Top 10 Preseason … ALL HAIL THE SEC! Part 1

The season opens tonight with #24 USC at Hawaii, but let’s delve into the top 10 as a preview for the college football fans. As expected, the SEC is the dominant force in the opening polls with half the top ten consisting of their powerhouses. Let’s breakdown each team and why they are ranked accordingly starting with the two time defending champions.

1) Alabama:

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To honestly say that the Rolltide would not be number 1 in the rankings I would have to smack you and say you know nothing about College Football. This is a dynasty in the making which is extremely rare to discover in the college world. Saban did lose a couple of studs last year like Dee Milliner on defense (possibly next Darrelle Revis) and offensive role players like Eddie Lacy, and D.J. FLuker. However, Saban made sure that plenty of players had experience last year and there are going to be a good amount of players for defense. 11 players have good enough experience for Saban and his defense wrecking which only gave up a stingy 10.9 points (1st in the country). A.J. Mccaron will be fine too. He has the explosive and powerful Amare cooper still along with T.J. Yeldon who has not yet tapped into his true potential. The only thing stopping Alabama from winning again is themselves. They have 18 freshmen, 28 sophomores, 30 juniors, and 18 seniors. Of the seniors, 12 are linemen and receivers which means almost nothing except that Saban will look for more of those two positions in the upcoming prospects. This team is young and experienced enough to win again. The only problem may be players on offense stepping up. Both Amare and T.J. had their parties last year and so the conference is ready for these studs. It is up to the senior unit to keep defenses guessing. They do this, they repeat. Expect ‘Bama to win again this year, or to have a 12-2 season, with that second loss coming in the last game of the college football season.

2) Ohio St.

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My friend told me about Braxton Miller, but I did not really look into him until the end of the season and oh boy I missed a lot. This guy put the team on his back and I am saying that he is indeed a Heisman candidate. Overall, Ohio State has a strong team and they also dictate whether they make the dance. Their secondary looks impenetrable as all the starters are returning, but they mostly reload in the front seven. If the team can put play-makers there, then they will have no hiccup and go meet ‘Bama in the national championship. They have 9 returning starters for offense which is going to take a load off Braxton. Urban Meyer returns in his second dream job season and quite frankly this should be a good year for Buckeyes fans. Good Buckeyes.

3) Oregon

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This is an excellent surprise to see another conference stepping up to battle the SEC cause quite frankly they are tired of shutouts (Or at least I know ‘Bama is). The Ducks come back with 9 offensive returners and 7 defensive returners as well. Marcus Mariota comes back with basically the same guys at his disposal which means their scoring capability will remain the same. The big question, however, is not how much the Ducks are able to score, but how much they can put up with the presence of their fearless leader going to the Eagles. This is going to be interesting to see how the Ducks are going to fair without their most successful head coach in school history. Now, the Ducks also have injuries in the secondary which may or may not hurt them in the long run. At the moment, Oregon is poised to be the PAC-12 champions unless Stanford or another team (USC and UCLA) picks up their game. The team has a very tough schedule and you could see them playing a very talented Washington team and of course Stanford to boot. If they survive, Oregon could be heading to the BCS National Championship if Ohio State and/or Bama have a misstep.

4) Stanford

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Now we come to the next team on the list and I am shocked at how they are fourth. It makes sense to have ‘Bama at first but I find it difficult to place third only because they had a good season. This team has battled through losing Andrew Luck last year and many more starters. They ended 12-2 under coach David Shaw who also won them a bowl game. In addition, they have the toughest schedule with a strong and upcoming Pac-12 conference that could potentially rival the SEC in a couple of years. The key for Stanford is for Hogan (their new QB) to step and have an excellent year. They also need a lot of production out of Taylor in order for their team to go far and make a run for the title. The have 7 returning offenses and 10 returning defensive players. David Shaw has caught wind of what the SEC is doing and is manipulating it. He has recruited good linemen both defensively and offensively in the past couple of years. He is also recruiting good defensive players and this is why they could make a run soon.

5) Georgia

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This is a school I have grown to admire and really take notice of in the past couple of years. Georga comes off a bowl win and one play from beating Alabama in the SEC championship so I think I can say they will take things more personally this year if they play ‘Bama. Aaron Murray can go to work again since all but one of his wide receivers and linemen have graduated or gone to the draft. 10 returning starters on offense not only gives Georgia a strong unit, but also better chemistry and more maturity. Their schedule includes Clemson, South Carolina, and Florida . They have one of the toughest schedules out there thanks to the three teams above.  So, the question is how the teams will take Georgia down? Well, Georgia lost about 7 starters last year on defense which means reload time (including Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree)!!! They have to play with the pieces and see what will work for them. The nice thing is Georgia’s depth and if they beat Alabama in SEC championship (because I have both those teams returning to the ‘real’ Big Dance), then watch out for the BCS national championship no matter who is there. They are favorites for the SEC East, but I think this will be a tough year for them given their schedule..

