Tag Archives: Miami

Non-Schedule Games Important for Notre Dame’s Title Hopes

By now, Notre Dame fans know which games are most critical to the Irish’s hopes of running the regular season table this fall. Michigan State, Stanford, Miami, and Southern California are the marquee matchups featured on the 2016 docket for the Irish. If the Irish take care of business in these games, there will not be much debate about their place in the College Football Playoff picture.

However, should the Irish stumble along the way, style points will be at a premium. A few games not featuring a team in all-gold helmets will play a large part in the Irish’s ability to gain style points.

September 3rd – USC Trojans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

The first week of the season features perhaps the most important game of the year in terms of Notre Dame’s strength of schedule. This matchup between the Trojans and Crimson Tide will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. USC is projected to finish at or near the top of the Pac-12, along with fellow Notre Dame opponent, Stanford. A win for the Trojans would validate the Pac-12 and deliver a blow to the SEC. This would be huge for the Irish, who have plenty of opportunity to prove themselves against Pac-12 opponents, but lack a matchup against the SEC. At season’s end, a debate between Notre Dame and Alabama for playoff positioning could be settled by how each performs against a common opponent.

October 29th – Michigan at Michigan State

On the day Notre Dame hosts the Miami Hurricanes at Notre Dame Stadium, there is another major midwest college football game that has plenty of bearing on Notre Dame’s path to the playoff. With Ohio State reloading after losing numerous starters, the Wolverines and Spartans figure to be the two teams contending for a spot in the Big Ten title game. Outside of Michigan State, Michigan and Notre Dame have no common opponents. In fact, Notre Dame’s game against Michigan State is the only time the Irish will face a Big Ten opponent this season. For this reason, Michigan State dominating the Big Ten would once again be beneficial for the Irish.

November 25th – TCU at Texas

Despite losing Josh Doctson and Trevone Boykin to the NFL, the TCU Horned Frogs still figure to be a contender for the always wide-open Big 12. This game, which takes place the day after Thanksgiving, is a potential trap game for the Horned Frogs. If Notre Dame takes care of Texas in the first game of the season and the Longhorns can steal a late-season game against the Horned Frogs, the Irish will certainly have a decided tiebreaker against teams from the Big 12. Much like the situation with Michigan State, Notre Dame’s only game against a Big 12 opponent comes against Texas. If Charlie Strong’s team can surprise college football experts, Notre Dame benefits.


Other games that should gain considerable notice from Irish fans include Florida State at Miami (October 8th) and Ohio State at Michigan State (November 19th). With a pseudo-Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, Notre Dame should have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its worth against ACC opponents. If Urban Meyer’s Ohio State team can pick up where it left off last season, however, the matchup with the Spartans in East Lansing is arguably more important than the aforementioned Michigan – Michigan State matchup.

Whatever the case, Notre Dame has plenty of opportunities to add wins against opponents from many of the Power 5 conferences to their resume. If the Irish take care of business at home (with the exception of the game against USC, all of their marquee matchups take place in South Bend), Notre Dame just may find its way into the College Football Playoff for the first time since its inception.

Featured image is courtesy of wikipedia.com. 

Way-Too-Early Schedule Game: Notre Dame Edition

Well, it’s that time of the year. Summer is upon us and it’s almost okay to start dreaming of the college football season. Yes, it is only June, and still way too early for a legitimate top 25 and too early to count anyone out – or in, for that matter – of the national championship race.

Where does that leave us, you ask? I think it puts us in the perfect place to play everyone’s favorite game, the schedule game.

Over the course of this column I’m going to take a look at each of the 12 opponents Notre Dame will be facing during the 2016 regular season, give a quick breakdown and background information, and make a “way-too-early” pick on the game. Sound simple enough? Good!

Week 1 at Texas – Sunday, September 4 – Austin, TX

In a rematch of last season’s opener, Notre Dame will travel to the University of Texas to take on the Longhorns to begin the season. Last year, the Irish smoked Charlie Strong’s squad 38-3 in South Bend. Just as there was last year for Texas, there is a quarterback competition heading into camp. The difference between Notre Dame’s QB battle and Texas’ is the talent level. The pressure is building on Strong at Texas, and I don’t expect the Notre Dame game to help ease any of it.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Texas 17

Week 2 vs Nevada – Saturday, September 10 – South Bend, IN

Unlike last year, the Irish won’t open up the home portion of their schedule with a marquee opponent. While that isn’t meant to be a knock on the Wolf Pack, it’s the truth. Nevada projects to be a borderline bowl team this season and Notre Dame has higher aspirations than that level. The strength of the Wolf Pack will be their offense, specifically the backfield made up of Penn State transfer Akeel Lynch and James Butler. Nevada very may well have a nice season, but I doubt that this game is one of their highlights.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 42 – Nevada 20

Week 3 vs Michigan State – Saturday, September 17 – South Bend, IN

The third week of the season may be Notre Dame’s first real test. Michigan State is coming off of a College Football Playoff appearance and the Spartans have won two out of the last three Big Ten titles. Yes, last year took a lucky bounce at the Big House and a sick Zeke Elliott at The Shoe to get their two biggest wins, they were wins nonetheless. Sparty should be heading into 2016 ranked in the top 25. It will certainly be interesting to see who replaces Connor Cook under center for the Spartans. MSU will open the season with Furman at home followed by a bye week before their trip to South Bend. A night game at Notre Dame Stadium will be the first real test for this young team.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 27 – Michigan State 20

