Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yeah!

Dear final set on Expert,

Suck it!

Sincerely,
me

P.S. No, Mr. Bowie, it's a figure of speech. I'm not your type anyway. Go away. Shoo.

Reptilia was definitely the most difficult song for me. I did have an advantage in that I really like Rush and Boston, so I'd heard Tom Sawyer and Long Time thousands of times. Highway Star and Run to the Hills are both cool, but I hadn't heard them as much. Suffragette City was most difficult in that set because I'm not a big Bowie fan (and I'd rather sing Changes or Space Oddity anyway), so I wasn't really familiar with the pitch of the vocals, and I had trouble nailing the sustained notes. (zlionsfan tip #1: hold your notes. I know it says these are short notes, but trust me, if the game is out of sync just a little, you'll lose a lot of points if you're just missing those, and unless you really know the song, you'll need those to make it through.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sing, sing a song

I finally got past Reptilia. stupid song. I did much better singing in my natural octave; I'd been singing an octave lower and couldn't hit the lowest notes consistently.

I also posted a top-10 score on Brass In Pocket. I'd link but you can't get a link to a specific leaderboard, just to the whole thing. Anyway, because it's DLC and not in-game content, I'm sure I'll drop over time, it's just that people haven't bought it yet.

Three more sets and I can start helping people out with Riding on Coattails ... except ... except ... damn. You have to finish the Endless Setlist on Expert. crap.

never mind.

Friday, December 21, 2007

We talkin' bout practice?

Okay, there is one thing about Rock Band that is astoundingly worse than Guitar Hero III.

Practice.

Struggling with a song? In Guitar Hero, you can slow the song down, start at the beginning of any section, and play through the end of that section or any following section. Repeat as needed.

In Rock Band, you can play the whole song. At normal speed. That's it.

Struggling with a phrase/riff at the end of a song? Especially a long song? Take a nap and wait for it to come around.

I wonder if that was EA's decision. (joke. Well, sort of.)

I hope this is corrected with a patch. What a terrible decision. What the hell's the point of practice if you can't practice what you want?

The Jokes

Reptilia sucks. The Strokes suck. The lead singer sucks. I would rather sing Bob Dylan than him. Someone needs to tell him that his bucket is empty and he dropped his tune way back there.

Seriously. I can barely get one phrase right on Expert. I've failed one other song on Expert one time so far. I guess I just can't get myself to sing like crap.

If you're reading this blog (you're in select company) and you actually like the Strokes, good for you. Just know that if you're a single woman and we meet, that's going to be a deal-breaker.

(In case you think this is just whining, I can sing pretty well. I'd link to the Rock Band leaderboards, but apparently EA doesn't understand anything about the popularity of these games. They haven't had a game like this since, I don't know, maybe Madden 02. Don't worry, the site will be up about the same time I get my replacement guitar.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

XBLA review: Tempest (2/10)

Yet another recycled '80s game, complete with an "evolved" mode that's basically just fancy graphics that detract from gameplay. As added bonuses, the default difficulty level is faster than the original arcade game, the Super Zapper takes effect slowly rather than wiping out everything on-screen, the window in which the game sits isn't wide enough, so the far edge of the playing field is cut off on some levels, and all the achievements are in the evolved game, so you have to play it.

Oh yeah, and there's no spinner control for the 360.

And, as usual, the in-game leaderboard is reset every time you play.

Don't bother.

zlionsfan's rating: 2 feeble efforts out of 10.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Yeah, that's about it.

So on NFL Countdown, Ditka says roughly "What I don't get is this: you cheated, I caught you, and you're going to take it out on me?"

Mike Ditka, the voice of reason. Thank you, Belichick, you have officially turned the world upside-down.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm done! Or, not.

Just noticed that there are actually only eight sets you have to complete on Medium. I was singing Suffragette City on Hard and thinking "Wow, this isn't so easy. I don't remember singing this before." Looked back at Medium, and sure enough, here's this new set (Suffragette City, Highway Star, Tom Sawyer, Run to the Hills, Foreplay/Long Time).

Nice touch. You don't need to finish them to complete it on Medium, but you get to go back and do them once you've unlocked them on Hard.

