November 13, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

New York Knicks’ season off to rough start – After several key offseason moves, the New York Knicks are hoping to contend for an NBA title this season. That quest, though, is off to a rocky beginning. The Knicks are 2-4 on the season and were routed, 120-89, by last season’s Western Conference champions, the San Antonio Spurs, on Sunday. Unfortunately, none of that is even the worst thing that’s happened to the team. The Knicks learned last week that center Tyson Chandler is expected to miss several weeks with a fibula injury. Chandler’s loss really hurts the team defensively and that’s one of the few things the team has done right so far this year. Giving up only 93 points a game, New York ranks fourth in the NBA in team defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Could Ben Roethlisberger be quarterbacking a team other than the Steelers?

Ben Roethlisberger denies trade request talk Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was the subject of some trade talk this past week. NFL.com reported that he was interested in potentially exploring a trade request following the season, but Big Ben says it’s not true. The Steelers have had a difficult season and at 3-6, frustration mounting wouldn’t be a surprise. But Roethlisberger wanting out of Pittsburgh would be a curious move. He’s won two Super Bowls with the team, been to a third, and despite some offseason incidents earlier in his career, has had a lot of support from Pittsburgh fans over the years. He’s played his entire career in Pittsburgh and leaving at this point would be a bit odd. Roethlisberger may be frustrated at the current team, but you can bet that the Steelers will again field a competitive team during his tenure at quarterback.

Arian Foster to have season-ending surgeryHouston Texans running back Arian Foster will reportedly have season-ending surgery for a bulging disk in his back. Foster’s injury and subsequent surgery is just the latest misfortune for the Texans who have had a rough season. Foster, himself, has had a down season with only a single rushing touchdown to his credit. After a 2-0 start, Houston promptly has dropped their past seven games. Quarterback Matt Schaub suffered an ankle injury but even when he was healthy enough to play, head coach Gary Kubiak kept him on the bench in favor of Case Keenum. Kubiak also made headlines when he collapsed at halftime of a game last week. It’s just been a miserable season all around for the franchise.

Lloyd McClendon and Rick Renteria hired as managers – The Seattle Mariners have their next manager after hiring Lloyd McClendon last week. McClendon has prior experience, serving as the head man for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His 336-446 record there, though, wasn’t impressive and he had to settle for a role as bullpen coach and hitting coach with the Detroit Tigers the past few years. Seattle fans have understandably been skeptical of the move, but McClendon was handcuffed a bit to some pretty bad Pirates rosters. Still, if he’s not successful in Seattle, it may be a while before he sees another opportunity to become a manager. Renteria, meanwhile, is headed to the Chicago Cubs. He hasn’t been a major league manager before, but still has a good deal of experience. Renteria managed a few seasons in the minors and was a bench coach for the San Diego Padres. Earlier this season, he also managed Mexico’s National team in the World Baseball Classic. Cubs fans will have to be patient with him as the team is clearly in the midst of a rebuilding movement.

Stanford tops Oregon – In another matchup of top five college football teams, No. 5 Stanford upended No. 3 Oregon last week, 26-20. The win helps the Cardinal, obviously, but the real beneficiary is Florida State. The Seminoles were undefeated but still sat behind top-ranked Alabama and Oregon in the minds of many poll voters. If both teams ran the table, there was a chance that Florida State could have been left out of the national championship picture. Instead, the Seminoles likely will control their own destiny now and just might get the chance to reach the title game.

Bill Mazeroski auction a hit – Former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Bill Mazeroski raked in a cool $1.7 million from an auction centered around items from his series-winning home run in the 1960 World Series. Leading the way was his game-worn jersey from that epic seventh game, which fetched $633,000. Also auctioned were his cleats from the game and his six Gold Glove awards. It always seems a little discomforting to see former players auction off their awards or game items, but it also can’t be forgotten that players in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t make the kind of money today’s players do. And really, how long can you hang onto those items knowing they’re worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Florida Panthers fire Kevin Dineen – Head coach Kevin Dineen was fired by the Florida Panthers after another slow start to the season. The Panthers were 3-9-4 at the time of the move and the front office felt a change was necessary. Florida ranks near the bottom of the NHL in offense (26th), scoring fewer than two goals a game, and defense (28th). This was the second straight slow start for Dineen as his team got off to a 1-5 beginning last year. Peter Horachek has been named the interim coach in the meantime.

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.

