Archive for: October 2012

Craft Beer – Not Just for Beer Snobs Anymore

The Great Tucson Beer Festival this past Saturday brought out all types…sure, there were your typical beer snobs present, but I was impressed more by the sheer number of regular folk and more importantly, women. Beer festivals used used to be jam packed of beer nerds and snobs that left their wives or girlfriends at home…if they had one. My wife is in the non-craft beer camp and loves the mass produced macro brew out of Milwaukee and I don’t fault her for that. I enjoy an easy drinking session beer as well, but only if we are playing drinking games or watching my drinking mentor, Zane Lamprey & Pleepleus on Drinking Made Easy.

This year’s festival was one for the ages with all proceeds going to a wonderful charity Sun Sounds of Arizona.  Many thanks go out to Mitzi Tharin, the Sun Sounds staff and the many, many volunteers who put on this year’s festival.

Hundreds of beer were available to  sample including offerings from 16 breweries statewide ranging from Mudshark Brewery in Lake Havasu City to Old Bisbee Brewing in Bisbee.  All of my local favorites were included in this year’s festival and I made sure to steer my group of friends towards these local masterpieces. Four Peaks Brewing had my favorite with their American IPA, Hop Knot. This wonderful beer gets it’s name from weaving seven different hops added at seven different times throughout the brewing process. This hop-head favorite packs a punch at 6.7% ABV yet isn’t too overpowering when it comes to the IBU level only measuring 47. This beer was absolutely loved by each person that had yet to try it and loves their hops.  Chandler’s favorite brewery, SanTan Brewery was also represented well with three of their standard beers, Devil’s Ale, Hefeweizen and Hop Shock IPA. They also brought along a specialty brew, their Count Hopula Blood Red IPA; this brew boasts an intense Simcoe Hop bitterness with a 99 on the IBU scale and balanced with six different malts to produce a spooky blood red color and 7.0% ABV – scary good.

I must say that I was impressed with the little guy, Old Bisbee Brewing Company was situated just outside the VIP tent and next to the Bud Light truck (they weren’t serving Bud Light, by the way) and they offered up a light & refreshing Whitbier. This unfiltered brew hit the spot after trying a litany of heavy or hoppy beers. Perfectly balanced with three malts and four hops, the brewers at Old Bisbee also add Coriander seed and bitter Orange peel to give this brew an outstanding flavor and great freshness.  Another Tempe favorite, Sleepy Dog Brewery was there in grand fashion, right next to neighboring Tempe brewery, Four Peaks.  For the Tucson locals that have yet to try Sleepy Dog, I would say that most were impressed with the Red Rover Irish Ale. A sweet, malty amber ale with a big flavor of noble hops,  dark malts and a little bit of chocolate in the finish. This brew was worth a second try for a several in my group.

The Beautiful People at Tucson Beer Fest

The beers in and of themselves were worth the price of admission, but no party would be complete without the food. All food in the general admission area as well as the VIP area was included and we chowed down at several tents in order to maintain our ability to continue sampling many more great brews. We visited Brushfire B-B-Q, Wing Stop and Zona 78  for some great grub. Inside the VIP was more great food including a catered steak dinner from Desert Diamond Casino Steakhouse, pasta from Brio Tuscan Grille, gyros from My Big Fat Greek Restaurant and clam chowder from Trident Grill.

When the sun set and night fell on Hi Corbett field, the crowd swelled into the thousands with beer lines growing longer and longer, but I would have to say the longest line for most of the night was Tucson’s newest brewery and recently crowned “Best Beer in Tucson”  for their IPA – Dragoon Brewing Co.  They had their IPA as well as the Ojo Blanco witbier but for those in the know, the real draw was for their very limited offering of “The Uno.” This Russian Imperial Stout was first brewed and served in their tasting room over the summer and it blew my mind. With a full body and complex flavor profile, this beer has quickly become one of my favorite Arizona beers joining the aforementioned Hop Knot and Devil’s Ale. Coming in at a hefty 10.4 ABV and 92 IBU’s this rich brew has flavors of spice, coffee & toffee. The Uno was so popular that they had a line solely for it’s tapping at 8pm and it was gone within 20 minutes.

