Friday, September 14, 2012

Sports Friday: 9/14/12

College football

I've tried not to get too caught up in all of the conference realignment madness, but I'll talk about this one: Notre Dame to the ACC! Well, sort of - full members except in football, where they'll stay independent, while still playing five ACC teams each year.

The main reason I'm happy about this actually has nothing to do with Notre Dame itself. Sure, Amber is kind of sort of a Notre Dame fan due to her dad being a big Irish supporter, but I can tell when I talk to her about Notre Dame these days...suffice to say, she's got other things on her mind. Which in a way is fine, because it means I'm not obligated to put on the Notre Dame game :)

Speaking of which, last week's Notre Dame game was preempted by the local NBC affiliate, in favor of Western Kentucky v. Alabama on the SEC Network. Apparently there was a contract conflict, and NBC 17 opted to show the Alabama game instead of the Notre Dame game, a decision that makes no sense to me. Did they really think more people would be interested in Alabama versus cupcake (the final score was 35-0) than a competitive Notre Dame game? Not that I really cared about it one way or the other, but objectively, it seemed like a really strange decision to me. Do people actually watch those garbage cupcake games? I don't. Not even ones involving my favorite teams. Sure, every now and then you get a major upset (e.g. Lousiana-Monroe over Arkansas last weekend), but in those cases you might as well just tune in for the 4th quarter if it's close. And if any team is going to lose to a cupcake, it's probably not going to be the #1 team in the country.

Holy crap, I got sidetracked. Well, anyway, the reason I'm excited about Notre Dame (sort of) joining the ACC is because it prompted the ACC to drastically increase their exit fee, and pretty much guarantees that Florida State is staying put. As an FSU fan living in an ACC market (the ACC market, really), this is a good thing. Even if it means having to play Wake Forest every year. Wake Forest at Florida State - Sat 12:00p, ESPN

Now, the obligatory Penn State note: sheesh. Sure, last week's game was close (very close), but 0-4 to start is still a real possibility. We could be well on our way to the "worst case scenario". But hey, at least their games are still on television. Actually, so far, they've been getting more TV exposure than usual - but for all the wrong reasons, of course. Navy at Penn State - Sat 3:30p, ESPN2

Other games:
Florida at Tennessee - Sat 6:00p, ESPN: There seems to be more optimism than usual on the Tennessee side...again, I'm skeptical. Like Florida State fans, Tennesse fans in September always seem to think that they're "back" and that "this is the year".
Notre Dame at Michigan State - Sat 8:00p, ABC: This is a great matchup year in and year out, but what will happen with this series once the ACC business kicks in?

NFL

Here's the thing with football compared to other sports. Lose your opener in the NHL or MLB, no big deal - lots of games left to play. Lose your opener in the NFL, and it seems like a big deal, because you only play 16 games. So, last week's Jacksonville Jaguars overtime loss to the Vikings...it hurts. Especially since an 0-2 start is now fairly likely (although certainly not a certainty) given that the Jaguars' next opponent is the defending division champions and overwhelming favorites to repeat, Houston. 0-2 is tough to recover from. Still, though, I think 8-8 is attainable this season. Houston at Jacksonville - Sun 1:00p, NFL Sunday Ticket

Auto racing

I feel like I've talked about this before at some point, but I think it would help a NASCAR team a lot if they had a meteorologist on the payroll. Not necessarily full time; just for race days. I bring this up now because during last week's Sprint Cup race at Richmond, the caution flag came out with 150 laps or so remaining. Kyle Busch's crew chief, Dave Rogers, looked at the radar and thought the rain would be strong enough to end the race, and so, they didn't pit when most other cars pitted. But the rain quickly passed and the race went the full distance, and that decision ultimately cost Kyle Busch a spot in this year's "Chase" and a shot at the championship.

Here's my point. Crew chiefs aren't meteorologists, and their weather-based decision making isn't going to be as good as a real meteorologist. So why not hire one to make all of the race day weather decisions? Sure, most of the time, a crew chief could make as sound a decision regarding the weather as an actual meteorologist. But there's that one race every year where somebody lucks into a win because it rains at just the right time. But this doesn't have to be luck. A trained meteorologist could make the difference, and almost certainly would have informed Dave Rogers that the rain wasn't going to be strong enough at that time to end the race then, saving their season in the process. All they really need is a meteorologist on the other end of the instant messenger saying "The race is not going to end now", but if they wanted to be really good about it, they could bring a Doppler On Wheels to the track and have real time, high resolution weather data on demand, which I think would give them a tremendous advantage over the other teams when it comes to the weather. (They would only need to bring the DOW to the track when race-day rain is a possibility, of course.)

This is a multi-million dollar business, and the gap between first and last is so very small. So what's their excuse? NASCAR Sprint Cup at Chicagoland - Sun 1:00p, ESPN

MLB

While everyone is focusing on the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season, I should point out that his replacement in the rotation, John Lannan, pitched 5 2/3 scoreless on Wednesday en route to a 2-0 win. So, there.

The Nationals are now up 8 1/2 games in the division. That's a pretty big gap; however, they play the second-place Braves this weekend, and a sweep would narrow the gap to 5 1/2 with still a lot of games remaining. So, this isn't over yet. Washington at Atlanta - Fri 7:30p (MASN), Sat 4:00p (FOX), Sun 8:00p (ESPN)

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