Monday, December 31, 2012

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt Perform Duet

In honor of New Year's Eve —which is a stupid non-holiday but a fine excuse to drink until people aren't insufferable— I give you this strangely intoxicating youtube clip of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt being cute.

Zooey is well-liked by me because of her sultry singing voice and tendency to be adorable. While I can understand if you think she's overly twee (sickeningly sweet) I must vehemently disagree.

JGL is pretty much the new cool. He's currently in that phase that Matt Damon went through where he surprises people by how badass he actually is. I'd say he's done well, though I wasn't very impressed with Inception.

It wasn't that confusing, and as South Park pointed out:

"Just because an idea is overly convoluted and complex doesn't make it cool! Going to multiple dream levels sounds like a really stupid idea."
None the less, these two are really pleasant to hear singing and the song is topical. Enjoy and have a safe and happy New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hokies Embarrassed, Win Russell Athletic Bowl

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."
-President Gerald Ford

I knew the Russell Athletic Bowl would be ugly, but who knew we would witness one of the worst played games in college football history?

Virginia Tech won on a missed Rutgers field goal in overtime. The Hokies didn't score until the fourth quarter and Rutgers only scored three points on offense.

The lone Scarlet Knights touchdown came on a botched Hokie snap on the game's opening drive, when Logan Thomas inexplicably tried to pick the ball up and run before he fumbled in the endzone.

Replay seemed to show Thomas down for a safety, the first of many curious calls by the Big XII officiating crew.

The Hokies managed just three yards of rushing in this game. That's an average of 3.4 inches per carry.

The Tech fan base was completely apathetic about this game, myself included. I felt kind of bad, but I really just wanted to get it over with so we could get to the important business of finally making some offensive coaching changes.

Tech fans have been expecting such changes for years, but now it seems there is enough overwhelming evidence something must happen that not even Frank Beamer can 'aw shucks' his way around the issue.

Pete Roussel of reported last night that Tech wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman will be leaving to accept a position at Purdue. Sherman refused to address the issue after last night's game.

That's just a drop in the bucket and to be sure, the receivers were far from the biggest issue on offense.

That being said, the routes have been awful for years. Several times last night in Orlando Logan Thomas expected wideouts to be somewhere else, throwing an interception on one such play.

The receivers haven't been consistent and their aversion to making blocks may speak to childhood instances of trouble with Legos.

More likely, they were poorly coached.

I expect much more to change with at least one coach "retiring" while others accept positions elsewhere before being outright canned.

It was a painful season, but perhaps it was necessary to get the changes Tech needs to get to the next level.

Ultimately, Tech had its worst season in 20 years and somehow still managed a winning record and a bowl victory.

Not bad with a bunch of incompetent coaches.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Westboro Baptist Church Can Suck an Egg, and Other Thoughts

Editor's Note: The following are my thoughts and reflections on the recent spate of despicable violence in America. I didn't talk about the specifics of those acts because I learned long ago that they can't be explained. My attempts to create one coherent narrative may well have failed, but hopefully someone gets something from it. It's mostly me working out my own stuff on "paper".

Sometimes it takes a major event to shake loose the truest emotional reactions of the human psyche.

Our day-to-day lives rarely allow us —or perhaps we don’t allow ourselves— to reflect on our emotions unless something jarring occurs.

In those instances, we’re forced to confront the fears and anxieties that lie at the very core of even the most hardened amongst us.

The terrible killings of two firefighters near Rochester, NY coming on the heels of the unthinkable murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT have brought back to the surface all the pain experienced by Hokies like myself in April of 2007 and beyond.

We all deal with pain and grief in our own ways, and the families that directly lose someone in these tragedies should be allowed to do so on their own terms as well.

However, that wouldn’t be the case if the Westboro Baptist Church had their way.

They’ve protested funerals in the past, and hollowly threatened to protest many more including those of the Newtown victims.

In August of 2012, President Obama signed into law the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.

Among other things, the legislation forced protests such as these to move at least 300 feet from the funeral site of a member of the country’s armed service members.

It seems necessary to take further steps as the protests now extend to innocent civilians and even children.


It's been snowing like mad here today, and I've been ruminating on several thoughts this afternoon and evening. I rarely feel more of the gonzo flair than when snow is coming down and I'm stuck inside furiously hammering out rhythms of text.

At one point, I was reminded of a conversation that friend of the blog and theoretical contributor Andy and I had the other day.

We were sitting together Monday morning as I read some of the reports from Webster — a suburb of Rochester where he lives and works.

Andy later informed me that the Westboro crazies planned to take their act on the road once again for the funerals of the public servants who died trying to do their jobs.

He wanted to go out and meet their protests with one of his own. I was cordially invited.

After struggling to string together my thoughts on these matters today, I finally reasoned that sneaking one of my Dad’s cigars would be the best way to ease my brain to attempt to put things together.

Earlier in the weekend, we had spoken of getting a cigar and engaging in a casual airing of grievances, but the tobacco shop had been closed.

I bundled up and shoveled a single path down the driveway, curving around the corner just beyond where the porch light reached.

I stood smoking in the shadows listening to the still night air as the snow continued falling around me.

I reflected on the aforementioned violent events and my relation to them, and I thought about what Andy had suggested regarding protesting the crazies.

I considered what I would say in such a confrontation, and while I fear it would be viewed purely as a threat, I think it’s the only fair question that could be posed to such unreasonable people.

“What if someone killed you Mr. Phelps? What if some gun-toting fiend showed up at one of your protests and popped off a few rounds hmmmmm? Would that be God’s will?”

Invariably, he would deflect the question and dive into some hateful rant on gays in the military or recklessly declare murdered children being part of God’s plan. You can never make headway with these people and I’ve often thought that they are best left ignored.

It was then that I realized, they can’t be ignored.

I respect the right our Constitution grants us to speak freely without fear for persecution from the government.

