Is Lisa Murkowski Cheating?

September 30, 2010

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[Editor’s note: You may find more political articles from me as November approaches.  I’m not affiliated with either party.  I lean left on quite a few issues, but am quite conservative on others.  However, the intricacies of the process and the probabilities of certain events intrigue me – and it’s likely that this will serve as the basis for most of my articles.]

Lisa Murkowski, Republican Senator from Alaska, was defeated in the GOP primary by Joe Miller, a candidate backed by Sarah Palin.  Following her defeat, Murkowski announced that she will be mounting a write-in candidate for her senate seat – much to the disappointment of Republican leaders.  Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich went so far as top say that Murkowski is “fundamentally cheating.”

The reason for the concern is obvious.  Either Miller or Murkowski would be a cinch to beat Democrat Scott McAdams head-to-head.  However, it is possible that Murkowski’s write-in candidacy will pull enough votes away from Miller to allow McAdams to pull off a victory with around 35% of the vote.  That’s a worst case scenario, of course – a Rasmussen poll from September 19 showed McAdams trailing both Miller and Murkowski.  It’s a wild card, though – and a risk the Republicans would prefer to avoid.

But is Murkowski – and other candidates who lose primaries but remain in the race – actually cheating?  By losing the primary, they have certainly given up the right to be listed as the Republican or Democrat on the ballot.  But it’s worth noting that this is all the primaries decide – the person who will be officially endorsed by the party.  They don’t determine a candidate’s overall eligibility for the race.  Murkowski can’t be the endorsed Republican in the race, but she’s certainly entitled to remain in the race in any other fashion – the Republicans have no control over that.  The Republicans and Democrats should not be given special priority on the ballots, and certainly should not be allowed to rule other candidates ineligible.

Of course, the other question is whether or not Murkowski’s run is a good idea.  Probably not.  She may have been better served to wait until 2014 and lock horns with Mark Begich.  You may remember that Begich narrowly defeated the late Senator Ted Stevens at a point when Stevens was neck deep in corruption charges.  Clearly, this helped the Begich campaign, and he might not be able to win against Murkowski.  A Murkowski win against Begich would result in both of Alaska’s senators being Republicans – something that would likely curry favor with Republicans.  Her current write-in campaign has only served to anger them.  Murkowski was currently removed as the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as retribution for her campaign.

Across the country, in the state of Delaware, there is a situation that is very similar, yet very different.  Mike Castle, backed by the GOP establishment, was upset by Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell in the primary.  The only person happier than O’Donnell was her Democratic challenger, Chris Coons.  Coons was trailing Castle badly in the polls – but leading O’Donnell by a wide margin.  Overnight, this race turned from an almost certain Republican win to an almost certain Democratic win.

What could save the bacon for the Republicans?  Well, if Mike Castle were to run as a write-in candidate, he might be able to eke out a win and put the seat into GOP hands.  He’s mulling the possibility and has until the end of today to decide.  The wrinkle in this is that it’s going to be awfully hard to portray Castle as playing within the rules while at the same time painting Murkowski as a cheater.

Johnny’s Picks

September 29, 2010

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Thursday

Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State (-3.5) Could be a shootout, I like the home team. OSU – 35- A&M 28

Saturday

Miami (-3.5) @ Clemson – Take the Hurrigansters until proven otherwise. Miami – 31- Clem 20

Virginia Tech (-3.5) @ North Carolina State – wow…both of these teams are bad. Va Tech 27- NC St 17

Northwestern (-4.5) @ Minnesota – Wildcats eat Gophers. NW – 28- MINN 21

Navy @ Air Force (-7.5) – Gimmie the home team in a cover. AF 24- Navy 23

Texas vs Oklahoma (-4.5) – Red River shootout lost its luster after the Horns got cooked by Skippy Nuhiesel last week. OU – 35- Tex 20

Wisconsin @ Michigan State (even) – John Clay for Heisman! WI – 24- Mich St 20

Arizona State @ Oregon State (-6.5) – This one is not on the Smurf Turf. Ore St – 27- ASU 14

Georgia (-2.5) @ Colorado – The Buffs are Horrid. GA- 40- CU 14

Texas Tech (-4.5) @ Iowa State – Tech goes wild in Ames. TT- 35- IA St 17

Florida @ Alabama (-7.5) Florida Came alive last week. This one will be close. FLA 24- Bama 21

