Peachy Paterno? 2011 Penn State Preview

It's not easy to preview your own team. Especially as you know that they'll drive you mad until early December, not doing what you want them to do and driving you mad mistakes. Unfortunately, that's why you love them - why would you root for a team that spends season after season never losing and never driving you crazy?

Anyway, Penn State's got one thing perfect: The crowd at night games. You couldn't get a better atmosphere than at Happy Valley - SEC schools be damned!


We don't know who should be Penn State's starting quarterback - and nor does Joe Paterno. He's announced that on Saturday's clash with Indiana State that both Matt "Moxie" McGloin and Robert "I'm stopping you transferring" Bolden will start. In truth - against ISU - it doesn't actually matter who will start, since we don't expect PSU to do anything apart from run the ball in the 4th quarter. This isn't the first time this has happened - but this year we're not expecting too much out of either.

Running Backs

Everyone's going to be talking about Silas Redd this season, and we expect him to rip up the division - if he stays fit. Brandon Beachum and Stephfon Green will provide quite an admirable duo to back him up, but this year, it's all about being a 'Redd Head'. Do not be surprised if you see the Penn State student section all dressed up like hippies in honour of him. I know I would....

Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends

If the quarterbacks throw to him properly, I'm really, really excited about Derek Moye this season. He's a great wide receiver that would cause any secondary problems - and we'll see how good he is against Alabama, where we expect him to get 'the treatment' on Week 2. Justin Brown and Devon Smith are also going to cause some problems.
TEs-wise, the Lions are really going to miss Greg 'Amish Lightning' Zug, and will be hoping that Nate Cadogan and Kevin Haplea can fit the bill. Both ends are giants -which McGloin/Bolden will need to stop the waves and waves of 'Bama Blitzes in Week 2 and for the rest of the year.

Offensive Line

For years we've made some horrible remarks about the Penn State offensive line, but last year the line wasn't awful - the quarterbacks did have the time, they just didn't do very well. John Urschel will be the man tasked with taking the place of star offensive linesman Stefan Wisniewski. Chima Okoli, De'Ontae Pannell, Johnnie Troutman, Mike Stankiewitch, and Quinn Barnham will also be tasked with having good years, but we'll see how good they are against Alabama. Sorry to show too much concentration on the team, but you'll understand what I'm saying at around 10pm on Week 2, after the Tide and Lions have played their 'Brawl At the Beaver'.

Defensive Line

As usual, we're not too worried about Tom Bradley's defense. Linebackers Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, and Nate Stupar could potentially get Penn State to 'Linebacker U' status after a poor 2010, while defensive ends Jack Crawford and Kevion Latham and tackles Devon Still and Jordan Hill have to perform to be able to stop teams with good running games (Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska etc).


It's funny, because the secondary's another place where we're rude about the coaching. Maybe it's because we miss Alan Zemaitis and Calvin Lowry from the 2005-6 Big Ten Championship/Orange Bowl-winning side, or maybe it's because we just don't trust them. Anyway, last year's wasn't horrible and Chaz Powell and D'Anton Lynn could be speedy returners if they manage to snag a signal-caller's wayward throw. Speedster Powell - who will also double up as a punt returner - could be a great 'Greg Reid at Florida State-type' weapon to have. Safeties Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay are good, experienced tacklers - even if they going to be Eric Berry anytime soon in the NFL.

Special Teams

Powell's going to be doing the returning, which means that there are going to be some fun returns - especially if the blocking game does its job. We expect some good field position for this year! Alex Butterworth will be Penn State's punter this season, while Anthony Fera will be expected to put the ball between the posts. Let's hope he succeeds.


Now that Penn State's in The Dumbest Name For A Division Of A Conference (Legends. Or is it Leaders?), the schedule gods have not looked kindly on us. Sure, Penn State could be 3-1 after its first four games (we're not predicting a win over Alabama - sorry!), but then it's games against Iowa and Purdue (both of which won't be easy), a potential banana skin against Heisman Trophy Contender Dan Persa and Northwestern, a home game against an Illinois team which is unfancied but still dangerous, and a final home game against a Big Ten favourite and a mobile quarterback, Nebraska. And then, it's lovely easy trips to Ohio State for the second time in two years, and Wisconsin, where doubtless both teams will be battling it out for a divisional title. It could get ugly.

PREDICTION: Penn State gets through some, but not all. A 9-3 season.

10 College Football Predictions

1. Wisconsin - with Montee Ball as running back - will win the Big Ten despite the fact that everyone's talking up the likes of Nebraska. Ohio State and Michigan will be the dark horses for the division - although everyone's eyes about the Big Ten is going to be on Penn State's Week 2 match-up with Alabama. The favourites have Alabama as a nailed-on favourite. Sadly, we'd tend to agree.

2. Oregon - despite losing cornerback/punt returner Cliff Harris to suspension - will lose to LSU on the opening day of the season in an absolute classic. Everyone's talking up the speed on Oregon's offense and speedy diminutive running back LaMichael James, but they don't have an offensive line that can deal with LSU's defence, which is as solid as they come. Plus- and here's the kicker, LSU might be without quarterback Jordan Jefferson (also due to suspension), LSU's solid running game are going absolutely pound Oregon's defence and not give the offense the chance to get on the field. Oregon might be able to score quickly, but LSU is pretty darned good too. Maybe that's because both teams are No.4 and No.5 in the nation.

3. Saying all of this, Oregon will win the Pac-12 and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl. Here's the reason: They are the best team in the league. However, USC's a very, very good dark horse and QB Matt Barkley's going to be a solid NFL player. Plus, their cheerleaders have already got the National Championship sewn up!

4. Oklahoma will win the Big XII. Landry Jones is a great quarterback, and Ryan Broyles is going to punish every defence he plays at wide receiver. Yes kids, he's that good. Oklahoma is top-ranked in the nation.

5. Now that Miami has been beset by problems, we think it's going to be Florida State who win the ACC this year, beating Virginia Tech in the title game.

6. For those of you who care about the Big East in anything other than basketball, West Virginia will win the conference. So there you go.

7. College football will completely disrupted by Texas A&M's decision to go to the SEC. Texas A&M's move to the SEC continues some seismic shifts in college football, that at the end of the day, creates some super conferences that no-one will enjoy. Why? It's all about the TV money, stupid. Frankly, we're stunned that the SEC would take Texas A&M, because we think they would be a pretty forgettable SEC player with a TV market (ie teams that are interested) who cares about Texas A&M Football. If we're honest, Texas is the biggest team in Texas. Texas will then announce a decision to play Notre Dame on Thanksgiving, screwing up one of the best rivalry games of the Thanksgiving weekend.

