Random News of the Day: Don't call it a comeback

Random News of the Day: Don't call it a comeback

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
11:05 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

When it comes to NFL knockout pools, almost all of us are tomato cans. We are has-beens. We are no-names. Heck, maybe you were even called a "never-was" or a "never-will-be" at some point. We are there just to fill out the lot so that somebody else can run off with the money, title and glory. We get suckered into participating because of the illusion of money. Then, when our team doesn't win, we smash our Ikea coffee tables and punt the remote off the back porch. We're just not fully equipped to go 12 rounds in NFL's boxing ring.

Well, either that or we're just not lucky. Right?

How many of you are in an NFL knockout pool? Better yet: how many of you are still standing after Week (Round) 3? If you are not familiar with what a knockout pool is: it's a survival game, of sorts, where each participantplayer selects one team per week to win an NFL game. If your team wins? Great! You survive until the following week. If your team loses, you go Clark Griswold and punch the nearest stuffed animal and then wait to make your donation to next year's pot. Some pools have rules stating that you can't pick the same team in back to back weeks. Some pools go as far as saying once you pick a certain team you can't pick them again the rest of the year. There are even others where you can't pick a favorite with a point spread of seven or greater. Talk about the risk of hitting the canvas early on, you know?

It seems like everyone has a little system for picking a team in a knockout or survivor pool. What about you? Is there a set of rules or hunches that most of us can agree on? Here is my list of knockout rules that I abide by on a (semi) regular basis:

Never pick a team that's playing in front of a national audience: I always flash back to what a conference room full of executives would look like at, say, NBC when they pick their Sunday Night game lineup: "We simply cannot have a matchup like (contending team in small market) going up against (chump in a top 10 market) ever again! We lost so many eyeballs in the third quarter. Look at these numbers! And who got this catering order all screwed up? Where are those interns?" Anyway, TV executives want the absolute best matchups for prime time, nationally televised games. Trust me, these guys do their homework in finding the best possible matchups that don't result in blowouts. Plus, I would think that these games impact players a lot more than the noon Sunday games: "We better bring it! We're playing in the spotlight tonight!" The atmosphere is just too intense to put all of your faith into one game. Plus, a national spotlight gives the would-be "lesser" team a chance to shine. How many of you picked San Diego over Kansas City in Week 1? Look at all the warning signals in that game: Kinda-sorta-good-yet-untested team (SD) playing (1) on the road, (2) on national TV, (3) against a team with a crappy record in 2009 that's (4) looking to break out and has (5) a crazy fan base (6) who doesn't mind watching a game in a monsoon. You know what happened next.

Never pick a team that's playing against a "new" quarterback: I went against the grain on my own theory and nearly had an ulcer in the third quarter Sunday afternoon. Seriously, did any of you have a funny feeling that Ryan Fitzpatrick would help hang 30 on a New England team in Foxborough? Or that dinosaur Seneca Wallace would hang with a Ravens team with a venus fly trap-like defense in their home opener? I went with the Ravens and nearly fainted. To me, any team that look for a "spark" with their second-string quarterback (by choice or by circumstance with injuries to Plan A) have nothing to lose. Too many wacky things can happen.

Never pick the team that you cheer for on a regular basis: Having a random team let you down in a knockout pool is one thing. But having the team you love break your heart in a money-based knockout pool is tantamount to football's version of the show Cheaters. It's not going to end well. I can just see Joey Greco coming up to you after your team lost: "We know where your team is right now. If you want to confront that team, it is up to you."

Seek out the angry teams and make them your friend: I wish I had the huevos to pick the Cowboys in knockout this past weekend but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Let's face it, a team is better when its back is up against the wall. Think about it, if you're at work and you get called out in your supervisor's office for being a lazy mail-it-inner who is constantly updating your Facebook status with things like, "What am I going to eat at Arby's today?" or "UGH, I am having the worst day ev-errrr! LOL ROFL OMG BRB K", you should come out of that meeting a little more focused. The Dallas Cowboys were in that office after losing to the Bears. If they were to fall to 0-3, they cease to exist. Jerry Jones would have turned them all into hummus. They HAD to win in Week 3. And the Texans were ripe for a letdown anyway. Sure enough: Dallas 27, Houston 13.