Washington @ USC (-11.5) – The Huskies are even More Horrid than the Buffs. USC – 46- Wash 21

Notre Dame (-1.5) @ Boston College – ND cannot stop anyone. Not even another Catholic School. BC 21- ND 20

Penn State @ Iowa (-7.5) – Like the Hawks. But not to cover. Iowa 21- Penn St 17

Stanford @ Oregon (-6.5) – The ducks are like watching a live version of Madden 2011. Ore 45- Stan 35

My CPA Exam Experience

September 28, 2010

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Some people are under the impression that a person must be a CPA in order to be an “accountant”.  That’s not true.  Accountant is a very generic term, encompassing  a wide variety of roles – some of which require certifications and some that do not.  In fact, not every accountant even strives to be a CPA.

I received dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Accounting and Marketing.  Unlike many of my peers, I wasn’t overly fond of financial accounting (balance sheets, income statements, etc).  I much preferred cost accounting – figuring out how much a widget cost to make and finding ways to shave a few cents off the cost.  Cost accounting is more complex than it appears on the surface, because of the makeup of costs.  Some costs are completely fixed, some are completely variable, and some are fixed within a certain range.  There’s quite a lot of analysis and algebra involved – which is probably why I liked it.

My other interest was in auditing – particularly in fraud detection.  I took two auditing classes in college, the second of which was essentially a series of case studies on some famous fraud cases – taking a look at what led up to the fraud and how it could have been detected earlier.  I can only imagine how much more interesting this course would be today, in the wake of Enron, Madoff, and the other major fraud cases of this century.

I was interested in gaining certification, but not as a CPA.  I was interested in becoming a CMA (Certified Management Account) or CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner).

However, as a 21 year old college senior, I had to face reality.  Employers had an interest in accounting students who were pursuing the CPA designation.  So I signed up for the exam and bought a couple of massive study guides.

Fast forward to the spring.  I have landed a job – working in an IT department.  The basic gist of the job is that I will provide support for accounting systems (it ended up morphing into a much different role over the years, but that’s a story for another day).  Not only was a CPA not required, it wasn’t something that seemed likely to advance my career much.

During the spring semester, I had been balancing the job search with a full course load (18 credits) and a part-time job.  In particular, one of my marketing classes ended up sucking up a ton of time.  In a nutshell, I had to determine which was more important – my grades or my performance on the CPA exam.  Due to their permanence, grades won out, and I prepared for the CPA exam much less than most of my classmates.

In spite of the fact that the CPA designation wasn’t required for my job and that I had little interest in becoming a CPA, I decided to sit for the exam anyway.  This wasn’t pure folly – I did have some things working in my favor.  I was a good student in college, doing particularly well in my accounting classes.  Also, I had taken many more accounting classes than were required (as electives), so I had a broader base of knowledge that the typical student.  Parts of the exam were essay, meaning that writing style would count for some of the score – and I’ve always tended to do well on essay tests.

The biggest factor, though, was that I had already paid to take the exam.  I think the fee was about $200 – a ton of money for a poor student.  I wasn’t going to flush that money down the drain without giving it the old college try.

The final week of my college career was very interesting.  The CPA exam was scheduled for later in the week, so I needed to work with my professors to schedule all of my finals for earlier in the week.  In the span of a couple of days, I took exams in topics ranging from Auditing II to Romantic Literature.  I’ll always remember my very last final – Romantic Literature.  The exam was one question.  The question was this (paraphrasing): “On the first day of class, we discussed what the class thought Romantic Literature was.  How have these ideas proven to be true or false over the course of the semester?”  Simple, but brilliant.  I aced the exam, and walked out knowing that I had aced it.

After that exam, I jumped into my Ford Taurus (a ten year old car, and the first of three Tauruses I have owned) and drove from Ames to Waterloo (Iowa).  I checked into my hotel (the cheapest in town – I’m not very picky when it comes to hotels).  That night, I met up with a friend and her boyfriend.  We went to a restaurant and chatted for a while before going our separate ways.  The boyfriend, Chris, was in the early stages of running a popular tech-centric website.  We talked about the Mac/PC divide, and he suggested that I start something similar to his site, but devoted to Macs.  I didn’t feel that I had enough tech knowledge to do it (and I was probably right), but in hindsight it might have been a good idea to take a suggestion from the creator of LockerGnome.

