Monday, December 5, 2011

Its that time of the year...

Christmas decorations are everywhere, everything has a peppermint flavor and people are complaining about the BCS.  For many years, I have been a supporter of the BCS but this year I actually had some doubts.

Honey Badger doesn't
care who he plays
The thing that hurt the BCS this year I believe is that LSU is such a dominant number one team. Most years people have a couple teams who they argue who is the best team in the nation. But this year is a no doubter based on the Tigers’ impressive resume as well as losses by every other team in the nation.  So, the next argument becomes who is the number two team.

There are many arguments to be made that Oklahoma State is the number two team in the nation.  They have wins over three currently ranked teams in the BCS, #14 Oklahoma, #8 Kansas State, #12 Baylor, compared to two for Alabama, #6 Arkansas, #22 Penn State.
Another point I have a hard time getting past is that Oklahoma State lost on the road while Alabama lost at home.  Granted, the caliber of opponent was much different between but champions take care of business at home.
The final sticking point for me is that the Cowboys won their conference championship while Alabama wasn’t even in the conference championship game.  While Oklahoma State was making a statement against their rivals this weekend, Alabama was sitting at home, hoping voters remembers their lofty preseason rank and program prestige.
The Crimson Tide is riding mostly on preseason hype. A preseason #2 ranking and 14 previous national championships will earn a program that. But if voters look at who has the least damaging loss, that argument clearly favors the Crimson Tide. I cannot imagine a world where a football team loses to Iowa State and still plays for a national title.

Every game matters...
Except this year apparently
Based on the overwhelming support for OK State… I think the BCS ultimately got it right.  If the goal of the BCS is to have the two best teams face each other then I guess, mission accomplished.  Would I rather see LSU-Oklahoma State? Absolutely, Alabama had their shot at the Tigers, why not give Oklahoma State a chance?

Make sure to leave a comment below.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 10 Ramblings

After another gap in posts I figured it was time to post about this NFL season.  After 10 weeks teams finally have their identities figured out but a couple questions remain. 

Question #1: The Texans have the #1 seed in the AFC but can they overcome injuries of Andre Johnson and Mario Williams and maintain that seed?

Can Arian Foster run Houston
all the way to Indy?
I have been all-in on the Texans every year it seems and this year they might finally prove me right. They have clearly taken advantage of a Peyton Manningless AFC South.  Plus, there is no runaway favorite in the AFC. The duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate along with the return of Andre Johnson might push them to the top.

If Mario Williams was healthy they would be a no doubt Super Bowl contender but their lack of playoff experience might catch up to them. It’s critical for the Texans to gain home-field advantage because it will be very difficult for the Texans to win in New England, Pittsburgh, or Baltimore in January.  

Question #2: Are the 49ers a legitimate threat to the Packers and the rest of the NFC to reach the Super bowl? 

Does this look like a Super Bowl
winning quarterback?
My friend and I have a $50 dollar bet every year on whether or not the 49ers make the playoffs. For years, this was always worked as a nice holiday bonus for me, but for the first time since 2002 it looks like I am going to lose this bet. 

At 8-1 the 49ers have to be taken seriously, but where do they rank on teams most likely to win the NFC? I’m not ready to crown them in the top three yet. They have a couple quality wins but I am far from sold on Alex Smith.  After seven years Smith can’t just turn into a Super Bowl quarterback. The defense is legitimate but they are not an all-time great one and that’s what the 49ers need with Smith as QB.

Question #3: What is going on with the Dream team?
Ever since back up quarterback Vince Young gave the moniker “dream team” to the Philadelphia Eagles a target immediately was put on their backs. After this week’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgeralds, they are now 3-6.
Just kidding guys
Five of those losses include blown fourth quarter leads. The problems are abundant: receivers are skipping meetings, the linebackers are too inexperienced, they turn the ball over too much but I think the biggest problem is the absence of a running game. 

This may seem crazy when you look at LeSean McCoy’s stats but the problem with the Eagles is they don’t have the ability to run a four minute offense.  McCoy gets his yard bunches, he isn’t able to grind the clock down.  This allows opponents to have a chance to come back and as we have seen this year, they usually do.

Quick thoughts:

Win or lose big ups to Andy Dalton this week in Pittsburgh. I was dead wrong about him in the draft.

The Lions must have watched too much UFC/Pacquiao this weekend, seemed like they were to win a fight, not a football game.

Brandon Wheedon jumped ahead of Andrew Luck on my fake Heisman ballot, but how will his age effect where he gets drafted?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The best fighter to never win a title

It has been awhile since I've put a post together. Since my last post I have graduated and have started a great new job at AM 1530 here in Chicago. One thing that hasn't changed has my passion for sports, especially mixed martial arts. UFC 136 is this weekend and has a stacked card featuring two title fights.

