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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 12

As we enter the home stretch of the NFL season it appears that change is on the horizon for a few underreporting teams. The first move was made by Jacksonville as they fired long time coach Jack Del Rio. He was 69-73 over nine years and goes down as the first NFL coach to coach that many seasons with one team and not to win a division title. Del Rio had his moments with the Jags as they upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2007 playoffs but it was mostly a mediocre run for him as the Jacksonville coach. The Jaguars don’t sell tickets and are always on blackout watch in their own local market as it is anyway. Another firing took place in the league as with the Colts relieving defensive coordinator Larry Coyer of his duties for the 0-11 Colts. They also replaced QBs with Curtis Painter out and Dan Orlovsky in. It has just been a disaster in Indy this year every since Peyton went down. Speaking of Manning, there is a whisper floating around that he isn’t healing as fast as he should for this type of procedure. Hopefully it’s just a rumor but you never know.

This is just the beginning in a league that is built on change. The bottom dwelling teams have to at least make a push to look competitive. There is no way that Jacksonville or Indy could be content with getting blown out week in and week out. The hot seat remains hot for a few coaches as we now can officially add Tom Coughin to the list. The Giants have fallen off the radar in November as they were thoroughly dominated by the New Orleans Saints this past Monday. The seat is also simmering under Eagles coach Andy Reid, which is really remarkable when you think about it in Philadelphia. Reid has been the steady hands in charge for the last 12 years in Philly and, this was suppose to be his best team but we all witnessing how this season has turned out for him.

Coaching changes are inevitable in every sport. It’s just part of the business. Even if a guy was less than successful (See: Jack Del Rio) or a long tenured and outstanding coach (See: Andy Reid and Tom Couglin), one day soon or later that your day is coming.

Time for the Power Rankings:

1. Green Bay Packers (11-0) – The Pack just keep rolling with the hot hand as Aaron Rodgers continues to make it look easy. He is on pace for the single best season for a QB ever as he would finish with 5100 total yards passing and an unheard of 130.7 QB rating. He is doing all of this while leading the Packers to a possible undefeated season. Green Bay’s defense showed some teeth as well in their victory over the Detroit Lions causing Matt Stafford to throw three interceptions. We have every reason to believe that this team can and will be undefeated going into the playoffs.

2. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) – The Ravens roughed up the 49ers to move to 8-3 and remain in first place in the rough and tough AFC North division. This is a team that is remarkably up and down as they have beaten some of the best teams in the league in Pittsburgh (Twice), San Francisco, and Houston and loss a couple of the worse in Jacksonville and Seattle. Ray Lewis should be back for their next game after missing the Harbaugh bowl much to his chagrin. Pittsburgh and Baltimore will battle to the end for the division title but looking at the schedule and it appears the Ravens had the easier path especially after beating the Steelers twice to own all the tie-breakers.

3. New Orleans Saints (8-3) – Looking at the Saints offense against the Giants a few things stood out to me. First, the play of Jimmy Graham at tight end has given Brees yet another explosive weapon. The 6’7 former Miami (FL) power forward is really coming on and seems to catch everything thrown his way. Second, Drew Brees doesn’t get enough credit as crazy as it sounds. He is also on pace to surpass Dan Marino’s all time passing yards record but its not the yards that impress me. It just his command of the offense and his leadership skills. Brees, Brady, and Rodgers are in the top echelon of QBs and their teams will always be great as long as these great QBs are leading them. The Saints are dangerous and appear to be even better than their 2009 Super Bowl winning team.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) – Even though a win is a win in this league, the Steelers couldn’t have played an uglier game this past week. Their narrow 13-9 win over a reeling under manned Kansas City squad was a disturbing look for Pittsburgh. Troy Polamalu took a knee from the Chiefs tight end Steve Maneri and never returned which led to some holes in their vaunted defense. The offense wasn’t able to muster much of anything as well with Big Ben content on throwing dink and dunk passes that amounted to 21 completions for only 193 yards. This wasn’t a pretty game but the Steelers won and they should get Polamalu back for next game. So maybe this was just one of those weeks to forget for Steelers nation. But again, a win is a win.

5. San Francisco 49ers (9-2) – Maybe the Harbaugh bowl was a little much for this team as the hype and historical part seemed to do more harm then good to this young team. Alex Smith looked like his previous 2011 self as he and the 49er offense couldn’t get anything going against the ferocious Ravens defense. Terrell Suggs was able to get to Smith three times. San Francisco still has a more than comfortable lead in the NFC West so that is really nothing to worry about their. They did however lose a game in the home field advantage race as they are now two behind Green Bay. Catching the Packers was probably a lost cause anyway.

Other League News and Notes:

Ndamakong Suh suspended for 2 games: The Lions brutal DT was handed down a two game suspension for his pushing of the helmet and stepping on the arm of the Packers Evan Dietrich-Smith. Everyone is aware of the big mans merciless history as he has racked up over $42,000 dollars in fines in his short career. He didn’t seem apologetic initially at the press conference after the game but he later changed his tone after the media jumped all over him. Hopefully Suh learns his lesson here and is able to play in his usual relentless manner but is able to stop the uncontrollable acts that have marked his career to this point.