The next day, I showed up at the site of the exam.  It was pouring rain and I was totally unfamiliar with the area.  I ended up parking about a half mile away and got drenched.  I finished the morning session early and made a K-Mart run to buy dry clothes (apparently the hotel was too far away to make it there and back in time for the afternoon session).

It became apparent fairly quickly that I wasn’t going to pass the exam.  That’s not particularly noteworthy – most people do fail the exam the first time (although my wife passed on her first attempt).  Armed with the knowledge that a miracle was not going to occur, I sat back and enjoyed the process.  I had absolutely no stress, and just focused on answering the questions to the best of my ability.  At the end of the second day, I finished up a couple of hours early and jumped in the car to return to Ames.  I graduated over the weekend.  The next week,  I commenced with my out-of-state move for my new job.

I was not at all stunned when I received notification that I had failed the CPA exam.  The scores were high enough that I actually briefly entertained thoughts of giving it another chance, before sanity prevailed.  I gave away my study guides to someone who needed them (or perhaps she planned to use them as doorstops).

At the age of 35, the number of professional designations I have is … zero.  I think that professional designations are a great way to certify specific knowledge.  However, I have spent my time actively pursuing knowledge – in a wider variety of area than is typical.  It may change at some point, but at this point, I have no plans to become certified in anything.

What’s Going On?

September 27, 2010

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What’s going on in Kosmo’s world?

First of all, the Rockies are very nearly eliminated from the NL West race, trailing the Giants by 4.5 games with 7 games remaining on the schedule (the Giants have just 6 games left).  The Giants have 88 wins, the Padres 87, and the Rockies 83.  With the Giants and Padres finishing the season playing each other in a 3 game series, it’s a mathematial certainty that one of them will reach 89 wins – meaning the Rockies need to to 6-1 to even have a shot – and that’s based on the Padres and Giants both getting swept in their next series.  The situation in the wild card race is similarly bleak.  I’ve ever-optimistic, but not holding my breath.  The Rockies have fought a lot of injuries to get where they are, but it looks like they might fall a bit short.

Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum lost a lot of respect in my eyes when he accused the Rockies (under his breath) of using juiced balls.  Division rivals have suggested that the Rockies have somehow managed to get non-humidored balls to the umpire when they are trailing – just in time to have the Rockies hitters crush them during a comeback.  Of course, the fact that Lincecum was supposedly able to detect such a ball actually strengthens my assertion that the Rockies are not using juiced balls.  In the past, pitchers have said that the humidored balls are “slick” (even though they are stored at a humidity level that is essentially what you would see in most of the country).  If that’s the case, then pitchers would be able to detect the difference if the Rockies tried to pull a fast one.  After all, if Lincecum could detect one, why couldn’t Roy Halladay or Kyle Lohse (or Jamie Moyer, who hasdealt with everything during his 50 year career)?  Are the non-humidored balls dryer to the touch than a “slick” humidored ball, or is it impossible to detect the difference?  You can’t have your cake and eat it, too – pick one answer and stick with it.

Why are the Rockies so good at home?  Well, first of all, there are a number of teams that are downright dominant at home – not just the Rockies.  Secondly, you’re looking at a team that is constructed to help the pitchers.  The pitch staff leans heavily toward groundball pitchers, the middle infielders are good defensive players, and you have two true centerfielders (Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez) patrolling the massive outfield territory (to prevent doubles from falling in).  The net effect is that you should expect Coors to appear much more neutral to Rockies pitchers (and opposing hitters) than to opposing pitchers (and Rockies hitters) – since the opposing teams aren’t necessarily configured this way.  So, why doesn’t this help the Rockies pitcher even more on the road?  It’s just not as noticeable on the road because keeping balls on the ground and tracking them down in the outfield is something that prevents 7 run innings – which aren’t commonplace outside of Coors.

I’m going to take a break from fiction short stories in the month of September.  I need to recharge my creativity a bit for another project.  I’ll definitely be writing new stories in October (and it’s quite possible that I won’t be able to finish out the month of fiction exile).  During September, I’ll make it Open Mike night for fiction writers.  If you want to have a short fiction piece featured, let me know at kosmo@observingcasually.com

Finally, I have made the decision to turn The Cell Window into a novel – and if Hollywood agrees, perhaps even into a feature film 🙂  In general, I don’t mess with a story once I have declared it to be a finished product.  However, over the past several months, quite a few people have suggested lengthening the story, so I’m going to give it a shot.  Those of you who have purchased the short version might end up with a collector’s item if the book is well received.  Haven’t bought a copy yet?  You can get the PDF version, MP3 audio book, or combo edition.  I’d recommend the combo edition, since it is the same price as the plain PDF version.

