Thursday, August 31, 2006

College Football Picks: Week 1

Well this is a new thing I'll be doing... actually it's not really new because I didn't have this blog as this time last year, so there is no precedent for this! But anyway, I'll just pick out what I think are the 5 biggest/best college football games of the weekend, and make my picks on who will win. Since there are already games starting today, this is a little earlier than normal, but here we go.

Stanford at (21) Oregon
Ok, so this isn't the most exciting game ever. But Stanford should be improved this year under Walt Harris, and being led by Trent Edwards at QB. Edwards completed almost 63% of his passes last year, throwing for 17 TD and 7 INT. But Oregon is too tough. They're experience and talented in the backfield, and they're always very tough to beat at home. I like OREGON, 28-14.

(6) USC at Arkansas
The first look at the brand new Trojans (or at least it seems like they're brand new). Arkansas should be much improved this year, but I'm not sure they'll be able to match up with USC, even at home. There is still some uncertainty at QB, as Mitch Mustain figures to get the call sometime this year, although he won't be starting in Game 1. The Trojans are young, but as I've written, I expect big things from them, and I don't think they'll start off with a loss. USC 34-17.

(9) Cal at (23) Tennessee
A very intriguing matchup to start the year. Cal figures to be a strong contender for the Pac-10, while the Vols know they have to improve greatly on last year's mark or Phil Fulmer could be gone. Cal announced they'll start Nate Longshore at QB, and they just need someone to be efficient with Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett at RB. For the Vols, they again have a good defense, but Erik Ainge has to be a lot better than he was last year. But I don't see it in game 1. Even in Tennessee, I like CALIFORNIA 21-17.

(2) Notre Dame at Georgia Tech
The Irish may be ranked 2nd but they can't take Georgia Tech lightly. Tech has possibly the best WR in the nation, a playmaker at QB, a solid defense, and home-field advantage. There's a reason they beat Auburn and Miami last year. For the Irish, they obviously have to be better defensively. The offense could be the best in the country, but that won't mean anything if they can't stop anybody. But I think they'll stop Ga. Tech enough to pull it out. NOTRE DAME 35-24.

(11) Florida St. at (12) Miami
And now the Monday nighter! Last year, this game set offensive football back about 10 years, but things look to be smoother this year. For one, Kyle Wright and Drew Weatherford have experience playing, and they look to be the top QBs in the ACC. The defenses are very good as usual. It's rare to have such a big conference game to start the year, which makes this one all the more exciting. But in the end, I think Kyle Wright makes just enough plays at home to beat the Noles... MIAMI 16-13.

What are your predictions?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

NFC North Preview: Green Bay Packers

As I continue on with these NFC North previews, the next on the list is the Green Bay Packers. Basically, the team I love to hate more than any other in sports. So let's have a look.

About Last Year: Let's put it this way, with all the injuries to their RBs, I think they were even scouting me at one point. The season was that bad for GB. They finished 4-12, Brett Favre threw like 100 INTs, and their best WR got hurt right away. And then after the year the Packers had to go through 5 months of Brett Favre's "will he retire or won't he?" Add it all in, and 2005 is probably a year the Packers would like to forget.

What they Added: Well, they managed to get some good underachieving defensive guys! Charles Woodson is talented, and has had a nice career, and he'll be looking to rebound in the Packers secondary. Rian Pickett will add depth along the line, and he's another early draft pick that hasn't really panned out. In the draft, the Packers added AJ Hawk, who's going to be really good. Also, reports are that Abdul Hodge is also looking real solid for the Packers. You wouldn't know it if you just watched the Bengals/Packers game, but the defense should be pretty decent. Elsewhere, long-time head coach Mike Sherman is gone, replaced by Mike McCarthy, who lasted worked as the O-Coordinator for the SF 49ers... you don't sound impressed? Although the Packers will get like 10 RB from injury, and that's nice.

What they Lost: For one, reliable kicker Ryan Longwell is gone, leaving for the friendly confines of the Metrodome. Longwell has been a consistent, reliable threat and should be missed. Center Mike Flanagan is also good, as he's not with the Texans. The D-Line also took a hit as big Grady Jackson is gone. Jackson didn't rush the passer, but he was very solid against the run. Offensively, the big loss is Javon Walker due to trade. He wasn't going to playing for GB, and so they had no choice. But I can't say I'm too upset. Despite his injury last year, I expect nothing less than a very good year from Javon, a very talented WR.

What does this all mean? It means relief probably isn't really in sight for GB. The O-Line still isn't good, the RB aren't that talented, and the WR not named Donald Driver aren't very reliable (in other words, get Donald Driver for your fantasy football teams). Meanwhile, they're working in a new coach, and the defense hasn't looked too impressive. I see a lot more INT for Favre, a lot more frustrations for the Packers, and another losing season. 5-11 sounds about right.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

NFC North Preview: Detroit Lions

After looking at the Chicago Bears yesterday, next on the list is the Detroit Lions.

About Last Year: Um yeah, I think this is something most Lions fans would like to forget. The Lions finished 5-11 last year, including losing 6 of their last 7 games. They had the QB carousel of Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia, which didn't work out well. The Joey Harrington Experiment finally ended, and Garcia is gone as well. There were a couple of good things happening, like Roy Williams showing he's an excellent receiver when healthy, or Dre Bly showing he can be a playmaker on defense, but there was a lot more bad than good. Such as the fact that Matt Millen is still employed.

What they Added: First and foremost, some coaches. In his Rod Marinelli, a no-nonsense head coach. More importantly, at least in my mind, is that Mike Martz is on board as O-Coordinator. I think Martz is an awful coach, but he's a very good offensive mind. For the offense, QBs Jon Kitna and Josh McCown were brought in for a total overhaul, and it looks like Kitna will be the starter. They also brought in Corey Bradford at WR, who's not a real great player, but if nothing else should provide more competition for guys like Mike Williams and Charles Rogers, who have fallen very far out of favor it seems. TWFE has a complete offensive look for the Lions. In the draft, they added a playmaking LB in Ernie Sims, and then added depth in the secondary with Daniel Bullocks. Jamar Fletcher was also brought in to help replace some CB that left.

What they Lost: Well, Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia are gone, but that's kinda addition by subtraction. They also lost some CBs in RW McQuarters and Andre Goodman, and brought in Jamar Fletcher to try and help offset that. But for the most part, other than the coaches, we're going to see a lot of the same Lions this year. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

What does this all mean? It means it doesn't look like the Lions will be competing for the playoffs yet, even in the weak NFC North. Unless Mike Martz can completely overhaul the offense to make it more dangerous (and if anyone can, he can), I don't like Detroit's chances. A lot of their skill players are perennial underachievers, they're starting a new QB, and the defense is still young and a little thin in spots (although I should mention here that I LOVE Shaun Rogers). But all in all, even some Lions fans aren't that excited for the season to start... and I can't blame them. My guess is 6-10, with a shot at 7-9.

Monday, August 28, 2006

NFC North Preview: Chicago Bears

As you may or may not know or care, I'm a big Vikings fan. I'd pay good money to see a Vikings Super Bowl win. Which is neither here nor there, I guess. But anyway, this results in me paying special attention to the NFC North, because that's obviously the Vikings domain. Which is why I'll preview each of the 4 teams in the division, because I don't really have the stamina to cover all the teams in depth. I'll go in alphabetical order, which means the Chicago Bears are up first.

