Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

Weekly Nickel 9-19-2011

Photo courtesy of fsurugger.wordpress.com. Many expected the Tampa Bay Rays to make a run at the World Series last year. Could they shock the world this year?

By Josh Kramer

There are only about 10 games left in the MLB regular season.  College Football Week 3 is in the books.  And the second week of the NFL season is nearly complete.  Last week was great, but you better believe that this one is going to be every bit as good.

Here are the events that you should be aware of. Continue reading

A third week that was a charm

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com. Joe Bauserman (pictured above) and the Ohio State offensive attack proved to be extremely one dimensional yesterday. Can they straighten this issue out in time for a rugged Big Ten conference slate?

By Josh Kramer

All is right in the College Football world.  Notre Dame finally won a game.  On a Week 3 slate full of potential, many of the games failed to live up to the hype, while others exceeded expectations.  We are starting to get an inkling of an idea of who is who in the College Football landscape this year.  And I for one am very excited.  Here are the highlights from the Week 3 games.

Test one has been passed

-America’s preseason number one is still undefeated as we get ready for Week 4.  Many had the September 17th date circled on their calendars as the one where the Sooners would falter and once again prove that Bob Stoops and Co. were overhyped.  Well, they took care of business in a hostile Tallahassee atmosphere and appear to be on their way to a possible National Title Game appearance.  I know that I should slow my horses, but OU plays most of their major Big 12 tests at home, and we all know how the Sooners play at home, considering they are currently on a 37 game win streak at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

-Kenny Stills was a “Fabulous Freshman” last year.  Now he is none other than a “Sensational Sophomore.” Continue reading

Do people like controversy?

Photo courtesy of http://www.lyngsat-logo.com. With the expected departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, could we be looking at the end of the Big East?

By Josh Kramer

When the MLB went on strike in 1994, nobody ever thought the game would reach its once seemingly unprecedented popularity heights (little did we know at the time what heights sports could reach in terms of popularity).  Fast forward to 1998, and the infamous Big Mac McGwire and Sammy “I never took steroids” Sosa pursuit of 62 home runs.  The popularity returned to America’s pastime.  And sure baseball is no longer thriving the way it once did, recently being leaped by both the NFL and NBA in terms of popularity, but it returned.

The NFL just experienced its longest labor strike ever.  No regular season games were missed, and only one preseason game was missed.  No harm no foul.  The NFL’s popularity continues to soar to unimaginable heights as we head into Week 2.  Currently the NCAA is in shambles.  Or so it seems.  Major programs on probation.  Recruiting scandals.  And just all out chaos.  Nobody seems to know the difference between what is wrong and right.  Now it appears the major college athletics conference realignment that we expected last summer is inevitable. Continue reading

“Sweet 16: Day 1 Predictions”

I expect the clock to strike Midnight tomorrow night for the Jimmer Show.

The madness resumes tomorrow evening with 4 big time games.  And it cannot come soon enough.  Out of the 8 teams that play tomorrow, I correctly picked 6 of them in my bracket.  Plus all 4 of the teams I predicted to move on to the Elite Eight in my bracket are still in tact.  Here is a closer look into each of tomorrow’s matchups. Continue reading

“NCAA March Madness Preview Part 1”

The brackets are out. Let the journey to Houston begin!

The Brackets are finally officially set.  No more speculation.  No more bracketology.  I will admit that what ESPN Bracketology specialist Joe Lunardi does is pretty remarkable.  But it is made out as if his bracket is more important than the real thing some times.  I will take the bracket presented by the CBS Selection Show every day of the week over Lunardi’s.  Anyways, after watching the Selection Show this evening, here are a few initial items that really jumped out at me: Continue reading

“OSU/Wisconsin Preview”

It feels like OSU Senior David Lighty (pictured above) has been in Columbus for an eternity. Well he will partake in his last home game come Sunday. And you better believe he wants to go out with a victory.

Tonight we are in for a special treat.  We have yet another new writer out of Columbus. His name is Grant Freking and he is a certified “Sports Freak.”  Grant will serve as our Ohio State correspondent from here on out.

Grant Freking is a Lantern (OSU Newspaper) sports writer. Ology magazine managing editor. OSU football featured columnist for Bleacher Report. High school football reporter for Newark Advocate.  You can follow him on Twitter @GrantFreking.

