Articles By Nathan Rush
Throw another shrimp on the barbie and pour another ice-cold big bloke when Iowa (8–4, 5–3 Big Ten) and LSU (9–3, 5–3 SEC) kick off in this year’s Outback Bowl in Tampa. Oh, and don’t forget to strap on your helmet — extra tight. This time last year, helmets were famously flying at the Outback Bowl, when South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney destroyed Michigan’s Vincent Smith with the hit heard ‘round the world and undoubtedly the best highlight of the 2012 bowl season.
The Hawkeyes are making their fourth appearance in the Outback Bowl, carrying a 2–1 mark in the game — with a 37–17 win over Florida in 2004, 31–10 victory over South Carolina in 2009 and a 31–24 loss to Florida in 2006. The Tigers lost their only appearance in what was then known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, losing 23–10 to Syracuse in 1989.
This is only the second meeting between Iowa and LSU. And if the first contest is any indication, this should be a good one. At the 2005 Capital One Bowl, the Hawkeyes escaped with a thrilling 30–25 come-from-behind win over the Tigers on a 56-yard TD pass from Drew Tate to Warren Holloway as time expired.
Iowa’s season got off to a rocky start with a 30–27 season-opening loss to Northern Illinois. But the Hawkeyes righted the ship and ended the season on a high note with back-to-back wins against Michigan (24–21) and at Nebraska (38–17). LSU may not have known it at the time, but its 35–21 win over Auburn — the “other” Tigers’ only loss of the season — was the highlight of the year. Heartbreaking losses at Georgia (44–41) and at Ole Miss (27–24), along with a beating at Alabama (38–17), made this a disappointing season in Baton Rouge, where there were legitimate BCS expectations.
Iowa vs. LSU
Kickoff: Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -7.5
Three Things to Watch
Iowa’s O-line vs. LSU’s D-line
Historically, this would be a strength vs. strength matchup of Hawkeyes and Tigers. When you think Iowa football, you think of big nasties like Robert Gallery and Bryan Bulaga dominating the trenches and controlling the line of scrimmage along the offensive line. When you think LSU football, fire-breathing run-stuffers and pass-rushers like Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson.
This season the names have changed but the team identities remain the same. Iowa once again has a pair of All-Big Ten O-tackles in Brandon Scherff (6’5”, 315) and Brett Van Sloten (6’7”, 300) as well as a strong interior with guards Andrew Donnal (6’7”, 305) and Conor Boffeli (6’5”, 295), and center Austin Blythe (6’3”, 300). On the other side of the football, LSU’s D-tackle duo of Anthony Johnson (6’3”, 294) and Ego Ferguson (6’3”, 308) is arguably the best in the nation.
Iowa’s O-line will need to move Johnson and Ferguson out of the way if fullback Mark Weisman hopes to have any success against the Bayou Bengals. Although he finished the regular season with 938 yards and seven TDs, Weisman struggled against several of the elite run defenses he faced this season — with seven carries for nine yards (1.3 ypc) in a 26–14 loss to Michigan State and nine carries for 15 yards (1.7 ypc) in a 28–9 loss to Wisconsin.
Hawkeyes’ Run Defense
LSU trots into Tampa with a stable of running backs, the nation’s 33rd-ranked rushing offense (200.8 ypg) and the 11th-most rushing TDs in the country (34). But Jeremy Hill (1,185 yards, 14 TDs), Terrence Magee (614 yards, 8 TDs), Alfred Blue (317 yards, TD) and Kenny Hilliard (307 yards, 7 TDs) could have some trouble against Iowa’s stout defensive front. The Hawkeyes’s run defense ranks 17th in the nation, allowing 120.8 yards per game on 3.49 yards per carry. Most impressive, Iowa has allowed just five TDs on the ground this season, tied with BCS national championship favorite Florida State for first in the country.
LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry
Iowa’s pass defense might be even better than its run defense. The Hawkeyes rank 11th in the country in yards allowed (182.4 ypg). But Iowa was vulnerable to the scoring strike through the air, allowing 20 passing TDs this season — the most of any team ranked in the top 20 pass defenses. LSU’s dynamic receiving duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry combined to catch 132 passes for 2,289 yards (17.3 ypc) and 18 TDs. Beckham and Landry fill different roles in the passing game. Beckham provides a more explosive threat, with 57 catches for 1,117 yards (19.6 ypc) and eight TDs, while also averaging 26.9 yards per kick return and 10.1 yards per punt return. Landry is as reliable as they come, with 75 grabs for 1,172 yards (15.6 ypc) and 10 trips to the end zone.
Key Player: Anthony Jennings, QB, LSU
The elephant in the room is Jennings, the freshman quarterback replacing injured starter Zach Mettenberger — who passed for 3,082 yards, 22 TDs and eight INTs before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Coming out of high school in Marietta, Ga., Jennings was rated as a four-star prospect and the sixth-best dual-threat quarterback in the country by recruiting service Rivals.com. The 6’2”, 205-pounder has completed 6-of-10 pass attempts for 99 yards, one TD and zero INTs, while rushing for 49 yards and one TD in limited action this season.
After Mettenberger’s injury, Jennings completed 4-of-7 passes for 76 yards and one TD while scrambling three times for 26 yards (8.7 ypc) to hold on for a 31–27 victory over Arkansas. He’s got time to prepare, a running game to lean on and a pair of NFL wideouts at his disposal. But this Iowa defense will be unlike any Jennings has seen in his brief college career.
Kirk Ferentz is 6–4 in bowl games at Iowa, including a 2–1 mark in the Outback Bowl and a 1–0 record head-to-head with LSU. Ferentz is making a return to bowl season after sitting last year out on the hot seat following a 4–8 campaign in 2012. On the other side, Les Miles is 5–3 in bowls at LSU, including the 2007 BCS National Championship. But the Mad Hatter is riding a two-game bowl losing streak after being embarrassed by Alabama in the 2011 BCS national title game and collapsing to lose a late lead against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season. Miles is one win away from his seventh 10-win season at LSU, which would also be his fourth straight 10-win year. A ninth win for Ferentz would be his best since the 11-win Orange Bowl squad of 2009.
Make no mistake, this will be an old-fashioned heavyweight fight won in the trenches and the turnover column of the stat sheet. A few rookie mistakes from Jennings could put LSU in jeopardy against a disciplined Iowa squad. But barring self-inflicted freshman errors, the Tigers’ talent will likely be too much for the Hawkeyes.
Prediction: LSU 24, Iowa 16
The Landsharks of Ole Miss (7–5, 3–5 SEC) and Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech (7–5, 5–3 ACC) will converge on Music City on the eve of New Year’s Eve. Much like their travel routes — west from Oxford, Miss, and east from Atlanta, Ga. — the Rebels and Yellow Jackets have taken different routes to reach exactly the same 7–5 record and Music City Bowl destination, roughly four hours from either team’s home base.
Both Ole Miss and Georgia Tech started the season 3–0, each with signature victories — with the Rebels winning big at Texas (44–38) and the Jackets taking down eventual ACC Coastal Division champion Duke (38–14). The good vibes abruptly ended, as three-game win streaks were immediately followed by three-game losing streaks for both teams. Ole Miss was devastated by a brutal stretch at Alabama (25–0), at Auburn (41–38) and Texas A&M (41–38). Georgia Tech also fell to the trio of bowl-eligible squads Virginia Tech (17–10), at Miami (45–30) and at BYU (38–20).
The Rebs and Jackets both rallied to the seven-win mark before suffering painful losses in overtime to bitter in-state rivals — as Ole Miss lost at Mississippi State, 17–10, at the Egg Bowl and Georgia Tech lost at home to Georgia, 41–34, in double-overtime of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. The outcome of this year’s Music City Bowl will go a long way toward defining the narrative of the 2013 season for the Rebels and Yellow Jackets, both of whom have had up-and-down roller-coaster seasons.
This will be the fourth meeting between Ole Miss and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series, 2–1, while the Rebels won the most recent matchup, 41–18, in the 1971 Peach Bowl. Ole Miss is 0–1 in the Music City Bowl, falling 49–38 to West Virginia in 2000; Georgia Tech is making its first appearance in the Nashville bowl that dates back to 1998.
Strangely, the underdog has won the Music City Bowl in 10 of its 15 games, with the biggest upset coming when 10-point dog Kentucky brought Big Blue Nation down the road to beat Clemson, 28–20, in 2006. An SEC team has played in the Music City Bowl in 14 of the 15 years, posting a disappointing 6–8 record — with lowly Vanderbilt and Kentucky combining for four of those victories, while traditional powers Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee combined to go 0–4.
Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 30 at 3:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ole Miss -3
Georgia Tech has the nation’s fifth-ranked rushing attack (311.7 ypg), with 3,740 yards (5.63 ypc) and 45 TDs on the ground this season. On the flip side, Tech’s passing game ranks 118th in the country (129.0 ypg), with 1,548 yards, 11 TDs and 12 INTs this year. And there are no Calvin Johnson or Demaryius Thomas-type deep threats at wideout. The Yellow Jackets are reliant almost exclusively on their triple-option running game led by quarterback Vad Lee (489 yards, 8 TDs) and running backs David Sims (846 yards, 11 TDs), Robert Godhigh (694 yards on 10.1 ypc, 6 TDs) and Zach Laskey (458 yards, 7 TDs).
Ole Miss’ rushing defense ranks a middling 53rd in the nation (155.3 ypg), having given up 1,863 yards (4.01 ypc) and a staggering 26 TDs on the ground. But in four of their five losses, the Rebels allowed at least 40 carries for 240-plus rush yards and multiple TDs. In losses to Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and Missouri, the Rebs allowed a combined 184 carries for 1,037 yards (5.6 ypc) and 13 TDs. In just four games, Ole Miss allowed 55.7 percent of its rushing yards and 50 percent of its rushing TDs for the season.
Georgia Tech’s Key to Victory: Force Bo Wallace Into Mistakes
There’s good Bo Wallace and bad Bo Wallace. The Ole Miss signal-caller accounted for 16 total TDs and two turnovers in seven wins, but just five total TDs and nine turnovers in five losses. Wallace infamously fumbled into the end zone in overtime to seal a seven-point loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. The junior knows Hugh Freeze’s offense — after following the Rebs coach from Arkansas State via East Mississippi CC — but Wallace can be the other team’s best player when he is not sharp.
The Yellow Jackets are 78th in the country in turnover differential (-3), having gained 19 turnovers (13 INTs, 6 fumbles) but lost 22 turnovers (12 INTs, 10 fumbles). The 19 turnovers forced ranks 75th in the nation. Although 13 INTs is not an impressive number, eight players have combined for the total and the group has made the most of their picks with 255 return yards (19.6 ypr) and two TDs, including a 95-yarder. Four players have two INTs this year, Chris Milton, Louis Young, Tyler Marcordes and Quayshawn Nealy. But the real difference maker could be senior pass rusher Jeremiah Attaochu, who had 15.5 tackles for a loss and 12.0 sacks in 12 games this season. Ole Miss true freshman tackle Laremy Tunsil (questionable to play with a knee injury) will have his hands full keeping Attaochu away from Wallace.