8. Speaking of the SEC, the competition continues to be absolutely outrageous in football's best conference. We know that people don't like us saying it (we were accused on 'drinking the Kool-Aid' by a writer we know after a pro-SEC article written for Sky it, but it's still the most competitive conference - if you ignore Vanderbilt, Kentucky and (this year), Ole Miss, who are going to be forgettable. Anyway, in the SEC East we think South Carolina - despite losing to Georgia (on the second week of the season) because they'll beat Florida and Florida (once again) will beat Georgia in the "Biggest Cocktail Party In The World". In the SEC West, it's not easy to choose between Alabama, LSU and dark horse Mississippi State (we still can't believe we're saying this). Auburn won't compete for a title (after losing Cameron Newton to the NFL this year), but they'll be competitive. We're going with Alabama, because their talented running back Trent Richardson and their defensive talent is absolutely frightening. Plus, Nick Saban (or 'Satan', as he's known in some college football circles), is one of the best coaches in the sport.

9. Winning the SEC will be Alabama. There you go there. That'll make sure Alabama goes to the National Championship Game....

10. Where they will be play Oklahoma in the National Title Game.....And beat them.

Songs Of The South: SEC Preview

For the last five year, there's been a SEC National Champion. And all this success has led to everyone and his wife wanted to be part of the conference (OK, Texas A&M!). The money helps too. Anyway, 2011's no difference. And instead of unfancied Auburn, everyone's talking about Alabama, Alabama, Alabama.

1. Will it be 'Bama Time' in New Orleans?

Despite the fact that the Crimson Tide has lost an awful lot of talent - including quarterback Greg McElroy, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back/Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram. We can expect the new quarterback to hand the ball off to RB Trent Richardson, who's going to put some holes in opposition defenses. We also anticipate that the Crimson Tide are going to have a defense to die for, led by linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

2. South Carolina, anyone?

Everyone's talked up the SEC West, but I'll throw this one out there: The SEC East has got some good teams - and this one in Columbia is going to be the one to beat. QB Stephen Garcia (and all the problems he brings with him) is back, as is his favorite target, wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey. We are also a believer in RB Marcus Lattimore, who's going to cause some destruction down the middle. In the off-season, everyone's been talking about DE Jadevon Clowney, but will he start? Melvin Ingram hopes not! Seriously thought, Spurrier's got a good, deep team this year. Fear them at your peril.


LSU football is never, ever boring. This off-season guaranteed that, with starting QB Jordan Jefferson getting suspended for the showdown season opener with Oregon for getting in a fight in a bar in Baton Rouge. Anyway, Jarrett Lee's taking over behind the huddle. WR target Russell Shepard's also been suspended, which means LSU football could have a tough start to the season. If we're honest, LSU's road games at Mississippi State and West Virginia won't be easy, either. That's three top 25 teams in 4 weeks. Ouch. And trips to Tennessee and Alabama won't be particularly easy, either.

4. How 'Bout 'Dem Dawgs?

People from the good state of Georgia are going to be hosting the VFA in Athens for the South Carolina game in Week 2, so we thought it might be nice to include them on the preview.
The good news for perennial hot-seat coach Mark Richt is that he's got QB Aaron Murray coming back. Tight end Orson Charles and freshman running back Isaiah Crowell are pretty damned good too - although Crowell is a little inexperienced.
People are also pretty excited about Georgia's defense, which will be much improved from last year (it had better be - because the 2010 brand just missed too many tackles!). Jarvis Jones —a transfer from USC—is being touted as one of the reasons for a better time on that side of the ball.
And the bad news? Richt's running back cohort is decimated by leg boots and boot-outs, and wide receivers AJ Green and Kris Durham have gone to make dough in the NFL, limiting his chances to put up some serious points. Not only that, but his two best players (Akeem Dent and Justin Houston) both went to the NFL, meaning that he's going to be missing some major players from his defense.
If Georgia loses its first game of the season against Boise State (and the Bulldogs are an underdog at this game), then expect the angry voices in Athens to start. But if Georgia wins, expect people to start talking about the Dawgs as potential SEC East and National Title contenders. The fans are fickle like that.

5) Happy in Mississippi?

While Oxford is one of the prettiest places you'll visit in the South, Starkville really isn't. But the team in Starkville's got better prospects than the team in Oxford does. QB Chris Relf is going to be a really exciting prospect for Ole Miss - as is LaDarius Perkins and Vick Ballard, who are going to disrupt opposing defenses all season long. Some people are worried about MSU's defensive line, but others aren't. With seven returning starters on 'D', I don't think y'all should be too worried. If he gets MSU to the SEC Championship game, then Dan Mullen should get the Coach of The Year job. And as for Ole Miss? Well, at least Brandon Bolden's going to be a highlight for the Rebels. That and tailgating, of course.

6) Rocky Times in the 'Villes: Knoxville or Gainseville?

Actually, no. Tennessee fans we know are actually excited about college football season. Firstly, it's because the team has some continuity at quarterback and at head coach. Tyler Bray's going to star for the Vols at QB, who bring back 13 returning starters.
As for UF, Florida fans are happy with Will Muschamp's appointment as head coach and offensive co-ordinator Charlie Weis' coming in to improve QB John Brantley. There is no question that there is a ton of talent at Florida (especially WRs Deonte Thompson and Quinton Dunbar, RBs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic), but will it hit paydirt? We'll see in October, when UF plays back-to-back weeks against Alabama and LSU. Ouch.

And we completely forgot about...

Arkansas. We've got no real clue why. Let's call it an overstatement. Knile Davis' injury (he was the great running back hope) and Ryan Mallett's departure (he's gone to the NFL) has meant that some are doubting the Razorbacks, but Tyler Wilson's got a cannon arm and Ronnie Wingo's going to be more than adept at picking up the slack. Greg Childs is going to be one hell of a target for Wilson at wide receiver. The defense is going to be led by linebacker Jerry Franklin and DE Jake Bequette.

Players to watch

Trent Richardson (Alabama), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Jeff Demps (Florida), Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina), Alshon  Jeffrey (South Carolina), Tyler Bray (Tennessee), Russell Shepard (LSU).

Games to watch

  1. Oregon vs LSU - No. 4 plays No. 5 in a prime-time season opener. This is going to be a classic.

  2. South Carolina vs Georgia - Because this game is always a great game. And we're going to it (weather providing!).

  3. Boise State vs Georgia - Great test of how good both sides will be this year. A loss, and both sides yell about firing their coach. Well Georgia's do anyway...