The Crowd at Tucson Beer Festival

For the non-Arizona beers, I was excited to see if any of the larger breweries brought something special with them for the good people of Tucson to try. I looked no further than O’Dell Brewing Co. The Ft. Collins, CO brewery brought a firkin of their original IPA with peach added – this was a nice, flavorful beer but still big and bold with 7.0 % ABV and 60 IBUs. I came back for seconds after about an hour later only to find out that it was long gone. It was then that I had my first winter beer of the season as they were serving their Isolation Ale. Other traditional favorites that we enjoyed were the Deviant Dale’s IPA from Oskar Blues, the Little Sumpin’ Wild Ale from Lagunitas and the Oaktoberfest from Firestone Walker.

As the night went on and the beers were becoming more and more scarce, I ran in to some buddies from local radio station KLPXLocal celebrities “Sherm” the morning show producer and rock beauty Beth Simmons were in attendance with a rowdy group of peeps that I was introduced to and enjoyed getting to know. Beth’s husband seemed enamored with my flashing necklace from the VIP tent so I offered it up to him in the act of new friendship. What a great guy, he just got out of the Army and we talked about our military service. I look forward to talking with them again, perhaps a spot on the Frank Show as the resident beer expert, let’s see what the future holds. All in all, it was a great evening but it ended entirely too soon with last call coming at 9:30 and last pour around 9:40 – by closing time of 10pm, the only people left were the band 80’s and Gentlemen.

I understand that it was a long day with vendors arriving around 2pm, but I wish that they had continued pouring up until 10, we came prepared with our designated driver and wanted to continue for at least another 20 minutes.  Perhaps this is something that can looked into for future festivals, but I must say everybody in our group had a great time for a great cause, Sun Sounds of Arizona.

Great Tucson Beer Festival

Attention all suds seekers, hop heads and those just looking for a lovely evening under the stars with good friends and great beer. Sun Sounds of Arizona is back at again with the Tucson edition of the Great Arizona Beer Festival at Hi Corbett Field this Saturday, October 6th.

Sun Sounds of Arizona is a radio reading and information access service for people who cannot read print due to a disability. Each of the three beer festivals statewide The Great Arizona Beer Festival in Tempe, the Made in the Shade Tasting Festival and the Great Tucson Beer Festival are locally organized fund raising events for Sun Sounds and ALL proceeds benefit the community outreach program based out of Rio Salado College with location in the three above listed locations as well as Yuma.

As per usual, this year’ s event will be at Hi Corbett Field, the multi-use baseball stadium in midtown Tucson that used to be the Spring Training home of the Colorado Rockies a litany of other minor league teams that have come and gone. We have attended the past couple years and have learned the hard way that this is a VERY popular event and although the price may be a little steep, VIP tickets are the only way to go in order to truly enjoy the festival. For our first festival, we had general admission and arrived around 5:30 pm as the gates opened at 6pm.  Much to our disappointment, half the population of Tucson had already arrived. Do yourselves a favor and buy the VIP tickets, you will thank me later.

Drink Local

The Best Arizona Has to Offer

The next and every subsequent year, we have purchased the VIP tickets and have had a great evening. There is a separate gate for VIP ticket holders that open an entire hour earlier than general admission. This way, we can arrive right around 5pm and only have to wait 10-15 minutes to get in and start enjoying beers…with little or no lines. There is also incredible complimentary food and even a wine garden inside the VIP section. Providing the food this year for the VIP section are My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, May’s Counter Chicken & Waffles, Desert Diamond Steakhouse and Brio Tucson Grille.  There are also several beer booths inside the VIP area but I suggest arriving early and hitting all the craft brews in the main area before the onslaught of general admission festival goers arrive. Then once the crowds get too long, head back to the VIP area for short lines, more food and your very own port-a-pottys.

Speaking of the all the beers available, it looks like it will be an Arizona Craft Beer lover’s dream. With 17 entrants from all over the state, they will all be there ready to turn on new people to their great brews or to keep the regulars properly hydrated.

