Wednesday, December 29, 2010
But I digress...for my year in review, I have a top 5 list of my games of the year...good and bad. These games were the 5 most enjoyable games I watched my teams play in, and the 5 most painful losses. So without further dudes...
Top 5 Most Painful Losses
5. September 18, 2010 - Arkansas 31 - UGA 24
I almost wish Arkansas had just run away with this game rather than see UGA come back and then lose it at the end like they did. Arkansas led 24-10 in the 4th quarter with under 8 minutes left when UGA came alive and got TD's from Tavarres King and Washaun Ealey to tie the game with 4 minutes left. Then, they get the ball back with 2 minutes left just outside mid-field with an All-Conference kicker on the sidelines. But the team can not pick up a 1st down and are forced to punt it back to the high-powered Razorback offense, who score a TD with 15 seconds left.
4. May 8, 2010 - Orlando Magic 105 - Atlanta Hawks 75
Saturday night in Philips Arena, the Hawks down 2-0 in the series but still confident after a 34-7 home record on the season. Beat the Magic in Game 3, get back in the series, and see what happens. Nope. The Hawks went down 10 in the 1st quarter and never got closer than that and got embarrassed by Orlando. The lead was 19 at half and got as high as 32 and I don't think I watched a second of the 4th quarter after looking forward to the game all week.
3. October 30, 2010 - Florida 34 UGA 31
Another game where UGA went down by 2 touchdowns in the 1st half, only to rally to tie the game on a pass to AJ Green with 4 minutes left. Aaron Murray had the INT in overtime and Chas Henry kicked home the game-winner. The Dawgs seem to always find a way to lose the Jacksonville game, and the 2010 loss was a real tough one to swallow.
2. June 26, 2010 - Ghana 2 - USA 1
For the 2nd straight World Cup, the Americans were knocked out by the small African nation of Ghana. This loss was particularly painful after the dramatics of group play gave the USA the top spot from the group. It was also another World Cup without a goal from a forward, as Altidore and company just couldn't muster up a goal to advance in the tournament. It may be decades before USA soccer is in a position in the World Cup like they were in 2010, if ever.
1. October 10, 2010 - San Francisco Giants 3 - Atlanta Braves 2
AKA, the Brooks Conrad game. The Braves were on the brink of leading the eventual World Series champions 2-1 with a home game to close it out, when Brooks Conrad inexplicably forgot how to field a baseball. An Erik Hinske home run in the bottom of the 8th gave the Braves a 2-1 lead and Craig Kimbrel was given the ball to close out the game in the 9th. Craig got a pop-out, walked a batter, and struck out Andres Torres to bring up Freddy Sanchez with 2 outs and a runner on 1st. Sanchez singled, Dunn gave up a hit to Aubrey Huff, and then Buster Posey hits a one hopper to Brooksy that he lets get past him, scoring the winning run. Making the loss even more painful was that the Giants 1st run was also on a Conrad error. Thinking about Bobby Cox and sending him out with a series that was turned by this game still sickens me.
Top 5 Most Joyful Wins
5. September 2, 2010 - Georgia State 41 - Shorter 7
This one makes the list more for what it represented than what happened on the field. The 1st game for the school I attended, in the GA Dome, with 30,000+ in the stadium was quite a sight. I just wanted to record the whole experience so I could re-live it the next few weeks.
4. May 2, 2010 - Atlanta Hawks 95 - Milwaukee Bucks 74
It is always fun to win playoff series in the NBA, but this one was particularly exciting because I was there and sat just a few rows off the court. The Hawks played really well and blew out an over-matched team they should have eliminated 2 games earlier.
3. September 26, 2010 - Atlanta Falcons 27 - New Orleans Saints 24
This game was eerily similar to the 1998 NFC Championship game with the Birds taking on a high-powered offense and taking an unexpected missed field goal and turning it into an overtime win. This game was played at a very high level and it was apparent even in Week 3 that both these teams would be a factor in the playoffs. They may even meet with a spot in the NFC Championship Game or even the Super Bowl on the line.
2. October 8, 2010 - Atlanta Braves 5 - San Francisco Giants 4
The extra inning thriller in San Francisco that was won on a Rick Ankiel home run into the drink. There were a ton of awesome moments in this game, the Ankiel homer, Farnsworth getting Posey to hit into a double play to end the 10th, and Gonzalez's double off Wilson in the 8th.
1. June 23, 2010 - USA 1 - Algeria 0
Even countries with strong national teams at times go a World Cup or 2 without winning a match. Qualifying for the tournament is quite a feat, scoring a goal even more so, and winning a game is something historical. What the USA and Landon Donovan did in this match is something that will be shown on American highlight reels for centuries. The USA won their group with this win and did so in about the most dramatic way possible, in stoppage time.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
As good as Blake has been, Kevin Love has been better statistically. Rewind to the week before Thanksgiving, Griffin went for 12 and 8 against the Pacers on 11/18, and Love went for 0 and 7 versus the Lakers on 11/19. Since those games, the Love/Griffin combo has produced a double-double in every game they have played, a total of 33 straight games. In 3 of Griffin's last 5 games, he has gone for 20+ and 17+.
Love's season, while not as highlight-filled, has produced some gaudy statistics. He currently averages 20.5 and 15.5 on the season, but that has risen with 23.6 and 16.5 averages in December. With his rebound totals continuing to rise, Love has a chance to have a rebounding season unlike any other in the past couple of decades.
Since Dennis Rodman's run of 7 rebounding titles from 91-98, only Ben Wallace in 02-03 has topped 15 rebounds per game. Dwight Howard, KG, and Deke all won rebounding titles, but never reached the 15 rpg number.
The biggest difference between Love currently averaging 15+ rpg and the Wallace/Rodman seasons, is that Love is also getting 20+ points per game as well. In the 8 seasons where the Wallace/Rodman duo put up 15+ rpg seasons, they never once topped 10 ppg.
The last player to top 20 ppg and 15 rpg in a season was Moses Malone in 82-83. If Love can top the 20/15 threshold in 2010/2011, he will join quite a group of players that have accomplished the feat in the last 40 years.
Not bad company at all...and he is only 22 years old. Griffin is even younger at 21, and could certainly make this list at some point in his career.
I've been watching quite a bit of college hoops the last month and have a decent feel as to the top teams so far this year. The biggest rise/fall of any team so far has to be Tennessee. Beating top 10 level teams Nova and Pitt and then losing three in a row to Oakland/Charlotte/USC. No secret what they want to do, bang it inside with Harris/Williams and then open up their shooters to knock down 3's. The problem the last 3 games? 10-50 from downtown...
RSM Top 25 Hoops Poll
2. Ohio State
9. San Diego State
13. Kansas State
14. Washington State
16. Central Florida
22. Texas A&M
25. Michigan State
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Here is where we sit right now: The Falcons can clinch the #1 seed, which comes with a 1st round bye and 2 possible playoff games at the GA Dome, by winning either of their 2 final regular season games against NO and Carolina.
Assuming the Falcons get one of these wins, that would make them the #1 seed and Philadelphia looks like the most likely #2 seed after the Miracle in the Meadowlands Part Deux.
Chicago is 10-4 like the Eagles, but have to play the Jets and at Green Bay the last 2 weeks while Philly is at home with Minnesota and Dallas. I think Philly ends up 12-4 and gets the #2 seed, while the Bears go 10-6/11-5 and are the #3.
I also think the SF/STL winner this week will win the West and earn the #4 seed, which will be a home game against the best Wild Card team, probably New Orleans.
The last playoff spot in the NFC will come down to the Giants and Packers as the Bucs appear to be fading. They happen to play each other this week, and the winner will have the inside track at that final spot.