Tim Tebow just keeps leading his teams to wins: Tebow haters (I’m talking to you Merril Hodge) really don’t have any ground to stand on at this point on Tebow. The Broncos latest victory over the San Diego Chargers pushed his starting record to 5-1 and has Denver in the thick of the playoff race. Tebow isn’t doing it all by himself as the defense has really come on for them led by sensational rookie LB Von Miller but its Tebow that has inspirited this team to become all that it can be. He just has the “IT” factor and wills his team each week to a victory. It’s becoming to a point that other teams are drinking the Tebow Kool-Aid and believing that if the game is close in the 4th quarter then it is all but a lost. San Diego folded in the 4th against the Broncos and it seemed to have something to do with the Tebow effect as I like to call it. Tebow will never be the prototypical QB but he will always give his team a chance to win. He just finds a way and will continue to do no matter what his critics say. And this is coming from a University of Tennessee fan who was tormented by him at Florida.

Texans sign Jake Delhomme: Sometimes you just have to make the best out of what is available and that’s what this signing appears to be. The Texans plucked the former Panther and Browns QB out of retirement to help bolster their depleted QB front. We all know the story with both of the Matt’s Schaub and Leinart going down with season ending injuries. The Texans were down to rookie T.J. Yates in their last game and signed veteran journey man Kellen Clemens as well. This is mostly just an insurance policy as the Texans have found out you can never have to many QBs in the NFL. Rather Delhomme competes for playing time is yet to be seen.

Best Games of Week 13:

Atlanta (7-4) vs. Houston (8-3) – Déjà vu for the Texans as they start a new QB for the 3rd time this season. Can they find a way to keep winning or will the Falcons and Matt Ryan be too much for them to overcome

Green Bay Packers (11-0) vs. NY Giants (6-5) - So lets see here, Drew Brees carved up the Giants D for 363 yards and 4 touchdowns and now they welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Pack attack to town. Sounds like a problem for the reeling New York.

Detroit Lions (7-4) vs. New Orleans Saints (8-3) – The time has come for this Lions team to make a stand as they are fighting for their playoff lives. The feel good story of the year won’t feel so good if they are sitting at home watching. Drew Brees and the Saints are rolling right now and with Detroit missing Suh in the middle, it could be a long game for them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 11 Thanksgiving Edition

It appears the NFL was is a giving spirit as the Thanksgiving slate of NFL games is one of the best ever. We will witness an epic three game schedule that includes the highly anticipated Packers vs. Lions game, Cowboys vs. the all of a sudden hot Dolphins, and the Brothers Harbaugh bowl with the 49ers vs. Ravens. This is the best gift you can give us football fans as every one of these games should be exciting and competitive. The storylines for the Packers and Lions couldn’t get any juicer as Green Bay tries to continue their undefeated season against the up and coming Detroit. Matt Stafford is coming off the best game of his career with 5 touchdown passes and depending on how you look at it Aaron Rodgers is coming off his worst of the season after ‘Only” throwing for 299 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The Cowboys had to go to overtime to take down the swooning Redskins but more importantly Tony Romo continued his hot streak adding another 3 touchdown passes to his season total. No one thought that the Miami Dolphins would be riding a 3-game winning streak heading into this one but they have pull it all together behind QB Matt Moore and have looked impressive lately beating their last three teams by a combined score of 86-20. The San Fran-Baltimore tilt is made for Thanksgiving as the brothers Harbaugh will get it on get it on in Charm city. Their mother Jackie won’t attend because reportedly the brothers have decided that the day is about the 49ers and Ravens. In other words Mom doesn’t want to choose sides, which is respectable. Turkey day will be at its best this year with a big helping of NFL action.

On the contrary to the greatness of the Thanksgiving game slate, week 10 in the NFL is usually when the injury bug begins to rear its ugly head and it couldn’t be even more evident then this past weekend. The big one was Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler going down with a broken thumb on his throwing finger. This is the ultimate disaster for the Bears in multiple ways. Even though Cutler can be sometime erratic, he is still the heart of their offense. He has a hand in just about everything they do with his 2,319 yards passing, 13 touchdown passes to 7 interceptions, and his 85.7 QB rating. These are not eye-popping numbers but as anyone with knowledge of the Bears futile QB history, these numbers are more than enough for Chicago. There are a couple of silver linings for the Bears in that they are a team that scores in multiple ways and not just with there offense. KR/PR Devin Hester is as explosive as they come as he recently broke the all-time record for most punts returns for touchdowns and Chicago will need him more than ever with Cutler going down. Their defense also is known for takeaways turned touchdowns as they are aggressive as they come in making something happen after they recover a fumble or get an interception. The second part is that backup Caleb Haynie had a chance to get his feet wet in last year’s NFC Championship game against Green Bay, and didn’t look half bad.

Haynie was 13/20 for 153 yards but had two interceptions in the Bears lost to the Packers. He wasn’t great but he was far from terrible as the Bears had a chance to defeat the Pakcers in that game. He will have the added benefit that Chicago plays four games against fair to mediocre pass defenses before he gets another crack at the Packers in week 16. The Packers aren’t scaring anyone with their next to last ranked pass defense anyway. Chicago’s soul on offense Matt Forte will have to carry even more of the load now that Haynie will be in place of Cutler. Another possibility is that the Bears could re-sign their former QB Kyle Orton now that he was placed on waivers in Denver. He could come in and play immediately to solidify the position until Cutler returns.

Cutler’s injury news comes on the heels of franchise QBs Matt Schaub being out possibly for the rest of the season with a foot twinge and Michael Vick’s ribs keeping him out of the last game. Nothing worst can happen to your seasons hopes and dreams than your QB going down.

