Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekend Football Preview (11/30-12/2)

Greetings! Let's take a look at the football action that's on the way this weekend... as usual, it comes in chronological order...

  • 7:00 - MAC Championship Game - #21 N. Illinois vs. #17 Kent State (ESPN2) - This is actually not a bad game at all. Both teams are 11-1 and undefeated in the MAC, which is a perennially underrated  league. 
  • 8:00 - Pac-12 Championship Game - #16 UCLA vs. #8 Stanford (FOX) - I love Stanford in the game simply because they are better. They'll push around the Bruins on the line of scrimmage, and David Shaw is on the short list of guys I'd want coaching my college football team. 
  • Noon - #11 Oklahoma @ TCU (ESPN) - This is the least important game that I'll write about on Saturday, but it's something to watch in the early window. Oklahoma has to win here and hope for a Texas win over K-State to sneak into a BCS game, but winning at TCU is no small task.
  • 4:00 - SEC Championship Game - #3 Georgia vs. #2 Alabama (CBS) - Easily the biggest game on the slate all weekend, and the winner is playing Notre Dame for the title. When all else fails, I'll side with Nick Saban as a tie-breaker... but here, I don't even think it's a tie. Georgia is mega-talented, but Alabama is the better football team. They have the best O-line, better running backs, and, at worst, a slightly better defense. Give me the Tide. 
  • 8:00 - #18 Texas @ #6 K-State (ABC) - If the Wildcats win, they win the Big 12 and play in a BCS game. If they lose, the door is open for Oklahoma.
  • 8:00 - ACC Championship Game - #13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech (ESPN) - The fact that Georgia Tech is playing one game for a BCS bowl bid is laughable. Florida State is better by a mile and they should win, but if for some reason the Tech offense it going, you could see a 7-6 team in the Orange Bowl. 
  • 8:15 - Big 10 Championship Game - #12 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin (FOX) - This should be Nebraska vs. Ohio State with OSU playing for a national title berth, but instead, we get multi-loss Wisconsin! 
  • 1:00 - Seahawks @ Bears (FOX) - The best of the early slate IMO. This is the season for Seattle, and they absolutely have to have this game for their playoff chances. Chicago could be without Matt Forte, but the big match-up will be Cutler against two back-up CBs for Seattle. Advantage, Chicago. 
  • 1:00 - Vikings @ Packers (FOX) - Remember when I said this was it for Seattle? The same goes for Minnesota. At 6-5 in a rabidly tough division, they have to beat GB here, and they're likely playing without Percy Harvin on the road. I don't like their chances. 
  • 1:00 - Pats @ Dolphins (CBS) - I'm only writing about this game at all because New England historically struggles in Miami. That's it. 
  • 4:00 - Bucs @ Broncos (FOX) - This is a really nice game as Tampa is playing very well, and they really need this one to stay afloat in the Wild Card race. Denver is flying under the radar still, and I don't get it, but I like Peyton and the boys here. 
  • 4:25 - Steelers @ Ravens (CBS) - This is all about whether Ben plays. If he does, I think I actually like Pittsburgh, but if he doesn't, Baltimore should be a 2-touchdown favorite. That's how bad Charlie Batch is. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tommy Hanson/Jordan Walden Deal

Greetings! This gets its own post due to general busy times today...

Tommy Hanson is a member of the LA Angels. The former prized prospect of the Braves was shipped in a 1-for-1 deal for fire-throwing reliever Jordan Walden. My first inclination is one of sadness to see Tommy Hanson go, simply because I was all in on Hanson when he arrived in Atlanta from the minors. There was legitimate debate about who was the team's top prospect between him and Heyward (which seems funny now), and he had all the look of a #1 starter with top-end stuff matched with high-end velocity. Then, he posted a 2.89 ERA and a 2.6 Fangraphs WAR in just 21 starts as a rookie, and everything was looking up. That was followed up by two solid seasons with mid-3's ERAs and solid strikeout numbers, showing that, even though he may not have been a #1, he was definitely a #2-type pitcher... until 2012. In 2012, his velocity dipped to under 90 mph on his fastball, and when that happened, his ERA climbed to 4.48 with a FIP of 4.54. Things were even worse in the 2nd half of the season, as Hanson posted an ERA of 5.69 in 13 starts after the All-star break.

Is Tommy Hanson a lost cause? I'd actually say no. All indications are that his shoulder is a serious problem and the likely reason for the velocity decline (and the resulting decline in overall effectiveness). If it was miraculously fixed or Hanson was able to have surgery and give it time to fully recover, he could be a very good pitcher again. That said, he was due $4 million+ in arbitration this season, and on a team that already employs Tim Hudson, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Paul Maholm, Randall Delgado, and Brandon Beachy, that is simply too much money to be paying for the right to roster (and rehab) Tommy Hanson.

The Braves receive Jordan Walden in return, and he's also a really interesting case study. First off, Walden is making peanuts financially, so the Braves save a great deal of money. Secondly, Walden has a career FIP of 2.80 and a career ERA of 3.06 in 114.2 innings. In short, he's a very good relief pitcher who's value fell for no reason other than he lost his closer job to Ernesto Frieri. Walden has high-end stuff with a fastball in the upper 90's, and it's basically unfair to trot out him, Venters, and Kimbrel at the back-end of the bullpen.

Basically, this is a steal for Atlanta. There was a real possibility of a straight give-away for Hanson (or at least we thought), so to get a real piece who is young and has upside is tremendous. This paves the way for a potential trade of Eric O'Flaherty (outlined here by Ben Duronio of Capitol Avenue Club) and a potential even cheaper bullpen than last year.

All hail Frank Wren... but I also wish the best for Tommy Hanson and if he's healthy at all, this is a nice haul for the Angels.

11/29: BJ Upton (!!!) and More...

Greetings! You know what the lead story is...
  • BJ Upton is an Atlanta Brave. 5 years and $75 million is the cost of the deal, and Atlanta has a 28-year-old center fielder. Overall, this is a win for both sides. $15 million a year is probably a slight overpayment, but if you take a look at previous numbers combined with age, Upton could also be a decent value. He's coming off a "bad" season where he posted only a .298 OBP (by far the worst of his career), but he managed to hit a career-high 28 homers and steal 31 bases which helped to hold his value with a 3.3 FanGraphs WAR. There are concerns about his plate discipline that are 100% based on last year's season, but there's also reason to believe that the norm for Upton is somewhere in the .320 OBP range, and that's more than acceptable given his premium position, defense, and power. In addition, a lot has been made of Upton's penchant for striking out, as he has K'd 150+ times for four straight years, but it's almost as if people have forgotten that Michael Bourn struck out 155 times last year. This isn't a worry when you factor in that a) he isn't a leadoff hitter, and b) he has power. The best part about this signing is that Atlanta has locked up Upton for his peak seasons between ages 28 and 32, which should assure that he's capable of playing above-average defense in CF for the entirety of the deal and that there's a small sliver of hope that he could actually be better in Atlanta than he was in Tampa with ballpark factors and bounce-back potential in his ability to get on-base. One final note surrounds Upton's durability. Something like "playing in all of your team's games" gets overlooked.... until you have someone that doesn't.... but Upton has played in 145+ games in 5 straight seasons, and that helps with "safety" concerns. Basically, I wish Atlanta could've gotten him for $60-65 million as I had opined for previously, but this isn't a disastrously huge contract, and I think Upton fits nicely next to Jason Heyward in the outfield for the next 5 years. 
On to everything else... 
  • Louisville is headed to the ACC for 2014 in a move made to replace newly-departed Maryland. My question is: did the ACC actually make out better here? I absolutely disdain all of the conference alignments at this point, but given that they aren't going away, isn't Louisville a better commodity in basketball and football than Maryland? Strong by the ACC, who now has a 3rd basketball power to go with UNC and Duke, as well as the current "best in the Big East" football program. 
  • NBA Roundup - The Atlanta Hawks won their 6th straight decision over the Bobcats in Philips Arena last night. The result was too close for comfort (94-91) but it's another win. Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Lou Williams had 17 a piece in the victory. Washington got a win! The Wiz beat the struggling Blazers 84-82, and that's all you need to know. There was a massive fight in the Celtics/Nets game that saw Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries go at it. There will be a suspension coming for Rondo and Boston lost the game 95-83. Double whammy. And finally, OKC spoiled the return of James Harden with a 120-98 domination of Houston. Harden struggled mightily, shooting just 3 of 19, but the story was Kevin Durant and his 37 points on 13 of 22 shooting. 
  • College Hoops! - Duke got the headline victory of the night over Ohio State by a 73-68 tally. After trailing by 8 at the half, the Blue Devils blitzed OSU in the 2nd frame, scoring 50 points and seizing the victory. Also, OSU was held to just 34% shooting on the night, and Mason Plumlee was easily the player of the game with 21 points and 17 boards for Duke. For reference, Duke has now beaten the #2 (Louisville), #3 (Kentucky), and #4 (OSU) teams in the country when they played them, and have the best resume in the country. Elsewhere, Michigan State was upset down in Miami as they fell 67-59 to the Canes and Illinois held serve 75-62 over a game Georgia Tech squad by making 14 of 28 threes in the contest. To recap, the ACC/Big 10 challenge.... It split itself 6-6. Good job, good effort. 
  • Is Aroldis Chapman headed to the rotation for the Reds? It looks that way after Cincy signed Jonathan Broxton for 3 years and $21 million. It was inevitable that they would move Chapman to the rotation simply because the value is so much greater in that spot, and that's the right move. However, signing the mediocre Broxton to a 3-year contract at big money? That's an awful move that I'm sure Dusty Baker was the influence on. Good luck with that.
What to watch for on Thursday (in chronological order)...
  • 7:00 - NCAAB - #8 Kentucky @ Notre Dame (ESPN2) - Gotta love the blatant rip-off that is the SEC/Big East challenge! Anyway, this is a nice game as the very, very young Kentucky squad has to go on the road here. 
  • 7:30 - NCAAF - Louisville @ Rutgers (ESPN) - This is the de facto Big East championship game for a spot in the BCS. Therefore, it actually matters.
  • 8:00 - NBA - Spurs @ Heat (TNT) - This is the best game of the NBA season so far and I mean that. A potential Finals preview (the one I picked, in fact) and a battle of 12-3 vs. 10-3 in the record book. It's a must-see and it's really a shame to be going against the best Thursday Night NFL game of the year. 
  • 8:20 - NFL - Saints @ Falcons (NFL Network) - The aforementioned best of the NFL's Thursday night slate so far, and it happens to be in my backyard. New Orleans has absolutely owned the Falcons, even during the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan resurgence, but I like Atlanta in the game at home. Will be toggling back and forth with Spurs/Heat all night, but this is the main focus in the ATL.
  • 9:00 - NCAAB - Marquette @ #7 Florida (ESPN2) - This is the better game of the two because a) Marquette is better than Notre Dame, and b) I actually think Florida is the favorite in the SEC. 
  • 10:30 - NBA - Nuggets @ Warriors (TNT) - Fast-paced and a million points here. Perfect late game for entertainment purposes. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11/28: Indiana, Ruiz, etc.

Greetings! This will be a quick one so don't blink...

