December 10, 2013
Don’t look now, but the college basketball season is already about a third of the way complete. Who knew? With bowl season and the NFL playoffs closing in, college basketball doesn’t get much attention, but it is shaping up to be a great season. Kentucky, Michigan St., and Arizona have all been ranked No. 1. The defending champions in Louisville have just one loss and are at No. 6. And there are still 15(????) teams that haven’t lost. How long will that last? Let’s take a look.
No. 2 Syracuse (9-0) – The Orange should have no trouble in the next two and ought to be 11-0 heading into a showdown with No. 10 Villanova. The Wildcats will probably also be undefeated heading into that game. One streak will end.
No. 3 Ohio State (8-0) - The Buckeyes have a bunch of wins against schools that I have not heard of. So I’m not impressed. But they did hold a ranked Marquette team to 35 points. That is impressive. If they beat Michigan State on Jan. 7 then I’ll really be impressed.
No. 9 Connecticut (9-0) – The Huskies have three wins by one point and another win by just two. They could get to 16-0, but they won’t make it to 18-0. With games against No. 16 Memphis and No. 6 Louisville coming in a three day span, at least one loss is coming.
No. 10 Villanova (9-0) – Same story here as with Syracuse. If the Wildcats can beat Syracuse, they could go for a long run. There are no other ranked teams left on the schedule.
No. 12 Wichita State (9-0) – The Shockers have only been tested on a couple of occasions. There are no ranked teams on their schedule so they should finish the season with just a couple losses. And the first one will come at Alabama on Dec. 17.
No. 15 Oregon (8-0) – The Ducks have only played one close game and escaped with a win in overtime at Mississippi. They’ll be tested in two of the next three games when they play Illinios and BYU. My gut says they lose one of them.
No. 17 Iowa State (7-0) – The Cyclones are ranked in the top four in the nation in points, rebounds and assists. No wonder they haven’t lost. But they are about to. In-state rival Iowa (ranked in the top nine in the nation in points, rebounds and assists) comes to town on Friday and will give the Cyclones their first L of the season.
No. 22 Massachusetts (8-0) – The Minutemen have an impressive list of wins already. Boston College, LSU, New Mexico, Clemson and BYU gives them a pretty nice early season resume. I’ll be really impressed if they make it to 11-0 because that will require a win over Florida Sate on Dec. 21.
No. 29 Boise State (8-0) – Could Chris Peterson have left Boise State because he didn’t even have the highest ranked team at his own school? When was the last time the basketball team was ranked higher than the football team? The Broncos have the top scoring team in the country. Can they pull the upset at Kentucky tonight?
No. 35 St. Mary’s (7-0) – They don’t have any great wins yet, but St. Mary’s has a shot to pick one up against Boise State on Saturday.
Toledo (8-0) – The Rockets do not even have a vote to be in the top 25 right now. But they can shoot (6th in the country) and have put up at least 90 points five times already. A couple more wins should get some people’s attention. Then we’ll see what they can do when they visit No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 30.
December 9, 2013
Seattle Mariners roll the dice with Robinson Cano: We’ve seen insane baseball deals before and one would think that with Alex Rodriguez’ contract turning into a disaster and Albert Pujols on the decline after signing his monster contract that Major League Baseball teams would finally learn a lesson. The Seattle Mariners, though, remained undeterred by those warning shots and promptly signed New York Yankees’ second baseman Robinson Cano to a ten-year $240 million deal. Cano’s a fine player and one of the best second basemen in all of baseball, but that’s a big, big number. To be fair, in 2013, he led all American League players at that position by a wide margin in home runs, RBI, and batting average. Cano’s obviously extremely valuable but the chances that this contract will turn into a mistake remain high. The infielder is still in his prime, but at 31, that won’t last long. It’s a scary thought what Cano will be doing five years from now at 36, but ten? He’ll be 41 when this deal is over and paying a player tens of millions of dollars past the age of 40 is borderline suicide.