The Retirement Party

September 24, 2010

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It was the social event of the year in the industry.  After decades of excellence, John Smith was retiring to a well-deserved life of leisure in the Florida Keys.

The retirement party was by invitation only, and Smith’s contemporaries were honored to receive engraved invitations to the event.  John Smith was a very private person with very few close friends in the industry – but everyone knew his work and appreciated the man’s artistry and professionalism.

The black tie event was held at the elegant Harbison Hotel.  After a social hour of drinks by the bar, the crowd made their way to their tables for hors d’oeuvre.

Frank Little munched on something that was unidentifiable, but very tasty.  In between bites, he turned to his colleague, Mike Brown.

“I never though he’d hang it up, Mike.  Why do you think he’s leaving now, when he’s still performing at such an elite level?”

“Maybe he’s tired of dealing with all the paperwork,” replied Brown, not bothering to wait until his mouth was empty.  “The stress probably wasn’t good on his heart, either.  Maybe his bank account hit the magic number to allow him to retire and he decided to actually enjoy what’s left of his life.”

“You’re probably right,” responded Frank.  “We should all be so lucky.”

As the meal moved steadily from one course to the next toward the main dish, a band played music from the 80s and the guests were treated to a video show chronicling John Smith’s career.

As the waiters brought out the entrée – a choice of prime rib or lobster – many of the guests noted John Smith’s absence from the event.

“Imagine that,” remarked Bill Jones.  “Missing your own retirement party.”

“John’s always been a pretty private guy,” responded Jane Doe, “but this certainly takes the cake.  Who would miss the opportunity to be honored by your colleagues?”

“John Smith would, apparently,” replied Bill.

By eleven o’clock, the party began to wind down.  In spite of the conspicuous absence of the guest of honor, everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves.  The food, drink, and entertainment were all of the finest caliber – exactly what would be expected from something honoring such a great man.

The next morning, Bill Jones began to complain of food poisoning and began to experience a considerable amount of nausea.  In the middle of the afternoon, he dropped dead in front of his toilet.

News of Bill’s demise never had a chance to reach the other party guests.  Soon they, too, were experiencing the symptoms.  Two days later, 80 percent of the party guests were in the city morgue.  It was being reported as one of the worst cases of food poisoning in history.

John Smith smiled from afar.  His “retirement” party had been the perfect way to lure the elite contract killers into one place and expose them to a deadly poison.    Last year had been a slow year for business, but he anticipated a sharp increase in his market share.

Similac: Case Study Of (Another) Botched Recall

September 23, 2010

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[Note: I’m not going to let this become a breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding debate, and comments of that nature will be deleted.  That topic is worth discussing, but it’s not germane to the focus of this article.]

Abbot, makes of the popular Similac brand of infant formula, are recalling 5 million containers of its product.  The recall is tied to the presence in a beetle that can result in irritation to the gastrointestinal tract of infants, causing them to lose their appetite.

I received a call in the early morning from my son’s day care center, letting us know that his container of Similac was among the lots getting recalled.  I set out on a search for a replacement can from a non-affected lot.

I was great annoyed to see that every store I went to (6) had simply yanked ALL containers of Similac from the shelves instead of actually checking to see if the product was among the recalled units.  Eventually, I found a box of “single serving” packets (nt included in the recall) and bout them.  They are, of course, quite a bit more expensive per ounce than the larger containers.

It annoyed me that stores were taking the easy way out.  It this was a product like, say, pretzels or peanuts, I wouldn’t have a concern with such a slash-and-burn approach.  Infant formula is a bit different.  It is staple of the infant’s diet, and many infants can be quite brand loyal, refusing to drink a different brand.  This can be a real problem, as you can’t really reason with the infant to get them to drink.

The main annoyance, though, was at Abbot’s response to the recall.  They posted information on their web site, including a place where you could type in the lot numbers from your containers in oder to determine if they were in the recall.  Unfortunately, the site was completely down last night, and only partially functional this morning.  Why?  No doubt because of heavy volume.

