Off The Top Of My Head: February 21stColumns
Welcome my fellow StitchHeads to the first regular season version of Off The Top Of My Head. For those of you who have been here before, you know the drill. If you’re new to this, well welcome to my forum where I follow no form, have no set features and just empty whatever is on my pea brain onto my keyboard and it comes up roses here each week. And yes, it’s *mostly* college baseball related.
Let’s take a whirl around and see what we got…
FIVE THINGS I’M KEEPING AN EYE ON THIS WEEKEND
– Road Warriors.
There’s a little bit more intrigue this weekend as a few teams will venture into hostile land. Looking forward to seeing Kentucky go to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders got mixed reviews last week as Oregon gave them a tougher time than we all expected. Purdue continues its rugged opening to their season, going down to play Texas. The Boilers are still kicking themselves for blowing a couple of games at Southern Miss last weekend. UCLA was one of the more impressive teams on opening weekend, not allowing an earned run in three wins over what should be a pretty stout St. John’s team. Now the Bruins head out to Georgia Tech, who is one of my “sleeper” teams to watch this season. Not sure how good Tulane is this season (they struggled to subdue George Washington in a pair of games they could’ve easily lost) but the Waves should be a good test for visiting Ole Miss. Two other SEC teams hit the road to play good teams as Auburn plays three at UCF (Kendall Rogers will be there for part of the weekend) and Arkansas goes way out West to face USC (more on this in a bit)
– We’re going to find out if Miami is for real or not.
Last week I wrote about how it looked like Arizona State and Miami are limping national powers who might be on the way back. *Might* that is. The Sun Devils pounded the hell out of the ball in sweeping Notre Dame and Miami routed Rutgers in all three games. But now the Hurricanes head to Gainesville to take on No. 5 Florida. I saw the Gators last weekend and they had some dull spots in their armor but were able to sweep Long Beach State. Now the Canes take their .348 team average to McKethan Stadium against all those heavy Gators arms. Freshman Anthony Vilar leads the ACC with a .636 batting average, going 7-for-11 vs. Rutgers.
– Vanderbilt pitching.
As noted in my Ouch List, it was bizarre to see the Commodores give up so many runs in that MLB4 Tournament in Arizona. I am sure it was completely an anomaly. However, don’t sleep on the Pepperdine Waves, who will be visiting VU this weekend. The Boys from Malibu went 3-1 at the Angels College Classic in Tempe last weekend, including wins over Cal State Bakersfield, Cal and Wichita State, so this probably won’t be a gimme. Again, I’m guessing the Commodore arms turn it around though.
– Can Mississippi State get revenge on Southern Miss?
Remember the opening weekend of last season? That was when Mississippi State, under new head coach Andy Cannizaro went down to open the season at Southern Miss. All was good. Then, the teams hit the field. As it turns out the Eagles went haywire on their “big brother” from up north, sweeping the Bulldogs in three straight by a combined 23-6. Then Cannizaro got fired out of the blue. I’m sure the Cow Bell fans haven’t forgotten all that. The new Dudy Noble is going to be ready for the Eagles.
– Speaking of “revenge” can USC beat Arkansas?
As great of a team as Arkansas was last season, one of the things that stuck out with me early on was the fact that the Trojans, a middle-of-the-road Pac 12 team came THISCLOSE to winning the series in Fayetteville last season, splitting the first two games before dropping the Sunday game 7-6 by allowing the Hogs to score two runs in the final inning. Last week, Arkansas swept Eastern Illinois (though it is fair to note that the Sunday game was by a jog-off win) and USC took two of three from Omaha. Like Miami above, if we are to take the Trojans seriously as a contender for June, this weekend will be an indicator. I’ll be at the Thursday night game and letcha know what I see.
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE BASEBALL HISTORY
There is a reason Notre Dame should not fret over an awful opening weekend. This same week back in 1998, the Irish lost their fight at Miami, getting outscored 65-8 in three games at Mark Light Stadium. But in the end, the Irish made a remarkable turnaround and ended that season winning 41 games and finishing second in their conference. Now, we al know this opening weekend was not a very good one for this year’s edition of the Irish, losing three games at Arizona State by a combined 46-13. But as history has taught us, a hyper-successful season is still attainable, no matter how ugly it starts.