Friday, December 14, 2007

Peck 'Em Hens - FCS Championship Game Blog - Delaware vs Appalachian State

Appalachian State football fans celebrate their team's third straight FCS championship, this time with a convincing 49-21 win over the University of Delaware. (photo by Billy Weeks/Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Hens Pecked! Appalachian State Mountaineers take third straight FCS crown with 49-21 win over Delaware

11:13 p.m. I bailed out on Delaware to watch a bizarre episode of "House" (he hallucinated almost the entire show) with my daughter. No matter, the Hens went down by the same 28-point deficit I left them with, albeit a slightly different score - 49-21. Great job by the quicker and better prepared Mountaineers. Congrats to ASU's players, coaches and fans. My Blue Hens were no match.

10:00 p.m. Flacco scrambles for seven and a first down on 4th and 6! Cuff gets 5. Game clock at 12 minutes. Flacco sacked back to 14--couldn't find an open receiver. 3rd down. Two more plays. Incomplete to tight end. Good coverage. Another fourth. Need 11 this time. Good rush by Mountaineers. Flacco fires, but pass is blocked at the line. ASU takes over on downs. Nice job by Mountaineers defending their big lead in the red zone. Richardson scampers for 31 on their first offensive play. Big night for him. Richardson takes handoff and slips down. Moore slips through line to take a pass and get a first down. 19-yard gain. Richardson runs for 9. Clock approaching nine minutes. Short run by Moore. ASU calls time to avoid delay of game penalty. Nice catch by #82 for first down inside Hen 20. Richardson barrels ahead for 8. Edwards keeps for the first at the 7. 1st and goal. Richardson romps in for the score. 41-14, ASU. Maybe I'll check back in tomorrow for the final score. 6:02 to go. ASU 42 Delaware 14. Mountaineers just too good. Congratulations, Appalachian State!

9:48 p.m. Mountaineers have to punt. Two fouls on Hens on return. They start on the 6. Catch and drop called a catch. May be reviewed. Now incomplete. Next pass complete to Duncan for first down. Clock under 14 minutes. Completion to tight end. Another first down. Announcers talk about Flacco resemblance to Ben Rothlisberger. Long pass gets past Mountaineer defenders to #1. 42-yard gain to ASU 25. Next pass incomplete. Next pass behind tight end. 3rd down. Short completion to Love brings up 4th down. Time out Hens.

9:40 p.m. Third quarter ends. Hens need huge finish just to get to OT.

9:25 p.m. Hens' errors too much to overcome. Moving the ball now as the third quarter ticks down. First and goal at the four. Missed some plays there as I read my daughter's new short story. Cuff gets near the 1. 1:20 left in third quarter. Cuff stuffs it in the end zone. Touchdown! Run over right guard. PAT good. 35-14, ASU.

9:13 p.m. Keeper by Edwards gets seven. Hard tackle. Hens offside. First down for Mountaineers. Option pitch to Richardson gets a couple. Deep throw broken up by #24. Pass slightly underthrown. Hens blitz. ASU picks it up. Completes pass for 18. 30 catches on season for sprinter Jackson. 23 yards per reception with 8 TDs. Six yards on next play. Ball inside Hen 30. Incomplete pass. 3rd and 4. Richardson carries for a first. Short gain by Richardson. #20 carries for 3. 3rd and 4. Eight minutes left in 3rd quarter. QB draw. Johnson brings down Edwards in open field--a yard short of first. ASU going for it on 4th down. Richardson gets it. Hens had good push but Richardson ran behind the pile. Another short run by Richardson. Hens corral Edwards near left sideline. 3rd and 5. 14th play of drive. Edwards throws to uncovered Richardson for easy TD. Flag for excessive celebration. 35-7, Mountaineers. 6:48 left in third.

9:03 p.m. Short kickoff returned to 39 by ASU upback. Pass to wide-open Kevin Richardson is a yard overthrown. Only six passes by Edwards in first half, but four completions for 132 yards. Fake to Richardson; Johnson trips up Edwards short of the first. Whew! 294 total yards for ASU in first half. Way too many. Punt and fair catch at 16 yard line. Short run by Cuff. First down pass to Love. Sideline pass to Duncan broken up. Throw away toward Love almost picked off. Flacco keeps for 9. Fourth and one. Punt to 33 yard line. Punting not at 1-A level.

8:35 p.m. Hen KO return to 27. 0:39 left with three TOs. Flacco can throw deep. Sacked back to 19. TO by someone. 2nd and 17. Another pass over the middle to tight end. Gain of 47. Toss to Duncan. First down and out of bounds. Still need about 10-15 yards. Completion to Love at 29. Time out with 0:08. Hens running another play. Big scramble by Flacco. Fires to Love who drops ball at the 2. Fitting end to half. 28-7, ASU over Delaware.

8:31 p.m. Just 1:10 left in first half. Kickoff return to 28. Pass completion to 40. Edwards elude the rush. Long pass downfield. #2 (Jackson) catches and runs away from defender. No inside help. 60-yard TD pass. 28-7, ASU. Delaware TD negated in 26 seconds. 0:44 left for Hen response.

8:19 p.m. More bad news. TD pass to Love called back for offensive pass interference. Another long pass. Flag for interference on ASU. Catch may have been out of bounds. Review upcoming. Replay looks like a touchdown. Touchdown! Great catch by #21 (Duncan) and proper call, eventually. PAT good. Deficit down to 7-21.

8:12 p.m. Hens need to strike here. First play gains 1. Next one loses 5. Someone needs to get open. Direct snap to halfback on that one. Pass misses. Good coverage. 4th and 14. Hens must punt back. Hens offensive lineman has broken angle. Cuff getting treatment on sideline. Good coverage on punt puts Mountaineers back to the 10.

Richardson stopped for no gain. Erik Johnson, Hens' middle LB, playing pretty well. Johnson rips ball away from Edwards, but he was down. 3rd and 6. Mountaineers playing more conservatively with the lead. Another keeper by Edwards is stopped. ASU will punt. Penalty on Mountaineers return coverage for interference. Good field position for Hens.

8:05 p.m. Still waiting for Hens to do something good so I can get a beer. Mountaineers averaging 9.6 yards per play so far. Edwards runs for a first, but play may come back. Illegal procedure. 2nd and 14. Edwards penned in for short gain. Dangerous play next, 3rd and 11. Pass blocked at line. First punt coming up, I hope. Hens will take over on App. St side of 50. Beer time.

