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11/18/2018

#3 Notre Dame 36, Syracuse 3. (See Commentary below)

Missouri 50, Tennessee 17.

Kansas State 21, Texas Tech 6.

Kansas 40, #6 Oklahoma 55.

Sixth-seeded Northwest Missouri State upset third-seeded Grand Valley State 42-17 to advance to the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs in College Football.

Division II Tournament Brackets


Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory:
As I predicted in my original pre-game analysis:

"While both Notre Dame and Syracuse prefer to play on artificial turf, the fact that Yankee Stadium has a grass field may slightly favor the Irish as this should reduce the impact of Syracuse's fast-strike offense." Though Syracuse Coach Dino Babers demonstrated class (in his post-game press conference) in denying that the grass field slowed down his team, it seemed obvious (to this observer) that the grass field favored the bigger and stronger Irish over the smaller and quicker "Orange" of Syracuse.

As I further pontificated:

"And although Syracuse is fairly highly ranked (at #12) and has been known to put up plenty of points on their opposition, I am not (overly) impressed with those opponents they have defeated and one must remember that Clemson was experiencing a quarterback tsunami when they played Syracuse. So, this may be the first game of the season that allows for an accurate gauging of how good 'The Orange' are. This level of ambiguity this late in the season makes the Syracuse football team a Rorschach test as much as anything. As I am not one to read too much into an ink blot, I will distill the outcome of this game to one key uncertainty (among many)... Is the Notre Dame defense capable of stopping -- or significantly slowing down -- the Syracuse offense? If yes, the odds favor an Irish victory. If no, there will be a long-flight back to South Bend from Notre Dame's last 'home' game of the season."

With the game played, the verdict on whether "The Notre Dame defense [is] capable of stopping... the Syracuse offense?" is in with a resounding "YES!" But for a token field goal by Syracuse with 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Notre Dame Defense "pitched a shut out" at Yankee Stadium. By gathering in 2 of the 3 interceptions by the Irish (and for his all-around excellent play on Saturday) Alohi Gilman was chosen as the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for all of "Division I" football. (What the hell is FBS?) As for the lone Irish miscue, it was an interception thrown by Ian Book on a failed fourth down. (In other words, Book was about to be sacked on fourth down leading to a change of possession, so he figured, what the hell, why not throw it into the end zone and hope for the best -- "no-harm, no-foul" in this instance.) As for the ride home, I think the Irish were equally (a) satisfied with the win and (b) already focusing their attention on next week's foe, USC.

Now for some grades...

Vince Milum: I get a thumbs-up in perceiving the degree to which Syracuse was over-rated and the fact that the natural grass field favored the Irish. I get a thumbs-down on anticipating how big of a blow-out the game would turn out to be. My overall grade for myself is a B-.

Notre Dame Coaching Staff (less Brian Polian) and Offense + Defense: Although the Irish offensive line committed too many penalties and the offense overall performed unsatisfactorily in the "red zone," I am still giving the staff and offense + defense a combined score of A+. (If you watched the game, you know why. If you did not watch the game but saw the final score, you have a good inkling of why I am awarding such a high score.)

Brian Polian and his "Special" Teams: On the negative side: A bungled Irish extra point attempt that failed, too many long returns on ND kickoffs, and some short punts by ND. On the positive side: Justin Yoon made three field goals and no points were surrendered by Polian's Guys. Overall Grade: B.

Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush in the backfield together: "I" for "Incomplete" but "Intriguing." In short, "I" like the concept and want to see how this develops over this weekend's game (against USC) and whatever the post-season holds for Notre Dame.

Additional Grades: (1) I award the City of New York and the New York Yankees organization an A+ for creating a bowl-like atmosphere for the game and for having the field in football-ready condition. (2) Despite all the naysayers who cannot relate to young men, I give this year's Shamrock uniforms an A+ -- I thought they looked great and would make an excellent addition to the choice of uniforms regularly available to the Fighting Irish. (3) I also want to recognize -- with an A+ -- Syracuse Head Coach Dino Babers who was a total "class act" in his post-game press conference and for explaining his reasoning for attempting two late field goals (rather than attempting to score touchdowns) -- the game was out-of-reach and he thought there was less chance for injury for both teams by going the field goal route. (4) One last grade for Free Pancakes when least expected: A+ when the chef is Chase Claypool and he is delivering to a neighborhood "away from the action." Let's hope USC can receive some just desserts next week!


                                  

11/15/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Syracuse "Orange."

