Tag Archives: MAC

South Bend Jinx?

Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com. If recent history in South Bend is any indication, Brian Kelly (pictured above) may get red in the face early and often this year.

By Josh Kramer

When people think of College Football, Notre Dame instantly comes to mind.  Despite not winning a national title since 1988, Notre Dame is still one of the blue bloods of College Football.  Every one of their games are nationally televised by NBC putting them in the public spotlight each and every Saturday.

The Fighting Irish are set to enter the third year of the Brian Kelly era.  Kelly was supposed to be the man to bring Notre Dame football back to the glory days.  He was the guy that was supposed to bring number 12 to South Bend (National Championship).  Luckily for the Irish faithful, Kelly has a history of getting the job done in year number three.  At Grand Valley State he went a very respectable 6-2-2.  Then at Central Michigan, he took home a MAC Championship.  And finally at Cincinnati, he led the Bearcats to their first Big East Football Championship and an appearance in the Orange Bowl.  With a past like that, it is safe to say that Brian Kelly knows a little something about winning.  Many have proclaimed the guy a miracle worker.   I like to think of him as one of the best offensive minds in football. But it appears recent history will be against the Fighting Irish Head Coach as he prepares his troops for the annual Blue-Gold Game on Saturday.  Could their be a year three jinx in South Bend?  The three Fighting Irish coaches that preceded Brian Kelly may have something to say in regards to the potential South Bend curse in year number three. Continue reading

One of the good guys

Photo courtesy of http://www.mlive.com. Though Charlie Coles (pictured above) is retiring, he will always be remembered in a positive light in Oxford.

By Josh Kramer

Despite the absence of an NBA team since 1972, the Cincinnati Tri-State area has been known to have some pretty good basketball over the years.  And though some unfortunate events occurred on December 10, 2011 that has mired the national perception of Cincinnati hoops, there is still plenty of good going on in the Tri-State basketball scene.  Not to mention the Bearcats are tourney bound, while Xavier currently is sitting firmly on the bubble.

Often though, due to the many great collegiate basketball programs in the area, there is one team that gets overlooked.  And I guess it makes sense considering both Cincinnati and Xavier are just a jump and skip away, Kentucky is just a little over an hour south, and Ohio State is just a couple of hours north.  But yes, even after the great “Wally World” left the hallowed grounds of Oxford in the spring of 1999, Redhawks basketball continued on.

Over the past 16 years, there has been one mainstay in terms of Miami (OH) basketball.  And that would of course be their beloved Head Basketball Coach, Charlie Coles.  And despite just three tournament appearances in 16 years, Coles is a major winner.  He now has the most wins in Miami history and the most victories in Mid-American Conference play of any coach.  Charlie Coles is one of those guys though that has gotten to the point where the numbers do not matter.  Which is a definite rarity in this day and age. It is not about wins and losses anymore when you are talking about a person that possesses the character of Charlie Coles.  Coles had other priorities such as graduating his players and helping young men mature into respectable grown men.  If and when his players made mistakes, which was a rarity, he punished them accordingly.  Coles always kept his nose clean.  Gave credit to others.  And was a true ambassador of the collegiate game.  He was a guy much like the man who currently runs the show at Cameron Indoor.  A guy who did it the right way. Continue reading

College Football Bowl Picks Week 4

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Can Collin Klein shock the world one more time and lead Kansas State to their 11th victory of the season?

By Josh Kramer

31 bowl games down. Four to go.  There is no denying that this bowl season has been one for the ages.  Once again I will pose what should be a familiar question to all of you who avidly read this blog.  Why is it called “Capital One Bowl Week?” The first bowl game (Gildan New Mexico Bowl) was played on December 17th and the final hurrah will occur on Monday, January 9th.  This by no means is a week, but more like a month.  But I digress.  So who else is satisfied with the BCS games thus far?  Two overtime thrillers and a record number of points at the “Grandaddy of Them All?”  I would say the vast majority of the matchups have lived up to all of the hype and more.  Hopefully “The Game of the Century” part deux won’t disappoint.

Kansas State vs Arkansas (AT&T COTTON BOWL)

Razorbacks by 14

Headline:  Once again the Big 12 demonstrates its lack of defensive firepower, as another SEC team wins a major bowl game. Continue reading

“College Football Weekly Bowl Outlook”

San Diego State's hope of beating a tough Navy team rests on the right arm of their star Quarterback, Ryan Lindley (pictured above).

