Friday, December 31, 2010

21 Bowls Down, 14 To Go

Here we are 60% of the way through the Bowl Season and quickly approaching the start of 2011. The early leaders in wins with 3 are the Mountain West Conference (3-1) with wins by BYU, San Diego St. and Air Force, the ACC (3-3) with wins by NC State, Maryland, and North Carolina and the Big East (3-1) with wins from Syracuse, South Florida and Louisville. The Big Ten is off to a 2-0 start with 6 games left to play while the SEC received ten bowl bids this year but is off to an 0-2 start with Georgia and Tennessee both losing. The Big 12 has been the most disappointing conference so far losing 4 of their first 5 games with only Oklahoma State producing a win. They've also been the victim of two of the biggest bowl upsets so far this season as Iowa knocked off #12 Missouri 27-24 and Washington beat #18 Nebraska 19-7. The first two BCS Bowls kickoff tomorrow with #3 TCU taking on #5 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and #7 Oklahoma taking on Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.

Stanford has UConn's number

The streak is OVER. For the first time since April 6, 2008, the University of Connecticut Women's Basketball team lost a game, and to an all to familiar foe. It was the Stanford Cardinal who gave Connecticut their last loss before the start of the streak, and it was the Stanford Cardinal who did it to them once again last night. The Huskies were held to just 32.8% shooting en route to a 71-59 defeat to the 8th ranked Cardinal. The 59 points were the fewest scored by a UConn team since they scored 53 in last year's National Championship game against, you guessed it, Stanford. Jeanette Pohlen led the way for Stanford scoring a career high 31 points with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Pohlen was one of two members of the Cardinal who also played in the game against  UConn back in 2008. The other, Kayla Pedersen, actually started both games. With the win Stanford improves to 9-2, 6-0 at home, while the Huskies drop to 12-1. UConn now starts from scratch as they look to build another streak. Next up will be the 7-6 Villanova Wildcats. Last year they beat the Wildcats 74-35 behind 24 points from Maya Moore. More impressively, they held Villanova to just 12 points in the first half.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Day Hoops Preview

5 Basketball Games to watch this Christmas. Here's a quick look at what you can watch:

Game 1

Chicago Bulls (18-9) at New York Knicks (17-12)

This game pits a pair of team that made big changes this offseason. Looking to bounce back from a 29-53 season, the Knicks went out and got Amare Stoudemire. The Bulls, coming off a 41-41 season that saw them earning the Eastern Conference's number 8 seed, went out and added a big man of their own in Carlos Boozer. Interestingly enough, both Stoudemire and Boozer were products of the 2002 NBA draft with Stoudemire going 9th overall and Boozer going early in the second round. Boozer missed the first game between these two teams last month and the Knicks were able to pull off the 120-112 victory in Chicago. It was no thanks to Stoudemire though. The Knicks big man who is second in the NBA in scoring right now, was just 5/21 from the field, turned the ball over 8 times and fouled out, but was bailed out by the Knicks' hot outside shooting as New York hit 16 of 24 3-pointers. Toney Douglas led all scorers with 30 points in 31 minutes off the bench. Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 24 points and 14 assists in a losing effort. The Bulls will have Boozer back for this one, but will be without Joakim Noah who is out following surgery to reapir torn ligaments in his thumb. The Bulls are 2-1 in 3 games without him. Noah had 12 points and 13 rebounds in their first matchup against New York.

Game 2

Boston Celtics (23-4) at Orlando Magic (17-12)

In a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals, the red hot Celtics take on the new-look Magic. Winners of 14 in a row, the Celtics will once again be without starting point guard Rajon Rondo (11.2 ppg, 13.8 apg) but should have center Jermaine O'Neal back for this one giving them some more depth on their front line. The Magic recently traded size for scoring bringing in Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas and it finally paid off on Wednesday as they gave San Antonio just their 4th loss of the year snapping the Spurs' 10 game winning streak. Still, it's Dwight Howard that leads the way for Orlando. Howard is averaging 24.2 points, 18.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over his last 5 games including 3 games with 20+ rebounds. Boston has not lost since dropping back to back games against Oklahoma City at home and on the road in Toronto before Thanksgiving.

Game 3

Miami Heat (22-9) at Los Angeles Lakers (21-8)

Definitely the main event for Christmas Day as far as basketball is concerned: Lebron James and the Heat vs Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. The Heat have bounced back from a slow start and are 13-1 in their last 14 games. The Lakers meanwhile have cruised to an early 7 1/2 game lead in the Pacific Division and have won 8 of 10 themselves. Many predict that this could be a preview of the NBA Finals. The Heat lead the NBA in team defense giving up only 91.2 points a game while the Lakers boast a highpowered offense and score 105.4 a game. Something's got to give. Dwyane Wade's health is in question in this one as he was forced to sit out of Miami's win over Phoenix last night. His status will be a big factor as the Heat will need all three of their stars to be on their game tomorrow night because if it comes down to supporting casts, the Lakers have a clear advantage. Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Ron Artest have a considerable edge over Mike Miller (yet to make a basket since returning from injury), Erick Dampier, Joel Anthony, Juwan Howard, Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Carlos Arroyo. The Heat are still really looking for a signature win this season having dropped 2 games to Boston and 2 more to Dallas so far. Could this be where they get it?

Game 4

Denver Nuggets (16-11) at Oklahoma City Thunder (20-10)

In a battle of Northwest Division rivals, the 2nd place Thunder host the 3rd place Nuggets in the first of 4 matchups between these two teams. The Thunder boast the NBA's leading scorer in Kevin Durant who comes into the game averaging 27.5 points a game. The Nuggets meanwhile counter with 7 different players averaging double figures: Carmelo Anthony, Nene Hilario, Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, J.R. Smith, and Ty Lawson.

Game 5

Portland Trail Blazers (15-14) at Golden State Warriors (10-18)

The Blazers enter this game winners of 3 in a row despite injuries to guard Brandon Roy and center Marcus Camby. LaMarcus Aldridge has been picking up the slack in their absence as he has averaged almost 13 points and 13 rebounds over the last 4 games. Aldridge had  17 points and 12 boards in last week's 96-95 over the Warriors while point guard Andre Miller chipped in 17 points and 8 assists. The Warriors are shorthanded these days as well with starting point guard Stephon Curry (20.1 ppg) having missed 6 straight games. There's a  slight chance he plays tomorrow night, but reports are he's still not 100%. Monta Ellis has been the star for the Warriors lately averaging 35 points in his last 4 games, including 44 in their loss to the Rockets. David Lee has been steady as well with 4 double-doubles in his last 5 games. Ellis had 26 and Lee has 13 points and 11 rebounds in last week's loss to Portland.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

NBA Eastern Conference Update - Celtics, Magic and Heat


The Celtics ripped off their 14th consecutive win last night with an 84-80 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics are still without Rajon Rondo who continues to nurse his sprained left ankle. In the meantime, Nate Robinson is holding things down at the point. In 3 starts since Rondo's injury, Robinson is averaging 13.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He has struggled a bit with turnovers, particularly in the win over Atlanta (6 in 41 minutes), but he has just 5 total in his last 2 starts. He's also shooting 44.4% from the floor and has hit at least 2 3-pointers in each start. He's certainly a different type of player than Rondo, but even without their regular floor general the Celtics are getting the job done. Next up for the red hot C's, the struggling Orlando Magic on Christmas Day.


The struggling Magic took on the Spurs tonight in a battle of two teams headed in opposite directions. The 25-3 Spurs came in winners of 10 straight with the best record in the NBA. The Magic meanwhile had lost 8 of 9 including 4 in a row. However this one played out differently than you might have expected. In their third game with their new look lineup, Orlando finally got their offense rolling and cranked out 123 points against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. The new look Magic finally got solid outings from all three of their big acquisitions. Hedo Turkoglu had 11 points and 6 assists, Jason Richardson had 15 points and 4 rebounds and Gilbert Arenas came off the bench and chipped in 14 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists. While they were outrebounded 46-39 and gave up 16 offensive rebounds, their explosive offense was the difference in this one as they hit 13/25 3's and shot 59.5% from the field. Ironically, that's actually better than they shot from the free throw line (58.8%). The one negative was that Dwight Howard had his streak of 20 rebound games snapped as he went for 29 and 14 in 32 minutes. However, Howard does still have 5 straight games with at least 14 boards.


