TMQ's all-haiku NFL preview   

Updated: September 4, 2008, 11:43 AM ET

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At long last, the NFL artificial universe resumes. My all-haiku season predictions -- America's original all-haiku NFL season predictions -- are below. But first, this bulletin: In high school football, shoes are required but not socks, while in NCAA football and the NFL, socks are required but not shoes. That's the essence of my case that football rules need to be simplified and standardized.

One rule change likely to catch your eye is that as of opening day, the NFL is adopting the "defer" option that's long been standard in high school and college football. Whoever wins the coin toss can elect first choice of ball or goal, or defer first choice until the start of the second half. My prediction: By midseason, as coaches become accustomed to the new rule, all NFL teams that win the coin toss will defer. This strategy dominates high school and college play; it will dominate the NFL.

TMQ Cheat Sheet
Gregg Easterbrook's haiku preview for …

AFC East
NFC East
AFC North
NFC North
AFC South
NFC South
AFC West
NFC West

TMQ's NFC preview
TMQ's AFC preview
Up until now, an NFL team winning the coin toss has almost always chosen to receive; if it chooses a goal to defend, then the opponent will take the ball to start the game and also to start the second half. (Technically the coin-toss winner can choose to kick, but no one ever does this, because the opponent would then choose which goal to defend -- getting both the ball and the wind.) In high school and college, the team winning the toss can defer its first choice of options to the second half. The result is almost always that the team losing the coin toss starts on offense in the first quarter, and the team winning the coin toss starts on offense in the third quarter. In high school and college, having the ball to start the third quarter is seen as better than having the ball to start the first quarter. Most coaches would rather be on defense early in the game, when players are tight; by the start of the third quarter, coaches have some idea what the scoring dynamic of the game is, and can alter their strategy accordingly. Plus, whatever the scoreboard reads, it's always good in the locker room at halftime to know you get the ball to start the second half.

This means that in the traditional NFL system, the team that loses the coin toss actually wins it -- because the toss loser gets the ball to start the second half. That the toss loser ends up with a slightly better tactical situation was figured out long ago in high school and college, leading to the defer option, which insures that the toss winner actually wins something. Now that the NFL is adding the defer option, it will not be long before fans cheer when the home team does not receive the opening kickoff.

Big Brother House

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

National security facility, or Patriots film room?

For more about the rules, see below. First, this preview: For the 2008 season, the NCAA rulebook adds, at 1-4-9-g: "Any attempt to record, either through audio or video means, any signals given by an opposing player, coach, or other team personnel is prohibited." The National Federation of High Schools, the rule-making body for most prep sports, banned sideline taping way back in 1968! The NFHS is often the rule-making leader -- it banned spearing in 1976, before the NCAA and NFL banned it, and began a crackdown against dangerous helmet use two years ago (the NCAA matched that this year). Now the NFL has adopted the defer rule, and college has adopted a rule banning sideline taping. NFL and NCAA, always listen to the NFHS!

In world news, will there still be a world after the sinister Europeans switch on their superadvanced subatomic particle collider next week? Enjoy temporal existence while you can; see more below. And now -- here's my new annual tagline, after the people at CBSSports.com stole my idea -- America's original all-haiku NFL season predictions.

AFC East
Perfection denied;
Gods punish running up score.
The Flying Elvii.

Forecast finish: 12-4

Buck Pierce

AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Peter McCabe

How long until the Bills play the B.C. Lions?


New mascot: budgie.
New strategy: play for rouge.
Canada-bound Bills.

Forecast finish: 8-8


Can Favre retire at
half, come back in fourth quarter?
The Jersey/B Jets.

Forecast finish: 5-11


Mathematically
alive for 2-and-14.
Miami Dolphins.

Forecast finish: 2-14

Invesco

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Not even presidential candidates will speak its unspeakable official name.