To be continued shortly….

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Go Play Outside Johnny!

Do I like Johnny Manziel? Yes. Do I think he deserved to be suspended and that he clearly needs to start thinking before he acts? Absolutely. Did I know that he would play in every game or merely miss one? Duh. There was no way in hell the NCAA would allow its most marketable asset to miss more than one game and not be on the field against the most anticipated face-off of the 2013 season, Texas A&M vs. Alabama. For those of you who aren’t aware, Johnny Manziel has been suspended for the first half for this Saturday’s game against Rice University. How did it come to this you ask? Let me explain.

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Reports surfaced, along with informants, that Johnny Manziel had signed memorabilia in hotel rooms and had received over $7,500 from brokers. Apparently there was sufficient information and backing to this, but this half game suspension might disprove that theory. On the other hand, it could prove how consistently inconsistent the NCAA is in their rulings and how ridiculous they will continue to look. The NCAA is that kid in the corner of the room with a dunce cap on his head. The half-game suspension was handed down because the NCAA claims Manziel did not take the proper steps to prevent this from happening. Texas A&M’s lawyers claim they accepted the penalty because they wanted to get Johnny back on the field.

UNCLE NATE!!!!

UNCLE NATE!!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong College Football is arguably my favorite sport, but its governing body needs a few slaps to the head. Let’s touch on some past head-scratchers:

  1. USC – Gets a three year bowl ban and loss of a ton of scholarships because Reggie Bush’s parents accepted some free stuff, Reggie was already in the NFL at this point for a couple of years, so let’s punish a school and the players that now have 0 to do with Reggie Bush?
  2. Penn State – Loss of  10 scholarships per year, a large amount of money ($60 million), loss of all victories from 1998-2011, basically attempting to destroy a program because of something that one man did an the reluctance of a few others to take extra steps, but let’s penalize the incoming athletes and the people replacing these other individuals, instead of the individuals.
  3. Miami – Reportedly a booster, Devin Shapiro, paid former and current Miami players, but the NCAA had to stop its investigation, to investigate its own employees and whether or not unethical practices had taken place. Miami is still waiting on a ruling regarding their case after nearly three months, Miami could reach the ACC Championship game and have it stripped away from it the day before. Ridiculous.

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College athletes have been accepting forms of payments since god knows when. In the late 80s with the SMU “Death Penalty” there were funds being provided under the table (BTW watch the “30 for 30” on this scandal). It has been over 25 years since that and athletes are still accepting payments, compensation and gifts. This will always be an issue, even if the NCAA allows players to be paid, other versions of this issue will arise. There are reports coming out now that these autograph brokers have “client lists” dating back to 2004 (YIKES!).  Johnny Manziel was trying to cash in on “Johnny Football” just like the the NCAA has. Yes, he is held to a higher standard and should hold himself in such as well now that he is a Heisman winner, but only time will tell if he makes smarter decisions.

-Anthony

Leave Johnny Alone!

LEAVE JOHNNY ALONE!!!

LEAVE JOHNNY ALONE!!!

Johnny Manziel a.k.a Johnny Football has been the talk of the NCAA since last season’s performance, which led to him becoming the first ever Freshman to win the Heisman. Most of the news about Manziel since then has been worrisome relating to his off the field activities. Since last year it has been public knowledge that Manziel likes to have a good time and will definitely enjoy the sweet life of a college quarterback. Throughout this off season Manziel has been criticized and closely watched by the media waiting to pounce on his next move. Johnny Football has not let us down one beat. He has been photographed, Twitter snapped and even caught napping at the wrong time. It is my opinion that we are watching Johnny Football too close as if his life is a reality show.

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Now things have taken a turn for the worst as the NCAA is investigating Manziel for profiting off of signed memorabilia. Jay Bilas from ESPN, who is known for challenging the NCAA’s sanctions and actions taken into improper benefit cases, brought up an interesting point this morning; he said that last week Texas A&M made $20,000 of Manziel by auctioning him off for a day, but they will turn around and punish him for selling a few autographs. Listen, I know he broke the rules and that he should punished accordingly, but it is my belief that the rules should be altered. Let these kids make money, but put a cap on it or something along those lines.

