June 24, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Miami Heat repeat as NBA Champs: The Miami Heat won Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and, in the process, brought home their second consecutive title. The Heat didn’t always play well this postseason, but when all the chips were down, they stepped up and denied the Spurs a fifth championship. LeBron James won the MVP Award of the Finals and rightfully so. He started the series slowly, scoring less than 20 points in each of the first three games. But he saved his best performance for the end, averaging 34.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 7.5 assists over the last two games. Winning three titles in a row won’t be easy but if there’s one player that can do it, it’s James – the best player in the league.

Colin Kaepernick doesn't only throw footballs well. He threw an 87 MPH first pitch over the weekend.

Carlos Lee retires: Carlos Lee quietly retired from Major League Baseball after sitting out since the end of last year. Seeking a multi-year contract when his current deal expired last season, Lee didn’t get one and has officially left the game last week. Lee never quite reached superstardom as other players in his era, but he was a legitimate power threat for more than a decade. From 2000 – 2010, Lee had at least 24 home runs every season and was one of the game’s feared power hitters. He finished his career with 358 bombs and unlike other home run hitters, never struck out 100 times in a season. While he won’t make the Hall of Fame, the three-time All-Star was a very good player for a long time.

Introduction of Deacon Jones Award: The NFL reached into its past to honor the deceased defensive end, Deacon Jones. The NFL’s league leaders in sacks will be given the new award. Jones, long regarded as one of the league’s best in that category despite it not becoming an official statistic until after he retired, passed away earlier this month.

Francisco Rodriguez picks up 300th career save: Milwaukee Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez earned his 300th career save over the weekend. He nearly didn’t get the chance, though. After a 2-7 record and an ERA well over 4.00, K-Rod was released by the Brewers after last season and was out of baseball for a little while. But Milwaukee gave him another chance and Rodriguez has been perfect in save opportunities this season. And at only 31 with an ERA under 1.00, he could still have plenty left in the tank.

Johnny Manziel ‘can’t wait to leave’ Texas A&M: Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel tweeted last week that he couldn’t wait to leave Texas A&M after an apparent incident. The reason for his displeasure wasn’t known, but Manziel quickly deleted the tweet, later saying he loved the school. Far too much was made of the initial tweet by fans criticizing him. Manziel is a college sophomore with a much higher profile than he had before. There are going to be times when he’s frustrated by … whatever. Almost all college kids think they could be in a better situation at some point in their time in school and that applies to athletes, too.

Colin Kaepernick ready for majors?: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a bright future in the NFL. After taking over as the team’s starting quarterback, he led the team to their first Super Bowl in nearly 20 years this past season. But on Friday night, the young player showed off his skills. On a baseball field. Kaepernick, a late-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs a few years ago, hit 87 miles per hour throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the San Francisco Giants’ game against the Miami Marlins. That’s pretty impressive and to say he’s got a cannon for an arm would be an understatement. But (and yeah, I’m playing the heel role here) man, was that pitch wild. Kaepernick’s fortunate the catcher snared that ball since it wasn’t all that far from a completely relaxed cameraman. My guess is that he shouldn’t quit his day job.

Doc Rivers to Clippers: After an on-again/off-again status, the Los Angeles Clippers’ attempts to hire coach Doc Rivers away from the Celtics appear to have finally been successful. Rivers is under contract with the Celtics, but will reportedly leave the franchise for a first-round draft pick. Boston didn’t want to just give away their head coach, but in the end, the Celtics were better served by letting Doc walk and taking any compensation they can get for him. Even if they don’t think they’re getting enough in return, few things could be worse than having a coach around that doesn’t want to be there. Rivers could have decided not to return and opted for retirement, but then Boston wouldn’t get anything in exchange. A ‘trade’ was the Celtics’ best option for the franchise.

April 25, 2013

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NFL Mock Draft

By: Joe Williams

It’s that time of year and all the cool kids are doing NFL mock drafts. I gave in to the peer pressure so here is my attempt to get a couple of Thursday’s 32 picks right.

In 2012, we knew who the first QB taken, and first overall pick, would be before the NFL Draft started. Those answers aren't as clear this year.

1 Kansas City Chiefs: There’s a new coach in town. Andy Reid has got himself a new quarterback. Now he’ll get someone to protect that quarterback.

The pick: Luke Joeckel, OL, Texas A&M

2 Jacksonville Jaguars: When you are picking second, you can’t afford to miss on your pick. The Jags will wait for round two or three to get a quarterback and look to improve the worst pass rush in the league.

The pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

3 Oakland Raiders: With Matt Flynn in the fold, the Raiders can hope he becomes the franchise guy and look to fill a gaping hole on the defensive line. It’s a choice between Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd.

The pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

4 Philadelphia Eagles: This is where we find out if new coach Chip Kelly wants to groom Geno Smith for the future or protect Michael Vick for the present. One thing we know about Kelly is that he loves speed.

The pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

5 Detroit Lions: For the Lions to compete in the NFC North, they are going to have to beat Green Bay. That means getting pressure on Aaron Rodgers.

The pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

6 Cleveland Browns: Championship teams have to be great on one side of the ball. In Cleveland, that’s not going to be the offense until Weeden proves he is the right guy or they find someone else. Adding free agents Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves and the top cornerback in the draft gives the defense a chance to be really good.

The pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

7 Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals offensive line was awful last year and if Fisher is still on the board, they won’t waste any time turning their card in.

The pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

8 Buffalo Bills: Here’s another team with a new quarterback. Buffalo follows suit and picks up some protection for Kevin Kolb.

The pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

9 New York Jets: The defense just took a major hit by trading Revis to Tampa Bay. If the pass coverage gets worse, the pass rush better improve.

The pick: Barkevlous Mingo, DL, LSU

10 Tennessee Titans: The Titans brought in Andy Levitre to fill the hole at one guard spot. Filling the hole on the other side would make life much easier for Jake Locker and Chris Johnson.

The pick: Johathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

11 San Diego Chargers: San Diego has got to get Phillip Rivers back on track. His 47 turnovers and 79 sacks over the last two seasons are way too many for this team to win.

The pick: Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma

12 Miami Dolphins: Cornerback duo Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are gone and the Dolphins still have to face Tom Brady twice a year. They need another corner.

The pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.

13 New York Jets: The secondary still needs help and this is the pick the Jets got in the Revis trade. But they don’t care when one of the best players on the board falls into their laps.

The pick: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

14 Carolina Panthers: Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and Cam Newton is going to need more weapons to keep up with Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.

The pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

15 New Orleans Saints: Getting Sean Payton back will help the offense so this pick should be used on the defense. With several options to choose from, the Saints take the best defender left on their board.

The pick: Bjoern Werner, DL, Florida St.

16 St. Louis Rams: With two big needs to fill and two first round picks, the Rams must decide between a safety and wide receiver.

The pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

17 Pittsburgh Steelers: James Harrison is in Cincinnati and Mike Wallace took his talents to South Beach. One will be replaced with this pick.

The pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

18 Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones just invested $100 million in Tony Romo. It’s safe to assume he’s going to want to protect that investment.

The pick: D.J. Fluker, OL, Alabama

19 New York Giants: When the Giants are great, they are putting pressure on the quarterback. And they like to draft pass rushers.

The pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

20 Chicago Bears: The Bears need help at linebacker with Brian Urlacher now gone. They’ll get it here, but it’s not who you think.

The pick: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas St.

21 Cincinnati Bengals: There aren’t a lot of holes in this roster. The biggest one is probably at safety. Not anymore.

The pic: Eric Reid, S, LSU

22 St. Louis: They’ve already picked up a safety. Now it’s time to get a receiver to fill the void left by Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola.

The pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

23 Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin is out and Greg Jennings is in. But the Vikings could still use one more guy to help take the weight off of Adrian Peterson.

The pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

24 Indianapolis Colts: Protection for Andrew Luck, a replacement for Dwight Freeney, or maybe the first running back off the board?

The pick: Datone Jones, DL, UCLA

25 Minnesota Vikings: Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler are in this division. Better get another defensive back.

The pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

26 Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers would love someone he could hand off to that would keep the defense guessing. First running back comes off the board here.

The pick: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

27 Houston Texans: Andre Johnson needs a tag team partner and Matt Schaub won’t complain about having another weapon either.

The pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California

28 Denver Broncos: The defensive line needed reinforcements even before the Dumervil debacle. One falls into John Elway’s lap on draft day.

The pick: Sheldon Richardson, DL, Missouri

29 New England Patriots: If the Pats make this pick it’s got to be a receiver or someone to cover a receiver.

The pick: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise St.

30 Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez decided to give it one more shot which means this is the perfect time to draft his replacement and let him learn from a Hall-of-Famer.

The pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

31 San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers could use another safety after losing Dashon Goldson in free agency.

The pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida

32 Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis is retired and Dannell Ellerbe is in Miami so they probably take a linebacker here.

The pick: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

January 15, 2013

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What I Will Remember About 2012 – Part 2

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

To read part one, click here.

July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.

July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.

July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.

August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.

August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.

Miguel Cabrera winning baseball's Triple Crown is one of the biggest stories of 2012.

August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.

August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.

August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.

August 15 – Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Rays and the Mariners won 1-0.

September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.

September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.

September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.

October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.

October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.

October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.

October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.

October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.

October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.

October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS

November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.

November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.

November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.

December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.

December 16 – Tom Brady leads the Patriots on a furious rally after falling behind 31-3 against the 49ers. After the game was tied at 34, San Francisco retook the lead and won 41-34.

December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.

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.

December 10, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Johnny Manziel makes history, wins Heisman Trophy: Texas A&M’s freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel made a bit of history last week by winning the Heisman Trophy. Manziel was the first freshman in the history of college football to win the prestigious award. He didn’t have stats that blew others out of the water (Manziel didn’t even finish in the top 15 in yards, touchdowns, or passer rating), but they were just good enough to put him on top. Also helping Manziel was the fact that Texas A&M had an outstanding season as a team, finishing 10-2 and defeating No. 1 Alabama on the road. He deserved the award, but the real news is that Manziel likely has opened the door for others. Many voters may have been hesitant to give the award to a freshman, but now that it’s already been done, that will make it easier for other underclassmen to win the award.

Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals had no answer for Seattle's defense on Sunday.

Manuel Marquez stuns Manny Pacquiao: For a long time, boxing fans have been clamoring for a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight. Talk of that may finally be dead, though, as Pacquiao was stunned by Manuel Marquez last week in dramatic fashion. Marquez knocked Pacquiao out cold with one second left in the sixth round, shocking the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mayweather, for one, has to be a bit happy at the turnout. Even if he felt he could beat Pacquiao, there’s always the chance he would lose. Now, Mayweather doesn’t even have to risk hurting his legacy as those calling for him to fight Pacquiao will likely move on to finding the next best opponent.

Seattle Seahawks crush Arizona Cardinals, 58-0: If you had the Seattle Seahawks’ defense on your fantasy football team, you had a good chance of winning your game this week. The Seahawks pitched a shutout against the Cardinals, prevailing 58-0 at home. The 58 points was a franchise record, but the defense was just as impressive. The unit not only stopped Arizona from scoring a single point, but forced eight turnovers. You just don’t see blowouts all that often in the NFL and this was simply a bloodbath.

Sidney Crosby talks Europe: After talks between players and owners broke down again last week, the NHL lockout may be forcing more players overseas. In particular, Sidney Crosby, who is possibly the league’s biggest star, talked about being more open to playing in Europe. That may not sound like a big deal, but you can bet that type of news isn’t what the league wants to hear. Even if the biggest stars are able to leave their temporary teams once a deal to play in the NHL is struck, there’s always the chance that someone could suffer a bad injury. The last thing the league wants in the midst of trying to rebuild a relationship with a disgruntled fanbase is to start a short season without a major star.

Jeremy Lin’s struggles continue: Jeremy Lin’s lackluster year continued with the worst stretch of the season. In three games against the Lakers, Spurs, and Mavericks last week, Lin’s offense was virtually non-existent. He scored a total of only 15 points and did it on a dismal 6-21 shooting. A fairly overlooked statistic is that Lin had only two free throw attempts in the three games. Not only is he not scoring, he’s not even being aggressive enough to get to the line. It’s really early but so far, the Jeremy Lin experiment isn’t going all that well in Houston. He isn’t completely falling off the radar as he’s averaging just over six assists and four rebounds a game, but his scoring is down significantly, despite having less talent around him. The expectation was that his numbers should improve even more as he’d be taking more shots, but Lin is actually shooting slightly less. It’s clear he has work to do to even approach the season he had last year.

Los Angeles Dodgers sign Korean star Hyun-jin Ryu: The Dodgers made an offseason splash by signing Korean pitching star Hyun-jin Ryu for six years/$36 million, according to ESPN. In seven seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, Ryu struck out nearly a batter an inning and had an ERA of 2.80. With the new star, the Dodgers have added to their deep rotation. With Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett, the team has an outstanding one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and Ryu will presumably compete for the remaining three spots. If all are healthy, look for the team to make a move or two in exchange for some more offense.