  • College hoops! #1 Indiana absolutely blasted UNC 83-59 in Bloomington last night. Cody Zeller (the preseason POY) had 20 points and 8 boards for the Hoosiers as they went on a massive run to end the 1st half and start the 2nd. It's too early to bury UNC, but it was a nice win for Indiana. Elsewhere, #3 Michigan moved to 6-0 with a home win over #18 NC State. Trey Burke led the way for Big Blue with 18 points and 11 assists. I love living in a world where UM hoops is a power.
  • NBA! Kobe Bryant scored 40 points against the Pacers last night... unfortunately, the rest of the Lakers only scored 33 points combined, and LA fell 79-77 at home. Horrible games from Gasol (2-9), Jamison (1-7), Metta (1-8) and Darius Morris (0-6) did in the Lakers. Kevin Love led Minnesota to a win in Sacramento with a 23-point/24-rebound performance. And Houston beat Toronto 117-101 behind James Harden who had 24 points and 12 assists, while Omer Asik added 18 boards for the Rockets. 
  • Phillies C Carlos Ruiz was suspended 25 games for amphetamine use yesterday. This is the first 25-game suspension I can recall, and one to watch for for a bad Phillies offense going into next year. 
What to watch for on Wednesday...
  • 7:30 - NBA - Bobcats @ Hawks (SportSouth) - The Bobcats lost by a million on Monday night, and now they come to Philips Arena to take on a superior Hawks team. Best of luck. 
  • 7:30 - NCAAB - #13 Michigan State @ Miami (ESPN) - Tom Izzo!
  • 8:00 - NBA - Rockets @ Thunder (NBA-TV) - James Harden returns to OKC. Insert storyline here. 
  • 9:00 - NCAAB - Georgia Tech @ #22 Illinois (ESPN2) - Tech is showing signs of life under Brian Gregory but this is a tough spot in Champaign. I think Illinois cruises. 
  • 9:30 - NCAAB - #4 Ohio St. @ #2 Duke (ESPN) - Easily the game of the day pitting two top-5 perennial powers against each other. Duke has so much experience/talent returning this year that they're a legit national title contender. Ohio State brings back Craft and Thomas along with a youth invasion, and that's also a team to watch. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

11/27: Longoria, NY Hoops, etc.

  • Evan Longoria and the Rays are stuck with each other for a long time. The all-world third baseman (who can't stay on field, but that's for another day) inked a $100 million contract over 6 years that will keep him with Tampa through 2022. That's not a misprint. 2022. He already signed what some people have called "the most team-friendly deal in history" coming out of triple-A, but this one will likely end up more on his side as he's making $22 million at age 37. Either way, Tampa's best hitter isn't going anywhere. 
  • Monday Night Football wasn't exactly a good match-up last night. The previously 2-8 Panthers up-ended the previously 3-7 Eagles by a score of 30-22. Cam Newton was the best player on the field, scoring 4 touchdowns (2 pass, 2 run) and that was really the story. On the Philly side, the bright spot was certainly the work of backup RB Bryce Brown, who got the start in place of the injured Shady McCoy and ran the ball 19 times for 178 yards and 2 scores. Impressive. 
  • In the Association last night, the Battle of New York led the way. Brooklyn outlasted the Knicks 96-89 in overtime in a make-up of the previously scheduled season-opener. Brook Lopez led the Nets in scoring with 22 points while adding 11 rebounds, and Deron Williams put up a 16-point/14-dime effort in support. On the New York side, it was a tail of Raymond Felton's poor shooting as he shot 3-19 including a stretch where he took 5 shots in 7 possessions in the 4th quarter as the lead slipped away. Carmelo Anthony was superb with 35 points and 13 rebounds, and Tyson Chandler had his best offensive game of the year with 28 points (on 12-13 FG) and 10 boards. It simply wasn't enough. 
  • Elsewhere in the league: San Antonio obliterated the now 0-12 Wizards 118-92. No one played more than 26 minutes for the Spurs and the game wasn't this close. Milwaukee rallied from a 27-point deficit to get a 93-92 road win in Chicago. This was a non-typical Bulls effort in that they got blitzed 30-12 in the 4th quarter with porous defense. Utah went to 6-0 at home with a 105-103 win over a game Nuggets team. Al Jefferson led the game in scoring with 28, but Derrick Favors' 19 points and 7 boards in 24 minutes off the bench keyed the win for the Jazz. And finally (and most hilariously), the Thunder/Bobcats game last night was an absolute massacre. OKC led 64-24 at the half, and 79-25 early in the 3rd quarter before taking their foot off of the gas. Neither of those scores are misprints and things were as ugly as humanly possible for Charlotte. The Bobcats shot 22% in the 1st half and 29% for the game, while allowing OKC (typically a one-on-one type of offensive team) to assist on 31 of 40 field goals. I could list stats for days on this one, but just know that it was as bad as it sounds. 
What to watch for on Tuesday (in chronological order)...
  • 7:00 - NBA - Mavericks @ Sixers (NBA-TV) - Dallas is playing without Dirk, Philly may be without Andrew Bynum indefinitely (insert laughter here)... Must-see TV!
  • 7:30 - NCAAB - #18 NC State @ #3 Michigan (ESPN) - The ACC/Big 10 challenge is here and the match-ups are awesome this year. This is the opener for ESPN and Michigan is a legitimate national title threat for the first time in 20 years. I'm not giddy at all. 
  • 9:30 - NCAAB - #14 North Carolina @ #1 Indiana (ESPN) - Two of the most storied programs ever and one of them is #1 in the country. The difference this year is that its Indiana. Cody Zeller is the real deal. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

11/26: Turkey Weekend Football Wrap

Greetings! Let's get right to it...


  • Notre Dame will meet the winner of Georgia/Alabama for the national title. The Irish squeaked out a 22-13 win over USC in LA on Saturday thanks to Matt Barkley's absence, and some stout defense. The most hilarious decision of the day for me was Lane Kiffin going for it on 4th-and-goal down two scores with 3 minutes to play. Hey Lane, kick the field goal! In the other side of the national title match-up, both Georgia and Alabama absolutely housed their in-state rivals. Neither game was at any point competitive, and both sides are gearing up for next week's showdown. 
  • Ohio State finished the season undefeated and untied. A 26-21 win over Michigan ended their "magical" probation season at 12-0 and they did so in pretty strong fashion. I thought the work of Al Borges was the undoing for Michigan, as he refused to let Denard Robinson attempt even one pass on the day, allowing OSU to stack the box with 9 and 10 guys on every 2nd-half snap, and he continued to hand the ball to the stable of bad running backs instead of deploying Gardner and Robinson together. I'm not really ready to talk about this yet. 
  • Florida scored 24 4th-quarter points to up-end Florida State 37-26 in the other big game of the day. The Gators were still actively playing for a national title shot as of kick-off, but the Notre Dame win shut them out. At any rate, it was an impressive burst late for them, and that's a young team who will be a title favorite next year. 
  • Oregon housed Oregon State 48-24 on the road in the Civil War. This is a wildly impressive win as the Beavers are a good football team, but Oregon is the 2nd best team in the country for me, even if they could never be ranked as such. 
  • Elsewhere! Nebraska eeked past Iowa on Friday to hold off Michigan in the race to the Big 10 Title game. Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma in Bedlam by a crazy 51-48 OT margin. That may have been the best game of the day. Stanford won the Pac-12 North by beating UCLA 35-17... only to set-up a rematch of the same game on Friday of next week for the Pac-12 title. And finally, South Carolina went to Clemson and knocked off the Tigers 27-17 behind 310 yards and 3 TDs from backup QB Dylan Thompson. 
  • It's far too late to review games from Thanksgiving but I'll say this: the rule governing the challenge in the Texans/Lions game may be the worst rule in pro sports. Isn't the point of replay to get the call right?
  • The Falcons snuck out of Tampa with a 24-23 win over the Bucs yesterday. Matt Ryan threw for 353 yards and led the Falcons on the game-winning 4th quarter drive to seal it. This was the most impressive win for Atlanta in a while, and they now are in full control of the NFC South.
  • Jay Cutler returned and led Chicago to a 28-10 win over Minnesota. Matt Forte left the game with injury for Chicago and that's a big concern, but Michael Bush stepped in, and the defense really led the way to the victory by holding Minny down all day. 
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers turned the ball over eight times yesterday. No surprise, they lost that football game. Charlie Batch threw 3 picks, and their skill guys combined for 5 fumbles in the 20-14 loss. The hilarious part is that they were in the game to the very end even with this performance. Paging Ben Roethlisberger...
  • Andy Luck and the Colts are 7-4... Just thought I'd point that out...
  • Ray Rice converted a 4th-and-29 scramble to keep the game-tying drive alive for Baltimore, and the Ravens won the game in overtime in San Diego. What a ridiculous play by an elite player, and the Ravens simply won't die. 
  • Colin Kaepernick! Jim Harbaugh elected to go with the young QB over Alex Smith in this one and it paid off with a 31-21 road win over New Orleans. Kaepernick went 16-25 for 231 yards and a TD with only 1 INT, and he also added 27 yards on the ground. It was a very efficient game, and he let the defense do the work for SF as they returned 2 Drew Brees INT's for touchdowns. 
  • And finally, the Giants blitzed the Packers 38-10 last night. It was an utterly dominant performance from the start, and after Aaron Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a 61-yard TD pass in the 1st quarter, the Packers offense fell silent. Eli threw for 249 yards and 3 TDs with Andre Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw adding one TD each in the victory. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Beat Ohio.

Greetings, everyone! It's a great day to Beat Ohio. I won't subject you to a massive preview post (see this effort from Brian over at MgoBlog if you desire one:, but I'll give you a couple of points to watch.

  • Where is Denard? Is he going to play running back? Any QB? WR? I have no idea, and neither do you, but the more he's out there, the better. 
  • Michigan's running backs are a disaster, and this is a game where Al Borges needs to pull out the stops and let Devin Gardner/Denard run the ball.
  • Stop Braxton Miller. Stop him.
Prediction? I'm taking Ohio State 27-23, but I don't like it. 

Beat the Buckeyes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend Viewing Guide!

Greetings everyone! Thanksgiving weekend is famous for food and fellowship, but in this space, our focus is on the sports and football rules the day around this point in the calendar. Let's take a look at all the action day-by-day so that you can infuriate your wives/girlfriends/family by having a minute-by-minute schedule for viewing!

