Football

With Alabama’s exciting victory over unbeaten Clemson earlier this week, view the 2015 college football season came to an end and Alabama won the CFP Championship.  Even though the teams have barely settled back into their campuses after the trip to Arizona, is it too early to start thinking about next year?  Well, probably, but let’s do it anyway.  Here are some things to look for in the 2016 season:

  1. The Clemson Tigers will probably open the season ranked #1.  They will most likely be bringing back 17 starters including Heisman Trophy finalist, Deshaun Watson. Even though they have a few significant losses, they will be in a position to regroup around the core players that will be returning.  Key match-up for next year:  A road game against Florida State.  Pencil that one in now as one to watch.  Will the Tigers be able to repeat their perfect season and return to the championship game?
  2. The Expectations for Michigan are Off the Charts.  This year’s 10-3 team also returns a group of strong players, especially on defense, and no doubt Wolverines fans can practically taste the chance to make it to the championship game.  Some oddsmakers are reporting that Michigan has 12/1 odds of making it to the final game.  One thing is for sure: Coach Jim Harbaugh has started the recruiting season and everyone is taking note!
  3.  The Big Twelve May Host a Conference Champsionship Game. At the NCAA convention this week, the league voted to allow the Big 12 to have a conference championship game, even if does not expand from its current ten-team roster.  However, the Big 12 Commissioner walked back the rule change, stating to ESPN that the vote did not necessarily mean that a championship game would happen.  ESPN reports it is unlikely that a championship game would be held next year, in any event.
  4. Alabama isn’t Going Anywhere.  This team has won four championships in the last seven years.  Even with star running back Derrick Henry declaring he will enter the NFL draft next year, can you really count on Alabama not to be in the hunt for a national title?  No.  And if politics have anything to do with it, AL.com encourages Crimson Tide fans to vote democrat in the next election.  Why?  Eleven of ‘Bama’s sixteen championships have come with democrats sitting in the White House.  And four have come with O-Bama occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
  5. Big Ten to Begin Nine Game Conferenece Schedule.  Despite the fact the Big Ten coaches unanimously hate the 9-game conference schedule, it’s here.  All Big Ten teams will now have to play nine conference games and one intersectional game against a power league.  No more padding those scheduleds with MAC teams.  We can only wonder what the bowl eligibiilty will look like with nine conference games.  Yikes.

 

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Over the next several weeks there will be a total of 40 college football bowl games played.  If you are a college football fan, medical this is heaven – and quite a change from twenty years ago.  During the 1995-1996 season, cure there were only 18 bowl games.  Sure, cialis sale we all know the “famous” bowls like the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl.  These marque bowls continue to attract the highest ranked teams in prime time slots, mostly due to conference agreements with the individual bowl organizations.

But did you also know that this year there is a Motel 6 Cactus Bowl featuring West Virginia vs. Arizona State in Phoenix?  The San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Boise State vs. Northern Illinois) in San Diego?  And the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Ohio vs. Appalacian State) in Montgomery, Alabama?  Unless you are a fan of one of these football teams, chances are you were not waiting with baited breadth last Sunday for the announcement of what teams would be playing at these games.

So that begs the question:  Are there too many bowls in college football today?  Nancy Armour of USA Today had a scathing commentary for the state of college football’s bowl system:

With a whopping 40 of them this year, bowl games have become college football’s equivalent of the participation trophy. Seriously. There are 127 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, which means only about a third will miss out on the headphones, sunglasses, watches, gift cards and whatever else is stuffed into those goodie bags.

It is noteworthy that eligibility to play in a bowl game is generally 6 wins during the season.  This year, however, three teams with losing records (5-7) got invites to play at bowl games due to a lack of eligible teams with a total of 6 wins.

One bowl match-up has also had a lot of people scratching their heads: NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl will feature the University of Nevada against Colorado State: two teams from the Mountain West conference.  So, essentially, this is just another regular season game for both of these schools.  Would it not have been possible to pull another school into the mix here just to make things more interesting?  How many fans from these two schools are going to want to travel to see a regular season match-up?

The other side of the coin is that by giving more teams (and their fans) an opportunity to see their team play in a post-season bowl game, everyone wins. Plus, it is a great recruiting opportunity for the participating schools and allows the players returning next year to get more real-time action before the start of next season.  These are all of the justifications for more bowl games outside of the say, 10 or so bowls that have real significance and historical meaning.

Eventually, the NCAA is going to need to crack down on the number of bowl games played and should take a realistic look at attendance and ratings of some of the lesser known bowls. While everyone getting to play is a nice notion, making it to a bowl game should continue to mean something.  For a complete run-down of all the bowl games, here is ESPN’s cliff notes:  Ranking the College Football Bowl Season.