However, I think it’s clear that some speech can be considered so incendiary and hateful that it does the public no good to hear it.

If you’re of similar mind, I encourage you to sign this petition asking President Obama to declare the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.

They’ve already been banned from entering the United Kingdom, and I think some of their language is close enough to be considered advocacy of violence toward various religions, ethnic groups and homosexuals — an important part of the FBI’s formal definition of a hate group.

At the very least, the President can take action to make their tasteless funeral protests more difficult.

Here’s hoping he goes a step further.    

Monday, December 24, 2012

First Song From Space: "Jewel In The Night"

Since Flight of the Conchords put the image in my head of David Bowie in space, I've often pictured him recording his classic album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars somewhere in the dark expanse far beyond our planet.

Now, space recording has become a reality a little closer to home.

Col. Chris Hadfield has added to his list of many firsts by becoming the first person to record a song on the International Space Station (ISS).

Col. Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space and will become the first Canadian commander of the ISS in March of 2013 during his current mission.

All very impressive, but this song is quite the feather in his cap as well.

It certainly adds a whole new meaning to the "space rock" genre.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Paul McCartney & Nirvana

It was big news last week when the 12-12-12 benefit concert for victims of hurricane Sandy went down.

Major acts like Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, and The Who (what's left of it) all came together in New York City's Madison Square Garden to raise money for victims of the October storm.

The headliner—which in this case is a fancy way of saying, "You go on at 1 AM"—was Paul McCartney, a man who at 70 years old rocks much harder than his contemporaries, and even many of the younger acts around.

Recently, Dave Grohl took time from being in every band ever to reunite what's left of his first successful group, Nirvana.

Along with bassist Krist Novoselic and guitarist Pat Smear, Grohl took to the drums and asked Sir Paul if he'd like to jam with the group.

The result is "Cut Me Some Slack", a new song that will be featured on the soundtrack for Dave Grohl's forthcoming documentary Sound City, about the famous recording studio of the same name.

The trailer for the film is below as is the group's performance on from the 12-12-12 concert.

There's a good video of the guys playing on Saturday Night Live last weekend, but the bass isn't as prominent and the rhythm section is what we all really want to hear. It's very vintage.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another Christmas Song

Recently, during our swapping of demos I pitched an idea to band mate Luke Sweet.

"I dread all the pending Christmas music. We should make a seasonal song about how seasonal songs blow."

So I wrote one and decided to make a silly video to accompany it. I hope you enjoy my cheeky take on how annoying Christmas music can be.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tegan And Sara Return With Heartthrob

Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara Quin are back with the release of Heartthrob January 29.

In advance of the new release, Tegan and Sara have put out the first single "Closer" accompanied by the cool video below.

"Closer" is incredibly infectious in the best of ways. Give it a listen and enjoy the visuals of a ramped-up teenage bash complete with trampolines, balloons and karaoke.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Justin's Top 5 Albums of 2012

It's officially December which means the world will once again feign wistfulness over a fairly unremarkable year dominated by another round of American political chicanery.

It also means it's time for countless year end lists to conveniently organize our subjective tastes into neatly numbered order.

I listen to a lot of music and in attempting to make my own such list, I realized I didn't entertain many new releases this year. It wasn't intentional, but I certainly didn't check the collective music pulse very often in 2012.

None the less, I offer you my personal highlights from another go around to pass the time until absolutely nothing happens with the end of the Mayan calendar. If something did happen though, you should have these albums in your zombie-proof bunker.

I secretly hope something goes down, otherwise I'll have to make New Years plans.

Jack White- Blunderbuss

Jack White's first solo effort has received loads of praise and rightfully so. It has vintage Jack White guitar aggression mixed with thoughtful, albeit sometimes puzzling lyrics. White really stretches out on this album and shows off his chops, playing not only guitar but piano, bass, drums and he even banged on his guitar case when called for. All in the name of beautiful noise.

Ben Folds Five- The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind

Here's another album that I've praised before and I don't plan to stop anytime soon. Ben Folds Five reunited to make an album that completely captures the spirit of their previous work while showing the maturity that comes with getting older. "Do It Anyway" is the feel good lead single that can't possibly leave you feeling blue, but I've grown to think the strongest song on the album is the title track. Ben Folds Five is criminally underrated, and this album is proof positive.

Fiona Apple- The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

As are most Fiona Apple albums, this one is beautiful, strange and decidedly awesome. What some may consider a drawback—the inconsistent flow and stylistic changes song to song—are one of my favorite parts of the album. Fiona Album doesn't care what anybody thinks and makes music that pleases her first and foremost. She doesn't worry how accessible the tunes are, so long as they're good. Also, she made a delightfully weird music video for stand-out track "Every Single Night".

Tenacious D- Rize of the Fenix

I know, I know. You either agree with their self-applied, "Greatest band in the world" label or you think it's childish drivel. I tend to view Tenacious D as a combination of both. The lyrics are often silly and offensive, but their musical skills are unquestioned. They'll never truly be able to top their eponymous debut album, but this one comes a little closer than Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. Jack Black's vocal gymnastics never get old just as Kyle Gass' guitar work and Dave Grohl's drumming never cease to drive the show.  

Honorable Mentions

I realize that was only four albums, but as I said my intake of new releases was somewhat small this year. As a compromise I give you several albums that were very solid, but didn't find a place on my list. 

The Shins-Ports of Morrow

Some really good songs on here propped up by lots of fluff. I really wish frontman James Mercer hadn't completely changed his band bringing in all new members.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse-Americana

It's truly amazing that these guys still rock the way they do. It's also a really cool idea to rework a bunch of American standards like "Oh Susanna" and turn them into searing jams. 

Benjamin Gibbard-Former Lives

This album would probably make my list at number five, but it was released recently enough that I haven't had a chance to give all the songs their due yet. "Teardrop Windows" is a nice jam featuring a very funny music video.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Handicapping the Heisman Race: Is It Manti's to Lose?

