Mittwoch, 30. November 2011
Arsenal will aim for their eighth win of the 2011/2012 English Premier League campaign when they encounter Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
The Gunners have amassed seven games unbeaten, six of which victories, and will take full favouritism against a struggling Latics outfit who have scored the least amount of goals this season.
The North London giants suffered a 1-0 defeat mid-week in the Carling Cup quarterfinal against EPL leaders Manchester City, but were arguably the stronger side despite Arsene Wenger utilizing his reserves.
Furthermore, Arsenal were held to a one-all stalemate with Fulham last weekend but nevertheless still boast form and confidence.
Roberto Martinez's men, on the other hand, boast just two wins in 2011/2012 and despite securing a late-minute winner against Sunderland last weekend, the Latics do not look like a side capable of defeating a strong Arsenal outfit.
But so often is the case in the English Premier League, David prevails over Goliath and with such unpredictability occurring this season, anything could happen.
However, with Arsenal becoming more and more defensively secure and their attack, with the magnificent Robin van Persie—who now has 38 goals in 42 appearances for 2011—thriving particularly under pressure, an Arsenal win appears inevitable.
As always BleacherReport predicts the Arsenal Starting XI.
GoalkeeperPolish youngster Wojciech Szczesny will return to the starting XI after enjoying a mid-week break. This ensures deputy Lukasz Fabianski, who featured against Manchester City, is demoted back to the substitutes bench.
Italian youngtser Vito Mannone and veteran Manuel Almunia once again await for the arrival of the January transfer window to depart.
Defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen is set to partner Per Mertesacker in the centre defence whilst Frenchman Laurent Koscielny will take on the right-back role. First-choice right-back Bacary Sagna continues to nurse his ankle injury whilst deputy Carl Jenkinson is not expected to return until late December.
Imposing Swiss Johan Djourou, who started against Manchester City, returns to the bench whilst Brazilian international Andre Santos will start as left-back. England international Kieran Gibbs is expected to return just before January after succumbing to a hernia.
Spanish teenager Igansi Miquel and veteran Sebastien Squillaci, who both impressed in the Carling Cup, are unlikely to feature.
MidfieldersFrench youngster Francis Coquelin and Ghanain teenager Emmanuel Frimpong were outstanding against Manchester City mid-week, but will unfortunately be unlikely to feature against the Latics. However, Frimpong is likely to make the bench.
Nonetheless, the duo showed their capabilities and that they deserve extended playing time.
Wales captain Aaron Ramsey will return to the fray alongside the ever-reliable Alexandre Song, who will take on the defensive midfield duties. Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta will also start as the playmaker beside Ramsey.
Imposing Frenchman Abou Diaby, who made his return to first-team football against Fulham after four months on the sidelines due to an ankle injury, is struggling with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to feature. There is also a slight concern with Ramsey, which could result in Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky starting. Israeli captain
Yossi Benayoun, who captained Arsenal in the Carling Cup, is also set to make the bench.
England international Jack Wilshere is still absent until February following ankle surgery.
English teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was superb against City and with England international Theo Walcott currently with an injury concern, there is a chance the 18-year-old will start his first Premier League match against Wigan.
Nonetheless, captain Robin van Persie will lead the attack as the lone striker. Last time the Dutchman encountered Wigan, van Persie secured his first Arsenal hat tirck.Ivorian forward Gervinho is certain to start on the left wing with Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin likely to impact from the bench. Imposing Moroccan Marouane Chamakh was disappointing once again against Manchester City and will battle with South Korean captain Chu Young-Park for a bench role.
Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi has an ankle injury.
With seven places on Wenger's bench, Lukasz Fabianski is likely to be the emergency keeper whilst Johan Djourou the emergency defender. Emmanuel Frimpong, Tomas Rosicky, Yossi Benayoun, Andrei Arshavin and Chu Young-Park are the favourites for the remaining places.
Plenty of voices out there are saying that Alabama already has a BCS Championship appearance wrapped up. As a graduate and lifelong Alabama fan, I don't want to take any chances.
Alabama's current No. 2 BCS ranking notwithstanding, things could still go wrong. Poll voters are notoriously fickle, and often re-evaluate their rankings based more on their most recent impression instead of the season as whole. That puts Alabama, who doesn't play this weekend, at a disadvantage this weekend, because No. 3 Oklahoma State plays a Top 10 opponent who provides a strong opportunity for a resume-boosting final statement.