New York Yankees to feature new look in 2014: Speaking of Cano, the New York Yankees will have a new look in 2014. Not only did they allow their second baseman to walk, but they also let Curtis Granderson sign with the New York Mets. That doesn’t mean the free-spending Yanks aren’t ready to make any moves in the offseason, though. New York first dropped a bombshell, signing Jacoby Ellsbury away from the Boston Red Sox to a seven-year deal worth $153 million. They also scooped up catcher Brian McCann and most recently, signed outfielder Carlos Beltran to a three-year $45 million deal. Those moves won’t guarantee success but if nothing else, New York will have a significantly different look in 2014.
Florida State and Auburn will square off for title: The Ohio State Buckeyes had their chance to play for the BCS Championship, but let it slip through their fingers in a 34-24 season-ending loss to Michigan State this weekend. That opened the door for the SEC Championship winner and Auburn routed Missouri in a 59-42 win to move into college football’s title game. There will be those that still favor Alabama over Auburn, but the Tigers certainly deserve to play for the championship after their wacky victory over the Crimson Tide. Auburn could present a stiff challenge but Florida State has just rolled over everyone they’ve faced this season – I’ll take the Seminoles in this one.
Steve Sarkisian becomes next USC football coach: The USC Trojans have their next football coach after hiring Steve Sarkiaian last week. The move raised some eyebrows to be certain as USC took a bit of a risk on this hire. Sarkisian does have major college football experience, having served the last five seasons as the head coach of the Washington Huskies, but didn’t have a ton of success there. To be fair, he did have four winning seasons in his five years there … but just barely. Three of those seasons, he was a modest 7-6 and his career 34-29 record hardly is much of an inspiration for a program with as much prestige as USC football. The hire may work out, but there’s no question the new coach has a lot to prove.
He’s back – Kobe returns in loss on Sunday: The Los Angeles Lakers got their star back over the weekend as Kobe Bryant returned to play his first game since his ACL injury. Bryant’s time was limited and he had only nine points in a loss to the 7-12 Toronto Raptors. The guard played 28 minutes and was clearly a bit rusty, shooting only 2-9 from the field and racking up a monster eight turnovers. You can expect some more rusty play out of him as well as limited minutes to start until he can get going.
Matt Prater hits record field goal: The Denver Broncos trailed the Tennessee Titans in the first half of their game on Sunday, but they recovered in part from an NFL-record field goal kicked by Matt Prater. Prater connected on a 64-yarder, breaking the league record of 63 yards held by four players. The feat is an amazing one to be sure, but don’t be surprised if the record falls in the near future. With kickers’ legs getting stronger, Prater’s record might not stand for long. After all, David Akers and Sebastian Janikowski, both kicked 63-yard field goals in each of the past two seasons and Prater’s kick on Sunday marked the third consecutive year that feat was achieved.
Gary Kubiak fired as Houston Texans’ coach: The Houston Texans have had a rocky year and as the season comes to a close, the franchise canned their head coach Gary Kubiak as a result. The move was understandable as the Texans not only had a subpar year, but a downright horrible one. The team was 2-11 at the time of Kubiak’s firing – good enough for worst in the league. When you factor in that Houston was 12-4 last season and reached the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the team clearly expected more and woefully disappointed this season. The Texans had a few problems in that quarterback Matt Schaub was injured and subsequently benched, and All-Pro running back Arian Foster was placed on injured reserve with a back injury. Still, to go from 12-4 to a 2-11 record (including 11 consecutive losses) is disastrous and it’s little surprise that someone had to pay the price.
December 4, 2013
How about that finish in the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn? Pretty crazy right. We’ve all heard about that by now. And that game between the Patriots and Broncos was pretty good too. They are just two of the big sports stories we’ve seen in the last few weeks, but there are a lot more that are just as strange but don’t get as much attention. Here’s a few that I like.
One of the fastest sprinters in history, Usain Bolt, recently revealed that he ate around 1,000 chicken nuggets from McDonalds during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing while he was winning gold medals in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 4×100 meter relay events.
Speaking of Olympians, swimmer Ryan Lochte was injured by a teenage girl. She was an excited fan and ran at him and when he caught her, they both went down and he hit his knee on a curb and wound up with a torn MCL and sprained ACL.
