay in bringing this to you. (After all, it comes down to those pesky-yet-vital things called "life events." They've got to get taken care of.) 

Here's how this one blogger's version of a 2016 Division 1-A college football playoff looks (regular-season records shown in parentheses):

1. Alabama (13-0; SEC champ)/2. Western Michigan (13-0; MAC champ)/3. Clemson (12-1; ACC champ)/4. Washington (12-1; Pac-12 champ)/5. Ohio State (11-1; Big Ten at-large)/6. Penn State (11-2; Big Ten champ)/7. Oklahoma (10-2; Big 12 champ)/8. Boise State (10-2; Mountain West at-large)

9. Michigan (10-2; Big Ten at-large)/10. West Virginia (10-2; Big 12 at-large)/11. South Florida (10-2; AAC at-large)/12. Wisconsin (10-2; Big Ten at-large)/13. Colorado (10-3; Pac-12 at-large)/14. Western Kentucky (10-3; C-USA champ)/15. Temple (10-3; AAC champ)/16. San Diego State (10-3; Mountain West champ)

17. Toledo (9-3; MAC at-large)/18. Louisville (9-3; ACC at-large)/19. Florida State (9-3; ACC at-large)/20. USC (9-3; Pac-12 at-large)/21. Nebraska (9-3; Big Ten at-large)/22. Stanford (9-3; Pac-12 at-large)/23. Appalachian State (9-3; Sun Belt champ)/24. Oklahoma State (9-3; Big 12 at-large)

Thirteen of this year's shoulda-coulda-woulda playoff teams were in there in 2015, when Iowa needed an overtime run by Jordan Canzeri to dethrone Alabama, 14-7. One of the baker's-dozen holdover clubs, Oklahoma State, nosed Air Force out for the last playoff spot; each team had 260 quality points. Nevertheless, the Cowboys got the edge over the Falcons because Oklahoma State's D-1-A opponents won 69 games this past season...while the Academy's D-1-A foes totaled just 66 wins. 

Boise State and Wisconsin are back after a year's absence, Louisville comes back after losing the 2013 title game to Baylor,
Nebraska's back in after a four-year hiatus, and six squads- Penn State (first time since 2009),
USC (2008), South Florida (2007), West Virginia (2005), Colorado (2002), and Washington (2001) are all making 2010s playoff appearances for the first time.

And Western Michigan's in the field for the first time since 1988 (when the Broncos lost in the second round to eventual kingpin UCLA).

At least P.J. Fleck's undefeated club has some MAC company in this year's playoffs, what with Toledo keeping its place at the table (despite Jason Candle taking over from Matt Campbell as head coach).

Nick Saban's Tuscaloosa juggernaut is the lone SEC team this go-'round. (Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas A&M won eight contests apiece in 2016. And, when it comes to these playoffs, eight isn't enough...unless it's a conference champion.) 

This year, five Big Ten teams got in, four Pac-12 ones made it, and three each from the Big 12 and the ACC punched playoff tickets. 

Even the AAC and the Mountain West were able to join the MAC in outperforming the SEC in playoff entries. 

In all, eight schools with Southeastern zip codes entered their football teams into this version of a 2016 1-A playoff. 

At any rate, I'll be using Lance Haffner Games' 3-in-1 Football (computer vs. computer mode) to play these games...and I'll get the results posted as soon as possible.

Who knows?

Maybe 'Bama will get its 1-A playoff championship back. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is it time to split the United States?

Like millions of other Americans, I'm still smarting over what happened three Tuesdays ago.

That's right...unless at least 41 electors get some spine and decide to vote their conscience when they and the remaining 497 electors meet on 12-19-2016 (or unless the current recount effort in four states bears real fruit), the United States will official go under a fascist government as early as 1-20-2017.

Inauguration Day.

Think about it...if you haven't been doing so already. 

Then think back to 12-26-1991 (if you were around back then).

That day happened to be the one in which the Soviet Union officially broke up (after all fifteen of its old socialist republics, one by one, declared their independence).

What if some regions of the United States declared their own independence? 

After all, it's now estimated that on 11-8-2016, 62 million US voters- whether they thought so or not, knew it or not, liked it or not- decided they'd rather live under fascist rule. 

What if they had their own country...the old Confederacy plus some states in the Northwest and Midwest? 

Due to the geographical implications, the states to the west of this new Confederacy would be an entirely different nation...hopefully, one run as the republic America was supposedly set up to be.

And the same thing would go for the new country north of this revived CSA.

Oh, well...it's just a thought.

What do YOU think? 