METRO PHOENIX AREA

  • Four Peaks – Tempe
  • SanTan – Chandler
  • Sonoran – Scottsdale
  • Sleepy Dog – Tempe
  • Phoenix Ale – Phoenix

 

TUCSON AREA

  • Dragoon Brewery
  • Barrio Brewery
  • Nimbus Brewery
  • Borderlands Brewing
  • Thunder Canyon Brewery
  • 1702 – The Address Brewing

 

 

STATEWIDE

  • Dave’s Electric Brewing – Bisbee
  • Old Bisbee Brewing – Bisbee
  • Grand Canyon Brewing – Williams
  • Lumberyard Brewery – Flagstaff
  • Mudshark Brewery – Lake Havasu City
  • Mogollon Brewing – Flagstaff

National and Worldwide favorites will be spread throughout the outfield as well as in the entryway under the 3rd base grandstands. If you are looking for some of the best craft beers, I suggest that you try to taste as many as you can from our great local breweries, but if you are looking to branch out of AZ, you can’t go wrong with the following:

  • Dogfish Head Brewing – Milton, DE
  • Oskar Blues Brewery – Lyons, CO
  • Lagunitas Brewing – Petaluma, CA
  • Stone Brewing Co. – Escondido, CA

The beers are the big draw, but there will be a ton of food as well as local restaurants, so do your part for the local economy and buy local. Tucson favorites Eegee’s, Zona 78, Trident Grill, Brushfire B-B-Q, Risky Business and RJ’s Replays will be serving up their delectable dishes. Entertainment for the night will be provided throughout the evening by 80’s and Gentlemen playing all the best in New Wave and Pop hits from the greatest generation of music. There will also be plenty of other areas to be enjoyed including a cigar booth, a tattoo booth(just showing their work, not giving), a horseshoe pit, Beep Ball and a stationary Steer Roping contest.
So put on your drinking pants, get your cab or designated driver on standby and prepare for an enjoyable evening knowing that you are helping out a great cause in Sun Sounds of Arizona.
Cheers!

Pac 12 Basketball: A New Season, A New Champion?

The upcoming Pac-12 Conference Men’s Basketball season is rapidly approaching and everybody is dying to know…just how good are the Arizona Wildcats and UCLA Bruins? I will be taking an in-depth look at both schools as well as making my predictions on where the others schools in the Pac will finish and what the upcoming season has in store.

12. Washington State Cougars – Are the Cougars really that bad are or they just the victim of a small town where nobody wants to attend? I have been to Pullman and I don’t ever plan on returning, coach Ken Bone may be joining me in this sentiment after another disappointing season. The Cougars have already lost senior guard Reggie Moore due to dismissal and Que Johnson will have to redshirt after being ruled academically ineligible.

11. Utah Utes – What was once a storied program in the past has struggled mightily since the Sweet 16 team of 2005. The newly revamped Utes will feature 10 new players including former LSU guard Aaron Dotson. Coach Larry Krystowiak will have a monster job trying to find some cohesiveness with so many new players and team building will be paramount.

10. USC Trojans – After an abysmal 2011-12 season wherein the Trojans won only one Conference game and lost their final 10 games of the season, Kevin O’ Neill has reason to believe that this Trojans team can be much improved. They have recently added Former Rice standout Omar Oraby, a 7-2, 270 center from Cairo, Egypt. Oraby has applied for a hardship waiver to play this year. The big man only started four games at Rice but holds the school record for most blocks in a season with 54.

Freshman Phenom Jahii Carson

9. Arizona State Sun Devils – Herb Sendek has done an admirable job with the cards he has been dealt. That is the true measure of a great coach but it just isn’t going to enough to get over the hump in a major conference with a perennial Championship team 90 miles to the south. The addition of redshirt freshman Jahii Carson will help but the departures of Trent Lockett & Kyle Cain will make this team nothing more than a work in progress. The addition of former NBA Head Coach Eric Musselman will help…just not soon enough for the Devils.

8. Oregon State Beavers – The Beavers are looking to build on last year’s 21 win season but will have to focus more on the Conference games after only winning 7 of 18. They had a successful trip overseas going 4-0 with a 15 point average margin of victory. Coach Craig Robinson recently received a contract extension through the 2017 season and has already had one of his recruits head to the NBA in Jared Cunningham. The Beavers are returning four starters as well as two seniors, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt.

7. Washington Huskies – Coach Lorenzo Ramar has seen the early exit of his top two scorers in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross and will look to change his primary offensive scheme to the high-post halfcourt game. It will be difficult to not only run with new players but to switch out from a high-octane style offense that has served the Huskies well in the past. This will most likely be to their detriment in the upcoming season, but we shall see.

6. Oregon Ducks – It is hard to believe that a team that won 24 games last year and went 13-5 in Conference will be finishing 6th in the Pac this year, but hear me out. Coach Dana Altman has his work cut out for him in the upcoming season with only six returning players and two starters. E. J. Singler is a phenomenal player but he will will not be enough to carry this team into the upper echelon of a tough Conference.