Playoffs? That's right.

See, I'm not the only sane person around here. WhatIfSports is simulating a 16-team playoff as it might have happened if the NCAA grew some balls gathered some courage and took control of I-A football.

Note: by "sane" I mean not only "supports a playoff" but also "includes all conference champs." (Mr. Tiller, please note that CMU scores 3 points on LSU.)

Go check it out. Very cool.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm getting the band back together

So last night, I'm working my way through some of the Hard songs on vocals (much easier now that the video sync setting is correct). I tried playing multiplayer with just one person in the band, and the game shot that down: two or more people, son.

And then I realize that if I'm working on Expert guitar and Hard vocals, I could step them both down a notch ...

I start up the band, forming it with my singer (because vocals + guitar/bass is okay, vocals + drums is okay, other combinations not so much), and add the guitarist. (Note: if you don't log in on another controller, you can use one of the characters from the people who've signed in already, or maybe only the band leader. No difference here.)

First two songs: In Bloom and Say It Ain't So. Five stars each. It's more difficult because I can't hit the mike for the tambourine/cowbell stuff (also because I'm using a headset), but I did discover that you can shout into the mike and it works. Of course, I can't watch to see when to hit it because I'm watching the guitar line ... also, you have to know the vocals pretty well or you'll miss your cues.

That opened up the next venue. Mississippi Queen wasn't bad, but I think I got four stars. (Much harder vocals.) I made my own set list, Wanted Dead or Alive and When You Were Young, and got four stars on each.

The thing is that if the rhythm doesn't match, you end up messing up one or the other, breaking streaks and all. It was a lot of fun, though. I'll have to try vocals/drums later. I think vocals/bass might work the best, plus you can get up to 6x on the bass.

I don't know yet if points matter. Probably only for overall song score, and I don't care. I can just keep playing until I get more fans. (Plus Expert bass is probably easier than Expert guitar.)

I love Rock Band.

Now back to vocals ... I want to get into the top 1000, even if I can't stay ...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Your what has a what?

My 360 has a blog. It's pretty cool. 360voice.com, the site that's running Challenges for the 360 now (because we all now xbox.com sucked at it), also has a feature that takes your games-played history and writes it up in blog form.

It works like mygamercard.net, by reading the history of games you've played since registering at the site, so even though it knows about my gamerscore, teh awesum, it doesn't know everything I've played. Guess I'll have to dig up Perfect Dark Zero again. oh joy.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Rock Band song difficulties

Just in case you're playing in a band and haven't figured out which songs to try. Keep in mind that these are sorted by the average of the set for all three solo instruments in which they appear: your group experience may vary, especially if there's only two or three of you.

EDIT: I think I'm going to swap this out for a link to a Google spreadsheet. I figured out the bass sets and dumped in pretty much everything, plus fields that show the average difficulty for every combination of instruments. That won't mean anything here.

P.S. Run To The Hills is still teh impossible.

h2. One-point songs
  • In Bloom, Nirvana, 1.0 (guitar 1, drums 1, vocals 1)
  • Anyone can play this song.
  • Maps, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 1.7 (guitar 1, drums 3, vocals 1)
  • Interesting song. Not so bad.
  • Garbage, I Think I'm Paranoid, 1.7 (guitar 2, drums 1, vocals 2)
  • eh.
  • Weezer, Say It Ain't So, 1.7 (guitar 3, drums 1, vocals 1)
  • Not bad, although I like My Name Is Jonas better.


h2. Two-point songs
  • Here It Goes Again, OK Go, 2.0 (guitar 1, drums 2, vocals 3)
  • eh.
  • Blitzkrieg Bop, Ramones, 2.3 (guitar 2, drums 4, vocals 1)
  • Good song, but make sure you've got someone with experience on drums.
  • Creep, Radiohead, 2.3 (guitar 4, drums 1, vocals 2)
  • Not bad.


