Thursday, July 31, 2014

2014 AFC North Predictions

1. Baltimore Ravens (11-5): The main storyline for the Ravens this offseason has been Ray Rice's suspension (or lack there of) where he has been suspended for just two games after physically abusing his wife in a video released by TMZ. Rice was a key part in Baltimore's Super Bowl run two years ago, yet the running back had an off year in 2013 (660 rushing yards, 4 TDs). After being signed to a monster contract in the 2013 offseason, Joe Flacco threw the most interceptions of his career with 22 in 2014, and also recorded the worst passer rating while playing in the NFL after posting a 73.1. Luckily, the Ravens' receiving corp will be one of the best in all of football next season, seeing how they added veteran Steve Smith, while tight end Dennis Pitta will return from a season ending injury that he suffered in 2013 to rejoin receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Defensively, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervill are all former All-Pros, yet the three defenders are at least 30 years of age, meaning the best days of football are now behind them. This means youngsters like linebacker C.J. Mosley, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (both Alabama alums) and short safety Matt Elam will have the opportunity to shine in 2014. If Flacco is able to improve from last year, the Ravens could make a run in the playoffs.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7): Cincinnati's offense revolves around star wide receiver AJ Green, who has caught for more than 95 receptions in each of the past two seasons, and also eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards every year, including his rookie season. Running back Giovani Bernard had an impressive rookie season, and you can expect him to obtain more carries in 2014. Quarterback Andy Dalton may be improving statistically over the course of the past three seasons, but he remains winless in the postseason throughout his career. The defense lost their star defensive tackle Geno Atkins to an ACL injury last year, and he has just recently been taken off of the PUP list. As of right now, Cincinnati's best defensive player is linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was named to the Pro-Bowl team in just his second season in the league. The AFC North is becoming more competitive with young talent, so I doubt the Bengals will be able to win the division for a second straight year

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9): Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is now 32 years old, and seeing how his significant size made him a feared passer during his prime, it comes as no surprise that Roethlisberger is becoming more inconsistent as his body begins to wear down. Not having receivers Mike Wallace or Hines Ward has clearly affected Pittsburgh's passing game, but now Antonio Brown has transformed into the star of this offense. Running back Le'Veon Bell has the potential to be a star in the near future, seeing how he rushed for 860 yards with 8 touchdowns in his rookie season. On defense, 8 projected starters are 27 years old or less, which means defensively, the team is very different from the one who defeated Arizona in the Super Bowl six years ago. Second year linebacker Jarvis Jones had just one sack in his rookie season, so hopefully, he will be able to have a more successful sophomore season. Pittsburgh drafted All-American linebacker Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State, as well as defensive end Stephon Tuitt from Notre Dame. With Pittsburgh's new look on both offense and defense, the Steelers should be hoping to reach the .500 mark, not a spot in the playoffs.

4. Cleveland Browns (5-11): The Cleveland Browns have gained more media attention than any other team in football because of the drafting of Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, as well as All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon's looming suspension. Luckily, the Browns also signed receivers Nate Burleson and Miles Austin, along with running back Ben Tate in order to provide their young quarterback--who has yet to win the starting job--with more offensive weapons. The defense has several big names on their roster, including cornerback Joe Haden, linebacker Paul Kruger, and rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert. The Cleveland Browns are taking steps in the right direction, but are still several years away from competing for a spot in the playoffs. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Patrick Peterson Contract Leads to Twitter Feud with Richard Sherman

Last night, Patrick Peterson announced via Twitter that he had signed a new deal with the Arizona Cardinals worth $70 million over the course of five years, with $48 million guaranteed. This new deal makes Peterson the highest paid cornerback in NFL history, two million dollars more than Joe Haden and four million dollars more than Sherman. Patrick Peterson has played in all 16 games in each of his first three seasons, where he has played in three Pro-Bowls, and has also been named to two All-Pro teams. 
The fact that Peterson has passed Sherman in terms of salary seemingly irritated Seattle's cornerback, as he replied by retweeting the message seen below. This is not the first time that these two cornerbacks have been involved in a Twitter-feud, where Peterson instigated a verbal fight after arguing against Sherman's new contract back in May.
After seeing Sherman's retweet, Patrick Peterson continued the feud into today with a response of his own, calling Sherman out for being jealous now that he was making less money than Peterson. It was clear that Peterson would respond based on the history of these two players, and football fans knew that Sherman was bound to respond based on his reputation around the league.
The final tweet of this feud came from Sherman with the end-all-be-all argument that Sherman possesses a Super Bowl ring, unlike Peterson of the Cardinals. Sherman posted a picture of his ring, and from then on out, Twitter was relatively silent involving these two stars.
Later today, Peterson tried to downplay the comments made on Twitter, saying he was happy for Sherman following the recent deal with the Seahawks. Whether or not Peterson is worth the money is for you to decide.

Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 AFC East Predictions

1. New England Patriots (13-3): The biggest offseason signing by the New England Patriots is clearly the addition of cornerbak Darrelle Revis. Revis made a name for himself on the New York Jets, when he made three All-Pro teams and was considered to be the best cornerback in the league. Revis suffered an off-year last season coming off of ACL surgery, and he then signed a one-year deal with the Pats who are looking to replace Aqib Talib. Revis is bound to improve in 2014, and may even return to his original form as the league's best cornerback. The Pats signed Seahawks corner Brandon Browner right before the Revis signing, yet he will be forced to miss the first four games of the season; however, once he returns, the Patriots may have the best cornerback-duo in the league. The Pats also drafted an injury-prone defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who tore his ACL twice in two years, but clearly is a talented defensive prospect. On offense, star quarterback Tom Brady will look to avoid a slow start like last season due to his relatively inexperienced receiving corp, but if tight end Rob Gronkowski manages to play for the majority of the season, the Patriots could have the best record in the AFC.

2. New York Jets (9-7): The New York Jets signed three big names on offense in the offseason, which could drastically help or hurt this team. Four-time Pro-Bowler Michael Vick is an incredible talent with great arm strength and the ability to run the ball. Although the Jets signed him, he is second behind Geno Smith on the depth chart, which may change after training camp. The Jets also added speedy running back Chris Johnson, as well as wide receiver Eric Decker to improve the entire offense. The Jets defensive line is young and talented, consisting of Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Damon Harrison (deemed "Sons of Anarchy"). The Jets managed to finish 8-8 last season, and with even more talent on this roster, they can make a run at a spot in the playoffs. I believe if Michael Vick manages to start in more than 12 games, the Jets will make the postseason.

3. Buffalo Bills (8-8): In my opinion, the Buffalo Bills managed to sign the best prospect from this past NFL Draft in wide receiver Sammy Watkins, which will surely help second-year quarterback EJ Manuel. Manuel's first season was less than stellar, seeing how he threw just 11 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. Buffalo's receiving corp has a lot of young talent, with guys like Watkins, Robert Woods, and Mike Williams from Tampa Bay, yet they also have a running back duo of CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson to take some pressure off of Manuel. On defense, defensive end Mario Williams has played all 32 games within the past two seasons, as he has obtained 23.5 sacks while on the Bills. Williams is one of the main reasons why the Bills ranked second in the league in sacks last season, enough to keep this defense afloat. Hopefully, the pass rush can continue their dominance into 2014, enough to give Buffalo a shot at the postseason.