A cross country runner in Kentucky opted not to run in the regional championships because she was assigned the number 666 for the bib she was to wear on her chest. She requested to change numbers for religious purposes and the request was denied by race officials.
A man was arrested for using a taser on his wife because of a bet between the two regarding the outcome of a Monday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. The couple had agreed that the loser of the bet would be tasered by the winner and after the Bears pulled out the win, the man used the stun gun on his wife’s butt twice and once on her thigh. She called the cops and he went to jail.
Kansas State attempted to lure students to attend the women’s basketball season opener by giving away five slices of bacon to any student that presented a valid ID.
Corey “Thunder” Law of the Harlem Globetrotters set a new world record for the longest basketball shot by making a bomb from just over 109 feet away.
An assistant football coach in Tennessee was arrested and charged for vandalizing his own school. He committed the crime in an attempt to frame the opponent in his teams rivalry game with the hopes that it would inspire his team to win the game. They lost 35-17.
A coyote stole the show when it joined in the Arizona cross country state championship race. It disappeared back into the brush after making a short appearance at the front of the pack.
Jacksonville defender Jason Babin came away from a tackle with a handful of Arizona running back Andre Ellington’s dreadlocks.
Michigan State got some help from the crowd in avoiding an upset loss against Columbia. The Spartans led by just two points with about three minutes to play when the student section helped out the defense by mistiming its shot clock countdown on two consecutive Columbia possessions. The Lions didn’t attempt a shot either time and turned the ball back to Michigan St. who ended up winning 62-53.
Just over a year after Jack Taylor of Grinnell College set the single-game collegiate scoring record with 138 points, Taylor was at it again, scoring 109 points in a 173-123 win over Crossroads College.
David Murphy’s free agent signing with the Cleveland Indians was leaked by his young daughter at her daycare.
The PBA started using blue dye to show viewers the oil on the lanes in an effort to help fans better understand the challenges facing the pros.
A golfer from Wales made a hole-in-one to get into contention in the World Cup of Golf and then played himself out of contention on the very next hole by carding an 11.
The Chicago Cubs, a team that is known for having a loyal fan base despite not winning a World Series in more than a century, has asked one of their biggest fans, an 11-year-old girl no less, to stop getting so excited at the games.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are trying to distract kickers with a dramatic gopher video when the kickers are facing the giant video board.
Jason Kidd was fined $50,000 for intentionally spilling his drink on the court when he didn’t have any timeouts left an needed to stop the game to set up a final play against the Lakers.
December 3, 2013
No. 1 Alabama stunned by Auburn: The BCS title picture just got a little more interesting with Alabama’s shocking loss to Auburn on Saturday. The way the Crimson Tide were defeated was also noteworthy as they had a missed field goal attempt in the game’s final seconds returned 100 yards for a game-winning touchdown. The loss now knocks them out of the SEC title game and could set up a Florida State-Ohio State National Championship. But despite the fact that Auburn has a loss while Ohio State remains unbeaten still might give the Tigers a chance to play for the title. Voters will have a difficult decision on their hands when they consider a less-impressive Buckeyes team vs. a one-loss SEC squad if Auburn manages to win their conference title game. Stay tuned.
Jason Kidd in Cup-Gate: Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd thought he made a shrewd move late in a game last week against the Los Angeles Lakers. Wanting to rally his team without using a timeout, Kidd held a drink and with one of his players walking towards him, seemed to utter the words ‘hit me’ as the player bumped into him, spilling the drink and forcing an official time out. Kidd used the extra time to rally his troops but their comeback fell short anyway. Afterwards Kidd denied the plot, but later relented and virtually admitted his guilt. For his part, he was fined $50,000 by the league and it was just a bad move on Kidd’s part all around. He said he wanted to help his team win, but blatantly cheating isn’t something that will win him a lot of friends.