November 19, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s top two teams fall: On Saturday night, No. 1 Kansas State was rolled up by Baylor, 52-24. Not to be outdone, the nation’s second-ranked team, Oregon, lost to Stanford in overtime, 17-14. But other than Baylor and Stanford, the real winner in this is the only undefeated team capable of playing for the national championship – Notre Dame. A few weeks ago, with several unbeaten squads, the Irish were left out of the conversation in many talks about the title game. But now, Notre Dame is sitting pretty and if they can win their final game against USC, they should find their way into the BCS championship.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was named AL MVP.

Baseball award winners announced: Major League Baseball dished out their awards for the 2012 season and Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey were named the American and National League Most Valuable Players. Mike Trout garnered some consideration for the AL award due to his insane WAR of 10.7, the highest since Barry Bonds’ 11.6 a decade ago in 2002. But in the end, he couldn’t compete with Cabrera’s triple crown and the voters got this one right. Trout put up some impressive numbers, but Cabrera did something that hasn’t happened in 45 years – ‘Nuff said.

Royce White facing strange predicament: The career of Houston Rockets’ rookie Royce White could be over before it even begins. White, reportedly dealing with a fear of flying, has yet to play a game for the Rockets and he and the team are at odds. White is so adamant about his health concerns that he even broached the idea of retiring last week. The strange thing about all of this is that the Rockets drafted White even knowing about his condition, so it’s hard to understand their plight. Even though Houston hasn’t expressed an interest in trading him, dealing White to another team that might be more willing to work with him is probably the best for all involved.

Rutgers and Maryland Big Ten bound: NCAA expansion is far from over and the latest splash is that Rutgers and Maryland are headed to the Big Ten. The ACC is well-positioned in college football, but losing Rutgers is yet another blow to the Big East. The conference tried to continue its relevance by adding several more schools in the past year, but while that may work for the short term, Big East teams are still open to being poached. The bottom line is that despite more teams, the Big East is still fairly unstable.

Rory McIlroy misses cut; vows changes in ’13: The top-ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, missed the cut in the Hong Kong Open. It’s the second time this year that he failed to make the weekend’s play in a tournament he won the previous year. McIlroy thinks he may have had too much going this season and says he’ll play in fewer events in 2013. That’s bad news for TV networks, golf tournaments, and fans, but is probably the right way to go. Less tournaments will hopefully result in less physical wear, but more importantly, mentally, McIlroy should be fresher as well if he’s doing less.

Andrew Bynum the bowler: All-Star center Andrew Bynum still has yet to play a game for his new team, the Philadelphia 76ers, after he was included in a multi-team swap that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum is a younger center with loads of potential, but his knee issues have kept him off the court all season so far. And this weekend, it was reported that Bynum suffered a setback from … bowling. No, seriously. If this is true, you can bet Philly fans won’t give him an easy time about it.

Hockey’s 2012 Hall of Fame class inducted: Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates were all inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Predictably, the ceremony was overshadowed a bit by the NHL lockout. It’s a shame, too, because those were four of the most exciting players in hockey over the past few decades.

Baylor’s 42-game winning streak snapped: When the Baylor women’s basketball team lost to Stanford last week, it snapped the longest active winning streak in the sport. Lost in all of the hysteria, though, is that the Bears lost by only two points. Even with the loss, there’s no reason to write Baylor off as a title contender. And Brittney Griner set the women’s record for dunks in a career in the following game, so there’s that.

November 14, 2012

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Why Andrew Luck Will Be the Greatest NFL QB of All Time

By: Matt Bowen

The Indianapolis Colts turned their organization upside down when they decided to part ways with franchise quarterback Peyton Manning in order to draft Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck No. 1.

Drafting Andrew Luck sent the Indianapolis Colts franchise in a new direction.

While many fans had mixed emotions about the ordeal, there should be a calm feeling across Colts Nation right now—Luck is as good as advertised, and he’s only going to get better.

Coming into the NFL, Luck was said to be the best quarterback out of college since fellow Stanford alum John Elway. Fittingly enough, it was Elway who signed Manning to take over the Denver Broncos huddle after the team decided to trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets in the off-season.

Another wrench thrown into the Colts’ “life after Manning plan” was the emergence of quarterback Robert Griffin III last season. Heading into the 2011 college football season, Luck was slated to win the Heisman Trophy and be the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

Well, Griffin III won the Heisman (deservingly so) and almost the top honors in the draft. The Colts teetered on which quarterback to choose, but stuck with Luck. Their decision looks to be a wise one right now. Griffin III went No. 2 to the Washington Redskins and the rest will be played out in history.

