Quick Hitch...  

Posted by Frazier

Just wanted to take a moment to mention this article on ESPN.com regarding Houston Nutt and all the difficulties at Arkansas. Now, the 323 has never been known to really love Nutt, he's a chronic underachiever, but he has been a pretty solid coach. He has 3 SEC West titles in his 9 years, and that is nothing to sneeze at. He might struggle to get over the hump, but he's not a bad coach.

Anyways, while we won't kill Razorbacks fans for questioning Nutt, since we understand that sometimes you need a change to get over the hump, we do have problems with the way the fans have behaved. Challenging his fidelity to his wife is a low, dirty tactic. Even if it were true, it wouldn't be any business of ours. But with no evidence except a large number of text messages to go on, this smacks of character assisination of the worst kind.

Finally, we here at the 323 have no lost love for Mustain, Malzahan and Williams. If Mustain wanted to keep the starting job, the golden boy had to play better. You're the player, the coach is the coach. You follow orders. Now he'll have to battle with top recruit after top recruit to sniff the field for USC. Pete Carroll is an affable guy, but he's never promised a starting job to anyone. You earn your time at USC, and Mustain wouldn't have earned it with his play last year. Malzahan is another egomaniac. He was given the opportunity to be the offensive coordinator for a top ten team, and he was handed the best, most versatile offensive player in the country (the incredible swiss-army running back, McFadden) and he get all pouty because he didn't get to run his no huddle. Well, you're an offensive coordinator, BE CREATIVE!

Seriously, the best player on your team (by far) is your running back, and you get pissy because the head coach doesn't want to toss the ball all over the field with a freshman quarterback? Are you high? Malzahan should have been dedicated to the long haul, and appreciated the fact that you win with the talent you have, not the talent you wish you had. Anyways, it's a very interesting piece, and the rest of the series should be intriguing as well.

Traditions Week: Top Ten Mascots  

Posted by Frazier

1) Ralphie, Colorado

For over forty years, brave Colorado students have been leading Ralphie on to the field of battle before every game. These guys can weigh as much as a ton, and would have no problem hauling their handlers all over the field. The current Ralphie weighs in at a lean 1,300 pounds and has been clocked going 25 mph. The beloved Buffalo (or, American Bison) is known for knocking over handlers, intimidating the hell out of other teams, and basically doing whatever the hell he likes. He's also a beloved part of the Colorado community, doing charity events, and being used as a way to greet incoming students. But Ralphie lives for game day. The deciding factor for placing Ralphie on the top of this list, above Bevo and others, is the ferocity with which Ralphie enters the stage. It's controlled chaos when Ralphie is let loose before games, but there isn't anything a whole lot more inspiring than being led onto the field by the biggest, meanest beast in the stadium.

2) Bevo, Texas

Bevo has been kicking ass in Austin for over ninety years. It was in 1916 that the first Bevo was given to the university as an embodiement of their spirit. As a massive, real texas longhorn a Bevo can weigh as much as a ton, with a horn-span of up to nine feet. Bevo has been a fixture on the sidelines of Texas football games since 1966, and is a revered figure at the university. In 1917 Texas A7M students managed to brand Bevo "13-0" the score of the previous seasons win by the Aggies. In 1920 that Bevo became dinner at a Texas-Texas A&M banquet. They claim that the animal was costing too much money to maintain and was too wild. I secretly suspect that Texas simply refused to tolerate losing!

3) Tiger, Auburn

Yes, Tiger is, in fact, a War Eagle. Auburn is nicknamed the "Tigers" but their battle cry is "War Eagle." So that's that. Tiger is a 25 year old golden eagle who soars into the stadium before home games. The war eagle is as old as football in the south. It was during the 1892 game against Georgia, the first real southern football game, that a great eagle was spotted and inspired the Auburn football team to victory. Legend holds that this eagle died the same day. The current war eagle tradition dates back to 1932. There have been a number of eagles, each of them thrilling the rabid Auburn fans before games. Not only does Tiger serve as an emotional lift-off to game days, but for the rest of the week he goes to schools and community groups spreading messages about conservation and protecting endangered wildlife. Seeing Tiger swoop onto the field brings the crowd to its' feet, and sets the stage for the Tigers to take the field.

4) Uga, Georgia

Ok, so Uga undoubtedly has the least creative name on this list. Still, he's an absolute icon. He's been a fixture at Georgia since 1956, and all Uga's have come from the same line of British Bulldogs owned by the Seiler family. Uga has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and was the only mascot ever invited to the Heisman trophy ceremony where he showed up in a tuxedo to accompany Herschel Walker. He's a film star, having appeared in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". Former Uga's are entombed in a mausoleum near the entrance to Sanford Stadium. While Uga generally loves people, he knows his enemies. While it's easier to be terrified of Ralphie or Bevo, Uga has a reputation for going after opposing players. Including famously biting Auburn wide receiver Robert Baker. Uga's the kind of mascot willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win.

5) Brutus, Ohio State

Brutus is the first non-animal mascot to make our list. He's, well, he's not even exactly human either. In fact, he's a buckeye. A nut, literally. So normally he wouldn't seem so intimidating, but Brutus obviously works out. He's been supporting the Buckeyes since 1965, and everyone is familiar with his comically large nut-head, and his incredible enthusiasm for his team. Brutus is one of the most famous mascots in all of sports, and while he isn't allowed to speak (a talking nut would be too weird) he still inspires the Buckeye faithful, and his image adorns everything from t-shirts to souveiner cups to mailboxes all across Ohio.

6) Mike the Tiger, LSU

Mike is the anti-Brutus. In fact, it's hard to get more intimidating than big Mike. He's an actual fucking Tiger. Mike has been the living image of the LSU spirit since 1936, and despite the recent passing of Mike V, you know he'll be there on the sideline when next season kicks off. For games Mike has to be wheeled on to the field in a special cage (the handlers for Ralphie may be crazy, but even they want to part of trying to wrangle a real Tiger on a leash). Still, even behind bars he's an intimidating guy. Off the field, Mike is one of the most pampered captive Tigers in the world. He lives in a brand new, sprawling 15,000 sq. ft. enclosure at the LSU veterinary school, complete with it's own stream and even a waterfall. He is literally adored by millions, and has received millions of dollars in donations going to his habitat and care. Mike also has an incredibly comprehensive website. Finally, Mike knows how to get the fans in Death Valley to really goes crazy. When big Mike roars before a game, especially a night game, the LSU fans go completely insane. Everyone loves Mike.

7) Reveille, Texas A&M

Reveille is the friendly looking mascot for the Aggies. She might be a bitch, but students at A&M refer to her as "Miss Rev, ma'am" and she is the highest ranking member of the Corps of Cadets and is a Five Star General on campus. No dog, anywhere, is more honored and revered than Miss Rev. If she is sleeping on a cadet's bed, that cadet is forced to sleep on the floor. Another reason she's adored? Because if Miss Rev is visiting a class, and she barks, then the professor must immediately dismiss the class! She's been inspiring Aggies since 1931, and when a Reveille meets her maker, she is always buried in a full military funeral at Kyle Field. She's actually buried under the north end zone, so she can forever see the Aggies outscore their opponents. Even in death Reveille is pulling for her team. Looking good Miss Rev!

8) Smokey, Tennessee

Smokey is the beloved bluetick hound seen roaming the Vols sidelines during games. He always leads his team out on to the field, running through the famous T. He's been doing it the same way for over fifty years. Smokey's been through a lot in that time. He was listed on the inury report after suffering heat exhaustion in an especially hot game against UCLA. He has been kidnapped by Kentucky fans. Of course when Vandy fans tried to pull the same stunt, they actually stole the wrong hound, presumably because Smokey had outwitted them. Smokey's even been suspended, for biting a tuba player he seemed to have a grudge against. Smokey has even played through injuries before. Prior to the 1998 Fiesta Bowl Smokey wasn't looking so good. He was real sick, and his trainers had to take him to the vet. It turns out he'd eaten a hotel towel, and it was caught in his intestines. However, Smokey turned up the next day to lead the Vols through the T showing no effects of his severe illness. The next day he went under the knife for a pretty major surgery. But there was no way Smokey was missing a bowl game.