This is not the first time that a manufacturer’s web site has succumbed to heavy traffic in the aftermath of a recall.  The same thing happened when some formulations of Tylenol were recalled a while ago.

It’s almost as if companies are under the impression that it’s not possible to quickly add more capacity to their web servers.  That’s not true, of course.  There are a multitude of companies that would gladly rent them the hardware necessary to handle spikes in volume.  It it quite common for companies to do this when they anticipate surges in traffic – it’s much cheaper than permanently upgrading their infrastructure.

I’m not sure why we have to go down this road every time there is a major recall.  Perhaps the Consumer Product Safety Commission could even have information about the recall on their own site, and have a deal with the web hosting provider to rent extra capacity when the need arises – they could then bill the manufacturer at a set rate (in theory, they could get a better deal from the web hosting companies by offering repeat business).

I’m not sure what the exact answer to these problems are, but things MUST get better.

Christine O’Donnell – Witch Of The East?

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Don’t all teenage dates end on top of satanic altars? I guess the new darling of the Tea Party and Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell would like everyone to believe that. The comment comes from a past clip of one of her many appearances on the show Politically Incorrect that was brought to light once again by its host Bill Maher on his new show Real Time (see the clip as part of her Greatest Hits on Youtube). The clip has her stating that she once dabbled in witchcraft and one of her first dates ended up on a satanic alter with blood dripping from it. I guess her new campaign slogan should be YES WICCAN!!!

Now while like most things O’Donnell says or has said, the clip is amusing but this one in particular won’t have much of a factor on her losing the Senate race in Delaware. That’s because her tea party crowd just loves them story of redemption. Of how she could overcome her ways of witchcraft and being at the altars of the evil Obama and come to a better life today of living of others campaign contributions.

This is the real thing about the Tea Party’s new love interest. It is truly amazing to me how a crowd so hell-bent on how government should be not allowed to waste their money, yet they have no qualms about letting their political prostitute O’Donnell use their money any way she desires. Yes I called O’Donnell a political prostitute, that is what she is. She does not have a job and lives off money given to her for running for political office. So I hope the tea party loves their position as the political Johns right now.

This past Sunday O’Donnell was to appear on a couple of the Sunday news shows, but quickly cancelled those appearances after Maher released his clip adn promise that he hd many more to release. Granted she said that she was overworked and needed to relax and get away for the weekend. We have to believe her right? After all, she did once say that she would not have even lied to Hitler to save Anne Frank. Unfortunately teabaggers she isn’t that honest either. She lies as much as Sister Sarah, just she is not as crafty about it. She quickly went into redirections of her motive throughout the weekend ending up with she overbooked events and Delaware events and voters should be the focus. Good for her, if that was the actual motive, but it was not as Delaware voters are her main concern.

I think the last stat I saw on the issue was that over 80% of O’Donnell’s contributions this cycle were from outside of Delaware. So if Delaware needs to be the focus maybe she should return some of that money she was so adamantly trying to get at just last week. On Hannity last night O’Donnell professed she will do no more national interviews because Delaware needed to be the focus. However while it would be the good reason, it is not her real reason, she just doesn’t want to have any more missteps on her way to losing the Senate race than she will have anyways from her own past comments.

I say on her way to losing the race because that IS going to be the endgame of this race in my opinion. A seat that was once thought to go to the dark side is now a pretty safe seat to hold. Even polls so right biased seem to think so. The Fox News battleground poll had the Democrat Chris Coons up 54% to 39% over O’Donnell. On an amusing note though in the same polling if Mike Castle would be the nominee he would be trouncing Coons 48% to 33%. Now since I usually don’t believe anything that comes from Faux News alone, another usually right biased poll Rasmussen has Coons up 53% to 42%. So way to stick it to the establishment teabaggers, by making an obvious pickup into a safe seat for the opposition instead.

Now the only poll that matters is the one on election day, but the result will be no different than the pst two times she has run before, especially now that everyone is vividly aware o how much of a nut she is. So I sit here waiting with bated breath at the next piece news to come out from O’Donnell whether a current misstep or a past one. The are all amusing to me. Until that time though I will protect myself from the invasion of mice-human hybrids and continue to be master of my own domain.