Despite being without the services of Dwyane Wade tonight against Phoenix, Miami has jumped out to 45-39 halftime lead over the Suns. Wade is out due to swelling in his left knee caused by a collision with Jason Kidd on Tuesday night. This one started out rough as the Suns jumped out to a 21-10 advantage in the first quarter, but the Heat buckled down on defense forcing 10 first half turnovers and only alloweding the Suns to shoot 38.5% in the half. Lebron James and Chris Bosh have carried the scoring load in Wade's absence combining for 32 of the Heat's 45 first half points. No other member of the Heat has more than 4. Mike Miller is active once again, but continues to struggle shooting the basketball, now having misfired on his first 7 attempts this season. Jared Dudley is leading the way for Phoenix with 14 points, while Steve Nash has been held scoreless but does have 10 assists.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

U.S. Men's Soccer Team Names Training Camp Roster for Chile Matchup

Yesterday, the 24 players selected for training camp for the upcoming friendly match against Chile (January 22) were announced. It's a very young squad with no member registering more than 6 CAPS with the National Team. Here's how the roster breaks down:


Dominic Cervi -  A native of Oklahoma, Cervi went to college at Tulsa and was drafted by the Chicago Fire in the first round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, but instead opted to go overseas. The 24 year old keeper is currently on loan to Dundee of the Scottish First Division from Celtic. He has received callups to the Senior National Team before, most recently in November against South Africa, but has yet to log an appearance.

Sean Johnson - The 21 year old Johnson just wrapped up his rookie season in MLS with the Chicago Fire where he started 13 games. Johnson had 3 clean sheets and finished 4-6-3 with 1.31 goals against average. Johnson played his college ball at Central Florida but left after two years to enter the MLS SuperDraft. He was taken in the 4th round (51st pick overall) by the Fire. He has appeared in 4 games with the U-20 National Team, but has yet to make an appearance with the Senior Team.

Matt Pickens - Pickens started all but 1 game for the MLS Champion Colorado Rapids this past season posting a regular season mark of 11-8-10 with a 1.10 goals against average. In the playoffs he was even better allowing just 3 goals in 420 minutes of action including a pair of shutouts. Pickens was drafted in 2004 out of Missouri State as the 19th pick overall by the Chicago Fire (noticing a trend here?). Pickens has no experience with the men's National Team.

Nick Rimando - Real Salt Lake's starting goalie for the past 4 years, the 31 year old Rimando has the most international experience of the 4 keepers selected having 4 CAPS with the senior team. Rimando started 27 games for Real and posted 14 shutouts en route to a 15-4-8 record. He has been the starting keeper for Real since 2007 and he was the MLS Cup MVP in 2009 when Real knocked off the L.A. Galaxy in a shootout. Rimando was drafted by the now defunct Miami Fusion in 2000 with the 35th pick.


A.J. DeLaGarza - A 2-time National Champion in his 4 years at the University of Maryland, DeLaGarza just finished his second season with the Los Angeles Galaxy. In 2010, DeLaGarza played in 17 regular season games, starting 14 of them, and started all 3 of the Galaxy's playoff games. The 23 year old scored 1 goal for the Galaxy last season and typically found himself at the right back position. DeLaGarza has no experience with the National Team.

Sean Franklin - The 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year just completed his third season with the L.A. Galaxy. Drafted by L.A. out of Cal-State Northridge with the 4th overall pick in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, Franklin has appeared in 65 regular season games with the Galaxy over the past 3 seasons. The 25 year old Franklin has been called up to the National Team in both 2008 and 2009, but has yet to make an appearance.

Omar Gonzalez - Yet another member of the Galaxy defense invited to camp, the 21 year old Gonzalez was also an MLS Rookie of the Year recipient winning the award in 2009. Prior to joining the Galaxy, Gonzalez was at the University of Maryland where he teamed up with A.J. DeLaGarza to win the 2008 National Championship. Gonzalez was then taken as the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. He played in 28 regular season games last season (all starts) and chipped in 2 goals while also adding a goal and an assist in 3 playoff games. Gonzalez made his debut with the Senior National Team following the 2010 World Cup in the USA's friendly against Brazil.

Ugo Ihemelu - Nigerian born Ihemelu wrapped up his sixth MLS season this year, and first with FC Dallas having previously played for the Galaxy (2 years) and Rapids (3 years). Ironically, it was Colorado who would beat Dallas to win the 2010 MLS Cup. Ihemelu played 19 regular season games in 2010 (18 starts) and started and played every minute of all four of Dallas's playoff games. Ihemelu has made two career appearances with the National Team.

Zach Loyd - Another MLS Rookie to be invited to camp, Loyd spent the 2010 season with FC Dallas after being drafted out of North Carolina with the 5th overall pick in the 2010 draft. Loyd appeared in 24 regular season games (19 starts) for Dallas last year and appeared in all 4 of Dallas's playoff games. He logged 86 minutes against Colorado in the MLS Cup Final. The 23 year old Loyd has no previous experience with the National Team.

Ryan Miller - Miller was drafted out of Notre Dame by the Columbus Crew in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft, but never caught on in the MLS. The Crew eventually waived him and he was signed by D.C. United, but he never appeared in a regular season game for either team before being waived again in 2009. Miller has since taken his talents to Sweden where he currently plays for Halmstads BK. Miller started 26 of a possible 30 games for Halmstads BK last season. They finished fifth from the bottom at 10-15-5. Miller has no previous experience with the National Team.

Tim Ream - The rookie out of St. Louis started all 30 games for the Eastern Conference Champion New York Red Bulls last season. A second round pick in the 2010 draft, Ream wasted no time making an impact in the back for New York. His high level of play got him a callup to the National Team for last month's friendly against South Africa where he started and played 67 minutes.

Anthony Wallace - After appearing in only 15 games over 4 seasons with FC Dallas, Wallace was traded midseason to the Colorado Rapids. In his time with Colorado, Wallace started all 7 games he appeard in during the regular season and started all 4 of the Rapids' playoff games en route to the MLS Cup Championship. The 21 year old Wallace has extensive experience with the youth national teams, but this will be his first opportunity with the senior National Team.

Marvell Wynne - The son of the former Major League Baseball player of the same name, Wynne also spent 2010 as a member of the MLS Champion Colorado Rapids. In his first year with Colorado, the 24 year old Wynne started 27 games during the regular season and all 4 playoff games. With 4 CAPS to his name, he is tied as being the second most experienced player on the roster.


Eric Alexander - Alexander was drafted out of Indiana in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft by FC Dallas (44th overall). During the 2010 regular season, he appeared in 17 games (12 of them starts) and had 2 goals and 3 assists. During the postseason he appeared in just 2 of Dallas's 4 games as a sub totalling only 5 minutes of playing time. The 22 year old midfielder has no previous experience with the National Team.

Alejandro Bedoya - After playing his college ball at Fairleigh Dickinson and Boston College, Bedoya bypassed the MLS Draft and pursued a career overseas. In late 2008 he was signed by the Swedish club Orebro SK and he spent both the 2009 and 2010 seasons playing for them. In 2010, Bedoya started 26 games for Orebro scoring a pair of goals helping Orebro finish third in the Swedish Allsvenkanliga with a record of 16-10-4. Bedoya made his first 6 appearances for the senior National Team in 2010, including a pair of starts, making him the most CAP'd player in camp right now.