Is splitting these fifty states three ways the only answer to satisfy Trump supporters, Clinton fans, and everybody else?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This date, too, will live in infamy.

That's because yesterday, hatred and bigotry won out.

That's all there is to it.  

Yesterday, American voters- as a whole- chose to replace Barack Obama with a PROVEN racist/sexist/misogynist/homophobe/Islamophobe who's studied Adolf Hitler's speeches.

And they were aided and abetted by the reporters, producers, and executives from the nation's biggest media companies...as well as by FBI director James Comey.

Many claim they never saw this coming. But they might have forgotten about how, in 2010, voters joined with those Democrats who chose to stay home in giving the US House of Representatives back to the Republicans...and, four years later, repeated the process with this country's Senate. 

Handing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue back to the Elephants was the next step. 

Those who decided to go with Donald Trump just spat on the graves of all those American veterans who died during World War 2- people who gave up their lives in an effort to keep German/Italian/Japanese totalitarian rule from reaching America's shores. 

So now, as early as 1-20-2017, Trump could call a fascist government. 

I wouldn't put it past him, knowing his supersized ego.

It isn't as if we weren't warned, what with years of evidence that DJT doesn't give a hoot about rank-and-file citizens.

And when many of this country's Trump supporters find out he really doesn't give a crap about them, they'll express remorse over giving control of the US government to the one-time host of TV's The Apprentice...instead of letting one of the most qualified presidential nominees in history take the reins. 

Those Trump supporters' eventual tears and sadness will prove useless and meaningless. 

What's more, media personalities such as CNN's Dana Bash and NBC's Matt Lauer might privately express grief over allowing this con artist to become this year's Republican nominee, let alone the leader of the American people. And Bash's boss, Jeff Zucker (the same man who, when he was president of NBC Entertainment, got The Apprentice on the air), might eventually start expressing sadness...if only in private.

Me, I stopped watching corporate news programs the night of 11-4-2014. After all, news is news, not entertainment...contrary to what Zucker and CBS CEO Les Moonves teach.

But now, I'm going to stop watching ANYTHING the Big Media companies have to offer, now that this has happened. 

They have to pay for their part in bringing eventual (if not immediate) full-fledged fascist rule to the United States...just as those voters who thought Trump would be better than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton must pay for their decision. 

If you're just as worked up about what just took place at the polls as I am (and yes, I voted yesterday), then you're welcome to join me in this boycott of CBS', Comcast's, Disney's, News Corporation's, and Time Warner's shows. 

Yesterday, America threw it all away.

With the whole world watching.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The First Time Ever!

Starting tonight, at 8:00 PM Eastern time, 7:00 PM Central time, etc., people all over the world (not just Americans and Canadians) will be able to turn on their TV sets, mobile devices, computers, and so on, and experience something unprecedented:

They'll be able to watch live coverage of a World Series involving baseball's Chicago Cubs.  

Last Saturday night, Joe Maddon's club beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-0, to win this year's National League Championship Series, four games to two
...and, at long last, snare the team's first NL flag since 1945. (That year's World Series- won by the Detroit Tigers, four games to three- could've been the first time a television network brought viewers a Fall Classic...if a date almost four years earlier hadn't gained infamy and, among other things, halted the progress American TV had been making.) 

Well now, here in 2016, the Cubs- after losing National League pennant series in 1984, 1989, 2003, and 2015- have to push the American League's best team, the Cleveland Indians, out of the way to grab major league baseball's biggest prize for the first time since 1908.

In 1908, you couldn't even turn on your radio and thrill to the Cubbies' four-games-to-one triumph over that earlier edition of the Tigers. America's first radio station- KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA- was twelve years away from signing on for the first time. (To follow MLB back then, you had to trust your local newspaper.) 

Speaking of trust...I had more faith in Terry Francona's team to get to this year's World Series than was the case with Chicago's NL squad. 

Francona, after serving as the Philadelphia Phillies' field manager from 1997 to 2000 (285-363 and Philly good for no better than third in the NL East in 1998 and 1999), got the Boston Red Sox' job in 2004...and took them right to the top of the sport, guiding his new team to that famous four-game WS sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals to end that 86-year drought between World Series titles.

Boston proved it all was no fluke by going back to the Fall Classic in 2007, when the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies...one of the fourteen teams formed in the majors after the Cubs appeared in what turned out to be the Cubs' final World Series of the 20th Century. 

The Red Sox were Francona's gig through 2011 (he left Beantown 744-552 and with those two Commissioner's Trophies); two years later, the Indians hired him...and he was named AL Manager of the Year after he guided Cleveland [the team he played on in 1988; his dad, John (better known as "Tito"), was with the Tribe from 1959 to 1964] to one of the two AL wild-card slots.   

