follow me on twitter

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Blue Jackets look to have breakout season

On the eve of the season opener for the Columbus Blue Jackets, the goal is simple: win. Win enough games to earn a playoff spot. Win enough games to earn one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference, assuring them home ice advantage at in the first round of the playoffs at least.

With a potential line that includes Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno David Clarkson, the newly acquired Brandon Saad, and (when he returns from injury) defender Ryan Murray, that doesn't sound too hard (at least on paper). After all, last season the CBJ were able to amass 42 wins despite the fact they were one of the most injured squads in the NHL.

So it should be easy for the Jackets to take the next step and have the kind of breakout season fans are expecting, right? Not exactly. For whatever reason, it seems that the Blue Jackets (playoffs or not) are notorious for getting off to slow starts. And for a team that is looking to secure one of the top four seeds in the East, you just can't do that. Fans and experts will point to injuries (time missed by goalie Bob- Sergei Bobrovsky was certainly huge) and unfufilled expectations (see former Blue Jacket alums Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter, among others) as reasons the CBJ just can't seem to break through.

But whatever the reason, the fact remains that Columbus can ill afford to have a slow start again. Especially considering the fact that they not only missed the playoffs by nine points last season, but they also only finished five points better than Philadelphia. It's not going to be easy as the Jackets face the New York Rangers(a team that they lost the season series to in '14-15) in the first to games.

This year will be different. At least Todd Richards and the Blue Jacket faithful hope so.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ohio State Football: 5 Things

As the college football landscape has moved from the BCS to a playoff system, it appears more emphasis has been placed on who the top four teams in the nation are rather than the top 25. The Ohio State Buckeyes remained no. 1 in several polls this morning, but clearly there is debate as to whether they are truly the best team in the nation.

In the heat of the moment yesterday afternoon, I texted my buddies there was no way Ohio State deserved to be ranked no. 1 after their up and down performance against Indiana. As the rest of the games shook out and teams like Ole Miss, Notre Dame, and UCLA all lost, I cannot say that statement is totally accurate. As a matter of fact, I only know three things for certain: Ohio State is still undefeated; they did not play like the no. 1 team in the nation; they have a lot of room for improvement. Having said that here are my 5 biggest takeaways from yesterday's contest:

1. Turnovers, not poor play-calling, appear to be the core of the Buckeyes' offensive woes.
Through five games this season, the Buckeyes are -4 in turnover margin, turning the ball over 13 times. Compare that to last season when the Buckeyes were +3 in turnover differential. As a matter of fact, dating back to the national championship, Ohio State is now -8 in turnover margin. Championship teams do not turn the ball over, and even though the margin would suggest otherwise most experts would agree that the Bucks were fortunate to beat Oregon in last season's finale despite committing four turnovers. If they don't learn how to protect the football better, there's no way they will punch a ticket to Dallas or Miami.

2. The Buckeyes compounded the turnover issue with boneheaded penalties.
Yesterday against Indiana alone, Ohio State committed 8 penalties for 109 yards. Truth of the matter is there are very few games will be played mistake free. But many of the penalties, especially on the defensive side, were clearly unnecessary. They extended several Indiana drives and (along with the aforementioned turnovers) made the score look closer than it should have been.

3. On a positive note the Buckeyes finally got Zeke Elliot going, a trend they hope to continue next week against Maryland.
Elliot had the game Ohio State faithful were waiting for, rushing for 274 yards and 3 TDs. While they don't need 200+ yards from him every week, it is important they get him going early. Had Zeke scored at least two of those TDs in the first half they would have likely broken Indiana's spirit.

4.Cardale Jones might be operating on a short leash as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback.
The fourth-year junior has now thrown five interceptions and five TDs through five games. Looking back at last season, I noticed that J.T. Barrett had also thrown five picks through his first five games. The difference is that many times Jones appears to indecisive, which has in large part contributed to Ohio State's ineffectiveness. Barrett also had some growing pains last year as a freshman, but he was able to work past them. I'm not going to say Cardale can't get past these issues; whether Urban Meyer lets him do so is a totally different story altogether.

5. There is still a lot of football to be played, so everyone needs to be patient.
Fans and experts alike want to argue that Ohio State isn't the best team in the nation. And they didn't play like it yesterday afternoon in Bloomington. But it is also true that many people had written off the Buckeyes last season after their loss to Virginia Tech. With nine more weeks until the selection committee decides which four teams will participate in the second college football playoff, anything can happen.