Mike Tomlin in Trip-Gate: Last week was a rough one for head coaches and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was part of another controversy. In a heated game with the rival Baltimore Ravens, Tomlin stepped out onto the white out of bounds line in an attempt to slow down Jacoby Jones, who was running for a possible touchdown. Tomlin’s move seemed to work as Jones was definitely distracted to a degree and eventually caught and tackled. The point of whether Jones was going to be caught from behind can certainly be debated, but isn’t really the point here. Coaches are instructed to remain behind the thick white out of bounds line and not only did Tomlin pass the boundary by several feet, but he was practically onto the field of play. As of this weekend, the NFL was reviewing Tomlin’s move and deciding whether to penalize him. There’s really no way that Tomlin shouldn’t be disciplined here if the league is serious. His intent was pretty clear to most and even if the league doesn’t believe the intent was there, he simply has no business being that close to the field. A trip on Jones there could quite easily cause an injury and the league needs to send a statement that interfering in games as a coach is unacceptable.
Ping pong, anyone?: A $20,000 ping pong table? Yeah, there will be a huge market for that, right?
Hall of Fame nominees: A list of candidates up for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame included first-timers Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine. All three should get in, but Maddux may be the only surefire inductee next year. Thomas hit a whopping 521 home runs and was a two-time MVP, but many voters put off by the steroid era look at power numbers as being wildly inflated. Even though his name wasn’t linked to the scandal, it may (unfairly) cost Thomas some votes. But the guess is that all three will get in – even if it doesn’t happen this year. Other newcomers include Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, and Moises Alou. Mussina is an intriguing name, but he fell considerably short of 300 wins despite playing much of his career for the New York Yankees and his ERA of 3.68, even in the American League, isn’t terribly impressive when compared to Hall of Famers.
Kobe return potentially this week: The Los Angeles Lakers got some good news last week with word that Kobe Bryant is progressing nicely from his ACL injury. Things are going so well, in fact, that Bryant could return on Friday for L.A.’s game against Sacramento if he practices well this week. Things could be looking up for the Lakers, who have managed to stay afloat without Bryant and were 9-8 heading into this weekend. What the franchise shouldn’t do, though, is force him back too soon. Los Angeles has been wildly inconsistent this season, but playing well enough to be in the playoff hunt. They’ll need a healthy Bryant to make any kind of run in the postseason and that can only happen if he’s given the time he needs to fully recover. The issue here is going to be forcing Bryant to remain on the bench as the star probably wants to play as soon as he can. But the Lakers need to remember that he’s an investment (especially in light of his new contract) and not allow him to play until he’s completely readly.
Ohio State removes ‘M’ from campus: Preparing for their big annual rivalry game with the Michigan Wolverines, the Ohio State Buckeyes made a curious move when they decided to remove the letter ‘M’ from various locations around campus by covering it up with tape. Further, John Kasich, the state Governor, also encouraged people statewide to avoid using the letter per ESPN. The rivalry is one of the biggest in all of football, but really? Removing M’s from basic signs such as ‘bathroom’ or ‘gymnasium’ just seems a bit … silly.
Come Home, Lebron: A campaign to bring Lebron James back to Cleveland was led by a fan group recently. The fans distributed t-shirts, hoping to catch the attention of James, who was in town playing with his current team, the Miami Heat. James will be a free agent at the end of this year but Cleveland fans shouldn’t hold their breath for his return. He’ll be able to play for any team in the NBA and if James’ desire is to win championships, Cleveland will need at least one more key player in addition to him and star guard Kyrie Irving. And with a slew of offers to come from some of the marquee teams in the league, a return to Cleveland just doesn’t seem all that likely next year.
November 27, 2013
The 2013 NFL season is nearing a close but there are plenty of questions yet to be answered. This year more than ever it seems that every game is a coin flip. Right now there are literally 26 teams still in playoff contention. This is great—every game from here on out will be a nail-biter. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the final quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.
The Heavyweight Bout: New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Games don’t get bigger than this one. A potential NFC Championship Game in the making, both teams have a statement to make. Nothing like ending a holiday weekend with a cherry on top, Monday Night Football is not to be missed—Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will have their teams primed for a battle. Find time for this one.
