January 6, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NFL Playoff thrillers: Fans were hoping for some watchable playoff games this weekend in the NFL and the league didn’t disappoint. Outside of the San Diego Chargers thrashing the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-10, pro football’s postseason games were all close. Saturday featured the Colts erasing a 28-point deficit against the Chiefs to come back for a 45-44 win. In addition, the Saints and 49ers both won on field goals as time expired in their games against the Eagles and Packers, respectively. The games were about as close as you could ask for and that surely amounted in a ratings bonanza for the league.

San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers had the most convincing win of the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.

BCS Championship Game: Florida State takes on Auburn tonight in college football’s national championship game and while the potential for a good game is there, the Seminoles cruising to a comfortable win seems the more likely scenario. While Auburn has a loss and several close games, Florida State has beaten up on everyone they’ve played this season. Their closest margin of victory was by 14 points against Boston College and the fewest points the Seminoles have scored was 37 in a 30-point win against rival Florida. The team not only has the nation’s top ranked offense, but the No. 1 defense as well. I’ll take Florida State tonight, 41-24.

Texas picks Charlie Strong as head coach: Texas didn’t get their original target in Alabama coach Nick Saban, so over the weekend, they tabbed former Louisville coach Charlie Strong as their next leader after Mack Brown stepped down. Saban is widely considered as the top coach in college football but getting Strong isn’t a bad consolation prize. Strong took over a weak Cardinals program and won 37 games in four seasons there. Many will point to the fact that he piled up his wins in the Big East and the AAC, where Louisville competed this season, but Strong’s teams have fared well against other major BCS programs, too. The Cardinals crushed a good Miami team this year in their bowl game and beat third-ranked Florida last season in the Sugar Bowl.

Kobe to start All-Star Game?: Despite barely playing this season fighting injuries, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is still getting votes to start in the NBA’s All-Star Game. A lot of them. The future Hall of Famer has only played in six games this year, but is still one of the leading vote getters in the Western Conference and is on pace to be named as a starter by fans. The league has opened the door for this sort of thing by putting ballots into the fans’ hands, but this really is a perfect example of how the voting has gotten out of control. Guards such as Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are having huge seasons and should be rewarded instead of Bryant, who by his own admission, won’t likely be healthy enough in time to even play.

Lambeau Leap Fail: Green Bay Packers’ fullback John Kuhn scored a touchdown in the team’s playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Unfortunately, his Lambeau Leap left a lot to be desired. Yeah, um, that didn’t work at all.

Team USA Hockey selections: The USA Hockey team selections for the 2014 Olympics were made last week and as always, there were a few notable omissions. Two guys that didn’t make the cut, defenseman Jack Johnson and winger Bobby Ryan, were interesting. Johnson is regarded as a top defenseman and Ryan is one of the best goal scorers in the league. For whatever reason, though, the pair didn’t make the team. But while there’s a lot of noise about them being left out right now, expect that die down if Team USA can win a gold medal.

The blowout of blowouts: Southern University won a basketball game over Champion Baptist College, 116-12. No, that’s not a typo. Their 44-0 lead to start the game was an NCAA record. The ironic thing is that at 5-9, it’s not like Southern is a basketball powerhouse. Keep in mind that this is the same team that lost to Denver, Arkansas-Little Rock, Louisiana Tech, and Middle Tennessee State. Just how bad were things for Champion Baptist? Their starters were a combined 2-29 from the field and only two players on the team scored field goals. Guard Zach Hendricks was the star for the team … and he had four points. CBC had a chance to score more points, but was only 5-17 from the free throw line. The school was outrebounded 69-22, had 27 turnovers, and only recorded a single assist.

October 8, 2013

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BCS Championship Update

By: Joe Williams

In just five weeks we’ve gone from 126 undefeated college football teams to just 17 without a loss. That number will be down to single digits in the next couple of weeks. The BCS rankings haven’t come out yet, but we all know that the BCS title game will feature the SEC champion against another team that is probably undefeated. How many of these teams are true contenders and which ones are really pretenders? Lets take a look.

