October 18, 2013

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Manning vs. Luck: Game of the Decade?

By: Matt Bowen

The day of reckoning is upon us—Peyton Manning makes his return to Indianapolis on Oct. 20 to face-off against his successor, Andrew Luck.

After being drafted as his successor, Andrew Luck will always be linked to Peyton Manning.

When the Denver Broncos take the field against the Colts on Sunday it will be the game of the decade. TV ratings will prove this thought. Not only is Manning coming back to Indy for the first time since being left out in the pasture, both teams are pretty good. The 6-0 Broncos, led by Manning seem to be Super Bowl bound. Meanwhile, the Luck-led Colts are 4-2 and look to contend for a playoff position for the second time in as many years.

Both Manning and Luck are calmly downplaying the situation, as Manning will be honored before the game for his time spent in Indianapolis. All he did was resurrect the once futile franchise. After 14 years, a Super Bowl victory and 54,828 passing yards in Indy, he was released in 2012 after having multiple neck surgeries. Keep in mind that he missed the entire 2011 season and his career was in jeopardy. The franchise let him go after tanking that season in order to obtain the No. 1 draft selection and the most hyped college quarterback since Manning himself.

Luck was it and was taken by Indianapolis at the top spot. Colts fans may still hold a grudge against the team for doing so, but replacing Manning with Luck is something 31 other NFL organizations would love to do.

The comparisons between the two quarterbacks are remarkable:

Both had NFL dad’s that played the position themselves—Archie Manning spent many years with the New Orleans Saints, Oliver Luck with the Houston Oilers. Both Peyton and Andrew have been surrounded by football their entire live.

Here’s one that probably irks both competitive souls to this day—both Manning and Luck were heavy Heisman favorites heading into their senior seasons but finished a close second. Manning, a Tennessee Volunteer lost to Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997. Luck, a Stanford Cardinal lost to Robert Griffin III of Baylor in 2011.

The obvious one—both went No. 1 to the Colts in their respected NFL drafts.

They may be the two most intelligent quarterbacks to ever call a game. What Manning does at the line of scrimmage is a thing of beauty and don’t think that Luck doesn’t learn from the best.

Right now, Manning looks like he’ll end up as the greatest to ever play the game, while Luck is only a decade or so behind him. It may be hard to compare numbers now, but Luck did finish his rookie campaign with the most passing yards in history with 4,374. Keep in mind that he did this while only throwing 54.1 percent. He also threw the ball an average of 39.1 times per game in 2012. Through six games in 2013, Luck has only averaged 31 attempts per. His completion percentage is at 61.8 and his game is only growing. While his numbers may not mirror his rookie year, the fact that his percentage is swelling is a great sign for the future. In a game of numbers, efficiency will always win.

Manning jumped from 56.7 to 62.1 in completion percentage in his second season and currently sits at 65.5 for his career. Expect Luck to reach the 65 percent mark before he calls it quits.

Sunday’s matchup is the Game of the Year thus far. Actually, it’s the game of the decade. Manning may be downplaying his return, but deep down all fans know that he wants to set career highs in all categories.

Don’t write-off Luck and the Colts quite yet. Nobody thought they would beat the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 at home, but they did. If Luck leads his team to victory the football world may be turned upside down while the hype machine surrounding Luck will be turned up to 11.

Regardless of which team wins, expect both men to shine. Come Sunday, take the time and witness something special. Only when they meet again in the playoffs will we see something so pure.

September 16, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Top-ranked Alabama tops #6 Texas A&M – Johnny Manziel knocked off the Crimson Tide last season, but this year, it wasn’t meant to be. Top-ranked Alabama defeated the Aggies on the road 49-42 behind 334 passing yards and four touchdowns from quarterback A.J. McCarron. After the big win, the Crimson Tide retained their No. 1 ranking in the college football polls that were released on Sunday.

Todd Helton will retire from the MLB after 17 years with the Colorado Rockies.

Vladimir Guerrero and Todd Helton to retire from baseball – Former All-Stars Vladimir Guerrero and Todd Helton will both be stepping away from baseball this year. Guerrero has been out of the majors since 2011 and without a team, has decided to officially call it quits. Helton is still playing for the Colorado Rockies but will reportedly be retiring at the end of the season. Both have had remarkable careers and will warrant consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Guerrero finishes his career with 449 home runs and a .318 batting average. After spending all 17 of his major league seasons in Colorado, Helton slugged 367 home runs and currently has a .317 career average. Neither are locks for the Hall of Fame, but Guerrero likely has the better shot. His numbers were slightly more impressive and there will surely be the questions about Helton’s stats put up in the Colorado air while playing in Coors Field.

