Monday, November 28, 2005


It's rare that in a college football season a losing team will get a chance to avenge that loss later in the season. The Capital Crusaders, however, are an exception.

Thanks to a historic playoff run, most recently highlighted by a 14-11 victory over Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the Crusaders will get to tackle Mount Union again, this time in the elite 8 of the NCAA Division III playoffs. In an earlier meeting this year, Capital lost 42-24 in Alliance but held a 17-14 lead at the end of the third quarter. This game, too, will be played on the Purple Raiders' home turf.

Capital's two playoff victories have both come to the surprise of this writer. They have won two games on the road limiting two high-powered offenses, North Central and Wabash, to 19 and 11 points respectively. Though the offense has struggled, the emergence of Jeremy Mulkey and Lewis Howes has given the offense enough big plays to score. Though most saw the offense as this team's greatest threat coming into the season, it is the defense that is making this surreal postseason run a reality.

Reality will hit the Crusaders hard Saturday as once again they will have to play in the most hostile environment in Division III. When you play Mount Union, you don't just play the team on the field; you play the banners on the sidelines, seven of which display "National Champions."
The Crusaders will desperately need to find a way to slow down Pierre Garcon, the wideout who torched Capital for two touchdown receptions of longer than 60 yards. His big plays in the first meeting not only gave Mount Union the lead but put the game out of reach.

The casual observer would bet the farm on Mount Union this week, and who could blame him? After all, Capital hasn't beaten Mount Union since the 70s. If there was ever a Capital team in history that could pull off the upset, though, this is the group. This is a team that thrives on the improbable and the heartstopping. They have turned small-college football into a drama-style television show that picks up again every Saturday. This week, the drama features David and Goliath again. Only this time, David might be a little smarter, a little more prepared, and perhaps a little more in tune with his own destiny.

Best of luck to the Crusaders this week.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005


If you read my post from yesterday, you would know that I was almost right about my prediction regarding the OSU/Michigan game. Thank God I wasn't. You see, the one variable I forgot to factor into the equation was Troy Smith. It had been a whole year since he dropped 250+ passing yards and 150+ rushing yards on the Wolverines, and I had forgotten how spectacular he can be.

Today, I got my reminder.

Smith blazed the Maize and Blue for 300 passing yards--a career high--and accounted for two touchdowns, throwing for one and running for the other in OSU's 25-21 win. Most notably, he put together a highlight reel of two particularly dazzling completions on scrambles and a poised, athletic run for a crucial first down. I will always remember three plays Smith made today:

1. The scramble: With no one open and the Bucks down 21-12 with about 6:30 to play facing third down, Smith went to his feet. He gained seven yards in a burst of speed and eluded a Wolverine defender on the sideline like the mouse on your basement floor you just can't catch, even when it's backed into a corner. First down, OSU. The drive continued, and Smith would later find Holmes over the middle to get the Buckeyes back into it.

2. The 360 and toss: Early in the Bucks' final drive, Smith found a Wolverine lineman baring down on him after the fullback couldn't handle him. Smith stayed in the pocket, spun completely around to avoid the sack and fired a strike to Ted Ginn for a first down, again keeping the drive alive.

3. Deep to 'Gonzo': Again nearly wrapped in a pass rush, Smith sidestepped a host of defenders and lofted a perfectly thrown ball to the under-appreciated Anthony Gonzalez for a huge 26-yard gain with less than two minutes to play. Sure, Gonzo made a great grab, but Smith put it in a perfect spot. This play setup the go-ahead touchdown.

Beyond these plays, Smith's poise, leadership and well-thrown balls were Elway-esque. I would compare them to Joe Germaine in the '96 Rose Bowl, but they were better than that. His performance was simply unbelievable.