7:59 p.m. - Hens moving the ball OK, but doing nothing on defense. Something has to change. More Yikes, Mountaineers are back-to-back defending champions of this division. Next victim! Kickoff returns come out to the 29. Best yet. Flacco throws to Love in double coverage. Pass broken up. Short pass to Cuff for a first. Cuff run down on sweep. Gain of 2. Another short gain. 6 or 7 left for a first. Pass to Love broken up. Punt coming. Fielded on 20. Penalty tacked on for interference with fair catch. What's next for Hens? I didn't see fair catch signal. Now saying catch and good tackle. No flag.

7:46 p.m. - App St. is 12-2 on year. They were co-champs of Southern Conference along with Wofford. Richardson gets another first. Then four more yards. App St. QB Amanti Edwards had 495 yards of total offense in last game. Pass out of bounds after chase of QB. Edwards slips between tacklers and scampers to 25. 36-yard run. Yuk! #11 reached for Hens and got a handful of nothing. Another first down for Edwards at the 10. Ran over a tackler that time. He weighs 175 lb. Ran for 313 yards in last game. NCAA record for QB in a game. App St record for any back. Hens chase down wide play for loss of 6. 3rd and 15. Find Edwards! Pass thru back of end zone, but flag thrown. Pass seemed uncatchable. Pass interference. 15 yards and first down at the one. Richardson stopped at the 2. Ball fumbled into end zone. Big pileup. Recovered by App St. #84. Touchdown, 20-0! PAT good. This is getting ridiculous. 21-0 Mountaineers with 10 minutes left in second quarter.

7:36 - App St 99-yard drive took 1:26. Yikes! Good kickoff to 1. Return man stopped at 17. Screen pass to Cuff. Sidesteps a tackle for 18 yards. Nice running. Wingback around #1 (Rashad) gets 11 for another first. Screen pass to Rashad gets ball across midfield. Hard tackle. Cuff squirms ahead for three. 3rd and 1. Easy first on next play as Cuff goes for seven. Another sweet run by Cuff to the 21. Short pass for 5. Next pass loses 5. Good tackle by #9. FG attempt. Wide left. UGH! Only 3rd miss of year. Fire up, defense! Hens have moved ball twice with nothing to show for it.

Mountaineers take over on downs at 28. One play then end of 1st quarter. App St 14 Delaware 0.

7:30 - State starts from the 1. Edwards brings it out to the 5. Run up middle by Richardson to the 28. He scored the App TD earlier. Face mask penalty adds 15. Game getting away from Hens. Another first down run by Richardson across midfield. #20 now racing untouched into end zone. 46-yard run for TD. 99-yard drive seemed almost effortless. This could be a long game. Hens are chasing Mountaineers on almost every play. 14-0, App St.

7:25 p.m. - Quick break for dinner, but as we come back the Hens complete a beautiful drive with a 4-yard run by RB Omar Cuff, his 35th rushing touchdown of the season. WR Aaron Love made a great catch and another good catch-and-run on the drive. Replay shows that Cuff's elbow may have contacted the field before he got to the end zone. Could be, is, 3rd and inches. Cuff stopped on 3rd down. Fourth down pass is long. Rats! Points taken off the board don't come back.

December 14 7:00 p.m. - Game time is any minute and supper's coming soon after that. I'll see what I can come up with quickly about tonites FCS Championship Game between Delaware and Appalachian State.

The Hens last won the then-Division I-AA in 2003 with a 40-0 trouncing of Colgate. The Mountaineers are playing this one close to home in Chattanooga, TN.

The Hens are coached by alum K.C. Keeler, who played on the 1979 I-AA champs.

Opening kickoff comes to the Hens. Run back to the 21. First pass from QB Joe Flacco goes sailing OB. Flacco passed for a school-record 3,922 yards. Star RB Omar Cuff gets seven on second and 10. Third down pass broken up. Hens have to punt. Short punt dies at App St 43.

Sack on first snap for Mountaineers! Loss of 10. QB draw. Gain of seven. Pass and run for long yardage. First down inside the Hens' 25. App St players are quick. Illegal procedure sets them back 5 to 25. No gain on a run. 2nd and 15 or 16. Edwards gets loose back to original line. 3rd and 10. Hens are in white. Mountaineers in black with gold numerals. Short pass. Missed tackle both at 10 and goal line. Touchdown! Being reviewed, but sure looked like a score. Receiver is #28. Good hit at goal line but ball carrier kept moving forward. PAT good, 7-0.

This picture of Delaware Blue Hen receiver Aaron Love is from an early season win over Rhode Island. The Hens take an 11-3 record into Friday night's championship game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers. (photo from UDaily)

My alma mater, the University of Delaware, won its way into the former Division 1-AA (now called the something-something (Football Championship, it turns out) subdivision) final football game in Chattanooga, TN by beating the Southern Illinois Salukis 20-17 on the Salukis' home field. What was that, you say? A playoff to decide a championship? What a novel idea!

The Fighting Blue Hens (shortened usually to just Hens) survived an unexpected defensive struggle on cold and foggy afternoon in Carbondale, IL. Over 3-1/2 quarters, they wormed out a 17-10 lead, only to see it disappear in about 15 seconds and six missed tackles on a kickoff return touchdown that tied the game at 17 for SIU. To their credit, the Hens responded with a methodical drive led by QB Joe Flacco that set up a 24-yard field goal for the 20-17 lead. Between the FG and the end, the defense held high-scoring SIU on downs and intercepted a pass that allowed the Hens to run out the clock.

Life doesn't get any easier for 13th ranked Delaware, even after beating #1 Northern Iowa and #4 SIU on the road on consecutive weekends (today's game was pushed back a day because of problems with Delaware's travel to Carbondale). Their opponent in the championship game on Friday, December 14 is none other than the Michigan Wolverine-killing Appalachian State Mountaineers.

Live blogging may be in order for this momentous game. Delaware last won the division in 1979 (actually 2003, how soon they forget). When I was in school, they played Central Michigan in this game and lost 54-14. I hope that can be avoided. Peck 'em Hens!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Road Rouge: U-Turn Signs Solved!

December 11 - I kept thinking about the U-turn signs at the corner of Airline and Goodwood and came up with a reasonable explanation. I think that the "No U Turn" sign is intended for motorists in the right-hand left turn lane. A U-turn from that lane would be a dangerous adventure. The "U-Turn Yield to Right Turn" sign is intended for motorists in the left-hand left turn lane. A U-turn from this lane isn't inherently dangerous, but needs to wait for right turners off of Goodwood. Either I'm stupid because it took me months to figure this out, or this signage is not intuitively obvious. I know that many readers of this blog and of the Curious Signs blog have looked at the picture without sending me the answer, so I'm sticking with the latter explanation.