In the SEC, its Alabama and everyone else. And unless LSU can take down the Tide on Nov. 9 they’ll be in the SEC title game against Georgia, South Carolina or maybe Florida. (We can’t leave out Missouri as long as it has a perfect record but that won’t last long with Georgia, Florida and South Carolina coming up in the next three weeks.)

So who will try to stop the SEC from winning another BCS title? That’s where the BCS comes into play. Take away the SEC and we still have 15 teams without a loss. Baylor, Clemson, Florida St., Fresno St., Houston, Louisville, Miami, Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ohio St., Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, Texas Tech and UCLA all have yet to lose.

Obviously some of those teams are serious contenders and some are too far down in the poll to make a serious run. Here’s a look at the teams best positioned to play for the title.

Could we see Clemson crash the BCS Championship game?

No. 2 Oregon
The Ducks have scored at least 55 points in every game. If they win out, they’ll play for the title. But it won’t be easy with Washington, UCLA, and Stanford still to play and then a possible Pac-12 title game.

No. 3 Clemson

Clemson has the best win of the season so far by beating Georgia. In two weeks, they’ll have to get by another top-10 team when they take on Florida State. The regular season finale at South Carolina will be another major hurdle before a possible ACC title game. Running the table would give the Tigers the best resume in the nation.

No. 4 Ohio State

The Buckeyes are perfect under second year coach Urban Meyer and should stay that way until they travel to the Big House to take on arch-rival Michigan and they they will likely be in the conference title game. Ohio State probably has the easiest road to perfection but may need some other teams to lose to reach No. 1 or No. 2 in the rankings.
No. 5 Stanford
The Cardinal have wins over two ranked teams already and have two more to go. They’ll have to get by UCLA before a showdown with Oregon. Winning those two games would give Stanford a great shot.

No. 6 Florida State
The Seminoles have been destroying their opponents so far. That will change with two of their next three games coming against Clemson and Miami. Winning those two games would set up a huge regular season finale against rival Florida. They’ll need Ohio State to lose to get a title shot though.

No. 8 Louisville
The Cardinals haven’t been tested yet and they may not be tested all season. With no ranked opponents on the schedule, the Cardinals will need everyone to lose at least one game and even that might not be enough to get them a title shot.

No. 11 UCLA
The Bruins will be a top four team if they win the next three games. Of course, that’s much easier said than done with Stanford and Oregon coming up after California.

No. 12 Oklahoma
The Sooners will have to go through Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State. If that happens and everyone in the PAC 12 loses along with Ohio State and the ACC teams, we could see the Sooners in another title game.

There are even a few teams with one loss that could get back in the mix if the rest of the season is as wild and crazy as they usually are. Here’s what you should be rooting for if you are a fan of one of these teams.

No. 7 Georgia

The medical staff. Nobody’s played a tougher schedule and nobody’s suffered more major injuries than the Bulldogs. Can Georgia get their guys back or survive without them? I don’t know. But running the table would include wins over Florida and Missouri before probably taking on Alabama in the SEC title game. A win there and they are in the BCS title game.

No. 9, 10, 10 Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina
These teams all need to win out and have some luck that the teams in front of them in the SEC, currently Alabama and Georgia, lose.

Unbeaten teams Baylor, Fresno St., Houston, Miami, Michigan, Northern Illinois and Texas Tech are all going to need multiple miracles to move that far up in the rankings but they deserve to stay in the conversation until they lose. And hey, miracles do happen.

April 29, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NFL Draft: The popular NFL Draft was held over the weekend and it was, as usual, a big attraction. The true popularity of the league was on display as millions and millions tuned in over the three-day event. The NFL not only has the most popular on-field product in American sports, but has managed to nearly turn its draft into a national holiday. One of the big surprises was West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith falling to the second round. Smith, once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick fell and fell … and fell. But when it was all said and done, he landed in a pretty good spot with the New York Jets. Starter Mark Sanchez has fallen out of favor for a couple of years now and backup Tim Tebow is rumored to be released. Smith should have a chance to not only play in 2013, but win the starting job.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension to remain with the franchise.