About Last Year: It was a nice run for the Bears, no denying that. Led by Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, they had the best defense in the NFL. They were fast, they tackled well, got to the QB, and were pretty good in coverage. In the regular season they only gave up 202 points, which was by far the tops in the league. All of this helped them go 11-5 despite an offense that was mediocre at best. Things improved once Kyle Orton was pulled for Rex Grossman, but Grossman wasn't exactly a world beater either. All in all, a season that started without a lot of expectations ended at 11-5 with a division title, and a 29-21 2nd round playoff loss to Carolina.

What they Added: First and foremost, they added a good QB to provide insurance if Rex Grossman can't stay healthy. Brian Griese has been very productive, but with Chris Simms coming up, there was no room for him in Tampa Bay. So far, he's look very solid in the preseason, and if Grossman struggles, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see Griese get the call at QB. Everywhere else, it was about depth. Most notably, they added to the defense with CB Ricky Manning Jr. With Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman already in place, Manning adds another talented part to the defense. In the draft, they also looked to add defensive depth, with guys like Danieal Manning, Dusty Dvoracek, and Jamar Williams. Apparently, you can't have too much of a good thing.

What they Lost: Not much. Jerry Azumah is gone, but they replaced him with Ricky Manning Jr and rookie Danieal Manning. Terrence Metcalf is gone, which decreases the depth at OG, but they're not going to miss him much I don't think. All in all, surprisingly little turnover on this Bears team.

What does this all mean? Well, it means the Bears are the favorites in a weak NFC North. Certainly they look like they'll have a great defense again, with basically everybody back. The questions are still with the offense... how much slack will Rex Grossman get? Can Cedric Benson be an every down back? Can one of the young WR become a big play guy? In the end, I'm guessing about 10-6 for the Bears and another division title. All the ingredients are there to be a good football team again - great defense, solid running game - they just need some consistency from the offense.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

College Football Preview: Roundup

After what probably seemed like months and months to you readers, my college football previews are finally over... in case you missed any, here they are.

Conference Previews (conference winner)
ACC (Florida St / Miami - Miami)
Big East (Louisville)
Big 10 (Ohio St.)
Big 12 (Texas / Nebraska - Texas)
Pac-10 (USC)
SEC (Florida / Auburn - Auburn)

Other Previews
Best Games
Heisman Hopefuls
National Title and other BCS Bowls

How was it? Did I spend too much time and you got bored with it? Let it all out.

And by the way, first games of the college season are Thursday!

College Football Preview: BCS Bowls and Predictions

Well after looking at all of the major conference and possible contenders, the Heisman hopefuls, and all of the best games, it's time to get to my predictions for the title game and the BCS bowls, as well as my predictions.

BCS Title Game
Notre Dame vs. Texas - The Irish have a tough schedule, but I think they have all the weapons offensively, and the defense should be better this year. Going into USC and winning won't be easy, but I think they can do what the Trojans did to them last year. For the Longhorns, they lost Vince Young, but they've returned a boatload of talent. They get the Buckeyes at home, and it's early in the year which will magnify OSU's youth, and I think give Texas the cushion they need. By the title game, I think Jevan Snead will be firmly entrenched as the starting QB, and the Longhorns have more talent across the team to take out Notre Dame. That's why I like TEXAS as my repeat National Champions.

Fiesta Bowl
Louisville vs. Oklahoma - With the game against WVU coming at home, I like Louisville to win the Big East. Brian Brohm is very talented, and he has weapons around him in Michael Bush and Marco Urrutia. For the Sooners, Rhett Bomar is a huge loss, but Adrian Peterson is the best RB in the nation, and they have a great defense. I think they'll use that formula to go through the Big 12. However, LOUISVILLE has too many weapons, and I like them to win here.

Rose Bowl
USC vs. Ohio St. - Finally back to a more conventional Rose Bowl, pitting the best of the Pac-10 and the best of the Big 10. Troy Smith is one of the best QB in the nation, while Ted Ginn is a great playmaker. The Trojans are loaded with young talent that should bve matured by the end of the year. However, I like OHIO ST's experience on offense and young talent on defense to get them the Rose Bowl win.

Orange Bowl
Miami vs. West Virginia - I like Miami to win the ACC, putting them in the Orange Bowl. I think Kyle Wright is going to make the steps to be an excellent QB this year, and he has enough around them to lead them to a conference title. For WVU, their schedule shouldn't be too challenging other than the trip to Louisville... but that should be enough to end the undefeated season and end the title dreams. But the season will end on a high note, as just like last year, I like WEST VIRGINIA to win their BCS Bowl game.

Sugar Bowl
Auburn vs. Florida St. - I think Auburn is the best, most balanced team in the SEC, and they have the best chance to run the table in that conference because of a comparatively favorable schedule. Kenny Irons is a great weapon, and Brandon Cox to Courtney Taylor could become a common theme. For FSU, Drew Weatherford is developing into a very good QB, but he might be a year away. I like FSU to lose a game or two and wind up with an at-large berth. In this game, I think the best team in SEC shows why it's the best conference in America, and AUBURN wins.

1. Texas
2. Ohio St.
3. Auburn
4. Notre Dame
5. Lousiville
6. USC
7. West Virginia
8. Oklahoma
9. Miami
10. Florida

What's your pick for the National Title game, and who do you have winning it?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

College Football Preview: Best Games of the Year

Well I've gone through all the conferences, and looked quickly at the best games from each conference, but as we get closer and closer to the end of this preview it's time to take a look at all of the best game overall, conference and non-conference.


2nd - Cal at Tennessee - An excellent start to the year... Cal looks to be Pac-10 contenders this year, while Tennessee needs to rebound from the disappointment of last year.
4th - Florida St. at Miami - Best opening weekend game, believe it or not this could determine the ACC Champion.
9th - Ohio St. at Texas - The long-awaited rematch of last year's great battle... probably the second most looked forward to non-conference in all of college football. Both teams look like title contenders.
16th - Michigan at Notre Dame - The Irish went into The Big House last year and sprung what looked like an upset... can the Wolverines do the same to the Irish this year?
16th - Nebraska at USC - Is Nebraska back? Are the Trojans able to overcome the losses? Lots of questions will be answered.
16th - LSU at Auburn - Great SEC matchup between two extremely talented teams.
23rd - Penn St. at Ohio St. - Penn St. beat them last year, but can they do it again without Michael Robinson?


7th - Oklahoma vs. Texas - The Red River Shootout has been lopsided the past couple of years, but the Sooners will be looking to regain their mojo this year after last year's whooping.
14th - Florida at Auburn - How will Urban Meyer's offense look against a fast and talented defense in Auburn? Can the Gators shut down Kenny Irons? Excellent matchup on both sides.
14th - Michigan at Penn St. - Wolverines won this game last year on a pass as time expired ending Penn St.'s hopes for a perfect season, now the Nittany Lions look for revenge at home.
21st - Texas at Nebraska - If Texas gets by Oklahoma, Nebraska has the best shot to beat Texas of anyone in the Big 12, especially at home.
28th - Florida vs. Georgia - The great rivalry game usually produces great games... this game will likely decide the SEC East.