Week 4 vs Duke – Saturday, September 24 – South Bend, IN

While the Blue Devils are traditionally known for their success on the hardwood, they have been much improved on the gridiron lately as well. The Blue Devils are coming off a win in last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl, however their team is not without its share of question marks. The biggest one of these may be the quarterback position. Last year the offense was driven by Thomas Sirk. Sirk was due to return to the helm this season, however he ruptured his Achilles for the second time during offseason conditioning drills in February. It is unknown if Sirk will be back and how effective he will be. If he is unable to play look for Parker Boehme to fill in. Just like their brothers on the hardwood, I think the Blue Devils will struggle with Notre Dame on the gridiron.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 38 – Duke 17

Week 5 at Syracuse – Saturday, October 1 – East Rutherford, NJ (MetLife Stadium)

Syracuse is entering a new era with Dino Babers taking over as head coach of the Orangemen. This season looks as if it is going to be a rebuilding year for Cuse, and a win against Notre Dame is highly unlikely. It would be surprising to see Syracuse in a bowl game, with many schedule predictions having them at or around four total wins. Notre Dame certainly shouldn’t be one of them.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Syracuse 3

Week 6 at North Carolina State – Saturday, October 8 – Raleigh, NC

For the second time in the first six weeks the Irish will be taking on the Wolfpack, although this breed is based in Raleigh, NC. NC State has the task of replacing Jacoby Brissett who graduated last year. Last season, the Wolfpack scored 33.2 points per game with Brissett in control. I would look for that number to drop a little bit, although I do think new offensive coordinatior Eliah Drinkwitz will do a good job keeping that number around 30. This is a tough spot for Notre Dame. The Irish haven’t recently played that well on the road (cough Virginia 2015 cough) and the Irish could be caught looking ahead to Stanford. I think this game is much closer and tougher than people think.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 31 – NC State 28

Week 7 vs Stanford – Saturday, October 15 – South Bend, IN

Stanford-Notre Dame has quickly become one of my favorite rivalry games in college football. Since the rain-soaked overtime classic in 2012 this series has produced some extremely memorable games, including last year’s Stanford victory at the end of the regular season on a last second field goal. I think this game could certainly be another classic in this rivalry. If Stanford figures out how to replace departed QB Kevin Hogan in the first six weeks, then I see no reason why this shouldn’t be a great game.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Stanford 17

Week 8 – BYE

They won’t win, they won’t lose. Not much to see here.

Week 9 vs Miami – Saturday, October 29 – South Bend, IN

This game hasn’t gotten much run yet, but I definitely think that this will be one of the best games on Notre Dame’s schedule. I think Miami is set to return to a product similar to their glory years, with Mark Richt at the helm. This is a tremendous opportunity to not only kick-start that resurgence for the Canes, but also to reignite the rivalry between Notre Dame and The U. Junior QB Brad Kaaya is one of the more underrated signal callers in the country. This is a game Notre Dame very well could lose. The biggest thing I think they have in their favor is that they are coming off the bye week. Truthfully, I think this one could go either way, and is a start to bringing back one of college football’s most missed rivalries.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Miami 20

Week 10 at Navy – Saturday, November 5 – Jacksonville, FL (EverBank Field)

Going from one rivalry that college football misses to one of my absolute favorites. Obviously the reasoning for this rivalry are more for off-the-field traditions rather than the competitive play on the field, but the respect shown between Notre Dame and Navy is one of my favorite things to witness. This year the game shouldn’t be as close as it has been in recent years. Navy lost Keenan Reynolds to graduation and he will arguably be the program’s biggest loss since Roger Staubach. Notre Dame shouldn’t have any problem with the Midshipmen.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 34 – Navy 14

Week 11 vs Army – Saturday, November 12 – San Antonio, TX (Alamodome) SHAMROCK SERIES

I don’t think that this game will be very competitive. Truthfully, I think that the most interesting part of this will be seeing how Notre Dame looks in their yet-to-be-released alternate uniforms. The Irish have yet to lose a Shamrock Series game, and I would be stunned if this is the first.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 41 – Army 9

Week 12 vs Virginia Tech – Saturday, November 19 – South Bend, IN

What does life after Frank Beamer look like for the Hokies? By this point in the season we will know the answer to that. Justin Fuente is in to replace Beamer as head coach. Fresh off coaching first round NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch at Memphis, Fuente will have his work cut out for him in deciding between Brenden Motley, Jerod Evans, and Dwayne Lawson to run the offense. Evans is a junior college transfer and many expect him to win the job. I think this is a game that Notre Dame should win, but it is one I could see them looking past with the date with USC the following week.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 28 – VT 27

Week 13 at Southern Cal – Saturday, November 26 – Los Angeles, CA

If all goes according to my predictions (it likely won’t), Notre Dame will be entering this showdown in LA unbeaten, just like in 2012. That being said, I don’t think that this matchup turns out the same as it did in Brian Kelly’s third year on campus. In my opinion, USC is one of the most underrated teams in the country and this game will ultimately decide which of these teams heads to the final four and which doesn’t. I give a slight edge to Southern Cal at home, but I feel as if this one truly is a toss up.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Southern Cal 24 – Notre Dame 21

I think Notre Dame will be very good this year and on the cusp of playoff contention once again. There are obviously a few games I think could be trap games as well as a few games I think are going to be toss ups. I could be right, I could be wrong, I guess we will find out in November how I did.