 Five bowls down and 30 to go.  So the Bowl Season has not been too glamorous thus far.  Outside of a nail biter in the Beef “O” Brady’s Bowl between Louisville and Southern Mississippi, the games have been blowouts.  Are you really surprised?

Generally the bowls Pre Christmas are pretty weak.  This year has been no different.  Here is a look at the bowl games upcoming for this week.

Thursday

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL

Navy at San Diego State:

New school vs old school football.  A team that hardly throws versus a team that lives and dies on the pass.  Navy has looked extremely strong down the stretch.  They even put up 76 points on East Carolina.  So much for people saying that football is all about high-flying passing offenses now.  Somebody forgot to relay the memo to Navy.  They also beat up on Notre Dame earlier this year.  San Diego State is a team on the other hand, that lives and dies on the throwing arm of QB, Ryan Lindley.  This team has had a great year.  All 4 of their losses have come by 5 or fewer points.  The Aztecs have been in every game that they have played this year.  Well expect this game to be the 2nd nail biter of the bowl season.  I do fully expect the dominant rushing attack of the Midshipmen to control this game down the stretch though.  Navy by 3 in a very close battle.

Friday

SHERATON HAWAII BOWL

Hawaii vs Tulsa

Make sure you come into this game well rested.  Because this will be an up and down affair from start to finish.  This will be like watching the Knicks play the Suns in the NBA.  There will be a lot of scoring, followed by more scoring.  These teams both have lethal passing attacks and rank in the top 10 in the country in scoring.  There are two differentiating factors in this game.  Number one, Tulsa can run the ball effectively to go along with their lethal aerial attack.  The two-headed rushing attack of quarterback  G.J. Kinne and running back Damaris Johnson could win this game for the Golden Hurricane.  The other differentiating factor is the home field advantage that Hawaii has. And I feel this factor is more important than the ability to run the ball effectively. My head is saying to pick Hawaii at home, and I am going to listen to my head.  Hawaii by 6 at home.  What a year for Tulsa though.  A win in South Bend.  And a bowl trip to Hawaii.  Who cares if they go home with a loss.

Sunday

LITTLE CAESARS BOWL

Florida International vs Toledo

The Florida International Golden Panthers lost 4 games to start this season.  How often does a team that loses for the entire first month of the year get to play in a bowl game?  Florida International has won 6 total games this year.  In my opinion, a 6 win team out of the Sun Belt has no business playing in a bowl game.  Now I realize that Troy, a 7 win team out of the Sun Belt, embarrassed an OU team that finished towards the top of the MAC.  This is the same sort of matchup as a Sun Belt team is taking on a top of the conference MAC team in Toledo.  So logic would say to pick Florida International after watching what Troy did to OU right?  I mean OU did beat Toledo early this year.  And Florida International did defeat Troy.  But I am going out on a limb and taking Toledo in this one.  Neither of these squads do anything especially well.  But I said I thought the MAC was a stronger conference than the Sun Belt last week.  And I am sticking with that statement even though Troy whooped OU down in New Orleans last week.  Look for Toledo to steal one by 3, showing great poise late in the 4th quarter.

So there you have a look at some of the upcoming bowl games as we head into Christmas.  It still is not the most exciting of matchups yet, but expect some closer games this week. And have no fear, the Bowl Season will heat up in a hurry as we head into the New Year.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“College Football Bowl Weekend 1 Outlook”

Northern Illinois Senior, Chad Spann (pictured above), is the best running back in the country that you have never heard of. Enjoy watching his last College Game on Saturday as he looks to help his team secure a school record 11th victory.

There are 35 Bowl Games this year.  And I will admit, a good portion of them are absolute duds.  Games that it would be hard to pay people who do not attend either of these schools money to go to, much less watch on tv.  Either way, football is football.  For College Football, money is money.  I am going to try to continue with my trend of highlighting some of the marquee CFB matchups every Thursday.  This will probably end as the games start to be played on various nights, but this week, we will stay with this format.

This week the choice is easy, since there are only 3 games this weekend.  Sure, all 3 games are not exactly what I would classify as marquee matchups.  But on Saturday, they are the big game in town.  Lets take a closer look.