This situation could be a formula for an anxious Sunday for Alabama fans, who might have to spend it waiting on the final BCS poll results with anxious breath and fingers crossed.
But take heart, Alabama Nation. It does not have to be this way.
If the right combination of things happen, you can start celebrating Saturday night. If that possibility sounds enticing, you should spend your rooting energy as follows:
LSU to Beat Georgia
It might feel funny for Alabama fans to cheer for LSU after spending a whole season competing against them for SEC West supremacy, but if Alabama is to get its rematch against the Tigers, its best chance is for LSU to win.
Alabama's BCS Title Game selection argument boils down to the contention that it's the only team on Earth capable of giving No. 1 LSU a competitive game. An LSU loss blows that claim out of the water.
The Tide might slip into the title game anyway if enough voters moved Alabama to the No. 1 spot in the polls, but it is just as likely an LSU loss could push Alabama down to number three. With a title game appearance so tantalizingly close, that is is a chance Alabama fans should have no interest in taking.
Oklahoma to Beat Oklahoma State
This one is obvious. Oklahoma State is the only team with any realistic shot to overtake Alabama in the BCS Standings. An impressive Oklahoma State win over a 9-2 Oklahoma team will likely sway some voters to put the Cowboys in front of the Tide. Even if Oklahoma State doesn't jump Alabama in the human polls, it could still overtake Alabama in the BCS Standings due to superior computer rankings if it even gets close enough.
In Alabama's favor is the fact that Oklahoma State is currently ranked a few places below the Tide in the human polls, so the Cowboys have a long way to climb. Alabama will probably be fine so long as Oklahoma State doesn't win in a blowout, but a loss would remove all doubt.
Virginia Tech v. Clemson
While this is game that might impact Alabama's BCS destiny, it isn't entirely clear what result most benefits Alabama, and it won't be until the Oklahoma State-Oklahoma game is done. As such, Alabama fans won't know who they should root for (or should have rooted for) in this game until around the time the game ends.
If Oklahoma State wins, Alabama is better off if Virginia Tech wins, because the Hokies, as one-loss ACC Champions, would likely take some of the anti-rematch vote away from Oklahoma State.
If Oklahoma State loses, Alabama is better off if Virginia Tech loses too, if only to eliminate the ever-so-remote threat of the Hokies sliding into the second spot. They probably won't overtake Alabama no matter what happens, but a Virginia Tech loss, in combination with an Oklahoma State loss, would remove all drama whatsoever from the BCS Title Game announcement.
Which, if you are an Alabama fan, should be Saturday's primary goal.
Chances are the NFL playoff picture will look a little bit different in each of the final five weeks of the season, but some teams are postseason locks.
These three teams are trending toward title runs.
Green Bay Packers
The Pack passed their first big test of the second half of the regular season, totally dismantling the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
Aaron Rodgers took over in the second half and once again proved that he's operating at a higher level than everyone else.
As for their defense, forget all the yardage.
They lead the NFL with 22 interceptions and have demonstrated the uncanny knack to take the ball away nearly every week this season.
With Rodgers slinging the ball all over the yard and the defense picking the ball off in crunch time, they're extremely difficult to beat.
New England Patriots
Just when we thought the Patriots were on their way down, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick reminded everyone to never bet against them.
They humiliated the Jets in Met Life Stadium, made quick work of the Chiefs at home and seemed at ease against the Eagles last week after Philadelphia scored the first ten points of the game.
Brady isn't on Rodgers level, but it surely has become close.
Like Green Bay, New England gives us a ridiculous amount of yardage, but they've gotten a pass-rushing spark from Mark Anderson and Andre Carter.
Although they weren't at their best against the Chiefs in hostile Arrowhead Stadium, they managed to leave victorious. That's the true sign of a champion.
Is there anyone better at improvising and making something out of nothing than Ben Roethlisberger?
It's a skill you can't prepare for if you're a defense.
The speed in the receiving corp is hard to match up against, too.
Pittsburgh's defensive unit is still among the tops in the league, but another journey to the Super Bowl hinges on the health of safety Troy Polamalu.