To borrow a Godfather axiom, Ohio’s State game Sunday against Wisconsin is not just business, it’s personal. Continue reading

“Weekly Nickel”

Can the NFL solve their issues by late Thursday night? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (pictured above) is doing all in his power to ensure that their is no labor strike.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of March. Hard to believe. But anybody who does not live in the South or on the West Coast is begging for spring time. You know what March means though.  “Its the most wonderful time of the year.” 

March Madness.

Here is a look at the top 5 for this upcoming week though. Continue reading

“Weekly Nickel”

The Under Armour Senior Bowl is set for Saturday. Derrick Locke (pictured above) is one of many players looking to wow the NFL scouts before the combine.

After the weekend “that was,” we are now heading full steam into another amazing week in the wide world of sports that “will be.”  Saturday was arguably the best day of College Basketball we have had since last March and Sunday was just an outstanding day of NFL Football.

So whats in store for this week?  Here is a closer look. Continue reading

“College Football Outlook”

Boston College All American Linebacker Luke Kuechly (pictured above), will be the difference in helping BC pull off the upset over Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Bowl Season is finally beginning to wind down.  What a few weeks it has been.  Sure there have been plenty of dud games, but there have also been plenty of classic battles.  TCU flexed their “undersized” muscles against a very good Wisconsin team out in Pasadena.  The Big Ten had possibly the worst New Year’s Day of all time going 0 for 5 on the day.  And Connecticut continued to add to the futility of the Big East, in getting pounded by Oklahoma.  Not to mention their coach left them the next day for Maryland.

In other College Football News, Andrew Luck has shocked the world and apparently is staying in Palo Alto.  It takes a committed kid to pass up that type of bankroll.  Could you imagine passing up on over 40 million dollars in guaranteed money (Bradford was guaranteed 41.7 million last year)? Also, the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes continue.  People are now saying that he is heading to Miami.  You got to love the media.  And nobody knows who is going to fill the Rich Rod void in Ann Arbor.  But I digress.  Lets take a look at the remaining matchups other than the National Title Game.  I will hold off on that one for now.

AT&T Cotton Bowl

LSU vs Texas A&M

-This game is arguably the best Non-BCS matchup of the entire Bowl Season. Many thought the Capital One Bowl would steal the show as the best battle outside of the BCS games, but Alabama put an end to that thought real fast, laying an absolute whooping on the Spartans.  In this matchup however, a red-hot Aggies team plays what is somewhat of a home game against one of the best teams out of the rugged SEC.  These teams are very different in their styles of play.  LSU relies on a strong rushing attack and a very stout defensive unit.  Texas A&M likes to play a shootout style of football and relies heavily on their aerial attack.  The Aggies have won 6 straight games while the Tigers lost the last time they suited up, in a heartbreaker to Arkansas.  In my opinion though, the dominance of the SEC will be exhibited in this one.  Plus A&M has not beaten a team from College Football’s best conference since 1995.  Each of these teams went 6 and 2 in tough conferences.  Unfortunately for the Aggies, the Big 12 is just not nearly as tough as the brutal SEC.  The SEC reigns supreme in this one behind an outstanding defensive effort.  Tigers by 3 in a very competitive game.

BBVA Compass Bowl

Pittsburgh vs Kentucky

-This is actually a pretty decent matchup.  The Co-Champions of the Big East taking on a lower tier SEC team.  A team from the BCS’s best conference versus a team from the worst BCS conference.  Seems like a perfect fit.  Now I do not understand why this game is being played after New Years.  But there is a lot about the College Football Bowl System that does not make sense.  Either way, Pitt is going to have their hands full trying to stop UK’s two lethal playmakers, Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke.  Both of these kids are electric and can change a game on any given play.  Now Pitt has a pretty good playmaker themselves in Dion Lewis.  A guy that did not have as good of a sophomore campaign as many expected, but he has come on as of late, rushing for 261 yards and 4 TDs in the season finale versus Cincinnati.  Now if Pitt had not gone through all of the coaching turmoil that they have experienced over the past month, I would have picked them to win this game.  But unfortunately for them, their staff is in shambles and Kentucky is just another one of those speedy SEC teams.  Let the Big East disaster continue.  Wildcats by 7 even without starting QB Mike Hartline.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Nevada vs Boston College