New Mexico Bowl

BYU vs UTEP

At duel between a pair of 500 teams.  What other sport can you go 500 and participate in the postseason?  I am still waiting to hear of one.  Either way, these two teams are battling in Albuquerque come Saturday.  BYU struggled early this year.  But recovered in a big way down the stretch, and now are in a bowl game for the 6th straight year.  UTEP on the other hand has not been as successful in recent memory.  They have not won a bowl game since 1967!  Neither of these teams really do anything especially well in any facet of the game.  UTEP struggled down the stretch though losing 5 of 6.  Plus, the Mountain West is a stronger conference then the fledgling Conference USA.  My nod goes to BYU, just based on raw bowl game experience.  Cougars by 7.

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl

Northern Illinois vs Fresno State

This is actually a decent matchup.  It has to be the “Game of the Day.”  These are two pretty solid teams that have some players that are very fun to watch.  Northern Illinois had won 9 straight before being shocked by Miami (OH) in the MAC Championship game.  Fresno State on the other hand has been very up and down all year.  But they have won 2 straight coming into this game, including a win over Illinois, a Big Ten squad.  The best player on the blue turf will be the Huskie’s senior RB, Chad Spann.  Chad is a senior tailback out of Indianapolis who has had a phenomenal career.  This is his last chance to showcase his abilities and show that he is worthy of a shot at playing at the next level.  Northern Illinois lives on a very strong rushing attack and a tough defense.  Fresno has played a tough non conference schedule and looks to end the year on a high note.  Sadly, I expect the Bulldogs to once again struggle on the blue turf, as Northern Illinois captures a school record 11th victory.  Huskies by 9 in this one.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Ohio vs Troy

This is not exactly a game that will steal the limelight either.  To cap off a pretty weak day of games, we get at team out of the MAC taking on a team out of the Sun Belt Conference.  Not exactly a dream come true right?  Well at least the kids from OU who decide to make the trek will get to check out Bourbon Street.  This will make the journey worthwhile for the Bobcat faithful.  Anyways, OU was riding high after winning 7 in a row until a horrible performance against Kent State in the regular season finale.  This game cost OU a shot to play in the MAC Championship game.  Troy on the other hand has never had the big win streak this year.  Their longest stretch was a streak of 3 games back in October.  Heading into this matchup though, Troy has won 2 straight games and look to have fully recovered from the smackdown South Carolina laid on them just before Thanksgiving.  These teams play two very contrasting styles.  OU lives on a solid rushing attack and a decent defensive unit.  Troy likes to play a shootout style in which they rely on an outstanding aerial attack.  Freshman QB, Corey Robinson, has been outstanding for Troy all year and looks to have an extremely bright future.  On this day though, Robinson will experience a low as OU comes out ready to play.  The Bobcats will utilize their superior defensive unit and take this one.  OU by 3 in a very close matchup that not many people will watch.

So there you have it.  3 games on Saturday.  Two pretty weak matchups and one decent one.  If you get to choose, watch the Northern Illinois vs Fresno State game.  Chad Spann is one of the best running backs in the country that you have never heard of.

Enjoy the first 3 of the 35 Bowl Games.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Weekly Nickel”

Amare Stoudemire (pictured above) has put the Knicks on his shoulders and led them to 8 straight wins. Can he keep the Garden buzzing with two major matchups vs the Heat and Celtics this week?

It is Monday.  And you all know what that means.  It is the beginning of another amazing week in the wide world of sports.

We got NFL action.  College Football minutia and Bowl Madness debates.  NBA Action.  NCAA “totally awesome time.”  MLB blockbuster signings.  And we even got hockey hysteria.  It is a great time to be a sports fan.

5.  NHL Action continues on.  And on Tuesday night, the battle for the state of Pennsylvania takes center stage.  The two top teams in the League, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers square off in Philly.  Can the Flyers make a statement and slow Sid the Kid and the seemingly unbeatable as of late Penguins?  Make sure to tune in for this one.

4.  So it is not the greatest week for College Hoops.  There is only one matchup of ranked foes all week.  This game pits #5 Kansas State vs #24 Florida next Saturday.  But College Hoops are College Hoops.  The unpredictability and excitement are always there.  Plus, if the men’s game is not that appealing this week, you could always tune in and watch Geno Auriemma’s Lady Huskies continue to make history next Sunday at Madison Square Garden right?

3.  The Bowl Game Madness begins this weekend.  We got some barn burners set for Saturday.  Here is a closer look.

-New Mexico Bowl: BYU and UTEP square off in a hotly anticipated matchup.  Okay, this game is not on everybody’s “to do” list, unless of course you attend or attended one of the schools.  I am not quite sure how either of these teams find themselves in postseason play.  But they both won the mandatory 6 games to get an invitation.  Other than a 4 game losting streak early in the year, BYU has played pretty solid football.  I expect their overall depth to prove too much against a UTEP team that are losers of two straight coming in to this one.  BYU wins this very lackluster matchup by 3.