Will the Cardinal Sink in Atlantis?

5. Stanford Cardinal – The Cardinal are going to be tough this year, but their schedule is going to be tougher. Hosting one of the best mid-major programs in recent memory, Belmont is returning 11 players from a team that compiled 27 wins last year and won the Atlantic Sun Conference for 4 of the past 5 years. The Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament on Paradise Island, Bahamas features some of the best college programs in the country. Their fist game will be against 30-win team in Missouri that was a No. 2 seed in last year’s tournament. Also in the tournament are Duke, Memphis, Louisville and Mid-Major powerhouse Virginia Commonwealth. After that grueling contest, they will have to go on the road to face NC State and Northwestern.

4. Colorado Buffaloes – After a surprising first year in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes beat the heavily favored Arizona Wildcats in a squeaker and won the 2012 Conference Tournament in dramatic fashion. With only one senior and 5 returning players, Coach Tad Boyle will have a difficult road to hoe. Fortunately for him, the non-conference schedule for the Buffs looks to be on the light end. This is great for team morale getting easy wins against Charleston or Boston College, but bad when it comes to their R.P.I. It’s not all cupcakes for Colorado as they have to travel to Lawrence to play a tough Kansas team.

3. California Golden Bears – The Bears have a daunting non-conference schedule in front of them this season including Creighton (29 wins), Wisconsin(26) , UNLV(26) and Harvard(26). They will face a total of 12 teams with at least 20 wins and five teams that were invited to the NCAA Tournament in 2012. I believe that they the Bears will do well in these tough match-ups which will launch them into a solid finish in the Conference as well as a Tournament invitation to boot.

2. UCLA Bruins – With arguably one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, embattled coach Ben Howland‘s future in Westwood relies on his incoming class of question marks. Tony Parker has been cleared to play but two of the highest rated freshmen this year Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson are still pending clearance to get on the court. The necessity of these two is imperative for UCLA to maintain it’s elite status and if they are cleared, they will give the Bruins the needed push to overtake Arizona, but for now – they are behind the Cats.

New Arizona Wildcat Grant Jerrett
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

1. Arizona Wildcats – Coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats enter the preseason rankings at #8 and with good reason thanks to one of the strongest recruiting classes in the country – that are all eligible. The main addition was in the big men, three five-star players are now in Tucson. Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jarret and Brandon Ashley join an experienced team of five seniors including stand outs Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom. Their non-conference schedule is lighter than most and prior to the Diamond Head classic in Honolulu, they only have to play two games outside of McKale Center where they are nearly unbeatable.

I really can’t see any other team other than UCLA or Arizona taking the Conference this year, but like any other sports, the upsets are fun. The unheard of late season runs by an underrated team with guts and heart that dig deep and impress everybody is what sports is all about to this writer. Those type of stories are unpredictable but rest assured, if there is anything happening in the Pac, I will know about it and have an opinion on it. I look forward to this season with optimism thanks to some great recruiting classes, incredible coaches and intense rivalries in this oft-disregarded conference.

West’s Best Bets – The “Not So” Civil War

Welcome back to the second installment of the West’s Best Bets, this week we are traveling down the I-5 through the weirdest city in America en route to Corvallis, Oregon – the home of Oregon State University and their beloved Beavers.

I am just going to say it, Portland and the state of Oregon is weird. I remember growing up in the 70’s and seeing full-serve versus self-serve gas stations but I found out that it was illegal to pump your own gas…and they literally go berserk if you touch a gas pump. I had heard all of the stories that Portland was strange and I moved quickly through the hippy Mecca on my way to my happy place -a college town with keg stands, $2 PBR’s and frolicking co-eds.

This week’s competition begins in the small-ish town of Corvallis located a couple miles west of the interstate and is the home to Oregon State University, a sprawling 400-acre campus located in the southwest portion of the city that is situated in the middle of the Willamette Valley which is equidistant to the coastline on the west and the Cascade mountain range on the east. The judging begins…

Dominant Baseball Team

Athletics Teams

 

    1. Football – Bowl Record of 10-5 with a Rose Bowl record of 1-2 and five Conference Championships.
    1. Men’s Basketball – 16 tournament appearances, six Sweet Sixteens and two Final Fours. 20 regular season Championships and a CBI Championship in 2009.
    1. Baseball – 13 Tournament appearances, four College World Series appearances and back to back Championships in 2006 and 2007 along with 22 regular season Conference Championships.
    1. National Championships in Wrestling and Men’s Cross Country.

