Bears spiraling down

Angelo not doing team any favors

December 1, 2009, 10:36 PM

By: Jonathan Hood

The 2009 season is just about done for the Bears. The Bears have lost four straight and six of their last seven games. Three of those losses were by 20 points or more.

They are tough to watch on a weekly basis.

Every team the Bears have lost to this season are better than the Bears right now -- and may have a brighter future:

Green Bay: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is up and coming and needs an offensive line.

Atlanta: The Falcons need consistency, but have a bright future with quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner.

Cincinnati: It took awhile, but finally the Bengals have put it together on both sides of the ball.

Arizona: Even with an aging Kurt Warner at quarterback, the offense continues to be dangerous.

San Francisco: The 49ers' defense with Willis leading the charge and Vernon Davis at tight end are formidable.

Philadelphia: Coach Andy Reid continues to lead the Eagles into the playoffs each year.

Minnesota: Amazing what's happened to this franchise with Brett Favre at quarterback.

General manager Jerry Angelo has really done a disservice to this year's team for assuming that the defense, which was substandard last year, would somehow snap back into form in 2009, and he also didn't pick up a veteran wide receiver that could complement quarterback Jay Cutler.

A organization with a solid plan would have done that.

It's amazing that Lovie Smith's coveted Cover-2 defense allowed 537 yards against the Vikings this past Sunday. The Bears clearly have a lot of work to do to become a Super Bowl-caliber team.

Smith could be fired today and the personnel will still be in place and still struggling. The questions from sports talk callers and texters saying that Lovie's lack of motivation is a problem are false. It's more of a lack of talent that doesn't measure up to the better teams in the NFL.

If you are wondering where the problems are with the Bears team, look a little higher than just the head coach -- take a gander at the general manager as well.

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Silvy, don't let Bradley keep you from Wrigley

Hood urges colleague to keep going despite Bradley's presence

November 6, 2009, 9:24 PM

By: Jonathan Hood

Dear Marc,

You know that I am a big fan of your work. I've heard you do talk shows for well over a decade and for the most part, you and I agree on most issues that you present on your shows. (Except for Bulls' season, when "Silvy Blue Skies" shows up and has outrageous expectations for the Bulls each year, but I digress.)

I read your blog, and you wrote that as long as Milton Bradley is on the Cubs, you wouldn't go to Wrigley Field to watch your favorite team in the whole wide world.

I actually know you, and I know that you are serious about banning yourself from going to games in 2010. I, too, am surprised that Bradley hasn't been dealt yet. It doesn't make sense to me, either.

However, even if Bradley does return to the team, you have to see the Cubs live at Wrigley Field next year.

Think about it. You've endured offseason pickups such as Kal Daniels, Juan Pierre, Todd Hundley, Dave Smith, Jeff Blauser, Jacque Jones -- should I go on? Yet you're drawing the line in the sand with Bradley? The Cubs historically have picked up players who were supposed to provide a splash and instead gave Cubs fans heartache.

Look, Marc, all I'm saying is don't shut yourself out of going to Cubs games because of Bradley. He's just one player. You can't even say he's the only reason the Cubs underachieved this year. That title goes to general manager Jim Hendry and the 1985-like Cubs team that couldn't stay healthy.

If you want to boycott the Cubs until Mr. Ricketts tells everyone what his plan is, fine. If you want to boycott the Cubs until they upgrade that horrendous bullpen, fine. But because of the financial commitment to winning that the Cubs have shown in recent years and the pressure by fans like you who keep demanding that the team stay competitive, you should see your team play live.

I hope you reconsider your stance. Could you imagine the Cubs getting to the playoffs and going to the World Series and Bradley still on the team? And you don't go to Wrigley Field because of your right fielder? You could never forgive yourself.

Say hello to your radio partner for me.

Your teammate,

J-Hood

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Thanks for the memories

Sweetness a jokester extraordinaire

November 6, 2009, 8:58 PM

By: Jonathan Hood

Growing up on the South Side, I remember my room being filled with Bears pennants and posters of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. He was such an exciting player. I remember his goal-line leap, his stutter step movement as he ran the ball, and his team going to the NFL Super Bowl and beating the Patriots in 1985.

Until I read about it, I didn't realize that it has been 10 years since Payton's death.

I'm not one to celebrate someone's death, but I think it is good to pay respect to one of the best iconic figures in Chicago sports.

I met Payton as a producer on "The Walter Payton Radio Show" in the mid-'90s at his restaurant, Walter Payton's Roundhouse. I have met many celebrities and sports figures over the years, but Payton was different. I handed him a pair of headphones that he was to wear before going on the air.