More Than A Friday: Cubs in the Movies and For Actual

On Wednesday evening, we said good-bye to the 2015 Chicago Cubs, the latest we’ve ever bid the north-siders adieu in a calendar year, but that didn’t make things any easier for those who have suffered through elimination in ’84, ’89, ’98, ’03, ’07, and 2008. I felt bad for them, and then I made it about myself.

Poooooooooor Cub fans.

Poooooooooor Cleveland fans.

You know what though? It’s just a game, and while we love it, we shouldn’t lose sight of that fact. The players make a lot of money, and sports, in general, make money hand-over-fist. They do that because we pay to be entertained by the games. It’s a lot like the movies, except the joy and anguish we experience at the theater doesn’t stay with us for days, you know, the way the games do.

Back to the Future: Part II lied to us

You buying that?  I sure as hell don’t subscribe.  By now, I’m sure everyone is well aware that October 21, 2015 was the day the 1985 characters from the first installment of the Back to the Future franchise arrived 30 years into their future.  I’m as aware as anyone, as I prepare to attend a theme party about 15 years in the making this Saturday.  So, of course, we watched what Robert Zemeckis envisioned yesterday’s world would be like.  We did so on digital media, a bonus of technology developed a few years back, from “Digital Copy” discs that accompanied our Blu-Ray box set of the trilogy.

The beginning of the movie is basically a series of jokes about what the next 30 years might have brought to the world, and how much of 1985 would be outdated by then.  We didn’t quite make it to flying cars, dehydrated Pizza Hut, or Jaws 19, but we’re far beyond scenes in window screens, fax machines, and printed newspapers.  And while, most Pepsi isn’t going to set you back $50, that Pepsi Perfect promises to fetch quite a bit more.

cubbiesworldseries

Today’s news was supposed to feature the beginning of the slamball playoffs, Queen Diana’s arrival in Washington DC, and the Cubs taking down a Miami baseball team to sweep the World Series.  Well, Slamball is a real thing, the late Princess didn’t outlive her mother-in-law, and few months after Diana’s tragic death, not only was there a team in Miami, but they won it all.  In fact, that Miami team has once the whole shebang twice, while the Cubs have a lot of years between them and their last World Championship in 1908.

The joke there was clearly about the contrasting viewpoints of people in the present tense of 2015 being intrigued by the Cubbies finally getting it done, to the point of congratulations somewhere in California, versus Marty’s amazement with the existence of a team in Miami.  While Chicago wasn’t quite the 100-to-1 shot the movie said they were, they are a far cry from what they were when the 2014 season, and in a good way.

Instead of being pissed that it didn’t happen, fans should rejoice that they got to carry the storyline beyond the regular season and three rounds into the post-season.  Remember, this was a third place team that sent the first and second place teams in their division to the golf course, while they got an honest crack at the Mets and were a step closer to the World Series than Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

Mark Grace was Taking Care of Business

We didn’t actually see the World Series in Hilldale, just the reporting of what happened in their fictional world.  Twenty-five years ago, we actually put them on the field in Anaheim against the Angels.  Mark Grace actually hit a home run that Jim Belushi broke out of prison to catch, and the most unreal thing about that premise was the Cubs playing the Angels in the Series.  Down the road a few years, Gracie would hit a World Series bomb, in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, which his Diamondbacks would win in 7 games.

belushiball

The Rookie of the Year bests the Mets

So, a kid breaks his arm, it heals, and the catches the eye of the Cubs brass when he throws a home run back at Wrigley.  Preposterous?  Perhaps, but no more unrealistic than the Cubs sweeping an American League team in Miami, right?

The Cubs rival in that flick was the Mets, and why?  It’s because we were in the days before interleague play and there was no one exciting enough from the National League back then, so they went with New York’s JV squad.  Of course, the kid loses the magic right before the big inning and manages to get it done anyhow.  Kids movie send viewers home happy.

Actual Cubs make adults cry in their beer.  We actually get to see Mr. Henry Rowengartner later in life, crying to his single high school friends about getting nothing more than head from Tara Reid.  This is the adolescent sex-comedy equivalent to how Cleveland fans ultimately feel seeing the sorrow of Chicago fans.

We get it, the Cubs mean more to most of them than any other sport, if not thing, in the world.  Still, I’m left to think about the last thirty years, which saw the Bears win a Super Bowl, the Bulls win six titles, and the Blackhawks take home three Stanley Cups, even if we disregard the White Sox winning the World Series in 2005.

At least we got the best of the sports movies.

A Major League Hit

I like a lot of sports movies, and I think there are a lot of good ones.  Even the bad ones have their moments, but not the sequels to Major League.  Remember The Titans, Hoosiers, Miracle, and BASEketball are among my favorites.  Kevin Costner movies don’t do it for me, though Tin Cup has its moments.  However, Major League is all the way there for with timeless adult humor and, of course, my Cleveland Indians.

There actually ended up being a lot of real life parallels from the 1989 flick.  We ended up getting our speedy lead-off Willie Mays Hayes-type in Kenny Lofton, our beleaguered power-hitting outfielder in the form of Albert Joey Belle, and our ultimately unlikable third basemen in Jim Thome.  Just imagine the graffiti clean-up on a Roger Dorn statue.

However, while the big screen gave the team that beat Miami, Jim Belushi, and Tara Reid’s sexually predatory high school boyfriend World Series wins, Cleveland still got shit on, with the sequel revealing that magic playoff clincher against the Yankees was followed up by an excruciating sweep at the hands of the White Sox.  Screw you, Hollywood.