I predicted a 24-17 win for Michigan because I thought that the Buckeye offense would turn the ball over too much as they did in games with Texas and Penn State. I wasn't convinced this group had the composure to win in Ann Arbor. You have to give me credit for being weary about this. Two Buckeye fumbles--one from Maurice Wells and one from Smith (not his fault) on a blindside hit--and a severely shanked punt into the wind set up three of Michigan's four scores. With about seven minutes left to play, I was planning to berate the Buckeye's special teams for their less-than-Tressel performance. Not to mention, Ginn botched two punts and should be praying tonight that Michigan recovered neither of them. He has struggled with this all year, and the Michigan State game comes to mind. He is too much of a weapon to exclude from punt returns, but the coaches need to sit down with him and remind him to get back to the fundamentals. Catch the ball, brace for the hit and then take off behind your blockers.

What I didn't expect was Troy Smith to put the team on his shoulders. I didn't expect Santonio Holmes and Anthony Gonzalez to make terrific catches in the fourth. The Buckeyes answered the bell and played like champions today--a title they have earned. Sure, it may be a co-championship, but this season has been too successful for it to be forgotten in the annals of OSU lore. Quite the contrary, this co-championship will stand out to me as one of the most memorable teams in my span as a Buckeye fan.

It's time to enjoy this win and hope for a BCS bowl game. It's time to look ahead to next year and at the talent (Smith, Pittman, Ginn, Gonzalez) returning. It's time for the eternal pessimist in me to self-reflect on one thing: Since 2001, it's Ohio State 4, Michigan 1.

It's time for you to send me "told you so" comments. I deserve them, and I will be ecstatic to get them.

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Friday, November 18, 2005


This has been my favorite week of the fall since I was six years old. It's Michigan week.

I don't care what anyone says. With the exception of a National Championship game (applicable only in 2002), this is the biggest game on the Bucks' schedule every year. Say what you want about Texas, but given the choice to beat "the Blue" or "the Horns," I'd take the bragging rights over that state to the north. Perhaps my season-long craving for the OSU/UM matchup stems from the fact that in my lifetime as a Buckeye fan, I have seen four Buckeye victories, eight losses and a tie. Of course, many of the games I witnessed were doing the Cooper era. If Cooper only could have beaten Michigan, he would probably have two national championships, still be the head coach, and Jim Tressel would be somewhere far away from Columbus. 4-8-1 isn't exactly anything to relish, so it makes you wonder if I am a glutton for punishment. Coming into this week there should be a presumption on behalf of a Wolverine victory right? After all, they do hold the all-time lead in the rivalry. Before everyone lynches me for heresy, let's remember that no two matchups are the same. Here I will closely examine the 2005 edition:

  1. Home-field advantage: The Buckeyes under Tressel are 1-1 in Ann Arbor, but before the 2001 win, you have to clear back to 1987 to find the Buckeyes last win in "The Big House." The fact remains: OSU has struggled up north, no matter how well they have meshed during the season (ca. 1995.)
  2. Who has more to lose?: Traditionally, the team with the worse record or who is out of the Big Ten race has had success. Why? These teams played carefree football and used "The Game" as a chance to make their season. Such was the case with OSU last year. Michigan was still an outsider in the National Title hunt. OSU has choked against Michigan in 1993, 1995 and 1996. In the games where each team had the potential to win the conference or acquire a BCS (or major bowl) bid, the edge again goes to Michigan. See 1997, 2000, and 2003 as examples. Perhaps Ohio State's only clutch win over the Blue was that 13-9 outlasting in 2002 when both teams were fighting for a Big Ten title. This year, I put the game in the "mutually important" category. An OSU loss and a Penn State loss would give Michigan a share of the Big Ten, also, and a bid to, more than likely, the Fiesta Bowl. OSU, of course, will get at least a share of the crown with a win and probably a trip to the Orange Bowl.
  3. Who is the more talented team?: The fans of both schools would claim it's them. I give a slight edge to Ohio State this year because of how well they are gelling right now. However, Michigan's younger players have developed over the course of the season, also like the Buckeyes of last year. Remember, the most talented team often walks away a loser in this game.
I know it sounds like I am being overly pessimistic, and you're right. I am. But in this matchup I have learned not to expect Ohio State victory. I've seen the contrary too many times. My biggest concern is turnovers. OSU will move the ball, at least in the second half after they have softened up the Michigan defense. I don't see the A.J. Hawk-led defense to get hurt by the big play. But can Ohio State win the battle of special teams? Can they win the turnover war? In other words, can they achieve the epitome Tressel ball? If they don't, the Wolverines will snatch the win.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Ohio State 17. Just call me the eternal pessimist. At home, I would like the Bucks' chances better, but that just isn't the case. Expect Columbus to be a ghost town Saturday evening and all day Sunday; it always happens after a loss. Believe me, I hope I'm wrong. In fact, I would like to be so wrong that the Scarlet and Grey are up by four touchdowns after the first quarter. I will be watching the game earnestly and hoping, praying, that you all will get the chance to make "told you so" comments.

