November 8, 2011

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BCS Championship Picture Still Murky

By: Joe Williams

If the final BCS rankings came out today, we would be looking at an LSU vs. Oklahoma State matchup in the BCS Championship game. Will it stay that way until the final BCS rankings come out at the end of the season? If this season plays out like most then there will be more twists and turns before the BCS matchups are set. Does your team have a shot to reach the BCS Championship game? Here’s a look at what it may take to get the contending teams to New Orleans on Jan. 9.

No.1 LSU

As long as the Tigers keep winning they will stay at No. 1 in the BCS rankings. They still face No. 8 Arkansas and must play the SEC title game. If they win out, they will play in the BCS Championship game.

No. 2 Oklahoma State

If the Cowboys win their final three games, including a showdown with No. 6 Oklahoma, they should stay in the top two in the BCS Rankings and play in the BCS Championship game.

No. 3 Alabama

This is where things get interesting. The Crimson Tide must win out and the only formidable team they have left is No. 20 Auburn. If Oklahoma State loses, Alabama would pass the Cowboys but there is a good chance an undefeated Stanford team would jump into the second spot of the BCS Rankings. Or what if Arkansas beats LSU and there is a three way tie at 6-1 in the SEC West? It could all come down to whether or not the BCS voters want to see a rematch of that ugly 9-6 loss against LSU in the BCS Championship game.

No. 4 Stanford

The Cardinal need to beat No. 7 Oregon on Saturday night and they may need a convincing win to convince the voters to move them up in the BCS rankings. Then they need to beat Cal and Notre Dame and they could have a rematch with USC in the conference title game. If they win out, they should move ahead of Alabama in the BCS rankings, but it would be tough for them to catch an unbeaten Oklahoma State.

No. 5 Boise State

We say this every year, but the Broncos need a lot of help to make it to the BCS Championship game. They must blow out their four remaining opponents, including a good TCU team. Bronco fans should be rooting for Oregon to beat Stanford and the Sooners to take down Oklahoma State. They also need Georgia to win the SEC East and then the SEC title game. If the Broncos are the only unbeaten team (other than Houston) and have a victory over the SEC champion they will have a legitimate argument but probably get left out of the BCS Championship game again.

No. 6 Oklahoma

The Sooners must win their final three games which would mean going to Oklahoma State and winning. They have to get passed Alabama as the highest ranked one-loss team in the BCS rankings and they need Stanford to lose a game as well. Then, they need to hope the voters will move them ahead of Boise State and decide they don’t want to see an Alabama/LSU rematch in the BCS Championship game.  

No. 7 Oregon 

If the Ducks beat Stanford, USC, Oregon St. and win the conference championship game, they would be in the discussion, as long as Oklahoma St. loses. Would that be enough to pass one-loss Oklahoma or Alabama in the BCS rankings? I don’t think so, but if their only loss is to an undefeated No. 1 LSU and things fall the Ducks’ way, we could be in for a rematch from the season opener in the BCS Championship game.

No. 8 Arkansas 

It is certainly a longshot, but let’s say the Razorbacks beat Tennessee and Mississippi St. Then they go on the road and beat No. 1 LSU. They could be in a three-way tie with LSU and Alabama in the SEC West. Depending on how the tiebreaker plays out, they could go to the SEC championship game and beat Georgia. If that all happens, Arkansas would be a one-loss SEC champion and could get in BCS Championship game if Stanford or Oklahoma State drops a game.

No. 9 Clemson 

The Tigers could run the table and get to the ACC title game where they could meet Georgia Tech and avenge their only loss on the season. They would be 12-1 with a win over the only team to beat them. They would also need Stanford, Oklahoma State, and maybe Boise State to lose. Then they would need some other one-loss teams like Oregon and Oklahoma to fall. If they end up as one of a couple one-loss teams, you could make a case for Clemson.

No. 10 Virginia Tech

The Hokies are in the same boat as Clemson. They could run the table and get to the ACC title game and have a rematch with the only team they lost to (Clemson). Then they would be 12-1 with a win over the only team to beat them. They would also need Stanford, Oklahoma State, and maybe Boise State to lose. Then they would need some other one-loss teams like Oregon and Oklahoma to fall. If they end up as one of a couple one-loss teams, you could make a case for Virginia Tech in the BCS Championship game.

No.11 Houston

Boise State has to lose for the Cougars to get a BCS invite. The only way they get to the BCS Championship game is if they go back in time, join the Big East for 2011, play a whole new schedule, and go undefeated. Oh, and get some help. Good luck with that.

No. 12 Penn State 

If Penn State can rack up four more wins (No. 19 Nebraska, Ohio State, No. 16 Wisconsin, and No. 13 Michigan State in the conference title game) they will be 12-1 with the only loss coming at the hands of Alabama. That is a pretty good resume but they need just about everyone in front of them in the BCS rankings to lose. Not likely.

October 27, 2011

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Division Races Heating Up

By: Joe Williams

It’s seven weeks into the NFL season, and the division races are starting to take shape. NFL teams like Buffalo and Detroit have thrown their hats in the ring, and others like St. Louis and Indianapolis have played their way out of it. Here’s where we stand:

AFC EAST

It was supposed to be a battle between the Jets and Patriots, but the Bills have made it a three team race. New England’s only loss came at the hands of the Bills and their New Year’s Day rematch ought to have playoff implications. Buffalo has a few games against NFL teams at the bottom of the standings and two meetings with the Jets, so the schedule sets up well for them to stay in the race. The next month will be critical for the Jets. They play the Bills twice and New England once. One of these teams is going to be watching at home in January.

AFC NORTH

Cleveland and Cincinnati are hanging around. This is the only division with no NFL teams below .500. Wins against New England and Baltimore in the next two weeks would put the Steelers in the driver’s seat in the AFC. Things are going to get much more difficult for the Bengals with two games left against both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. We’re about to find out what this team is made of. Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh is the game of the year for the Ravens. If they can beat the Steelers for a second time, the division should be in their controls. The Browns are in the conversation at 3-3 but they haven’t beaten anyone worth bragging about. Can they steal a couple against the big boys?

AFC SOUTH

All it took was one injury for the Colts to go from AFC South dominance to one of the worst teams in the league. Someone is going to take advantage and after Sunday’s beat down of the Titans, it looks like it will be Houston. The schedule sets up nicely for them with most of their tough games already behind them. If Tennessee can get back on track, the New Year’s Day rematch could be huge.

AFC WEST

As usual, the Chargers are the heavy favorite in the West. And as usual, they let the rest of the West hang around. They host the Chiefs on Halloween in a must-win for Kansas City. The Chiefs really have to win the next three to stay in the race because they have a brutal five-game-stretch coming up. If the Raiders can get their act together during the bye week and get Carson Palmer ready to go, the West title may be on the line when they meet in the last game of the season.

NFC EAST

There will be lots of entertaining games between now and week 17, but it almost seems like we can just skip ahead to the last day of the season when Dallas is at the Giants and Philadelphia hosts Washington. That’s when this division will be sorted out.

NFC NORTH

The Packers have already got people talking about a 16-0 regular season. It’s probably not going to happen, but as long as Rodgers is healthy, they should win the North division. Detroit still has two shots at the defending champs though so they could make things interesting. Chicago is too far back to catch Green Bay but the Bears will be in the thick of the wild card race.

NFC SOUTH

The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs won a total of 34 games last year. They are on a similar pace right now, and, just like last year, one of them is going to get left out of the playoff picture. New Orleans has a one game lead and the last two at home, so they should have an edge. It could come down to which team gets knocked off by Carolina in the last month of the season.

NFC WEST

San Francisco has five wins. The rest of the division has three. It is the 49ers‘ division to give away. And if they keep playing well with a soft schedule coming up, they could even earn an opening round bye.

September 19, 2011

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NCAA Football Conference Realignment: Selecting the Top 64 Schools

By: Anson Whaley

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about NCAA Football Conference allignment and how superconferences could be good for college football. My point was that if six such conferences existed, the BCS would be more accessible to a greater number of teams. But with the Big 12 possibly on the verge of an epic collapse, the more likely scenario is a sport with only four of those 16-team conferences.

That got me to thinking – if it did happen, who would likely be included? Rivals/Yahoo had some writers discuss the issue with each one coming up with their list of NCAA teams. It’s safe to say there were some notable omissions – Duke, UConn, and Indiana all were left off some of the rosters.NCAA football rules college athletics, but is it really fair to leave out such NCAA basketball powerhouses?

Well, I’ll get to that in a bit. But for the record, basketball programs that don’t play FBS football were left out of consideration. So Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier, Marquette, Gonzaga, et al? No dice.