  • 12:30 - NFL - Texans @ Lions (CBS) - Houston is coming off of a lackluster performance against Jacksonville (before coming back late and winning), and on the road after a short week. That said, Detroit's defense is simply not very good, and this Matthew Stafford isn't the same guy as last year. I like Houston.
  • 4:25 - NFL - Redskins @ Cowboys (FOX) - I frankly have no idea here. RGIII was crazily impressive last week, but now is on the road (on a short week, again) against an elite secondary. On the Dallas side, Tony Romo is undefeated as the Cowboys starter on Thanksgiving, but... he's Tony Romo. Gun to my head, I'd take Dallas.
  • 7:30 - NCAAF - TCU @ #16 Texas (ESPN) - College football! Not the most impressive game, but an in-state battle among two pretty solid teams. 
  • 8:20 - NFL - Patriots @ Jets (NBC) - Tom Brady is going to do as he pleases here. New York's offense is absolutely putrid and this is one of the only rosters not capable of exposing the awful Pats secondary.
  • 9:00 - NCAAB - Clemson @ #17 Gonzaga (ESPN2) - Hoops! I'm all-in on Gonzaga this year, and this is a nice look at them. Keep an eye on Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, one of the best backcourts in the country.
  • Noon - NCAAF - #14 Nebraska @ Iowa (ABC) - Iowa is flat-out bad, but if you're opposed to family time, this game is on.
  • 2:30 - NCAAF - #7 LSU @ Arkansas (CBS) - Remember what I said about Iowa? Arkansas is worse. And LSU is better than Nebraska. On the bright side, this game has thrown the public for a loop a few times in recent years.
  • 4:30 - NCAAB - Kansas State @ #4 Michigan (ESPN) - Trey Burke! I'm obviously a homer, but this Michigan team is mega-talented.
  • 7:00 - NBA - Hawks @ Bobcats (SportSouth) - Atlanta has won their last 2 games, but played awful in each. A similar performance on the road here probably gets them beat, even by Charlotte.
  • 7:30 - NBA - Thunder @ Celtics (NBA-TV) - OKC is still getting their new-look backcourt sorted out without Harden, and Boston is still trying to figure out why they gave Jeff Green that much money (at least I think they should be). 
  • 10:00 - NCAAF - Arizona State @ #24 Arizona (ESPN) - Pac-12 Football. Points and more points.
  • 10:00 - NCAAB - Creighton vs. #24 Wisconsin (ESPN2) - Underrated hoops game, and probably the better viewing option of the two 10:00 spots.
  • Noon - NCAAF - #19 Michigan @ Ohio State (ABC) - The game of all games. Ohio State obviously would be ranked, as one of only two undefeateds in the country, so don't let that fool you. Michigan's Denard Robinson is banged up, hasn't played QB in two weeks, and is questionable (at least as a QB) here, while Devin Gardner has played well in his stead. The story of the season for OSU is the play of Braxton Miller, who would be getting more Heisman buzz if they weren't on probation. The team from Ohio is certainly the favorite here, but as we all should know by now, everything's in play here. 
  • Noon - NCAAF - Georgia Tech @ #3 Georgia (ESPN) - Georgia Tech's defense stinks out loud. Georgia is only in trouble here if they are looking ahead to Alabama and/or if Aaron Murray blows up a la the Florida game. 
  • 3:00 - NCAAF - #5 Oregon @ #15 Oregon State (Pac-12 Network) - Most people don't have this channel, but they should. Unfortunately for Oregon, Stanford controls their destiny, and this game is probably for nothing more than pride as far as the Pac-12 standings. That said, Oregon has a ton on the line here as a back-door National Title shot looms.
  • 3:30 - NCAAF - #4 Florida @ #10 Florida State (ABC) - Great, great game. Florida somehow has the inside track to the national title game should Notre Dame fall, simply because they have a great computer ranking. The only thing that stands in their way is a top-10 FSU team on the road. Should be a fun one.
  • 3:30 - NCAAF - #21 Oklahoma State @ #13 Oklahoma (ESPN) - Bedlam!
  • 3:30 - NCAAF - Auburn @ #2 Alabama (CBS) - Auburn is atrocious this year. The only reason this game is semi-watchable is because the Iron Bowl is the 2nd best rivalry in college football (scroll up for the 1st)
  • 6:30 - NCAAF - #8 Stanford @ #17 UCLA (FOX) - Stanford is playing for a spot in the Pac-12 title game. UCLA is coming off an impressive win over USC. 
  • 7:00 - NCAAF - #12 South Carolina @ #11 Clemson (ESPN) - This is always a crazy game, even if it means nothing in the conference races. Expect fireworks.
  • 7:00 - NBA - Clippers @ Hawks (SportSouth) - Chris Paul at the Highlight Factory. LA is playing out of their minds so far this season, so this is a nice test for Atlanta on a back-to-back. 
  • 8:00 - NCAAF - #1 Notre Dame @ USC (ABC) - This game is everything for Notre Dame. USC is playing without Matt Barkley, but the freshman QB seems to have confidence, and they're playing at home on the fast track. If there's a weakness in the ND defense, it's the secondary, and if USC can get the ball to their two all-world receivers, they have a chance. 
  • 10:00 - NBA - Jazz @ Kings (NBA-TV) - Utah's front-line against Cousins, Robinson, and Thompson. At least there's hoops on.
  • 1:00 - NFL - Falcons @ Bucs (FOX) - Tampa is scorching hot, and Atlanta hasn't played well in three weeks. The world is on Tampa here, but I actually think the Birds show up in a big way here.
  • 1:00 - NFL - Vikings @ Bears (FOX) - Jay Cutler is questionable. Percy Harvin is questionable. Was Chicago exposed last week?
  • 1:00 - NFL - Bills @ Colts (CBS) - Andy Luck!
  • 4:25 - NFL - 49ers @ Saints (FOX) - If Colin Kaepernick can do that against Chicago, what is he going to do against the putrid Saints defense? I'm not convinced that Harbaugh won't pull a 180 and go with Smith, but I'm really, really interested. 
  • 4:25 - NFL - Ravens @ Chargers (CBS) - I think the downfall of Philip Rivers has actually been under-reported. He's been an absolute train wreck this season. Take the Ravens.
  • 8:20 - NFL - Packers @ Giants (NBC) - Probably the best game of the day. I think Green Bay is the better team actually, but we all know that this game is all about how Eli performs. NY is as good as he is. 
  • 10:00 - NCAAB - #25 San Diego State @ USC (FSN) - Really solid late-night hoops. I love San Diego State (this year and always), and west coast hoops are fun. 
Enjoy it, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

11/19: Everything!

Greetings everyone... My apologies for yesterday (re: migraines) and let's get it going!
  • College Football Notes - K-State and Oregon both fell over the weekend. I wasn't shocked by either one, as Baylor's offense is prolific and Stanford is a legitimate opponent. That said, the focus now shifts to Notre Dame as they take on USC this weekend in the coliseum. Matt Barkley is out for USC, however, so any visions of Irish-haters that saw ND taking a loss take a big hit. The new "opponent" for Notre Dame? The winner of Georgia-Alabama in the SEC Title Game as long as both teams take care of their in-state rivals. 
  • NFL Notes - New England's offense is incredible. 59 points is 59 points. One note is that Rob Gronkowski broke his arm and will miss a month. Does that hurt this juggernaut? The Falcons won... despite a 5-INT disaster of a performance from Matt Ryan. The lesson as always is that Arizona's offense is laughable. Robert Griffin III went 14-15 for 4 TDs, and tied Steve Young's NFL record for completion percentage. He's good. And finally, Baltimore squeaked out a win over the Leftwich-led Steelers. It was a typical bloodbath in this series. Moving on.
  • Maryland and Rutgers are reportedly joining the Big 10. I personally hate this as a Big 10 guy, simply because the "markets" they are acquiring are more fictional in nature than anything, and both Maryland programs (basketball and football) are in the tank compared to normal levels. I actually think Rutgers may be the better get here, but any "conference" affiliations that everyone grew up with are virtually gone at this point.
  • Monday Night Football was basically the Colin Kaepernick show last night. The rookie QB led San Fran to a 32-7 drubbing of the previously dominant Bears defense, and posted a QBR of 97.5, which was the best by a rookie in his debut ever. I don't think it's too much of an indictment of Chicago, but they do look like a lost team with Jason Campbell at the helm. The biggest question coming out of this one? Who is the San Francisco's QB?
  • The Hawks beat the Magic 81-72 last night. I have a few sorted thoughts, but I'm trying not to go into crazy depth. First, I've never seen Josh Smith play a worse 6 minutes of basketball than he did to open the game. 0-3 FG, 0-2 FT (including a ghastly airball) and 2 turnovers in the frame, and it looked even worse. Orlando's offense is historically bad, and they don't have a single guy who can create his own shot effectively. And finally, Al Horford is the best player on the Atlanta Hawks. Done and done. 
  • NBA Round-up - David West put up 30 points and 8 rebounds to lead the offensively-challenged Pacers to a win over hapless (0-9) Washington. Indy is still 5-7, but wins over Washington aren't too exciting. I may have to eat some crow over Charlotte at some point... I bashed them continuously in the preseason, but after a 5-4 start and another win over Milwaukee, I'm starting to think they aren't as dreadful as it seems. The key? They are playing hard. And finally, the Clippers went on the road and toppled San Antonio 92-87. It may be a match-up thing for LAC, but this is their 2nd win over SA and they've looked good doing it. Chris Paul led the way with 19 and 8. 
What to watch for on Tuesday...
  • 8:00 - Boise State @ #21 Michigan State - BTN - Bad college hoops!
  • 10:30 - Nets @ Lakers - NBA-TV - Brooklyn is 6-2 despite being underwhelming at times. I'm interested to see how Brook Lopez holds his own against that massive LA front-court. 
Enjoy, even on a slow night!

Monday, November 19, 2012


The #1 and #2 teams in college football fell. There was some really interesting NBA action. It was yet another wild NFL Sunday.

And I have migraines.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the reemergence.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekend Football Preview - 11/17-11/18

Greetings! Let's preview the gridiron action from the upcoming weekend. As a new wrinkle, we'll take everything in purely chronological order as sort of a viewing guide...

  • Noon - #10 FSU @ Maryland - ESPNU - Yes, you read that correctly. This is the worst early slate of games of the entire year, and I wouldn't watch this game, but since it's the "best" of it, I'll recommend it. Both top teams that play in this time slot (Georgia and Alabama) are playing no one as UGA plays 1-AA Georgia Southern, and Bama takes on the 1-9 Western Carolina squad. Yikes. At least we can watch a converted linebacker play QB for Maryland.
  • 3:05 - #18 USC @ #17 UCLA - I think I'm the only one that still believes that USC is good. I also don't trust UCLA ever. Give me the Trojans and Matt Barkley throws for 500 yards here.
  • 3:30 - Wake Forest @ #3 Notre Dame - Wake isn't great (5-5), but Notre Dame's offense allows people to stick around, so they are an every-week threat to lose. 
  • 3:30 - Ole Miss @ #7 LSU - Ole Miss is better than you think, and this is an old-time rivalry. LSU should win going away, but worth a look. 
  • 3:30 - #23 Texas Tech @ #24 Oklahoma State - The Vegas over/under on this game is 72 and both teams are ranked. Offense!
  • 7:00 - #12 Oklahoma @ West Virginia - Remember when West Virginia was a fringe national title contender and Geno Smith was the Heisman favorite? Well, the wheels are off, but there's no questioning the fact that they could beat Oklahoma if that offense is clicking. WV stands in the way of a potential BCS At-large for Oklahoma.
  • 8:00 - #1 Kansas State @ Baylor - The second-best chance for an unbeaten to lose this week.... but that isn't saying much. Baylor is 4-5 and kind of a mess, but at least the game is on the road for KSU. 
  • 8:00 - #13 Stanford @ #2 Oregon - By far the game of the day, and the best chance for an unbeaten to lose. The Oregon offense is an absolute juggernaut, so look for Stanford to try to take the air out of the ball (figuratively, not literally for you Lane Kiffin fans) with the run game. Marcus Mariota has been out-of-this-world good recently, and that should continue here. I think Oregon wins the game, but Stanford is well-coached and if they can run that ball-control offense, and not settle for field goals (ever), they have a chance.
  • 1:00 - Cardinals @ Falcons - FOX - Atlanta is fresh off of a loss for the first time this season, and I expect a solid, angry effort from the dirty birds. Lots of Matt Ryan. Lots of Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez (with Julio if he's out there). And a defense playing angry after getting carved up by Brees and company. Falcons 34, Cardinals 14.
  • 1:00 - Packers @ Lions - FOX (except in Atlanta) - Detroit is all but dead, but a win here over Green Bay could spark some life. I'm firmly in the camp of thinking that Green Bay is still a very dangerous contender, and I think they can take advantage of a porous Detroit defense and get a win.
  • 4:25 - Colts @ Patriots - CBS - Renewing an old rivalry with a new face. I'm all-in on the Andrew Luck era... but Tom Brady still exists, and that's my guy to the end. If this game was in Indy, I'd give them more of a chance here, but I think the Pats offense is too good, and they'll hold serve. Luck is going to throw for 300+ against that awful Pats secondary, but it won't be enough.
  • 8:20 - Ravens @ Steelers - NBC - The best rivalry in the NFL today. This one is taking a hit with the absence of Ben Roethlisberger, but it's still compelling. I'm giving the Steelers a chance because a) I'm a Byron Leftwich homer, b) the game is in Pittsburgh, and c) Joe Flacco and Cam Cameron are involved. The first two are self-explanatory, but don't rule out the epic Joe Flacco disaster game coupled with Cameron's seeming unwillingness to give his best player (Ray Rice) the ball. Baltimore should still win this game in the absence of Ben, but it's a must-watch. 
Enjoy the slate!

