February 24, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Olympics: The Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded last week with the U.S. finishing second overall in the medal count with 28. Host country Russia topped all countries with 33, including 13 gold medals. There were a myriad of disappointments for Americans, but none perhaps greater than the hockey teams falling short of their goals. The women’s team held a late 2-0 lead over Canada in the final before giving up two late goals and falling in overtime, 3-2. The men lost a disappointing 1-0 game to Canada in the semifinals and were crushed 5-0 by Finland for the bronze medal.

Daytona 500: After a delay of more than six hours, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won NASCAR’s most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, on Sunday. The event has seen its fair share of weather delays, but the fact that it was pushed back to the evening seems to suit more fans, anyway. For some reason, the race under the lights seems like the way the go.

Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. outlasted the rain delay to win the 2014 Daytona 500.

NBA Trade Deadline: The NBA Trade deadline came and went with a flurry of activity last week. No move was bigger than the Indiana Pacers trading away Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner. The Pacers dealt a legitimate talent in Granger, but are also in a better position with the deal. In Turner, they get a younger player who is doing more this season at a lower price. Trading away a former franchise cornerstone was difficult, but Granger was struggling through a dismal season and became expendable. It’s hard to imagine the Pacers getting even better but they did with this swap.

San Francisco Giants bring back Barry Bonds: Former slugger Barry Bonds is back with the Giants – as a Spring Training instructor. Bonds’ return will raise some eyebrows due to his past alleged steroid use, but the fact that he will only be around in the Spring means he can likely dodge those issues for the most part. If Bonds ever wants to become a full-fledged coach like Mark McGwire in St. Louis, he may need to confront the steroids topic head on. For now, though, he can offer his advice and experience for a few months and then head back out of the spotlight.

Jelena Jankovic is not happy: Tennis player Jelena Jankovic was in the middle of receiving a beatdown at the hands of Serena Williams and promptly threw a temper tantrum in the middle of the match. Then, the announcer told her to shut up. So there’s that.

Syracuse losses: After a season filled with close wins and a few miracle finishes, the luck of Syracuse’s basketball team has run out for the time being. Fresh off incredulous victories against Pitt and North Carolina State, the No. 1 Orange lost two straight college basketball games to Boston College and Duke. The loss against the Eagles was particularly ugly as Boston College is one of the worst teams in the ACC. Syracuse still has a very good chance of landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the team clearly has some more work to do – and with three of their final four games on the road, things won’t be easy for the Orange down the stretch.

Got jokes?: No? Matt Lauer does.

Jason Collins signs with Brooklyn Nets: The Brooklyn Nets made a bit of NBA history by signing center Jason Collins to the roster. Collins became the first openly gay athlete in the league to sign and then appear in a game over the weekend. With Collins and Missouri defensive standout Michael Sam set to join the NFL, the doors appear to be opening up in professional sports for gay male athletes.

Heat win statement game over Thunder: With all due respect to the Indiana Pacers who currently lead the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat game against the Oklahoma City Thunder last week was a matchup of what could be the league’s two best teams. The Heat haven’t been as dominant this season as they were last year when they won 66 games, but they continue to prove that winning a third straight NBA title is well within their grasp. The Thunder are a trendy pick to win it all this season, but the Heat walloped them (in Oklahoma City, no less), 103-81. Lebron James suffered a broken nose in the game, but the victory sent a clear message to the rest of the league – Miami remains the team to beat.

Jim Harbaugh trade: Some interesting news broke from Pro Football Talk, who reported that the San Francisco 49ers nearly traded head coach Jim Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns for draft picks. Coaches have been traded before, but it just doesn’t happen that often. And with Harbaugh leading the Niners to three consecutive NFC Championship games, it seems a bit ridiculous that San Francisco would want to part with their head coach – despite the fact that there appear to be contract squabbles between the two sides. Nevertheless, the report broke, and Harbaugh and 49ers’ CEO Jed York both vehemently denied it. Still, Pro Football Talk isn’t a fly-by-night organization and it’s difficult to imagine them getting their facts mixed up. Generally, where there’s smoke there’s fire. If nothing else, it’s possible the two sides at least discussed the idea.

LSU gets commitment … from 14-year old: You’ve probably heard of committing early, but LSU made some headlines for accepting the commitment of a 14-year old quarterback to play football for them. In 2018. Zadock Dinkelman received a scholarship offer and committed to the school despite never playing a down of varsity football. For what it’s worth, Dinkelman is the nephew of former NFL quarterback Ty Detmer, but the news is still a bit difficult to digest. The idea of parents allowing a 14-year old child to make adult decisions reeks of foolishness and it’s even more puzzling that schools have the ability to offer scholarships to kids so young. Still, as long as the NCAA allows it, this type of thing will continue to happen as coaches try to beat each other on the recruiting trail.

January 31, 2013

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Super Bowl XLVII Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

Super Bowl XLVII is now just days away, which leaves fans to ponder how many pounds of nachos they’ll serve up to their friends and what exactly will transpire in the big game in the Big Easy.

Making predictions is half the fun when it comes to the Super Bowl. NFL fans know that most of the iconic Super Bowl moments have come unexpectedly, and there will no doubt be a few of those this year.

Let’s get to it:

Jacoby Jones Will Take the Opening Kickoff Back for a Touchdown

The Baltimore Ravens acquired Jacoby Jones in the offseason primarily to be an instant threat in the return game. Jones hasn’t disappointed this season as he returned two kicks and a punt for touchdowns.

He’s also a viable weapon as a No. 3 receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Terrey Smith. Just ask the Denver Broncos if Jones is a difference maker. They seemingly forgot about him in their Divisional Round playoff matchup as he marched into the end zone after a bomb from quarterback Joe Flacco that sent the game to overtime.

Here’s the kicker—Jones is a native of New Orleans, and he’ll be more than ready to steal the show. With his blood flowing early, he’ll start the game off with a bang.

Alex Smith Will Make an Appearance

The San Francisco 49ers made a bold move this season when they benched then starting quarterback Alex Smith for second-year man Colin Kaepernick.

Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft was finally beginning to look like a No. 1 pick. He was coming off arguably the best game of his career, going 18-for-19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.

Just when it was looking like Smith had solidified himself, a concussion knocked him out of Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams and inevitably changed the course of his career.

In came Kaepernick, who undoubtedly optimized the Niners offense and propelled them to the Super Bowl.

So, this is the end of Smith, right?

Wrong!

He’ll make an appearance in the Super Bowl and even throw an 18-yard touchdown to tight end Vernon Davis.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh knows he has to pack a bag full of tricks if he’s to beat a veteran Ravens defense. Smith will be one of those tricks, and he’ll make the most of it. On the first possession of the second half, Smith will make his mark.
Justin Tucker Will Kick the Longest Field Goal in Super Bowl History

The Baltimore Ravens made some noise this preseason when they tapped rookie Justin Tucker from the University of Texas to be their place kicker this season.

Tucker proved he’s the man for the job, going 30-for-33 on the season and even notching four field goals longer than 50 yards.

The Super Bowl record for longest field goal is a 54-yarder from Steve Christie of the Buffalo Bills against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Tucker will top that by booting a 56-yard field goal with 3:13 left in the third quarter. He’ll show the world just why the Ravens made a great choice when they chose him.

Randy Moss Will Walk the Walk

In case you haven’t heard, Randy Moss has named himself the “Greatest of All Time” during media day at the Super Bowl this season.

Considering he’s a member of the San Francisco 49ers, that’s a bold statement.

Although his career numbers don’t compare to Hall of Fame 49er Jerry Rice’s, Moss will make a big impact in the Super Bowl. Love him or hate him, he’s really good.

It’s long been known that Moss shows up when he wants to, and, considering it’s the Super Bowl, he’ll be open for business.

The Ravens will have their hands full trying to keep track of receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Moss will slip by the secondary for an early second quarter touchdown. Don’t be surprised when he is booed after reaching the end zone.

In the end, he’ll have four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Joe Flacco Will Stamp Himself as Elite

Why there’s still a debate to whether Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is elite or not beats me.  All the guy does is win.  Sure, it may not always be pretty, but a win is a win.

Flacco will be a free agent in the offseason, but don’t expect him to leave Baltimore—he’s there to stay.  Taking Super Bowl MVP honors will certainly boost his pocketbook during bargaining.

He may not be the flashiest quarterback, but he’ll have a Super Bowl ring to show off.

In his MVP performance he’ll go 22-for-30 with 301 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning drive that will end in a Ray Rice 12-yard screen pass touchdown.

Final Score: Ravens 24, 49ers 20

August 16, 2011

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College Football Teams Most Likely To Go Undefeated This Season

By: Joe Williams

The first college football game is just a couple weeks away. As always, we can expect a season full of blowouts, upsets and thrilling finishes. And of course there will be the talk of why the BCS stinks and we should have a playoff. Chances are most of that talk will come in a few months time when a few college teams are still undefeated and trying to snag one of the spots in the BCS Championship game. It’s never too early to start looking at who might be in the mix. Here are a few teams that have a shot to finish the season without a loss and play for the BCS Championship.

Oklahoma

The Sooners are at the top of just about every preseason poll. Starting the season at No. 1 doesn’t mean they will have an easy road, but if they can run the table; they won’t have to worry about being left out of the title game. The toughest test could be an early season showdown with No. 5 Florida State in Tallahassee. If the Seminoles don’t knock the Sooners off the top of the poll, No. 21 Missouri, No. 24 Texas, No. 9 Texas A&M, and No. 8 Oklahoma St. will all have their shot at Oklahoma. And if the Sooners do win all those games, thanks to Nebraska and Colorado leaving the Big 12, they won’t have to win a conference championship game.

 

Oregon

LaMichael James and Darron Thomas both return for an offense that led the nation in scoring last season. There is no doubt they will put points on the board. The question is whether the defense will make enough stops. The Ducks have two giant hurdles to cross if they are going to get back to the BCS Championship game. They will take on No. 4 LSU at a neutral site in Dallas in the biggest game of the opening weekend. If they get past the Tigers and stay perfect, a Nov. 12 visit to No.6 Stanford and Andrew Luck has potential to be the biggest game of the season.