h2. Three-point songs
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go, The Clash, 3.0 (guitar 1, drums 4, vocals 4)
  • Not a bad song, but not a good choice for new bands.
  • Wave of Mutilation, Pixies, 3.0 (guitar 2, drums 2, vocals 5)
  • Didn't care for this one much, especially not the vocals.
  • Learn to Fly, Foo Fighters, 3.0 (guitar 3, drums 4, vocals 2)
  • Good song. This is about as far as you want to go until you get a couple of other songs down. With an experienced guitarist, though, you can move further.
  • Orange Crush, R.E.M., 3.3 (guitar 2, drums 5, vocals 3)
  • R.E.M. is one of my least favorite bands.
  • The Hand That Feeds, Nine Inch Nails, 3.3 (guitar 2, drums 4, vocals 4)
  • Not bad, although like other songs with spoken/freestyle lyrics, it suffers a bit.
  • Celebrity Skin, Hole, 3.3 (guitar 4, drums 2, vocals 4)
  • Some jokes write themselves, don't they?
  • Mississippi Queen, as made famous by Mountain, 3.7 (guitar 1, drums 2, vocals 8)
  • Try this song as a new band and you'll be looking for a new singer.
  • Epic, Faith No More, 3.7 (guitar 5, drums 3, vocals 3)
  • I like this song, but it's really not suited for singing ... there are worse songs for that, though.


h2. Four-point songs
  • Sabotage, Beastie Boys, 4.0 (guitar 3, drums 5, vocals 4)
  • This might be my least favorite song in the game. The fact that almost all the lyrics are freestyle is part of it.
  • Go with the Flow, Queens of the Stone Age, 4.0 (guitar 3, drums 7, vocals 2)
  • I like them no more than I did in GH III, which is to say, not much.
  • Black Hole Sun, Soundgarden, 4.0 (guitar 5, drums 4, vocals 3)
  • Finally, a decent song in the 4s.
  • Paranoid, as made famous by Black Sabbath, 4.0 (guitar 6, drums 5, vocals 1)
  • Now you can make it up to your singer after trying Mississippi Queen.
  • Wanted Dead or Alive, Bon Jovi, 4.0 (guitar 6, drums 5, vocals 1)
  • Good song.
  • Main Offender, The Hives, 5.3 (guitar 5, drums 3, vocals 5)
  • Well, it's not Queens of the Stone Age.
  • Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones, 4.7 (guitar 4, drums 2, vocals 8)
  • Mick's voice is only an 8 difficulty? Hmm.
  • Reptilia, The Strokes, 4.7 (guitar 5, drums 3, vocals 6)
  • Not a fan of this either.
  • Dani California, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 4.7 (guitar 6, drums 5, vocals 3)
  • eh.


h2. Five-point songs
  • Detroit Rock City, KISS, 5.3 (guitar 3, drums 7, vocals 6)
  • Hell yes. I voted for this song.
  • When You Were Young, The Killers, 5.3 (guitar 4, drums 6, vocals 6)
  • Glad to see this was in both GH III and Rock Band. I hadn't heard it before GH III and it really grew on me.
  • (Don't Fear) The Reaper, Blue Öyster Cult, 5.3 (guitar 6, drums 8, vocals 2)
  • Yeah, this is kind of a difficult song for drummers, but it's worth it.
  • Electric Version, The New Pornographers, 5.7 (guitar 4, drums 6, vocals 7)
  • I liked this song a little more once I saw the lyrics, but it's still eh.
  • Suffragette City, David Bowie, 5.7 (guitar 5, drums 3, vocals 9)
  • Not my favorite Bowie song, but I guess most of them wouldn't translate well?
  • Vasoline, Stone Temple Pilots, 5.7 (guitar 7, drums 6, vocals 4)
  • Sorry, the misspelling (for trademark reasons?) bugs me.


h2. Six-point songs
  • Are You Gonna Be My Girl, Jet, 6.0 (guitar 6, drums 5, vocals 7)
  • Another song that I liked more once I saw the lyrics. For some reason, the intro makes me think of Lust For Life, one of the most overplayed songs in commercial history.
  • Ballroom Blitz, as made "famous" by Sweet, 6.3 (guitar 7, drums 7, vocals 5)
  • Well, they do have T. Rex's version of Bang a Gong, but you know, if you did Smokin' in the Boys Room, would you use Mötley Crüe or Brownsville Station? (Then again, these are the guys who put White Lion's version of Radar Love into Rocks the '80s.)
  • Dead on Arrival, Fallout Boy, 6.7 (guitar 7, drums 7, vocals 6)
  • Not bad at all.