4. Miami Dolphins (6-10): 2014 will likely be Ryan Tannehill's last season as a starter in Miami if the Dolphins' record fails to improve. While the Dolphins managed to reach a .500 record for the first time since 2009, the Dolphins added some pressure on Tannehill by signing Matt Moore from the Carolina Panthers. Wide receiver Mike Wallace is the clear star of this offense, even though he had the lowest touchdown total of his career, and also failed to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. Miami's pass rush managed to do relatively well thanks to All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake, as well as Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Randy Starks. Thanks to recent acquisitions, the Dolphins may have one of the best cornerback duos in the league thanks to Brent Grimes on one side, and now, Cortland Finnegan out of St. Louis on the other. The Dolphins do not have enough talent or experience on this roster though, especially on offense, to contend for a spot in the playoffs. 

2014 NFL Predictions

With training camp officially underway, and pre-season football just around the corner, we will now begin predicting the results of the 2014-15 NFL season. Many interesting storylines have taken place over the course of the offseason, such as Ray Rice's two-game suspension, huge free agent signings by the two best teams in the AFC, and a quest for the repeat by the defending champions. The 2014 NFL Draft has also brought in many of college football's biggest stars, such as Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans, Sammy Watkins to the Bills, and Johnny Manziel to the Browns. We can not wait for the return of football. Let the games begin.

Monday, July 21, 2014

College Football Storylines: The SEC

If the Pac 12 isn't the best conference in the country, the SEC is without a doubt. Certainly in the last ten years there can be no debate as to the dominance of these schools, with a run of seven straight national championships. This year, I rank the SEC just below the PAC 12, owing to their loss of virtually every talented quarterback in the conference last year. That and a disappointing bowl showing, from the national championship loss to Alabama's (of all teams!) loss to Oklahoma. But of course there will still be anywhere from 2-5 teams from the SEC in the AP top 10 poll this season, and coming off a well publicized SEC media day (or week) the timing is perfect to look at some issues of note from the conference this season. Mind you, if you missed the coverage you didn't miss much (at one point, the merits of different tie knots were discussed-let's call it an off year.) But regardless, these are just several things to watch for this year coming out of the conference.

That didn't take long
Auburn's quarterback play: Nick Marshall's name was mentioned a lot during ESPN's coverage of the SEC media day, which is interesting because he did not speak. After an incident involving marijuana possession, Marshall was not allowed to appear before the press by Tiger coach Gus Malzahn. Apparently, Marshall will face "consequences" following last week's pot citation. Malzahn declined to specify whether a first game suspension would be in the works, which incidentally is a good matchup
against Arkansas. The trendy option of late has been the half game suspension, and realistically that will be the end result. However, we have to remember we are talking about the starting quarterback of the supposedly second best team in the country last year, so by virtue of that fact alone this is something to note. Moreover, Marshall may well be the best quarterback in his conference this year, and is arguably the conference's most prominent player. It remains to be seen if he'll meet expectations.

TJ Yeldon's Heisman bid: This could well be the last season we enjoy the money sign double throat slash, but the good news is we'll be seeing it a lot. Yeldon's numbers last year: 1,235 yards rushing in over 200 attempts, with an average yards per carry of 6.0 and 14 touchdowns. He will flirt with the Heisman from the beginning this year, and expect at least one Tre Mason like game from him (the Auburn running back who had a 300 yard 4 touchdown game in the SEC championship.) Yeldon will be fun to watch this year, as a horse for yet another Alabama team with national title aspirations. Also keep an eye on Amari Cooper.

Maty Mauk and Missouri's follow up: A conference that really lacks star power this year might find it in this bow tie sporting 195 lb sophomore, who stepped up brilliantly for Missouri after their starter James
Franklin went down halfway through the season. Mauk helped the Tigers to a spectacular 12-2 campaign, finishing the season ranked fifth in the country. Not many predicted this, but this year the Tigers will get a little more respect as they look to continue trending upwards. Look for Mauk to surprise plenty of defenses with his mobility, and without a really great quarterback in the conference he could perhaps lead Missouri to a conference championship. He caught everyone's attention with some self made comparisons to Johnny Manziel, so it'll be interesting to see if he can back it up.

LSU's offense will take a big step back this season. Led by Cam Cameron, they bid goodbye to Zach Mettenberger but can perhaps say hello to the run first offense so typical of an LSU team. Their star quarterback is not the only loss, as besides the 3,000 yard passer they lost 1,000 yards rushing in RB Jeremy Hill and 1,000 yards receiving each from Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. Their best returning receiver caught a grand total of seven passes last year. Say what you will about a strong freshman class, (highly praised Leonard Fournette was the best recruit at running back in the nation) they will score fewer points than last year's 35.8 per game, by a good margin.

The Iron Bowl will be a little less tame than usual, after last years astonishing Auburn victory-if you watch one college football game this year, make it this one, on November 29th in Tuscaloosa. Other games of note, in no particular order:
November 8th, Alabama at LSU (This game always seems to mean a lot, and look for LSU to improve upon last year's 38-17 defeat.)
September 13th, Georgia at South Carolina (Steve Spurrier's pre-season noise has been spot on)
November 29th, South Carolina at Clemson (The gamecocks have won five in a row in this one)
November 15th, Missouri at Texas A&M (I pick the Tigers, by a wide margin)

Heisman watch list: Maty Mauk, QB from Missouri, Alex Collins, RB from Arkansas, Mike Davis, RB from South Carolina, TJ Yeldon, RB from Alabama
Sleeper pick: Ole Miss Rebels
Conference champion: Alabama

In case you forgot..

My favorite part would be at the beginning, where he goes "And I guess if he misses it, Chris Davis can try to run it back…" Why yes, yes he can.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Top 50 Rivalries in American Sports History (Part V)

10. Unites States-Soviet Union (International Hockey): A rivalry with roots in the Cold War, the United States hockey team at the 1980 Olympics was not supposed to beat the superior, more experienced Russians in the semi-finals. In what came to be known as the "Miracle on Ice", the United States hockey team, consisting of ammeter and college skaters, beat the Russians by a score of 4-3, as they went on to beat Finland for the gold medal. Russia and the United States had already spent years threatening one another during the Cold War, and the "Miracle on Ice" served as a metaphorical battlefield between these two superpowers.

9. Texas-Oklahoma (College Football): The Red River Rivalry is played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium, a neutral site where the seating is divided equally among Texas and Oklahoma fans. These two bordering states take their football very seriously, and the state schools are both one of college football's most esteemed programs. Texas and Oklahoma have combined for 11 National Championships since 1950. Since the two schools are both currently in the Big 12, a shot at the Big 12 Championship is almost always on the line as the two fight for the Golden Hat Trophy.
8. Dodgers-Giants (Pro Baseball): At the very beginning of this rivalry, both teams were based in the same state, yet a different one from California, where they play today. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms and New York Giants played against one another in the 1889 World Series, yet the rivalry seemed over once the Dodgers moved to the west coast in 1957; however, the Dodgers quickly managed to convince the Giants to move to California as well in order to continue the rivalry. The rivalry has created many fights between the two franchises, both on the field and off. In both 1965 and 1981, fights took place on the field involving the players. Yet recently, the two fanbases have have fought away from the baseball field, where on two occasions, fans were stabbed to death. The fact that this rivalry has led to fights on and off the field makes it one of the most bitter, hate-filled rivalry in sports.

