SportsView Mon, 17 Oct 2011 18:19:18 GMT Commentary on sports events and people...not just the latest news! Five Things I Learned About College Football - Week 7 <p>Status quo...until Nov. 5. The top teams are winning out and everyone's waiting for the big SEC showdown between LSU and Alabama...then a month later for Bedlam when Oklahoma plays Oklahoma State. But, I still learned some things this past weekend... </p><p>Here are the Top Five Things I Learned About College Football in Week 7: </p><p>1. Oregon, even without LaMichael James, is potent. His replacement, DeAnthony Thomas, nicknamed The Black Mamba, is good. And fast. The Ducks didn't seem to miss LMJ, and with Kenjon Barner, they are still more than good. </p><p>2. Clemson is the real deal. Yes, I wanted my Terps to win on Homecoming, but what an entertaining game they provided. Certainly, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney didn't enjoy the up-and-down-the-field game as much as those of watching, but Sammy Watkins had do put a smile on his face. The freshman racked up a school-record 345 all-purpose yards. He caught two TD's in the third quarter when Clemson began to rally from a 35-17 deficit, returning one kickoff 70 yards and returned another 89 yards for the go-ahead score with 7:24 remaining. He broke C.J. Spiller's single-game record in just his seventh game. Wow...And, hats off to Coach Randy Edsall and the Terps. I didn't think they had it in them to play so well this year...but they gave No. 8 Clemson ALL they could handle. If they had been able to make a few tackles, new starting QB C.J. Brown's debut would have had all of College Park dancing the night away. But, Clemson's 56-45 victory says a lot about the Tigers also. </p><p>3. In case you haven't noticed, Stanford won again...a 44-14 win at Washington State. This was their 14th straight win dating back to last season...and have won their past nine by at least 25 points. did Washington. The Huskies' 52-24 win over Colorado was the sixth in a row where they scored at least 30 points. QB Keith Price is fifth nationally in pass efficiency and second in touchdowns (21). Next week he goes head-to-head with Heisman front-runner Andrew Luck. </p><p>4. Wisconsin warmed up for this week's HUGE game at Michigan State with a relatively close one...59-7 against Indiana (I say close because last year they routed the Hoosiers 83-20). Russell Wilson will make or break his Heisman candidacy on Saturday going up against a terrific Spartan defense. Sparty was the only team to beat the Badgers in the 2010 regular season. MSU's second-ranked defense is outstanding...holding Michigan's Denard Robinson to just 159 total yards. They have one goon, however, and I hope he is suspended (not because I like Wisconsin...but because his thuggish demeanor belongs NOT on the football field). Defensive end William Gholston needs to sit and learn from his stupidity. Yes, football is an emotional game, but use your head before you hurt your own team... </p><p>5. Boise State will dominate their new conference (Mountain West) like they did the WAC. Lots of mismatches. Maybe, geography notwithstanding, they need to move to a better football conference (Big East makes no sense to me because of the travel and lack of rivals). The Broncos ran up 742 yards in a 63-13 pasting of Colorado State. QB Kellen Moore (26-of-30, 338 yards, four touchdowns) was really good...but running back Doug Martin, with a career day, rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns...IN JUST OVER ONE HALF.</p><p> I also learned that Texas A&amp;M could win a game when leading at halftime. QB Ryan Tannehill shredded the Baylor Bears (with their own outstanding QB, Robert Griffin III), 55-28. Tannehill threw for 415 yards and six touchdowns...RGIII threw for a school-record 430 yards and three TD's. He was the third quarterback this year to break his school's record against TAMU...and that is saying a lot. </p><p>I will be back Thursday with my look ahead to the Top Five Games To Watch in Week 8. </p> Mon, 17 Oct 2011 18:19:18 GMT Marty Nicholson 5 Top College Football Games to Watch This Week (Week 6) <p>Conference match-ups dominate this week's college football picks. The Big 12 features the Red River Rivalry (OU vs. Texas at Dallas). The Big 10 sees Ohio State travelling to Nebraska. And the SEC has Florida at LSU. </p><strong><p>Here are my top five picks of the week:</p></strong><strong><p>1. Oklahoma vs. Texas (at Dallas) (Noon, ABC) -</p></strong><p>The <strong>Sooners</strong> are looking like the class of the <strong>Big 12</strong>, and this annual rivalry game should give them the statement game they are looking for. The <strong>Longhorns</strong> are much improved over last season and have something to prove. They just don't have enough manpower to match-up with the Sooners. <strong>Favored by 10 points, OU wins by more!</strong></p><strong><br></strong><strong>2. Texas A&amp;M at Texas Tech (7:00 p.m., FX) -</strong><p> Guess which team is undefeated? Yep, <strong>Tech</strong>. And <strong>TAMU </strong>has something to prove. Over the past two weeks, the <strong>Aggies</strong> have blown halftime leads of 17 and 18 points and now they face a Tech team that also has something to prove. The <strong>Red Raiders</strong> offense ranks 8th in the country, but their defense is 102nd. <strong>A&amp;M</strong> is just the opposite...84th in offense and 7th in total defense. Should be a shootout. <strong>Texas Tech gets 8-1/2 points at home and I am calling for the upset.</strong></p><strong><br></strong><strong>3. Ohio State at Nebraska (8:00 p.m., ABC) -</strong><p> <strong>Nebraska</strong> is coming off a potentially devastating loss at <strong>Wisconsin</strong>. <strong>Coach Bo Pelini</strong> said he was embarrassed. He should have been. The <strong>Badgers</strong> made <strong>Big Red</strong> look like an expansion team (in the <strong>Big Ten</strong>, they are...). Defensively, <strong>Ohio State</strong> has been decent this season. Offensively, they are hurting (106th in the nation). If the <strong>Buckeyes</strong> defense can contain <strong>Huskers QB Taylor Martinez</strong>, OSU will upset Nebraska. If, however, Martinez runs the ball (he is less likely to turn it over that way) and the Blackshirts show up on defense, Nebraska gets their first Big Ten win. <strong>Favored by 11, I believe the will cover.