January 15, 2013

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What I Will Remember About 2012 – Part 2

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.

To read part one, click here.

July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.

July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.

July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.

August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.

August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.

Miguel Cabrera winning baseball's Triple Crown is one of the biggest stories of 2012.

August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.

August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.

August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.

August 15 – Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Rays and the Mariners won 1-0.

September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.

September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.

September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.

October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.

October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.

October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.

October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.

October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.

October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.

October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS

November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.

November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.

November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.

December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.

December 16 – Tom Brady leads the Patriots on a furious rally after falling behind 31-3 against the 49ers. After the game was tied at 34, San Francisco retook the lead and won 41-34.

December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.

November 12, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Down goes Alabama …: The Alabama Crimson Tide looked unbeatable up until this weekend when they were surprised by Texas A&M losing 29-24. Alabama will still have a chance to play in the national championship, though – particularly if a couple of the undefeated teams in front of them falter along the way. And since they’re generally viewed as the best one-loss team out there, a title appearance may still not be all that unlikely.

Texas A&M's defeat of #1 Alabama shook up the BCS picture this weekend.

… and the same for Louisville: Louisville had a long road ahead to try to get in the title picture, even as an undefeated team. But their loss to Syracuse this weekend barely got a mention and proved yet again just how weak the Big East is viewed to be. A few weeks ago, the conference had three undefeated programs – Louisville, Rutgers, and Cincinnati. But now that all three have suffered defeats, there’s little doubt that the conference has some good, but not great teams.

Mike Brown fired: After a 1-4 start, the Los Angeles Lakers made a big splash by unexpectedly firing head coach Mike Brown. Brown always seemed like an odd fit for me and I was surprised that one of the most storied franchises in all of sports would settle on him after having the likes of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Speaking of Jackson, he appeared to be in the mix. But the sides couldn’t reach an agreement and offensive guru Mike D’Antoni has been hired instead. The Lakers have been vilified for making this move so early in the season, but with such a big payroll, it’s clear that the goal is to win a championship – this year. If they aren’t convinced Brown is the guy, waiting any longer on him would have been a mistake.

Lolo Jones bobsleds … no, seriously: In case you missed it, American track and field star Lolo Jones is now bobsledding. Jones actually even won a silver medal at an event last week. She isn’t stopping there as she was named to Team USA and could find herself in the 2014 Winter Olympics. I’m still not sure if this means the sport is simply that easy to break into or if Jones is such an incredible athlete that she can pick up new sports at the drop of a hat. Either way, if you thought Lolo got a ton of coverage this summer, just wait until 2014. And somewhere, McKayla Maroney is still not impressed.

College basketball season kicks off: NCAA basketball got off the ground and running and the “lulz” moment of the week goes to No. 25 Florida State for their upset loss to Sun Belt team South Alabama at home. It’s early and it beats losing to a Division II program (looking at you again, Miami), but if you’re a Seminoles fan thinking of hitting the ominous panic button, I might not blame you.

Atlanta Falcons lose first game: The final undefeated team in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons, lost their first game this weekend to the New Orleans Saints. Even at 8-1, the Falcons aren’t the runaway pick to reach the Super Bowl. They’ve had several close calls this year (more than half of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less) and there are still plenty of questions surrounding them. I, for one, expect them to suffer at least a few more losses.

Davey Johnson coming back to Washington Nationals: It should come as little surprise, but the Washington Nationals are bringing back manager Davey Johnson for another season. The Nats were the big surprise in all of baseball this season and it’s difficult to not notice the job he did. Frankly, I’ve always been surprised Johnson wasn’t pursued a bit more. He’s won at least 85 games with every franchise he’s managed and won 90 games seven times. Johnson also indicated that 2013 would be his final season and with a strong pitching staff next season, he could just go out with a bang.

Ndamukong Suh doesn’t believe empty box score: Last weekend, Ndamukong Suh failed to record a tackle for the first time in his career. Suh, though, isn’t so sure according to these cryptic quotes. Seriously, in this day and age with replays galore, how can we not figure out who’s right? Suh was also voted the league’s dirtiest player last week. Not a great combination for the young star.

NHL Lockout continues: It’s time for this week’s look at the NHL lockout. Despite indications that progress was being made during talks between the owners and players, the work stoppage is still continuing. This concludes our look at the NHL lockout.

March 22, 2012

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Elite Eight Predictions (Part 1)

By: Junior

The NCAA Tournament is back underway tonight and we will find out the first 4 teams going to the Elite 8. These games have your expected #1 seeds in Syracuse and Michigan State as well as #6 Cincinnati and #7 Florida making it further than I suspect most people had them going in their bracket. In this post I will look to predict the unpredictable and pick the winners of tonight’s games.