1. Green Bay Packers (10-0) – What do you say about a QB who had has worst statistical day of the year and he says that he is disappointed in his performance? Most any other QBs you would think of a terrible stat line but Rodgers was 23/34 for 299 yards and 3 TDs. He also threw an interception but if that is considered a bad day at the office for him then how can we not crown this guy the best QB in the league? He carries his team week in and week out because lets face it, that defense stinks and isn’t anywhere close to being as dominant as it has been over the last few years. Josh Freeman was able to put up a career high 342 yards passing last week on the porous Packer pass defense. It will come a point and time when their defense will have to rise up and play better because every team is giving them their best shot. Matt Stafford is coming off his best game ever and now Green Bay has to travel to Detroit to take him on. Sounds like it could be fireworks in Ford Field tomorrow. If the Packers are going undefeated then they undoubtedly have to shore up that defense.

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-1) – The 9ers shellacked the Cardinals and just keep rolling with only one loss, they are keeping the pressure on the Packers for home field advantage. This team plays good fundamental football especially on defense. They don’t beat themselves like they use to and they have a knack now for pulling out close games. The Harbaugh bowl could turn out to be the best game of the week with two stout defenses on display. Look for Jim to pull a few new wrinkles out of his pocket as he knows the Ravens defense will make life miserable for his offense. The next two games will tell us everything think we need to know about this team heading into the playoffs as they take on Pittsburgh after the Baltimore game.

3. Houston Texans (7-3) – Even though there is a glut of 7-3 teams and the Texans lost starting QB Matt Schaub possibly for the season, I will stay with Houston at the three spot for now. The best thing they could have had happen was that bye week, as it should give Matt Leinart a chance to acclimate himself with the offense even more. After the Leinart led Texans take on Atlanta and Cincinnati the next couple of week, they should be in good shape as they won’t face another opponent with a winning record from there. The question is can Leinart keep them afloat? We will find out if he is ready for his close up.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) – Bye. Can’t penalize them for not playing, so they reaming at four for now.

5. New Orleans Saints (7-3) – Bye. The Saints look to be in good position to take the AFC South but they still have three tough games on the schedule with the NY Giants, Detroit Lions, and a game that could decide the division with Atlanta on the second to last week of the season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sportaholic SEC Game Of The Week: LSU vs. Arkanasas

LSU vs. Arkansas Preview: MAN!!!! This season LSU has been in key games just about all year. This one definitely has major implications with the SEC WEST CHAMPIONSHIP ON THE LINE. This rivalry has been called the “Battle for the Boot” (because of the shape of the two states makes a boot apperance). These two teams started playing each other 1901 but it intensified when Arkansas entered the SEC in 1992. LSU leads the series 34-20, but Arkansas has won 3 of the last 4 meetings between the two.

This game has had its historic moments like for example the 1947 Cotton Bowl which is also referred to as the “ Ice Bowl” because of the ice, sleet, snow, rain, and sub-20 degree (Fahrenheit) weather which produced horrid playing conditions (it got so cold the teams burned their benches to stay warm on the sidelines). They battled to a 0-0 tie. In 1966 the Razorbacks came into Dallas playing the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl the Razorbacks were riding a 22 game winning streak and won the previous Southwest Conference and National Titles. LSU ENDED UP WINNING 14-7 snapping the Razorbacks win streak. In 2002 “The Miracle on Markham” (Markham is the main street that runs by War Memorial Stadium).Trailing 20-14 to LSU. Matt Jones passed for a 31-yd strike with 9 seconds left to DeCori Birmingham who leaped over LSU defensive back Randall Gay. Coming into the November 23, 2007 game which was played in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, LSU was ranked number one in the country in the BCS, and most major polls. The Razorbacks outlasted the Tigers in a grueling three overtime game to win the game in which star running back Darren McFadden rushed for 206 yards, three touchdowns, and threw for one touchdown to lift Arkansas to a 50-48 victory. The "Wild Hog" formation (Arkansas' name for the Wildcat offense) was run prominently in the game, led by McFadden, in which he was a triple threat to run, hand off, or throw.

In 2008, Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver London Crawford on a fourth-down (with one yard to go) situation with only 22 seconds remaining on the game clock to give the Razorbacks a 31-30 victory over the Tigers at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Ironically, Crawford caught it in the same corner in the same end zone Decori Birmigham had scored the game winner six years earlier against LSU. The Razorbacks had trailed by a score of 30-14 early in the third quarter when Casey replaced his younger brother, Nathan at quarterback; LSU incurred several penalties which aided Arkansas in their comeback ending on the winning drive which included converting twice on fourth down. In a near top-ten battle in War Memorial Stadium, Arkansas retrieved the Golden Boot from the Tigers with a 31-23 season-defining victory. The Razorbacks’ offense recorded 464 total yards of offense against the Tigers, who had the top-ranked defense in the SEC entering the contest Arkansas’s sophomore running back Knile Davis rushed for 152 yards, including nine straight rushes on the final Arkansas drive, and Ryan Mallet broke the school record of 60 career touchdown passes in the contest.. Arkansas and LSU both closed the regular season with a record of 10-2, with Arkansas finishing second in the SEC Western Division behind Auburn, allowing the Razorbacks to earn a berth in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. With the history laid out lets go to the preview.