Your movies may lie to Cub fans, but you do a number in telling my hometown the truth.  Cleveland can’t catch a break on either side of the camera.

ACC WRAP UP 10/14

Duke Ranked

Duke enters the rankings this week at #25 after defeating Army 44-3, and now sit at 4-1 and look like the favorite in the Coastal division in the ACC. Duke has been led by quarterback Thomas Sirk in the air and on the ground and has been a revelation for this team. With only a couple of quality teams remaining on Duke’s schedule, this team could finish the season undefeated with their only loss being to a good Northwestern team. Duke’s next game is on the 24th against Virginia Tech.

 FSU-MIAMI Game Results

Florida State defeated Miami this weekend in a thriller that ended with Miami’s failed 4th and 4 attempt with less than a minute left to give the Seminoles the victory. This game had a lot of implications for the ACC, the win gives Florida State the lead in the Atlantic division and the loss for Miami knocks them to 3-2 and puts them at the bottom of the Coastal division. With Miami enduring the toughest part of their schedule, this team could end up sitting at 4-4 after facing Virginia Tech, #5 Clemson and #25 Duke in the next couple weeks.

 All ACC Matchups

This weekend every team in the ACC faces another ACC team, and there are a lot of interesting story lines within the matchups. Pittsburgh plays Georgia Tech this weekend, with Tech having a miserable year and Pittsburgh having a surprising year. Before the season you would have said Georgia Tech would win, but not anymore. A win for Pittsburgh would send them to 5-1 and 3-0 in the ACC. Virginia Tech and Miami play each other in a game that will decide the direction of their season for each team. Perhaps the biggest ACC matchup of the week is between Boston College and Clemson, with Clemson facing one of the best defenses in the country in Boston College.

 Clemson vs. Boston College’s Defense

#5 Clemson faces Boston College this weekend in a game that has the potential to be a big upset. Boston College has one of the best defenses in college football and will give Clemson’s offense their toughest test of the season to this point. Clemson running back Wayne Gallman will need to have a good game on the ground if Clemson wants to win this game, as Boston College’s pass defense is elite and will surely give DeShaun Watson some headaches. Unfortunately for Boston College they will probably have to score a couple of points to beat Clemson, which has been a tough task for them. Their defense will keep them in any game and this one is no different. Clemson’s defense has been pretty good in their own right this season so I don’t expect Boston College to find much offense in this game, Clemson wins a close one.

The Seminoles need to begin games the way they’re ending them

Earth to Florida State… If you play with fire, you will eventually get burned. The Florida State Seminoles have trailed at halftime in 5 of their previous 8 games, with a few of them being a couple of possession games. While it is encouraging that this team has repeatedly been able to overcome these deficits, this is not a formula that consistently gets you victories. Nor is it a formula that will impress the playoff committee, proven by the #3 ranking that the Seminoles currently hold.

This season for Florida State, other than their record, has been the polar opposite of last season. Last season, the Seminoles won by an average of 41 points, with Jameis Winston coming off the field in the 3rd quarter in most games. This season, there have been four games that have been decided by one possession. This isn’t a damning thing to the Seminoles, just not ideal. The reality is that it doesn’t matter how the Seminoles win, they just need to continue to win, which I don’t believe will be a problem until the playoffs begin. However, once the playoffs begin, if the Seminoles continue their season long trend of surrendering halftime leads to the opponent, the Seminoles will get burned.

I won’t sugarcoat it, the Seminoles haven’t had a particularly tough schedule this season, so while these comeback wins show an impressive unity and character with this team, it’s not like these comeback wins have been against impressive teams. If the Seminoles are losing to a team like Alabama, Oregon, Mississippi State, or the other playoff contenders, the Seminoles won’t be able to simply flip the “Play Good” switch as easily as they have been able to against teams like Louisville, NC State and Miami. However, like a said earlier, this is not all negative. Last season the Seminoles never had a game up to the National Championship game where their backs were up against the wall like this season. When the Seminoles went down early to Auburn in that game, Seminoles fans weren’t sure how the Noles were going to respond, specifically because the Noles had no experience in games like these last year. This year, we know how Florida State will respond to adversity, but once again, if they keep playing with fire, they will eventually get burned.

To this point we know how the Seminoles will play in the second half of games, Jameis Winston will show up to play, their defense won’t consistently miss assignments and the overall team will play more aggressive, the Seminoles just need to get their act together in the first half of games. So, Earth to Florida State… Stop playing with fire!

NBA: Around the Association

Curry #2

Player Breakdowns

All-Star Synopsis:
Stephen Curry, Warriors

The rumors are true. We really could be embarking on America’s next big time super star. Stephen Curry has improved his game from all aspects including on the defensive side of the court. Curry has wowed us in year’s past, but this season could be even more special for the young upcoming poster boy of the NBA. Yes, we’re only a couple of weeks into the NBA season, so I will not try to overreact too much but here is Curry’s 2014 stat line: 27.7 ppg, 7.2 apg, 6.3 rpg, and 3.5 spg. Curry is also shooting at a high percentage from the field at 49% and just under 41% behind the arc.