Key Player: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
The consensus No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2013, Nkemdiche has been a starter on the Rebels defensive line from Day 1. The younger brother of Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche has shown the versatility to line up anywhere along the line. At 6’5”, 294 pounds, Nkemdiche has been a force of nature as an edge-rushing defensive end as well as a 3-technique defensive tackle, applying pressure to the pocket and clogging running lanes — a skill that will be essential against Georgia Tech. Nkemdiche has battled injuries as a true freshman, but his impact has been far more meaningful than his eight tackles for a loss and two sacks would indicate.
Paul Johnson has struggled in bowl games since arriving at Georgia Tech, going 1–4 with the lone win coming against a deflated USC team (sans Matt Barkley) in last year’s Sun Bowl. Even then, the margin was just 21–7 against a group of Trojans that barely bothered to show up in El Paso after their embarrassing fall from preseason No. 1. Johnson went 2–2 in bowls at Navy and was a two-time FCS national champion back in the day at Georgia Southern. Freeze is 1–0 in bowls at Ole Miss, winning last year’s BBVA Compass Bowl, 38–17, against Pittsburgh. The recent history speaks for itself. When teams have a month to prepare for the Yellow Jackets’ unique offense, they are usually up to the task when game day finally arrives. Colonel Reb will be honky-tonkin’ in Nashville after this one.
Prediction: Ole Miss 35, Georgia Tech 31
Since joining the bowl party in 1990, the Russell Athletic Bowl has been known as the Blockbuster Bowl, CarQuest Bowl, MicronPC Bowl, Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl, Mazda Tangerine Bowl and, most recently, Champs Sports Bowl. The location of the game was Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens from 1990-2000 before moving to Orlando in 2001.
By any name, in any city, this year’s Russell Athletic Bowl is a great matchup — although Louisville (11–1, 7–1 American) and Miami (9–3, 5–3 ACC) enter this contest with decidedly different outlooks on life.
The Cardinals entered the season with expectations of an undefeated season. But a 38–35 loss to UCF under the lights on Friday night back on Oct. 18 ended the U of L’s quest at a shot at the BCS national championship crystal. Rather than a trip to Pasadena — or, more realistically, rather than complaining about being left out of the big game and settling for a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, where UCF is slotted — the Cards are going to Disney World.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are excited to be going anywhere after a two-year self-imposed bowl ban as a result of NCAA violations from the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Miami has not played in a bowl game since losing to rival Notre Dame, 33–17, in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve in 2010. That game was coached by interim Jeff Soufland, who had replaced recently fired Randy Shannon. The U has not won a bowl game since squeaking by Nevada, 21–20, at the MPC Computers Bowl on New Year’s Eve in 2006. Ironically, that was Shannon’s first game as coach after replacing the recently fired Larry Coker.
This will be the 12th all-time meeting between Louisville and Miami. As expected, the Hurricanes have a 9–1–1 series edge. But the Cardinals won the most recent showdown, 31–7, at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 2006. Miami carries a 2–1 record in the Russell Athletic Bowl, having won in South Florida in 1996 and 1998, but lost in Orlando in 2009. This will be Louisville’s first appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Louisville vs. Miami
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 28 at 6:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Louisville -3.5
Three Things to Watch
Two NFL-caliber Quarterbacks
It’s not Sunday yet, but NFL fans will soon be watching Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Miami’s Stephen Morris on RedZone Channel. Both have prototypical size, next-level arm talent and a solid track record of success. As a result, the Cardinals enter with the 18th-ranked passing offense in the nation (302.9 ypg) and the Hurricanes with the 29th-ranked passing offense in the country (274.3 ypg).
Bridgewater (6’3”, 196) entered the season with as much hype as any quarterback this side of Johnny Football, after his coming out party upset win over Florida in last year’s Sugar Bowl. The junior had a solid season by most reasonable standards, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 3,523 yards, 28 TDs and only four INTs. But Bridgewater did not lead the U of L to an undefeated record and was not invited to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy — his two lofty goals heading into the season.
Although less-heralded, Morris (6’2”, 218) has had a strong senior season, completing 58.7 percent of his passes for 2,868 yards, 21 TDs and 12 INTs. Eight of those picks came in just three games, with four in a 27–23 win at North Carolina, two in a 45–30 win over Georgia Tech and two in a 41–14 loss at Florida State. Morris also delivered a signature win, taking down in-state rival Florida, 21–16, on Sept. 7 to set the tone for the 2013 season.
Sunshine State Speed
The Citrus Bowl seems as good a place as any to hold a track meet. And there is guaranteed to be speed on the field in Orlando. A whopping 39 Louisville players hail from the state of Florida, including 23 from the Miami area — most notably Bridgewater, who played at powerhouse Miami Northwestern High School as the successor to former Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. Obviously, the Hurricanes are loaded with 57 players from the Sunshine State.
Of the many notable athletes who will be playing this bowl game in front of home state fans, the headliners are Miami’s first-team All-ACC linebacker Denzel Perryman, second-team All-ACC wideout Allen Hurns and safety Deon Bush, along with Louisville’s first-team All-AAC cornerback Charles Gaines and first-team All-AAC safety Calvin Pryor. Although they play in different conferences at schools separated by 1,100 miles, many of the Cardinals and Hurricanes grew up together and have some of the same names and numbers in their iPhones.
Head Coaches With Upside
Will this be the final game on the sideline for U of L coach Charlie Strong? Gambling website Bovada had the 53-year-old Strong as the opening line favorite (2-to-1) to take the vacant University of Texas job. What about 44-year-old Miami coach Al Golden? He has been a hot candidate for just about every job opening east of USC. Although both men claim to be happy where they are, there is little doubt that Strong and Golden are two of the hottest commodities in the college coaching game today. Strong has a 36–15 record at Louisville with a 2–1 record in bowls. Golden is 22–14 at Miami and making his first bowl appearance, despite winning (then declining) the ACC Coastal Division title last season.
Key Player: Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
The AAC Defensive Player of the Year will be overshadowed pregame by the pretty-boy, future-millionaire quarterbacks and hot-shot, rumor-mill head coaches. But once the whistle blows, a stacked Miami offensive line — led by guards Brandon Linder and Jon Feliciano, and tackle Seantrel Henderson — will need to contain Smith, who is a splash play waiting to happen. The 6’3”, 252-pounder from Columbus, Ga., posted 16.5 tackles for a loss of 104 yards this season, including 12.5 sacks for 95 lost yards. Smith also had three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. He’s not the fastest or the flashiest, but Smith could be the difference in the game.
This year’s Russell Athletic Bowl has it all — with a pair of future NFL quarterbacks, two of the hottest coaches in the game, childhood and regional rivalries being rekindled, and motivation coming from both sides of the spectrum. The question is whether or not Louisville will be disappointed by a non-BCS bowl and pack it in? And whether or not Miami will be “happy to be here” rather than hungry to win? The most likely scenario, however, is that bowl the U of L and “The U” bring their A-games. After all, the leadership at the top — Strong-Bridgewater and Golden-Morris — is as strong as just about any coach-QB pairing in the country outside of Saban-McCarron or Fisher-Winston. Expect a blur of a game with speed and big plays galore. Like going to Disney World.
Prediction: Louisville 38, Miami 35
A New York City triumvirate of Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra and Jay-Z could not have come up with a better matchup for the Pinstripe Bowl than Notre Dame (8–4) and Rutgers (6–6, 3–5 American). Call your own shot and start spreading the news because Yankee Stadium will be in an Empire State of mind when the Fighting Irish take on the Scarlet Knights at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx.
This will be Notre Dame’s first appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl, which will host its fourth game since arriving on the bowl landscape in 2010. It has been a long fall for the Golden Domers, who lost 42–14 to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game last season. The dip in on-field product was somewhat expected following the unexpected academic suspension of quarterback Everett Golson and the graduation of Butkus Award winning linebacker Manti Te’o.
Rutgers and Syracuse have alternated victories in the brief history of the Pinstripe Bowl. And it’s the Scarlet Knights’ turn again this year. SU beat Kansas State, 36–34, in 2010 and West Virginia, 38–14, last year. RU knocked off Iowa State, 27–13, in 2011 and hope to pull off one of the major upsets of the postseason against Notre Dame this year.
The series history, much like the Las Vegas betting line, heavily favors Notre Dame. The Irish are 4–0 against the Knights, with a 197–17 all-time combined margin of victory — including a 42–0 humiliation in their most recent meeting in 2002.
Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 28 at 12:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Notre Dame -14
Notre Dame’s Key to Victory: Exploit Rutgers’ Pass Defense
The McCourty Twins are not walking through that door. Unlike the NFL-caliber defensive backs of recent Rutgers memory, this year’s Scarlet Knights have been abused through the air. Opponents of RU have completed 64.1 percent of their passes for 3,737 yards, 31 TDs and eight INTs. Rutgers’ pass defense has allowed an average of 311.4 yards per game — more than the averages of either Louisville (302.9 ypg) or Oregon (294.7 ypg), pass-happy teams with Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota, respectively, running the shows. The Scarlet Knights’ pass defense ranks 120th in yards allowed. Only five teams allowed more passing TDs — Idaho (40), Colorado State (33), Wyoming (32), UAB (32) and California (32).
That’s good news for Notre Dame team MVP TJ Jones, who has 65 catches for 1,042 yards (16.0 ypc) and nine TDs this season — team highs in each category. Jones is just the seventh Irish wideout to top the 1,000-yard mark in a single season, joining Michael Floyd, Golden Tate, Jeff Samardzija, Maurice Stovall, Tom Gatewood and Jack Snow. Neither Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown nor Rocket Ismail topped 1,000 yards in a single season. Expect ND quarterback Tommy Rees to look Jones’ way early and often against a RU secondary that has been overmatched by less talented wideouts thus far.
Rutgers’ Key to Victory: Chas Dodd Masterpiece
The senior quarterback became more famous for his art than his football after being benched for the better part of two seasons. But Dodd is back under center for the Scarlet Knights, replacing Gary Nova for the final two games of the season — a 28–17 loss at Connecticut and a 31–6 win over South Florida to clinch a berth in the Pinstripe Bowl. Over his first two seasons at RU, the South Carolina native and former Byrnes High School star threw for 21 TDs and 14 INTs. He lost the job to local Don Bosco (N.J.) legend Nova in 2012, attempting (and completing) just one pass.
This season, Dodd had just 46 pass attempts in mop-up duty before taking over for the final two games, throwing a combined two TDs and two INTs with a 1–1 record. If Rutgers has any chance to pull off the upset, Dodd will have to play the game of his life. And he may have to do so without the Knights’ top wideout, sophomore Leonte Carroo, who is listed as doubtful with an upper-body injury. Carroo had 28 catches for 478 yards (17.1) and nine of the teams 21 receiving TDs in only nine games played this season.
Key Player: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s strength over the past two seasons has been its interior defensive line, most notably Tuitt and nose guard Louis Nix III (a.k.a. “Irish Chocolate”). But with Nix III out for the season with a torn meniscus and out of the college game for good after recently signing with an agent, the burden falls to Tuitt. The 6’7”, 312-pound junior out of Monroe, Ga., may very well be playing in his final game for the Fighting Irish before heading to the NFL. Notre Dame will need Tuitt to be a terror in the trenches against a Rutgers offense with a quarterback controversy and the 97th ranked rushing offense.