Offense vs. Offense: Both offense’s were clicking last weekend (Arkansas with a 44-17 beating of MSU and LSUs 52-3 humiliation of Ole Miss (could have been 59-3 but Miles felt bad for the Rebels). Tyler Wilson is picking up where Ryan Mallett off with an eye popping 3215 yds and 21 touchdowns and has a talented wide receiving corps of Jarius Wright with a 1000 yds and Joe Adams with 500 yds look to challenge the LSU secondary. The Razorback rushing attack is led by Dennis Johnson 606 yds Ronnie Wingo Jr. 424 yds (there has been a Kniles Davis sighting on Arkansas’s sideline who had a knee injury during the off season which has kept him out of most of the year, but whether if he going to see playing time is a mystery) look to pressure the LSU defensive line. LSU will counter with its dual QB treat in Jarrett Lee as a passing treat and Jordan Jefferson as option threat plus with its 4 deep running back corps in Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard, and Alfred Blue and its talented WRs in Russell Shepard Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randell. The WR corp. and passing attack must play a bigger part in the offense in the match-up to counter Arkansas’s offensive attack- DRAW

Defense vs. Defense: Now this is where it gets good, the last time Arkansas O-line faced a defense like this it was Alabama and they lost so I expect them to make adjustments and LSUs secondary which is 3rd in the SEC with 15 will face its second test in Mr. Wilson so the Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu) and his secondary teammates must play lights out and put pressure on the WRs. LSUs D-line must put pressure on the QB which has 27 sacks on the year and the improving LSU LB corp. must play solid like they did against Alabama’s running game. LSUs offensive line must be aware of Jake Bequette (he has 8 QB sacks on the year) and QB and WRs must be aware of Tramain Thomas with his 4 picks, but I’m giving the slight Edge to LSU

Intangibles: This series has gone back and forth. With the SEC West Championship on the line, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, it’s for the Golden Boot, and last Sunday Arkansas Red shirt freshman Tight-End Garrett Uekmen was found dead in his dorm room this is going to be a very emotional Arkansas team, Its LSUs SENIOR DAY and these guys will not want to lose their last game in Tiger Stadium, and with so much on the line both teams will play inspired ball. With both sides having something to prove and to gain. Field Goals, Kick Returns, Discipline football, turnovers, and of course 4th down conversions will make this game key. Plus the added fact the game is in Tiger Stadium the edge will go to LSU

Winner and why – Well I’m predicting that this is going to be record in attendance in Tiger Stadium the match-up. Both teams will come out fighting with emotions running high, each team will leave it on the line. Its going to be a close game but this season the Tigers have answered every challenge, been focused, and has bought into Les Miles philosophy “ No One Is Bigger Than The Team”, to be honestly that’s how championships are won not just one player but players who step up and lead and LSU has those. LSU will be eating Pork Chops, Bacon, and Ham - Final score LSU 35-21

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sportaholic Weekend Run Down 11/21/11

This has to be one of the best weekends in a long time for sport heads like myself. You had two championship decided as Tony Stewart took down Carl Edwards in what some are calling the best Nascar championship ever. Stewart won 5 races out of 10 “The Chase”, Nascar’s equivalent to the playoffs. Next it was soccer’s turn as Major League Soccer crowned its champion in the L.A. Galaxy featuring soccer superstars David Beckham and Landon Donavan. Two championships in one week is nothing but gravy on top of an already chaotic football slate. The BCS has officially been turned on its head as 3 of the top 5 lost for the first time since 2008 as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Oregon went down fighting this weekend. In the NFL, another big time QB suffered what appears to be a season ending injury. Just another weekend packed full of turns and twists in the world of sports.

Tony Stewart steals Sprint Cup from Carl Edwards: This season all but verified the much maligned “Chase for the Cup” in my opinion. Tony Stewart was considered nothing more but after thought at the beginning as favorites Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards was what the pundits had predicted. Stewart had other ideas as he opened the chase with a win at Chicagoland another the next week and three more at Martinsville, Texas and finally Homestead. Had it not been for Edwards consistency, as he never finished lower than 9th other than Martinsville 11th place finish, Stewart would have ran away with this one. The two battled hard all day but as all Edwards had to do was take the lead during the last 50 laps of the race but Stewart was unrelenting and would never give up the lead to Edwards. The two finished with the same identical points amount but Stewart won the tie-breaker by wins as he had 5 to Edwards 1. Great way to end the year by the boys in Nascar. I know my writing colleague Amanda Vincent will get a kick out of my Nascar coverage.

L.A. Galaxy win the MLS Cup: Five years ago the Galaxy made a move that gave soccer some momentum here in the states. They went and signed English superstar David Beckham and welcomed him and wife to L.A. They teamed him with the best US player, Landon Donovan and everyone expected them to begin a dynasty in the city of angels. Five years later and this is the first and maybe the last championship for the duo. The Galaxy would able to take the cup on the strength of Donovan’s goal that gave them a 1-0 lead in the 72nd minute that they would never relinquish Hopefully, this isn’t the last of this team as Beckham’s contract is due to expire at the end of this year. Soccer in America finally has a marquee team and L.A has their first soccer championship.

Jay Cutler breaks thumb on throwing hand: The collective groan you just hear is from the entire city of Chicago. Just when it seemed the Cutler and the Bears had it all together, the injury bug rears its ugly head. The former pro bowl QB has been confirmed to have suffered a broken thumb on his throwing hand. Cutler had just posted 286 yards passing and two touchdown passes to lead the Bears over San Diego and overall to their fifth straight win. This is a major blow to the “Monsters of the Midway” as they were in prime position to at least make a run at the wild card in the NFC. The Packers are 3 games ahead of them in the division so it would hard for Chicago to catch with or without their QB. Cutler was enjoying his best year since joining the Bears in 2009. His 231.9 passing yards per game were the most since the trade and he had cut down on his turnovers as he has only thrown 7 interceptions this year. This is a big blow to a team that isn’t getting any younger. The Bears will have to go with back up Caleb Haynie in the meantime and hope Cutler can make it back when the playoffs begin. That if they are able to make it without him.