Sam Cronin - Cronin was the second overall draft pick in the 2009 SuperDraft, selected by Toronto FC. After a year and a half with Toronto he was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes this past June. For the year between the 2 clubs he appeared in 23 games (20 starts) during the regular season and started all three of the Earthquakes' playoff games. Cronin made his National Team debut in 2009 and has tallied two CAPS.

Mikkel Diskerud - Given the option to play for either Norway (born in Norway) or the U.S. (because his mother is from Arizona), the 20 year old Diskerud has chosen to play for the States.  Currently, Diskerud plays for the Norwegian club Stabæk. Diskerud made his National Team debut in November against South Africa, coming on as a sub and assisting on the game-winning goal in the U.S.'s 1-0 victory.

Jeff Larentowicz - In his first year with the Colorado Rapids, Larentowicz was a big part of their championship run. Larentowicz played in all 30 regular season games (29 starts), and every minute of all four playoff games for the Rapids. He tied his career high during the regular season with 4 goals and also added an assist. Larentowicz was a 4th round pick out of Brown in 2005, drafted by the New England Revolution with whom he spent his first 5 MLS seasons. This is his first opportunity to play for the National Team.

Dax McCarty - The 23 year old McCarty has been a member of 3 MLS teams in the past month. After spending his fifth season with FC Dallas, helping lead them to the MLS Cup Finals, he was picked up in the expansion draft by the Portland Timbers and then traded to D.C. United. McCarty played 21 games (18 starts) during the regular season and started all 4 of Dallas's playoff games. He had 1 goal in both the regular season and the postseason. McCarty has 4 CAPS with the National Team.

Brek Shea - 20 year old Brek Shea broke out in his 3rd MLS season with FC Dallas. After being drafted 2nd overall in the 2008 SuperDraft straight out of high school, his playing time has steadily increased in his 3 year career. In 25 regular season games (21 starts), Shea had 5 goals and 4 assists. He also added 2 assists in 4 postseason appearances. Shea was called up to play for the National Team against Colombia in October making him the first player born in the 1990s to get a US CAP.


Juan Agudelo - The Colombian born 18 year old became the youngest player to score for the men's National Team when he scored the game winner in his debut against South Africa in November. Agudelo started his football career at the New York Red Bull Academy in 2007. In 2010 he officially joined the Red Bulls and appeared in 2 games during the regular season as a sub tallying 14 minutes. However, Agudelo started both of the Red Bulls playoff games and notched an assist.

Justin Braun - The 23 year old Braun broke out for Chivas USA in his 3rd season notching 9 goals and 3 assists in 28 games (24 starts). Quite an accomplishment for a player who played his college soccer at Salt Lake Community College and was not drafted by Major League Soccer. While he has trained with the men's National Team before, he has yet to notch an appearance.

Teal Bunbury - The 20 year old Canadian-American played for Canada's U-17 and U-20 teams, but was called up to play for the U.S. against South Africa in November and played 45 minutes as a sub in his first CAP. Playing collegiately for Akron, he left for the MLS SuperDraft after his sophomore year. Bunbury was drafted by the Kansas City Wizards with the 4th overall pick. In his rookie season Bunbury had 5 goals and 2 assists in 26 games (13 starts). Bunbury's father Alex was also an MLSer making Teal the first son of a former MLS player to get drafted.

Chris Wondolowski - After scoring just 7 goals in his first 6 MLS seasons, Wondo broke out big time in 2010 with the San Jose Earthquakes. Wondo took home the Golden Boot in 2010 tallying 18 goals in 28 games (26 starts) during the regular season. He also scored a goal in the postseason against New York leading San Jose to the MLS semifinals. His strong performance in 2010 earned him a trip to camp and he now has a chance to make his first appearance for the National Team.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Triple Play


Congratulations to the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team who won their 89th consecutive game tonight against 20th ranked Florida State. If you were looking for drama though, this wasn't the game for you. UCONN jumped out to a 54-27 halftime lead and cruised to a 93-62 victory behind 41 points from Maya Moore. Next up for the Lady Huskies? 3-8 Pacific. I know they still have to play the game, but I think it's safe to say that number 90's probably in the bag. However, win number 91 could be a little tougher as they take on the last team that actually beat them, the Stanford Cardinal.


Devin Hester narrowly missed setting the all time record for combined return touchdowns when he took the second half opening kickoff 79 yards to the Minnesota 6-yard line. Hester had entered the game tied with Brian Mitchell with 13 return TDs, but Hester wasn't quite done. On his next opportunity, not even three minutes later, Hester took a punt back 64 yards untouched for his record 14th return TD. The 28 year old Hester, who didn't have any return touchdowns in 2008 or 2009, now has 3 on the season.

If at first you don't succeed

Try, try again


The Magic lose AGAIN. They are now 16-12 and have lost 8 of 9 despite Dwight Howard's third straight 20+ rebound game. Howard finished with 26 points and 23 rebounds giving him 63 boards in his last 3 games. Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson failed to deliver for the second night in a row, this time combining to hit just 7 of 30 shots and score 21 points in 96 combined minutes. Turkoglu did have 8 assists, but had only one rebound and both he and Arenas finished with 5 fouls. The bright side? Earl Clark played and hit all 3 of his shots in 13 minutes. If Earl Clark ends up being the bright spot in this deal, the Magic are in REAL trouble.

88 and Counting

The University of Connecticut's women's basketball team goes for an unprecedented 89th consecutive victory tonight against #20 Florida State. The longest winning streak by any division 1 college basketball team, men's or women's, was held solely by the UCLA Bruins men's team (1971-1974) until this past weekend, but now UCONN's women look to set a new standard. UCONN held the previous women's record of 70 consecutive wins as well before shattering that last season en route to a 2nd straight National Championship. UCONN's women have not lost a game since the 2008 Final Four when Stanford beat them. Since that time, they've beaten 29 ranked teams on their way to their 88 straight wins.

Now some people have tried to draw comparisons between the UCLA team and this UCONN team, and I think that's a mistake. Is 88 straight wins in men's basketball more impressive than 88 straight wins in women's basketball? Who cares? 88 straight wins is 88 straight wins no matter how you look at it. That's an absolutely amazing stretch, I don't care who you are. But at the end of the day, even if UCONN's women win 189 straight games, it still shouldn't take away from what the UCLA men accomplished. When all is said and done, UCLA will hold the men's record for most consecutive wins in Division 1 basketball. UCONN will hold the women's record for most consecutive wins in Division 1 basketball. Instead of trying to debate the merits of one versus the other, appreciate what the Bruins did before, and appreciate what the Lady Huskies are doing now.

And if you really want to talk about winning streaks, let's talk Squash. Between 1981 and 1986 Jahangir Khan won 555 straight matches. KHANNNNNNNNNN!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lack of Magic

The Magic played their first game with their new acquisitions tonight against the Atlanta Hawks. Results? Meh.

Hedo Turkoglu started and was just 1/4 from the field for 8 points and pulled down 6 rebounds in 35 minutes.

Jason Richardson also started and was 3/8 from the field for 9 points in 31 minutes.

Gilbert Arenas came off the bench went 2/11 from the floor but led the newcomers with 10 points in 27 minutes.

Earl Clark did not see the court.

So to summarize, 6/23 shooting for 27 points in 93 total minutes. Result? Hawks 91 Magic 81. Not the offensive explosion the Magic were hoping for. The Hawks also outrebounded the Magic 51-38. Bright spot? 20 rebounds for Dwight Howard for the second straight game.

Move Over DeSean Jackson...

DeSean Jackson's electrifying punt return as time expired against the Giants yesterday was amazing. But who would've guessed he'd be shown up on Sunday night... by a LINEMAN. Dan Connolly, a 6'4" 313 lbs Guard out of Southeast Missouri State, returned a squib kick 71 yards late in the second quarter against Green Bay last night. Watch the ridiculousness...