December 4 - Progress! - It's a small thing, but sometime this week a new signal head will be installed at the intersection of Convention St. and 5th St. in downtown Baton Rouge so that pedestrians crossing 5th St. can see whether motorists have a red or green light. This change is in response to my November 15 e-mail to City of Baton Rouge Traffic Engineer Ingolf long-last-name (I'll look it u). Thanks, Ingolf!

November 26 - Intersection Ballet - I've been meaning to post about a manuever I saw on Government St. in Baton Rouge a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, there wasn't enough traffic to cause a problem. A woman travelling west on Government St. apparently intended to turn left onto Acadian Thruway. This turn used to be illegal, but the intersection has been improved so that it can be done, but not like this woman did it. She overshot the turn lane by two lanes and ended up in the right turn lane from Acadian onto Government. With me on Acadian honking and waving, she sheepishly continued through the turn lane and into the wrong direction of traffic on Acadian. From there she backed into the intersection and returned to normal traffic flow eastbound on Government. I'm not sure what I would have done. Probably ducked into the Walgreen's parking lot on the corner. I like to think that I wouldn't have compounded my error by backing into an intersection. Fortunately there was no traffic in the other directions. I stayed still and watched the awkward traffic ballet.

November 20 - Traffic Fatalities in Louisiana - I found two websites about traffic safety - one from the Department of Transportation, and the other from the Airline Transport Association.

The conclusions?

You are far safer traveling by air than in your own car (in between are busses and trains).

With 982 deaths in 2006 and a population of just over 4 million people, Louisiana has one of the worst traffic fatality rates in the country.

The most dangerous parishes in Louisiana in 2006 were primarily rural.

Speeding and alcohol consumption are the two biggest contributors to fatal accidents.

Increased seat belt usage could save almost 200 lives per year in Louisiana.
Here are all of my observations and conclusions after reading the reports.

November 16 - Traffic Safety Links

Here are a links to a pair of articles on traffic safety--one on running red lights; the other on pedestrian safety.

November 15 Update - I sent an e-mail to East Baton Rouge Parish government yesterday regarding the crosswalk at 5th Stree and Convention Street. It was rerouted to the city's Chief Traffic Engineer, who sent me an e-mail this morning acknowledging my concern and telling me that he would visit the intersection today and check it out.

During my time on the roads today I had occasion to experience a Road Rose moment, when a driver slowed to allow me to move right on Essen Lane to reach the I-12 West on-ramp. Heading north on Jefferson Highway, I turned left out of the leftmost lane onto Essen, not realizing that there were two left turn lanes. In the narrow space and time available to do so, a gentleman in a late-model Oldsmobile saw my right turn signal and let me in. A Road Rose to you, kind sir.

Driving back from my afternoon appointment, I did an informal survey of traffic speeds on I-10 between Siegen Lane and downtown. I set my cruise control at 60 mph. Over the next eight or so miles to downtown Baton Rouge, 24 cars passed me, at least one going no less than 75 mph. I passed one truck. I hope that the speed limit enforcement that has improved safety on I-12 on the east side of town can be extended to other parts of the Interstate that pass through Baton Rouge.

November 14 Update - My wife and I walked through the same intersection (see November 12 entry below) after lunch today--crossing 5th Street at Convention St. One problem is that someone crossing the street from east to west can't see whether the traffic light is red or green. 5th Street is one way at that point, and the signal is only 3-sided. Unfortunately for the pedestrian, the blank side is the only one visible from either side of the crosswalk. I think this is especially hazardous because of all the construction in the area, which both changes traffic patterns and limits visibility for both pedestrians and motorists.

November 12 - I'm Invisible! - Today's story reminded me of a scene in the 1970-vintage movie Little Big Man in which blind Indian chief Old Lodge Skins (played brilliantly by Chief Dan George) walks unharmed through a raging battle in his village saying, "They can't see me. I'm invisible!" (The joke being, of course, that his blindness keeps his enemies from seeing him as well as him from seeing them).

Coming back from lunch yesterday we watched a man walk obliviously into a crosswalk with the light green against him and a Jeep Wrangler approaching. The Jeep slowed down to avoid hitting him. The man never looked up from his phone, seemingly unaware to what might have happened. Fortunately for him the incident took place in a construction zone, where no one can travel more than about 20 mph. Maybe he thought the road was blocked from traffic. I don't know. The story demonstrates that cell phones are dangerous in the hands of both drivers and pedestrians.

November 8: Why Didn't I Cross the Road?

The Story - Today on the way to lunch, I was waiting at the corner of 6th and Main to cross Main St. to the north (toward Serop's Express). The light was in my favor, but blocking my way was a vehicle sitting on Main St. in the crosswalk. I scowled at the driver, who apparently saw me and sheepishly began to make a "right on red" turn to get out of my way, without really looking at what was in his way on 6th St. At the same time, several female pedestrians were crossing 6th St (against the light), putting themselves directly in front of the right turner. In order to avoid hitting them, the driver pulled into the left lane on 6th St. Just then a silver car came rolling south down 6th St, blowing its horn. I stayed put. The women hustled through the 6th St crosswalk. The right turner completed his turn and veered back into the right lane. The silver car slowed and swerved a bit to avoid the car turning into his path. For a second, a collision between the two cars looked likely, but was narrowly avoided. All this happened because the first vehicle didn't stay out of the crosswalk, and then, embarrassed by his error, tried to correct it without paying attention to the rest of what was going on.

The women helped create the situation by crossing 6th St against the light, but in their admittedly weak defense, it sometimes seems safer to cross against a light with nothing coming, then to wait to cross with the light and risk being hit by an anxious driver turning either left or right. Left turners especially seem to delight in threatening pedestrians in the crosswalk. Drivers don't want to get caught in the intersection when the light turns, and they can't conceive waiting through an entire light cycle just to ensure the safety of pedestrians. Or they're talking on a cell phone while making the turn, and not really thinking about any of this. Motorists turning right with a green light may not even slow down much.