11/16: MLB Awards, etc.

Greetings all! My apologies for the missed day yesterday, as I spent my writing time publishing the Hawks/Warriors recap after a late night/West Coast game. Let's go!
  • The MLB MVP awards were handed out on Thursday. Miguel Cabrera took the AL award despite every possible advanced metric pointing to Mike Trout. Cabrera is better at exactly one thing than Trout (hitting for power), but we'll ignore his terrible defense (and Trout's subsequent elite defense), and bad base-running (ditto for Trout's excellence) in favor of the "Detroit made the playoffs!!" and "Triple Crown!!" narratives. For reference, LA had more wins than Detroit despite not "making the playoffs" and the triple crown includes RBI's, which are a fairly meaningless stat. Cheers! In the NL, Buster Posey won a wide-open race. I have no issue with Posey winning the award at all. I would've gone with Ryan Braun (as my awards post in October suggests) because he had better numbers and the "good team!" narrative kills me at this point. That said, Posey was very deserving and anytime you can produce elite offensive numbers at catcher, it's like stealing.
  • Speaking of MLB awards, Cy Youngs were given out on Wednesday, and not without controversy. R.A. Dickey won a perceived wide-open NL race after receiving 27 of the possible 32 first-place votes. This turned into a landslide, and I'm surprised by that. There's no denying Dickey's value (27 quality starts, 230 K's, 233 innings, 2.73 ERA), but he trailed Kershaw and Gio Gonzalez (among others) in WAR, and certainly wasn't a dominant winner. At any rate, I have no issue with it despite the fact that I would've gone with Kershaw, who had better numbers. In the AL, there was a real surprise as David Price edged Justin Verlander by 1 first-place vote and only 4 points overall. I thought that Verlander was the clear winner as he led the league in both WAR versions, strikeouts, and innings, but Price got the nod. He had a very, very good season, finishing with the league's best ERA (2.56), throwing 200+ innings, and counting 200+ strikeouts. The issue is that this was clearly a case where wins (Price's 20 vs. Verlander's 17) had to come into play. In case you're unfamiliar, wins account for virtually nothing when measuring an individual pitcher's performance, and it would be a travesty if that's the reason Verlander was edged. Alas, here we are. 
  • The Braves hosted BJ Upton on a free-agent visit yesterday. I'm all in favor of signing Upton as long as it is a reasonable deal. For a shorter deal (i.e. 3 years), I'd give him up to 40-45 million, but if he gets 5 years as he reportedly desires, I'd be hesitant to go above 60 million. He's certainly not a lead-off hitter, but he provides big-time power from a premium position, has great speed, and can play center-field effectively. The leadoff hitter conundrum is overblown (Prado could do the job) and shouldn't hold back ATL in the pursuit of Upton. Interested to see where this goes. 
  • An NBA roster move? in November?! It's a small one, but the Minnesota T-Wolves have signed former Mavs star forward Josh Howard to a 1-year deal. Minnesota lost Chase Budinger to injury this week, adding onto an already-depleted team playing without Love, Rubio, and Brandon Roy. Howard has been pretty bad in recent years, but it's a decent flyer to take on a guy with a career scoring average over 15. I like the low-risk move. 
  • NBA Round-up - Brooklyn won their 4th straight game with a 102-97 decision over Boston at the Barclays Center last night. Boston was playing without Rondo and I'm frankly surprised the game was this close. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams had 24 each for the Nets. The Knicks remain undefeated at 6-0 after getting a wildly impressive road win at San Antonio last night. Ray Felton is back from the dead this year and had 25 points and 7 dimes to lead the way for NYK, but the most impressive part of the win was that Carmelo Anthony had 9 points. Single. Digits. JR Smith continues to produce well (against all odds) and actually is showing some of the promise that his talent indicates. For the Spurs, they had 6 guys in double figures led by a 19/12/6 from Tony Parker but it wasn't enough. And finally, Miami won in Denver by a 98-93 tally. Lebron posted another ludicrous 27/12/7 with 3 blocks and the Heat got 6 threes from Shane Battier. These things helped Miami overcome a crazy 48-29 rebounding disparity in getting a road win (which seems impossible). Ty Lawson went scoreless for Denver in 36 minutes. Yikes. 
What to watch for on Friday...
  • 7:00 - Jazz @ Sixers - ESPN - Philly is an offensive disaster without Andrew Bynum, and Utah has one of the best frontcourts in the league. Mismatch!
  • 9:30 - Knicks @ Grizzlies - ESPN - Two of the league's hottest teams squaring off. Memphis has a ton of size, but Tyson Chandler helps to negate that, and I think Mike Conley has his way with the Knicks PG rotation.
  • 10:00 - Hawks @ Kings - SportSouth - I'm so glad that Cousins is back for this game. It's a battle of terrible demeanors. Cousins! Smith! It's the NBA on SportSouth! 
  • 11:00 - #11 North Carolina @ Long Beach State - This is such a weird game. UNC is making the trip to LBSU (on the way to Hawaii) and this has to be the smallest place they'll play this season. At any rate, Casper Ware has finally moved on for the 49ers, but they're still the defending Big West champs. 
There you have it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11/14: Contract the Marlins!

  • The title of this post says it all. The Miami Marlins should be contracted... and no, I'm not kidding. In a laughable cost-slashing, no-baseball-consideration move, the Marlins have dealt SS Jose Reyes, pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, super-utility guy Emilio Bonafacio, and C John Buck to the Blue Jays for a 7-player package headlined by Yunel Escobar and prospects Jake Marisnick & Justin Nicolino. If you're scoring at home, Miami traded 4 of their best 6-7 players in one trade... without gaining a single above-average MLB regular in return. Read that again! It was basically a move to trade all of their significant contracts, and it was done so for no particular baseball reason. This isn't the first time this has happened in South Florida (hence my call for contraction), but it's probably the most egregious. Just one year after getting a publicly financed stadium, the Marlins will field a payroll around $25 million, pocket a ton of revenue-sharing money from MLB, and probably be the worst team in baseball. This is the same league that wouldn't let Mark Cuban buy a team. Godspeed.
  • While we're here, the Blue Jays are legitimate AL contenders after making this deal. They've taken on significant salaries (5 years of big money on Reyes, 3 for Buehrle, and an 8-figure 1-year deal for Johnson), but the upgrades from Escobar to Reyes and Henderson Alvarez/average starter X to Johnson and Buehrle are astronomical. Add-in the ultra-talented and super-versatile Bonafacio and they make out like bandits. It's risky with the $ but I love it if I'm a Blue Jay fan. 
  • Bob Melvin (Oakland) and Davey Johnson (Washington) were named MLB Managers of the Year yesterday. These are probably the right choices, and the only guy with a legit gripe would be Buck Showalter of the Orioles. At any rate, no objections here.
  • Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger may be out for an extended period of time. The division-leading Pittsburgh squad has two match-ups with Baltimore in the coming weeks, and being without him would be a significant blow.... Good God, that's Byron Leftwich's music!!! (copyright: Bill Simmons)
  • College Hoops! - Michigan State knocked off Kansas 67-64 in the opener of the Champions Classic in the Georgia Dome. MSU guard Keith Appling led all scorers with 19 points, including two huge shots down the stretch to lead Sparty to the W. In the night cap, Duke held off a late charge from Kentucky to win 75-68. Seth Curry knocked shot 7 of 14, including 3 triples to score 21 points for Duke, and Mason Plumlee added 18 for the Blue Devils. Really quality hoops in this double-header.
  • NBA Check - The Knicks still unbeaten at 5-0 after a 99-89 win over Orlando down in Disney territory. NY got 21+ points from Carmelo, JR Smith, and Ray Felton, and won despite getting massacred on the boards by a 42-31 margin. Toronto won a real, live NBA game on Tuesday by a score of 74-72 over the Pacers. Normally, I wouldn't touch this game, but I had to share that Toronto won the game despite scoring 5 fourth-quarter points. They won the game! Cleveland got 35 points and 18 rebounds from Andy Varejao and 34 points from Kyrie Irving... and lost by 13 to Brooklyn. And finally, Danny Green ice-colded the game-winning three to give the Spurs a 84-82 win over the coach-less Lakers. Green shot just 4-12 on the night, but the biggest shot of the night (with 9 sec left) was the difference. Tim Duncan (18 and 9) and Tony Parker (19/7/4) led the way for the Spurs. Kobe Bryant finished with 28 points and 8 assists in the loss.
What to watch for on Wednesday...
  • NCAAB - #23 Wisconsin @ #10 Florida - 7:00 ESPN2 - A top-25 hoops match-up is never a bad thing. Wisconsin is adjusting to life without Jordan Taylor, and Florida is a very, very talented squad.
  • NBA - Grizzlies @ Thunder - 8:00 ESPN - A pretty good match-up of high-tier Western playoff teams. Memphis should be a team that can give OKC fits with their size and I'm interested to see how OKC matches up.
  • NBA - Heat @ Clippers - 10:30 ESPN - Chris Paul. Lebron James. Done and done.
  • NCAAF - Toledo @ Northern Illinois - 9:00 ESPN2 - The battle for the MAC Western division championship! On a Wednesday! In all seriousness, Toledo is 8-2 and NIU is 9-1 so this shouldn't be an awful game if you need football in your life. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

11/13: Monday Night Football, MLB Rookies, etc.