Connolly goes 71 yards

This was the longest kick return by an offensive lineman in NFL history, and I've got to be honest, it's going to be tough for anyone to top that. Connolly had 3 returns in his career prior to this one, the longest being 16 yards.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Six Pack


Boston is taking this offseason seriously it seems. After already going out and getting Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to shore up the offense, now they've made some moves to take care of the bullpen. Righthanders Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks will join flamethrower Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon in what has to now be one of the most powerful bullpens in the majors. In Jenks they get an established reliever with experience as a closer. Jenks has saved 173 games since making his debut in 2005. Although his 2010 season was subpar by his standards (4.44 ERA, 27 Saves), he still managed to strike out better than a batter an inning, and only blew 4 saves all year. In Wheeler, the Sox get a durable setup man who also has a pair of double digit save seasons. Wheeler has pitched in at least 64 games in each of the last six seasons and had at least 16 holds in 5 of those. So now Boston has all kinds of options for the latter stages of games. Look out American League!


Milwaukee's making some noise on their own during this offseason. Having already picked up Shaun Marcum from Toronto, the Brewers pulled off a blockbuster trade with Kansas City landing ace Zack Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt for outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. While Greinke was only 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA in 2010, he was absolutely lights out in 2009 going 16-8 for the hapless Royals with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 229 1/3 innings. In Betancourt, they get an established shortstop who started hitting for power last season. While with the Royals in 2010, Betancourt set career highs in home runs (16) and runs batted in (78).

To get Greinke, the Brewers parted with a batch of prospects starting with 24 year old shortstop Alcides Escobar. Escobar played his first full season in the majors in 2010 where he hit .235 with 10 triples and 10 steals. 24 year old centerfielder Lorenzo Cain made his major league debut for the Brewers last season hitting .306 in 43 games with 11 doubles and 7 steals. Prior to joining the big league club, Cain hit .317 in 84 minor league games between AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville. 23 year old Righthander Jeremy Jeffress was a first round pick back in 2006 and also made his major league debut in 2010. In 10 games he was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA over 10 innings. Splitting time between 3 minor league clubs before his callup, Jeffress posted a 2.23 ERA over 24 games and struck out 43 hitters in just 32 1/3 innings. He does come with some baggage though having twice been suspended under baseball's drug policy. Finally, there's Odorizzi who might be the best prize in this deal for the Royals. One of Milwaukee's top pitching prospects, the 20 year old went 7-3 in 23 games (20 starts) for Class A Kane County of the Midwest League in 2010. He struck out 135 in 120 2/3 innings and allowed opposing hitters to hit just .220 against him. Odorizzi was a first round pick for the Brewers in 2008.


The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have not lost a game in the month of December. The Magic have been reeling losing 6 of 7 with their only win in that stretch coming against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to Saturday's loss against the 76ers though, the Magic went out and did something drastic by almost completely overhauling their team. On their way out are Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, and on their way in are Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark. On some levels, I understand what they did, but on others, I have to admit, this move doesn't make a lot of sense to me. There is no doubt that they gain firepower in this move. Gilbert Arenas has always been a scorer, but he's only played 68 games over the past 4 seasons. That said, he's still averaging 17.3 points a game this year. Jason Richardson was averaging 19.3 points a game for Phoenix this year and has hit on 42% of his 3-point attempts this year. Hedo Turkoglu had his 5 best NBA seasons as a member of the Magic before leaving after the 2008 season and while he has only averaged 9.5 points a game for Phoenix this year, he's still a versatile scorer who can do it from both inside and out. Earl Clark doesn't really add firepower, but with the loss of Gortat, he does bring size. The 6'10" Clark has played only 9 games this season. So offensively, the Magic add some nice pieces.

Now as for the players they let go, Vince Carter was in the midst of his worst NBA season (15.1 ppg, 2.9 apg - both career lows), so his leaving town makes sense. Similarly, Rashard Lewis has struggled this season averaging just 12.2 points a game, his lowest average since the 1999-2000 season with Seattle, so shipping him out makes some sense as well. Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus are the parts of this deal I have a tough time figuring out. In Gortat they lose their primary backup to Dwight Howard. Who fills that role now? Malik Allen? Rookie Daniel Orton? Clark? I don't like this move. Similarly, in giving up Pietrus they essentially lose their best perimeter defender. Who steps up into that role? They say defense wins championships, and we've seen teams that just go out and try and score as many points as possible have struggled against better quality teams. So we'll see how this works out, but I don't see this move putting the Magic back into the conversation with the Heat and Celtics for best in the East.


The Boston Celtics have won 13 in a row despite suffering through a rash of injuries and playing their last two games without point guard Rajon Rondo. At 22-4 they carry a 7 game lead in the Atlantic Division and they play Philly at home on Wednesday before a showdown with new-look Orlando on Saturday. The Miami Heat meanwhile have won 12 in a row of their own as they continue to make 9-8 a distant memory. They barely escaped against the Wizards on Saturday pulling out a 1 point win in the final seconds and things aren't going to get easier as Dallas comes to play tomorrow night. In their first meeting (the infamous Lebron-Spoelstra shoulder bump game) the Mavs won 106-95. This was actually the last time Miami lost. Miami may even have Mike Miller available for this one.


Tim Tebow made his first NFL start today against the Oakland Raiders, but despite a pair of touchdowns and turnover-free football from the rookie, the Raiders were still too much for the Broncos winning 39-23. Still, fans saw what Tebow can do as he showed he's more than just a great college quarterback. Tebow blew through the entire Raider defense for a 40 yard touchdown on a quarterback draw (behind some nice blocking from Correll Buckhalter) and also threw a 33 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd. For the game Tebow finished 8/16 for 138 yards and touchdown through the air, and also picked up 78 yards on 8 carries. By contrast, the rest of the Broncos combined to run for 28 yards on 25 carries. I don't know that he'll ever live up to the expectations set forth by his being a first round pick, but it appears he's not a total bust. Denver plays Houston and San Diego in their remaining two games.


The New York Giants led the Philadelphia Eagles 31-10 with under 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Then in the final 8 minutes, the Eagles scored 4 Touchdowns, the last of which on a punt return by DeSean Jackson as time expired. Just an absolutely ridiculous finish and a potentially devastating loss for the Giants as the Eagles take control of their own destiny in the NFC East with 2 games to play. How'd it all go down?

It looks even worse when you find out that Giants punter Matt Dodge was supposed to punt the ball out of bounds. 14 seconds left in the game, how do you let the most dangerous return man in the league get a shot and running that kick back? It will be interesting to see how New York responds to this one when they travel to Green Bay next week.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Yow! Ming

Devastating news for Rockets fans this week as it was announced that once again, Yao Ming has been shut down for the season with stress fractures in his left ankle. After missing all of last season following a hairline fracture in that same foot sustained in the 2008-2009 playoffs against the Lakers, the Rockets were looking to have their 7'6" big man in an effort to bounce back after missing the playoffs last season. It doesn't look like that's going to happen though. Yao has played in only 5 games this season (none since getting hurt in Washington on November 10), and now, pending a second opinion, he is looking at more surgery that could sideline him an additional 10 months. Tough break for the Rockets who are already off to a rough start at 11-15. 34 year old Brad Miller (5 starts) and 27 year old Chuck Hayes (15 starts) will look to fill Yao's shoes the rest of the way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Did anyone else know Chien-Ming Wang was a National last year?