Lessons for Pedestrians - Trust no one sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle when you're crossing a street. Continue to scan in all directions as you cross. Make eye contact with as many motorists as possible to hold them in their places. Hold your hand up in the "stop" position to improve your chances. Increasing development of the downtown Baton Rouge area means more motorists, more pedestrians, and more opportunities for tragic accidents. You may be the righteous party in a vehicle/pedestrian collision, but that won't make you any less injured or dead. Protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Lessons for Motorists - Don't "atone" for a mistake by making another more dangerous one. Watch for oncoming traffic, both vehicular and on foot, when making any lane change or directional change, regardless of what the light says. Traffic lights only indicate what motorists and pedestrians are supposed to do--not what they might do when they're distracted by friends, cell phones, the radio, or whatever else has been going on that day. You'll "win" any collision with a pedestrian, but you won't feel good about it, no matter how right you were and how wrong the pedestrian was in his or her actions.

November 5 - Running the Gauntlet - I can't believe it's been more than two months since I posted a Road Rouge story. Drivers in Baton Rouge have been reasonably well-behaved--just the typical streams of cars running red lights while making left turns. Today's story comes from that family. It happened a few days ago, at the intersection of Sherwood Forest Blvd. and the I-12 West on-ramp. In any event, cars turning left with the green light from Sherwood Forecast northbound onto the I-12 on-ramp had already started through the intersection--one had already made it through--when a southbound vehicle on Sherwood Forest decided that he would "run the gauntlet" through the steady stream of cars, against his own red light. He made it without incident, but I was impressed with his nerve.

A few weeks ago we saw an similarly embarrassing move, again without incident. A young woman trying to turn left from Government Street onto Acadian Thruway managed to cross the oncoming lane into the right turn lane from Acadian onto Government. Fortunately no one wanted to make that turn and she was able to worm sheepishly (how's that for a mixed metaphor) out of her embarrasing manuever.

Oh yeah, I'm still waiting for the State Police to send accident statistics for the I-10/Picardy Ave. area. Deputy Brown acknowledged my request and said that it was in the queue for response.

August 27 - Downtown Drafting - Today's Road Rouge story comes from downtown. Heading east on Main Street, I stopped for a red light at 9th St. To the left of me a large open dump truck roared through the entire intersection while the light shone red. OK, I've seen that, I thought, not too greatly surprised. I was surprised, as were the motorists waiting to proceed south on 9th St, when a small brown sedan "drafted" the dump truck and shot through the intersection behind it, clearly after the light in the other direction had already turned green. Several other drivers and I honked at the two fools as they turned left and headed up the I-110 N on-ramp. It's a good thing that the 9th St. drivers were either observing the 3-second rule, or just slow on the gas when their light changed to green, otherwise an ugly wreck would have occurred and I would have had to stay on the scene as an eyewitness.

August 26: U-Turn Signs Mix Messages for Motorists

On the way to church this morning I stopped at the intersection of Airline Highway and Goodwood Boulevard heading north and waited to turn left onto Goodwood. An interesting (and I think new) sign caught my attention. It instructed "U-Turn Yield to Right Turn". Good advice for those making a U-turn. Two signs and one traffic light to the right appeared another sign, this one with the universal signal for "No U-Turn", the upside-down U-shaped arrow with the red circle around it and red slash across it. Look back at the photo and see for yourself.

Here are my possible explanations.

1) There are two sign crews--putter-uppers and taker-downers. The putter-uppers have done their work, installing the new "U-Turn Yield to Right Turn" sign. The taker-downers will someday remove the conflicting "No U-Turn" sign.

2) Police are setting up to write two tickets to a U-turner who hits someone turning right off Goodwood.

3) The signs reflect the real attitude of the highway designers and the police. We'd prefer that you don't make any U-turns here, but if you have to, please wait until there's no one turning right.

4) No one has any idea what's going on, including me, given that this sign may have been in place for ten years before I noticed it.

August 26: Aussie Pinkie Campaign Shames Speeders - Here's a picture and a link to a fun article from the Chicago Tribune about Australia's "pinkie" campaign to slow down speeders. Do you think this would have any impact in Baton Rouge on what I call the NASCAR set--those who treat traffic like a NASCAR race to be won one car length at a time?,0,7703809.story

Tribune foreign correspondent Laurie Goering describes the campaign.

"After failing to scare young men into driving more slowly, Australian authorities have hit on a new tactic: questioning their virility. A witty advertising campaign features passengers and passersby waving their pinkie fingers -- a gesture suggesting a certain lack of physical endowment -- at show-off male drivers."

August 25: The following Letter to the Editor appeared in The Advocate this morning. I'm not the only one concerned about the safety of motorists on the off-ramp and service road at I-10 and Picardy. It's encouraging that a highway designer shares my concerns. I hope the author doesn't mind me copying it here. I will try to contact him about our mutual interest in this problem.

August 26 Update: I talked to Mr. Truxillo by phone today. As a consulting engineer, he has some contacts at DOTD that he will talk to about the problem. He faces the problems at I-10 between Bluebonnet and Siegen every morning and afternoon at rush hour. He describes motorists who use the frontage road to gain ground on stalled traffic--flying up to 70 mph to bypass 50 cars in line. He did not agree with Chief Engineer William Temple's conclusion that enforcement is the problem rather than poor design. He's seen wrecks, abrupt moves, and plenty of skid marks to demonstrate that we're talking about when, not if, someone will get killed in this area in an accident with poor highway design as the root cause.

I will see if the State Police have any statistics on the number of wrecks that have occured since Picardy Ave. interchange opened.

August 27 Update - I talked to Mr. Truxillo by phone and have exchanged e-mails. He found some highway design information that supports our case. He also said that enforcement was unlikely to be helpful because of the ambiguity of the meaning of "Yield" sign. He will continue to pursue the issue as he has time.

I sent an e-mail to the public information officer for Louisiana State Police Captain Bryan Wynne asking for accident statistics for the are on I-10 and the frontage roads between Bluebonnet and Siegen (which includes the new Picardy Ave. exit).

Published: Aug 25, 2007

Do motorists in the area know the meaning of a yield sign? I think not.

There are several locations around town where this is apparent. One is at the Interstate 12/Airline Highway interchange and the other is at the Interstate 10 off-ramps between Bluebonnet Boulevard and Siegen Lane.

At the I-10 off-ramps to the frontage roads running parallel to the interstate between Bluebonnet and Siegen, the frontage road traffic should yield to the off-ramps.

The frontage road advance signs read, “Yield to Ramp Traffic,” both lanes of the frontage road are marked with yield signs and emblems on the pavement, and there are two overhead yield signs where the frontage roads intersect the ramps.