7. Army-Navy (College Football): The Army-Navy rivalry has an incredible amount of tradition that has been created over the past 124 years, seeing how these teams first met in 1890. The inter-service rivalry is more than a football game, but rather, a competition between two inter-service schools whose student body consist of people looking to represent the country in the line of duty. Although Army and Navy rarely have winning records when the two teams play each other, the pageantry and passion seen in every meeting between the two institutions is worth watching once a year. The Army-Navy game is deemed “the most American game”, and rightfully so.

6. Duke-UNC (College Basketball): This in-state rivalry is indisputably the best rivalry in college basketball, seeing how the two schools are less than 20 miles away. UNC and Duke are both top schools in terms of the success of their basketball team, with 9 NCAA Tournament wins between the two. In fact, at least one school has been ranked in the AP Top 25 during the past 139 meetings, a streak that's lasted since 1960. Playing in the same conference has created many memorable games to choose from, whether it be Austin River’s buzzer beater to beat UNC on the road, or the game in 1979 when the score at halftime read 7-0 Duke. Coach K. and Ron Williams are two of the best coaches in the sport, so many more classic moments are sure to come in the future.

5. Ali-Frazier (Pro Boxing): These two boxers have met three times in history, and each fight managed to gain national publicity that has yet to be matched by any other boxing match. The first fight, deemed the "Fight of the Century", resulted in a Frazier win at Madison Square Garden, thus handing Ali the first loss of his career. The next two fights were won by Ali, a boxer known for his trash talk and catchy rhymes. The tensions of this rivalry heightened due to growing unrest taking place in America, such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War coming to a close.

4. Alabama-Auburn (College Football): This past Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn might just be the best game in college football history, where a 109 yard return by cornerback Chris Davis for the score ended Alabama’s championship bid, thus propelling Auburn into the SEC championship. The state of Alabama is seemingly split down the middle when it comes to this rivalry, and as we know, the south certainly loves their football. Apart from the 2013 Iron Bowl, other memorable games have emerged from this rivalry, such as when quarterback Cam Newton overcame a 24-0 deficit to defeat Alabama by a final score of 28-27, as Auburn eventually went on to win the National Championship.

3. Celtics-Lakers (Pro Basketball): The greatest rivalry in NBA history is a remarkable one, considering that the teams play in different conferences, and thus find themselves playing each other fairly infrequently in the regular season. The postseason, however, has been a different story, as the two teams have been so dominant over the years that they have met a record twelve times in the NBA Finals. The golden age of this rivalry has to be the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson era, but it has also been rekindled in recent years, with the recent dominance of Kobe Bryant in L.A. and the big three in Boston. Though both teams are currently rebuilding, the contests remain heated and competitive in honor of the most legendary rivalry in professional basketball.
2. Red Sox-Yankees (Pro Baseball): This rivalry started when the Red Sox’s owner sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, ultimately starting the “Curse of the Bambino” once Boston was unable to win their sixth World Series. The rivalry reached its peak in 2004, when the Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. Following this dramatic series, the Red Sox snapped their 86-year skid, winning their sixth World Series. Violence between fans can be seen on occasion in this rivalry, and seeing how both teams are in the AL East, tensions are always high come September.

1. Ohio State-Michigan (College Football): And last but not least, we believe the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is the greatest rivalry in American sports history. Michigan has the most wins of any school in college football history, whereas Ohio State ranks third all-time in terms of win percentage; as a result, the competitive nature of both schools has formed a bitter rivalry between the neighboring state universities. After first playing each other in 1897, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry reached its peak in a period known as the “Ten Year War”, when Michigan coach Bo Schembechler and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes competed against one another from the sidelines, starting with a Michigan upset over Ohio State in 1969, where OSU was ranked first overall at the time coming off of a National Championship. Flash-forward to 2014, where Ohio State coach Urban Meyer refuses to even say the word “Michigan”, instead referring to them as “that team up North.” There is a different kind of passion among college football fans compared to other American sports, and thanks to the many accomplishments by either school through the years, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry has become the most passionate, competitive, and enthralling rivalry in all of sports.

World Cup Finals Recap: Germany - 1 Argentina - 0

Just over a month ago Germany tied Cameroon 2-2 in a World Cup tuneup. A few days before that, they found out that one of their star attackers - Marco Reus - was going to be injured for the entire World Cup. At that point, Germany looked nothing like finals contenders based on form, or, quite frankly, talent. They were a team with no attacking depth, no consistency in the midfield, and no positional awareness in the back (playing center backs at left and right back is a really, really, odd thing to do - especially when you have one of the best right backs in the world, Philipp Lahm, on the roster). So, how did a team with so many fundamental problems perform so dominantly on the biggest stage? Well... Lets find out.

Attacking depth was no problem, as fringe players like Andre Schurrle, Mario Goetze, and Miroslav Klose thrived as impact subs and in some cases surprise starters. If anything, they had too much attacking depth, as talented attackers like Lukas Podolski and Julian Draxler could hardly get a minute of game action.

Next, we visit the problem of inconsistency in the midfield, mainly concerning the two pivot-midfielders. In friendlies, we frequently saw Philipp Lahm and Sami Khedira in the pivot, with Toni Kroos sometimes stepping in to replace one of the two. However, we found ourselves frustratingly having to ask, "where is Bastian Schweinsteiger??" When the World Cup finally did come around, Schweinsteiger finally did find his spot in the team alongside Sami Khedira, while Philipp Lahm was moved to his more natural position of right back and Toni Kroos was moved back to a more attacking position, leaving us wondering why they hadn't gone with that setup all along.
The final problem was that of having four centerbacks along the back line as opposed to two centerbacks and two wing backs, creating a lack of pace and a lack of wide attacking options. The problem was easily fixed on the right hand side by having Philipp Lahm return to right back, while the left side was admirably controlled by Benedikt Howedes, but they will certainly be looking for a natural left back in years to come.

The result of these tactical maneuvers was a well oiled machine that honestly never looked like loosing against Argentina. In terms of chances, the teams were fairly even, but Argentina didn't quite seem like they were at the races today, and if it weren't for a couple of chances that the Germans accidentally gifted them, they would have looked sorely overmatched on the stat sheet and on the pitch. Argentina deserve credit, for they gave Germany an immense challenge, with stiff defense and the occasional run of possession on the counterattack (however, their finishing was woeful). Despite this loss, there is no doubt in my mind that Argentina was the second best team in this tournament and were more than deserving of their silver medal. The real loser of this game has to be Lionel Messi, who had the chance to push his credentials over the top but really struggled to have much of an impact on the game (as far as I'm concerned he wasn't even the best player on his own team, as Javer Mascherano narrowly outplayed him). The free kick which he skied over the bar with just seconds left seemed to be a manifestation of his frustrating performance.

In the end, though, all of the credit has to be given to this wonderful Germany team, who played a near-perfect tournament and finished it off with a near-perfect victory. Once again, the stars - Muller, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Klose, and Neuer - led the way, but it was the youngsters and the super subs - Schurrle, Goetze, Boateng, and Kroos - that put in the most critical performances today. Congrats to Germany, the well-oiled machine, and condolences to Argentina... Can't wait until 2018!