The Heisman Trophy race has reached it's apex as the audition season is essentially over.

All of the major players in this race have played their final regular season games and are either, ineligible or didn't qualify for their conference championship games. Of course, one school doesn't play in a conference.

It's been a strange season of college football with no one team dominating and very few players rising above the pack to be considered exceptional.

You don't have to believe me, but I arrived at this list of three Heisman finalists before reading some of the analysis that's out there. We'll look at each players season and then I'll give you my pick.

Manti Te'o

Manti Te'o is considered by many—especially if you read this blog with any regularity—to be the frontrunner for this years Heisman. 

To be sure, Te'o is the best player on an outstanding Notre Dame defense and has been a captain on a team that has defied logic and reason to end up in the BCS national championship game.

Te'o finished the season with 103 total tackles, seven interceptions and one sack. 

Shockingly, the total tackles number ranks him only 58th in the nation—Toledo's Dan Molls leads the country with a mind-boggling 166 total tackles—but Manti's interceptions put him at No. 3. 

Te'o plays smart and fast as few can. If I were to compare him to a professional it would be Ray Lewis, not in size or aggressiveness, but they share an uncanny knack to always be around the ball and to finish plays.

Also, you always have to be aware of where these guys line up on the field. 

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Football has a great nickname and a stat line that belies his true freshman status. A quick Google search however will point out that he got into a little trouble prior to the season. He also was Scooby Doo for Halloween and is a big fan of blonde other words a true freshman. 

Manziel has completed 68% of his passes for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. 

On the ground he's rushed 184 times for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns. That's 4,600 total yards and 114 points in the toughest conference in the nation. 

Sure he missed his one really sad extra point attempt, but he also beat then No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

Braxton Miller

Ohio State is the only undefeated team aside from Notre Dame and they're delightfully ineligible for any postseason play. That doesn't mean Buckeyes can't win awards however, and Braxton Miller has had a fine season.

Urban Meyer's spread offense was designed for a player like Miller. 

Braxton has spearheaded a 12-0 season by passing for 2,039 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.

He's also added 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Oh and he's only a sophomore. 

Needless to say, the Buckeyes have one of the most versatile offenses in the country and will be a major factor in future national championship pictures once they finish up probation.     


These are the top three guys on my board, and likely you'll see them invited to New York City for the Heisman presentation. 

I included the note about Johnny Manziel's little altercation because Brian and others pulling for Mr. Te'o have been quick to point out that the Heisman, "recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity". 

That's important to remember, but I think it's unfair to rule out the best freshman in the country based on a relatively minor mistake made before the season even started. 

Braxton Miller and Manti Te'o are both terrific players who deserve to be recognized, but I think it extremely unlikely that anyone other than Johnny Manziel wins the Heisman Trophy this season. 

What he's done on the field is unprecedented and won't soon be repeated by a frosh. 

Don't agree? Tell us why and don't forget to vote over at Nissan's Heisman house to let your voice be heard. 

Because nothing says integrity like fan voting and a sponsor tie-in!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Irish Eyes Are Smiling at a Possible National Championship

Notre Dame's 22-13 victory over rival USC Saturday gave the Irish the jeweled shillelagh trophy as well as a berth in the BCS national championship game in Miami on January 7.

Despite not having starting quarterback Matt Barkley, the Trojans gave a decent effort behind a solid first career start from redshirt freshman Max Wittek.

The Irish were led by Theo Riddick who rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown to pace an Irish offense otherwise consisting of five Kyle Brindza field goals.

It was a big test passed for a Notre Dame team that has been tested primarily by its own shortcomings.

The much vaunted schedule strength has been simply good with the only real highlights being impressive road wins against USC and Oklahoma and a nice home win against Stanford.

The good thing for Irish fans is they don't have to worry about any of that now.

Now, they simply wait for the SEC to sort itself out to find an opponent for the biggest ND game in two decades.

My gut tells me that it will be Alabama facing the Irish. Despite tripping up against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, Alabama is still the most ruthlessly efficient team in the country.

Of course that's all simply conjecture.

I'll wait until things officially unfold next weekend to start analyzing a match up, which will give me plenty to fill the outrageous time left until the national championship is formally settled.

It will be 43 days since the Irish have played football when they tee it up in Miami and 36 days for their SEC opponent [I originally had these numbers wrong because apparently I can't count].

Lots and lots of dead air in other words.

I'll begin filling it by adding that sometime in the second quarter Saturday, I decided that Everett Golson is probably my favorite college football player currently.

People love to talk about Manti Te'o—and rightfully so—but the Notre Dame defense is good enough that without him, they would still be a top ten unit.

Without Golson, the Irish might have only won seven or eight games.

Aside from the fact his athleticism brings an element of unpredictability that defenses can't do much about, Everett has grown as a passer. He throws a nice, accurate, catchable ball and he rarely panics in the pocket.

I also love the way he whips his passes. In other words, his throwing motion is delightful and generates great power.

I'm not sure how he'll fare against a defense like Alabama's or Georgia's, but it sure will be exciting.

So once again, enjoy yourselves Irish fans. Toast the victories and now you can start imagining what it will be like to redecorate in South Bend.

For once though don't use gold, go for crystal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Maryland is Leaving the ACC, but How's Their Math?

It's been a rough week if you're a fan of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

As everyone knows by now, the University of Maryland voted Monday morning to leave the ACC to join the B1G (that means Big Ten plus three).

The Terrapins are of course a charter member of the ACC—founded in 1953—but their athletic programs are hemorrhaging money to the tune of losing $26.8 million last year.

That apparently means that they had to jump at the chance for slightly more television revenue.

The B1G hands out approximately $24 million a year per school versus $17 million for the ACC.

Interestingly, taking a look at the Nielsen numbers from 2011 tells us that the B1G number is about right while the ACC badly botched their most recent negotiations.

For football, the SEC is clearly No. 1 with 4,447,000 viewers. No. 2 is the B1G with 3,276,000 and the ACC is in third with 2,650,000.