Both lanes of the frontage road should yield to ramp traffic, but rarely or barely do. The intersection angles are quite bad; there have been quite a few accidents and near accidents at these locations.

A possible solution might be to replace the yield signs with stop signs. A stop sign should get most of us around here to at least yield to the motorist with the right of way.

Ron Truxillo
civil designer, highways
Baton Rouge

Here's the link to the letter of the The Advocate's website.

July 30: Be Safe! Turn Right! was distributed with my byline today by e-mail to all of my company's work groups at the Baton Rouge Tower as the weekly safety reminder.

July 26: My roadway safety kick now extends to work where I'm alerting people to a hazard as they leave the building's parking garage.

Here's my message and a link to a map of the issue.

Be Safe! Turn Right! (Safety Tip for North Tower Contract Parkers)

Employees parking in the North Tower garage encounter a safety hazard almost every day as they leave work. When exiting the garage by turning left onto 4th Street, their view to the left is obstructed by either the Iron Mountain truck, various construction vehicles and pieces of equipment, or both that are parked in what used to be parking spaces along the northbound right-hand side of 4th Street. By turning left to proceed south on 4th Street or to then turn onto Florida Street, they have to nose out past the obstructing vehicles and hope that nothing is coming either through the Florida/4th intersection southbound, or turning right from Florida onto 4th. If they guess right, they can proceed southbound on 4th Street and to their ultimate destination. If they guess wrong, they either get hit broadside or an oncoming car has to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.

The City-Parish has declined to prohibit left turns coming out of the garage, or to prohibit vehicles from parking in the view-obstructing area. Therefore it's up to us drivers to protect our safety. The safest way to exit the North Tower garage is to always turn right onto 4th Street, no matter where you're heading. If you want to reach I-110, you can turn right on Main St. and proceed to its I-110 on-ramp, which is further from the 1-10E/I-10W split, giving you more time to merge left if you want to go on I-10E, an additional safety benefit. Even those wanting to go south on 4th Street aren't too badly inconvenienced. They can turn right on Main, right on 6th, right on North Blvd. and left on 4th St--several turns to be sure, but less inconvenient than recovering from a broadside collision. You may add from a few seconds to a few minutes to your trip home, but you and your family can be more sure that you'll arrive home safely. Be Safe! Turn Right!

Here's a link to a picture to better illustrate the problem and suggested safeguard.

July 22: Baton Rouge Driving Rules This is a fun post from an observant 19-year old in Baton Rouge.

Please respond to the poll at the right about the I-10 S Exit at Picardy Ave. in Baton Rouge. Thanks!

July 14: My campaign to improve safety at the I-10 Picardy Ave. exit hasn't yet lit any fires. As mentioned before, I got a personal letter from State Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny Bradbury thanking me for my feedback and telling me that my concern had been forwarded to Chief Engineer William Temple. Today, I got a curt response from Mr. Temple, telling me my letter was an enforcement concern rather than a design concern and as such had been forwarded to Captain Bryan Wynne of the State Police. I will follow up with Captain Wynne to learn how his agency is enforcing the yield signs along the I-10 service road between Bluebonnet and Picardy.

July 10: Bad news (without an unhappy ending) and good news today. Starting with the "bad news" driving story, on the way downtown to lunch today, I was ready to turn right from S. Harrell's Ferry Road onto northbound S. Sherwood Forest Blvd so as to enter I-12 from a few yards down the road. The previous light cycle ended with a white car running the red light, and then stopping underneath the traffic signal, thereby blocking the intersection (at least the leftmost lane, where I wanted to be). I guess he thought he would minimize his sin by stopping rather than continuing through the light. I honked and waved a couple of times and then gave up and turned right into the right lane and went around him. Others behind me turned into his lane and further blocked the intersection. Even though I was 100 yards ahead at the next light, I waved some more, hoping he'd see me and move forward to make room for the other drivers. He steadfastly waited for the light to turn green, at which time everyone got well through the intersection before the next wave of S. Sherwood Forest came through. The best scenario I can imagine for him is that he was new to town and not aware that the signal he was sitting under was controlling the intersection that he was sitting in. At least no one got hurt.

My good news is that Baton Rouge's city leaders continue to work on the accident/injury/fatality infested section of I-12 near our house. The speed limit has been reduced from 70 mph to 60 mph all the way to Walker, LA, which is about 5 miles down the road. The speed limit used to change from 60 to 70 as soon as you left East Baton Rouge Parish. They've also posted a number of portable electronic signs along the highway warning drivers to be "Prepare to Stop. Traffic May Slow." I hope this helps. Statistics show that police officers are writing many more tickets recently, which should also help.

July 1: Great Moments in U-Turns - It's been a few days since I've been able to post a good Road Rouge story, but patience pays off as we saw an entertaining U-turn from the wrong lane against a red light this afternoon.

We were in the leftmost left turn lane waiting for the left turn signal to enter the westbound I-12 on-ramp at Sherwood Forest Blvd. A car stopped next to us in the right-hand left turn lane and proceeded to execute a U-turn in front of us while the left was red. The only positive mark I could give him was for not talking on a cell phone during the manuever. We theorized that he moved into the left turn lane thinking he wanted to go on I-12, but then thought of something he needed to do back home. Rather than entering I-12 and going to Airline Highway to turn around (a 5-minute round trip, at least), or waiting in place for our lane to clear and risking the car behind blowing its horn, or having to sit through another light cycle, he decided to take advantage of our law-abiding nature and the lack of cross-traffic to make his creative U-turn. I think there's a barricade that prevented him from proceeding on Sherwood Forest a few yards and then making a more traditional U-turn.

Sometimes I'm not that observant of no U-turn signs, particularly if I really need to make one and there's nothing coming, but I've never tried this particular move. You should avoid it too.

June 28 Part 2: My post of last night was very timely as The Advocate, Baton Rouge's daily newspaper, ran a story this morning about a meeting on I-12 safety headed by the Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden. The short-term upshot is addition of highway police patrols along the dangerous stretch of highway, which has experienced almost 2,000 wrecks causing 567 injuries and at least 10 deaths over the last five years. Here's a link to the article:

June 28: Fatal Accidents Plague Baton Rouge Interstates - Baton Rouge drivers have been behaving themselves in my sight lately, and I've been off the roads for a few days as a surgery patient. Still a couple of road-related topics have come to my attention. Sadly, the first involves a couple of fatal accidents that have taken place on I-12 in Baton Rouge within a few miles of my house. In the first accident, some large pipes (sewer pipe size) came loose from the back of a tractor trailer, one of which crushed a vehicle and killed its driver, a pregnant woman. We've talked a bit around the house about how such accidents could be prevented. A lot of large trucks travel with open loads, secured by straps and chains. In this case, it seems like large pipes could be carried in a closed container that could provide some protection for other vehicles when one of the pipes came loose. I read that a similar accident happened along I-12 in Baton Rouge several years ago.

