Thursday, November 27, 2014

NCAA Football Week 14: Rivalry Week!

Chris Davis Jr. missed field goal return for TD
The 2014 NCAA College Football season has been a spectacular one so far, to say the least and this week, week 14, is the biggest and most important week of the season for nearly every team. It is the week before Conference Championships and it's the week where teams looking to make a leap in the nation standings, will be playing their biggest game of the season, to date. This season has been filled with surprises and upsets, which has made for some phenomenal unscripted drama. This week's game will determine which teams will earn the chance to play for their conference title, which in turn will lead to a great bid for a massive bowl game come late December.

This weekend also represents one of the biggest, if not, the biggest weekend in the season in terms of rivalry games. Week 14 is jam-packed with several major rivalry games, most, which have massive implications for conference titles. If you have never watched college football in your life, this would be one of the best weeks to start because there is so much on the line in so many games and it will make for a ton of action-packed football games.

With that being said, here are some of the biggest games of the week to watch out for.


#13 Arizona State Sun Devils (9 - 2) vs. #11 Arizona Wildcats (9 - 2)

Last weekend the Arizona State Sun Devils played host to their PAC 12 foes, the Washington State Cougars, and were able to earn a 52-31 victory and improved their record to 9-2 on the season and have moved into a share of the PAC 12 South lead with their state rivals, the Wildcats of Arizona. Senior QB Taylor Kelly, who has thrown for 1,730 yards, 18 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, leads this Sun Devil offense alongside RB D.J. Foster, WR's Jaelen Strong and Cameron Smith. The Arizona State offense ranks 30th in the nation in terms of overall offensive production, however, they have looked stronger when passing the ball, rather than running it. Their offense hasn't been much of an issue this season, it's their defensive production, which ranks 84th in the country overall. The Sun Devil defense has had significant trouble stopping the pass this season after losing some defenders to the NFL in this spring's draft. Last weekend the Arizona Wildcats travelled into Utah to battle their PAC 12 foes, the Utah Utes, and were able to earn their ninth victory of the season as they routed Utah by a score of 42-10. Freshman QB Anu Solomon, who has thrown for over 3,200, 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions this season, leads the Wildcats' offense alongside RB Nick Wilson WR's Cayleb Jones and Samajie Grant. The Arizona offense has been clicking as of late and has been looking better and better each week and they have now earned the nation's 14th overall ranking in terms of overall offensive production. When it comes to defensive production, the Wildcats rank 95th in the nation in terms of overall production and they have really struggled the most when it comes to defending the pass. Both teams will look to attack their opponents through the air, while taking advantages of the weak pass defenses that each of these teams boast. This game could go either way, however, look for the Sun Devils to try and control the pace of this game with their offense that is led by a senior QB who knows the pressure of big games.

Game details: Kickoff on Friday, November 28th at 3:30pm from Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.


#16 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9 - 2) vs. #9 Georgia Bulldogs (9 - 2)

Last week Georgia Tech played hosted to their ACC foes, the Clemson Tigers, and were able to earn the 22-6 victory thus getting their ninth win of the season. Dual threat QB Justin Thomas, who has thrown for over 1,300 yards, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions so far this year and has also, rushed for over 800 yards and five touchdowns leads this Yellow Jackets offense. Thomas isn't the only playmaker on the ACC squad; RB's Zach Laskey, Synjyn Days and WR DeAndre Smelter help boost this Georgia Tech offense. This offense ranks 23rd in the nation in terms of overall offensive production, however, their rushing attack is way more potent than their passing attack. In terms of rushing production, Georgia Tech ranks 4th in the nation, but their passing attack is only 118th in college football. On the defensive side of the ball, the Yellow Jackets rank 60th in the nation in terms of overall defense and they have struggled stopping the run at times. Last weekend the Georgia Bulldogs played host to Charleston Southern and were able to thump their opponents as they went on to win by a score of 55-9. QB Hutson Mason, who has thrown for over 1,800 yards, 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season, alongside RB's Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, WR's Chris Conley and Michael Bennett lead the Georgia offensive attack. The Georgia offense ranks 26th in the nation in terms of overall production, however, their solid rushing game is to thank for that because at times they have struggled with the pass and have relied a little too much on the run. On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs defense ranks 13th in the nation in terms of overall defense and they can thank their stout secondary for that ranking because they have made it tough for opposing QB's to throw the ball against them. This game could be a trap game for the Bulldogs, who are one win away from the SEC Championship game, so the Bulldogs cannot afford to take their opponents lightly. The Georgia offense will miss the presence of RB Todd Gurley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, for this game; however, they do have other guys that can run the ball. If Georgia wants to be successful in this game they will need to have a solid day running the ball and limit the number of big plays that their defense gives up to the Yellow Jackets. If Georgia Tech wants to be successful, it will come down to their defense first and for most and stopping that great Georgia rushing attack. Georgia won by a score of 41-34 last time these two teams met back in 2013 so the Yellow Jackets would sure like to redeem themselves this season and this match up should make for a very exciting game.

Game details: Kickoff on Saturday, November 29th at 1:00pm from Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.



