December 23, 2011

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NBA Christmas Day Games

By: Junior

The NBA lockout delayed the normal start of the regular season, but it gave us even more to be excited about Christmas morning. We haven’t been able to see much of our teams with a shortened preseason, and many teams have new faces to get used to. The season kicks off with five great matchups, so there isn’t a lot of time to get to know one another on the court. Let’s take a look who will start their seasons undefeated and those who will begin winless.
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Boston at New York

The weekend starts off with Boston traveling to New York to face the team they swept out of the playoffs last year. New York has a bad taste in its mouth from that exit, and has retooled their team a bit since then. The Celtics kept their core group and will look to get off to a quick start to combat some fatigue that could set in down the stretch for their aging group. New York would love to start the season off by avenging their losses last year, but I don’t think they win this one. New teammates mixed with a veteran opponent don’t sound like a good combination. I think Boston capitalizes on early mistakes by New York and start their season with a win.

Miami at Dallas

Forget first round rematches, the second game on the schedule goes right to last year’s NBA Finals. Dallas will still be in celebration mode as they receive their rings and raise the championship banner, and it will only fuel the Heat’s fire having to be there to watch it. Miami knows how costly it can be to get off to a bad start and they will be dialed in from the opening tip. Dallas picked up Vince Carter and Lamar Odom in the offseason, while Miami added defensive specialist Shane Battier. This is a hard game to pick, because Miami’s starters match up well against Dallas, but Dallas has a deeper bench. My gut says Miami takes this game and starts the season off strong.

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The Mavericks will raise the banner and receive their rings on Christmas Day.

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Chicago at Los Angeles Lakers

Two more teams that shook it up this offseason, Chicago and Los Angeles are both hoping their offseason moves help them get into the Finals. Chicago added SG Richard Hamilton from Detroit, hoping to add another scoring threat to free up PG Derrick Rose. The Lakers traded SF Lamar Odom in a move that could be associated with their efforts to get C Dwight Howard from Orlando. On top of that, Kobe Bryant has a torn ligament in his wrist, which could affect him in the game. Even without Odom, the Lakers frontcourt could be trouble for the Bulls. However, I still think Chicago comes away with this game. Look for a high scoring game that stays close, but Chicago pulls away in the end.

 Orlando at Oklahoma City Thunder

Speaking of high scoring, this game should be a shootout. Oklahoma City has a pair of stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that will keep the tempo at a solid pace. While the Thunder had a relatively quiet offseason, Orlando has been all over the trade rumors. Star C Dwight Howard has asked for a trade and while he hasn’t gotten it yet, the thought has to be on the minds of his teammates. Thunder C Kendrick Perkins will have his hands full with Howard, but I think the young backcourt of Oklahoma City will be too much for the Magic. The Thunder get the W in this game.  

Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State

The only game featuring teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year is one of the more anticipated ones. The new look Clippers are the talk of the NBA since they landed Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade. Now, everyone will look to see if Paul and Blake Griffin can lead the Clippers to the playoffs. The Warriors have a young team as well, led by Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. The tempo in this game should make the previous game look like a snail’s pace. Golden State has pushed the ball for years, and with a backcourt of Paul and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers might look to do the same. The Clippers are going to have to adjust, having so many new starters playing together for the first time in the regular season. The Clippers want to make a statement with this game though, and I think they will put on a show and start their season off with a 1-0 record.

December 20, 2011

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College Football’s Bowl Games: Part IV

By: Anson Whaley

No matter what side of the aisle you’re on when it comes to the BCS, bowl games are one reason college football is such a great sport. The system matches two teams that may never play otherwise and with 35 games, chances are that your favorite team ended up in one.

Yesterday, we broke down games 19-26. (For yesterdays article, click here.) Here’s a quick look at the remaining 9.

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (Ohio State vs. Florida): Here’s yet another Big Ten-SEC game featuring two programs that are used to competing in BCS bowls. Neither team has been particularly impressive and each is only 6-6. But Florida has yet to record an impressive victory as their best win probably came against a 7-5 Vanderbilt team. Give me Ohio State in this game.

Rose Bowl (Wisconsin vs. Oregon): The first of the BCS games is a good one, pairing two very similar teams. Both are 11-2 and feature two of the top rushers in college football in LaMichael James and Montee Ball. The offenses are ranked No. 3 (Oregon) and No. 4 (Wisconsin) in the nation, but Wisconsin has had a much stronger defense. Still, I like Oregon, who’s played a tougher schedule against top teams.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Stanford vs. Oklahoma State): The Fiesta Bowl features two more top five offenses. Instead of running backs, though, these teams are led by two premier quarterbacks – Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. Oklahoma State could be playing in the national championship if not for a late-season slip up to unranked Iowa State in two overtimes. One thing I like about the Cowboys is how they’ve fared against other top quarterbacks. They forced Heisman winner Robert Griffin III into a bad two-interception game and did the same against Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. For that reason, I’ll take Oklahoma State who might be able to get Luck to make some mistakes.

