Always 17

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Some things in sports are true all of the time..and many others most of the time. Take a look..

…From the time that a 10 year old pitches to the plate and all the way through the MLB pitchers, home plate remains constantly 17” wide! Not wider for young kids or wider for the MLB’ers. Bases may have different lengths, pitching distances may vary but home plate is  always 17” wide. Most things in life are not true 100% of the time..but many are TRUE much of the time!

….its said that that to WIN in the MLB, a team must have pitching…good pitching.  2021 validates that idea perfectly. Check out the ERA team rankings for ’21–#1 LA Dodgers-3.01; #1 SF Giants-3.24; #3 Milwaukee-3.5; #4 Tampa Bay-3.67;#5 White Sox-3.73; #6 NYY 3.74; #7 Houston Asstroes 3.78; #8 Atlana 3.68. The same 8 teams have the lowest Batting Average against them! All were playoff teams.

…in the Nearly Forgotten League (NFL), strong defense & a high quality QB are said to be the keys to wining. It’s still TRUE…at this point of the season, the teams allowing the fewest points: Buffalo Bills are#1 allowing 12.8ppg. They are 4-1, 1st place in the AFL East.  Denver is #2 @ 15.2ppg & the Broncos are 2nd in their division with a  3-2 record. Carolina is #3 in pts allowed @17.4, they are 2nd place in NFC South 3-2. The top QB names don’t seem to change. Tom Brady is 1st in TD passes & 1st in 1st down passes. Patrick Mahomes is 2nd in both of those categories in the league. Justin Hebert of Chargers is 3rd in both categories. The Chargers are in 1st place of AFC West holding a 4-1 record.

…Many MLB experts shrug off the number of home runs by a team. They feel that it DOESN’T lead to winning games. True again!  Stats prove them correct…leading the league in MLB home runs-Baltimore Orioles-258 HR’s; 2nd was Washington Nationals; 3rd-Minnesota Twins; 4th-Chicago Cubs; 5th-Arizona D-Backs. Where did these teams finish in the standings—Baltimore, Washington, Minnesota, Arizona all finished in last place in their division. The Cubs outlasted the Pirates and settled into 4th place for the 2021 season. FYI—the Cards were 2nd lowest in HR with the SF Giants the only team behind them! 

….For a time, it was true that St Louis U WAS the king of College Men Soccer. Looking back to the first year of NCAA Soccer championship, 1959, the Billikens won the title and repeated in ’60. They lost the Championship game in ’61 but won it again in ’62, ’64 & ’65….all under Bob Guelker. Harry Keough took over the program and won NCAA Titles in ’67, ’69, ’70,’72, ’73 and finished 2nd in ’74. It’s true again as the Billikens return to its “true” high level of play being  ranked #11 in the NCAA rankings holding a 10-0-3 record.  Have we lowered the standard…not really…there are FAR more teams competing in Mens soccer now than 50+ years ago.                                                                                                

…there isn’t one perfect set of “rules” that leads a team to a major upset in NCAA-Football. Usually, though, the common factors include…1) a good start to the game to raise confidence; 2) taking advantage of any turnovers; 3) having “big” plays on offense & defense that boost their confidence 3) inspired play by key players 4) a game plan from the coaching staff that slows down the favored opponent… for at least awhile. Well…. Texas A&M used all of those components last Saturday as they hit a game winning FG on the last play of the game  to beat Alabama a 41-38. The Aggies jumped out ahead 17-7 lead in the 1st quarter. The Aggies flustered Bama defensively by overloading one side of the offense  line and rushing more men than Bama had blockers when Bama used 4 wide receivers. Side note….I’ve always thought that it made sense to rush the passer instead of “guarding receivers”. If there were 4 wideouts, that left 6 blockers & the QB..why not rush 7 men with 1 assigned to the back. At least 1 has to get through the line, there aren’t enough blockers—hurry the passer, don’t let him sit back to survey the field, read the options and throw it comfortably. Throughout much of the 1st half, A&M pressured the QB. The score was still 24-10 A&M at halftime—sending all of the players off to the break with their feelings sky high. Coach Nick Saban reset the pass blocking scheme and led Alabama to a regain the lead in the final quarter 38-31(using a 2 pt conversion).

…Texas A&M’s star for this game was their  QB! Elevated from the 2nd unit due to injuries, Zach Calzada, transformed himself into an unforgettable A&M star this weekend in their game vs Alabama. He was “red hot” in the 1st half but later was sent to the injury tent due to a hard hit to his knee. When he emerged late in the 4th Quarter, he led the Aggies down the field to the game-winning FG. He finished with 285 yds passing and 3 TD passes to lead the Aggies to this huge upset. A&M Head Coach Jimbo Fisher ran the clock dry so that when his FG Kicker Seth Small put his FG right through the uprights, there was 0:00 left on the clock! This game stopped all kinds of streaks—Bama’s 1st loss to an unranked team in 100 games and it was the 1st time that ANY #1 ranked team lost to an unranked team since 2008! Upsets of ANY #1 ranked team a few & far between…what a thriller! Texas A&M did checked the all the boxes listed above to live in Aggie football history forever….or at least until next week 😊     

…Team rankings should be based on performance on the field…not expectations, how many will turn pro or pre-season hype. With the Alabama loss, they had to be dropped from their #1 ranking. It seems that voters rank teams by their “expected” value, not who has beaten the best teams thus far. The true measure should be—wins over good & very good teams without losses to average teams.

….Sure, Texas A&M DID beat Bama but they lost twice to Arkansas & Mississippi State this year. Does that 1 win erase those 2 losses? The real puzzler is having  #9 Oregon 6-0 ranked BEHIND a team that they beat (#6 Ohio State) on the field!! That doesn’t seem TRUE to me! At this point, Georgia is #1. Their best wins to this point are over Kentucky #11 and Arkansas #17 (two surprise teams of 2021-we’ll have to see how they hold up). At #2 is Iowa. Their significant win, thus far, is over #7 Penn State. Cincinnati is #3..rather shocking…this team is from the American Athletic Conference (a non-power 5 conference). Cincy’s win over #14 Notre Dame brought attention to them. Alabama has only 1 more game left against a top-25 team , it should be very tough for them to reach the top 10, much less the Top 4 with that schedule. But….who are we kidding?? At the same time Coastal Carolina 6-0 doesn’t belong in the top 20 teams based on the quality of their wins in 2021. Beating Campbell, Norfolk State, Kansas, LA-Monroe, Arkansas State, E.Michigan, Western Illinois is no big whoopee in my eyes.

….All of you are invited to respond—positively or negatively—to any part of this blog. It’s easy… go to Bob Ryan Facebook page (put it right under this blog). Or,  post it on my web site—www.bobryansportsblog.com. Or, you may send your thoughts to me & I’ll post it on the FB page.  Thanks for the time & read!   Bob                                

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