With the exception of the incredible back to back Championships in baseball, the teams of OSU haven’t done much in the past couple decades, for this I award Oregon State University 20 out of a possible 30 points.

2007 Playmate of the Year – Sarah Jean Underwood

Women
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of beautiful women on campus. It must be the whole global and environmental awareness of Oregon that brings out the “hotties in hoodies” in Corvallis. It is no surprise that two Playboy Playmates of the Year have come from Oregon State including Jodi Ann Peterson in 2000 and Sara Jean Underwood in 2007 – 22 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs
For a town with some 50,000 residents and a student population of roughly half of that, Corvallis and Oregon State has a great number of local hangouts and breweries including national favorites Deschutes Brewery, Widmer Brothers, Rogue & Full Sail Brewing Company within 100 miles in any direction – 17 out of 20 possible points.

Weather

You Gotta Love the Goonies

Corvallis has a strange temperature thing going on, it is most always overcast, but the rain doesn’t fall as much as it does up in Washington. About an hour drive to the beach or coastline, because it isn’t too “beachy” – remember “The Goonies?” At an elevation of only 235 feet above sea level, the temperature rarely gets into the 90’s in the summer but does average 5 inches of snowfall annually – 8 out of 15 possible points.

Academics
The State of Oregon’s largest public research university and is one of only two universities in the country to have Land, Sea, Sun & Space Grant designations. The school ranks #4 among sustainable universities for using renewable energy. They rank #1 nationally in five separate programs. The incoming GPA in 2012 was 3.53 and they have a presence in all 36 counties in Oregon – 7 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 74%

Your Oregon State Beavers

Leaving Corvallis with a smile on my face, I head back to the I-5 and head an hour south to Eugene and the University of Oregon. For as big as Oregon is, coming in as the 9th largest state in the Union, the population is concentrated along the interstate with 80% within 20 miles on the 110 mile stretch from Portland to Eugene. The city of Eugene is the 2nd most populous city in the state and is the birthplace of Nike, which has since moved to Beaverton in the metro Portland area.

“Some” of the New Football Uniforms

Athletics Teams

    1. Football – 1 National Championship appearance, Bowl Record of 10-15 with six Rose Bowl appearances, winning two and 10 Conference Championships.
    1. Men’s Basketball – 10 tournament appearances, four Sweet Sixteens, one Final Four and one National Championship in 1939 as well as a CBI Championship in 2011. They have four regular season Championships and two Conference Tournament Championships.
    1. Baseball – 4 Tournament appearances and one College World Series appearance.
    1. 19 total National Championships including Cross Country and Track & Field for the Men & Women.

The University of Oregon football team is currently ranked the #2 team in the country and has been a force to be reckoned with since 2000. Prior to that, the only thing that UO was famous for was their track teams. Rose Bowl appearances and a National Championship in Basketball in the 30’s and 40’s but a long 60 year stretch where nothing happened of note- for this I award the University of Oregon 20 out of a possible 30 points.

FOX Sports’ Amanda Pflugrad in College

Women
I have been in love with the University of Oregon cheerleaders for quite some time now. How would I hear of UO cheerleaders in the desert you may ask? Arizona State football player Aaron Pflugrad has a twin sister, Amanda who was a UO cheerleader and current Fox Sports mega-babe. I could go on for days about the lovely ladies in Eugene but I have to stop myself– 24 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs
The Eugene-Springfield metro area has over 300,000 residents and a student population of approximately 25,000 students. UO students will not have a problem finding a great place to sit back and watch the game with a bunch of friends and brews or even fancy it up a bit with a higher class of restaurants and brewpubs. As mentioned before there are several breweries statewide yet Eugene has many of their very own including Ninkasi Brewing Company, Steelhead Brewing Company & Oakshire Brewing18 out of 20 possible points.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Weather
Surrounded by forest land to the south, east & west you would expect Eugene to be a winter haven. Yet, at an elevation of only 426 feet above sea level, the temperature rarely gets into the 90’s in the summer and has less rain and snow than Corvallis to the north which is basically in flat, farming land. The city center of Eugene has an urban heat island due to the asphalt which rises the temps a little as well – 8 out of 15 possible points.