Russell Westbrook out for NBA Playoffs: The Oklahoma City Thunder caught an unbelievably tough break when starting guard Russell Westbrook went down with an injury in Game 2. He suffered a tear in his knee and will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on Saturday. Westbrook is often the subject of criticism for his questionable shot selection, but he still averages 23 points a game. And his seven assists and five rebounds per game make him one of the more complete point guards in the league. Once considered a team that could knock off the Miami Heat for their first NBA title, I’m not even sure OKC makes it out of the western conference now.

College football sets playoff system: College football and the BCS announced their plan for the new playoff system set to begin in 2015. Six bowl games will rotate sharing semifinal games – The Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Chick-fil-A, and Cotton. Each year, two of those bowls will host the semifinal games while the other four will hold significant BCS-type games. The first title game in 2015 will be held in Cowboys Stadium. The real winner in all of this? The fans. Not only will there be a four-team playoff, but there will be two additional big time games. Currently, there are the four major bowl games and the BCS Championship. But now, there will be a total of seven major matchups. And in addition, the two semifinal games and the remaining four contests will be held during New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Two tripleheaders over the holiday should give you plenty of reasons not to leave your couch.

Rick Pitino gets tattoo: Yes, this is real news … just go with it. Rick Pitino promised his Louisville Cardinals team he’d man up and get a tattoo if they could win the National Championship. That happened and Pitino didn’t back down. Here’s a picture of it. Not great, but not horrible, I suppose. And props to the coach for not going with a small one-inch tattoo on his ankle or something.

Aaron Rodgers signs new deal with Green Bay Packers: In a move that could keep their star quarterback in a Packers’ uniform for the rest of his career, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension to remain with the franchise. If he plays out that contract, he would remain in Green Bay for the next seven seasons, through 2019. That would keep him in a Packers jersey until he’s 38. He could play longer, of course, but if nothing else, the bulk of his playing career should be in Green Bay.

UNLV plans Jerry Tarkanian statue: The Las Vegas Sun reported that UNLV is planning a statue for former head basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian. Tarkanian, recently elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the school have been on the outs for a while with the relationship mending a bit in recent years. And the coach had long been targeted by the NCAA for a variety of issues involving his teams. But wherever you come out on Tark, the one thing that can’t be debated is his ability as a head coach. He won more than 80% of his games and led UNLV to the 1990 National Championship.

January 10, 2013

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What I’ll Remember About 2012 – Part 1

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

January 1 – Matt Flynn and Matthew Stafford combine for 971 net passing yards in 45-41 Green Bay win.

January 8 – The Denver Broncos make short work of the new NFL overtime rules, scoring an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

January 9 Alabama actually scored a touchdown in its rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game, winning 21-0.

January 14 Tom Brady shredded the Denver Broncos for five touchdown passes in the first half and another in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record in a 45-10 win.

January 14 – The 49ers and Saints combine for 34 points in the fourth quarter and four lead changes in the final five minutes as the 49ers outlasted New Orleans 36-32 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

January 22 – Joe Paterno passed away.

January 22 – The Baltimore Ravens had a dropped pass in the end zone that prevented them from winning the AFC Championship Game in New England and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

January 22 – The New York Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 overtime win against the 49ers after a fumbled punt set up the game-winning field goal.

February 4Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere and led the New York Knicks to a win with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the first of an incredible 13-game stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points and 7.4 assists. His heroics were celebrated worldwide and he ended up on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and one of the biggest celebrities in the league.

Jeremy Lin was one of the biggest stories of 2012.

February 5 – The New York Giants beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl, 21-17, led by Eli Manning and another fourth-quarter comeback.

February 5 – Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gets caught on camera blaming Patriot receivers for New England’s Super Bowl loss, saying that her husband cannot throw and catch the ball at the same time.

March 8 – The Indianapolis Colts announced that they will release future hall-of-fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

March 13 – The First Four was worth watching on this night. First, Western Kentucky rallied from a 16-point deficit with 4:51 to go and beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58. Then BYU followed that up by erasing a 25-point deficit and beat Iona 78-72.

March 16Duke and Missouri, both No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, go down on the same day. Norfolk State upset a 30-win Missouri team 86-84 and then later that night Lehigh defeated the Blue Devils 75-70. Only four No. 15 seeds have ever knocked off a No. 2 seed in history before it happened twice that day.