Curry’s biggest improvement has come on defense in which he averages 3.5 steals per game. Curry has shown elite defense versus some of the league’s best including Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe. His defense has grabbed the attention of those who cover the sport and Curry has some big plans for himself:

Curry Tweet

Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
The Knicks are struggling out of the gate and their all-star forward cannot seem to find any rhythm. Carmelo Anthony has been no stranger to bad shots and low shooting percentages, but he always seems to get around the terror and be productive. This season is a little different. The Knicks new triangle offense does not center around the seven time all-star, yet is “supposed” to find the best scoring options based off pick and rolls and passing the basketball. Both of these new styles to the Knicks may have Carmelo in a rut. Melo pointed out the team struggles in an interview with the New York Post, “We can’t move forward until we get the basics down,’’ Anthony said. “Some nights we have it down, some nights we don’t. It’s going to be a little bit inconsistent until we get the foundation of the system down and we can add things we have to add on” (full article here).

Melo Tweet

It’s safe to say that Carmelo has to get comfortable with this new offense and that is expected. What is not expected is Melo’s awful shooting percentage and not draining open shots. Melo has had a horrible four game stretch, which could possibly be his worst stretch in his twelve now thirteen year career.

Melo Tweet #2

Rookie Rundown:
Elfrid Payton, Magic

Rookie Elfrid Payton did not have much waiting time to begin his rookie season with the offseason departure of Magic great Jameer Nelson and the injury to Victor Oladipo. Payton leads all rookies in assists per game, but still has yet to find his stroke on offense shooting just 37%. Payton’s ugly percentage is no surprise. The rookie point guard, though, continues to control the tempo of the offense and is heavy in the passing end and is constantly contributing on defense, which is a luxury for NBA rookies. Payton recorded seven, seven, nine, and seven assists in his first four games as a pro while also averaging 1.5 steals per contest.

KJ McDaniels. 76ers
KJ McDaniels flew completely under the radar in the 2014 NBA Draft falling to the 76ers in the second round (32nd pick). McDaniels could be a future gem for Philadelphia who has flirted with potential young stars, but none have reached the star power one could hope for. McDaniels has wowed followers with his ability to shoot threes with a high percentage (31.3 3P% career at Clemson). McDaniels’ ability to score and block shots as a wing makes him an asset to this degrading Sixers squad.

It’s a little shocking McDaniels has yet to break the starting lineup, but I expect the change to be made in the near future as McDaniels is the best wing defender and overall best wing player the Sixers have on its underdeveloped roster.

Flying Under the Radar:
Dwyane Wade, Heat

The moment LeBron packed his bags to head back to Cleveland the Heat have gone extinct, well, at least from a media perspective. The Heat (5-2) quietly put together a nice first season stretch with wins over Toronto, Washington, and Dallas. In those games Dwyane Wade has been on a tear playing his best basketball since maybe even before LeBron showed up. Wade has showcased what the ten time all-star is capable of when healthy. Wade on the season averages 19.7 ppg with 6.9 apg and 3.4 rpg. Wade is shooting 50.9% from the field and an even 40% from three point range (29 3P% in career). Wade’s impressive performance against Minnesota on Saturday displayed the much-improved shooter and also passer (25 points & eight assists).

He’s also breaking records:Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.57.04 PM

Kyle Korver, Hawks
Kyle Korver owned the Knicks Saturday night in Atlanta on every angle of the court. Korver scored a season-high 27 points (6-9 3P) and also had three blocks. Korver’s stock market indicator is soaring with three 20 point games to start the season. Korver struggled with an illness this past week, but still managed to score a combined 47 points in that stretch knocking down a combined ten three-pointers (61.3 3P% on the season!).


Team Outlooks

Top Dog:

Stephen Curry on his team and new coach a few days before the first game of the season:

http://youtu.be/ioRCDUeYHfA

Golden State Warriors
New head coach Steve Kerr has this team playing at a high level despite the turnover issues. Stephen Curry has been lights out and Draymond Green has been the man of the hour filling in for the injured David Lee. We know the scoring ability for the Warriors is top notch, but the defense is what has this team buzzing as the Warriors rank first in the league in defensive efficiency. The Warriors proved to be the elite power this past week with wins over Houston, Portland, and Los Angeles (Clippers), even though falling to the Suns Sunday night 107-95.

Gaining Some Buzz:
Sacramento Kings
DeMarcus Cousins may have finally busted the seams as he playing the best basketball of his young career. The Team USA tag team of Cousins and Rudy Gay are playing smart basketball with more focus and the whole team is buying in as Carl Landry says here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:11839760

The Pits: 
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are and will be the laughing stock of the entire 2014-15 NBA season. Sure, Kobe is one of the league’s biggest point getters, but the offense is insufficient and so is the defense. To be honest, the Lakers were at its best when Jeremy Lin was running the offense this past week. Yeah, that ain’t good.

FSU’s Season Far From Over

After knocking off every opponent that was deemed able to beat the Seminoles before the season started, most people believe that an undefeated season for the Noles is inevitable. While it is true that the opponents left on the Noles schedule are relatively weak, the Seminoles can’t afford to take their foot off of the gas pedal.

The Noles, in multiple games this season, have had some very poor starts to games, have allowed lesser teams to take games to the finish, and at times haven’t looked like a team that has beat Notre Dame, Clemson and Louisville.

If the Seminoles take an approach to these upcoming games in which they believe they will win no matter what, the Seminoles could be in trouble, especially with two in-state rivals remaining on their schedule.

The Seminoles remain unbeaten at 8-0, with only four games remaining, not including the ACC Championship. In the ACC Championship, it looks as if the Noles will play either Duke, or Georgia Tech, neither of which would be a statement win for the Seminoles.

Long story short, the Seminoles absolutely can’t lose.

