Ridley’s Rankings Week 14 – Getting Catfished

CatfishingIn the Internet Era, our lives have undoubtedly changed. Sports are now 24/7/365 businesses. News becomes stale in five minutes. A person can buy everything they could ever possibly want or need (and things that qualify as neither) all while sitting on their couch. Hell, even social interaction and dating has changed. With Facebook, you can keep in touch with friends without ever really saying a single word to them. Websites like Match and Cupid.com, or for those with more … um, adult preferences, Craigslist, you can search for single people in your area, strike up conversations, develop a connection and trust and practically fall in love with someone without ever meeting face to face.

Of course, as with most things on the Internet, you can’t take everything in online dating at face value. One of the biggest gifts (and curses) of the Internet is the anonymity that it provides. While most don’t go far enough to exploit this in a malevolent manner, there are a choice few who use the cloak of the web to exploit others, especially in the arena of online dating. Thanks to a couple of siblings in New York City, this practice has come to be known as catfishing. Catfishers purposely pose as someone their not — usually attractive males or females — to lure in unsuspecting victims into emotional and/or explicit online relationships to either find companionship or, frankly, get their jollies.

I bring this up because I’m beginning to feel that I was recently catfished. Not by some buxom blonde online (I’m happily married), but rather by the explosive Baylor Bears. I was led to believe the Bears were this once-in-a-lifetime catch, something I would tell my grand-kids about. In fact, last week I even went so far as to put Baylor as my second-ranked team, trailing only Florida State. How did Baylor handle my new-found trust? They laid an elephant-sized egg on national television to conference rival, Oklahoma State. Now I’m left feeling duped and exposed; used and disregarded. It turns out that my new Kate Upton was actually just a Sarah Jessica Parker.

For an explanation of  how these rankings work and what all these numbers mean, click here.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – Nothing changed for the Seminoles this week as they laid waste to the Idaho Vandals, 80-14. As someone who has seen the Vandals play more times than a sane person would admit to, I must say I’m completely surprised U of I scored during meaningful football (i.e. the first half). Next up is Florida, who is coming off a lost to FCS foe, Georgia Southern.  Continue reading

NFL Picks – Week 12

Sunday-Night-Football-Manning-vs.-Brady-SS-590x362OK, so it turned out that I don’t actually have the time to write weekly NFL picks, despite their relatively easy nature. You get caught up doing this or that, have a honey-do list that needs completed, go on a Sons of Anarchy bender, whatever if may be and before you know it, a weeks have passed. But just as full moon returns, I’m back after a three-week absence to impart on you some more “knowledge” regarding this week’s NFL match ups.

As always, home teams are in CAPS. Lines are provided by Bovada as of time of writing.

New Orleans (-9) Over Atlanta Falcons

As much as I wish I didn’t pick this (the line was too high for a big rivalry game), I have this image that says otherwise:

IMG_1363

Do me a favor and ignore my percentile; I missed a week or two …

Pittsburgh (+1) Over CLEVELAND

Pittsburgh did a great job of attacking the Lions’ zone last week while also fending off the pass rush of their front four, giving them the biggest upset of Week 11. The Steelers will likely have to employ max protection again if they want to hold back a Cleveland pass rush that’s ranked 11th in Adjusted Sack Rate. Even if they do, they’ll have a hard time completing passes to top threat Antonio Brown, who will be blanketed by Joe Haden. Regardless, Pittsburgh has been playing better football of late and knows a loss to Cleveland kills any shot at the playoffs. Continue reading

Tigers Acknowledge Mistake, Move On

Last night, the Detroit Tigers made a public announcement to all of baseball by trading All-Star first basemen to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The message the trade sent was received loud and clear: We made a mistake and we’re ready to move forward.

Just two offseasons ago, the Tigers won the bidding war for the power-hitting first basemen, signing the second-generation big leaguer to an astounding 9-year, $214 million contract, making him the highest-paid player in Tigers history and fourth-highest in baseball history at the time (Joey Votto’s 10-year, $225 million deal signed in 2012 is now fourth). By signing the rotund Fielder, they were forced to move incumbent first basemen and future two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera over to third base, creating an admitted defensive void. However, the Tigers believed that with Fielder and Cabrera manning the middle of their lineup, they would be able to outhit any deficiencies their new cornerstones would create.