-Humanitarian Bowl: A tough Northern Illinois team squares off with the always dangerous Fresno State Bulldogs.  This is definitely the marquee matchup of the day.  These are both pretty solid teams that have each taken down some decent foes this year.  NIU had won 9 straight games until being shocked by Miami in the MAC Title game last weekend.  The Huskies feature a special running back in Chad Spann.  He is one of the best backs in the country that you have probably never heard of.  Expect him to put on a show in his last collegiate game.  Fresno State on the other hand has been extremely Jekyll and Hyde all year.  I have not been able to figure them out.  Sadly for them, I do not see their good side showing up in this one.  Expect NIU’s blend of an outstanding rushing attack and a solid defensive unit to defeat the Bulldogs by 6.

-R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl:  Hey, at least this game is being played in New Orleans.  One of the most fun cities in America.  Sadly, the caliber of the teams participating in this game are not the greatest.  Troy has a lethal passing attack, but OU was a game away from playing in the MAC Championship.  I am going to go with my conference rankings on this one.  The MAC is a stronger conference than the Sun Belt in my eyes.  Go with the MAC team.  The Bobcats will win this less than stellar matchup by 9.

2.  The NBA is full of major win streaks.  Will they continue for another week?  There are some great matchups as usual all throughout the upcoming week.  Here is a look at the “key matchup” of each night.

Monday

New Orleans at Miami:  The South Beach boys appear to finally be getting it together.  Winners of 8 straight.  They look outstanding.  Lebron and D Wade claim that they have figured things out.  Well it appears that way.  New Orleans on the other hand is a team heading in another direction.  They are losers of two straight, and the hot start appears to be a mere memory.  Can New Orleans cool off the trifecta in the heat of South Beach?

Tuesday

Orlando at Denver:  Orlando is no longer in first place in their division, or in the state of Florida.  They trail the Miami boys by half a game.  The Nuggets are coming off of a tough loss at MSG and appear to be in for more tough losses in the near future.  It is likely that the Nuggets will be “Carmeloless” at any time now.  So the Magic are dealing with the soaring Heat while the Nuggets deal with a star player’s outcry. Which team will overcome and conquer?

Wednesday

Boston at New York:  The two hottest teams in the East square off at the “Mecca.”  Boston appears to be the cream of the East again while the Knicks have now turned into a playoff bound team.  It is always exciting when a good team comes to Madison Square Garden.  Which team will go cold first?

Thursday

Atlanta at Boston:  Following a date at MSG, the Celtics head home the next night to take on a high-flying Hawks team.  Will Boston once again show the Hawks that they are not quite at that “elite” level yet?  Or will the ATL guys take another step in the right direction?

Friday

Miami at New York:  To cap off the week, one of the best rivalries of the late 90s is renewed.  This is the first time in a decade where both teams sport winning records.  And you know that Lebron always gets up to play in the Big Apple.  You better believe that LBJ will not receive the warmest of welcomes.  This may be the most hostile crowd he faces all year, outside of Cleveland.  Are Lebron, D Wade, and Bosh up to the challenge of yet another very hostile environment?

1.  NFL Football.  Enough said.  It is Week 15.  There are teams looking towards next year’s draft.  There are teams clinging to a last hope of desperation to make the playoffs.  There are teams looking to secure home field advantage.  And I could go on.  Key matchups next week feature the Jaguars looking to stake claim on the AFC South against the Colts.  The Jets looks to wake up after a two-week nap against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Could it be a rude awakening?  And of course Green Bay heads to Foxborough to take on the NFL’s best team of the moment.

There are also plenty of other things going on in sports as well.  MLB Free Agency continues featuring the “Cliff Lee Sweepstakes.”  The NFL impending lockout discussions continue.  And of course there is High School Basketball going on in every one of your hometowns. 

So enjoy the sports for the week.  It should be another memorable one.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Welcome To College Football”

One of the major stories in College Football this year deals with how Brian Kelly, the former University of Cincinnati Head Coach, handles the pressure of leading the charge in South Bend.

Tonight, another College Football season kicks off with 18 different games around the country.  Let the BCS Madness begin baby.  Here are the main storylines for the year in my eyes.