Invesco to Donate to McCain Campaign: Barack Obama spoke at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium, and referred to the venue as "Mile High Stadium." Perhaps Obama read last week's TMQ, which proposed the Democratic candidate could garner Colorado votes by promising, as president, to restore the stadium's gloried traditional name. Most TV talking heads covering the event called the place Mile High Stadium; PBS called it "the stadium where the Denver Broncos play." At this point practically everyone refuses to say the field's ridiculous official name. Please Invesco, relinquish your naming rights. No questions will be asked.

NFC East
Last postseason win?
Before "Google" was a verb.
The Dallas Cowboys.

Forecast finish: 11-5


Skins, Birds compete for
least-dressed cheer-babes: a win-win!
The Philly Eagles.

Forecast finish: 10-6


Took Super Bowl, lost
New York spotlight to Brett Favre.
Jersey/A Giants.

Forecast finish: 10-6

Cameron Diaz

AP Photo/Richard Drew

She's naked beneath her clothes!


Obama, McCain:
Loser could coach when Zorn fired.
"Washington" Redskins.

Forecast finish: 6-10

What If Cameron Diaz Was Naked Except for Embellished Flats? Each year TMQ eagerly awaits the "What's Sexy Now?" issue of InStyle magazine, an issue that appeals to me for two reasons. First, it contains the best celebrity inanity anywhere. Second, it's usually the September issue, which means the issue comes out in late August, heralding the blissful return of the football artificial universe. To my dismay, for 2008, InStyle moved its "What's Sexy Now?" issue up from September to June, breaking the link to football. We wish this was because the world was getting so much sexier, the editors felt compelled to rush that news into print. However …

Amanda Peet

AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

Her sex fantasies go down the drain.

This year's "What's Sexy Now?" cover girl was Cameron Diaz, who declares that sex is "the best," not saying what finishes second-best. Diaz further reveals she likes to walk around naked except for wearing high heels -- which sounds pretty good, except that apparently she does not do this in hotel rooms in Istanbul with mysterious strangers, but rather, around her house when she's alone. So Diaz wants to look incredibly sexy -- but only for herself, when no one else is there. How very current! Also, Diaz says she finds firemen sexier than movie stars. Considering what Hollywood's been offering lately, dentists and subway motor men are sexier than movie stars.

Elsewhere in the "What's Sexy Now?" issue, celebs have the following insights. Maggie Gyllenhaal: "Water and sex have a lot in common." Penn Badgley: "Everything is more romantic by water." Amanda Peet: Sex in a bathtub is "sort of slippery." Jon Hamm: "I'm a Pisces, maybe that means something." Ginnifer Goodwin: "The uncontrollable nature of rain is sexy to me." Zoe Saldana: "The best way to flirt with a guy is to ignore him." I've been flirted with far more than I previously realized!

Penn Badgley

Sipa/AP Images

Penn Badgley: If "everything is more romantic by water," does that make seagulls romantic?

InStyle's editors declared that sexy items for 2008 are mini-dresses, lipstick that appears not to be lipstick, and "embellished flats," a category of shoe I did not even know existed. In a reader poll, InStyle subscribers said Jimmy Kimmel is the sexist late-night television presence; that men wearing eyeliner is now OK (um, maybe at the parties you go to); that English accents are sexier than French accents; that Marrakech is the sexiest city; that "the sexiest date" is one that ends in sex. You need a magazine to tell you that? This year's "What's Sexy Now?" issue was 298 pages, about the same length as the hardback edition of Karen Armstrong's "A History of God."

AFC North
Hard-hitting contact:
Rooney family, not the team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers.

Forecast finish: 10-6


Quarterbacks many,
Playoff appearances few.
Old-new Cleveland Browns.

Forecast finish: 9-7


Front office is the
Bear Stearns of the NFL.
The Cincy Bengals.

Forecast finish: 6-10


Awk! No offense. Awk!
Quoth the raven: "No offense."
Bal-a-mer Ravens.