Donald Bellisario

September 22, 2010

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I tend to pay very little attention to directors and producers. I can tell you that Stars Wars is a George Lucas film, but very little beyond that. It has simply never been something that struck me as terribly important. I’ve always focused primarily on plot and secondarily on the cast. The other details were never particularly important.

Recently, I have been watching a lot of NCIS. I got into the show about a year ago, and have been DVR’ing the crap out of it lately. I really don’t watch a ton of TV, so NCIS probably makes up about 80% of my non-baseball viewing right now.

I’m not really drawn toward military themed shows, so NCIS is a bit of an odd choice. It’s basically a cop show with Navy details. Why wouldn’t I just pick from the various cop shows currently on TV (Criminal Minds has been suggested to me by several people)?

A big reason why I enjoy the show is that is has a large number of well-developed characters. So many of the characters have depth that it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite character. I started watching the show because of Mark Harmon – who, for reasons that I can’t fully explain, is one of my favorite actors. On the other hand, I hang on every word of Ducky’s stories. I like the computer geek stuff that McGee delves into and the forensic science that is Abby’s forte. And let’s not forget DiNozzo getting smacked in the head or Ziva beating up some guy who underestimated her.

In other words, there’s not a whole lot that I don’t like about the show. I found myself enjoying the show so much that I want to Wikipedia to look up some of the details.

I had known that the producer was Donald Bellisario – but I wasn’t aware of Bellisario’s other credits (I told you, I pay very little attention to them). Quantum Leap, JAG, and Magnum PI? It struck me that this man was responsible for perhaps 40% of the dramas I have ever liked. When I watch non-sports programming, I generally lean toward comedies. The fact that I liked every Bellisario show that I had ever seen spoke volumes to me.

I always say that a true test of a story is the ability to interest me when I have no particular interest in the subject matter. In the case of Quantum Leap and Magnum, the subject areas were topics that I enjoy. Bellasario’s biggest challenge was getting me to enjoy JAG and NCIS when I really don’t have any special interest in the military – and he passed in flying colors.

If you haven’t caught NCIS yet, watch the new season on Tuesday nights this fall – or catch reruns on USA, Sleuth, or Ion. Reruns are on quite frequently. If NCIS isn’t your thing, give Bellisario’s other works a chance. This guy is truly an American treasure.

[Note: click on any of the links to visit the Amazon store for the series.  We will earn a small commission on any sales.  This does not increase your cost.]

Johnny’s Picks

September 21, 2010

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Week off for Johnny last week as I was on vacation, I will say that I would have had a huge week, and since you cannot see any of my picks (since I did not publish an article) you will have to just take my word for it.

Things we learned last week:

  • There is a muddled mess in the rankings, teams like Oklahoma, Texas, and others look really good one week and really average the next
  • Nebraska’s red-shirt Freshman QB looked really good and the Huskers defense just cost Jake Locker a bunch of money
  • Michigan and Notre Dame have absolutely no defense

Thursday

Miami (FL) @ Pittsburgh (-1.5) – Big East battle. I like the canes. Miami – 28 – Pitt 21

Saturday

Virginia Tech @ Boston College (-2.5) – Virginia Tech has to start playing better one of these days. Va Tech – 21 – BC – 17

Central Florida @ Kansas State (-7.5) – Daniel Thomas for Heisman! K St – 28 – Central Fla – 20

UCLA @ Texas (-21.5) – Wow, where did THAT UCLA team come from last week? Texas is overrated but UCLA has QB issues. Texas 31- UCLA 7

Stanford (-1.5) @ Notre Dame – ND stands for “no defense” Stanford – 34- ND 20

Wake Forest @ Florida State (-19.5) – Which Fla State team will show up? FST – 28 – Wake 10

Nevada (-2.5) @ BYU – Nevada looked really good last week, but this is in Provo….won’t matter. Nevada 35- BYU 20

Kentucky @ Florida (-16.5) – Florida due to get on track – FLA 35- Kentucky – 14

Northern Iowa @ Iowa State (-6.5) – Clones game was closer than indicated last week, but this is the super bowl for UNI gimmie the Clones! IA St 28 – UNI 17

Alabama (-4.5) @ Arkansas – Roll Tide! Bama 28 – Ark 20

South Carolina @ Auburn (-1.5) Lattimore for Heisman! The Frosh looks good! SC – 24 – Auburn – 21

Oregon State @ Boise State (-16.5) Wow big spread, I like the Broncos but not to cover. Boise St – 30 – Ore St 20