The second accident, also on I-12 East, involved three 18-wheelers (and some other vehicles, I think) and resulted in three fatalities. I haven't seen an analysis of the accident, but a problem in the area of the wreck is the narrowing of the highway from three lanes to two. Particularly in late afternoon (although this wreck took place at about 10 p.m.), traffic backs up as commuters head home. The area to the east of Baton Rouge has a growing population, many of which work in Baton Rouge. Too many cars are forced to merge into too few lanes and on many days traffic flow stops. A vehicle that's not aware of this situation and not paying attention can easily be going 65 mph and find cars in front of him going 10 mph or less just feet in front of him. Personally, I think everyone's in far too big a hurry during rush hour. If traffic thins just a bit, cars are once again going 70 mph, even though the next slow down may be only a quarter mile ahead. Long haul truckers get paid by the mile and seem determined to travel 70 mph for every possible mile, even though they would add only 3 minutes to their trip by going 50 instead of 70 across the 20 or so miles that pass through Baton Rouge. Because there's no bypass, Baton Rouge has some of the worst rush hour traffic around, as commuters and through traffic share the road for 2+ hours in the morning and 3+ hours in the evening.

Driving along the two-lane road that parallels this stretch of I-12, as I do most days, is a dicey experience. More than one large vehicle has left the interstate on the right hand side, driven through the chain link fence and into the two-lane road. A friend of mine was hit by such a vehicle. Her SUV was totalled, but miraculously, she was unhurt. You can count the number of times someone has gone through the fence by counting the lengths of new fencing.

Some of Louisiana's legislators have been paying attention and have asked the DOTD for a study of this stretch of I-12, which has yielded 11 fatalities in the last five years. I look forward to seeing the results of the study, and to whatever improvements might be made to make this dangerous stretch of highway safer. In the meantime, everybody please slow down and pay attention.

10 Commandments of Driving

My second topic is the recently issued "10 Commandments of Driving", offered by that noted source of highway safety information, the Vatican in Rome. One can opine as to whether highway safety is the best use of the Holy See's resources, but the ideas offered are sound, albeit a little high-minded, given that they don't address such directly hazardous activities as speeding and tailgating. I'm not sure if God was a point system for violators, or what the consequences of non-compliance are, other than increased risk of tickets, accidents and injuries or worse. Without further liturgy, here they are:

The "Drivers' Ten Commandments"

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

Here's a link with more of the story:

Maybe as part of this effort I'll come up with a more secular version of my own.

June 14: On the way to work (whoops, I mean the doctor's office) this morning, we were waiting on Sherwood Forest to turn left onto I-12 West. Traffic was heavy in the other direction, and the car in the opposite left lane stopped to avoid being stuck in the intersection. At this point, the driver behind the stopped car darted out into the right lane and moved into the intersection, only to be stuck with no place to go, as traffic on that side was backed up as well. Fortunately for us, traffic moved along enough for the woman to clear the intersection so we could turn left when we got the green arrow. I guess she just couldn't handle waiting through another light cycle.

Picardy Ave. Exit Update: I got a letter today from the Secretary of DOTD saying that my concern had been forwarded to their Chief Engineer and that I would be hearing from him. The letter appeared to be authentically signed by the Secretary and it arrived in my home mailbox only two days after I sent my fax. Very encouraging. Stay tuned.

June 11: Today I offer a "Road Rose" to the unidentified Louisiana State Trooper who slowed down and flashed his lights to allow me to merge into I-12 East at Airline Highway on Sunday afternoon. Without such help my options were to drive on the shoulder or to proceed straight from the on ramp to the off ramp to try again.

June 10: Dangerous Road Design - Today I want to highlight a dangerous road design here in Baton Rouge in the hope that greater awareness, or perhaps even a redesign can prevent a costly or even deadly crash.

My concern is with the new Picardy Avenue interchange on I-10 South. One of the primary objectives of this interchange is to move travelers from I-10 into the Mall of Louisiana without having them drive on Bluebonnet Blvd.

However, when you exit I-10 South at Picardy, you have almost no time to cross two lanes of traffic coming from behind you on the southbound frontage road before you reach the Picardy Ave. turnoff on the other side.

The drivers on the frontage road are warned with many "Yield" signs, but in my experience with Baton Rouge drivers, it is very counterintuitive for those going straight ahead to yield to those merging into or across a given street.

When I've tried to make the move across to Picardy, I've found it hard to take it on faith that those motorists speeding into my side view mirror and are going to slow down to allow me across. One time, I continued on down the frontage road to Siegen and took the northbound frontage road back to Picardy. The next time I exited I-10 South at Bluebonnet and wound my way around the Mall to get to the new Rave Theater to pick up my daughter there.

Having driven a lot in Texas, I'm familiar with the value of frontage roads, but I haven't seen one there where a driver exiting the interstate is confronted with such an immediate need to cross traffic to get where he or she wants to go.

I'm very afraid that there's going to be a high-speed collision at this site before something is done to improve its safety. Please be very careful if you find yourself traveling south on the frontage road from Bluebonnet Blvd. to Siegen Lane or if you are exiting I-10 at Picardy Ave. and trying to get to the Mall.

June 12 Update: I faxed this concern today to the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. When (and if) I get a response, I'll post a summary here.

June 9: Imaginative and Dangerous Driving - Today we saw two examples of Road Rouge, my term for the imaginative and often dangerous driving I see here almost every day in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Both were associated with interstate ramps. Interstates I-10, I-12 and I-110 run through the middle our fair city, so it's fitting that the first examples come from this critical driving environment.

First on an I-12 on-ramp, a red sedan executed an unexpected pass, using the unoccupied (barely) second lane to execute the pass. We were far enough behind in line to just enjoy the move without having to deal with it. I'm not sure what motivated the driver to make such a move to advance one space in the line of cars entering I-12 at that point. Maybe he or she just bought the car and was looking for chances to check out the excellent handling promised by the salesperson.