  4. LSU vs Alabama - This one's always been fun, and with a National Championship semi-final (sorry, SEC Championship Game!) place on the line, this is going to be even bigger.

  5. Arkansas at Alabama - Nothing like testing a secondary like Alabama's with a kid with a cannon arm (Wilson). This one's going to be fun.

  6. Alabama at Penn State - We wonder if Alabama will really enjoy going to Happy Valley on Week 2. My buddies are bringing their ear plugs.

  7. LSU at West Virginia - The Mountaineers will frighten the hell out of LSU. Mark our words.

  8. LSU at Missisippi State - Dan Mullen needs a marquee victory. LSU don't need it to be them. No pressure then...

  9. Tennessee at Florida - Tennessee fans will really be able to see how far their team's come in the head in Gainseville.

  10. Auburn at Clemson - This was one of the games of the year last season, and could well be a dark horse for one of the best of this year, too


Alabama beats South Carolina for a spot in the National Championship.

'Noles National Contenders? ACC Preview

The ACC's had a pretty crazy off-season. North Carolina fired its coach Butch Davis. He was former coach of the University of Miami, who just announced that eight of its players had been suspended in a scandal involving some guy called Nevin Shapiro. We'd go into details, but safe to say that Mr Shapiro didn't offer these recruits cookies and milk in return for their commitment to Miami Football.

1) So what about 'Da U?'

Right, quarterback Jacory Harris, wide receiver Travis Benjamin, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo have all been suspended for a game and are going to have to pay back the money they were given by Shapiro. Four others are going to have to pay back dough, but it's under $100, apparently. The news is worse for the defense, where safety Ray-Ray Armstrong and defensive linesman Olivier Vernon will be out for four and six games apiece. Tight end Dyron Dye will miss four games apiece.
Anyway, new coach Al Golden's pretty darned happy about this (and by nature, we Penn State fans are happy for you, Al), because it means that it's unlikely that the Hurricanes will be destroyed. We don't think they'll contend for a National Title, but it sure as heck makes 'Suspension Bowl' against Ohio State on Week 2 more interesting.

2) Now, about those 'Noles....

The Florida State Seminoles are coming, and they are coming fast. Despite losing 19th-year senior Christian Ponder to the NFL Draft, they return quarterback EJ Manuel, superb wide receiver Bert Reed, and they've got a depth of running talent - including Chris Thompson, who'll probably go for over 1,000 yards this year. On defense, we love speedster cornerback/ punt returner Greg Reid, who is the most exciting person on both sides of the ball any Florida State fan could hope for. The biggest game is going to be a monster Week 2 match-up with Oklahoma.

3) Anyone excited about Virginia Tech?

If you remember last season, Virginia Tech laughably lost to James Madison on Week 2 (notice a pattern here?) but rebounded to an 11-3 record (8-0 in the ACC). This season, the Hokies will miss QB Tyrod Taylor. Sorry, but we're calling Logan Thomas a downgrade to Taylor. Don't worry Logan - a lot of players would be. But Frank Beamer's other option - David Wilson - is potentially frightening. Defense-wise, we don't see any HUGE problems for Bud Foster, bearing in mind that lineback Bruce Taylor and his secondary is frightening.

Other things to get excited about....

Randy Edsall's new reign at Maryland will start with 13 starters including QB Danny O'Brien....North Carolina had quite a quiet off-season in comparison to most, firing Butch Davis and hiring Everett Withers. There's still going to be a lot of talent in Chapel Hill (that man Davis could recruit!).

Players to watch

EJ Manuel (Florida State), Jacory Harris (Miami), Travis Benjamin (Miami), Greg Reid (Florida State), Bert Reed (FSU), David Wilson (Virginia Tech).

Games to watch
  1.  Oklahoma at Florida State - Should be a monster of a game in Tallahassee. Why College Gameday has opted for going under the lights in Michigan we'll never know....

  2. Ohio State at Miami - Miami gets some talent back. Ohio State doesn't. The 'Suspension Bowl' in all its glory on Week 2.

  3.  Miami at Florida State - The usual classic between these two.

  4. Florida State at Florida - Gators fans would love nothing more than to ruin their rivals' National Title hopes.

  5. Clemson at South Carolina - This might seem like a joke, but South Carolina might need to win this to go to the National Championship. Might.

  6. Appalachian State at Virginia Tech - Remember last year, Hokies, remember last year.

  7. Auburn at Clemson - The game might not be great (and nationally ignored!), but the atmosphere's going to be something special in this Week 3 battle.

  8. West Virginia at Maryland - People think Big East football's a joke. If Maryland win this one, the Big East looks even worse as West Virginia fans will throw themselves on the couch.

  9. Florida State at Wake Forest- The Florida State of old used to lose games like this. We'll see what happens to the 2011 version, shall we?

  10. Miami at North Carolina - Let's just call this 'Suspension Bowl Part 2', shall we?


Florida State beat Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. But will they make the National Championship Game?

    We love Offense! Pac-12 Preview

    The Pac-10 is now the Pac-12. There's a Championship Game. And thankfully, there are no stupid names for the conference - it's just North and South.

    In the North - Oregon,  Oregon State, Stanford, Cal, Washington,Washington State
    In the South - Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Colorado

    And the North......

    We're going to get a few headaches talking about this one, so bear with us.

    1) Stanford's got the best quarterback in college football in Andrew Luck. And Stanford's also returning six starters - including top tackling linebackers Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas.

    2) Oregon has, er, problems. Cliff Harris' suspension prior to the LSU game is going to be massive -regardless of what people say. Oregon is also missing its offensive front - prepare for it to get abuse by LSU- although we don't know if it's going to have that much of a problem against Pac-12 teams. But this might not be a problem - if they just give the ball to LaMichael James all night long!

    3) Washington's getting some looks of love from the sidelines, especially as they're getting top passer Chris Polk back. But Washington's going to have a hell of a long way to come - they might cause you some problems - but will they REALLY win this division? We think not.


    And in the South....

    1) Despite having no bowl or championship game to play for, USC is the favourite to win the Pac-12, and with Matt Barkley coming back at QB and the sheer depth of talent annually recruited by the Trojans, it's hard to argue against them. This team will be the best team NOT to go to a BCS Bowl, friends.

    2) Arizona State? Really? In 2010 the Sun Devils found ways to lose close games, including ones at Wisconsin (with a missed extra point!) and on the road to USC and Arizona. This year, with 15 returning starters, including QB Brock Osweiler, the Sun Devils are a threat. The biggest test to see how good they are comes early when they play back-to-back games against Illinois and USC.