Florida Gators (6 - 4) vs. #3 Florida State Seminoles (11 - 0)

Last week the Florida Gators played host to Eastern Kentucky in a game where they were able to win by a score of 52-3 as they earned their sixth win of the season. QB's Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris, whom combined have more than 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns; however, they do have 11 interceptions, 10 of which were thrown by Driskel. It's very visible that QB play isn't the strength of this Gator team; however, RB's Matt Jones, Kelvin Taylor, WR's Demarcus Robinson and Quinton Dunbar help lead this Gator offense as well. The Florida offense ranks 81st in the nation in terms of overall offensive production and they can thank their underwhelming passing game for that as it ranks 104th in the nation. These poor offensive numbers are very un-Florida like and have led to the dismissal of their Head Coach, Will Muschamp. On the other side of the ball is where Florida makes their money, so to speak, with their 11th ranked overall defense; the Gators are one of the best teams in the country at stopping the run. They have looked very good in pass defense as well, which is a great sign. Last week the Florida State Seminoles played host to their ACC rivals, the Boston College Eagles and were barely able to squeak out a 20-17 win to earn their eleventh victory of the season. None other than QB Jameis Winston, who has thrown for over 3,100 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions so far this season, leads the Seminoles offense. RB's Karlos Williams, Dalvin Cook, WR's Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary are all playmakers that add a seriously skillful dimension to the 'Noles offense. The Florida State attack ranks 36th in the nation in terms of overall production, but, they have had a lot more success passing the ball than running the ball, statistically speaking. On the other side of the ball, the Seminole defense ranks 53rd in the nation in terms of overall defense and they have looked vulnerable stopping the opposing passing attack all season too. Though the Seminoles are undefeated and are playing a Gator team with four losses, it's important that they don't try to cruise and think they can easily beat the Gators, because they can't. That Florida defense is the key for them in this game, if they want to win. They will have to neutralize the Seminoles offense all game and try to stop Jameis Winston from beating them with his arm and/or legs. This game could truly go either way. If the Gators want to be successful on offense, they will need to come up with better passing plays because they cannot simply rely on the run against a fairly stout Florida State defensive line. This game will come down to the team that plays better on defense. The last time these two teams met was last season, the Florida State Seminoles won the game by a score of 37-7 so look for the Florida Gators to come out hungry as they look to avenge last season's loss to their in state rivals, the 'Noles.

Game details: Kickoff on Saturday, November 29th at 3:30pm from Bobby Bowden Field in Tallahassee, Florida.


#4 Mississippi State Bulldogs (10 - 1) vs. #19 Mississippi Rebels (8 - 3)

Last week the Mississippi State Bulldogs played host to their SEC foes, Vanderbilt, and were able to pull away with the massive 51-0 victory and improve their record to 10-1 on the season, with that one loss coming at the hands of Alabama the week before. Dual threat and Heisman hopeful QB Dak Prescott, who has thrown for over 2,700 yards 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions so far this season, spearheads the Bulldog offensive attack. Prescott can do it with his feet too; he has rushed for nearly 900 yards and 12 touchdowns. Other offensive weapons for Mississippi State include RB Josh Robinson, WR's De'Runnya Wilson, Malcolm Johnson and Fred Brown. The Bulldog offense ranks 9th in the country in terms of overall production and their great rushing attack has a lot to do with that. On the other side of the ball, the Bulldog defense ranks 68th in the nation in terms of overall production however, they have had a lot more success when it comes to stopping the run this season and have struggled quite a bit in their pass defense. Last week the Rebels of Ole Miss went into Arkansas to battle their SEC foes and were shutout in a 30-0 loss. Last week's embarrassing loss pushed the Rebels to 8-3 and they have now lost three of their last four games, a streak which they will look to turn around against their biggest rivals this weekend. Dual threat QB Bo Wallace, who has thrown for nearly 2,800 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions so far this season, helps lead this Rebel offense. Ole Miss has some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball including RB Jaylen Walton, WR's Vince Sanders and Cody Core; however, they are missing their best threat in WR Laquon Treadwell, who has been dealing with injuries. The Ole Miss offense ranks 44th in the nation in terms of production and they have been a team that can throw the ball better as their rushing attack hasn't been at its best this season. On the other side of the ball, the Ole Miss defense ranks 10th in the nation in terms of overall production and they can thank their ball-hawking secondary for that because they have made it a living nightmare for teams to throw the ball against them. If the Bulldogs want to be effective, they will need to play tempo against the Rebels defense and rush the ball with authority. Playing tempo will take the defense off their game plan and Ole Miss isn't as good in their rush defense as they are in the pass defense. If the Rebels want to be successful they will need to contain QB Dak Prescott because he can burn teams with his feet and arm. The Rebels passing game needs to step up and take advantage of an awful Mississippi State secondary, If Mississippi State can limit the amount of big passing plays that are orchestrated by Bo Wallace; they have a great chance at winning this game. The last time these teams met back in 2013, the Bulldogs won a tightly contested matchup by a score of 17-10 so you know the Rebels are eager to avenge that loss.

Game details: Kickoff on Saturday, November 29th at 3:30pm from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi.