Brian Kelly has a 1–2 record in bowl games at Notre Dame, but he was 2–1 at Cincinnati and has also sat out two bowl games — after leading Central Michigan to the Motor City Bowl in 2006 and Cincinnati to the Sugar Bowl in 2009. Prior to stepping up to the FBS, Kelly won back-to-back Division II national championships at Grand Valley State. On the other sideline, Kyle Flood is making just his second bowl appearance in his second season since taking over at Rutgers for Greg Schiano. Last year, the Scarlet Knights lost a heartbreaker 13–10 to Virginia Tech in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl.
Expect this year’s Pinstripe Bowl to be green and gold. The Fighting Irish faithful will take over Yankee Stadium and the Golden Domers will crush the Scarlet Knights.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Rutgers 10
How’d you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island? Oregon State (6–6, 4–5 Pac-12) and Boise State (8–4, 6–2 Mountain West) will do just that when the Hawaii Bowl kicks off as the only game on television Christmas Eve.
The Beavers are making their first trip to the big island of Oahu and are just the second Pac-12 school to play in the Hawaii Bowl. Arizona State lost to hometown favorite Hawaii, 41–24, in 2006. Oregon State did play in the now defunct Oahu Bowl in 1999, losing to Hawaii, 23–17, on Christmas Day. Coach Mike Riley started his second stint at OSU with a 5–0 record in bowl games from 2003-08. But Oregon State is 0–2 in bowls since then.
This year’s trip to Honolulu snaps a three-year Las Vegas bender for the Broncos, who are riding a four-bowl win streak following three straight wins in Vegas (2010-12) and a memorable Fiesta Bowl victory following the 2008 season. This is Boise State’s second appearance in the Hawaii Bowl, having been upset as 10-point favorites by East Carolina, 41–38, in 2007. In that game, ECU track star Chris Johnson accounted for 255 total yards and two TDs.
In the all-time series, OSU has a 4–3 edge over Boise, although the Smurf Turfers have a 3–2 advantage since stepping up to FBS status in 1996. Most recently, the Broncos defeated the Beavers, 37–24, in 2010.
Oregon State vs. Boise State
Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oregon State -3
Oregon State’s Key to Victory: Sean Mannion to Brandin Cooks
Oregon State has an NFL-caliber quarterback and this year’s Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver. As Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks go, so go the Beavers. When OSU jumped out to a 6–1 start to the season, Mannion threw for 2,992 yards, 29 TDs and three INTs, while Cooks hauled in 76 catches for 1,176 yards (15.5 ypc) and 12 TDs. When OSU fell apart to go 0–5 down the stretch to end the year, Mannion threw for 1,411 yards, seven TDs and 11 INTs, while Cooks had 44 catches for 494 yards (11.2 ypc) and three TDs.
Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence will be charged with applying a pass rush to Mannion. The Broncos’ top defender has been a terror off the edge this season, with 19.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Up front, Lawrence is joined by 300-pound fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, who will command attention as a monster in the middle. In the Boise State secondary, cornerback Donte Deayon and safety Jeremy Ioane, a pair of All-MWC selections, will have their hands full stopping the Beavers’ aerial attack. Only a sophomore, the 5’9” Deayon will be put to the test by the nation’s best in the 5’10” Cooks.
Boise State’s Key to Victory: Expose Beavers’ Weak Defense
Oregon State’s defense is one of the worst statistical units playing in a bowl this season. The Beavers rank 94th in total defense, allowing 482.2 yards per game; 95th in scoring defense, allowing 32.1 points per game; and 120th in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score an eye-popping 93.2 percent of the time the ball is inside the 20-yard-line. And it wasn’t just Pac-12 powers like Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State that lit up the Beavers defense. FCS power Eastern Washington scored 49 points in an upset win and Utah scored 48 points in an overtime nail-biter.
Boise State’s offense will be led by junior quarterback Grant Hedrick, who passed for 1,443 yards, 15 TDs and five INTs, while going 4–2 as a starter after replacing injured senior Joe Southwick. Recently, waves were made when Southwick — who had returned from a right ankle injury — was sent home from the Hawaii Bowl for disciplinary reasons. Redshirt freshman Nick Patti was also suspended, although he has been reinstated and will serve as the backup to Hedrick. Capable wideouts Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes provide firepower on the outside, while senior O-linemen Charles Leno Jr. and Matt Paradis pave the way in the trenches.
Key Player: Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Regardless of who lines up under center for the Broncos, Ajayi will be the centerpiece of the Boise State attack. The 6’0”, 215-pound sophomore out of Plano, Texas, was named first-team All-MWC after posting 226 carries for 1,328 yards (5.9 ypc) and 17 TDs, while hauling in 16 catches for 189 yards (11.8 ypc) and one score. Ajayi had six contests with over 100 total yards and five multi-TD games this season. Only twice did Ajayi fail to rush for at least 80 yards — with a 54-yard, one-TD effort in a 41–40 loss at Fresno State, and a 70-yard, three-TD performance in a 48–7 blowout of Wyoming as his worst outings of a brilliant 2013 campaign.
Longtime Boise State coach Chris Petersen — who went 92–12 in eight seasons, including two undefeated years (2006, 2009) — has moved on to take the top spot at Washington, leaving interim head coach Bob Gregory to coach the Hawaii Bowl. Gregory previously served as the Broncos defensive coordinator and was coaching linebackers prior to being named interim head coach. Former Boise offensive coordinator and Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin will take over as the next coach of the Broncos following the bowl game. On the other sideline, Oregon State coach Mike Riley appears to have coached his way off of the proverbial hot seat with his second straight bowl trip after a two-year postseason drought in 2010-11.
Both teams are happy to be in Hawaii, for the weather as much as the football. With two high-octane offenses, the defense in this year’s Hawaii Bowl could be reminiscent of the NFL’s Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Expect plenty of scoring, lots of hula dancing and plenty of people getting lei’d on Christmas Eve.
Prediction: Oregon State 42, Boise State 40
Mack Brown will not resign as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns. The 62-year-old Brown is feeling mounting outside pressure in the form of trending Twitter rumors, rambling rants on talk radio and powerful boosters opposing UT president Bill Powers. But no amount of heat is hot enough to remove the Burnt Orange head football coach. These are the 10 reasons why Mack Brown will not resign at Texas.
1. BCS National Champion
Brown is one of six active BCS national championship-winning coaches, along with over-hyped potential Texas successor Nick Saban (2012, ’11, ’09, ’03), Urban Meyer (2008, ’06), Les Miles (2007), Larry Coker (2001) and Red River rival Bob Stoops (2000). And what a national championship it was in 2005. Remember? Vince Young capping a perfect 13–0 season with a 41–38 last-minute win over USC at the Rose Bowl.
2. 158 wins (and counting)
In 16 seasons at Texas, Brown has only had one losing season (5–7 in 2010). He had a nine-year, 10-win run from 2001-09. He’s 10–4 in bowl games, including a BCS title, BCS runner-up finish, two Rose Bowl wins and a Fiesta Bowl victory.
3. Eight wins, beat Oklahoma
This season in Austin has been successful by most reasonable standards. UT went 7–2 in the Big 12, stomping Oklahoma, 36–20, in the Red River Rivalry and running circles around Texas Tech, 41–16. Despite Stoops’ Sooners being a two-touchdown favorite and Kliff Kingsbury being much cooler than anyone not wearing shades and skinny jeans, Brown conquered both the conference’s established old guard and en vogue new wave this year.
4. Incoming 2014 recruiting class
As usual, Brown is blazing the recruiting trails to the tune of yet another top-10 class. National Signing Day (Feb. 5) is months away, but the Longhorns’ current crop of commits is ranked No. 7 by Scout, No. 10 on Rivals and No. 11 by 247Sports. Texas has the top-ranked recruiting class in the Big 12 in all three of those recruiting rankings.
5. Joe Jamail’s contract extension
The “King of Torts” is a billionaire trial lawyer and Texas Ex — with a B.A. from UT-Austin in 1950 and a J.D. from Texas School of Law in 1953. More important, the silver-haired, silver-tongued 88-year-old is Brown’s personal attorney and exceedingly close friend. Jamail negotiated Brown’s most recent contract, which the University of Texas System Board of Regents voted unanimously in 2012 to extend the deal through 2020. Jamail is an important man in Austin. So much so that he has two statues on campus.
6. Remember Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer?
Tennessee forced out Fulmer after 17 seasons — nine of the 10-win variety — and the 1998 BCS national championship. With state-of-the-art facilities, NFL alumni and a rabid fanbase, the Volunteers assumed they would always be on Rocky Top. The decline of the program was Fulmer’s fault, obviously. In 2009, the other UT hired Lane Kiffin. In 2010, the Vols hired Derek Dooley. In 2013, Butch Jones arrived as a VFL. The fate of the Big Orange should be a warning for those in Burnt Orange.
7. Longhorn Network launched
Not every coach is a good local politician — looking at you, Coach Saban. But the Texas job is bigger than just football. There are countless obligations that require the coach to smile and Hook ‘Em Horns. With ESPN’s and UT’s investment in the Longhorn Network, the University of Texas needs to be coached by a man who knows not only his “X’s and O’s” and “Jimmys and Joes” but also how to play the role. Even the best coach and recruiter might be overwhelmed by the scope of television responsibilities at Texas.
8. Will Muschamp is coach in waiting
The former Longhorns defensive coordinator was named “head coach in waiting” at Texas back in 2008. But he’s fresh off a 4–8 season with the Florida Gators. Brown’s better than that guy. Might as well keep Mack.
9. Prepaid for MackBrown-TexasFootball.com
Move over Al Gore, I’m pretty sure Mack Brown invented the internet — or at least mastered it. What a genius move. Name the school’s football website after yourself. They can never fire you then, right? MackBrown-TexasFootball.com is the undisputed heavyweight champion of NCAA URLs.
10. Wants to go out like Bobby Petrino
T.S. Eliot wrote the world ends “not with a bang but a whimper.” There’s no way that is how Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas ends. At the very least, he needs to grab a blonde coed, jump on a Harley, wipe out in a motorcycle wreck, have an awkward neckbraced press conference and go out in a blaze of glory. Put a twist on Petrino’s Arkansas exit. Make it Texarkana-style. Regardless, Mack Brown deserves to go out in style — on his own terms. He will not resign at Texas.
Locks of the Week
These two are division showdowns featuring the AFC West’s “haves” and the NFC South’s “have nots.”
Patriots (+2.5) at Panthers
Cam Newton loves the spotlight and Charlotte will be abuzz Monday night, but Bill Belichick has a 10–3 record in New England in games the week following a bye.
Broncos (-8) vs. Chiefs
Kansas City has not allowed more than 17 points in any game this season, while Denver is averaging 41.2 points per game with a season-low of “only” 28 points.
Falcons (-1) at Buccaneers
The Schiano men have a lame duck coach and staph-infected locker room; one win seems like more than enough for this year’s crop of Pewter Pirates.
Continue to bet against Jacksonville — despite its shocking win last week at Tennessee — and bet on Seattle at home.
Seahawks (-12.5) vs. Vikings
Russell Wilson is a perfect 12–0 at home, having outscored opponents by a 364–152 margin (121–57 this season; 243–95 last season).