Before I gave him the headphones, I put them on to check the sound levels and to make sure they were operable.

"I checked them, and they were fine," I thought.

He put them on and said he couldn't hear anything. I'm panicking. I'm thinking, I just checked these headphones and they should be fine. He handed them back to me. I put them on, and they worked. They worked so well that he turned the level of the headphones up so loud that it sent a jolt through me so fast that it made me jump. Payton got a good laugh out of it, and so did I.

He was a prankster, and I knew that all too well.

He didn't care who you were, he always had time to talk to you or sign an autograph.

Walter, for sure, was one of a kind.

I've met his son Jarrett on more than one occasion, and I see where he gets his charm and warm demeanor.

I will remember the great games, and I will remember the person.

Thanks for the memories, Walter.

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Who's the beast of the East?

ESPN1000's Hood looks at the Bulls' competition

November 6, 2009, 8:39 PM

By: Jonathan Hood

The Chicago Bulls are going to be in this year's NBA playoffs. I just don't believe that they will be a serious contender for the Eastern Conference crown. I always measure the Bulls or any other Chicago team with the upper echelon in that particular sport.

Compare the Bulls personnel with these teams:

  • Cleveland: At first blush, you would think the Cavs would be a better team. However, I don't think that will be the case this season. As great as LeBron James is and as much as I like Anthony Parker at shooting guard and Mo Williams at point guard, I think the acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal will work just as well as it did in Phoenix: Not good. Shaq, I believe, was brought in primarily for the playoffs. I don't see the Cavs getting to the mountaintop this season.
  • Boston: We watched an older Celtics team lumber up and down the court against the Bulls and eventually eliminate Chicago in the second round. I really like the pickup of Marquis Daniels (13.6 ppg) last year, as well as Rasheed Wallace. When he's focused, Wallace is one of the smartest and most effective players in the NBA. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are part of a team that is coached by Doc Rivers, who told the team before the season: "We are going to win the NBA championship. Period." The door may be closing for them to be a championship dynasty team, but they, for sure, are one of the favorites to win it all.
  • Orlando: No Hedo Turkoglu, no Courtney Lee, no Rafer Alston. But they did trade for Vince Carter. I said on Chicago Bulls Weekly on ESPN Radio that the Magic would go to the Finals this year if Carter can stay healthy. He's already hurt. Darn! Oh well, sometimes you just have to step out with an opinion. I really like the Magic team with Carter, Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Brandon Bass and a pretty decent bench.
  • Washington: The Wizards have one of the best coaches in the East in Flip Saunders. I think the Wizards' firing their former coach Eddie Jordan was unjust, but Saunders does a great job in preparing his team. Gilbert Arenas is back, and he's not talking to the media. They have a solid nucleus with Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller and Caron Butler. If everything goes well, the Wizards will go from 19 wins to 40-45 this year.
  • Atlanta: I really like this young team coached by Mike Woodson. Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Joe Johnson provide a good mix, and Mike Bibby and now Jamal Crawford provide a veteran presence on the team. Hawks TV broadcaster Dominique Wilkins should have something to be happy about again this season.
  • Toronto: I like the Raptors' mix. With Jose Calderon, who has a 4.24 assist-turnover ratio (the best in the NBA last year); Turkoglu (16 ppg); Chris Bosh, who looks as if he has bulked up just a bit in the offseason; and Andrea Bargnani (15 ppg), GM Bryan Colangelo has plenty of international flavor on the roster.
  • Miami: The Bulls just played the Heat, and Dwyane Wade is still playing at a high level in South Florida; however, he shouldn't have to carry Miami every night. Forward Michael Beasley has to step up this year, and Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem are good players.
  • I just listed the seven teams along with the Bulls that will be in the Eastern Conference playoffs. When you look at the other teams in the East, and look at the other teams without Bulls-rose-colored glasses, you'll see the Bulls have a lot of work to do in terms of getting quality players around budding star Derrick Rose.

    Dishonorable mention:

  • Detroit: Tayshaun Prince has started 437 straight games in his career, longest in the NBA. I like Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon off the bench. I saw BG against Oklahoma City last week, and it was Ben being Ben. He was hitting off-balance jumpers trying to get the Pistons to come back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and they fell short. The Pistons will fall short a lot this season.
  • Philadelphia: I'm a fan of 76ers coach Eddie Jordan. I believe he can help elevate their team. The leadership of Andre Miller is no longer there, but they do have a healthy Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala. Lou Williams is the new point guard.
  • Indiana: T.J. Ford is supposed to raise the tempo offensively for the Pacers. I don't think it's going to work. Danny Granger (25 ppg) is one of the best players nobody is talking enough about. I'm interested to see whether Tyler Hansbrough's college game transfers to the NBA.