Miami Heat bring back Michael Beasley – Troubled NBA forward Michael Beasley will get another shot in the NBA with the team that drafted him – the Miami Heat. Beasley was let go by the Phoenix Suns after some offseason drug troubles and The Heat decided to roll the dice by bringing him back. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft has never quite lived up to expectations. Even when he averaged career-highs in points per game (19.2) after being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010, he regressed after being sent back to the bench the following season. On the surface, the Beasley addition seems to make little sense with all of his off-court issues. But Miami’s frontcourt was the team’s weakness last season and even if Beasley provides some depth on the bench, the move will have been worth it if he can stay out of trouble.

College courseworkPenn State’s Harrisburg campus has some, well, interesting sports-related classes.

Manning Bowl 28 – Okay, Peyton and Eli Manning may not have actually squared off 28 times – it just seems that way. The Manning boys were back at it again on Sunday and Peyton got the upper hand as his Denver Broncos defeated Eli’s New York Giants, 41-23. Eli had more passing yards (362), but his four interceptions were extremely costly in the rout.

Injury bug bites Yankees … again – The New York Yankees have been hit with injuries to a slew of players this season including Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and many others. You can add one more to that list as centerfielder Brett Gardner went down with an oblique injury last week. This late in the season, he could be lost for the rest of the year. Gardner’s loss is a big one as New York has still found a way to compete for the postseason despite all of the setbacks.

Jacksonville Jaguars not a hit … even in their own state – How bad are the Jacksonville Jaguars? So bad that an Orlando TV station apologized for airing their games. Sounds about right.

July 22, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Phil Mickelson wins British Open: The highlight of the sports weekend was arguably Phil Mickelson winning his first British Open for his fifth major championship of his career. Mickelson outlasted Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and a host of others with a final round of 66. Stenson finished three shots back (E) for the tournament to claim second place. Lefty will be remembered by many for his numerous second-place finishes, but with five majors now, his reputation should be changing.

AL wins MLB All-Star Game: Major League Baseball held its annual All-Star Game last Monday and the American League won 3-0. That gives the winner of the AL home field advantage over the National League in the World Series. I’ve tried to wrap my head around the thought process of having the All-Star Game winner give home field advantage to their league, but after many years it still doesn’t make sense to me. The rationale, of course, is that baseball wants to make the game ‘mean something’, but what’s wrong with having an All-Star Game that’s purely a scrimmage? The games in the NBA, NFL, and NHL never feature any significant amount of defense and in the end, that’s okay. The World Series team with the best regular season record should have home field advantage. Period.

Will Eli Manning ultimately be remembered as better than Peyton?

Eli > Peyton?: When it comes to quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning, the older brother is generally regarded as the better player. But with two Super Bowl wins, Eli is gaining on Peyton according to some … including former running back Tiki Barber. Barber not only says that Eli is catching up to Peyton, but better because of his postseason record. While Peyton is only 9-11 in the playoffs, Eli is 8-3. Eli’s two Super Bowl wins also trump Peyton’s one. Really, it’s a valid point. And while I’m not quite ready to call Eli the better sibling because of Peyton’s amazing career statistically, if Eli continues putting up solid numbers for another 5-7 seasons, it may be difficult to deny his greatness.

Welcome back, Charlotte Hornets: The NBA Board of Governors voted to change the Charlotte Bobcats name back to the Charlotte Hornets last week. When the former franchise bolted for New Orleans, they took the Hornets name with them. However, the team just changed their name to the Pelicans and the name became available. Owner Michael Jordan has been trying to get the name back from years and the name change becomes effective in time for the 2014-15 season after this year.

Alex Rodriguez suffers setback: A-Rod, recovering from hip surgery, was hoping to rejoin the New York Yankees this week after a rehab assignment. That changed, though, when the third baseman suffered a quadriceps strain and Rodriguez is now headed for more rehab. Just how much Rodriguez can help the club is very much in question. He’s seen his power decline steadily and while his 18 home runs and a .272 batting average in 2012 were serviceable, Rodriguez is significantly past his prime. But the Yankees, 20th in the majors in scoring runs this year, are probably a bit anxious to see what he can do to help the club that has been overrun with injuries.