BCS turned upside down: The SEC now represents the top three teams in the latest standings as LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas flex the SEC’s muscle. The change up top came as Oklahoma St. lost to Iowa St., Oregon lost to USC, and Oklahoma lost to Baylor. This becomes a worst case scenario for all those who love the BCS (I haven’t met many) as now there is an entire brigade of 1-loss teams that have claim at the top spot. Bama reclaims the top spot and as crazy as it sounds could find itself in the BCS championship game without winning its own conference. LSU and Arkansas play this weekend in what will become another behemoth de facto game as the winner will determine who represents the SEC West in the SEC championship game. The upsets had to be expected as each year it seems a team on the verge on playing in the championship game goes down in dramatic fashion. Who knows who will make it in this year, but it always fun to watch the teams battle all the way to the finish line.

Great game from Tennessee and Vanderbilt: Being from Tennessee, its always a fun mini-rivalry game between the two SEC schools. Tennessee dominates the series and that’s why I can’t give full rivalry status. This last game they played might go down in history as one of the best. Vandy’s Jordan Rodgers had three costly turnovers and the final miscue cost the Commodores the game as Eric Gordon’s interception and 90 yard-return sealed the game for the Vols. Tyler Bray came back from injury to throw for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Tauren Poole was the difference maker in my opinion as he topped the century mark going for 110 yards and helping Tennessee control the line of scrimmage. The Commodores could have won this had it not been all of the turnovers. The Dores have lost close game to Florida, Georgia, and now arch enemy Tennessee. Great game by both counterparts and this one should make everyone for next years rematch.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sportaholic College Weekend Setup 11-16-05

Even as the smoke of the Penn State still hazes over the college football landscape, the games must go on. This week features a few marquee matchups on the itinerary including USC vs. Oregon, Nebraska vs. Michigan, and Oklahoma vs. Baylor. This is really the one breather week college football as the next two weeks will feature rivalry week and conference championship week. Teams are now fighting for bowl position as well with the BCS Bowls still up for grabs. The one loss brigade of Oregon, Alabama, Arkansas, Boise State, Clemson, Stanford and undefeated but non AQ status Houston will fight it out to the end for those spots.

LSU and Oklahoma State are slated for the national championship as we stand now but we all know that can change in a matter of a Les Miles crazy coaching moment or a Brandon Weeden knee injury. Both teams still have tough opponents on their schedule with LSU taking on Arkansas and Ok. State still having the whole Bedlam thing with Oklahoma. The stage is set for another dramatic ending to the season for college football.

#17 Nebraska vs. #20 Michigan – This is Nebraska’s first trip to the Big House since 1962 and they will have to deal with Denard Robinson and the Wolverines offense. Robinson isn’t as hot as he was to begin the season but he still is as explosive as any player in the college game. These mirror each other as they are both 8-2 and 5-2 in the conference. They are ranked 12th and 13th nationally in rushing with the Huskers coming into the game averaging 232.7 and Michigan at 231.3. The Cornhuskers need a big game from Rex Burkhead as he carried the load for his team with 121 yards and a touchdown against Penn State. The Wolverines Fitzgerald Toussiant has started to make his mark at RB and will get his share of the ball in this one. In the end I trust Nebraska’s defense way more than Michigan’s. Taylor Martinez of the Huskers showed some signs against Northwestern as he completed some tough passes and posted good numbers, even though they lost. Look for Nebraska to put the squeeze on the Wolverines offense with their stellar defense.

The Pick: Nebraska

USC vs. #4 Oregon: Let the Deanthony Thomas bowl commence as the Trojans travel to Eugene to face the Ducks. Thomas was the five-star prospect that spurned the Trojans for the Ducks after being committed to the Trojans for months. Matt Barkley and the Trojans offense have found their groove as they have finally found play-makers aside from WR Robert Woods. Curtis McNeal at running back and freshmen wideout Marquise Lee have really come on and solidified their offense. Everyone knows the Ducks story with their break neck speed offense full of weapons. The Ducks easily handled Stanford with LaMichael James and their potent rushing offense leading the way. The surprising aspect of that game was the Ducks defense which had five turnovers as they seem to be hitting their stride on that side of the ball. USC’s best chance is to turn this one into a shoot out but Oregon’s offense can hang with anybody. The Ducks defense should make enough stops to give them the victory.

The Pick: Oregon

#5 Oklahoma vs. #22 Baylor: I still can’t understand the Sooners lost to Texas Tech. They have played lights out since beating Kansas State and Texas A&M 99-42. That just makes the loss to the Red Raiders more puzzling. The Baylor Bears won’t be a tough out for the Sooners either as they feature the electric QB Robert Griffin III. He has been phenomenal this year. He is 224/302 for 3,093 yards 29 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions, Heisman trophy worthy numbers in other words. He has weapons to as WR Kendall Wright has 81 receptions for 1,073 yards and 9 touchdowns and RB Terrance Ganaway has 889 and 10 touchdowns. The Bears explosive offense will test Oklahoma’s stout defense. We all know what the Sooners offense brings to the table as Landry Jones leads their potent attack. There are worries for them as WR Ryan Broyles of course is out for the year with a torn ACL, RB Dominick Whaley out for the year and WR Kenny Stills being plagued with nagging injuries. This one smells like an upset to me as Baylor has the tools on offense to take down the Sooners. If RGIII can get loose early and gain some confidence, then early momentum can carry the Bears. It happened against Texas Tech for the Sooners and Baylor is even better on offense.  Oklahoma has been playing great but Baylor can spring the upset.