The NBA rumor mill is buzzing. Hour-old rumors may as well be year-old rumors. Earlier this morning there was discussion that Rajon Rondo was on the trading block in exchange for the New Orleans Hornet superstar, Chris Paul.
Now those are old as Chris Broussard is reporting that Chris Paul wouldn't be interested in going to Boston because they don't have the pieces past this year to be a contender. Celtics management is likely fast at work trying to assimilate the pieces to persuade Paul to come to Beantown.
So the Pacers are shopping around to try and acquire the pieces that they can send Boston so they can then have the pieces in place to attract Paul.
The only thing is, that in doing that do they lose the pieces to motivate New Orleans to send them Rondo?
So the Celtics might be playing a dangerous game. One of four things could happen.
- They could manage to land the trade with Indiana, who has managed to gather the pieces from elsewhere and then turn around and make a trade to New Orleans.
- They could manage some sort of massive four- or five-team trade that lands them Paul and the pieces they need to extend him.
- They could make the trade with Indiana and before they can make a trade with New Orleans someone else beats them to the punch.
- They complete the trade and either New Orleans doesn't want the trade or Paul still doesn't want the extension.
Now granted, you might think the Celtics wouldn't be so stupid as to to make a trade without ensuring all their ducks are in a row in the first place. However, they pretty much have already destroyed the future of Rondo in Boston just by allowing all of this to go public.
Remember, this is the guy who supposedly had his entire psychological make-up destroyed when President Obama made a joke about his shooting. Tossing him under the bus like this isn't likely to ensure he's playing with extreme cockiness next year.
It may be the case that the Celtics are going to move Rondo regardless of whether they can get Paul back for him or not. Reportedly they already made a failed attempt to get Russel Westbrook for him.
Either way it looks like they will both be moved, but my guess is Rondo gets moved first because Boston is motivated to get a deal done before New Orleans so that they can make a deal with New Orleans. It looks like the Celtics may be a very different-looking team next year.
Dienstag, 29. November 2011
Fortunately for Iowa fans, Clemson turned the ball over every other trip down the court in the first half of the game. Unfortunately for Iowa fans, their team did nothing about it.
Clemson's 71-55 win tonight against the Hawkeyes was more a product of Iowa's inability to find the bottom of the basket than with anything Clemson did particularly well, but for a fanbase that is aching to have one of their athletic teams succeed, this is a big win.
Iowa started out the year by destroying three teams nobody has ever heard of, but then lost momentum against a very solid Creighton team. They proceeded to lose the subsequent game to the Campbell Fighting Camels, dragging a bruised record into the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Clemson on the other hand, has looked characteristically strong on defense but cannot seem to put points on the board. They brought their own blemished record into the game looking for a catalyst to get them past the "we're a young team" excuse they have been using for the last two years.
Maybe they just got past it.
Andre Young was everywhere with 19 points to lead the Tigers and Tanner Smith was his usual solid self with seven points, eight assists and 14 rebounds.
Milton Jennings had three turnovers several seconds into the game and Devin Booker was on the bench far too much in foul trouble.
Besides that though, some younger players are beginning to emerge which should give Clemson fans some hope.
T.J Sapp scored 13 points off the bench and Rod Hall has shown some aggressiveness that will be a huge help to the Tigers in the future.
Iowa used a full court press for much of the second half which caused Clemson a few fits, but one of the prettiest plays all night was a one-man press-break by Rod Hall that went the length of the floor and ended in a nonchalant finger roll at the other end with two men draped all over him.
These two back-up guards are going to be good.
While I am not ready to call Clemson a championship team just yet, I am seeing marked progress. If they can limit turnovers and keep their glue guys on the court, they will make a run that nobody sees coming.
"What's that? Ah...Playoffs? Don't talk about...playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?!"
That's right, Golden State Warriors fans...playoffs.
Warriors fans waited 13 years for a playoff appearance and have been waiting four years since then.
The acquisition of forward David Lee was supposed to be their saving grace last season, but the reality was they still didn't have a physical presence down low that could cause problems for opponents defensively.
But there may finally be some hope for Warriors fans, and I mean it this time.