h2. Seven-point songs
Now you've got some experience and can start throwing it down.
  • Cherub Rock, Smashing Pumpkins, 7.0 (guitar 8, drums 8, vocals 5)
  • Another GH III/Rock Band shared track. I like this song.
  • Enter Sandman, Metallica, 7.3 (guitar 8, drums 8, vocals 5)
  • Hell yeah!
  • Welcome Home, Coheed and Cambria, 7.3 (guitar 8, drums 6, vocals 8)
  • Um, okay, whatever.
  • Green Grass and High Tides, as made famous by The Outlaws, 7.3 (guitar 9, drums 6, vocals 7)
  • Two things you need to know about this song: one is that it's the hardest guitar song in the game, and the other is that it's a loooooong song. Good for points, bad if you're going to mess up a solo near the end.
  • Next to You, The Police, 7.7 (guitar 7, drums 9, vocals 7)
  • This is the Police song you include in the game? There are like 50 Police songs better than this, including the three in the DLC pack.


h2. Eight-point songs
Ready to knock out some of those achievements, huh?
  • Won't Get Fooled Again, The Who, 8.0 (guitar 7, drums 9, vocals 8)
  • I got chills the first time I played this song.
  • Train Kept A Rollin', as made famous by Aerosmith, 8.0 (guitar 9, drums 7, vocals 8)
  • Yeah, this one's kind of hard.
  • Foreplay/Long Time, Boston, 8.3 (guitar 8, drums 8, vocals 9)
  • Another great song.
  • Flirtin' with Disaster, as made famous by Molly Hatchet, 8.3 (guitar 9, drums 9, vocals 7)
  • I think this is one of the two I haven't passed on Hard guitar.
  • Tom Sawyer, as made famous by Rush, 8.7 (guitar 8, drums 9, vocals 9)
  • Geddy Lee's voice is only a 9 difficulty?
  • Highway Star, Deep Purple, 8.7 (guitar 9, drums 8, vocals 9)
  • The song in the game's intro. I like Deep Purple. This might be a master track - I need to confirm. Yep, a master track. This is a great song.


h2. Bring it on!
  • Run to the Hills, as made famous by Iron Maiden, 9.0
  • Knock this one out and you can play pretty much anything you want.

360 review: Rock Band (10/10)

You did buy this, right? At launch? So you're asking why it got a 10? I'll explain.

Let's set the tone first. Rock Band is kind of like Guitar Hero, but with drums and vocals as well, meaning that you can have up to four players at once. The idea is the same - match the notes coming down the screen - but there are some pretty big differences between the two.

There were definitely problems with the launch: only two options (game only or full set), the USB hub and guitars broke quickly or didn't work at all, and even confusion at retailers. Fortunately, EA has been replacing them. I got my replacement hub before I sent the old one in. The guitar is going out Monday, so we'll see if I get one before Christmas.

With those in mind, let's talk about differences, assuming that you have a fully-working game and controllers.

h2. Character creation
Unlike GH III, in Rock Band, you create your own character. This isn't like a GTA or Saints Row where you have all kinds of options, but there are enough to personalize the character quite a bit (especially for women), and you get a better feel for being in the game. Another way that's enhanced is by seeing your name in lights: on tour buses, album covers, and so on. A very nice touch.

h2. Overdrive
Activating Overdrive (Rock Band's version of Star Power) is the same - Select or tip up for guitars. What's different is that you can continue to hit Overdrive phrases while you play, and if you complete them, they add to what you're using, which can lead to monstrous point streaks in some songs. This is a great change.

On guitar, Overdrive notes are half-width gems. I didn't like this because they're much more difficult to identify. On drums, they're all white, and on vocals, they're all yellow - much better ideas.

h2. Set progression
GH III has 8 sets with 5 songs each (let's skip the boss battles for now and assume they actually had a final song), and unlike previous versions, all songs and all sets are available on Easy. The fifth song is an encore and is unlocked after passing three of four songs in the set on Easy or Medium, or passing all four other songs on Hard or Expert.