On the same trip (actually less than a mile down I-12 at the next exit), another vehicle decided about one-third of the way down the off-ramp that he or she still needed to be on I-12, darted to the left, cross all those diagonally-striped lines and made his or her way back into traffic. Fortunately, traffic on a Saturday afternoon was pretty light, so the move put neither the driver nor other travelers in jeopardy. We were the next vehicle in line at the exit, well behind, but within range had the driver been sideswiped while trying to reenter interstate traffic. Surely the daring driver felt satisfied, knowing he or she had saved the two or three minutes it would have taken to complete the unintended exit, drive on to the next on-ramp and continue safely on his or her trip.

Your examples of Road Rouge (or whatever you call it in your hometown) are welcome. Please leave them as comments on this post.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

November (and One December) Book Reviews - Grisham True Crime; Ford's Jersey Series Continues; Hip Louisiana PI; US Defense Policy Analysis

I read just three books in November, one of which, Daydream Believers by Fred Kaplan, was an advance review copy from Amazon that to my knowledge, I'm only supposed to review on until the book's release in February 2008. That leaves two books: Louisiana Bigshot by Julie Smith and The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford. To beef up the numbers and to publicize what I think is one of the most important books written in awhile, I'm adding a December book to the list, The Innocent Man by John Grisham. I'll start with it and work backwards.

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

The phrase "Grisham book" and word "important" aren't often found in the same sentence, but John Grisham's 2006 non-fiction book, The Innocent Man, allows me to state that Grisham has now written the most important book of his mega-successful career, and one of the most important I've read by any author.

The book recounts two murders in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. Both victims are young women. In both cases, the local and state police investigating the case are stumped. But with a harrowing blend of extremely circumstantial "evidence", shocking crime scene photos, junk science, inexpert experts, jailhouse snitches and critical "dream confessions" induced by near-torture tactics, the police pin the murders on four young men of the area, two per murder.

The "innocent man" of the title is 30-something ne'er-do-well Ron Williamson, a schoolboy baseball star whose dreams of playing in Yankee Stadium dissolve in the low minors in a mix of arm injuries, booze and the onset of mental illness. By the time of the murder that consumes most of Grisham's tale, Williamson has washed up back home in Ada, and deservedly earned a reputation as a loudmouth loose cannon of sorts. Still his worst crime is passing a $300 phony check.

Skipping forward quickly, Williamson becomes the focus of the police's investigation and ultimately finds himself on death row in an Oklahoma criminal justice system whose aim seems to be to continuously reduce the amount of respect shown to death row inmates until it reaches zero. Shrewd detectives that they are, the police "know" that there's a second killer because of a misspelled warning message written in catsup at the scene, "dont chase us or ealse." Enter suspect two, single father Dennis Fritz, whose main crime is being a friend of Williamson.

I'll stop here regarding the "plot", even though this is a news story and you could look it up. (If you don't know the outcome of the story, skip over the photos in the middle of the book until you've finished reading.) While novelistic in format, The Innocent Man reads more like a newspaper report, or like a lawyer dispassionately recounting the facts of a case. (Well after awhile not so dispassionately, as the injustices against the accused and then convicted men pile up.) The issues raised by the case and brought to light by Grisham cover the gamut of criminal justice - abuse of police power, single-minded focus on particular suspects and deliberate ignorance of others, near-torture-induced confessions, prosecutorial arrogance, lack of resources provided to defendants, mishandling of evidence, coercion of expert witnesses, use of junk science to dazzle a jury, the general and mistaken belief by the community that the police only arrest guilty parties, and most compellingly in Williamson's case, the inability of the criminal justice system to recognize and deal humanely with mentally ill prisoners.

My wife read the almost 450-page paperback version in one day. She then bugged me to read it for several days until I interrupted my second attempt at Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer: A Novel and dove in. Even while sick, I finished it in a day-and-a-half. After his disappointing novella Bleachers, I'd pretty much written off Grisham (never have considered him much better an airplane read in the first place), but I'm deeply grateful to him to recognizing the power of this story and bringing to the attention of so many people with this fine book. I also salute him for sticking to the non-fiction format, resisting the novelist's urge to fictionalize the story and embellish it with tie-ins to the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11 and the like. The Innocent Man may not stand up as literature to recently-deceased Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, but it's still a great book--the best true-crime story I've read with the most important messages about America's criminal justice system and its generally unrecognized threat to innocent men and women everywhere (and especially in Ada, OK where the DA that prosecuted the cases is still in office).

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford

Ford's Private Jersey

Action and plot take a backseat to character exploration in Richard Ford's third novel about New Jersey-based sportswriter cum real estate agent Frank Bascombe, who having survived loss, tragedy and a career change in his first two appearances (The Sportswriter, which I tried to read unsuccessfully several years ago, and Independence Day), returns in The Lay of the Land for his self-named Permanent Period. Naturally gregarious, Frank is quite alone (except for the atomic BBs in his groin--there to fight prostate cancer) in November 2000 (the Gore-Bush election dispute is an ongoing element of the story), his children grown and moved away from New Jersey, divorced by one wife and left by the second. With his protege, Tibetan immigrant and amateur Buddhist philosopher Mike Mahoney, Bascombe manages his thriving real estate office on the fictional island community of Sea-Clift off the Jersey shore. In a hospital cafeteria, in a bar (or three), or in his seaside condo (not for sale but valued in excess of $1 million) alongside a diminishing band of secretive and/or eccentric and annoying neighbors, Frank searches for human contact. He goes so far as to arrange a catered Thanksgiving dinner for his children and their spouses, partners, or dates, even going so far as to invite his first ex-wife, a move that both he and former tennis coach Ann Dykstra immediately regret.

Counting almost 500 pages in the trade paperback edition, the novel includes at least 350 pages of the inner workings of Frank's mind. In just three days of thought and action before and on Thanksgiving, we learn more about Frank than most people would know about their spouses after 20 years of marriage. Along the way we learn a good bit about the Jersey shore real estate trade and about the idiosyncractic makeup of the whole of New Jersey, an amalgamation of small towns, boros, and villages struggling to maintain their identities in a big box world that wants to smush them together into market segments. When it comes the action can be violent, comic, pathetic or some combination of the three.

Well-written throughout, The Lay of the Land may keep you going even if character-driven novels aren't your speed. The big ending, which I read about four times, will be your reward. Five star elements - writing, character-development, detailed insight into setting; four star or less elements - plot and action. Overall four stars. Folks that liked John Updike's Rabbit series will probably like this one. I hope that Ford will use his considerable talents to write a truly great book (at least to my tastes) like Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex: A Novel.