Wisconsin vs. Syracuse

The first of 3 Big Ten vs. Big East matchups tonight, showing how well both conferences have been doing in the tournament so far. Syracuse has continued to play dominant despite not having Fab Melo for the entire NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin showed how good they can be by beating a Vanderbilt team many people saw as a dangerous draw in this tournament. While Wisconsin has 9 losses on season, 7 came against ranked teams, and the other 2 came against Iowa, who clearly gave them matchup problems. Syracuse is a long, up-tempo team that likes to push the ball and get quick points. Wisconsin is your typical Bo Ryan team, stressing tough defense and rebounding. While Syracuse is the favorite in this game, I like Wisconsin in the upset.

Louisville will look to avenge a loss to Michigan State that kept them from the Final Four in 2009.

Louisville vs. Michigan State

This game will be dominated by two coaches who know what it takes  to win in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo have been to the NCAA Tournament a combined 30 times, making the Final Four 11 times and both having won a National Championship. Michigan State has had a pretty easy road thus far as a number one seed, but both teams had a scare last round. Louisville beat New Mexico 59-56, while Michigan State needed a late run to put away St. Louis, 65-61. These two teams met in 2009 in the Elite Eight, with Michigan State winning that game 64-52. While these two teams are very different than in 2009, I still think Michigan State will win this game and send the Cardinals home sooner than they were hoping.   

Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
Cincinnati wrecked a lot of brackets (including my own) when they upset Florida State on Sunday. They would shock even more people if they continued their streak with a win against Ohio State. The Buckeyes came into the season with high expectations, being ranked 3rd overall in the nation. Having to battle in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in basketball this season in my opinion, gave them a few more losses than predicted, but made them a tougher team to beat. The Bearcats will gladly accept that challenge, having beat tough teams such as Marquette and Syracuse earlier this season. However, I do think Ohio State will be going to the Elite Eight, but not without a fight.

Florida vs. Marquette

While there is no Big Ten team in this game, the Big East has yet another team playing tonight in Marquette. Marquette can score at will, averaging almost 76 ppg. Florida hasn’t been finding it hard to score either, putting up 84 in their last game against Norfolk State. Florida has 10 losses on the year, but 5 came against Top 3 opponents, so Marquette will have their hands full.  Florida has won both of their NCAA Tournament games in blowout fashion, while Marquette had a big win in the first round, and a 9 point victory in their last game. That being said, Florida’s opponents were much easier in my opinion and I think Marquette is the final Elite Eight team decided tonight.

December 14, 2011

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NFL Playoff Projections

By: Joe Williams

With three weeks left in the season there are still 21 teams in NFL playoff contention. Who’s going to make it and who will be left at home wondering why they didn’t get the breaks to fall their way? After looking at the remaining schedules, here is what I project the NFL playoff seeds to look like.

AFC

No. 1    Baltimore Ravens – (13-3)

Key game: Week 17 at Cincinnati

Whoever ends up as the top seed will have to win their last three games. If the Ravens win the first two, a trip to Cincinnati will be a challenge with the Bengals likely playing for a wild card spot.

No. 2    New England Patriots – (13-3)

Key game: Week 15 at Denver

The Patriots need to win out to secure a first-round bye. Tom Brady and company haven’t had a lot of success in Denver but don’t expect them to lie down in the final minutes against Tebow like the Bears just did.

No. 3    Houston Texans – (13-3)

Key game: Week 17 vs. Tennessee

This game should mean a lot to both teams who play tough defense and like to run the ball. I like the home team in that type of game.

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Andre Johnson and the Texans look to be heading to the NFL PLayoffs for the first time in franchise history.

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No. 4    Oakland Raiders – (10-6)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Detroit

Let’s hope the NFL sends its best conditioned officiating crew to Oakland on Sunday. With the way these teams can draw the flags and turn the ball over, this has the makings of a wild affair.

No. 5    Pittsburgh Steelers – (13-3)

Key game: Week 15 at San Francisco

The Steelers could steal the division title if the Ravens slip up. If not, they will be on the road in the first round against the winner of the AFC West.

No. 6    New York Jets – (11-5)

Key game: Week 16 vs. New York Giants

The battle for bragging rights in New York will impact multiple teams in both conferences. A win for the Jets will come close to locking down the final NFL playoff spot.

Outside looking in:

Cincinnati Bengals – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 vs. Baltimore

If the Bengals can pull one out against Baltimore, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.

Denver Broncos – (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 at Buffalo

They can still win the West if they lose against the Patriots. But if they lose at Buffalo they are in trouble. The streak of miracle finishes can’t last forever and I think their playoff hopes are dashed by the Bills.

Tennessee Titans – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 at Houston

If the Titans can pull one out against the Texans, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.

San Diego Chargers – (6-10)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Baltimore

The Chargers are still alive but must win out and get a ton of help.

NFC

No. 1    Green Bay Packers – (16-0)

Key game: Week 16 vs. Chicago

Green Bay should have the top seed locked up so this game will really only matter to them if they want to finish a perfect season. Unless they decide they would like to put the final nail in the Bears coffin.

No. 2    San Francisco 49ers – (12-4)

Key game: Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh

A win over the Steelers on Monday Night Football would silence a lot of doubters and put them in great shape to earn a first-round bye.

No. 3    New Orleans Saints – (12-4)

Key game: Week 16 vs. Atlanta

If the Saints can run the table they could end up with a first-round bye. If not, they will be the third seed.

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The Saints are trying to make another magical run to the Super Bowl, but will need help to get a first-round bye.

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No. 4    Dallas Cowboys – (9-7)

Key game: Week 17 at New York Giants

All signs point to this game being winner-take-all in the NFC East.

No. 5    Atlanta Falcons – (11-5)

Key game: Week 16 at New Orleans

The Falcons are just about locked into the fifth seed. But a win in New Orleans and another Saints loss could give the NFC South to Atlanta.

No. 6    Detroit Lions – (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 vs. San Diego

With road games at Oakland and Green Bay, the Lions must win this game at home. One more win could be all it takes to get the final wild card spot.

Outside looking in:

Chicago Bears (9-7)

Key game: Week 16 at Green Bay

The Bears have a chance to end the Packers perfect season and salvage theirs with a win on the road.

New York Giants (8-8)

Key Game: Week 17 vs. Dallas

With a win the Giants should be NFC East champs. A loss and they will be watching the playoffs on TV.

Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

Key game: Week 16 at Cincinnati

Don’t look now but the Cardinals are making a run. Three wins, including a tough game on the road in Cincinnati and Arizona could come out of nowhere to make the playoffs if they get a little help.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)

Key game: Week 15 vs. New York Jets

They were pronounced dead weeks ago but three wins and a lot of help would make the Eagles NFC East champions.

Seattle Seahawks (6-10)

Key game: Week 15 at Chicago

Wins over the Bears, 49ers and Cardinals give them a chance to sneak in.

November 4, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 9 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Was Drew Brees on the football field Sunday? Didn’t feel like it. Honestly, I’m not that surprised the Rams beat the Saints. There are no actual facts to back up this theory, but sometimes teams that blow up offensively one week don’t perform the next game. It happens in football, basketball, and baseball. Whether the team grows overconfident in their abilities and slacks off, is tired from the week before, or something else, I don’t know. It just seems to happen more often than it should.

Brandon Pettigrew was a disappointment, too. I had high expectations for him last week, and the entire season, but he just hasn’t performed. If you can’t capitalize in that high powered offense when the opposing secondary is focusing on Calvin Johnson, you’re not worth a starting spot on a fantasy team.

Detroit’s defense had a good game, though, thanks to Tebow performing like many of us expected. He’s a good guy, and you want him to win based on personality alone, but I’m worried he’s not a pro caliber quarterback.

Adrian Peterson performed, well, too, as he always does. But he didn’t blow the roof off, like you’d expect. Part of the problem was the Vikings went down early to the Panthers and had to throw more than they’d like. Still, Christian Ponder used a lot of check-down passes to Peterson, recording a TD on that end, too.

Not a bad week overall… on to Week 9 picks.

Matt Forte

Forte has been tearing it up this year, and will certainly be paid in the offseason (unless the Bears slap the Franchise Tag on him). Sunday he faces the Philadelphia Eagles, who I see as playing strong the rest of the season after they had the bye to get situated.

The Eagles defense shut down Tony Romo and the Cowboys, but their offensive “forte” is the passing game, and with Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie patrolling the secondary off of a bye, it’s easy to see why the Cowboys offense stalled.

The Bears “forte,” though, is Forte. The Eagles’ frontline has not performed well this season. Look for the Bears to feed their workhorse back (and potentially Marion Barber if he plays) plenty.

There’s also a good chance Jay Cutler throws a few picks, but that’s always on the table.

Arian Foster / Ben Tate

I presume Foster will get the bulk of the carries now that he’s healthy, but you never know, so I include Tate here. The Browns have had a tough time stopping the run this year, as the secondary is responsible for keeping them in games. There’s a good chance both these guys score Sunday in Houston, and a decent chance the Texans eclipse 30 points.

Oakland Defense

I’m going to continue to pick on Tebow here, and say that Oakland will have a solid defensive game. Despite losing Asomugha in the offseason, the defense remains the strong suit of the team. Their defensive line is strong and will surely pressure Tebow like Detroit’s big line did last week.

Denver Defense

Staying in the same game, I’ll now pick on Carson Palmer. I’ll dismiss his three interception performance two weeks ago – he was only with the team for a few days, and had spent the entire season throwing to high school kids until he was traded from Cincinnati. But Palmer has not been the top tier quarterback he once was since he blew out his knee in the playoffs.

Last year he had a fairly solid fantasy season and qualified as a top ten quarterback. But I find it hard to believe, even with a bye week to catch up, that he’ll be able to hit the ground running for the Raiders. They’ll likely feed Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and limit Palmer’s impact. If Tebow manages to work some of his intangible magic and jump to a significant lead, and Palmer’s forced to perform, look for pick city.