As a parting shot, best of luck to Capital tomorrow in our biggest game in twenty years. Because I know so little about the opponent, I will not venture a prediction. I, unfortunately cannot make the trip, so I will be streaming the game over the Interent while watching the Buckeyes. If you would like to do the same, you can do so by clicking here around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005


Two football games in Columbus Saturday resulted in two blowouts for the home team. I'm sure you all know about OSU's 48-7 drubbing of Northwestern, but the Capital Crusaders cruised to a 48-10 victory over Wilmington College. The win lifted Capital to 8-2 (7-2 OAC) and tied a school-record eight wins set in 2003. They were hoping for a chance to set a new record (9), but they knew the only way to do that would be to get an at-large playoff bid.

At 1 p.m. today, we found out they will get that chance. The Crusaders will play in the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time since 1987 at noon Saturday at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. North Central, like Capital, got an at-large bid, also, and finished 9-1 (If Capital hadn't blown their fourth-quarter lead against Otterbein, the Crusaders would probably be hosting this game, but that's another story.) I had orignally said that Cap would have to go 9-1--with its one loss being to Mount Union--to have a shot for an at-large bid. However, this year the NCAA expanded the playoffs to 32 teams. Under the old system, the Crusaders might be on the outside looking in. Nonetheless, this is a great opportunity for the team and the school.

North Central finished the season ranked No. 15 and Capital finished No. 21. Since Capital was able to beat ranked teams in Ohio Northern and John Carroll and hang with Mount Union, I would say this is a very winnable game. The atmosphere will probably be great at the game, so depending on the decisions of the illustrious Chimes staff, I may be covering it.

This Ohio State Buckeyes elated me in their domination of Northwestern Saturday. Though I will concede Northwestern has a weak defense, I haven't seen the OSU offense click that well since last year's Alamo Bowl. 350+ rushing yards as a team is something we all could get used to. Of course, I could shamelessly rub in the victory to a loyal reader who happens to pull for the Wildcats, but I won't because I recognize that NW legitimately beat a struggling OSU last year, and I remember how rotten it felt. I expected a much closer game, but the Buckeyes' performance exceeded all of my expectations. To be honest, the losses to Penn State and Texas hurt even more now. This team, in a system where there are still no playoffs, is out of the National Championship loop, yet they are playing so well I believe they could beat anyone in the nation. They could definitely beat USC. I hope the Buckeyes win out if for no reason than the athletic department with all of its clout would hop on the pro-playoffs bandwagon.

Oh, and in my "winning out" scenario, the Bucks would get a win this week that's just a little important. If you ask a lot of Buckeye fans, "The Game" is the National Championship.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005


An analysis of the Cleveland Cavaliers' potential in 2005-06 is long overdue on this site. I suppose this is an excuse, but media coverage of Cavs Training Camp was extremely quiet this year (of course, I'm jaded because I got to witness it up close and personal on campus last year.) Most news regarding the Cavaliers came in the form of editorial debates on the following questions: Are the Cavs finally a playoff team? Will the team's offseason acquisitions translate into more victories?
Will LeBron leave Cleveland for more money when his contract is up? To these I say yes, yes and...I plead the fifth.