    Players to watch

    Andrew Luck (Stanford), LaMichael James (Oregon), Cliff Harris (Oregon), Matt Barkley (USC), Jonathan Franklin/Derrick Coleman (UCLA)

    Ten Of The Best

    1. Oregon vs LSU - First Game of the season. 'Nuff Said.
    2. Oregon at Stanford - LaMichael James vs Andrew Luck. Expect points, baby!
    3. USC at Arizona State - Is this ASU team REALLY going to be a top 25 team this year? Best indicator comes here, early.
    4.USC at Notre Dame - USC will be dying for revenge since 2010's loss.
    5. Texas at UCLA - Will a win over the 'Horns give UCLA the banner win that can drive them to Pac-12 glory?
    6. Utah at USC - The Utes' "We have arrived" moment when they take the field against the Trojans on the second week of the season.
    7. USC at Oregon - Oregon will need to win this for Pac-12 AND BCS title purposes. The Trojans will be wanting to be the spoiler....until next year
    8. Oregon State at Wisconsin- Wisconsin thought the 2010 game against ASU would be easy and very nearly slipped up. Wisconsin should NOT sleep on Oregon State - especially with Ryan Katz behind the huddle and James Rodgers as receiver.
    9. Washington State at Colorado- Don't look now, but WSU could go 4-0 if they beat Colorado
    10. Cal at Colorado- Big games in Boulder don't happen that often. This will be Colorado's first Pac-12 game.


    Oregon beats Arizona State. But will it be good enough for the National Championship?

    Who's Going to Win the Big 10?

    The Big Ten welcomes Nebraska and splits its conferences into two divisions. The two names for the division: "Legends" and "Leaders" are absolutely stupid - but sadly won't go anywhere at the end of the season unless Joe Paterno retires (but he's got the damn trophy named after him!).

    Anywhere, here are our five 'Big' Questions?

    1) Can Ohio State rebound from a terrible off-season?

    It's been an horrific off-season for the Buckeyes, losing coach Jim Tressel and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor in one fell swoop in the 'Cash for Tats' scandal. Anyway, Luke Finkel's in charge now as the 'interim coach', and despite losing starting talent for the first five games, we think they'll start the season a comfortable 4-0 with the 'toss up game' at home to Michigan State. Then, when running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVir Posey come back (as well as starting tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas), the Buckeyes walk straight into Nebraska for a showdown with the Cornhuskers. We can't wait. Oh, and we think Joe Bauserman will take over quarterbacking duties, although EVERYONE's going to be talking about Braxton Miller by season-end. The kid's a freak.

    2) How about the Michigans?

    Michigan State is in better condition than Michigan. That's probably because they don't need to deal with a crappy defense, for which they return six returning starters. And while we love Michigan's Denard Robinson (the guy's the Human Joystick Version 2011) at quarterback, Kirk Cousins has filled the Spartans fans with confidence. MSU's Edwin Baker is going to frighten Big Ten defenses at running back, while let's be honest - we don't think Denard Robinson needs a running back, receiver Junior Hemingway might cause some problems for the secondaries if No.16 doesn't.
    Let's be honest, Brady Hoke (Michigan's new coach) is going to have to sort out the defense. If he does, then the game against Notre Dame at The Big House in Week 2 is going to be a monster.

    3) Coming: The Children Of The Corn

    Nebraska has arrived and should go 4-0 before they go to Camp Randall for a monster match-up with Wisconsin. Taylor Martinez is the man to watch - although coach Bo Pellini's quite the highlight, because watching him lose it is always fun. If Martinez falls apart like he did in 2010, then the pressure's going to be on running back Rex Burkhead to produce. But the great thing for Pellini is that his defense returns seven starters, including two of 2010's best tacklers - LaVonte David and Jared Crick - both of whom will be drafted next April.

    4) From Red to Red

    Wisconsin has had a lot of media love this off-season, with taking in NC State's quarterback Russell Wilson and putting him in Badger Red. He's going to be an awesome asset for Wisconsin, who are also going to have Montee Ball running the ball down people's throats behind the team's giant offensive tackles. Fan favourite WR Nick Toon's going to continue to be a great target for Wisconsin, which is tipped by many to go to the Rose Bowl. We'll see how good this team is when they play Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State in an ugly October.

    5) Who's going to be quarterback at Penn State?

    Who's going to be Penn State's QB this year - Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin? No-one really knows. Until the Nittany Lions have this settled - no-one really knows how JoePa's men are going to get on this year. Another clue's going to be the home game against Alabama on Week 2....

    Players to Watch

    Denard Robinson (Michigan), Russell Wilson (Wisconsin), Taylor Martinez (Nebraska), Michael Mauti (Penn State), Derek Moye (Penn State), Dan Persa (Northwestern), Montee Ball (Wisconsin).

    Games to watch

    1. Alabama at Penn State - Sorry friends, this Week 2 clash in Happy Valley might not be a 'Big Ten Clash', but it's a massive game with an atmosphere to match. Should be electric.

    2. Ohio State at Nebraska - The superpower of the Big Ten mixing it with the new arrival. We can't wait.

    3. Wisconsin at Nebraska - Russell Wilson's a great quarterback? We'll see against the Blackshirt defence!

    4. Notre Dame at Michigan - Always fun. Now, even better under the lights, with a ranked (not rank!) Notre Dame coming into Ann Arbor! The Brady Hoke era starts here.

    5. Ohio State at Miami - Note: This game might not be relevant due to NCAA ruling on both sides.

    6. Michigan State at Notre Dame - One of the greatest finishes of 2010 was at this game. We can't wait for the 2011 installment!

    7. Michigan State at Ohio State - These two haven't played since 2008 - but MSU's a hell of a lot better since then!

    8. Northwestern at Boston College - Dan Persa's Heisman campaign could get a bit of kick in this ACC-Big Ten clash.

    9. Michigan at Michigan State - Denard vs Kirk Part.2. Expect with better 'D'.

    10. Nebraska at Penn State - This one's going to have 'atmosphere'. A lot of atmosphere.

    So who's going to win it all?

    Ohio State beats Nebraska in the Big 10 Championship Game for a Rose Bowl berth.

    So Who's Going To Win The Big XII?

    So here's a few points:

    1) Oklahoma is the favourite

    The No.1 Sooners are the favorites to run the table, win the Big XII South, win the Big XII, and go to the National Championship Game.
    They've got a great quarterback in Landry Jones and a great wide receiver in Ryan Broyles, but there's some questions about the defence - especially who's going to replace defensive captain Travis Lewis, who broke a foot in practice.
    I'm not as convinced as anyone is about the Sooners winning it all, but the Florida State game on Week 2 will see how good this team really is - and if it can deal with FSU's speed.
    But you know what? There's another Oklahoma team to think about: Oklahoma State. Justin Blackmon's going to cause hell and high water for Oklahoma's secondary - 'Shark Week' be damned. But still, Oklahoma's good enough to run the table this year.