So, assuming the West winner doesn't pull a huge upset, the Falcons will have to beat two of the following teams in consecutive weeks at home to get to the Super Bowl:
No easy task, but I'll take my chances against any of these teams in the GA Dome. It would be sweet to get some revenge on Philly from 2004 and have a Vick/Ryan showdown, but that team is the scariest of the group. With NO looking like a solid #5, if Chicago holds serve at home against NYG/GB, a 3rd meeting vs NO could take place in mid-January.
How did the Birds get to this point? Well, they have had some breaks (SF, GB, TB, NO, and others), but they also made plays in those games to win them. Ryan, Turner, Gonzalez, and White are all Pro-Bowlers on offense and Lofton, Moore, and Grimes have played at a very high level on defense.
Grimes has had a particularly incredible season. He currently leads the NFL in pass deflections with 27, is 6th in INT's with 5 (tied w/Moore), and is 25th in tackles by corners with 73. He has made huge plays, taken away good receivers, and established himself as a top-tier corner in the league.
The Defensive Player of the Year usually goes to someone with huge numbers in sacks, INT's, etc, but even receiving some votes would go a long way towards getting Grimes the national attention he deserves.
A Super Bowl MVP would do that too though...
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Think about that for a second…6 yards per carry in the NFL as a running back, and Jamaal is just shy of 200 pounds. In comparison, Barry Sanders highest yards per carry in his career was 6.1 in 1997, and Barry had no other seasons of higher than 5.7 ypc. In fact, Jamaal can join Jim Brown this year as the only players with 2 seasons of over 1,000 yards and a higher than 5.85 ypc.
Jamaal still has some time to go before his feats will be recognized in the NFL record books. The NFL requires backs to have at least 750 carries before their ypc will register on the record books. Who is the leader as of today? Randall Cunningham at 6.36. – Who is the highest running back on the list? Mr. Brown at 5.22 comes in at #2.
It is also interesting to note that the single-season leader in ypc is Michael Vick, with an 8.45 average in the 2006 season. Vick also has the record for a single game with a minimum of 10 attempts in the infamous Minnesota overtime game in 2001 with 17.3.
So, with 449 career carries and a 5.9 ypc career average, sometime in the 2011 or 2012 season, barring injury, Jamaal could take over the #2 spot behind Cunningham, just ahead of the great Jim Brown.
But, he may be in a race with Vick. He has an astounding 7.0 ypc in his career with 635 career attempts.
It appears the days are numbered for Randall Cunningham as the top QB and Jim Brown as the leaders in NFL yards per carry. The Chiefs may have gotten a steal at only $32 million...
Friday, December 10, 2010
While you are thinking, I also want to throw in a quick NBA tidbit, as I have not written much on the season so far. Locally, as much heat as is taking for not performing up to his salary, Al Horford needs the same amount of praise for living up to his. For the 4th straight year, Al has improved his FG%, assists, and points per game. Horford and Dwight Howard are the only 2 players right now in the NBA that average 17+ points per game, 9.5+ rebounds per game, and shoot at a FG% higher than 55%. Not bad for a guy that everyone wants to move from the center position.
Our coaches that failed to achieve a winning record while getting paid out the wazoo?
#2 Mack Brown
#8 Jim Grobe
#9 Mark Richt
Just missing the list are 5 more that are in the top 20
#13 Houston Nutt
#15 Paul Johnson
#18 Derek Dooley
#19 Turner Gill
On another note, how good do some of the signings and potential signings at the winter meetings look?
1) Boston Lineup – Crawford/Pedroia/Gonzalez/Youkilis/Ortiz
2) NYY Rotation – Sabathia/Lee/Hughes
3) White Sox lineup – Konerko/Dunn/Quentin
I think with Lackey/Lester/Beckett/Buchholz/Dice-K and that lineup they will be very tough to beat in the AL.
When Cameron Newton said the other day that he did nothing wrong in his recruitment and he simply chose Auburn over Mississippi State after spending Christmas break at home discussing both schools with his Dad, did anyone else get the picture in their heads of Cecil writing dollar amounts on 2 sheets of paper and shrugging his shoulders at the Heisman winner?
People in Sports I love…
10) Martin Prado - A true gamer that is an easy guy to root for. The type of guy you want and one of my favorite Braves.
9) Mike Zimmer - Nobody dislikes Bobby Petrino as much as I do, but the way Zimmer attacked the former Falcons coach earlier this year was awesome.
8) Aaron Murray - This story makes liking a guy that is all-everything as a freshman QB in the SEC even easier.
7) Thomas Dmitroff - I have so much confidence in this guy to do what is necessary to keep the Birds in the mix for a Super Bowl for the next several years. He has hit home runs in the draft, free agency, and does not want the spotlight.
6) Bill Curry - Like my brother says, "I would listen to him talk about anything." I have seen this video about 25 times, just an awesome guy to have coaching your team.
5) Rex Ryan - I just like this guy. I know he coaches a team in NY, but I think he is genuinely funny. He made this seasons "Hard Knocks" episode the best ever.
4) - Great guy and player for the Braves that should be the face of the team for 10+ years. I love his approach to the game and how he plays every day.
3) Roddy White - You can always count on Roddy to be there when the game is on the line (see Baltimore this year)...He and Matty Ice have become quite the duo, and if they can get a Super Bowl, they may move to 1-2 on the list.
2) Al Horford - I have always wanted someone on the Hawks who seemed to care as much about the team winning as I did. Finally, Al Horford came along and has been the leader and emotional guy they the team has needed.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
1) Cameron Newton - AU
3) Ryan Mallett - ARK
4) Scott Tolzein - Wisconsin
5) Andy Dalton - TCU
7) Andrew Luck - Stanford
12) Tyrod Taylor - VT
14) Terrell Pryor - OSU
21) Darron Thomas - Oregon
27) Landry Jones - OU
113) Zach Frazer - UConn
I know the Big East was down this year and had a lot of mediocre teams, but 113th out of 115 in the nation in QB rating? Amazing what the guys at UConn did with a strong D and the legs of Jordan Todman (4th in the nation in rushing yards).
Final RSM Poll
5) Michigan State
7) Ohio State
11) Oklahoma State
14) Boise State
15) Virginia Tech
16) Texas A&M
18) South Carolina
20) Mississippi State
21) West Virginia
24) Florida State
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The ACC winner (FSU/VT) will head to the Orange to take on the Big East Chamption. The Big 12 winner, say Nebraska, will go to the Fiesta Bowl to play Stanford. I believe Arkansas has earned an at large bid to the Sugar Bowl to take on another at-large selection, Ohio State.
Sugar - Arkansas/Ohio State
Rose - TCU/Wisconsin
Fiesta - Stanford/Oklahoma
Orange - VT/UConn
BCS Title - Auburn/Oregon
RSM Top 25 heading into Championship Week
6. Ohio State
7. Michigan State
12. Oklahoma State
15. Boise State
16. Virginia Tech
17. South Carolina
18. Texas A&M
20. Mississippi State
21. West Virginia
22. Florida State
24. Northern Illinois
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Need a nominee for the current "most under-rated?"
How about the guy that notched the 1st triple-double in Bobcats history tonight...Stephen Jackson.
Stephen has had an outstanding career and has peaked the last few seasons. Quick trivia, who are the only NBA players that headed into the 2010-2011 season had posted 3 straight 20+ point, 4+ assist, 4+ rebound seasons?
How about ole Stephen, who put up 30 on the Heat the night before? Let's get the hype going now for an All-Star birth/All-NBA nomination going now.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
1) I think he is a good guy
2) I am content with the teams play on the field the past 2 seasons
3) I am content with the teams off-the-field behavior the past 12 months
Mark Richt is a good guy, but that is not why he should remain head coach of the Bulldogs, regardless of the outcome of the UGA-GT game. The wins have slipped and there have been alarming red flags, but I believe it is still too early to jump the gun and fire the guy.