Kenny Florian fights Jose Aldo in the co-main event for the featherweight title in only his second fight in the division. It is no secret that Florian has struggled in title fights in his past but this fight got me thinking where he ranks among the best fighters to never hold the belt. 

For the record, I am talking about major promotions (UFC, Pride, Strikeforce), sorry EliteXC.

I finish fights... Unless its
one of those title fights.

His 12-4 record in the Octagon, 16-5 overall, is very impressive. The more interesting fact is that he came into the UFC on the first season of the Ultimate fighter as a middleweight and now finds himself fighting as a featherweight. His success has spanned multiple weight classes but at age 35 this could be Florian's last chance at a title.

He faces a very tough this weekend and I personally think he will come up short again but losing to the 145 pound version of Anderson Silva should not tarnish his legacy.

Another current fighter that deserves to be on everyone’s pound for pound rankings is Jon Fitch. His record of 23-1-1 includes 13 wins in the UFC. But despite all his success he has only been given one title shot and his next fight against Johny Hendricks probably isn't going to get him any closer one.

Fans are known to be very critical of Fitch's style of fighting which has known to out even the worst insomniac into a daze. But in the end the only stat that matters is W and Fitch has put plenty of those on the board.

The last fighter is a living legend of the sport and has the respect of everyone in the industry. Jeremy Horn has fought all over the world and his 88 wins prove how successful he has been. He has beaten Chael Sonnen three times in three different ways. Other notable names on his record include Dan Severn, Chuck Liddell, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture and Anderson Silva.

He lost his only two chances at UFC title glory against Frank Shamrock at UFC 17 and seven years later against Liddell at UFC 54. Horn is also a great instructor as well. He has been an integral part of Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin each winning titles.

I hope to have another post up soon, comment below with what you think of the article and some UFC 136 predictions   I'm off to Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend to hang out with my rugby guys and hopefully see Nebraska get their first Big Ten win.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The End of Strikeforce?

A short trip back home to Chicago over the weekend provided me with some great things: a chance to see my baby cousins get baptized, food that didn’t come from a cardboard box and most importantly, a place to watch Showtime.  Saturday night I was able to watch Henderson-Fedor and I came away with one thought as Herb Dean stepped in to save the "the Last Emporer"
Does Strikeforce have as much of a chance of staying relevant as Fedor does in regaining his glory?
Strikeforce always knew it was second fiddle to the UFC, which was made even more evident when Zuffa bought them.  SF always had a couple things going for them though.  They built up a solid heavyweight division and hoped to have a Grand Prix.  They also became the go-to organization for women’s MMA.  And they had the one name the UFC could never sign in Fedor.
But, the Grand Prix has lost its luster due to Fedor’s exit in the first round and recently cutting what some people think is the world’s number one heavyweight.  SF has also lost their two largest names in women’s in MMA because no one wants to fight Cyborg and Gina Carano is off becoming a movie star. 
Now, Fedor has lost three in a row, their best fighter has gone over to the UFC and lost their most intriguing heavyweight, what does promotion really offer?

Coker should be scared about his future, homie
Quick question, name the male Strikeforce champions… 
The answer would be:
LW: Gilbert Melendez
WW: Nick Diaz
MW: Ronaldo Souza
LHW: Dan Henderson
HW: Allistair Overeem

Effectively, SF has three vacant championships.  Diaz and Overeem are no longer with the organization and Henderson is a free agent after beating Fedor over the weekend.  Melendez is must see and definitely could do damage in the UFC but the average fan probably doesn’t know and isn’t paying money to see Souza.
The UFC’s plan was to originally keep SF on its own until the end of 2012 but I don’t think it can last that long.  I like the Challenger series because it gives up and coming fighters a showcase along with Bellator.  But with champions leaving and other top competitors already crossing over to the UFC, there are far too many question marks surrounding the organization for it to remain economically viable.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Free Agency Round-up

Free agency had a very late start to due to the NFL lockout so the pressure to act quickly is as great as ever.  Teams don’t have OTAs, team workouts, and a shorter period in training camp to acclimate the new free agents and rookies.

Some teams have made moves already so I thought I would highlight the ones I found notable

McNabb to Minnesota
Please not Minnesota
This is interesting move by the Vikings.  Ever since their surprising pick of Christian Ponder at number 8 of the draft along with the retirement (I hope) of Favre and the departure of Tavaris Jackson (to the Seahawks) it looked like Ponder was going to battle out Joe Webb for the starting spot.

Now, the Vikings give up a 6th round pick and have found themselves a mentor for Ponder/Webb.  There are two schools of thoughts with rookie quarterbacks.  The first is the Aaron Rodgers strategy where the QB sits for a couple seasons and learns the offense and eventually takes over.  OR the Peyton Manning strategy where the QB starts week 1.

