Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rutgers Joins Big Tent, and Thanksgiving Weekend Football Schedule

The Rutgers University football team went to play the University of Cincinnati this past Saturday, a perennial pain in the Scarlet neck and a tough place to play, and came away with a 10-3 win, to advance to 9-1 on the season, its lone loss coming in a non-conference game to Kent State.

RU has 2 games left, both Big East Conference games: This Saturday, away to the University of Pittsburgh, a truly storied program and a place RU has hardly ever won, but is 4-6 coming in and probably less of a threat than it's been in years (though it did take current Number 1 Notre Dame to 3 overtimes before losing); and the following Thursday (one week after Thanksgiving), home to the University of Louisville, which was 9-0 before losing to Syracuse in their last game.

Rutgers is 5-0 in Big East play.  Louisville is 4-1.  Everybody else has at least 2 losses.  Therefore, if Louisville wins on Saturday (they play Connecticut, and should beat them), regardless of whether Rutgers wins on Saturday (whether they're 5-0 in the league or 4-1 in it), the November 29 game will decide the Big East title.

A Rutgers win on Saturday would clinch at least a co-championship, but if they lose to Louisville, that would give Louisville the tiebreaker, and the Big East's automatic bid to a Bowl Championship Series bowl.  If, however, on Saturday, Rutgers wins and Louisville loses, then the RU-Louisville game is all but moot, and Rutgers clinches the Big East title outright.

So the Scarlet Knights are very much in the driver's seat.  This despite losing a lot of starters from the previous season, and despite losing the man who built the program, Greg Schiano, to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  (He's doing well there: The Bucs are 6-4 and are in good shape for the NFC Playoffs, although this Sunday they have to face the Atlanta Falcons, at 9-1 having the best record in the NFC and tied with the Houston Texans for the best in the entire league right now.)

What new coach Kyle Flood has done with this team is unbelievable.

The Rutgers football team actually has a chance to win the Big East Conference title, or any league's title, for the first time.

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So, naturally, Rutgers is getting out.

Quick question: How many teams are in the Big 10?

Trick question: At the moment, there are 12.  On Monday, the University of Maryland, currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), was approved as the 13th member.  Yesterday, Rutgers was accepted as the 14th member.  Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delaney, RU President Robert Barchi, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, and Coach Flood hosted a press conference at the Hale Center, the team's offices at Rutgers Stadium (I refuse to use the corporate name) to announce the move.  Both teams will remain in their current leagues for 2013, and will begin Big Ten play in 2014.

The classic Big Ten had the following members:

* Illinois, University of, the Fighting Illini
* Indiana University, the Hoosiers
* Iowa, University of, the Hawkeyes
* Michigan, University of, the Wolverines
* Michigan State University, the Spartans
* Minnesota, University of, the Golden Gophers
* Northwestern University, the Wildcats
* Ohio State University, the Buckeyes
* Purdue University, the Boilermakers
* Wisconsin, University of, the Badgers

In 1993, the previously independent Pennsylvania State University, a.k.a. Penn State, the Nittany Lions, were added, and the league altered its logo so that the G and the T in "BIG TEN" formed a number 11.  Last year, they took the University of Nebraska, the Cornhuskers, out of the Big 12, which had been made up of the old Big 8 and half of the old Southwest Conference (SWC).

Big Ten? The classic Midwestern league is now a Big Tent.

So how many teams are now in the Big 12? You guessed it: 10.  Former Big 8 members Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State; former SWC members Baylor, Texas, Texas Christian (TCU) and Texas Tech; and former Big East member West Virginia.

With the loss of former original members Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, Boston College, the University of Miami and Virginia Tech, starting in 2014 the Big East will have no original members except Temple -- which, for reasons I won't get into here, were kicked out, and recently readmitted.

The new Big East will have the following schools for football: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, South Florida, Temple, current independent the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy, but the U.S. Military Academy, Army, will remain in Conference USA); current Conference USA members Central Forida, the University of Memphis and the University of Houston (also a former SWC member); former SWC and current Western Athletic Conference school Southern Methodist University (SMU), which is in Dallas; and current Mountain West Conference schools Boise State and San Diego State.

Dallas? Houston? Boise? San Diego? The Big... East?

In addition, the following are Big East schools for everything but football, all Catholic schools: DePaul of Chicago, Georgetown of Washington, Marquette of Milwaukee, Providence, St. John's of New York's Queens, Seton Hall in North Jersey, and Villanova outside Philadelphia.