Forecast finish: 6-10

Ravens

Joel Sartore/National Geographic/Getty Images

Awk, the parking lot was crowded! Awk, the beer was expensive! Awk, they had no offense! And you can quoth me.

Fox Conducts Analysis, Finds Henhouse Security Adequate: Charlene Wilkins of Cambridge, Mass., was among numerous readers to point out that next week the most powerful atom smasher ever, the Large Hadron Collider, is scheduled to be activated near Geneva. Let's hope much of the Swiss-French border does not vanish into a singularity. Let's hope the device -- its miles of underground tunnels, encircled by mysterious high-tech gizmos, are designed to simulate hypothesized conditions of the Big Bang -- does not inadvertently trigger a Lite Bang, taking our solar system along with it. TMQ still cannot fathom why society should spend many billions of dollars or euros to construct advanced atom-smashers whose main purpose is to provide employment for physicists, and which engage a chance, however small, of igniting general calamity. More on the latter point here. You can watch a webcast of the collider start-up here. Let's hope you do not see swirling flashes of energy, followed by mysterious high-tech gizmos being sucked into a strange vortex, followed by the camera failing.

Over the summer the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN owing to an old French name, announced that activating the huge collider will be "no threat to Earth or the universe." The universe is safe from European government officials -- whew! CERN's safety claim is based on this analysis, and most likely the analysis is correct. But the study that OKs the CERN project was conducted by -- CERN. Why do I not find this reassuring? Recent headline from Science Daily:

Collider

AP Photo/Martial Trezzini

Don't worry. If it inadvertently creates a black hole on Earth, this "probably" won't matter.

"If the Large Hadron Collider Produced a Microscopic Black Hole, It Probably Wouldn't Matter." A black hole inadvertently formed in Switzerland "probably" wouldn't matter. Why do I not find this reassuring?

TMQ's previous anti-atom-smasher item noted that in order to arm-twist Congress into approving funds for particle accelerators, lobbyists confuse limited-science-literate representatives and senators into thinking the accelerators have something to do with national defense or international competitiveness. The fiscal 2008 federal budget, enacted last fall, awarded the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, which runs an atom smasher, $320 million for 1,940 employees -- amounts that seem plenty generous, considering Fermilab hasn't had a major discovery since 1995, when researchers there found the "top" quark. Rather than be grateful for $320 million in tax-funded handouts, Fermilab lobbied Congress about how horrible it was that its program wasn't getting even higher subsidies. In July, a nongermane rider on the latest Iraq war borrowing bill tossed an additional $29.5 million to the Fermi accelerator.

Switzerland

A map of Switzerland as it appeared before the Large Hadron Collider was activated.

So now average people are being hit up for about $350 million to run the Fermi facility this fiscal year, though the accelerator is unlikely ever to produce any knowledge of tangible value to taxpayers, and in the past decade hasn't even produced much abstract knowledge. Fermilab's accelerator yielded significant abstract knowledge in the 1970s and 1980s, when the device was staging experiments not previously attempted. Now the machine seems to have found what it is capable of finding, but being a government program, funding continues long after the original reason for the program has been fulfilled. Fermilab does play some role in raising public awareness of science, but on that point, federal appropriations are much more urgently needed for high school science and math teachers than for maintaining an expensive facility that is past its prime. The Fermi accelerator gradually evolved from interesting experiment into a boondoggle that supplies cushy jobs for physicists and politically connected contractors. The new Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland ups the ante by being a boondoggle from day one!

Creepy afterthought: One of the key puzzles in cosmology is the origin of gamma-ray bursts, extremely powerful flares of energy from deep space. Astronomers speculate that gamma-ray bursts may be caused by collapsing stars or by some remnant of the Big Bang process; TMQ has speculated they may be the muzzle flashes of horrific weapons being used in distant wars. Reader Adam Wolbach of Pittsburgh, a grad student at Carnegie Mellon University, adds this creepy possibility: gamma-ray bursts are the evidence of alien civilizations turning on advanced supercolliders, and promptly winking out of existence.