The Pick: Baylor

Game of the week: Oregon vs. USC – This should be an exciting one with two sizzling offense at the helm. Will the Ducks suffer a letdown after last week’s big victory over the Cardinal? Matt Barkley has and the explosive offense will give them a run for their money.

Most Intriguing game: #16 Kansas State vs. Texas  - Colin Klein has become Tim Tebow and is leading the country in rushing TDs. Texas just a couple of weeks was riding high until injuries to RB Fozzy Whitaker and WR Jaxon Shipley. This will be an old fashioned Big 12 slug fest.

Under the radar game: SMU vs. #11 Houston – The Cougars still have an outside chance of making it to a BCS Bowl game if everything falls into place. Case Keenum and the boys take on tougher than advertised in June Jones led Mustangs squad that beat TCU earlier this year.

Coach better get it right game: Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee – The Vols only chance to make a bowl game to beat traditional SEC bottom dwellers Vandy and Kentucky. The problem is that Vanderbilt isn’t a push over this year as Head Coach James Franklin has his team buying into his “All in” message. Tennessee fans won’t except losing to the Commodores, even if they are a decent team. If Derek Dooley can some way to get the Volunteers into a bowl game it would save him a lot of heat going into next year. Coach Dooley, you better get it right. 

Syracuse Assistant Basketball Coach Berry Fine accused of sexual abuse

Another disturbing child molestation case involving a legendary coach is making waves. Syracuse college basketball icon Jim Boheim is under fire as his assistant Bernie Fine has been accused by a former team ball boy Bobby Davis of sexually abusing him.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines is reporting that Syracuse police are investigating Fine, who has been Boheim’s assistant for the past 35 years. The alleged victim Davis said the molestation begin in 1983 when he was in the seventh grade. This is yet another unsettling case involving a child and a college coach over the past two weeks. The Jerry Sandusky case is still unraveling just as former USA gymnastics coach Don Peters accusations comes to light and now we have another allegation forming. It appears now that with the exposure of the Sandusky’s case that we may have an avalanche of sexual claims coming. Its only natural that once the first case is openly discussed then more victims will have to rehash a terrible moment in their life and will feel more empowered than ever to speak on it. That begs the question is there a big breaking point coming in college athletics?

Coaches are one of the most respected and trusted professions in life. If you participated in sports one way or another, there were in most cases a favorite coach that comes to mind. Parents in every culture of the world entrust their children with men and women they really have no knowledge of. But we all do it in confidence because that’s the way it’s always been. Most every father sends Jr. to a coach who may have coached him as a child or someone he thinks will lead him in the right direction. Trust has always been a given commodity given the profession’s core values. We are witnessing the unfathomable now with Joe Paterno. No one in their right mind knew he would go down in such unceremonious fashion. The script would already be set for Boheim. He has been the coach of one the most sucessful men college programs in NCAA history since 1976, winning one championship and has 856 wins ranking him fifth all time. Now these are just allegations and police are investigating so no one has said to be guilty. Hopefully every victim of child molestation can now tell their story. As unfortunately as these events are, it opens the door for the conversation about sexual abuse in sports. The Sandusky, Don Peters, and now Jim Boheim are the first to break but we all know they won’t be the last.

Tiger's look says it all

I just had to write something on this once I caught a glimpse of Tiger's steely gaze at former caddie Steve Williams. This is the look Tiger gave his former caddy yesterday at the Presidents Cup in Australia.  It just goes to show you that even if Tiger said all is forgiven, he still has a bit of angst built up against Williams. Look how firm the handshake is, his muscle in his formarms looks like it going to pop out. He doesn't like this guy but it would be too easy for him to say that. Woods prefers the rigid man shake that sends a message.

There is no way you look at someone like that unless you have some type of reservations about them. And we all know why after William's Comments ( about the world's former #1 ranked golf player. Don't think for one second that the fire doesn't still burn in Woods as you can clearly tell it does.

LSU vs. Ole MISS Preview:

By Taylor Cannon

Magnolia flower
One the best rivalries in the South comes to a head in Oxford, Mississippi when the TOP RANKED RED HOT LSU TIGERS take on the woeful Ole Miss rebel (Or after the name change last year the Black Bears whatever) in the 100th meeting of the two teams. This game has special meaning to me, because this was my FIRST LSU football I saw live at Tiger Stadium (still to this day has to be one of my favorite venues to watch and experience a football game) it was in 1993 (which was the 100 year anniversary of LSU Football) my dad, sister and me watched the game (I can’t remember the score, but I remember two things it was cold and we won), plus when my dad went to school at LSU during the late 60s and early 70s, LSU told its African-American students not to attend the game because of the racial tension at the time. This rivalry is now known as the Magnolia Bowl (because the Magnolia is the state flower of both states).

LSU leads the series 56-39-4 and this series has had its notable games from the Halloween Night game in 1959 where Ole Miss was leading 3-0 and LSUs Billy Cannon (no relation) returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown which turned out to be the game winner and gave Cannon the Heisman trophy. To the 1960 game where both teams were tied and was Ole Miss’s only blemish on route the 1960 national championship. In 1972 the Jones to Davis where LSUs Bert “the Ruston Rifle” Jones found Brad Davis for the last second game winning TD with one second remaining. In fact the “home-clock advantage inspired a sign at the Louisiana state line reading “You are now entering Louisiana. Set your clocks back four seconds”. To a heart-warming 1989 game where Ole Miss was playing its first game and it was at home since the pharyalis of its linebacker Chuckie Mullins. The Rebel fans were emotionally charged as they saw their team come from 21 points only to come up short against the Tigers.