The Warriors are one of six teams currently pursing center Nene Hilario, one of the stars of the league.
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, Hilario wants out of Denver and six teams have come calling so far: the Warriors, New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets.
Hilario has reportedly been interested in joining either the Heat or the Mavericks for a while, but he would have to accept less money in a sign-and-trade given his current situation.
The Warriors, on other hand, could free up enough money to sign him for close to the max in the free-agent market if they used the amnesty clause on center Andris Biedrins and dropped him.
There hasn't been much talk of the Warriors using the amnesty clause on Biedrins thus far, but you can bet they would use it on him if it helped them land Hilario.
After showing some promise in 2007 and 2008, Biedrins has regressed the last two seasons, with his rebounding and shot-blocking taking a turn for the worse. Plus, he's never been the type of player who can stop the bigger players in the league.
Ultimately, this depends on what Hilario prefers, going to a sure-fire playoff contender or starting something new with the Warriors and likely receiving a lot more money.
The Warriors have always scored points in bunches, currently sporting explosive guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, not to mention Lee and the improved Dorell Wright.
A physical presence down low is what this team has always needed, and Hilario would give it to them.
The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the league's best offensive teams two months in to the 2011-12 season.
The same can't be said about the defense.
Chicago is 20th in goals allowed per game. This needs to change if the 'Hawks wish to be more than a regular season sensation.
We all know that defense is at more of a premium come spring. Chicago's has been inconsistent and not of the quality needed to sustain a deep playoff run. What's the solution right now?
That depends on what you think the problem is.
You could bed down in one of the following camps:
1. Duncan Keith is the problem.
2. John Scott is the problem.
3. Sami Lepisto/Sean O'Donnell is the problem
4. Niklas Hjalmarsson is the problem.
5. Corey Crawford is the problem.
So let's look for some answers.
Keith could be the problem. While his play is an improvement over his start last season, it isn't Norris-caliber either. He is making a lot of noise in the offensive zone. Since returning from a injury, he has two goals and nine points in his last ten games.
At times he's looked good in his own zone, but it's not going down like that every night.
Scott being what he is, he's certainly not the sole issue facing the defense. You can say that he's made the other D-men work harder, but he's just a minus-two in the time he's skated this season.
If Scott was skating Keith's minutes, the difference in performance would surely make him an obvious scapegoat. However, the ten minutes he skates a night on the blue line when he's in the lineup doesn't provide a complete explanation for the porous defense the 'Hawks have brought out some nights.
Sami Lepisto/Sean O'Donnell
Sean O'Donnell is slow, but he was slow last year and was effective for the Flyers. Lepisto is so far in someone's doghouse that it isn't fair to assign him the blame. After all, he's a plus-four when he's played.
Hjalmarsson is doomed to suffer from the dreaded Brian Campbell complex, especially when the malady's namesake is down Florida way with the surprising Panthers.
All that fans are going to see is an inflated price tag on a player who is going to provide steady defensive play—just not the performance his salary would suggest.
Hjalmarsson is plus-seven this season, but his offense is practically nonexistent. I think he and Nick Leddy have made a pretty good tandem, though.
Crawford isn't having a Steve Mason-like fall back to earth, but it hasn't all been cake and roses for the new main man in net.
The 'Hawks are ninth in the league in shots allowed, suggesting that Crawford could stop a few more shots every night. He hasn't had the lockdown performance of last season's playoffs, but he's had a few impressive outings in the first two months.
So...who gets to shoulder the blame? I think there's enough to go around.
Everyone involved on the Blackhawks' rear guard could stand some tightening. Keith can be more consistent, hopefully aided by increased time with a healthy Brent Seabrook. Crawford can come up with an extra big save or two per game.
The third pairing can be solidified. Might a more physical guy like Ryan Stanton be called up from Rockford and given a chance at some third line minutes?
Heck, would it hurt the checking line to snap back into the shape it was when the season began?
Some commentators are urging the 'Hawks to obtain an impact player on the blue line soon. That may be an option in due time. With Seabrook back, I'd like to see the 'Hawks address their defensive issues within the organization for the time being. If the struggling continues, it may be time to make a move.
There's no shortage of reasons to believe that the Gator Bowl would chase after Ohio State and Florida to play in Jacksonville on January 2nd.
