Winter Wonderland by Bob Ryan

Now that we’ve passed the New Year, we’re really in the heart of the Winter Wonderland of sports. Action on the ice, the court and the gridiron with plenty of twists,turns & upsets. Some passing (that’s all they do these days) thoughts on the sports action.

…as always, the holidays are filled with college bowl games. There isn’t any way that I could comment on all 30 of them…I DO have a life. But…..there are SOME reactions.

…in the NCAA championship semifinal, to no one’s surprise the OU secondary was torched by LSU. Oklahoma, for the most part, just outscored people more than stopping people in 2019. Throughout the last half of the season, OU’s defense saw 48, 41, 31, 24, 16, and 23 points scored on them. LSU continually threw deep over the deep coverage. Give LSU credit…they had speedy receivers (primarily one) and a QB, Joe Burrow, with deep accuracy (a professional type throw). Burrow was so obviously the Heisman choice, that if one would be $100 on him on that award, you’d win less than $1. Burrow’s father coached football for 40 years so it was definitely in his blood. Burrow started his collegiate career @Ohio State. He redshirted, then backed up JT Barrett for 2 years. When he realized that Dwayne Haskins would be named the starting QB for the Buckeyes, he transferred to LSU as a graduate student. Special credit must be given to Joe Brady – the passing coordinator @ LSU. He had been the New Orleans offensive coach for 2 years prior to moving to LSU. He won he Frank Broyles award which goes to the Nation best college ast coach. Playing the politician, Head Coach Ed Orgeron called OC Steve Ensminger the team MVP! Gotta keep em both happy.

…the other game that I watched for more than just a few minutes was Bama-Mich….guess I was drawn to the Big name schools. It was won by Alabama due to their premier receiver, Jerry Jeudy, that Michigan just couldn’t match up with defensively. Jeudy caught 6 balls for 204 yards and a TD. Basically, the Crimson Tide had the future NFL players and Michigan did not. Generally, the big plays come from the future NFL players. Bama 35-16. Since 2001, the Wolverines are 4-11 in bowl games. Jim Harbough is now coming under fire. He’s been labeled as a coach who fields good teams every year…but NOT great teams in his 5 years in Ann Arbor. He’s changed his coaching staff all around without change on the field. His reputation as a coach that develops QB (@ San Diego it was Josh Johnson, @ Stanford, Andrew Luck, @ SF he propped up Alex Smith & Colin Kapernick but he’s been unable to find and develop that game-breaking QB @ Michigan. Maybe….it was because his receivers couldn’t get space against the Alabama receivers? Clemson & LSU have receivers who can use their speed & athleticism to get space from the defender & use their tremendous ability to make extraordinary catches. Michigan doesn’t have that type of receiver. Will Michigan stay with Harbough?  He does have GOOD teams annually….but is that good enough?

…in 2018, the SEC was 6-6 in bowl games, 2019 was much better 7-2 with LSU in title game.  

…the Blues are really spoiling us despite their latest nightmare in Vegas. Their 26-10-7 record is phenomenal. After winning 8 straight, the Blues have struggled in last week or so. Ryan O’Reilly is again showing wonderful offensive skill—his work on faceoffs, slick passing(leads team in assists-27) and shooting. His shooting % is 11.1 currently, I anticipate it’ll rise as we move deeper into January. I really like Colton Parayko’s play—he uses his size well, passes out of his end effectively, checks with force but his shooting % of 2.2% -2 goals, 93 shots needs some refining. His stellar defensive play is vital but maybe some more concentration on the accuracy of his shots . I realize his 11 assists are due primarily to rebounds on low shots but his higher shots need to be on net also. I’m not much of a fan of Troy Brouwer. I feel like the days of the muscular forwards with minimal NHL offensive skills passed along with the Philadelphia Flyers Broad Street Bully Days in the 70’s. However, It does appear that Justin Faulk is finding his game legs after looking slow in his first several games.