Saturday, July 12, 2014


After much waiting, LeBron James has finally loosened his grasp on the NBA and its future by making up his mind and deciding to return to Cleveland, instead of Miami and the "Big 3."  LeBron grew up in Akron, Ohio, a city very close to Cleveland, and still lives there during the NBA offseason.  He clearly loves his home and feels a connection with it "greater than basketball," as he said.  In a piece on, LeBron dictated his reasons behind this decision, and the clear regrets that he had regarding the way in which he chose to leave his home four years ago.  The Cavaliers and their fans chose to put ESPN's "The Decision" behind them and welcome "The King" back to his throne with open arms (well, how can you blame them, for James is the best player in the world), and LeBron chose to put behind him Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's nasty letter from that fateful day in 2010 that described James as a coward, quitter, and traitor.  Things in Cleveland have been looking up from a sports persepective lately, as the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel and now the Cavs have a savior.  Despite the fact that James might have to be more patient with his new team and might not win another championship as soon as he might have in Miami, it is hard not respect him for choosing what is more important.  LeBron James is going home, and they sure are glad to have him back.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Andre Johnson Wants Out of Houston

This past offseason, Andre Johnson informed the Houston Texans that he would be willing to work out with the team, as long as he was given a $1 million bonus by completing all of the work out sessions. When Johnson missed several sessions, he asked the franchise if he could add extra work outs to his schedule in hopes of still getting the money, but Houston said no; as a result, Johnson wants to no longer be a part of the Houston Texans. The star receiver has already expressed his doubts about being a part of team going through a rebuilding stage, seeing how the Texans went 2-14 last season. Four teams have already expressed interest in Johnson, but the Texans remain unwilling to trade the star receiver.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Top 50 Rivalries in American Sports History (Part IV)

20. Wilt Chamberlain-Bill Russell: An extension of both the Celtics-76ers rivalry and the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, Chamberlain vs. Russell was such an influential rivalry not just because it involved two NBA greats on rival teams, but also because these two players happened to play the same position, which is an oddity when it comes to legendary NBA rivalries. In the 17 combined years that Chamberlain and Russell were in the NBA, from 1956 (when Russell was a rookie) to 1973 (when Chamberlain retired), they had a combined 9 MVP’s (5 for Russell and 4 for Chamberlain) and 13 rings (11 for Russell and 2 for Chamberlain). Chamberlain and Russell truly dominated the NBA for nearly twenty years, so it is natural that their rivalry is considered one of the best in sports history.

19. Notre Dame-USC: Even though these two schools have very different backgrounds and traditions, the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh is considered to be one of the best in college sports. Notre Dame and USC have combined for the most National Championships (22), Heisman Trophy winners (14), All-Americans, and Hall of Famers in the NFL of any two teams in a college football rivalry. Also, five of the top ten most watched games in college football are from this rivalry. One of the more notable games came in 2005, when USC was stopped at the goal when the clock struck zero; however, more time was put on the clock, and when Leinart attempted a quarterback sneak to win the game, running back Reggie Bush pushed in Leinart for the touchdown, adding fuel to this rivalry.

18. Nicklaus-Palmer: Quite clearly the greatest rivalry in golf history, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are two of golf's biggest stars, so everyone made sure to tune in to watch these two legends battle it out on the course. Nicklaus is widely considered to be the best golfer in history, but Arnold Palmer provided some competition. This rivalry started at the 1962 U.S. Open, when Nicklaus overcame a three shot deficit to force a 18-hole playoff on Sunday, which Nicklaus eventually won. Five times, Nicklaus and Palmer finished first and second at the end of a major, and during a five year stretch, the two golfers were the only two champions at the Masters. The impact that these two golfers have had on the sport has shaped golf into what we know and love today.

17. Syracuse-Georgetown: Remember when the Big East was the most competitive and intense conference in all of college basketball… those were the days. Now, Syracuse has moved on to the ACC and Georgetown is just a shell of their former self. Though their recent games have still been fairly competitive and intense competitions, the real golden age of this rivalry was back in the 1980’s, when Patrick Ewing and Georgetown went up against Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse team in several heated contests. Perhaps the most memorable game between these two was when Syracuse’s Pearl Washington nailed a game winning jumper with just eight seconds left to give Syracuse a 65-63 win over Georgetown, who were ranked first in the nation. The game was not to pass by without a bit of controversy, though, as Georgetown’s players were pulled off the court following an incident where an orange was thrown at the backboard during one of Patrick Ewing’s free throws.

16. Giants-Eagles: With these two teams both battling for the NFC East title each and every year, surely tensions will be high when the Philadelphia Eagles play the New York Giants. Out of this rivalry have come several incredible moments, such as the Miracle at the Meadowlands, and the Miracle at the Meadowlands, Part II (feat. DeSean Jackson). Although many people believe this is the greatest rivalry in the NFL, it does not quite match up with another classic matchup further on down the list.

15. Cubs-Cardinals: The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are some of baseball's biggest franchises, seeing how the Cubs rank second in all-time wins, while the Cardinals ranks fourth. While the Cubs have managed to record an incredible amount of wins, a World Series title has eluded them since 1908, unlike the Cardinals, who have won 11 titles in that same span. The two mid-west teams have had some incredible moments, including Ryne Sandberg's home run in 1984, and the greatest home run race of all time between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Considering how close the stadiums are to one another, fans are able to travel to either stadium to cheer on their teams, creating an atmosphere unlike any other in baseball.

14. Cal-Stanford: "The Big Game", a rivalry between California and Stanford, is the best college rivalry you will see on the West Coast, as it was first played 122 years ago. While the concluding play at this past year's Iron Bowl may give "The Play" a run for its money, many consider what took place on the field in 1986 to be the most remarkable moment in college football history. With four seconds left on the clock, Cal had one last attempt to win by scoring on a kick return. The ball was lateraled five times by four different players, when finally, Cal's Kevin Moell ran the ball into the endzone, having to run over one of Stanford's trombone players in the process. Stanford's band ran on the field prematurely, creating a chaos on the field that has yet to be replicated in sports.

13. Bruins-Canadiens: Being two of the Original Six, this rivalry is one of the longest lasting in hockey history. Although the Canadiens dominated during the early years, the series has become much more competitive as of late. The two teams have played against each other in the postseason 34 times, where seven of those series resulted in Game 7s (both of which are the highest totals between any two teams in hockey). In fact, Boston and Montreal met in this past postseason, where Montreal was able to fend off the Bruins in a seven game series, surely adding fuel to an already fiery rivalry.
12. Magic Johnson-Larry Bird: From 1980 to 1988, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson combined for 8 out of a possible 9 championships, where either the Celtics or Lakers were competing in the NBA Finals for 10 consecutive seasons. This rivalry started in college, when Bird’s Indiana State lost to Johnson’s Michigan State in the National Championship Game. From that point on, the two were forever linked to one another. The two player have combined for 8 NBA Finals Championships, 6 MVP awards, 24 All-Star Game appearances, and 18 All-NBA First Team honors. The Celtics-Lakers may be the greatest rivalry in all of basketball, but yet another incredible competition emerged out of this rivalry.

11. Packers-Bears: The first game between these two teams was all the way back in 1921, where the Chicago Bears were known as the Chicago Stanleys, and just 7,000 people were in attendance. With 22 league championships between them, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are certainly two storied franchises that have been evenly matched over the course of this rivalry (93-89-6 Bears).