At this point in the season, if the Seminoles were to lose, they would probably drop significantly due to their relatively weak schedule and wouldn’t have any games left on their schedule that could make them jump in the rankings. Of course, rivalry games against Miami and Florida mean a little bit more in terms of having a quality win, but no one looks at either team and considers them a particularly good team.

Consider Mississippi State’s position. They are also 8-0 and sit one spot ahead of the Noles at #1. However, Mississippi State has two top 12 teams remaining on their schedule, not including an SEC Championship. If they were to lose a game to a cupcake team or even against Alabama in two weeks, they would still have a couple of chances to make a statement and potentially stay amongst the top four teams.

Florida State doesn’t have that luxury. Florida State’s time to lose (if there ever is a time to lose) would have been at the beginning of the season in similar fashion to Oregon.

Oregon doesn’t have a particularly hard schedule either, but lost at the beginning of the season, and thus have had enough time to climb back into the top four.

Florida State needs to just win out, that’s all that they need to do. It doesn’t matter if they win each game by 1 point, they just need to win out and they are in the playoffs. I just hope that this team doesn’t consider their season over, because it’s not.

The Seminoles next game is this Saturday at 6:30 versus the Virginia Cavaliers.

A Must Win Game for Florida State

This weekend, the #2 Florida State Seminoles play the #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Doak Campbell Stadium, and with the lack of quality opponents on Florida State’s schedule, the rest of the Seminoles season hinges entirely on the outcome of this game.
As I’m sure every Florida State fan is aware of, the Seminoles don’t have a very strong schedule this year. With the only other two ranked opponents on the Noles schedule besides Notre Dame already in the rear view mirror, this game will be one of the last chances for Florida State to come out and make a statement. Adding to this, in the previous two opportunities that Florida State has had to make a statement against a quality opponent in Oklahoma State and Clemson, the Seminoles were not very convincing. If the Seminoles want to make everyone believe that they are the real deal, and don’t want to be on the outside looking in to the playoff picture, this is a must win game. If the Seminoles were to lose this game, they don’t have the comfort in knowing they have other chances to redeem themselves against a high quality opponent, unless there in an ACC team that reels off some wins to make the ACC championship a compelling match up. After Notre Dame, the Seminoles play Louisville, Virginia, Miami, Boston College and Florida, none of which are currently ranked, or especially talented. If the Seminoles play the football that they are capable of, and win this game, then they will have a good chance of regaining the #1 position in college football, and will remind everyone why they were favorites to repeat coming into the season. The outcome of this game will make everyone watching either believe that the Seminoles are the best team in the country, or believe that they are not who we thought they were when the season started.
The preseason #1 ranked Seminoles have experienced multiple bumps in the road so far this season, including a lot of trouble surrounding star QB Jameis Winston off of the field, and numerous injuries occurring to vital players on both sides of the ball. As a result, the Seminoles haven’t exactly lived up to the expectations that were set out for them prior to the season starting. The Seminoles have sputtered against every opponent they have played except Wake Forest, specifically having trouble against Oklahoma State and NC State. Not to mention the game against Clemson where an inexcusable fumble by Clemson late in the 4th quarter basically lost Clemson the game. Now, after the great start to the season that Mississippi State has had, the Seminoles find themselves ranked #2 for the first time all season.
I believe that the Seminoles are completely aware of the stakes of this game, and will be extra motivated by the fact that they were moved down to the #2 spot in the rankings. These Seminoles are tired of hearing all of the distractions that have been surrounding Jameis Winston, tired of hearing all of the doubts surrounding whether or not this team has what it takes to stop a mobile quarterback and most specifically are tired of hearing that they aren’t the best team in the country.