</strong></p><strong><br></strong><strong>4. Florida at LSU (3:30 p.m., CBS) -</strong><p> The <strong>Gators</strong> have the toughest back-to-back games of any team this season. Last week, they hosted <strong>Alabama</strong> they travel to <strong>Baton Rouge</strong> to face an even better <strong>SEC</strong> team. Things won't be any better as LSU is on a roll. Their NFL-like defense should have a field day against the youthful Gators offense. <strong>LSU easily covers the 11 points!</strong></p><strong><br></strong><strong>5. Georgia at Tennessee (7:00 p.m., ESPN2) -</strong><p> Once a season I have to feature the <strong>Vols</strong>, since <strong>my wife, Edith,&nbsp;graduated from that fine university</strong>...and this is the week. The <strong>Georgia Bulldogs</strong> travel to <strong>Knoxville</strong>, and get to see a lot of orange...and listen to a lot of <strong>"Rocky Top".</strong> <strong>QB Taylor Bray</strong> leads the <strong>SEC's top offense</strong> at home against a good Georgia defense. <strong>UT coach Derek Dooley</strong> is the son of <strong>former Georgia coach Bill Dooley</strong>...and even the Georgia people like Derek. No animosity at all, especially since he is very respectful of Georgia. This series has been played since 1897, but not annually. Whatever familial ties may bind these rivals, though, this is a weird series. Since the divisional split two decades ago, the general (though by no means universal) trend has been toward close games only when one team was thought to be demonstrably superior to the other heading into the game . . . and then the winner tends to be what was thought to be the inferior squad: Tennessee upended Georgia by three points in 1992 and by five points in 2004, while the Bulldogs upset the Volunteers by two points in 2001. It is when the two teams appear relatively evenly matched that unexpected blowouts occur. In 1997 (No. 9 vs. No. 13), 1998 (No. 4 vs. No. 7), 1999 (No. 6 vs. No. 10), 2000 (No. 19 vs. No. 21), 2003 (No. 8 vs. No. 13), 2005 (No. 5 vs. No. 7), 2006 (No. 10 vs. No. 13), 2009 (unranked vs. unranked), and 2010 (unranked vs. unranked), what were expected to be nail biters turned into thumpings. I don't know what accounts for that trend, but it clearly exists, so I anticipate it will continue on Saturday night. <em>Georgia has certainly played (more) superior teams this season (<strong>Boise State, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Mississippi</strong> and <strong>Mississippi State</strong>) than has Tennessee (a murderers row featuring <strong>Montana, Cincinnati, Florida</strong> and <strong>Buffalo</strong>...).</em> To make my wife happy, and because it goes against logic, <strong>I will pick Tennessee +2 to win this game.</strong></p> Thu, 06 Oct 2011 14:57:05 GMT Marty Nicholson 5 Top College Football Games To Watch (Week 5) <p><strong>WEEK 5</strong> will start separating the pretenders from the contenders. <strong>Clemson at Virginia Tech</strong> to begin with, followed by <strong>Alabama at Florida</strong> and <strong>Nebraska at Wisconsin</strong>. We'll see if certain teams are real...or not!</p><p>We begin with a game tonight...<strong>MY THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: </strong></p><strong><p>1. USF at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m., ESPN) - USF</p></strong><p> has the leadership (<strong>coach Skip Holtz</strong>) and the athletes (mostly Floridians) to give their opponents trouble...and they have this season. <strong>Pittsburgh</strong> is playing like they are already in the <strong>ACC</strong>, losing an eminently winnable game last week against <strong>Notre Dame (</strong>and, by the way, you may remember the<strong> Golden Domers </strong>DID fumble away their opening game against USF to the<strong> Bulls)</strong>. This is the <strong>Big East opener</strong>, so let's forget some of the cupcakes each team has played. If USF can get by this one, they get two, yes two, weekends off in October. They make up for it by finishing at home against <strong>Miami </strong>(FL), <strong>Louisville</strong> and <strong>West Virginia</strong>...which should tell us what bowl game they will go to. Even though the game is being played in Pittsburgh, as I said in my Thursday Pick already posted, <strong>I like USF to cover the 2-1/2 points they are favored by in this one.<br><br></strong><strong>And four games on Saturday, October 1</strong></p><p><strong></strong><strong><br>2. Baylor at Kansas State (3:30 p.m., ABC) -</strong></p><strong></strong><p> I'll just put it out there...<strong>K-State</strong> had a huge win last weekend in <strong>Miami</strong>. How emotional was that? Stopping the <strong>Canes'</strong> quarterback on the one with :45 left to play? Fantastic! They may be a little less emotional this week, but shouldn't be. <strong>Baylor </strong>has their own terrific <strong>quarterback, Robert Griffin III</strong>. good is he? Consider this: He has completed 85.4% of his passes. He has 13 touchdown passes...and only 12 incompletions. Not interceptions...INCOMPLETIONS. Good enough.