2nd - West Virginia at Louisville - Game should decide the Big East, and with the talent on these clubs, this has the potential to be one of the most entertaining games of the year.
4th - Virginia Tech at Miami - Beamer's Boys will be very good defensively, while Miami has some offensive talent. These two teams have been playing great games since the Big East days.
11th - South Carolina at Florida - Steve Spurrier's return to The Swamp. Enough said.
18th - Cal at USC - If USC is going to lose a game in the Pac-10, my money would be on this being the game.
18th - Michigan at Ohio St. - One of the best rivalries in college football. Both teams appear to be very talented, and this could have Big 10 and National Title implications.
25th - Notre Dame at USC - At least for me, the game I'm looking forward to the most. Last year's game was the most entertaining game that I can remember watching, and even though some personnel have changed, the Trojans have the talent (and should have the experience by the end of the year) to beat Notre Dame. These two teams will be undefeated when they meet. You heard it here first.
26th - Florida at Florida St. - Another great rivalry game. Two very talented teams on both side of the ball.

What games are you most looking forward to?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

College Football Preview: Other Teams to Watch

After going through all of the major contenders, that just leaves those teams that are either not in a conference (here's looking at you Irish) or those teams that are in the Mid-Majors. I could go through them all, but well, I'm not quite that ambitious, so I'll just take a look at those that possibly have shots for a BCS Bowl or are just interesting.

Notre Dame: We all know the story last year - good offense, bad defense. Well, the good news is that there are 9 starters back on defense. The bad news... is that there are 9 starters back on defense. The problem with the Irish defense was speed last year, something that, from all reports, they have worked hard on improving during the offseason and through recruiting. If the defense can even be average, well, the Irish have a shot to go far, because the offense could be the best in all the land. Charlie Weis is a mastermind, Brady Quinn is the best QB in the nation, and Jeff Smardizja (I spelled that horribly wrong), is an excellent receiver. Add in Darius Walker, Rhema McKnight, and a good O-Line, and lots and lots of points will be put up in South Bend. They've got early season tests, but all eyes are on their trip to USC late this year, which could be one of the best games of the college football season.

TCU: They were an early-season loss at SMU away from going undefeated, and they return 8 starters on offense and 6 on defense. They've got an excellent rushing attack spearheaded by Robert Merrill and Aaron Brown at RB. They start out at Baylor and home vs. Texas Tech, and if they pass those early season tests a BCS bid is not out of the question.

Utah: The Utes are back and one of the best mid-majors in all the land. They've got an experienced defense with 8 returning starters. Also, even though QB Brian Johnson won't play this year, they still have experience at that position. They won't be as good as the Alex Smith/Urban Meyer show, but they'll win more than the 7 games they won last year.

Boise St: Dan Hawkins is gone, but they've still got lots of talent on the offensive side of the ball, led by Jared Zabransky. They averaged over 36 points a game last year, and they return 9 starters on offense (and 9 on defense). Look for them to be an exciting team and once again a force in the MWC.

Tulsa: The C-USA champs should be very good again this year, as they return 17 starts including QB Paul Smith. They finished 9-4 last year (including a Liberty Bowl win over Fresno St.) and once again they look to be the class of C-USA.

UTEP: But Tulsa's biggest competition in C-USA should come from UTEP and QB Jordan Palmer. Palmer is one of the most talented QBs in the country, but he has to make better decisions and take better care of the ball. If he can cut down on TOs, then UTEP will be potent offensively and big contenders to Tulsa.

Houston: The Cougars will be an entertaining team to watch because of QB Kevin Kolb. As he goes into the year, he has already thrown for 9,155 career yards and 55 TD. There are definitely some good QBs in C-USA.

UCF: They won't be contending for the BCS, but they're an interesting team because of the huge turnaround last year. They'll return 18 starters from an 8-win team, and once again will look for a bowl berth under George O'Leary.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

College Football Preview: SEC

And finally we move on to the best and deepest conference in all the land - the SEC. According to the first USA Today poll, 8 of the top 30 teams in the nation reside in the SEC. They're deep, talented, and it's going to be extremely difficult to come out of that conference unscathed. Let's take a closer look:

Player of the Year: Unlike some other races, there is no clear cut favorite here, at least in my opinion. Kenny Irons of Auburn obviously has a great shot at this, coming off of a 1300 yard, 13 TD year. The Tigers offense will be absolutely loaded this year, and defenses won't be able to focus on Irons, which should only help. Chris Leak should also be in the discussion. He's very talented, very experienced, and we all know what QBs have done once they've been comfortable in Urban Meyer's offense. Plus, he's got great talent behind him (more on that later), so he'll have to play well to keep his job.

Those two are the favorites, but there are some darkhorses. One is Sidney Rice of South Carolina, one of the best WR in the nation. He has an experienced QB in Blake Mitchell throwing to him, and Steve Spurrier is still a great offensive mind. A final candidate is JaMarcus Russell of LSU. Only a junior, he's got a lot of experience and has always been very talented, and like Leak, has players behind him that can play. But when you add it all up, I like Chris Leak to take things home. He's got Urban Meyer there, plus the receivers are healthy and extremely talented.

Freshmen to Watch: It's the year of the freshmen QB in the SEC, but let's start with a WR. Percy Havin from Florida is one of the best incoming players in the country, and his speed and versatility shoud allow him to contribute immediately for Florida in the passing game and on special teams. Elsewhere for the Gators, QB Tim Tebow should get some playing time immediately, even with Chris Leak there. He's a perfect fit for Urban's spread offense, and should be a star in Gainesville. Elsewhere, Matthew Stafford should get some early playing time for Georgia, with DJ Shockley gone. He's got a great arm, and might be the best freshman QB in the nation. A final guy is Mitch Mustain from Arkansas. It doesn't look like he'll start the year, but if they struggle at that position, don't be surprised to see Mustain in there, especially with his high school coach as the offensive coordinator.

Breakout Players: A lot of people know about him already, but I think Brandon Cox will establish himself as an excellent QB in the SEC and NCAA for Auburn. The offense hardly missed a beat after losing Brown/Cadillac and Jason Campbell, and Cox was a big reason for that. Another guy is Andre Caldwell, who is coming off of injury, and should have a big year with Leak/Tebow at QB. A final guy is Brent Schaeffer, the transfer who will be a big part of Ole Miss' offense and will be the key if Ole Miss can take a step forward.

Other things to watch: Can anyone come out of this conference undefeated to have a shot for the title game? There are just so many good teams it's extremely tough. If things break right, teams like Auburn, LSU, and Florida can be top 5 teams, this conference is that good.

Best Games:
- LSU at Auburn - An early season matchup facing two talented and experience teams. The winner has a huge advantage in the West. (September 16)
- LSU at Florida - Once again, just two quality teams. (October 7)
- Florida at Auburn - The 2 best teams in the SEC in my mind and two of the top teams in the nation. (October 14)
- Florida vs. Georgia - How's this for a 4-week span: LSU, at Auburn, vs. Georgia. Wow! This rivalry game is always entertaining. (October 28)

Projected Order of Finish

1. Florida
2. Georgia
3. Tennessee
4. South Carolina
5. Kentucky
6. Vanderbilt

1. Auburn
2. LSU
3. Arkansas
4. Alabama
5. Ole Miss
6. Mississippi St.

Monday, August 21, 2006

College Football Preview: Pac-10

After a short hiatus, I'm back (though probably not better than ever), and ready to get back into the college football previews with the season right around the corner. Now the Pac-10, which features my favorite team (UCLA), but it hasn't really been all the competitive of late, as USC has looked down on everyone else for the past few years. They have the talent to do that again, but they'll be very young. Let's take a look.