Both schools are among the biggest and brightest brands in college football, replete with tremendous history and tradition, not to mention legions of rabid fans around the country. Both would also draw millions of viewers to watch the game on ESPN2, as such a matchup could (and likely would) be promoted as a rematch of the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, which the Gators won, 41-14.
But with Monday's news that Urban Meyer had been introduced as the next head coach in Columbus, the most obvious selling point would be the strange web that Ohio State's latest hire has woven between the two universities.
Call it the Urban Bowl, or the Before-and-After Bowl. Maybe even the Transition Bowl.
In both cases, we have 6-6 teams that clearly aren't as good as they were the last time they shared a football field. OSU took its lumps this season in the wake of a scandal that saw Jim Tressel resign, Terrelle Pryor bolt for the NFL and a host of other Buckeyes sit out games while serving NCAA suspensions for selling their own memorabilia and trading autographs for discounts at a local tattoo parlor.
All things considered, the Buckeyes acquitted themselves well. Their five Big Ten losses each came by a touchdown or less—a figure that will flip the other way once the 10 freshmen and sophomore starters mature into, well, sophomores and juniors.
This Ohio State squad will serve as an interesting snapshot of what a program looks like before Meyer comes in to rescue it.
On the other hand, Florida will play the role of the "after," a warning the Buckeyes would do well to heed. The Gators posted essentially the same sort of season as their Big Ten counterparts, except in the SEC, of course.
First-year coach Will Muschamp led his Gators to a 3-5 mark, with all of their league defeats coming against ranked opponents. They showed some moxie competing with the likes of Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina despite a bevy of injuries at key positions.
But, like everyone else in the country, they could hardly hang with LSU and Alabama.
Still, it's clear that there's much work left to be done to return Florida to its former glory following the graduation of Tim Tebow and the somewhat stunning departure of Meyer to an 11-month, ESPN-sponsored sabbatical. The Gators don't have another savior waiting in the wings, nor do they have an elite defense replete with future NFL stars like they used to.
Both teams will be much improved by this time next year, but for now, should the Gator Bowl end up with these two, look for Ohio State's marginally superior talent and more recent run of success to give it a slight end in its quest to finish the season with a winning record.
All while Urban Meyer is on hand to watch, of course.
If you've paid any attention to the NBA rumor mill at any point in the last year, you'll know the Los Angeles Lakers are the de facto favorite to make a trade for Orlando Magic superstar Dwight Howard.
But what about the other LA team? Might the Los Angeles Clippers be interested in acquiring the NBA's best center?
Actually, yes. Here's the latest from ESPN NBA guru Chris Broussard:
Boom. Betcha didn't see this coming, did you?
Nor did I, if we're being honest. All sorts of teams have been rumored to be interested in acquiring Howard, but this is the first time I can recall the Clippers entering the conversation.
I can certainly see why the Clippers would be so intent on getting Howard. It's not easy for them to wrest the spotlight from the Lakers, and they also haven't done much winning in the last, um, couple of decades. Conceivably, trading for Howard would allow them to do both.
The only trouble is that it's going to take a lot to convince the Magic to give up their superstar, and the Clippers don't really have a lot to offer. My guess is they would have to offer the Magic several players just to get them to listen, and the Magic would no doubt demand a glass of milk to go with their cookie.
In other words, this is probably a long shot.
But hey, since the Clippers are apparently ready to do "whatever it takes," I'm not about to rule it out either. They know that adding Howard would be a huge PR victory, and they also know that having him and Blake Griffin in the same frontcourt would border on being unfair.
The Clippers are going to have to make the Magic an offer they can't refuse, make no mistake about that. However, don't think they won't do it.
Montag, 28. November 2011
The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Stanford Cardinal are each averaging over 40 points per game this season, but there some signs that the Cowboys will outscore the Cardinal if the two teams meet in the Fiesta Bowl.
For one, Stanford has an advantage on defense, but has recently given up 48 points to USC, 53 points to Oregon and 28 points to Cal.
On top of that, the Cardinal have scored 31 points or fewer in the last three weeks, quite the departure from their season average of 43.6 points per game.
You know that Oklahoma State is going to put up points, regardless of the opponent. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon form the best quarterback-receiver tandem in college football and the running game is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season.