AllState Sugar Bowl (Michigan vs. Virginia Tech): The Hokies could have had an undefeated season had they not faced Clemson who handed them both of their losses. I’m pretty high on Virginia Tech in this one and the difference could be running back David Wilson, who has more than 1,600 yards on the season. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is a huge talent, obviously, but he’s capable of some poor play as we’ve seen with his 14 interceptions on the season. The Hokies’ defense? No. 8 in the country. The Wolverines also have a top ten defense and even though they’ve scored more points this season, I’m taking Virginia Tech.

Going to their first BCS Bowl since 2007, Michigan fans would love a Sugar Bowl win to end a great season.

Discover Orange Bowl (West Virginia vs. Clemson): The Mountaineers have been a bit more lackluster than their record really indicates. They won nine games, but did so in a weak Big East and came out victorious in their final three games by a total of only seven points. Clemson struggled a bit after their 8-0 start, dropping three of their final five games, but I think they’re the better team. Look for the Tigers to win this one.

AT&T Cotton Bowl (Kansas State vs. Arkansas): The Razorbacks are the perfect example of what playing in a tough conference can mean. Their two losses were to LSU and Alabama – the two teams meeting in the National Championship. This is a strong Arkansas team led by quarterback Tyler Wilson who doesn’t make many mistakes as he’s had only six interceptions all season. The Razorbacks should win this one against the surprising Wildcats.

BBVA Compass Bowl (SMU vs. Pittsburgh): My alma mater, Pitt, has been extremely unimpressive this season. But they remain one of the best 6-6 teams out there, losing four games by only 13 points with some second-half collapses. The team has only been overmatched once this season, while SMU has suffered four blowout losses. The Panthers are also dealing with an unexpected coaching change but still have enough talent in this game to win.

GoDaddy.com Bowl (Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois): The winner of the MAC vs. the winner of the Sun Belt? I got nothin’. Give me Northern Illinois.

AllState BCS Championship Game (Alabama vs. LSU): This is the game everyone’s waiting for … well, at least everyone in Alabama and Louisiana. You know what wins championships? Defense. This game features the FBS’ top two defenses and some pretty good offenses as well. Both teams have played killer schedules and the game against the two in the regular season was close. But I remain amazed at LSU’s dominance this year, destroying some pretty good Oregon, Arkansas, and Georgia teams along the way. There’s no way I can pick against them and that’s why I think they’ll win it all.

December 19, 2011

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College Football’s Bowl Games: Part III

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s bowl season will officially kick off this weekend. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on when it comes to the BCS, bowl games are one reason college football is such a great sport. The system matches two teams that may never play otherwise and with 35 games, chances are that your favorite team ended up in one.

Last week, we broke down the first 18 games. (For Part II, click here.) Here’s a quick look at the next 8 games.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Texas A&M vs. Northwestern): After playing a brutal schedule that included six ranked teams, the Aggies should have a home-field advantage against Northwestern. They lost four of them by a total of only ten points, including a one-point nail-biter to Oklahoma State and a four-point loss to Arkansas – both top five teams a few weeks ago. Texas A&M is better than their record indicates and should win this game.

Hyundai Sun Bowl (Georgia Tech vs. Utah): New Pac-12 team Utah will have its hands full trying to contain Georgia Tech’s dynamic quarterback Tevin Washington. Washington does almost as much damage on the ground (rushing for 890 yards in 2011) as he does in the air. Utah has a top 20 defense but struggled in their last two games against Washington State and Colorado – two of the worst teams in the conference this season. I’ll take the Yellow Jackets.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt): The Commodores are playing in their home state, but I’m not sure that will be enough. Cincinnati won nine games this season and averaged nearly 35 points a game. The Bearcats will be at a bit of a disadvantage, though, if they can’t get quarterback Zach Collaros on the field, who’s been out due to injury. He’s been at practice, but if he can’t go, Cincinnati will start Munchie Legaux. Either way, though, I think Cincy’s high-scoring offense gets the job done in a close one.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Illinois vs. UCLA): Illinois will make the cross-country trip to play on New Year’s Eve. To make matters worse, after starting out 6-0, they dropped their final six games. UCLA, though, hasn’t been all that great this year, being blown out at times. This is one of those coin toss kind of games, but I’ll take the Illini.