    2) Texas A&M situation

    As you may have heard, the Big XII's in a bit of a flux at the moment. Texas A&M is actively trying to leave the conference, according to reports, so it can head to the SEC and be a laughing stock of a division that'll no doubt include LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss in 2012.

    So anyway, at the moment (ie a few days before the season), nothing's to talk about. Texas A&M's going to try and win its division, pushing past Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State to win the get to the Big XII Championship Game. We don't think they will - but we think that the Aggies are still going to be pretty good side, bringing back 18 starters including quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Cyrus Gray, as well one of the best receivers in the division in Jeff Fuller.

    3) As for Texas...

    Texas was in uproar with coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp left to take up Urban Meyer's job as the head coach at Florida, and things aren't going to be easy this year.
    Well, at least the offensive co-ordinator space should be happier: the Longhorns have got Boise State's O.C. Bryan Harsin, which at least should provide a little fun out there. And Manny Diaz has come in from Mississippi State, where he helped with the revival under Dan Mullen as DC.
    We're still not in love with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, and coach Mack Brown hasn't got us particularly excited about the rest of the team. For the good of all those in burnt orange, we hope this will be a better season than the 5-7 debacle.

    4) Can we talk about Mizzou? 

    There aren't a lot of schools we care about in the old Big XII North this year - especially as we've said goodbye to Nebraska and the Big Red Machine. We ignored Missouri and people on Bleacher Report have begged us to look at their defence, so we're doing so: And you know what? It's quite good. The pass rush is going to be really, really good - and we'll see how good it really is when the Tigers play Arizona State on the road and Oklahoma in Norman in the first four weeks of the season. Gulp.

    5) B-B-B - What about Baylor?

    The Baylor Bears have been appearing on college football highlight reel in positive commentary - mainly because behind the huddle in Waco is one of the best athletic quarterbacks in college football, Robert Griffin. He's going to be really fun to watch this year.
    For sides facing Baylor, it's going to be difficult to stop Griffin - as well as his receiving corps of Kendall Wright and Josh Gordon.
    This could be a Michigan 2010-style team - tons of fun to watch, but defensively awful. We'll see how good they are against TCU at home in the opening game of the season. But regardless of what happens, this guy Robert Griffin's going to be GOOD.

    Players to watch

    Landry Jones (OK), Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State), Robert Griffin (Baylor), Cyrus Gray (Texas A&M), Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Travis Lewis (Oklahoma), Garrett Gilbert (Texas)

    Top 10 Games to watch

    1) Oklahoma at FSU: One of the biggest non-conference games of the year
    2) Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: Lots of fun in Stillwater
    3) Missouri at Arizona State: What are the two pretenders to the College Football gods like this year?
    4) Arkansas vs Texas A&M (Cowboys Stadium): Will Texas A&M learn what SEC football is REALLY about?
    5) Arizona at Oklahoma State: Another test for Pac-12 football (also going on: Texas' visit to UCLA, which can't possibly go as badly for the Longhorns as UCLA's trip to Austin). Justin Blackmon provides the fireworks for the Cowboys
    6) Texas at BYU: Should be interesting to see if this team has improved under the new coaching staff, or if Mack Brown should really be fired.
    7) Texas vs Oklahoma: Anything can happen in a rivalry game - and anything normally does!
    8) Texas A&M at Texas: With all the SEC stuff going on, this game suddenly takes new significance - especially with the rumours that Texas are quite happy to say 'sianora' to the Aggies in favour of a Thanksgiving gettogether with Notre Dame.
    9) Oklahoma vs Texas A&M: Whoever wins this win wins the Big XII South. Simply really.
    10) Missouri at Oklahoma: Mizzou is meant to have a good defense. OU will want revenge after last year's upset loss in Columbia. We watch with bated breath.

    Classy Shrimp Cocktail

    I love serving food in an appealing manner.  In the "good old days" I was known to throw parties and serve all kinds of food and I'd use the neatest of my serving dishes.  I've picked up some really cool serving pieces over the years - they are proudly displayed in a glass cabinet in our dining room. 

    Times have changed and my coveted serving dishes rarely make it on the dinner scene anymore.  It's usually just Steve and I and the kids munching on whatever I serve - which more often than not requires sturdy, non-breakable, serving dishes. 

    Ok, in truth, most of the time its the multi colored kids plates that cost $2 for a pack of 6 at Ikea. 

    Tonight though...

    Tonight I realized how far I have truly fallen, when I put together this lovely and appealing "platter" of shrimp cocktail...

    What have I become???

    Jarrett Lee: The Saviour of LSU Football?!

    Now that Jordan Jefferson's been suspended indefinitely after getting arrested for his part in a bar fight in Baton Rouge a few days ago, Jarrett Lee's back at quarterback for the Tigers for the showdown with the Oregon Ducks next week.

    Although we'd love to laugh at Les Miles' decision to put the senior in behind the huddle bearing in mind ahead of Zach Mettenberger, we've been reminded by SEC writer Chris Low that this Lee might not be that bad.

    He reminded us that yes, Lee was the guy who threw the winning touchdown at Florida in the best game of 2010 (or was it the one that gave us the most pleasure?). And that was Lee who threw the bullet that stomped on Alabama in one of the other best games of 2010 (Come on....Even You - LSU hater - can admit that LSU's season last year was fun....).

    Although I'd argue with Low on this point. We still don't think he's a great quarterback.

    In his first full year at LSU, he threw a mighty 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. In 2009 and 2010, he didn't start, and ended up with 2-1, 2-1 TD: INT ratio.

    And we don't think he'll be the solution against Oregon - even though Cliff Harris is suspended because of his own issues....

    But today, we'll give him a break. Look away Gator fans....

    Why Is Stephfon Green BACK in Happy Valley?

    After singing his departure with a "We were so disappointed with the career of Stephfon Green at Penn State", we got some stunning news on Twitter today: He's back in Happy Valley.

    According to a number of news articles, everything's forgiven after his disagreements with Joe Paterno and now he's back in the running game, and will form a triple-threat with Silas Redd and Brandon Beachum.

    No reason was given for his return - although we can say that he's got a hell of a lot of catching up to do after missing most of training leading up to Saturday's game against Indiana State.

    But we at the VFA have got one question: Why?