Academics
The University of Oregon offers nearly 300 academic programs with more than 25 research centers and institutes statewide including locations in Portland, on the coast in Charleston and atop Pine Mountain. The incoming GPA in 2012 was 3.59 and a median class size of only 19 students for the hands on personal experience. Former students include Nike founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, the CEO’s of Columbia Sportswear, Palm, Inc. and Gucci as well as the Principal Owner of the Golden State Warriors and the General Manager of the New Orleans Saints – 7 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 77%

The Ducks Quacked Out a Slim Victory


This was a lot closer than I thought it was going to with the University of Oregon taking the slim victory of Oregon State University. The breweries and the women really do justice for the state of Oregon or at least that 110 mile stretch from Portland to Eugene. If you are environmentally conscious and looking for a little bit of weirdness in your college, city and lifestyle, you can’t do much better than the two state universities, but ultimately, UO emerges the victor based on my criteria.

Arizona State Football: Injured Sun Devils Expected to Play Against Oregon State

Arizona State Football needs all the help that it can get right now. After consecutive home losses to the No. 4 Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins, the Sun Devils need a big bounce-back victory to save their season. Injuries on the defensive side were piling up, but it looks like there is hope on the horizon with two standouts ready to return to action against Oregon State tomorrow night in Corvallis.

Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said Thursday that defensive star Will Sutton will most likely play on Saturday against No. 13 Oregon State after injuring himself in the first defensive series against Oregon on October 18th.

Sutton, the all-everything player for Arizona State, was on a tear through the season and was arguably one of the best defensive tackles not only in the conference but also in the country. Even after missing two straight games, he has 40 tackles, and his 8.5 sacks rank him tied for third in the nation; his 14 tackles-for-loss are fifth.He was also recently added to the Maxwell Award Watch List, an honor that is given out annually to the nation’s most outstanding college player.

Graham said that he feels Sutton will be able to play about 75 percent of the game while rebuilding his strength. He has been limited in practice since the injury but having Sutton at 75 percent is likely better than most DT’s in the country at 100 percent, so this is more than good news; this is incredible news for Arizona State Football.

Defensive end Junior Onyeali is also expected to return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him in the Oregon game as well. Onyeali, the 2010 Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year, is looking to redeem himself after an abysmal sophomore year. After a knee injury sidelined him for four weeks last year, Onyeali was involved in a shouting match with then-coach Dennis Erickson and was suspended indefinitely.
With the arrival of new coach Todd Graham, Onyeali’s suspension was upheld until he proved that he belonged on the team and respected the authority of the coach. Onyeali was reinstated prior to the season and has showed that he is a fighter and will do whatever is necessary for coach Graham and his teammates.

Also expected to play is linebacker Steffon Martin, who injured his elbow, and starting guard Andrew Sampson, who missed last week with an ankle injury, will be a game-time decision.

If this Arizona State team can get healthy and stay healthy, they can win in Corvallis. The Beavers struggled mightily against Washington last week with quarterback Sean Mannion returning from injury to throw four interceptions.

Their run game 111th in the country so I don’t see them establishing anything against ASU. However, Sun Devils stud running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice are experiencing breakout seasons and I see another upset ready to shake the foundations of the Top 25.

West’s Best Bets – Apple of My Eye

Welcome to the first installment of the West’s Best Bets. Today, we begin our ultimate road trip in the Pacific Northwest when we touch-down in the Emerald City – Seattle, Washington.
Home to the one of the oldest public universities on the West Coast is the University of Washington which lies on 10 acres in downtown Seattle. Best known for its rainy weather, coffee and fish markets, Seattle and the University of Washington are absolutely gorgeous…when the sun is out.
Now on to the criteria:

Athletics Teams

  • Football – 4 National Championships, Bowl Record of 16-14-1 with seven Rose Bowl victories and 15 Conference Championships.
  • Men’s Basketball – 16 tournament appearances, five Sweet Sixteens and one Final Four. 20 regular season championships and three Conference Tournament Championships.
  • Softball – 3 Conference Championships, 19 Tournament appearances, 10 WCWS appearances and a National Championship in 2009.
  • Baseball – 8 Tournament appearances
  • 67 National Championships in other sports with Swimming & Diving, Rowing & Track & Field all in double digits.

The sheer number of titles and championships date back to the 1920’s and as recent as this year in Rowing is outstanding and a true testament to their Championship mentality. I award the University of Washington 25 out of a possible 30 points.