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Virginia vs. Auburn): Both of these offenses have had difficulty scoring points at times this season, but the Cavaliers’ defense has been strong. Auburn is a difficult team to get a good handle on, because of their average record and a rugged SEC schedule. They still managed to win seven games playing in the conference and are my pick.

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A year removed from a National Championship, Auburn fans would like to bring home the Chick-fil-A Bowl to end the season on a high note.

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TicketCity Bowl (Houston vs. Penn State): Houston appeared headed to the BCS until they were throttled in their final game against Southern Miss. Playing in the TicketCity Bowl has to be a bit of a disappointment, but they’ll be facing a tough test against Penn State. The Cougars had the highest scoring offense in the FBS this season averaging more than 50 points per game, but they haven’t seen a defense nearly as good as the Nittany Lions’. Penn State’s defensive squad gives up just over 15 points per game, ranking fifth in the country. Even with the game in Texas, I like Penn State in this game.

Outback Bowl (Michigan State vs. Georgia): Here’s another tough one to call. Both squads have good defenses and won ten games this season. Kirk Cousins is one of the best passers in the nation, throwing for 24 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards. The Spartans get the nod here in a close contest.

Capital One Bowl (Nebraska vs. South Carolina): This is another Big Ten-SEC matchup. I typically favor the SEC in these types of games, but not this one. Nebraska’s dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez has really become a player and other than a three-point hiccup to Northwestern, the Cornhuskers were impressive most of the season. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, avoided many of the top guns in the SEC West and haven’t shown as much as I’d like. I’ll take Nebraska in another narrow Big Ten win.

For “College Football’s Bowl Games: Part IV”, click here.

December 12, 2011

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Picking College Football’s Bowl Games: Part I

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s bowl season will officially kick off this weekend. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on when it comes to the BCS, bowl games are one reason college football is such a great sport. The system matches two teams that may never play otherwise and with 35 games, chances are that your favorite team ended up in one.

Let’s take a quick look at all of the games one at a time – here are the first 9 contests:

Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Temple Vs. Wyoming): This is a matchup of two 8-4 teams. Temple has one of the stingiest defenses in the nation giving up less than 14 points per game and I like them in this one.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Ohio vs. Utah State): Both teams finished in second place in their conference. Utah State has one of the country’s best kept secrets in dynamic rusher Robert Turbin (1,416 yards) and also played Auburn and BYU tight on the road in close losses. They’re my pick here.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette): San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman has been one of the best rushers in college football over the past two seasons, totaling more than 3,100 yards. He had 19 touchdowns this year and I think he’ll lead the Aztecs to victory.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (Florida International vs. Marshall): FIU had somewhat of a breakthrough year winning eight games and going on the road early in the season and beating Louisville. Marshall played a tougher schedule, but was overmatched much of the season. With what should be home field advantage, I’m going with FIU in a tight one.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (TCU vs. Louisiana Tech): TCU had a great season that went largely unnoticed because of an opening-season two-point loss to Baylor (who, by the way, ended up being pretty good). They went on to beat Boise State and won their conference without losing a game. The Horned Frogs should have little problem in this one.

While they aren't going back to a BCS bowl this season, TCU gave their fans a lot to cheer about by winning their conference and beating Boise St.

MAACO Bowl (Arizona State vs. Boise State): Arizona State’s been on a roll … of the wrong kind. They lost their final four games while Boise State was competing for a BCS bowl slot. The Sun Devils are also dealing with a coaching change and that’s certainly going to be a distraction. On paper, this looks like an utter mismatch, and that’s what I think it is. I’ll go with Boise in what I think is one of the easiest bowl games this season to predict.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Nevada vs. Southern Miss): If you can’t get into the BCS, this has to be one of the best places to end up. Seriously, who would be disappointed to play a bowl game in Honolulu? Led by quarterback Austin Davis, Southern Miss won ten games and has one of the top offenses in the nation. They also stunned then No. 6 Houston in the C-USA Championship game and are my pick here.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (Missouri vs. North Carolina): This is one of those tough games to pick. It’s the day after Christmas and you’ve got no idea how focused either team will be. The Tigers went 4-1 along with wins over Texas and Texas A&M to close out their season so I’ll take them in a close one.

For “Picking College Football’s Bowl Games: Part II”, click here.

December 2, 2011

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Weekend Sports Schedule

By: Junior

We like to make sure you keep track of all the relevant games nationwide. In order to ensure that you can watch all the big games, we have created your weekend viewing guide so that whenever you have some down time, you know which game you should be watching. Here is how we envision your weekend sports viewing schedule. (All times EST).