  • Charlotte: They were close to being a playoff team until a 1-7 finish last year. Larry Brown, NBA vagabond and coach of the Bobcats, would love to leave, but he's old and tired and 195 years old in basketball years.
  • N.Y. Knicks: I want to see the development of Wilson Chandler (15 ppg) and David Lee (16 ppg). Lee had 65 double-doubles last season, the most in the NBA last year. Coach Mike D'Antoni told MSG Network that small forward Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks' sixth pick in the draft last year, "is the best shooter he's ever seen." The best shooter he's ever seen? After one season, D'Antoni has lost his mind.

    Defense continues to be a rumor in Gotham.

  • Milwaukee: I've had four conversations with various people, and they keep asking whether the Bucks franchise is going to fold. Where is this coming from? The Bucks were a Michael Redd injury away from being in the playoffs last season.

    And the Bucks this year? Milwaukee will be without Redd; he's out two weeks with soreness in his surgically repaired ACL.

  • New Jersey: When you watch N.J., watch Devin Harris, who averaged 21 points per game. I can't wait for the Nets to move to Brooklyn. Neither can their fans.
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    Bulls pretenders, not contenders

    Rose has the look of early MJ

    November 6, 2009, 7:29 PM

    By: Jonathan Hood

    I have had a lot of people that ask me what I thought of the Bulls this season. I really don't have a good feel for the Bulls taking another step toward the NBA Finals. When you go into a season with more "what ifs" than sure things, it's a problem.

    Look at the key members of this year's team:

    It starts with Derrick Rose: Will his jump shot get better this season? I know that he has worked very hard in the offseason to become a better all-around player, and I look forward to his growth.

    John Salmons: He achieved career highs in 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting. Can he do it again?

    Luol Deng: Deng is coming back from a stress fracture and should be a factor as a third option offensively. I would love for him to be able to create his own space to make shots. He isn't that kind of player.

    Tyrus Thomas: Thomas' focus can't be on being the go-to guy in this offense. Energy, rebounding and second-chance opportunities are important.

    Joakim Noah: Ninety-four percent of his shots were in the paint last season. I want rebounding and second-chance shots converted all season long from him. Please?

    Kirk Hinrich: I'm not going to get on him this season. With Kirk coming off the bench, he has to provide solid shooting from the perimeter.

    Brad Miller: He provides a veteran presence in the middle for the Bulls.

    What do you notice about the roster? There is one potential superstar on this team: the rookie of the year, Rose. I feel like I'm watching the early Michael Jordan years, when MJ had to play with established veterans on the team.

    When or if the Bulls become serious contenders in the Eastern Conference, they'll have to rid themselves of half the roster.

    Rose can make some of his teammates better. He has good court vision that will become better once he has a team that will be on the same page.

    I've already seen the infamous "my-turn" offense by the Bulls against Boston and Miami. Which means on any given game, especially on the road, the Bulls will pass the ball once and the shooter will fire the ball from almost anywhere outside the framework of the offense.

    Rose to Salmons … 16-footer … clank!

    Rose to Thomas with his defender in his face … clank!

    Are the Bulls a viable contender?

    No, they aren't.

    But they will be in the playoffs this season. I'd like to see growth from this young squad.

    The Bulls aren't Sacramento, New York or Memphis, but I would like head coach Vinny Del Negro and the Bulls to grow up and play smarter basketball in the 2009-10 season.

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    Sweetest college football Satur-(Day)

    Breakdown of the past weekend's sweetest college football matchups.

    October 19, 2009, 2:55 PM

    By: Jonathan Hood

    I live for Saturdays.

    I love college football. Each Saturday, there is always something to look forward to. This week, my college football "Sweetest Day" began after co-hosting Talkin' Baseball with Bruce Levine.

    No. 20 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas in the Red River Shootout

    It wasn't a great game, but I'm sure that Texas coach Mack Brown will take the victory in one of college football's oldest rivalries.

    I was looking forward to a great quarterback matchup between the Longhorns' Colt McCoy and Heisman Trophy winner and Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford. Instead, we saw Bradford knocked out of the game in the first quarter. The Longhorns' Aaron Williams sacked Bradford forcing him to leave the game after re-aggravating his left shoulder -- the same shoulder he injured in the Oklahoma-BYU game in September.