Women

UW alum Anna Faris

With the exception of US Women’s soccer gold medal winning goalie, Hope Solo and actress Anna Faris; the women at the University of Washington didn’t really stand out too much. They seemed a little too wrapped up in their galoshes and umbrellas but there was an underlying hotness that if they were on a beach, all that would change. – 19 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

Since the University of Washington is in the heart of downtown Seattle and the city basically grew around the University, there are plenty of bars nearby, but they are not all necessarily college bars. In the downtown area alone, your typical college student looking to watch the game or just throw back a beer has numerous options. There are also several breweries in the city including the world famous Pyramid Breweries – 18 out of 20 possible points.

Weather

Everybody knows about the constant rain in Seattle, but when it is not raining, it is absolutely beautiful. Located in between Portage and Union Bays, the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much, rarely going into the 90’s in the summer or below freezing in the winter – 10 out of 15 possible points.

Is Washington HOT enough?


Academics

The University currently has 136 Fulbright Scholars and 35 Rhodes Scholars and awarded over 14,000 degrees last year including 723 Doctoral and 528 Professional degrees – 8 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 80%

Across the state of Washington near the border of Idaho lies the little town of Pullman. This farming town has a population of just over 27, 000 and has a student population of approximately the same over four campuses. This northwestern gem is a Mecca for athletes and students that can focus on their studies or hone their athleticism without the hustle & bustle of the big city…or even a medium sized one.

Athletics Teams

  • Football – Bowl Record of 6-4 with 4 Conference Championships.
  • Men’s Basketball – 6 tournament appearances, one Sweet Sixteen and one Final Four as well as two regular season championships.
  • 2 National Championships in boxing and Men’s Track and Field.
  • Nowhere near the level of amount of Championships as their cross-state rival, but they dominate the nearby University of Idaho in Moscow. I award Washington State University – 15 out of a possible 30 points.

    Women

    And she’s the hot one


    Not much going on here- 13 out of 25 possible points.

    Local Bars & Pubs

    Once again, disappointed – 10 out of 20 possible points.

    Weather
    Located in the southwestern portion of the state in farming country, Pullman and WSU experience much colder winters including snow storms and freezing temperatures. Being that is surrounded by what is called the Palouse prairie with rolling hills, their summers also tend to be hot and dry – 7 out of 15 possible points.

    Academics
    The school’s latest numbers show that the average GPA of incoming freshmen is 3.34 and an average SAT score of 1070. They offer 47 doctoral degrees and 2 Professional degrees – 5 out of 10 possible points.

    FINAL GRADE 50%

    An overwhelming victory for the University of Washington Huskies much like the lopsided history of the Apple Cup itself which UW leads 67-31. If you are looking to go to school in Washington and are torn, take a good look at this list to help you with your decision. If you are like myself and looking for a good college party town then Seattle and U-Dub has it going on.

    Bring on the Cheerleaders!

    Conference Uprising

    For many years, the West Coast bias has run rampant…and with good reason. After adding two teams to the Pacific 10 Conference with Utah and Colorado and finally adding a Championship Game, 2011 was supposed to be the Year of the Pac. NOPE. With Southern Cal serving a post season suspension and Arizona State taking a huge nosedive to end their season, UCLA ended up backing into the Championship Game after being humiliated 50-0 at home by cross town rival USC and unceremoniously lost to the North contender and eventual Conference champion, Oregon. The Bowl season was an utter disaster with the Conference finishing 2-5 with the only bright spots being Oregon beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Utah beating Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Washington came out on the losing side of one of the most exciting bowl games 67-56 to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl and Stanford missed a crucial field goal at the end of regulation to Oklahoma State and then lost in overtime. Those games were at least close…UCLA lost to Illinois in the all important Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and Arizona State was decimated and downright humiliated by Boise St. in the Las Vegas Bowl.

    Hope Springs eternal on the left coast and with the launch of the Pac-12 Network and the big money contract behind it, four Pac schools went out to hire a new coach to remedy their current standing. Mike Leach went to Washington State, Jim Mora, Jr. to UCLA, Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham hit the desert at Arizona and Arizona State respectively. But will that change the dynamic of the conference? After the first month of 2012, seven teams have received votes and six are in the TOP 25, I offer up the new power conference.

    Can the Ducks Keep it up?


    Oregon is undefeated and ranked #2 in the country in both the AP & USA Today/Coaches poll. They survived 1st half scares by Arizona and Washington State but turned on the gas in the 2nd half of both games and handily won those match-ups. Their schedule looks to get a little tougher with Washington & Arizona State in the upcoming weeks and going on the road to USC and the “Civil War” will be played this year in Corvallis.