The '04-05 season brought with it a mountain of potential as last year I predicted the Cavaliers would not only make the playoffs but would host their first-round opponent. The early season made me look like a genius, and I was a real fan of Silas and the depth he used. Of course, sometime after Christmas everything went south faster than an escaped convict. Gund sold the team to Gilbert, who fired Silas (I maintain it was a bad move at the time) and uselessly traded for Jiri Welsh. The result? The Cavs finished one game out of the last playoff spot, and save LeBron and Z, Gilbert decided it was time to clean house again.

So the '05-06 Cavs a new look, like every team every year seems to have in Cleveland. This team hopes--perhaps in vain--that they can finally bring some continuity to an enigmatic franchise. Everybody's favorite bald three-point marksman, Danny Ferry, assumed the role as new GM, and the Cleveland media has already annointed him as part of the "blessed triumverate" of Cleveland GM's: Shapiro, Savage and Ferry. Before I hop on this bandwagon though, I want to examine the offseason acquisitions of Larry Hughes, Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall.

Hughes is averaging 14.5 ppg in the Cavs' first four games, and I think when he completely settles into the system, you can expect more. It is interesting that Hughes was the Cavs third choice for a free-agent shooting guard (Ray Allen and Michael Redd both re-signed with their respective teams.) Though fans could peruse through Allen's and Redd's stats and ask what might have been, they won't have to because Hughes will add exactly what the Cavs need: a second scoring threat to LBJ--notice I said "threat," meaning he can score, but trust me, he won't be taking too many shots away from LeBron.

Jones and Marshall are both extremely solid additions, also. Both can shoot from the outside, which was the Cavs' biggest problem last year. Marshall is in his second go-around with Cleveland; most don't remember the first because he spent most of it on the bench. He's a completely different ballplayer now, though, who can add veteran leadership, a jumper and maybe even some defense. On paper, it looks like Danny Ferry put together a fresh, competitive team to complement the game's biggest rising star.

But what about the coach? I am not sold on Mike Brown yet. Brown was a logical choice because he was a "defensive-minded" guy, who would be much-needed on a team full of run-and-shooters. In the first four games, we haven't really seen that team defense take shape yet. This will be the biggest challenge for the Cavaliers this year. Their offense might be explosive, but the league's outstanding defenses like Detroit and San Antonio (see last Friday's beatdown in Texas for evidence) will create problems. Those who isolate LeBron and make him a scorer take his teammates out of the game. LeBron is terrific, but if he scores 30 every night, the Cavs will win about 30 all year and that's it.

At 2-2 right now with a game scheduled for Wednesday night at "The Q" with Sonics, here is my long-term projection for the Cavs: 51-31. That should be good for fourth in the conference by mid-April. They will beat up shamelessly on the bad teams, especially at home, and they will struggle with the proven, veteran teams. Nonetheless, LeBron should get to taste the postseason for the first time barring that diabolical intangible: injuries.

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Monday, November 07, 2005


I thought I would post this as a reminder that pitchers and catchers report in a little over three months. An up coming post will feature my offseason "do's and don'ts" for Mark Shapiro. As a tribute to Hal Lebovitz, look for an Indians' Christmas wishlist in the future, also.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


The past two days have been more than eventful in the realm of sports--at least the realm of sports that interests most of my readers. Let's start with a brief rundown, and then I will insert some of that insightful commentary you all crave.


CAPITAL d. Ohio Northern (ranked No. 11 in the country and the No. 1 seed)
30-23, 30-13, 30-28. They advanced to the finals to play Baldwin-Wallace.

CAPITAL d. Baldwin-Wallace
32-30, 18-30, 30-25, 30-21. They earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament, the first Capital team to ever do that.



I covered the Crusaders' volleyball win over Ohio Northern in Ada Friday night. Ashamedly, it was the first time I had seen the team play all year, and I realized what I had been missing. I really wanted to stay for Saturday afternoon's championship game, but football back in Columbus. To put it simply, the ladies are terrific. Their size up front--Jordan Centers, Jenn Lilly, Jesse Hampson--is unstoppable. Anytime they get a kill opportunity, it's over for the other team. I would be shocked if anybody can matchup with this team's brute power. As I implied above, the team won the tournament, so they are A.) Capital's first OAC champions in volleyball and B.) Capital's first team to ever earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. Though the polls have underrated them all year, I have no doubt that if the volleyball can keep their momentum, they will earn more than their share of national attention.