Player of the Year: The favorite coming in is Cal's Marshawn Lynch. He's an explosive runner, has a good offense around him, and will get the ball (even with fellow RB Justin Forsett there). He is one of the top returning RB in all of college football. Elsewhere, USC has great athletes once again, led by WR Dwayne Jarrett, who might be the best WR in the nation, coming off of 29 TD in his first two years. The biggest darkhorse in this race could be John David Booty, who looks to be stepping in as the USC starting QB. Remember what happened the last time USC replaced a star QB? There are no shortage of weapons for Booty (including the best WR corps in the nation), so if he stays healthy, he could be a candidate here. Lastly, whoever wins the ASU QB job will be in the running. Right now, it looks like Sam Keller has the inside track, but Rudy Carpenter showed last year he can put up big numbers and win ballgames. But in the end, I think it will come down to Marshawn Lynch being the most talented player in the conference, playing on a good Cal team. I like him to be the Conference Player of the Year.

Freshmen to Watch: It'll be really interesting to watch the trio of freshman RBs for USC - Stafon Johnson, Emmanuel Moody, and CJ Gable - because all of them could get chances this year. The frontrunner to get the most carries of the 3 is probably Stafon Johnson, one of the top RB prospects in the nation. For other freshman, we don't really have to look further than the Trojans skill players, because WR Vidal Hazelton could also have an impact on offense and special teams. Sure, the receiving corps is loaded (Jarrett, Steve Smith, Patrick Turner), but they were loaded last year and Patrick Turner got on the field. Pete Carroll is not shy about playing freshman, so Hazelton should get his chances.

Breakout Players: There are some solid young QBs in the Pac-10, and perhaps none of them is better than UCLA's Ben Olson, at least on paper. We've probably all heard the story - he was a top prospect, went on his Mormon mission, then came to UCLA - so he has the talent. If he can pick up the offense well, he should be very productive replacing Drew Olson. Another young QB is Willie Tuitama of Arizona. He was very productive for Arizona once Mike Stoops took the redshirt off, and that should just create momentum for this year.

Other Things to Watch: Can anyone in the Pac-10 beat USC? The three best teams other than UCLA are Cal, Oregon, and Arizona St... which all go on the road to play USC this year. In other words, my guess is a resounding no. Another interesting thing is to see who will be Cal's starting QB... Nate Longshore was it last year until he got hurt, and then Joe Ayoob came in an struggled. If they can get any type of reliability and consistency there, they will be firing on all cylinders. And sorry Washington fans, despite an experienced QB and improving D, Washington doesn't have enough to crawl much higher than the depths of the Pac-10.

UPDATE: All of this ASU QB talk is null becuase now it looks like Sam Keller may have been released from his scholarship, and possibly plans to transfer. Needless to say, this is big news for the Pac-10, Rudy Carpenter, and whichever team Sam Keller might possibly go to (Nebraska?) Very interesting stuff indeed.

Best Games:
- Arizona St. at USC - The Sun Devils gave USC a tough test last year, and with their talented QBs, they have a chance to do that again. (October 14th)
- California at USC - Cal remains the last Pac-10 team to beat USC way back when. (November 18th)
- Arizona St. at Arizona - The in-state rivalry should be made better as Arizona gets better. (November 25th)

Projected Order of Finish

1. USC
2. California
3. Arizona St.
4. Oregon
6. Arizona
7. Stanford
8. Oregon St.
9. Washington St.
10. Washington

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Out of Office AutoReply

Well all, it's time for me to head back to school, which means I'll be moving all of my stuff in, which means my computer access will be sporadic, which means I'm not even going to bother to try to post anything, and just take the weekend off.

I know for some of you, reading this blog is probably like the highlight of your day, so accept my humble apologies. As they say on PTI, I'll try to do better the next time!

Friday, August 18, 2006

College Football Preview: Big 12

Last year, this conference was basically Texas and a whole bunch of average teams. This year? Well, not a whole lot better, but it does look like everyone else is catching up and some of those average teams improved. Let's take a look.

Player of the Year: Without question the most talented player in the conference is Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma. In his freshman year he ran for over 1800 yards, but that dropped off due to injury and an inconsistent pass game. Some of those same probelsm might still be there with the dismisall of Rhett Bomar, which will allow defenses to once again stack the line and gear up to stop Peterson. This should open the door for other candidates, namely Jamaal Charles of Texas. He was overshadowed last year by some guy named Vince Young and the fact that he was just a freshman. Still, he managed to run for 878 yards (on 7.4 YPC), and should keep improving that as he gets more touches. He's an explosive player and one of the big reasons Texas won't drop off much this year.

After that, there's a couple of QB candidates. One is Iowa St. QB Bret Meyer. He's a junior but already in his third year as the starter, and he's one of the most accurate and most athletic QBs in the conference. Plus, with great WR Todd Blythe in the mix, he has weapons. Another potential candidate is Nebraska QB Zac Taylor. He should now be fully entrenched in the offense Bill Callahan has put in, and with his top 2 WR returning, he should put up good numbers. Still, all of these guys pretty much only have a pipe dream if Adrian Peterson stays healthy. He is the best back in all of American and a big contender for the Heisman, and this is why he is my pick for Player of the Year.

Freshmen to Watch: The most important positional battle as far as the conference is concerned is the Texas QB position, which is between RS freshman Colt McCoy and true freshman Jevan Snead. Both will probably get playing time early, but they'll need one of them to grab the spot and flourish if they're going to make any noise this year. Word out of camp is that Snead is probably more talented, but McCoy is more polished. Should be one of the more fascinating battles to watch in all of the country. Another freshman to watch is RB Michael Goodson of Texas A&M. He might have been the best HS back out of Texas last year, and could be in the mix early for the Aggies.

Breakout Players: Nebraska has shifted emphasis from the running game to the passing game, but that doesn't mean they don't have a talented back in Marlon Lucky. With Cody Ross gone, Lucky should get more carries and has the talent to take advantage of them. In Texas Tech, they'll finally go into a year without a senior QB starting for the first time, and so it looks like sophomore Graham Harrell will be the starter there. With Mike Leach's offensive philsophy and the great WR trio fo Joel Filani, Jarrett Hicks, and Robert Johnson returning, Harrell should put up huge numbers. A final player is Stephen McGee of Texas A&M. Ryan McNeal has finally graduated, leaving the accurate McGee as the starter.

Other things to watch: Texas may have lost their all-world QB, but they're still returning a ton of talent, including their top 4 RB and starting WR. They'll obviously be extremely dangerous. Can the North ever catch up to the South in terms of team talent? Well, not this year. I'm also going to be very interested in watching Dan Hawkins, who has been so good at Boise St., and if he can turn around the Colorado program.

Best Games:
- Texas vs. Oklahoma - We all know about the tradition of this rivalry. Texas finally ended the drought and beat the Sooners last year, but can they make it 2 in a row? (October 7)
- Texas at Nebraska - Two very talented offensive teams meet up in Lincoln. (October 14)
- Texas Tech at Oklahoma - One of the best defenses in the nation for Oklahoma takes on the passing game of Texas Tech. It was a great game last year, and should be again. (November 22)

Projected Order of Finish

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Texas Tech
4. Texas A&M
5. Oklahoma St.
6. Baylor

1. Nebraska
2. Iowa St.
3. Colorado
4. Missouri
5. Kansas
6. Kansas St.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

College Football Preview: Big 10

As far as overall quality of teams, the Big 10 is not the best conference in the country (that would be the SEC). However, as far as star power goes, there might not be anyone better than the Big 10. Let's take a look.