9) Otto, Syracuse

Otto doesn't have the longest history, and god knows he's not the most intimidating, but there's something about this mascot that everybody loves. In 1978 Syracuse decided to drop its' offensive Indian mascot, the Saltine Warrior (what a weird name) and find a suitable replacement. Many ideas were tried, and many failed. A gladiator was booed off the field, a dome-character was just laughed at. There was a major battle about being named the official new mascot, even though Otto (then just known as "the Orange") had been around for a couple of years. Finally, when the school had decided to go with a wolf mascot, the students let it be known that they wanted Otto, and no one else. Hence, Otto became the official mascot because he was quite literally a fan favorite. Now Otto is recognized internationally, and has been featured on ESPN ads, and in promotion for the university worldwide. Otto isn't an intimidating guy, but he's just beloved by young and old, students and fans, and people from all over. Syracuse fans feel that maybe he's just a big mushy orange, but he's OUR big mushy orange. Also, Walter just loves Otto.

10) The Rambling Wreck, Georgia Tech

Frazier just loves this mascot, partially because it has a fantastic name, partially because only a school full of engineers would have an actual car as a mascot. The original wreck was a beaten up 1914 model T that finally broke down for good in 1928. After that the Yellow Jackets held "wreck" races for a number of years, before it became obvious that these were too dangerous. Finally, in 1960, the Rambling Wreck was reborn. It is a 1930 Model A Ford. More recently in 1974, the Wreck was redesigned in part by legendary coach Bobby Dodd, giving it its' famous paint job and logos. The Wreck leads the team on to the field before all home games, and use to drive to many nearby away games. Unfortunately, a number of wrecks (literally) prevent the Wreck from doing much traveling these days. Still, the Yellow Jacket faithful go crazy when the Wreck leads the team on to the field, with its' "Give 'em Hell Tech" and "To Hell with Georgia" flags flapping in the wind. First year students are not allowed to touch the Wreck, and anyone who does so will be severely punished by the Reck Club members (there are two spellings for the car, both Wreck and Reck). The Wreck is also famous for being the only mascot to ever be shot by an angry opposing fan. After a 1968 victory over Auburn, an irate Tiger fan pulled out a rifle and shot the radiator. But of course the Wreck kept on chugging along.

Traditions Week: The Battle of the Bands  

Posted by Frazier

We here at the 323 are generally focused on 1-A college football (yes, we know that the divisions have new names, but they are absurd, and so we will never be using them). However, traditions week wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Battle of the Bands. The great matchup of Southern and Grambling.

Grambling, of course, was home to the legendary Eddie Robinson. It was through him that this wonderful tradition, where the halftime spectacle is often better than the game itself, was brought to the attention of America. Many smaller schools and historically black colleges have wonderful traditions of their own, and it's a shame that we don't get to recognize more of them. However, watching how hard these players compete against eachother, and how devoted and passionate their fans are, only serves to prove how universal college football really is.

The Battle of the Bands mixes great athleticism in its' members, incredible talent, perfect timing, and an incredible sense of joy, determination and commitment. Wow, it's starting to sound like a football game after all. And boy, it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Traditions Week: Top Ten Traditions  

Posted by Walter

1) The Singing of the Alma Maters, Army-Navy

Though it hasn't had any football significance in years, the Army-Navy football game is still, arguably, the greatest rivalry in all of college football. For 107 years these two teams have met on the gridiron, and fought tooth and nail to against each other. Forget the previous 10 games. Throw the records out. When these teams meet, it is a season unto itself. Unlike Ohio State-Michigan, or Florida-Florida State, when the Army-Navy game is over, the Seniors don't start prepping for the NFL Draft. They don't take the rest of the semester off, basking in the glow of their future NFL career. No, these men take their final exams. They work hard so they are prepared to defend our country, wherever on the globe they are needed. Walter has been lucky enough to have had the privilege of attending an Army-Navy football game. And while these two teams pour every ounce of their effort into beating the other on the field, when the game is over, the greatest tradition in college sports reminds us, all of us, that these brave men are all part of the same team. I still get choked up remembering both teams standing side by side, no longer combatants but brothers in arms, singing each of the school's alma maters at the conclusion of the game. It is easily the greatest display of sportsmanship and revelry that these eyes have ever, or will ever see. This wonderful tradition reminds college football fans everywhere that what happens on the field is just a game, and that no amount of championship banners can ever replace morality, ethics, and sportsmanship.

A picture won't do this moment justice.

2) Dotting the i, Ohio State University

Since 1936, the greatest honor The Ohio State University has bestowed upon a student, has been the privilege of "dotting the i" in the Script Ohio formation at halftime of football games. The privilege has been reserved for a fourth or fifth year sousaphone player, but even a cursory look at some of the most famous honorary "i dotters" gives you a sense of how serious of an honor it is (among the honorary "i dotters" have been Buckeye legends, Woody Hayes, Jack Nicklaus, and Bob Hope). Everyone in the state of Ohio knows about "dotting the i," and so does everyone in Michigan. "Dotting the i" has become such a vital tradition to the Ohio State faithful that when the Script Ohio formation is used at Michigan's Big House, extra police are required to prevent Michigan students from running onto the field and dotting the i themselves. An act that would represent the ultimate injustice to any self respecting Buckeye fan.

3) The 12th Man, Texas A & M Unversity

Everybody knows about the 12th man as it exists today, but few know the story behind it. Legend has it that during a 1922 football game between A & M and defending national champion Centre College, Aggie coach D.X. Bible, desperate for players after a slew of injuries to his team, called into the Aggie stands for E. King Gill. Gill was a former football player who had left the team to focus on basketball, but he gladly donned the jersey and helped A & M pull out the victory. Ever since, the hallmark of the Texas A & M student section has been their willingness to literally be a part of the team, hence the term 12th Man. Today, the 12th Man is embodied in the Aggie student section, which is generally regarded as one of the loudest, most raucous, but most intelligent student sections in the country. Not only do the Aggie students know the game and know which chants are appropriate for the game situation, but they actually pack Kyle Field the night before games to practice. Talk about going above and beyond for your school.

4) Touching the Sign, University of Notre Dame

Up the stairs from the locker room, on the way out to the field, hangs a simple sign. The sign's exact origins are unclear, but it's slogan, "Play like a champion today," has become so ingrained in the tradition of the school, that many actually believe the tale that the school's founder, Father Edwin Sorin, received the idiom as a divine revelation all the way back in 1842. Whether this is true or not, the fact remains that the Irish tradition of every player touching the sign before taking the field has all but overtaken the significance of the sign's origin. The sign's message is clear, and the school continues to embody that message today. While other major programs have sacrificed character and academics for football victories, Notre Dame remains as a bastion of integrity. By touching the sign, every player on the Notre Dame roster pledges himself to the team and to the game of football. The tradition is not just about playing the game, but about playing it the right way.

5) "We are.....Penn. State.", Penn. State University

This is not just a cheer for the Nittany Lions, it's a way of life. "We are..." permeates the entire Penn State experience. It's bigger than college football, which is why it merits so highly during traditions week. We'll let the President of Penn State explain, "The phrase,"We Are Penn State," now aptly conveys the significance of our contributions to humankind since our founding in 1855 and points to the richly diverse community that is Penn State. "We Are Penn State" embraces our differences and unites us as a community despite those differences. "We Are Penn State" is a proclamation of unity, backed by our resolve to come together for a common purpose." In reality, "We are..." is just an incredible experience. 107,000 people roar back and forth, "We are... Penn State!". The Nittany Lions on the field rise to the occassion, and even Joe Paterno has to smile. It's a sad moment when a graduating student realizes that as alums they will switch sides of the field, and halves of their cheer. Like "Rock, chalk, Jayhawk" defines college basketball for many people, "We are" is the definition of college tradition. The best part may be that after a particularly furious round of "We are..." often, in congratulations to themselves on a job well done, one side will roar "Thank you..." to which the response, as expected in such a polite environment, is "you're welcome!"

You can't take a picture of this sort of moment, so here's the video.

6) Howard's Rock, Clemson

It's been called the most exciting 25 seconds in all of sports. In 1965, a Clemson student visited Death Valley, CA and brought back to South Carolina a white flint rock. The rock was presented to then Clemson head coach Frank Howard with the message "from Death Valley, CA to Death Valley, SC." Howard placed the rock on the top of the hill that overlooked Memorial Stadium, and implored his players only to rub the rock if they were willing to give Clemson University 110%. Ever since then, every Clemson football player rubs the rock before home games, and then the team runs down the hill right onto the field. It is this tradition that Brent Musberger (a guy who knows a thing or two about sports) called "The most exciting 25 seconds in all of sports," and most Clemson players and fans will agree. The rock has taken on such importance for the program that the Clemson ROTC guards the rock 24 hours a day.