-The BCS is still thanking Nevada as we speak.  They are the team that saved the BCS from having both TCU and Boise go undefeated and causing a major dilemma.  Could you imagine if Stanford had missed out on playing in a BCS Bowl due to Boise and TCU getting into BCS games?  Stanford put on the best performance of this bowl season thus far.  But back to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Matchup.  Nevada sports one of the best rushing attacks in the country and has had an outstanding season.  Boston College, after a suffering an early season 5 game losing streak, has now ended the year on a 5 game winning streak.  Granted none of their foes during this winning streak were ranked teams.  Either way, I am liking Boston College’s stout defensive unit, that is number 1 in the country against the run, to slow down Nevada’s vaunted rushing attack.   The difference in this game will be Boston College’s outstanding linebacker group led by none other than sophomore, first team All American, Luke Kuechly.  Kuechly burst onto the scene last season setting a record for tackles in a season by a freshman.  This year, he picked up right where he left off recording 171 tackles to lead the nation.  I realize how dangerous of a duel threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick of Nevada is, but can he handle Luke Kuechly?  I do not think so.  BC in a shocker by 3. 

So there you have a look at the remaining Bowl Games other than the highly anticipated National Championship game.  It has been a heck of a bowl season as we all wait anxiously for the final showdown in Arizona on Monday.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“The SEC Basketball Preview”

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari (pictured above), took the SEC by storm in his first year in the conference. Will he have a repeat performance in year two?

Today we are in for a special treat.  We have our debut post from our SEC expert out of Lexington, Mr. Matt Murray.

Matt is the Editor in Chief for the University of Kentucky’s student run newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel.  You can follow him on twitter @MurrNation

Six weeks into the college basketball season, teams are gearing up for conference play, and their non-conference schedule has helped provide a litmus test for just how good they are, while other teams still haven’t quite figured it out. While the SEC hasn’t been the best league from top to bottom the decade or so, it has produced the second most Final Four teams over the last five years, and ties the ACC for the most national championships over the last five years.

The SEC has surprised many critics in the early stages of this season, but it’s the lopsidedness of the conference that is glaring. The East appears to have 6 teams that could rightfully make their way into the NCAA tournament, while you’d be hard-pressed to find a single team from the west that could legitimately find themselves in the field in March.

 

SEC WEST
1. Mississippi- Ranking the teams in the SEC West is like playing pin the tail on the donkey. You are just as likely to nail it as you are to accidentally stick the pin in your great aunt Edna’s ass. The Rebels are 7-2, but they have yet to play a ranked opponent. However, the Rebels have an experienced squad and are able to put up points. Senior guard Chris Warren averages more than 19 points a game and shoots nearly 92% from the free throw line. The Rebels average almost 80 points per game, but that offense is yet to be tested by a worthy opponent. The Rebels first real test comes in their SEC opener at #19 Florida. This team will have a better feel of how good they are after they see how they play on the road in Gainesville.

2. Arkansas Razorbacks– Arkansas is currently 7-2, and each of their two losses has come in overtime. However, head coach John Pelphrey has much to prove. He has only won 14 games in each of his first two seasons at Arkansas. Arkansas’ rich basketball history will have Pelphrey on the hot seat if he can’t push his team above a .500 record this season, and there’s reason to believe he finally has the pieces to do so. Sharp-shooter Rotnei Clark has another year of experience under his belt and is currently the Razorback’s leading scorer. The good (and bad) news for the Razorbacks is that they have no real star. Clark is the leading scorer with a mere 13.8 a game, while their second leading scorer is senior Delvon Johnson with 11.1 per game. The Razorbacks have an even scoring distribution and get decent production out of their bench. The problem is that unlike many of the marquee teams in the SEC, they lack playmakers that can get them out of a bind, but if their squad continues to gain experience and play smart, they can become one of the deeper teams in the division.