Friday, October 2, 2015

College Football, Week 5: Playoff Contenders Emerge

As we move into conference play portion of the 2015 college football portion, the playoff contenders and pretenders begin to separate themselves. And while last week unofficially eliminated Oregon from the title picture, you can be sure that there will be more pretenders revealed this Saturday afternoon.

Chief among those games that will decide the playoff contenders and pretenders is the tilt between Clemson and Notre Dame. While it may be argued that neither team can lose this game, this contest may be more important to the Irish. Because the lack of a conference championship certainly means Notre Dame more than likely has to run the table to get invited to Miami or Dallas.

(As a side note while most teams play conference games this week Notre Dame versus Clemson is a no conference game due to the Irish's status as an independent. Atlthough technically they are a member of the ACC. But I don't have time for that debate today.)

Of course, that is not to say the Tigers won't be prepared for this contest. Deshaun Watson hopes to live up to the hype he garnered from high school with a victory in this marquee matchup. And they don't want to let down the Clemson faithful at home.

So the Irish hope their luck will continue for another week behind backup quarterback Deshone Kiser. But this just might be the week their luck runs out My prediction is Clemson 27, Notre Dame 17

Other teams in action:

1 Ohio State at Indiana: Buckeyes finally begin to put it together on offense. Ohio State 52, Indiana 25

3 Ole Miss at 25 Florida: In 2006 the Rebels handed would-be national champion Florida their only loss of the season. Gators hope to repay the favor but fall short. Ole Miss 20, Florida 19

13 Alabama at 8 Georgia: Nick Chubb's heisman effort isn't enough to in this battle of SEC West vs
SEC East.  Alabama 28, Georgia 21

Arizona State at 7 UCLA: Bruins continue their march toward one of the four playoff spots.  UCLA  42, Arizona State 14

Bonus pick:

Navy over Air Force: Mids get payback after losing commander in chief trophy last year, and in doing so put themselves in position to bring the trophy to Annapolis.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Memo to Bengals' Fans: Relax

The Cincinnati Bengals, at 3-0, sit alone at the top of the AFC North. Quarterback Andy Dalton is off to his best start since coming into the league, throwing for 866 yards, 8 TDs and only 1 interception.

Division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore seem to be heading in the opposite direction. The Steelers learned yesterday they will be without the services of Ben Roethlisberger for approximately six weeks. While Michael Vick would appear a competent backup, he's a relative newcomer to Pittsburgh offense.  The Ravens, 0-3 for the first time in franchise history, appear to be a team on the decline.

Then there are the Cleveland Browns, who can't seem to get out of their own way if their lives depended on it.

All of this should make Cincinnati fans fairly optimistic about the 2015 season. Yet that's not the impression I get. Reading comments on social media forums you'd think the Bengals were in last place.

I understand the aforementioned Mr. Dalton hasn't won a playoff game. I also get that it is still early in the season.

But c'mon Bengals fans, is it really time to panic yet? Even if Cincy had lost to Baltimore yesterday,  it wouldn't have been the collapse that fans have been used to.

Bottom line is Cincy fans need to relax and enjoy the moment. Because while they are worrying about when the other shoe will drop, the rest of the AFC is worried the Bengals might be serious contenders come playoff time

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ohio State's Woes, Bret Bielema's Foes

Good morning all!!! Welcome back to college football! I know it's already week 3 of the 2015 season, so sue me.

I usually try not to put too much emphasis on the Ohio State Buckeyes during my weekly preview, but they are currently the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. As such, I will give my take on how they can maintain that ranking.

Front and center is the quarterback situation, where head coach Urban Meyer must make a decision as to whom is going to be the No. 1 quarterback. Personally I think if he feels that Cardale Jones did enough at the end of last season to be the starter, then he should stick with Cardale. The quarterback carousel he is employing now not only hurts the Buckeyes' offensive continuity, it also doesn't allow Jones to establish a rapport with any of his receivers.

To those who say the offense operates more efficiently with Barrett under center, I hear you. Of course everyone does remember before Barrett pulled off the overtime heroics against Penn State last season that he didn't have a great game, either (for the record, he only threw for 74 yards and 1 TD with 2 interceptions). Even before that, it did take both the Navy and Virginia Tech games before Barrett and the offense finally started clicking against the University of Cincinnati. So let's give Jones at least another week before calling for him to be benched.