This headline caught me a little off guard today: Nationals resign Chien-Ming Wang. What? RE-sign? I hadn't heard this guy's name since he got shut down for shoulder surgery in the summer of 2009, but lo and behold, he was apparently a National last year. Granted he didn't pitch all season, but as he's shown in the past, when healthy, he can be very effective. Prior to getting hurt (while running the bases of all things) in 2008, Wang was in the midst of a 3-year run where he was 46-15 with the New York Yankees. Wang won 19 games in 2006 and 2007 and while only appearing in only 27 games over the past 3 years, it's easy to forget that he's only 30 years old. If he returns healthy from shoulder surgery, this could actually be a good signing for Washington. I don't think it's going to be enough to unseat the Phillies as the NL East favorites, but every little bit helps.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

RIP Bob Feller

Baseball lost one of its greats today with the passing of legendary righthanded pitcher Bob Feller. Feller spent his entire 18 year career with the Cleveland Indians and was a member of their last World Series winning team in 1948. Over his career Feller won 266 games and recorded 2581 strike outs, including a single-game record at the time of 18 against the Detroit Tigers on October 2, 1938. He also threw 3 no-hitters, led the American League in strike outs seven times and totalled 46 shutouts in his career. An 8-time all star, Feller was more than just a baseball player though. When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, Feller was the first Major Leaguer to enlist. He served through the remainder of the war on board the USS Alabama and was awarded 5 campaign ribbons and 8 battle stars and made the rank of Chief Petty Officer. Some speculate had he not missed those four seasons to the war, 350 wins and over 3000 strikeouts would have been well within reach. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1962, Feller is currently the only Chief Petty Officer enshrined in Cooperstown. Truly one of the all time greats, it is a sad day for Cleveland and for Baseball. Rest in Peace, Bob.

The Blog Goes International

Live from Germany...

Unfortunately I'm not over here to scout Bayern Munich or research Dirk Nowitzki's homeland. Maybe next time. Let's talk some Cliff Lee though (even though it has nothing to do with Germany). In an unexpected turn of events, Lee spurned his American League suitors and returned to the Philadelphia Phillies forming perhaps one of the greatest rotations in baseball history. Lee joins fellow lefthander Cole Hamels and righthanders Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt on a staff that is already being touted as one of the best ever. Check the resumes of these four:

World Series MVP (1)
Cy Young Awards (3)
All Star Games (13)
200 Strike Out Seasons (7)
200 Inning Seasons (16)
20 Win Seasons (5)

Cole Hamels

Roy Oswalt

Roy Halladay

Cliff Lee

It's not like they're on the decline either. Lee threw 7 complete games and set a career high in strikeouts last season despite making just 28 starts.  Halladay threw 9 complete for the third straight season, won 21 games, posted a 2.44 ERA and also had a career high in strikeouts. Oswalt went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA after his trade from Houston last year. And Hamels rebounded from a slow start to post a 2.23 ERA after the all star break. This group is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Too early to start talking about Phillies - Red Sox?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Streak is Over

For the first time since 1992, Brett Favre wasn't in the starting lineup for his team. A streak spanning 297 consecutive starts finally comes to a close. To give you an idea of just how long ago that was, here's some food for thought:

NFL's leading passer in 1992: Dan Marino

Packers Leading Receiver in 1992: Sterling Sharpe

Players remaining in NFL that played in 1992: John Kasay, Jason Hanson

Green Bay's First Round Pick in 1992: Terrell Buckley, CB, Florida State

Packers Starting QB before Favre: Don "the Magic Man" Majkowski

If Favre never sets foot on a field again he'll retire as the all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He's been to 11 Pro Bowls, won 3 MVPs and won a Super Bowl. And while his waffling about retiring in recent years has turned some people off to him, once all the dust finally settles, people will remember him for the warrior he was.

Favre Beats the Niners 2009

Brett Favre Highlights

Favre to Freeman vs Minnesota

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Six Pack


No real shock here as the heavy favorite came away with the award last night. Newton received 729 first place votes and maybe the only real surprise was that there were actually 140 first place votes that he DIDN'T get. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck finished second, but was 1,184 points behind Newton in the overall voting. Oregon running back LaMichael James placed third despite getting fewer first place votes than 4th place finisher, Boise St. quarterback Kellen Moore.


Well, you don't see that every day. With the Metrodome Roof essentially collapsing under the weight of a blizzard, the Metrodome was deemed unfit for football today. In fact, it remains to be seen just how long it's going to be shut down for. The Giants-Vikings game scheduled for today has been moved to Detroit's Ford Field and will be played tomorrow night instead.

As crazy as it may sound, this wasn't the first time a game inside a dome has been cancelled due to inclement weather. Obviously Hurricane Katrina shut down the Superdome for some time, but the Astrodome actually had a game called on account of rain on June 15, 1976 when severe flooding prevented the umpires from being able to reach the stadium.


As late as yesterday the Kansas City Chiefs still hadn't ruled out Matt Cassel from being able to play against San Diego today after his emergency appendectomy on Wednesday. Finally it came out on Saturday night that he didn't travel with the team and would not be available to them leaving Brodie Croyle (0-9 lifetime as a starter coming into the game) to get the call. The Chiefs went on to play today without their leader on offense and got absolutely flattened by San Diego. Looking to bounce back from a tough loss to the Raiders last week, San Diego did just that holding the Chiefs to just 67 yard of total offense and only five first downs. On 3rd downs the Chiefs failed to convert on 11 tries. The Chiefs now have just a 1 game lead in the AFC West.

As I said earlier in the week, I'm honestly surprised it took that long to rule him out. It's not surgery to repair a torn ACL or anything like that, but it's still surgery. You're still talking cutting through the abdominal muscles. In any case, he shouldn't have been playing today. You could argue that playing next week might not be a great idea either. When Ben Roethlisberger had an appendectomy to start the 2006 season, he essentially went two weeks before playing in a game. In his first three games coming back Big Ben led the defending Super Bowl Champion Steelers to 3 straight losses (Jacksonville, Cincinnati and San Diego), and completed just 55 of 102 passes with 0 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. We'll see if Cassel fairs any better when he finally comes back. Chiefs fans better hope so because they are not a very good team with Brodie Croyle at quarterback.


Just when things seemed to be falling apart in Miami, the Heat have finally started to put things together. Coming off their 4th loss in 5 games and floundering around the .500 mark, the Heat have now reeled off 8 straight wins and at 17-8, now lead the Southeast Division and have the 2nd best record in the East behind the Boston Celtics. The only problem in trying to catch Boston is that while the Heat have won 8 in a row, Boston has now won 10 in a row. Speaking of long winning streaks, New York has also won 8 straight and the Mavericks 12. But back to Miami, are they really putting it all together, or is their streak a testament to their opponents? The 8 straight wins came against Washington (without John Wall), Detroit, at Cleveand where Lebron James finally broke out of his slump, Atlanta at home, at Milwaukee, at Utah, at Golden State (without Stephon Curry) and at Sacramento. While the Utah win is impressive, especially after blowing that huge lead against them earlier in the year, and the Cleveland win was "important" from a confidence standpoint, the other wins don't really jump off the page. With a struggling Hornets team and the Cavaliers coming up on the schedule, it's quite likely that this streak hits 10 games before the Heat head up to Madison Square Garden to take on Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks on Friday in a big Eastern Conference Showdown. How they play in that game, then on December 20th at home against the Mavs and finally on Christmas Day in LA against the Lakers will really allow us to see where they're at. For now though, they're definitely gaining confidence, and that's a scary thing for the rest of the league.


On a play that ended up not even counting, Sam Bradford made a play that will make quarterbacks (and coaches) all over the country, heck the WORLD, proud against New Orleans today. When Steven Jackson appeared to fumble at the 1 and the ball was swooped up by Defensive Back Roman Harper, it appeared to be 6 points for New Orleans. But Sam Bradford chased him down and forced him out of bounds 80-some-odd yards later. To be clear, Sam Bradford is not Michael Vick. But nonetheless, he chased down a cornerback. Heck of a play. Jackson ended up being ruled down and Bradford would take it in from the 1 on the next play. The best part about this play is that this wasn't a play to save the game, this was a play in a blowout. New Orleans led 31-6 at this point, but Bradford never gave up on the play and that says a ton about the kind of player and leader he is. The Rams are in good hands moving forward.