March 20 – Peyton Manning picks the Denver Broncos.

March 21NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the law on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty scandal, effectively ending the Saints season before it ever got started. This story never went away due to the continuous appeals of the suspensions.

March 26 – The Denver Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

March 11 – Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship with an injury. The blimp that was covering the golf tournament then followed Tiger as he left the golf course, a scene usually reserved for a high-speed chase.

April 1 – I.K. Kim takes the honor for worst golf shot of the year after she missed an 18-inch putt that would have won the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She ended up losing in a playoff.

April 2 – John Calipari and his Kentucky squad that consisted of six future NBA players wins the national title, beating Kansas 67-59.

April 3Baylor completed a perfect season at 40-0 and won the women’s national title, beating Notre Dame 80-61.

April 8 – Bubba Watson hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history; a miracle 40-yard hook shot out of the pine straw on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Two putts for par later and Watson was wearing the green jacket.

April 21Phil Humber pitches a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

April 26Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are drafted by the Colts and Redskins.

May 8 Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and had eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

June 3 – Tiger Woods hit an incredible flop shot from behind the green on 16 that trickled into the hole on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament.

June 7 – LeBron James overwhelms the Boston Celtics with a 45 point and 15 rebound performance in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach.

June 7 – Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon in the Australian Open final (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5) in a match that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m.

June 11 – The Los Angeles Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years after barely squeaking into the final playoff spot in the West and going on one of the greatest runs in playoff history.

June 13Matt Cain pitched a perfect game in a 10-0 San Francisco win over the Astros.

June 21 – LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA championship after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five.

June 27 – A four-team college football playoff was formally approved to begin in 2014.

June 30 – The third round of the AT&T National was played with no spectators on the golf course because of safety concerns after a powerful wind storm left trees uprooted all over the golf course.

January 3, 2013

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The Call That Changed Everything

By: Joe Williams

While most of the nation is looking ahead to next week’s BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame, I’m looking back. Back to October 13. Back to one play; one call; one moment that could define the 2012 college football season.

The Fighting Irish survived close call after close call during the regular season but perhaps the closest call of them all was in overtime against Stanford. It was surely the most controversial.

Notre Dame won some close games, maybe none closer than their overtime game against Stanford.

Trailing 20-13 and facing a fourth-and-goal from the one, Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor was stopped short of the goal line on his initial effort. He then twisted his body over the top of several other players and stretched the ball forward, appearing to reach the end zone.

But the call on the field was that he came up short. After a lengthy review, the ruling stood because there was no indisputable evidence to overturn the call. Notre Dame stormed the field in celebration and carried that momentum all the way to an undefeated season.

But what if Stanford had scored on that play and then went on to beat Notre Dame?

Only Ohio State would have finished the season without a loss, increasing the chances of the AP voting the Buckeyes No. 1 and giving us a split national championship. (But it would probably take everyone finishing with at least two losses for that to happen.)

Assuming the rest of the season played out the same – Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Kansas State, Stanford and Northern Illinois – would all have just one loss. There’s some chaos for you.

Out of those seven teams, Stanford would have the best case to make about playing for the BCS Championship. They would have beaten a team ranked No. 17 or better four weeks in a row and have wins over both Oregon and Notre Dame…in overtime. Nobody else would have a resume even close to that.

Oregon and Notre Dame could both say they have the best loss but would the voters want to see a rematch against Stanford? And if so, is it Oregon or Notre Dame?

Florida and Alabama also have quality losses coming against Georgia and Texas A&M but the Crimson Tide are the SEC champs so we can then assume that Stanford would be facing off against Alabama for all the marbles. Of course, if the 4-team playoff was already in place, most of these questions would be answered on the field.

I think the country would be pretty pumped about a Stanford, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Oregon playoff. Well, everyone except Florida and Kansas State fans.

One more honor that changed hands during that final play in South Bend is the coach of the year. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly has been named as the winner but Stanford head coach David Shaw would have been the coach of the year and maybe still should be. A year after winning 11 games and narrowly missing out on a chance to play for the BCS Championship, he’s got another 11-win team. And he’s done it without the great Andrew Luck.