I for one believe Aaron Murray is a special talent. He is tough, has all the skills, and looks comfortable in an offense that averages 30+ points per game. We knew there would be some struggles with a red-shirt freshman at that position, but Murray is as good as advertised. What the program needs now is to ride this special talent in the system he looks so good in for at least another season. Does Coach Richt need to start calling plays again? I would say yes, because that is what a guy with a struggling program does.
Second, you could put together a pretty nice list of candidates that you believe would be the next guy to come in and quickly put the Dawgs back in the thick of things nationally again. Drew Collins at 680 the fan has an excellent wish list with some “juicy” names. What concerns me is what happened to Tennessee earlier this year. Georgia may be a better job than Tennessee, but they are similar, and the Vols were turned down by 5 guys before they hired Derek Dooley.
1) Kyle Whittingham
2) Jon Gruden
3) David Cutcliffe
4) Will Muschamp
5) Troy Calhoun
We have seen improvement all season in kick-off coverage, penalties, turnover margin, and many other statistical categories that needed to be addressed. The main problems this season in my opinion have been:
1) Transition to new defensive scheme without the best fit in personnel has been rough at times
2) In-opportune fumbles have been the momentum changer in at least 4 losses (USC, Colorado, Mississippi State, Florida). I think bad luck has had a lot to do with these fumbles as Ealey was about to score on 2 of these, and Murray simply made a freshman mistake against UF. Colorado was a freak incident that can’t be blamed on coaching.
But you may argue that good coaching will negate fumbling. Why not coach up these guys so that they don’t fumble? Well, here is a list of teams that have more fumbles lost than UGA this year:
5) Virginia Tech
6) Oklahoma State
7) Boise State
It just so happens that two-thirds of the UGA fumbles lost this season took place at the worst time possible. It is going to happen this way some years; you can’t always get the ball to bounce your way.
3) The schedule that looked somewhat easy in the pre-season didn’t end up being easy at all. Early road games with a freshman QB and new defensive scheme against 3 teams that as of today are in the NCAA top 20.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to make a list of excuses, just trying to get some stats out to support Coach Richt. He needs to do better and he will be the first person to tell you that. He needs to continue to tweak things and try and get better because 5-6 should never be acceptable in Athens. I just don’t want to jump the gun, fire a proven winner in the SEC, and end up with someone that is not as good just to get a “changing of the guard” or “new blood.”
Most people are upset with their coach across the country. There are Texas fans that want Mack Brown out. Ohio State fans want Tressel fired. Oklahoma fans are fed up with Bob Stoops.
Look at how long it took Alabama to find Nick Saban. They had to endure Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula years. Nebraska is just now getting back to being nationally significant after firing Frank Solich in 2003 after a 9-3 season. Notre Dame has been stuck in mediocrity for 10+ years now. Even Florida had the Ron Zook era. It is very rare that someone that has been at an institution for 10+ years is fired and an immediate replacement is found that turns out to be the guy that gets them to the next level. Chip Kelly would be an example, but his kind is extremely rare.
It seems much more likely to me that firing Coach Richt after this season would produce another Ray Goff than another Vince Dooley.
Lets keep the recruiting class together, sign a couple more players (Crowell anyone?) and head into 2011 with some momentum. Oh yea, and beating Tech for the 9th time in 10 years would be a solid way to get that momentum started...
Monday, November 15, 2010
The new Top 10 as we near the end of 2010
10) Keith Brooking - How dare he cross Arthur Blank. Blank rewards Brooking with a 41 million dollar contract in 2003, only to see the team release him after almost single-handily giving the Cardinals a game clinching 1st down in the 2008 playoffs. Then, after joining the Cowgirls, he dances on the sidelines and makes ignorant comments about his departure after recording 1 meaningless tackle. You're welcome Keith, thanks for showing us what you are made of...
9) Bruce Pearl - Anther phony that played the, "I'm a quirky/genius/recruiting guru" card for too long and is now alleged to be involved in tons of illegal recruiting acts. I don't know when he will go down, but he will, and it will be fantastic.
8) Chris Berman - Ole Chris has dropped from #3 to #8 on the list, mostly because I avoid him at all costs. I haven't seen a home run derby since Garrett Anderson won, watch NFL highlights on the NFL network, and my only encounter with a swami since 2004 was at a Sushi Bar.
7) Urban Meyer - He has dropped this year as he is finally being exposed as the fraud that he is. No Tebow, Dan Mullen, or Charlie Strong has equaled a reality check. He has never called plays or created a game plan, but is perceived as the "inventor" of the spread offense.
6) Tony Romo - Something about this guy really bothers me. I don't know if it is the smirk on his face or how he walks around with an undeserved sense of accomplishment. But, nonetheless, he makes the list in the #6 spot. I actually get a nice little chuckle when he drops snaps as a holder, implodes on MNF, and consistently implodes in big games.
5) The 2010-2011 Miami Heat - This was inevitable after the Lebron saga this summer and ESPN launching the "Heat Index" for the season. I was prepared for Miami-overload in September and found myself already dreading all the coverage before the season even began. It is so bad that if the Heat play the Lakers in the Finals, I may but a Kobe jersey.
4) Chip Carey - Falling from #1 to #4, Chip has yet to get any better. He does however insert a random references that at times can be somewhat funny, so he can't be #1. However, all the things that got him to that top spot still make him worthy of the top 5.
3) Brett Favre - An easy one here after having to endure his never-ending need for attention and fan-fare. I actually don't care that he retires/un-retires every year or that he hates 2-a-days. I have a problem with the whole texting "I am retiring" to a kicker to trick people into thinking he will retire and when he actually announces he isn't retiring, it will be a bigger deal. Yea, all 5 times he has done that or something similar.
2) Paul Pierce - This one started during the Hawks-Celtics playoff series in April of 2008 when he decided to show his true self by flashing gang signs at the Hawks bench. He also (along with D-Wade) seems to have mastered the "I pump-faked and got my guy in the air so I will jump into him in a way that in no way is similar to my real shot and try and get a whistle" move. Oh yea, he plays for the Celtics too.
1) Lane Kiffin - Old Lane leap frogged to the top of this list with his unreal antics during the 2009 college football season. Lets take a quick look at all the moronic quotes Lane gave us last year:
a) “I wasn’t going to let the refs lose the game for us there and some magical flag appear” - Lame attempt to cover up poor time management
b) “I’m sure I will get one of those letters that doesn’t mean anything” - Why cooperate with the NCAA?
c) "I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."- No cheating occurred
d) "We will never lose to Georgia as long as I am the coach here." - Actually ended up being right on this one.
e) “I can’t hear you; Rocky Top is playing”- After losing to Florida and not attempting to actually win the game.
That's it...the people I love list has also undergone major changes and will be up later in the week. Super-surprise #1 on that list...
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Now, to the issue...It seems more likely each day that Cam's Dad, Cecil Newton, solicited money from Mississippi State for his son's signature. Once that gets out (Mark Winne is reporting it is already out), Cam will be deemed ineligible to participate in NCAA football games.
Auburn was informed that there was an eligibility issue with Newton before the UGA game and chose to play him anyway. If he sat out, Auburn could argue they had no knowledge of the eligibility issue for the 1st 10 games of the year (similar to what OSU did with Mo Clarett) and not have to vacate and wins.
Auburn's thinking is, "Lets just play it out and see what happens, we aren't going to sit our superstar if we don't have to." They had a chance to win 2 games against their rivals who have been looking down on them the last few years (UGA 6 of 8 and Bama BCS champs) and did what they had to do to get the wins. UGA and Bama clearly beat Auburn without their Heisman front-runner, and AU chose to get the wins and let the fans enjoy this dream season for another week.
On another note, Nick Fairley is easily the dirtiest player I have ever seen in college football. Then, on top of his 5+ cheap shots (he actually hurt his shoulder trying to land one) he acts like a complete idiot running around posing with Trooper "hundred dollar handshake" Taylor. Wow.