The B1G is first in hoops with the ACC close behind. The biggest difference between the two television deals is the B1G deal expires in 2017 while the ACC locked themselves in until 2027.

According to Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, the B1G projects to be able to distribute roughly $43 million per school when the conference negotiates its next deal, but that number strikes me as unlikely and based on a lot of assumptions.

The B1G is assuming that the new television markets brought in by adding Maryland and Rutgers—Washington, D.C. and New York City/New Jersey—will give them far more households with the B1G Network on their standard tier 1 sports package.

That would give them tremendous bargaining power when the time to talk turkey comes up again.

However, the way people watch television is changing rapidly and the industry will have to change too if it wants to keep its subscribers.

A recent study suggests that the average monthly cable bill could be $200 by 2020. That's absolutely insane.

Prices are already far above what the shoddy product we receive is worth which has been driving people online for entertainment.

It's not surprising when services like HuluPlus, Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime and others are all vastly superior to wildly inconsistent cable connections filled with dozens of channels that go unwatched.

Thus, the thinking is that in the future cable companies will offer broadband connections with more options for à la carte programming and less of the stuff you don't want in an attempt to keep people from going online. 

This is an intriguing issue in and of itself, but my point is simply these revenue projections by the B1G are likely overly optimistic. 

That's especially true when you consider that the league is simply diluting its product by adding two middling football programs and hoping that market share somehow overrides the product on the field. 

It's somewhat sad to see Maryland leave I guess, but they're a mediocre athletic department that brings very little to the table in the sport driving all this conference realignment nonsense, football. 

I'm hoping that ACC commissioner John Swofford holds the Terps to the $50 million exit fee (one they didn't agree to) and finally shows he has some cajones when it comes to negotiating. 

Stick it to the deserters I say, and take your time finding the new member to fill their shoes. Everyone's assuming a school like UConn or Cincinnati is the logical choice, but are both unappealing options. 

I say take that $50 million and pay a better candidate's exit fee from some other conference. 

Or, umm...Notre Dame, are you sure you don't want to play football with us for real? Pleeeeeeeease?  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

College Football Just Imploded and Notre Dame is the New No. 1

There's little doubt that college football's final weeks of the regular season tend to be chaotic, but this weekend was absolutely nuts.

For the first time since December 2007, the top two teams in the BCS standings lost Saturday vaulting the Irish to the top spot and opening the floodgates for challengers—so long as they're from the SEC.

This scenario seemed unthinkable just a week ago when Kansas State moved atop the rankings with the vaunted Oregon offense nipping at the Wildcats' heels.

Now, the national championship dreams of those teams are shattered and the Golden Dome is shining a little brighter with the Irish once again ranked No. 1.

You can debate the merits of this team all you like. Notre Dame might not be the best team in the country, but thus far, they've earned the opportunity to prove it in the BCS title game.

Undeniable is the fact that ND is 11-0 and every other eligible team (how's that taste Buckeyes?) has lost at least once now.

Brian and I briefly discussed this kind of experience a couple weeks ago. We weren't really sure what would happen down the stretch, but we agreed that if you can finish the undefeated it's a special season regardless of what the stupid polls tell us.

I liken the Irish experience this year to my youthful days in Blacksburg during the Hokies' magical run to the national championship game in 1999.

No one really expected that to happen.

Tech was relying on a mobile redshirt-freshman quarterback, a stout defense filled with NFL talent and a whole lot of luck. Frank Beamer just hoped things would come together.

Along the road there were some close calls and furious comebacks and despite preseason predictions, Tech found itself in the BCS national championship game.

Sound familiar?

Now, as I told Brian during his late night post game call Saturday, don't go getting drunk and excited and order tickets to Miami just yet.

There's nothing more worrisome than a wounded team as talented the USC Trojans, especially in a big rivalry game.

USC has had plenty of troubles recently, and the biggest may be the potentially separated throwing shoulder of quarterback Matt Barkley.

Despite that and the fact that I—along with most people—don't think too highly of Lane Kiffen's coaching abilities, this will be a very difficult game.

USC coach Lane Kiffen practices his ND post game press conference responses. 

Even worrying about USC is looking too far into the future. Enjoy the moment Irish fans. Realize what this season has been so far and don't focus too much on the possibilities.

As the Hokie nation is painfully aware, seasons like these don't happen too often. They are special things to be savored and remembered for years to come.

The game next week will be just like the season. Tense moments with potential heartbreak that  can quickly turn to jubilation.

Just remember, you're No. 1 and no one can take that away.

Well, except maybe the Trojans.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Oh That Irish Luck; Notre Dame Still Undefeated

For three and a half quarters Saturday Notre Dame was beaten by the Pittsburgh Panthers.

The trouble for Pitt came in those final minutes and subsequent overtimes when the Irish defense stiffened and the offense suddenly remembered what they were doing.

The results were a 29-26 3OT thriller in South Bend ending with a Notre Dame comeback sparked by a phantom pass interference call.

The comeback was very impressive, no doubt, but the unsuccessful 4th down play that might have otherwise ended ND's chances should never have seen a flag.

My apologies for a lack of angles, but this is clearly the best one. Even the reverse view looked questionable but this one is just brutal. 

Everett Golson struggled much of the game until after head coach Brian Kelly briefly inserted Tommy Rees into the game.

Following an awful interception thrown by Rees, Golson returned with renewed vigor eventually scoring the winning touchdown on a QB sneak. I don't like playing musical chairs with your quarterbacks, but in this case Brian Kelly played that game quite well.

Golson took a step back from his coming out party against Oklahoma, but he's clearly still the only thing that makes the Irish offense go.

Rees is a wonderful safety blanket, but he shouldn't really see the field. This is Golson's team and even when he struggles he gives ND the best chance to win.

The Irish defense is a treat to watch when they're playing well, and even when Pitt was controlling the game, the defense never gave them much.