Cardinals (-8) at Jaguars
Jacksonville has not won back-to-back games — which it will attempt to do this week — since Dec. 12, 2010, when the Jags beat the Titans and Raiders.
Straight Up Upsets
A pair of road warrior clubs will take their best shots in harsh weather cities against backup quarterbacks in what could be sloppy games.
Ravens (+3) at Bears
Baltimore won three games away from home en route to winning the Super Bowl but is just 1–4 on the road this season.
Jets (+1) at Bills
The last time these two AFC East rivals went toe-to-toe they combined for 27 penalties and 255 lost yards.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on all the action.
Texans (-7) vs. Raiders
Seems like an awfully big number to give a Houston team with more problems than Apollo 13.
Bengals (-6) vs. Browns
Cleveland shocked the world with a 17–6 win over Cincinnati in the Buckeye Bowl in Week 4.
Giants (-5) vs. Packers
Eli Manning should be able to beat this Aaron Rodgers-less team. Eli should be able to do better than 11 TDs and 16 INTs.
Eagles (-4.5) vs. Redskins
The spread option offense showdown pits Chip Kelly against Mike Shanahan in an ego clash of the NFC East’s most-hyped teams.
Saints (-3) vs. 49ers
Turn out the lights, San Fran will be in N’Awlins for the first time since the power outage of Super Bowl XLVII.
Lions (-2.5) at Steelers
This bizarro Rust Belt pits the traditional losers from Detroit against the Super Bowl contenders from Pittsburgh. But in reverse order.
Chargers (-1.5) at Dolphins
With such beautiful women and weather in both cities, who cares about the NFL? Let’s go to the beach.
“For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, / He writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the Game,” Grantland Rice famously wrote in his 1908 poem, “Alumnus Football.”
Not everyone in sports has lived by those words, obviously. The ongoing bullying saga between the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has brought several issues from the secretive shadows of an NFL locker room to the blindingly expansive spotlight of the national media.
With that mind, these are the 25 biggest bullies in sports history:
25. Richie Incognito
A threatening, profanity-laced, half-N-bomb, yo-mamma voicemail left for his Miami Dolphins O-linemate Jonathan Martin moved Incognito from “NFL’s Dirtiest Player” to “Notorious B.U.L.L.Y.”
24. Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The “Intimidator” was quick to remind his competition to “put a kerosene rag around your ankles so the ants won’t climb up there and eat that candy ass.” Dale Sr. had no problem putting other cars into the wall with his No. 3 Monte Carlo.
23. Michael Jordan
Isiah Thomas was bullied off the Dream Team; Steve Kerr was punched in the face; Jerry Krause’s Croatian sensation Toni Kukoc was harassed; and a teenage Kwame Brown was broken down to tears by “His Airness.” Plus, MJ absolutely abused everyone in the NBA during his reign.
22. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Sports Illustrated declared Mayweather “a bully, one neatly wrapped in a cut 5-foot-8, 147-pound package. Like most bullies, Mayweather is intimidating. He sends promoters, managers and networks cowering in the corner with the mere threat of withholding his services. He holds the boxing world hostage by saying he will take his gloves and go home unless the fight isn’t when he wants, where he wants and at what weight he wants. He perpetuates a lie … because he is confident in the fact that no one in the industry will stand up to him.”
21. Randy Savage
“Oooooh, yeah!” The “Macho Man” broke into the WWF as a heel who bullied the “First Lady of Wrestling,” Miss Elizabeth, and was quick to “snap into” anyone who dared look at his manager.
20. Kermit Washington
“The Punch” nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich but also inspired the John Feinstein book, The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever.
19. Ron Artest
The Artest currently known as “Metta World Peace” was not always the lovable, flagrant-fouling, elbow-throwing, physical defender we know today. He was once the instigator of the infamous “Malice at the Palace.” That poor fat fan in the stands didn’t stand a chance.
18. Quinton Jackson
“Rampage” is a terror in and outside the ring. Making countless MMA fighters tap out, dry-humping ring girls and driving on the sidewalk during an extended police chase.
17. Todd Bertuzzi
The consummate goon and longtime NHL enforcer, Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore’s hockey career with a sucker punch in 2004.
16. Jack Tatum
“The Assassin” paralyzed Darryl Stingley with a vicious hit over the middle in 1978. Tatum was the leader of a gang of bullies in the Oakland Raiders' secondary who were known for headhunting.
15. Vince McMahon
The Chairman and CEO of the WWE is a marketing genius, but he has no problem taking a metaphorical folding chair (or a real folding chair) to the back of anyone standing in his way. McMahon has bullied and bulldozed his way to the top of the ropes. Look out below.
14. Ndamukong Suh
The Albert Haynesworth 2.0 of dirty defensive tackles, Suh saves his worst for Thanksgiving dinner, stomping in 2011 and kicking in '12. He's also bullied friends and cable guys off the field, making Suh arguably the young bully with the most upside.
13. Bill Romanowski
Romo was psycho — spitting on opponents, beating up teammates and causing widespread chaos everywhere he roamed. Romanowski's rage was often steroid-fueled, as the linebacker told "60 Minutes" he received the juice from none other than Victor Conte himself.
12. John Kreese
Cobra Kai's screw-loose leader had a simple instruction: "Sweep the leg."
11. Daniel Snyder
The Washington Post's Dave McKenna documented Snyder's bullying from A to Z, reminding us why the Redskins owner is everyone's least favorite NFL power player.
10. Bob Gibson
Don't crowd the plate or drive reckless when Gibson is in fastball range. The two-time Cy Young winner and 1968 NL MVP has no patience. After years of plunking batters to establish his dominance on the mound, Gibson was cited for assault in a road rage case in 2002 after establishing he was king of the road.
9. Bill Laimbeer
Laimbeer was the dirtiest of the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys," a group that also included noted bullies like Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn. Motown's modus operandi in the late 1980s and early '90s was to punish anyone who dared take the ball to the rim — looking at you, Michael. There were even "Jordan Rules" used to intimidate the Pistons' fiercest rival from Chicago.
8. Mike Tyson
"Iron Mike" was the youngest heavyweight champion (20 years, 4 months) in history and one of the most feared fighters of all time. With 44 KOs in 50 career wins, Tyson was a bully among bullies. The tortured champ was also convicted of rape in 1991 and served three years in the penitentiary. And one more thing… Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear in Las Vegas back in 1997.
7. Broad Street Bullies
Philadelphia Bulletin scribes Jack Chevalier and Pete Cafone coined the "Broad Street Bullies" nickname for the Philadelphia Flyers crew back in 1973. HBO Films made a documentary about the team that included Hart Trophy winner Bobby Clake.
6. Ty Cobb
Always angry? Check. Documented racist? Check. Slides into bases with his spikes up? Oh yeah. "I was the most hated man in baseball," Cobb famously told biographer Al Stump. Cobb was proud of his bullying.
5. Tonya Harding
The surreal attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994 made Harding and her goon ex-husband Jeff Gillooly a national scandal. After finishing eighth (to Kerrigan's silver medal) at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Harding has gone on to a hodgepodge of pro wrestling and amateur boxing.
4. Lance Armstrong
"Live Strong" to beat testicular cancer. Blood dope to win seven Tours de France. Sue anyone who dares speak the truth about said blood doping. Most important, never apologize for anything — even if you're on Oprah. Because of Lance, millions of American sports fans will never again watch the Tour de France.
3. Bobby Knight
With his sideline, chair-throwing tirades, Robert Montgomery Knight evolved into the stereotypical coach who takes himself too seriously and uses his position of power to bully those cowering beneath.
2. Roger Goodell
The "Ginger Hammer" will not rest until the NFL has become a flag football league with an 18-game schedule and a team in London.
1. Sheila Kelly
Sure, Rutgers' Mike Rice also bullied his team past the breaking point. But Middle Delaware State women's basketball coach Sheila Kelly is the worst.
Alabama coach Nick Saban will be the next coach of the Texas Longhorns. Current UT coach Mack Brown has one foot out the door. Saban's agent, Jimmy Sexton, is already jockeying for position, eyeing a Lone Star State payday. Sorry, Alabama fans. It was a good run. But Saban is moving from Tuscaloosa to Austin in 2014. These are the 10 reasons why Nick Saban will be the next coach at Texas:
1. "Special pressure" at Alabama
Alabama is spoiled. Three BCS national championships in four seasons will do that. The student section takes their red Solo cups to Sorority and Fraternity Rows long before games are over. Saban is under the type of "special pressure" where anything less than an undefeated season and BCS national title is considered a failure.
2. To be better than Bear
Despite a 77–13 record at Bama and three BCS title crystals, Saban will never be considered better than Bear Bryant as long as he is coaching the Crimson Tide. Saban will always be second-best while he's coaching in a Houndstooth shadow. But were Saban to go to Texas — and win it all — he would have national titles at LSU, Alabama and Texas. Saban would be… however sacrilegious it is… better than the Bear.
3. More money
"How much money does he need?" is the type of thing said by someone other than Saban. Texas has an endowment of $6 billion. Alabama has an endowment of $630 million. Saban wants to be the biggest and the best? Everything is bigger in Texas.
4. Longhorn Network
ESPN has partnered with Texas for the Longhorn Network, which has yet to establish itself. But imagine the possibilities? Saban could potentially have the Worldwide Leader of propaganda machines at his disposal. As if he needed any additional help rebuilding the burnt orange football factory in Austin.
The Republic of Texas may never secede from the Union, but the University of Texas could realistically secede from the Big 12 — a conference it nearly killed following the announcement of its Longhorn Network. Missouri and Texas A&M took their balls to the SEC. While the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC have grown stronger in numbers, the Big 12 has fallen behind. Texas could become the Notre Dame of the South.
6. No conference title game
Short of total independence, Texas still has an edge over any SEC team in that the Longhorns avoid a conference title game. Why play a pesky SEC East team when you can roll out the red carpet directly to the Final Four of the BCS? Less chance of injury, less chance of fluke loss, less chance period.
7. AJ McCarron is graduating
Sure there are other quarterbacks. Brent Musberger told all the boys out there to go pitch the ball around in the backyard because quarterbacks get all the good looking women. But those other signal-callers aren't Mr. McCarron, who has a 34–2 record, 65 TDs and 11 INTs (through nine games in 2013) in nearly three seasons as a starter. After this season, Saban will have to build a new relationship with a new starting QB — whether he's at Bama or Texas.
8. To be his own boss (almost)
No matter where Saban goes, the Nick-tator will be his own man. No one speaks to the coach unless directly spoken to. Don't even look at Coach Saban if you pass him in the halls. That will be the rule wherever he goes. But at Texas, Saban will be working under a brand new athletic director in Steve Patterson.
9. Tired of "Sweet Home Alabama"
How many times can you hear "Sweet Home Alabama," Roll! Tide! Roll!? Sometimes you can just see Saban seething for apparently no reason, up 40 points but fuming. What other reason could there be? He's sick of that song and that chant. It will take years before the Texas Exes and their Hook 'Em Horns gets under Saban's skin.