Louisiana Bigshot by Julie Smith

Hot Stuff Louisiana Style

Not being a big fan or urban detective fiction, I never would have bought this book if not for taking a half-day class on character development in fiction writing taught by the author. The class was fun and informative, but I haven't written any fiction since the class. However, I did buy and read Louisiana Bigshot, one of Ms. Smith's 20 or so detective novels. The heroine of the story is young African-American Talba Wallis, a PI by day and the performance artist Baroness Pontalba by night. A friend is murdered and she convinces her boss to take the case. Investigation involves digging in the past of a nearby small town that hasn't advanced much culturally since the 1950s. Race, sex, violence and politics, the grist of a good Louisiana-set novel, are all here and capably handled by Smith's fast-moving style.

Hip, computer-savvy, but accident-prone Talba is a fun leading character, but with some issues of her own that she works on in parallel with the murder investigation. Her boss Eddie is an obese Yat from the old school, but he knows the key to unlock almost any door. Smith also creates a touching character to be Talba's spiritual guide, an aging retired minister who devotes his life to caring for his aging and ailing wife. Though the town at the center of the story is fictitious, Louisiana readers will recognize many of the settings. Like a fresh fried shrimp poboy, Louisiana Bigshot (which sounds like a good name for a hot sauce or a drink) - is a quickly-consumed and tasty treat. Three-and-a-half stars for the book and the extra half for its author teaching the fun course for a total of four stars.

Daydream Believers by Fred Kaplan

As a regular reviewer at, I got an advanced copy of Daydream Believers this book through their Vine program. The book will be released in February 2008. The author writes the column War Stories in the online magazine Slate (, which I've enjoyed for years. Having received the book for free, I owe a first review to that Vine program, so all I’ll say here is that if you read this book you will have a much greater understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of the Iraq War and its aftermath. The title, taken from an old Monkees song, I think, undersells a very informative and important book. The “believers” part of the title is right on.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

BCS Jumble Solved - Ohio State vs. LSU in BCS Championship Game

7:30 p.m. Update - Ohio State and LSU were clear picks as #1 and #2 and will compete in the Allstate Bowl Championship Game in the Superdome in New Orleans on Monday, January 7. They were first and second in both human polls and second and third (to Virginia Tech) in the computer rankings.

1:00 p.m. Update - The Coaches' Poll has Ohio State and LSU in top two positions, followed by Oklahoma, Georgia, Va Tech, USC, Missouri, Kansas, West Virginia, Hawaii, Arizona St and Florida.

In Baton Rouge yesterday, the planets aligned; the traffic jam cleared; the drought broke; the lottery number hit--whichever of these or your own chosen metaphors fits--just a week and a day after a bitter 3-overtime loss to Arkansas, LSU's football team is back in the running for the 2007 National Championship. The Tigers did their part by beating the hard-hitting Tennessee Vols by 21-14 in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, on a day when Coach Les Miles had to announced his intent to continue as LSU's coach in 2008, in light of an published report that Michigan would announced Miles as their new head coach later this week.

For the Tigers to have any chance to play for the big prize, both #1 Missouri and #2 West Virginia had to lose on Saturday. Playing formidable #9 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game, Missouri seemed the more likely victim, and sure enough, they were trounced, 38-17 by the Sooners. Playing at home against 4-7 Pitt in the annual "Backyard Brawl", West Virginia was favored by about four touchdowns and figured to romp to victory. Stunned Mountaineer fans sat speechless and motionless in the stands as Pitt players and fans celebrated a 13-9 upset win.

The outcomes will very likely push previously #3 Ohio State into the #1 spot. Upwards of ten teams will be considered by pollsters and computers today for the coveted #2 spot in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans. Here's my take on the pros and cons for each team; my prediction destination for each team; and how I'd vote if I were a real sportswriter, coach, former player or computer.

Ohio State - pros - only 1-loss record among major conference champs; champs of Big 10; cons - no Big Ten tournament, last game now a week-old memory. Prediction - In BCS Championship Game as new #1. CORRECT, continue.

Missouri - pros - great record (11-2); strong schedule; Big 12 North champ; cons - lopsided last game loss to Oklahoma. Prediction - Fiesta or Cotton. Cotton or something else. Tough treatment for Missouri.

West Virginia
- pros - several impressive wins over Big East opponents ; cons - last game loss at home to lightly-regarded Pitt. Prediction - Orange? Long trip to Fiesta.

Georgia - pros - #4 ranking in last week's poll; 10-2 record; playing very well at end of season; lopsided win over Florida; cons - not even champ of own SEC division. Prediction - almost any game possible (BCS, Sugar, Orange, Rose), I'll guess Sugar. CORRECT, continue.

Virginia Tech - pros - 11-2 record; ACC Champ; loss to BC avenged in ACC title game; finished strong; cons - early-season 41-point loss to co-contender LSU. Prediction - Orange. CORRECT, continue.

Kansas - pros - #5 ranking in last week's poll; 1-loss record; lots of high scoring wins; cons - lost critical game to Missouri and didn't look good doing it; strength of schedule poor. Prediction - Fiesta. Orange over Missouri, despite head-to-head loss.

LSU - pros - 11-2 record; SEC Champ with gritty win over Tennessee; big wins over Va Tech, Florida, Auburn, Miss St (all bowl teams); two losses both in 3 OT's; cons - #7 in BCS standings last week; recent loss to Arkansas. Prediction - BCS Championship Game. CORRECT; way to go voters.

Oklahoma - pros - 11-2 record; Big 12 champ with win over then-#1 Missouri; cons - #9 in last BCS standings; poor strength of schedule; recent ugly loss to Texas Tech. Prediction - Fiesta. CORRECT; continue.

Hawaii - pros - only undefeated team in country; win in last regular-season game played by anyone; cons - played in perceived-weak WAC; #12 in last BCS standings. Prediction - Sugar. CORRECT; three in a row.

USC - pros - Pac 10 Champ; cons - big fall from preseason #1; embarrassing loss to Stanford at home. Prediction - Rose. CORRECT. Playing non-BCS team Illinois (Big Ten tie-in)

My top eleven would be:

Team (Dave rank) BCS Rank

1) Ohio State yes
2) LSU yes
3) Oklahoma #4
4) Georgia #5
5) Virginia Tech #3
6) Missouri yes
7) USC yes
8) Florida #12
9) Kansas #8
10)West Virginia #9
11) Hawaii #10