Rock Band is a mix of GH II and III: there are 5 songs per set, but only the first 6 sets are available on Easy - there are 9 sets in all on the higher levels. You must pass all five songs in a set to unlock the next set. However, if you've unlocked a set on Medium or higher, all songs in that set become available on all lower difficulty levels. (This also means you can get the achievement for that level by playing just the final set once you've unlocked it. You don't have to complete all the other songs.)

I'm not such a big fan of the five-song requirement, especially because you're playing them three times as a solo artist (lead guitar, vocals, drums). If you're good enough to complete the game (I won't be), you'll play most songs at least 12 times and the other songs at least 9 times, and frankly, some songs aren't worth it.

h2. Visuals
I know, it seems minor, but it's not. GH visuals are drawn and are pretty much random. Rock Band visuals are motion-capture and pretty much match the songs. This gives you much more of the in-the-band feeling. The only thing that's awkward is when you're watching your character play the song, but you're on a level below Expert, so his sticks are going everywhere and you're simply tapping red. Big win for Rock Band.

h2. DLC
Harmonix has committed to weekly DLC and has also made it available as single tracks or a track pack. Again, a huge win for Rock Band. GH III has some DLC available, but they haven't yet got into single-track pricing, and while Rock Band is selling Metallica and David Bowie, GH is selling random bands.

h2. Master tracks
Rock Band has significantly more master tracks (21 in GH III, 36 in Rock Band), which is great, especially for singing: it sounds much better when you're echoing the original artists. Also, by now you've probably read that Metallica is releasing a new single via Rock Band. Yeah, that's pretty cool.

h2. Song progress
Rock Band shows the number of stars you're earning for the song on-screen, updating it as you score points. This is great if you don't get five stars and want to know how close you were, or if you did get five stars so you don't have to feel bad about pausing the game. However, it doesn't break down accuracy by phrases at the end of the song.

h2. Career progress
Rock Band does not mark perfect songs differently than five-star songs: this is like GH I. Not such a big fan of that change.

h2. Big Rock Ending
In some songs, everybody (except for vocals) has Freestyle phrases at the end. Play anything you want and get credit for it ... if you hit the notes that close the song. This is a nice way to finish off that extra star or score some really big points.

h2. Vocals
Now we're getting into the good stuff. Rock Band's vocals are like the Karaoke Revolution games: hit enough notes in the phrase and you increase your multiplier. For Overdrive, you just sing or shout during a Freestyle phrase.

Some songs have cowbell or tambourine notes in them. For these, you tap the microphone or press A on the controller (sorry, you need to have a controller hooked up as well as the mic). Hit them all, and you get a boost; miss a few, no big deal, these are extra.

h2. Drums
You also get a mini drum set (snare, crash, and cymbals/toms according to the manual, with one bass drum). The pads are color-coded, and you get a track like the guitarists; bass drum is a line across the track. Overdrive is activated by hitting a single note at the end of a Freestyle phrase.

h2. Guitar
Bassists don't get a solo career (boo), but we do get a Bass Groove: once your multiplier reaches 4, you get this really cool background, and you can extend it up to 6. Nice to have us around, isn't it?

The Stratocaster that comes with the game is different in a few ways. It has solo notes down the neck of the guitar. Most songs have at least one guitar solo: like the mini-percussion for vocals, hit the notes and get a bonus. With this guitar, you don't have to strum, just finger the notes. (This also works during the Big Rock Ending.) You can play the solo normally if you like, or use these notes and strum to play normally. I found it a little awkward to go down the neck for a solo and back up, but I guess that comes with practice.

The guitar also has an effects switch on it. When you are in Overdrive, you can hear the effects in your notes. Don't have a Strat? No problem, the game seems to assign an effect to you.

The Select and Start buttons are big and round like the GH III guitar. This is great - I still don't know why they messed up the GH II guitar. Also, the whammy bar feels more realistic and is easier to use than the GH II ones, at least on the 360. The PS2 guitar also had a good whammy bar.

h2. Multiplayer
Now here's where Rock Band really shines. When you create a band, any time the band wants to play, you have to be there, but you can use whatever other people are around. You can even change your characters so you play different instruments.