Who's Left Standing? Predictions For the Weekend's Biggest Games

This weekend in college football sure should be something. I think I might be looking forward to it more than Christmas. Save the gifts, just give me another Saturday with this many ranked matchups. This very well may be the biggest weekend in recent memory in college football, at least in the regular season. There may have been other weekends with multiple ranked matchups, but this weekend has two programs (Ole Miss and Mississippi State) with chances at making a case they are elite. Throw in the potential playoff implications and chances are you’ll be glued to your seat for twelve or so hours Saturday. On a normal college football weekend, Baylor at Texas and Arizona State at USC would be marquee, entertaining matchups to look forward to all week. This week those two barely crack the Top 10. So which teams will begin to separate themselves from the pack and make early resume building statements? Let’s take a look at the week’s top games.
Arizona at Oregon
We have drastically different memories of these two teams. Arizona won its last game on a Hail Mary as time expired, while Oregon struggled to overcome Washington State on the road. Though Oregon’s defense isn’t great, I think their last game was a bit of a fluke compared to what we saw up to this point from them. Arizona has been one of the nation’s top offenses to this point and will put up points on the Ducks. Fortunately for Oregon, Arizona’s defense is worse than theirs. Anu Solomon will keep the Wildcats in the game for a while, but he’s still a freshman and this is his first time in a road environment like this. If Oregon were playing a team besides Arizona, I could see them over-looking this game a bit with UCLA next week, the way Arizona embarrassed them last year will have the team focused. The Marcus Mariota Heisman train keeps steaming ahead as the Ducks win 47-30.
LSU at Auburn
LSU suffered a somewhat shocking loss a couple weeks ago, losing at home to Mississippi State. Luckily they effectively had a bye week last week to recover before this Saturday at Auburn. These are similar teams who run the ball well, are hit and miss through the air, and have some question marks on defense. As Mississippi State showed, LSU’s defense is vulnerable compared to recent years and Auburn will find some success on the ground. I think the difference here is that Auburn’s aerial attack is less effective than the Bulldogs’ so LSU will be able to focus more on stopping the run. Arkansas was able to run the ball on Auburn in the opener and LSU will have similar success. Brandon Harris will do just enough in the passing game and lead the Bayou Bengals to a potential season-saving win, 38-34.
Oklahoma at TCU
The Oklahoma buzz saw has been rolling to start the year, but this will be their toughest game to date. Both teams have stifling defenses, and TCU’s will keep them in this game. The Horned Frogs have played minimal competition so far, but if you only give up 219 yards per game on defense you’re doing something right. Each team is similar at quarterback as well. Trevor Knight has played above average, but not nearly the potential Heisman candidate some had hoped. But he has been the pass/run threat the Sooners imagined coming into the year. On the flip side, TCU signal caller Trevone Boykin is a pretty similar player and if the two swapped teams, Boykin would be getting a lot more love nationally. This wouldn’t be the huge upset some think, but in the end the Sooners have playmakers at the skill positions that TCU doesn’t, and will help Oklahoma survive 24-20.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State
After the Bulldogs’ huge win at LSU, can they follow it up with an equally impressive win and get into the Top 10? It will take a sizeable effort, and Dak Prescott will have to match A&M QB Kenny Hill play for play. Both teams have sound running games as well, so the scoreboard operator should get a good night’s sleep. Mississippi State will have to be successful on offense to keep their defense off the field. It’s a defense that is ranked #124 in passing yards allowed per game. At least Texas A&M’s offense isn’t predicated on throwing the ball. Oh wait, Kenny Hill is only the nation’s third leading passer in yards. The Bulldogs are flying high right now, but they’ll be falling hard Saturday after Kenny Hill carves up Mississippi State’s secondary and gets back in the Heisman conversation. Aggies win on the road 37-31.
Stanford at Notre Dame
Stanford and Notre Dame will give us the type of game we don’t see much of anymore. In today’s college football, even SEC teams are running some hurry up and spread offenses and on rare occasions do we get a classic defensive battle. It will be a nice change of pace compared to the scores likely put up in the day’s other big matchups. The teams are relatively equal at quarterback between Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and Notre Dame’s Everett Golson. Each defense has been in lock-down mode so far as well, but Notre Dame hasn’t been tested the way Stanford has. The Fighting Irish’s biggest win was against Michigan, which isn’t exactly looking like a great win anymore. Notre Dame will still keep Stanford’s offense in check most of the game, but they won’t be able to overcome the Cardinal defense. Stanford is giving up 74 passing yards a game (is that even possible?), and Notre Dame doesn’t have a dynamic running game to fall back on. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will take home this game, and that’s going to be Stanford, 16-13.
Alabama at Ole Miss
How long have Ole Miss fans waited for this day? Undefeated, ranked 11, and a Top 5 Alabama team rolling into town. Both teams have great defenses statistically, but Bama’s has been challenged more than the Rebels’ has. They each rank Top 5 in total yards allowed, but Alabama is giving up only 62 rushing yards per game. This means the game is likely going to come down to the quarterbacks. This will be Blake Sims’ first true road start, but for some reason I still trust him more than Bo Wallace. Maybe it’s because Wallace has already thrown six interceptions this year against defenses nowhere near the quality of Alabama’s. The Tide will also be able to grind out more yards on the ground putting less pressure on Sims than what Wallace will shoulder. Even with turning the ball over way too much, Alabama dominated Florida. Ole Miss is much better than Florida, but they’re in for a rude awakening here. The Rebels could find themselves in the Top 5 after this week if things break right, but that won’t happen. The Tide gets an easier-than-the-score-indicates win 31-20.
Nebraska @ Michigan State
This might be the Big 10’s biggest game of the rest of the season so they better make it count. The Spartans won’t have another challenging game until the conference championship besides a visit from Ohio State on November 8th. They have waited almost a month to get a chance at proving themselves after the Week 2 loss at Oregon. While it isn’t nearly the signature win they would like, a dominating performance would help restore Michigan State’s image of being playoff worthy. That’s something they should be able to do here. Nebraska looks good on paper because they’re 5-0 and ranked 19th, but they haven’t really played anybody. They can run the ball almost at will, but the defense hasn’t really been tested and against the toughest team they played (Miami), Brad Kaaya threw for over 300 yards and Duke Johnson averaged over five yards per carry. That’s not a good sign heading into a game against a Michigan State offense that is adept at both passing and throwing behind Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford. Nebraska will also have to travel for this game. Trae Waynes and Kurtis Drummond will neutralize Nebraska’s passing attack (if you can call it that). Drummond didn’t play well against Oregon, but Marcus Mariota and that offense can make a lot of defenses look bad. And Tommy Armstrong ain’t Marcus Mariota. This will allow the Spartans to stack the box and limit Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah. The Huskers won’t be able to do enough on offense and the Spartans get back in the playoff hunt, winning 38-20.

A Darkhorse Heisman: Can anyone catch Marcus Mariota?