    As of Sunday, Sooners coach Bob Stoops said he doesn't know when or if Bradford will return.

    Sooners backup quarterback Landry Jones will need some seasoning. The true freshman was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter.

    McCoy was good enough to help Texas win 16-13 even though he wasn't sharp. (127 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.)

    Oklahoma had five turnovers, their most since 2006 and were held to 16 rushing yards. With or without Bradford, the Sooners are an average team in the Big 12.

    And what about Texas? They weren't stellar against Oklahoma in a high profile game.

    What does that do for the (6-0) Longhorns in the polls?

    In the BCS standings, Texas is No. 3. Is Mack Brown's team really the third best in college football? After watching them Saturday, it makes me wonder if they can win in convincing fashion on the road against Missouri (4-2) and No. 15 Oklahoma State (5-1) in back-to-back weeks.

    No. 6 USC, 34 vs. No. 25 Notre Dame, 27

    I knew that Notre Dame would lose this game. I just couldn't determine how many points they would lose by. USC is a track team. The Trojans are so swift that I thought Notre Dame would grow the grass longer on their field to slow them down. USC head coach Pete Carroll is one of the best leaders of men in college football. I really appreciate the youthful enthusiasm that he has for each game.

    If the Irish had any chance of defeating the Trojans, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen would have to exploit the USC secondary. In the second half, Clausen proved why he should be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. Clausen was 24/43, good for 260 yards and 2 TD's. He helped ND come from a 34-14 deficit with a two-yard TD run and a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Golden Tate to make the score 33- 27 with 7:28 remaining in the game. The game was very interesting throughout, especially at the end. Clausen had a chance to tie the game with 0:00 left on the clock when the pass fell incomplete.

    Trojan's quarterback Matt Barkley really impressed me. He set a career high with 380 yards passing and two touchdowns. Barkley is learning on the job but he really could be yet another cornerstone quarterback for USC. The next Mark Sanchez? The next Carson Palmer? I look forward to seeing more from Barkley in the next seven games.

    No. 1 Florida, 23 vs. Arkansas

    The third game that I watched was Florida (6-0) against Arkansas. I wanted to know if the Gators were as mediocre as they played against LSU several weeks ago or if would they come out with a superior offense against the Razorbacks.

    Florida is good, but they are more survivors than warriors on the gridiron.

    After a scoreless opening quarter, I thought, 'Oh no, not another low scoring, grind-it-out-Gators game!' I lived that nightmare two weeks ago so I was hoping for some sizzle from the No. 1 team in college football.

    When you look at this game's statistics, there are some similarities.

    Total yards - Arkansas 357, Florida 391
    Passing - Arkansas 224, Florida 255
    Rushing - Arkansas 133, Florida 136

    But there are two reasons why Arkansas is unranked and now (3-3) this season.

    The Razorbacks couldn't capitalize on the Gators' four turnovers and they don't have a special quarterback like Florida's Tim Tebow. He rushed for 69 yards on 27 carries while Arkansas' defense looked lost. I was thinking, Tebow's either going to run right or run left. Why couldn't LSU or Arkansas do anything about it? Tebow and Florida coach Urban Meyer are just that good... so far.

    I saw some weaknesses on Florida's team that could be exposed if their opposing team were to take advantage of them. Arkansas' defense is the worst in the SEC, yet they stopped Florida's running game, holding running back Jeff Demps (9 carries for 54 yards, 1 TD). Their defense made some big plays at times, but in the end Caleb Sturgis' 27-yard field goal gave Florida their sixth win of the season.

    I'm an SEC fan, so I enjoy watching two teams from the conference play, but after watching the game it made me wonder if Florida will be able to maintain their No. 1 spot? They appear to be a weakening heavyweight fighter in round nine of a 12-round fight.

    No. 2 Alabama, 20 vs. No. 22 South Carolina, 6

    Nick Saban, in my opinion, has the number one team in college football right now. I know the polls don't say that, but I'm very impressed with the Crimson Tide (7-0) this season. To date, Alabama has convincingly defeated three ranked teams.

    No. 7 - Virginia Tech - 34-24
    No. 20 - Mississippi - 22-3
    No. 22 - South Carolina - 20-6

    The only hiccup on their schedule could be LSU on November 7. Otherwise, Alabama could run the table to a BCS National Championship game. We'll see.