You start with a single city and a few gigs to play. Do well in the gigs to earn fans and money: more fans means more gigs in more cities, and more money means, well, more money. Eventually, you'll get gambling options: you can choose double-or-nothing money on the next gig, or take either double fans/no money or double money/no fans, if you meet certain conditions (pass all songs, five-star all songs, things like that).

There are several types of gigs: single, pre-selected songs; multiple pre-selected songs; single or multiple songs you can choose; and multiple random songs. You can check out all the non-random set lists prior to playing them. I like this much better than the traditional set lists because you can focus on specific songs if you like, rather than playing the same old stuff in the same order.

Get enough fans and you unlock transportation to new cities for new gigs. You can't just cruise along on Easy, though. (Like GH III, you can play at different difficulty levels for a given song.) Your fan base is capped based on the difficulty levels you're using. Want more fans? Step it up.

Scoring is interesting. It seems that each player scores individually, so you don't have to worry about common streaks and such. Instead, when you go into Overdrive, the multiplier affects everyone. More band members = more Overdrive = more multipliers.

Also, if someone struggles, the whole band doesn't fail. Instead, that person is silenced. You can bring them back with Overdrive, but only twice. If they fail a third time, L is for Loser.

There are definitely things about the game that could be improved: the mic should really have had buttons on it so another controller was less necessary (although at least you can use any USB mic in the game), timing for drums and spoken vocal phrases seems odd, and slogging through a song you didn't like once so that you can play it again later isn't so fun.

However, the emphasis on fun over technique (no Perfect-this-song-blindfolded achievements) helps out quite a bit. The difficulty is lower, if you haven't heard. It's true that it's about one level easier in Rock Band, and that helps the band concept, especially if you don't have anyone with vocals or drums experience.

Once the hardware difficulties are resolved (EA says they are, but EA also says that an exclusive license didn't hurt Madden), go out and get the set.

zlionsfan's rating: 10 out of 10.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Here's your playoff, sir. Oh yes you did.

That's right. One of these days in the not-so-distant future, the NCAA president will arrive in his office (a female president? Consider the constituency - no chance) to discover that the I-A (you say BCS, I say you're retarded) playoffs are set to begin December X and conclude January Y.

Wise people have been preaching this for years, but now the bandwagon is starting to open to the masses. Austin Murphy of People Illustrated has an article on the very subject this week. (Yeah, I linked to the single-page version. a) SI sucks. b) They don't even provide you with forward and back buttons. c) SI sucks. Why is this on their site? Why am I paying for a subscription? Oh yeah, it's a gift. Move along.) He provides some cogent arguments for a playoff, but fails in his eventual solution. Come now, Austin. Your rivals at The Sporting News proposed a 16-team playoff many, many years ago, and it's still a better idea than yours.

But hey, it's a start, and in honor of that, I shall summarize his arguments and support them. (You'll see that he lists "arguments" for the bowl system and debunks each one.)

1. The sanctity of the regular season.
Murphy: You mean prior to conference championship games, right?

Dude, you're making it too hard. The correct question is "Compared to what?" The current system? The one where at least 75% of I-A has absolutely zero chance whatsoever at a championship, and by season's end, exactly two teams have a shot at a "title"?

I actually read something that claimed that with a playoff system in place, this year's Kansas-Missouri game and last year's Michigan-Ohio State game would have been virtually meaningless. To that I respond, sir or madam, you are nuts, and completely wrong.

I counter with several pieces of "evidence." For example, pretty much every SEC game. Or, for that matter, a large number of basketball games. Resident moron Jim Delany claims that "[t]here's only one game in the country that carries a premium: Duke-North Carolina."

For those of you who don't know, Delany is commissioner of the Big Ten. Apparently he's unaware that his conference plays basketball. As someone who's attended a sizable number of Big Ten regular-season basketball games, I can say that he is wrong. Very wrong. (Of course, he's the latest in a long line of wrong. Keep in mind that for decades, Big Ten teams went to the Rose Bowl or nothing. Why? Because bowls are for sissies. And the rest of the football universe. But not for us.)