Auburn got the win yesterday by out-playing UGA. Congrats. I am extremely relieved that the players and coaches representing AU are not associated with mine. I also hope they write that "W" in the record books in pencil...
RSM Poll 11/14
4. Boise State
9. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
13. Virginia Tech
14. Oklahoma State
17. South Carolina
18. Texas A&M
19. Mississippi State
24. Florida State
Sunday, November 7, 2010
I've written on here before how this system would work very well most seasons.
However, we are stuck in the current system for the next 4 bowl seasons, and how much better would this year's bowl season be if we had the plus 1 system? There is a lot of football to be played, but think about this scenario...
We'd have the high-flying Oregon Ducks, still on pace after yesterday to break the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners scoring record. The Auburn Tigers with the likely Heisman winner and SEC record book darling Cam Newton. And, the 2 underdogs from smaller conferences that are trying to prove they can play against the big boys.
January 2nd - #1 Auburn vs #4 Boise State & #2 Oregon vs #3 TCU
January 9th - Winners play for the title
There would still be controversy with the smaller conference unbeaten teams getting a chance to play for it as Nebraska, Wisconsin, Stanford, LSU all would be stating their case after this weekend.
I also think it is rare that 2 non-AQ schools are as good in the future as TCU and Boise are this year. I think both could win the above games and compete at the top of most conferences.
But I digress...
RSM Poll 11/7
3. Boise State
9. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
12. Virginia Tech
13. Oklahoma State
14. Mississippi State
24. South Carolina
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Oregon looks so strong, but will be tested against Arizona and Oregon State. However, the Ducks offense is so stout, it will take quite a performance to knock them off.
The SEC 1-loss champ or unbeaten Auburn will most likely play Oregon in the title game. I don't see how Boise or the Utah/TCU winner jumps that team, especially if it's Alabama and they avenge their only loss in the SECCG.
But, lets say South Carolina wins the SECCG. They will head to the Sugar Bowl, but will Boise or Utah/TCU play Oregon? Not likely...I think in this scenario Wisconsin would get the nod to play the Ducks.
Finally, if South Carolina wins the SECCG and Oregon loses to Zona or OSU? It will likely be a 1-loss Big 12 champ against Wisconsin.
If Boise wants their shot, they need South Carolina to win the SEC, Oregon to lose, and a 2 loss Big 12 champ.
3. Boise State
9. Ohio St
15. Michigan State
16. South Carolina
18. Virginia Tech
19. Mississippi St
22. Oklahoma St
23. NC State
24. Florida State
Sunday, October 24, 2010
2. Boise State
5. Michigan St
11. Ohio State
14. Florida State
17. South Carolina
19. Virginia Tech
20. Mississippi St
21. Oklahoma St
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Next week could be the week that the Big 12 and SEC push a team to the forefront of the national title hunt. Oklahoma goes to Missouri and Auburn hosts LSU in the games of the week.
Rankings for 10/17
2. Boise State
6. Michigan State
12. Ohio State
14. Oklahoma State
17. Florida State
19. West Virginia
20. South Carolina
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
Saturday, October 16, 2010
How about this comparison:
Heyward - AB (520) R (83) H (144) 2b (29) HR (18) BB (91) K (128) OBP (.393) OPS (.849)
Player B - AB (522) R (74) H (141) 2b (29) HR (30) BB (59) K (98) OBP (.341) OPS (.847)
Pretty dang close, with player B showing more power and Heyward with more strikeouts.
How good was Heyward and why is his 2010 season something special that will only lead to bigger and better seasons? Player B happens to be the highest paid player in MLB and one of the best players on the best team in the league, Alex Rodriguez.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Plays O the week
Minnesota 28 Purdue 24
Minnesota has the offense to score on Purdue, which upset Northwestern last week. They are ripe for a good game after playing pretty well the last few weeks.
Army 28 Rutgers 27
Another upset pick here as Army has played extremely well this season. This will be the year they break the streak against Navy, and they pick up another upset tomorrow at Rutgers.
Arkansas 31 Auburn 30
In somewhat of a shootout, Arkansas comes up with the road win. Auburn has been quite fortunate to be undefeated (dropped pass against MSU, missed short kicks vs Clemson, etc) and the poor Auburn secondary should be exposed.
SMU 33 Navy 28
June Jones has the Mustangs playing well and after escaping against Wake Forest last week, Navy falls to SMU
Louisiana Tech 31 Idaho 25
Louisiana Tech gets the home win after playing really well last week on defense against Diondre Borel and Utah State.
Hawaii 41 Nevada 38
Nevada has always struggled at Hawaii, and the Rainbows smoked Fresno State last week. The offense under Bryant Moniz is rolling right now and they outscore the duo of Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua.
Florida 28 Mississippi State 17
Florida avoids their 1st 3 game losing streak in 22 years by beating down the Bulldogs. They simply have too much talent and "Time to Die" Rainey should produce some big plays.
North Carolina State 46 East Carolina 31
Russell Wilson has a field day against one of the leakiest defenses in the country. ECU can score, but can they stop anyone?
Michigan State 27 Illinois 17
The Spartans stay hot behind a rookie runner, crafty veteran passer, and stiff defense. Illinois is much improved, but are running into a really strong MSU team.
UTEP 31 UAB 28
Trevor Vittatoe has a big day and UAB loses another conference game. While both teams struggle on defense, UTEP simply has the better offense and quarterback.
Now to the off-season. There is a solid core of players that are under contract or team control for 2011 that will fill up a good portion of the roster. They are as follows:
Gonzalez (widely assumed they pick up his 2.75 million option)
That is 23 guys, with the obvious needs being a right-handed power hitting outfielder and some experience in back of the bullpen. There should be some cash to spend with Wagner retiring and a few more salaries going off the books (Glaus, Cabrera, etc), but not enough to go after Werth or Crawford.
They could, however, use some of their pitching surplus to try and acquire an outfielder. The reliever that would command the most would be Venters, and the most likely starter to be moved would be Jurrjens.
I know they would likely command a major-league ready outfielder in return, but I am very intrigued by BJ Upton. He is about to be free agency eligible and is about to enter his prime. Maybe TB is ready for a complete over-haul knowing they are losing Crawford and will be interested in Jurrjens/Venters plus some of our prospects. Any chance they are interested in Jurrjens/Delgado/Salcedo package for Upton?
It is also interesting that Georgia native Colby Rasmus also may made available after some disagreements with the Cardinals. His main downside is that he is left handed, and the Braves already have McCann, Heyward, and Freeman penciled in the order.
Upton is 26 and just entering his prime. He is eligible for arbitration this year and then will likely command a 5+ year deal at around 8-11 million per year. If he could be acquired, the Braves could buy out the last arbitration year and sign him to an extension of something like 6 years, 60 million. He has a 162 game average of .260-16-68 with 40 steals and 35 doubles. He would bring defense, speed, and right handed power to the lineup. And the upside doesn't hurt either.
Rasmus is 24 and has 162 game averages of .263-22-74. He has tremendous power and is a terrific athlete. He is pretty much everything Rick Ankiel was supposed to be.
It's certainly something to consider as the team moves forward. Trade for an outfielder and maybe sign a veteran closer to help bridge the gap to the Venters or Kimbrel era. Brian Fuentes is available and may fit that role at a reasonable price.
The nucleus is there to make a run at a title in 2011. Lets start the Fredi Gonzalez era with a bang...
Sunday, October 10, 2010
That was easily the game of the day. It was an electric environment and the last 15 minutes had a ton of drama. Michigan State was way too physical on both sides of the ball for Michigan and Florida State showed some life in Miami.
Too bad there isn't a Big 10 championship game this year. The last 2 un-beatens, MSU/OSU, do not play each other.
What a year it is for the dual-threat quarterback. Taylor Martinez put on a show Thursday, Cam Newton is still truckin, and Denard Robinson leads the nation in rushing. Colin Kaepernick is also in the top 15 in the nation in rushing, giving QB's 4 of the top 15.
