Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Conference play is finally here and the first thing that catches my attention on the schedule are three heavyweight showdowns in the ACC, SEC and Big 10. Fresh off their victory over Florida State, Clemson takes on Virginia Tech as the Tigers have no time to celebrate or rest on there laurels. It doesn’t get any better than Florida vs. Alabama in the SEC. This could be a possible preview of the SEC championship game as both teams have looked strong and this should be the stiffest test Florida has seen thus far. Nebraska’s inaugural Big 10 game is a doozy as well as the Huskers take on the favorite to win the conference in my opinion Wisconsin. This is week 5 already and the games are only getting better each week. This slate this weekend will have a lot to say about where some of the top programs really stand and as a fan I can’t wait to see who rises to the top. Can Florida find a way to break Bama’s impenetrable defense? Is Clemson for real or will they flake out against the more experienced Hokies? How will Nebraska’s superior D handle Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and their ball control offense? A lot of questions that won’t be answered until the games are played but before they are lets break them down and see who has the edge.
#12 Florida (3-0) vs. #3 Alabama (3-0) – In the annual SEC showdown of the week, the Gators travel to get ol Tuscaloosa to take on the Tide. This one should be a tantalizing one for multiple reasons. The match-ups are crazy when you think about Florida’s speed demons Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps going against Bama’s rock solid front 7 with the like of stud LB Don’t’a Hightower and defensive linemen Courtney Upshaw. Charlie Weis has had success this year by mixing in screens and quick tosses to get his speedsters the edge but it will almost impossible against Bama as they have one of the fastest group of LBs in the nation. Weis also has coddled Jeff Brantley’s confidence by simplifying the offense and giving him a lot of short safe throws. If Florida is to win this game, Brantley will have to be able to complete some deep balls to his receiver because Bama will load the box to stop Rainey and Demps. Florida’s defense isn’t too shabby either as they have their own ferocious front 7 as well. Trent Richardson is bread and butter of the offense for the Tide of course but just like Florida won’t be able to break a lot of those big gainers, I think the same will hold for Alabama. A.J. McCarron will have to make some plays for his team in this one. He does have a better receiving core around him than Brantley does. Marquise Maze seems to always make a play for his QB when he needs it the most and this game shouldn’t be any different. This is one of those games where you throw out all the stats because anything could happen. If you like fast flying defense’s and speedy shifty running back, this is the game you should be tuned into this weekend. As for the pick, I just can’t see Florida beating the Tide. Bama’s defense is too tough and will be prepared for the two-headed monster of Rainey and Demps. Brantley won’t be able to make enough plays and that will be the determining factor. The Pick: Alabama Crimson Tide.
Game of the Week: Florida vs. Alabama – Ok maybe I am a little bias when it comes down to the SEC but how can you not watch this game? Two fast and dominant defense against a the two headed monster of Florida and the beast of Bama in Trent Richardson. This will be a great game for all the obvious reasons and I will make sure to be watching.
Most Intriguing Game: Texas A&M vs. Arkansas – Hmm, lets see here. So we have two ranked teams coming off of demoralizing losses and they happen to be rivals from the old Southwestern conference. Sounds interesting already right? And it only gets better as the loser of this one chances of a BCS bowl would be shot. To top it all off these are two high powered offenses that will be conference foes in 2012. Count me in on this one as well.
Under the Radar Game: USF vs. Pitt – This game could determine the winner of the Big East as crazy as it sounds, and Pitt has won the last three in this series. USF has looked good this season and if they take this one, I think they would run away with the Big East title.
Wake me when its over game: Arkansas State vs. Western Kentucky – When I saw Western Kentucky almost spring the upset of Kentucky in the season opener, I thought those guys would run over all of their conference foes. But alas, they are 0-3 and their oppoenent Ark. St. is 2-2 but they are a FCS team. Oh wait, Western got hammered by Indiana state this year which is a FCS team as well. I will be snoozing loudly during this one.