But I do worry if Stanford can keep up based the Cardinal's latest output.
While quarterback Andrew Luck is undeniably the best quarterback in college football, there's no denying that he has been throwing more interceptions than we're used to seeing, throwing six picks in his last five games. And while Oklahoma State gives up a lot of points, the Cowboys also rank second in college football with 21 interceptions.
Stanford deserves to be ahead of Oklahoma State in the BCS rankings, as I outlined here, but in terms of who would win the head-to-head matchup, I have to go with Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State has too many weapons offensively and Stanford's defense isn't at its strongest.
Samstag, 26. November 2011
The Oklahoma offense just isn’t what it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the Belldozer in the red zone, but sometimes the Sooners seem downright uninspired. Just look at their first quarter against the Cyclones.
Without their leading receiver Ryan Broyles, and rusher, Dominique Whaley, the Sooners have struggled at times to find a rhythm. Landry Jones has picked it up in their absence, but can he put the ailing Sooners on his back and carry them to victory like he did a year ago?
Unfortunately, I really don’t see that happening. OSU has improved tremendously on both sides of the ball, and I believe Brandon Weeden will outgun Landry against an inconsistent OU secondary.
Alabama is up 14-7 in the second quarter of its Iron Bowl meeting with Auburn. Should the Crimson Tide hang on to that early lead, they deserve a rematch against LSU in the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans.
Other than its loss to LSU, Alabama has won every game by at least 16 points and is the only team in America giving up less than 10 points per game.
Trent Richardson is one of the leading Heisman candidates with 22 touchdowns in 11 games and nearly 1,400 yards rushing. He's backed up by Eddie Lacy, who is dynamic in his own right, averaging nearly eight yards per carry.
Throw in Marquis Maze and the Crimson Tide have a trio of game-breaking players on their offense. That's why it's surprising they were held to six points against LSU. The Tigers defense is terrific, but Alabama needs to generate at least one TD in that game.
A win over Auburn would be the team's fourth against a ranked team and third of those that came on the road. In the nation's toughest conference, that's should be enough to warrant an extended look from voters when they cast their final ballots.
The most important game, other than the Iron Bowl, will be Oklahoma State's clash with Oklahoma. If the Sooners pull off the upsets, Alabama's title game chances skyrocket. If the Sooners win, it will come down to the voters because the computers are already leaning toward the Cowboys.
However, Alabama's only loss came against LSU. Oklahoma State's came against Iowa State and the Cowboys play in a conference without the SEC's depth.
The general public isn't overly thrilled about a rematch because the first edition didn't live up to the massive hype, but that shouldn't be Alabama's problem to deal with. The Tide didn't advertise the game.
Alabama has passed every test other than the toughest one. Based on their performance in the other games, the Crimson Tide deserve a retake. If they survive Auburn, of course.
For the Minnesota Vikings it's come down to playing the role of spoiler.
Before the season began, I had picked the Vikings to improve over their last place finish of 2010 and finish with a 7-9 record. Currently having matched the fewest wins in franchise history, the Vikings have not looked this bad in 28 years.
In 1984, under the direction of Les Steckel, the team finished 3-13, tied for the second worst record in the NFL. The team was so bad, that Steckel, the wide receivers coach the previous season, was fired after coaching only the one season.
Looking at their remaining schedule there are no easy wins for this team, and it's very likely they could finish the season 2-14.
The good news is they will most likely not finish with the worse record in the league this season. Currently 0-10, the Indianapolis Colts appear to be very serious about making sure they get the first crack at quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford in the draft next year.
Even though the Vikings are a good bet to finish with the lowest winning percent in team history, there are still plenty of reasons to watch them this season.
It always takes time for a new coaching staff to mold the roster into the type of team that is successful, and fits the type of play they envision.
On top of a new head coach, the Vikings hopefully have their franchise quarterback in rookie Christian Ponder.
Here are seven things to keep watching for while the season winds down.
Hey, Urban Meyer, you're not fooling anyone. We know you want to get back into coaching college football. We know you've been talking to Ohio State about it and, more likely than not, have probably been offered the job for a substantial sum of money.
Usually, where there's smoke, there's fire, and the billows of ash flying between Columbus, Ohio, and Bristol, Conn., right now are difficult to ignore. They may even be interfering with air traffic, for all we know.
So, before you have to go about removing yourself from another ESPN broadcast or studio show, why don't you do the world and, much more importantly, yourself and your family a favor and just come clean with it?
No one will be surprised beyond belief or have their socks knocked off if you simply confirmed what the world already knows.
And it's not like we haven't seen this act from you in the past—at Bowling Green before you left for Utah and at Utah before you left for Florida. Thanksgiving comes around, your team is doing well, there are reports that you're taking a job elsewhere and your only response is to tell everyone that you're looking forward to having a nice meal with your family.
Certainly, nobody would fault you too much for that sort of response in those situations. After all, you still had a team to coach in those instances and, as such, you probably didn't want to distract your players or fuel any sort of media circus that would obstruct you from completing the task at hand.
But you're not coaching anyone this time, Urb (can I call you Urb? Maybe Urbie?). There are no kids in pads awaiting your instructions, no assistants following your lead, no university presidents and athletic directors who would feel slighted by you playing footsie under the table with another school.
Are you worried about distracting the players at Ohio State from preparing for the Big Game against Michigan on Saturday? Well, rumor has it, they've hit their fair share of snags in the road recently and could probably handle one more, even if interim head coach Luke Fickell wouldn't be too happy about it.
I'm sure we could all respect your reasoning if that were the case, but just say it. Don't let everyone else make assumptions and put words in your mouth.
Because, realistically, why else, under these circumstances, would you recuse yourself from doing work for the Worldwide Leader?
Of course, with two BCS National Championships under your belt, you don't really owe anyone any explanation whatsoever, but it sure would make your life easier, wouldn't it?
OK that failed (and I'm not just saying that to elicit sympathetic reactions, it really did fail). But the truth is, the Colts face a monumental decision this offseason.
Peyton Manning, who's sat out for the past year with a devastating neck injury, is owed a $28-million-dollar bonus this coming March. Manning is clearly the entirety of the Colts team, to an extent we never dreamed of until the Colts brought out this year's Manning-less roster.
This year's roster is like a carcass. It's like an excuse of a carcass. It's been run over, literally and figuratively.
But this isn't an article attempting to ascertain the exact nature of the Colts' shortcomings. Instead, we will attempt to make sense of the decision that is sure to rock the landscape of the NFL.
So, what will happen to Peyton Manning after this season? Let's look at the options.
1. Peyton Manning is released, signs elsewhere
If the Colts draft Andrew Luck and deem that Manning's salary could be better used in building a quality nucleus around Luck, the Colts could opt out of the bonus and allow Manning to be an unrestricted free agent instead.
They could try to re-sign Manning at a lower cost, but what's in it for Manning?
Let's see, you've already drafted his replacement, you've in a way subtly slapped him in the face by not paying him in the first place and he could easily score a much larger salary elsewhere.
Both teams have owners that have a propensity for spending and making splashes. Both have coaches that are on the flaming tip of their hot seats, and may attempt to salvage their job by luring in a quarterback like Manning.
The Dolphins make more sense, given that they also have a pretty talented roster despite their poor record. Additionally, signing with the Redskins would mean Manning would have to play his "eli-te" brother twice a year, which he may not want to do.
Ultimately though, this is unlikely.
Why would the Colts release him, unless he truly had nothing left in the tank?
Even if he was still a risky bet, the Colts would probably still err towards keeping him and holding out hope that the man who made Indianapolis a powerhouse of the 2000s could return and play ahead of a developing Andrew Luck for a few years.
2. Peyton Manning is released, and retires
I think if Manning is released, it's because he understands the profundity of his neck injury, and therefore retirement is a legitimate option. Manning's a mature guy and he doesn't have it in him to unleash into full-out Brett Favre syndrome.
Another possibility is that he retires and returns to the Colts as a coach or an assistant. Besides, he pretty much is the mind of that offense.
3. Peyton Manning is traded
I'll admit, this is actually a long shot. As noted here, the Colts owe Manning the $28 million before the 2012 season begins, meaning they can't trade him until after they've paid him.
If they pay him, it makes no sense for them to trade him. They might as well try to scrape something out of the $28 million they've paid him.