I was fortunate enough to sit in C deck for the Buckeyes' slaughter of Illinois. I expected a massacre, but I didn't really get one until Ginn and Holmes starting breaking off the big play. It was one of the few times that I felt sympathy for the opposition. When Illinois's quarterback was pinned against his own goal line in the closed end of the Horseshoe, the crowd was in hysteria, and A.J. Hawk was licking his chops like a starved neanderthal, I thought to myself, "These guys have no chance." The media keeps talking about how strong of a game Smith had, and looking at the statistics it's hard to disagree, but I have to say he did not look sharp early. He hooked up for big plays with Holmes and Ginn, but it was against Illinois. On his eight incompletions, he missed badly. Some of you are reading this now thinking, "How big of a pessimist is this guy?" I am just saying the statistics--13-21, 299 yards, and 2 TDs--are somewhat misleading. He will need to be even sharper next week against Northwestern, whose spread offense WILL reach the end zone at least twice against the Buckeye defense.

The Capital Crusaders used their nationally fifth-ranked defense to slow down the John Carroll passing attack and win 19-7. John Carroll came into the game tied for first in the conference, and the Crusaders were looking to bump them into second. Kyle Hausler's three interceptions led the charge, while Collin O'Reilly added another 100-yards+ performance. Now 7-2, (6-2 OAC), the Crusaders are in a good position to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. Assuming they hold serve at home against meager Wilmington, the Crusaders should not be ignored by the coaches.

Coming soon: an early-season analysis of the Cleveland Cavaliers. They're not just LeBron's team now. How much better are they?

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Friday, November 04, 2005


As a diehard Cleveland Indians fan who watched hopelessly as the team's postseaon hope dwindled away, perhaps I should have been bitter and pulled for a Chicago White Sox debauchle. A nice three game sweep in the first round would have been fitting karma to the team that knocked out the Tribe, right? Well, I didn't think so, and my reasons were more personal than anything. Make no mistake that anytime the Wahoos and White Sox meet up, I'm rooting hard for Cleveland because they are my childhood team.

My dad and uncle have a different perspective, though. Growing up in the 50s, my dad and uncle rooted hard for the ChiSox because my grandfather, Paul Carlisle, had followed them since he was a boy. Paul, who grew up in the 20s and early days of radio, listened to some of the first baseball games ever broadcasted on the radio. Though he grew up in North Central Ohio, Cleveland did not have an AM radio station yet. Chicago, however, had two powerful ones with signals that spanned most of the midwest; one broadcast the Sox, the other, the Cubs. As a result, my grandfather, who played baseball in high school in the small town of Utica and then went on to be principal of Montgomery Elementary School in Ashland, was an avid listener of White Sox games on the radio into his adulthood. My dad often recalled to me how he had a "lucky penny," which he would keep in his pocket on game days. Dad, of course, picked up following the Sox, too. He idolized second baseman Nelson Fox, who won MVP in 1959--coincidentally the year of the White Sox only AL pennant. My grandfather, who was not old enough to understand baseball during the Chicago White Sox World Series win in 1916, never really witnessed a Chicago championship. The '59 team was the closest.

In 1971, my grandfather died from complications with diabetes. I wasn't born for another 14 years, so obviously, I never met him. Nonetheless, those who knew him constantly remind me of what a great man and leader he was. Upon graduating high school, my uncle presented me with a letter that contained some of the proverbs my grandfather lived by. Paul constantly reiterated to his sons the importance of intergrity, honesty, and loving everyone, even those don't particularly like. He recognized that the most intelligent people are not afraid to ask questions.

It is for these reasons that when Juan Uribe fired a bullet to Paul Konerko on a trickling ground ball, which gave the Sox a 4-0 series win over the Astros, I couldn't help but crack a smile. My grandfather may have not witnessed a championship for his beloved team on Earth, but I have no doubt he was looking down on it from above and leading a heavenly celebration.