NFC North
Rodgers in Favre's cleats.
Well heck no, he's not nervous.
The Green Bay Packers.

Forecast finish: 13-3


PC D-line name:
Purple Persons Empowerers.
Minnesota Vikes.

Forecast finish: 9-7


Good thing they got rid
of Super Bowl personnel.
Windy City Bears.

Forecast finish: 6-10


Honolulu blue;
McCain demands equal time.
The Detroit Lions.

Forecast finish: 4-12

Rewrite the Rulebook: Football rules are way too complicated. The NCAA football rulebook is a stunning 256 pages. The NFL rulebook is 132 pages and contains such incomprehensible passages as, "If the change in playing position status is followed by: 1) a touchdown; 2) a completed kick from scrimmage (a punt, drop kick, or place kick); 3) a foul; 4) a team time out; 5) the end of a quarter; 6) time out for the two-minute warning; 7) a replay challenge; or 8) change of possession, the said player may return to his originally eligible or ineligible playing position without restriction. However, if the kick is not completed or a touchdown not made, the said player must remain in his new position until legally withdrawn for one down. If withdrawn, he is to re-enter to the position indicated by his number unless he again informs the Referee that he is assuming a position other than that designated by his number." Rules about ball impetus, multiple fouls during a change of possession, and touching different types of kicks at different points on the field are among those that are way too complicated.

Referees

AP Photo/Paul Battaglia

Hey Charlie, got your briefcase? I need to see the rule book.

Plus there are nutty rule differences among high school, NCAA and NFL football. A free kick following a fair catch is allowed in high school and the pros, but not in college. In high school, all kickoffs into the end zone are touchbacks, even if recovered by the kicking team; in college, if a kickoff is touched by the kicking team before entering the end zone, then recovered in the end zone by the kickers, it is a touchdown; in the pros, a kickoff into the end zone is live regardless of whether touched before reaching the end zone. In college and the pros, players wearing numbers 50-79 can report eligible; in high school, they are always ineligible. In high school and college, offensive linemen can go downfield before a pass if the pass is caught behind the line; in the NFL, offensive linemen can be downfield before a pass only if they contacted a defender at the snap and have retained contact with the same defender. In high school and the NFL (this is a truly obscure rule), a team that has just been scored upon can elect to kick off; in the NCAA, a team that has been scored upon must receive the subsequent kickoff.

One reason there are so many arguments between coaches and officials is that neither party can remember all the rules correctly; there are too many rules in total, plus too many high-school-college-pro differences. Simplify the rulebook and standardize the rules!

The NCAA gives away its rulebook via download. The NFL allows sports media members to download its rulebook, though from their copy and TV statements, it would seem few have done so. (I tried, but failed, to generate a link that would allow anyone to download the NFL rulebook from the league's media-only site.) You must purchase the NFHS rulebook. At least the high school rulebook is formatted to fit in a back pocket; the NCAA and NFL rulebooks are sized for a lawyer's briefcase.

The NFHS sells its officiating manual, as does the NCAA. An officiating manual dictates how zebras work a game, and can be more illuminating than the rulebook: It says, "If A1 does X to B1, here's what to call." Really useful, though not comprehensive, is the NFHS's "Football Rules Simplified and Illustrated," which provides graphic illustrations of rule applications. While high school and college football publish their officiating manuals, the NFL does not. When I was working for NFL.com, I asked for a copy of the NFL officiating manual, and was told by the league's front office that the manual could never be revealed to anyone other than an official. What sort of nonsense is that? The NFL has secret officiating standards? Come on NFL, release your officiating manual. The NCAA and the National Federation of High Schools aren't afraid to.