7) Running Through the T, University of Tennessee

Before every home game, The Pride of Southland Marching Band forms a giant T on the field at Neyland Stadium. The giant block T, that resembles the Volunteer's logo on the side of their helmet, forms its base at the backside of the North endzone, right in front of the Vols locker room. When the team bursts through the locker room doors, they run right through the T to their sideline, in a tradition that has become as synonymous with Tennessee football as Neyland Stadium's patented checkerboard endzones. This pregame ceremony has become so famous that, aside from being one of the most oft photographed moments in sports, the school seriously recruits band members who are capable of performing the difficult maneuvers the T requires.

8) The Swarm, University of Iowa

Long before the New England Patriots came out to start the Super Bowl as a single unit, Hayden Fry and the Iowa Hawkeyes had "The Swarm." Since 1979, every time the Hawkeyes exit their locker room and run onto the field, they do as as a unit, not as individuals. Every player enters the field holding hands, forming the single unit that Coach Fry hoped they'd play as. Fry, somewhat of an amateur psychologist, was noted for his bizarre tactics to gain the mental edge on his opponents (he once had the visiting locker room painted entirely pink). However, The Swarm was something that stuck, and since its inception it has been an example of the commitment, teamwork and solidarity that is needed to win football games.

9) The Blackshirts, University of Nebraska

Football in Nebraska has a long line of tradition. Everybody knows about coach Bob Devaney's legendary recruiting trips (Devaney often told the story that when he was on the road and saw a boy plowing his father's farm, he'd stop and ask the boy for directions. If the boy pointed with his finger he'd thank him and go along his way. But if the boy pointed with the plow, he'd sign him up to play for the Cornhuskers on the spot.), just as everyone knows about the legendary sea of red on gameday. But ask any true Cornhusker and they'll tell you the most coveted tradition is that of the blackshirts. Back in 1964, then defensive line coach Gene Kelly went to the sporting goods store to purchase new practice jerseys. Wanting yellow shirts, but only having the option of black ones, Kelly acquiesced and, unbeknownst to him, started this grand tradition. Ever since that day, the Nebraska starting defense has been known as the blackshirts, as they are the only ones who are permitted to wear these jerseys at practice. A black shirt has become a symbol and a rallying cry for some of the best defenses the nation has seen in recent years, and it is what every young boy plowing his father's farm aspires to wear.

10) The Tiger Walk, Auburn University

Although this type of tradition is now used across the country, we have to give credit where credit is due. Since the 1960's, on gameday, thousands and thousands of Auburn University students line Donohue Ave. all the way from Sewell Hall (the athletic dormitory) to Jordan-Hare Stadium. As the players and coaches leave the dorm, they make the long walk down to the field as the throngs of Tiger faithful pat them on the back and shout encouragements for that day's game. Although the tradition started thanks to kids who would wait to try and get autographs, the Tiger Walk has been known to draw as many as 20,000 fans as it did for the first ever home game against rival Alabama in 1989. While this tradition has been copied by many schools across the country, Auburn was where it all began, and they deserve the credit.

Quick Hitch...  

Posted by Frazier

I know it's traditions week, but we'd be remiss here at the 323 if we didn't mention this story. Recently, several Penn State players were involved in a fight on campus. The details are still sketchy, and it's not clear whether the players started the altercation, or were simply supporting a teammate in a dicey situation.

Those details don't matter to Joe Paterno. His team will be cleaning Beaver Stadium, all 107,282 seats, after every single home game this year. While the legal system processes the incident, Paterno has made his ruling. His team embarrassed themselves and their school, and they will all pay for it. They are always a team, both on and off the field. The money raised by the team's efforts will be donated to the club sports which usually do the chore to help fund their teams.

This is why Joe Pa is possibly the classiest individual in college football, and his coaching style, his dedication to academics, and his emphasis on character and taking pride in shaping young men's lives should be emulated by everyone given the opportunity to teach young men and women.

Traditions Week: Top Ten Stadiums  

Posted by Walter

1) The Rose Bowl - Los Angeles, CA

The Rose bowl may be the perfect football stadium. First, it's located on a golf course. In a valley. Surrounded by the San Pedro mountain range. Second, the weather there is always perfect. Third, since it's a big bowl, every seat is a good seat, and there are no class distinctions. It's a place for football fans to watch football. Finally, it's a place that seems more like a gladiators arena than a place for a football game. It's also possibly the most historic football stadium in creation. The Rose Bowl is the GrandaThe Rose Bowl may be the perfect football stadium. It's located on a golf course in a valley, surrounded by majestic mountains on all sides. The weather is phenomenal every single day. The stadium itself is a huge bowl so all the seats are great, and it honestly looks more like addy of them all. There's no doubt about that. It's a tradition rich game, and the stadium is a true reflection of that. It waits patiently in Pasadena every year in anticipation of a marquee matchup, featuring teams full of young men dying for the opportunity to play in the game they've dreamed of all their lives. It's where annually the East faces the West, and high scoring, flashy offenses are traditionally squared off against down and dirty defenses, and teams looking to tote the rock for three yards and their cloud of dust. It's the perfect showcase for the battle for the soul of college football. There may be no more perfect moment for watching a football game than to see the sun dipping below the San Pedro mountains on a perfectly cloudless day, as the fourth quarter reaches its' climax and a hundred thousand fans from across the nation rise to their feet, putting voice to their desperate hopes that their team, their definition of how football should be played, will seize the day and lay claim to the richest tradition in all of college football.

2) The Big House - Ann Arbor, MI

Words cannot describe the feeling you get entering the world's largest football stadium. Since 1926, The Big House has been an Ann Arbor staple. A landmark that has transcended its status as a venue for sports. By 2010 the Big House will hold over 108,000 people, and, to tell you the truth, that number cannot go high enough to appease the throngs of rabid Wolverine fans clamoring to watch a game from inside its hallowed walls.

3) Neyland Stadium - Knoxville, TN

Walter, a former high school assistant coach, has always said that it's better to coach in college than the pro's because if you're great in college they name the stadium after you. Enter Neyland Stadium, the greatest of the stadiums named after a coach (General Robert Neyland). Whether it's the aura of history and prestige that wafts through the field, or the image of the orange checkerboard design in the endzone that is burned into your mind's eye, any time you are watching a game at Neyland Stadium you know you're seeing something special.

4) Tiger Stadium (a.k.a. Death Valley) - Baton Rouge, LA

Frazier recently summed it up best by saying "I think I'd sell 5 years of my life to be in Tiger Stadium for a night game." Generally considered the loudest stadium in the entire nation (legend has it that during LSU's 1988 victory over Auburn, the crowd's reaction to the game winning touchdown pass registered on the seismograph of the LSU geology department), playing inside Death Valley is so difficult that Bear Bryant famously remarked that playing there was like playing "inside of a drum." Yeah, I think being in Baton Rouge for a night game might be worth 5 years!

5) Beaver Stadium (a.k.a. Happy Valley) - State College, PA

Another one of the true holdouts to still use a grass playing surface, Happy Valley is anything but Happy for opposing teams. Take the second largest seating capacity in the country, add in 107,000 rabid Nittany Lions fans chanting "We are.....Penn State" and you have one of the truly notorious home field advantages in all of sports. At the same time, Frazier has a particular fondness for the Penn State fans themselves. For a home-and-home deal with the Nittany Lions, the Penn State fans showed up in Charlottesville in huge numbers, cheered hard, got hammered, and were good company to hang out with at the bar after the game. When the UVA crew returned the favor the following year they were greeted by friendly faces, incredibly knowledgable football fans and just the right mix of taunting and conviviality in the stands. It's still an incredibly tough place for opposing teams to play, but it's a great atmosphere for a game. Named for the former governor of PA, the best thing about Beaver Stadium is that on game days the stadium itself becomes the third largest city in the entire state, just behind Philly and Pittsburgh. Now that is just awesome!