Coach better get it right game: Ole Miss vs. Fresno State – Is there a seat hotter than Houston Nutt’s? Most people would say Mark Richt maybe but Nutt’s team just lost to the Bulldogs last week. He has to pick his team up from the depths and at least show that they have some pride. The way Vandy beat up on the Rebels it’s a surprise they were even competitive against Georgia. Houston can all but kiss his job goodbye if swoon continues and even if he wins a few games it may not be enough.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Michael Vick just can’t stay healthy which is what I always said would be the determining factor for the so called “Dream Team” in Philly. Vick maybe should have sat this one out as he didn’t quite seem like himself. His rant on the refs won’t get him anymore calls and might even get him less. Refs don’t like to be shown up. Houston didn’t get a win against New Orleans but they showed mettle as they battled back instead of folding as they would have did in most years. Tennessee is winning with an unfamiliar formula of throwing the ball as Matt Hasselbeck is proving to still have some in the tank and then some. The loss of Kenny Britt will hurt though as Tennessee isn’t a team chalk full of playmakers. Chris Johnson where are you? He has looked sluggish as best but the team continues to win. It’s not his fault as the offensive line hasn’t had the same type of push it seemed to have the last couple of years blocking for him. It mystifies me that the Titans can have Mike Munchak, a hall of fame offensive linemen and Bruce Matthews, another hall of fame offensive lineman, yet they can’t seem to find anyway to get CJ a better scheme to run in.
Now let’s jump into the rankings:
Sunday, September 25, 2011
After the first period, I stepped back into Predators central office and spoke with Parker and Jones.
For those who are not familar with him, here is a bit of Christan Paker's background via the Nashville Predators team page on NHL.com:
Now entering his third full season with the Predators/Bridgestone Arena, Executive Vice President/Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Chris Parker has led the effort to secure partnerships with some of Nashville’s – and the nation’s – most respected and recognizable companies since being promoted to his current title on March 1, 2009. During the 2009-10 season, Parker directed the organization’s efforts to secure Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations Inc., as the new arena naming rights partner. Additionally, he was instrumental in adding the likes of Patron Spirits Company, whose name is now on the Arena’s Suite Level Restaurant, the Ford Motor Company/Mid-South Ford Dealers, Comcast, and Nashville based entities Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Daily’s Convenience Stores and Mars Pet Care.
Parker also led the organization’s efforts to secure a new long-term television rights agreement with FOX Sports Tennessee/Sports South. The agreement, which increases the number of telecasts, is also the most lucrative in franchise history. On the ticket sales front, Parker initiated a restructuring effort that resulted in the creation of an inside sales team and a fan relations group more focused and dedicated on the needs of existing ticket holders.
A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in sports management and communications, Parker began his sports career with the International Hockey League head office in suburban Detroit.
Parker resides in Nashville and serves on several philanthropic boards and committees including the Alumni Advisory Board of the Division of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan, as Vice Chairman of the Bernard P. “Pat” Maloy Endowed Scholarship at Michigan and the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee.
Sportaholic: What was the idea behind the changing of the Predators uniforms?
Parker: We wanted to make an iconic symbol for the Nashville Predators. The head crest of the Predators has become synonymous with the Predators and we just wanted to enhance it. The original crest had around 11 different colors in it and we wanted to simplify it. As far as the jerseys are concerned, the color scheme used by the Preds is used by multiple teams in the league and we wanted to make Nashville’s logo one of a kind. (Laughs) Who can forget the mustard color jerseys? When you think of teams like the Red Wings you automatically think of their Red Wings on their jersey, so with the crest on the Preds jersey I think we are establishing our own iconic team identity.
|New Preds Crest|
|Old Preds Crest|
Parker: As soon as the news was announced that they would be moving to Wnnipeg, we sent information to fans of that franchise. Atlanta had a hard core base of hockey that we as a franchise recognized. We want to tap that market and grow Nashville into a regional team, not just a local team. The NHL has rules on territories as far as team are involved, so we couldn’t get into that market until now. Atlanta is one of the top markets in the country and we intend on making our way into that region. Geographically speaking, we are the closet team to that city, closer than Carolina and Tampa so we have to take full advantage of those opportunities.
Sportaholic: You spoke of the grass root movement that you wanted to continue to build on one the earlier question, what steps are the Predators taking in that department and what could they do to improve it?
Parker: I believe Predators fan and Tenneseans as a whole can appreciate the longevity of Coach Trotz, GM David Polie and Brent Pederson. They have brought a certain level of contunity to our organzationn that you don’t see in sports franchises these days.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Tennessee Titans vs. Denver Broncos Preview:
The Titans did their best Dr. Jekyll - Mr. Hyde impersonation last week as they reversed roles from their dismal week 1 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, to an unexpected dominant victory over the hated Baltimore Ravens. Many expected (including me) Tennessee to get trounced after what the Ravens did to Pittsburgh Steelers in their decisive week 1 victory against the Super Bowl runner-ups. The Titans showed a new and improved aerial attack as Matt Hasselbeck proved that if you can hold him upright, then he can deliver as he finished 30/42 for 358 yards and 1 TD pass. He and Kenny Britt, and Nate Washington made sweet music all day as Britt had 9 catches for 135 and 1 TD and Washington had 7 catches for 99 yards. It was by far the best passing performance I’ve seen from the Titans in quite a long time.