Greetings! Let's take a look at a busy Monday in the sports world...
  • Steelers 16, Chiefs 13 - What an awful football game. All you need to know is that no QB in this game had thrown for 100 yards until the final drive of regulation by Matt Cassel. Oh, and Ben Roethlisberger is hurt. There's that. Done. 
  • Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are your MLB rookies of the year. The AL award was the biggest no-brainer in the history of Earth, as Trout had the award locked up in July, but the NL award wasn't as clear-cut as the name would suggest. I actually thought Todd Frazier and Wade Miley had deserving cases, but in the end, Harper's huge name coupled with the fact that Washington had the NL's best record led him to the victory. No issue with it either way.
  • Phil Jackson is spinning like he's never spun before. Word from Phil's camp on Monday suggested that he actually was "contemplating" a Lakers offer into Sunday when they hired Mike D'Antoni. I can't fathom that this would actually be true, but if it is, it's another strike against the Lakers regime. If it isn't, it's a desperate attempt to look "wanted" by Phil. Either way, this is absurdity.
  • Hawks 95, Blazers 87 - The story of this game, for me, isn't the result. Portland is an undermanned team with a dreadful bench, so a win there is nice, but not particularly noteworthy. The craziest stat of the day? Josh Smith took eleven 13+ foot two-point jump shots. He converted one of them. I don't even have a joke here. The Portland bright spot was JJ Hickson who put up a 19-point, 18-rebound game. He's been a bright spot.
  • NBA Round-up - Utah and Toronto played a 3-OT thriller last night in Canada, and the Jazz got a crazy 140-133 win. There were the typical stat lines you see in a game this long (Jose Calderon's 17 dimes, DeRozan's 37 points, Mo Williams' 14 assists), but a score like that even in an extended game stands out. Milwaukee got 33 points from Brandon Jennings to steal a road win in Philadelphia. Andrew Bynum was reported as out "until January" earlier in the day too to add insult to injury. Detroit falls to 0-8 as the hits keep on coming with a home loss to Oklahoma City by a score of 92-90. OKC got 33 points and 10 rebounds from Russ Westbrook in the win. Rajon Rondo put up a 20/9/10 in leading Boston to a 101-95 win in Chicago. And finally, Lebron James is still the best player on earth. 38 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists as he led Miami to a comeback win over Houston on the road. What else do you say?
  • One College Hoops note: Gonzaga looked fantastic in dismantling West Virginia in Spokane. The final was 84-50 and I'm not sure it was even that close after the Zags raced to a 45-18 halftime lead. Elias Harris had 11 points and 7 rebounds, Gary Bell Jr. finished with 3 triples and 15 points, and the Zags held WV to just 27% from the field on the night. 
What to watch for on Tuesday...
  • NCAAB - #7 Kansas vs. #14 Michigan State - 7:00 ESPN - This is the opener of the "Champions Classic" at the Georgia Dome. I'm high on Kansas this year as Bill Self always has them in the hunt, and I trust Tom Izzo with my life. Really nice game.
  • NCAAB - #8 Duke vs. #3 Kentucky - 9:30 ESPN - This is the headliner. Two of the most storied programs in college hoops, and the talent level is big. Duke has returning starters in Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, and Seth Curry while Kentucky is totally revamped with talented freshman. Visions of Laettner and company? Maybe not, but a helluva game.
  • NBA - Spurs @ Lakers - 10:30 NBATV - Our first look at Mike D'Antoni? Not sure if he'll actually be on the sideline for this one as of press time, but San Antonio vs. LA is worthy of a watch regardless. Tune in.

Monday, November 12, 2012

11/12: Upset City and A New Lakers Coach

Greetings! I'm going to try and keep this brief, but so much happened over the weekend... Let's go!

  • UPSETS! The "number one" team is both college football and the NFL fell over the weekend. #1 Alabama fell at the hands of Texas A&M by a score of 29-24, removing them from the ranks of the unbeaten and severely damaging their national title chances. Johnny Manziel (of A&M) threw for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns, while running for 92 more yards as he paced the Aggies offense to the victory. This was shocking in that it was in Tuscaloosa (where dreams go to die) and that Alabama made some non-Saban-like errors down the stretch. Crazy. In the NFL, Atlanta dropped their first game of the season with a late whimper against the lowly Saints. The Falcons had two separate chances to punch it in late and failed on the back of incomplete passes and failed Michael Turner plunges. Another big issue was allowing 31 points to Drew Brees and company, but in retrospect, I'm positive that the focus of the fans/media will be on the inability to convert red zone opportunities in the 4th quarter. This loss is much different than the Bama loss in that, in the NFL, everyone loses, and no one would ever expect Atlanta to run the table. Ho-hum. 
  • College Round-up - K-State, Oregon, and Notre Dame all held serve to remain in the top-3. None were really tested as all of them won by double-digits, but things won't be so easy going forward as the schedules harden. Louisville fell flat on its face after being the darkhorse unbeaten team. Syracuse pounded them 45-26 and effectively ended any cinderella opportunity. And finally, Florida struggled mightily with Louisiana-Lafayette before sneaking out a late TD and 27-20 victory.
  • NFL Round-up - The Giants got blitzed in Cincinnati by a score of 31-13. This was such a typical Giants no-show that it's almost not worth discussing. At any rate, Andy Dalton threw 4 touchdown passes, and that was the difference in the game for Cincy. Nothing to see here. Tennessee absolutely annihilated Miami (on the road!!) by a score of 37-3. I'm frankly blown away by this result as I thought Miami was pretty spry defensively, but this was a bloodbath. Baltimore set a club-record by scoring 55 points against Oakland. Yes, fifty-five. How bout that Raiders defense, huh!? The Cowboys scored 28 second-half points to upend the Eagles 38-23. Dallas scored 3 touchdowns in the fourth quarter... and none of them were on offense. Two fumble returns and a punt return. I'm slightly bitter about this as an opposing fantasy owner. St. Louis and San Fran played to the league's first tie since 2008. 24-24 was the final and both teams missed field goals in the overtime frame. That seems to be the only way ties can happen in the NFL since there's pretty much no scenario where a team wouldn't cross the 35-yard line, but here we are. And finally, Houston knocked off Chicago on the road by an ugly score of 13-6. This game featured 6 total turnovers and neither starting QB throwing for even 100 yards. Maybe football purists enjoyed the defensive battle, but I just thought the QB play was wretched on both sides, and there was even some Jason Campbell involved. Woo!
  • The Lakers have a new head coach... and it isn't Phil Jackson. Mike D'Antoni has inked a 4-year deal to take over on the LA sideline, and there are numerous things to discuss here. First and most obvious, this is the reunion of Nash and D'Antoni and that should produce some very good offensive returns. That's the positive. In addition, Kobe and D'Antoni have a long-time relationship, and he clearly would've signed off on the move. The bad things? Mike D'Antoni does not coach defense. At all. A healthy Dwight Howard (debatable right now) would solve a lot of ills, but LA's defense has been wretched this season, and it's not going to get better under D'Antoni. Also, the personnel is not ideal for what he wants to do. Gasol and Bryant are not "runners" at this stage in their careers, and there's no forward on this team that can really stretch the floor as as shooter. Nonetheless, he should still be an upgrade on Mike Brown, and that's good enough.
  • There was a ton of college hoops over the weekend (too much to cover) but here's a quick look. Syracuse knocked off a pesky San Diego State team 60-49 last night on the USS Midway. This was a fairly impressive with for Cuse because SDSU is a lock tournament team, and this win will look better and better as the season goes. On Friday night, Kentucky escaped with a 72-69 win over Maryland. With all of the talk about Kentucky's freshmen, I loved what I saw from junior Jarrod Polson off the bench. Just a note. UConn "upset" Michigan State 66-62. Nothing is too big of an upset early in the year, but the Huskies aren't pegged to be terribly good this year, and this one is semi-surprising. The only real upset of the weekend was Florida State going down at the hands of South Alabama. I'm all-in on FSU this year (as you'll see in the college hoops preview), but their patented defense let them down in allowing 70 to the Jaguars.
What to watch for on Monday...
  • NFL - Chiefs @ Steelers - 8:30 ESPN - What a wretched game. Kansas City stinks out loud and that's all you need to know about this one. If it's competitive in the second half, I'll be shocked.
  • NBA - Hawks @ Blazers - 10:00 SportSouth - Second of a road back-to-back for Atlanta, and they dropped the opener in an ugly fashion against LAC last night. First time for ATL fans to get a look at Mr. Lillard though.
  • NCAAB - West Virginia @ #21 Gonzaga - Midnight ESPN - This is the kick-off for the 24-hour hoops madness. The Zags have some guys that you know returning (Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos) and this should be a nice game. 

2012-13 College Hoops Preview!

Greetings! This may be the fastest "league" preview I've ever written, so bear with me... and I know that there were games played on Friday night, so I'm officially late. Alas, here we go! Conference-by-conference first...

  • Champion - Duke
  • Sleeper - Florida State
  • All-Conference Team (POY in italics) - Lorenzo Brown (NC State, G), Michael Snaer (Florida State, G), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina, F), CJ Leslie (NC State, F), Mason Plumlee (F), 
  • Tourney Locks - Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Florida State
Big East
  • Champion - Louisville
  • Sleeper - Syracuse
  • All-Conference Team - Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse, G), Shabazz Napier (UConn, G), Otto Porter (Georgetown, F), Chane Behanan (Louisville, F), Gorgui Dieng (Louisville, C)
  • Tourney Locks - Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh
Big 10
  • Champion - Indiana
  • Sleeper - Michigan State
  • All-Conference Team - Trey Burke (Michigan, G), Aaron Craft (Ohio State, F), Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State, F), Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota, F), Cody Zeller (Indiana, C)
  • Tourney Locks - Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Big 12
  • Champion - Kansas
  • Sleeper - Texas (despite Rick Barnes)
  • All-Conference Team - Pierre Jackson (Baylor, G), Le'Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State, G), Rodney McGruder (Kansas State, G), Aaric Murray (West Virginia, PF/C), Jeff Withey (Kansas, C)
  • Tourney Locks - Kansas, Texas, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Pac 12 (*- Muhammed is ineligible at the moment)
  • Champion - Arizona
  • Sleeper - Stanford
  • All-Conference Team - Mark Lyons (Arizona, G), Allen Crabbe (Cal, G), Shabazz Muhammed (UCLA, F)*, Kyle Anderson (UCLA, G/F), Andre Roberson (Colorado, F/C)
  • Tourney Locks - Arizona, UCLA (yes, that's the full list)
  • Champion - Missouri
  • Sleeper - Florida
  • All-Conference Team - Phil Pressey (Missouri, G), BJ Young (Arkansas, G), Archie Goodwin (Kentucky, G), Patric Young (Florida, F), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky, C)
  • Tourney Locks - Kentucky, Florida, Missouri
  • Top 25 Teams - Creighton, Memphis, UNLV, San Diego State, Gonzaga
  • Tourney Teams - VCU, Butler, Temple, BYU, New Mexico, Northern Iowa, St. Mary's, New Mexico State, Murray State
  • All-Mid-Major Team - Isaiah Canaan (Murray State, G), Matthew Dellavedova (St. Mary's, G), Mike Moser (UNLV, F), Doug McDermott (Creighton, F), Elias Harris (Gonzaga, F)
Moving on to the national picture...