Heisman Ballot for 10/10
1. LaMichael James - RB, Oregon
2. Denard Robinson - QB, Michigan
3. Andrew Luck - QB, Stanford
4. Taylor Martinez - QB, Nebraska
5. Cameron Newton - QB, Auburn
The Oregon State win over Arizona last night is good news for Boise State and TCU. The computers will like their wins over them much more if the Beavers continue to win. How interesting would it be if the Oregon-Oregon State game is a chance for Boise State to get in the big game?
Un-beaten top teams that could be in trouble next week? Ohio State heads to Madison, Wisconsin, Auburn hosts Arkansas, and Nebraska gets their biggest test with Texas.
Biggest jump this week is Oregon State. After winning at Arizona and going to 2-0 in the Pac-10, it is time to recognize losing at Boise State and at Cowboys Stadium vs TCU is nothing to be ashamed about.
Rankings for 10/10
1. Ohio State
3. Boise State
8. Michigan State
10. South Carolina
16. Oklahoma State
18. Florida State
19. Oregon State
24. Air Force
Sunday, October 3, 2010
1) The Braves are 0-4 in their last 4 playoff series, including a 2002 NLDS loss to the Giants.
2) The Braves are 7-15 in their last 22 postseason games
3) The last 2 Braves to pitch in a postseason game for the franchise are Joey Devine and Jim Brower. Most recall the Chris Burke walk-off in 2005 off Devine.
4) Braves from the 2005 team that lost to Houston that will be on the 2010 roster? Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, and Kyle Farnsworth
5) This years wild card team had one more regular season win (91) than the 2005 division champs.
6) The last time the Braves won a playoff series (2001), the clinching game 3 against Houston was won by John Burkett, who was given plenty of support from Julio Franco and Paul Bako home runs.
7) Tim Hudson has 1 career playoff win in the 9 career postseason games he has appeared in.
8) Derek Lowe has recorded the win in half of his 10 career postseason starts.
9) Billy Wagner's career postseason ERA? 10.32
10) The Giants have very little postseason experience on their roster. The only pitcher likely to make an impact in the series with any innings in the postseason is Zito, and he may not see much action after his poor September.
For the record, here is how I would set up the rotation:
Game 1 - Lowe
Game 2 - Hudson
Game 3 - Hanson
Game 4 - Lowe
Game 5 - Hudson
Lowe and Hudson have done fine on short rest their last couple of starts and Hanson has the stuff to shut down SF when we get back to Atlanta. Hopefully, the vets get us a split in SF and Hanson can give us a shot to win the series with a gem in Game 3.
Prediction...Giants in 4. I am scared to death of Andres Torres and the pitching SF has. Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Sanchez, and Wilson are dominant and that should be enough in a short series. The Braves best hope is that Lowe stays hot and the 5-8 spots in the order provide some run production.
Both of the top 10 match-ups ended in blowouts and along with Ohio St being underwhelming against Illinois, will put Bama and Oregon as the top teams in this weeks poll.
Deja-vu anyone for the USC-Washington game. Gutty performance by Jake Locker, I don't know how the Huskies lost to BYU.
Virginia Tech and Miami will have a pretty good race in the ACC Coastal. Both teams are playing well right now and their November 20 game should be for the division.
UNC got a solid win over East Carolina after getting some players back. They have been so decimated by those suspensions it has been remarkable how well they have competed without so many future NFL players.
Oklahoma has beaten Utah St, Cincy, Texas, and Air Force by an average of 5 points. The rest of the schedule doesn't look to tough and could set up a huge Big 12 title game against Nebraska.
We will get a better reading on how good Denard Robinson is the next 2 weeks as they play MSU and Iowa, 2 of the best defenses in the Big 10.
Finally, a brutal loss for UT yesterday. That has to be one of the worst ways to lose a game. They do play hard for Dooley and won't be in the bottom half of the SEC for many more years.
RSM Poll for 10/3
3. Ohio St
4. Boise St
14. Michigan St
18. South Carolina
21. Oklahoma St
23. Air Force
So, the chic thing to discuss when the debate of how good the Falcons are this year is whether or not Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback. The defense is better, Roddy is a stud, the running game is solid, but can they get to a Super Bowl with Matt Ryan?
I think it is unfair to compare Matty with Brady/Peyton Manning/Brees and those guys. He does not have a really strong arm or have above average feet/pocket awareness. What he does have is toughness, the ability to lead, and confidence of the organization and his teammates.
While Matty may not be a Pro Bowler, he is certainly better than , , Trent and Dilfer. Those guys all led teams to Super Bowls in the past 10 years.
Riding the momentum of the win at NO last week, things could get really interesting for the Birds if they win their next two games vs SF and at Cleveland. They will be favored in both by about a touchdown, and if they can hold serve and be 4-1, the outlook for the season looks pretty dang good.
Two games with the Panthers andlook like wins and add to that the Rams and Seahawks, and this team could be in great shape in December.
Philly at Atlanta for the NFC anyone? Would there be hype for that game?
Thursday, September 30, 2010
2nd in the league in starts made
17th in innings pitched
18th in strikeouts
18th in ERA
In 24 of his 33 starts, he gave up 2 runs or less
What would you say about this guy? Borderline #1 starter and a strong #2 on a playoff team? I agree.
The pitcher with these stats for 2010 is Tommy Hanson, yet for some reason, he has not won over the majority of Braves fans as a front-line starter.
I know he gave up 8 in Cincinnati in May, and 9 against the White Sox in June, but look at the big picture. He has had an outstanding season on the hill for the Bravos.
Check out this comparison: Hanson vs Tim Lincecum
Starts – 33 to 33
Starts giving up 2 runs or less – 24 of 33 to 24 of 33
Starts giving up 5 runs or more – 5 of 33 to 5 of 33
Innings pitched – 212 for Lincecum to 192 for Hanson
Strikeouts – 231 for Lincecum to 187 for Hanson
ERA – Lincecum 3.43 and Hanson 3.41
Pretty close numbers for Hanson when compared to a 2-time Cy Young award winner. The Padres just lost and it looks like the Braves will be in San Fran next Thursday. Hopefully Hanson, Lowe, and Hudson can carry this team to the NLCS, because the injury depleted offense will not likely carry this team very far...
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The top Pac-10 teams all won, but Stanford has the most convincing win at Notre Dame. Oregon struggled and needed help from ASU in their win and Arizona had zero offense and barely got by Cal.
Here is how I see 'em this week:
2. Ohio State
4. Boise St
17. South Carolina
22. NC State
23. Oklahoma St
24. Michigan St
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Lets go through the schedule and get a little more in depth...
Their offense should be similar to next year, they just need to stay healthy on defense and improve in certain areas. The d-line is a big concern, switching to the 3-4 with 6 freshman in the mix at these spots. The linebackers are experienced but not overly talented, and the secondary has some good pieces.
SC St - W (41-10)
@ Kansas W (27-21)
@ UNC L (14-20)
NCSU W (29-262
@ Wake W (35-24)
UVA W (40-17)
MTSU W (38-17)
@ Clemson L (27-30)
@ VT L (21-33)
Miami W (34-27)
Duke W (47-27)
@ UGA L (28-38)
This would be three straight solid seasons under PJ and another decent bowl game.
L-Laf W (31-14)
@ USC L (17-20)
Arkansas W (28-24)
@ Miss St W (27-20)
@ Colorado W (21-12)
Tennessee W (24-14)
Vanderbilt W (27-10)
@ Kentucky W (30-24)
Florida L (24-31)
Idaho St W (44-7)
@ Auburn L (20-28)
Georgia Tech W (38-28)
That's 9-3 for UGA and a solid stepping stone for 2011 where they will have an experienced quarterback and a full season in their new defense.