&nbsp; <strong>Baylor -3-1/2 wins! </strong></p><strong><p>3. Clemson at Virginia Tech (6:00 p.m., ESPN2) - </p></strong><p>Two teams who have really not faced legitimate teams collide in <strong>Blacksburg </strong>Saturday evening. This game will tell a lot about both, so when <strong>Clemson's </strong>schedule was announced last spring, Tigers fans were not pleased with the <strong>ACC</strong> office. Following a Sept. 17 date with defending national champion <strong>Auburn</strong>, the Tigers would begin conference play with the league's two consensus preseason favorites: <strong>Florida State</strong> and <strong>Virginia Tech</strong>. <strong>Clemson coach Dabo Swinney</strong> not only embraced the challenge, but he also came up with a name for it. <em>"We called it the <strong>Schedule of Champions</strong>," Swinney said Sunday, noting his team's first five opponents -- <strong>Troy (Sun Belt), FCS Wofford (Southern Conference), Auburn (SEC and BCS), FSU (ACC Atlantic) </strong>and<strong> Virginia Tech (ACC overall)</strong> -- all laid claim to a title last season. If you want to beat a champion, you've got to schedule for it. We have an opportunity if we take care of business to make ourselves relevant." </em>Well, Auburn is not last year's version...and FSU has been overrated since July and they played without their starting quarterback. I give the <strong>Noles</strong> a lot of credit...and even picked them to win...but they just fell short. <strong>Virginia Tech</strong> has the best <strong>coach </strong>in the nation who has not won a national title, and don't think THAT doesn't drive <strong>Frank Beamer</strong> EVERY DAY! The <strong>Hokies</strong> and Clemson have played similar pre-conference teams. (<strong>Va. Tech</strong> played <strong>Applachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State </strong>and<strong> Marshall</strong>) so this game will really be a good test for both schools. <strong>Hokies' running back</strong> <strong>David Wilson</strong> is averaging 129 yards per game, but <strong>quarterback Logan Thomas</strong> will have to make some plays, and Tech's secondary will need to contain Clemson's explosive young receivers. <strong>Lane Stadium</strong> is a tough venue for visitors...<strong>"Enter Sandman!"</strong> Count me among those who do not think Clemson will continue winning this weekend. If they do, I will jump on the bandwagon...but I've seen this before. <strong>VIRGINIA TECH -7 wins.</strong></p><strong><p>4. Alabama at Florida, Saturday (8:00 p.m., CBS) -</p></strong><p><strong>Gators' </strong>tailbacks<strong> Jeff Demps</strong> and <strong>Chris Rainey</strong> have been running away from people so far, but no one runs away from Alabama's defenders. The Gators' best hope is to produce an equally dominant defensive effort. <strong>Coach Will Muschamp</strong> has not seen anything like this from <strong>Florida Atlantic, UAB, Tennessee</strong> or <strong>Kentucky</strong>...and won't until NEXT WEEK when the Gators travel to <strong>Baton Rouge</strong> to play <strong>No. 1 LSU</strong>. Talk about two brutal weeks. may spontaneously combust. Alabama can move the ball...and don't tell me it's because they played <strong>Kent State</strong> and <strong>North Texas</strong>. They also played at <strong>Penn State</strong> (a convincing 27-11 win) and at home against <strong>Arkansas</strong> (another big win, 38-14). Let's face it...would ANYONE really be surprised if the <strong>Tide</strong> doesn't <strong>ROLL</strong>?&nbsp; <strong>ALABAMA -3-1/2, and wins by much more.</strong></p><strong><p>5. Nebraska at Wisconsin (8:00 p.m., ABC) - </p></strong><p>Welcome to the Big Ten, Huskers! And, just to get you warmed up, we're throwing you a party at <strong>Camp Randall Stadium</strong>...under the lights! You'll love the <strong>Fifth Quarter</strong>. It's the first four you probably will not enjoy. But, by the end of the third, if you have the energy after chasing <strong>Badger QB Russell Wilson</strong>, you may want to join in and <strong>"Jump Around"</strong> with 80,321 Badger fans. Not that Nebraska will have any fear coming to <strong>Madison</strong>. They are used to playing in hostile environs like <strong>Norman, Austin </strong>and<strong> Columbia.</strong> But this will be an interesting one, as Wisconsin has been a force this season...due to an upgrade in the quarterback position and their nationally-ranked defense (6th). Wilson has been playing like a man intent on going to the <strong>NFL</strong>...or at least to <strong>New York</strong> for the <strong>Heisman</strong> presentation. His <strong>218.4 QB rating</strong> and <strong>11 passing TD's</strong> are just a start. He is one of the best athletes in the college ranks. His feet get him out of a lot of trouble. <strong>Nebraska's Blackshirts</strong>, the famed defense, has its work cut out for them. Additionally, how do you think <strong>Huskers enigma quarterback, Taylor Martinez</strong>, will fare Saturday night? I trust Wilson a lot more than Martinez...but, for Russell, the pre-season is over...and,<strong> "It's Go Time!"</strong> (Why do I always hear, "Mendelbaum...Mendelbaum...Mendelbaum..." when I hear "Go Time?" (Seinfeld reference, readers!) <strong>Because I trust Wilson...Wisconsin +9 (lots of points) wins.</strong><strong><br><br>I will also be back on Sunday with the Top Five Things We Learned This Weekend!</strong></p> Thu, 29 Sep 2011 17:00:06 GMT Marty Nicholson NCAA Football: 5 Top Games to Watch (Week 1) <p>Welcome back to another season of fearless, if not sometimes insane, college football picking.&nbsp; This year, I will be picking five top games (down from 10 - 13 last year) to watch.&nbsp; Why?&nbsp; Like this week, there are just a few really good games...time is short...why waste it watching bad football?&nbsp; </p><p>So...without further ado, let's look ahead to Week 1 - Labor Day Weekend!</p><p>THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: UNLV at WISCONSIN (ESPN, 8 p.m. Eastern) - Russell Wilson, why oh why did you abandon your Asheville Tourists teammates in July?&nbsp; Was it too hot in the mountains?&nbsp; Were you looking to begin your post-graduate work in Madison?&nbsp; Or was it that you struck out nearly 50% of the time you batted?&nbsp; Yeah...all three of those.&nbsp; In any event, Wilson is an exceptional athlete.&nbsp; I saw him personally through the course of his three-plus months of baseball here in Asheville, and believe me, this kid is smart, well-spoken and fast.&nbsp; He could have a great season up in Madison...considering what he had to work with at N.C. State, he's in for a real upgrade.&nbsp; UNLV will not offer much competition, which should help Wilson's confidence as he leads one of the best teams in the Big 10 Conference to a huge win!&nbsp; Jump Up!&nbsp; Jump Around!!&nbsp; The 5th Quarter will rock!&nbsp; Wisconsin 5 touchdowns!</p><p>FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: TCU at BAYLOR (ESPN, 8 p.m.) - "Friday Night Lights" may have ended its run on television, but as everyone knows, in Texas, Friday nights means FOOTBALL!&nbsp; Begin your holiday weekend with&nbsp; this one, because there could be a huge UPSET!&nbsp; Yes, we all know TCU is back...but without their quarterback, Andy Dalton.&nbsp; This is a big issue.&nbsp; They will be breaking in a new starter, sophomore Casey Pachall, who will be starting his first game ever on the road.&nbsp; Baylor is led by their senior QB, Robert Griffin.&nbsp; The Bears were pretty good (at times) last year.&nbsp; And, since this one is being played at Baylor...and it is the first game of the season...despite the fact that TCU is favored by 6, I see no problem in calling for the upset.&nbsp; Baylor by 10.</p><p><strong>Saturday, Sept. 3</strong></p><p>BOISE STATE at GEORGIA (in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta)&nbsp;(ESPN, 8 p.m.) - This is a must game for the Broncos if they have ANY thoughts whatsoever in trying to play in a BCS bowl game again.&nbsp; Just why did Georgia schedule Boise?&nbsp; According to head coach Mark Richt, "I thought Kellen Moore would have graduated by now." Uh, coach...he's still there.&nbsp; And while he lost some fine receivers (Titus Young, Austin Pettis), Moore's top target will be Tyler Shoemaker.&nbsp; Boise&nbsp; can no longer wear their all-blue unis for home conference games (see my last blog), but it really won't matter what they wear&nbsp;in the dome.&nbsp; This is a MUST-WIN game for them.&nbsp; They are not a big team, but that has not mattered for several years.&nbsp; Like last year's opener at FedEx Field against Virginia Tech, Boise is a big-time, big-game team.&nbsp; Favored by 3.5, they will cover this one.</p><p>OREGON vs. LSU(in Dallas) (ABC, 8 p.m.) - Talk about a big opener, No. 3 Oregon travels to meet No. 4 LSU in the biggest football stadium of them all, Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.&nbsp; This is the Willie Lyles Bowl, named after the man who has brought the NCAA visiting to both schools involved.&nbsp; Nevertheless, they will be locking-up down in Big D on Saturday night (this is why DVR's were invented...two prime-time match-ups that should both be fun).&nbsp; The Ducks are; LSU loves to play at night in the heat.&nbsp; Oregon - home of 60?? summer days and Louisiana - home of 60?? winters.&nbsp; It'll be hot in Dallas...but they'll&nbsp; close the roof and it'll be 72?? for everyone!&nbsp; I love watching the Ducks move the ball...eleven seconds between snaps...motion, action, fun!&nbsp; Juniors - QB Darron Thomas and running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner - lead this veteran team.&nbsp; They lost their top three receivers, so Lavasier Tuinei looks like he's the top target this season.&nbsp; For LSU, what effect will Jordan Jefferson's absence make?&nbsp; Probably not much.&nbsp; Jarrett Lee (in spots) ran their offense nicely last year...and won the Florida game.&nbsp; I am not really sure how the entire chain of events will affect the team&nbsp; - will they be a better team because of it?&nbsp; Possible.&nbsp; But right now, their defense will be tested...the latest odds show Oregon has moved from a one point underdog to a three point favorite...a huge move in the last week. I like the Ducks, who came ever-so-close to winning the national title last January, to win this big opener and to go on to have an outstanding season.</p><p>MONDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: Miami at Maryland (ESPN, 8 p.m.) - Now that the Miami suspensions have been put in place...and the odds have changed from favoring Miami by 6 to favoring Maryland by 3, this is a tough one...for some people.&nbsp; It's hard for me to be objective, though.&nbsp; Randy Edsall, last seen leading the Connecticut Huskies to a horrible loss against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, makes his debut as the Terps new head coach and among the big questions he has to consider is which one of the Terps new&nbsp; uniform combinations (2,576 possible color combinations) will they debut on national television?&nbsp;&nbsp; But I digress...I'm sure Maryland would have rather had an opener against Towson or Presbyterian...but instead, they get the U.&nbsp; The Canes also have a new head coach, Al Golden, who came from Temple, and the Owls have played the Terps recently, so he knows the OLD system, but everything is new under Edsall.&nbsp; The Terps have a legitimate Heisman candidate, quarterback Danny O'Brien, as their leader.&nbsp; He threw for 2,438 yards last season, and while he does not have Torrey Smith back to catch the ball, he has wide receiver Quintin McCree and tight end Matt Furstenburg as his targets.&nbsp; Running backs are led by Davin Meggett (Dave's kid), and they will be looking to run, if Coach Edsall wants them to.&nbsp; Miami has suspended quarterback Jacory Harris and in his place they will start sophomore Stephen Morris.&nbsp; This is NOT a huge deal.&nbsp; The fact that defensive back Aravious (Ray-Ray) Armstrong has also been suspended may indeed be more important, especially for the Terps passing game.&nbsp; The latest revised odds have the TERPS favored by 3 points.&nbsp; Good luck with this one.&nbsp; Nevertheless,&nbsp; I think Maryland wins at home... by a touchdown.&nbsp; At least my heart thinks this way...</p><em><p>SPECIAL NOTE TO MY READERS:</p><p> Due to a planned vacation next week, I will NOT be posting my Top 5 NCAA Football Games to Watch next Thursday.&nbsp; Unless it rains day and night.&nbsp; Not that I will be completely out of contact, but a getaway is necessary.&nbsp; And next Saturday, I will be attending a relative's wedding up on the mid-coast of Maine, so watching college football will be pretty tough to do.&nbsp; I will post some comments when I get back after I have had a chance to see some highlights.&nbsp; My next scheduled post will be on September 15 for Week 3!</p></em> Thu, 01 Sep 2011 14:11:55 GMT Marty Nicholson 10 Things to Look Forward to in College Football <strong><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p></strong><p>Welcome back to another year of college football!&nbsp; <strong>As I have done in the past, each week, usually on</strong> <strong>Thursday afternoons, I will take a look at five to ten of the week's top games</strong>.&nbsp; There are sure to be games I do not include, as my loyal readers remind me, but I try to pick games of national interest...and maybe even a strange out-of-top-25&nbsp; game due to circumstances (see: New Mexico 2010).</p><p>As you remember when we last left off, <strong>Auburn</strong> won the <strong>BCS championship</strong> by virtue of their victory over <strong>Oregon</strong>.&nbsp; <strong>Don't worry...the Tigers WILL NOT repeat</strong>.&nbsp; <strong>Cam Newton</strong>, who led them to the title, is now toiling for my <strong>Carolina Panthers</strong>...hopefully he did not take a pay cut to play in <strong>Charlotte</strong>!</p><strong><p>So...HERE WE GO with my list of what to watch for this year!&nbsp; Enjoy...and do feel free to continue to comment!</p></strong><p><strong>1. The Miami situation...where will it end?</strong>&nbsp; Opening on national television at Maryland on Labor Day night was supposed to be great for the ACC.&nbsp; Two teams led by new coaches.&nbsp; Now, the storyline will be about the current players who received improper benefits.&nbsp; As I said, where will it end?</p><p><strong>2.</strong> <strong>There will be</strong> <strong>NO COLLEGE BOWL games played on New Year's Day, 2012</strong>.&nbsp; Why?&nbsp; January 1 falls on a Sunday in 2012, and the<strong> NFL</strong> has a full slate of traditional New Year's games, like the <strong>Rose Bowl</strong>, will be played on January 2.&nbsp; There will be, however, <strong>conference title games</strong> in the <strong>Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC </strong>and the<strong> SEC</strong> you WILL get plenty of college action this season!</p><p> <strong>3.</strong> <strong>Boise State</strong> <strong>may or may not be a BCS factor this season.</strong>&nbsp; Their opener on <strong>September 3</strong> at <strong>Georgia</strong> will be your quick indication of this.&nbsp; Win...and they will have a shot - lose...and that's it for the <strong>Broncos</strong>.&nbsp; Another interesting Boise fact:&nbsp; As part of their deal to leave the <strong>Western Athletic Conference</strong> for the <strong>Mountain West Conference</strong> they can no longer wear <strong>all-blue uniforms</strong> for home conference games.&nbsp; MWC coaches complained the blue uniforms on the <strong>"Smurf Turf"</strong> made it difficult to watch film.&nbsp; <strong><em>NOTE TO COACHES: </em></strong>It's NOT the uniforms that makes Boise so tough to's the football they play.&nbsp; Last season, they beat<strong> Fresno</strong> on the blue turf, 51-0, wearing <strong>ORANGE</strong>.</p><p><strong>4.&nbsp; Penn State University's Joe Paterno</strong>, who will turn 85 in December, said he'd like to coach another four years.&nbsp; Maybe the <strong>Big 10 Conference</strong> will be up to 16 teams by then..</p><p><strong>5. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin's</strong> <strong>new quarterback</strong> (he's a post-graduate transfer from <strong>N.C. State</strong> via the <strong>Asheville Tourists</strong> minor league baseball team), could lead the <strong>Badgers </strong>to the Big Ten title.&nbsp; His presence solved a H-U-G-E hole in the Wisconsin offense.</p><p>&nbsp;<strong>6.</strong> <strong>TCU</strong>...<strong>yeah, they'll be back in the mix again</strong>...well, they were supposed to host Mountain West newcomer Boise State on November 12...but the game was switched to Boise when the Horned Frogs announced they were leaving next year to join the <strong>Big East Conference</strong>.&nbsp; And, last I looked, the <strong>Dallas </strong>Metroplex is NOT in the East...but I digress...</p><p><strong>7.</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;<strong>Legends and Leaders</strong>...<strong>who's in which division</strong>...and does it matter?&nbsp; When your two marquee teams, <strong>Ohio State</strong> and <strong>Michigan</strong> are, shall we say, and are not going to be premier teams this year, look to <strong>Nebraska</strong>, <strong>Michigan State</strong> and <strong>Wisconsin</strong> to make noise.&nbsp; And, for NEXT season, <strong>Indiana</strong> has received a commitment by the NUMBER ONE QUARTERBACK in the nation, <strong>Gunner Kiel</strong>...wonder if he knows Indiana is a BASKETBALL school?</p><p><strong>8.</strong> <strong>Pre-season polls have OKLAHOMA number one.</strong>&nbsp; <strong>Alabama, Oregon, LSU </strong>and <strong>Florida State</strong> (OVERRATED) round out the top five.&nbsp; They are followed by <strong>Stanford, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Texas</strong> <strong>A&amp;M</strong> and <strong>Wisconsin</strong>.&nbsp; <strong>Pre-season polls should be outlawed.</strong>&nbsp; They can really hurt a school not yet on the radar, let's say<strong> Arkansas</strong>, because they have a lot of ground to make up.&nbsp; Personally, I would like to see the polls wait four weeks - or until the beginning of October - when we have a sense of which teams DESERVE to be ranked.</p><p>On the other hand, we have a great looking match-up on the opening week - <strong>No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 LSU in Dallas</strong>.&nbsp; Oh...both schools are under NCAA investigation for dealing with <strong>Willie Lyles</strong>, a Houston-based scouting services provider.&nbsp; Yeah...</p><p><strong>9. I&nbsp;am interested to see what happens to North Carolina this season.</strong>&nbsp; Just eight days before practice began, they fired their former head coach, <strong>Butch Davis</strong>.&nbsp; Then, a few days later, their athletic director, <strong>Dick Baddour</strong> was out.&nbsp; Well-heeled (no pun intended) boosters and fans have been very upset over things, and just when <strong>Kenan Stadium</strong> has been expanded...plenty of luxury suites built in the so-called Blue Zone...but they are now bailing on tickets.&nbsp; I know, UNC is a basketball school, but they really tried to win...and win at any cost.&nbsp; That cost potentially has risen tremendously due to the lack of judgment.</p><p><strong>10. Keep an eye on USC</strong>...Both of them! <strong>Southern Cal and South Carolina</strong> are dangerous teams...but with major problems.&nbsp; The <strong>Trojans</strong> are poised to win the <strong>Pac-12 South</strong>, but are INELIGIBLE to play in the championship game (presumably against Oregon).&nbsp; This could give <strong>Arizona State</strong> a tremendous opportunity...the <strong>Devils</strong> are going to be heard it here first.&nbsp; They have a veteran team and when it comes to playing one game for a title, you NEVER know what will happen.&nbsp; Could the Devils end up in a major bowl?&nbsp; Absolutely.<br><br>South Carolina,<strong> </strong>on the other hand, is favored to win the SEC East.&nbsp; Led by their Teflon quarterback,<strong> Stephen Garcia</strong>,(SIX suspensions...seriously?)...if he was a back-up, he'd be out of <strong>Columbia</strong> faster than cool weather, but he<strong> </strong>is THE starter, so, yeah, <strong>the Ol' Ball Coach</strong> suspends him until it is go time.&nbsp; The <strong>Gamecocks </strong>will be good, but they will probably meet Alabama in the title game...don't see that one ending up well for the <strong>Gamecocks</strong>.</p><p>So, there you go.&nbsp; I am sure you have ten or more questions about the upcoming season as well and that's what makes football fans so great - <strong>PASSION!</strong>&nbsp; Whether it's college OR professional football...the sport has the most passionate fans in the world (yes, I'm talking to you soccer fan).&nbsp; Let's get the discussion going!</p> Thu, 18 Aug 2011 01:19:06 GMT Marty Nicholson Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers' Fan Favorite <p>A quick take today: After attending the <strong>Carolina Panthers'</strong> training camp Sunday morning, the public is in love with <strong>Cam Newton</strong>. He, and the other two quarterbacks, did not do much throwing in the morning, but clearly, if the fans had their way, Newton would certainly be QB1.</p><p><strong>Wofford College</strong> (<strong>Spartanburg, SC</strong>) is a great place to watch practice. Held inside Gibbs Stadium, there actually was some shade in the corner of the hill above the end zone, and several fans enjoyed the view from there. We brought an umbrella to keep the hot South Carolina sun from doing to us what it is doing to everyone's lawn. Parking is FREE and it is a very short walk from there to the stadium. Thankfully, you get to pass near, but you don't have to go through, the Fan Zone. Lots of shirts, mugs, pennants and other collectables are available. I was happy that the VERY cold water was just $2.00 per bottle. Nice to see they are NOT trying to kill fans with prices.</p><p>After practice, the team headed over to the campus cafeteria, where fans could actually eat with the players (okay, in the same room as the players). Cam Newton did sign as many autographs as anyone, which was nice to see.</p><p>It is very early, but you have to THINK this team will be better than last year's debacle (2-14). And I have no problem with Cam Newton being the back-up for several games. His learning curve is very steep, and he will need time to acclimate to the speed of the NFL and the complexities of the new system <strong>head coach Ron Rivera</strong> is installing.</p> Mon, 01 Aug 2011 17:31:38 GMT Marty Nicholson UNC Head Football Coach Butch Davis Fired - A Year Too Late <p>Not exactly startling, but the timing is strange.&nbsp; Butch Davis, who previously worked at "The U" (clue number one), was not exactly up-front with his employers, the University of North Carolina.&nbsp; And last fall, when several of his players were suspended for the entire 2010 season, Coach Davis still got a free pass.<br><br>No longer.&nbsp; I guess with the NCAA breathing down their throats, chancellor Holden Thorp and Athletic Director Dick Baddour, perhaps fearing for their jobs, did what they should have done last fall.<br><br>Blind loyalty is not a good thing when it comes to coaches who are just a bit shady.&nbsp; Certainly academic fraud and improper player benefits (the two reasons the NCAA is hanging around Chapel Hill) should have been red flags for those in charge.<br><br>Maybe the giddy thoughts of possibly winning an ACC title caused leadership to look the other way.&nbsp; Unfortunately for the team, they lost any chance to have a spectacular season when 14 players (seven for the entire season), including several eventual NFL draft picks, were suspended.&nbsp; The Heels settled for an 8-5 (4-4 ACC) record...the same as the two previous teams produced.<br><br>Carolina has always had the appearance of a program that was above the fray.&nbsp; Dean Smith was nothing but classy on and off the basketball court.&nbsp; Same for Roy Williams.&nbsp; But the football program has sullied the entire university's reputation.<br><br>Tar Heel fans should be wondering about their quarterback...and looking forward to the big games on the home schedule.&nbsp; Instead, October 28 is not the date most important to fans and to the school.&nbsp; That's when an NCAA hearing about nine potential major violations will occur.&nbsp; They will likely ask the same questions as UNC's Board of Trustees asked when they demanded that the chancellor explain himself and his actions on Wednesday.<br><br>I always think those at the top have more influence than people think.&nbsp; If so, Thorp and Baddour might also be seeing the door hit them on the ass on their way out.</p><p>IMPORTANT UPDATE: As of 11:19 a.m. today, UNC announced that Athletic Director Dick Baddour HAS STEPPED DOWN.&nbsp; How's that for quick?</p> Thu, 28 Jul 2011 15:15:08 GMT Marty Nicholson MLB All-Star(less) Game: Could Care Less... <strong>Midsummer Classic?</strong>&nbsp; Tonight's <strong>MLB All-Star Game</strong>?&nbsp; Hardly.&nbsp; We already had <strong>one classic</strong> this week...the <strong>U.S. women's soccer team</strong> stunning Brazil in the <strong>Women's World Cup</strong> quarterfinals.&nbsp; We have <strong>another possible one </strong>coming up Thursday - Sunday at <strong>Royal St. Georges</strong> over in jolly old <strong>England</strong>, when <strong>The Open Championship</strong> is played out.<br><p>But tonight's ASG?&nbsp; When players are chosen, but for one reason or another, decline the privilege of spending three days in the <strong>Sonoran Desert</strong>, the game becomes less and less important.&nbsp; Thankfully, they will be playing in beautiful <strong>Chase Field</strong>, an air-conditioned palace in downtown <strong>Phoenix</strong>.&nbsp; If they had to play out at Arizona State's stadium in Tempe, players would mysteriously come down with a lot of three-day injuries, I suspect.</p><p>Sure, starting pitchers who performed on Sunday have always been excused from playing...but for the most part, they show and family in enjoy the spectacle.&nbsp; What says baseball more than a bunch of millionaires with their kids in cute uniforms next to them watching a home run hitting contest?&nbsp; Actually, in recent years, that event has been sold out and gets great national coverage.&nbsp; The winner, <strong>New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano</strong>, was truly thrilled to be there.&nbsp; Yeah, a second baseman who hits balls 472</p><p>Tonight's game, a meaningless exhibition...counts.&nbsp; Is it a meaningless exhibition, or a meaningful competition with significant stakes? Baseball's answer would be: "Both."</p><p>"I don't view it as a problem," said <strong>Michael Weiner</strong>, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Payers Association. "It arises from the positive aspects of the all-star game. It's an actual game that resembles real competition. We just have to keep finding the right balance."</p><p>Yes, thanks to <strong>Commissioner Bud Selig's</strong> decision years ago to end an All-Star Game as a tie got him thinking...and he came up with the answer.&nbsp; The winner gets home field advantage in the World Series.&nbsp; Personally, I really hate this.</p><p>If it were possible, the team with the best record over the course of the year would host the series...but with hotel arrangements needing to be made, this would be nearly impossible.&nbsp; Another choice - the league that has the most wins in Interleague play gets to host.&nbsp; Not good enough for ya?&nbsp; How about just going back to rotating home team they did for most of baseball's history.&nbsp; AL one year...NL the next.&nbsp; Simple.</p><p>I say let the ASG be a great exhibition.&nbsp; Even though it "counts" again this year, don't expect me to stay up too late (the game starts around 8:05 p.m. here in the east) to watch the conclusion.&nbsp; I will watch early (haven't missed a game since 1970)...<strong>Roy Halladay vs. Jered Weaver</strong> for three innings should be pretty good.&nbsp; As for who eventually wins the game...I just don't care.&nbsp; </p> Tue, 12 Jul 2011 16:18:13 GMT Marty Nicholson The End for Tiger Woods? <p>Is this the end for <strong>Tiger Woods</strong> as a serious contender for golf's major titles?&nbsp; Let's hope not.&nbsp; Tiger Woods is the top individual draw in ANY sport.&nbsp; I say individual because you may want to go see <strong>Barcelona</strong> play soccer, but there are several superstars on that team.&nbsp;&nbsp; Yes, you may want to see <strong>Messi</strong>, but there are others you will watch.<br><br>With yesterday's announcement by the former World Number One that he will not compete in the <strong>U.S. Open</strong> at <strong>Congressional Country Club</strong> (June 16-19), he said he is doing this on the advice of his doctor.&nbsp; That's the most mature thing Tiger has done in the past two years.<br><br>Obviously, he is not what he once was (how many of us are?)...and probably will NEVER be as great as he was.&nbsp; The real question is will he ever be good again?<br><br>I said two years ago I did not think he would break <strong>Jack Nicklaus'</strong> record of 18 majors.&nbsp; So far, I'm looking good with my prediction.&nbsp; I saw a glimpse of his greatness at <strong>The Masters</strong>...but what I really saw was a bunch of younger players who show NO FEAR of the great Tiger Woods.&nbsp; They are hardly intimidated by an older player who they can out-drive, out-chip and out-putt.&nbsp; And, as they say in the commercial, "These Guys Are Good!"<br><br>I love watching the U.S. Open, and can't wait to get to the DC area next week.&nbsp;&nbsp; The super-challenging rough...the bikini-waxed greens...players shooting OVER par.&nbsp; I have great memories of walking Congressional in 1997...watching an old guy named Nicklaus hit amazing shots, including one out of a lie under trees that he hit through an opening the size of a small window, while somehow making it take a left turn down the fairway onto the green.&nbsp; It truly was amazing because he talked to all of us who happened to be around the ball, told us what he thought he could do, and, with a wink, did it.<br><br><strong>Ernie Els</strong> won that year and <strong>Colin Montgomerie</strong> was second.&nbsp; A young Tiger Woods finished 19th, and would not look any fans in the eye.&nbsp; Get an autograph?&nbsp; Good luck with that.&nbsp; At least that part of Tiger has son had his picture taken with Tiger and got his autograph last year during a tournament on the East Coast.&nbsp; Maybe being a regular golfer does that to you.&nbsp; Humbles you.<br><br>I stand behind my statement that Tiger will NOT catch Jack in the majors title championship.&nbsp; I just hope I'm wrong...because if I am wrong, we are in for some spectacular golf.&nbsp; It just won't begin in <strong>Bethesda </strong>next week.</p> Wed, 08 Jun 2011 16:26:40 GMT Marty Nicholson Jim Tressel: Lies Cost Him His Job <p>Last December, I found it very strange that THE <strong>Ohio State University</strong>, about to appear in a major <strong>BCS Bowl</strong>, the <strong>Sugar Bowl</strong>, announced that five top position players (including quarterback <strong>Terrell Pryor</strong>) had been caught doing wrong...and they would be suspended for five games beginning of the 2011 season.</p><p>Thanks to the kind folks at the Sugar Bowl, somehow, these players were allowed to participate in the game.&nbsp; Gotta sell tickets, you know...Unfortunately, the message had been sent.&nbsp; Yes, these kids did wrong, but it would be worse to punish them now when they have worked so hard to get to the bowl game...BULL!</p><p>In the last lines of his resignation letter, former <strong>Ohio State coach Jim Tressel </strong>said, "We know that God has a plan for us and we will be fine."&nbsp; Yeah, bring the Almighty into this...HE must be an OSU booster...HE must have fifty-yard line seats.&nbsp; Seriously, religion has NOTHING to do with this.&nbsp; You will be "fine", Jim Tressel, because you have earned more money over the past few years than most of us will EVER see in several lifetimes.&nbsp; That's why you will be "fine."</p><p>So, now we ALL know Tressel lied.&nbsp; He lied to the his employers...and the reason he "resigned" yesterday, to the NCAA.&nbsp; And that's what ended his coaching career.&nbsp; And I don't mean just at Ohio State.&nbsp; He's done.&nbsp; If another school hires him in the future, they surely will face sanctions.&nbsp; And that's the right thing to do.</p><p>Tressel still is scheduled to appear before the NCAA's committee on infractions in August for lying to the NCAA and then covering it up...the worst sin a coach can commit in the eyes of college sports' ruling body.&nbsp; School officials will join him at that meeting.</p><p>The same thing should have happened with former <strong>Oklahoma</strong> and <strong>Indiana</strong> basketball coach <strong>Kelvin Sampson</strong>.&nbsp; He switched from the <strong>Big Twelve Conference</strong> to the <strong>Big Ten Conference</strong>, just as allegations were coming out about improper phone messages...and he kept doing this while at IU.&nbsp; Indiana knew what (who) they were hiring...and, while Sampson was a fine X and O's coach, he cheated.</p><p>And just look what is happening&nbsp; at USC.&nbsp; The NCAA has come down hard on the <strong>Men of Troy </strong>for violations occurring years ago.&nbsp; I just don't feel sorry for their head coach <strong>Lane Kiffin</strong>, who bolted from <strong>Tennessee </strong>after just one year to return to the <strong>Trojans</strong>.&nbsp; NCAA rules allow coaches to switch schools without sitting out...but not, I guess this is <strong>Karma</strong>'s way of sticking it to Kiffin.</p><p>The bottom line is this: as fans who support universities and colleges, basically, we want our team to win.&nbsp; If players are paid...or not paid, so be it.&nbsp; We want entertainment.&nbsp; And, with each passing season it seems pretty obvious to me that money is the most important aspect of collegiate sports...not really entertainment.</p><p>I have heard athletic directors say basically the same thing, "We just don't have a good product, so how can we draw fans?"&nbsp; The "product" being the student-athletes.</p><p>John Feinstein, the <strong><em>Washington&nbsp;Post</em></strong> columnist, said this morning, "Let the super powers come out of the closet and leave the self-righteous NCAA babble behind once and for all."</p><p>Is Feinstein is advocating paying players or just suggesting the NCAA change?&nbsp; <strong>Mike Golic</strong>, the radio talk show host (<em>Mike and Mike in the Morning</em>) on <strong>ESPN </strong>said he does not know what the answer is.&nbsp; He is totally opposed to paying players, however.&nbsp; And this from a former <strong>Notre Dame</strong> athlete, and NFL veteran, who also happens to have two sons on the current <strong>Fighting Irish</strong> roster.</p><p>The answer is not simple.&nbsp; Cheating is a way of life for some coaches...some schools.&nbsp; That's one reason I was personally so happy when <strong>UNC Asheville</strong> defeated <strong>Coastal Carolina</strong> for the <strong>Big South</strong> basketball title last March.&nbsp; Coastal cheated...had to kick kids off their team...had some players suspended by the NCAA...Asheville worked hard and won.&nbsp; Simple and clean.</p><p>What will happen at Ohio State is anybody's guess.&nbsp; This season, an interim head coach, <strong>Luke Fickell</strong>, will lead them onto the field.&nbsp; Next year, more than likely, a high-profile name coach will start the process again.&nbsp; The leader in the clubhouse, obviously, is <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, the former <strong>Florida</strong> head coach.&nbsp; He has Ohio ties...was a graduate assistant at OSU, and clearly can coach.&nbsp; But remember, 27 of his players were arrested on 30 occasions over six years while in <strong>Gainesville</strong>.&nbsp; Squeaky clean...doubtful.&nbsp; But a great coach, no doubt.</p><p>Other names will surface as the season progresses...and each will have their own merits.&nbsp; The OSU program is undoubtedly one of the top places for anyone to be.&nbsp; It now is up to <strong>President Gordon Gee</strong> and his <strong>Athletic Director Gene Smith</strong> to make the right decision.&nbsp; I met Smith during the NCAA basketball tournament, and, while he was in charge of the tournament committee , and I really wanted to ask him..."Seriously...with everything you have going on regarding your football coach and program and all the're taking time away from your real job to hang around a basketball tournament?"</p><p>I really wish I had asked.&nbsp; But, I'm certain, if he answered me at all, he would have waltzed around the question.&nbsp; Now it's time to face the music.</p> Tue, 31 May 2011 17:59:20 GMT Marty Nicholson