The Colts currently hold a Wild Card spot at 6-3 and Luck is on pace to set the rookie record for total passing yards.  His 2,631 yards right now put him on pace for 4,677, which would demolish the Carolina Panthers Cam Newton’s 2011 record of 4,051. Luck also surpassed Newton’s single game record by a rookie with 433 passing yards in Week 9. Thanks to veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who is currently second in the NFL with 931 receiving yards, Luck has a reliable target. His touchdown to interception rate in only 10/9, but he’s a rookie. Those numbers will fix themselves with experience.

So, what makes him so special?

His intelligence is that of a wily veteran rather than a rookie. He is already the go-to, hands down leader of his team. Out of the Colts’ six wins this season, five have been by six points or less, which tells one that his game management skills are superb.  To think of what he’ll be able to do in the future leaves one with a waterfall of drool cascading from his open jaw. He’s the total package.

He’s smart, has deadly arm strength and accuracy and is underrated as an all-around athlete. His ability to tuck the ball and run when necessary will help him thrive in the NFL. His goal heading into his rookie season was to improve every game.  Two turnovers in the red zone in Week 10 prove that he has plenty of work to do, but that’s what motivates him.

Here’s something to watch for from Luck the rest of the season—he’s going to flirt with 5,000 passing yards. This would be a monumental feat as only four men have done it a total of five times in NFL history. Never has a rookie achieved this.

If you think this is impossible, don’t be a hater. Luck only needs 2,369 passing yards, or 338 yards/game the rest of the way. Considering his competition the rest of the season, this is more than possible. The Colts play the suspect defenses of the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs. Not to say these teams don’t have a chance against Luck, but numbers don’t lie. Only the Houston Texans, who the Colts play twice, may be able to contain Luck down the stretch. But even they were torched by Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers to the tune of 338 passing yards*(what Luck needs to average to reach 5,000) and six touchdowns in their only loss this season.

NFL fans do yourself a favor—watch history unfold, watch Luck become the greatest of all time.

October 19, 2012

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BCS: Top 5 Overview

By: Tyler Vespa

With college football’s first BCS standings being released 4 days ago, there were a few surprises near the top of the standings, along with the two teams we all expected to be there. This season, at least to this point, has been one of the most intriguing for the fan in years. 3 of the top 5 teams are playing way above expectations, and there have been a few teams that have lost one game much earlier than expected.

If the second half of this season continues to be as wide-open as the first, we may have two teams in the BCS title game that haven’t been there in a while. And that’s an understatement.

Could the BCS championship be heading back to The Swamp?

Here are the current top 5 teams in the BCS Standings:

1. Alabama

The preseason number 1, the Crimson Tide will have to beat themselves to not be in Miami on January 7th.

2. Florida

This is the first surprise in this year’s standings. Great victories over Tennessee in Knoxville and against LSU in the Swamp came because of stifling defense. However, it doesn’t get any easier for the Gators as they play #7 South Carolina and #11 Georgia in back-to-back weeks.

3. Oregon

The Ducks have been nothing short of dominant, although they have yet to play the best competition on their schedule. That comes in two weeks, when they travel to Los Angeles to battle the 10th-ranked Trojans. They finish the year with back-to-back games against Stanford and at an up-start Oregon State team that is currently 8th in the BCS standings.

4. Kansas State

Heisman Trophy candidate Collin Klein has the Wildcats playing classic Bill Snyder football. Klein has passed for 1,074 yards with 7 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. He is also a dual-threat, running for 5.2 yards per carry. The key to their surprise start to the season was their upset win against Oklahoma in Norman. This week against West Virginia in Morgantown and next week’s battle with a gritty Texas Tech team will tell us if these Cats’ are for real.

5. Notre Dame

Yes, wake-up the echoes. Senior linebacker Manti’ Teo is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. The Irish defense ranks 2nd in the country allowing just 8.7 points per game. The Golden Domers should proceed with caution starting this Saturday with a game against BYU who boasts the 7th ranked defense in the nation. It doesn’t stop there, next week the Irish take on Oklahoma in Norman, and they will finish the year with their annual “ Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh” where they face the Trojans in the Coliseum. Sounds daunting.

The next few weeks will either separate these five teams even more, or make 2012 the most wide-open chase for a national championship ever. Just behind these 5 are a host of great one-loss teams: LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State, West Virginia, USC, and Oklahoma. So, just one slip-up down the stretch would be extremely costly. Personally, I would love to see 12 one-loss teams in the running for a national title. However, Alabama is my pick to go undefeated. Can anyone else? We’ll see.