So here’s my list of 64 teams:

The Absolute Locks– There’s absolutely no discussion on these guys. The fact that I even have to list them is borderline insulting. Call them first-ballot Hall of Famers, if you will. If there was only one superconference, these guys would be the first ones in: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, USC

Next In Line- These schools aren’t the cream of the crop, but they’d definitely get in without any question. Any NCAA conference would be glad to have them and there’s as much of a chance of Oddibe McDowell getting into the Hall of Fame as there is of these schools being left out: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan State, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Still In With Little Question – This is the third tier…NCAA schools that no sane conference would leave out. There could be some trivial questions about a few of them, but these institutions would certainly all be in as well. Arizona State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Purdue, Oregon State, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Virginia, Washington

The “Basketball” Schools– Personally, I don’t see how you have superconferences without including some of the most storied basketball programs around. Sure, we all get that despite March Madness, in terms of money, NCAA basketball takes a back seat to football. But as the second biggest college sport, these schools have got to be in. After all, are you really going to turn down these schools that not only each have won multiple basketball championships for someone like Baylor? Didn’t think so: UConn, Duke, Indiana

The “Non-BCS Football Schools”– These guys have all had incredible success without being in a BCS automatic qualifying conference. I can listen to the argument of not moving them to the front of the line for various reasons such as market size, but they’ve all been ranked in the top ten in recent years on the gridiron and are too good to leave out: Boise State, BYU, TCU, Utah

The Final Five In

Minnesota – Mediocre football and basketball programs, but has had respectable years in each.

Northwestern– Here mostly for their academics and market (Chicago). Oh yeah, and Michael Wilbon.

Rutgers – One of oldest universities and recent football success with average of nine wins from 2006 – 2009.

South Carolina – Are you gonna be the one to tell Steve Spurrier he’s not invited?

South Florida– Football program on the rise after only being in Division I for ten years and brings the Tampa market.

Left Out – Can’t find room for everybody and these would be the unlucky schools if I were putting the conferences together. Would they be on someone’s list? Absolutely. But on mine, they just miss the cut: Vanderbilt, Baylor, Iowa State, Washington State, Wake Forest

July 19, 2011

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8 Very Improbable NFL Playoff Teams

By: Joe Williams

It is looking like the NFL lockout is finally about to end. Now we can get back to the hope and excitement a new season brings. Unless, of course, you are a fan of a perennial cellar dweller. In every sport there are the haves and the have-nots. Even in the NFL, the league most designed to have parity, some teams have no shot to make the playoffs. Here’s a team from each division that no matter what happens in free agency or by trade in the next few weeks, will be unlikey to play in the NFL playoffs. If you are a fan of these teams you may want to begin planning your 2012 draft party.

Buffalo Bills - AFC EAST

This team has two major problems. The Patriots and the Jets. With two of the top teams in the league in their division, Buffalo is likely to lose at least three of those games. They would have to go at least 9-4 through the rest of the schedule to have any kind of chance. The NFL playoffs are not going to happen for a team without an obvious franchise quarterback.

Cincinnati Bengals – AFC NORTH

If you look up dysfunctional in the dictionary, you will see a picture of the Bengals. Their quarterback says he would rather retire than play on this team. The top wide receiver is feuding with the head coach. The running back just got arrested. Does this sound like a team ready to make an NFL playoff run?

 

Tennessee Titans – AFC SOUTH

The Titans are moving on from Vince Young and Jeff Fisher. They got their quarterback of the future in the draft and a new head coach. Tennessee could be on the rebound, but with lockout shortened preseason preparations, a team with a new coach and new quarterback is at a major disadvantage.

 Denver Broncos – AFC WEST

Here’s another team hurt by the lockout because they have a new head coach. John Fox has turned around a bad team before but this job is going to take more than one season. His biggest task is going to be figuring out what to do at quarterback. Do they stick with Kyle Orton? Do they look to the future and hope that the one smart move Josh McDaniels made was drafting Tim Tebow? Or do they put Brady Quinn behind center and play for the top pick in the draft? 

Washington Redskins – NFC EAST

Mike Shanahan has been one of the top coaches in the league, but many are starting to wonder what he is doing in Washington. Why trade for McNabb to play quarterback and continually pull him out for Rex Grossman? Now it looks like he’s going with John Beck. If they were in one of the West divisions, I’d give this team a shot. But they are in the toughest division in football.

Minnesota Vikings – NFC NORTH

If I had been writing this every year for the last decade, this would be the first time I would have said anyone other than Detroit. The Vikings have gone backwards since being one stupid Brett Favre play away from the Super Bowl. They have a quarterback of the future, but this division looks much tougher than just a year ago.