Two seasons, 181 regular season wins, 12 postseason wins and a trip to the World Series later, the Tigers began to feel buyer’s remorse. Fielder, while still producing respectable numbers in a vacuum (.292 BA, 55 HRs, .387 OBP), was becoming more and more of an overpriced luxury. In 2013, he accumulated just 1.7 WAR while making a whopping $23 million, making him one of the most expensive players in the league on a per WAR basis. With a lineup that also features stars such as Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez, the Tigers payroll had become one of the biggest in baseball. Despite owner Mike Ilitch’s desire to see a championship during his waning years, having a payroll in danger of triggering the luxury tax was not a pleasant option.

The trade of Fielder also clears up the logjam the Tigers lineup constantly faced. In perfect situations, Fielder, Cabrera and Martinez would all be slotted in as the designated hitter rather than take the field. To say they are defensive liabilities would be on par with saying that Chicago’s pizza is merely above average. However, if Jim Leyland wanted all three of their bats in the lineup, he was always stuck with putting at least two of them in the field. Now with Fielder gone, Cabrera can transition back to first, keeping Martinez, who doesn’t really excel at catcher or first, in the DH. The move also gives them a certified all-star at second in Kinsler. Kinsler may have had a down year, and does suffer from injuries, but at Jonah Keri stated, the worst Ian Kinsler offers is still better than the best Omar Infante could in 2013.

Detroit was undoubtedly overconfident when they signed Fielder. They believed that his added offense (which ended up being much lower than they expected) would outweigh the risks of relocating their best player and be enough to bring home a championship. While Cabrera continued to perform at a Ruth-ian type level, Fielder proved to he was not the missing piece. His declining numbers aside, the onerous contract and restrictions he created for the lineup likely did more harm than good. On Wednesday, Dave Dombroski realized this and moved on.

Ridley’s Rankings Week 13 – Things Get Wacky

Baylor

Baylor’s frequent trips to the end zone have them boasting the number two ranking.

Before we announce this week’s rankings, let’s attempt to do a blind case study and see how much perception shapes reality, shall we?

  • Team A and Team B are both undefeated. Team B has played a tougher schedule but Team A has blown out more teams.
  • Team A: Beats a team that was previously ranked for several weeks by 25+ points.
  • Team B: Wins by less than 15 points over a team that must win out to become bowl eligible.

Which is the better team right now?

If you guessed that Team A was Baylor and Team B was Alabama, well, pat yourself on the back and buy yourself a Coke. If you caught on to our not-so-blind case study, you probably also caught on to why I brought it up.

This week, after several weeks of inching closer and closer, Baylor has finally usurped Alabama for the coveted second position in the Rankings. If you’ve been following the Rankings, you likely have noticed that Baylor keeps gaining and gaining on the Crimson Tide. Bama was able to produce a strong win over LSU last week, but Baylor countered with a dominating performance over the 10th-ranked Sooners. On Saturday, Baylor beat down a Red Raiders team that had been ranked for the previous seven weeks while Alabama came away with a 20-7 victory over 4-6 Mississippi State. It’s not illogical to say Baylor’s last two weeks deserve more credit.

It’s not only these rankings that think Baylor has been impressive over that time (or the season as a whole); the BCS has as well. Since the Week 11 BCS rankings were announced, Baylor has reduced its distance behind Alabama by half. Only Auburn has seen its BCS stock rise quicker than Baylor’s during that time. But with only two weeks left, it’s a moot point as Alabama WILL play for the BCS national championship, should they win out and Baylor will cross its fingers hoping it’s 2014 team is as strong as its current.

For an explanation of  how these rankings work and what all these numbers mean, click here.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – At this point, I’m almost out of superlatives to describe the Seminoles. They absolutely desecrated Syracuse on Saturday, notching their fifth victory o f 48 points or more.
  2. Baylor (94.29) – The Bears defense hasn’t been as solid since entering Big 12 play, but their offense is still outstanding, averaging 57.0 points in conference games. Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings Week 12 – A Clearer Picture

Oregon-at-Stanford

Stanford’s victory over Oregon helped clear up the BCS title picture.

An anticipated Thursday came and went, leaving contenders and hopefuls in its wake. From the debris rose a clearer picture to the national championship. With the Ducks falling to Stanford for a second consecutive year, we now have two teams that control their own destiny; though there are teams with semi-legitimate gripes, should they be left out.