(What is it with these politically-correct universities and their B.S. team names? Admittedly, the previous name "Orangemen" carried a lot of baggage -- especially if you are Irish Catholic and your relatives were murdered by these guys. Still, "Orange"? Why not "Corn"? Or, better yet, "Corn Flakes"? This probably explains why I remain a fan of the FIGHTING IRISH! Not politically-correct, I grant you, but descriptive of many of my family members who would not be caught dead with a "fruit" for their mascot.)

Overview: Notre Dame opened as a 9.5-point favorite over Syracuse and is currently favored by 10.5 points. This is supposedly a home game for Notre Dame but it is being played in Yankee Stadium which is located 254 miles away from Syracuse (by car) in its home state of New York. The current forecast for NYC on Saturday afternoon* is for partly cloudy skies, with 0% chance of precipitation, less than 10 MPH winds, and temperatures in the mid- to upper-40s. (*This, in itself, may prove tricky for the Irish as they have become accustomed to playing in prime time.)

While both Notre Dame and Syracuse prefer to play on artificial turf, the fact that Yankee Stadium has a grass field may slightly favor the Irish as this should reduce the impact of Syracuse's fast-strike offense.

And although Syracuse is fairly highly ranked (at #12) and has been known to put up plenty of points on their opposition, I am not (overly) impressed with those opponents they have defeated and one must remember that Clemson was experiencing a quarterback tsunami when they played Syracuse. So, this may be the first game of the season that allows for an accurate gauging of how good "The Orange" are.

This level of ambiguity this late in the season makes the Syracuse football team a Rorschach test as much as anything. As I am not one to read too much into an ink blot, I will distill the outcome of this game to one key uncertainty (among many)...

Is the Notre Dame defense capable of stopping -- or significantly slowing down -- the Syracuse offense? If yes, the odds favor an Irish victory. If no, there will be a long-flight back to South Bend from Notre Dame's last "home" game of the season.

So, what will it take to stop or slow down Syracuse? A clever defensive scheme that, to date, the Irish have yet to unveil. Why? Because Syracuse runs a no-huddle offense that is equally adept at running AND passing. And its play selection is based upon the "pick-your-poison" defense its opponent chooses. If ND goes standard package (with three linebackers and four defensive backs), Syracuse will be pass-happy. If ND goes nickel (with five defensive backs and only two linebackers), look out for some punishing runs by Syracuse.

My Overall Prediction on how this all shakes out (or is it wishful thinking?)...

Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 31.
                                  

11/15/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 12
By Ron Worley

Last Week 6-0
Season 54-21


Coaching score remains 1-1-1, maybe some change after this weeks games but at this point change now more likely only after end of season games.

This came to my attention this week: Twenty years ago this week Nov. 1998, KSU beat Neb.40-30 in Manhattan ending 29 straight losses to them. I was at the previous 1968 12-0 win in Lincoln. After the 1998 win KSU was ranked # 1 in the nation for the first and only time. Given the current college football world and the Big 12 Conf. makeup I doubt that I can live long enough to ever see KSU ranked # 1 again and for reference I am giving myself 20 more years.

Full Big-12 Schedule

TCU (4-6/2-5) at Baylor (5-5/3-4). I expect the Bears to win a close game at home and become bowl eligible. That would also make TCU not eligible and their coach deeper in trouble.

Texas Tech (5-5/3-4) at Kansas State (4-6/2-5). Senior day for Wildcats. I think/hope they can play well enough on both sides of the ball to get what I expect would be a close game win. Many of them have to think this will be Bill Snyder's final home game. No announcement as yet and at this point it will not come until , depending of the outcome of this game, maybe before the final game next week at Iowa State.

#9 West Virginia (8-1/6-1) at Oklahoma State (5-5/2-5). Another hard game for OSU after OU last week. They almost won that one. They will not win this one. W/V wins and stays in contention for the Big 12 final.

Kansas (3-7/1-6) at #6 Oklahoma (9-1/6-1). OU by a lot still OU will let up on this one after 3 quarters and save starters for next weeks game against W/V. Their win sets up 7-1 vs 7-1 next week.