Then there is the issue of how to best use Braxton Miller. My theory is that if he isn't going to throw the ball at least a couple of times a game, there is no sense in lining him up directly behind center. As a matter of fact, I would say Ohio State would be better off by converting him to flanker and having him work more with Jones. He definitely has the speed to be this season's Devin Smith, now let's see if he has the ability.

While I could go on about Ohio State, I won't. It's on to the resident punchline of the 2015 college football season, aka Arkansas Razorback head coach Bret Bielema. Bielema earned this distinction by calling out Ohio State (sorry this is the last time I mention them until my game preview) for their rather weak schedule. Of course, Bielema's Hogs couldn't even beat Toledo, of the Mid-American conference, the following week. Which not only has Bret still wiping the egg off of his face, it has the other coaches and teams in the SEC waiting for their shot at Arkansas. After all, who wants to be the team who lost to the team that got beat by Toledo?

On to a preview of today's match ups, with lines and my predictions (teams in bold are prediction to cover)

22 Missouri (-20.5) vs. Connecticut- This is one game where the SEC doesn't have to worry about a non power 5 school beating one of their own. At least Maty Mauk and company don't think so.

16 Oklahoma (-30) vs. Tulsa- Last season's contest ended up being a 52-7 Sooners route. So what, 2015 is a new year? Okay, so the Sooners give up 14 points this time around.

4 Michigan State (off) vs. Air Force- What was the name of the Falcons quarterback who threw for all those yards in the nineties? Cause they could use him today against the Spartans.

17 Texas A&M (-34) vs. Nevada- The verdict is still not in on whether Kyle Allen will be the Aggies' next Heisman winner. Against the Wolf Pack, he wont have to be.

12 Oregon (-45.5) vs Georgia State- For completely sentimental reasons, I'd love to see Georgia State make a game of this. My head tells me though that even if Vernon Adams doesn't start at QB, the Ducks still roll.

14 Georgia Tech (-2.5) at 8 Notre Dame- My upset special of the week, I am picking the Golden Domers at home to carry the momentum from last week's wild win with them for at least another game. Even without Malik Zaire at quarterback.

2 Alabama (-6.5) vs 15 Ole Miss- While I am not sure the rebels can win in Tuscaloosa, I am picking them to cover the spread.

That is all I have time for today folks, stay tuned for my Top 25 rankings to be released on Monday Morning!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mayweather v. Pacquiao, Why the Fight Wasn't Worth The Hype

The so-called fight of the century is now history.  Floyd Mayweather, Jr. can finally take his place among the boxing greats after defeating Manny Pacquiao via unanimous decision Saturday night and improving his record to 48-0.

Boxing experts and sports media alike will have you think that this definitively put an end to one of the greatest debates of not only this decade, but perhaps the 21st century. They will tell you that Mayweather  easily won what was arguably a hard fought contest between the two best fighters of his division.

Yet they are only perpetuating one of the biggest rip-offs in boxing history, at the expense of the ignorant masses that include you and I. There is no doubt that Mayweather won the fight. But to say that his win was decisive, or that the fight was nearly entertaining as the build up, was complete bull****.

Fact of the matter was Mayweather knew all he had to do was stay at arm's length from the challenger and he would retain the title, and that was what he did. 'Money' would occasionally land a jab and a hook just so he could claim 'I told you so' to all the media and his doubters after the fight. It was clear, however, from the opening bell, that he was never going to be the aggressor.

And as for Pacquiao, he put up a valiant fight. Or did he. It appeared that for several rounds he got in some decent head/body shots on the champ that could have put this fight in question. But if you were watching at home, you had to take notice how little these shots affected Mayweather, that he was kind of laughing at them. Post fight Pac-Man would say he won the fight, but did so with a huge grin on his face. When was the last time you saw the challenger 'happy' he actually lost a unanimous decision?

Truth be told, both camps were advised not to take risks, that they had huge paydays coming, and the worst thing they could do is risk serious injury. So they both played conservative, taking a few big shots making it look (at least to the thousands on hand in Las Vegas) like it was a hard fought contest. But go back and watch your digital recording of the fight, and you'll realize that I'm right.