Stanford

Speaking of the Cardinal, Luck turned down millions to return to school for his senior season. The question is; will he have enough help with head coach Jim Harbaugh gone to coach the San Francisco 49ers. Stanford will need the offensive line to protect Luck and he will need a couple reliable targets to throw to. If a few players can step up and help him, the schedule is manageable. That is, if they can get past Oregon. USC and Notre Dame are the most likely to knock Stanford off if Oregon can’t.

Boise State

The Broncos were a missed kick away from finishing undefeated last season. They would have landed a BCS bowl bid but not in the national title game. If multiple BCS schools are unbeaten (as Auburn and Oregon were last season), the Broncos don’t have much chance of finishing ahead of them. Quarterback Kellen Moore is back along with several starters on both sides of the ball. The Broncos open the season at No. 22 Georgia and will host No. 15 TCU in November. The question for this team is not whether they can go undefeated. They have done that before. The question is: IF they go undefeated WILL they get enough help from other teams knocking off the BCS powerhouse teams in front of them?

August 1, 2011

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End of NFL Lockout Brings Flurry of Activity

By: Anson Whaley

At long last (okay, it wasn’t that long), the NFL Lockout is over. With operations just now getting underway, there’s not much time to lose. Teams are signing players at a moment’s notice and the season will be here before you know it. In only about a week’s time, we’ve seen enough developments to fill up several months of normal offseason activity. Here are the top ten … so far.

10. 49ers Hold Steady with Alex Smith – San Francisco was expected to bring back the underachieving Smith and they did just that by re-signing him. To be honest, I don’t understand this move as Smith has progressed at a pace slow enough to make a snail envious over the past five years. But new head coach Jim Harbaugh was determined to give him another shot so the 49ers will again operate with him under center. Smith does know the offense, but knowing and executing in the NFL are two entirely different things.

9. Cam Newton Signs with Panthers – Sure, Newton was expected to sign, but already? With so little time before camp, Newton didn’t have much leverage if he didn’t want to risk alienating fans. The No. 1 overall pick is off to a fine start by reportedly signing the four-year $22 million deal shortly after the lockout’s end.

8. Reggie Bush Dealt to Miami – As if Ricky Williams’ fate weren’t sealed already with the drafting of rookie Daniel Thomas, adding Bush to the roster all but assured he is finished in Miami. The Dolphins picked up the all-purpose back who should complement Ronnie Brown far better than Williams (Note to self: Do not draft Ricky Williams in fantasy football for the third consecutive season).

7. Seahawks Add Sidney Rice – The Seahawks’ passing game left much to be desired last year – and that’s part of the reason Matt Hasselbeck is no longer with the team. But without a 1,000-yard receiver in 2010, Seattle needed to upgrade its wideouts. They not only will be better with the addition of Rice, but also got younger with the 24-year old.

6. Chad Ochocinco Joins Tom Brady in New England – Johnson, er, Ochocinco, comes with a bit of baggage, but the Patriots had success with another so-called misfit in Randy Moss. Who’s to say history won’t repeat itself? New England needed to replace Moss and Ochocinco is plenty capable of a few more big seasons – especially with future Hall of Famer Brady at the helm.

With Ochocinco on board, Brady has a new deep threat target this season.

5. Santonio Holmes stays put in New York – Holmes was the Jets’ biggest priority this offseason and they got him re-signed. They may have missed out on Nnamdi Asomugha, but signing Santonio gives quarterback Mark Sanchez the deep threat he needs to succeed in the Big Apple.

4. Brett Favre is at it. Again – I really shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but, well, call me surprised. Favre had more drama last season than Erica Kane in a Sweeps Week episode of All My Children, and after the disastrous year on and off the field that he endured, I figured there was no way he’d be back in the NFL. But with rumors popping up that Favre could be willing to serve as a backup to Michael Vick in Philadelphia, the Twitter universe exploded. In all seriousness, I don’t expect Favre to make good on this. Common sense, for once, has to win out. Right? Right?!?

3. Donovan McNabb Traded to Vikings – Despite a subpar season last year in the Nation’s capital, McNabb will get another shot at starting as the Vikings’ projected first-team quarterback. How much he has left in the NFL tank is anybody’s guess, but playing in a dome out of the elements eight times a year should help the aging star.

2. Kevin Kolb Traded to Cardinals – The Eagles insisted on a high draft pick in exchange for its backup quarterback and got one in a second-rounder from Arizona. In addition, Philly also secured the talents of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Both teams come out winners in this deal and Kolb should help the Cardinals compete immediately in the mind-numbingly awful NFC West.

1. Nnamdi Asomugha Signs with Eagles – Raise your hand if you saw this signing coming. Asomugha was virtually assured of not being a Raider, but Philadelphia wasn’t one of the NFL teams generally discussed as a viable option. But with his addition, the Eagles have instantaneously improved their chances of winning the conference.