The Panthers' Ray Graham is a special back, so his 172 rushing yards are nothing to be overly concerned with. He does that to just about everyone.

The passing game for Pitt was pedestrian as well accounting for just 164 yards and a touchdown. When the game was on the line late, the Irish D put heavy pressure on Panther QB Tino Sunseri and he was rendered ineffective both in regulation and overtime.

Next up for Notre Dame is a rivalry clash with the miserable Boston College Eagles.

I get that it's a rival and emotions will be running high, but there are zero excuses for struggling in this game.

BC has a solid quarterback in Chase Rettig accounting for their No. 27 passing offense, but their rushing offense is No. 122, scoring is 98th and scoring defense is 87th.

Head coach Frank Spaziani has exactly three games before he is unceremoniously fired.

Unless the Irish hasten that process come Saturday, which is entirely possible.

Logan Thomas and the Hokies Need a New Mindset

Quarterback Logan Thomas was visibly upset in the waning moments of Virginia Tech's disheartening 30-12 loss to the Miami Hurricanes Thursday in Miami Gardens.

The frustration was understandable given how Logan played and the number of blown opportunities by the Tech offense.

For his part, Thomas threw for 199 yards and added 124 yards on the ground that included a lumbering 73-yard touchdown straight up the middle on a busted play. 

The problem for Thomas were his two interceptions and a fumble on the Miami goal line. He also overthrew a wide open fullback on a 4th and 1 play that was an excellent call that simply lacked execution from the QB.

Something has been off for Thomas all season, and I've come to think that a big part of it is he's putting too much pressure on himself. 

Granted, the entire weight of the Hokie offense is on his shoulders because there simply aren't enough playmakers out there, but LT needs to relax a bit.

Logan Thomas can still change games and the season with plays like this one.

It's never fun when you're losing, but it's hard to win when you aren't having some fun.

Smiling doesn't  have to mean you're happy, but it does speak to a better overall mindset.

Sometimes, there's not much you can do but laugh and move on when things aren't going your way. It's a heckuva lot better than sulking and getting down on yourself.

While I generally dislike cross-sport comparisons, a golf contrast works here as does baseball. Great golfers and pitchers have short memories and quickly get over mistakes. You can let a bad performance stick with you and motivate you after the fact, but in the moment there's no room for dwelling on mistakes.

Logan is a very young QB and just as his mechanics and ability to read defenses will likely improve, so too will his maturity and leadership abilities.

It may not be an enormous deal that Thomas declined to talk to the media after the Miami loss, but just think of the uproar had former Tech quarterback Sean Glennon done that a few years ago.

Glennon was one of the most criticized athletes in Hokie history, but time and time again he went out under the glare of the media lights and addressed those critics regardless of his performance.

Logan will learn from this experience both on and off the field.

This is Frank Beamer's most trying season in 20 years so it's no surprise that his players have struggled at times with processing what's happening.

Despite Tech's 4-5 overall record and a 2-3 ACC mark, there are still things to play for.

This group will go down either as a underachieving bunch that completely collapsed during a lost season, or as a team that struggled a great deal but finally made a push toward respectability in the final stretch.

It will be a tall order, but it's possible with better execution and a little more energy.

Who knows, they might even have fun doing it.   

Editor's Note: I'll have some stuff about Notre Dame's big win tomorrow since I assume Brian's media blackout is still in effect. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Notre Dame and Virginia Tech Heading in Opposite Directions

As you may or may not have noticed, Brian and I have entered a period of extreme silence during what is one of the great times of the year—college football season.

We haven't kept in proper contact recently, in fact our first verbal communication came after Notre Dame's surprising victory last Saturday over the mighty Oklahoma Sooners.

I had been anticipating a great deal of Irish coverage as the team somehow continued winning, but there was silence.

Brian explained this weekend that he had stopped writing because he had convinced himself if he published, ND would finally lose.

In a strange ironic twist, I had stopped writing because the Hokies are flat out terrible and frankly, I'd largely run out of helpful suggestions.

So there's the update. One blogger overcome by failure, the other success.

Miami coach Al Golden has plenty to sweat about. 

The Hokies face the Miami Hurricanes Thursday in south Florida. Brian claimed he would be shocked if Tech didn't rush for 300 yards against the 'Canes and I can see his point.

Miami ranks No. 119 out of 120 teams in rushing defense. That's great news to a Hokie rushing attack just 70th best in the nation.

Despite that, the 2012 Techmen are incapable of giving a beating like the one Notre Dame gave "da U" back in Chicago.

Expect a floundering Hokie performance and a narrow victory that could easily go the other direction with one or two wayward bounces.

As for the Irish, what can I add that hasn't already been said?

They should win every game left on the schedule. But clearly, that isn't how college football works.

Pittsburgh may well roll right on over for the freshly awakened echoes, or they might muster the all-world effort they showed against the Hokies—not that they needed that kind of effort.

I expect another close one with ND pulling it out late because, well, that's just how they do it.

It's nice to have something reliable like that isn't it?

At least, until the next game...and the week after that...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No Seriously, How Will the Hokies Beat Duke?

With an overall record of 3-3, Virginia Tech is officially off to its worst start in football since 1992.

That season, the Hokies finished 2-8-1 and Frank Beamer was forced to fire the majority of his coaching staff in order to retain his job.

Tech's loss to North Carolina also harkened back to the early nineties when the Tar Heels returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

It marked the first instance of  that since 1993, the year Frank Beamer and company began their still intact (for now) run of bowl games.

The Hokies are in a tough spot and I say this with all sincerity, they will have their hands full Saturday against Duke.

The Blue Devils are 5-1 and riding high after a a 42-17 thumping of Virginia.

Redshirt sophomore Anthony Boone threw four touchdown passes in that one, and Duke's outstanding starter Sean Renfree should be back for the trip to Blacksburg. Both may play as Boone is a bit more mobile and gives Tech something extra to prepare for.