On this page, the NFHS offers a handy comparison chart of high school versus college rule differences. But NFHS, what you really need is a comparison chart of high school versus NFL rule differences. Long, bitter experience at high school games convinces me that many prep zebras call games as if they were calling the NFL on Sundays. For example, in the NFL it's an illegal forward pass if the quarterback's front leg is on the line of scrimmage at release, but in high school, the quarterback's front leg can extend to the end of the neutral zone -- meaning the quarterback can be a little over the line of scrimmage and still throw a legal pass. In high school, there is no offensive or defensive pass interference behind the line of scrimmage if a pass is caught behind the line, while in the NFL, pass interference rules are the same regardless of field position. This rules difference changes the way the screen pass and the receiver hitch are executed in high school; high school zebras often get the call wrong, because they mistakenly use NFL standards.

Zebras

AP Photo/Lisa Poole

Momma, don't let your babies grow up to be zebras. They won't be able to understand the rules.

Ideally the NFHS, NCAA and NFL should adopt one standardized, simplified set of rules. That would make it easier on everyone, simplify officiating and end those unpleasant Friday night scenes when the high school crowd roars at the officials because it thinks there's been a bum call, and actually the call is correct, but the crowd only knows NFL rules. I admire high school officials; they make mistakes, but they're working for $75 a night, get harassed nonstop by parents, and still, in the main, do a good job. Often, the worst booing follows a call that was correct by NFHS rules, but not by NFL rules. Standardization would eliminate this problem.

College rules note: For 2008, the the NCAA matched high school's spearing crackdown. The new college rule reads, "No player shall initiate contact and target an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul." The second clause is deceptively important. Some football rules define doubt; for instance, in the NFL, if there is doubt about whether there was pass interference, then there was no pass interference. The new college spearing rule says that when there is doubt about whether there was spearing, it was spearing. This makes the rule more strict and lifts from the officials the burden of trying to figure how what the offending player intended. Another case in which a positive rule reform originated in high school.

High school rules note: This year's NFHS rules revisions are mainly technical. One of the technical changes has to do with inadvertent whistles -- which brings to mind a prep rule that should extend to college and the pros when standardization comes. In games played using the NFHS rulebook, if an inadvertent whistle ends a down, the team in possession has the option of taking the result of the play or replaying the down. In the NFL, if an inadvertent whistle ends a play, there's no recourse: You're stuck with the obviously wrong result. Come on NFL, if you'd listened to the National Federation of High Schools there would have been no Spygate. Adopt the NFHS rule on inadvertent whistles!

AFC South
Super Bowl: Peyton
versus Eli? Mom's nightmare.
Indy Lucky Charms.

Forecast finish: 13-3


Hope to pass the Colts
before next ice age begins.
Jacksonville Jaguars.

Forecast finish: 11-5


Fisher's 15th year:
Been there since before the Web.
Tennessee Titans.

Forecast finish: 8-8


Seriously, how
many Texans can you name?
The Houston Moo Cows.

Forecast finish: 6-10

LPGA Players Now Required to Know English; There Is No Rule for Commissioners: Announcing the tour's new language-proficiency policy, LPGA deputy commissioner Libba Galloway said last week, "We think it is important for our players to effectively communicate in English." That statement contains a grammatical error! If English were mandatory in the NFL, no one would be permitted to say, "They're giving 110 percent."

Congress

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Who made oil prices rise? Here are the shadowy suspects.

You Don't Need to Speculate in Futures Contracts for Members of Congress, Since They Are So Easy to Buy: As the price of a barrel of oil nearly doubled in the first half of 2008, members of Congress ominously blamed petroleum speculators who, it was said, were ominously buying up futures contracts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called a news conference to introduce his grandly titled Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008. If "excessive" speculation, whatever that means, really is influencing oil markets, then those ominous speculators are now being punished by the same markets, as barrel prices fall. But how convenient for the United States Congress to blame unnamed, shadowy speculators instead of blaming … the United States Congress.