Notre Dame, of South Bend, Indiana, is leaving the Big East for the ACC -- but they still won't be playing football in any league.  Is it due to cowardice? No, it's due to greed: They don't want to split their bowl money with fellow league members.

The classic ACC was Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest.  South Carolina and the Southeastern Conference's Georgia Tech effectively switched leagues.  Effective 2014, the ACC will be Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame (for everything but football), Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

The classic SEC had Georgia Tech and Tulane.  When I was a kid, it was Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana State (LSU), Mississippi (Ole Miss), Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.  In 1991 they added the ACC's South Carolina and the SWC's Arkansas (which had been that league's only non-Texas team, and hastened its death).  This year, the SEC added former SWC school Texas A&M and former Big 8/12 school Missouri.

The old Pacific Coast Conference had California (known as "Cal" for sports purposes but usually called "Berkeley" for all others), Montana, Oregon, Oregon State, Southern California (Southern Cal or USC), Stanford, UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), Washington and Washington State.  Montana left in 1950, and in 1959 this league became the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) and in 1964 as the Pacific-8 or Pac-8.  In 1978, former WAC members Arizona and Arizona State joined, making it the Pacific-10 or Pac-10.  In 2011, former Big 8 and Big 12 member Colorado and former WAC member Utah made it the Pacific-12 or Pac-12.

All this is confusing to me, and I closely follow college football.  If you don't follow it closely... well, this post is here, and you can use it to refresh your memory.

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Thanksgiving weekend football schedule, including some tasty rivalry games (TRGs), with all times listed being Eastern Standard Time (EST):

Thursday, November 22
12:30 Houston Texans at Detroit Lions, CBS
4:15 Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys, Fox - TRG
7:30 TCU at Texas, ESPN - TRG for TCU, if not for Texas
8:20 New England Patriots at New York Jets, NBC - TRG

Friday, November 23
11:00 Syracuse at Temple, ESPN2
12:00 Nebraska at Iowa, ABC - TRG
2:00 Marshall at East Carolina, CBS Sports Network (not Channel 2 if you live in the NYTSA)
2:30 LSU at Arkansas, CBS - TRG
3:00 Utah at Colorado, FX (that's FX, not Fox) - TRG now that they're both in the Pac-12
3:30 Washington at Washington State, Fox - TRG
3:30 West Virginia at Iowa State, ABC
7:00 South Florida at Cincinnati, ESPN
10:00 Arizona State at Arizona, ESPN - TRG

Saturday, November 24
12:00 Rutgers at Pittsburgh, ESPN2
12:00 Connecticut at Louisville, ESPN3 & Big East Network
12:00 Michigan at Ohio State, ABC - VTRG (very tasty)
12:00 Georgia Tech at Georgia, ESPN - TRG
12:00 Illinois at Northwestern, Big Ten Network - TRG
12:00 Indiana at Purdue, Big Ten Network - TRG
12:20 Kentucky at Tennessee, ESPN3 & SEC Network - TRG
12:30 Miami at Duke, ESPN3 & ACC Network
2:30 Baylor vs. Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Fox
3:00 Oregon at Oregon State, Pac-12 Network - TRG
3:00 Boston College at North Carolina State, ESPN3
3:00 Maryland at North Carolina, ESPN3
3:30 Auburn at Alabama, CBS - maybe the TRG to end all TRGs
3:30 Florida at Florida State, ABC - VTRG
3:30 Wisconsin at Penn State, ESPN2
3:30 Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, ESPN
3:30 Michigan State at Minnesota, Big Ten Network
3:30 Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, ESPNU
6:30 Stanford at UCLA, Fox
7:00 South Carolina at Clemson, ESPN - TRG (a rare time when both are ranked top 12)
7:00 Mississippi State at Ole Miss, ESPNU - TRG
7:00 Missouri at Texas A&M, ESPN2
8:00 Notre Dame at USC, ABC - TRG

Sunday, November 25
1:00 Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns, CBS - TRG
1:00 Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, Fox - TRG
1:00 Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs, CBS - TRG
1:00 Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Fox - TRG
1:00 Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts, CBS
1:00 Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals, CBS
1:00 Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins, CBS
1:00 Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars, CBS
4:05 Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers, CBS
4:25 St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals, Fox -- the current and former St. Louis NFL teams
4:25 San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints, Fox
8:20 Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, NBC -- the last 2 Super Bowl winners

Monday, November 26
8:30 Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles, ESPN

I know: Atlanta and Tampa Bay are 2 of the NFL's legendary loser teams, but both are good right now, and the fact that it's a divisional matchup (NFC South) heightens it.  This should be a tasty rivalry.