Never pick a team in any bitter rivalry: Like the wobbly punt that is coming your way, you just have to think "GET AWAY! GET AWAY!" to picking knockout teams that play in games like: Bears-Packers, Jets-Patriots, Steelers-Browns, Redskins-Cowboys, Eagles-Giants, Eagles-Redskins (or heck, any NFC East matchup for that matter). Just say no! Again, too many wacky things can happen.

If you dare pick a road team, you better know something we don't: Home-field advantage doesn't really carry the same weight it used to. NFL stadiums all look the same now. The crowd noise is the same, the insults are the same (except maybe in Philly), the layout is similar ... etc. There just isn't that intimidation factor. So how does this theory come into play: if you dare pick, say, Arizona to go across the country to beat, say, Jacksonville, kudos for having big brass ones. This all is kind of an offshoot to another rule I have: never pick a road team to win that has to travel through more than two time zones to get to the game.

There are other crazy rules in pools like this that make us think we're knockout savants, like: Never take a team that's going up against a top-10 defense (no matter what the records are), never take a team that flunks the turnover ratio, never take the Detroit Lions in any scenario, look for home teams against non-divisional foes in the same conference ... etc. It just gets delirious after a while. Bottom line, we know nothing. If we did, we would all have won we would have built our own "knockout pool" in the Caribbean, only we'd be swimming in it with margarita in hand. It's an inexact science. And maybe that's what make NFL knockout pools so much fun. We think we have everything figured out and then something comes along (Miami beating Minnesota in the dome for instance) that makes us want to go Mike Tyson on the entertainment center.

The closest I have ever come to winning a knockout pool was 16th (out of a pool of over 300). So, you're not exactly getting 1-800 number advice here. But the minutiae of every mental rule and detail when it comes to pools like this is nothing short of fascinating. Our wallets are gluttons for punishment. We get knocked out every year and come back hungrier.

Because this might be the year that we end up getting the dough to buy a new coffee table.

Right?

Or something like that.

Joe Collins is an assignment desk editor for Comcast SportsNet and contributor to CSNChicago.com.

Notre Dame sorting through safety options after Max Redfield's dismissal

Notre Dame sorting through safety options after Max Redfield's dismissal

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly had to chuckle a bit when asked what he could tell a larger-than-normal media contingent about Devin Studstill, the true freshman and presumptive favorite to replace Max Redfield at free safety Sept. 4 against Texas. 

“We’ll have a true freshman on the road playing against a talented team,” Kelly said with a bit of a laugh that, given the circumstances, sounded a bit nervous.

No matter how confident Notre Dame players and coaches are in Studstill, there’s still that unknown part of leaning on a safety who will play his first college football game in front of an exected sellout crowd of about 100,000 people in primetime at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. 

Kelly described Studstill as a “natural” as the Florida native took first-team reps away from Redfield during spring practice. Linebacker and captain James Onwualu said Studstill’s transition back into the first-team defense has “gone smoothly” with only a handful of practices left until Notre Dame heads to Austin. 

“He was here in the spring, which helped a lot,” Onwualu. “He came in ready to work from Day 1 and you gotta respect that. He’s been working his craft, working his game and there’s not much of a drop-off. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s still young, obviously, so (we) try to push some knowledge on him and continue to talk the game and show him as many looks (as possible).”

Kelly used “talented” and “confident” to describe Studstill this time around. But it won’t be just him at free safety, Kelly cautioned. 

“I think we’ll have to play a few guys at that position,” Kelly said. “I don’t think he’s going to go out there and take every snap.”

At the top of that list: sixth-year graduate student Avery Sebastian, who broke a bone in his foot in Week 1 against Texas last year and missed the rest of the season. The 5-foot-10, 200 pound Cal transfer, who also missed nearly all of the 2013 season with an injury, started six games for the Golden Bears from 2011-2014. 

In exchange for the experience Sebastian brings to the position, Notre Dame would slide a guy who’s more of an in-the-box strong safety over to free safety. The other options at free safety are freshman Jalen Elliott, a former four-star recruit, and sophomore Nicco Fertitta, who saw action on special teams last year. 

Kelly said there haven’t been any conversations about moving an offensive player to free safety to manufacture more depth.