These results, believe it or not, could result in UGA winning the SEC East. Georgia finishing 6-2 in conference could be enough, even with losses to USC and UF. Unlikely, but both those teams play Alabama and UF also has LSU. USC could lose 3 with Florida, Arkansas, and Bama and UF could have losses to LSU, Bama, and USC.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
C - Brian McCann
1B - Russell Branyan
2B - Brandon Phillips
SS - Stephen Drew
3B - Gordon Beckham
OF - Marlon Byrd
OF - Nick Markakis
OF - Colby Rasmus
OF - Dexter Fowler
OF - JD Drew
OF - Jason Heyward
OF - Mike Cameron
IF - Stephen Drew
IF - Adam Everett
C - Buster Posey
SP - Adam Wainwright
SP - Tim Hudson
SP - Edwin Jackson
SP - Jake Westbrook
SP - Micah Owings
RP - Jonathan Broxton
RP - Matt Capps
RP - Kyle Farsnworth
RP - Mitchell Boggs
RP - Jason Bulger
Obviously a strong rotation, and here is how I would do the order:
CF - Fowler
RF - Markakis
2B - Phillips
C - McCann
LF - Byrd
1B - Posey
DH - Heyward/Rasmus
3B - Beckham
SS - S. Drew
There is a chance A-Rod can reach the 700 mark by the beginning of the 2014 season, but it would be a stretch. At that time, he would be 39 and still 63 away even if he gets to 700. I say he passes Willie rather easily but never reaches Hank.
735 seems like a good number...
Monday, July 26, 2010
No Hitters in 2010 - 5 (should be 6, Jim Joyce) (Most in a year since 1991)
MLB combined ERA is 4.14 - This number has dropped dramatically from 4.7-4.9 during the peak of the steroids era. In 2000, only Atlanta (4.05) and LAD (4.10) were below 4.14. This year, 14 teams have a team ERA of 4.00 or lower.
In 2007, Jake Peavy was the only starting pitcher with an ERA under 3.00. in 2008, 8 pitchers ended the season under 3 and last year there were 11. In 2010, 17 starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.96 or lower.
There are another 23 relief pitchers with an ERA under 2.00, including 4 that are under 1. Tim Stauffer for SD has a ridiculous 0.31 ERA, Kuo from LA is 0.84, Benoit from TB is 0.81, and Mo Rivera is still getting it done at 0.98.
Even with all this pitching, there is one guy that is clearly the best in the game right now: Josh Johnson
Josh has given up just 24 earned runs in his 20 starts. He has struck out 141 in 134 innings and since May 8, he has been '00 Pedro good.
13 starts with at last 6 innings pitched in each start. The only time he gave up more than 1 run was June 26th, when he went 8 innings, struck out 9, and gave up 2 runs and lost.
No starting pitcher has finished with a lower ERA than Josh's current 1.61 since Doc Gooden in 1985. Most seasons, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Roy Halladay would be in an unreal race for the Cy Young. In 2010, the award is Josh Johnson's, and everyone else is on the outside.
Monday, July 5, 2010
However, the reason the franchise is set up so well for the future is the same reason they were primed for a run in the 90's. Pitching.
Take a look at what the franchise has to work with right now pitching-wise:
Derek Lowe - signed through 2012 for $15 million per year (likely to be dealt this off-season)
Tim Hudson - signed through 2013 for $9 million per year
Peter Moylan - under team control through 2013
Jair Jurrjens - under team control through 2013
Tommy Hanson - under team control through 2014
Kris Medlen - under team control through 2014
Craig Kimbrel - under team control through 2015 (likely closer starting in 2011)
Jonny Venters - under team control through 2015
Mike Minor - recently promoted to AAA Gwinnett and went 7.2 IP, 1 ER, 9 K's in debut. Likely in the big leagues in September.
Julio Teheran - 2.13 ERA in 15 minor league starts and 103 K's in 88 IP. Viewed as a future 1-2 starter.
Luis Vizcaino - 9-3 with a 2.71 ERA in 15 minor league starts and major-league ready by 2012.
Randall Delgado - Currently has a 2.99 ERA and 100+ K's for Myrtle Beach Braves.
So, assume Derek Lowe is dealt for mid-tier prospects this off-season, the rotation for 2011 looks like this:
Pretty darn good. Also, the Vizcaino-Teheran-Delgado group can be traded for offense or turned in to relievers until Hudson or others leave.
But as for this year, the team has a good a shot as anybody to win the World Series. As we've seen in the past, strong starting pitching can take you a long way in the playoffs. And I know no one wants to see Hudson/Jurrjens/Hanson/Medlen in a short series.
This could be the start of another championship filled run - let's make the first one 2010.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Atlanta: With Jurrjens returning to the hill tonight, the focus or the Braves will be adding another outfield bat. FoxSports is reporting that Cory Hart, Jose Batista, and Josh Willingham are possible targets. That would give the Braves another big-time power stick in the middle of the order and give them an excellent shot to make a deep playoff run.
Philly: The Phils need to get healthy offensively, but could certainly use depth in their rotation. They will most likely add 2 arms, with one of them being Pedro. The other will be a 3-4 rotation type guy, like Brett Myers or Fausto Carmona.
Mets: The Mets are a little scary because they will probably get either Oswalt or Cliff Lee by the end of the month. A Santana-Lee-Pelphrey rotation is pretty dang good. They have also been getting great starts from Jonathan Niese and RA Dickey. Throw in the return of Beltran in a few weeks and their order looks pretty good too with Reyes-Beltran-Wright-Bay.
The NBA Free Agent frenzy starts tomorrow and will last for several weeks. Paul Pierce is the newest name to throw their name in the free agent circle. Why wouldn't he? So many teams have cleared cap room for max deals (NJ, Washington, Chicago, Miami, NY, etc) and their aren't enough max-players to fill all the holes. Why not get 6 years and 100+ million from some team that doesn't want to look foolish by clearing space for no one?
It will be a mess once the chips start falling. Bosh should follow either James or Wade somewhere and play second fiddle, win titles, and still make 100+ million. It looks more and more like Joe Johnson will sign elsewhere and he needs to find a spot where he can do less ball-handling and more scoring. Chicago seems like a good spot playing alongside Derrick Rose.
The Bulls are the favorite in Vegas to land LBJ, and if he goes there with Bosh they will be an instant favorite in 10-11. Miami is unlikely to land 3 max guys, but could bring in Boozer to play with Wade.
Too many things to predict...It is however, good to see the Hawks have a plan B if JJ leaves with John Salmons.
On to the World Cup...
While the USA's performance in the World Cup was not a disaster, there was a potentially once-in-a-lifetime draw for them to reach the semi's. They were able to avoid all world-powers during the tournament except for dreadful England. I know the US has a lot of young players (Bradley, Jozy, Feilhaber, etc), but there are no guarantees in this tournament. They could get placed in a group of death or lose players to injury in 2014.
Looking back at 0 goals for the 2nd straight World Cup from strikers, what could have been with Charlie Davies healthy??
Everyone with World Cup hangover can watch the US play potential world champion Brazil on August 10th in a friendly and then gear up for the Gold Cup next summer. I know it isn't a big-time tournament around the world, but having the chance to win a trophy away from Mexico is big in my eyes.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The NBA Finals wrap up tomorrow with the 1st Finals Game 7 in 5 years. The series has been sloppy and has not had many memorable moments. The Pierce-to-Rondo was after a near collapse and the result of the game probably doesn't change if Rondo misses the layup. The spectacular Shannon Brown alley-oop in Game 6 was with LA up by 20.
An interesting thing to think about is this...If KG doesn't get hurt last year, would tomorrow night be Boston going for a 3-peat? It is certainly possible...
The US-England result was spectacular for the Americans. Gaining a point against the favorite in your group in the opening match is like a win. Now, they need to beat Slovania on Friday and avoid their final game being a win-and-get-help scenario.