Friday night

6:30pm – (9) Florida at (3) Syracuse – College Basketball

It’s finally the weekend. Relax from your long week at work with a battle of Top 10 college basketball teams. This won’t be Florida’s first time facing the #3 team in the nation, already having fallen to then #3 Ohio State. They kept the score close though, showing they are a team that doesn’t shy away in a big game. Syracuse is undefeated this season, and this will be their toughest test so far in this early college season. It should be exciting to watch.

8:00pm – UCLA at Oregon (PAC 12 Championship) – College Football

If you watch the previous game in its entirety, there is a chance you might be coming in late. The inaugural PAC 12 title game isn’t projected to be a close game, but you can’t miss out on the chance of an upset. Oregon will take on a UCLA team who got in due to USC being ineligible, but the Bruins will be trying to prove they deserve to be there. If they can’t keep up with the Ducks, it’s the perfect game to help you wind down your night.

Saturday

Saturday is a hard day to project with the amount of games on all over the sports spectrum. Hopefully, you have multiple TV’s and can watch multiple games. If you can’t, here is what we recommend during each time slot.

12:00pm – (5) North Carolina at (1) Kentucky – College Basketball

Whenever two of the Top 5 teams in the country schedule each other out of conference, you know it’s a game you need to watch. These two storied programs will square off to try and prove they are the top team in the nation. North Carolina was previously #1, losing that ranking when they fell to UNLV. They have already rebounded, beating #7 Wisconsin on Wednesday, and they will look to continue that streak against Kentucky. Not shying away from tough competition, Kentucky has remained undefeated this season while already having beaten #11 Kansas. This game is a must see.

It'll be a packed house at Rupp Arena when Kentucky squares off against North Carolina on Saturday.

 

4:00 pm – (14)Georgia vs. (1)LSU (SEC Championship) – College Football

All eyes will be on this game Saturday, as many teams are affected by the outcome of this game. Many say LSU can still go to the BCS Championship even with a loss, but a win closes the door on any chance of being left out. A Georgia win makes the case for a lot of one loss teams, while a loss would open the door for teams ranked below Georgia to qualify for an at-large BCS bid. This game is interesting no matter the outcome.

8:00 pm – (10)Oklahoma at (3)Oklahoma State – College Football

This is the hardest time slot to fill and if you don’t have multiple TV’s make sure you have the remote handy. Michigan State takes on Wisconsin in the first ever Big Ten Title game at the same time. Virginia Tech travels to Clemson in the ACC Championship game.  However, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is the game I think could be the most interesting. Oklahoma State has always had a hard time beating Oklahoma, but they will have to in order to have any chance at a BCS Title shot. Oklahoma, meanwhile, could get into a BCS game with a win in what is basically the Big 12 Championship game.

Get your rest, we won’t be slowing down at all tomorrow.

Sunday

1:00pm – Cincinnati at Pittsburgh – NFL

The AFC North is a tight race, and currently has three of its teams in the playoff picture, where Cincinnati and Pittsburgh hold both of the Wild Card spots. The Bengals lost a close game to the Steelers three weeks ago, but showed they can go toe-to-toe with last year’s AFC Champions. Pittsburgh currently holds the higher Wild Card spot since they have a better record, but a loss would bring them even with the Bengals.  With a tougher schedule coming up for the Bengals, a win by Pittsburgh could help them solidify a spot in the playoffs this year.

4:15pm – Green Bay at New York Giants – NFL

Whenever a team is 11-0, they have earned the right to be on a list of must-see games. When their opponent is the team who ended the Patriots undefeated season in the Super Bowl in 2008, you have to tune in. While the Giants have lost three straight games, a win against the juggernaut Packers could be exactly what they need to make a run at the playoffs. The Giants have one of the most feared pass rushes in the NFL, and they better hope they can get to Aaron Rodgers early and often if they want to do what no other team in the NFL has this year.

8:30pm – Detroit at New Orleans – NFL

This game all depends on which Lions team shows up when they travel to New Orleans. Having lost 3 of 4, the Lions need desperately to get on track after starting the season 5-0. They picked a hard place to rebound at, as the Saints are undefeated at home and are coming off a big win against the Giants. The Lions need to generate a pass rush, even if Ndamukong Suh is out, if they want to stay in this game. The Lions offense is going to have a hard time keeping up with Brees and the Saints if it becomes a shootout, so the Lions need to force turnovers if they are going to steal one on Sunday night.

Enjoy the games and we’ll see you next week!