10. Better oatmeal pies
Coach Saban's breakfast of choice is the oatmeal cream pie. The Texas State Fair would runneth over with oatmeal cream pies if Saban was wearing burnt orange on the sidelines.
Locks of the Week
Continue to ride the Jacksonville spotted gravy train, no matter how big the number. Well, anything short of a 28-point number at Denver…
Titans (-13) vs. Jaguars
Third-year Tennessee coach Mike Munchak has two black-eye losses — to then-winless Indy in 2011 and then-one-win J-Ville last season.
Steelers (-3) vs. Bills
Buffalo’s Mario Williams has recorded four sacks in two games, both as a member of the Houston Texans, against Big Ben Roethlisberger.
Straight Up Upsets
These tiny numbers could pay off huge dividends with upsets on Sunday in games that are essentially pick-ems.
Ravens (+1) vs. Bengals
Andy Dalton is 1–3 against Baltimore, with his only win coming in a meaningless Week 17 game last season, after the Ravens had already clinched the AFC North division.
Lions (+1) at Bears
Detroit devoured Chicago, 40–32, in Week 4. That, however, was the Lions first win over the Bears since Oct. 2011.
Eagles (+1) at Packers
Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury will likely hurt Title Town in the win column, starting this week against Chip Kelly’s Philly cheese steaks.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on absolutely all the action.
Colts (-9.5) vs. Rams
Andrew Luck has a 10–2 record at home in Lucas Oil Stadium; the Rams are 4–7–1 on the road under Jeff Fisher.
Giants (-7) vs. Raiders
The Black Hole ventures East to take on Big Blue in a game that could provide a nice INT over-under side bet.
Broncos (-7) at Chargers
Peyton Manning beat the Bolts twice last season, but has struggled against Diego in the past, including a six-INT game in 2007.
Saints (-6.5) vs. Cowboys
Sean Payton was Tony Romo’s quarterbacks coach from 2003-05. Will the student be the teacher in New Orleans?
49ers (-6) vs. Panthers
This dual-threat shootout between Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton could be a highlight-reel cut tape when the dirt settles.
Seahawks (-5.5) at Falcons
The Dirty Birds beat the Hawks, 30–28, in the NFC Divisional Playoffs last season. But that was a completely different ATL squad.
Cardinals (-3) vs. Texans
After two tough losses at K.C. and to Indy, the legend of Case Keenum continues to grow.
Monday Night Moolah
Monday night time is the right time to double up the weekend’s winnings or bounce back from the weekend’s losses.
Buccaneers (+2.5) vs. Dolphins
With the Miami locker room being bullied by the national media all week, Tampa Bay could be in line for its first win of a staph-infected season.
In the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury suffered during a 27–20 Green Bay Packers loss to the NFC North rival Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, there are several Vince Lombardi quotes that come to mind and could be used as inspiration for Title Town.
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall,” the Packers’ iconic coach famously said. That advice certainly fits. Although, since Rodgers took over for Brett Favre as Green Bay’s starter in 2008, Cheesehead fans have not had to double-check Rodgers’ status. The 2011 league MVP and Super Bowl XLV MVP has missed only two games. After suffering a concussion the game before, Rodgers missed a Week 15 contest at New England in 2010. And in 2011, Rodgers sat out the Week 17 season-finale against Detroit, watching backup Matt Flynn set franchise records with 480 yards and six TDs.
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have,” Lombardi reminded his players more than once during his Hall of Fame career, which included two Super Bowl wins and six NFL titles with the Packers.
What Green Bay has at quarterback currently is Seneca Wallace, a 5'11", 205-pound, 33-year-old with 31 TDs and 19 INTs over 10 years out of Iowa State. Wallace completed 11-of-19 passes for 114 yards and one INT subbing for Rodgers against the Bears.
The Packers have several other options who are familiar with coach Mike McCarthy’s offense. Flynn, who backed up Rodgers for four seasons from 2008-11, was released by the Buffalo Bills on Monday. Meanwhile, Vince Young, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman all spent time with Green Bay during the preseason.
“I’m focused on Seneca Wallace right now,” said McCarthy, during a postgame press conference following the loss to Chicago.
Regardless of who lines up under center, he won’t be as good as Rodgers — who completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards, 15 TDs and only four INTs for a 108.0 passer rating prior to landing on his non-throwing left shoulder while being taken to the ground by Bears defensive end Shea McClellin.
“Aaron is a huge part of our offense,” said McCarthy. “This is something that was built over time. Aaron is the centerpiece.”
With a 5–3 record, including a 2–1 mark within the NFC North division, the Packers are still alive in the playoff picture. But with seven games left against NFC opponents, including three divisional contests, the window of opportunity could slam shut unless Green Bay follows its greatest coach’s mantra: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Locks of the Week
Two of the best home field advantages in the NFL host a pair of teams with a combined 2–12 record this season.
Seahawks (-16) vs. Buccaneers
Seattle’s average margin of victory at home is 20 points, including a 45–17 win over Jacksonville — Tampa’s misery-loving company in the two-team winless club.
Patriots (-6.5) vs. Steelers
Tom Brady was famously (or infamously) the Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion for Halloween. Expect Brady-to-Gronkowski to roar against the staggering Steelers.
Straight Up Upsets
A couple of NFC East clubs will pull off low-number, mild shockers against the bottom half of the AFC West this week.
Eagles (+2.5) at Raiders
Nick Foles comes back from concussion to replace an injured Michael Vick, who was replaced by a rookie Matt Barkley last week. Chip Kelly wishes he still had Marcus Mariota.
Redskins (+1) vs. Chargers
San Diego will take the dreaded flight to the Eastern Time Zone for an early kickoff. But the triumphant return to form from RG3 will be what cooks the Chargers.
One big number, one small number, but expect the same closer-than-expected results.
Vikings (+10) at Cowboys
Palestine, Texas, native Adrian Peterson returns to the Lone Star State to carry the Vikings to a single-digit loss on the big screen at Jerry’s House.
Rams (+3) vs. Titans
The Jeff Fisher Bowl will certainly be a field goal fest of ball-control, defense and staring contests between Fisher and his former team. Take the under (39.5) in this 17–16 game.
Steer clear of these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on all the action.
Panthers (-7.5) vs. Falcons
Cam Newton had 287 passing yards, 116 rushing yards and three total TDs in a 30–20 win when Atlanta visited Charlotte last year.
Saints (-6) at Jets
This matchup of Rob Ryan vs. Rex Ryan will be a Big Apple heavyweight bout just short of King Kong vs. Godzilla.
Chiefs (-3) at Bills
Alex Smith has posted an impressive 27–5–1 record over the past three seasons. That is serious “game management,” Captain Checkdown.
Ravens (-2.5) at Browns
Baltimore is 10–1 in games following its bye week since 2002 and a perfect 5–0 after the bye under coach John Harbaugh.
Colts (-2.5) at Texans
In two meetings last season, these AFC South rivals came away with a 1–1 record and a combined score of 45–45.
Monday Night Moolah
The oldest rivalry in football gives gamblers a chance to daaa-ble down on winnings or daaa-ble back on this week’s losses.
Packers (-10.5) vs. Bears
Chicago leads the all-time series 92–88–6. But the Cheeseheads from Title Town are riding a six-game winning streak over Bill Swerski’s Superfans from the Windy City.
The NBA season is about to tip off, which means it’s almost time for fantasy basketball. To win a championship, you’ve got to hit the draft big boards hard, fast break the waiver wire-to-wire and have the ball bounce your way. But in order to cut down the nets with the title for best fantasy basketball team name, all you need is an off-color joke, pop-culture spin or old-school reference. Here’s our list of suggestions for 2013-14:
Pass the Rock to Lamar
Sprichst Du Dirk?
Lala’s Honey Nut Cheerios
Grand Theft Rondo
LeBron Police Escort
LeBron’s Mom’s Boyfriend
Da Real Lambo
LBJ > MJ
99 Problems, LeBron Ain’t 1
Ninjas in Paris
South Beach Talent
Heir to Jack Nicholson
Pau Gasol Neck-beards
Kobe German Knees
Kobe Blood-Spin Moves
Kobe Wan Kenobi
R.I.P. Lob City
Blake’s Love Triangle Offense
Blake’s Baby Mama Drama
J.J. Redick Prenups
Metta World War 3
Metta World Peace Pipe
Rose Before Hoes
Duck Dynasty Rose
MJ > LBJ
Jay-Z’s My Agent
Sheed’s My Coach
Shaq’s My Coach
Craig Sager Style
Joakim Noah’s Arc
Pippen Ain’t Easy
WTF is Mike Wearing?
Let's Get Tropical
Popovich In-game Interviews
Adam Silver’s My Homeboy
David Stern Boo-birds
Van Gundy’s Combover
Kidd’s Old Men
Hold the Mayo
Shot of Jamison
Westbrook Geek Chic
Lil Wayne’s OKC Seats
Ibaka Flocka Flame
JaVale McGee Moments
K. Love and Special Sauce
Basin City Blues
Hickory High Hoosiers
White Men Can Jump
Denzel Got Game
8 Points, 9 Seconds
Malice at the Palace
Shawn Kemp’s Kids
Chris Mullin YMCA League
That’s the Inside Stuff!
Riggin’ for Wiggins
Locks of the Week
Smart money bets against these two quarterbacks with a combined six career NFL starts.
Chiefs (-6) vs. Texans
Houston Cougar legend Case Keenum makes his first NFL start for the Houston Texans on the road at Arrowhead against K.C.’s undefeated top-ranked defense.
Patriots (-3.5) at Jets
Three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady vs. roller-coaster rookie Geno Smith. The Pats have won six straight against the Jets and are 18–5 with Brady in the series.
Poorly coached teams with marginal talent and backup quarterbacks on the road? Check. Mate.
Packers (-10) vs. Browns
The last time these two teams played, Aaron Rodgers threw three TDs in a 31–3 win.
Falcons (-7) vs. Buccaneers
Atlanta has lost four games by a total of 15 points to teams with a combined 16–7 record.
All year long, I’ve been saying bet on the Broncos and against the Jaguars. Not this week.
Jaguars (+7.5) vs. Chargers
The split stats are actually in Jacksonville’s favor — playing a West Coast team at 1 p.m. Eastern after that team played on Monday night.
Colts (+6.5) vs. Broncos
Peyton Manning should win in the House He Built, but Andrew Luck will keep it close.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer.
Dolphins (-7.5) vs. Bills
Duke record-breaker turned scout team wunderkind turned Buffalo starter Thad Lewis heads back to his hometown of Miami.
Panthers (-6) vs. Rams
Cam Newton has scored eight of his 11 total TDs in wins and committed five of his six turnovers in losses.
49ers (-4) at Titans
Three straight games against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco is not what Tennessee backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was hoping for.
Giants (-3) vs. Vikings
In this chapter of The Book of Manning, Eli earns his first win of the 2013 season but also throws his 16th (or worse) INT of the year.
Lions (-3) vs. Bengals
Athletic freaks Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green should do some sort of skills competition before this contest.
Eagles (-3) vs. Cowboys
Dallas swept the season series last year; Philly swept the season series in 2011. This is just one of those rivalries…
Steelers (-1.5) vs. Ravens
At least the line isn’t three on the number. Eight of the last 10 Pittsburgh-Baltimore games have been decided by exactly three points.