Top 50 Rivalries in American Sports History (Part III)

30. Cowboys-49ers (Pro Football): After losing three years in a row to the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs during the 70's, the San Francisco 49ers managed to get revenge against "America's Team" in one of the best games in NFL history. The 70s was clearly a decade dominated by the Cowboys, but in the waning seconds of the 1981 NFC Championship Game, Joe Montana threw pass while backpedaling away from two Dallas defenders, and although it seemed that the ball would sail past the end zone, Dwight Clark jumped into the air for the touchdown, thus ending the reign of Dallas. The clash of two dynasties is clearly defined by this iconic play, quite possibly the best in football history.

29. Florida-Georgia (College Football): Deemed the "World's Largest Cocktail Party", these two bordering states use college football as a way to settle their differences. There have been many great moments from this rivalry, where the most memorable came in 1980. With Georgia's perfect season on the line, and down by one point on their own 7 yard line, quarterback Buck Belue threw a 25-yard pass to Lindsay Scott who ran 93 yards for the game winning touchdown (Georgia went on to win the National Championship). Then, in 2007, Georgia looked to defeat Tim Tebow and the Gators by intimidating them early with the "Gator Stomp", a tactic that took place after Georgia's first touchdown, where the entire team stormed the field to celebrate. Clearly the rivalry is big enough to sell out the Jacksonville Jaguars' stadium each and every year, the location where the game is played.

28. Sampras-Agassi (Pro Tennis): Having first played each other as junior tennis players, Agassi and Sampras had a competitive rivalry lasting from 1989 to 2002. The two first met each other in a Grand Slam Final in 1990, when Sampras upset Agassi in straight sets. While the rivalry remained close in the first few years, Sampras began consistently beating Agassi following the 1995 US Open. It has been reported that Sampras and Agassi are still struggling to mend fences even after they retired from the sport.

27. UConn-Tennessee (Women's College Basketball): Unlike most rivalries in sports, the UConn-Tennessee rivalry is more about the two coaches rather than the players on the court. Pat Summitt of Tennessee has the most wins as a coach in NCAA Division I college basketball, male or female. Meanwhile, Geno Auriemma of UConn has yet to lose in the National Championship Game, as he has won the most championships in Women's college basketball history--one more than Summitt. With the two schools being the two best women's college basketball institutions, a rivalry has been formed against the two universities. With UConn beating Tennessee four times in the National Championship four times, Geno has once called Tennessee the "evil empire" so clearly there is tension between these two incredible coaches.

26. Nebraska-Oklahoma (College Football): Although both teams were in the Big 12 Conference following its creation in 1996, the rivalry between Nebraska and Oklahoma was most heated when the two teams competed in the Big Eight Conference before 1996. The most notable game came in 1971, when the defending champion, top ranked Cornhuskers entered with a 20-game win streak, as they played second ranked Oklahoma. Nebraska went on to win the game thanks to a game-winning touchdown with 1:38 left to play. Oklahoma has given Nebraska their only loss in a season five times, while Nebraska has done the same to Oklahoma twice. The rivalry may be over now that Nebraska left for the Big Ten, but Oklahoma fans were clearly not happy when an assistant at Oklahoma, Bo Pelini, left for the head coaching job at Nebraska.

25. Affirmed-Alydar (Horse Racing): By far the best rivalry in all of horse racing, Affirmed and Alydar raced 10 times during their careers, including three epic duels during Affirmed's quest for the Triple Crown. In the 1978 Kentucky Derby, Alydar entered as the favorite, yet Affirmed managed to edge him out by one-and-a-half lengths. In the next Triple Crown race, the Preakness, Affirmed held off Alydar for the majority of the race, as he earned the second jewel of the Triple Crown with a time of 1:54. The final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, was by far the best race of this rivalry. At close to the mile marker, Alydar drew even with Affirmed, and from there, the two horses raced in one of the greatest duels in history. Affirmed won the race by a head, thus capturing the Triple Crown, and capping off an incredible season against his arch-nemisis.

24. Louisville-Kentucky (College Basketball): Since Kentucky and Louisville played in the 1983 National Championship, the two teams have played every year in the Battle for the Bluegrass. The rivalry reached its peak when Rick Pitino, the head coach who won Kentucky a National Championship in 1996, left to coach for Louisville in 2001. Having played six times in the NCAA Tournament, twice within the past three years, a lot is normally on the line when these two teams play.

23. Redskins-Cowboys (Pro Football): Since 1961, the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys have played twice in the regular season each and every year, creating a heated competition between these two teams for the NFC East title. In fact, in 1961, the Cowboys tried to sneak 76 chickens onto the Redskins' field at halftime, with one black chicken meant to symbolize Redskins' owner George Preston Marshall and his refusal to sign black players (the prank failed by the way). The two teams met in the playoffs twice, both in the NFC Championship Game, and Washington won the two games by a combined score of 57-20. The Cowboys have the second best win percentage in NFL history, so when these teams play, there are almost always playoff implications for at least one team, thus creating many memorable moments in the regular season.

22. Brady-Manning (Pro Football): Ever since Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe as the starting quarterback of the Patriots in 2001, there has been a competitive rivalry between the two quarterbacks. Between the two of them, Manning and Brady have won four Super Bowls, 22 Pro-Bowls, and 7 MVPs awards. With 15 meetings over the past 14 seasons, fans love to tune in to watch two of the greatest quarterbacks in football battle it out. Neither quarterback looks to retire anytime soon, so we are sure to see many more memorable moments in the near future. This type of quarterback rivalry may never be duplicated again.
21. Martina Navratilova-Chris Evert (Women's Pro Tennis): Navratilova and Evert faced each other an astounding 14 times in grand-slam finals, which made for one of the greatest rivalries in the sport of tennis.  Martina ended up getting the better of Evert 10 times, which has given her the title of greatest female tennis player of all time; however, Evert was pesky, and her four wins were all spread out throughout Navratilova's reign. Evert actually completed the career grand slam by winning the US Open, French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon before Navratilova, and at the time was the sixth woman ever to accomplish that fete (Navratilova completed the career grand slam the very next year in 1983). They have each won 18 grand-slam singles tournaments, which is tied for 4th all-time among women, and therefore each achieved incredible success throughout their respective careers despite their intense rivalry with one another.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

College Football Storylines: Pac 12

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be going conference by conference to give you, dear reader, some collegiate material to chew on before this upcoming season. These are a few things in the Pac 12 that I think are important to note and watch for, in no particular order.