The whole thing reeks, and while The Money Team (and Pacquiao's wallet) were the big winners, there were two losers on Saturday. The biggest losers were the fans, some of whom shelled out thousands of dollars just to see these two dance around a ring for 36 minutes.

The biggest loser, however, might be the entire sport of boxing. In desperate need of a match whose popularity would rival that of Mixed Martial Arts, Mayweather-Pacquiao was billed as the fight to save boxing. But, in the end, what ended up being a 12 round snooze fest may have ultimately killed the sport. Because while a rematch between the fighters may garner at least half the attention the first fight did, there may never be another boxing match as popular again. Of course, for someone who has lost most interest in boxing anyway, at least I have a legitimate reason not to watch it again anymore.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Buckeye Recruiting and Spring Game Players to Watch

So it appears that the Ohio State football team is quietly out building a dynasty, while most of you weren't even paying attention. With yesterday's commitment from linebacker Tuf Borland from Illinois, the list of players committed to Ohio State for 2016 has grown to 10.

Which doesn't sound impressive until you consider they are all four stars or better, including

1. Three of the top four running backs in the nation (1. Kareem Walker 3. George Hill 4. Demario McCall)

2. A four-star quarterback from Desoto, Texas, (Tristen Wallace) pursued by Texas, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Mississippi State and Louisville among others

3. Along with Borland, Ohio State also has defensive commits Shaun Wade (CB from Fla) and Terrell Hall (DE from Washington)

And while rankings aren't exclusively predictors of how well a team will do in the future, just take a look at what head coach Urban Meyer has been able to accomplish without all of the players he wanted.

And speaking of OSU football, here are some names to watch in this years spring game

Cardale Jones- An obvious name of course but this might be the junior signal-caller's shot to cement himself as the starting quarterback.

Stephen Collier- First look at the freshman(redshirt) quarterback from Georgia whom coach Meyer labeled a 'developmental guy'

Malik Hooker -safety from PA should get plenty of work in today

Gareon Conley- cornerback is looking to have a breakout season in the secondary

Jamarco Jones- interior lineman from the Chicago, Ill area

Tyquan Lewis -the sophomore defensive end is someone Joey Bosa has called a 'freak'

Jalyn Holmes- another sophomore battling for a starting spot on the defensive line

Terry McLaurin- 2nd year receiver out of Indiana will be trying to fill the void left when standout Devin Smith graduated.

Among the notable scratches in this year's game due to injury include J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller, Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel among others.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Blue Jackets Play Inspires Hope for the Future

The Columbus Blue Jackets have two games remaining on their 2015 schedule.  While they were eliminated from playoff contention over a week ago, many people would say their season has been a failure.

Yet there are many reasons that Blue Jackets have been anything but a failure this year. For starters, the team will post its second consecutive season of 40 or more wins, and do so having lost more players to injury than any other team in the NHL. In addition, even if Columbus loses their final two, the worst they can finish is 40-37-5. This means they will finish the season above .500 for the third consecutive year, another franchise first.

Individual performances that should give fans reasons to be excited for the future include winger Nick Foligno, who scored 30 goals for the first time in his career this season. Foligno would also post the first hat trick of his career in a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this season.

Also notching hat tricks (3 goals in the same game) for the Blue Jackets this season were Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson in victories over the Ducks and the Blackhawks, respectively.

The Blue Jackets are also 5th in the league on the power play, something that should carry over into the 2015-2016 season. With a little luck when it comes to player health next year, Columbus could be a top 5 team in the Eastern conference.

So while in previous years a CBJ finish outside the playoffs would be cause for concern, this year's team is clearly different. Look out NHL, here come the Jackets.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pro Athletes and Personal Conduct

As I was reading's article regarding the closing arguments in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, it got me thinking about the NFL's personal conduct policy. More specifically, what standard should players be held to with respect to off-the-field conduct? And where is the line in which athletes should no longer be allowed to pursue a professional football career?

For starters, let's use the Aaron Hernandez case as an example. Even if he is found not guilty of murdering Odin Lloyd, he still awaits trial for the murder of two other individuals in 2012 (For the record, I maintain that Hernandez did murder Lloyd. His defense that he saw his two friends committing the murder, but was too shaken to do anything, is weak at best. I mean, you're really telling me that Hernandez, upon seeing two people he knew killing the someone he was more than acquaintances with, wouldn't even call 911?) If he were to somehow beat that indictment as well, I guess he would have a case to return to the NFL. Not that I would want him to play for my Browns. Of course, should he be convicted on any of the charges I think this point would be moot, as might be spending the remainder of his life in prison.

