Monday, September 24, 2018

Sportsyball: The Last Two Minutes

The Iowa Hawkeyes: You know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see Iowa get the ball back with two minutes left in a game and put together a sustained, long drive to close out a game. Michigan State in the B1G Championship Game. Penn State last year. Wisconsin this year. As soon as we went three and out on that last drive before Wisconsin scored the go ahead touchdown it all felt very familiar and the script unfolded exactly the same way it usually did. The Defense, magnificent all night, was finally running out of gas and instead of shutting them down, there was more give than there was before and the chips just couldn't fall the right way. So we lost to Wisconsin...  I do think that second touchdown was kind of a dick move, but it wasn't running up the score. It's not like they were up by twenty and wanted to rub it in some. We should have expected it. We should have anticipated it. We didn't, so we lost to Wisconsin.

The weird thing is though that it wasn't all that unexpected. I think their loss to BYU probably raised hopes more than it should have, but despite giving us plenty of opportunities to win the damn thing, Wisconsin was still Wisconsin. We weren't complete ass against them. We had plenty of offense. We were moving the ball (unlike last year's 66 yards of total offense). There's reason to be optimistic. But this one chaps you a little bit, because it really felt like we could have won. But we just can't close out the big games. We sort of half-heartedly put the knife in, but we never twist. Wisconsin put the dagger in and then twisted. Hard. 

So, there's plenty of justification to be salty about this one. But, goddamn it all to hell- if Wisconsin is going to romp through the West Division in their usual manner and get to Indy- again, then they need to do the damn thing this year. Be the Bride, Badgers. Not the Bridesmaid.

What does the next stretch look like?
Bye Week this week.
Away to Minnesota
Away to Indiana
Home versus Maryland
Away to Penn State
Hmmm... can't lose in a bye week! So there's that... Minnesota is being riddled with injuries- but it's in their house, it's a rivalry game so I would expect Iowa to pull out the win, but who knows. Indiana worries me somewhat...  they probably shouldn't, but Iowa's got a grand tradition of losing to teams they have no business losing to and Indiana seems to bring out the worst of these tendencies in us of late. Maryland is confusing. They beat Texas, but lose to Temple? I feel worst case scenario is going 2-2 over the next stretch, but if Iowa gets mad and follows it's usual arc of getting better as the season goes on then 3-1 is a distinct possibility. (If Iowa gets really, really mad, you can't rule out beating Penn State- but in their house? This year? It'll be a tough out.)

In short, nil desperandum, Hawkeye faithful. Do not despair. There's plenty of season left.

Adopt-A-Team: Let's check in with Trabzonspor! It's been over a month, so let's see how they're doing... well...  they're 12th in the table currently and the results have looked like this:
L to Istanbul Basaksehir
W over Sivasspor
D with Ankaragucu
W over Galatasary
L to Alanyaspor
L to Goztepe
So... right now they're 2-3-1, which isn't great, but there hasn't been that much in the way of a season yet, so I'm not going to worry about 'em yet. The win over Galatasary (sitting pretty at 2nd at the moment) is a good result, but the losses to Alanyaspor and Goztepe kind of hurt, since they seem to be shaping up as the mid-table competition Trabzonspor should be able to hang with.

(BTW: I'm saying all of this knowing next to nothing about the actual league yet... other than 'man, these are some cool names' and 'I wish I knew Turkish', I don't have much knowledge yet. Will try and remedy that for next month.)

Arsenal: So, things are looking okay with the Gunners thus far. Yes, they dropped two games against Manchester City and Chelsea to start the season, but since then the results have looked like this:
W over West Ham
W over Cardiff City
W over Newcastle
W over Vorskla (Europa League)
W over Everton
the next month or so looks pretty busy as well:
vs. Brentford (League Cup)
vs. Watford
vs. Qarabag FK (Europa League)
vs. Fulham
vs. Leicester City
vs. Sporting (Europa League)
vs. Crystal Palace
vs. Liverpool, which gets us into November.
I think the most fascinating part of last season was watching team management given all of these competitions- I thought the Europa League actually brought out some of the Wenger of old last season as he had to play the youngsters- but only to a certain point in the competition and I think Emery will probably take a similar approach. Defensively Arsenal have looked utterly lost in too many games- the Chelsea one was especially brutal to watch, but they've... not looked as bad since then. (I don't want to say 'have gotten better' because it's not clear they have yet.) They looked flat and uninspiring against Everton yesterday, but woke up and scored two very nice goals AND kept a clean sheet, which I think is an important marker to maybe point at if you're looking for defensive improvement.

It's very hard to argue with these results. They're winning at home and away,which is a change from last season. They're scoring more goals and look like they're faster and pressing more than they did last season as well. I don't know if they're in a position to be what Emery has in mind yet, but if Emery is all about improvement, I think there's an upward trajectory to be seen here. I'm sure there will be bumps along the way, but it's a long season. Right now, they're sitting sixth in the table, which seems about right to me based on what I've seen thus far. Watford is their only shot at a Top Four team until November when they play Liverpool, so hopefully (hopefully) they bring it to the Hornets. I'd like to see them get that W.

TL;DR: defense needs work, but they're more fun to watch than last year and it's hard to argue with the results thus far.

The Vikings: tied Green Bay (yes, they TIED. Ha, suck it football fans. Don't @ me with your bullshit "durr, I hate soccer, because you can tie." Look! See! Ha!!! They TIED. Plus, pro overtime rules suck. College overtime is vastly superior) and somehow managed to get their faces stomped in by the Buffalo Bills yesterday. I'm just going to leave it at that, really. 

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