In today's issue: college and pro football (surprise!), and just for fun, NASCAR.
College football - Going into last Saturday's games, it was already kind of in the back in my mind that last week's games probably wouldn't go too well for me:
- Penn State? Blowout loss on the road to heavily favored Alabama. Not real surprising.
- Florida State? Blowout loss on the road to somewhat favored Oklahoma. Going into the game, I kind of forgot how awful the defense was last year. Looks like 2010 is picking up right where 2009 left off, new head coach or not.
- The rest of the ACC? Sucks as usual. Although to be fair, most of the ACC's losses were on the road to favored teams. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has no excuse. Georgia Tech also should have won. But still, the perception is that the ACC sucks at football. And in college football, perception can be more important than results, especially as it pertains to which games get shown on television (more below).
- Notre Dame? I don't always root for them (sorry Amber), but against Michigan, I most certainly do. That didn't work out, either.
- I never expected South Florida at Florida to pan out, but...sure, I'll add it to the list of misfortune. But hey, at least Utah won! Woo.
The schedule gets a little easier for Penn State and Florida State this week. They are favored in both games, but I don't think either game is a guaranteed win. All either team has on its resume so far this year is a win over an FCS/I-AA team and a loss to a top 10 team. Can either team contend for the conference title, or will they struggle for bowl eligibility? We don't have enough data points to know yet, and I think both scenarios are equally likely at this point in the season. But this week's games against Kent State and BYU, respectively, should give us a good idea.
Now...about that "which games get shown on television" point. Over the last couple of years, ESPN has resorted to showing many ACC games only on ESPN3.com, reserving much of their Saturday programming for important SEC matchups such as Mississippi State v. Vanderbilt. We all know why things are that way, of course: because the ACC craps the bed in football every year, and nobody really cares about Maryland v. Virginia, anyway.
"But Chris! Why don't you just watch your beloved ACC crap-fests on ESPN3.com? You get your internet through Time Warner, right? Didn't Time Warner agree to start carrying ESPN3.com a couple of weeks ago?" Well...yes and no. Yes, Time Warner and ABC/ESPN did ink a new carriage agreement two weeks ago, and it includes ESPN3.com. But is ESPN3.com available to Time Warner customers yet? Nope. They're still working on it. But even once they're done "working on it", I think I'm still out of luck. I've read from multiple sources that only people who subscribe to cable television through Time Warner will be able to access ESPN3.com through Time Warner's broadband service. I hope I'm wrong on that, but given that this is Time Warner, the worst cable company ever (even surpassing Comcast, or Xfinity, or whatever the hell they want to be called now), it wouldn't surprise me. They are truly evil.
So, in short...I still don't have access to ESPN3.com, nor do I expect to get it. But I don't need East Carolina/Virginia Tech or Nebraska/Washington in order to enjoy my Saturday, right? Let's see...
Sat 12:00p - Kent State at Penn State, ESPN2: Like I said above, I don't think this game is a gimme.
Sat 12:00p - Maryland at West Virginia: ESPNU: Another case of the ACC "crapping the bed"? Most likely, but hopefully not. Besides, the Big East is the one BCS conference the ACC can actually compete with, right? Case in point: NC State 30, Cincinnati 19. Boo-yah!
Sat 12:00p - Georgia Tech at North Carolina, WRAL (ACC Network): Yep. I love my ACC football.
Sat 12:00p - Ohio at Ohio State, Big Ten Network: These teams played a couple of years ago and the game was surprisingly close. Can lightning strike twice?
Sat 12:00p - Northern Illinois at Illinois, Big Ten Network: Hey, at least some of these Big Ten teams are actually playing FBS/I-A opponents this week. I'll put those Big Ten games on this list, but not games against FCS/I-AA opponents (e.g. UMass at Michigan).
Sat 12:00p - Ball State at Purdue, Big Ten Network: These MAC v. Big Ten games - there are four of them today - can actually be quite interesting. Sometimes.
Sat 3:30p - BYU at Florida State, ESPNU: FSU is favored, but I'm still nervous about this one.
Sat 3:30p - Alabama at Duke, ABC (regional): Why is Alabama playing a game at Duke? Seems kind of weird.
Sat 3:30p - Florida at Tennessee, CBS
Sat 3:30p - USC at Minnesota, ESPN
Sat 3:30p - Arizona State at Wisconsin, ESPN2
Sat 5:00p - Indiana at Western Kentucky, Big Ten Network: Western Kentucky is a I-A team, right?