If you don't believe games prior to the playoffs matter, watch teams who are on the bubble.

2. Preserving the bowls.
Murphy: People watch the non-title bowls now, and besides, the lesser bowls need to go.

Got to disagree with you, my friend. For one thing, you cite Michigan going to the Rose Bowl as an example of this. Delany just got done telling you how his conference and the Rose Bowl are likethis. Of course Wolverine fans will go to that game. You should have brought up, say, Michigan fans going to the Alamo Bowl.

Uh huh.

Second, those lesser bowls are precisely what middle-tier schools need. You're locking into the BCS mindset, and it's important to remember that they don't represent all of I-A. Sure, maybe you don't think a 6-6 team deserves a bowl bid, and if it's Notre Dame, I agree, but if it's Eastern Michigan or Troy, I don't think you understand.

What you should have said is this: "Preserve what, exactly?" The names? The conference matchups? The dates? The locations? The bowls have already changed all of this themselves every time old Benjamin and his 10,000 friends came knocking.

Besides, what's better? Neutral-site or home games? Sure, the men's tournament kind of has to play at neutral sites, with 6 rounds in 3 weeks and all that, but what's going to draw better: LSU vs. Hawaii in Tucson or LSU vs. Hawaii in Baton Rouge (or on the island)?

If anything, it's the top-tier bowls that need to go. They're whores anyway. Keep the lower tier. We're breaking with tradition. Let's not get caught up in what's left.

3. Effect on academics, blah blah blah.
Murphy: 12 games? I-AA? Baseball? Basketball? Golf?

Best of his three arguments. He left out a few, too, so let's help.

Yeah, what about that 12th game? I suppose that's played during winter break? Or the kickoff "classics" in late August? Or the conference championships? Or the games on Thursday? (and Wednesday, and Tuesday, and Sunday) Or the games against I-AA opponents? Or the cross-country non-conference games?

And yes, I-AA has a playoff, as does every level of every other sport, and nobody seems to kick up too much of a stink there.

Which is more likely to interfere with classes: practice during the week, or games on Saturdays in December? Do you see the NCAA trying to further restrict practice during the week? Me neither.


Anyway, Murphy presents us with an eight-team playoff. (To his credit, he points out that if I-A dropped that 12th game, they could play a 16-team playoff like I-AA. He did not, however, point out the 16-game season in Pennsylvania high school football. Probably because Pennsylvania understands more about football than the BCS.) The top 7 teams and Hawaii. (Yeah, that's pretty weak. What are your criteria again?) Tolerable, but let me help you.

Zlionsfan's Wonderful, Beautiful Playoff Idea
  1. 16 teams: 11 conference champions and 5 at-large berths.
  2. Why? Several reasons: you ain't havin' no playoff without the non-BCS conferences, uh-uh. They'll shoot it down faster than you can say Congress. Plus it's an NCAA title, and in case you hadn't noticed, everyone gets a dance card.
  3. First- and second-round games at campus sites.
  4. Cut down on travel costs. That'll be vital. Plus you've got to get the big schools on board, and if the playoff itself doesn't do it, the prospect of an extra home game or two certainly will. Ask the ADs in Delany's conference (or in the Pac-10, headed by fellow idiot Tom Hansen) if they'd like the chance at two extra home dates on national television against a (most likely) ranked opponent, and if they say no, they're lying.
  5. Blah blah bowls blah blah rotate blah blah Final Four.
  6. Honestly, I don't know that this is necessary any more. Maybe it's better to play the games in one location so there's less travel. Anyway, screw the bowls. Except ...
  7. Keep bowls for teams finishing out of the playoffs.
  8. Because, you know, a lot of teams will.
  9. DROP THE FRIGGING BCS RANKINGS.


Yeah, that's the most important part of it, and let me tell you why.

They're stupid.

Why? Because they were initially designed to determine relative strengths of teams, but every time they disagreed with "people", they were changed to be more like what the "people" thought. Anyone with half a brain would see that an objective system can actually rank teams fairly accurately, even if you don't like how it's done, and a person can't possibly rank 10 teams accurately, never mind 25, given one day to absorb all the games on a standard football Saturday.