6) Kyle Field - College Station, TX

Most people don't know that Texas A & M used to be a military school. Subsequently, most people don't know that the stadium was dedicated to the 55 Aggies who were killed in the First World War. Kyle Field is rich with tradition, whether its this type of homage to the brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country, or whether it's the fact that A & M's original mascot, Reveille, is buried in the North end zone so that she may always see the score of the game. Kyle Field is also famously the home of "The 12th Man," one of the greatest football traditions of all time, and an absolute nightmare for opposing teams. Finally, A&M doesn't have cheerleaders, they have yell leaders. This may be the only fan base in the country who actually practices their cheering before games. Instead of pretty young women doing gymnastics, the Aggies have big, intimidating dudes screaming at the top of their lungs looking like they might burst a blood vessel. While we may miss the cheerleaders and their little skirts, there is perhaps no stadium in the world has Kyle Field's combination of history and intimidation.

7) The Notre Dame Stadium (a.k.a. The Golden Dome) - South Bend, IN

While we are not fans of Notre Dame's policy of selling tickets to opposing fans, this list would not be complete without a homage to the "House That Rockne Built." One of the few stadiums that still uses natural grass as a playing surface, Notre Dame Stadium is probably best known for its view of "Touchdown Jesus," a large mural of the resurrection adorning the side of the Hesburgh Library. Like The Big House, Notre Dame Stadium carries with it a supernatural, almost spiritual element. For any college football fan, a trip to the Golden Dome would feel more like a religious pilgrimage than anything else.

8) Bryant-Denny Stadium - Tuscaloosa, AL

To get to Bryant-Denny stadium, just go down Main Street and turn onto Bryant Drive. Notice a pattern? While his name wasn't on the side of the stadium when he coached there, Bear Bryant accumulated an other-worldly 72-2 record in Bryan-Denny during his tenure. Sure the Crimson Tide's record at the stadium may be gaudy (187-32-3 all time), and you'd have to be a robot not to get goosebumps walking past the Bear Bryant statue on the Walk of Champions, but the best thing about Bryant-Denny stadium is that it's used a single pair of goalposts in it's entire history. Tearing down the goalposts is an idiotic way to celebrate, and by refusing to do so Crimson Tide fans show their respect for the game, the stadium, and the man who built it. In other words, the Tide fans "act like they've been there before."

9) Frank Howard Field (a.k.a. Death Valley) - Clemson, SC

The "other" Death Valley in name only, Frank Howard Field is as notoriously difficult on opposing teams as any stadium in the nation. The nickname is twofold, first because the stadium itself is actually situated in a valley with the University cemetery overlooking the field, and second because Lonnie McMillan, formerly the football coach at Presbyterian College, famously referred to the stadium as "Death Valley" because his teams always got killed there. The top decks of the stadium are ridiculously sloped, so climbing them feels more like scaling a mountain than returning from the beer line. Frazier struggled including this stadium on the list because it is the exact opposite of Happy Valley, both in name and character. While the "We Are" cheer is one of the best in all of sports, the obnoxious Clemson cheer "C-L-E-M-S-OOOOOO-N!" is incredibly idiotic, generally irritating, and repeated hundreds, if not thousands, of times per game. Instead of good, loyal fans with high football IQ's, the Clemson bunch are a group of asshole rednecks, who instead of wanting to join you after the game for a beer at the local bar, would prefer to pick a fight, get your visiting-ass arrested, and then point you the wrong direction out of town. That being said, it's still a pretty amazing atmosphere. However, the most unique feature of the stadium is the white flint rock that sits atop the hill overlooking the field. It is tradition that the Clemson players rub "Howard's Rock" (as it is known) prior to running down the hill prior to games. This tradition has been called "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football."


Apparently, people find this post more than any other we've ever done. Which is great. However, I seem to have pissed off an awful lot of Clemson fans in the process. Look, I calls em as I sees em. This is my honest opinion based on personal experience. If it's not YOUR experience, well, you're luckier than I am. Just because many of your fans are assholes, it doesn't mean that you are. Trust me, I'm a Sox and Pats fan, so I know the feeling.

-Frazier 10/22/07

10) Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (a.k.a. The Swamp) - Gainesville, FL

Aptly nicknamed The Swamp by former head coach Steve Spurrier, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is located entirely below sea level. In fact, let's turn things over to Steve Spurrier to describe the mystique and tradition of the Stadium: "A swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. Only Gators get out alive."

Top 10 Fight Songs of All Time  

Posted by Walter

Welcome to traditions week here at the 323. This week is dedicated to the things that make college football great. It's about your fight song, or you mascot or all the other little things, big and small, that make college football different from professional sports. Different from pretty much anything else in the american sports universe. College football is in your blood. It's not a sport for passive viewers, but for people who love tradition, and rivalry, and a sense of community and history in sports. This week at the 323 is about all those things. We hope you enjoy.

1) Boomer Sooner -
University of Oklahoma

The fight song to end all fight songs. Short, simple, and damn if it doesn't get you fired up. The entire lyrics are made up of about 10 different words, but I'll be damned if I don't get goosebumps listening to the line: "I'm a Sooner born and bred, and when I die I'll be a Sooner dead!" Now those are some loyal fans.

2) The Eyes of Texas - The University of Texas

Although not technically the Longhorns' fight song (it's actually their alma mater), it is frequently played at football games by the marching band and serves the same purpose. The song has become such a strong intimidator for the Longhorns that the great Bear Bryant used to refuse to bring his players out onto the field until the Longhorn band had finished playing the Eyes of Texas.

3) The Victors - The University of Michigan

You simply cannot have a list of great fight songs without The Victors. Often considered the most famous fight song of all time, my favorite anecdote about The Victors is that former President Gerald Ford (an all-american center for the Wolverines) often had the Naval Band play the song prior to state events in lieu of Hail to the Chief. In fact, that alone is enough to push this song way up this list.

4) Fight On - The University of Southern California

My favorite lyrics of any fight song, (how can you not love the opening line: "Fight on for ol' SC. Our men fight on, for victory."), played by the best named band in all of college football (The Spirit of Troy). This song has been so inspirational that the United States actually used it to fire up combat bound troops during World War II. It was close between "Fight On" and "The Victors" but having been at the Rose Bowl rooting hard for Michigan, Frazier refused to let USC triumph in this arena. Also, "The Victors" is the one song that virtually everyone knows the lyrics to.

5) Notre Dame Victory March - The University of Notre Dame

Hand in hand with The Victors as the most famous college fight song, the Notre Dame Victory March stands alone as the most copied and referenced fight song of all time. I mean who doesn't think of movies like Rudy and Airplane when they hear this song?

6) Rocky Top - The University of Tennessee

Another song that is not technically an official fight song, but like The Eyes of Texas it is so closely associated with the school that the distinction is irrelevant. Rocky Top is also the official state song of Tennessee, and has been covered by famous musicians like Phish and Dolly Parton. Still, my favorite version is sung by the crowd and Neyland Stadium.

7) The Aggie War Hymn - Texas A & M University

Just take a listen and tell me this isn't one of the top 10 fight songs in the country!

8) Hail West Virginia - The University of West Virginia

While this song is not nearly as well known as some of the others on this list, that has nothing to do with the song itself, and everything to do with the Mountaineers lack of football tradition. With Rich Rodriguez and his spread offense on board to stay, here's to hoping we hear a lot more of this outstanding fight song (especially after touchdowns!).

9) For Boston - Boston College

OK, clearly a little favoritism is in play here, but I actually do think that this is the most underrated fight song in the country. Also, it gets bonus points for being the only fight song to be covered by a major Punk Rock band (the Dropkick Murphys performed just an awesome version of this song on their third studio album).

10) Anchors Aweigh - The United States Naval Academy

The first time this song was played was at the 1906 Army-Navy football game. Perhaps not so coincidentally, that game was the first time Navy ever won the matchup (which they did 10-0). Clearly one of the most well known tunes of all time, the lyrics have been rewritten several times, but the song remains an all time classic.

Special Mention -

The University of Virginia -
The Cavalier Song and Good Old Song

Frazier wouldn't be a real Hoo if he didn't shout out his beloved alma mater here. The Cavalier Song is the fight song played when the team comes storming onto the field. Good Old Song is the alma mater played after every Virginia score (not enough these days) and game. Yes, it's to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" but it's a great song, and the mellow mood gives way to the rousing "wahoowa" cheer at the end. (Oh, and for the love of god, listen to the Pep Band version. Even with all Groh's mediocrity and his failure to meet expectations, it's his killing of the fun, rowdy, good-times Pep Band for a stodgy, unoriginal and boring Marching Band that has been his biggest catastrophe.) Go Hoos!

Quick Hitch...  