#16 Iowa State (6-3/5-2) at #15 Texas (7-3/5-2). This is the game to watch this week ! A lot at stake. The winner is 6-2 in the Conf. and both have winnable games next week. The non winner of OU @ W/V next week will be 7-2 as will likely be either Texas or ISU. Note also that ISU beat W/V 30-14 and Texas beat OU 48-45. So if OU beats W/V could ISU jump over W/V and into the Conf. title game ? If W/V beats OU could Texas jump over OU and into the Conf. title game ? Would not either one of those games be more fun than an auto rematch of the week before ? P.S Yes, ISU does have a makeup game scheduled Dec. 2, BUT, I bet they would cancel it in favor of a Conf. title game ! Sorry about getting into the weeds. Ok, so who wins this one this week ? It is a home game and Senior Day for Texas. I pick them to win in a low scoring game.

Missouri in the SEC

Missouri (6-4/2-4) at Tennessee (5-5/2-4). It appears that MU has found their way and will win this road game and improve their vote totals and maybe get into the Top 25 at 7-4.
                                  

11/15/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 11
by Parker Milum

Without a single loss by a Top 10 team in Week 11, the Playoff Committee Top 4 as well as my own remain unchanged. As such, this will be a very brief article.

(Just a reminder: these are projections of the top 4 teams as they will be placed in the FINAL College Football Playoff Rankings)

1. Alabama (13-0)

Everyone acts as though Alabama losing to Georgia will cause headaches for the Playoff Committee, but it shouldn’t. Ohio State was left out of the playoffs last year because they accrued TWO losses, one of which was a blowout loss to Iowa. But this season, a one-loss Big Ten Champion Michigan, or one-loss Big-12 Champion Oklahoma/West Virginia would get in over an Alabama team who loses the SEC Championship. Under such a circumstance, I predict the rankings would be: 1. Clemson, 2. Notre Dame, 3. Georgia, 4. Michigan… Nonetheless, there’s no reason the Crimson Tide shouldn’t steamroll over the Bulldogs.

2. Clemson (13-0)

Clemson has little to worry about in their remaining games and secures the #2 spot with ease.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

Syracuse moves up to #12 in the rankings, giving the Irish another possible Top-15 win on their résumé, but also appear as a more credible threat to upset Notre Dame. Nonetheless, the Irish should still finish undefeated but, without a conference win, will end up at the #3 spot in the playoff.

4. Michigan (12-1)

Michigan still has to beat the Buckeyes, but the Wolverines have shown they are the better team and should claim the Big Ten title, securing the #4 spot assuming Notre Dame doesn’t fall to Syracuse or USC.


Undefeated Teams after Week 11:
#1 Alabama (10-0)
#2 Clemson (10-0)
#3 Notre Dame (10-0)
#10 UCF (9-0)

Upset Watch for Week 12:
NONE, thanks in large part to the SEC’s frankly-disgraceful “cream puff” of a Week 12 schedule.
                                  

11/11/2018

#3 Notre Dame 42, Florida State 13. (See Commentary below)

Missouri 33, Vanderbilt 28.

Kansas State 21, Kansas 17.

Notre Dame players embrace the cold  Dexter Williams "Peaces Out" for a Touchdown
FSU Eskimos  ND Celebrates

Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As I predicted in my original pre-game analysis, the COLD(!) South Bend weather (the temperature was 27 degrees at kickoff) would be the deciding factor. As I further predicted, (like the 2010 Miami team I had referenced) the Seminoles came out dressed as if on an arctic expedition. What even I did not foresee was the Fighting Irish players (mockingly) "warming-up" in gym shorts and shirtless bare chests and backs. I believe this is likely the most in-your-face exhibition of one group of athletes not only saying but proving to an opponent: "you're not worthy to be on the same field with me!" And, "man" did the Irish prove it, by scoring three times in the first few minutes of the game (two touchdowns and one field goal) and causing two turnovers in the same time-span.

Thanks to his support team, Brandon Wimbush made me look like a fool when I revised my pre-game prediction from blow-out Notre Dame victory to blow-out Florida State victory once I learned that Brandon would be substituting for Ian Book. For the first half at least, Brandon looked like a championship quarterback throwing for three touchdowns and executing to near-perfection some timely quarterback runs such that thanks to (a) Brandon, (b) great offensive line work, (c) excellent running by Dexter Williams and (d) superb Irish defense, Notre Dame had taken a 32-6 halftime lead.

But, like Cinderella, Brandon's fairy tale life did not make it past midnight -or- in this case, the end of halftime. Instead, Wimbush reverted to his (individual) mean, throwing two interceptions and enabling the Irish to score only 10 more points the remainder of the game. Still, thanks to some timely stops by the Irish D, Notre Dame prevailed by the convincing score of 42-13 and easily covered the 18.5 point betting-line-spread set when Ian Book was presumed to be the starter.

