Weekly Nickel 9-25-2011

Photo courtesy of PennLive.com. Regardless of the final outcome, Joe Maddon (pictured above) is the AL Manager of the Year. It has been a remarkable run by Tampa.

By Josh Kramer

It is safe to say that this past weekend was the wildest weekend of football thus far this season hands down.  College football was full of nail biters.  And the NFL was full of surprises.  Plus the MLB pennant races continue to heat up as both the Red Sox and Braves do all in their power to survive their monumental September collapses (each up 1 game for the Wild Card at this time).

Here are the events you should keep an eye on.

5.  NHL preseason hockey is alive and well.  Even Sid “The Kid” Crosby has made his long-awaited return to game play (scrimmage).  And with the NBA in dire trouble, the NHL has to be smiling in that they will not have to compete with the National Basketball League for at least part of the season.  After last year’s amazing playoffs, which featured four game 7’s in the first round alone, and an epic Stanley Cup Finals, the NHL popularity could soar to unprecedented heights this year.

4.  The college athletics version of musical chairs continues.  A&M will effectively be a member of the SEC come next July, the future of the Big East remains a major mystery, and nobody really knows what is going to happen next.  As I have mentioned before on here, the conference realignment all comes down to two key factors as eloquently stated by Jim Boeheim:  Money and football.  It is a shame, but the shuffling is inevitable.

3.  There is a new number one in College Football.  The prestigious distinction of being the top ranked team in all the land belongs to one of the SEC’s finest, LSU.  And I must say that the Tigers are very deserving considering the amazingly difficult non-conference schedule they have already played.  Their year appears to be riding on a huge game in Tuscaloosa on November 5th.  The following are matchups to keep a close eye on for Week 5.

-Texas A&M vs Arkansas (Big 12 and SEC offensive juggernauts coming off of losses)

-Auburn at South Carolina ( Rematch of last year’s SEC Title Game)

-Clemson at Virginia Tech (ACC Battle Royale)

-Alabama at Florida (Two of the SEC’s elite)

-Nebraska at Wisconsin (Battle for Big Ten Supremacy)

(All picks for the big games will be released in my weekly College Football picks on Thursday)

2.  Harvard gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills are 3 and 0.  The Detroit Lions are 3 and 0.  Nobody saw this coming.  These two teams hot starts typify why the NFL is America’s most popular sports league.  In addition, since 1990, 76% of teams that start 3 and 0 have made the postseason (prospects look good for Buffalo and Detroit). As we head into Week 4, the following are the marquee matchups to keep an eye on.

-Detroit at Dallas (undefeated Lions head to the Big D)

-Pittsburgh at Houston (Two of the AFC’s elite)

-NY (Jets) at Baltimore (Physicality at its finest)

(All of the picks for Week 3 will be included in the weekly “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge” on Friday)

1.  The six month grind is finally coming to an end.  Or at least the regular season part.  Teams are gearing up for the final series of the season and only the chosen few will get to keep playing.  The rest will have to wait until next April for a chance at claiming the Commissioner’s (World Series) Trophy.  All of the divisional crowns have been clinched.  Now it is a matter of sorting out the Wild Card representative in both Leagues and seeing how the final seedings play out.  The matchup of the week occurs down in Florida.

New York Yankees at the Tampa Bay Rays:  The Bronx Bombers are not really playing for much at this point.  They have already clinched the best record in the AL, and now are praying that the Tigers finish with a better record than the Rangers so that they can avoid the lethal Justin Verlander in a best of five first round series.  Tampa on the other hand has made an amazing run this year.  And even if they do not complete this improbable run (which they definitely could), what they have accomplished is amazing.  Joe Maddon hands down is my pick for AL manager of the year (also won it in 2008).

Despite not playing for much, I still see the pinstripes helping out their arch-rivals.  I foresee New York taking two of three on the road, and helping Boston limp into postseason play.  Last year the playoffs without the possibility of a Boston/NY clash was no fun (or at least not as much).  I do not see this happening two years in a row.  But I tip my hat to the amazing play of the Tampa Bay Rays to make this a down to the wire race for the AL Wild Card spot.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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