However, the one downside to the passing game was the inability of Chris Johnson to break loose. He was held to 53 yards on 24 carries, which amounts to 2.2 yards a carry. You can tell Johnson is still getting into game shape as well as learning the nuisances of new OC Chris Palmer’s offense. Its good to chuck the ball all over the field but the Titans bread and butter has always been the running game. Johnson has a great chance to get back into his groove against the porous defense of the Broncos. Denver comes into this game as the 28th ranked rushing defense allowing 131 yards a game on the ground and 4.4 yards per carry. If Johnson can’t run on this play-doe soft D, then he can’t run on anyone. I think this is the game he breaks off one of his signature long runs, he should be in better shape after being with the team and practicing for a few weeks now. As effective as the passing game was last weekend the need for Johnson to get his game back is a bit subdued. But think about if Hasselbeck continues to find success with Britt and Washington catching everything as they did last week and then you add the electric running of Johnson. It would make for a dangerous offense that would be capable of putting up points on any team.
The defense also looked surprisingly well against the Ravens as well. They held Ray Rice and the Baltimore run game in check and got pressure from all different sides on Joe Flacco. Derrick Morgan showed why he is a former 1st round draft pick as he was in Flacco’s face all game long and he recorded a sack and numerous QB hurries (That personal foul penalty was bogus by the way). Jonathon Babineaux and Barrett Rudd were also impressive as they played physical and delivered a few big hits on the Raven receivers that made them have alligator arms. This was such a stark turnaround from the team that was run on at will against Jacksonville. It’s like an entirely different team was on that plane for week 1.
So now the Titans take on a Broncos team on the decline and in disarray. It has been well chronicled that the fans of Denver prefer Tim Tebow over Kyle Orton as their QB even if Tebow is stuck at 3rd on the depth chart. Tebow did get some action last week as he was placed in as a receiver for blocking purposes. As far as the rest of the team, they are not very impressive. They are ranked 15th in total defense which isn’t too bad considering all things but they have sustained some injuries to key players on that side of the ball with Ty Warren out, Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil questionable. Their offense is pedestrian at best ranking 23rd in league averaging 314 yards a game (Tom Brady or Cam Newton would have that many yards by halftime) and they only average 22 points per game. They will get some help on that side as Brandon Lloyd is expected to be back at receiver and also RB Knowshon Moreno. Willis MaGahee did rush for over 100 yards last week and should get more of the load until Moreno is fully healthy. Eric Decker has also been a nice surprise as he had over 100 yards receiving and 2 TDs against the Bengals.
Now that we have an understanding of both teams let look at the three key factors that will determine the game:
2. How will the pass rush follow last week’s game? The Titans pass rush looked like the old days of Jim Washburn coaching as they just harassed Flacco all over the field last game. It was good to see as the Titans are known to usually have a strong defensive line. The Titans had three sacks on the Ravens and they will need more of the same against the Broncos. Kyle Orton shredded the Titans last year as he was 35/50 for 341 yards and 2 TDs. Now I don’t believe that is happening this year but if the Titans don’t get pressure on him it’s a possibility. Orton is underrated and as long as he is protected he can put up big numbers. The defensive line will look to add pressure to him as Jerry Gray has a nice mix of young and veteran players at his disposal. It will be interesting to see how that part of the game develops. If Orton is going down or getting hurried a lot, it could lead to a blowout for Tennessee.
3. Is this the week CJ kicks it into high gear? It seems like this has been one my key factors for every game this season. If you remember back to last year it took Johnson a few games to get it right but when he did boy was he a load. I think this is the week he starts on the upward trajectory as the Broncos will have plenty of holes for the explosive Johnson to run through. Mike Munchak has made it very public that the Titans will keep feeding their 53.5 million dollar man and I’m sure CJ wants to prove he is worth that kind of money. I look for him to go over the century mark this game and to do so with no problem. The Broncos don’t have the best LBs with rookie Von Miller probably already their best so Johnson has every opportunity this game to do his hands to the face dance multiple times.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Sportaholic Picks for other notable games:
North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech: GT
UCLA vs. Oregon St.: Oregon St.
Florida St. vs. Clemson: Florida State