In Ponder’s case I like the Rodgers strategy.  Ponder isn’t nearly as polished as Manning coming out of college and McNabb gives the Vikings a chance to remain competitive while Ponder learns the ropes and Webb can be used in specialty packages.

Rice to Seattle
Preview of Practice?
One person McNabb won’t be throwing to in Minnesota is Sidney Rice.  Rice and teammate Tavaris Jackson have taken their talents out West to Seattle.  Rice is a player that oozes with talent.  His 6’4 frame allows him to compete on nearly any ball and But is 5 years and $41 million ($18.5 million guaranteed) too much?  He has only had one great year – 2009: 83 passes for 1,312 yards.  But he’s an injury risk only playing 16 games once and is coming off hip and knee injuries.

There is potential in pairing him with Mike Williams but you have to be scared of any Seattle free agent wide receiver signing, do Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and TJ Houshmandzadeh ring any bells?  Those three took in a combined 18 years worth of contract worth over $125 million and none of them are even on the Seahawks roster currently.

Also, will Charlie Whitehurst or Tavaris Jackson be able to get these guys the ball?  Matt Hasslebeck had a great career but he has moved on to Tennessee.  T-Jax couldn't get it to Rice in a dome in Minnesota and all we really know about Whitehurst is he has sweet hair.

Two other signings I kept an eye on was Paul Posluszny going to Jacksonville and Carolina resigning Deangelo Williams. 

Posluszny was a guy who I was a huge fan of when he was at Penn State and always felt he dropped too far in the draft.  After an injury shortened his rookie year “Poz” has been a beast.  He was named Bills defensive MVP in 2008 and a team captain the following year.  The Jaguars are a team who could use his toughness at Linebacker. 

Deangelo Williams resigning was important for Carolina because of their lack of experience at quarterback.  Whether it is Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen taking snaps chances are they are going to struggle.  Having a back like Williams to turn to is a major benefit for the young signal callers.

The other effect the signing has is the potential for teams to sign their own running backs.  Ahmad Bradshaw is still out on the market and looking ahead to next year you can bet that class will want more than what Williams received.  The Bears Matt Forte is a restricted free agent and isn’t happy with his contract now.  Frank Gore is currently holding out and arguably the league’s number one running back is hitting the market in Adrian Peterson.

There is plenty of news bound to break in the next couple days, including the landing spots of Kevin Kolb (Cards?) and Kyle Orton (Dolphins?) and everyone will keep an eye on the number one free agent on the market Nnamdi Asomugha.

Where do you think they are going to land and what do you want your teams to do? Leave a comment below.
I know I hope my Bears aren’t done adding only a punter and a blocking tight ends but who knows what’s going on at Halas Hall.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

World Cup Aftermath

For the past couple weeks everyone has been talking about the Women’s World Cup.  Abby Wambach’s header in extra time against Brazil is something everyone watching that game will remember.  Did it lose some of its luster because the USA eventually lost in the finals?  I think so.

But that is an issue for another day.  After coming off the low of the women’s national team’s loss to Japan and the high of being in Chicago for CM Punk’s win at the Money in the Bank (side note: loudest arena I have ever been in) I found myself watching soccer late yesterday.

Watching Cristiano Ronaldo net a hat trick over Chivas of Guadalajara, a game after his fancy footwork against the Galaxy, along with Wayne Rooney’s 3 goal effort against the Seattle Sounders made me wonder when is the United States going to have a player like that. 

After every Olympics or World Cup, the debate about whether or not soccer will gain popularity is a hot topic on every sports show.  In my opinion, this will not happen until the US gets a star comparable to Rooney or Ronaldo.

The NFL has Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  The NBA had MJ and now have Kobe and Lebron.  In order to build a sport there needs to be a face of the league.  And for soccer to grow the US needs an American-born super star.
The closest thing the US has now is Landon Donovan.  His goal against Algeria inspired one of the greatest YouTube videos of all-time but he’s past his prime and who knows how many years he has left or whether or not he’ll even be a large factor on the roster in 2014 in Brazil. 

One option to take the torch from Donovan is Jozy Altidore.  Altidore’s time with Villarreal was mainly spent not scoring on teams he was loaned out to.  He most recently signed with Dutch squad AZ Alkmaar as he tries to live up to the hype. He has shown some brilliance in spurts, like his hat trick against Trinidad & Tobago or his goal against Guadeloupe.  He may be a star but needs more consistent minutes with his teams.    

Freddy Adu was supposed to be savior when he rose up the ranks and he has been a huge bust.  Maybe it’ll be Juan Agudelo, he’s only 18 and has looked good for both the national team and the Red Bulls with his great speed.

But one thing is for sure, soccer can’t prosper in this country when the most recognized faces are Hope Solo and Alex Morgan, despite how pretty those faces are.