Posted by Frazier

Sorry it's been a slow week here at the 323. We had a couple of great ideas, but they required far more time and effort than we've been able to expend. The big man is working hard this week (yeah, being a lawyer is apparantly tough, who knew?) and I've been having some busy stuff myself.

Still, that's the lamest excuse imaginable. We'll get something special cooked up for next week.

For now, I'd like to take a moment to compliment a team that has just an enormous pair of balls, and is willing to take on legit competition and prove that they're the best in the country.

In 2002 Carroll and his boys had the courage to host Auburn, perennially a top SEC team, out of conference, and travel to Kansas St. (#6 at the time). Those are some tough games, and they ended up losing to K-State, but it certainly proved that there weren't afraid of anyone.

In 2003 they traveled TO Auburn and won their first game of the year. This was an Auburn team that was supposed to contend nationally, and USC ruined their season in the first game of the year. Also, it's cross-country. That's another man's man kind of game. They also hosted BYU out of conference, which is a team that is perennially tough, and the kind that lots of schools don't want to face. You could lose, but if you did people would give them no credit for being good. A no-win situation for USC.

In 2004 they traveled TO Blacksburg for their first game. That's a team that always plays tough, and it's one of the toughest places in the country to go and get a win. Not only did they pull that off, but they took on a challenge. They also traveled to BYU for another non-conference game that isn't exactly a patsy.

In 2005 they hosted Arkansas. Now, the Hogs weren't a great team that year, but USC took them to school 70-17. It's almost impossible to do that to a legit SEC team. Once again, USC had the balls to schedule a non-conference game against a BCS foe. Most teams do that once every couple of years, USC does it annually. They also hosted Fresno St. who was one of the best non-BCS conference teams in the country, and ranked #16 when they went to So Cal.

In 2006 USC went TO Arkansas and got a win. Not an easy first game for a young team, and a legit SEC team on the road as non-conference. They also hosted Nebraska, a team picked to possibly win the Big-12 North. Those are some tough non-conference games.

Of course, USC also plays Notre Dame every year. While we all know the Domers are overrated, it's still a tough non-conference game. Notre Dame is a tough, legit opponent, and USC is willing to take on that challenge. For the future, USC is opening AT Virginia in 2008, and has scheduled a home-and-home with Boston College a couple years down the line. Those are two legit ACC teams, and USC will have to travel all the way across the country to play them.

The Trojans don't get enough media coverage out east, but they deserve a ton of credit for having the balls to play legitimate teams non-conference every year. Most teams are afraid to do this, and try to schedule as many patsies as possible. Since the Pac-10 is a BCS conference, all USC would have to do is win-out there, and they could schedule soft non-conference, and probably have a good shot at the title every year. But Carroll has made it clear that he isn't afraid of anyone, anytime, anywhere. That attitude has clearly rubbed off on his players. It's why they love playing for him, and it's why they play with a swagger. Their coach expects them to be the best team in the country, every single year, and he expects them to prove it by taking the show on the road and beating anyone in their own house.

Carroll's teams sometimes seem undisciplined. And sometimes he takes too many chances. He'd have another title if he was more conservative. But he is bold, and fearless, and he makes kids want to play for him. He also brings his troops around the country, showing them off like a recruiting video to every top high school player in the country. We here at the 323 love the way they schedule, and the way they play. Maybe they're reckless, but they're also fearless, and have the desire to PROVE they're the nations best.

2007 NFL Draft: Team Grades (Part III)  

Posted by Walter

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: F
Best Pick - Antonio Pittman, 4th Round
Worst Pick - Robert Meachem, 1st Round

Ugh, when your best pick plays the same position as two of your three best offensive players, well that's not a good thing. The Saints completely blew this draft, and frankly, we simply cannot figure out what the hell they were thinking. Meachem was decent value for the 27th overall pick, but he makes no sense for the Saints who already have three starting caliber young wideouts in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Terrance Copper. It makes no sense for the Saints, who had tons of holes on defense, to spend their first round pick on a fourth WR. The Saints were the top offense in the NFC last season, and what they really needed was help on the other side of the ball. They spent 4 of their first 5 picks on offensive players. We can't even begin to try and figure that one out. They desperately need help in their defensive secondary, since they were in about a million shoot-outs last year, including the NFC Championship loss to the Bears (and when your defense is capable of getting into a scoring match with the Bears, you need help). Chris Houston was on the board. Also, their linebackers aren't a dynamic lot, and while they played tough, they weren't able to make plays when they needed them. Think a performer like Puz would have helped? Pittman makes sense if they part ways with Deuce after next season, but instead of planning their incredibly accomplished running attack two years ahead, maybe they should have taken at least one player capable to helping their porous defense in the near term. I know, it sounds crazy.

Tampa Bay Bucaneers: A
Best Pick - Gaines Adams, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Greg Peterson, 5th Round

The only knock on the Bucs draft class is the lack of offensive playmakers. However, given the available players at each of their picks, you simply cannot hold that against them. All things considered, Jon Gruden and Co. absolutely nailed the 2007 draft. Gaines Adams should be an instant starter and should vie with Pat Willis for defensive rookie of the year (10 sacks is not out of the question, he's that talented). Aaron Sears was a nice pickup in round two, but the Bucs really made their money with their next three picks, Sabby Piscatelli, Quincy Black and Tanard Jackson, all of whom should develop into pro bowl caliber starters in the Tampa 2 defense (think John Lynch, Shelton Quarles, and Ronde Barber respectively). And, frankly, it keeps going. Getting an accomplished player who was one of the best running backs in the SEC over the last several years (Darby) in the 7th is excellent value. He will be able to take some strain off Williams, and could develop into a nice player. Also, they took Marcus Hamilton who Frazier knew a little bit at UVA, and is a really good dude. If nothing else, he and Ronde can talk about the famous Gusburger and sing Good Old Song together. Go Hoos!

Carolina Panthers: A
Best Pick - Ryan Kalil, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Jon Beason, 1st Round

Easily one of the two best draft classes, the Panthers' rookie class is loaded with top talent and depth. Let's be clear on one thing, we here at the 323 don't love Jon Beason, but he definitely had a first round grade and the Panther system is actually quite favorable for him. We were debating between an A and an A+, and Beason may have cost the plus, but he'll probably be a productive player for them. Beason notwithstanding, it's impossible not to be impressed with the collection of talent the Panthers brought in. Ryan Kalil and Dwayne Jarrett in round 2 were inspired choices, and both should start (and star from day 1). Jarret is the perfect compliment to a guy like Steve Smith (and hell, he has experience playing opposite a Steve Smith at receiver, so he won't even screw up his name!) I bet you can count on one hand the number of times in NFL history that a team has drafted two all pro players in any single round other than the first. Kalil and Jarrett could make it one more. The accolades continue for the Panthers late round selections. Ryne Robinson was, statistically, the best punt returner in NCAA history, and he could be the Devin Hester of 2007. Charles Johnson was an absolute steal in rd 3 (some, including the323 gave him a late 1st-early 2nd round grade), and he should eventually replace Mike Rucker opposite Julius Peppers. Even Tim Shaw with their second to last selection has a real chance to make the team, he was very productive for the Nittany Lions. Overall, the Panthers absolutely nailed this draft. Frankly, any time you get to cut Keyshawn Johnson is a good day, and makes us here at the323 happy. Just throw him the damn pink slip!

Atlanta Falcons: A+
Best Pick - Chris Houston, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Laurent Robinson, 3rd Round

Another team that absolutely annihilated the competition. Atlanta's draft is chock full of impact players, and strong developmental players. Jamal Anderson at #8 has been compared to a young Richard Seymour, and, to tell you the truth, he may turn out to be just as good. Justin Blalock and Chris Houston were two players who the323 had given first round grades to, and they both slipped to Atlanta in round 2. Just outstanding value. Add in future starters like Stephen Nicholas (4th round), Martrez Milner (4th), and David Irons (6th) and you have arguably the best draft class in the entire league. Even Datish really stands a chance to be a solid starter on the offensive line, he went through wars in the Big Ten. Finally, they drafted Jason Snelling (another Hoo!). If Snelling can overcome a seizure problem (yeah, seriously) he could be a starting fullback in the NFL for a long time. He's one of those guys who was willing to do anything at the college level, and the Falcons will love his attitude and work ethic.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers: B
Best Pick - Pat Willis, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Joe Staley, 1st Round

Overall, the niners draft class probably deserves a higher grade from a pure talent standpoint. Pat Willis should be a slam dunk, and Joe Staley could develop into the draft's second best tackle. Still, it's impossible to ignore how much the niners gave up to get Staley, who isn't exactly a sure thing. In trading their #1 pick in 2008 to the Pats for the #28 selection, the niners are banking on a big time improvement, or else they'll have given up a top 20 pick in a loaded 2008 draft. As far as late round talent goes, the niners did pretty well. Jason Hill was a solid choice in round 3, as was Jay Moore in the 4th and Tarrell Brown in the 5th (remember Brown was considered a better prospect than Aaron Ross going into the 2006 season). This draft is a major gamble for San Francisco. They gambled on Staley, they gambled on their continued success next year, and they gambled on injury-prone Frank Gore to hold up for another season. It's Vegas by the bay!