#15 Auburn Tigers (8 - 3) vs. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (10 - 1)

Last weekend the Auburn Tigers played host to the Samford Bulldogs and were able to earn a 31-7 win as they improved their record to 8-3 so far on this season. Dual threat QB Nick Marshall, who has thrown for over 1,800 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions so far this season, leads this Auburn offensive attack. Marshall has also run for over 700 yards this season and 11 touchdowns. However, he is not their only playmaker on offense, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, WR's D'haquille Williams and Sammie Coats are just a couple of the team’s best offensive weapons. The Auburn offense ranks 21st in the nation in terms of overall offensive production and a big part of that ranking is due to the fact that they have a dominant rushing attack that ranks in the top ten. They are a team that prides itself on the run, but, don't be fooled, they have big play ability when it comes to the passing game and have beaten teams deep downfield. The Auburn defense ranks 51st in the country in terms of overall defensive production and they are a defense that have proven they can stop the run, though, they have struggled at times in their pass defense. Last weekend the Alabama Crimson Tide played host to the Western Carolina Catamounts in a game where they were able to win by a score of 48-14 and earn their tenth win of the season. QB Blake Sims, who has thrown for over 2,600 yards, 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions so far this season, leads the Crimson Tide offense. The Crimson Tide are loaded with offensive talent and a few of their big name players that help lead their attack include RB's T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, WR's Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White. These playmakers help lead the 20th ranked Alabama offense, an offense that is as balanced at they come because they have proven that they can run the ball effectively and also pass the ball effectively without relying on one element more than the other. The Crimson Tide defense ranks 5th in the nation in terms of overall defense and they have proven to be very effective as of late, especially when it comes to stopping the rush, where they are indeed one of the best teams in that category. If Auburn wants to be successful in this game, they will need to move the ball in the air, they can't rely solely on their rushing attack against this Alabama defense that has just neutralized opposing rushing attacks. If attacking the Alabama secondary will be their best option. If Alabama wants to be effective in this game, they will also need to attack in the air and take advantage of a mediocre Auburn secondary. However, their other key to victory will be eliminating runs by QB Nick Marshall, if they can pressure and contain Marshall they have a great shot at winning this game. We all remember what happened last season, the missed potential game-winning Alabama field goal that was returned 100+ yards by Auburn's Chris Davis for a touchdown as time expired to win the Iron Bowl for Auburn. When these two powerhouses meet, anything can happen, and that is not an exaggeration. Alabama will be seeking revenge in this game and will stop at nothing to ensure that they do their best to earn a statement win this weekend.


Game details: Kickoff on Saturday, November 29th at 7:45pm from Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 

Matt Kassabian
@PassDaKassabian

NFL Week 13: Brady vs Rodgers: A battle of potential MVPs


Last week in the 12th week of the 2014 NFL season we were all able to enjoy a very good week of football, there wasn't a single game that was not worth missing, which is great news for all fans. However, there were not as many upsets last week as there were in past week. The biggest upset of the week came in the first game of week 12 when the Kansas City Chiefs travelled west into Oakland where they battled their AFC west division foes, the Raiders, and were handed their fourth loss of the season as they fell by a score of 24-20. The Raiders earned their first win of the season last week and have been visibly better each week since interim head coach Tony Sparano stepped in a few weeks ago. Last week we also saw the Cleveland Browns continue their impressive season as they went into Atlanta's Georgia Dome, a very hostile environment, and beat the Falcons on a last second game-winning field goal that gave the Browns their seventh win of the season. Week 12 also saw the Seattle Seahawks play host to their NFC West division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals, in a game where the Seahawks dominated from start to finish on their way to a 19-3 win, which pushed their record to 7-4 on the season. The Buffalo Bills were not able to play at home on Sunday due to a series of snowstorms that paralyzed the greater Buffalo area so they headed down to Detroit and host their AFC North rivals, the New York Jets, at Ford Field and were able to win the game by a score of 38-3.

This week, the 13th week of the season, we will see several big games, which feature major divisional rivals. Many of the games this week will have serious playoff implications because as the season begins to wind down, the games get more and more important for playoff contending teams. This week is also Thanksgiving for our friends to the south, which means three massive football games on Thursday, not just the one Thursday night game, that being said, here are some of this week's biggest games to watch out for.


Seattle Seahawks (7 - 4) vs. San Francisco 49ers (7 - 4)

Last week the Seattle Seahawks played host to their NFC West division foes, the Arizona Cardinals, in a game where the Seahawks controlled the pace of the game the whole day and were able to earn the much needed 19-3 win. QB Russell Wilson, who has thrown for over 2,200 yards, 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, alongside RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse lead the Seahawks offensive attack. Seattle has the league’s 13th ranked overall offensive in terms of production and that’s due in large part to their rushing attack, which ranks first in the league, however, their aerial attack ranks 30th in the league, a number which must change, if the Seahawks look to repeat as league Champions. On the other side of the ball the Seahawks boast the league’s top ranked defense, which isn't very surprising. The Seahawks have proven that they can stop the run and that they can defend against the pass. Last week the San Francisco 49ers played host to the Washington Redskins in a game which saw the home team 49ers win by a score of 17-13 and extend their winning streak to three games while picking up their seventh win of the season. 49ers are led by their dual threat QB Colin Kaepernick, who has thrown for over 2,600 yards, 15 touchdowns and only six interceptions so far this season. RB Frank Gore, WR's Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Steve Johnson help round out the offense for this San Francisco team. Their offense ranks 19th in the league in terms of overall offensive production, however, this is a team that prides itself on the run and has not struggled a bit in the passing game. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers defense ranks 2nd in the league in terms of overall defense and they, like their rivals from Seattle, have proven that they can defend against the run and the pass. If the Seahawks want to be successful in this game, they will absolutely need to get a more effective passing game going. Russell Wilson must try to include a few other receivers in the mix because it's going to be very tough to continue to simply run the ball against the 49ers. On defense, the Seahawks must look to contain Colin Kaepernick by committing a linebacker to spy on him and prevent him breaking off big runs when there's nobody to throw the ball to downfield. If the 49ers want to be successful in this game they will need to contain Marshawn Lynch by ensuring their defensive linemen are able to clog up the gaps and ensure Lynch isn't breaking through the line with ease. The 49ers must also look to improve their passing attack, they have several great playmaking wide receivers and tight ends that are way underutilized in this offensive scheme and it's about time they use what they have. It’s obvious that it will be tough to pass the ball on the Seahawks, however, they must make the attempt. This matchup has made for one of the best rivalries in the sport in recent years and it's always anyone's game when these two teams meet. However, one thing's for sure, it will be a great game.