So, the overall conclusion?

For one half, Brandon Wimbush was one of the best quarterbacks in America on Saturday and I should have just stayed with my original write-up.

Now for some grades...

Brandon Wimbush gets a B+ for his two halves combined.

The ND offensive line gets an A.

Dexter Williams gets an A+.

The Notre Dame Receivers get an "Incomplete" due to the limited number of passes thrown by Wimbush and the limited number of targets. However, due to the difficult nature of the catches that were made -- particularly on touchdown throws, I am awarding a provisional A.

The Irish Defense -- and I am including nearly everyone on this* -- gets an A+. *Not only was the Irish D great as a whole, there were numerous** examples of individual fantastic play. (**In fact, too numerous to cite everyone who played well.)

So, you are asking, what about my problem child -- Brian Polian and his "Special" Teams? Well, while I cannot prove it, I believe they were abducted by aliens and replaced by some first-rate Klingons or something. While there was an occasional foul-up (such as a missed extra point and too many punts that were not fielded before hitting the ground) there was, for the first time, signs of a championship team on this unit as well. For instance, Jerry Tillery blocked a Seminole extra point which Julian Love ran back for a 2-point defensive conversion and Chris Finke discovered how to (a) field a punt, (b) eat spinach, and (c) run 28 yards with several Blutos on his back. For this improved effort, I am awarding Brian and the Boys a B (keeping in mind that, for this review, I am largely overlooking some of the lingering effects of their historically bad play).

So, what grade do I give the coaches (other than Polian)? To have had the level of confidence that they displayed -- in spite of losing the nation's leader in pass completion percentage -- and to have played as well as they did, the players were obviously prepared very well by a first-rate coaching staff (across the board with my usual Polian caveat). To Kelly and (nearly) all of his assistants, I award an A+.

Additional Grades: I award the Notre Dame fans and students an A+ for braving the cold and for providing outstanding support to the team (especially in light of how cold it was). A further A+ goes out to all the parents (especially the mothers) and other loved ones who helped make this one of the best Senior Days ever in the history of Notre Dame Football.
                                  

11/08/2018

Vince Milum's REVISED Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Florida State Seminoles.

STOP THE PRESSES...

As I wrote in my original preview (reprinted below and which was submitted three hours ago as I submit this revision for publication), this was the most important caveat to that original prediction:

"Most of all, pray for the health of Ian Book!"

Well, that did not last too long...

Per numerous sources and confirmed by ESPN, Ian Book will not play against Florida State due to an injury to his ribs and back sustained in the Northwestern game.

As I wrote but just a few hours ago...

"Overview: Notre Dame opened as an 18.5-point favorite over Florida State and is currently favored by an even 18."

That line is now down to 16.5 (and likely to drop further). As news of this development spreads, I would not be surprised if the betting houses take this game offline (entirely). As for my own estimate of how this all ends up...

Revised Prediction: My new prediction (based on unreliable Brandon Wimbush playing QB instead of Ian Book) is Florida State wins 28-10.
                

Vince Milum's [Original] Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Florida State Seminoles.

Overview: Notre Dame opened as an 18.5-point favorite over Florida State and is currently favored by an even 18.

Normally at this point in my write-ups, I give a brief summary of the weather forecast and what role (if any) I see it playing in the outcome of the game. However, this week, as I perceive it, the forecast is not "part" of the story but is the story itself (at least for now)...

Before discussing the forecast, let me issue my standard caveats that also must be considered...

Notre Dame must minimize mistakes (such as turnovers, blocked punts, kicks returned for touchdowns and penalties) and not suffer any significant injuries (or "targeting" ejections) -AND- the Irish need to optimize the usage of BOTH Dexter Williams AND Jafar Armstrong in their offensive attack (note: Jafar saw only limited action last week due to an injury the preceding week). (And, most of all, pray for the health of Ian Book!)

Now, with my caveats out-of-the-way, why am I fixated on weather this week? Because...

As I write this, the forecast for South Bend this coming Saturday night is for the temperature to be in the 20s -- i.e., BELOW Freezing! (Snow is also likely along with strong winds.)

This forecast harkens to my mind when ND played another Florida team in similar weather...

I remember ND playing Miami in an unusually-cold Sun Bowl on December 31, 2010.

The Miami players were dressed as if they were on an arctic expedition while the Notre Dame players were in shirt sleeves.