Redskins (-1) vs. Bears
RG3 is not a superhero? Jay Cutler is not a villain? What kind of bizarro season is this?
Locks of the Week
It’s always savvy to make the rounds betting against bad teams with backup quarterbacks.
Bengals (-7) at Bills
Undrafted free-agent rookie Thad Lewis is under center in Buffalo. Light speed, Thaddeus.
Lions (-3) at Browns
Franchise savior Brian Hoyer is out for the year, leaving leftover reject Brandon Weeden in charge.
Eagles (-2.5) at Buccaneers
Rookie Mike Glennon will look to improve upon his two-INT, 55.7-passer-rating debut at QB in TB.
Straight Up Upset
Two home teams and a road squad with a chip on its shoulder could pull off upsets.
Patriots (+2.5) vs. Saints
Last week, Tom Brady failed to throw a TD pass for the first time since Jan. 3, 2010. That will change this week.
Steelers (+2) at Jets
Winless Pittsburgh takes on bipolar New York, a team that lost to Tennessee by 25 before shocking Atlanta by two on MNF.
Chargers (+1.5) vs. Colts (-1.5)
Stanford alum Andrew Luck is going for the California sweep, having already defeated both the 49ers and Raiders.
The two biggest numbers of the week are too big, even for the league’s two best teams.
Broncos (-27) vs. Jaguars
Eight of the previous nine teams favored by 20 or more points have failed to cover. It’s not about Peyton Manning, this is Brock Osweiler’s time to shine.
Seahawks (-13.5) vs. Titans
Gregg Williams’ Tennessee defense has been taking out the head so far, but Ryan Fitzpatrick’s five straight three-and-outs TKO’d the Titans last week.
Cowboys (-5.5) vs. Redskins
Tony Romo vs. Robert Griffin III probably won’t be a Peyton Manning-style shootout, but it could be just as close.
Stay away from these unless you’re a degenerate or a homer who has to have action.
49ers (-10.5) vs. Cardinals
Jim Harbaugh has a 3–1 record against Zona, with a 21–19 loss in 2011 and three victories by a combined score of 74–23.
Chiefs (-8.5) vs. Raiders
Oakland swept K.C. last year, winning 26–16 at Arrowhead and 15–0 at the Black Hole. But these are Andy Reid’s Chiefs now.
Texans (-7.5) vs. Rams
Houston is the better team on paper, but Matt Schaub has thrown a pick-six in a record four straight games — on the field.
Packers (-3) at Ravens
These two playoff teams from last year are playing up-and-down mediocre football; flip a coin on this one.
Vikings (-2.5) vs. Panthers
Hopefully Adrian Peterson will run wild after a tragic week. Good luck, A.D.
Locks of the Week
These are as good as gold — the San Francisco 1849 kind, not the two-tone Jacksonville helmet shade.
49ers (-4.5) vs. Packers
Remember Colin Kaepernick’s last game against the Packers D? He passed for 263 yards, rushed for 181 yards and accounted for four TDs in a 14-point victory.
Chiefs (-4) at Jaguars
Bet against J-Ville every week until the Jags prove they are not the worst team in the league — which they clearly are.
Early in the season, some spreads aren’t nearly as high as they should be. Get in before the lines are adjusted.
Colts (-10) vs. Raiders
The Silver-and-Bleak are starting Terrelle Pryor. The Indy 500 offense is run by Andrew Luck. Do the math and make some math.
Patriots (-9) at Bills
Tom Terrific has a 20–2 record against Buffalo, tossing 52 TDs and 17 INTs against the AFC East division rival.
Straight Up Upsets
Two division games are a good place to start when looking for outright upsets in the season opener.
Vikings (+5.5) at Lions
Adrian Peterson rushed for “only” 273 yards and one TD in two games against the Lions last year. He might do that in one game this week.
Giants (+3.5) at Cowboys
Big Blue has a 7–3 record against Big D over the last five seasons, expect Jason Garrett’s seat to get as hot as his hair after this home loss.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who always has to have action.
Steelers (-7) vs. Titans
Pittsburgh is 3–2 against Tennessee since 2008, losing in Music City 26–23 last year.
Rams (-4.5) vs. Cardinals
It’s trendy to be bullish about St. Louis, but Sam Bradford is 3–3 against Arizona and 0–3 in season openers.
Seahawks (-3.5) at Panthers
Always smart to stay away from Pacific Coast Time Zone teams playing a nooner on the East Coast.
Saints (-3) vs. Falcons
Have you seen these teams play against each other? Flip a coin. That’s also the method Mike Smith uses to decide whether to go for it or kick on fourth downs.
Bears (-3) vs. Bengals
Chicago is coached by a former CFL czar. Cincy has HBO star Marvin Lewis.
Buccaneers (-3) at Jets
Revis Island returns to New Jersey and Greg Schiano is back on his old Rutgers recruiting turf.
Dolphins (PK) at Browns
The expansion Browns are 1–13 in season openers, having lost eight straight.
Monday Night Moolah
A double-header is a good time to double-down the weekend’s winnings or double-back to make up for losses.
Eagles (-3.5) at Redskins
RG3’s return will be overshadowed by Chip Kelly’s unveiling of an offense so diabolical even Shanahanigans won’t be able to stop it.
Texans (-3.5) at Chargers
Get ready to fall asleep to Philip Rivers throwing pick-sixes and making his new coach Mike McCoy look like Norv Turner.
The NFL season is right around the corner, which means it’s almost time for everyone’s real favorite sport — fantasy football. It takes a strong draft, savvy free-agent eye and a little luck to win your league. But it just takes an off-color Aaron Hernandez murder trial reference or some other well-crafted joke to take the title belt for best fantasy football team name. Here’s our list of suggestions for 2013:
Dirty Sanchez Butt-Fumblers
Vladimir Putin’s Bling Ring
The Gronk Abides
Hernandez Hit Men
Duped by a Doper
Jersey Exchange Program
Zombie Al Davis
Smokin’ Jay Cutler
Purple Jesus Juice
All Day 2K
J.J. S.W.A.T.T. Team
Eli Looking at Things
Waka Flacco Flame
Butt-Fumbling Foot Fetishers
Jason Garrett’s Ginger Boys
Monte Kiffin’s 401K
Super Bowl Quadruple-Check
Don Beebe’s Hustle
Pray for Mojo
J-Ville RedZone Channel
12th Man Records
Mr. UGGs Boots
RG3’s Wedding Registry
RGIII 4 POTUS
No More Norv
Cry Me a Rivers
Peyton Manning’s 5-Head
Mile High Manning
52 Problems But Big Ben Ain’t One
The Real Chip Shady
Chip Let the Dogs Out
Injured Head & Shoulders
Rolando McClain Mugshots
What You Talkin’ Bout Patrick
Big P-Willie Style
Andy Retread Regime
Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe
Suh Girls, One Cup
Boy Named Suh
More Bang For Lang’s Buck
Turn Your Head and Coughlin
Vince Young’s Steakhouse
Jeff Fisher’s Son’s Friends
How My Skittles Taste
Mr. Kerry Washington
Polk High Panthers
JaMarcus’ Purple Drank Diet
Jim Haslem’s Accountants
Illiterate Read Option
I Pitta the Fool
Forgetting Brandon Marshall
Ron Mexico’s Perro
It’s Always Runny in Philadelphia
From those wonderful folks who gave you Bart Simpson and Bill O’Reilly comes FOX Sports 1, “America’s New Sports Network." Rupert Murdoch’s latest underdog upstart follows in the successful footsteps of FOX Broadcasting Company and FOX News, two networks that went from the cheap seats to luxury suites against all odds.
FOX’s newest expansion franchise, which debuts Aug. 17, is attempting to be the fun alternative to staid sports establishment ESPN. But don’t be fooled by the light-hearted schtick — FS1 has the potential to be a serious challenger to ESPN’s status as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
ESPN has SportsCenter. Followed by a rerun of SportsCenter. FS1 has FOX SPORTS LIVE, a three-hour bloc of programming that airs from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET and features a variety of shows. Former ESPN SportsNation host Charissa Thompson (pictured above on right) and a slew of retired athletes — including Andy Roddick, Gary Payton and Donovan McNabb — are all on board.
But the stars of the show are expected to be co-anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, along with Producer Tim. They were stars north of the border on TSN’s SportsCentre in Canada. Onrait and O’Toole have been compared to early-ESPN quick-witted trailblazers like Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann and Craig Kilborn. There is concern over how their humor will be received stateside, but Canadians everywhere were sad to see the wisecracking Canucks fly south.
For roughly 60 years, Regis Philbin has hosted a talk show. The 81-year-old is back in the saddle with “Crowd Goes W!ld,” a daily (5 p.m. ET) sports-entertainment show shot at Chelsea Piers sports facility in Manhattan.
The rabid New York Yankees fan and Notre Dame alum will be joined by an eclectic lineup that includes YouTube star Katie Nolan, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay, two-time Super Bowl champ Trevor Pryce, tennis-playing comedian Michael Kosta and British beauty Georgie Thompson.
FS1: Numero Uno?
FS1 has game-day content — with NFL, MLB, college football, NASCAR, UEFA Champions League and UFC. And FS1 has a plan of attack, hoping the Al Bundys of the world would rather laugh and check out foxy girls than dissect X’s and O’s. But only time will tell if FS1 can go toe-to-toe with ESPN. “We’ve always had competition,” ESPN president John Skipper told Businessweek. “But most of that competition has been segmented competition — network television is competing against our network television, Yahoo! Sports is competing against us in digital, Sports Illustrated competing in magazines. We have always been the one entity that had cross-platform assets. But FOX is a different animal than we’ve dealt with in the past.”
Before kickoff on Saturdays this fall, FS1 will have an expanded two-hour pregame show — a la ESPN’s College GameDay — before Pac-12 and Big 12 coverage. Familiar faces Erin Andrews (of ESPN fame and infamy), Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and resident referee Mike Pereira are joined by SEC expert fire-starter Clay Travis as well as former radio personalities Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis.
Cult favorite Gus Johnson is back handling play-by-play with Charles Davis as the color commentator in the booth on Saturdays, with Kristina Pink on the sideline. FS1 will also have a weekly Thursday night game.
IT'S IN THE GAME
FOX Sports 1 has no NBA coverage, but FS1 will more than hold its own against ESPN in the NFL and MLB.
FOX: 105 NFL regular-season games, four playoff games, Super Bowl every three years
ESPN: 17 regular-season games
FOX: 92 MLB regular-season games, All-Star Game, NL or ALDS, NL or ALCS, World Series
ESPN: 90 MLB regular-season games, NL or AL Wild Card
Last year, ESPN made $9 billion. Only $3 billion was generated by advertising revenue. The remaining $6 billion came from cable television companies charged to carry the network. Driving up the price-per-subscriber and, as a result, profits, is the primary reason sporting events like the BCS national title game are aired on ESPN rather than ABC, which Disney also owns. FS1 is expected to initially carry a price-per-subscriber of between 75 cents and $1.
$5.06 » ESPN
$2.71 » ESPN 3D
$1.21 » TNT
$0.97 » Disney Channel
$0.84 » NFL Network
$0.82 » Fox News
$0.67 » ESPN2
$0.62 » USA Network
$0.59 » TBS
* Information from 2012 via SNL Kagan
Two-time major championship winning golfer Rory McIlroy has gotten grief about his tennis starlet girlfriend from just about everyone, including Gary Player and Johnny Miller. Whether or not the 24-year-old golf phenom from Northern Ireland has been distracted by his 23-year-old 5'10" blonde Danish bombshell isn't really anybody's business. But until McIlroy contends again or wins another major championship, Wozniacki will be considered bad luck — which is better than a case of the yips, I guess.
Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander and America’s “it” girl Kate Upton kept it coy regarding their official relationship status until recently splitting up. But dating the voluptuous bikini model did not help JV’s pitching in the playoffs last year. Then the AL’s reigning MVP and Cy Young winner, Verlander was rocked by the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the World Series, allowing five runs in four innings of a losing effort.
Clearly, every man alive would love to do the Dougie, or Cat Daddy, or just about any dance with the 20-year-old bombshell. But it would be hard to pay attention to your curve ball after attending to her curves. Ask Justin Verlander.
Back when she was Tony Romo’s cowgirl, Simpson became Enemy No. 1 of Cowboy Nation. From wearing a pink jersey to taking a pre-playoff vacation to Cabo, Simpson made all the wrong moves. She is the perfect blueprint of what not to do as well as the definitive bad luck WAG.
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp hit .249 with 28 HRs, 89 RBIs and had 19 steals the year he dated Barbados babe Ri-Ri. After the break up, Kemp was an MVP runner-up who hit .324 with 39 HRs, 126 RBIs and had 40 steals. Rihanna had more hits than Kemp did while they were dating.
Both Reggie Bush and Miles Austin know the split stats with and without Ray J’s flick co-star and Kanye West’s current beautiful dark twisted fantasy. Kim K and her best asset end up putting football players on their backside.
After Lamar Odom married Khloe — who some have speculated to be O.J. Simpson’s illegitimate daughter — his life fell apart. He was traded from the L.A. Lakers to the Dallas Mavericks, berated publicly by Mark Cuban and had a bout with depression that bordered on mental breakdown. Other than that, though, things are great.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
The late TLC star went chasing waterfalls and ended up with a scrub she didn’t want. In less lyrical words, volatile wide receiver Andre Rison cheated on her, so she set fire to his Atlanta mansion — the lowlight of a combustible relationship between two of Hot-lanta’s craziest residents.
Pitcher Chuck Finley filed for a restraining order against the actress after being attacked — a fight that allegedly included her stomping his foot with her high heel, pressing the car accelerator to the floorboard during the in-car domestic dispute. It’s a baseball superstition to leave your wife if she beats you up before going on Celebrity Rehab.
Pitcher Kris Benson would have come and gone without anyone noticing him had it not been for his batwing crazy model wife. She was a dumpster fire with D-cups, telling Howard Stern that she would have sex with the entire Mets team if Kris ever cheated on her and generally sabotaging her husband’s middling career.
The Material Girl has an all-star roster of athletes she has vogued with. Jose Canseco, Dennis Rodman and Alex Rodriguez all got into the groove with Madge. Those dudes get worse reviews than Guy Ritchie’s 2002 Madonna vehicle Swept Away. Recently, Ozzie Guillen blamed the fall of A-Rod on Madonna. And judging by the beefed-up arms of the 54-year-old cultural icon, maybe A-Rod was sharing some of his alleged Biogenesis secrets with his ex-Kabbalah crush.
Back to A-Rod, whose nickname apparently isn’t just a reference to his name. Remember when the Bad Teacher fed him popcorn at Super Bowl XLV? Nothing has gone right for lucky No. 13 since then. He hit a rock bottom .120 (3-for-25) before getting benched in the AL playoffs last year. And things have only gone downhill since then.
Who? Oh yeah, the wacko from Basketball Wives who coincidentally left the lives of both Antoine Walker and Chad Ochocinco Johnson in shambles. You still probably don’t know who she is, but ‘Toine is penny-less and shimmy-less while Ocho is clearly no bueno, jobless and allegedly resorting to Twitter stalking.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has taken Major League Baseball by storm since defecting from Cuba, fleeing to Mexico and signing a seven-year, $42 million deal last season.
Yet despite the fact that the 22-year-old wunderkind has dominated the nightly highlights and is undeniably the top storyline of the season’s first-half, Puig will not participate in the All-Star Game at New York’s Citi Field on Tuesday. These are five reasons why Puig should play in the Midsummer Classic:
1. Star power
Forget range factor, Puig has got off-the-charts “it” factor. The toolsy 6’3”, 245-pounder has a flair for the dramatic, whether he’s gunning down runners, mashing two homers in his second big league game or partying with Jay-Z at the 40/40 Club in New York.
2. Awesome numbers
The manchild has had a monsterous season thus far — hitting .391 with a 1.038 OPS, eight HRs, 19 RBIs, five stolen bases and 28 runs scored in 151 at-bats over 38 games since making his debut on June 3. It’s a small sample size, but Puig has done more damage than just about anyone not named Miguel Cabrera or Chris Davis thus far.
3. Chance for breathtaking plays
Remember when Bo Jackson took over the 1989 All-Star Game? Puig is a “Bo Jackson-type package,” according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Whether or not that comp is all hype or simply hyperbole, there’s no denying Puig’s penchant for spectacular plays reminiscent of Bo.
4. Freddie Freeman is injured
Puig was runner-up to Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman in the fan vote for the final National League roster spot. Freeman is unable to play due to a thumb injury. Rather than let Giants manager Bruce Bochy select a replacement, the fans should be heard — that’s the whole concept of a fan vote, right?
5. Vin Scully Loves Yasiel Puig
Even if Commissioner Bud Selig doesn’t care about star power, TV ratings, big plays or the fans, he should at least care about iconic Dodgers voice Vin Scully. The 85-year-old loves Puig, thinking his accomplishments are “not to be believed, because this game is not that easy. … His talent is absolutely breathtaking.” No one knows better than Uncle Vin, who remains the best in the business.
Jay-Z has built an empire in the worlds of music and fashion. Now the 43-year-old is set to try his hand at building the brands of athletes across the sports landscape. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports has teamed with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) — which represents everyone from Tom Cruise to Justin Timberlake to Derek Jeter — to form an alliance with the potential to become an immediate power player.
Some high schools have only one big man on campus. Others have a whole gang of future stars running the hallways. These are the 10 greatest high school classmates in sports history.
Robert Nkemdiche and Austin Meadows
Grayson High School (Loganville, Ga.)
The class of the Class of 2013, Nkemdiche and Meadows were this year’s consensus top prospects in football and baseball, respectively. Nkemdiche is a chiseled 6’5”, 260-pound defensive end, while Meadows is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound five-tool center fielder. Nkemdiche has stardom ahead of him at Ole Miss while Meadows was selected ninth overall by the Pirates in the MLB Draft.
Randy Moss and Jason Williams
DuPont High School (Belle, W.Va.)
One of the greatest jump-ball receivers in NFL history was one of West Virginia’s best-ever high school dunkers, catching alley-oops from a mop-topped “White Chocolate” in the mid-1990s. Jerry West may be the greatest prep player in Mountain State history, but Moss and Williams were so fun to watch that their highlights were later turned into a Nike commercial.
John Havlicek and Phil Niekro
Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Ohio)
“Hondo” was an eight-time NBA champ with the Boston Celtics. “Knucksie” was the godfather of the knuckleball, most notably for the Atlanta Braves — for whom he pitched a no-hitter in 1973. They lived on the same street, went on fishing trips together and were high school classmates in the late 1950s. Now each is a member of his sport’s respective Hall of Fame.
Matthew Stafford and Clayton Kershaw
Highland Park High School (Dallas, Texas)
Before becoming an NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick quarterback and NL Cy Young-winning starting pitcher, respectively, Stafford and Kershaw were childhood buddies who grew up playing on the same basketball and soccer teams before becoming a dominant pair of arms — righty and lefty, to boot — at the top of Highland Park’s pitching rotation in the early 2000s.
Jason Segel and Jason Collins
Harvard-Westlake School (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The first openly gay NBA player teamed up with the comic actor best known for his work on the cult classic Freaks and Geeks and CBS hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The Collins twins (Jason and Jarron) were McDonald’s All-Americans. Segel, however, was a high energy “low budget Mark Madsen” who even won a dunk contest back in the day.
Victor Oladipo and Cyrus Kouandjio
DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md.)
Fun names to say, Oladipo and Kouandjio. Oladipo was a high-flying Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year on the hardwood at Indiana, while Kouandjio is a national championship-winner on the gridiron at Alabama. Two physical freaks and future millionaires — Oladipo is expected to be a top-five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and Kouandjio is a preseason All-American penciled into the top 10 of every 2014 NFL Draft mock.
Marv Albert and Neil Diamond
Abraham Lincoln High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Yessshhh!!!! The leather-loving NBA announcer was a classmate of the seventh-inning stretch “Sweet Caroline” soft rocker. Two of the best voices in sports attended the same high school that Jesus Shuttlesworth played for in Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” — not to mention ballers Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson, and legendary authors Arthur Miller and Joseph Heller.
Snoop Dogg and Cameron Diaz
Long Beach Polytechnic (Long Beach, Calif.)
Don’t act like Snoop and Cam aren’t in the world of sports. Snoop Dogg coaches pee-wee football and gave Oregon speedster De’Anthony Thomas his “Black Mamba” nickname. Diaz was a cheerleader, played an owner in "Any Given Sunday" and stole the show by feeding A-Rod popcorn at the Super Bowl. But back in the late-80s, these two owned the halls at Long Beach Poly.
Donovan McNabb and Antoine Walker
Mount Carmel High School (Chicago, Ill.)
Before McNabb was dry-heaving in the Super Bowl and Walker was shimmy-ing following yet another bad 3-point attempt, the duo teamed up in Chi-town. McNabb played football, ran track and hooped with Walker — as well as future NFL star Simeon Rice. Despite having three future pro athletes on the same court, Mount Carmel failed to win a state championship during the mid-1990s run.
Bill Belichick and Buzz Bissinger
Phillips Academy (Andover, Mass.)
Classmates with Florida governor Jeb Bush, the three-time Super Bowl winning coach and Friday Night Lights author are just two of the seemingly endless list of distinguished alumni from Phillips Andover — which also boasts the likes of both Presidents George Bush (H.W. and W.), John F. Kennedy Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Spock.
The craziest parents in sports have all had strange twists and turns along the way to fame or infamy. Many plotted every step of their child’s life. Others got in the way. Some were successful. Some failed. Every one of them made their kid’s journey a wild ride — for better or worse.
1. Marv Marinovich, father of Todd Marinovich
The undisputed worst sports parent in history, Marv was Dr. Frankenstein of “Robo QB” son Todd — who was dubbed “America’s first test-tube athlete” due to Marv’s extreme Eastern Bloc training methods. Only Ivan Drago was more programmed. Every aspect of Todd’s career was choreographed by Marv, who dictated diet, workout and daily routine — going over-the-top at every stop.