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Coming off of that Packer victory, pills I was confident that the Bears could pull off another win versus the San Francisco 49ers. Afterall, pharm the San Francisco 49ers were 0-5 on the road and ranked near the bottom for both the offense and defense in the NFL prior to yesterday’s game. Practically all signs pointed to a Bears W, viagra which should have been a huge hint that it wouldn’t pan out that way.

What was a pretty boring game took a strange turn as both teams became stagnant in the fourth quarter, unable to get anything going offensively to budge the score.  However, fourth quarter play has been a Chicago specialty this season, so I was expecting something explosive nearing the end of the game.  And then, something explosive happened…

Quarterback, Jay Cutler threw a pick-six. Cutler was intercepted by former Northern Illinois University star Jimmie Ward who ran it in for a huge TD.  Watch his flip in the end-zone for yourself here.

To make matters worse, our most reliable player on the team was anything but on Sunday.  Kicker Robbie Gould missed a key field goal attempt as the fourth quarter ended.  This was his second miss of the game and put the game into overtime.

In overtime, the 49ers won in a single snap.  A 71-yard throw by QB Blaine Gabbert to WR Torrey Smith clinched the game. Bears lose 26-20.

The wind has been completely knocked out of the Bears sails with this huge OT loss. Sadly, Jay also had one of his worst games this season with 18 of 31 passes for 202 yards.  He threw no touchdowns, one interception and had a season-low 64.2 passer rating. Ouch.

Next Up:

On Sunday December 13 the Bears take on the Redskins at 12PM Central. I would say that I foresee a victory but my predictions are too unreliable. Hey, they beat Green Bay (which I was positive they would lose) and then blow it to the 49ers (which I was positive they would win).  Regardless of my thoughts, the game should be worth watching but keep in mind, a victory won’t be enough to consider the Bears a potential play-off contenders either. Check back next week for the SDI recap.

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With two weeks to go in the regular season, rx there are several great match-ups that have the potential to shake-up the CFB playoff picture.  None is bigger, however, than the match-up of the B1G season between the Buckeyes and the Spartans on Saturday.  In fact, ESPN College GameDay is headed to Columbus for the first time since 2010 for the big showdown.  The Buckeyes beat out a valiant effort by Virginia Tech who tried to entice College GameDay to come to their campus to honor retiring head coach Frank Beamer one last time.  But alas, the OSU v. MSU match-up was just too big to turn down. So what will the fans of both the Spartans and Buckeyes be in store for when their two teams hit the field?

Honestly, one can only reason a guess at this point in the season. But one thing looks for sure: Whichever team loses will most likely end their hopes of being in the playoff consideration.  Whoever wins, probably just put themselves in the hunt for the CFP.  Some argue that MSU will be primed for a win after losing a heartbreaker to Nebraska last week.  And some believe that OSU has had a cupcake schedule this year and this is their first legitimate challenge.

While the match-up between these two powerhouses on the field is certainly attracting well-deserved attention, the one story that really caught my eye this week was much more personal in nature. It was the feature ESPN did on the relationship between Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo – a football coach and a basketball coach that have fed off of each other, enjoyed each other’s success, and been there for each other during times of struggle.  And that was important last week after MSU lost its chance at an undefeated season.

“We just talked about how to deal with the media and the fans and players. I asked him how he addressed his players Sunday when he got back,” Izzo said. “Mostly, I was just checking up on a friend.” – Tom Izzo via ESPN.

Being a head coach of a Division I college sport, especially a revenue generating sport that is constantly in the national media must be awfully lonely.  You are either a hero who can do “no wrong” or the fans are calling for your job if the season is not going according to plan.  Let’s face it – we are in a “Win Now, Win Often” era of sports, both at the collegiate level and professionally. A college coach who is guiding young men through the bright lights of the wins and the devastation of the losses have to be able to be motivators, comforters, supporters, and to some extent, fathers.

But where do they turn for their own advice and support?  While I’m sure family and close friends provide a much needed support system, no one but another coach in similar situation can really understand. For Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, they turn to each other.

It probably is not a coincidence that for almost the past ten years that they have been at the helm of the football and basketball programs, MSU has seen a resurgence of success.  If you don’t know a lot about these two coaches, I would highly recommend reading the story.  And for other colleges out there – this is a blueprint waiting to be followed.