    We came up with three options:

    1) a) Stephfon Green formally called Joe Paterno and apologised for any disagreements he'd had with 'The Icon' in the past, and said that he would follow his lead because he wanted to get back in a blue shirt and help them to a Big Ten Championship. He probably added that he wanted to graduate from Penn State as a student-athlete, and he greatly valued his education. He also promised to behave.

    b) Stephfon Green couldn't find a spot at another school and all of their rosters were covered. Green realised that he was screwed because he'd have nowhere to play football this close to the start of the season, and he wouldn't get in the NFL in a hurry. He called Paterno and begged.

    2) Running backs coach Galen Hall told Joe Paterno that Brandon Beachum wouldn't be a great back-up to Green because of injuries in the past and if Beachum or Silas Redd DID get hurt, then they had nothing up the middle. Paterno called Green back and gave him one more chance - simply out of need rather than anything else.

    3) Paterno changed his mind and wanted Green on the team because he felt he 'outta give a kid another chance'.

    What do YOU think happened?

    Penn State Running Backs: Ready to Be a Redd-Head?

    Right friends, we've been talking about everybody else this season but haven't really talked about Penn State.

    That's pretty much because Penn State players haven't really landed themselves in trouble, and the headlines have mostly been around Joe Paterno doing his best impression of a Penn State secondary player and committing a secondary violation because he watched his team players and then told somebody about it. Something tells us - on the second bit - that the NCAA has got bigger fish to fry.

    Anyway, we're pretty excited about the off-season. Now Evan Royster's playing in the NFL and  Stephfon Green's gone after a couple of inaffective seasons - despite his sweet acceleration - the focus will be now on Silas Redd to do the job in Happy Valley.

    Royster really wasn't that great in his last year at Penn State, but conversely, Redd was, running for 437 yards and two touchdowns - including a breakout game against Northwestern where he put up 131 yards and 1 TD to help Joe Paterno win his 400th game in a comeback for the ages.

    According to the clip we're showing at the end of this article, he's got a lot of "zoo, zoo" (whatever that means, Big Ten Network Commentator). In other words, he's not easy to tackle. He's also built like a truck and bullied Alabama's 'D' in the fourth quarter of the 2010 beating the team took from the Crimson Tide. Which was nice - because the quarterbacks certainly weren't doing the job!

    Also, there aren't many things not to like about Redd- and one of them seems to be that he's really a very nice kid. Which is nice, if you think about this off-season when the word "troubled teenager" seem to be abounding from Gainseville to Eugene.

    Listen, we're not expecting miracles against Alabama in the second game of the season (seemingly NO-ONE will be able to run on that defense this year), but we're looking for perhaps Redd to double up his rushing numbers in his sophomore year - particularly if the Bolden/McGloin - Derek Moye doesn't go too well this year.

    Backing him up will be tailback Brandon Beachum, who was hurt in 2009 against Indiana, busting his knee, and is only now back on the scene. Penn State's press guys are saying that he had a great spring , although it's really hard to register his talent after not really being a factor behind Royster in 2008 and 2009. Obviously, he'll be anxious to succeed, and the double-headed monster of Beachum and Redd could really hurt Big Ten defenses - especially in the fourth quarter.


    We. Are. (Hoping).


    It has become painfully clear to me that I am unable to successfully do cocktails two weekends in a row.

    There were times (years) in my life when back to back (to back) nights out were totally the norm. And I had no problem rebounding – eager and ready for whenever the next opportunity to “socialize” might come along.

    As I sit here at my desk on this Tuesday afternoon – after having drinks this past Saturday evening and the Saturday evening before that, I can only think of how I hope nobody requires me to participate in anything cocktail related for at least 6 months.

    That may only be a slight exaggeration.

    All I know is that after having spent much of the past few years isolated, housebound and unable to do much socializing at all, I have maybe been a little too gung-ho lately since I’ve found that I’m at a place in my life where I do have the ability to get out occasionally now.

    And really, I wouldn’t think that going “out” two Saturday’s in a row is too serious and I should be able to rebound better than I am.

    But I am not 25 anymore.

    Ok, I’m not even 30 anymore!

    People require things of me now. I don’t have the luxury of recovering in a peaceful and dignified manner (on the couch, in peaceful quiet and darkness with a large pepperoni pizza and a jug of iced tea). I have to recover on the fly. And on the fly takes a lot longer than I had apparently calculated.

    I’m very sluggish and tired and quite non-productive feeling. I just want to be lazy. And I want to eat. OH I want to eat! I’m struggling to maintain my healthy eating habits these past few days. I haven’t exercised since Saturday.

    To be fair, I am also on week two of a sinus infection, which is certainly not contributing to any feelings of well being. Yes, I should probably see a doctor but that would require me making an appointment, taking time off work and likely visiting a pharmacy to purchase medication. Just the thought of doing all that makes me even more tired. I’m sure it will clear up on it’s own. (It will, right?) In the meantime, the sinus medication I have been taking before bed is certainly not leaving me with a very “refreshed” feeling when I am forced to leave the comforts of my bed at 5:30am each morning.

    I am in a state of feeling blah and I am unable to put forth the effort required to do the things that make me feel good.

    So until I start magically feeling “normal” again, I will keep combating the effects of my recent shenanigans (and sinus ailment) by doing the bare minimum and lumbering zombie-like through my life, supplementing myself with cup of coffee after cup of coffee.
    meet turtle, the great dane puppy. what turtle lacked in training he made up for in charm. he knows how to create a stir anywhere he goes, and for obvious reasons. i can't wait to see him again as a grown up. terry, let rylee know we'll use the secret prop next time. i hope you enjoy these, my friend. :)  

    Wine and Cheese, Yes Please!

    When I find an interest in something, I go at it full throttle.  Testament to this would be my back to back weekends of wine "sampling".  Last night, I went to my dear friend Jenny's house for a Wine and Cheese party! 

    Everyone was asked to bring a bottle of wine, which we all tried samples of.  It is a great way to get to try different wines - other people's favorites.  There was a great variety of different wines - many different reds, some whites, a sparkling pink, and a dessert wine.

    Everyone was also asked to bring a different type of cheese and an accoutrement. Again the variety was fantastic. The different cheeses, breads and crackers, olives, dry salami, tapenades, pates, spreads... Ugh! So good! and a great way to try different kinds of cheeses and other such treats.

    The lovely, WineSnob was on hand to offer her expertise..

    There was great conversation, over good wine and good food.  What a fabulous way to spend a Saturday night.

     We even got a little lesson on "Beaujolais Nouveau"...

    Good laughs with good friends...

    The beautiful and gracious host...

    There were 9 women involved in the demise of these plus a few other lovely bottles...