Todd’s success in high school and at USC (Marv’s alma mater) resulted in a first-round selection by the L.A. Raiders (Marv’s old team). But after eight games over two seasons, Todd’s NFL career ended with a 50.7 completion percentage, 1,345 yards, eight TDs, nine INTs, a 66.4 passer rating and 3–5 record as a starter.
The sad story of Todd’s post-NFL life has been well-documented. But the key words are heroin addiction, herniated disc, blown-out knee, CFL, Arena League and innocence lost. Oh, and Marv. Most people blame Marv.
2. Minna Wilson, mother of Tony Wilson
Mrs. Wilson remixed the LL Cool J hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” into “Mama Said No Knock Out.” When Steve McCarthy trapped Tony Wilson against the ropes, Mama Minna jumped into the ring and took a few swings of her own — resulting in a Wilson Family disqualification.
3. Andrea McDonald, mother of Alex Collins
One of the top running backs in the Class of 2013, South Plantation (Fla.) product Alex Collins could dodge or bulldoze just about anyone in his way — with the notable exception of his mom.
When Collins decided he was de-committing from Miami and heading to Arkansas, not only did Andrea McDonald refuse to sign his letter of intent, she stole the document and hid it before he could fax it in. When Collins’ dad signed the paperwork instead, McDonald hired The Cochran Firm to represent her. Soo wee! That’s overprotective.
4. Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena
Call Richard crazy like a fox — or crazy like Joe Jackson. It’s hard to argue with results. Richard coached both of his daughters from the Compton, Calif., public courts all the way to No. 1 world rankings.
An outwardly angry man who, rightfully, made race an outspoken issue on his rise to the top, Richard was questioned by the tennis world for holding his daughters back from the traditional youth tournament circuit. But it worked. His public outbursts, paranoia and media ramblings are no big deal these days.
5. Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods
“My first conscious memory… is my father crazy-gluing this plastic golf club to my hands. His hair was all messed up, and he had this crazy look in his eye,” Tiger Woods, parodied brilliantly by Tim Meadows, says in a classic skit on Saturday Night Live. That’s probably not so far from the truth, consider Earl introduced Tiger to golf before he was age two.
6. William Sanders, father of Barry Sanders
William was an Oklahoma fan who rooted for the Sooners when his Heisman Trophy-winning son Barry was playing for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Seriously. William was Barry’s presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, at which point he took time out of his son’s big day to “say hello to the greatest running back that ever lived, the No. 1 running back that ever lived. He’s not with us today, I think he’s with his family in Los Angeles — Mr. Jim Brown. So, I want to say hello to him.”
William wrapped up by saying, “I want to introduce you to the third best running back that ever lived, Barry Sanders.” Thanks, dad.
7. Larry Fitzgerald Sr., father of Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Sr. is a sportswriter at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder who was both praised and criticized nationally for covering Larry Jr.’s first trip to the Super Bowl as a neutral “journalist” in the press box and not as a cheering “parent” in the stands.
But he didn’t stay out of it this season when his son’s team — which plays roughly 1,600 miles away from Larry Sr.’s beat — went on a nine-game losing streak. “Definition of team quitting? 9 losses n a row. 9th loss 58-0! Injuries handling of offense worst NFL. Adrian Wilson & Darnell Dockett situations!” he tweeted. “…This is the NFL. Humbling embarrassing frustrating angering disappointing painful. What happens when u quit!”
8. Lynn and Rick Raisman, parents of Aly Raisman
While their little girl Aly had a gold-medal-clinching floor routine, Lynn and Rick Raisman had a national-spotlight-stealing fan routine at the 2012 London Olympics — complete with Team USA Polo uniforms, a flair for the dramatic and a knack for knowing where the cameras were placed. They stuck the landing.
9. Cecil Fielder, father of Prince Fielder
The big beef between history’s only father-son duo to each hit 50 home runs in a single season — Cecil hit 51 HR for the Detroit Tigers in 1990 and Prince hit 50 HR for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 — revolves around Cecil wasting his own money, allegedly stealing six-figures of Prince’s money and calling Prince a fat boy — I’m sorry, an “obese kid.” Who will be the bigger man?
10. A.P. Indy, sire of 1,119 foals
Arguably the greatest stud in thoroughbred horse racing history, A.P. Indy did not attend a single race of his 1,119 foals — of which 142 were stakes winners.
Sharing bloodlines with both Seattle Slew and Secretariat, A.P. Indy was sold for $2.9 million as a yearling, posted an 8–2–1 record in 11 starts and commanded a $300,000 stud fee during his lengthy heyday, before retiring prior to the 2012 breeding season. Absolutely crazy.
The 29th NBA Draft Lottery ping-pong balls will be bouncing behind closed doors Tuesday with 1,000 permutations in play and the top three picks in this year’s NBA Draft (Thursday, June 27) at stake. Ever since the New York Knicks won the lottery (and the opportunity to draft Patrick Ewing) in 1985, the process has been a magnet for conspiracy theories.
“It’s too delicious. If you want to go on YouTube you can see the (1985) lottery where I supposedly had the frozen card. It’s all too delightful,” said Commissioner David Stern, discussing the NBA Draft Lottery with ABC during the 2012 NBA Finals and referencing the popular urban legend that the New York Knicks’ envelope had been frozen prior to the 1985 lottery, ensuring that Stern would be able to pick the Knicks’ envelope for the No. 1 overall pick Patrick Ewing.
The NBA Draft Lottery has evolved from the Commissioner pulling envelopes out of a spinning bin to today’s complicated ping-pong ball method overseen by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young — the pillar of integrity who recently settled with the feds, paying $123 million to squash a tax-fraud probe stemming from $2 billion in unpaid taxes.
The weighted system gives the team with the NBA’s worst record (Orlando Magic in 2013) a 25 percent chance to win, the second-worst club (Charlotte Bobcats) a 19.9 percent chance, the third-worst (Cleveland Cavaliers) a 15.6 percent chance and on down the line to the 14th and final non-playoff team (Utah Jazz) with a 0.5 percent shot at the No. 1 overall pick.
After the top three picks have been determined by lottery, picks 4-through-14 are placed in reverse order of record. The lottery is intended to give the worst teams a chance to draft the best players, without handing the worst team the No. 1 pick outright. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. But the results can be the difference between LeBron James and Darko Milicic.
There have been a few statistical anomalies in the draft lottery over the years. And each long shot has had a suspicious story to tell.
1993 – Orlando Magic – Chris Webber
The Magic won their second of back-to-back lotteries, having selected Shaquille O’Neal with the top spot the year before. Orlando traded the Fab Five leader Webber for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, a castmate of Shaq’s in Blue Chips. Despite having the best record of any non-playoff team, the Magic — who nearly made the playoffs with a roster that included a rookie Shaq and little else — won the lottery (and a Superman sidekick) despite having the longest odds. Doesn't take the Big Aristotle to do the math on this one, which was so shady it actually resulted in a rule change in the lottery process.
2008 – Chicago Bulls – Derrick Rose
Shy Chicago native Derrick Rose landed in his hometown despite the odds. The joke was that the Bulls weren’t going to unretire Michael Jordan’s No. 23 — the jersey number that Rose wore at Memphis — but the local legend could wear No. 1.7 to honor his unbelievable lottery luck.
2011 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (and son Nick) were winners in their first post-LeBron James lottery. Don’t let LeBron’s pregame chalk get in your eyes, though. There’s more. Cleveland won not with its own lottery ball, but with that of the longshot L.A. Clippers, who traded the rights to their selection as part of a bad Baron Davis deal. So, the Cavs’ lottery winnings resulted in both the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 4 pick — not to mention the minor celebrity of lucky charm Nick Gilbert.
2000 – New Jersey Nets – Kenyon Martin
Rod Thorn went from being David Stern’s right-hand man in the league office to the top spot in the Nets’ front office, immediately winning the lottery in a one-man draft class. This was a must since the other top prospects included Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and Marcus Fizer.
2007 – Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden
The Blazers were given the chance to carry on their tradition of drafting injury-prone 7-footers, winning the lottery and taking “can’t miss” center Greg Oden one spot ahead of Kevin Durant. Bill Walton, Sam Bowie and Arvydas Sabonis can empathize with Oden.
It doesn’t take a longshot winning the lottery to raise a few eyebrows, however. There are a few other interesting winners and statistics.
– Last year, the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) won the lottery while technically owned by the National Basketball Association itself.
– The worst team in the NBA has only won the lottery four times. The third time was a charm, with Ohio native LeBron James going to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.
– Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin passed away on Nov. 24, 2009. The Wiz won the very next lottery in 2010, with Abe’s widow Irene Pollin in attendance.
– Basketball history was altered by the bounce of a ping pong ball when Tim Duncan’s destination was David Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs rather than coach Rick Pitino’s Boston Celtics, who owned two picks and had a 36 percent chance of winning No. 1.
Since then, Duncan has won four NBA championships (with a shot at a fifth this year) and Pitino has gone back to school, where he led Louisville to the 2013 NCAA title.
The NBA Draft Lottery is more important than the NBA Draft itself, tune in to ESPN (8:30 p.m. Eastern) to witness the results prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
Chadwick Boseman plays Jackie Robinson in the biopic “42,” which co-stars Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. But they are far from the first actors to portray iconic figures from classic true stories on the silver screen. Here are a few of the all-time great performances in sports biopics.
Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy
The Blind Side (2009)
Bullock earned the Academy Award for Best Actress by playing Michael Oher’s fiery adopted mother from Memphis in the highest grossing ($255 million) sports biopic ever.
Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig
The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Cooper plays the “Iron Horse” in a baseball classic that also includes cameos from Gehrig’s “Murderer’s Row” teammates Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel and Mark Koening.
Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar
Clint Eastwood directed Damon as the South African rugby star and Morgan Freeman as President Nelson Mandela in an emotional, politically charged “undefeated” drama.
Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta
Raging Bull (1980)
Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus featured arguably the most realistic fight scenes ever and earned De Niro the Academy Award for Best Actor for his gritty performance.
Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard
Maguire hung up his Spiderman costume and hopped in the saddle to play the once angry, one-eyed jockey Pollard in an uplifting Depression-era tale of redemption.
Barry Pepper as Roger Maris
Pepper’s turn as Maris and Thomas Jane’s effort as Mickey Mantle highlight Billy Crystal’s labor of love in the HBO film based on Maris’ historic 1961 season.
Brad Pitt as Billy Beane
Pitt stars as the Oakland A’s general manager in another successful biopic based on a book by Michael Lewis, who also wrote the source material for The Blind Side.
Ronald Reagan as George “The Gipper” Gipp
Knute Rockne, All American (1940)
Before becoming the 40th President of the United States, Reagan urged Rockne — the iconic Notre Dame coach played by Pat O’Brien — to “win just one for the Gipper.”
Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks
Russell sends chills of exhilaration through the audience with Brooks’ now famous — and parodied — pregame speech to the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.
Will Smith as Muhammad Ali
Smith gained 35 pounds of muscle, going from 185 to 220 pounds, in order to play the champ in the Michael Mann film that also stars Jon Voight as Howard Cosell.
Denzel Washington as Herman Boone
Remember the Titans (2000)
Denzel also played boxer Rubin Carter in The Hurricane, but his best sports biopic role is that of the football coach attempting to inspire and unify a racially divided team.