Lakers want to land Lebron and/or Melo in 2014: When Lebron James hits free agency in the summer of 2014, he’ll perhaps be the most sought after free agent in the history of the sport. The Lakers are mum on the situation, but according to reports, count them as among the interested parties. Los Angeles is also said to be targeting Carmelo Anthony and rumor has it that the team wants BOTH. That sounds a bit far-fetched – especially if Kobe Bryant is still lacing them up. One could argue that the Miami Heat have been able to pay three superstars, but Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have minor egos compared to Bryant. Getting those three to play for big pay cuts is one thing but to get them to play alongside each other is something else entirely. And if James wins his third title in a row next year with the Heat, it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be intrigued at the possibility of four in a row with the same team – something Kobe or even Michael Jordan never did.

NCAA to end deal with EA Sports: Big news dropped in the world of video games when the NCAA decided it will not renew a contract with EA Sports after this year. The primary reason is because of a pending lawsuit against the NCAA by players that claim the games use their likenesses without compensation. And really, it’s hard to dispute that as the players in the games bear, shall we say, striking similarities to the players. Still, if you’re into the games, have no fear. There’s too much money to be made and look for a similar game to find its way onto the market in the future. They may not have players that bear the likenesses of teams’ actual players, but surely there will be more collegiate football and basketball games that are produced.

Kobe items top $400,000 at auction: A few months back, Kobe Bryant and his parents were in a struggle over some of the star’s memorabilia. A settlement was reached with the prospective auction company, Goldin Auctions, for most of the items, but several pieces were not pulled back. Five of Bryant’s items fetched a whopping $400,000+ and leading the way was a championship ring given to Kobe’s dad that brought in $174,000. The whole thing has to be embarrassing for the parents. It’s hard to imagine them being that hard up for cash and auctioning off a ring their son bought for them probably wasn’t something they wanted out into the public.

Florida linebacker arrested … for barking at dog: No, seriously – this is a thing. Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested last week for barking at a dog that was in a police car on a street. Morrison, for his part, claims the dog barked first. Well, okay. Look, Morrison barking at a dog is odd, but stranger still, is that the police felt the need to arrest him. Really, we’re arresting people for barking at animals? That’s not over the top at all. Morrison was also suspended by head coach Will Muschamp for two games but the player’s arrest in June for punching a nightclub bouncer probably had something to do with that decision.

February 5, 2013

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Who Will Be Super Bowl XLVIII Champions?

By: Joe Williams

Well that was fun. Congratulations to Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens for becoming world champions in New Orleans on Sunday. But enough about that. Now, by process of elimination, let’s figure out who is going to win the next one in New York.

Could Eli Manning and the Giants be the first team to play in the Super Bowl on their home field?

No first-timers

Four teams have never appeared in a Super Bowl. Don’t expect that to change. Sorry Cleveland, Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville.

Back-to-back

Only the New England Patriots have been to back-to-back Super Bowls since 1999. It won’t happen next year either. Count out Baltimore and San Francisco.

New coaches

Philadelphia, Arizona, Chicago, Buffalo, Kansas City and San Diego all have new head coaches. They won’t be winning it all next year.

Home-field advantage

No team has reached the Super Bowl when it was played on its home field. That eliminates the New York Giants and New York Jets.

Under .500

I can’t see a team that finished with a losing record this year winning it all next year. Oakland, Tennessee, Miami, Tampa Bay, Carolina, New Orleans and St. Louis are all off the board.

Injuries

Every year a couple teams have their title hopes derailed with injuries to key players. I have randomly determined that those teams will be Cincinnati, Minnesota and Atlanta.

Madden curse

It is widely known that if you are on the cover of the new Madden football game, you are destined for a poor season. I’m predicting they go with a triple cover featuring Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson. This would ensure that Indianapolis, Washington and Seattle are not Super Bowl winners a year from now.

A new curse?

Emmitt Smith, Hines Ward and Donald Driver are the three NFL players who have won Dancing With The Stars. All three played for teams who have made a habit of playing in Super Bowls. However, the Steelers, Cowboys and Packers have all failed to reach a Super Bowl since their player won the ballroom dancing competition. Curse or coincidence? I say curse. Goodbye Pittsburgh, Dallas and Green Bay.