Sam Bradford Chases Down Roman Harper


With the additions of Carl Crawford ($142M/7yrs) and Adrian Gonzalez (similar deal likely to follow), the Boston Red Sox are putting pressure on the New York Yankees to make a move. The logical one, seeing the two big lefty bats  just added to Boston's lineup, would be to do whatever it takes for them to get free agent lefty Cliff Lee. But should he decide to stay in Texas or sign elsewhere, what do the Yankees do then? Keep an eye on this storyline in the coming weeks. You know one or the other, the Yankees aren't going to go quietly.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bad Luck for the Black Knights

The story of this game changed on one play at the end of the second quarter. The Black Knights had already cut into a 17-0 deficit and now trailed by just 10 at 17-7. After forcing their 3rd turnover of the half, they now had the ball 1st and Goal from the Navy 3 yard line with just a little over a minute to go in the half. Army Quarterback Trent Steelman took the ball on the keeper but was stripped by linebacker Jerry Hauburger and the fumble wound up in the arms of Safety Wyatt Middleton with nobody between him and the endzone. 98 yards later it’s 24-7. An unbelievable turn of events. At worst, Army was looking at a field goal and going into the half down 7 AND still getting the ball to start the second half. Instead, Navy gets the break and goes up 17 as they look to be well on their way to their 9th straight victory in this 111th meeting between the two service academies.

Will he be 'Werth' It?

Last weekend Jayson Werth and the Washinton Nationals made headlines when it was announced that Werth was signing for $126M over 7 years. That works out to $18M per year. While the 31 year-old outfielder has been strong in his past two years with the Phillies, it's a little hard to justify this contract in my mind. Werth has never driven in 100 runs in a season despite being in a loaded Philly lineup the last four years and he has hit over 30 homers in a season just once (36 in 2009). He's also a big risk to strike out tallying 1 every 3.46 at bats over his career. I'm not saying he's not a very good player. He led the National League in doubles last year with 46, and his OPS (On Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage) last season was over .900. During the 2009 postseason, Werth hit 7 homeruns in 15 games leading the Phillies to the World Series. He also has a pair of 20/20 seasons in 2008 and 2009. Still, I don't know how that equates to $18M a year. By comparison, here's how that $18M stacks up against some other outfielder's 2010 salaries:

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Matt Holliday - St. Louis Cardinals - $16.3M
Vernon Wells - Toronto Blue Jays -  $15.7M
Alfonso Soriano - Chicago Cubs - $19.0M
Carlos Lee - Houston Astros - $19.0M
Raul Ibanez - Philadelphia Phillies - $12.2M
Magglio Ordonez - Detroit Tigers - $17.8M

So it's not like there isn't a precedent for deals of this size. But Soriano and Lee had both done a lot more in their careers leading up to their megadeals, and neither one has really lived up to the money. Carlos Lee hit just .246 last year with 89 rbis and Soriano just .258 with 79 rbis and only 5 steals. With big contracts over long periods of time comes big risk. So while I applaud the Nationals for trying to make their team better, I really don't know if throwing over $100M at Jayson Werth is the right answer. Time will tell I guess.

Friday, December 10, 2010

1000 Wins for Karl

With the Denver Nuggets 123-116 win over the Toronto Raptors tonight, George Karl became the 7th coach in NBA history to notch his 1000th win. Currently in his 23rd year as a head coach, Karl is currently in riding a streak of of 3 straight 50-win seasons with the Nuggets. His best season as a coach was during the 1995-1996 campaign when he led the Seattle Supersonics to a 64-18 regular season record and made it all the way to the NBA Finals before falling to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Karl currently trails 3 active coaches, Jerry Sloan (Utah - 1207 Wins), Phil Jackson (Lakers - 1114 Wins) and Larry Brown (Charlotte - 1097 Wins). Don Nelson is the NBA's all time leader in wins with 1335. Lenny Wilkins (1332) and Pat Riley (1210) round out the top 7. Pretty good company for Karl to be in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Which Slumping Star Breaks out of his Funk Tonight?

Titans vs Colts. Just a few seasons ago this was a battle for first place in the AFC South. Tonight it's a struggle to avoid elimination from contention. The Titans (5-7) enter tonight's game losers of 5 straight, and the Colts (6-6) are losers of 3 in a row. While both sides have been bitten by the injury bug, their struggles can be traced to the struggles of some of their respective stars.

Peyton Manning- After throwing only 4 interceptions in his first 9 games, Manning has thrown 4 picks in EACH of his last two games and 11 interceptions in his last 3. To make matters worse, 4 of those were returned for touchdowns. Injuries have certainly hurt as Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie are all out of commission. The offensive line has struggled to protect him and the running game without Addai has done nothing to help him out. Will a struggling Titans squad be the cure to his bad recent performance?
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Chris Johnson- It's hard to say that Johnson is having an off year when he's already eclipsed 1000 yards with 4 games to go and has 9 touchdowns, but in his last two games he has just 58 rushing yards including an abyssmal 7 carries for 5 yards against the Houston Texans. Johnson's last touchdown came in week 10 against Miami. In the passing game, Johnson has two receptions of longer than 10 yards all season. For a team that is built around ball control, the Titans cannot win if Johnson does not perform.

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Randy Moss- I don't know if you can even call this guy a star right now. The Titans have not won a game since acquiring the talented wideout and Moss has just 5 catches in 4 games for a pedestrian 62 yards. Hardly what Jeff Fisher was hoping for when they picked him up. The Titans should get Kenny Britt back from a hamstring injury tonight so maybe that opens things up a little bit. Additionally the Colts have been hampered by injuries in their secondary, so maybe this is where Moss breaks out.

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Somebody has to win tonight, and logic would dictate that one of these three has to step up for that to happen.

Matt Cassel is out to make me look bad...

So yesterday Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel had his appendix removed. I can empathize with what he went through as I myself endured the same procedure this summer. In the midst of both recreational softball and soccer seasons, I was told by my doctor to lay low and take it easy for at least two weeks so I was shut down for a while. Matt Cassel? He's still listed as having a 50% chance of playing on SUNDAY. 3 days from now! I had mine removed early on a Sunday morning and I wasn't even released from the hospital for 48 hours. I don't know if this is just posturing on the part of the Kansas City Chiefs because they don't want to have to admit that they're headed into a big divisional showdown with the San Diego Chargers with Brodie Croyle under center or what- Croyle is 0-9 in his career as a starter by the way. But if Cassel really is able to play, damn. Thanks for making me look like a huge wuss. Jerk.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

End of an Era... Again... This Time for Real?

Urban Meyer will be stepping down as the coach of the Florida Gators after their bowl game. While Meyer made a similar announcement a year ago before later changing his mind, it appears that this is the real deal this time. Meyer, who has spent the last 6 seasons with the Gators has put together quite a resume in his decade of being a head coach. Starting with Bowling Green in 2001, Meyer never had a losing season and has averaged better than 10 wins a year with Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. Entering his final game he is 103-23, including 6-1 in Bowl Games. In his first year with Bowling Green he took a team that had been 2-9 in 2000 and turned in an 8-3 season. In 2004, he was part of the first non-BCS conference school to be awarded a BCS bowl when he took 11-0 Utah to the Fiesta Bowl where they didn't just show they belonged, but absolutely flattened Big East Conference Champion Pitt 35-7.  He boasts 2 national championships, 2 Mountain West Championships, 2 SEC Championships, and 3 SEC Eastern Division Titles, as well as a slough of Coach of the Year Awards inlcuding being both the Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News Coach of the Decade. Ironically, he'll end his coaching career coaching against Penn St. and Joe Paterno. While Meyer is stepping down after 10 years, Joe Paterno has been the head coach of Penn St. since 1966. To put that in perspective, Urban Meyer was born in 1964.

It's no doubt that Florida will miss him, but they'll recover. Before Meyer and Tebow there was Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerrffel. The Gators time will come again.