My Top 5
  1. Indiana - The fuss is warranted. Cody Zeller is the best big man (and the best player IMO) in the country, and he's surrounded by a nice cast. Christian Watford returns as a seasoned veteran (read: senior) that has gone through everything and is a top-50 player nationally. In addition, keep an eye on swingman Victor Oladipo who will be skying out of the gym nightly.
  2. Ohio State - The Big 10 is pretty good (you'll see) this year and Ohio State is still loaded. Thad Matta is an elite coach at this point and he returns big-time talent. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas are returning all-american type players and they are solid as a rock. Not flashy, but they'll defend like crazy and you'll see them at the end.
  3. Louisville - Depth! Look at any "top 100" list this preseason and you'll see 4 Louisville players on them with some even with all 4 in the top 50. Peyton Siva (still in college!) is about as veteran as it gets at the point. Dieng is the best shot-blocker in the country. Wayne Blackshear and Behanen will man the wings, and the depth is really there as well. Add in Rick Pitino and go to work.
  4. Michigan - More Big Ten you say? The best conference in the country this year has 3 reps in the top 5. Michigan returns All-American guard Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to form the nation's top returning backcourt. Add in top recruit Mitch McGary and returners like Jon Horford, with a big-time coach? Bingo.
  5. Duke - My ACC champ lands at #5. It isn't the endless parade of NBA talent like it used to be, but Coach K still does work. Mason Plumlee is the anchor as a 4th-year starter, and guys like Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry are coming back as well. The real X-factor is probably Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, who will challenge for PT right away, but I just can't see a dip here. They'll be in the mix.
All-Freshman Team
  • G - Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State - Starting PG for OSU from Day one. Highly touted as a versatile defender, but the biggest edge he has is scoring. Easily the biggest lock for playing time. 
  • G - Kyle Anderson, UCLA - You see "guard" by his name... but Anderson is 6'9. He's drawn Magic Johnson comparisons for his vision/passing and while that's likely ridiculous, there seems to be no doubt about his ability. He's a match-up nightmare.
  • F - Shabazz Muhammed, UCLA* (ed: ineligible right now) - The consensus #1 Freshman in terms of talent. There are some eligibility issues around him, but he's the best scorer of this class, and is pretty much the go-to-guy for UCLA off the bat.
  • F - Alex Poytharess, Kentucky - Combo forward who is probably an NBA lottery pick based on talent. Kentucky has a million guys, but he's the best bet (other than their center... who we'll get to) for big production.
  • C - Nerlens Noel, Kentucky - Dominant shot-blocker/rebounder in the Anthony Davis mold. He'll obviously draw those comparisons, but he's not near the offensive threat that Davis was. Still unquestionably the leader in the clubhouse here, though.
  • PG - Trey Burke, Michigan - Burke is the best point guard in the country and the only returning All-American from last year. He's got a big load on his shoulders as a sophomore, but he'll be an elite player. (Runner-up: Phil Pressey, Missouri)
  • SG - Michael Snaer, Florida State - Terrific defender and that's why he gets my nod here, but he also made a huge number of big shots for FSU this year, and I think he leads them to a top-20 team. (Runner-up: Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State)
  • SF - Doug McDermott, Creighton - Can flat-out score and he gets his due this season. I see a fringe NBA lottery pick who can do everything but simply just lacks elite "burst" at the next level. For this year in college, however? I'm all-in. (Runner-up: Shabazz Muhammed, UCLA)
  • PF - Mike Moser, UNLV - Relentless rebounder. Veteran presence. 20-point scorer. All of these things are Mike Moser. Done and done. (Runner-up: James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina)
  • C - Cody Zeller, Indiana - As mentioned above, Zeller is the best player in America. He scores, he runs the floor, he protects the rim, and he rebounds. Did I mention that he can shoot, too? Easy choice. (Runner-up: Jeff Withey, Kansas)
Tourney Picks (as ridiculous as that is on November 10th)
  • Sweet 16 - Indiana, Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State, Duke, Florida State, NC State, Arizona, Michigan State, Missouri, Creighton, UNLV, San Diego State, Kansas, Minnesota
  • Elite 8 - Indiana, Louisville, Michigan, Ohio State, Duke, Arizona, UNLV, Kansas
  • Final 4 - Indiana, Ohio State, Duke, Kansas
  • The Pick - Ohio State over Indiana (reverse jinx alert)
Enjoy it, everyone!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Weekend Football Preview - 11/10-11/11

Greetings! This will be a little quicker than last week, but wanted to get to what to watch for this weekend...

College Football - Saturday

  • #15 Texas A&M @ #1 Alabama - 3:30 CBS - This is the headliner this weekend as the only match-up pitting two top-15 teams together, and it's in CBS's #1 time slot. I think Bama absolutely cruises here, but the only danger in seeing A&M this week is the let-down factor from last week's huge win over LSU. Johnny Manziel and company could play up and give Bama a game, but I like the Tide big.
  • #2 Kansas State @ TCU - 7:00 FOX - This is a danger spot for K-State. Collin Klein had a concussion last week and he's questionable. Add in a road game against a legit opponent who's been a giant killer before, and you may have trouble.
  • #21 Miss State @ #7 LSU - 7:00 ESPN - The battle for #2 in the SEC West! Bowl Positioning! (lol)
  • #11 Oregon State @ #14 Stanford - 3:00 FOX - The winner of this one grabs control of #2 in the Pac-12 North and Oregon State still has Oregon on their schedule late.
  • Penn State @ #16 Nebraska - 3:30 ABC - No one cares about this game unless you're a Michigan, Penn State, or Nebraska fan... but I am! Penn State is shockingly 6-3 with a 4-1 Big Ten record and 'Go Blue' fans are in need of a Nittany Lion upset to open the door to a division title shot. 
  • Falcons @ Saints - 1:00 FOX - The unbeaten Atlanta squad goes on the road to the Superdome. It's been kind of a house of horrors in recent years for Atlanta, but this isn't the same Saints team. There's no question New Orleans win here, especially at home, behind their potent offense, and in a rivalry game, it's a must-watch.
  • Lions @ Vikings - 1:00 FOX - This one isn't on in Atlanta, but this is a "loser leaves town" match-up in the wrestling world. Both teams have 4 losses, and a 5th is basically suicide in the loaded NFC. Big game for both sides.
  • Cowboys @ Eagles - 4:25 FOX - Speaking of desperate teams... who had 3-5 for both teams when the season began?... anyone?... Anyway, Philly has all but buried the Vick/Reid era, but if there was ever a team (really, either team lol) that could run off 5 in a row and get back in it...????
  • Texans @ Bears - 8:20 NBC - Easily the game of the weekend. Unquestionably two of the top-5 teams in the league and probably the best two defenses in the league this year. Chicago is absolutely beating up on people defensively, and they're on pace for the greatest season by a fantasy defense ever. Schaub, Foster, and that balanced Houston offense should at least protect the ball and give them a chance to win. I think I'd take Houston with a gun to my head, but it's tough to pick against that Bears D in Chicago.
Enjoy the slate!

Friday, November 9, 2012

11/9: Andy Luck!

Greetings! Won't be going too long today with the light NBA slate last night, but here we are...

  • As you may infer from my subject above, I'm all-in on Mr. Andrew Luck. He didn't blow up the world through the air last night (18 of 26 for 227 yards), but scrambled for 2 touchdowns and led the Colts to another road win over the hapless Jags. Luck now has the most passing yards in the history of the league for a rookie through 9 games, and he's doing it while being surrounded by Vick Ballard, TY Hilton, Donnie Avery, and Dwayne Allen. Read those names again! I know he has Reggie Wayne, who has been underrated for a decade, but he's on the downside of his career, and the rest of the offense is pedestrian. Did I mention that Indy is now 6-3 and has the 3rd best record in the AFC? Somehow, even after being anointed as the #1 pick as a freshman in college, Luck is still underrated. Period.
  • In the Association, Oklahoma City got a win over Chicago 97-91 on the strength of a 31-point 4th quarter. Kevin Durant led the way with 24 points, and Russ Westbrook added 12 dimes. Luol Deng led all scorers with 27 for Chicago, but they simply got run out of the building in the 4th quarter and that was that. In the late game, the Clippers outlasted Portland by a final score of 103-90. Chris Paul did Chris Paul things, finishing 9-17 for 21 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals, but the big key for LAC was DeAndre Jordan who shot 8 of 10 and finished with 21 and 8. Portland mounted a big second-half comeback, winning the 3rd quarter 32-17, but gave some back in the 4th, and it wasn't enough. Nic Batum led the Blazers in scoring with 23 despite a 6 of 18 shooting night. 
  • There was a college football game last night. #10 Florida State escaped Blacksburg, Virginia with a 28-22 win after EJ Manuel hit Rashad Greene for a 39-yard TD pass with 40 seconds left in the game. I won't pretend like I was tuned in, but FSU stays among the ranks of the 1-loss teams.
What to watch for on Friday...
  • College Hoops tipping off! - #1 Indiana tips off at 8:00 against Bryant University (on Big Ten Network). #3 Kentucky faces off with Maryland at 8:30 on ESPN. #4 Ohio State plays Marquette at 7:00 on NBC Sports Network. #10 Florida plays Georgetown at 9:00 on NBC Sports Network. #14 Michigan State plays UConn at 5:30 on ESPN. And #13 UCLA faces off with Indiana State at 11:00 PM on FSN. It's all happening, people!
  • NBA - Heat @ Hawks - 7:30 SportSouth - The defending champs come to the Highlight Factory. Should be an interesting test for the new-look Hawks, as the match-ups on the wing are not exactly favorable. 
  • NBA - Rockets @ Grizzlies - 8:00 NBA-TV - James Harden and company facing off with Memphis. I'm excited to see Omer Asik go at it with Gasol and Randolph.
  • NBA - Jazz @ Nuggets - 10:30 ESPN - I continue to be all-in on Utah. Check them out here.
  • NCAAF - Pittsburgh @ UConn - 8:00 ESPN2 - If you really, really need football...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

11/8: Hoops Galore!

Greetings all! Let's take a look at Wednesday night, which was headlined by a full-fledged slate of NBA action...

  • Hawks 89, Pacers 86 - The hometown squad went on an 18-0 run to overcome a 14-point 4th quarter deficit and steal a win over Indy. When Paul George's triple attempt went begging at the gun, the Hawks got the W, but it wasn't all positives. I didn't love the Zaza/Horford/Smith starting lineup in the front-court, but I do understand it from a match-up standpoint against Roy Hibbert and company. It's been clear in the early going that Larry Drew is willingly to toss the lineup on a match-up basis, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It was a balanced win from the Hawks, with Horford, Smith, Korver, and Teague scoring between 11 and 16 points. The biggest key? Atlanta won the rebounding battle 51-41. 
  • The Heat are pretty good. A 30-point victory over Brooklyn last night is the latest indication. I can't remember a season where a team was this big of a favorite in their conference. Simple as that.
  • James Harden is exceedingly human! I still believe that he's a #1 option, but if you're a member of "First Take" culture, get ready for the debate after his 5-of-15 performance on Wednesday. I hate everything.
  • The MLB Award "finalists" were announced last night. I can't fathom this being an actual news story, but apparently it is. Wake me up when the award winners are announced.
  • NBA Round-up - The Lakers are 1-4... I repeat, the Lakers are 1-4... Kobe had 29 points, and Dwight added 19/9 but the Mike Brown-led Lake-show fell in Utah by a score of 95-86. I'm really high on Utah, so this isn't a bad loss at all, but compounded with the first 4 games, it's not pretty in LA. San Antonio took their first loss of the season, getting blown out by the Clippers 106-84. No one (!) played over 24 minutes last night for San Antonio, and this was a typical instant of Pop punting the game late. LA had 7 guys in double figures and got 20/10's from both Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. And finally, Dallas is 4-1 without Dirk after knocking off Toronto 109-104. OJ Mayo had 22/6/5 and Chris Kaman added 22 points and 8 rebounds for the Mavs.
  • The Colorado Rockies are a joke. The bumbling organization has hired Walt Weiss to be their new manager. On the surface, this isn't absurd as Weiss played for a long time and is well-respected in the industry. And then... you find out that he was currently managing high school baseball. When are people going to realize that this stuff doesn't work?