Game details: Kickoff on Thursday, November 27th at 8:30 pm from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.


New England Patriots (9 - 2) vs. Green Bay Packers (8 - 3)

Last week the New England Patriots played host to the Detroit Lions and were able to beat down their opponents from the NFC North and come away with the 34-9 victory and as they earned their ninth win of the season. The fierce competitor, QB Tom Brady, who has thrown for 3,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions so far this season, leads the dynamic offensive attack of the Patriots. RB's Steven Ridley, LaGarrette Blount, WR's Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski are all major offensive weapons and have helped the Patriots become one the league’s most successful offenses this season. The Patriots rank 7th in the league in terms of overall offensive production and they are a balanced team that can both run the ball and pass the ball effectively. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots rank 14th in the league in term of overall defense, however, they have been showing signs of significant improvement on a weekly basis and are quickly becoming one of the leagues most feared defenses. Last week the Green Bay Packers crossed state lines to travel to Minnesota to battle their NFC North rivals, the Vikings, in a game which saw them win by a score of 24-21 and narrowly avoiding a massive upset. The cool, calm and collected QB Aaron Rodgers, who has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards, 30 touchdowns and only three interceptions so far this season, leads this high powered Packers offense. Like their week 13 counterparts, the Patriots, Green Bay has a great amount of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball that have helped them become the NFC North division leaders, players like RB Eddie Lacy, WR's Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and TE Andrew Quarless. The Packers offense ranks 9th in the league in terms of overall offensive production, however they are a team that has a more affective passing game and has struggled at times this season with their running game. On the other side of the ball, the Packers defense ranks 23rd in the league in terms of overall defense, a number which must continue to improve if the Packers want to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy. The Packers defense has looked poor at times when it came to defending against the run, however, in recent weeks they have shown improvements after making some personnel adjustments. If the Patriots want to be successful in this game, they will need to attack the Packers up the middle and run the ball with authority by mixing it up with Blount and Ridley. However, they will need their defense to step up too, in particular, their secondary, who will need to prevent big plays down field to the Packers star wide receivers. If the Packers want to be successful against the AFC North leading Patriots, they will need their defense to step up big. There's hardly any doubt that QB Aaron Rodgers is capable of leading this offense past Brady and the Patriots, however, there have been several questions of concern when it comes to this defense and if it can hold up and limit the Patriots, if the Packers can contain Brady, they have a shot at winning this game. This clash of all-pro quarterbacks is a matchup for the ages and any one of these two QB's capable of guiding their team to victory, however, the slightest edge may have to go with the Patriots only because their defense has been executing much better as of late.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 30th at 4:25pm from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.


Denver Broncos (8 - 3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (7 - 4)

Last week the Denver Broncos played host to the Miami Dolphins in what was a very thrilling game, which saw, the home team Broncos pull off the comeback and earn a 39-36 victory over their AFC North foes. QB Peyton Manning, who has thrown for over 3,500 yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions so far this season, leads the high-powered Broncos offensive attack. Denver is fortunate to have offensive playmakers such as RB C.J. Anderson, WR's Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and TE Julius Thomas on their team because they have helped their team become one of the most dangerously efficient offences in the NFL today. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos defense ranks 6th in the league in terms of overall production and has looked much better this year than last years. They have proven they can stop the run and have looked fairly decent in their pass defense, however, they must improve a bit more in that category if they want to head back to the Super Bowl. Last week the Kansas City Chiefs went into Oakland to battle their AFC West division rivals, the Raiders in a Thursday Night primetime game which saw them fall to their rivals by a score of 24-20. QB Alex Smith, who has thrown for over 2,200 yards, 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions this year, alongside RB Jamaal Charles, WR's Dwayne Bowe, and TE Travis Kelce lead the Kansas City offensive attack. The Chiefs offense ranks 23rd in the league in terms of overall offensive production and that number is because the Chiefs passing offense ranks amongst the worst in the league, but, they do run the ball effectively and it shows. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs defense ranks 8th in the league in terms of overall production and they have proven that they can stop the run, yet, this season they have been more effective in their pass defense as their secondary has allowed the fewest yards in the league to opposing offenses. If the Broncos want to be successful in this game, they will need to run the ball very well because it could be tough for Peyton Manning and Company to create big plays down field against this Chiefs secondary. The Broncos will also need to contain RB Jamaal Charles and prevent him from breaking big runs against them because he is the key to their success. If the Chiefs want to be successful, they have to implement a more balanced offensive attack and not rely so heavily on the run against this great Denver run defense. The Chiefs' Alex Smith must look to move the ball in the air and incorporate more of his receivers into the mix. He is often way to safe and conservative with his passing and it has proven to be detrimental in the past. If he can get some plays going downfield to the Chiefs receiving core then they have a good shot at winning this AFC West showdown.


Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 30th at 8:30pm from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

Matt Kassabian
@PassDaKassabian 

Monday, November 24, 2014

NCAA Basketball is back!

Joseph Young, NCAA's leading scorer
We are finally settling into the NCAA season with about three games played thus far.  Kentucky has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders (what else is new?) with a 5-0 record, Arizona, Wisconsin and Duke have also raced out to perfect records in the early goings, while the 5th ranked Kansas team is currently 1-1, but it should be mentioned that they did get blown out by the #1 ranked Wildcats.

Here are three games to watch for tonight

#12 Villanova Wildcats (3-0) vs #15 Virginia Commonwealth Rams (3-0)
Two of Villanova’s first three games have been fairly close (defeated Lehigh by 11 and Bucknell by seven points, respectively), but this is a Wildcats team that shows up when it is time to play the big dogs.  Dylan Ennis has emerged as the go to guy early in the season averaging 15 points a game to go along with five boards.  Ennis can also step out and hit the three, as he is shooting just a shade under 44%.  VCU will have to keep Daniel Ochefu off the boards, if they can do that; they have a legitimate chance at taking this match-up.  Darrun Hilliard II has been very quiet for Villanova thus far, but that does mean that VCU should not guard him tightly because he can get it going once again.  Toledo was the only team that has given VCU trouble thus far, and they still lost by nine points.  The Rams are ranked 9th in the country in scoring, which means that Villanova will have its hands full trying to keep up with this high octane VCU offense. Melvin Johnson and Treveon Graham are two players that will have to be guarded closely by the Wildcats because they are the ones that do most of the damage on the offensive end.  That being said, both the aforementioned players can step out and hit the three point shot, which really does make them a tough cover for opposing defenses.  Villanova’s switching and double teaming will need to be played to perfection.  Look for this to be a very high scoring game in the upper 80s.
Prediction: VCU Rams by five

#24 Michigan Wolverines vs Oregon Ducks
Michigan is led by the three headed monster of: Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert.  These three players make this Wolverines team run.  LeVert is having the best start to the season of the three, averaging 15 points a game to go along with seven boards and six assists.  As you can tell by the numbers, LeVert plays on both sides of the court.  Michigan ranks 38th in the country with 80 points scored a game, which means that Oregon will have its work cut out for them, trying to contain the Wolverines.  Michigan also ranks 17th in three points shooting at just under 46%, so the Ducks will have to get out and contest shots, otherwise it could be a long night.  If there is one weakness to this Michigan team, it is their rebounding, where they rank 169th in the country and that is expected, when you essentially have all five starters under 6’9.  Safe to say Mitch McGary is missed.  The Ducks are led by the #1 scorer in the country, Joseph Young.  Young is averaging 26 points this season, but he also grabs five boards and chips in with four assists.  Young will be a match-up nightmare for any of the Michigan guards.  Apart from Young, Mississauga forward, Dillon Brooks is having a pretty good freshman season putting up 12 points to go along with three boards and three assists.  Brooks will most likely be responsible for slowing down, Zak Irvin, which will no doubt be a tough task for the first year player.  If the Wolverines standouts can get it going early and often, they have a genuine chance at defeating the Ducks.  Young will see a ton of different defenders and I do not think he will have a great game shooting wise.
Prediction: Michigan by four or less

Brigham Young Cougars vs (16) San Diego State Aztecs
Well, this is quite the match-up we have on our hands.  BYU ranks 4th in points scored, while San Diego State ranks 3rd in points allowed.  BYU is led by Tyler Haws and Chase Fischer, but it should be pointed out that eight BYU players average over five points a game, which means they are not afraid to use their bench, something quite a few NCAA teams do not utilize.  The Cougars also rank 30th in rebounding, 15th in field goal percentage, 6th in assists and 16th in steals.  These stats show that BYU can play some defenseand not everything runs through their offensive game.  The Aztecs defense will really have their work cut out for them in this match-up.  It is no secret that San Diego State, more often than not, wins ugly games.  For example, in their last game, they beat Bakersfield by a score of 51-27.  On the offensive end, the Aztecs are led by Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien.  It is interesting to note that no Aztec player averages more than 11 points a game, which I find fairly remarkable, even though the team, as a whole, is averaging only 61 points a game.  When going to the hoop, BYU must be cautious of Skylar Spencer, who averages 3.7 blocks a game.  As you may have predicted, Aztecs are 15th in steals per game and 28th in blocks per game, both defensive categories, which is no real surprise here.  Defense usually wins games, but I feel that BYU will pull it off tonight.
Prediction: BYU by 10

Ogi B

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Radnicki Kragujevac/Red Star Recap

disappointment after the match
Red Star took on the worst team in the Serbian league, FK Radnicki Kragujevac, and were not able to bring home three points from the match, which is very disappointing for a team that wants to compete and win back-to-back titles.

Red Star came out in the following line up (4-1-4-1):
Rajkovic; Pavicevic, Planic, Lazic, Mijailovic; Kovacevic; Lazovic, Ristic, Bosancic, Pecnik; Rakic
Used subs: Katai-Kovacevic, Jovic-Bosancic, Despotovic-Lazovic

The first half of the match was very uneventful.  The only real chance came when Rakic hit the crossbar.  Red Star’s defensive record has been the best in the league, up to this point only allowing four goals, but that is not say that they have been perfect, in fact it has been far from that. 

Ristic and Bosancic had nothing going for them when it comes to the passing game and that is very important because they are counted upon to provide service for the likes of Rakic, Jovic and Despotovic.  When Milijas left, earlier in the season, Bosancic was supposed to fit right in and take his spot.  It has not worked out to say the least.

Seven minutes after the restart, Planic was given a red card for bringing down a Radnicki player.  The play was a clear offside, meaning the referee got the call completely wrong.

Going down to 10 men was a blessing in disguise for Red Star because they played much better attacking football after that ejection, as weird as that sounds.  The same cannot be said for Radnicki.  Instead of attacking Red Star and trying to go for the three points, they sat back and seemed very happy with the point.

Radnicki had one good chance in the finishing stages, but fortunately for Red Star, Pavicevic was able to clear the ball off the line just in time.  Rakic had another crossbar in the 2nd half, while Pecnik had a very good shot saved by Radnicki keeper, Trifunovic.

All in all, this was a very disappointing performance from Red Star, which has been a pattern this season.  15 goals in 13 matches will not cut it in any league and the amount of missed opportunities that the team has had in the past five matches or so, has been alarming.  A change to the formation (possibly playing with two attackers) could help, however it is not a guarantee.

With the Planic red card, look for 18-year-old, Vukasin Jovanovic to possibly get the start at centreback, or the team could very well shift Pavicevic back to centreback and let Djordjevic play on the wing.

News around the team
-Nikola Mijailovic has been stripped of the captain’s armband.  Lazovic has taken over as team captain.

-Possible winter signings (for now) could include Dusan Andjelkovic and Zvjezdan Misimovic.

-Manager, Nenad Lalatovic ripped FK Radnicki’s manager after the match for playing such a closed formation.  In a sense, I do agree with Lalatovic that it is not attractive football,  at the end of the day, teams have to do whatever it takes to earn points.



Ogi B

Analysis Alan's Week Twelve Picks


Away vs Home Pick
Chiefs vs Raiders Raiders
-8 8
Bengals vs Texans Bengals
1.5 -1.5
Browns vs Falcons Falcons
3.5 -3.5
Lions vs Patriots Lions
7.5 -7.5
Packers vs Vikings Packers
-10.5 10.5
Jaguars vs Colts Jaguars
14.5 -14.5
Jets vs Bills Jets
4.5 -4.5
Bucs vs Bears Bears
6.5 -6.5
Titans vs Eagles Titans
11.5 -11.5
Cardinals vs Seahawks Cardinals
6.5 -6.5
Rams vs Chargers Chargers
4.5 -4.5
Dolphins vs Broncos Broncos
8 -8
Redskins vs 49ers Redskins
10 -10
Cowboys vs Giants Giants
-4 4
Ravens vs Saints Ravens
3 -3
Last week 9-5
Overall 83-76
Alan M
@AlanGotJKZ

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NFL Week 12: Separating contenders from pretenders

Rob Gronkowski

Last week, the eleventh week of the 2014 NFL season, we were all given the gift of some solid football, not the most exciting of weeks; however, there were some great games which featured teams making statements by winning big. The Atlanta Falcons earned a 19-17 win over their NFC South division rivals, the Carolina Panthers as they improved their record to 4-6 on the season and now sit atop the lacklustre NFC South. The Chicago Bears were able to snap their losing streak, as they went on to beat their NFC North division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 21-13. The Kansas City Chiefs played host to the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks, and were able to snuff their opponents as they earned a 24-20 victory and improved their record to 7-3 on the season. The biggest surprise of week 11 would have to be the Denver Broncos going into the St. Louis and getting dominated as they went on to lose to the Rams by a score of 22-7. Also in week 11, the Patriots went on the road and into Lucas Oil Stadium, a place which hasn’t been kind to the Patriots in recent years and were able to earn an impressive 42-20 victory over their AFC foes.

We are slowly nearing the end of the season, as much as all of us fans don’t want to admit, and wins are becoming more and more crucial for those teams looking to make a playoff push. Week 12 brings us several great games that hold major importance and that will impact the standings.

That being said, here are a few games to look for this weekend.

Detroit Lions (7 – 3) vs. New England Patriots (8 – 2)
Last week the Detroit Lions travelled cross-country into the state of Arizona to do battle with the Cardinals in a tilt of NFC powerhouses. The Lions fell to the Cardinals by a score of 14-6, which dropped their record to 7-3 and helped improve the Arizona record to a league best 9-1 on the season. QB Matthew Stafford leads the Lions offense which ranks 21st in the league in terms of overall production, with the rushing attack ranking 30th in the league, a number that they are not proud of and a number that must improve. The Lions’ bread and butter is their defensive play, it has won them some games this year and currently ranks 1st in the league in terms of overall defense. Their defensive front has been able to effectively stop the run this season, making them a force to be recon with for opposing backs. The Lions have a new weapon on offense and it’s not Calvin Johnson, it is WR Golden Tate, who has over 900 receiving yards to his name, a team high. Last week the New England Patriots had themselves quite the road trip as they marched into Indianapolis and laid a smack down on the hometown Colts as they went on to win the game by a score of 42-20 and improved their record to 8-2 on the season. QB Tom Brady, who has thrown for over 2,600 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, leads the Patriots high powered offense. The Patriots have their share of offensive weapons which include, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, RB’s Steven Ridley and Jonas Gray. Gray went off last Sunday night against the Colts as he rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns. He made quite the name for himself and it will be interesting to see how he fairs against the Lions this Sunday. The Patriots defense has been playing very well as of late, they rank 16th in the league in terms of overall defense, but don’t let the numbers fool you, they have a dynamite defense that can execute to perfection. If the Lions want to be successful they will have to move the ball more efficiently on offense. As of late their play calling has been quite predictable and they have not run the ball well at all. The Lions will need to spread the ball evenly and try not to lock into only Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate because those two will be blanketed, they will need TE Eric Ebron to step and prove himself. If the Lions can move the ball efficiently and not have to rely on yet another fourth quarter comeback, they have a shot at beating the Patriots. If the Patriots want to be effective in this game, they will need to pass the ball efficiently because it could be tough running against the Lions top-ranked D-line. Brady, the master game manager must look methodically to move the ball downfield for long, time-consuming against this defense. Brady to Gronk will be the match up to watch because these two fully understand each other and they have the ability to make life a living nightmare for opposing defenses. This game should be a fun one to watch; however, the Patriots have a distinct advantage in this game based on the way they’ve been playing as of late.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 23rd at 1:00pm from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. 

Arizona Cardinals (9 – 1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (6 – 4)
Last week the Arizona Cardinals played host to the Detroit Lions and were able to earn a tough 14-6 win and improve their record to 9-1 on the season. QB Drew Stanton is now leading the Cardinal offense after their number one starter; Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury just one week ago. Drew Stanton has made appearances in five games so far this season and has thrown for over 900 yards, five touchdowns and only two interceptions, so it’s fair to say that he is a dependable back-up quarterback. WR’s Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd and RB Andre Ellington are the playmakers on this Cardinals squad and will look to help lead their team to their tenth win of the season in the hostile environment that is CenturytLink Field. Arizona is a team that ranks 20th in the league in terms of overall offense and 13th in the league in terms of overall defense. They are a very balanced team, meaning they can perform well on both sides of the ball. Now, don’t let the numbers fool you, they may not be in the top 10 in terms of their rankings, however, they’re a damn good football team that can grind down their opponents and earn tough, hard-fought victories. Last week the Seattle Seahawks went on the road to battle the Kansas City Chiefs and were handed their fourth loss of the season after they fell to the Chiefs by a score of 24-20. QB Russell Wilson, who has thrown for over 2,000 yards, 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season, he leads the league 11th ranked overall offense. With RB Marshawn Lynch and the mobile QB Russ Wilson at the helm, it’s no surprise that the Seahawks rank 1st in the NFL in terms of rushing offense. However, their passing game has struggled so far this season, it ranks 30th in the league in terms of production and the Seahawks desperately missing the presence of a superstar wide receiver who can put up the numbers. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks defense ranks 3rd in the NFL in terms of production and they have proven that they can stop both the run and the pass, though they are nowhere near as dominate as they were last season. If the Cardinals want to be successful in the bitter NFC West clash, they will need to be functioning on all cylinders and have QB Drew Stanton executing plays that he’s comfortable with, not forcing any throws and taking what the defense gives him. Some teams have had success running the ball against the Seahawks so that means RB Andre Ellington, if used effectively, can have a decent game against the Seahawks. The key to beating the Seattle defense is playing high tempo, no huddle offense because the Seahawks love to substitute their defensive players and when teams play tempo on them, they can switch thus meaning they are playing more snaps with fatigued players in the game. If the Seahawks want to be successful in this game they will need QB Russell Wilson to be at his best because the Cardinal’s defense is no joke. The Seahawks will need a receiver to step up and prove themselves because as of now, the Seahawks don’t have any receivers with more than 500 yards, and that’s a shame, especially when you’re the defending champions. This is going to be a close defensive game with the potential for either team to take the victory; however, the Seahawks have a slight advantage simply because they’re playing at home.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, November 23rd at 4:05pm CenutryLink Field in Seattle, Washington.

Baltimore Ravens (6 – 4) vs. New Orleans Saints (4 – 6)
The Baltimore Ravens are coming off of a bye week; however, in their last game in week 10; the Ravens had earned themselves a 21-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans which improved their record to 6-4 on the season. QB Joe Flacco, who has thrown for over 2,500 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions so far this season, he will be leading the 12th ranked Ravens offense. RB Justin Forsett and WR Steve Smith lead the team at their respective positions by putting up some fantastic numbers and have given this Ravens offense a new look and style.  The Ravens are a team that can effectively run the ball and pass the ball which is good because they don’t have to rely on one aspect of the offense to win their games for them. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens defense ranks 11th in the league in terms of overall defense (which we are used to) and can thank the defensive front seven for that. Last week the New Orleans Saints played host to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game which saw them fall to their AFC foes by a score of 27-10. QB Drew Brees, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, leads the Saints and their 2nd ranked overall offense. Brees has put up some solid numbers this year; however, he has thrown for 10 interceptions already which is unheard of when it comes to the typical Drew Brees standards. The Saints are loaded with playmakers on offense with guys like TE Jimmy Graham, WR Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and RB Mark Ingram, who have helped the Saints with their offensive ranking. The Saints defense, which looked incredible last season, has struggled so far this season, in particular in the pass defense. The Saints defense ranks 20th in the league in terms of overall production and that ranking isn’t ideal for a team that’s looking to regain control of the NFC South division. If the Ravens want to be successful in this game, they will need to pass the ball effectively against this struggling Saints secondary. Joe Flacco will need to hook up with Steve Smith and Torrey Smith in hopes of torching the Saints secondary. The Ravens will also need to figure out how to cope with the noise that the fans will generate inside the Superdome. If the Saints want to be effective in this game, they will need Drew Brees to have himself a great day in the passing department and take advantage of the Ravens secondary that has also looked a tad vulnerable at times, like their counterparts in this game. Brees cannot turn the ball over anymore; he must take better care of it and ensure his offense is on the field more often and not Baltimore’s. The Saints need this win if they want any shot at making the playoffs, however, it’s going to be very tough to earn against a very balanced Ravens squad that is also hungry for a win and is eager to gain ground in the division and leapfrog the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Game details: Kickoff on Monday, November 24th at 8:30 pm from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Matt Kassabian
@PassDaKassabian

Friday, November 14, 2014

The UFC: Keeping Up with the Action


Looking Back
Looking back on some recent events, it is the up and comers that are shinning as they continually push out the old names of the UFC. A prime example of this was on November 8th at UFC Fight Night 56: Shogun vs St Preux where St Preux defeated Shogun by TKO in a matter of seconds. Previous to this fight St Preux had been quietly collecting several impressive wins, having won 11 of his past 13 fights. The only losses came to Ryan Badar and Gerard Mousasi.

Another quick defeat over one of the sports stars happened on that same day in Sydney, Australia. Luke Rockhold defeated Michael Bisping by guillotine choke at :57 of the second round. This, in many people’s minds, was Bisping’s last shot towards a title fight. Bisping has won many big fights; however, has not been able to win important fights to get him into any talks of title contention.

Just prior to that action packed weekend we watched as Jose Aldo defeated Chad Mendes at UFC 179. Although it was not as decisive as his first victory over Mendes, it was an impressive battle. The win was impressive enough for increasing talk of him passing Jon Jones in the Top Pound for Pound rankings. With Aldo having now defended his title seven times in the UFC and with having only one loss on his record, it is certainly something that could be argued.

In that same card we saw Phil Davis easily handle Glover Teixeira proving that Glover just has not been the same fighter since his loss to Jon Jones.

Looking Forward
UFC 180 might be forever thought of as the injury card. What promised to be one of the greatest cards in UFC history was absolutely destroyed by injuries. Being the first ever card in Mexico City, the UFC was looking to put on a special event, including their country’s hero, Cain Velasquez fighting to defend his title. Unfortunately an MCL injury to the champ put an end to those plans. Also in one of the most anticipated fights of the year both Diego Sanchez (knee) and Joe Lauzon had to withdraw due to injuries. Joe Lauzon was himself an injury replacement for the Ultimate Fighter winner, Norman Parke.

What is left of the UFC 180 card is an interim title Heavyweight fight that Cain Velasquez and fans alike dismiss, as Cain states, “when I have my chance to fight, we’ll fight for the real one.” Many people believe that should Fabricio Werdum fight as he did against Travis Browne, he should walk all over Mark Hunt. The last person to beat Werdum, Alistair Overeem, commented on the upcoming fight saying, “At the heavyweight division, it can go either way”. He also goes on to admit he believes Werdum has the advantage in the fight.

Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum is also an interesting fight for this card. For those who have read my past work I noted over a year ago that Kelvin was a fighter to watch out for. He was very unassuming on the Ultimate Fighter, where he was the eventual winner, and he continues to impress here in the UFC, remaining undefeated. Ellenberger, on the other hand, has struggled to win lately and should he lose at UFC 180, it would be his third loss in a row. This would be a huge win for Gastelum beating the 7th ranked welterweight and would certainly see him move up in the division.

Another interesting and potentially explosive fight is that between Ricardo Lamas and Dennis Bermudez. Lamas has won five of his last six fights, his only loss coming in a title fight against Jose Aldo. Bermudez is also riding a significant streak of his own. Since losing in the Ultimate Fighter Finale, Bermudez has won seven fights in a row including an impressive victory over Clay Guida on July 26th. These are two fighters that are certainly in the talk for title contention and an impressive win at UFC 180 could get them a fight away from fighting for the title.

In a quick preview of UFC Fight Night 57 we will look at the main event between Franky Edgar and Cub Swanson. This fight has all the potential to be the fight of the year, as we have a past champion and experienced veteran of the sport fighting a young fighter doing anything in his power for a shot at the title. Swanson has been extremely impressive having now won six in a row in impressive fashion. A win over Edgar; however, would be his most impressive to date.

Then UFC fans can look forward to one of the best cards of 2014 on December 6th. At UFC 181 we have two title fights including the rematch between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. Many believe that this fight will go the same way as the first fight; nevertheless, this fight has the potential to go either way and promises to be extremely exciting.

The other title fight on this card will be Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis taking on Gilbert Melendez. Another fight with the potential of a war or the potential to end in seconds. All of Gilbert’s past four fights have went the distance, including three five round fights. Pettis, on the other hand, has made quick work of his last three fights, winning them all in the first round.
In another main card fight that will include two heavyweights with the potential to knock you out with one punch, we have Travis Browne and Brendan Schaub. This fight could be a turnaround for Browne as he looks to get back into title contention after his loss to Fabricio Werdum.

Recently Announced
If these main cards aren’t exciting enough for you, here are some recent fight announcement:
·         The return of Frank Mir. Many did not believe he would be back, but it has been announced that he will be fighting ‘’Bigfoot’’ Silva at UFC 184. This fight is in addition to already announced Chris Weidman vs Vitor Belfot and Ronda Rousey. It is clear that the UFC wants to start 2015 with a bang.
·         Sweden can look forward to two exciting fights. UFC Fight Night: Anthony Johnson vs Alexander Gustafsson has just been announced, as well as another main card event with Dan Henderson taking on Gerard Mousasi. This event is set for January 24th, so expect more announcements in the near future.

Curtis Lauzon
@CurtisLauzon