Carolina Panthers - NFC SOUTH

Teams don’t go from the number one pick in the draft to the NFL playoffs. Especially with a rookie head coach. They could have used more training camp to get Cam Newton going in their system. They have a bright future if he proves he was worthy of being the top pick in the draft. That bright future isn’t 2011.

San Fransisco 49ers – NFC WEST

This division is a real crapshoot but I’ve got to pick someone. They have a rookie head coach. Do we know who is going to play quarterback? There are questions to be answered but if any team on this list is going to make me look bad, it’s the 49ers.

June 21, 2011

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Mock NBA Draft

By: Joe Williams

Cleveland

Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

Ever since the Cavs won the draft lottery, the talk has been either Irving or Derrick Williams with the first pick. It has been reported that Cleveland has decided on Irving.

Nick Gilbert won the lottery, securing the #1 NBA draft pick for the Cavaliers

Minnesota

Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona

The Timberwolves need all the help they can get. Williams and Irving are the consensus top two players in this NBA draft.

Utah
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey
With two picks in the top 12, the Jazz have options. The Irving and Williams are pretty locked in as the top two picks, so the wheeling and dealing could start here. Utah stays put and takes a 7-footer, hoping he can become one of the few legitimate big men in the NBA.

Cleveland
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
With Irving on board, the Cavs look to get some help inside. If they can hit on these two picks, it will go a long way towards moving on from the Lebron James era.
 
Toronto
Jan Vesely, SF, Czech Republic
The Raptors have a history of drafting international players. Why stop now?
 
Washington
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas
The Wizards have plenty of young guns in the backcourt. Picking up Thompson would give them some help on the glass.
 
Sacramento
Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
The Kings go for another Wildcat to join DeMarcus Cousins. Adding Knight to run the point will allow Tyreke Evans to move to the two-guard.
 
Detroit
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
After all the trouble in Detroit with Rip Hamilton last year, nobody would expect the Pistons to draft another Hamilton. Wrong.
 
Charlotte
Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
The Bobcats need another scorer. Michael Jordan and company hope Walker can be that guy.
 
Milwaukee
Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
Milwaukee is set at point guard and center. The Bucks need more firepower.
 
Golden State
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State
The Warriors need someone who will crash the boards and provide some toughness.
 
Utah
Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU
If Jimmer is still on the board here, Utah has to take him. Don’t they? The fan base will go bonkers if the Jazz pass on the Jimmer.
 
Phoenix
Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
The Suns ought to be looking for a big man who can rebound.
 
Houston
Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
Yao Ming may need to be replaced. If Ming does return, the Rockets would be wise to have some insurance in case he gets hurt again.
 
Indiana
Bismack Biyombo, PF, Spain
The Pacers could use another big man to rebound.
 
Philadelphia
Tobias Harris, PF, Tennessee
The Sixers have plenty of young talent in the backcourt so they look to get some help for Elton Brand on the inside.
 
New York
Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
The Knicks add a shooter to help spread the floor with Anthony and Stoudemire.
 
Washington
Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia
The Wizards hope the Serbian can develop into a key contributor.
 
Charlotte
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
There is a good chance Charlotte will not pick here on NBA draft night, but if they do they will go for the best player on their board.

Minnesota
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuiana
Minnesota shocks everyone by not taking a point guard.

Portland
Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
The Blazers should let the team doctor make this pick and bring in the healthiest player on the board.

Denver
Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence
Good luck finding the next Carmelo Anthony at this point. Denver has lots of free agents so they could take any position. Might as well take a guy who scored more than 24 points a game.
 
Houston
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
The Rockets add another big man.
 
Oklahoma City
JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue
The Thunder could use a low post scorer to take some pressure off of Kevin Durant.

Boston
Jeremy Tyler, PF
Is Kendrick Perkins available?
 
Dallas
Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State
The NBA champions will try to find a point guard to take over when Jason Kidd retires.
 
New Jersey
Justin Harper, PF, Richmond
The Nets need to get Deron Williams another scorer.
 
Chicago Bulls
Shelvin Mack, SG, Butler
A shooting guard who can score would really help Derrick Rose.
 
San Antonio
Jon Leuer, PF, Wisconsin
Tim Duncan is not the man he once was.
 
Chicago Bulls
Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia
Why not take a pair of two guards and hope one becomes the missing piece?