So do what college basketball does: make your own formula THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH POLLS, use other components, and then sit in a room and pick the best five teams that didn't win their conference. Seed 1-16. End of story.

This year, for poops and laughs, we'll do it this way ...

1. Ohio State (11-1): Big Ten champion
2. Oklahoma (11-2): Big 12 champion
3. Virginia Tech (11-2): ACC champion
4. LSU (11-2): SEC champion
5. Kansas (11-1): at-large bid
6. Missouri (11-2): at-large bid
7. Georgia (10-2): at-large bid
8. West Virginia (10-2): Big East champion
9. Florida (9-3): at-large bid
10. USC (10-2): Pac-10 champion**
11. Arizona State (10-2): at-large bid****
12. BYU (10-2): Mountain West champion
13. Hawaii (12-0): WAC champion
14. Central Florida (10-3): Conference USA champion
15. Florida Atlantic (7-5): Sun Belt champion***
16. Central Michigan (8-5): MAC champion
Navy (8-4): Independent champion*

*Sorry, the Navy thing was my own little joke. Only the BCS and the Gator Bowl think that you can act like a conference without being in one, not that Navy does, of course. It's just that this spot, ordinarily reserved for a Notre Dame joke, was spoiled by ND's inability to beat pretty much anyone. That Weis guy is a genius.

**Further evidence Hansen is a moron: the Pac-10 plays a round-robin schedule. This is a good idea according to about five people on the planet. Come on, even the Big Ten knows better. Playing additional conference games does not help you establish how good you are with respect to other conferences.

***Apparently they don't care who wins it right now. I pick FAU because they beat Troy.

****Over South Florida because they were conference co-champs.

So you get this:
Central Michigan at Ohio State - I flipped CMU and FAU (about equal) to keep them closer to home. Less travel, remember?
Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma - Howard will love this game.
Central Florida at Virginia Tech
Hawaii at LSU - hey look, my hypothetical example!
BYU at Kansas
Arizona State at Missouri
USC at Georgia
Florida at West Virginia - lookit! Runnin' QBs!

You probably don't want to mess with seeding too much, not with only 16 teams. If ASU and USC meet in the first round, so what?

Is it the best way to do it? Yes, so don't argue with me. Okay, you can argue a little, but if you think the BCS is better, well, no.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dude!

Holy cow.

So the Tigers want to win big, and win now. I love it.

I saw rumors about the deal this afternoon. When ESPN ran the story from Gammons that it was all but done, I nearly broke off my workout to go home and write about it. (Then I remembered that I'm 25 pounds overweight and really don't need to be ditching cardio work.)

Left field isn't set yet, at least the PAs that Sheffield won't use when he's not DH/1B with Guillen, but aside from that, Detroit now has

1B Guillen (123 OPS+ in 2006)
2B Polanco (122 OPS+ - yep, that's right)
3B Cabrera (150 OPS+)
SS Renteria (125)
LF Jones (87)
CF Granderson (136)
RF Ordonez (167)
DH Sheffield (120)
C Rodriguez (85)

(Yeah, I forgot the acquisition of Jacque Jones. My bad.)

Pudge may remain below-average, LF might be another below-average bat, and a couple others may drop as well, but right now, that's one solid lineup. I may head over to WIS to see if I can test it against some other current teams ....

SP Verlander (ERA+ 125, WHIP 1.23)
SP Willis (ERA+ 83, WHIP 1.60)
SP Bonderman (ERA+ 91, WHIP 1.38)
SP Rogers (ERA+ 103, WHIP 1.43)
SP Robertson (ERA+ 96, WHIP 1.48)

More questions in the rotation, of course: can Willis regain his form, is Bonderman going to be healthy, is Rogers going to be healthy/clean/not cheating ... anyway, the rotation should be stable, at least, which it hasn't been in a long time.

RP Rodney (ERA+ 107, WHIP 1.32)
RP Jones (ERA+ 107, WHIP 1.42)
???

The bullpen has some work to do, with Zumaya likely out for the year. Byrdak and Seay posted some good numbers, and the new guy might help as well, but the Tigers will need consistency from the pen. Not much more, though. If the lineup lives up to its billing, the pitching will be fine.
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