And so, while the 2016 Indians were sailing past the Toronto Blue Jays, four games to one (the clincher was a 3-0 win), to get their first AL championship since 1997, I kept looking at this year's NLCS- and how the Cubs blew NLCS leads in 1984 and 2003- and thinking: "I hope the Cubs win it...but I've got the feeling Dave Roberts' club's gonna pull it off."

The Dodgers didn't pull it off. 

This time, the team with MLB's second-oldest current park (the oldest facility in the NL by 47 years) came through.  

Maddon, like Francona, knows a thing or two about transforming a hard-luck baseball team.

After two interim spots with the California/Anaheim Angels (1996 and 1999; combined mark: 27-24), Maddon got hired by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006. Two years later, that club knocked the Devil out of its nickname, changed its team colors, and...won it all in the AL. (Okay, the 2008 Fall Classic didn't work out for the Blue and Gold; the Phils stopped them, four games to one.)

But Maddon won the 2008 AL Manager of the Year award, duplicated that in 2011, and left the Tampa-St. Pete area with a record of 754-705 in nine seasons in charge of the local American League team- the only winning record by a Tampa Bay skipper thus far.

Tom Ricketts and his team's general manager, Theo Epstein (the same Theo Epstein who helped the Red Sox get the 2004 and 2007 World Series titles as their GM), took a look at Maddon's record...and had him catch a plane to Chicago in time for the 2015 campaign.

Joe guided the Cubbies to a wild-card spot in his new league, an NL Division Series triumph over the Cards, and...was named NL Manager of the Year last year. 

And now, the Chicago Cubs are getting ready to take on a team that hasn't won a Fall Classic since 1948 (just the second WS berth ever for the Tribe; the first was in 1920)...and since 1948, got to the Series just three other times in the 20th Century: 1954, 1995, and, of course, 1997. 

Anyway...it should be an interesting World Series for 2016. 

Okay...that's a real understatement.

Especially if you're a Cubs fan.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The 84-Year Itch

I took a look at the opinion page in this past Sunday's Omaha World-Herald...and was stunned out of my wits. 

Then a smile crept onto my face. 

The paper's editorial staff decided to go ahead and endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton to be America's 45th president.

I don't know how long Nebraska's largest newspaper has made presidential endorsements, but I do know this: It's only the second time since the Great Depression began this month in 1929 that the World-Herald thought a Democrat would be better off calling the shots from the Oval Office than a Republican. 

In fact, the fact that Wall Street laid that egg on 10-29-1929 led the OWH's then editors to tell their readers that it was time to kick Republican Herbert Hoover out of the White House and put Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in there for 1932. (Hoover- who died on this very date in 1964- was America's commerce secretary from 1921 to 1928; some historians feel he was the best chief this country's Commerce Department ever had.)

In the intervening 84 years- with one exception- the World-Herald went strictly with GOP nominees. (The paper's editors didn't endorse a presidential nominee in 1964.) 

When it came to 2016, editor-in-chief Terry Kroeger joined the rest of the editorial staff in biting their fingernails over Endorsement Time. 

They could've decided to sit out Endorsement Time.

Instead, Kroeger and his people made Clinton their choice...albeit with some trepidation. Sunday's editorial cited the fact that many Americans are still ticked off about Clinton's private email server from her days (2009-13) in charge of this country's State Department, all those deleted emails, and her handling of the 9-11-2012 attack at the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Kroeger and Co. even cited some Americans' anxiety over HRC stumping for a single-payer health-care system, American style. 

The 10-16-2016 editorial, nevertheless, said that giving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to Donald Trump just wouldn't cut it. 

Trump's alienated too many people (especially those who aren't male, Caucasian, professing Christian, heterosexual, and/or wealthy), failed to show a real grasp of current events, and repeatedly shown a bent for lashing out whenever he's attacked.

Et cetera.

The World-Herald top brass gave Clinton the nod over her vast governmental and political experience...from her days as Arkansas' first lady all the way to her 2016 US presidential bid (her second one ever, of course). 

And the paper's editors thought that kind of experience would make the difference in a world whose most closely-watched land (yep, this one) has a debt of nearly $20 billion and whose Middle East region is once again a ticking time bomb.

To sum it all up, Kroeger and his staff said that the first lady-turned-US senator from New York-turned US secretary of state needs to show she's a uniter once she gets the job that her husband Bill once had (1993-2001).

I think she'll do it...as long as we help out.

And I congratulate the OWH staff for endorsing HRC instead of DJT.