The 1997 match up where Ole Miss upset then ranked #7 LSU coming off a win over Florida. To the 2003 when Ole Miss led by Eli Manning was undefeated in the conference and had to battle LSU who had one loss and the winner was to represent the West in SEC Championship. If Ole Miss won they would win the West outright, but if LSU won the two would be co-champions, but LSU would win the tie breaker. LSU WON before a record crowd to EVER WATCH A FOOTBALL IN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI. It was a puzzling way to end and lose the game as LSU was down 25-23 with 9 seconds completes a 40 yard pass on a 4th and 26, but with no timeouts and no time to execute a play the kneel the ball preserving the Ole Miss win. So with this rivalry history laid out lets go to the preview.

Offense vs. Offense: What does that North Mississippi High School (Ole Miss) have on offense when you’re ranked next to last in the SEC in Offense, you get blown out by LA TECH, your starting QB Randall Mackey made a comment about Bama being beatable then your squad only putting up 7 against them and now recently its leading rusher in Jeff Scott and Mr. Mackey will be suspended for the game (and possibly against their season finale game against MSU). Here comes LSU with dual threat QBs Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, quad running backs in Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue, Michael Ford, and Spencer Ware and receivers Russell Shepard, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rueben Randle (While we’re at it, Special Team Hit-Man and Freshman Receiver Jarvis Landry might see some playing time). LSU is going to go wild tonight and it will be a long night also for that North Mississippi High School D Edge LSU

Defense vs. Defense  - LSUs physical secondary led by Tyrann “The Honey Badger” Mathieu, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Ron Brooks and Tharold Simon look to put down the already pathetic Ole Miss receivers and bring some Louisiana heat to the Quarterback and Running Backs of North Mississippi High. Sam Montgomery, Ryan Baker, and Keith Hatcher looks to make whoever the Black Bears QB is suffer. This 3rd ranked defense in the NCAA looks to sharpen its skills even more before its day after clash before they face the Razorbacks of Arkansas. Edge LSU

Intangibles - Lame duck Coach Houston Nutt will be coaching his next to last game as a Ole Miss Rebel/Black Bear with opening season losses to Jacksonville State in 2010, losing to BYU and getting shellacked by Vandy, UK, and WAC opponent for homecoming LOUISIANA TECH 27-7 in 2011, and with a 150 million dollar athletic expansion in the works things had to change, but has had a knack of getting under LSU’S skin and Its being played at Vaught- Hemmingway Stadium on the campus of Ole Miss where its home to “The Grove” – supposedly the best place to tailgate (If it is its about the only thing that Ole Miss is doing well this year, because they are definitely aren’t playing football down there) and its Ole Miss’s SENIOR DAY. LSU has been playing lights out, and taking to heart what Miles has said “Bringing the WOOD” and they are just finding ways to win which is to just flat out be focused, play mistake free ball, and most of all STEP UP when the pressure is on and when you can do those things YOU JUST CAN’T BE JUST STOPPED BUT CAN’T BE BEAT. – Edge-LSU

Winner and why – Ole Miss has just looked awful this year from on the field as well as off, even their heart has been held in to question as early as last week the coaching staff was seen packing up their stuff (Heartless and no PRIDE) personally this couldn’t have happened to a more deserving team. To reference an old Dave Chappelle bit LSU IS GOIN BUCK YA GROVE – OLE MISS and do a ‘what did the five fingers say the face- SLAP”!!! to Ole Miss (its going be COOLLDDD BLOOOODED). So you take that attitude which I mentioned earlier Ole Miss has, plus bring in a physical LSU team this will be a flat out blow out. LSU IS GOING TO BRING DA WOOD AND THEN SOME. I am going to enjoy this beat down very thoroughly. LSU 52-10

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 10

The news coming out of Houston has to be deflating for any Texans fan. Charm City were the owners of a shiny 7-3 record sitting atop the AFC South and just came off an annihilation of a good Tampa Bay team 37-9. Everything was good until the news broke that Matt Schaub was injured on a QB sneak coming out of the end zone in the second quarter. The injury very likely will end the season for the Texans QB and leader. That brings the toll to three of Houston’s top players that have all missed significant time due to injury with Andre Johnson still nursing his hamstring, Mario Williams out the remainder of the year with a torn pectoral, and now the latest victim Schaub.

It’s a debilitating blow to a team that thought it had finally made its way over the hump. The defensive issues that had plagued this team under Gary Kubiak had convincingly been solved as Wade Phillips brought a new attitude on the side of the ball resulting in a top 10 ranked total defense. The run game was sound with Arian Foster and Ben Tate shredding teams week in and week out. Now they turn to pretty boy Matt Leinart in hopes they he can just keep the team afloat.

The ramifications of Schuab’s injury will reverberate throughout the entire AFC. ESPN was touting the Texans as maybe the team to beat to get to the Super Bowl in the conference but that much is in doubt now. The Tennessee Titans, thought dead in the water for the division now have a second life. Schuab was the conductor of the Texans smooth locomotive 8th ranked offense and without him they could be in trouble.

The NFL is entering the portion of the schedule where injuries begin to rear their ugly head. Philadelphia’s Michael Vick has two broken ribs to add to litany of problems in the land of the birds. It seems Philly has had every conceivable problem you can have this season and that defense flat out stinks. Andy Reid hired Juan Castillo who never was a defensive coordinator and I hate to say it but its showing now as the season chugs along. There is just no way a team with that talent should lose to the John Skelton led Cardinals and be sitting at 3-6. There is just no way.

