1) Is Mizzou still an SEC team? Of course. But the stature of the MU program inside the conference was revealed Sunday during the posting of the conference’s bowl-game lineup. With a conference-record 13 SEC teams qualifying for a bowl game, Mizzou became the only SEC representative scratched from an SEC-affiliated bowl. Two teams that Mizzou defeated during the season – South Carolina and Florida – were slotted into SEC-allied bowls ahead of the Tigers. But what do you expect? Mizzou’s home attendance was disappointingly low this season with an average of 46,516 that ranked last among the SEC’s 13 bowl-eligible teams. The SEC slogan is “It Just Matters More.” Well, in most SEC states, anyway. Not this one.
2) Given the sorry state of the men’s basketball program (No. 144 nationally in the KenPom rankings) and the flat level of interest in Mizzou football, new director of athletics Desiree Reed-Francois sure has a lot of work to do. Reed-Francois has one of the most difficult challenges among Power 5 ADs. Then again, the old saying is mostly true: winning cures everything. Pretty much, anyway.
3) I don’t know how I feel about the Blues. Or how I should feel. On one hand, I understand why they’re on thinner ice these days, with the ongoing Covid commotion, the injuries, and the lack of impact from players that have returned from the injured list. A 12-8-4 record isn’t great, per se. But it’s hardly terrible, with the Blues’ points percentage (.583) tied for 7th in the Western Conference. Then again, who brags about being 7th in the conference? Since their 5-0 start the Blues are 7-8-4 and rank 23rd in the league with a .583 points percentage. But I’ll remain patient until the Blues have a mostly full roster and the chance to show us who they really are.
4) You’ll have to pardon SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey if he had a few cold beverages and lots of laughs late Saturday night after Alabama upset Georgia 41-24 in the conference title game to give the SEC two of the four-team College Football Playoff. No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia are joined by No. 2 Michigan and No. 4 Cincinnati. There were several big winners on Saturday: coach Luke Fickell and Cincinnati, wish smashed through the Group of 5 barrier to put a G5 team into the playoff for the first time. There was Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who capped off a blowout-win over Ohio State with a smashing 42-3 victory over Iowa in the Big Ten game that put the Wolverines in the playoff for the first time. And Alabama coach Nick Saban was a winner … again … only this time millions of idiots like me believed Georgia would take him down this time.
5) But the biggest winner is Sankey. The most powerful commish in CFB got the last laugh on the dimwit commissioners who are standing in the way of the plan to expand the playoff from four teams to 12. Instead of signing on for a sensible and exciting new new system that would give their leagues a regular presence in the annual playoff – and massive exposure that comes with it, which is so valuable for recruiting – these anti-Sankey trolls assured themselves of continuing four-team format that frequently excludes their leagues and strengthens Sankey’s SEC.
6) This past summer a group that included Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick devised a plan for a 12-team playoff that automatically would have admitted the six highest-ranked conference champs and awarded byes to the four highest-ranked conference champs. This was all but set for 2023, and the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC members had a lot to look forward to. The Big 12 wouldn’t have to rely on Oklahoma as the only conference team to push for a playoff spot. Same for the ACC’s dependency on Clemson. The Pac 12 wouldn’t be shut out time and time again – six years in a row now – and relegated to fringe status. Group of 5 leagues (American and Mountain West) wouldn’t have to pull off miracles to get a team into the playoff field. The 12-team system would have created openings for so many worthy teams that get left out because of the excruciatingly tight space of a four-team field.
7) But when the stunning news exploded into the open – the SEC was adding Big 12 members Oklahoma and Texas by no later than 2025 – other commissioners decided to block the 12-team plan. Why? To project strength, or so they thought. To mess with Sankey, or so they thought. So what if the 12-team system was best for their leagues? Didn’t matter. These imbeciles were determined to stand up to Sankey and get revenge on him – even if the cost was blowing up their own league’s chances of making it to the playoff.
8) The matter isn’t closed; common sense and Sankey could still prevail with the 12-team design. But a delay caused by infantile tantrums now makes 2024 the target date for an expanded playoff – and even that isn’t guaranteed.
9) Seriously: how dumb is this? There’s only one conference in FBS college football that didn’t need to have a larger field and could happily exist in the current four-team set up: The SEC. And the conferences that really needed the expansion and would benefit from it the most – well, they sure showed Sankey, huh? With this season’s bracket all set, the SEC has two teams into the four-team field for the second time in five seasons. And the SEC is the only conference to have at least one team in the playoff every year since it began in 2014.