Oregon's offense: Marcus Mariota's Heisman campaign is officially underway, and with nine returning starters on offense we can again count on an absolutely prolific offensive showing from Oregon this year. Out of the backfield, it seems like we are constantly talking about Oregon running backs and their astonishing penchant for 200 yd games. This year, they are without Kenjon Barner from a couple of years ago and De'Anthony Thomas now a Kansas City Chief, but make no mistake. There are several men on this football team who are capable of making exactly the same impact as those two. The most obvious candidate to fill those ridiculously fast and agile shoes would be Byron Marshall. In his third season, he will be vying for the starting spot for the first time as a Duck, but last year proved himself more than capable, with over 1,000 yds rushed and 5 consecutive 100 yd games. That in particular suggests that he can play every Saturday. Another player to watch in Eugene this year is Thomas Tyner, the sophomore who in his debut season last year seemed to get better game by game. He averaged 6.2 yds per carry, scored nine touchdowns, and had a highlight reel 66 run against Washington St. to make a statement. Of course, the last two running backs for the Ducks were the rare sort of players that make an impact regardless of the opponent, but defensive coordinators of the Pac 12 might be forced to admit grudgingly that that sort of one-two combo might be the case again for Oregon. If it is, count on their averaging well north of 40 points per game, as last year's 45.5 would suggest. This should be as fun as it has always been.
Marcus Mariota will lead the Ducks to a probable playoff spot.
UCLA? The Pac 12 championship game is a relatively recent development, and so it's not outrageous that no team but Stanford and Oregon has ever won it. Still, because both of the best Pac 12 teams play in the North division, they cannot meet in the final, and so the rest of the conference is ensured a spot in the game. Coming out of the Pac 12 South, the obvious frontrunner to beat either one in the championship game would be UCLA, led by Brett Hundley. This team has top 10 potential this year according to many. I myself cannot bring myself to agree with that, simply because they have yet to prove themselves against a quality opponent. Last season, UCLA was the flavor of the week... for about a month. By week 8, they had climbed all the way to ninth in the AP top 25, an impressive feat of course for a team not traditionally up there. Everyone was talking about them as a national contender, but after two prompt losses to Stanford and Oregon, 24-10 and 42-14, respectively, they fell out of the spotlight. Until they start winning those sorts of games against top 10 opponents, they are not a true top 10 team. Still, watch for them to build on an overall strong season last year, a 9-3 bid that ended with a good bowl win over Virginia Tech. This team is trending the right way. Also remember the name Miles Jack, a sophomore linebacker and at times running back who will undoubtedly be on sportscenter at one point this season.
Brett Hundley can make a good run at the Heisman this year.
Some random notes, and teams to watch for:
Arizona St. lost 27 seniors last season, by far the most in the conference, so expect them to have an off year to rebuild. They are coming off a great season where it was in fact they who represented the south in the conference championship game, but won't be able to repeat that feat... Cal's defense can't get any worse...can it? Last season they allowed 529.6 yards per game and almost 46 points. That is of course the type of season that loses defensive coordinators their job, and the new Art Kauffman looks to turn things around on that side of the ball for the Golden Bears, who will also appreciate the return of a couple key players. These include defensive end Brennan Scarlett who has missed 17 months and tackle Mustafa Jalil. Those two, plus several junior college prospects, should mean a much improved defensive showing this season. Speaking of which, Oregon's defense will take a step back this year. Last year they were in fact extremely underrated, but with only five returning starters they will not be the same solid front they were last year. There are a couple of question marks here, but mainly up front as they wave goodbye to Wade Keliikipi, Taylor Hart and Ricky Heimuli, all of whom were important parts of a strong defensive unit... Washington is another team on the rise, coming off a respectable 9-4 season. The Huskies, seemingly out of nowhere, gave Stanford a hard time with a 31-28 loss, Oregon a decent 45-24 showing, and UCLA a great game at 41-31. Of course they aren't a great team until we start talking about great wins, but still these testify to the strength of an up and coming team. Watch the Huskies this year. There is something of a question mark at quarterback, and they have a new head coach, but with a solid core of 14 returning starters they can do as well as they did last season or better.

And some predictions:
Heisman watch list: Oregon's Marcus Mariota, UCLA's Brett Hundley, Washington's Cyler Miles, Stanford's Kevin Hogan, UCLA's LB/RB Miles Jack, Arizona State's Taylor Kelly
Sleeper pick: Washington
Conference champion: Oregon

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Top 50 Rivalries in American Sports History (Part II)

40. Yankees-Dodgers (Pro Baseball): Before the Dodgers franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958, the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers shared a city with one another, but also played each other 7 times in the World Series before 1958. Once the Dodgers left Brooklyn, the two teams represented the two largest cities from the East and West Coast. Following 1958, the Dodgers and Yankees went on to play each other in the World Series 4 more times, raising the total to 11. There have been some incredible moments from this rivalry, including Jackie Robinson stealing home, Don Larsen's perfect game, and Reggie Jackson's three home run game. Although the Yankees-Dodgers rivalry is less prevalent today, the great moments from the past makes this one of the best rivalries in baseball.

39. Michael Jordan vs. Pistons (Pro Basketball): Having been knocked out of the NBA Playoffs by the Detroit Pistons for three straight seasons, Michael Jordan clearly wanted revenge against the "Bad Boys" of Detroit. The Pistons had implemented a plan called "Jordan Rules", a game plan that focuses all of their defensive efforts on MJ. The Pistons were hated by NBA fans due to their physical defense and cocky attitude, so it came as no surprise that MJ did his best to get past the Pistons in the 1991 Playoffs, leading to Chicago's first NBA title. There was also tension between Jordan and Isiah Thomas, starting with Thomas convincing other plays at the All Star Game not to pass Jordan the ball. It is rumored that Thomas was not added to the 1992 "Dream Team" because Jordan and Pippen refused to play with him.

38. Missouri-Kansas (College Football): Rarely does a college football rivalry have roots in the Civil War, but the Missouri-Kansas football rivalry is unique in that sense. During the Civil War, Missouri attempted to influence Kansas into joining the Union as a Slave State, leading to constant fighting between citizens of either state. Once this football rivalry began, Civil War veterans from Kansas and Missouri would watch the game on opposite sides of the field, reminiscent of a Civil War battlefield. The two teams have played 120 times, the second most in Division-I college football, where the most important contest came in 2007 when Missouri was ranked 2nd in the nation, while Missouri ranked 3rd. The rivalry has since been broken up, now that Missouri has left for the SEC.

37. Grambling State-Southern (College Football): On the final Saturday of November, one can watch the Bayou Classic, a contest between two little-known schools in Louisiana. Despite the small size of both schools, this rivalry produces plenty of passion among the fans. The Bayou Classic is the only Division-I subdivision game to be broadcasted on television, and the game is traditionally played in the New Orleans Saints' Superdome. A great tradition that has been created is the Battle of the Bands, where the marching bands from either school present elaborate performances the Friday night before the game, and also during halftime. Taking into account the size of either school, one can't help but be amazed by the incredible amount of passion in this rivalry.

36. Raiders-Steelers (Pro Football): Before the "Steel Curtain" won 4 Super Bowls in 6 years, the most famous play in football history took place between Pittsburgh and Oakland. With the Steelers down by one point with under 30 seconds left in this divisional playoff game, Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to his receiver John Fuqua, but Fuqua was hit right before catching the ball, and the ball flew backwards into the hands of Franco Harris. Harris ran the ball into the endzone fore the game-winning touchdown. This play has generated plenty of controversy, where some skeptics--mostly Oakland's fans and former players--believe the ball hit the ground before Harris caught the ball. Some also believe that the ball only hit Fuqua on the play, which would make Harris' catch illegal due to an NFL rule. Including this first matchup, Pittsburgh played Oakland in the playoffs five consecutive times, where the winner of three of these games went on to win the Super Bowl. Raiders fans are still angry over the Immaculate Reception to this day.

35. Florida State-Miami (College Football): This college football rivalry is defined by mistakes. Starting in 1987, Florida State missed an opportunity to beat Miami as they looked to convert on an extra point that would have guaranteed a victory; instead, the pass attempt was broken up, and Miami went on to win the National Championship. In '91, '92, '00, '02, and '04, Miami was able to beat Florida State every time thanks to missed field goals by FSU late in the game, one of which decided the Orange Bowl, while another created controversy when FSU was picked to play for the National Championship over Miami despite Florida State's loss to the U. Eventually, Florida State caught a break when Miami lost a game due to a muffed snap on a potentially game-tying field goal with 2:16 left. The last great game took place in 2009, when FSU marched down the field with 1:43 left in the game and down 38-34. Even though the ball was placed on the 2 yard line with a fresh set of downs and 17 seconds left, FSU was unable to score, further proving FSU's inability to close out a game against Miami.