    Alabama's tailback Mark Ingram had a career high 246 yards on 24 carries and 1 TD. (Third best in Alabama history.) Ingram was the only reason to watch that game last Saturday.

    It almost seems like Ingram has a motor. He rushed for 568 yards in three games, all against ranked teams.

    This particular game didn't have great quarterback play. South Carolina's Stephen Garcia was lackluster. His first pass was an interception. Alabama's Greg McElroy either had to get out of Ingram's way because of the wildcat offense or just hand the ball to an electric Ingram who had some jaw dropping runs.

    This weekend, I watched four games, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I can't wait to see if next Saturday's college slate will be as sweet as "Sweetest Day."

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    Give USC more credit for tough schedule

    USC deserves Boise State's No. 4 slot as it stands today.

    October 19, 2009, 2:10 PM

    By: Jonathan Hood

    One question.

    How much are road wins against Ohio State, California and Notre Dame worth these days?

    I'm sure that's what USC coach Pete Carroll wondered after the first edition of the BCS rankings placed his team seventh best in college football.

    If nothing else, they should be No. 4.

    USC's only loss was to the Washington Huskies 16-13. An emotional game for Carroll as he faced his former offensive coordinator, now Huskies head coach, Steve Sarkisian. No excuses, USC should have defeated that team but they came up short.

    The biggest question in my mind is -- Does the loss to Washington supersede the quality wins on the road?

    There is no way that everyone's favorite Boise State deserves a No. 4 ranking in the BCS. I respect Boise State's program. I believe head coach Chris Petersen has done a terrific job with this team. However, who have they played and who have they beaten? That is my question every college football season since Boise State's incredible victory over Oklahoma in Glendale, Arizona in 2007 at the Fiesta Bowl.

    Does Boise State deserve the No. 4 spot in the rankings based on their quality wins against UC Davis, Fresno State, Oregon, Bowling Green, Tulsa and Miami of Ohio?

    And before you tell me that they can't help the fact that the rest of the WAC conference is substandard, I say they have to earn their respect against a highly ranked team, just once. I won't even use the TCU loss on December 23, 2008, as an example of Boise State's inability to play against an above average team. I want Boise State to be unafraid to play BCS caliber opponents-even on the road during the regular season.

    More than likely, Alabama, Florida, Texas and maybe even USC would be afraid to play on Boise State's blue turf, but it is good to see Virginia Tech is taking on the challenge in 2010.

    To earn respect you have to play the big boys and get away from the soft comfy Western Athletic Conference.

    USC deserves Boise State's slot as it stands today. It's good to see some programs in college football are willing to risk their season by testing their team on the road.

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    Big Ten needs big improvement in bowl games

    Conference's 1-6 2008 postseason record a problem

    August 25, 2009, 4:30 PM

    By: Jonathan Hood

    The Big Ten's goal for the upcoming college football season is relatively simple: Stop the carnage.

    Seriously, 1-6 in the 2008 postseason is not a good thing.

    The Big Ten has to turn it around for the sake of recruiting and for the good of the conference. The Big Ten is now constantly bashed by the media and fans because of its lousy record in bowl games. Every year, Big Ten fans tell me how strong their conference is, saying that the fortunes of the Big Ten in the postseason would be different if the bowl games were played in cold weather.

    My response is: If you are an excellent team, you show up and you thump the other team no matter where you're playing or what the weather is like at game time.

    Let's take a look back at the 2008 bowl season to see how the Big Ten did:

    Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State 42, Wisconsin 13.

    A mediocre season for the Badgers at 7-6. Wisconsin also had instability at the quarterback position.

    Alamo Bowl: Missouri 30, Northwestern 23 (OT)

    Good game, looking forward to the Wildcats improving on their 9-4 record. I love the job head coach Pat Fitzgerald is doing in Evanston, and I think Northwestern is one of the bright spots in the Big Ten.

    Insight Bowl: Kansas 42, Minnesota 21

    The Gophers limped into the bowl game after playing inferior competition in nonconference play and getting whipped against Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa and losing a heartbreaker against Wisconsin.

    Outback Bowl: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10 (win)

    I really like how Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi manages each game; he had solid games against Penn State, Purdue and Minnesota and rolled the Gamecocks for the only Big Ten win in the postseason.

    Capital One Bowl: Georgia 24, Michigan State 12

    Running back Javon Ringer and quarterback Brian Hoyer led the Spartans to their bowl game with a 9-4 record. Did the Spartans lose confidence by losing to Penn State 49-18 in their last game going into their meeting against the Bulldogs?