10) Footnote: I don’t want to leave out the The Big Ten – the only conference outside the SEC that can count on having a team in the playoff in most seasons. But when Sankey tossed a rope to the other conferences – offering to pull them out of the ditch – they grabbed the rope and sliced it to pieces with the intention of teaching Sankey a lesson. Yeah, they taught him. Sure they did. They taught him that it’s a waste of time to offer assistance to people who are too childish and dense to accept it.
11) As the Athletic pointed out: had the 12-team proposal been in effect this season, Friday’s Pac-12 title game, Saturday’s Big 12 championship and Saturday’s ACC title game all would have been for a CFP berth. Can you blame Sankey for laughing at these clowns? And if the Vegas odds are correct, we’re in for an All-SEC national championship game, Alabama vs. Georgia.
12) We got a look at the Blues when defenseman Justin Faulk doesn’t play. And while there were other factors besides Faulk’s absence due to Covid protocol – No. 1 being two tough opponents on the road – the Blues struggled to establish any kind of possession or territorial advantage at five on five play. In picking up one of a possible four points in the games at Tampa Bay and Florida, the Blues were frequently overrun at five on five. They were on the wrong end of total shot attempts (118 to 64), shots on goal (72-37), high-danger shots (29-9) and had 28.7% percent of the goals scored at five on five. Goaltender Ville Husso kept the Blues in both games with his outstanding .931 save percentage at five on five.
13) A few positive Blue Notes: among NHL forwards age 23 and younger, Jordan Kyrou leads with 23 points, and Robert Thomas is fourth with 22 points.
14) It will be interesting to see if Mizzou defensive coordinator Steve Wilks can coach up his players well enough to control Army’s prolific rushing attack in the triple action. The Black Knights are No. 2 nationally with an average of 301.7 yards rushing per game, and lead all FBS teams with 43 ground touchdowns. And this is nothing new for Army under coach Jeff Monken. Since he took charge of the Army program eight seasons ago, the team is second nationally for most rushing yards, No. 2 in rushing touchdowns and No. 8 with an average of 5.2 yards per rush. The Cadets have been no worse than third in the nation for rushing yards in four of the last five seasons.
15) And Monken has gotten it done against big-boy programs. Some examples: 416 yards rushing vs. Wake Forest and 179 vs. Wisconsin this season. And keep in mind that Wisconsin has the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation this year. In 2020 Army rushed for 185 yards against Cincinnati and 182 vs. West Virginia. In 2019 the Black Knights trampled Michigan for 206 yards on the turf. In 2018 Army had 339 yards rushing against Oklahoma, and 507 vs. Houston. In 2017, Army pounded Ohio State on the ground with 259 rushing yards, and rolled up 440 in a game against San Diego State. Notable performances from 2014 through 2016 include 198 yards rushing against Stanford, 229 vs. Notre Dame and 261 vs. Penn State.
16) Missouri’s defense ranks 124th among 130 teams this season with an average yield of 229.3 yards per game. In a related note, many if not all Missouri fans were stunned when Navy squashed the Tigers for 385 yards and four touchdowns rushing in a 35-10 rout in the 2019 Texas Bowl. As a Navy fan, I wasn’t surprised in the least.
17) What about rookie defenseman Scott Perunovich? He’s still learning at the NHL level but here’s the positive bottom line: when he’s been on the ice at five on five, the Blues have outscored opponents 7-1.
18) Rookie center Logan Brown has scored two goals in his first three games as a Blue. That’s as many as goals as Ryan O’Reilly has over his last 10 games – and two more than Vladimir Tarasenko, who has no goals in his last 10.
19) Congratulations to coach Kevin Kalish and the St. Louis U men’s soccer team on making it to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Having to win at No. 2 Washington was an especially difficult assignment, and the Billikens fell 2-0. But that doesn’t diminish the magnitude of SLU’s season of accomplishments. SLU Soccer: Still great and richly filled with history.
20) I wonder if the MLB baseball owners and players plan to spend a few weeks arguing about the shape of the table before they sit down at it to negotiate. You know, just like the Paris Peace Talks during Viet Nam. No, this isn’t Viet Nam, and I’m not trying to make light of a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. I’m just making a point about the stupidity of negotiations that feature considerable posturing and no meaningful discussions.
Please excuse my typos … I was in a hurry and typing fast!
Thanks for reading!
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