What about the case of Ray Rice then, or any player that commits domestic violence? Again, I am not certain I would want Rice playing for my team, but as long as he serves his sentence according to the law, and satisfies his punishment/rehabilitation with regard to the NFL, who am I to say he can't return to play? But taking it a step further, should Adrian Peterson be allowed to return to the NFL? I understand the need to discipline your kid. I should also state I am not (nor have ever been) a parent. But I also understand that his kid was four when Adrian punished him with a switch, leaving him with very visible bruises. From my experience being around my best friend's kid (who isn't much older, btw), someone that old barely even knows right from wrong. So there are many people who would say what Peterson did was more than excessive.

Of course, I also feel that NFL players should be held to the same standard as society as large. So, in the case of Peterson or Rice, if their actions would result in them being blacklisted from a lesser profession, why should there be a double standard just because they are professional athletes? In many instances an ordinary citizen who commits a felony might have a hard time getting a job in his previous profession. Just because these guys can run or jump faster than most people should not make them special.

Ultimately, however, this issue falls on the league and commissioner Roger Goodell to formulate a consistent policy on the issue. It doesn't necessarily mean we have to agree with his decision (or indecision, for that matter). Of course we also don't have to go to the games, either.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

2015 NCAA Tournament- Duke Keeps My Bracket Hope Alive

The field of 64 has been narrowed down to two, and I couldn’t be happier. After all, not only did Kentucky lose to Wisconsin, thus ending its perfect season, but I still have a legitimate shot to win the office tourney pool. Even better than that is the possibility that I could win $300 in my friend’s bracket challenge as well.

And while the majority of my friends and co-workers might be rooting for the Badgers on Monday night, I will most certainly be in Duke’s corner. It doesn’t matter that Wisconsin represents the Big Ten, or they will more than likely be the underdogs.  Also of little importance is that guard Traevon Jackson is not only from Ohio, but also happens to be the son of former Ohio State standout Jimmy Jackson.
(As a side note, while I would normally root for the Big Ten, even at the expense of my own bracket, when you wager $50 to win $300 in a winner takes all format, your perspective kind of changes.) 
The fate of my brackets rest on the ability of the Dookies (sic) to get Coach K his fifth championship, and his third in Indianapolis at that. Duke already defeated Wisconsin once this season, but this is not the same Badger team. It should also be pointed out that Duke is not the same team, either. Is it possible that team that beat both Michigan State and Wisconsin in the regular season by 10 points apiece has played even better in the postseason? Not only is it possible, it seems downright plausible.

So the million-dollar question then becomes, how did I end up picking the Blue Devils to win it all, when most everyone and their brother had the Wildcats? Is it because Duke is not only the one of my favorite teams(according to this blog), and unlike Ohio State they had a legitimate chance of advancing? I wish I could say that was the case, but my affinity for the Blue Devils had little if any affect on my decision. What about freshman sensations Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor? I must admit the blue-chippers, the former averaging 11.5 ppg and 3.5 apg and the latter averaging 17.5 ppg and 8.6 rpg, are a rare inside-outside combination. But alas, as I watched less than a handful of Duke games, I didn’t know much about the duo.

So how exactly did I end up picking Duke, when less than 20% of the nation even had them in the national finals? Let’s just say that like most other people who have won their tournament pools in the past, I went with my gut. While other people agonized from 30 minutes to several hours on their bracket, I filled out mine within 10 minutes. And although it’s safe to say my round-by-round performance isn’t stellar (I’m currently 44-18 through the final four), it doesn’t matter how you start, only how you finish.

Yet it is far from a given that Duke will win their fifth title tomorrow night, or that I will win my first tournament pool ever(in what I have estimated is over 25 years of filling out an entry of some form, whether it be for school or work or online just for fun.) This time around not only do they have to account for a fully healthy Sam Dekker, but if they are going to win they must do so without the services of junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon, dismissed from the team before the regular season had even ended.

A tall task for the Blue Devils (literally and figuratively), but my gut tells me they have one more win left in them. After all, in an imperfect bracket, they are the only team that has been perfect for me thus far.