Player of the Year: At this point, with the way last year ended, Troy Smith of Ohio St. has to be the favorite. He's fast, accurate, and has a strong arm... basically the closest thing in college football to Vince Young (right down to the jersey number). Smith's a top 5 Heisman candidate, and definitely the favorite for the Conference POY. But don't count out his teammate Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn is one of the fastest player in the country, and if he can contribute on special teams as well, he may have a shot to overtake Smith. Also in the discussion are a couple of Michigan juniors - Chad Henne and Michael Hart. Both were superb as freshman, and both dropped off a little as sophomores. Henne was a little more inconsistent because he didn't have quite as good of a running game backing him up... because Michael Hart was injured, which was his problem. With both guys healthy, Michigan has a great shot at a conference title and these guys both have a shot to be the conference player of the year.

But the list of candidates doesn't stop there. You also have to take a look at Penn St.'s Paul Posluszny, probably the best defensive player in the nation. Then there's Drew Tate and Drew Stanton, two mature QBs looking to improve consistency as both of their teams will be in the top half of the conference. And finally, for a real darkhorse, take a look at Northwestern RB Tyrell Sutton. He's just a sophomore, and was excellent last year rushing for 1474 yards and 16 TD. He should be an even bigger part of their offense this year, which means even more big numbers. However, when it comes right down to it, I'd put my money on Troy Smith, who should make the Buckeye offense one of the best in all of college football.

Freshman to Watch: The best player entering the Big 10 this year is Ohio St. RB Chris Wells. From all reports, he's one of the best incoming freshman in America, in the mold of Eddie George, and should push Antonio Pittman immediately for playing time. Much like Kevin Grady last year for Michigan, he'll be behind a proven back, but should still get some solid playing time. Another guy to watch is Illinois QB Isiah Williams. He may not start the year as the starting QB, but I'd be willing to bet he ends the season as the starting QB.

Breakout Players: One guy to watch for here is Penn St. QB Anthony Morelli. He obviously never got the opportunity last year because he was behind Michael Robinson, but he has good physical tools as well as excellent talent around him to be very successful. Tony Hunt returns at RB, and WR Derrick Williams is one of the best all-around players in the conference. Another guy that's just getting his shot is Minnesota RB Amir Pinnix. With Gary Russell not eligible, Pinnix should rack up a lot of yards even though the Gophers O-Line isn't as strong as it has been in the past. A lot of people know about Mario Manningham already, but I'm guessing most college football fans will know about him by the end of this year. Jason Avant is gone, which moves Manningham into the starting lineup, and he looks like the next excellent Michigan receiver. And as the Penn St. game last year showed, he has a knack for the big play.

Other things to watch: It's going to be strange watching Wisconsin this year without Barry Alvarez manning the sideline as the head coach. Another interesting thing is that Michigan and Iowa went into last year with huge expectations and underperformed... this year they both look just as strong going in, but may be a little underrated.

Best Games:
- Penn St. at Ohio St. - Huge game early in the year... Ohio St. takes on Texas two weeks before this game... could it possibly be 2 losses in September for the Buckeyes? (September 23rd)
- Minnesota at Wisconsin - I like the Gophers so maybe I'm a little biased, but if you saw this game last year, you know what this rivalry means. (October 14th)
- Iowa at Michigan - Two talented, veteran teams. Can Kirk Ferentz lead the Hawkeyes to a win in the Big House? (October 21st)
- Michigan at Ohio St. - National title and conference title implications... do I need to hype this up at all? Didn't think so. (November 18th)

Projected Order of Finish

1. Ohio St.
2. Michigan
3. Iowa
4. Penn St.
5. Michigan St.
6. Wisconsin
7. Purdue
8. Northwestern
9. Minnesota
10. Illinois
11. Indiana

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

College Football Preview: Big East

With the ACC in the books, let's move on to the Big East.

Player of the Year: For the most part, we can probably be reasonably certain that this is coming from West Virginia or Louisville, can't we? Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh might be able to make a competition of it if he gets back to 2004 form, otherwise it looks like the candidates will be Pat White and Steve Slaton of West Virginia or Brian Brohm and Michael Bush of Louisville. Which is really symbolic of the Big East as a whole, because all indications are that these two teams are miles above the competition.

For the Mountaineers, White is perhaps the best dual-threat QB in the nation. He wasn't a great throw last year, but improved as it went along, and he's certainly a threat to run for 1000 yards. Steve Slaton didn't even start until the 6th game, and he finished with 1,128 yards and 19 TD. In the Sugar Bowl? Try 204 yards and 2 TD. Brian Brohm is probably the best pure passer in the conference, but he is recovering from injury Michael Bush is a big but athletic back who's great in the redzone, as evidenced by his 23 TD. But overall, I think that with the offense West Virginia runs, and the explosiveness of Steve Slaton, he will be the Player of the Year in the Big East.

Freshmen to Watch: On the surface, it doesn't look like there will be many freshman with huge impacts, and certainly nothing like Pat White or Steve Slaton last year, but there are some playmakers. Probably the biggest one right away is WR Dorin Dickerson, who should get some nice playing time early on at Pittsburgh. With Tyler Palko at QB, and not a whole lot of great options, Dickerson could be a force early on. For Lousiville, Deantwan Whitehead should help to ease the loss of Elvis Dumervil. He's a great athlete at DE, and should be a very nice player.

Breakout Players: When looking for some breakout players, I think we have to look at Rutgers, who, after many years of suckiness, is establishing itself as a quality program. They lost in a bowl game last year, but should be even better this year. One reason is Brian Leonard, who's a running and receiving threat out of the backfield. Leonard ran for 740 yards last year and caught 55 balls, so he should be one of the top players in the conference. Another guy from Rutgers is Mike Teel. He's always had talent, but if he can improve the decision-making, he'll be a very solid QB for Rutgers. Moving away from Rutgers to Louisville, a lot of the pass-catching responsibilities will fall to sophomore Mario Urrutia. He's 6'66, and caught 7 TD last year. With Brian Brohm throwing him the ball, big things could be in store.

Other things to watch: Is there much to watch here other than West Virginia and Louisville? Sure, Rutgers is improving, and Pittsburgh is bringing in some good recruits, but WVU and Louisville are far and away the top 2 teams in the conference. I guess the one thing to watch is if either of them gets upset like Lousiville did when they got mauled by South Florida early last year.

Best Games:
- West Virginia at Louisville - This is basically the one that really matters. Last year was a triple OT classic, and both teams should be strong again this year. Should be a high-scoring affair that will decide the Big East champion. (November 2nd)

Projected Order of Finish

1. Louisville
2. West Virginia
3. Pittsburgh
4. Rutgers
5. South Florida
6. Connecticut
7. Cincinnati
8. Syracuse

Monday, August 14, 2006

Vikings Fever

I said a few days ago that I wasn't much of a fan of NFL preseason games. I guess I should have added a caveat... if the Vikings are playing in the preseason opener on MNF on Tony Kornheiser's first game, well, I'm watching. Some observations:

- Not bad start for the Brad Childress Era in Minnesota. Ok, it was a loss, but that hardly matters. The first-team offense was efficient in driving to a first quarter TD and the first-team defense absolutely crushed the Raiders first-team offense. Plus, Childress spared us all when he decided to go for it on the last play of the game instead of potentially sending it to OT.

- I know it was early, but it was really nice to see the DEs flash some of that talent. Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James both looked like they could make really solid pass-rushing DEs this year. The rookie Ray Edwards also made a nice play.

- The RBs, on the other hand, didn't impress. Chester Taylor did have some nice moments, but it's hard to get excited when your longest carry is 4 yards and you have a 2.0 rushing average. Ciatrick Fason looked pretty much exactly the same, and Mewelde Moore didn't stand out either.