West Virginia @ LSU (-5.5) – West Virginia can’t hang with the big boys….LSU 21- WV – 14

California @ Arizona (-4.5) – Will it be a let down week for zona…don’t bet on it. Ari – 28 – Cal 21

Oregon (-10.5) @ Arizona State – Oregon is like watching video game football. Ore 49 – ASU – 17

The NL West Race

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It’s the 19th of September, and only two division leaders in baseball have a lead of less than 4 games.  One of the tight races is in the AL East, where the Yankees hold a 1 1/2 game lead over the Devil Rays.  There is a nice consolation price for the loser of that race – the Devil Rays currently hold a 6 1/2 game lead over the Red Sox for the Wild Card.

The other tight race is in the NL West, where the Giants hold a 1/2 game lead over the Padres and a 1 1/2 game lead over the Rockies.  Had the Rockies not squandered a 6-1 lead against the Dodgers on Sunday, this race could be even tighter.  There’s a bit more desperation in the NL West race, because all three teams are a bit behind the Braves in the wild card race (although this could change if the Phillies sweep Atlanta in their series).

All three teams were idle yesterday and return to action in road games today – the Giants against the Cubs, the Padres against the Dodgers, and the Rockies against the Diamondbacks.  This weekend will feature a critical matchup between the Rockies and Giants at Coors Field, while the Padres face NL Central leaders Cincinnati at home. 

In the final week of the season, the Giants will start out with a home series against the Diamondbacks, the Padres will go to Wrigley to face the Cubs, and the Rockies will face the Dodgers at home.  When the calendar flips to October, we’ll see the Rockies traveling to St. Louis to face the always dangerous Albert Pujols and the Cardinals while the Padres and Giants battle in San Francisco.

As you can see, the Cubs, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks will all act as spoilers down the stretch, as they face two of the three division contenders.

Who has the tought row to hoe during the season’s final fortnight?  Well, the Giants get to face the suddenly hot Cubs (winners of six straight) and have to face both the Rockies and Padres.  They do have a three game set against the Diamondbacks that should allow them to pick up some easy wins.

The Padres don’t have a cakewalk either, with series against two division leaders – San Francisco and Cincinnati.  Expect Cincinnati to have the pedal to the metal as they fight for a higher seed in the playoffs.  They are currently the 2 seed and certainly would not want to slip to the 3 seed and lose home field advantage in the first round.

That brings us to the Rockies.  On paper, it’s not a horrible schedule.  They face only one division leader (San Francisco) and those games are at home.  One of their road series is against the Diamondbacks, who are the second worst team in the National League.  They’ll finish with a four game series against a Cardinals team that will likely have nothing to play for.  But on the bad side, the fact that the Padres and Giants finish the season against each other provides an interesting obstacle – if they trail one of the other teams by 2 games with 3 games left to go, it will be impossible for them to make up the gap.  Why?  Because either the Padres or Giants must win at least 2 games in their 3 game series.  Yep – if the Giants lead the Rockies by 2 games and the Padres by 3 games going into the final series, the Rockie would be mathematically eliminated, but the Padres would still be alive.

So, what happens if there is a 3 way tie for the division?  Two of the teams will play an elimination game, with the winner hosting the third team.  The teams will be ranked on their head-to-head records, with the top seed (the Rockies have clinched this) deciding whether they want home field advantage (in both games) or to be the team that waits to face the winner of the first game (but has to travel).

Which is the correct choice?  Teams play better at home than they do on the road, but it’s not a slam dunk to take the home field advantage, since the home team must win two games.  In order for the home team to have the advantage over the team that needs to win just the final road game, there would need to be a 62% probability for the home team to win vs. 38% for the road team (.62*.62 = .3844).  And even though there are a few teams that exceed this rate, it’s also important to note that the home team would need to burn their best available pitcher in the first game, whereas the team-in-waiting would head into the second game fresh and rested.

My gut?  Be the team waiting on the sidelines and take the one road game.

In other (related) news …
My favorite player, Troy Tulowitzki, has been tearing it up lately, with 14 home runs in a 15 game stretch that ended Saturday (he was held without a homer on Sunday).  Tulo had 2 homers in 4 of those games and drove in a stunning 31 games during that stretch.  Hopefully Tulo can kept up the hot hitting down the stretch.

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