3. Mississippi State- Sitting at 7-3 after finishing last season with an eye-opening deep run in the SEC tourny taking a stellar Kentucky team into overtime in the SEC Championship game last season, the Bulldogs are working on rebuilding, particularly after losing swat machine Jarvis Varnado. However, like most of their SEC West counterparts, this team has yet to face a ranked opponent, and thus has no real way of knowing exactly what they are capable of.  In fact, all they know as of now is that they’ve lost to a 4-5 East Tennessee State and ACC bottom-feeder Virginia Tech. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they kick off SEC play against three straight SEC West opponents, which might give them a chance to get their feet under them before facing a surprising Georgia team in Athens, kicking off a stretch against three straight tough SEC East opponents. However, if senior guard Ravern Johnson continues his outstanding play, which has him averaging 22 points per game, this team has reason to believe they can rise to the top of the SEC West.

4. LSU Tigers- Unlike the others in their division, the Tigers have faced a top 25 team, and held their own, losing to #19 Memphis by nine. The problem is that the 7-4 Tigers have posted three additional losses to teams that won’t be dancing in March and that they have the daunting task of playing their games against SEC East leaders Kentucky and Tennessee on their home floors. This LSU team will most likely stumble their way through SEC play, and would be lucky to finish out their season at .500.

5. Alabama Crimson Tide- The Tide has a faced a host of respectable opponents. The problem is that they are 5-6 as a result. The Tide puts up a measly 64 points a game, and has no real leadership. The young squad is led in scoring by a sophomore and junior, and find two freshman in their starting lineup. In a conference full of teams boasting rosters that are either full of experience or freshman that are far more talented than those on Alabama, the Tide are going to find themselves outmatched in the majority of their SEC match-ups this season.

6. Auburn Tigers- The Tigers are bad. In fact, they’ve been bad for quite some time, and there’s no reason to expect any change this season. They rank in the 200s in almost every major statistic and already find themselves in a 4-7 hole, despite having yet to play a ranked opponent. They barely average 60 points a game, and their latest recruiting class was lackluster at best.  The Tigers would be lucky to post 14 wins this season.

SEC EAST
1. Kentucky Wildcats- The fight for the top of the SEC East should be a slugfest. Tennessee and Florida find themselves at the bottom of the division with three losses a piece, while every other team has only two losses to their name. So far, the East has collectively knocked off opponents like Pitt, Notre Dame, Villanova, Washington and  Kansas State. The Wildcats sitting at 9 and 2, are responsible for two of those wins, and their only two losses have come to ranked opponents away from Rupp Arena. Kentucky is young, and there is no doubt this class lacks the talent of last year’s highlight reel squad. But what the Cats do have is an intelligent team that has come off as very coachable so far this season, as well as one of the top NBA prospects in freshman forward Terrance Jones. Jones is averaging a double double this season, with 19.8 points and 10 rebounds a game as a freshman. Additionally, Calipari has reloaded yet again in the point guard position, as Brandon Knight has replaced John Wall, who replaced Tyreke Evans, who replaced Derrick Rose. Knight averages 17.2 points per game, but the problem is that he only averages about four assists per game. Unlike Wall, Knight isn’t a true point guard, but also unlike wall, Knight is a much better shooter. In fact, this Kentucky team is in many ways the polar opposite of last year’s team, which was the tallest team in the NCAA. With Cousins, Patterson and Orton, the Cats could push the ball and earn points in the paint. This year’s team lacks a big man, as Josh Harrellson is its starting center. However, now the Cats are a real threat from behind the arc. The Cats are likely to finish about 12-4 in the SEC, which would likely put Calipari in position to post yet another 30-win season. Lucky for the Cats, no team in the SEC has a dominant big man, which is the only real kryptonite for this team and Calipari has the Cats playing the kind of defense he is known for, and their length has proven to be a big challenge for opponents.