“We feel like we’ve got enough back there that we’ll be solid,” Kelly said. 

Notre Dame’s defense is peppered with first-time starters, which creates plenty of unknowns heading into the 2016 season. In losing Redfield, a player who Kelly said was starting to put everything together after a few inconsistent seasons, another question mark was added to VanGorder’s defense. 

That doesn’t mean that Studstill and whoever else is back at free safety are destined to fail. Maybe Studstill and/or Elliott clears their first-year hurdles and is a solid player and Sebastian winds up being a reliable option there, too. 

But Notre Dame’s defense very likely was going to be better off with Redfield as a starting safety. 

“Max was an outstanding player, and he was having a great, great camp,” Kelly said. “He had a great spring. He’s athletic, he’s fast. So you’re taking a really good player off your defense. But we’ll be able to plug in a guy there that I think will get the job done for us.” 

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 1 Loyola Academy

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 1 Loyola Academy

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26. View Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Loyola Academy

Head coach: John Holecek

How they fared in 2015: 14-0 (4-0) Chicago Catholic League Blue Conference. Loyola Academy made the Class 8A state playoff field. The Ramblers defeated West Aurora, Stevenson, Homewood-Flossmoor, Palatine and Marist to capture the 8A IHSA state football title. 

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Ramblers repeat in Class 8A?

Names to watch this season: TE Jake Marwede, DB Ian Swenson

​​​​​[PREPS: Edgy Tim's Countdown to Kickoff series]

Biggest holes to fill: Loyola will need to find answers at a handful of key spots including quarterback and running back.

EDGY's early take: Despite having to replace 14 starters from last year's title team, look for Loyola to reload once again. Holecek has some headliner names in place, along with a very talented and deep roster this season. If Loyola can find some answers early on offense, the defense usually plays at a very high level and can help the offense. 

Ramblers schedule:

Aug. 26 at Milwaukee Marquette (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 3 vs. Maine South (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 9 vs. Mount Carmel *at Gately* (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 17 vs. St. Francis (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 23 vs. Fenwick *at Triton College* (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 1 vs. St. Rita (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 7 vs. Leo (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 15 vs. Providence Catholic (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 21 at Brother Rice (7:30 p.m.)

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Holding onto leads at home has not been a strong suit for the Fire this season.

Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy was the fifth time this season the Fire have been unable to get a win at home in a match they led. In four of those, including Wednesday, the Fire had leads in the second half.

In the previous cases, the Fire dropped deep defensively and tried to simply hold onto the lead or hope David Accam could score on a one-man counter.

“I think once we’re up in the result I think we have to make sure that we kill the game off because there’s been too many times where it’s that 1-0 or that 2-1 and we’re kind of holding there and the next thing you know they’re tying the game at the end of the game,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “We got to keep pushing for that third goal to make sure that we kill things off.”

The game against LA was different. The Fire had multiple quality chances to score a third goal and take a two-goal lead. One opportunity featuring Accam, Luis Solignac and an open net seemed like a sure goal as it was developing.

However, the Fire didn’t find that two-goal lead and LA managed to come back.

“I think we created a lot of chances,” Alvarez said. “We went up 2-1 and unfortunately that third goal didn’t want to go in at the right time and then LA got that bounce.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

Even though the result didn’t show it, the Fire may have actually turned a corner in terms of how to play with a lead. In the win at Montreal on Saturday, the Fire scored that extra goal to take a two-goal lead, something the team hadn’t done all season in an MLS game.

Against the Galaxy, the Fire actually had more possession in the second half (56 percent) than the first half (46 percent). LA’s only shot on goal in the second half was the tying goal while the Fire put three shots on target in the second 45 minutes.

The Fire did fail to close out another match at home that they had a lead in, but the way it happened was different and maybe that’s a positive sign going forward.

“I think it’s starts from the offense,” Accam said. “If we could have scored then we could have killed the game. The defense did really well. We just need to keep finishing chances and then opponents won’t have the chance to attack us.

“I think we played one of the best games we played this season, but we need to take our chances and today I would say we are disappointed that we dropped two points at home. For me also we created so many chances that on another day we could have taken it. It’s kind of a mixed feeling for me.”