    Will Their Soft Schedule Affect Their Ranking in the BCS?


    Speaking of USC, they were ranked as high as #2 but went on to lose to Stanford in week 3. They have had a rather weak schedule and are currently ranked 12/13 and their upcoming schedule seems to be a cakewalk playing at Utah and Arizona and hosting Colorado. But it will get tougher visiting Washington and UCLA and hosting Oregon and Notre Dame – all ranked teams. Their National Title hopes were put out to dry by Stanford and they must win out to impress the voters as well as the computers.

    In-N-Out Powered?


    There is a new energy in Corvallis… always looked on as the little brother of powerhouse Oregon an hour southeast, Oregon State is also undefeated with big wins over Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona. Their upcoming schedule looks to be quite friendly only having to go on the road for three more games and they are all in the near vicinty; Provo, Seattle and Palo Alto. They host upstart Arizona State and the aforementioned Oregon, but everybody knows just how hard it is to go in to Reser Stadium and walk out with the W. The Beavers are a force to be reckoned and although only 3-0 due to an opening game postponement against Nicholls St., I believe they should be ranked a lot higher than 14/17, or maybe that is just the #beaverjuice talking.

    Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde?


    Stanford has taken its fan on a roller coaster ride this year…and October just started! They opened up the season with a squeaker win against the cross-town team from San Jose State, they went on to destroy Duke and beat then #2 USC. Their first road game of the year had them travelling to Seattle and having the undefeated #8 ranking shoved down their throats by the Huskies. The roller coaster ride looks to continue for the Cardinal faithful as they host Arizona and Washington State but still have to travel to Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA. They are currently ranked at #18 on both polls and should remain in the Top 20 after Arizona visits this weekend.

    Are They Lost Amidst the Oregon Schools?


    What a brutal stretch for the Huskies! They traveled to Baton Rouge in Week 2 and only managed a field goal against the Bayou Bengals, but then beat up Stanford at home. The next two weekends will not be any easier when they travel to Autzen Stadium to take on the #2 Ducks and then host #13 USC – the top two pre-season ranked teams in the conference. If they can manage a win against either of those teams, they will be ranked for the rest of the season as the month of November will be considerably easier hosting Cal, Colorado and Washington State while only having to travel to Salt Lake City to face the Utes. They are currently ranked at #23 in the AP and #26 in the USA Today but I don’t expect them to get past Oregon or USC and will have some to work to do.

    Will The New Look Bruins Prevail?

    UCLA beat Nebraska with a redshirt freshman quarterback…let that sink in a little bit. Chandler, Arizona’s own Brett Hundley passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns in his Rose Bowl debut. They have since beat Houston and Colorado. They weren’t ready for the power of Sean Mannion and the Oregon State Beavers and lost their opening game of the Pac-12 season. After throttling Colorado in Boulder, the Bruins are looking to power beyond the #25 and #28 rankings in the AP & USA Today polls. The middle of their schedule looks a little lean with games at Cal and Washington State while hosting Utah and Arizona. Their last two games will define their season against cross-town rival USC and Stanford. I predict that they will finish with 8 wins and qualify for a mid-tier bowl game.

    Can ASU Win the South?


    As a proud alum and season ticket holder of Arizona State for the past decade, I have seen it all before. The heartbreaking end zone interception in Missouri, the absolute domination of Illinois and Utah, the ability to win on the road in Berkeley, but I am not sold, not just yet. The Sun Devils always start off strong, but always tank down the stretch. Last year they started 6-2 and were assured a spot in the Pac-12 Championship had they not lost their last four games. The icing on the cake was getting demolished in the Las Vegas Bowl by Boise State. There is reason to be somewhat optimistic, the addition of new head coach Todd Graham. If they win in 10 days at Colorado, they will need to hunker down for a difficult stretch against four ranked teams; at home vs. Oregon and UCLA then going on the road against Oregon State and USC. The tail end of their schedule lightens up as they host Washington State and travel to enemy territory and take on the University of Arizona in Tucson for the Territorial Cup.

    “Arizona Foot League Championship 1899 Normal”


    One of the nation’s oldest and most heated rivalry, this post -Thanksgiving Day game is always a tough fought battle and ironically most often won by the team with the worse record. Playing the spoiler is what rivalry games are all about…no?