Saint Louis Rams: C-
Best Pick - Brian Leonard, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Dustin Fry, 5th Round

Ugh a completely uninspiring group. Carriker is a solid, if unspectacular choice in round 1, and the Rams probably could have used more of an impact player in that spot. Brian Leonard was great value in round 2, and he should help their offense, although with Steven Jackson on the roster it is unclear how he will fit it. And while it's hard to criticize any of the Rams late round picks, it's equally hard to get excited about them. John Wade in the 3rd could eventually be a decent nickel back, and Ken Shackleford in the 6th could develop into a solid backup. Other than those two, the rest of the rookie class will be lucky to make the active roster. The grade on the Rams is a little low here because not only are they uninspiring, but Frazier is completely unconvinced about the Leonard selection. He firmly believes Leonard is seen as the last hope for the white running back. That species is most likely extinct, and Frazier now sees him as an undersized fullback, which isn't the type of guy you usually target in the second round. Keep in mind, Frazier also hates New Jersey, so that is probably clouding his judgement. No matter your views on the Garden State, it's hard to get excited about this crop of picks.

Seattle Seahawks: B
Best Pick - Steve Vallos, 7th Round
Worst Pick - Deion Branch, 1st Round

The only thing holding the Seahawks back was their foolish trading away of their first round pick for Deion Branch. Imagine, if the Hawks had just stood pat, they would have been sitting there at #24 with the choice of Robert Meachem, Dwayne Jarrett, Sidney Rice, or Anthony Gonzalez, each at half the price of Branch. Still, we here at the323 love the Seahawks draft class. Walter has been touting Josh Wilson for weeks now, and even in the 2nd round he is a tremendous choice. Brandon Mebane in the 3rd was also outstanding value, as was both 4th round picks Mansfield Wrotto and Baraka Atkins. But the Hawks didn't stop there. They had three of the best late round selections in the entire draft in Will Herring (who will contribute immediately on special teams; think Larry Izzo), Courtney Taylor (an intriguing size-speed combo receiver) and Steve Vallos (the top offensive lineman in the ACC last season who fell due to size concerns). Still, we here at the323 believe in value, and the Seahawks didn't get good value for their 24 in this draft. Also, without a first rounder, you have to blow us away to get a really good grade. They drafted well, but the B was probably on the high end of their potential here.

Arizona Cardinals: B-
Best Pick - Buster Davis, 3rd Round
Worst Pick - Levi Brown, 1st Round

The Cardinals seem to do this every year. People always fall in love with their draft class because they grab up all the big name players in later rounds. Last year it was Deuce Lutui (2nd), Leonard Pope (3rd) and Gabe Watson (4th). The year before it was JJ Arrington (2nd), Daryl Blackstock (3rd) and Elton Brown (4th). And this year it was Alan Branch (2nd), Buster Davis (3rd) and Steve Breaston (5th). Well, we're not biting. The problem with bringing in all these falling big names is that you're drafting them on reputation, and not what they can do in your system. Moreover, the Cards don't seem to be learning from their mistakes. Consider Gabe Watson. He was a dominant, run plugging defensive tackle from Michigan who fell due to a lack of athleticism and concerns about his drive. The Cards took a chance on him, and two years later they're still waiting for him to produce. Sound a lot like another run plugging defensive tackle from Michigan with similar concerns doesn't it? The Cardinals are the perfect example of why it's impossible to grade these draft classes right now. In the past 3 seasons no team has drafted more NCAA All-Americans, but you can't draft on college production. You have to consider what the players will do in your NFL system. And while the Cardinals picks might be sexy, they've played this game and failed before. So yeah, it's a sexy looking bunch, and as strickly a college football junkie, Frazier is practically wetting himself. But, of course, Walter has a better handle on the differences between the college and pro games, and so is a decidedly less excited. If this was the Citrus Bowl, the Cardinals would be unstoppable. That being said, Frazier cannot let this pick pass without more praise for Buster Davis. He isn't just a big name, he's a big hitter. For all the love that Timmons got, Davis was the one who was a 3-year starter, and the defensive cornerstone, on a Florida St. defense that churns out pros. If he had sexy triangle numbers he'd be a top ten pick. But all anyone sees is a dude who is a little short, and a step slow. Of course you couldn't convince all the ballcarriers that Davis has lit up the last couple years that it was a major problem. If you watched Florida St. games you noticed that Buster made plays from sideline to sideline, and really enjoyed sticking his nose in the pile. He's a pros pro, and will make this Cardinals defense better.

Draft Grades Disclaimer  

Posted by Frazier

We should have put this disclaimer up at the beginning, but it will have to do now. Our draft grades are more or less a reflection of how well each team drafted, or what they did with their picks (including trades). Basiscally, you NEED to get good value for your draft picks, whether it's not reaching on a questionable player, or making a good deal to move down in the first round. Value is what counts. Value also means that who you draft makes sense. Sometimes you can't draft on pure need (there was no offensive lineman who Houston could legitimately take at #10) but you also can't simply draft the best player out there (Washington wasted its' pick on Laron Landry who will be a great player, but will do nothing to help that team).

Finally, we are grading the draft, not how well teams are managed. That means that Atlanta received a good grade based on drafting Jamal Anderson. Even though Anderson essentially replaces Kerney who they let go, so Anderson doesn't necessarily make them better than they were last year. However, once they lost Kerney, he was an excellent pick. So Atlanta may not have had a good offseason (letting Kerney go) but they did have a good draft (filling a now gaping hole on their line with Anderson). Hope this all makes sense. Now, back to you all bitching about how we graded your favorite teams picks.

2007 NFL Draft: Team Grades (Part II)  

Posted by Walter

AFC West

San Diego Chargers: D
Best Pick - Anthony Waters, 3rd Round
Worst Pick - Craig Davis, 1st Round

Some late round value is the only thing saving this train wreck of a draft. San Diego reached farther than any other team in Round 1, selecting Craig Davis (who had a third round grade from the323) even though supertalented wideouts like Sidney Rice and Dwayne Jarrett were still on the board. A puzzling pick to say the least. Eric Weddle in Round 2 wasn't bad, but they gave up a lot to move up to get him. Anthony Waters in Round 3 could be a steal if he regains his preinjury form, and the risks taken on Scott Chandler (4th Round) and Brandon Siler (7th Round) could prove to be wise. This is a team that was on the verge last year, but apparantly they are trying to maximize degree of difficulty points by hiring Norv Turner (a triple failure) and completely bombing the draft. Reaching in rounds 1 AND 2 is impressive, but Craig Davis never was.

Kansas City Chiefs: C-
Best Pick - Tank Tyler, 3rd Round
Worst Pick - Turk McBride, 2nd Round

While not a total disaster like some other teams, the Chiefs draft class was just overall very mediocre. Dwayne Bowe was a nice pickup in round one and should be a starter immediately, but there weren't many other impact players from there on. Turk McBride was a major reach for round 2, but Tank Tyler, if he behaves himself, could be a steal, not to mention a better player than McBride. Tyler is more than 30 lbs heavier than McBride, and still had more sacks, mostly because his size actually allowed him to move the line. The biggest problem with this draft class, though, is that KC failed to address either of its major needs, offensive line or the defensive backfield. Instead by using 2 AND 3 on defensive tackles, it's like they knew immediately they blew the McBride pick and totally overcompensated.

Denver Broncos: B-
Best Pick - Tim Crowder, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Ryan Harris, 3rd Round

Interesting draft strategy by the Broncos. While we love Jarvis Moss and what he brings to a defense, did the Broncos really need to trade up in round 1 to get him? Moreover, isn't Moss the same type of one dimensional, undersized pass rusher that the Broncos already have in Elvis Dumervil? Tim Crowder was a steal in the second round, but the Broncos might have wasted their last two picks on Ryan Harris (he stinks) and Marcus Thomas (a complete dog). Overall, while Moss and Crowder will help, it's hard to get too excited about this four man draft class. It seems a little unreasonable to blame the total collapse of the Broncos defense last season on their defensive line play, but that's exactly what they are trying to sell us on.

Oakland Raiders: A-
Best Pick - Jamarcus Russell, 1st Round
Worst Pick - John Bowie, 4th Round

Oakland and new coach Lane Kiffin absolutely nailed this draft. Jamarcus Russell is a special player who will absolutely dominate the NFL, and will present unique challenges to defense for years to come. Aside from Russell (who in our mind was a layup as the #1 overall pick), you have to hand it to the Raiders for repeatedly grabbing talented players in late rounds. Despite his 40 time, Zach Miller is a potential impact TE from round 2. Oakland's most impressive round, however, was the third, where they grabbed Quentin Moses (a 323 whipping boy but still great value for the third round), Mario Henderson, and Johny Lee Higgins. The only knock on the Oakland draft was the selection of John Bowie. After giving up Randy Moss for that pick, they needed someone with a little more cache. Mike Bush with a 4th rounder is excellent value, since he was considered a top-2 back coming into the season, and his leg will eventually heal. Once healthy, he'll give Russell time to mature and grow.

NFC East

New York Giants: B+
Best Pick - Steve Smith, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Aaron Ross, 1st Round

Very underrated draft by the Giants. The G-Men didn't have any apparent swings and misses, and the only reason we knock the Ross selection is because his upside is incredibly limited, especially when compared with potential shut down stud Chris Houston who was available. Still Ross should develop into an above average starter, as should Steve Smith who could push Amani Toomer to the bench sooner rather than later. Add in two superb second day selections in Zak DeOssie and Kevin Boss (the massive TE from Western Oregon who is a major draft sleeper) and the Giants collection of talent is quite impressive. The Giants were able to address their needs and still draft for value. Other teams should be paying attention.

Dallas Cowboys: A
Best Pick - Anthony Spencer, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Isaiah Stanbeck, 4th Round

The only thing that kept this grade from being an A+ was the puzzling selection of Stanbeck. Jerry Jones is often knocked for his lack of football knowledge, but he hit an absolute home run this year. Anthony Spencer was an inspired pick, and he looks even better considering that Dallas was able to trade back in the first round, pick up a 2008 first rounder (courtesy of the idiotic Cleveland management) and still get him. However, the most impressive part of the Dallas draft class, though, was their ability to restock the offensive line with talented players in the late rounds. Specifically, the Cowboys landed potential starting right tackle James Marten (a real mauler from Boston College) in Round 3, and Doug Free (an unreal athlete, who needs strength work) in Round 4. This is a team that drafted for both today, and tomorrow, which is necessary on a team with veteran leaders, and a crop of young talent. Well done.

Washington Redskins: C-
Best Pick - Dallas Sartz, 5th Round
Worst Pick - Laron Landry, 1st Round

Actually, the Skins didn't do half bad talent wise in this draft. 323 favorite Dallas Sartz will end up being a steal in round 5, as will HB Blades in round 6. Still, the Redskins only had one first day pick and they swung and missed big time choosing Landry. Again, Landry is going to be a great player, but he just doesn't fill enough of a need for Washington to justify spending that high a pick on him. You have to like most of Washington's picks, but it's not like they were one player away. They had too many holes to justify taking a safety with the #6 overall selection. When you have one first day selection DON'T FUCK UP! Well, they did, and it was a disaster.

Philadelphia Eagles: D+
Best Pick - Stewart Bradley, 3rd Round
Worst Pick - Kevin Kolb, 2nd Round

What the hell were the Iggles thinking? Who in that draft room said, "Well Merriweather is gone, what should we do? Oh, I know, let's trade our first round pick to our division rivals (Dallas) so they can get the impact pass rusher we also need, then use that extra second round pick to reach for a quarterback that will do nothing more than further fracture the fragile ego of our franchise QB." An Eagles fan friend of ours summarized things best, "Why did they do that?!" Now, Philly fans are notorious for their negativity, but it's like the Eagles were just goading them with some of their moves. You know what, even though they got some great late round value in Stewart Bradley, Tony Hunt, and Brent Celek, their botching of early round picks makes this an F.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: B-
Best Pick - Josh Beekman, 4th Round
Worst Pick - Kevin Payne, Corey Graham, 5th Round

Again, it's hard not to like the players the Bears brought in from this draft class. Greg Olsen in round 1 might have been a gimme, but he should add a dimension to the offense. Further, the Bears did a great job in the late rounds adding quality depth to need areas by selecting Mike Okwo (LB) in round 3, and Josh Beekman (OL) in round 4. Also, credit them for taking a flier on Wolfe. The kid is a gamer, and while undersized will run with tremendous heart. He may never be special, but guys like that will find a home on an NFL roster. However, the glaring hole in the Bears draft class was at the QB position. It should be very clear to them by now that Rex Grossman is not the answer. But the answer WAS there, staring them in the fact for five whole rounds. Troy Smith would have been an absolute PERFECT fit for the Bears. Smith is accurate, mobile, and a winner. Three things that Grossman, decidedly is not. And with the Bears deciding to stick with Grossman (who is barely 6'1'' himself) the Bears cannot use Smith's lack of size as an excuse for not drafting him. Passing on Smith for the likes of Payne and Graham will HAUNT this franchise for years.

Green Bay Packers: F
Best Pick - Aaron Rouse, 3rd Round
Worst Pick - Justin Harrell, 1st Round

Ugh, the disaster to end all disasters. What the hell were the Packers thinking? Justin Harrell in the first round? Brandon Jackson in the second? You can't whiff that badly on your first two picks and get anything other than an F. Harrell is a tough player, and a pretty decent run plugger, but he couldn't stay on the field for the Vols, and he isn't anything close to the impact player you need to get that high in round one. That was a shockingly bad pick. As for Jackson, what happened, were the Packers holding out for Chris Henry and had to settle for the second most overrated back? Again, Jackson couldn't even produce in college but the Packers think he will be an adequate replacement for Ahman Green. Apparently they believe that all Nebraska running backs are the same. Worst of all, the Packers could have traded either of these picks for Randy Moss. You think that would have been a better idea?

Minnesota Vikings: B-
Best Pick - Sidney Rice, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Marcus McCauley, 3rd Round

The Vikes' draft grade will only be as good as Adrien Peterson. Peterson could turn into a huge steal at #7 overall, but with his body type, running style, and injury history he looks more like the second coming of Herschel Walker than Eric Dickerson. Dickerson led a charmed career, but Peterson has already proven that not only does he take a bruising, but he has incredibly bad luck (have you ever seen another player get injured tripping into the end zone like that? And it was the first game his father had ever been able to attend? I'm pretty sure Adrien must have picked up a black cat under a ladder and thrown it at a mirror). Sidney Rice was a GREAT pick in Round 2, not only because he should compliment Troy Williamson nicely, but because he is just an awesome talent who produced in college despite not having a lot to work with. Aundrae Allison (5) and Rufus Alexander (6) were great value, but Marcus McCauley will be an absolute waste of a 3rd round pick. Despite all his talent, the guy just doesn't care, and won't ever be a good player. This is one area where Frazier disagrees, because he's all about "taking a risk" on talented guys that fall. While he may have a point, when you take a risk, sometimes you get burned. McCauley may be that lit match.

Detroit Lions: B+
Best Pick - Calvin Johnson, 1st Round
Worst Pick - AJ Davis, 4th Round

You have to love what Detroit did in this draft. They didn't panic with the #2 pick. They chose the best player available. While it was an incredibly ballsy pick, and possibly career suicide, it's always good to pick the one player every single GM agrees on in the entire draft. Then they went and got their QB of the future in round 2 (Drew Stanton). In Drew Stanton, Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams, the Lions now have a trio of young skill players to build around for the next 6-8 seasons. Moreover, they were able to pick up underrated prospects like Alama-Francis Ikaika (DE, 3rd Round), and Manuel Ramirez (OG, 4th Round) who should content for starting spots very soon. The only major knock on the draft class is AJ Davis, who looked completely over matched at the senior bowl. If you're are taking a risk on a quarterback, often it's better to do it with someone like Stanton from Rd. 2 who won't have the pressure, and won't cripple your team if he doesn't work out. Guys like Couch, Harrington and potentially Quinn can hold your team hostage for years, but Stanton never will.