Sean Renfree is trying to lead Duke to a bowl game for the first time since 1994.

Renfree is a 6-5 redshirt senior who will most certainly get a shot in the NFL after this season. Both QBs give Duke the ability to stretch the field, which is why they have the No. 30 passing offense in the country.

To be fair Duke has played a weak schedule, but their passers are legitimate and they have the ACC's all-time leading receiver in senior Conner Vernon.

Vernon has 239 career receptions including  41 for 555 yards and five touchdowns this season.

Duke doesn't run much, but they do enough on the ground to keep defenses honest and as stated before they will run a bit more with Boone at quarterback out of the read option.

The Blue Devils aren't a strong defensive team. That pairs well with the bright spot from Tech's loss at Carolina which was a decent passing performance.

Logan Thomas threw for a career-high 354 yards and must be salivating over Duke's 76th ranked pass defense.

The big question is how does the much maligned Tech defense stop Duke's spread passing attack?

Look for a simpler scheme from Bud Foster, more base 4-3 defense and less of the nickel package. That works better in terms of personnel and should allow guys to stay in their natural positions.

The weather for the frigid 2008 game was not Sean Glennon's fault. 

It will still be a challenge, but the defense has played better at home for whatever reason and the Hokies desperately need a win if they hope to salvage what has been thus far a disappointing campaign.

Duke probably should have beaten Tech last year in Durham but the Hokies pulled out a 14-10 win.

Duke has been close to winning this game several times in recent years, including the 2008 match up in Blacksburg when the Hokies ended up winning 14-3—without a doubt the coldest game I've ever attended.

Again, Saturday will be a challenge for the Hokies. They are down in the dumps and Duke is rolling along and just a game shy of bowl eligibility.

That being said, Tech should squeak out a close one at home. I wouldn't be shocked by anything at this point but there is still a significant talent gap between these two teams and Virginia Tech is backed into a corner.

We'll see if that's enough Saturday.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hokies Lose to Cincinnati at Miserable FedEx Field

The last hour or so weaving around on the beltway between Baltimore and D.C. always gives me a sense of the general lawlessness and mayhem due on arrival in our nation's capital and outlying areas.

It's always a bit unnerving to get passed by a cop going 85—especially when he seems unfazed by the encounter.

Such was the tone set en route to Virginia Tech's 27-24 defeat at the hand of Cincinnati last Saturday in Landover, Maryland.

I had a general sense of foreboding leading up to this game as soon as soon as Eric—one of my numerous attorney's—and I confirmed the trip mid-week.

It wasn't just the previous trip FedEx for the loss against Boise State on our minds either. There were many positives from that excursion and the dreadful 0-2 by Tech start led to a strangely successful season.

Eric later confided that he had a similar feeling to mine during the week. Things were not meant to be.

Mainly, that was due to a junior quarterback from New Orleans named Munchie Legaux.

Munchie Legaux slips past the Hokies' Kyshoen Jarrett (34).

Munchie torched the Hokies for a career-high 376 yards passing with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.

For Tech's part, they bungled around much of the first half before a late rushing touchdown by Logan Thomas gave Tech a 7-6 lead and hope of a turnaround.

It wasn't to be however as the Hokie defense turned in another subpar performance, allowing 495 total yards.

Something appears off with this particular group of Tech defenders.

Antone Exum has really been struggling at corner, but there's no one behind him on the depth chart ready to go.

The offense performed at a near acceptable level despite not scoring for much of the game. Tech totaled just over 400 yards as a group and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

There are probably some things to build on offensively, but it's largely cancelled out by the lack of scoring.

Despite being largely outplayed, Cincinnati scored only two field goals in the first half. Tech could have an should have taken control of the game.

Logan Thomas continues to struggle, the most glaring example coming on an overthrown pass to a wide open Randall Dunn that was intercepted at the goal line.

The one positive for Tech is special teams appears to be much improved.

Freshman punter A.J. Hughes had another nice night against the Bearcats punting 7 times for an average of 45.9 yards. Cody Journell also had a field goal making him 5 of 6 on the season.

FedEx Field was far from capacity Saturday in Landover, Maryland.

The Hokies now have an all-time record of 0-3 at FedEx Field, featuring losses to USC, Boise State and now the Bearcats.

Tech is 3-2, and while technically still 1-0 in ACC play, an 0-2 mark against Big East teams this season would currently place the Hokies in last place in a far weaker conference than the Big East they once excelled in.

The match with North Carolina in Chapel Hill looks like it will be a big challenge for a struggling bunch of Hokies.

Carolina is ineligible for the ACC Championship and a bowl game this year after having been found guilty of academic fraud, impermissible agent benefits, participation by ineligible players and a failure to monitor the football program. 

Despite the sanctions, UNC appears somewhat rejuvenated under first year head coach Larry Fedora and is playing for some measure of pride.

These are usually close scrappy games between Tech and Carolina and expect this one to require a heavy bourbon intake to stay calm throughout.

The Tarheels are passing well with Bryn Renner at quarterback. The junior has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 1422 with 14 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions.

The Hokie pass defense is struggling and this might not be the best medicine.

Tech-Cincinnati "Highlight" below for those who care to revisit.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ben Folds Five Releases First New Album in 13 Years

Ben Folds has had a successful solo career following the late 90s popularity of his band Ben Folds Five.

They split amicably in 2000 and after a one-off show eight years later and re-recording some songs for Ben's career retrospective The Best Imitation of Myself, finally decided to reunite formally to record a new album.

The result is The Sound of the Life of the Mind out for release September 18.   

After an unsuccessful excursion down the hill to Wal-Mart (gross), I found myself without a physical copy of the album—though several tracks were being streamed by the band in the preceding weeks through various websites.

It's awesome to hear Ben once again playing with drummer Darren Jessee and bassist Robert Sledge—who for my money is one of the most entertaining bassists alive.