– Can Alabama “roll” to a 2nd consecutive National Title?

Though Alabama is returning nearly their entire offense, which features future NFL players like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Julio Jones, the SEC is a conference that teams live and die on their defensive units.  Bama is returning just 2 starters from their vaunted defensive squad of a year ago.  In the end, I feel like this team will have a great year, but come up just short due to a lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball.  Also realize that no team has ever repeated as National Champion in the 12 year BCS era.  It is no easy task.

– Can Terrelle Pryor live up to the hype and bring home the first Heisman to Columbus since Troy Smith, in 2006?

This storyline will also be very key in determining if the Buckeyes can bring home their first National Title since 2002.  They have the defense to do it.  It is all a matter of if Terrelle Pryor can lead the offense to playing at a National Championship level.  There is no rhyme or reason why I or anyone else in America believes in this guy. His stats in his two-year stint in Columbus have been nowhere near a Heisman level.  In actuality, they have been quite less than flattering.  But the “swagger” of Terrelle Pryor has led me to believe that he can vault to a Heisman Trophy level of play and lead the Buckeyes to the BCS National Title Game.

– Can Boise State be the first non BCS Conference team to bring home a BCS National Title?

First of all, this team went undefeated a year ago.  They are returning every starter on both sides of the ball except graduated cornerback, Kyle Wilson.  Kellen Moore, who threw for over 3500 yards and had a TD to Interception ratio of 39 to 3 is back.  This team is the real deal.  And with the non conference schedule they have put together, “if” they go undefeated, they deserve a shot to play for the National Championship as much as anyone.  But also realize that they are opening up with the Virginia Tech Hokies.  Led by legendary coach Frank Beamer, the Hokies feature perhaps the best rushing attack in the country.  Sadly for Boise, I see them losing in Week 1, but this team is definitely the real deal and has a definite chance to play in Arizona for the National Championship if they go undefeated.

– Coaching in South Bend is like coaching the Yankees in Major League Baseball.  The pressure is at an all time high every day.  The media and fan base are unforgiving and cold. Can Brian Kelly handle the heat better than some of his predecessors?

Brian Kelly is perhaps the most charismatic coach in America.  He is a phenomenal salesman and says all the right things.  If you have ever heard the expression, “You talk like a man with a paper asshole,” though I am not 100 percent sure what this means, I think it would be the perfect away to describe BK.  Brian Kelly not only is smooth off the field though, he produces on the field.  This guy won two National Titles at Grand Valley State.  He completely turned around an abysmal Central Michigan program and captured a MAC Championship.  Then he went to Cincinnati and made the city believers in Bearcat football.  During his three-year reign, he won 10 or more games all three years (had not won 10 games in a season in Cincinnati since 1951), two Big East Championships, and sent them to two BCS Bowl games.  Coach Kelly has always been known as a mastermind of the spread offense.  He will provide fireworks in South Bend with a high-flying, aerial spread attack.  But also realize that his partner in crime and his right hand man for nearly 20 years, Jeff Quinn, is now the head coach at Buffalo University.  Can BK still put together an offense that puts up 40 plus points a game without his old running mate?  Well I will tell you this, Notre Dame has probably their easiest schedule in the past 10 years.  These guys could rise back to prominence real fast.  Do not be surprised to see a 9 or 10 win season.

– Will an SEC team bring home a 5th consecutive BCS National Championship?

In my eyes, it is a no brainer that this is the best and most elite conference in College Football yet again.  No conference really can touch the coaches, the talent, and the overall speed that this conference demonstrates top to bottom.  There is a reason why the SEC generally plucks players from the Southeast region, with the vast majority of 4 and 5 star recruits coming from this talent rich region.  Why wonder away from home?  But I will state this.  I believe this is the year that a non SEC school wins the National Title.  I feel it is time for the Buckeyes to break through in a National Championship game.  It is a gut feeling, but still expect this conference to be the best in the land again.

– Herbies vs the Forde Dash?

Kirk Herbstreit and Pat Forde are both fantastic at what they do.  They are well-known analysts for ESPN who do an absolutely outstanding job.  They both recently released some of their big thoughts on this upcoming College Football season.  Kirk Herbstreit put out the Herbies while Pat Forde put out the Forde Dash.  The edge in my eyes goes to the Herbies.  Though the Forde Dash is a cool name, the Herbies was easier to follow and I agreed with more of the predictions.  But it was a very tough call.

Welcome to College Football folks.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze