Monday, September 15, 2014

Senegal and Serbia On The Rise? FIBA Basketball World Cup Recap

Harden lifting the trophy for USA
The FIBA Basketball World Cup has come to an end, after two weeks.  In the final the mighty USA team took down a hungry Serbian team by a score of 129-92. 

Despite the loss in the final, I am very proud of this Serbian team, who showed that they can play with some of the best teams from around the world.  Entering this tournament, many said that it would be quite an accomplishment if Serbia even got past their group stage.  Once Serbia did just that, they then defeated a Greek team that was undefeated (at that point), which raised a few eyebrows.  In the quarters Serbia dismantled Brazil by 28 and beat France by five in the semis.  In the final, you always knew that the Serbian team would have to play A++ basketball to beat the USA team, but unfortunately that did not happen.  Hats off to a USA team that went undefeated, beating opponents by an average of 33 points.

Here are some talking points of this tournament.

This tournament was Gorgui Dieng coming out party.  The young Senegalese player averaged 16 points to go along with 10.7 rebounds a game.  We saw flashes of his rebounding ability as the 2013/2014 season was coming to an end, and he started to accumulate more playing time for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Hopefully the Timberwolves staff took notice of Dieng’s performance at the World Cup and we see more of him next year with the T-Wolves.

Andray Blatche put up some ridiculous numbers for the Philippines.  In five games Blatche averaged 21.2 points a game (ranked 2nd in the tournament) to go along with 13.8 rebounds (ranked 1st in the tournament).   Blatche just powered most of his opponents in the post, and on occasion, he was able to step back and hit some jumpers.

Toronto Raptor fans, I have not forgotten about you.  Lithuanian big man, Jonas Valanciunas did very well at this tournament.  In nine games played, Jonas averaged 14.4 points and 8.4 rebounds.  Those averages were good enough to put Jonas in the top 20 in scoring and 6th overall in rebounding.  Jonas also shot an incredible 69.6% from the field.  Hopefully he can keep this up for the upon NBA season because the Raptors need a threat down in the post.

Petteri Koponen, Finnish point guard also did very well at the World’s.  Petteri put up close to 16 points a game and he led the tournament in assists per game with 5.8.  It is still uncertain if we will ever see Petteri play in the NBA (he was drafted 30th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2007), but he has proved on more than one occasion that he is a solid point guard.

Aron Baynes, San Antonio and Australian big man also had a good tourney averaging 17 points to go along with seven rebounds.  I was really hoping to see a bigger role for youngster, Dante Exum, but he was pretty irrelevant in this edition of the World Cup.

Final thoughts:   
-Senegal could be one of the best teams from Africa in the next couple of years.  About half of their players play in some of the biggest European countries.

-Croatia should do much better at the next World Cup, when Hezonja and Saric will be much more experienced.

-Fingers crossed that in 2019, we will see Canada participating in this tournament!

The All-Star five for this tournament were:
Pau Gasol (Spain)
Kenneth Faried (USA)
Nicolas Batum (France)
Milos Teodosic (Serbia)
Kyrie Irving (USA)

Ogi B

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Analysis Alan's Week Two Picks

vs Home Pick
Steelers vs Ravens Ravens
2.5 -2.5
Dolphins vs Bills Bills
-1 1
Jaguars vs Redskins Redskins
6 -6
Cowboys vs Titans Cowboys
3.5 -3.5
Cardinals vs Giants Cardinals
-2.5 2.5
Patriots vs Vikings Patriots
-3 3
Saints vs Browns Browns
-7 7
Falcons vs Bengals Falcons
5 -5
Lions vs Panthers Panthers
2 -2
Rams vs Bucs Rams
6.5 -6.5
Seahawks vs Chargers Seahawks
6.5 -6.5
Texans vs Raiders Raiders
-3 3
Jets vs Packers Packers
8.5 -8.5
Chiefs vs Broncos Broncos
13 -13
Bears vs 49ers Bears
7.5 -7.5
Eagles vs Colts Eagles
3 -3
Last week 4-12
Overall 4-12
Alan M

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Look At Week Two In The NFL

Dolphins celebrate a TD vs Patriots

Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season was a fairly exciting one, to say the least. There were several games that resulted in upsets, however, every game that took place was certainly worth watching, that’s for sure. Week 1 saw a healthy Atlanta Falcons team fend off their division rivals in the New Orleans Saints as they won their first game of the season by a score of 37-34 in overtime. The Buffalo Bills also played spoiler as they went on the road and defeated the Chicago Bears by a score of 23-20 in overtime. The Tennessee Titans marched into Kansas City and were able to beat up on the Chiefs and earn a solid 26-10 victory. Perhaps the biggest upset of week 1 was the New England Patriots travelling to Miami to duel with the Dolphins and were handed a loss as they fell to their division rivals by a score of 33-20.

Week 2 of the 2014 NFL season has several good games to choose from, here are five of them.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Last week the Pittsburgh Steelers played host to their division rivals, the Cleveland Browns and earned their first win of the season by edging out the Browns by a score of 33-27. QB Ben Roethlisberger looked solid for the Steelers, as did running back Le’Veon Bell who rushed for 109 yards on 21 carries. Last week the Baltimore Ravens also played host to a division rival in the Cincinnati Bengals were handed their first loss of the season as they fell by a score of 23-16. QB Joe Flacco had a decent day throwing the ball; however, the downside was their rushing game. RB Justin Forsett could only muster 70 yards on 11 carries and was their leading rusher. This AFC North clash is always great to watch because these two teams really don’t like each other and it shows. It may be a tough go for the Ravens this week because they’re dealing with a lot of off the field issues regarding Ray Rice. However, these games could go either way, all we can count on is it being a very physical game and the team that can keep their composure the longest could be the winning team in this game.

Game details: Kickoff on Thursday, September 11th at 8:25pm from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week the Atlanta Falcons hosted their NFC South rivals the New Orleans Saints and were able fight back and earn an overtime win as they edged they Saints by a score of 37-34. QB Matt Ryan went off in this game; he went 31-43 and threw for 448 yards. The Falcons offence looked considerably better than they did last season. Last week the Cincinnati Bengals marched into Baltimore and handed the Ravens their first loss of the season. QB Andy Dalton looked pretty solid in that game as he went 25-38 for 301 yards, 131 of those yards went to WR A.J. Green.  This game could go either way.  If the Falcons offence can come out fast and strong and take it to the very good Bengal defense, they can run away with this game. However, the Bengals defense is a force to be reckoned with and they have the tendency to make life very difficult for opposing offences. Look for the Falcons to try and come out and spread to ball and try to make it difficult for that Bengals defense to keep up.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 14th at 1:00pm from Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Seattle Seahawks vs. San Diego Chargers
Last week the Seattle Seahawks played host to the Green Bay Packers as they began their quest to defend as Super Bowl Champions. The Seahawks won their opening game against the Packers by a score of 36-16. WR Percy Harvin looked great in his first game back since an electrifying Super Bowl appearance in February. The Seahawks stout defense was able to hold up against Aaron Rodgers and company last week, they looked just as solid as last season. Last week the San Diego Chargers went into Arizona to do battle against the Cardinals and were not able to hold on for their first win of the season as they fell by a score of 18-17. QB Philip Rivers did not have a very solid game as he went 21-36 for a total of 238 yards. The same can be said about RB Ryan Mathews, who was only able to muster 40 yards on 12 carries on the ground. This is a tough match up for the Chargers, however, they are a very gritty team that doesn’t back down from a challenge. If Rivers and company can find holes in that Seahawks defense; they have a solid chance at taking home the win. Look for the Seahawks defense to make this game a miserable on for the Chargers offense.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 14th at 4:05pm from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos
Last week the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Tennessee Titans and were handed their first loss of the season as they fell by a score of 26-10. QB Alex Smith didn't have the greatest day; he went 19-35 for 202 yards and also led the team in rushing with 36 yards. When RB Jamaal Charles isn’t your leading rusher on the day, you know you have a problem. Last week the Denver Broncos played host to the Indianapolis Colts and were able to hold off the late charge of the Colts led by QB Andrew Luck. QB Peyton Manning had a decent day against the Colts, as he went 22-36 for 269 yards, however, TE Julius Thomas had himself a fantastic game as he caught 7 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Kansas City needs to bounce back in a big way this week, even though they have a tough match up against a very good Broncos team. Chiefs will need to rely on QB Alex Smith to lead the charge on offence and put their lackluster performance of week 1 behind them. Look for Peyton Manning and company to play with some pace and try to burry to Chiefs early in this game.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 14th at 4:25pm from Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colorado.

Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers
Last week the Chicago Bears played host to the Buffalo Bills who handed them their first loss of the season as they fell to the Bills by a score of 23-20. QB Jay Cutler had a good day on the field as he went 34-49 for 349 yards. RB Matt Forte had a strong game as he earned 82 rushing yards and 87 receiving yards for the Bears last Sunday. Last week the 49ers opened up their season with a big win on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offence looked pretty good against a very beaten up Cowboys squad; however, the highlight was the 49ers defense and the show they put on. They looked very solid and were able to force quite a few turnovers. This game could go either way because the Bears have a lot of offensive weapons that have the potential to shred opposing defenses and the same could be said about the 49ers offense. This game will come down to which team can play better defensively and limit the amount of yardage the opposing team can lay down on them. Look for that very powerful 49er D-line to force Jay Cutler to make poor and uncomfortable throws which could allow their secondary to pounce on those poorly thrown balls.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 14th at 8:30pm from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Matt Kassabian

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Analysis Alan's Week One Picks

Away vs Home Pick
Packers vs Seahawks Packers
6 -6
Saints vs Falcons Falcons
-4 4
Vikings vs Rams Rams
3.5 -3.5
Browns vs Steelers Steelers
7 -7
Jaguars vs Eagles Eagles
10.5 -10.5
Raiders vs Jets Jets
5.5 -5.5
Bengals vs Ravens Ravens
1.5 -1.5
Bills vs Bears Bears
7.5 -7.5
Redskins vs Texans Redskins
3 -3
Titans vs Chiefs Titans
3.5 -3.5
Patriots vs Dolphins Patriots
-5 5
Panthers vs Bucs Bucs
2 -2
49ers vs Cowboys Cowboys
-4.5 4.5
Colts vs Broncos Broncos
7.5 -7.5
Giants vs Lions Lions
5.5 -5.5
Chargers vs Cardinals Chargers
3 -3
Last week N/A
Overall N/A
Alan M

Friday, September 5, 2014

Euro 2016 Qualifying-Five To Look Out For

The Groups for Euro 2016 Qualifying

Well, it feels like the 2014 World Cup ended yesterday, yet we are already talking about Euro 2016 qualifying, which gets underway Sunday, September 7th.  A new format will take place at Euro 2016.  In the past 16 of the best European teams made it to Euro, in 2016; however, it is going to be a little bit different because 24 teams will be taking part in the tournament.

Here is a breakdown of who makes it to Euro 2016:
-top two teams in each group
-best third place team (in other words, the third place team with the most points)
-the host of the tournament (France, in this case)
-since there are nine groups (the best third place team moves on to the Euro Cup), the other eight teams will be matched up and they will play a home and home series.  The best aggregate in each match-up moves on to France.

Let’s take a look at the five teams that should be closely examined during the qualifying session.

Belgium-The Belgians have outstanding talent all over the pitch, something they cannot say they had five or so years ago.  Big name players, with big salaries, who play on some of the biggest clubs in the world, Belgium had a good run at the 2014 World Cup, but were bounced by a strong Argentinian side in the quarter-finals.  With all this tremendous talent-Kompany, Lukaku, Courtois, Hazard etc.-this Belgian side now has expectations, and strong ones at that to not only qualify for the 2016 Euro Cup, but also to go very deep in the tournament.

Bosnia-Herzegovina-they made their debut at a major tournament this summer at the World Cup, but unfortunately could not make it out of their group.  That being said, Bosnia is one of the up-and-coming teams when it comes to Europe.  The likes of Dzeko, Begovic and Pjanic lead this Bosnia team, who has a good blend of youngster and veterans on the roster.  Bosnia is in the same Euro 2016 qualifying group as Belgium, which should make for some entertaining football when the two teams meet on October 13th 2014 and September 3rd, 2015.  It should also be noted that Bosnia is starting to attract young talent, who played either early football for a different country.  With the recent success of the Bosnia team, many of these players have now chosen to put on the Bosnia shirt, most notably Hajrovic.

England-well, the days of Gerrard, Cole and Lampard are over, so now it is time for England to look elsewhere to fill the voids left behind.  On defense, it is time for players like Shaw, Stones and Caulker to take over.  None of the three players mentioned are older than 22 years of age, but that is why England needs some of the veteran players to help them along the way (Johnson, Jagielka etc.).  Sterling and Barkley are two of the players that England can build the midfield around, and having Rooney and Sturridge up-front surely does not hurt.  England failed to get out of their group at this summer’s World Cup, but like always, they have high expectations, so do not try to tell them they are in “rebuilding” mode.

Serbia-I can go on about Serbia for days, but I will try to keep it short.  Dick Advocaat was appointed the new head coach in July of this year.  In his first match on the bench, Serbia will take on France in a friendly.  Advocaat has not made big changes to the Serbian roster; in fact the only players he has called up, who did not really get a chance to play under Sinisa Mihajlovic are Kuzmanovic and Ljajic.  Serbia has talent all over the pitch, particularly up-front where they have the likes of Mitrovic, Markovic and Djordjevic.  At the back, Kolarov and Ivanovic lead the line.  Anything but a berth at the Euro Cup would be a huge let down.

Spain-they had a very rough World Cup getting embarrassed by the Dutch in their first game and then losing to Chile, before finally beating Australia in their final match.  Spain is going through some of the same growing pains as England.  Xabi, Xavi and David Villa have all retired from the national team, so it is time for the new generation of Spanish footballers to take over.  And with the success that Spain has had at the U-21 and U-19 level, new talent should not be hard to find.

Teams who may surprise:
Wales: if Bale can stay healthy, Wales has a chance at coming in third, and after that, anything can happen.

Iceland: a number of their players are starting to play in some of the biggest leagues around Europe.  Euro 2016 could be a strong possibility.

Norway: In Martin Odegaard They Trust!

Ogi B

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NFL: Top 5 Games of Week 1

The opening week of the 2014 NFL season is finally here! No more waiting for quality NFL football goodness because week 1 has arrived at last. The 2013 NFL season was a fantastic one, a season filled with great games, amazing individual achievements and a team from the Pacific-Northwest that won its first Super Bowl title. The 2013 NFL season saw the Kansas City Chiefs rebound in a big way from a dreadful 2012 season and make the playoffs. It also saw the defending Super Bowl Champions, The Baltimore Ravens, not make the playoffs, along with their AFC North foes, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2013 season also saw the Houston Texas match their worst season in franchise history by finishing the year with a 2 – 14 record. The highlight of the season was the meeting of two of the NFL powerhouses in the Super Bowl. The Broncos and Seahawks both dominated opponents in 2013 and it was only fitting that they met in the Meadowlands for Super XLVIII. The game was rather one-sided as the Seattle Seahawks stunned everyone and thumped the Broncos 43-8 as they took home their first Super Bowl Championship.

The 2014 season should make for a great action packed year of football. Every team has something to prove, some more than others, so it will make for great action. In the case of the NFL, usually every game is worth watching, however, this week I will preview what I feel are the top five games of the week.

To kick off the 2014 NFL season, here are the top five games to look out for in week 1 of the season.

Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Green Bay Packers are coming off a fairly average 2013 season, which saw them finish with an 8-7-1 record, but it was enough to earn them a playoff spot. The Packers played a chunk of the year without their star QB Aaron Rodgers behind centre, as he had suffered a fractured collarbone in a week 9 tilt with the Chicago Bears. The Packers defense did not play to their full capabilities as they were hit with a serious injury bug. The Seattle Seahawks are coming off their greatest season in franchise history which was capped off with a massive Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. The Seattle defense was the most feared in the league and with QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch spearheading the offence, Seattle was destined for a great finish. This is the first time these two teams have played each other since their infamous week 3 game in 2012, which was littered with referee controversy, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this will play out. Seattle is the favourite to win this game, however, with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and a solid core of WR’s RB’s the Packers are set to play spoiler and take out the defending champs to open the season. Look for the Seattle defense to get tested early and often in this game because the outcome could rely heavily on how well they play.

Game details: Kickoff on Thursday, September 4th at 8:30pm from Centruylink Field in Seattle, Washington.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off an impressive season in 2013, which saw them finish the year with an 11-5 record and home field advantage in their first playoff game. The Bengals failed to advance in the playoffs because they were upset, at home, by the San Diego Chargers. QB Andy Dalton had, statistically, a great regular season for the Bengals, however, he failed to shine when they needed him most, the playoffs. During the offseason, the Bengals chose to re-sign Dalton to a massive and rather lucrative contract in hope of providing him with the motivation to player at a higher level. In 2013 rookie RB Giovanni Bernard showed the league he can run and that has now earned himself the starting role for the Bengals in 2014. The Baltimore Ravens started the season as reigning Super Bowl Champions, but after their week 1 loss to the Broncos; they didn’t look much like champions. The Ravens finished the year with an 8-8 record and missed out on the playoffs. The Ravens had paid QB Joe Flacco big money to sign with Baltimore at the start of the 2013 season; however, throughout the season he looked like he was not worth the investment. This AFC North division rivalry always makes for a great game. If Joe Flacco and Ray Rice-less Ravens offense can move the ball, with success, against a very stout Cincinnati defense, they do have a great chance at winning this game. However, look for the Bengals defense to try to smother anything Joe Flacco and the Ravens try to conjure up.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 7th at 1:00pm from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a rather lacklustre 2013 season which saw them finish with an 8-8 record and no spot in the playoffs. The Steelers were decimated by injuries in 2013, which showed that their age was really starting to get the best of them. The Steelers did well at this year’s draft and addressed positions that needed filling, so it will be fun to see how it works out for them in 2014. The Cleveland Browns are coming off of yet another poor season where they finished with a 4-12 record and of course, missed out on the playoffs. Though their record does reflect it, the Browns didn’t play awful football in 2013; they just couldn’t finish a game strong. Another issue they had was a mixture of injuries and too much youth. The Browns have beefed up their defense and their offence in preparation for the 2014 season and have done well at the draft as well. The major topic in Cleveland right now is who will start for the Browns in their week 1 opener against the Steelers, will it be the rookie hot-shot QB Johnny Manziel or the more matured Brian Hoyer? Both players bring great things to the table; however, it’s up to coach Mike Pettine to make the tough decision. This AFC North rivalry always makes for solid, hard nose football and if the Browns can figure it out on offense and take it to the Steelers defense early, they have a good chance at winning this game. Look for this game to be a classic display of AFC North gritty football.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, September 7th at 1:00pm from FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.

San Francisco 49ers. vs. Dallas Cowboys
The San Francisco 49ers are coming off of a great 2013, which saw them finish the regular season with a 12-4 record, which earned them a playoff spot. The 49ers were a mere one game away from going to the Super Bowl for a second straight year, however, they ran into their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, in the NFC Championship and fell to them in what was a very intense game. The 49ers have had quite the media circus around them revolving around two of their prime defensive players, Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald, whom have gotten themselves into some criminal trouble. The Dallas Cowboys are coming off of an up and down 2013 season that saw them miss out on the playoffs, yet again. They finished last year with an 8-8 record and were left with several question marks surrounding the team. The Cowboys have a lot to prove this season because they were criticised for not making the best of their draft picks at this year’s draft and not going after certain free agents that would have helped benefit their team in 2014. If the Cowboys can contain 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick and that solid offense then they have a chance at winning this game. Look for the 49ers to come out strong on defense and limit the amount the Cowboys can do on offence. If the 49ers offences clicks and clicks early, it could be a long game for the Cowboys.

Game details: Kick off on Sunday, September 7th at 4:25pm from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos
The Indianapolis Colts are coming off yet another great season, where they finished 11-5 as they went on to finish their season with a Divisional Playoff game loss to the New England Patriots. With QB Andrew Luck leading the team, the Colts have looked fantastic. They have made the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and have dominated the AFC South. The Colts didn’t draft exceptionally well in 2014, however, they have a lot of the same players returning from last year and they hope to have the same success in 2014 as they did in the previous two seasons. The Denver Broncos are coming off of a wonderful 2013 season, which saw them finish off with a 13-3 record. The Broncos, led by none other than the great Peyton Manning, had a solid playoff run and made it to the Super Bowl where they lost to the high flying Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos suffered some serious defensive injuries in 2013, but were able to battle through. During the offseason they beefed up their defense and will have several healthy players return from injury, which should give them a massive boost. When these two teams met last season in Indy, the Colts were able to beat the Broncos and hand them their first loss of the season. This game could go either way, so it will come down to the team that makes the least amount of mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Game details: Kick off on Sunday, September 7th at 8:30pm from Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colorado.

Matt Kassabian
Twitter: @PassDaKassabian

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 NCAA College Football Week 1: Top 5 Games

Florida State players celebrating their title

The 2014 NCAA College football season gets underway this week and there are several great games to look out for. The 2013 season was a thrilling one to say the least. It saw a slight demise of the SEC when Alabama fell to Oklahoma in the All State Sugar Bowl and was capped off by the Florida State Seminoles beating the Auburn Tigers in the National Championship game.

The 2014 NCAA College Football season will usher in a new era for the sport as we say good-bye to the “National Championship Game” as we know it, and welcome in the new, and very long awaited, College Football Playoff system, which was implemented in order to “level the playing field” across the College Football landscape. The Associated Press has already released its Top 25 ranked teams going into this week’s games, so everyone in the College Football world is eagerly awaiting for the season to kickoff, pun very much intended, and see which teams belong in the Top 25 and which teams do not. After week 1 of the season, we can begin to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

With that being said, here are the top 5 games to look out for in Week 1 of the 2014 NCAA College Football season.

#21 Texas A&M Aggies vs. #9 South Carolina Gamecocks

2014 is going to be a big year for the Aggies of Texas A&M, they will have to try their best to put up those amazing numbers on offense without the former Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel and first round draft pick WR Mike Evans. Coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies have their work cut out for them, as they have to go into South Carolina and battle the Gamecocks. South Carolina will have to make some serious adjustments, as well due to the fact that they won’t have QB Connor Shaw behind center and DE Jadeveon Clowney terrorizing the opposing offenses.

It will be interesting to see how the usually stout South Carolina defense will hold up against the new-look offense of the Aggies.

Game info: Kickoff on Thursday, August 28th at 6:00pm from Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.