Here's the outstanding video for a track that I've had in heavy rotation for a while now, "Do It Anyway".

If you don't like Fraggle Rock or good music, you won't enjoy it. But if either of those are the case...what are you doing here?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hokies Smashed by Pittsburgh, But Not "Upset"

Virginia Tech was absolutely dominated by the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday, a team that entered the game with an 0-2 record that included a loss to Youngstown State of the FCS.

To say the No. 13 Hokies were upset would be incorrect. That implies that the result is unexpected or even unprecedented, neither of which is true.

Losing football games to "inferior" opponents has become an unnervingly consistent part of Virginia Tech football. If it isn't Pittsburgh, it's James Madison or East Carolina upending Tech in early season match ups.

True there's still the ACC title to aim for as these are almost always non-conference missteps, but after seeing the Hokies completely outclassed on both sides of the line of scrimmage against Pitt, one can't help but be pessimistic about the odds of Tech beating Florida State or Clemson.

The Hokies currently have no offensive identity whatsoever. The much ballyhooed pistol formation has been a total flop. The running game has been completely nonexistent and each game has been a blur of formations and personnel swaps.

No one has rushed for more than 54 yards in a game—Michael Holmes in the opener against Georgia Tech—and the last two games have seen the leading rusher come in the form of a wide receiver and a quarterback.

That leaves the Hokies currently ranked 96th in the nation in rushing offense. Bad news for a program known for running the football.

Pitt freshman Rushel Shell (4) gashed Tech for 157 rushing yards
This is bad, but even worse given the total regression of quarterback Logan Thomas.

Thomas has struggled this season save for his fourth quarter performance against Georgia Tech. The Pitt game however was his worst game as a starter, missing basic throws, open receivers and getting rattled in a half-empty stadium.

One has to wonder exactly what if any tinkering went on at quarterback "guru" George Whitfield's passing workouts this past spring, but Thomas is just not the same QB from last season.

His throws are consistently missing high not surprisingly his completion percentage has dropped and two of his career-high interceptions against the Panthers were not even close to receivers.

The pressure of being a pre-season Heisman candidate and having to carry the entire offense may well be a factor, but something seems a bit off in his mechanics.

So time for solutions.

Tech needs to simplify on offense. They're trying to do too many things without perfecting any. The pistol formation was supposed to signify the Hokies modernizing the offense, but the philosophy remained the same.

The Frank Beamer recipe for success is simple, control the clock by holding the ball on offense, don't make mistakes on special teams, score what you can and play suffocating defense to eek out victories.

This works well, but Tech can't control the clock. Currently, they rank 111th in time of possession and 70th in turnover margin with a mark of -.33.

The pass protection has been pretty solid so keep throwing, but the Hokies need fewer formations.

Tech almost always looks great in the two-minute offense because it limits the play-calling to the top handful of plays. Expand on that a bit and toss the rest. Just because you have a ton of plays and looks doesn't mean the defense will be confused by your "complicated" offense.

The Hokies need to start Martin Scales at tailback because he is the most decisive runner and most likely to hit the holes in Tech's zone blocking scheme.

The lack of depth on defense was exposed against Pittsburgh after injuries forced a major shuffle in the secondary.

There's not much you can do about that, but I suspect Bud Foster has more than just injuries to deal with after his defense allowed 537 yards of total offense to a Pitt squad that scored more points against the Hokies (35) than they did against Cincinnati and Youngstown State combined (27).

In one more negative sidebar, it occurred to me after Saturday's thumping at Heinz Field that Tech seems to lose an awful lot in professional stadiums.

I did some digging and sure enough, since 2000, the Hokies are just 9-15 in such games.

I don't think there's a particular trend to read into there but it is slightly worrisome for a team poised to face a game Cincinnati club at FedEx Field in two weeks, a place where Tech is 0-2.

The good news getting back to my original point is this is nothing new for the Hokies. They've lost early in the season many times, including the last FedEx game against Boise State and the ensuing disaster of James Madison.

Tech usually rallies and finishes strong, but this season may be the biggest challenge yet.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Football and Politics as Usual in America

It’s football season sure, but not far beyond the bone-rattling hits of our nation’s most favored and dangerous sport lies a far more grotesque battle for dominance.

It’s election season and as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney continuously engage in the time-honored American tradition of lying and manipulating half-truths, it’s important to take a step back and marvel at the ghastly machinery of our political system at work.

Someone has to do it and the national media certainly aren’t the ones for the job.

The major news networks gamely tip toe around the parapets of actual journalism, but few are asking hard questions or taking anyone to task over the senseless nature of what has become an endless cycle of campaigning.

There are two things this has done to the way we are governed in this country.

First, politicians are less likely to attempt to make difficult, sweeping changes for fear of backlash come the next election. I’ve heard pundits discussing the idea that if re-elected the President can finally attempt to try and accomplish some big controversial things. 

However, the hyper-partisan politicians of our day have created the “lame duck” President, someone who can’t be trusted because he won’t be held accountable for his actions since he doesn’t have to run for re-election. 

President Obama wondering why he's doing this again.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell famously said with no touch of irony that “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”

Which brings me to my second point. The election cycle has become so accelerated that a four-year term in office has really been shrunk down to two years before you have to begin running for re-election.

Coupled with the countless representatives jockeying for position as challengers for the White House who should instead be busy governing, we see a “lame duck” government as a whole and not just a President.

Just as professional football players live out their lives as hired assassins playing with an eye towards their next contract, our politicians are primarily motivated by how they best position themselves for the next election.

Governor Romney realizing what he's gotten himself into.

In addition to the unnecessarily accelerated campaign cycle, there are the record-setting gobs of money being thrust at politicians busy stumping about our nations financial struggles.

In August alone President Obama and the Democrats raised $114 million while governor Romney and the Republicans raked in $111 million.

According to this nifty chart from the New York Timesthat puts the total money raised at just over $1.1 billion, more than $900 million of which has been spent already.