The Dempsey goal was not the greatest as Robert Green grossly misplayed the strike. However, Green's blunder is no where near some of the blunders in recent history. Check out this montage for a good laugh..
The Big 10 started the conference expansion melee by courting Nebraska/Mizzou/ND and ended it by officially adding Nebraska. The Pac-10 followed suit and invited a number of other Big 12 schools, but only ended up with Colorado. It now appears they will also invite Utah as its 12th member.
So, in the end, it appears the landscape of college football will not change much in the near future. However, it is very apparent that it will in the next decade or so when the financial gains become greater. The idea of 16 team "super-conferences" is probably a likely outcome of what has started in June 2010. Whether there is finally 4 "super-conference" and the winners become a Final 4 of sorts is still uncertain...
The CWS starts this weekend and has a very strong feel. Look for TCU and Matt Purke, a player discussed several times on here last summer, to make a very strong push...
I once again really enjoyed the MLB Draft, mostly due to the strong Georgia showing once again. Congrats to all the Georgian's who were drafted last week, especially Andrew Robinson of GT, Myles Jaye from Starr's Mill, and Brian Fletcher of Auburn.
The Braves 1st rounder, however, came from Texas. Matt Lipka is an infielder who can play some outfield that possesses tremendous speed. The Braves really liked his sign-ability, speed, and make-up. It appears from what the ATL scouts have said that he was just an athlete they really wanted in their organization...
Good to see we won't have to hear from Lane Kiffin after November for the next couple of years. The USC punishment will hopefully straighten up all of the programs around the country that bend the rules. I can't help but think that even under a near "death penalty" punishment, Kiffin will still add to his list of NCAA infractions...
This week is now #3 in which the Braves have been in 1st place. They are a good home-stand and a small NYM losing streak from creating some ground in the division. It's scary how bad Philly is playing for the last month. When they get healthy, the Braves better have 6+ games on them or it could mean trouble...
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Falcons workouts start next month as well. If they can stay healthy, this team has a good shot at being a SB contender. I think TD has done well so far in free agency and the draft and more pieces are likely still to come.
Also, when June rolls around the CFB pre-season magazines start showing up. I've had a chance to see a couple and am going to post, as of right now, what I think the final Top 25 poll will look like heading into bowl season...
1. Ohio State (12-0) - No Texas/USC on the schedule this year and Wisconsin/Iowa are only potential stumbling blocks on the road. Home schedule includes Miami/PSU/Michigan, but with so many key guys back, I think OSU makes it through 12-0
2. Boise State (12-0) - Pretty much the entire 2009 team is back and they face a tough road game in Week 1 vs VT and also play Oregon State. An experienced team that has shown they can go on the road and beat good teams early in the year. VT will have 9 new starters on defense and will have a very tough, early task against Boise.
3. Nebraska (12-1) - Defense will again be a major strength for the Huskers. Despite losing Suh, the D has a lot of experienced players back and should stay in the top 10 nationally in scoring D and total D. The offense needs to improve from last year, but with all upper-class-men that have been to Big 12 CG's and had success, they should improve off of last years 25.1 ppg. They slip up once in the regular season and then beat OU in the Big 12 CG.
4. Alabama (11-2) - Nick Saban has done such a good job assembling talent at Bama that even with all the defensive losses, they should still be a top 10 defense. Marcell Dareus didn't start last year, but may be a top 10 pick in the 2011 draft. Dre Kirkpatrick and BJ Scott in the secondary are tremendously talented. They will be inexperienced and face a real tough schedule with the bulls-eye. Still the SEC favorites in my book, though.
5. TCU (12-0) - The Frogs are likely to be better than 2009, but will remain behind unbeaten Boise due to last seasons Fiesta Bowl. The 5th ranked offense nationally has all the key components back and should push 40 ppg this year. The Jerry Hughes loss will hurt on D, but 8 returning starters are back from a D that only allowed 12.8 ppg in 09.
6. Oklahoma (11-2) - The Sooners were decimated by injuries in 09 and are motivated to put last season behind them. Look for OU to beat Texas after losing 4 of the last 5 and advance to the Big 12 CG. Landry Jones is a super-sneaky Heisman pick.
7. Iowa (11-1) - The Hawkeyes are loaded on D and have one of the best front 7's in the country. Ricky Stanzi needs to stay healthy and limit his INT's, but the talent at RB and WR is there for the 11/20 OSU @ Iowa game to be one of 2010's biggest.
8. Florida (10-2) - The Gators will be young this year but still have a lot of talent. Voters will likely start them higher than #8 but keep them in the top 10 despite 2 losses. Brantley will immediately be a top 3 QB in the SEC, but the D needs to show it can produce without Charlie Strong.
9. Virginia Tech (10-2) - VT has the tough opener mentioned above, but their young D will be seasoned by November when they go to Chapel Hill and Miami back-to-back weeks. Even if they don't sweep those 2 games, the rest of the schedule sets up well enough that another 10 win regular season is likely. Taylor and the RB combo of Williams/Evans will make the Hokie offense better than 09.
10. Texas (10-2) - Texas still has enough talent to win 10 games, even with a ton of losses to graduation and the NFL. The secondary could be the best Texas has had in a while, even with the loss of Earl Thomas.
11. North Carolina (10-2) - It's difficult to put a team this high when they have yet to win a bowl game with their current coach. But Butch Davis has done it before, and there are NFL players all over the defense. Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, Quan Sturdivant, and Kendric Burney are all 1st-3rd round picks. Several others will likely end up on NFL teams. The question is the offense, led by the erratic TJ Yates. If the offense can improve from their 23.8 ppg in 09, this team could be in the hunt for a BCS bowl.
12. Wisconsin (10-2) - The Badgers will have a typical Wisconsin team in 2010. Stud offensive lineman, a steady QB, and a good running game. The defense has some holes to plug, but outside of the October OSU/at Iowa back-to-back stretch, the schedule isn't too difficult.
13. Auburn (9-3) - The Tigers have 13 senior starters and should be in position to win now in 2010. The schedule is about as set-up as you can hope for in the SEC, with the only tough road game being the finale in Tuscaloosa. If they can beat South Carolina and go on the road and win vs UK and MSU, the Iron Bowl could be for the SEC West.
14. Georgia (9-3) - Lots of "if's" on D for the Dawgs, but the offense has a ton of potential. They need Aaron Murray to be a better version of Joe Cox and not have another rash of injuries on the offensive line. If they survive the South Carolina/Arkansas early September back-to-back, the Florida game will likely be for the SEC East title.
15. Oregon (9-3) - This Oregon team had a ton of potential, but there are too many question marks for Chip Kelly's program. The Masoli suspension was another black eye (no pun intended), but this team is loaded with players. It's tough to predict 10-11 wins though with the current situation of the program.
16. USC (9-3) - Tons of players in LA will give Lane Kiffin a good shot at 9-10 wins in year 1. The reason success is likely in 2010 is in large part due to Monte Kiffin taking over the defense. The D should improve dramatically from last year, where they gave up 55, 47, and 36 points in 3 different Pac-10 games.
17. Pittsburgh (9-3) - The Panthers should get their 1st Big East title under Dave Wannstedt in 2010. Dion Lewis returns and will likely get 1500+ yards again.
18. Florida State (9-3) - A healthy Christian Ponder will mean a spot in the ACCCG for the Seminoles. The offensive line as a whole returns and play-maker Greg Reid returns in the secondary.
19. Arkansas (8-4) - Ryan Mallet is the best QB in the SEC and potentially a top 10 NFL pick. The weapons he has on offense are why Bobby Petrino came to Fayetteville. The defense is still the weak spot and has to improve if they are going to start beating the elite SEC teams.
20. Stanford (8-4) - Like Arkansas, Stanford has a future NFL quarterback and tons of questions on defense. The Cardinal finished 09 on a good run and should turn that into a top 3 spot in the conference in 2010.