….the St Louis U Billikens hold an impressive 11-3 record. There are some strong wins- 66-63 over K-State (7-5 of Big 12), 60-55 over Belmont (9-4, 1st in OVC, 86-62 over Tulane (8-5 in American Conf), 64-54 on the road over Boston College (8-6, 4th ACC).Now, the Bills have to keep winning against these more talented teams. If you want to make a post-season tourney and WIN….you must have the experience of good wins under your belt. But, I’d like to focus on the outstanding play of one of the local players-Justin Goodwin. Goodwin has played 35+ minutes in 8 of the games. He’s averaging a double-double—15.2 pts/11.4 reb per game while leading the A10. In addition to leading the team in those 2 categories, he’s the leader in steals and 2nd in assists. With Goodwin and Yuri Collins the Bills have 2 of their top players from the Lou. It’ll be fun to watch these Bills, who seem more athletic than most of the past teams compete and grow throughout the season. The Bills must find a way to keep Hasahn French on the court. His rebounding, blocked shots (31) and scoring are essential in games against strong opponents. His early foul trouble is troublesome for Coach Ford. I expect other teams will go “right at him” in the first 10 minutes of each game in an effort to get him on the bench. The season long Foot injury to Gibson Jimerson (3 pt shooter) presents a real challenge. He converted 43% of is 3 point shots, was named A-10 rookie of the week twice during nonconference play. Question is— can/will someone assume that roll with close to the same results? Coach Travis Ford sees his team ranked #56 by NET ranking currently. It’s better than it first seems…in that same poll….Kentucky is #40, Florida #55, Missouri #52, Georgia #66, Texas A&M is #191. This same poll had Duquesne #98 with 11-2 record..Bills lost on the road to 73-59 to Duquesne in A-10 opener on Thursday. So much for polls, right?

…I enjoyed watching the 2 games of the Nearly Forgotten League yesterday. On a larger stage, it appears that Tom Brady’s great career may be over. Remember centuries ago..it seems..he played the Rams in the Super Bowl!! Clearly his athleticism has diminished—his weaker arm, slower movements, less agility. When the Titans handed the Pats a 20-13 defeat yesterday and the Pats offense was mediocre (at best), it was a clear signal to Brady & the Pats. He’s been great…he’s a sure HOF’er….but everything comes to an end. The other wild card game between Houston Texans & Buffalo Bills was a story of 2 totally different halves. Buffalo controlled first half as Josh Allen looked sharp & led 13-0. However, in the 2nd half, he fell apart. He looked and played like an overwhelmed QB. He appeared to be “over his head” in the deep depth of this game with poor decisions on targets, accuracy, and panicking when his team lost their momentum. Meanwhile, DeShawn Watson came alive in the 2nd half. He used his legs for escapeability as well as gaining yards and his arm for key throws on crucial downs. The regulation score of 19-19 was the 1st time in NFL history that a game had that score. On the winning drive in OT, Watson made some terrific throws and runs, on one play he was hit by both DE..almost simultaneously…but kept his feet and gained big yards on a run. It led to a 22-19 victory. It was a wonderful week of winter wonderland in the sports world.

Comments

  1. Great article! I really enjoyed the NO FUN League play offs yesterday. A bummer that Brees who had a great 2019 season laid an egg yesterday to Captain Kirk Cousins WOW! I did not see that Mercedes Dome is probably the 2nd loudest football stadium in the league behind Seattle’s Cool Russell Wilson found a way to win a Tough place to play in Philly. It was funny ESPN guys were saying this was the match up of the Street Beast Mode pick up vs theWaiver wire practice crew with all of Philly injuries. Instead of the Red Cross call them the Green Cross!
    SLU found a way yesterday to beat 10 point Dog U Mass at Chafeitz
    Wasn’t pretty but a W is a W. Especially they got smoked on the road in their first Conference game against Duchesne. See a couple upsets next weekend like Titans & Hawks because of their style of play –Control ball and great D will do it. Have a great day!!!
    MB

  2. Great article Bob! I loved the title! LR

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