- Kornheiser touched on this, but it was cool to see all the fans be so supportive of Tarvaris Jackson. He wasn't my first choice for QB in the draft (I was hoping for Kellen Clemens in the 2nd round), but he certainly showed flashes of some of that potential. 7/13 60 yards and 36 yards rushing. And he would have had a TD pass if one hadn't been dropped. He looked poised, made great decisions, and certainly displayed his athleticism. I came into the game excited to see him, and I left the game even more excited.

- However, we all better pray that Brad Johnson doesn't get hurt this year. I really don't think Mike McMahon's going to be winning a whole lot of ballgames.

- Speaking of Kornheiser, I'm a big fan. You could tell he was a little nervous about everything in his first game, but I think he'll be great to listen to. Does he bring a lot to the game as far as football knowledge? Probably not. But he's funny, and a heck of a lot better to listen to than John Madden. Also, bonus points to him for taking it to Theismann a little bit (such as questioning him when Theismann said the Raiders would go with the veteran QB in Brooks, then later saying it was still an open competition). I'm looking forward to MNF with Tony.

- Lastly, it's still tough to watch Randy Moss in other uniforms, especially when they show all those highlight videos. Unbelievable receiver, and all of that talent is going to waste because Aaron Brooks is terrible. It's going to be another long season for Moss, but through no fault of his own.

College Football Preview: ACC

Finally, the start of the previews are upon us. First, let's look at the ACC, which as always, looks to be extremely strong, with a couple of familiar faces up at the top. I'll look at some of the candidates for player of the year, some of the top freshman, some breakout players, some other players to watch, and the best conference games.

Player of the Year: I think this list probably starts with two guys that were young, inexperienced QBs last year and constantly grew as the year progressed. I'm talking about Drew Weatherford of FSU and Kyle Wright of Miami. If you remember the meeting between these two teams at the start of last year, they both looked real solid in all areas of the game except QB. As the year went on, however, Wright and Weatherford became more confident, made better decisions, and their natural talent came through. For other candidates, we have to look at the skill positions. The one guy that must be mentioned is WR Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech. He could be one of the best WR in the nation, and he has the senior in Reggie Ball throwing to him. A couple of other guys that deserve mention are James Davis of Clemson and Lorenzo Booker of FSU. Both are talented backs that could make some noise. In the end, however, I think the award will be won by a QB, and I think Kyle Wright of Miami will be the Player of the Year in the ACC.

Freshmen to Watch: The most exciting and explosive freshman in the ACC is probably a safety, Myron Rolle of Florida St. He's a great athlete, capable of intercepting the ball, and I'd expect him to be starting in the defensive backfield for the Seminoles, who just reload defensively. Another good freshman is CJ Spiller, a RB at Clemson. The Tigers do have good depth in the backfield, especially with the aforementioned James Davis, but I think Spiller is talented enough that he could get some carries early on in his career.

Breakout Players: There are a couple of receivers I like who are pretty well known as solid players, but I expect them to break out and be 2 of the best WR in the conference. The first is Greg Carr of FSU. He's 6'5'', athletic, productive (9 TD) and will have Drew Weatherford throwing to him. The other guy I like is Lance Leggett of Miami. He's always been a talented but inconsistent player, but now that he's in jis junior year and more comfortable, I expect him to be a consistent target for Wright and put up big numbers. Reggie Ball is another guy I like. The guy has seemingly been around forever, but he's athletic enough, accurate enough, and has enough weapons with guys like Calvin Johnson to be a Player of the Year candidate if things break right. A final guy is Lance Ball, the RB for Maryland. He is actually the leading returning rusher in the ACC, and if they can get some consistent QB play from Sam Hollenbach, Ball should establish himself as one of the best RB in the ACC.

Best Games:
- FSU at Miami - The season opener for the clubs usually produces a great game. This year should be no different, as both teams appear to be very strong (September 2nd)
- Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech - Georgia Tech has some talented players on offense, while Va. Tech is always a great defensive club. (September 30th)
- Virginia Tech at Miami - Like FSU/Miami, these two teams always seem to put together a tight, competitive game when they play each other (November 4th)

Projected Order of Finish
1. Florida St.
2. Clemson
3. Maryland
4. Boston College
5. Wake Forest
6. NC State

1. Miami
2. Virginia Tech
3. Georgia Tech
4. North Carolina
5. Virginia
6. Duke

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Links For Your Perusal

As I finish up with a little more homework for my college football previews, let me just direct you to some links that I kinda sorta liked. Or something.

I professed my love for college football yesterday, but the NFL is pretty good too, and you can check out The Armchair Quarterback for some of the NFL previews. My Opinion on Sports has some more NFL previews and predictions as well.

As Deadspin points out, the 4th pick in this year's fantasy drafts sucks. We know who should be going in the top 3, but it's sort of a crapshoot after that. Edge? Peyton Manning? Tiki Barber?

Live-blogging an NFL preseason game? I must give Ian credit... I'm not sure I could get through much of a preaseason game, let alone live blog it.

There few things I enjoy more then Fire Joe Morgan going through a Joe Morgan chat. So bad, yet so so enjoyable.

The first photograb for "Who Shot Mamba?" is finally here!

Adn finally, a nice little article on ESPN about the dual QB stuff in college football, and a look at some of the QB battles still going on as we approach the start of the year.

Hope you enjoy, and hopefully I'll be able to start some stuff I want tomorrow as I enter into my last week of summer vacation. *cry*

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The College Football Season is Getting Closer and Closer

Let me get one thing clear. I love the NFL. If I was proposed a deal to give up a toe for a Vikings Super Bowl win, that would be something I would strongly consider. And I'm dead serious.

But overall, I prefer college football. All the games, all the excitement, the different strategies, the freshman coming in playing with the seniors going out... I love it all. The crowds, the atmosphere, the rivalries... I'm with these guys - Every day should be Saturday.

Let me just say one thing - I watch a lot of football each year, both NFL and NCAA. No NFL game that I have ever watched was close to the excitement that I saw from USC/Notre Dame last year. The traditions, the crowd, the overall excitement and anticipation is just something I can't get from the NFL. And I didn't even have a rooting interest in the game.

This is probably coming off as me not liking the NFL, which couldn't be further from the truth. On a scale of 0-10, the NFL is a 9.9 and college football is a 10.0.

So what does all of this mean? Well, it's basically a fancy way of saying I don't have much else to write about now because I'm working on some college football stuff, since the start of the season is less than 3 weeks away. So get ready for that, if you want. Or if not, that's cool too.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

#32 Dominique Wilkins

This is part of my list of the 50 Greatest NBA Players Ever, where I will go through each player in a random order. #32 on the list is Dominique Wilkins.

Known best for his dazzling highlights and superb nickname - "The Human Highlight Film" - Dominique Wilkins was a very good all-around player and one of the best scorers of all-time, which is why he ranks in here at #32.

In his prime, Wilkins averaged close to 30 PPG, grabbed about 7 RPG, and added in a few assists and a couple of steals. He could dunk over anyone, he had a decent jump shot, and he was able to use his athleticism to get to the line.

Never was this more evident than in 1986 through 1988. At that point, he didn't have a great jumpshot (18.6%, 29.2%, and 29.5% from behind the 3-point in those years), but he was almost scoring at will. In 1986 he led the league with 30.3 PPG, in 1987 he was 2nd at 29.0 PPG, and in 1988 he was 2nd with 30.7 PPG. Some guy named Michael Jordan led the league in 1987 and 1988.