21. West Virginia (9-3) - WVU has the best spot to knock Pitt out of a BCS game in 2010. Noel Devine is a stud at RB, and the 31st ranked scoring D in the country returns 10 starters. We should get a read on where the Mountaineers are on 9/25 when they travel to LSU.
22. Connecticut (9-3) - The Huskies were on a great run at the end of 09 and have a lot of momentum heading into the season. Keeping Randy Edsall was the key to keeping the run of success at UConn possible in 2010.
23. Texas Tech (8-4) - Tommy Tuberville knew what he was doing when he took the job in Lubbock. He claims they will still run the spread offense, but his experience running it at Auburn was a disaster. I think he will have more success at TT and end up in a good bowl game in year 1.
24. Georgia Tech (8-4) Another good season in year 3 for Paul Johnson is likely. Josh Nesbitt returns and is in year 3 running the triple option offense and Anthony Allen is the next 1,000 yard back. The defense still has holes, but Al Groh should help make some improvements. The schedule poses 5 tough road games, including back-to-back trips to Lawrence, KS and Chapel Hill, NC in September. The team also travels to Clemson, VT, and UGA.
25. LSU (8-4) - In what is likely the final year for Les Miles in Baton Rouge, the Tigers have a very tough road ahead of them. They will need to improve on offense and stay healthy to have a shot at earning a top 3 spot in the SEC West.
Monday, May 31, 2010
There was a little bit of Chipper Jones retirement talk this off-season, and his batting average and power numbers have probably not done enough to silence it. Chip is doing a lot of the talking himself, saying he may give it up if he didn’t see some improvement from the end of 2009. He told a radio station in Miami this week that he has 4 kids and a wife, and things like retirement were certainly on his mind.
While he is still a threat in the 3-hole and draws many walks due to pitchers pitching around him, I think the lack of run production is bothering him. I don’t think he feels like he is contributing what he should be and the OBP may not be enough. How low has Chip sunk since the end of last year?
Here are his 2010 numbers heading into the weekend:
.227 AVG – 2 HR – 15 RBI - .387 OBP - .348 SLG
The real drop off from the Chipper we know is the AVG and SLG due to the lack of power. Will he ever get it back? Well, we know now that he has several nagging injuries that aren’t likely to ever go away during his playing days.
If you go back to August 16th of last year, his final 138 at bats of the 2009 season produced the following numbers:
.173 AVG - 3 HR - 18 RBI
That’s an even .200 AVG with 5 HR and 33 RBI in his last 270 at bats, or about half a season. The walks are still there, even last August/September, but the lack of power and run production is astounding. The .348 slugging this season ranks Chipper 146th in all MLB, only 34 spots ahead of the last-place guy, Gordon Beckham (.239). He is also just behind homer-less of the Nationals (.358).
I’m not saying the Braves don’t need him in the lineup anymore. I’m not saying he needs to be moved from the 3-hole. It just looks like from what Chip has been saying since he started to decline at the end of last summer (he was hitting .304-15-54 on August 15th), that this may be it for the 1990 #1 overall pick out of The Bolles School.
However, a big second half and a playoff birth may inspire him to come back in 2011 for a going-away tour. The $13 million he is owed would help make that decision a little easier…
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
My 1st season having season tickets was 2004-2005, and we are going to start there. The organization realized going into this season that the Shareef-Terry-Crawford-Jackson-Henderson-Sura-Dickau nucleus was not headed in the right direction. So, they blew it up and brought in guys that are “Billy Knight” guys (the ideal height, 6’8).
The 2004-2005 team has a new feel to it. The team is led in scoring by 6’9 Al Harrington and 6’8 Antoine Walker. Both are solid NBA scorers at this point in their careers and can play both forward spots. The team also has 2 1st round picks that season that are in the rotation, Josh Smith (6’9) and Josh Childress (6’8). They also have a young forward in Boris Diaw (6’8), who has shown flashes but still is a little raw. This team has 2 clear weaknesses, no point guard and no center.
Here are the “point guards” that played on the 2004-2005 team at some point:
And, here are the centers:
Jason Collier (RIP)
Clearly, there is a drastic need to upgrade these two positions ASAP. Knight gets the idea during the season that he should trade Walker. Excellent choice! Harrington is younger and has more upside and you have 3 other young players that are forwards that need playing time. In fact, Knight does pretty well with this trade getting expiring contracts (Gugliotta, Payton, Stewart) and a 2006 1st Round pick.
So, heading into the off-season after a 13-69 record, Knight has a young core of forwards that have a lot of upside, cap space, and the #2 pick in the draft.
The draft came first in June of 2005 and with the #2 pick Knight selected 6’8 Marvin Williams. With a core of Harrington, Diaw, Smith, and Childress, he took another 6’8 guy? There was certainly not a way to fix the issues at center unless Milwaukee passed on Andrew Bogut. Andrew Bynum and Channing Frye were also lottery picks that year, but not worthy of a #2 pick. But why not fix the point guard issue? I wanted Deron Williams with the pick and most fans cry about not getting Chris Paul, but even Ray Felton would have been more forgivable than another forward.
Billy then surveys the free-agent market and not surprisingly focuses on a guy that is 6’8 in Joe Johnson. Since Joe is restricted, Billy works out a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix where the Suns get the 2006 1st round pick he acquired for Walker, a 2008 1st Round pick, and Diaw. A lot to give up, but in the state of the Hawks franchise, they weren’t in a position to swing-and-miss on a free agent. Essentially, they didn’t have enough chips to call the Suns bluff.
Well, there goes the cap space. I liked the transaction because it was the only way to get someone who had the potential to be a top 25 player in the league via free agency.
Knight uses some more of his available cap space to sign ZaZa Pachulia to a 4 year deal that worked out quite well also.
Now it is the 2005-2006 season and the depth chart looks a little better (considering there is still no PG or C)
This team goes 26-56 and shows a little bit of life at times. Joe starts every game and averages 20+ points and 6.5 assists per game. Smith averages 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and almost 3 blocks per game. Even 19 year old Marvin averaged 8.5 points and 5 rebounds a game.
However, the 2006 off-season is even more of a disaster than 2005. With the #5 pick, the Hawks took 6’9 Sheldon Williams. What made this worse is that EVERYONE knew that was the pick and EVERYONE hated it. Knight figured that he could upgrade his point guard and center situation in free agency and couldn’t pass on a 6’9 forward.
Point Guard FA acquisition: Speedy Claxton
Center FA acquisition: Lorenzen Wright
Maybe the worst free agent signings in history. Four years and $25 million were paid to Speedy for his 44 games of service as a Hawk.
Sheldon became the 2nd best player in his marriage and has become a career backup worth 5-8 so-so minutes per game. Meanwhile, 2007 ROY and 3-time all-star Brandon Roy went with the next pick.
And to rub things in even more with the point guard debacle, the pick Knight acquired in the Walker trade that was sent to Phoenix was used to draft Rajon Rondo in that same draft.
Most know the story of the last 3 seasons from this point. Horford and Law are drafted in 2007 and the team later acquired Mike Bibby and made the playoffs that year. Then, after consecutive winning seasons and quick 2nd round playoff exits, the team is now at another crossroads.
However, this isn’t the time to rebuild again. The way the salary cap is set up, you can’t let Joe leave and sign anything close in return. Now is the time to become creative and give yourself a chance to compete again in 2010-2011. There is no cap space to lure free agents and no top 5 pick to acquire Evan Turner, John Wall, or Derrick Favors.
The league is set up for teams to re-sign and keep its good players. Either sign-and-trade Joe or pay the money to keep him. Smith and Williams are extended and Al’s is on the way. There is unlikely to be an impact rookie at #24 in the draft, but go find some depth.
Let’s see what Rick Sund does. If the 2010 off-season ends with his “Strike 1,” we may be in for another run of futility. And I don’t want to be rooting for ping-pong balls any time soon…