As the first third of the college football season comes to a close, most of the focus has been on which teams are in the best position to make the playoff. And rightfully so, as it is the most exciting thing about this young season. But in every other year, more talk would have focused on which players are off to great starts and can use their early season momentum into a Heisman campaign. The Heisman talk has taken somewhat of a backseat to the playoff discussion. This year, like all others, we are already seeing a few players separate themselves from the rest of the pack as favorites to be invited to the ceremony.
I won’t spend much time on the current favorites since they’re pretty obvious and universal at this point. Marcus Mariota was on his way to a possible trophy last year before a mid-season injury, and has picked up right where he left off. Combined with the potential for an undefeated season, he is the clear front runner having accounted for 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions so far this year. In either order close behind him are Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper. Gurley is averaging on astonishing 9.8 ypc up to this point and has dominated in Georgia’s two biggest games of the year, versus Clemson and South Carolina. Meanwhile Amari Cooper is merely leading the nation in receptions and receiving yards for a Top 5 Alabama team. Both players will put up ridiculous stats this year, but it will still be difficult for them to bring home the award since neither are a quarterback.
Currently rounding out my Top 5 are Dak Prescott and Ameer Abdullah. I’m not sure why Prescott isn’t getting more love. He has as impressive of stats as the other “non-Top 3” Top Heisman contenders on ESPN’s Heisman Watch and led his team to the best win out of those players (with the possible exception of Kenny Hill vs. South Carolina). He’s only completing 60% of his passes, but has thrown for 11 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions and has added 378 yards and 3 scores on the ground. He’ll get more chances to prove himself in the next couple weeks with visits from Texas A&M and Auburn. If he plays well, Prescott will remain in the Heisman conversation for most of the year as long as Mississippi State is able to go 1-1 in those games. Abdullah hasn’t led Nebraska to a huge win yet, but he has been racking up the rushing yards and had his best game in his team’s biggest game of the season so far against Miami (Fl.) last week. He also already has his Heisman moment with his incredible touchdown reception to save the day against McNeese St.
There are some fairly common other players being mentioned just on the fringe of the Heisman discussion, but I’m going to skip past them and look at some long-shots. There are a few players who have played really well, and even though most people know who they are, they haven’t really been mentioned in Heisman talks for one reason or another. These are my Top 5 sleeper picks to make it to the Heisman ceremony.
1. Blake Sims – QB Alabama

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The first few weeks made us wonder if the quarterback position would hold Alabama back from being a true national title contender. This was understandable considering the relative lack of passing game the Tide showed in the first few weeks. But Blake Sims was unleashed last week against Florida, and proved he is capable of making big plays in the passing game. Because of the conservative nature of the offense the first few games, the counting stats aren’t there yet for Sims. But he’s completing just fewer than 70% of his passes and last week showed he can rack up the yards and touchdowns if OC Lane Kiffin continues to air it out. He’ll need to finish with at least 35 touchdowns, but as the QB for one of the nation’s top teams, he has the stage and talent around him to make it happen.
2. DJ Foster – RB Arizona State
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

DJ Foster is an explosive RB in the Reggie Bush mold. The Sun Devils have only played three games so far, but Foster has already rang up 649 yards from scrimmage to go with 6 touchdowns, all while averaging 9.4 ypc. Though they haven’t played much quality opposition, Foster’s worst game of the year so far is 173 yards and 3 touchdowns. The opposition will get tougher now that Pac-12 play is starting, and Foster gets the chance to make a huge statement tonight. With starting quarterback Taylor Kelly out due to injury, if Foster has a huge game and leads Arizona State to an upset win at home over UCLA, Foster will start to gain momentum in the Heisman race.
3. James Conner – RB Pittsburgh
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Conner, the 250 pound running back for the Pittsburgh Panthers, is tallying impressive rushing totals. He has 699 yards and 9 touchdowns already on 6.4 ypc. He also doesn’t have a game with less than 5.3 ypc. The competition may have not been the greatest, but that’s something that isn’t going to change. The Panthers play a weak schedule even by ACC standards, avoiding Florida State and Clemson. Last year Andre Williams finished 4th in the Heisman voting for a 7-5 Boston College team simply because his stats were so impressive. With Pittsburgh’s dedication to the run game (or unwillingness to risk throwing), I see no reason Conner doesn’t have a good chance at putting up a stat line that gets him close to New York.
4. Shane Carden – QB East Carolina

shane-carden

Carden’s candidacy is based both on putting up stats and quality wins. Playing in the American Conference he will certainly not have the big stage other contenders do so he will have to total astonishing stats. That is something he is on pace to do, currently totaling 1,469 yards through the air with 11 passing touchdowns to go along with 3 on the ground. He led East Carolina to a close defeat at South Carolina and followed that up by toasting Virginia Tech and North Carolina to the tune of 865 yards with 10 touchdowns and only 1 interception in the next two games. While he doesn’t have any marquee games left, if he could light up those ACC schools just imagine what he’ll do in American Conference play. They’ll have to win out and go 11-1, but a 4,500 yard season with 40+ touchdowns isn’t out of the question; those are stats that would keep him in the discussion.

5. Dylan Thompson – QB South Carolina

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dylan Thompson is another case where his team will need to win out for him to have a chance. But if the Gamecocks can rattle off 12 straight wins after an opening loss and win the SEC, Thompson is the quarterback for what would be a Top 3 team. He has completed 66.7% of his passes since the opener and even in that opening game loss he threw 4 touchdowns. In South Carolina’s last two games, which came against SEC opponents, Thompson threw 8 touchdowns and only 1 interception. A lot would need to go right, but if Thompson can keep up that kind of efficiency throughout conference play, seeing him finish in the Top 5 wouldn’t be all that far-fetched.