#16 Clemson Tigers vs. #12 Georgia Bulldogs

The Clemson Tigers are coming off of an impressive 11-2 season in 2013, which saw them finish off the year with a massive win in the Discover Orange Bowl over BIG 10 powerhouse, Ohio State. Clemson comes into the 2014 without veteran QB Tajh Boyd and the electrifying WR Sammy Watkins, so it will be interesting to see how they fair on the offensive side of the ball this year. The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off of a rather lackluster 8-5 season, which saw them lose a few last second games in heartbreaking fashion to some of their biggest rivals. Their season was capped off with a 24-19 loss in the Gator Bowl to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Georgia will come into the season without their regular starter, Aaron Murray, who is now in the NFL, however, they will have the powerful Todd Gurley the spearhead that Bulldog offense this season. The Georgia defense needs to step up its game this season and improve the amount of yardage they give up per game, if they want to be competitive in the SEC.

This game could go either way but look for the Clemson defense to try and impact this game.

Game info: Kickoff on Saturday, August 30th at 5:30pm at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.

#1 Florida State Seminoles vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Florida State Seminoles are fresh off of a National Championship victory over the Auburn Tigers and were able to finish the year off with a perfect 14-0 record. Heisman Trophy winner QB Jameis Winston is returning for the Seminoles and is looking to make just as big an impact in his second as a starter, as he did in his first year. The Seminoles did lose a lot of great players on both sides of the ball to the NFL, however, there’s really no doubt that Coach, Jimbo Fisher has recruited some great players that will look to help Florida State win another title. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are coming off a fairly impressive 10-3 season in 2013; however, they suffer a very tough loss to the Missouri Tigers in the AT&T Cotton Bowl to finish their season. The Cowboys will have quite a few starters coming back in 2014, which is a very good thing for Coach Mike Gundy and the rest of the Cowboys.

It could be tough for the Cowboys to stop that high-powered Seminole offense so they must try their best to put up as many points as possible and not waste any possessions against a very tough Florida State team. Look for the Seminoles to try and dictate the pace of this game on the offensive side of the ball.

Game info: Kickoff on Saturday, August 30th at 8:00pm at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

#14 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #13 Louisiana State Tigers

The Wisconsin Badgers are coming off a 9-4 season, which saw them fall to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl by a Score of 34-24. The Badgers lost a few key pieces defensive players to the NFL so it will be interesting to see how they match up against a very physical LSU team. The Badgers had the 8th best rushing offence in the country last season and they hope that they can pick up where they left off. The LSU Tigers are coming off a 10-3 season, which saw them finish the season with a 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. The Tigers lost nine key players to the NFL and will need some of their younger players to pick up the pieces. Coach Les Miles and the LSU staff have always been able to recruit top grade players, so it will be great to see who the standouts will be on the LSU squad this season. Surely the Tigers will miss QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill, RB Alfred Blue and WR Jarvis Landry on the offensive side of the ball.

This game could go either way.  It will all depend on which team’s defense will shine and which offense will commit the least amount of turnovers.

Game info: Kickoff on Saturday, August 30th at 9:00pm at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Miami Hurricanes vs. Louisville Cardinals
The Miami Hurricanes are coming off a 9-4 season, which saw them lose a few close games while succumbing to the injury bug. The Hurricanes finished the 2013 season with a big loss to the Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Hurricanes come into the season without QB Stephen Morris; however, they will have RB’s Duke Johnson and De’Andre Johnson returning in 2014, which will help give their offense a healthy, bode of confidence. The Louisville Cardinals are coming off a 12-1 season, which saw them beat the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl by a large margin to say the least. Louisville lost a handful of great players to the NFL, most notably, QB Teddy Bridgewater, who was the undisputed leader of that team, so it will be interesting to see how they fair on offense this year, especially with new head coach Bobby Petrino at the helm.

This is a big game for both teams because Miami most certainly want redemption for getting blown out by the Cards in the last bowl game and the Cards want to prove that they can still play with the best, even after losing a good amount of their starters from last season. Look for Miami to try and push the pace of this game and take it to young Louisville defense.

Game info: Kickoff on Monday, September 1st at 8:00pm at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky.

Matt Kassabian
Twitter: @PassDaKassabian