What to watch for on Thursday...
  • NBA - Thunder @ Bulls - 8:00 TNT - No Derrick Rose, no James Harden.... no problem! At any rate, this should be an interesting match-up as we see what Luol Deng can do against Durant, and Westbrook should be able to roam freely against a weakened Bulls backcourt.
  • NBA - Clippers @ Blazers - 10:30 TNT - The Chris Paul show goes to Portland. Lillard should be focused on here as he encounters the brilliance that is Paul, and that's must-see TV.
  • NFL - Colts @ Jaguars - 8:20 NFL - The bright side is Andrew Luck. The dark side? Jacksonville is completely unwatchable.
  • NCAAF - #10 Florida State @ Virginia Tech - 7:30 ESPN - I'm sure the ACC was thinking a lot bigger than this game is actually playing up when they scheduled it because VT is in the toilet, but road games for FSU are always an adventure.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

11/6: MNF, Spurs, etc.

Greetings! Trying something new and setting up the post for a bit later deployment in the day (traffic, son!) so bear with me...
  • Monday Night Football - New Orleans may have put an end to the Vick/Reid era in Philadelphia with a 28-13 victory last night in the Superdome. There was a 99-yard interception return to kick the game off and NO controlled things throughout as a result. Philly actually outgained the Saints by nearly 100 yards, but Drew Brees didn't throw it to the opposition, and New Orleans was able to run the ball effectively by committee with 140 yards on 25 carries. I didn't think Mike played particularly poorly, but it wasn't enough.
  • There are 4 undefeateds left in the NBA and two of them held serve last night. San Antonio became the league's first 4-0 team with a 101-79 win over Indiana. It was a typically balanced offensive effort from the Spurs, with no player having more than 17 points (Gary Neal, of all people) and defensively, the Spurs held Indiana to 34% shooting on the night. I was all-in on the Spurs preseason and I'm holding to that as the Western conference favorite. In the East, New York got their 3rd straight win by a 110-88 margin on the road in Philly. There were 7 players in double-digits for the Knicks, and what I take from this one is that Ray Felton isn't the same fat guy that was in Portland last year. He's averaging 14 and 6 with nearly 2 steals a game through 3 games, and if he's even solid, the Knicks could be pretty good. 
  • NBA Round-Up - Minnesota outscored Brooklyn by a crazy 32-10 margin in the 4th quarter to steal a road win after being down 22 points. Nikola Pekovic led the way with 21 points for the T-Wolves. Miami got a ho-hum 23 and 11 from Lebron in blowing the doors off of Phoenix 124-99. OJ Mayo has back-to-back 30 point games for Dallas as they are 3-1 and doing so without Dirk. It's easy to forget how good Mayo was as a prospect, and he's still a mega-talent. Dion Waiters' career-high (young career I know lol) 28 points led the way for Cleveland in upsetting the Clips in LA last night. And finally, DeMarcus Cousins is pretty good. 23 points, 15 rebounds and the Kings got their first win of the year in beating Golden State.
What to watch for on Tuesday...
  • NBA - Raptors @ Thunder - 8:00 NBA-TV - Oklahoma City is suddenly "reeling" a bit at 1-2 after the James Harden. I, for one, am not worried at all about them, as I still see an upper-echelon West team. This is also a good time to get a look at the new and improved Raptors featuring Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas.
  • Last day of NBA League Pass free preview! - Orlando @ Chicago (8:00) features the surprising 2-0 Magic against the Rose-less Bulls, and the late game is Detroit @ Denver (9:00) as the Nuggets try to avoid a ghastly 0-4 start.
  • NCAA Football - Ball State @ #25 Toledo - 8:00 ESPN2 - It's not often you get a ranked team on Tuesday night football, but one fits that bill. The Toledo Rockets are 8-1 as they lead the MAC with a 5-0 record. Their running back (David Fluellan) has already rushed for 1181 yards and 11 TDs in 8 games, so that's the guy to watch. It's not must-see TV but if you're jones-ing for football, this is your answer.

Monday, November 5, 2012

11/5: Weekend Wrap!

Greetings! Let's take a quick look at what happened this weekend, broken down by sport/league...

College Football

  • Bama/LSU was an absolute classic. It looked like Alabama was dead in the water late in the 4th quarter before LSU missed a field goal, and Bama took the subsequent drive and went 72 yards in under a minute for the game-clinching touchdown. Despite my thinking that Alabama was the best team in the country, I thought LSU outplayed them on the field and were really hampered by Les Miles' incompetence. Among other things, I thought he should've gone for it on 4th down late, plus the  fake field goal early in the game was jokingly bad. At any rate, AJ McCarron was brutal for much of the night, but came up with the huge drive late, and he should be commended for that. I firmly believe that this was Alabama's chance to lose, and that they'll run through the rest of the SEC until the National Championship game.
  • Kansas State and Oregon held serve. K-State beat Oklahoma State 44-30 behind a 100-yard kick return and a pick-6 caused by the defense. Collin Klein (my Heisman winner as of now) left the game in the 3rd quarter with an undisclosed injury and that's obviously a huge blow to KSU if he's out for any stretch of time, but for now, K-State is still at #2. As far as Oregon is concerned, that offense is devastatingly good. 62 points on the road against a top-20 opponent is ridiculous, and Kenjon Barner's 38 carry, 321-yard rushing performance is the stuff of legend in Eugene. Lost in the craziness of that stat-line (and the eye-popping peformance) was the work of freshman QB Marcus Mariota. He went 20-for-23 for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns with 0 interceptions as well. USC's offense put up a game fight, gaining an equally crazy 615 yards of offense (Matt Barkley threw for 484 yards and 5 TD's) but in the end, the shootout went to Oregon. Obviously, the defense is a concern for the Ducks, but prior to this one, the defense had been fairly good, and USC's offense is an elite one, so the fear level can be lowered a bit.
  • Notre Dame held on for dear life in a 3-OT win over Pittsburgh. The play of the game was a missed FG by Pitt in the 2nd OT that would've ended the game and ND's national title chances, but it sailed wide, and the Irish got the win in the 3rd frame. The Notre Dame defense is still elite, but I have real concerns about the offense and I think it would be fairly laughable if they ran into Oregon or Alabama in a potential title game.
  • The Rest - Florida eeked out a 14-7 win over Missouri on the strength of 4 interceptions. In short, the UF offense was dreadful, and unless Georgia drops this weekend's game to Auburn (unlikely), they'll be left out of Atlanta. Speaking of Georgia, they got a win over Ole Miss 37-10 to stay on track for the SEC title game. The bulldogs looked mediocre early, but rattled off 37 unanswered and put Ole Miss away. Texas knocked off Texas Tech 31-22 in Lubbock for their 3rd straight win. Nebraska somehow squeezed past Michigan State, which devastated Michigan fans and kept Nebraska firmly in their Big 10 division lead. And finally, West Virginia lost a 2-OT thriller to TCU in Morgantown by a score of 39-38. The Geno Smith for Heisman campaign is firmly off the rails at this point and that's unfortunate. 
  • The Falcons are 8-0. It took a closer-than-desired effort to hold on for the 19-13 win, but wins are wins in the NFL. Michael Turner had a big 4th quarter to finish with 102 yards on 20 carries, and Matt Ryan played yet another great game, going 24-34 for over 300 yards and throwing zero interceptions. Matt Bryant (aka Mr. Automatic) picked a rough night to miss 2 field goals, but did knock 4 of them down, including a big one to give ATL the 6-point lead late. The march to a 1st-round bye continues.
  • Peyton Manning led the Broncos to a 31-23 road win over Cincinnati to take Denver to 5-3. The Broncos are firmly in control of the putrid AFC West with this win, and the Bengals will need to get red-hot in a hurry to stay competitive for a wild-card spot in the AFC. Peyton went for 291 yards and 3 TDs as he continues his comeback/MVP bid.
  • The 7-1 Chicago Bears are scorching hot. They put up a crazy fifty-one points on Sunday in their win over Tennessee, and the defense led the way. Five turnovers caused including a blocked punt TD and a pick-six by Brian Urlacher keyed the blowout win, and with the exception of a late 80-yard Chris Johnson touchdown (in complete garbage time), Chicago completely dominated defensively. I'm still wary of Jay Cutler and company on offense, but Brandon Marshall is a beast (9 for 122, with 3 touchdowns here) and the defense is beyond legit.
  • The Rest - Doug Martin went absolutely nuts in Tampa's 42-32 road win over Oakland. The Bucs rookie RB went for 251 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns, reaching legendary fantasy status with 51 points in standard scoring. That is absurd, and there's a real argument for Martin as an elite back in the league already. Seattle maintained the montra of their home-field advantage, beating Minnesota 30-20 and going to 4-0 on their home turf. And finally, Pittsburgh went on the road and took care of business over the Giants by a score of 24-20. Out of nowhere, Ike Redman went for 147 yards, and there seems to be a different guy every week for the Steelers.

Not going to go with a full weekend breakdown (because it's 2 full days of early season games lol), but here are a couple of observations...
  • As a homer, seeing the Hawks beat OKC on Sunday in Oklahoma City was tremendous. And to do so without Josh Smith? Even better. Al Horford keyed the win with 23 points and 12 rebounds but the key stat of the night was turnovers. Atlanta held themselves to just 10 turnovers, but forced 20 from the Thunder, and anytime you can create 10 additional possessions, that's huge. 
  • First wins! On Saturday, Boston went on the road and beat hapless Washington 89-86. They were led by 27 from Paul Pierce, and got 12 dimes from Rajon Rondo. And on the left coast, the Lakers got off the schneid on Sunday with a 108-79 rout of Detroit. The Lakers (now 1-3) got 28 points on 12-14 shooting from Dwight Howard, and a 15-8-7 from Kobe Bryant (on just 10 shots!). Detroit is pretty bad at times, but this was at least semi-encouraging for the Lakers, who will be without Nash for a bit longer.
  • Is Orlando going to be decent? I murdered them all preseason, but they are 2-0 after a 115-94 blowout over Phoenix on Sunday. Glen Davis (22 points) has broken the 20-point barrier in both games, but the bright spot for Orlando was Nikola Vucevic's best game of his career, going for 18 points and 13 rebounds. I still think Orlando will struggle mightily this year, but this is a positive start.
  • Denver is a mess at the moment. The Nuggets, who many thought would win 55+ games are 0-3, and they've done so in ugly fashion. There's no shame in losing a tight road game to Miami (119-116 on Saturday), but the first 2 games were ugly. At any rate, Chris Bosh lit them up for 40 on Saturday night, and Denver's D has been woeful.
  • The Spurs are 3-0. That is all.
What to watch for on Monday...
  • NFL - Eagles @ Saints - 8:30 ESPN - The final night of the Mike Vick era in Philly? I think it will be if he doesn't lead the Eagles to win. I may be in the minority, but I think he goes nuts here and carves up that putrid Saints' secondary for a 400 total-yard, 4-touchdown type of game. At any rate, it'll be interesting.
  • NBA - Twolves @ Nets - 7:30 NBA-TV - I honestly have no idea why NBA-TV went with this game, but it's on so I'll recommend it. Brooklyn is an intriguing team this season, and this is a good chance to take a look at them.
  • NBA - League Pass Free Preview! - This is still going through Tuesday night and there are a few games to watch. Knicks @ Sixers (7:00), Jazz @ Grizzlies (8:00), Pacers @ Spurs (8:30), and Cavs @ Clippers (10:30) are all intriguing games, even for casual observers as they feature 7 good teams out of 8, and the 8th (Cleveland) has one of the best young players in the league in Kyrie Irving going against the incumbent best PG alive in Chris Paul.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

11/3: The Harden Show, etc.