34. Richard Petty-David Pearson (Auto Racing): Widely considered to be the best rivalry in NASCAR history, Richard Petty and David Pearson always seemed to have captured the first and second place finishes when competing in the same race. When it was all said and done, Pearson and Petty accounted for 63 first/second place finishes, the most of any duo in NASCAR history. In the 1976 Daytona 500, the two created one of the more interesting final laps in racing history. One-hundred feet from the finish line, the two cars crashed, thus spinning into the infield grass. Petty was unable to start his car, so Pearson slowly drove his car across the finish line for the victory.The immense amount of respect the two drivers showed for one another made Petty and Pearson try their hardest each and every race, creating so many memorable moments on the track.

33. War Admiral-Seabiscuit (Horse Racing): These two race horses come from very different backgrounds, yet their rivalry is one of the best in all of horse racing. War Admiral won the Triple Crown in 1937, thus earning him the American Horse of the Year Award. In 1938, the two horses were scheduled to race in a match, deemed the "Match of the Century." While War Admiral was the clear favorite, Seabiscuit managed to win by four lengths while 40 million people listened over the radio. The rivalry has spawned a best-selling book, and a popular film distributed by Universal Films, proving the influence that the Seabiscuit-War Admiral rivalry still has to this day.
32. Red Wings-Blackhawks (Pro Hockey): Out of all the teams in the NHL, no two teams have played more regular season games against each other than the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. As two of the Original Six teams in hockey, the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry has seen some interesting moments since their first game in 1926. From 1989 to 1996, one could count on a fight between Stu Grimson and Bob Probert, two well-known rivals who had both played for either team. Just recently, the Blackhawks were down 3-1 in the 2013 NHL Playoffs, but managed to win three straight games to win the series, and eventually, the Stanley Cup. The rivalry is bound to change now that Detroit is in a different conference from Chicago, but the amount of great history in this rivalry makes it one of the best in hockey.

31. Chiefs-Raiders (Pro Football): From roughly 1966 to 1975, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs clashed against one another as the two superpowers in the AFL. The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs exchanged blows throughout the years as they looked to win the AFL Western Division--later known as the AFC West--where either the Raiders or Chiefs won the division for 11 straight seasons. With 3 AFL Championships between the two teams in that 11 year span, as well as one Super Bowl victory obtained by the Kansas City Chiefs, the rivalry became one of the most heated in sports history.

College Football Conference Power Rankings

It may seem out of place to start talking about college football in early July, I'll grant. But with the NBA and NHL playoffs in the books and what looks to be a profoundly depressing second half for the Red Sox, I find myself inexplicably drawn to that tab at the top of the ESPN home page. Yes, NCAAF is less than two months away! I'll be posting with more regularity as thing heat up, about specific teams and specific story lines, but for starters it seems fitting to give an overview of the conferences this year. I've ranked them below.

The PAC 12: Call me a homer, but I have gone and unseated the SEC as my top conference. This is probably because defense is harder to measure, and the SEC is a defensive conference, so at a cursory glance (mine) the PAC 12 just looks way sexier. Seriously though, the offensive hijinks coming to us from the west coast this year should be nothing short of spectacular, as we have come to expect. Marcus Mariota (I know!) is coming off a remarkable run at a Heisman for a freshman, and the Ducks offense looks to dazzle. They are also looking to unseat a Stanford team that has now repeated as PAC 12 champs. Oregon playing Stanford at home on November 1 is already a game to keep in mind. Other fascinating material from this conference to keep an eye on is a finally legit Oregon State team, a Lane Kiffin-less USC, and Washington and UCLA (with Brett Hundley returning), both teams that are finally coming into their own. Don't forget about Arizona State either. There's simply a lot of great football to be played here, after a conference record 9 teams qualified for bowls. That's a great conference, from top to bottom.
Marcus Mariota didn't go anywhere

The SEC: I'm a little turned off on the SEC this year. I can name five great quarterbacks who graduated last year. AJ McCarron from Alabama, Aaron Murray from Georgia, Zach Mettenberger from LSU, Conner Shaw from South Carolina, and of course Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M. An SEC without quarterbacks (Nick Marshall will probably be the best quarterback in the conference next year, which is frankly kinda lame) is like ordering Moose Tracks ice cream and finding out there's no reese's cups in there. (This actually happened to me once- no further comment) It can still be enjoyable of course, but there's something missing, and that something proves to be an essential element. A great athletic quarterback provides the sole source of unpredictability, and frankly makes a game fun to watch. Defense has always ruled in the SEC, but now that will be exaggerated to such an extent that I can already predict a solid 12-3 win for the Crimson Tide over LSU this year. (Just for the record, definitely not a prediction. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.) So honestly I can't think of a single game that I am already looking forward to. Of course the Iron Bowl will be timeless, Alabama-LSU, but in all honestly none of those excite me like several teams and games in the PAC 12 do. There you have it. A strong conference but not a fun one. Now I know you'll say I'm not ranking "fun to watch," I'm ranking strength of the teams, but I see the PAC 12 as simply better this year. I'm not saying there won't be the usual contingent of scary top ten SEC teams, but I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if we had a national champion from outside the SEC this year. In fact the opposite is true, (I would be surprised, for those of you following at home) so I do predict now that the coaches' trophy will remain out of the conference.
Nick Marshall may be good, but he shouldn't be the best in your conference. 

The Big 12: Now besides a beautiful victory by the Sooners over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl that rang resoundingly with a certain poetic justice, the Big 12 didn't fare all that well in bowls last season. An ugly loss by what was previously a very exciting Baylor team was disappointing to everyone but Blake Bortles and his girlfriend, as well as losses from Texas and Oklahoma State. But all those teams, as well as a Texas Tech team that was lots of fun last year, are teams to watch this season. This conference might be my favorite in terms of rivalries, (Red River, for starters) but it does lack that elite level team, the Oregon or Alabama, and that is a knock against it for sure. Keep an eye out for Bryce Petty as well, on sports center top 10s and Heisman watch lists. You heard it here first. Ok definitely not first, but he'll flirt with video game numbers this year, like that entire Bear offense always does.

The ACC: First, let me pause. Thank you, Jameis. You might behave questionably off the field. Then again, you might not, which I guess is sort of the point. But you gave us one of the most poignantly simultaneously quotable and not quotable moments in the history of sports. I myself have brought this up on many an occasion, from a pick up soccer game to an argument about the academic standards for collegiate athletes. "And I said, we strong? And he said, we strong if you strong. *pause* We strong."  Even that's iffy, but I am fairly sure we got the point. (The pause there is my favorite part.) Anyways of course the important point is that this conference took the coaches' trophy out of the SEC for the first time in seven years. I don't say this because I hate the SEC, but simply because it is worth noting and testifies to the strength of the conference. Depth is what's missing here, but Duke looked strong (sorry, I had to) out of nowhere, BC gave some teams some good tough games, and of course the perennially relevant Clemson Tigers and Miami are a big plus. Louisville sans Teddy Bridgewater will take a step back, but they are headed in the right direction, as is this entire conference. Also keep in mind that Notre Dame's non football teams have moved into the ACC officially now, and for many (not all) intents and purposes their football team has as well, so that'll be fun.