Now that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money the United States owes, but it could certainly be used for much better purposes than political attack ads.

Could you imagine for example politicians traveling the country and holding rallies to fund our educational system or putting on a $25,000 a plate dinner to help families displaced by natural disasters?

That’s pandering we could all get behind.

Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. Politicians as a whole are little more than generally incompetent grifters with an insatiable lust for power and a taste for the flesh of young dogs.

Politicians will say just about anything they think we want to hear to get in our good graces, and we capitulate because there’s some special connection we’ve created in our minds.

These are dangerous people and they will stop at nothing to get to you. They’ll keep calling and sending letters and bombarding you with unwanted advertisements during commercial breaks of your beloved football games.

So while you’re watching oversized humans bash their heads into one another, keep in mind the delightful irony that it’s the exact same thing our politicians are doing with much higher stakes.

Be wary of the real beasts this football season.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More Than ACCeptable: ND to ACC

For the past several years, the only constant in collegiate athletics has been change. Teams have been moving conferences, some have said they would move ultimately to change their minds, and surprisingly enough some have stayed put.

Without question, football has been the primary driver of the changing landscape. After all, it is the primary revenue generator by a wide margin. Basketball has played a small part and even to some extent hockey, but that is essentially it when it comes to revenue generators. Perhaps some ACC institutions would consider baseball to be in the black but the majority of the country would disagree.

Speaking of the ACC, groundbreaking news was shared earlier today when the University of Notre Dame announced it accepted an invitation to join the ACC in all sports except football, which will remain independent, and hockey, which will join Hockey East in 2013. Hear firsthand from Notre Dame's Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick in the following interview about today's historic announcement.

Many are quick to display their disgust and resentment of the Irish for retaining its independence in football, wondering why on earth the ACC, its commissioner John Swofford, and each instutition's athletic directors would permit such an atrocity. If partisanship for the Irish, whether in favor of or against, is removed from the equation, the carefully trained eye uncovers that while the Irish certainly benefit from the move, members of the ACC benefit as well.

To get the sticking points of the football side of the deal out of the way, Notre Dame will play five ACC schools each season - three at home and two on the road - with the qualification that each ACC member must be scheduled at least once every three seasons. 

Notre Dame will in turn be able to retain games against traditional rivals such as USC, Navy, and Stanford among others. There is also likely to be a rotation of traditional Big Ten rivals Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue.

Moreover, and this is likely the biggest feather in the cap for the Irish, Notre Dame will gain access to the ACC's post-season bowl tie-ins. In possible scenarios, Notre Dame could actually play in the Orange Bowl as an at-large against the ACC Champion. No, the Irish will not be permitted to play in the ACC championship game since they will not be a full time football member.

Additionally, a Notre Dame team within one win of an ACC school would be eligible for selection over that ACC school, though. In other words, a 7-5 Notre Dame team could be selected to take an 8-4 ACC school's spot in one of their bowl tie-ins.

Where do the benefits for the ACC start kicking in, you ask? It's simple - exposure. Like them or not, the Irish draw attention wherever and whomever they play. Unlike most schools, Notre Dame has a national fan base that will naturally allow ACC schools, who by definition reside along the Atlantic Coast in eastern cities, exposure in markets they would not normally have an opportunity to take advantage of. 

After all, there were two big announcements today: Notre Dame's conference move and the iPhone 5. Depending on your news outlet, it is difficult to discern which communication received more press.

Going back to the point on exposure, it is likely that the ACC will experience ratings boosts in games featuring the Irish, which will only help in future television contract negotiations with networks. To be sure, the ACC will only have broadcasting rights to games featuring the Irish on the road against its full member schools, but something is certainly better than nothing.

This point on exposure is not based on pompous attitudes that Notre Dame football is better than everyone else. As it is, the product on the field has been quite mediocre as of late so that argument is out of the question. Where Note Dame arguably does a better job of any other institution, though, is in terms of its fan base.

Most schools have established fans in very specific geographic regions within close proximity to campus. Florida, for example has a strong base within Florida, USC has a strong base on the west coast, and Michigan has a strong base in the midwest. Notre Dame has a tremendous fan base everywhere, not just in the US but also abroad.

What the move also does for the ACC is create excitement within each school's respective fan bases. After all, anti-ND fans look forward to beating the Irish. Of course, schools want to beat every team on their schedule, but given Notre Dame's illustrious history and boastful fan base, victories over the Irish are relished more so than usual.

Traditional rivalry games, such as Virginia Tech versus Virginia and Duke versus North Carolina, will rein supreme for each respective fan base, but games against the Irish will also hold special meaning.

Aside from football, other sports should benefit for all parties involved as well. Notre Dame's soccer programs, perennial national championship threats, will fit in nicely with the ACC's rich tradition in the sport. Lacrosse will also benefit as the Irish have quickly ascended the national ranks and are now one of the nation's top programs with trips to the final four in two of the last three seasons. In fact, one of their title losses came to ACC power Duke. Track and Field has been a strength of Notre Dame's as well as the ACC's so there is mutual benefit there as well. Golf and baseball in the ACC were probably better off without Notre Dame, but the addition will not hurt.

John Swofford and the ACC athletics director's clearly must have seen such benefits, else they would have had no reason to extend an invitation to Notre Dame in the first place. Let it be clear, Jack Swarbrick and Notre Dame did not force the ACC into offering an invitation. A mutual agreement was reached between all parties due to the realization that each had something to gain from the deal.

Case in point, while Notre Dame retains its exclusive NBC contract for broadcast of its home games, the Irish will not share in the ACC's contract with ESPN. It's a give-take relationship and all parties benefit.

All in all, Notre Dame and the ACC are better off today than they were yesterday. At the very least, ACC fans can take solace in the fact that the conference raised its exit fee charge to $50MM. Suffice to say, the ACC will look like this for years to come. It is undoubtedly stable and perhaps now immune from future conference expansion threats and opportunities.


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