How about that Tim Tebow? He was 2/8 yeah but who cares when you win the game. He made the most of passes as he dropped a dime to Eric Decker for the game winner. Matt Stafford probably would like a do over against the Bears. Four interceptions and numerous comments by the announcers about how the glove he was wearing would make anyone beg to start over. The Lions had better get that act together quickly to make sure they don’t’ go from a feel good story to a get lost story.

One team I just can’t (And I don’t know anyone who can) put my finger on are the Baltimore Ravens. Just take a look at their losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville, and now Seattle who have a combined juggernaut record of 11-16. If I ever had to play the Ravens I would most definitely want to play them the game after they face Pittsburgh as they have turned in two flat line performances after beating their arch rivals. Speaking of rivals that Jets vs. Pats game was a snoozer. You here about it all week as the world wide leader and every other channel hype’s and hype’s the game and then New York (Or should I say Sanchez) goes out and lays a dud. It could have been a lot worse for them as Mark Sanchez just hasn’t progressed to the point most of us thought he would.

Tony Romo’s got the mojo as he obliterated all the remaining buffaloes in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area. 23-26 for 270 yards and 3 TDs! If the Cowboys got that consistently out of him they would be a year in year out Super Bowl contender. And last but not least on the list is Mike Smith of the Falcons. Yeah you should know the story by now as Smith went for it on 4th down and inches in overtime only to have Michael Turner get stuffed and turnover the ball to a ready Drew Brees. Brees needed just four plays to get the Saints in field goal range as the ancient one John Kasay booted a game winning 26-yard kick. I understand Smith’s reasoning behind the idea but I just don’t agree with it. It means he basically decided that his defense wasn’t good enough to stop New Orleans offense. That decision may come back to haunt him in the last weeks of the season.

Now with that all out of the way, lets unveil the rankings.

1. Green Bay Packers (9-0) – Lets be honest how many people watched the game past the first quarter last night? I’ll wait…… So yeah I didn’t either. Randall Cobb’s opening kick off return took any of the spirit that Minnesota had at the beginning of the game. Just like that game was over in my mind. Aaron Rodgers got cooking as always and put up usual numbers with 4 TD passes in the game. Who can stop this team, I don’t know as the undefeated whispers grow louder. I do know that Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the league right now. He handles that offense with such precision it’s not even fair. The Packers are the undisputed number one team in league right now.

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-1) – Never would I have thought the 9ers would be one loss to Dallas from being undefeated. They took down a damn good Giants team and did it in a way that makes me believe they are true contenders this year. They play with a hard nosed edge on defense that is fun to watch with Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman roaming around. Carlos Rogers has provided them with top notch corner play after coming over from Washington and to top every thing off they beat the Giants without their best offensive weapon in Frank Gore. I’m very impressed with these guys and they are all but assured a playoff victory with a five game buffer to their nearest division team. Hopefully complacency won’t ruin them down the stretch.

3. Houston Texans (7-3) – How can not a small portion of you feel bad for these guys? Just when you thought they had it all together and man handled the Bucs, Matt Schaub goes down. They will have to rely on that potent run game more than ever now as Matt Leinart enters the fray. He will have lean on Foster and Tate to carry them for the rest of the season. Andre Johnson is coming back as well so that should give “Limp arm Leinart” a boost. It’s a shame that Houston’s best season so far to date now all relies on the right arm of Matt Leinart. If he plays well and leads them to the playoffs, he could possibly land a starting job somewhere next season, so there is motivation for him to play well. I’m intrigued to see what becomes of this team for the rest of the season.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers ( 7-3) – The Steelers toyed around with the Bengals before they put them in their place. Rook Qb Andy Dalton is the real deal though as he continued his impressive play. Pittsburgh will just keep chugging along but they won’t win this division thanks to those two losses to Baltimore. That means they have no choice but go the wild card route and they will have to fight it out with a number of teams for the playoffs. Just another year of football in the city of steel.

5. New Orleans Saints (7-3) – The Saints got lucky as Mike Smith’s bone-headed play doomed the Falcons and basically gave New Orleans the win. On another note, who knew Jimmy Graham had the power to shift the goal post? I was impressed by his hops as his thunderous two-handed football slam slanted the goal post side ways and delaying the game. The funniest part of the whole thing was stadium officials coming and trying to fix the thing only to have it still leaning. The Saints win gave them a commanding lead in the NFC South and Drew Brees continues his hot play.\

Offensive Player of the Week: Tony Romo 23-26 270 yards and 4 TDs - As a Dallas fan I was actually upset about this. I had two reasons behind being upset with the first being that it wasn’t on my cable T.V. I mean come on Comcast, this was the best game ever by Romo as he was tossing lasers all over and this is the one game I can’t see? They show every other Dallas game when Romo is choking away a game to Darrelle Revis and the Jets or when they played Tom Brady and the Pats but when Tony does his thing I can’t watch? Ugh. My second reason is that if Romo could just play like that every week, no excuses, no girlfriend talk, no new baby talk, no aw shucks attitude, then this is what he could do. He would be one the best QBs in the league. So with all that said congrats to you Tony, you played one hell of a game but just keep it up.

Defensive Player of the Week: Andre Carter 4.5 Sacks – There is no way you let a guy get that many sacks on your QB. There are guys who go an entire career not amassing that many sacks in a season much less one game. I have to give Carter credit because he continued to bring the heat and the Jets offensive line had no answer for him.