The Divisional Battle: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
NFL fans can thank the Detroit Lions for this Thanksgiving tradition. The Lions provided football on Thursday before football was on Thursday. Hooray! Hey, there’s nothing like spending family time together watching the Lions and Green Bay Packers pummel one another. Here’s some added fuel to the fire—first place in the division is on the line. The Lions currently hold the top spot but the Packers want it badly. Another added bonus, we get to watch Calvin Johnson—who doesn’t like to watch greatness?
The Hidden Gem: Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
These teams are both surprises this year and playing their best ball of the season right now. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer just may be the hottest in the league. He’s thrown for 733 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions the last two games. The Cardinals have also won four straight games.
The Philadelphia Eagles, led by the NFL’s leading rusher through Week 12 LeSean McCoy are also sizzling. Winners of three straight and coming off their bye week, there’s no time to lose momentum now.
Neither team will give an inch. Expect plenty of offense. Give this one a go.
The Heavyweight Bout: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Few words need to describe this matchup between bitter divisional rivals. Remember when the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the San Francisco 49ers at home in Week 2, 29-3?
The Niners do too, expect them to exact revenge.
The Divisional Battle: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Winners of seven straight, the Carolina Panthers are the hottest team in the league right now. The NFL is far from easy and the Panthers will travel to the Big Easy in Week 14. This is to prove that they’re the best team in their division.
The New Orleans Saints don’t plan on relinquishing their A1 status anytime soon.
Cam Newton is living up to the hype—his counterpart Drew Brees is the standard. Jaw-dropping action will occur.
The Hidden Gem: Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals
One week they look like outright champs, the next it looks like they don’t belong.
Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton have to find a way. The winner of this one will gain the confidence it takes to go all the way. They’ll also do some convincing.
This is a true make-or-break game for both sides.
The Heavyweight Bout: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Two iconic franchises, two franchise quarterbacks, playoffs lives on the line—this game has all the elements to be a classic.
Aaron Rodgers will have returned from injury and Tony Romo will be psyched to make a run for the coveted Lombardi trophy. These two guys may just combine for 800 passing yards.
Fun, fun, fun—please pay attention to this one.
The Divisional Battle: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning on Thursday Night Football is a great start to Week 15. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have something to fight for as the Chargers are only 5-6 heading into Thanksgiving, but have a real punchers chance. Rivers has never performed so well and the Chargers are electric on offense.
Manning and the Broncos need little introduction, they’re the real deal.
The Hidden Gem: New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers
Believe it or not, the New York Jets are currently in the playoff hunt. Yes, even at 4-7 they have a shot. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had his ups and downs, but the future is promising for him and the Jets.
The weak spot the Jets have this season is playing on the road. If they’re to make the postseason, they’ll have to head into Carolina and win. The Panthers defense, led by Luke Kuechley is one of the best in the league; don’t think they’ll let a rookie show them up.
Considering what’s at stake, this will be a good one.
The Heavyweight Bout: Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Chicago Bears are currently in a dogfight for the NFC North with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The Eagles are in the same situation in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Both teams are currently 6-5 and not in the playoffs. Considering their divisions will be on the line, neither team can afford to lose. This game has smash-mouth football written all over it. Last team with the ball wins.
The Divisional Battle: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
See Week 14—the loser of that game will want redemption. The winner will want to claim NFC South supremacy.
Scary thing is they may meet again in the playoffs. Awesome.
The Hidden Gem: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
Hey, the champs haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet. The Baltimore Ravens still have a pulse and are picking up steam down the stretch. Don’t cross-off Joe Flacco and Ray Rice because after all, they’re stars.
If they are to truly be playoff contenders, they’ll have to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. For them, it’s business as usual. They have yet to be their best and are still 8-3. That fact is downright frightening.
The Ravens must let it be known that they will defend what is rightfully theirs. A win in Week 16 will do just that.
If you think Week 17 was forgotten, think again. Sit tight, for it’ll have its own article. 16 divisional games—Wow!
Then, we’ll talk about playoffs.