Another option would be for Manning to postpone the payment, and that option is described more in depth in the link above (or here).
In my opinion, whether Manning decides to postpone it or not depends on his values. Does he value winning or money? If he values the money, and the Colts weren't willing to pay him, he could postpone it and see if another team would be willing to pay him.
If he values winning, as described in the link, he would prefer to get released and not only choose his team but also not force his new team to give up valuable draft picks in return for him.
4. The Colts pay him and keep him
I think this option is slightly more plausible than the previous three. Manning is a resilient, tenacious guy, and it wouldn't surprise me if he surpassed this hurdle and came back better than ever. He has the maturity and mental toughness (I apologize if I sound cliche) to make it happen.
It would be the most inspiring comeback story ever. Yes, even better than Michael Vick's (which wasn't that good in the first place).
If the Colts paid him, and he ends up returning, it would definitely be worth it. It would not only help the team in the near future, but it also would allow Andrew Luck to develop a la Aaron Rodgers. Of course, I'm assuming the Colts get first pick in the draft and pick Luck.
Even if the Colts weren't sure, they've seen enough of Manning to know that it's never a good bet to pick against him.
5. The Colts restructure Manning's contract
This is another plausible suggestion. If Manning is all about the team, this is the way to go. He still gets paid, he still stays on the Colts and he helps out the team in the process by giving them more spending room.
The Colts, instead of completely restructuring his contract, could propose to postpone the payment and any other bonuses a few months, to give them more time to make the decision and to give Manning more time to make a final decision on his neck.
This would probably be the ideal situation for the Colts. It would make the decision significantly easier. They wouldn't have to worry about the money part anymore, and that's the only part they're concerned with anyways.
It's far too early to say, but with whatever knowledge I have right now, I think the Colts and Manning agree to either completely restructure Manning's contract or postpone many of the bonuses until much later, allowing the medical side of the situation to clear up.
Either way, the outcome of this monumental decision clearly will have an effect on not only the Colts, but the entire NFL.
Manning may have been the forgotten quarterback this year, but he will be the most talked about quarterback this offseason.
NBA owners and players were engaged in another marathon session Friday, meeting for more than 15 hours in talks aimed at ending the 148-day lockout in time to save the league's Christmas Day schedule. That deadline has created a sense of urgency because the Dec. 25 schedule is traditionally a showcase for the league.
Freitag, 25. November 2011
Last week we got a little taste of what he can do, as he threw two touchdowns in the Titans' loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Clearly, Locker has some potential and showed it in his first real action as an NFL quarterback.
Despite all that, here's why the Titans shouldn't make the switch just yet.
The 12-0 (8-0 SEC) No. 1 LSU Tigers went into today’s game against the 10-2 (6-2 SEC) No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks with their fate in their hands. A win would seal the Tigers' quest for the SEC title and help continue their march to a national title.
LSU started the game slowly allowing the Razorbacks to climb to a quick 14-0 lead by midway into the second quarter. After that, it was all LSU. The Tigers really never appeared to be in danger of losing the ballgame once they pulled ahead 21-14 at the end of the second quarter.
LSU showed the country why it is No. 1 with that victory as it absolutely waxed the current No. 3. LSU will push on towards the SEC title game next week in Atlanta where it will face the 9-2 (7-1 SEC) No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs.
LSU will be favored in that game and will be one step away from a national title berth in New Orleans. Assuming that No. 2 Alabama can earn a victory over No. 24 Auburn in this week’s Iron Bowl, the LSU Tigers will face off against the Crimson Tide in a virtual home game for the Tigers.
LSU is the most talented team in the country right now and it showed it today. Arkansas is a very talented team and the Razorbacks were playing some of their best football as of late. The Razorbacks had a bit of life in them to start, but by the end of the game they looked completely outmatched.
How the LSU Tigers will fare in a likely repeat is unclear, but with it being in their neck of the woods this go around they may play better than they did in Tuscaloosa. With the assumed berth into the BCS title game the SEC will be in the title game for the sixth straight year.
What appeared to be a balance in college football around the late 90s and early 2000s has turned into a complete dominance in college football by the SEC. If the Tide win this week and work their way into the game as well, it will be an all-SEC title game.