I'll leave you today with my introduction to Urban Meyer which came from Nike's Briscoe High Football commercials:


Opening Day

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Breaking Down the Heisman Candidates

3 quarterbacks and a running back will make up the pool of finalists for this year's Heisman Trophy: Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton, Oregon Running Back LaMichael James, Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck and Boise State Quarterback Kellen Moore.

The Case for Newton

Cam Newton is arguably the best player on the best team having lead the #1 ranked Tigers to a 13-0 mark and tallying 49 touchdowns- 28 passing, 20 rushing, and 1 receiving. Newton threw for 2589 yards and rushed for another 1409. In 6 different games he ran for over 150 yards including 217 yards against then undefeated LSU. In the SEC Championship game Newton completed 17 of 28 passes for a season high 335 yards and 4 Touchdowns while also running for a pair of scores.

Newton's 49 yarder against LSU

The Case for James

Oregon's dynamic playmaker ran for 1682 yards and 21 touchdowns in just 11 games. Suspended for the season opening 72-0 win against New Mexico, one can imagine how ridiculous his statistics could have been. James also caught 13 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. Nine times this season James eclipsed the 100 yard mark and 3 times he went over 200 yards. His best game of the season came against Stanford when he ran for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns. James had 8 games this season where he scored at least two touchdowns and his Ducks will now take on Auburn for the National Championship.

James wild 72 yarder versus Tennessee

The Case for Luck

Any other year, the 6'4" junior would be a favorite to win the award after throwing for 3051 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions. He also ran for 438 yards and 3 scores, including a pair of 50+ yarders. Luck threw 4 touchdowns in a game 3 times, 3 touchdowns 2 more times, and eclipsed 300 yards 3 times. Luck was a huge reason that Stanford was awarded a BCS bowl this year as they'll face off against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He also had this absolutely devastating tackle against USC.

Quarterback or Free Safety?

The Case for Moore

If Boise State had remained undefeated and somehow snuck into the National Championship game we'd probably be talking a lot more about Moore. The junior completed over 70% of his passes and went over 3500 yards on the year with 33 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. He threw for over 300 yards 4 times and threw at least 3 touchdowns 8 times. He also had a 507 yard game against Hawaii.

Moore vs Hawaii Highlights


This award has to go to Cam Newton. If it doesn't, then the Heisman voting process will look even worse than the BCS. What do you think?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are the Pats Playing the Winnipeg Jets?

4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and here we are. Patriots 31, Jets 3. Huh? Isn't this supposed to be a Patriots team that's last in every statistical category on defense? And isn't this a Jets team that prides itself on making life miserable for opposing offenses? Not so much today. Tom Brady has been able to do whatever he wants against Rex Ryan's squad and the Jets have just been a total comedy of errors. And as if to validate that statement, as I type this sentence Mark Sanchez just threw another interception. The Jets have missed a field goal, shanked a punt, missed tackles, blown coverages, dropped passes, made bad challenges, turned the ball over... You name it, they've found a way to screw it up. New England came into this game not just looking to avenge a 28-14 loss in New York earlier this year, but looking to make a big time statement. This is the best team in the AFC. And they're not looking at taking their foot off the gas in this one. The way the Jets look right now, they'll be lucky if this game doesn't end up 52-3.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

And His Hair was Perfect...

Big time players make big time plays. Down 10-6 against the Ravens with a little over 3 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, Troy Polamalu comes flying in untouched on the safety blitz and karate chops an unsuspecting Joe Flacco as he's getting ready to throw the ball down field. Fumble, Steelers recover, Pittsburgh ball inside the Baltimore 10. Three plays later, Roethlisberger hits Isaac Redman on a 9 yard touchdown pass, and that right there ends up being the difference in the ballgame. The win puts the Steelers in first place in the AFC North, one game ahead of the Ravens with three games to play.

Polamalu's Game Saving Play

Equally notable, in the battle of defensive stars with ridiculous commercials, Polamalu gets the edge over Ray Lewis. 13 tackles, 12 solo for Lewis, Polamalu only 5 tackles, 4 solo, but the huge sack fumble that turned the game.

Ray Lewis for Old Spice

Troy Polamalu for Head & Shoulders

Sunday Six Pack

Lots to write about today, so here it goes...


So Friday night Brian ‘Angryman’ Lied and I caught the Hornets – Knicks game up at the Hive. This was my second Hornets experience of the season having caught the Hornets upset win over the Miami Heat a couple of weeks ago. One key difference in this one though: No David West for the Hornets. With their leading scorer sidelined by a stomach virus we were instead treated to a heavy dose of Jason Smith and DJ Mbenga. While the two combined for 16 points and 8 rebounds, West’s presence was clearly missed. The Hornets managed to shoot just 43%, turned the ball over 19 times, and hit just 3 of 14 3’s. The Knicks meanwhile were paced by 34 points and 10 rebounds from Amare Stoudemire and had the inside-outside game working as 5 different players combined to knock down 13 3 pointers while winning the game 100-92.

Last time Angry and I took in a game was in 2004 up in Boston back when Ron Artest was still a Pacer. I want to say it was the game before the big melee in Detroit. This one went a lot better for us, as leading up to the last game we made one of the more epic beeramids you’ll ever see. As a result, our recollection of said basketball game was pretty hazy. This time we paced ourselves a little bit better and as a result it was a much more enjoyable experience. Also, yelling out MBENGA! any time anything cool happens was pretty awesome.


All is well in the universe again. Derek Jeter will still be a Yankee and with 2926 hits on the books, he’s likely to reach the 3000 hit milestone as a Yankee in 2011. As it should be. They probably overpaid him (rumored $51M for 3 years guaranteed), but let’s be honest here. The Yankees overpay a lot of people. That’s what they’ve done for years; essentially throw money at any problems they might have. But if you were going to throw too much money at someone, this was the guy you should do it to. The last Yankees opening day shortstop before Derek Jeter? In 2001, Jeter started the season on the DL and Luis Sojo got the call on Opening Day, but going back to the pre-Jeter era it was Tony Fernandez in 1995. That lineup also included Don Mattingly, Danny Tartabull, Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key.

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When the Astros traded Lance Berkman to the Yankees last year, while I wasn’t thrilled with it, I understood it was a necessary move. The Astros needed to rebuild, Lance was going to get a chance to play for a contender, and the fact that he was going to the American League made it a little bit more palatable. But now, Lance Berkman is coming back to the NL Central and teaming up with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday after signing a 1 yr $8M deal with St. Louis. FANTASTIC. Just what I really want to see, Lance Berkman in the opposing lineup for 15 games next year. I would be willing to wager that at least once, he's going to single-handedly win a game against the Astros next season.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Big Puma does in St. Louis because they already have a first baseman and I don’t think Albert Pujols is going anywhere. It sounds like Matt Holliday is willing to move from left to right though so Berkman could find himself out in the outfield again. There’s some question to whether he’ll be able to handle the position nowadays with his health problems in recent years, but let’s be honest. If Carlos Lee can be an every day leftfielder in the NL Central, I think the Puma can handle himself out there.

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The 5 BCS bowl matchups were set tonight and no surprise it's going to be Auburn and Oregon in the National Championship Game. TCU, Stanford, Arkansas and Ohio State picked up the 4 at large bids. The only team that doesn't appear to fit in is unranked Big East Champion Connecticut, but otherwise the top 8 teams in the BCS standings all qualified. Tough to really argue that they got it wrong this year. As much as I dislike the BCS, Oregon - Auburn is the right answer.