Back to Johnny now. I think we are keeping too close of an eye on a 20 year old kid who is trying to live a normal college life. Yes, many say that he should act responsibly because he is supposed to be a role model, but a 20 year old isn’t necessarily going to think that way. Walk a mile in his shoes before you start telling him how to act, Mark May (College Football Analyst from ESPN). Maybe he should watch what he does a little more closely, but maybe the media should get off his back for one day and stop watching every move he makes or every drink he takes. Let the kid develop on and off the football field and when he makes or doesn’t make the NFL then criticize him and judge him based on his “adult” actions.

FREE JOHNNY!

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-Anthony

NCAA in Atlanta

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So, it’s all said and done. Louisville, the number one overall seed has cut down the nets after beating Michigan, which hadn’t been to the Championship game since the Fab 5 played for the Wolverines.

Final Four and the ‘Ship

Wichita State and Syracuse deserve some serious props for their seasons. Wichita State had a typical Mountain Valley Conference season; they appeared in the top 25 a few times and lost in their conference final to the team everyone else thought was the better squad. Syracuse was looking like a championship favorite early in the season, but then they lost three straight games and didn’t look like the same team when James Southerland was injured. However, both teams were able to make dramatic runs through the tournament to fall just shy of the championship game. Syracuse looked awful in the first half against Michigan, but that defense nailed down in the second half as they made their run but came up just short as some questionable charge calls were made. Wichita State had built a large lead, but Rick Pitino called a key timeout and his team buckled down on their defense and made a run to take the lead. The last minute was an ugly minute with some tough jump balls and foul calls, but Louisville moved on to meet Michigan.

Last night Louisville captured its third National Championship in school history and first since 1986. Rick Pitino became the first coach to ever win two championships at two different schools. Let’s jump into the game. Michigan came out firing as most thought they would; however, nobody expected it to be Spike Albrecht tallying 17 points in the first half, including hit four straight three pointers, as Michigan built a double digit lead. However, Luke Hancock had something to say about it hitting four straight three pointers of his own and at half the Michigan lead was down to 1. I had the feeling, because of Louisville’s track record of second half surges, the game was already over. In second halves Louisville clamps down with their defense, pressing stamina and pressures opponents into mistakes.

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The second half was an unrelenting back and forth until Louisville went on a 9-2 run to drive the Cardinals’ faithful crazy in Atlanta, until Russ Smith decided it was a good idea to try and let Michigan back in the game. A few ill-advised shots and a stupid foul committed on Trey Burke when Michigan was already in the double bonus, had my brother jumping up and down screaming, “take him out!” Of course Pitino, couldn’t do that, but they were definitely punishable mistakes. It came down to foul shots, except John Beilein didn’t tell his guys to foul not realizing they had a couple of fouls to give. He later admitted that it was his mistake (at least he owned up to it). But the game was over and Louisville was cutting down the nets.

To review, the referees were awful, some of the worst calls I’ve seen in any basketball game ever. It went both ways too. A missed kick-ball here, strips or blocks that were called fouls, fouls that weren’t called, too quick or too slow on some jump balls. Bad calls were made both ways, but it seemed Michigan got hurt on a few more calls. However, as a Giant fan (I’m looking at you refs in the 2011 playoffs), you can’t blame the refs, you just have to beat the other team.

Louisville deserved this championship, they were a solid offensive team that boasted the best defensive side of the ball as well. Rick Pitino is easily a top 5 coach in the NCAA right now. Then there’s Kevin Ware, who is from Atlanta. His friends, his family were able to go out and win this one for him after his horrific injury. What a heart-warming story after such a heart-stopping moment last weekend. Louisville is now 3-0 in championship games and Michigan has fallen to 1-5 (OUCH!). The game was a classic though and the fans were into it, but the refs weren’t. A laughable moment is when Rick Pitino ducked after the fireworks went off inside the Georgia Dome. I guess this is how you react to loud booms when you’re born in NYC and raised in Bayville (that’s Long Island for all that don’t know)

Championship Moment

Championship Moment

The Champs

The Champs

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Back in the Groove

There hasn’t been a SportsGoneHam post since the end of the NFL Season, but now that has changed. We will get back into the swing of things ladies and gents. When we post and we will post more often, we will touch upon the most talked about topics of late in the sports world. You will laugh, you won’t cry, you will share, and most of all you will enjoy!

MADNESS

I give up on brackets. WHO CAN PREDICT ANYTHING ANYMORE? A 15 has finally made it to the Sweet 16, but let me tell you for sure that no seed lower than a 10 has ever won the National Championship (You’re welcome, Nick). However, this year somebody has busted a bracket (and again). I picked St. Louis banking on an emotional ride to the finals, but they ran into a pissed off Oregon team who was disrespected more than any team I’ve ever seen when they were given a 12 seed, well thanks a lot Committee! I think the Louisville Cardinals will win this whole thing now, unless Oregon just runs train on them too, then I just quit. La Salle and Florida Gulf Coast, or Dunk City, are “Cinderellas” that we can all not ignore. La Salle has two really good guards and can play close games as they’ve shown twice now, and FGCU is ready to run with the big boys. Sherwood Brown is channeling his inner Kenneth Fareid, more scoring but less rebounding, in order to lead his team to the promised land. When you know there will be upsets, but you pick the wrong ones:

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THE HEAT ARE ON FIRE?