Down to 2

So that leaves just the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. Manning vs Brady. The two long-time rivals will give us next year what most were expecting to see this year…an AFC Championship Game showdown. And I see Manning getting the win and playing in the Super Bowl on his brother’s home field. And it will be déjà vu in Denver when a 37-year-old Peyton Manning leads the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory a year after finishing 13-3, getting the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and suffering a  devastating playoff loss. (37-year-old John Elway led the Broncos to a Super Bowl win a year after the 13-3, No. 1 seed Broncos fell 30-27 at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars.) Your Super Bowl XLVIII champions will be the Denver Broncos.

December 27, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tim Tebow reportedly asks out of Wildcat packages: Many news outlets reported over the weekend that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow asked not to be utilized in the team’s wildcat package on offense for this weekend’s game. According to the report, Tebow has been disappointed at not being named as the starter after Mark Sanchez was benched. His frustration can be understood to a degree as the Jets went with unproven rookie Greg McElroy, but if the reports are true, that’s a bad move on his part. Above all else, Tebow has to be a reliable member of the team and play as requested by the coaches – even if he doesn’t feel he’s being utilized properly. If he feels he’s being treated unfairly, he can always ask for a way out. But as long as he’s being paid by the franchise and is a member of the team, Tebow should participate in any way the coaches see fit.

Since benching Mark Sanchez, the quarterback situation for the New York Jets has gotten even cloudier.

Cleveland Indians sign Nick Swisher: The Cleveland Indians made a bit of a splash in MLB free agency by signing outfielder Nick Swisher away from the Yankees. Swisher hit 24 home runs and drove in nearly 100 runs in New York last year and will provide a boost to the Cleveland offense. The move is especially helpful for the Tribe as they recently traded away Shin-Soo Choo. And at 32 having had a pretty healthy career, Swisher should still have a few more years left in the tank.

Jabari Parker commits to Duke, reports backlash: High School basketball sensation Jabari Parker, widely regarded as one of the top two recruits in the class of 2013 committed to Duke last week. Afterwards, he reported being harassed on Twitter. He responded by saying he’s ‘just a kid’, but the fact is that it’s just something he’ll have to learn to deal with. Having a Twitter account is one thing athletes use to connect better with fans, but the flipside is that not everyone will be thrilled with what they do or say. I’m not condoning harassment of athletes on the social media site (particularly ones still in high school), but Parker will need to realize it’s only going to get worse as he advances to college and, presumably, the NBA.

Indianapolis Colts clinch playoff berth: The Colts did the unthinkable this weekend by making the NFL playoffs with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm. When the Colts decided to make the difficult move to transition away from Peyton Manning, most figured it would take a few years to get back to the postseason. But Luck not only had a monster rookie campaign, breaking Cam Newton’s rookie season passing record, he’s led Indianapolis to an unthinkable ten wins so far. The Colts’ management has to be absolutely pleased with the way things have worked out under Luck. He was expected to be a star in the league, but few could have seen this much success in only his first year.

DeMarcus Cousins in trouble … again: Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins was recently suspended indefinitely by the team for conduct detrimental to the team. The exact reason hasn’t been specified, but Cousins and coach Keith Smart reportedly argued in the locker room at halftime of a recent game and the player was benched in the second half. Cousins wasn’t even permitted to leave the locker room during the benching. Even worse was the fact that this isn’t his first brush with trouble this season. Cousins was suspended for a game after striking the Dallas MavericksO.J. Mayo in the groin earlier this month. He was also suspended by the league for two games after an incident with San Antonio Spurs’ announcer and former player Sean Elliott back in November. For his part in the locker room incident with Smart, Cousins has since admitted he was wrong. But the Kings may be fed up with his actions lately and the indefinite suspension could last a while. If so, you have to applaud management since Cousins is the team leader in points, rebounds, and steals, and one of the few attractions the franchise has.

Texas’ Myck Kabongo has season-long suspension cut: Texas guard Myck Kabongo was recently suspended by the NCAA for the rest of this season, but last week had it cut to 23 games. Kabongo reportedly lied to the school about receiving improper gifts, but was found to have not lied to the NCAA. More alarming for me, though, was Texas coach Rick Barnes who said his thoughts are with Myck and his family and that he ‘feels’ for him. So let’s get this straight – a player lies to the school that provides him with a free education and a place to display his athletic talents, but is then treated as if he did nothing wrong and is virtually being tortured. Got it. I don’t deny that everyone makes mistakes, but Kabongo deserves to sit this time out. Instead of feeling bad for him, Barnes would sound much more credible if he said he was disappointed in his actions.