    Rose Bowl: USC 38, Penn State 24

    The Nittany Lions' record of 11-2 is impressive; but no one on their 2008 schedule was of the same caliber of USC. Have you seen the Lions' 2009 schedule? Penn State is playing four of their first five games against Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois University. It isn't fair for fans to see that kind of competition and it doesn't get your team ready to face ranked teams like Ohio State or other teams in the upper echelon of college football.

    Fiesta Bowl: Texas 24, Ohio State 21

    Jim Tressel losing a big game? Noooo! The Buckeyes' beatdown at the hands of USC should have been an indicator that they weren't going to win their bowl game. If you saw the Ohio State-USC game, you would have seen the gulf between the Big Ten and the Pac-10.

    Judging by the bowl record, the question becomes: Why does the Big Ten fall apart during bowl season? For an explanation, I turned to one of college football's top analysts.

    "When you look at the defensive line and linebackers in the SEC, they're trimmer and faster," said Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback who is now an ESPN college football expert and host of "College GameDay." "I'm not saying that the SEC is fast and the Big Ten is slow. I'm saying the Big Ten can run equal to the SEC when it comes to skill. In the trenches is where I see a noticeable difference."

    I think conferences like the SEC, Pac-10 and even Big 12 have surpassed the Big Ten as far as roster depth and overall talent over the past few years. For example: As good as QB Troy Smith was for Ohio State in 2006 against the Big Ten, it was an entirely different story when he faced Florida. Last season, Florida's defense held the high-octane offense of Oklahoma to 14 points in the BCS title game.

    It's not even close.

    Is the Big Ten the Big Sky conference? No. However, I'm wondering which Big Ten team is going to step up this year and carry the banner for the conference. For those of you that watch your favorite Big Ten team at 11 a.m. CT, I suggest you keep the television on at 2:30 p.m. and then again at 7 p.m., when the teams from the Pac-10, SEC and Big 12 take the stage, and compare your favorite Big Ten team to other conferences. You will see that the Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC play the game at a higher level.

    One last thing: if you are a high school standout defensive lineman/tackle in the Midwest and you are recruited by teams in the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 or Pac-10, which conference would you choose? Obviously, if you play college ball, you hope to be drafted by an NFL team or put in a position to ready yourself for the real world.

    Minnesota Gophers head coach Tim Brewster told Lindy Sports magazine, "The hardest thing to recruit is defensive tackles. They are the hardest to find in college and the hardest to get in the NFL."

    LSU, USC and Texas combined had seven defensive linemen selected in the 2009 NFL draft. Five were drafted from the entire Big Ten. Since 2004, 16 defensive tackles have been picked in the first round of the NFL draft. None of them were from the Big Ten. The last defensive tackle from a Big Ten school to be taken in the first round was in 2003, when Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy was taken with the 12th pick by the St. Louis Rams.

    It will be interesting to see if the Big Ten can get to the level of the other power conferences. If they do, the Big Ten could return to respectability among national college football fans.

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    Steroids, the least of baseball's issues

    Ratings show baseball fails to cater to the new school fan

    August 24, 2009, 2:15 PM

    By: Jonathan Hood

    I am an assistant youth coach at my church for a basketball team of kids between the ages of 12 and 18. Occasionally, I've asked the youngsters what sports they like. Some of their answers are NBA, Mixed Martial Arts and professional wrestling entertainment. They also enthuse over professional and college football.

    I've asked why baseball isn't on their list. Is it because there is a history of steroid use in baseball? Not at all. The kids just aren't interested in baseball.

    That is a major problem.

    The kids that I coach are indifferent to performance enhancing drugs and to the players themselves. They shrug their shoulders when I ask them about Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Mark Buehrle and Alfonso Soriano. Instead, they ask me about Brock Lesnar, LeBron James and even Michael Vick. Some of the kids are more inquisitive about Vick's future than the future of baseball.

    Baseball has always been my favorite sport to play and watch. I'm a baseball fan from Generation X. I grew up in the 70s and I really came to understand baseball in the 80s. Now we have a new generation of sports fans, some of which might completely turn their back on the grand 'ol game.

    We live in a microwave society where people want instant results and the final score quickly. For this reason, baseball fails to cater to the new school fan.

    When World Series games end at 1:30 a.m., like Game 3 of the Tampa Bay Rays/Philadelphia Phillies, you are not going to make baseball fans happy -- especially those potential young fans that can't stay up past 9:30 p.m.

    As much as I love baseball, the sport could start putting a gauze pad over the major issues, which are causing low television ratings and dwindling interest among fans.

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