  • First of all, we have to address the Hawks season opener. James Harden went absolutely ballistic in Philips Arena last night, scoring 45 points on just 19 field goal attempts (insanity) and leading the Rockets to a 109-102 win. Jeremy Lin added 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists in a supporting role, but the story is certainly the ease by which Harden did whatever he wanted offensively. On the Hawks end, I thought the results were fairly unsurprising. Josh Smith took repeated forced jump shots, finally culminating in what I thought was the biggest possession of the night. With 2:30 left and the Hawks down 3, both Lou Williams and Jeff Teague passed up open threes to swing the ball to Smith (who was admittedly open) for a three that had no chance from the time it left his hand. Houston scored on the other end, and the game was never in doubt again. Now that I've crapped on Josh, he did go for 18 and 10 despite just 9 of 21 shooting. Lou Williams led the Hawks in scoring with 22 off the bench, and I think he's the go-to-guy in late game spots offensively. Al Horford was neutralized by Omer Asik, who may be the best defensive center this side of Dwight Howard, but still played well in spots. Speaking of Asik, the Houston center is worth every penny of that deal from what I saw, as he grabbed 19 boards and absolutely locked the paint down for stretches. The Hawks rotation is going to be interesting to watch, and there's a full post coming from me on Soaring Down South about this. Stay tuned.
  • David Ortiz is headed back to Boston. He and the Red Sox have reportedly agreed to terms, and I like this. Big Papi should retire as a Red Sox player, and this should take him to that point. Well played.
  • In a weird MLB trade story, there was a Cubs/Angels swap of Carlos Marmol and Dan Haren reportedly "done" early on Friday, but by the end of the night, the deal was off. If it happens, I love it for Chicago, as Haren is a buy-low coming off of a rough season, and I've never believed in Marmol. 
  • NBA Round-Up - The Lakers are 0-3 and there is panic in the streets.... despite 40 points from Kobe Bryant, LA's defense couldn't hold up and they dropped a 10-point decision to the Clippers. It's way, way too early for panic, but it's the defensive end that's the issue, no matter what the mainstream media is painting for a picture. Orlando and Charlotte both won their season openers in nice fashion. A pure illustration of how little of an indication the opener can be on the season as whole. And finally, The Knicks absolutely blitzed Miami 104-84 in an emotional season opener following the Hurricane. NYK got 30 and 10 from Carmelo Anthony, but the biggest story was them shooting 19 for 36 from three-point distance, and that carried them to the blow-out win. 
What to watch for on Saturday...
  • For the full slate of college football action, check out my weekend football preview post (up Friday afternoon). In this space, I'll remind you about the top-5 matchup between LSU and Alabama live from Baton Rouge tonight. 8:00 pm. Must-see TV.
  • NBA - League-Pass only on Saturday, but the free trial is still in effect! I'd recommend Nuggets @ Heat (7:30), Jazz @ Spurs (8:30), and Warriors @ Clippers (10:30). Plenty to go around!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekend Football Preview (11/3-11/4)

Greetings! Wait a minute.... is this football content?! Anyway, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, and that includes football previews, so let's get it!

  • #1 Alabama @ #5 LSU - 8:00 CBS - The undisputed game of the weekend, and really, the game of the year so far in college football. Alabama has been dominant since the jump (and I'm a Michigan fan, I'd know), but they're going on the road to that ridiculously tough environment in Baton Rouge, and that's not a small task. LSU has serious offensive issues and Alabama isn't a cure for that, but they do have a stable of running backs, and their defense could keep Bama in check here. I definitely like Alabama in the game, but this is their best opportunity to lose until at least the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. 
  • #24 Oklahoma State @ #2 Kansas State - 8:00 ABC - I feel bad for ABC because no one is going to watch this... at least unless OSU has a lead late in the game (if they do). For all of the talk about undefeateds, I've seen a surprising number of people that think K-State is running the table. I don't agree. I don't necessarily think they're losing here, but with this game plus road games at TCU and Baylor, and a closing game against Texas, I think they're dropping one somewhere. 
  • #4 Oregon @ #17 USC - 7:00 FOX - They couldn't put one of the games in the afternoon!? Anyway, Oregon/USC is a battle of the Pac-12 elite and Oregon's biggest test of the year. I do think they are a superior team, and they could score 50 on USC, but I can't rule out the Trojans for one reason. If Matt Barkley plays his best game, with those receivers, they can win. Period. I'm taking Oregon, however.
  • Ole Miss @ #6 Georgia - 3:30 CBS - I'm pandering to my audience by even including this game, but I will. This isn't the Ole Miss of the last few seasons, as they're a real opponent, and maybe even the biggest test for UGA until Atlanta. It would shock me if the Bulldogs lost this game, but it isn't a walk-over either.
  • #16 Texas A&M @ #15 Miss. State - 12:00 ESPN - It's funny that a match-up of two top-16 teams can have zero ramifications on even an SEC title picture... but that's the case here. Purely a bowl position game!
  • #23 Texas @ #18 Texas Tech - 3:30 ABC/ESPN2 - Another in-state matchup of ranked teams, and that can't be ignored. Texas Tech can flat-out score, but Texas has some legit NFL guys on that defense. A fun afternoon tilt. 
  • #20 Nebraska @ Michigan State - 3:30 ABC/ESPN2 - The Big 10 is a disaster outside of Ohio State. I hate my life. 
  • Denver @ Cincy - 1:00 CBS - Must-win for the Bengals to have a prayer at the 6 seed in the AFC, while Denver is firmly in control (at the moment) of the AFC West. Not an awesome game, but a watchable one. 
  • Arizona @ Green Bay - 1:00 FOX - The last-chance for Arizona. Green Bay is just better and I think Aaron Rodgers and company put the final nail in the coffin of the once 4-0 Cardinals. 
  • Miami @ Indy - 1:00 CBS - This could be a game with huge playoff implications... what?! really?! Yes! Miami's defense is stout, Indy has a real quarterback, and both teams are 4-3 in an awful AFC. Tune in.
  • Minnesota @ Seattle - 4:00 FOX - Seattle is a bear at home, and I like them in this game. This is a virtual must-win for Seattle, as a loss would take them to 4-5 and they aren't going to win the division without a disaster from the Niners. 
  • Pittsburgh @ NY Giants - 4:25 CBS - Maybe the best game of the day. The Steelers' offense is suddenly playing really well, and the Giants aren't as good at home (which makes no sense, but still). With a gun to my head, I think I'd still take the Giants over anyone in the NFC in a one-game spot, and that applies here. 
  • Dallas @ Atlanta - 8:20 NBC - National TV in Atlanta! Isn't this such a spot for Dallas to show up and have everyone buy back in? I'm not ruling it out. Atlanta is just better than Dallas, but the Cowboys' secondary is really, really good and that's an issue. This should be a game where we see some more Michael Turner than normal, and Tony Gonzalez should be a factor as well. I think it'll come down to who makes less mistakes between Romo and Ryan, and that leans toward Atlanta at this stage.

11/2: Parker's Dagger, Chargers, etc.

  • There was exactly one NBA game last night (thanks to the Hurricane) and it didn't disappoint. Tony Parker sunk a buzzer-beating jump shot to lift the Spurs to an 86-84 win over Oklahoma City. The most impressive part? Serge Ibaka (the league's #1 shot blocker last season) was flying at Parker when he calmly sunk the game-winner. Tim Duncan led 5 Spurs in double-figures with 20 points and 8 rebounds, while Parker (14 points, 11 assists) led the way on the perimeter. OKC got a "bad Russ" game from Westbrook, as he shot 6 of 21 and made 6 turnovers, while Durant was efficient (9 of 18) but unspectacular with 23 points, although he did add 14 rebounds. I did like what I saw from Kevin Martin off the bench, as he sparked the offense with 15 points and 5 assists in 33 minutes.
  • Philip Rivers is alive. The much-maligned Chargers QB went 18 of 20 for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns last night as the Chargers cruised to a 31-13 win over the lowly Chiefs. Rivers had been awful for a few weeks and really hadn't been himself this season, but this was a flash (even against a bad defense) that he isn't to be written off yet. For the Chiefs, what do you even say? They finally realized J. Charles was alive in the 2nd half (12 carries, 3 catches on the night) but it was too late by then, and they couldn't get a stop when they needed it. It's bad times in KC. 
  • The NFL trade deadline was yesterday... did you know!? At any rate, there was only one deal that was consummated. Aqib Talib, the Bucs CB with tons of off-field issues, was sent to New England along with a 7th-rounder in the 2013 draft in exchange for a 2013 4th rounder. This is an absolute pillaging for New England if Talib ever gets his head on straight, but it's certainly a risk as Talib is currently suspended. I do think it's worth the risk for the ghastly Pats secondary to add a top-tier talent like this, and I like the gamble. 
What to watch for on Friday...
  • NBA - Heat @ Knicks - 8:00 ESPN - Our first look at the Knicks aging roster... and they get the joy of taking on Lebron and company. Speed vs. molasses! Young vs. old!
  • NBA - Clippers vs. Lakers - 10:30 ESPN - The battle of LA! These two teams don't like each other at all, and the Lakers have looked pretty bad in their 0-2 start.
  • NBA - Rockets @ Hawks - 7:30 SportSouth - The Hawks opener! The James Harden traveling road show comes to town, and we'll get our first glance at the new-look Hawks in full effect. There's some debate on the opening night starting lineup (on the wing at least) and that'll be settled here. 
  • NBA League Pass! - Bulls vs. Cavs (7:30), Jazz @ Hornets (8:00), Blazers @ Thunder (8:00), Kings @ T-Wolves (8:00), Grizz @ Warriors (10:30)... and more! Take advantage!
  • NCAAF - Washington @ Cal - 9:00 ESPN2 - Live football on a Friday night. Cal has been a major disappointment this season at 3-6, but if you're tired of hoops (I have no idea how you would be, but still), this is an option.