Whereas Tennessee and Jacksonville are both in the AFC South, but anyone who thinks this will be a reflection of the Tennessee-Florida rivalry in the college game is probably remembering that they played each other in the 1999 AFC Championship Game -- and that the Jags have been mostly terrible since.

Nebraska hasn't been in the Big 10 long, but their proximity to Iowa will make that a tasty rivalry soon, so I'm counting it as one now.

Rutgers-Pittsburgh isn't quite a rivalry, unless you're a Rutgers fan from South Jersey, and tilt toward Philadelphia in pro sports, instead of New York like most people in North or Central Jersey.  Then, you might be a Phillies fan who doesn't like the Pirates, an Eagles fan who doesn't like the Steelers, or a Flyers fan who despises the Penguins.

*

Hours until Arsenal play another competitive match: 4, home to defending French champions Montpellier in Champions League play.

Hours until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 23.  Tomorrow morning, we get our annual Turkey Day beatdown by the Purple Bastards.

Days until the Devils play again: Who knows.  All NHL games have been cancelled through November 30 -- and the Winter Classic, set to be played on New Year's Day between Detroit and Toronto at the University of Michigan's 111,000-seat stadium, has been canceled. As in 2004-05, we may not have a season at all.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: Who knows.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 3, this Saturday afternoon, away to the University of Pittsburgh.

Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 77, on February 6, 2013, away to Honduras, in the last, "Hexagonal" round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, for the region that encompasses North America, Central America, and the Caribbean nations.  Just 11 weeks.  If they finish 1st or 2nd in this group of 6 -- and they definitely should win, certainly should finish no worse than 2nd behind Mexico -- they qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Days until the next North London Derby: 81, on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at White Hart Lane.  And wasn't it fun to once again beat The Scum 5-2 last Saturday? That March 2 date presumes that Arsenal are not paired up with Spurs in either the FA Cup or the League Cup.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: Unknown for sure, since the 2013 MLS schedule has not yet been released.  But, if the pattern holds, it will be on the 3rd weekend in March.  If it is on the Saturday of that weekend, March 16, then that would be 126 days.  About 4 months.  This year's MLS Cup Final will be a rematch of last year's, when the L.A. Galaxy beat the Houston Dynamo, and it'll be at L.A.'s home field, the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.  Which means the Gals' Robbie Keane will have won as many league titles in a little over a year as his former club, Tottenham, have won in their entire 130 years.
Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby," against either the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union or D.C. United: Also unknown, until the schedule is released.  Most likely, the season opener will not be against one of those teams.
Days until the Yankees play again: 131, on Monday, April 1, at 1:05 PM, at home at Yankee Stadium II, against the Boston Red Sox.  A little over 4 months.  Beat The Scum!
Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: See the previous answer.
Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 284 (estimated around September 1, 2013).  Under 10 months.
Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 438 (February 2, 2014).  Under 14 months.  Of course, we have no idea who the opposing teams will be.  The possibility exists that either the Giants or the Jets could be in it -- or both.  To this day, no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its own stadium -- in spite of multiple hostings by Miami, New Orleans and various California teams.  Only 2 have done so in their home metro area: The 1979-80 Los Angeles Rams, whose home field was then the L.A. Coliseum, and they lost to Pittsburgh at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and the 1984-85 San Francisco 49ers, whose home field, then as now, was Candlestick Park, and they beat Miami at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, which had a much larger capacity than Candlestick.
Days until the 2014 Winter Olympics: 443 (February 7, 2014).
Days until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil: 568 (June 12, 2014).  Under 19 months.
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 633 (estimated, around September 15, 2014).  About 22 months.
Days until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,353 (August 5, 2016).  Under 4 years.
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,409 (estimated -- I'm guessing around the end of 2016, around September 30).
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,621 (estimated -- estimating 28 home runs a year, taking his recent injury into account, I'm guessing around April 30, 2017, at age 41).  Under 4 1/2 years -- if he can.  And even if he does, will he still be a Yankee when he does it? Your guess is as good as mine -- and his.

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