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Category: NCAA

It’s that time of year when the national college football rankings are shuffling around on a weekly basis, medicine the playoff and bowl situation is starting to take shape, capsule and the Heisman watch is heating up.  But before we get to the players who will likely be the top candidates to take home the famed prize, did you know that the Heisman trophy’s earliest roots are right here in Chicago?

John Jacob “Jay” Berwanger, who played halfback for the University of Chicago Maroons football team, was the first winner of the Heisman Trophy (then called the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy) back in 1935.  Berwanger became the first player to be drafted by the NFL in 1936 and was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Eagles then traded his rights to the Bears becaue they didn’t think they could pay him what he would want.  Berwanger never played for the Bears, however, because after he chose not to sign in 1936 so he could compete for a spot on the U.S. Summer Olympic team in 1936, he and George Halas could never agree on his salary  – they were $2,500 apart.

Wow.  $2,500.  My how things are different for the top Heisman candidates in 2015.  According to ESPN, the top five vote-getters in the race after last week are:

  1. Derrick Henry of Alabama. The current Heisman frontrunner had a fantastic game against LSU and is leading the FSB in rushing touchdowns with 17.  Against LSU he ran for 210 yards and had three touchdowns to  jump ahead of Leonard Fournette in votes.  Up next is Mississippi State for the Alabama running back.
  2. Leonard Fournette of LSU. Is he unfairly losing ground because of his game against Alabama? He still has the FSB rushing lead with 172.9 yards per game. Many have speculated that he may have lost the trophy for good after he directly went up against Henry last week (and Henry clearly took that round), but isn’t that why we play all the games?  And with Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M left on LSU’s schedule, Fournette could post some big numbers.
  3. Corey Coleman of Baylor.  Now here is an interesting case – he is the only wide receiver in the top five vote-getters last week.  He had 5 first-place votes (more than any other candidate) but is sitting in third place because he did not receive any votes on three of the ballots.
  4. Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State.  Big Ten fans know Elliott well as he most likely has run through you favorite team’s defense at will since he has rushed for 100 plus yards in 14 consecutive games.  To say he is a workhorse is an understatement.  He will also have a great opportunity to show how he performs against OSU’s multiple ranked opponents in the last month of the season.
  5. Christian McCaffrey of Stanford. McCaffrey has climbed back into the top five after being out for one week.  He rushed for 147 yards against Colorado and even threw a 28-yard touchdown pass during the game.

While it looks like the top two front-runners of Henry and Fournette seem to be going head-to-head in the last few weeks of the season to grab those final and definitive votes, we have all been shocked by Heisman winners in the past – will we be this year too?  One thing is for sure.  There won’t be any future NFL deals blown up because of $2,500.

 

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Those familiar with Chicago sports know all too well that the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. (Heck, no rx let’s be honest, cialis everyone knows that.)  And quite frankly, stuff it is difficult to find any sports records that go beyond that century plus mark.  Well, we found one! For the first time in 112 seasons of Big Ten football, 1903 to be exact, there are three undefeated Big Ten teams headed into Week 10 – Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.

Seven Big Ten teams have already won the required six wins to qualify for post-season bowl games: Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northwestern, in addition to the three undefeateds.  And Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana each need two more wins to qualify.  This is familiar territory for the Big Ten and its fans as 2014 saw its best bowl season ever with ten teams receiving invitations. There could be a repeat this year if Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana can each grab two wins and qualify.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, this time of year in college football is the home stretch and a lot can happen.  So here are some Big Ten match-ups to watch this weekend:

  • Penn State at Northwestern. Both teams are coming off big wins, Penn State over Illinois and Northwestern over Nebraska before their bye week last week.  Northwestern’s defense has been strong all year and will need to hold down PSU’s running game.
  • Wisconsin at Maryland. After losing to Iowa, the Badgers need to win out and get help to win the West Division. But getting Corey Clement back last week helps move them in the right direction. Their staunch defense should be able to hold off Maryland.
  • Michigan State at Nebraska. Undefeated MSU takes on a Nebraska team that may be headed for its first losing season since 2007.  MSU’s offense has been on fire, but you can’t count out Nebraska, especially at home.
  • Minnesota at Ohio State. This is Minnesota’s first road game under their  interim coach  who took over the team after their head coach  retired because of his epilepsy.  Minnesota made it a really close game against Michigan at home last week and Ohio State has had anything but an uneventful off-week with their starting quarterback being suspended for driving while impaired on campus.

After this weekend, will the Big Ten standings be shuffled because of upsets, or will we still be looking at three undefeated teams?  All indications are that there will be three undefeated teams heading into week 11 – which makes for an awfully exciting home stretch to the 2015 season.

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Category: NCAA
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