Sat 7:00p - Clemson at Auburn, ESPN: Most likely, another dent in the ACC's armor. And why does it seem like all of these ACC/SEC games are played in SEC stadiums? No wonder they always win! (Alabama at Duke doesn't count.)
Sat 8:00p - Notre Dame at Michigan State, ESPN2: Who has the upper hand in this year's "Mom v. Wife" grudge match? Beats me. Actually, I can't say I have any idea who's going to win any of these games, given where I stand with my Dirty Dawg college football picks so far this year.
Sat 8:00p - Utah at New Mexico, the mtn.: Wait...New Mexico is the team that lost by 72 to Oregon, right? Better tune in early, then. (And yes, I have been getting "the mtn." games in HD so far this year. Woo!)
Sat 8:00p - Boise State at Wyoming, CBS College: This game doesn't fit my criteria for what goes on the list, but I find it strangely compelling. I might need something to switch to during the commercials, anyway.
Sat 10:30p - Iowa at Arizona, ESPN: Bed time.
Sat 11:15p - Wake Forest at Stanford, ESPN2: Double bed time.
NFL - How did my first full weekend with NFL Sunday Ticket pan out? There was some good and bad. The good: I got to watch both the Jaguars win and the Colts lose. Yay! The bad: the late time slot wasn't great. Two of the three games were blowouts, and the third - Cardinals at Rams - was really tough to watch. It seemed like there was a penalty in, like, every freaking play in that game. Plus, it was the Cardinals and the Rams. And, I made the mistake of watching an hour of pre-game, which emptied my tank a little sooner than it would have if I had kept the TV off until 1:00.
That's the thing with NFL Sunday Ticket: in order to get my money's worth, it almost feels like an obligation to keep watching. The jury is still out on whether I think it's worth the money. I don't think watching the Jaguars alone is worth $315, so the question is whether I can get enough enjoyment out of it when the Jaguars aren't playing. The next three weeks will be a good indication of that, since the Jaguars play at 4:00 PM each of the next three Sundays.
On another note, I found that in order to avoid commercials, I sometimes needed to go five games deep in my rotation. NFL games have a lot of commercial breaks, but at least they're short (less than two minutes each). So, yes, I do feel it's necessary to list every game. I'll probably need them all.
In priority order by time slot:
Sun 1:00p - Buffalo at Green Bay, DirecTV 706
Sun 1:00p - Philadelphia at Detroit, DirecTV 712
Sun 1:00p - Tampa Bay at Carolina, WRAZ 50
Sun 1:00p - Miami at Minnesota, DirecTV 707
Sun 1:00p - Kansas City at Cleveland, DirecTV 705
Sun 1:00p - Baltimore at Cincinnati, DirecTV 704
Sun 1:00p - Chicago at Dallas, DirecTV 711
Sun 1:00p - Arizona at Atlanta, DirecTV 709
Sun 1:00p - Pittsburgh at Tennessee, WRAL 5
Sun 4:15p - Jacksonville at San Diego, DirecTV 716
Sun 4:15p - Houston at Washington, WRAL 5
Sun 4:15p - New England at NY Jets, DirecTV 715
Sun 4:05p - Seattle at Denver, DirecTV 713:
Sun 4:05p - St. Louis at Oakland, DirecTV 714
Sun 8:20p - NY Giants at Indianapolis, NBC
Auto racing - It's time for NASCAR's Chase For The Sprint Cup! Do I care? Kind of.
NFL games are, of course, the priority. But the nice thing is that an NFL broadcast will not give away the outcome of the NASCAR race, so I can record the NASCAR race and watch the last hour or so of it later. Since all NASCAR races from here on out are on ESPN or ABC, the opposite will certainly not be true.
The "Chase" is in its 7th year. Since it's no longer new, I think the general attitude among fans towards the "Chase" at this point is, "meh". Is it time to scrap it? Of course not - you know they're not going to. But the fact is, I don't need a gimmicky points system as long as the racing itself is interesting. The racing itself is what makes NASCAR, not the points system. The points system is just there to hold the season together and to declare a champion. It doesn't make the racing itself any better; drivers will race hard for the win whether there are points involved or not. In fact, a points system like NASCAR's, which rewards consistency above winning, might make the racing worse by encouraging a conservative strategy and discouraging "going for it". That's one reason why I think the best races of the season are the last five races before the "Chase" starts.
By the way, for the rest of the season, NASCAR Nationwide and Truck series races will no longer make my lists. I've basically tuned those series out. IndyCar (which has been surprisingly good lately) and Formula One, however, will still be listed.
Sat 11:00p - IndyCar at Motegi, Versus
Sun 1:00p - NASCAR Sprint Cup at New Hampshire, ESPN