It is Congress, after all, that from 1988 to 2007 repeatedly refused to raise fuel economy standards for cars, trucks and SUVs, thus guaranteeing U.S. oil imports would rise, and helping push up global oil demand, increase the price of oil and channel more dollars, euros and yen to the Persian Gulf dictatorships that support anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism. Under Republican and Democratic leadership alike, for 20 years Congress was warned and warned and warned again regarding trends in U.S. petroleum use, and for 20 years did nothing. With an election coming, how about we throw these unctuous rascals out, and to play on a suggestion by the late William F. Buckley, replace them with 535 names chosen at random from the nation's telephone books?

NFC South
Too often seem to
start OK, then pewter out.
Tampa Buccaneers.

Forecast finish: 10-6


Not hit by comet:
At least something has gone well.
Atlanta Falcons.

Forecast finish: 8-8


A London "home" date.
Park 4,000 miles away?
Glob'lization Saints.

Forecast finish: 6-10

Harvey Dent

Warner Bros. Pictures

Randy "Two Face" Moss shows his good side in the regular season, his sinister side in the playoffs.


A "blessing" to be
decked by teammate. Oh. Right. Sure.
Carolina Cats.

Forecast finish: 5-11

Randy "Two Face" Moss Flips Coin, Decides to Disappear in Playoffs: Randy Moss was the common element of the two highest-scoring NFL offenses ever: the 2007 Patriots and the 1998 Vikings. Those Moss-based offenses are a combined 31-1 in the regular season -- and a combined 3-2 in the playoffs.

This Year's Swimsuit Issue Bikini Count: The modern thong bikini covers way too much, at least if the Sports Illustrated swimsuit number is any guide. For the past several years, SI's annual gawk-fest has favored women with their tops off or tops unfastened, or with thumbs yanking down their bikini bottoms. Here is this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue tally -- somebody has to do this! There were 173 photos of women in bikinis, 38 of topless women (hands or necklaces strategically placed), nine of women either naked or wearing only body paint, eight photos of women bottomless. Marissa Miller set a modern-era Sports Illustrated record by posing on the cover both topless and pulling her bikini bottom down. Compare to 1965 swimsuit issue cover model Sue Peterson, who by current standards is dressed as a librarian.

Marisa Miller

SI

The Sports Illustrated photo staff is already planning for how to make swimwear more revealing next February.

Publishing Note 1: Time magazine, owned by the same company as Sports Illustrated, put Olympic swimmer Dara Torres and her amazing 41-year-old-mom bod on the cover, in a micro-bikini. Why fight a trend? Publishing Note 2: Sports Illustrated says its annual celebration of cheesecake is the world's best-selling magazine issue. Why fight a trend? Even the sort-of-intellectual Huffington Post has begun running pics of hot babes in bikinis.

AFC West

Eli has gaudy
bejeweled ring; now who won trade?
San Diego Bolts.

Forecast finish: 12-4


Broncs' helmet sticker:
INSERT HEAD, GAIN THOUSAND YARDS.
The Denver Broncos.

Forecast finish: 9-7


Last winning season?
My staff will get back to you.
The Oakland Raiders.

Forecast finish: 5-11


Tried to ban standing;
This assumes crowd wants to watch.
Kansas City Chiefs.

Forecast finish: 5-11

Non-QB Non-RB High School Awards Needed: In its high school football preview section last week, the Washington Post listed the capital region's top 50 players, selected "in consultation with area high school coaches." The list included 13 quarterbacks and running backs, and four offensive linemen. Even the coaches don't pay any attention to the offensive line!

NFC West

Always in playoffs
but rarely on MNF.
Seattle Seahawks.

Forecast finish: 11-5


Hey, weren't you good once?
Rice, Young, distant memories.
The S.F. Niners.

Forecast finish: 7-9


Hey, weren't you good once?
Bruce, Faulk gone; Pace, Holt fading.
The St. Louis Rams.

Forecast finish: 7-9


Playoff win for Cards?
Patience -- century is young!
AZ Cactus Wrens.