While ND was playing offense and defense, the Miami players spent most of their time trying to warm themselves. The result? ND jumped out to a sizeable early lead and -- by the time the Miami players were finally warm enough to play -- the game was nearly over.

This is how Wikipedia reported the 2010 Sun Bowl matchup:

"This was the first ever postseason bowl meeting between the Irish and the Hurricanes. The game sold out in 21 hours, the fastest in the Sun Bowl's 77-year history, and the crowd of 54,021 set a bowl attendance record, despite the temperature being below freezing. Tommy Rees passed for 201 yards and two touchdowns to Michael Floyd as Notre Dame beat Miami 33-17. The Irish reached the end zone on three of its first four possessions. Rees tossed TD passes of 3 and 34 yards to Floyd and Cierre Wood broke free on a 34-yard scoring run. David Ruffer added field goals from 40, 50 and 19 yards. The Irish defense picked off Miami starting quarterback Jacory Harris 3 times and logged 4 total interceptions in the first half to help the team jump out to a 27-0 lead in the first half."

While Tallahassee is not quite as far south as Miami, I still think freezing weather will disrupt the collective psyche of the Seminoles. (E.g., This week's average high in Tallahassee is 80 degrees -- quite a contrast from what they will experience Saturday night!)

My prediction (provided temperatures are near or below freezing and the playing surface is not overly slick or covered with snow):

[Previous Predicted Outcome that is no longer valid:] Notre Dame 34, Florida State 17.
                                  

11/8/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 10
by Parker Milum

LSU never deserved to be in the #3 spot after their loss to Florida (who was just DOMINATED by Mizzou, in spite of the officiating), and I knew there was no reason to predict them making the playoff when they were about to face Alabama. As predicted in my previous columns, the CFB Playoff Committee’s Top 4 is now copacetic with my own.

(Just a reminder: these are projections of the top 4 teams as they will be placed in the FINAL College Football Playoff Rankings)


1. Alabama (13-0)

I might be the only talking head in the nation to fathom this thought, but so be it… LSU may have just exposed Alabama as being of the mortal realm, and the Crimson Tide are not unbeatable. LSU’s offense has not impressed me in the slightest all year, and to be shut out by one of Alabama’s least experienced defenses of the Saban era is embarrassing… But, at least for the first half of the game, LSU’s defense contained Alabama’s “God-Tier” offense to just 16 points. LSU’s defense predictably slowly crumbled as their offense just couldn’t generate any points whatsoever, and the demoralization factor must be considered. But a team who can match or exceed LSU’s defense while providing a vastly superior offensive threat (e.g. Michigan or Clemson, in that order) could seriously upset this Alabama team. Nonetheless, Alabama should easily finish the regular season undefeated and claim the SEC title from a lackluster Georgia Bulldogs team. Alabama gets the #1 spot because right now they deserve it.

2. Clemson (13-0)

Boston College is up next on the Tigers’ chopping block, and the game will likely be over in the first half. Clemson “has the look” of a Top-2 team, which they lacked until about week six but have consistently demonstrated ever since. Clemson gets in at #2 with great ease.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

Syracuse moves up to #13 in the rankings, giving the Irish another possible Top-15 win on their résumé, but also appear as a more credible threat to upset Notre Dame. Nonetheless, the Irish should still finish undefeated but, without a conference win, will end up at the #3 spot in the playoff.

4. Michigan (12-1)

Is there any question now that Michigan is the best team in the Big 10? The Wolverines made Penn State look like an FCS team in what can only be described as murder on the football field. Michigan has THE BEST defense in the nation, and vastly more effective offense than LSU. Clemson may or may not be a better team than Michigan, but Michigan might be the best overall matchup to defeat Alabama in the playoffs. The Wolverines can contain Tua and his receivers enough for Shea Patterson’s offense to score on Alabama’s defense and keep the game manageable. Michigan gets the #4 spot, much to the benefit of Clemson and Notre Dame if the Wolverines were to pull off the upset.


Undefeated Teams after Week 9:
#1 Alabama (9-0)
#2 Clemson (9-0)
#3 Notre Dame (9-0)
#10 UCF (8-0)

Upset Watch for Week 11:
Texas Tech crushes the spirit of #19 Texas
#18 Michigan State defeats #10 Ohio State
                                  

NOTE 1: For earlier 2018 Football season coverage, CLICK HERE.

NOTE 2: For season-ending coverage of the 2017-2018 College Basketball and Hockey Seasons, CLICK HERE.
     

     

 
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