We are now left with just four undefeated AQ teams in college football, falling into two different categories: The Contenders (Alabama, Florida State) and The Hopefuls (Ohio State, Baylor). Alabama and Florida State both face a favorable regular season slate before they square off in their respective conference championship. Win out and they find themselves in Pasadena. Trip up and we’ll have a very interesting situation on our hands.

Should one stumble, there are two, or possibly three teams with legitimate claims at a title shot. Ohio State, which is running roughshod on the (I can’t believe I’m saying this) under-appreciated Big Ten; Baylor, who’s playing at a historic offensive pace (complimented with an almost equally impressive defense); and Stanford, who’s schedule has been one of the toughest in the nation and just beat the number-three team in the country. Should Michigan State fall,and lower the quality of the Big Ten Championship, and Stanford impressively beat a highly-ranked UCLA team in the Pac-12 Championship, the BCS formula may give the edge to the one-loss Cardinal.

As many college football fans know, with the BCS, anything is possible.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – The Noles sit on top again after a thorough thrashing of Wake Forest. All that stands between Jumbo Fisher’s team and an undefeated regular season are Syracuse, Idaho (well, they mostly lay down) and Florida.
  2. Alabama (96.63) – Nick Saban is back at the deuce, thanks to Stanford’s defensive effort against Oregon. The Tide also gained a decent chunk of ground this weekend with a decisive victory over the Bayou Bengals. Up next is a disappointing Mississippi State squad. Continue reading

Ridley’s Rankings Week 11 – Must-See TV

Bryce Petty

Bryce Petty leads the nation’s best offense against the Sooners in a primetime Thursday night match-up.

Usually in this space I like to recap what happened over the weekend and explain how it translates into the rankings. Due to this weekend having an absolute dearth of quality match-ups (even Florida State versus Miami was a letdown), I decided it’s better to leave the past where it is and look forward to the future.

This Thursday night, college football fans and sports bars across America will be given a special treat. We have the privilege of watching two Thursday night match-ups that feature four BCS top-10 teams facing off in games that could not only influence their conference titles but also change the national championship landscape.

In Palo Alto, we’re sure to see another epic slugfest between the Oregon Ducks and their newest nemesis, the Stanford Cardinal. Last year, the Cardinal dashed the Ducks’ hopes of reaching the BCS National Championship, upsetting Oregon in Eugene 17-10. This week, the Feathered Fury will seek redemption when they travel to Northern California. A win would almost guarantee a Pac-12 North title and also give them the resume boost they need to reclaim a top-two spot in the BCS rankings. Should Stanford come away with a victory, they’ll take a leg up in the Pac-12 North and make an argument that they should be considered for a national championship berth.

Down in Waco, Texas, the high-octane Bears of Baylor will play host to Big 12 rival, Oklahoma. We’ve talked about the Bears’ offensive exploits in this column before. They have put up 59 points or more in six of their seven contests and have an average winning margin of 48 points. However, they haven’t faced a defense as good as Oklahoma’s yet. The Sooners are allowing just 18.8 points a game, 14th best in the country. Even if they do manage to contain the Bears, Oklahoma may not have the offensive firepower to score enough on the nation’s sixth-best defense.

Unfortunately for the Bears, even a blowout against the Sooners won’t be enough to push them into the title conversation. They currently sit sixth in the BCS, .1780 points behind second-ranked Florida State. To reach the BCS Championship, they would need to somehow over come the winner of Oregon/Stanford, Ohio State and either Florida State or Alabama. While neither of those situations are likely, a Bears win will go a long way towards netting them their first BCS bowl game.

For an explanation of  how these rankings work and what all these numbers mean, click here.

The Rankings

  1. Florida State (100.00) – The Seminoles gained a good chunk of ground with their easy win over a previously-unbeaten Hurricane team. That distance will be put to the test this week, with the Ducks facing the Cardinal, as well as Alabama playing host to 13th-ranked LSU. Even a lopsided win against 4-5 Wake Forest won’t do much to fend them off.
  2. Oregon (94.80) – The idle Ducks may have lost ground to the Seminoles, both in these rankings and the BCS, but they’ll easily make it up if they can take care of business against the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
  3. Alabama (94.68) – Should the Ducks win big and the Tide struggle (but still win) against LSU, we very well could see Oregon overtake both FSU and Bama for the number-one spot in the BCS rankings. Continue reading