Here's how the BCS matchups breakdown:

National Championship - Auburn (13-0) vs Oregon (12-0)
Rose Bowl - TCU (12-0) vs Wisconsin (11-1)
Orange Bowl - Stanford (11-1) vs Virginia Tech (11-2)
Sugar Bowl - Ohio State (11-1) vs Arkansas (10-2)
Fiesta Bowl - Oklahoma (11-2) vs Connecticut (8-4)

And the rest of the bowls:

New Mexico Bowl - BYU vs UTEP
uDrove Humanitarian Bowl - Northern Illinois vs Fresno St.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Ohio vs Troy
Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl - Southern Miss vs Louisville
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl - Utah vs Boise St.
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl - Navy vs San Diego St.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl - Hawaii vs Tulsa
Little Caesars Bowl - Florida International vs Toledo
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl - Air Force vs Georgia Tech
Champs Sports Bowl - West Virginia vs NC State
Insight Bowl - Missouri vs Iowa
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - East Carolina vs Maryland
Texas Bowl - Illinois vs Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl - Oklahoma St. vs Arizona
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - Army vs SMU
New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Kansas St. vs Syracuse
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - North Carolina vs Tennessee
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl - Nebraska vs Washington
Meineke Car Care Bowl - South Florida vs Clemson
Hyundai Sun Bowl - Notre Dame vs Miami
AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Georgia vs UCF
Chick-fil-A Bowl - South Carolina vs Florida St.
TicketCity Bowl - Northwestern vs Texas Tech
Outback Bowl - Florida vs Penn St.
Capital One Bowl - Alabama vs Michigan St.
Gator Bowl - Mississippi St. vs Michigan Bowl - Middle Tennessee St. vs Miami (Ohio)
AT&T Cotton Bowl - LSU vs Texas A&M
BBVA Compass Bowl - Pitt vs Kentucky
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - Nevada vs Boston College

Anyone else think the names of some of these bowls are getting a little ridiculous?


Kyle Orton came into the day leading the NFL in passing yards. He was absolutely manhandled in Kansas City completing just 9 passes for 117 yards. Number two Phillip Rivers struggled against the Raiders and had his 4th straight sub-300 yard game finishing at 280 in a losing effort. Manning and Brees both eclipsed 300 yards, but Manning threw 4 more picks and 2 more pick sixes giving him 11 interceptions over the past 3 games. Still, his 365 yards put him in the lead with 3709. All 4 are off the pace now, with really just Manning, Rivers and Brees still in the hunt.

Peyton Manning - 3709 yards - Pace: 4945
Phillip Rivers - 3642 yards - Pace: 4856
Drew Brees - 3634 yards - Pace: 4845


Don’t look now but the NFC West has a pair of .500 teams! Seattle throttled the Carolina Panthers 31-14 and the Rams knocked off division rival Arizona 19-6 on the road. Next up for the Rams is a showdown with the Saints. The Rams played their former NFC West Rival tough last season losing just 28-23 despite being in the midst of a season where they only won one game and that was against the hapless Lions. Seattle heads to San Francisco to play the 49ers. In their meeting earlier in the season, Seattle dominated them in every aspect of the game and won 31-6. Could one of these NFC West teams end up over .500 next week?


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Thursday, December 2, 2010

How the West will be "Won"

With 5 games left in the regular season, all 4 teams in the NFC West currently have losing records with the 5-6 Rams and the 5-6 Seahawks leading the way. It's sparked an interesting discussion because at no time in the history of the National Football League has a team won it's division (and been guaranteed a playoff spot) with a losing record. The other 3 divisions boast a total of 7 teams that are at 7-4 or better. Two of them won't make the playoffs. Does a team with a losing record deserve to be there?

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The two worst NFL division winners are the 1985 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 San Diego Chargers, both of whom finished 8-8. The Browns, led by rookie Bernie Kosar and a pair of 1000 yard rushers in Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack actually led 21-3 in their playoff game against the Dolphins before choking away their lead (typical of the 80s Browns) and losing 24-21. The 2008 Chargers, who started the season at 4-8 before winning their last 4 games, actually won their first round game 23-17 over the 12-4 Colts in overtime on a Darren Sproles touchdown. They would lose in the next round to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

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So it's not as though the two teams that have "snuck" into the playoffs haven't been able to hold their own. And yes, in each of those years, an 11-5 team missed the playoffs, but consider this: no matter how you slice it, the teams with 3 best records in the conference are guaranteed to make the playoffs. The current set up is also such that no team can finish last in their division and make the playoffs. So now you have the 4 best non-last place teams guaranteed to grab one of the top six spots. Your other two teams make the playoffs because they either won their divisions or because they're the wild card teams. Is it a perfect system? No. As in the case of the 1985 Denver Broncos (back when only 5 teams made the playoffs) and the 2008 New England Patriots, you can have a really good season, but fall short. But the Broncos lost a pair of overtime games to the AFC West Division Winning Oakland Raiders and lost their division by 1 game. So they had their chances. The Patriots were tied for the 6th best conference record having all 5 of their losses come to AFC opponents (as a result they lost a tiebreaker for the AFC East Division Title with the Dolphins). Who were they tied with? The 8-8 Chargers.

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Bottom line, if they'd won more games, they wouldn't have had to worry about vying for a wild card spot. If you take away division winners getting automatic playoff berths, then why even have divisions? I suppose you could always take a page out of the English Premier League Playbook and have one division in each conference. The American Football Division and the National Football Division. Play every team in your league once. Top 6 teams go to the playoffs in each league. Then you have no issues with teams missing the playoffs when they shouldn't have. All your tiebreakers can be head to head too. You could even make it work on an 18 game schedule. Your 3 extra games could be against teams from the other league. Wow, I should be the commissioner.

This isn't exclusively a problem that the NFL is facing. Every major sport in the United States rewards the teams that win their respective divisions. Baseball almost had a sub .500 playoff team a few years ago when the 2005 San Diego Padres made the playoffs at 82-80. Still, boasting flame-throwing right-hander Jake Peavy and his 2.88 ERA, they were a trendy pick to upset the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. However, afer the fact it was revealed that Peavy had broken a rib when celebrating winning the division. So, after getting lit up in Game 1, it was announced that he was done for the year. The Padres went on to get swept 3 games to 0.

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College football and college basketball are the two best examples of sports that reward division/conference winners. In the BCS, six of the ten automatic bids are given to teams who win the BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 10). As of right now, 4-loss Connecticut, the favorite to win the Big East assuming they can beat South Florida gets a BCS bowl game. Even better, there's a scenario where 5-loss Pitt could win the Big East. 1-loss teams like Michigan St., Ohio St., and Stanford have no such guarantee. 2-loss LSU and 1-loss Boise St. aren't even in the conversation.

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Similarly, automatic bids to the NCAA Basketball Tournament are based on winning your conference tournament. As a result, teams with losing records can qualify over perhaps more deserving teams. In 2008 Coppin State made the tournament despite losing 20 games because they won the MEAC Tournament. Some other team with a winning record didn't get because Coppin St. did. Unfair? Perhaps.

Bottom line in my opinion, every team has a chance to qualify for the postseason in their respective sports. With wildcards and at-large berths built in to every league's playoff structure, there is leeway for the top teams that don't win their divisions/conferences, etc. Yes, there are going to be cases where teams come up on the short end of the stick, but ultimately every team controls their own destiny. You want to be guaranteed your spot in the postseason? Win. If it works out that you miss the playoffs because you're the 3rd best wildcard team, how much of a case did you really have in the first place? Sure it sucks that the 7-9 49ers could make the playoffs, but that's life. The very best teams will still make the postseason in every league and ultimately that's all that really matters.

Here's the schedules for the 4 NFC West teams over the rest of the way:


vs Carolina (1-10)
at San Francisco (4-7)
vs Atlanta (9-2)
at Tampa Bay (7-4)
vs St. Louis (5-6)

St. Louis

at Arizona (3-8)
at New Orleans (8-3)
vs Kansas City (7-4)
vs San Francisco (4-7)
at Seattle (5-6)

San Francisco:

at Green Bay (7-4)
vs Seattle (5-6)
at San Diego (6-5)
at St. Louis (5-6)
vs Arizona (3-8)


vs St. Louis (5-6)
vs Denver (3-8)
at Carolina (1-10)
vs Dallas (3-8)
at San Francisco (4-7)