As everyone, and probably their mothers know by know, the Heat have won 27 straight games. It’s all Mothership ESPN talks about on a daily basis, while they ignored the Denver Nuggets “modest” 15 game win streak out West. They haven’t lost a game since February 3, which means this streak is on the verge of spanning 2 months.  The past two games the Heat have been without Dwayne Wade, without whom over the past three years the Heat possess over a .700 winning percentage, kind of nuts when you think about it. Over these 27 games the Heat are shooting a ridiculous 51% from the field and outscoring their opponents by double digits. I don’t know if they’ll get to the fabled 33 games of those ’71-’72 Los Angeles Lakers, but they will certainly get close. I heard today about the talk of them being the greatest team ever if they break the streak and it’s simple, they aren’t the greatest team ever, period. Will they be up there in the talks if they break it of course, but they need at least one more ring to even be considered for that top spot.

Whattup Playboi??

Whattup Playboi??

NFL FREE AGENCY

Many guys found the market unfriendly to them, including defensive ends and defensive backs who could not find the money they were looking for. The Quarterback market, free agency or trades did not develop the way most had hoped besides Alex Smith being traded to the Chiefs so that Andy Reid would have a competent signal-caller as he took over the reigns of 2012’s worst team. The worst move in my opinion of this Free Agency Class was Joe Flacco’s contract because the other players on the Ravens saw this contract that Flacco was given and thought “hey, why can’t I get PAID too?” Boldin was traded for scraps, Ellerbe left, Ed Reed defected from the only team he’s ever known, and Paul Kruger left for the Cleveland Browns (ironically the team the Ravens used to be.) So way to go Joe! But talking about playing contract roulette by not signing the extension before last season huh? Big splashes were made by the Dolphins, Chiefs, Broncos, and Seahawks, while some have said the Giants have done well keeping their guys and adding depth. Head-scratchers are most certainly the Jets and the Cardinals, you think they’d re-watch their own debacle of a game to look at what they needed to add, but instead both teams didn’t make any moves in free agency. the Jets had an excuse in their little cap room, but the Cardinals have no excuse for their only splash being Rashard Mendenhall.

NHL QUICK HITS

The creme de la creme are the Blackhawks (who recorded at least one point in 24 straight games to start the season), the Penguins (who have a 12 game win streak of their own right now), and the Ducks who have been quietly the second best team in the West this season. Surprises include the Canadiens, the Jets, the Maple Leafs, and the injury riddled Senators who are without two of their best players, but still find themselves sitting in the middle of the playoff picture. The shortened season has provided for excitement, but desperation for many teams including the Rangers, the Flyers, the Caps, the Coyotes, the Sharks and the Preds. Many would say the Blackhawks made more people care “aboot” Hockey again, but it never left this blogger’s heart. I mean an eight seed winning the championship last year in dominating fashion was exciting for all, eh? Moral of the story watch some hockey and it won’t disappoint!

MLB OPENING

The Yanks are more banged up than bumper cars, the Blue Jays made some eye-opening moves this offseason, and the two Los Angeles teams look like well, Los Angeles teams with all-stars and big names ready to shine. The fact of the matter is, the baseball season is still too long and tenuous for most to keep track of day in and day out. This is why I will most likely opt to remain out of Fantasy Baseball this year. I will keep an eye on my Yankees and watch their games, but remember season’s aren’t decided in April or May, but in August-September. There will be a plethora of baseball stories as the season goes, which will most certainly include instant replay, PEDs, division races, trade rumors and much more. Tune in!

The OTHERS

  • Tiger Woods has regained the No. 1 ranking after his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, let’s see how long he can keep it and if he can win another title, we know ESPN will be all over that in 2013.
  • The USA seems to be struggling in the “football” front as Klinsmann and the boys can’t seem to play good enough defense to keep teams away from Tim Howard. The USA needs to make the World Cup if Klinsmann wants to keep his job, the problem is the countries around us are getting better.
  • NASCAR has brought back the stock car in their name rather then a drag racing car with a lip on it. It has already provided some excitement on the track and maybe it’ll keep up for this long haul of a season.

Those are my two cents … cash em in!

Anthony

(Please let me know if there’s any sports you want me to blog about and give my take on!)