Forecast finish: 6-10


America's Only All-Senryu Predictions: Last week, I complained that CBS Sportsline's stealing my idea of an all-haiku NFL seasons prediction was doubly annoying because the theft prevented me from using a tagline I've used for seven years, "Still America's only all-haiku NFL seasons predictions." Reader Jessica Lasher of Los Angeles points out that because the form I use is, technically, senryu, I need only change the tag line to "Still America's only all-senryu NFL seasons predictions." She adds, "CBS is also technically writing senryu, but don't know they are. Though they will know once they can copy it from your column."

Bust Update: Over the weekend, the Bears cut Dan Bazuin, a second-round draft choice who was a bust. Why this is worth mentioning is because the trade that sent Thomas Jones from Chicago to Jersey/B netted the Bears the choice used for Bazuin. Chicago made the Super Bowl with Jones carrying the ball most of the time; since unloading Jones, the Ming Ding Xiong ("Bears whose outcomes are decided by fate") have foundered. Now, Chicago has nothing to show for the trade.

Revenge of the Cupcakes: Last week's item on Division I-AA teams agreeing to appear as cupcakes at football-factory schools implied the smaller-school teams do this solely for money. Reader Gabriella Bahn of Carbondale, Ill., notes there is also a recruiting advantage: even if the Division I-AA squad loses big on the field of a prestige school, the mere fact of lining up against a famous foe will help the smaller program's profile. On the flip side, readers including Jennifer Stolz of Aliso Viejo, Calif., suggested that if victories over lower-division teams did not count toward bowl eligibility, football factories would play someone their own size.

Brian Beedenbender of Centereach, N.Y., provides this point on how a loss against a Division I foe actually might help some Division I-AA colleges: "As a fan of James Madison University, a Division 1AA school in the Colonial Athletic Association, I'd like to note there is an additional benefit to playing Division I teams, beyond revenue. As a two-division conference with no conference title game, the CAA often has ties at the end of the season. One of the tiebreakers is bonus points: For each Division 1AA victory, a team receives one point. For Division II or Division III wins, the team gets no points. For appearing in a Division I game the team gets one point, and for winning a Division I game, two points. So Division 1AA schools may have an incredible incentive to find a Division I school to play, since a loss against Division I is worth as much as a victory against Division 1AA. The double bonus for a win over a Division I school almost guarantees a CAA school a tiebreaker edge. So please stop encouraging Division I colleges not to schedule cupcakes ... the little guy needs those games!" Check out the opening weekend of the Colonial Athletic Association: James Madison played at Duke, Hofstra at Connecticut, Delaware at Maryland, Maine at Iowa, Towson at Navy, Villanova at West Virginia -- much of this conference opened as visiting cupcakes for Division I big-money schools. All preformed their assigned roles and lost, outscored by a combined 215-54.

Obscure College Score of the Week: Central Connecticut State 42, Bryant 35. Many institutions of higher learning are struggling with the question of whether corporate affiliations are appropriate. Not Bryant University! Located in Smithfield, R.I., Bryant lists "corporation and business experiences and affiliations" as one of the school's five goals.

Mailbox

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

TMQ's mailbox was overflowing.

Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at TMQ_ESPN@yahoo.com. Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I might quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise.

Animadversion news: There will no longer be a separate readers' column; it simply takes too long to compile. Last season, TMQ averaged close to 1,500 e-mails per week. I asked the NFL to supply me with a panel of scantily clad cheer-babes to screen the mail, and strangely, the league never replied. My goal was to read a quarter of each week's mail, and the most I ever read was a quarter -- I was erasing hundreds of e-mails at a time just to have some hope of getting through a respectable fraction. Over the years, I have consistently found reader mail to TMQ to be clever, insightful and quotable. I will continue to incorporate reader observations into the column, and really appreciate the time readers devote to sending such smart comments.

Next Week: During the preseason, Tuesday Morning Quarterback uses "vanilla" items designed to confuse scouts from other sports columns. Beginning next week, I'll open up the playbook, spreading the field with four-adjective sets and coming at readers from all directions with unorthodox grammatical structures.


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