For his career, he finished at 24.8 PPG, but from age 25-34 Wilkins was consistently in the high 20s/low 30s. Rebounding the ball was not his strong suit, but he did averaged almost 7 a game for his career, topping out at 9.0 in 1991. But when you're as good as he was offensively, you didn't need to do a whole lot in other areas to be considered a very good player.

All in all, because of his athleticism, scoring ability, and the fact that he was able to do his part in other areas of the game lands him as the 32nd best player ever in the NBA. No, he never got past the conference semifinals, but I find that hard to hold against him since basketball is, after all, a team sport.

I leave you with video of the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest, which features Dominique against Michael Jordan, eventually won by Jordan. It shows just how athletic these guys are:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Fantasy Football: Who's #1?

Yes, it's that time of year again... time for fantasy football.

Following WRBS Sports Blog's lead, I'll take a look at who I think should be the #1 pick in fantasy football drafts. He included Peyton Manning in the debate, but I won't. Unless you play in a league that variates from the so-called 'standard' scoring system and overvalues QBs, a top -flight RB is worth more than a top-flight QB. Which basically leaves you with 3 choices: Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, or LaDainian Tomlinson.

Shaun Alexander
Here's a guy you can't go wrong with because not only did he lead the league in rushing yards last year, but he scored 27 TD. He doesn't provide much at all in the receiving category (78 yards receiving last year), but when you run for as many yards and TD as he does, does it matter how much you catch the ball? Not really. There is a little cause for concern with the exit of Steve Hutchinson to Minnesota. By all accounts Hutch was the best OG in the NFL last year, and Hutch and Walter Jones provided big holes for Alexander to run through. Will it have a big effect? It's hard to say. But that's about the only potential question mark on Alexander.

LaDainian Tomlinson
The most versatile back of the three, LT caught 100 passes in 2003. Last year he ran for "only" 1462 yards, but he did run in for 18 TDs. His receptions were down a little too, as he caught 51 balls for 370 yards and 2 more TDs through the air. There's also some concern for LT as well as the Chargers will be playing with a new QB in Phillip Rivers. I'm optimistic that Rivers will be a solid NFL starter, but there certainly are concerns, and it could be a little rocky at the start. We'll see.

Larry Johnson
We all know the story. He started the year struck behind Priest Holmes, but once Holmes got hurt, Johnson became the everydown back, and well, he ran with it (pun very much intended!) Over the last 9 games of the year he averaged 150 yards and 1.78 TD per game, which projects to somewhere around 2400 yards and 28 TD over a 16-game season. He was also a productive receiver, with 343 yards gained through the air. As with the others, there's some concern with LJ as well, as Willie Roaf is gone, O-Coordinator Al Saunders is gone, and Johnson has never started for a full season.

Bottom Line
If I had the #1 pick, I donb't think I'd be able to resist the huge potential of Larry Johnson. Good QB, still got a good OL, and new coach Herman Edwards is notoriously conservative. Project him over a full 16 games, and the numbers become video-game like.

1. Larry Johnson
2. LaDainian Tomlinson
3. Shaun Alexander

Who's your #1?

too depressed to write anything

From the Star Tribune:

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota's rookie All-Star, is out indefinitely with what appears to be a left elbow injury.


In a quiet postgame clubhouse, Liriano, 22, seemed on the verge of tears, and his voice crackled as he described the pain, pointing to the inside of the elbow this time, beneath the muscle and possibly in the joint.


"I couldn't even throw the fastball, slider, changeup anything," Liriano said. "It bothered me every pitch I threw."

From the Twins website:

But it's not even close to the type of blow that the Twins could receive in the coming days if the news on starter Francisco Liriano is as bad as it appears to be.

Liriano pitched just four innings in the club's 9-3 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park on Monday night before being pulled due to pain near his left elbow that flared up again.

The Twins 22-year-old rookie phenom was skipped over for his last start, due to the inflammation that he had in his left forearm. An MRI revealed no structural damage to the arm and the thought was that 10 days of rest would solve the problem.

But this time, the pain returned in what Liriano deemed a different spot and it seems to be worse than before. It's something that has even caused Liriano to be a bit scared of what may be causing the pain.

"I am, because it really bothered me a lot and I don't know what it is," Liriano said of being more concerned than he was before. "I couldn't throw my fastball, changeup, slider -- it bothered me on every pitch I throw.

"It really bothers me because it's getting worse."

UPDATE: As far as this goes, things don't appear to be quite as bad as I was initially bracing myself for... there's definitely a chance he's done for the year, but worse things have happened. As long as there's no long-term problems, I'm ok and too depressed about it anymore!

Monday, August 07, 2006

#16 Hakeem Olajuwon

This is part of my list of the 50 Greatest NBA Players Ever, where I will go through each player in a random order. #16 on the list is Hakeem Olajuwon.

Now time for Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon, who just so happens to be my sister Amanda' favorite player of all-time (which is why I'm writing about him early). So congrats to Hakeem for that.

What make Hakeem so great was that for a big man, he did everything well. He scored, he rebounded, be was a solid passer, and he was a beast defensively. This is all evident looking at the numbers.

From 1993-1996 Hakeem put one of the best stretches ever together. During that 4-year stretch he averaged 27.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 3.6 BPG, and 1.7 SPG. No surprise that he got the MVP in 1994, and the Finals MVP in 1994 and 1995. In 1994 he was the NBA MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year, which I don't believe has ever been done before.

For all of his offensive prowess, including the classic "Dream Shake", defense is where he made his living. He averaged 3.5 BPG and 2.0 SPG for his career. Most staggering, at least to me, is that he's 7th all-time in the NBA in steals. Everyone above him is a guard. He's also first all-time in blocks. He's the only player in NBA history with 2000 blocks and 2000 steals.

And he's got the rings to back this all up. Look at his averages in 1994 and 1995 playoffs, when the Rockets won the NBA Title:

1994 - 28.9 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 4.0 BPG, 1.8 SPG
1995 - 33.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.8 BP, 1.2 SPG

Put it all together, and you have the complete package for a center - Efficient offensively, one of the best defensively ever, and excellent in the playoffs. In an era with Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and others, Hakeem owned the early and mid 1990s as far as centers were concerned.

Which is why he comes in as the 16th best player in NBA history.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Rocket's Still Got It

Sure, he's getting old. Sure, he started the year retired. However, don't be fooled, Roger Clemens is still one of, if not the top pitcher in the MLB.

In my book, he's the 3rd best starting pitcher of all-time, and he just missed making my list of the 10 best MLB players ever. And he hasn't lost much at all.

His start on Saturday against Arizona was his 9th of the year, and he was able to go 7 innings and give up 3 runs for his 3rd win of the year. This raised his ERA to 2.32. Hey, it's hard to lower an ERA that was at 2.09 coming into the game.

In his 9 starts, he has not given up more than 2 earnedruns in any game. Granted, a lot of his starts have only been 5-6 innings, but that's worth noting. However, the Astros run support has not been too good, as he stands at 3-4.

In 54.1 IP, he has struck out 45 batters and walked 12. He's also given up just 3 HR, all very solid numbers. His WHIP is at 1.07, and hitters have only a .270 OBP against him, and slugging .350.

One thing is clear. Roger Clemens, at age 43, is still one of the best in the MLB, as he moves up higher and higher on these all-time pitching lists. Watch him while you can, because pitchers like Clemens don't come around too often.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Links and stuff

With the weekend already upon us, I decided to post some links that I hope you might find a wee bit interesting. If you don't, well please accept my humble apologies and I'll never do it again (well, I probably will).