The Big 10: Here, I am a homer. A huge Notre Dame fan, I relish on some level dumping Michigan last on a list, even though I know it's not just Michigan and I know they're fifth on the list, and many other conferences would be happy to be here. Still. That was fun. I do have some legitimacy here though. The Big 10 had a losing bowl record for the fourth straight season, at 2-5, which is the worst for any automatic BCS qualifying conference by a good margin. This is a conference that is not doing well, and besides a Michigan State upset over Stanford in the Rose bowl, a good ground out 24-20 win what was fun to watch, there weren't many highlights for these guys last year. Ohio State will be a good team of course with Braxton Miller, and I'm not burying the conference as whole, (Michigan Ohio State will always be great, though they won't top last year's obscenities) but the level of play and the caliber of team has declined considerably. Here's hoping they ramp it back up, so that they can be mentioned in the same breath as the PAC 12 and the SEC, just like the good old days.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Josh Gordon Arrested For Driving While Impaired

Josh Gordon, a star wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina for driving while impaired according to the police captain in Raleigh. Gordon was already in trouble earlier in the offseason for yet another failed drug test, causing him to face a year-long suspension that is still being reviewed by the NFL and will be decided at his hearing in July. In 14 games, Gordon managed to lead the league in receiving yards last season with 1,646 yards and an additional 9 touchdown receptions. Looking forward to 2014, the Browns have recently drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel, and this young passer certainly would like his wide receiver to be playing in as many games as possible.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Top 50 Rivalries in American Sports History (Part I)

Honorable Mentions: Texas-Texas A&M, Philadelphia Phillies-New York Mets, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, New Jersey Devils-New York Rangers, Michael Jordan-Dominique Wilkins, Michigan-Michigan State, Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa

50. Ravens-Steelers (Pro Football): At one point the hottest rivalry in all of football, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have fought viciously every single time they meet on the field, seeing how both teams were defined by their hard-hitting, bone-crushing defense. The two teams both play in the AFC North, which  means they are required to play at least twice a year, yet we have seen these teams play in the postseason three times. The Ravens were a very young franchise when this rivalry began, but thanks to big names like Ray Lewis, James Harrison, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu, the Ravens-Steelers rivalry was always fun to watch.
49. Yankees-Mets (Pro Baseball): The Subway Series was formed when the MLB created inter-league play in 1997, and the tension between these two teams quickly carried over to the fanbases due to the fact that both stadiums are in New York. The rivalry gained a lot of notoriety, starting with Roger Clemens hitting Mike Piazza in the head with a fastball, which then put Piazza on the disabled list with a concussion. The two players faced each other yet again in the 2000 World Series, when a piece of Piazza's shattered bat nearly hit Clemens on the mound. When Clemens threw the bat at the baseline, both benches cleared, and the play quickly became the pinnacle of this rivalry. The Yankees went on to win the game, as well as the World Series.

48. Harvard-Yale (College Football): Seeing how these two schools are known for their academic prestige, it is surprising that the two football teams have one of the more passionate rivalries in all of college football. With the first game played in 1875, Harvard and Yale have battled it out on the football field 130 times over the years, having been deemed "The Game". The Harvard-Yale rivalry has been full of pranks between either side, including the kidnapping of the Yale bulldog mascot, and Harvard students giving fake tours of the Yale campus. While neither school is able to recruit the elite athletes from around the country, the Harvard-Yale rivalry still manages to attract huge crowds each year.

47. Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding: Many would not associate figure skating with incredibly heated rivalries, but the Kerrigan-Harding duo drew a lot of publicity towards the sport when Harding's husband hired a man to injure Kerrigan before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship. Eventually, Harding was forced to plead guilty, leading to her being stripped of her title and suspension for life from the USFA as a skater and coach. The two skaters will forever be associated with one another.

46. Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson (Boxing): Having beaten the heavily favored Mike Tyson in the first meeting, Evander Holyfield stepped into the arena for his second fight against Mike, unknowing of the strange twist that lay ahead. During the third round, Mike bit off part of Holyfield's ear during a clinch, and followed this mind-boggling decision by biting Holyfield's left ear later in the same round. Tyson ended up being disqualified, creating one of the stranger rivalries in all of sports.

45. Larry Bird-Dr. J (Pro Basketball): Larry Bird may have a serious reputation for his trash talking on the court, but the Celtics legend was certainly able to back it up. In a November game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Bird had outscored Philly's Dr. J 42 to 6, and supposedly, Bird continuously reminded Julius Erving with each shot that he made. Eventually the two players got into a shoving match, and both teams stormed onto the court in order to break up the fight. When it was all said and done, Bird and Dr. J were both fined $7,500 for their actions. Seeing how the Celtics had already come back to beat the 76ers in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals, the fight between Bird and Erving shows that there was still tension between these two players.

44. Cubs-White Sox (Pro Baseball): A common pattern that we will see with many of the rivalries on this list is two teams that are based within the same city. The Cubs-White Sox rivalry, known by many nicknames, started in 1906 when the two teams played in the World Series. A notable moment from this rivalry started when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski ran into Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, and as Pierzynski looked to return to his dugout, Barrett stood in his way, and eventually, Barrett threw a punch. The benches cleared, and Barrett was suspended for 10 games.

43. Knicks-Heat (Pro Basketball): When two teams meet each other in the playoffs for four straight seasons, a sense of bitterness is bound to develop between the two franchises. At one point in time, the Heat and Knicks were in the same division, so playing each other in the postseason four straight times certainly presented an opportunity for revenge. The first time the Heat and Knicks played in the playoffs, Miami coach Pat Riley supposedly asked P.J. Brown to start a fight in the hopes that several Knicks players will be suspended; Brown was successful, where Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson and John Starks were all suspended for one game. The Heat went on to win the series in 7 games. More fights took place between Miami and New York within the next three years, as well as buzzer-beaters, controversial calls, and many, many upsets. The rivalry is not quite the same now that the two teams are in different divisions, but the Knicks-Heat rivalry is one of the best in NBA history.

42. Shaq-Kobe (Pro Basketball): While these two superstars managed to win three consecutive titles while playing for the Lakers, Shaq and Kobe were unable to maintain their relationship, eventually resulting in a trade that sent Shaq to Miami. Despite their success together on the court, Shaq was once quoted as saying, "I have something to say. I think Kobe is playing too selfishly for us to win," yet clearly this was not the main reason behind Shaq's disappointment. The Lakers were winning games at the time, and Kobe began to gain a lot more attention due to his spectacular play, causing Shaq to ask for a trade in 2000 following a blowout win. Eventually, the two were split up, and although both players managed to win championships apart from one another, fans can't help but wonder what could have been if the two players had stayed together.

41. Penguins-Flyers: The Penguins-Flyers matchup is one of the more current rivalries on this list, as both teams have been very legitimate title contenders over the past few years. Having met each other in three of the past six Stanley Cup Playoffs, the in-state rivals clearly do not like one another, as seen with the many fights that take place on the ice. Some of the more memorable moments of this rivalry include a five-overtime game back in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, as well as Pittsburgh's 43 game winless streak on the road against Philadelphia.