2007 NFL Draft: Team Grades (Part I)  

Posted by Walter

AFC East

Miami Dolphins: F
Best Pick - Abraham Wright, 7th Round
Worst Pick - Ted Ginn, 1st Round

Looking at the 2007 Miami draft class, the only word that comes to mind is disaster. The Fins passed on Brady Quinn at #9, only to draft a wideout who has an injured foot and can't run anything except vertical routes. Then, they reached for a QB in round 2 when they drafted John Beck about 20 picks too early. While we here at the323 won't kill them for passing on the overrated Quinn, we will kill them for using that pick on the overrated Ginn, especially when they don't have a QB to throw him the ball. Oh, and their best offensive player is a wide receiver. And they let Wes Welker go, who is an undersized return man who will be paid significantly less than Ginn. Seriously, ugh.

Buffalo Bills: B-
Best Pick - Trent Edwards, 3rd Round
Worst Pick - Marshawn Lynch, 1st Round

Aside from blowing the #12 pick in the draft on Lynch, Buffalo actually did a great job. Marv Levy and Co. were able to grab Paul Poszlusny, a sure fire starter, in round 2, and a top flight developmental quarterback (Trent Edwards) in round 3. Moreover, the Bills picked up several 323 favorites in Dwayne Wright, John Wendling and Derek Shouman in the late rounds. Each of those guys should make the roster, and could develop into all around solid playmakers. On the other hand, with #12, you HAVE to get a top quality player, Lynch is not. The depth of this draft class is its' saving grace.

New York Jets: B
Best Pick - David Harris, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Chansi Stuckey, 7th Round

Give the Jets credit for moving up in round 1 to grab a cornerback, only thing is they drafted the wrong one. Darrell Revis is a nice player, but his lack of speed and quickness will severely limit what Eric Mangini can do with him. While he is similar to Ty Law, remember that Law struggled for years in man coverage before he got the right personnel around him. David Harris was a great second round choice, but Jacob Bender and Chansi Stuckey are uninspiring late round picks at best.

New England Patriots: B+
Best Pick - Brandon Meriweather (if he behaves), 1st Round
Worst Pick - Mike Richardson, 6th Round

You can't evaluate the Patriots draft without including Randy Moss and the first round pick in 2008 they picked up from San Fran. When all that is considered, you have to be impressed with what Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli did. Sitting at #28 with few intriguing prospects on the board, the Pats were able to trade that pick to SF for a 2008 first rounder (almost certain to be higher than 28) and a fourth round pick (that they turned into Randy Moss). Talk about getting something for nothing, you have to be impressed with that transaction. Regarding the players the Pats actually chose, it is somewhat of a mixed bag. Meriweather should be a keeper (if he behaves himself), but aside from Kareem Brown, Clint Oldenburg, Justin Rogers, and Oscar Lua, I wouldn't expect many of the draft choices to earn a roster spot on this veteran laden team. They had enough picks to move up more and go for quality over quantity.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: B-
Best Pick - Troy Smith, 5th Round
Worst Pick - Yamon Figures, 3rd Round

Overall an interesting haul for the Ravens. They have to be given credit for strengthening their offensive line with studs like Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda, but the team really didn't address their most glaring need that was explosive playmakers on offense. Figures should be almost exclusively a kick returner, and while I love Troy Smith he isn't going to help this offense at all until he supplants Steve McNair (sometime next year).

Cincinnati Bengals: B-
Best Pick - Leon Hall, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Kenny Irons, 2nd Round

There are things to like about the Bengals draft class, and things not to like. The major thing to like is Leon Hall, who was an absolute steal where they got him in round 1 and should start from day one. What's not to like, is that after Hall the Bengals really didn't draft to their needs. Kenny Irons is a nice player, but his lack of speed limits what he can do, and with Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry already on the roster, we have to wonder what his role is going to be. It's good value, but it's not a bargain if it doesn't fit. In all, other than a gimme pick with Hall, Cincy didn't impress with a single other selection.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B
Best Pick - Daniel Sepulveda, 4th Round
Worst Pick - Lawrence Timmons, 1st Round

Overall, the Steelers really did get some nice players in this draft. Timmons could develop into a starter, ditto for guys like Lamar Woodley and Matt Spaeth. What really held Pittsburgh back, though, was how far they reached for some of these guys. Woodley is the perfect example. He is a great fit as a Joey Porter type in Pittsburgh, but they reached all the way to the middle of round 2 to get him. Same for Spaeth, who is a great fit as a Tuman/Bruener type but was probably overdrafted a bit in round 3. Sepulveda may only be a punter, but he has a monster leg and will impact the 2007 Steelers more than any other pick. That said, considering Timmons is their "worst" pick, they generally did a good job, and didn't make too many mistakes.

Cleveland Browns: C+
Best Pick - Brady Quinn, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Brady Quinn, 1st Round

Here's the bottom line, the Browns entire draft comes down to how Quinn performs. If he turns into a stud, then the Browns locked up their starting QB and left tackle for the next 10 years. No price is too high to pay for that. If Quinn stinks up the joint (which we think he will), then the Browns will regret giving up what will probably be a high first round pick in 2008 to get him. Someone was going to pay a heavy ransom to nab the Golden QB, but it's obviously a gamble. Given what we know about Quinn, we can't support Cleveland's decision to bet the franchise on the kid from South Bend.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts
: B+
Best Pick - Tony Ugoh, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Anthony Gonzalez, 1st Round

The B+ is really misleading. Personally I love what the Colts did in this draft. Frazier, on the other hand, believes that a team that lost as much as they did on defense shouldn't have spent their first round pick on a slot receiver. Hard to argue with that logic so the point is well taken. Regardless, Gonzalez should be a great fit with the Colts, and Bill Polian was able to pick up three potential starters on the first day in Tony Ugoh, Daymeoin Hughes (who is a great fit in the Colts cover 2 scheme) and Quinn Pitcock. Guys like Clint Session (4th) and Roy Hall (5th) were also great value.

Tennessee Titans: D-
Best Pick - Antonio Johnson, 5th Round
Worst Pick - Chris Henry, 2nd Round

A total train wreck. The Titans went into the draft desperately needing to do two things: replace Pacman Jones' presence in the secondary, and give VY some dynamic young weapons to work with. In our view, they accomplished neither. Mike Griffin is a decent player, but what they really needed was a lockdown corner, in the mold of Pacman. Well wouldn't you know that Chris Houston was staring right at them at #19 and they passed. To make matters worse, the Titans reached on Chris Henry in round two, buying that he is the player who blazed the 40 at the combine, and not the guy who couldn't crack 600 yards in three seasons at Arizona. The Titans did use some later picks on wideouts for VY (a 3rd on Paul Williams, a 4th on Chris Davis, and a 6th on Joel Filani), but didn't they already try and fail with this plan?

Jacksonville Jaguars: C+
Best Pick - Adam Podlesh, 4th Round
Worst Pick - Mike Walker, 3rd Round

A solid, if uninspiring, effort from Jacksonville. Reggie Nelson fills a need, but he is one of those guys who only started one year in college (think Brod Bunkley) so there is a major bust factor. Gotta love the pick of Jason Durant in round 2, but aside from Podlesh in 4 the rest of the draft was mediocre and most of those guys will probably end up being cut. Most of all, though, is the lack of offensive linemen chosen. Keeping Leftwich on the field has been a major problem for the Jags, and it doesn't appear that they addressed this at all. They didn't draft poorly, it's just hard to see where they really got better.

Houston Texans: C
Best Pick - Amobi Okoye, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Mario Williams, 1st Round (2006)

It just goes from bad to worse for the Texans. After absolutely blowing the draft last year, the Texans cut David Carr, overpaid for his replacement, and signed Ahman Green despite the giant fork sticking out of his back. You think the Texans regret passing on VY and sticking with Carr another season? More than that, you think they regret overpaying for Matt Schaub when Brady Quinn fell right into their laps? Either way, it's not their fault that Arizona reached and took the guy they really needed (Levi Brown), and they made a nice pick with Amobi Okoye. Still, I cannot help but think that this franchise would have been in a MUCH better position to improve if they had take VY or Bush last season. Frankly, other than Okoye, their draft was entirely underwhelming. Getting offensive line help in the 5th and 6th rounds seems a little late for a team that has given up a record number of sacks over the past several seasons.

The Team

How's the look?