First off, lots of thanks to the writer of this article at, which has sent a lot of traffic to Thank You Brian Sabean over the past couple of days. That was certainly a nice surprise.

Now we know the real reason Jim Bowden didn't trade Alfonso Soriano at the deadline... he fell asleep. That would explain a lot, actually.

Need fantasy previews? Well, The Gatorade Dump has a whole bunch of NFL ones, and Give Me The Rock has a whole bunch of NBA ones. It's never really too early to start getting ready for the fantasy year. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

A review of the 2003 NBA Draft, AKA, Joe Dumars taking Darko over Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. Whoops.

It's never too early for some predictions for the Maui Invitational... especially when they have UCLA coming out on top.

Have you checked out the list of the 50 greatest NBA players yet? Well, you should (pretty please?!?)

And finally, a video of ESPN Sportscenter bloopers, including of course Charley Steiner laughing over the national anthem of Carl Lewis. "Writte by Francis Scott 'Off' Key."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

#1 Michael Jordan

This is part of my list of the 50 Greatest NBA Players Ever, where I will go through each player in a random order. #1 on the list is Michael Jordan.

You could make an argument for Bird or Magic, part of the best individual rivalry the sport has ever seen. Or you could make a case for Wilt Chamberlain, with the greatest individual statistics that the sport has ever seen. Or maybe you can make a case for Bill Russell, who has all of those championship rings.

But in my opinion, any list like this starts with one name: Michael Jordan.

We know the numbers. His 30.1 PPG average is the best all-time. He was a solid rebounder for a guard, and though he put up a lot of shots, he was a good passer and averaged more than 5 assists per game. But that doesn't tell much of the story of his career.

He was also a great defensive player. Nine times in his career he was on the NBA All-Defense First Team. For his career he averaged 2.3 steals per game, which is 5th all-time. He was quick, in the right position at all times, and made the plays.

As I wrote many months ago, Jordan shot nearly 50% from the field, which is a good number for someone that took as many shots as he did. He was never a great 3-point shooter, but he was solid. Best of all, he shot over 80% from the FT line over his career, and he got there more than most people that have ever played the game.

And the titles, 6 of them to be exact (to go along with the 6 Finals MVP Awards). He always played better in the playoffs, which is evident in the stats. All of his numbers went up in the postseason, especially the scoring, where he averaged over 33 points a game. And when it came down to the end of the game, well, I'm not sure there was anyone better ever than Michael Jordan.

For all of these reasons and more, I believe MJ is the best player to ever play in the NBA.

I'll leave with one of my favorite videos, Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Jazz, with MJ nailing the final shot, which, at the time, was thought to be the final shot of his career.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

50 Greatest NBA Players Ever

This is an idea I was sorta toying with for a while now... I feel like I don't know enough about NBA History, especially about a lot of the old NBA greats. So I did a little research, looked at some previous lists from others, and came up with my list of the 50 greatest NBA players ever.

So here's my list... this won't be the end of it, because I plan on writing up a post about each of the top 50 at some point, and I'll probably go through all of these guys and write things about them in random order, but I thought it'd be best to give the list first and write the posts later.

1. Michael Jordan
2. Larry Bird
3. Magic Johnson
4. Wilt Chamberlain
5. Bill Russell
6. Oscar Robertson
7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
8. Shaquille O'Neal*
9. Julius Erving
10. Rick Barry
11. John Havlicek
12. Jerry West
13. Karl Malone
14. Elgin Baylor
15. Isiah Thomas
16. Hakeem Olajuwon
17. Bob Cousy
18. Moses Malone
19. Bob Pettit
20. John Stockton
21. Charles Barkley
22. Dave Cowens
23. Walt Frazier
24. Elvin Hayes
25. Scottie Pippen
26. George Gervin
27. Kobe Bryant*
28. Kevin McHale
29. Patrick Ewing
30. George Mikan
31. Willis Reed
32. Dominique Wilkins
33. Wes Unseld
34. Earl Monroe
35. David Robinson
36. Walt Bellamy
37. Tim Duncan*
38. Nate Thurmond
39. Pete Maravich
40. Dolph Schayes
41. Alex English
42. Billy Cunningham
43. Paul Arizin
44. Dave DeBusschere
45. Gary Payton*
46. Bob McAdoo
47. Clyde Drexler
48. Adrian Dantley
49. Kevin Garnett *
50. Jason Kidd*

* active

Good? Bad? Ugly? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

There weren't a lot of 'big' names moved at the deadline, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there wasn't a lot of action trade deadline day (and the days leading up to it). So let's take a look at who the big winners and losers were.


Yankees - The Bronx Bombers were already winners coming into the day, with the excellent deal to pick up Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle without having to give up any top prospects. But then before the deadline they managed to swindle Craig Wilson from the Pirates for Shawn Chacon. I'll write more about this later (hint hint), but this was another excellent deal for the Yanks, and should strengthen the lineup for the stretch run.

Tigers - They didn't pull the trigger on any big deals obviously, but they got a solid player in Sean Casey. It was just a nice, solid move that should help the club. Casey's not a huge upgrade over Shelton (although Shelton has been pretty bad lately and was demoted to AA), but the's a good, patient hitter, and adds a needed lefty bat to the lineup. I thought they might go for a guy like David Delucci, but they got Casey instead, and he should be a nice fit.

Rangers - Obviously a lot of this depends on the Rangers ability to resign Carlos Lee, but if they're able to do that, it's been a solid couple of days for the Rangers. Not only did they pick up Lee, but they brought in Kip Wells from Pittsburgh. Wells isn't great, but he's got good stuff and the Rangers need help in the pen. Their moves should keep them in contention in the weak AL West.


Pirates - I can't emphasize enough how bad this deadline was for the Pirates. I mean, we've come to expect a level of suckitude from the Pirates, but this really was something else. In a word, it was horrible. Let's look at their deals separately (for a look from a Pirates fan, check out Where have you gone, Andy Van Slyke?):

Roberto Hernandez, Oliver Perez for Xavier Nady - I can appreciate the fact that Hernandez is old and that Perez has sucked this year.... but isn't Xavier Nady just like a lesser version of Craig Wilson? He's a 4th OF type, and now he'll be in Pittsburgh for a young guy who at least still has some potential in Oliver Perez.

Sean Casey for Brian Rogers - Rogers is putting up decent numbers in AA... but he's 24. He should be. And so goes one of the best hitters the Pirates have for a 24 year old AA RP.

Kip Wells for Jesse Chavez - Yay, another minor league RP for the Pirates.

Craig Wilson for Shawn Chacon - This is the worst of them all. This is just baffling really. Wilson is a solid hitter. Shawn Chacon is an absolutely wretched pitcher, looking at the numbers. And it's not like the Pirates are saving any money on the deal. Really, I can't see any real justification for the trade other than Dave Littlefield is really stupid.

I'm convinced Littlefield must be trying to get fired to be making some of these moves. And if you're a Pirates fan, this might be the worst part:

An organization playing to win could take the tens of millions it's saving on the departed and pick up one impact starting pitcher and/or power-hitting first baseman or outfielder this winter, but don't count on that.

The Pirates are just an absolute joke of a franchise. The guy they just called up wishes he wasn't called up. There were other losers at the deadline here, but none of them stack up with the Pirates. I don't understand how Dave Littlefield is still an MLB GM. I really don't.