    It was a great time. When I finally got to bed (and reality) at 2am (2am!!??? WTF, Tarable??!!) I found Ruby sound asleep on my side of the bed.  I nudged her over and fell into a wine induced sleep.

    I was awoken bright and early to the sudden and unpleasant realization that Steve forgot to put a diaper on Ruby before putting her into our bed and apparently she couldn't hold it past 6am.

    It's a good thing I have pictures of all the fun I had because waking up in a pee soaked bed at 6am after only 4 hours sleep and a few too many wine samplings the night before, has seriously made me consider putting my wine (or any booze for that matter) career on hold until my kids are teenagers.

    Out to Sea: Seastrunk Leaves Oregon

    A few weeks' ago we asked whether the current crapshoot at Oregon could possibly be bigger than the problems surrounding Oregon and Ohio State.

    Anyway, the problem has gone now that Ducks running back Lache Seastrunk has been 'given unconditional release by Ducks coach Chip Kelly', according to ESPN.

    There are worries about Seastrunk's recruitment - including tens of thousands of dollars handed to recruiter Willie Lyles.

    According to the article, Seastrunk tried to distance himself from all issues, but it must have been difficult in Eugene, Oregon, where football season and the preseason hype has taken new levels - particularly with a monster Week 1 game against LSU and a potential second straight trip to the National Championship Game potentially on the horizon.

    Tripping! For the AP preseason Top 25, the season is laden with pitfalls

    Oklahoma have been given the kiss of death for the start of the college football season: The AP No.1.

    Last year was a nightmare for No.1 teams, with Ohio State, OU and Alabama all losing when ranked top, and OU could face a nightmare early on with a trip to Seminole Country to play Florida State in Tallahassee and a showdown at Oklahoma State against a team that's laden with receiving talent.

    The Top 25 List Is This. We'd added the scariest match-ups for each team (as well as some other stuff to think about). You can tell we're quite excited about football season, can't you?

    1. Oklahoma - See above

    2. Alabama - Potential pitfall is Penn State on the road, the SEC West schedule and a new QB. So not much then...
    3. Oregon - LSU in Game 1 plus trip to Stanford, Arizona and up-and-comers Washington. Oh, and apparently Arizona State, where there's been a lot of hype.
    4. LSU - Oregon in Game 1, and SEC West schedule which includes a trip to Alabama. Plus the rest of the team's behavior and the play of their quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, who really isn't that great.
    5. Boise State - Georgia in Game 1 ain't going to be easy, but otherwise the schedule's a joke. Could get hit on strength of schedule
    6. Florida State - OU's visit in Week 2, plus trips to Florida and Clemson (the latter which isn't an easiest place to play at the best of times)
    7. Stanford - Andrew Luck's got everyone salivating, but games with Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame may hurt. Plus, the team's going to miss Coach Harbaugh more than the critics might say. And what happens if Luck gets hurt?
    8. Texas A&M - Von Miller will be a HUGE miss for A&M. Plus, back-to-back games with Oklahoma State and Arkansas could quieten down College Station a little, as well as prove to be realistic about the school's hopes in the SEC.
    9. Oklahoma State - OSU's biggest pitfalls will be a game against Arizona in Week 2, and the visit of OU.
    10. Nebraska - Visits to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan just ain't going to be easy for Bo Pellini's men.
    11. Wisconsin - As much as we love new QB Russell Wilson, the visit of Nebraska plus trips to Michigan State and Ohio State will provide some worry for the Madtown Massive.
    12. South Carolina - The visit to Georgia in Week 2 to start with, plus trips to Mississippi State.
    13. Virginia Tech - The schedule's easy - but then again we said that about the Hokies when they played James Madison last year....and lost.
    14. TCU - Saying goodbye to Andy Dalton's not going to be fun, but you know what? Facing Robert Griffin, Baylor's speedy QB, is going to be pretty tough too.
    15. Arkansas - A frightening SEC West schedule, including a lovely easy trip to Alabama in Week 4.
    16. Notre Dame - The two Michigans, Stanford and USC. If they get through all of these, the Irish should be - and probably will be - in a BCS Bowl. But who's the QB?
    17. Michigan State- The trips to Notre Dame, Ohio State and Nebraska, as well as Denard Robinson and Michigan.
    18. Ohio State - The big thing won't the trips, it'll be the confidence. The Buckeyes aren't expected to be in the Top 10 this year - and there's huge pressure on the Buckeyes to show no signs of 'Tresselgate' from their fans. But we'll put to the trip to Nebraska as a big-time worry.
    19. Georgia - Boise State in Week 1, and South Carolina in Week 2. Fuuuuuun.
    20. Mississippi State - The SEC West schedule looks more and more super-nasty every time we look at it - and SEC East games against Georgia (away) and South Carolina (home) is super-worrying, too.
    21. Missouri - Mizzou's trip to much-talked about Arizona State in Week 2 could be an early season upset, then there's trips to Oklahoma and A&M, as well as trying to bed in a new QB after Blaine Gabbert. Expect the Tigers to be out of the Top 25 pretty quickly.
    22. Florida - If Florida can get through Alabama (home), LSU and South Carolina (road) and Florida State (home), we're voting for Will Muschamp's men to be No.1 in the nation.
    23. Auburn - Biggest pitfall will be life after Cam Newton. Everybody loves Gus Mulzahn at the moment, but there's also the small fact that the Tigers have a horrible SEC schedule, too.
    24. West Virginia - The coach-burners had an interesting off-season, but the home game against LSU could really hurt the Mountaineers. Especially as we expect them to pretty much run the table in the Big East this season.
    25. USC - Nice to see USC getting thought about by the AP despite not having a prayer of making the National Title game. The Trojans face monster trips to Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Oregon. If they beat these guys (as well as Stanford), you can see the BCS guys and NCAA suddenly quake in their boots, because SC will be a Top Ten - if not Top Five - side.

    And heeeeeeere's last season's biggest upset... (look away Hokies fans!)


    lesson learned a long time ago: be with those who help your being. mrs. wilson had one direction: "do what you do." on a day filled with life stress beyond my control, mustering the energy for creative work for what i do seemed like a line hard to tow. decluttering the mindspace at first felt like an insurmountable task. and then we began, at our chosen location, this threesome of girls i have come to know over the years with the deepest of affection. a breakthrough happened. the authenticity of relationship is undeniable. no artificial sibling love to dig through and turn around into something lovely. that truth cleared my own obstacles, opened paths of possibility otherwise unaccessible. how grateful to be in the presence of the most important of all things, that which invigorates, rejuvenates, clarifies and inspires: authentic relationship. thank you wilsons, for letting my creative vision be a part of your world.  

    Why There Shouldn't Be A Hurricane In Miami

    Reading Greg Doyel's lovely piece on CBS Sports about why it was unlikely that Miami would be given the death penalty by the NCAA over a brilliant investigation hat over 70 recruits and players partied with Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, and a ton of money was channeled towards them by the Miami booster, it became apparent that the NCAA couldn't do such a thing because it would send the NCAA itself over a cliff.

    In other words, the turkey would in effect be rooting for an early Christmas.

    But there's probably another reason why the NCAA wouldn't do such a thing: It doesn't want to 'go nuclear' again: SMU

    It went nuclear in football once with SMU, and destroyed a program and a legacy. Sure, that legacy was rotten to the core in the first place, but it destroyed that legacy, and now if you're a rich Southern Methodist, you love football, and you want to find a school to go to,  SMU probably won't be your first choice. You'll probably go to Texas (and then you'll just go to Berkeley United Methodist and be happy with it).

    Does it really want to destroy Miami? Does it really want to destroy a legacy of having some of the best athletes in the land going to school there? Does it really want to destroy the golden images (excuse the pun), of players running out pumped in the mist? We don't think so.

    We wouldn't want it, either. College football has been great, but it's still not as great as it could be with a strong Miami.

    Even if some of their more right wing fans say differently, Florida State and Florida would be want a strong Miami, because it makes Florida a really, really competitive state. We love wide rights, wide lefts, geeky QBs, and ducks with attitudes (it's a duck, right??). And more's the case, it gets boring talking about the SEC all day and night.

    What we'd propose is that Miami get a harsher USC-style probation, where bowl games are taken away, there's a massive fine levied against the school (if it is found the school knew anything about this), and scholarships are taken away.

    Death penalties in this day and age just ain't cool.


    Way back at the end of May when we had a rare sunny Sunday afternoon (if we only knew how rare), and we were desperate for some sort of outdoor activity after so many months of rain. 

    So for fun we headed to the local Rona and let the kids pick out a couple of tomato plants...

     Which we then took home and transplanted and fed some tomato plant food...

    We gave them a little water... 

    And then we set them out to let them grow. I gave them a slim chance of survival, nevermind producing any tomatoes.  I am NOT a gardener.

    Ok, truth be known I just really liked the big red pots and wanted an excuse to have them on my patio...

    Considering the adversity that they had to overcome, I am proud and surprised that they have turned into these, big (albiet a bit scraggy) bountiful tomato plants...

    They've survived poking and prodding...

    And some pre-mature harvesting...

    But their branches are full of tons and tons of tomatoes...

    I suppose we're not in the clear yet as they are all still green and who knows what could still happen to them before they have a chance to ripen.  But the fact that they've made it this far is amazing to me. 

    Should we be worried about Stephon Green's departure?

    According to multiple news sources, Stephfon Green's gone from Happy Valley.

    It's unfortunate, because the VFA was a fan. To be honest, we loved his speed - and his touchdowns.

    ...Especially this one against Michigan.

    What this does to Penn State is force more pressure on Silas Redd and Brandon Beachum. Redd's got frightening potential, but can he carry the Nittany Lions to the promised land?

    faithful companions

    they wait patiently, are never grumpy, are delighted just by our presence. a twinge of guilt creeps over me every time we go away. we call it the spa, but the kennel is no place like home. despite the hair, the paw prints across the floor, the wet slobbery attention, there's the faithful companionship and loyalty that cannot be compared to anything else. cats are pleasant, but this heart has gone to the dogs. 

    Winery Tour/Tasting - Pacific Breeze Winery

    Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that I'm a beer girl.  It has been my go-to drink of choice since the beginning of my drinking career.  There have been a few different drink "phases" in my life (the Cougar Juice phase (aka White Zinfandel), the Vodka/Soda phase, the Martini phase) but I've always come back to beer as it has stayed atop my preference list.

    I'm not sure if I'm going through another "phase", but lately I've been enjoying wine more than I ever have (the Cougar Juice phase doesn't count).  For the first time ever I will take a good glass of wine over a beer.

    Admittedly I am the biggest wine rookie out there - but, I'm working to remedy that.  I have been trying to be more aware of wine and have been doing different things to try and learn more about wine. I would like my wine purchases to be based on more than just the pretty label that attracts me at the liquor store.

    Often when I want to choose a bottle of wine, I will hit up my good friend Wine Snob.  Having a sommalier one of your dear friends is ever so handy when you're looking for a good bottle.  But I can't lean on her forever! I must branch out on my own and make my way in the wine world.

    And so I have been trying out different things to learn more.

    Just this past weekend I had the opportunity to do a tour/tasting at Pacific Breeze Winery.  I took 3 other wine rookies with me and we had an amazing time!  Not only did we learn a bunch about wine, we found new wines to love and joined their "wine club" (strategically marketed at the end of the tasting portion of the tour) where we can purchase wine from the winery at a discount with the commitment to buy 2 bottles of their wine every 3 months. And they like to choose the wine for you - which I kind of like! They also do a BBQ with wine and a band every few months as well.  Sounds like a good time to me! 

    Beer could never do all this for me.

    Back to the tour...

    We started at the bar of the winery where the first tasting was of their Pinos Gris (of which I purchased a bottle, along with a bottle of their 2007 GSM.). We then stepped outside the door of the winery (sun shining, glasses in hand) to where the winery's one and only vine is growing.  This winery is not on a vineyard and actually imports their grapes, usually from the States.  This little vine is growing out of a crack in the pavement.  I was able to use my knowledge from a previous wine class (taught by none other than Wine Snob), to be a smarty pants and mention that if this vine does produce grapes, they might be very delicious as they would have to work hard and overcome the adversity of growing from pavement to produce it's fruit... 

    We then went inside the warehouse to a beautifully set table with various wine glasses and plates of nibbles.  Didn't we think we were fancy...
    (Brought along my point and shoot but was I ever missing my Rebel)

    Not only were we impressed with the different varieties of wine that they had us sample but also check out this snack plate!  We each had a plate like this in front of us along with a sliced baguette and crackers in the centre of the table to share. 

    We then sauntered around the winery (glasses in hand) and were given a lesson on how the different wines are produced.  I honestly learned a bunch and thoroughly enjoyed the lesson!

    And when it was all over, I don't think any of us wanted to leave.  Pacific Breeze Winery treated us very well.  Maurice, our tour guide, was very patient with us and answered all our questions and also put up with some heckling and smart ass comments - which became more frequent closer to the end of the tasting.

    This was a really fun and excellent opportunity. I'm so glad we got to do it and I'm looking forward to my next visit to PBW.