2. Tennessee Volunteers- Of those marquee wins listed for the SEC, the Volunteers are responsible for some of the biggest as Tennessee has already knocked off Big East powerhouses Pitt and Nova. Had I written this preview 10 days ago, Tennessee would’ve been my hands-down favorite to finish at the top of the SEC East. However, after starting 7-0 and knocking off two top 10 teams, the Volunteers have dropped two straight to non-BCS conference teams Oakland and Charlotte, and a third straight to USC. Two-faced Tennessee is capable of beating any team in the NCAA by double digits, but they’re just as capable of losing to anyone. More than likely, these early loses will bring the naysayers back out of the woodwork, but there’s no reason to expect this Tennessee team won’t get back on track and make a serious run for the top of the conference and an equally deep run into the NCAA tournament. Their match-ups against Kentucky and Florida could likely determine who comes out on top of the conference, but then again, every SEC East matchup could be that pivotal this season.  What will be interesting to see is whether or not Bruce Pearl’s eight-game SEC suspension will really affect his team. During that stretch, Tennessee will have to face Florida and Vanderbilt, outcomes which could very well effect the SEC East standings for the season.

3. Florida Gators- Florida may be just as two-faced as Tennessee, posting wins against top 10 Kansas State, and turning around to lose to the Jacksonville Dolphins that very same week. At 8-3 Florida has no reason to panic, especially as one of their losses came from a very realistic title contender in Ohio State in the early stages of the season. Donovan has yet to recapture the talent he had in his back-to-to back title teams 3 years ago, but the addition of Kenny Boynton last year was a good first step. The sophomore averages 12.4 points per game, and in tandem with Erving Walker, Florida is finally building a team that could be a real threat in the NCAA tournament. The Gators have built up a great deal of depth, which will make them tough to beat due to their ability to give guys ample rest. The Gators should win the rest of their non-conference schedule and enter SEC play at 12-3, and pick up an SEC-opening win against Mississippi before having to travel to Knoxville to face Tennessee in one of the first big SEC clashes of the season.

4. Vanderbilt Commodores- The Commodores have found a way to put themselves in the mix for the past four years, and head coach Kevin Stallings has been the primary reason. He finds ways to put his team in position to win games, and while the ‘Dores have never been outstanding, no one plays them expecting an easy win. Playing in Nashville is always a nightmare and the team plays equally well on the road. However, there’s reason to believe that the strength of the SEC East this season could see the Commodores having a less-than-stellar season.  Fortunately for Vanderbilt, they face rival Tennessee during Pearl’s suspension, and any help is welcome. If Stallings can keep his team on their current pace of scoring, which has them at 24th in the country with 80.1 points per game, he can likely get his team into the NCAA tournament, but the graduation of center A.J. Ogilvy is going to be his biggest road block. However, like Kentucky, Vanderbilt too can benefit from existing in a league that lacks a dominant big man.

5. Georgia Bulldogs- Georgia is on the upswing. Junior Trey Thompkins stormed onto the scene last season with a posterizing dunk on Kentucky’s Demarcus Cousins and he’s never slowed down since. He averages 16.2 points per game, and fellow junior, guard Travis Leslie, adds 14 a game. The duo has led the Bulldogs to a 8-2 start, their best start since 2006, and their only losses have been at the hand of now-ranked opponents. There’s no reason to believe this Georgia team won’t enter SEC play at 11-2, and contend for a spot at the top of the conference. The only thing working against them is the strength of the other teams in the East, but if they can win the games they’re supposed to win, and stack that with some surprises, this team could find itself back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since their surprise SEC tournament-winning run in 2008.

6. South Carolina Gamecocks- The loss of Devon Downey is the primary reason for the Gamecocks likely slide to the bottom of the east this season. Yet, somehow South Carolina has earned a 7-2 start, losing only to top 10 teams. This is the biggest question mark in the SEC East, as this team has no reason to finish better than 8-8 in the SEC, but their play against teams like Michigan State has shown the talent and ability that could be extracted from this team if head coach Darren Horn can pull it out of them. Despite any true big man presence, South Carolina is 9th in the NCAA in rebounding, and in a league with no truly talented big man, the Gamecocks’ ability to crash the board could earn them invaluable second chance opportunities if they can stay on that pace. Their biggest problem will be finding offensive production in a league full of a tenacious defense. If the Gamecocks play to their potential, they could get to 10 wins in the SEC, but there are only so many wins to be divided among the conference, and its more than likely a host of talented SEC East teams will be taking a fair share of them from South Carolina.

Only time will tell whether or not this fast start for the SEC East is the real deal, but so far their games against big-time opponents seem to show there’s reason to believe it could be. College basketball as a whole is down this season, and so far, the SEC seems to be capitalizing on this fact.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze