Tag Archives: Royce Freeman

The Best and Worst of 2016: Pac 12

There were a lot of praise-worthy moments during the 2016 Pac 12 campaign. And in the same breath, I can say with 100% certainty, there were equally plenty of cringe-worthy moments as well. In my opinion, I would say that the Pac 12 took a step back this year. There were some teams that performed extremely well (Pac 12 Champion Washington Huskies) and some teams that stumbled out of the gate, fell, face-planted, and remained on the ground for 12 weeks or so (Arizona, Oregon, Cal, take your pick).

Amongst the peaks and valleys this past season, there were some teams that represented the very best of the Pac 12 and what this conference has to offer to college football. Conversely, there are some teams that flat out stunk and left an ‘un-Febreze-able’ odor, stinging the nostrils of hapless fans up and down the Pacific coast. Depending on your perspective, some of these teams are interchangeable. In the end, we know good football when we see it, straight up. No exceptions. Looking back on this past season, here are my takes on the best and worst of the Pac 12.

The Best

Washington Huskies

Washington made good on their preseason picks to represent the Pac 12 and possibly crack the top four in the College Football Playoff. With an impressive 12-2 (8-1) record, the Huskies punished would-be opponents en route to the Pac 12 championship. It was their first since 2000. Led by sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, The Huskies jumped out of the gate winning their first nine games before falling to eventual Rose Bowl Champion, USC. However, despite the loss, U Dub was able to regroup after the loss, win the Pac 12 Championship and face Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Though the Huskies were put down 24-7, they showed no quit and scrapped it out until the very end.

USC Trojans

The Trojans stumbled out of the gate, losing three of their first four games. They were beyond cross road status. They were picking out a plot and resting in shame for the rest of the season. But, somehow, some way, they picked themselves up by their bootstraps and forged ahead to what was a turnaround of all turnarounds. After a 31-27 defeat to the Utes (Utah), USC went on a torrid win streak (eight straight) and displayed why they are perennial favorites to compete and win the Pac 12 year in and year out. And the ultimate cherry on top, you ask? It was an ‘instant classic’ of a game as you can imagine with an improbable come-from-behind Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten Champ, Penn State 52-49.

Colorado Buffaloes

No, this isn’t a typo. I meant it. Yes, I certainly wasn’t a believer for this pick, but I had to really sit down and catch a few games. And to my surprise, the Buffs were quite good this season. They finished 10-4 (8-1). I think Colorado would have given eventual champion Washington a bit more competition in the conference championship had Sefo Liufao not injured his ankle early in the game. That’s my opinion. But we’ll never know. It’s remarkable what Colorado could do in a course of two seasons. Talk about a serious 180 degree turn around from last season where they went 4-9 (1-8). It’s incredible, especially since it’s with the same group of players. Just goes to show you what continuity can do for a team. Unfortunately, the Buffs had to come crashing back to Earth from a 38-8 smack down at the hands of Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Despite the loss, this was an impressive campaign and their heads should be held high.

The Worst

Oregon Ducks

A very popular acronym comes to mind when I think of the Ducks: W.T.F? To those not up on current social terminology, let’s just say that it’s a serious inquisition into understanding the unlikeliest of outcomes. Going into the season, there were some question marks regarding the quarterback situation. Graduate transfer Dakota Prukop didn’t quite live up to the hype and his position was given to true freshman, Justin Herbert midway through the season. The issues didn’t just end there. Their porous defense was atrocious. During the October 8th game against Washington, the Ducks surrendered 70, that’s right 70 points and a whopping 682 yards of total offense! To complement a passive defense, All Pac 12 running back, Royce Freeman battled injuries throughout the season and wasn’t even close to being a factor. All totaled, the Ducks finished 4-8 (2-7). Subsequently, Mark Helfrich was relieved of his duties at season’s end. His replacement, former University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart assumed the position and is looking to retool a once proud and dominant program. One notable bright spot is that running back Royce Freeman will return for his senior season.

UCLA Bruins

Injuries to quarterback Josh Rosen quickly derailed what would be been a championship campaign for the Bruins. Without the sophomore quarterback, UCLA stumbled and bumbled to a 4-8 (2-7) record. Despite the record, the Bruins’ defense kept them in most of their games. Unfortunately, the offense could not drum up enough of a rhythm to keep the defense off the field for extended periods of time. The Bruins look to have Josh Rosen back for his junior season. Hopefully, he will be healthy and the defense, though losing some key playmakers, can resume consistent, strong play.

Cal Golden Bears

Oh, this pains me so! There is no way I can’t say that this season was an absolute disappointment. Early predictions had Cal contending for the Pac 12 North division title – key word, early predictions. When news that Cal had landed graduate transfer Davis Webb from Texas Tech, it seemed that the Golden Bears’ prayers had been answered as far as a replacement for former signal caller, Jared Goff. Statistically, Webb performed well above expectations- throwing for 4,295 yards with 37 TD’s versus 12 picks. Of course the other side of the coin reveals a much darker, bleaker situation. Cal’s defense, which showed some improvement last season, seemed to have left that improvement somewhere in 2015. Cal’s defense ranked at or near the bottom in several defensive statistical categories. It was a hot mess of a dumpster fire. However, the defensive highlight of the season and a moment which I figured would turn Cal’s season around was the epic goal line stand against then #4 Utah. It was the type of stand that sets the tone for the rest of the season. Alas, it was only good enough to get the win and nothing more. Sadly, it would be only one of two wins to come in the final seven games of the season. The blaze that was the 2016 season saw coaching casualties in Defensive Coordinator Art Kaufman and Head Coach Sonny Dykes. With a new regime taking place in Strawberry Canyon, first-time head coach Justin Wilcox is poised to right a ship that has been astray for some time.

Email David at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin.

Featured images courtesy of collegeswimming.com

Can the Oregon Ducks Come Out of their Downward Spiral?

Success can be a difficult thing to attain. It can also be a difficult thing to hang onto. If you doubt that, just ask any Oregon Ducks fan right now. There are more Duck fans flying off the bandwagon than there are actual ducks heading south right now. What has happened to the Oregon Ducks?

Depends on who you ask.

I believe it has come down to recruiting and the inability to develop a quarterback, but not Mark Helfrich.

Let’s start with recruiting.

The Ducks don’t recruit the type of player they have in the past. The lack of playmakers on the team is apparent to anybody that watches Oregon games. Players like Marcus Mariota, Ed Dickson, Jonathan Stewart, and Patrick Chung aren’t walking through the doors of the football facilities at Oregon anytime soon.

From 2010-12 the Ducks put together recruiting classes that ranked in the top-15 nationally. Let’s also remember that this was during the Chip Kelly years. The recruiting classes that Kelly put together had an average of 10 players that had a four-star rating attached to their name. Getting that many quality players for three years was bound to make a difference for the Ducks. Here’s the issue though:

Since 2013, the average rank of Oregon’s recruiting classes has been 21st. The amount of four-star players has dipped to seven on average, and the Ducks have only had two five-star players since 2013.

Let’s face the reality that coaches face. Talented players make their coaches look brilliant, but when the talent is running thin, that same coach doesn’t look so amazing anymore.

For the Ducks to get back to what the Ducks were a few seasons ago, they have to hit the recruiting trail harder. Oregon has to sell the University of Oregon much better. The mistake I think the Ducks make is that the their coaches believe that players are just lining up to come to Eugene. They are not lining up anymore. Not that they really were.

Oregon is not Ohio State or Alabama.

Secondly, since Marcus Mariota took his Heisman Trophy playmaking skills to the NFL, the Ducks haven’t had any consistency at the quarterback position. It’s hard to replace a legend at a school, but you need to at least have a plan in place to find someone to fill that role.

The logical choice may have been Jeff Lockie, but he came in and looked like he had never played football before. He was dreadful. Vernon Adams Jr, a graduate transfer, came from Eastern Washington University and played pretty well, but injuries hurt Adam’s overall effectiveness with the Ducks.

You would think the Oregon coaching staff would have a redshirt-freshman who might be able to take over the offense for the next few seasons.

Nope.

Oregon went fishing in the graduate transfer waters again, bringing Dakota Prukop up from the depths of Montana State. What has he provided?

Well, Prukop hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t horrible either. In effect, he has been a game manager. Prukop isn’t throwing for an insane amount of yards per game, but he’s not Jeff Lockie either.

With Oregon’s recent struggles, some have questioned whether or not Prukop can stay in his starting role. Some media types and fans want the Ducks to see what freshman Justin Herbert can do.

The most popular player on the team is always the back-up quarterback. However, Herbert has not taken any meaningful snaps and people want this young kid thrown out onto the field against the Husky defense this weekend? If you do that you risk his confidence being shattered into a thousand pieces. The Washington defense is nothing to take lightly. Put Dakota Prukop out there. It’s the smart move to make, Oregon.

Lastly, the coaching always comes under fire when things don’t go well. Especially considering the fragile mental state of most Oregon fans. The program has not been relevant for long, but the program acts like they have been around forever. This little downturn with their win/loss record is a reminder that you have to work hard to keep the talent coming.

Should Mark Helfrich be fired?

No.

Who do the Ducks think will come to Eugene? Not Les Miles or Tom Herman. Mark Helfrich is not Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, but those type of elite coaches are the exception, not the rule. I don’t see a better candidate available for this program.

The Oregon program has always wanted their football coach to represent the school in a classy way, positively represent the state of Oregon, and to conduct his life with integrity. To anybody outside the state of Oregon that may be hard to understand, but that is how it’s always been. Mark Helfrich does those things.

This is Helfrich’s first season of losing and now people want him gone. You want to fire a coach with a 35-11 record? That translates to a 76% win percentage. Yeah, that makes lousy sense. The tendency to have these knee jerk reactions is a symptom of social media. A quick fix is not going to change anything for Oregon. Helfrich knows the game and he relates to his players well. Helfrich is the guy for this football program.

You know what changes things for football teams? Talent. Recruit playmakers, Oregon. You got great talent to come to the little town of Eugene before. You can do it again.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

Email Mike at mike (dot) wilson (at) campuspressbox (dot) com or follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion

Pac-12 Football Media Days

A media day can be an interesting thing to attend or it can digress into a couple days of coach and player speak. Coaches know what they want the media to know and the players have been told what to focus on in their interviews. This was certainly the case here in Hollywood, California for the Pac-12 Football Media Days.

State of the Conference

The Pac-12 Media Days in Hollywood began with a “state of the conference” speech from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Will Scott get hammered on the conference’s television contract, Directv, or nine-game schedule?

Not really.

Larry Scott discussed, with pride, the amount of athletes going to the Rio Olympics from the conference. He also was boastful about the new venture with Twitter which will expand their streaming capabilities and give fans of the Pac-12 something new to use when looking for highlights of their favorite Pac-12 team. There will also be more technology streaming with Facebook Live and putting all 12 conference teams on a conference YouTube channel. It’s obvious that they are taking to technology advances and trying to use it to their advantage to bring in more Pac-12 fans.

With Silicon Valley being physically in the lay of the conference, the Pac-12 should be doing what it is doing with technology. It’s an absolute no-brainer for the conference and for their fans.

Once Larry Scott was finished it was onto the run of coaches for this first day of Pac-12 Football Media Days.

Arizona Wildcats

Rich Rodriguez was in the leadoff position and was still in vacation mode when he took the microphone.

“I’d rather still be on vacation for another week than be here. Let’s get this rolling,” Rodriguez quipped.

One of the focuses for Arizona is to keep quarterback Anu Solomon healthy and to get more consistency from him. When asked, Rich Rodriguez agreed.

“Anu is getting better but we need more consistency from him and we are also going to put more responsibility on him this season,” Rodriquez stated.

California Golden Bears

Next up was California head coach Sonny Dykes.

Dykes seemed most pleased with his players raising their grades on the APR of the team than anything. Which, in and of itself, is a great thing to hear from a major college football coach these days.

Dykes mentioned that they have to overcome losing the talented Jared Goff. He mentioned that quarterback position is still open and will continue to be through the first week or two of camp. His staff will make a decision on the position around then.

It might have been kind of tough for Sonny Dykes to follow a gregarious guy in Rich Rodriguez and be the guy before Clayton Helton of USC.

USC Trojans

Clay Helton took to the microphone and it seemed like all of the media was upon him. It was like sharks circling their prey.

One thing you get real quick about Helton is that when you listen to him speak, you get a sense that he wants to be on the field playing. I certainly would want to be a young player at USC playing for him.

Being a part of USC means you have to come to work every day because of the amount of talent that is seeping from the program.

“You come to USC to compete. We play in a playoff system world. You’re building your resume when you come to USC.” Helton said.

When asked about the pressures of being at USC, he simply said he will gladly take it.

“If you don’t want the pressure, don’t take the job,” Helton told the hordes of reporters surrounding him.

Like many other conference schools, he is dealing with a quarterback issue between Max Browne and Sam Darnold. According to Helton, it’s a very open competition right now and won’t be decided until the last couple weeks of fall camp.

Oregon Ducks

“Win the day” is the saying at Oregon, but can they win the conference? Can they win their division? Many people believe its Stanford’s conference this year, yet head coach Mark Helfrich doesn’t seem to care.

“We have to worry about watching enough film to have a good practice and game. We don’t worry about rankings. It’s not our focus,” Helfrich explained.

The Ducks have a quarterback battle going on as well. Helfrich still calls it an open competition, however, I still think it’ll be Dakota Prukop winning the starting position.

Washington State Cougars

Mike Leach is probably the most entertaining coach of this day. Usually the coach has some opening remarks for the assembled media, but not Leach.

“If you know me at all, you know I don’t do opening remarks. Let’s get this thing rolling,” Leach said.

He is just a guy who speaks his mind, whether or not the media or fans like it. He doesn’t care.

Leach has quarterback Luke Falk coming back and when asked about what he needs to see out of Falk this year, the answer was simple.

“Consistency. He’s not a guy that has a glaring weakness anywhere, but consistency is needed,” Leach said.

The Cougars will be challenging everybody this year and could even be considered a dark horse in the division. With a talented quarterback and guys at the skill positions who are threats, Leach could lead this team to something special.

Utah Utes

Kyle Whittingham of Utah was the last to appear on the media stage. He lost Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker to graduation and the NFL, so those positions are a concern.

“We got to get the quarterback position question resolved. It’ll be an open competition entering fall camp,” Whittingham explained.

Whittingham likes how his team has gradually got better every year they have been in the Pac-12 and he doesn’t expect that to change.

I don’t expect that to change either. If ever there was guy to weather a big change in his football program, it is certainly Kyle Whittingham.

Image: Google

Pac-12 Links: Players to Watch for in 2016

Every season there are a handful of players to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 and this year is no different. The following list is of players that I believe will have a great impact on how their particular team does during the 2016 season. The difference between teams winning and losing will be directly related to how these particular players perform during the season, so let’s take a look.

Royce Freeman

The Rolls Royce for the Oregon Ducks has certainly made his impression upon the Pac-12 Conference in his short career, but can he handle the load of the offense until Dakota Prukop feels like he has control of things with the fast-break Oregon offense?

Freeman is a freight train out of the backfield at 5’11”, 230lbs and is one of those running backs that loves contact. He does not run out of bounds, he lowers his shoulder to get those extra tough yards. During the past two seasons he has run for 3,201 yards on 535 carries and it begs the question what he can do to improve upon those gaudy stats?

“I don’t know, rush for 2,000 yards, score 30 touchdowns. He’s more seasoned. We expect big things from him.” Said Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell.

Freeman is trying to keep himself out of the limelight, but that will be virtually impossible to do based on his past success. Freeman is one of those players that I would certainly pay to see live because of the way he plays the game. He’s a team player and more worried about getting the win than getting personal statistics.

In a game with Arizona State last season, he only had 15 carries and finished with 112 yards rushing, but it was attitude after the triple overtime win that tells you all you need to know about him.

“I was just more focused on pass protection and things like that. It’s cool. We have other people that can go out and make plays.” Said Freeman after the Sun Devil game.

Keep your eye on this player, he deserves some of the Heisman talk that he is getting and his approach to the game says more about him as a player than his actual stats do.

Daryl Garretson

The Oregon State Beavers are looking to pick themselves up off the mat after a dismal two-win season in 2015. Last season the Beavers had a young, athletic, inexperienced quarterback at the helm.

This year?

They have Daryl Garretson, a junior transfer student from Utah State who takes over the Oregon State offense. The offense will look pretty familiar to him since he played for Beaver offensive coordinator, Kevin McGiven, at Utah State.

What does Garretson bring to the table?

He will bring a starter’s mentality to the huddle for the Beavers. By this I mean, he knows the offense, can check out of a play and get to a better one, he has confidence because he has started in college before, and he brings a certain amount of swag to the team that was lacking last season.

Now, this doesn’t mean the Beavers are winning the Pac-12 North or anything, but this does mean that they should be in more games in 2016 than they ever were in 2015. Watch for Garretson to bring a more competitive vibe to the Beavers and hopefully that translates to more wins for Oregon State.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson is a player that people forget about in the Pac-12 because of recent injuries, but he can change the fortunes of the Arizona Wildcats.

Wilson has rushed 2,100 yards on 369 carries so far in his short career at Arizona. In his freshman year he took the Pac-12 by storm, rushing for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns. Last season he was slowed down by the injury bug and only managed 725 yards.

Unfortunately for Nick Wilson he has gained the reputation of a player that is not all that durable. Whether that is a fair label or not is up for discussion with many people. It’s something that will dog Wilson until he shows he can stay healthy for entire season or more.

How will the coaching staff use Wilson this year? That is the million dollar question.

If you take a look at his first two years you will see the coaching staff did over-use Wilson in terms of how much of the offense he was responsible for from the running back position.

During his freshman year, he was carrying the ball approximately 64% of the time which is not too crazy considering he is the number one running back for the Wildcats. However, when you look a little deeper you will see that in the final six games, Wilson’s usage as a running back jumped up to 84%. That is over-using a good running back and that is putting too much mileage on young legs.

If he was an Alabama running back, this would be about normal for how Coach Saban abuses his running backs, but to keep a running back healthy and viable in the Pac-12 you can’t do that.

If Wilson stays healthy, and the coaching staff figures out how to use him so they maximize his talent, then the Wildcats can have a more successful season in 2016.

Jake Browning

Jake who? That is what many of you are thinking I am sure, but keep this name in your head. Jake Browning is a talented young quarterback who has Washington Husky fans thinking big things in 2016.

The fans may be thinking big, but it’s what head coach Chris Peterson saw during the spring practices that has him thinking positive thoughts about Browning.

I think Jake has done a nice job of taking the next step. I think he has improved, it’s all subtle stuff. It’s his pocket presence, it’s his stride-point accuracy, the ball coming out a little quicker.” Peterson said in an interview with a Seattle radio station.

As a true freshman in 2015 Browning came on the scene and ended up with 2,995 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and led the Huskies to a victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Southern Mississippi.

Browning brings a tough attitude to the huddle, mobility, and an arm that threatens the secondary of just about any team. That tough, perfectionist attitude of his has certainly been seen by his teammates.

“The guy hates losing. The only thing on his mind is winning.” Said Coleman Shelton, an offensive lineman for Washington.

Jake Browning is a player who wants to improve every year and when he doesn’t live up to his expectations he takes it very personally. In a game against Arizona State last season, the Huskies totally collapsed and gave the Sun Devils a win. More importantly, it was Browning who gave the win away to Arizona State with three fourth-quarter interceptions. Browning gave a simple response to all the questions being asked of him in the post-game press conference.

“I gotta improve.” Browning said after the Sun Devil game.

When the 2016 season gets rolling for the Huskies look for Browning to put the team on his back and put the improvements he has made during the spring together to help the Huskies make a run at the Pac-12 North title. Watch out Oregon, the Huskies may have just turned the corner and they are setting their eyes on you.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Creative Commons

My 2017 “Big Board”

Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is complete, it’s time to start talking about the 2017 draft.  It’s like Christmas, every year people start getting in the holiday spirit earlier than the year before.  Well, this year we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.

We don’t know which NFL teams will be drafting at the top.  We don’t know which college players will stand out in the fall.  Still, that shouldn’t stop us from having some fun.  Let’s look at some possible 2017 draftees before the 2016 rookie contracts are finalized.

Disclaimer: I’m totally playing favorites here.  This is not meant to be a serious, analytical piece examining which prospects will be taken in the top ten.  This is simply a list of ten guys I’m looking forward to watching go through the process of turning pro.

  1. Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan

This is the main reason I had to put in the disclaimer.  I haven’t seen enough of Rush to be fully comfortable saying he’ll make for a great pro one day, but I have seen enough to be interested in how he does this fall.  Last year’s stats are intriguing.  25 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, 3848 yards on 324 completions, a 66.3 completion percentage, if he improves on those numbers he’ll certainly draw someone’s interest.

  1. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Without Freeman, the Oregon Ducks might have lost six games last year, instead of four.  Whenever Vernon Adams was struggling (which was often), his saving grace was being able to hand it to Freeman.  He rushed for at least 105 yards in all but two games and scored touchdowns in bunches with six multi-score performances.

  1. Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green

Again, I’m never sure how anyone else is going to look at MAC football and those who play it, but this guy’s talented.  He’s got the hands, the quickness and at six-foot, 196 he’s not as small as he sometimes looks.  As a sophomore last year, Lewis won the Paul Warfield Award, the Touchdown Club of Columbus’ honor for the nation’s top collegiate receiver.  2014’s winner was Amari Cooper.  Even though his quarterback has graduated, I can’t wait to see what Lewis will do this fall.

  1. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Another super sophomore last year, Smith-Schuster put up the fourth most receiving yards in FBS.  If you want to see blazing speed you’ve found it right here.  Get the ball in this guy’s hands and watch him run by people.  There’s no doubt he has some refining to do, but his potential is undeniable.

  1. Desmond King, DB, Iowa

With so much passing going on, corners are valuable nowadays and King is one of the best around.  Iowa went undefeated in the regular season because of its defense, which becomes much easier to play when you only have to worry about the opposing quarterback throwing to one side of the field.  King locked down the opponents’ best target all season.  Maybe last year was a fluke, but I doubt it.

  1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Mr. Yards after the Catch, himself checks in at number five.  McCaffrey finished third in Heisman voting last season and will be back in New York as a finalist again this year.  On a team that’s lacked offensive playmakers for years, he’s what Cardinal fans have been waiting for.  Hand it to him, split him out, sneak him out into the flat and check it down to him, it doesn’t matter.  McCaffrey averages six yards a carry and 14 yards per completion.

  1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield burst onto the scene during Oklahoma’s magical run to the College Football Playoff and I want to see if he can continue playing at such a high level.  The top-notch numbers he put up were one thing, but the way he led his team by example was another.  The Sooners fed off his energy and he was able to answer the bell for them just about every time.  He’s fun to watch and I’m glad he’ll be coming back for another year.

  1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

With Derrick Henry and McCaffrey and Leo Fournette all going off last fall, Cook got a bit overshadowed.  Still, he scored 19 touchdowns on the ground and was one of two players with 200 attempts to average north of seven yards a carry.  Don’t forget about this guy.

  1. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

He’s got to be the most feared defender in college right now, which is funny because his team is terrible defensively.  Opponents plan their games around Garrett and it works because there’s no one else to help.  Garrett still gets his though.  12.5 sacks last year tied him with Shaq Lawson for fifth in the FBS.  There’s a premium on pass rushers of late and Garrett looks to be the next great one.

  1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

This guy’s unreal.  He can bully you or blow by you, depending how he’s feeling at the time.  Last fall, Fournette got off to a torrid start, rushing for 1352 yards in his first seven games.  He couldn’t keep up that frantic pace, but he still finished third in the FBS in rushing yards.  This rising junior has already proven, at least physically, he’s ready for the jump to the NFL.  Watching him takeover games should be even more of a spectacle in 2016.

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Valero Alamo Bowl: #11 TCU vs. # 15 Oregon

This year’s Valero Alamo Bowl has the potential to set all types of offensive records as the Big 12 representative #11 TCU Horned Frogs (10-2) face the #15 Oregon Ducks (9-3) of the Pac-12.

TCU Horned Frogs:

Coming into the season, TCU was arguably one of the most prolific teams in the Big 12, let alone, the nation. Unfortunately, injuries to key players down the stretch dashed those hopes. However, with a healthy Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson , TCU is poised to have a dynamite ending to a season once filled with College Football Playoff hopes.

Bright Spot:

Very few college football players have been able to make the transition from one impact position to another like TCU’s Trevone Boykin. Boykin started off his career as a wide receiver. After TCU’s lost its original starter to personal issues, Boykin stepped in and has led one of the most potent spread offenses ever seen in the last 5 years. With Boykin and his number one target, receiver Josh Doctson back and healthy, they’re sure to cause havoc for any defense they face.

Low-Light:

Injuries to Boykin and Doctson have cost TCU a chance at a College Football Playoff berth. This scenario is a prime example of what might have been if both were to remain healthy throughout the season.

Oregon Ducks:

After the departure of Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, few thought that the Oregon Ducks would have the type of success as they have experienced in seasons past. Enter FCS transfer, Vernon Adams Jr. The former Eastern Washington quarterback stepped in and gave the folks of Eugene, Oregon something to cheer for. After a sluggish start, the Ducks have kicked in to overdrive and run amuck over the competition. After beginning the season 3-3, Oregon has regained their swag and have ripped of six straight wins to close out the season. All that’s left is to finish on a high note to remind the nation that Duck football is still to be respected.

Bright Spot:

To complement Vernon Adams in the back field, running back Royce Freeman has had a stellar season. Freeman was a force, rushing for 1,706 yards and 14 touchdowns. Oregon has had a reputation of having speedy, elusive backs. Freeman is a hybrid of the two, and you can kick in uncanny size (5’11” 230 lbs.) to boot. Though Oregon’s record has not compared to seasons past, one shining moment came in a thrilling 38-36 victory over favorite, Stanford. That victory, although it was in the midst of a three-game win streak, gave the Ducks the utmost in confidence that they had regained their place among the Pac-12 elite.

Low-Light:

Two moments stick out to me as low lights for the Oregon Ducks. First, the 62-20 pummeling to the then-undefeated Utah Utes. Yes they are good, but that loss is completely unacceptable. The second was a 45-38 loss to the surprising Cougars of Washington State. Of course, Oregon wasn’t the only victim of the upstart Cougars, but this game was not written in the script. If you’re looking for a silver lining, the Ducks haven’t lost since then.

X-Factor:

Both teams are incredibly explosive and can score in a second’s notice. It comes down to rhythm. Whichever team can play with and maintain offensive rhythm, will more than likely be the victor. Vernon Adams is more comfortable in the offense and with comfort comes confidence.

Prediction:

Looks like all the stars will be out for the Alamo Bowl. Though Boykin and Doctson are back in the lineup, Vernon Adams and the Ducks are on a roll right now. Ducks over Frogs, 42-37.

Photo: Luke Lienau/Flickr

The Civil War: Oregon and Oregon State

The Civil War game hits the state of Oregon this week with Oregon State and Oregon going at it on Saturday in Eugene. Does this game mean anything this year? The answer to that question depends on your point of view. To fans of both schools it means bragging rights for an entire year. Duck fans want a good bowl game. Beaver fans (myself included) just want a win to ruin the bowl plans of their hated rival 45 miles to the south of them.

For anybody outside of Oregon, the game doesn’t mean anything, but don’t tell that to the Ducks. Oregon has been playing well and is currently on a five-game winning streak that has included wins over Stanford and USC. This late-season push by the Ducks has put them in a position to earn a decent bowl bid. If they can win on Friday against the Beavers, the Ducks could be looking at one of the bowl tie-ins for the Pac-12 or one of the prestigious “New Year’s Six” bowl games. The Fiesta or the Peach Bowl could be possible landing spots due to those bowls being able to take at-large teams.

The Ducks would much rather go to the Fiesta or Peach Bowl games because of the larger payout financially, the impression it would make with recruits, and the positive reaction of their fans. What happens for the Ducks? That will play itself out here in the next couple weeks. For right now, Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the country and they don’t want anything or anyone to derail their big dreams. Especially the Beavers.
If the Beavers somehow pull off a huge upset and overcome being a 33.5 point dog in this game, the consequences for the Ducks would be large. It would mean no Fiesta or Peach Bowl game. Instead, probably the Holiday Day Bowl in San Diego. No disrespect to the City of San Diego, the host of the Holiday Bowl, but that is a huge step down in every way for the Ducks. They will come out to play and look to quickly put Oregon State out of their misery.

Misery. That is an appropriate word for the Oregon State season. They come into the Civil War game as a huge underdog riding an eight-game losing streak. Things have not gone as well as Beaver fans would have wanted under new Head Coach Gary Andersen. Oregon State will be coming into Friday’s game looking to take anything positive into the offseason.

Being a huge underdog in a rivalry game doesn’t give much hope to the fans of Oregon State. Can the Beavers give their fans any hope of a massive upset? Anything can happen on any given day, but in this case I just don’t see that happening. At the end of day, talent wins out and the Ducks have much better talent than the Beavers.

The Beaver defense has struggled mightily in the last three games, during which they’ve given up around 2,000 yards of total offense. Heck, last week the Washington Huskies had 329 yards of offense at halftime. A defense struggling that much is going to have a tough afternoon trying to stop Royce Freeman, Vernon Adams, Bralon Addison, and Darren Carrington.

You always want to make a team one-dimensional. But do the Beavers want to make the Ducks one-dimensional at running the ball or throwing the ball?

Either way, the Ducks should have their way with the young Beaver defense. Head Coach Gary Andersen is extremely impressed with what the Ducks have done this year considering that they were left for dead just about a month ago. Royce Freeman stands out for the Beaver coach.

“He’s one of those guys that’s gonna go on to the NFL and play for a long time. He’s a great running back who can do it all.” Andersen said in his weekly press conference.

When asked about the dynamic play of the Ducks’ quarterback in the last few games, Andersen was just as glowing in his observation of Adams.

“Vernon now seems to be I’m sure exactly what they envisioned at the beginning of the season. He’s completely at peace with the offense.” Andersen said.

Is there anybody who thinks that the Ducks won’t win this game on Friday? Probably not. Not even myself, and I’m an Oregon State alumnus. Oregon State has to play fast, loose, and they have to remind themselves that they have nothing to lose. However, if the Beavers can be competitive and give some hope to Beaver fans, administration, and even their coaches for 2016 then good things can come from the Civil War game.

“I think it would be a good steppingstone going into next season for the younger guys,” said senior OSU defensive end Lavonte Barnett.

The Civil War game will be won by the Ducks fairly handily. Don’t give up on the Beavers though, despite the fact that their season has been a huge struggle, Coach Andersen will get this turned around and the Civil War won’t be so one-sided in the future.

Five You Must See: Week 11

#2 Alababma (8-1) at #17 Mississippi State (7-2) Saturday 3:30pm on CBS

Alabama made a loud statement last week by shutting down LSU completely.  Mississippi State, who’s lost to those Tigers and the Aggies of A&M, has since rattled off four straight wins during the midseason lull in their schedule.  Winning here would give them, Ole Miss and LSU new life in the crowded SEC West race.

This game features two of my favorite offensive players in the country.  Alabama running back Derrick Henry, fresh off a 210-yard, three-touchdown performance, is finally getting some Heisman hype of his own.  Most everyone was focused on Leo Fournette this time last week, but by out-rushing the former frontrunner by 179 yards, Henry has shifted the attention to him.  It’s time for him to follow it up with another stellar game on the ground to let everyone know he’s for real.

On the other side, watch out for (who else) quarterback Dak Prescott.  He’s really the only hope the Bulldogs have in this game.  The senior leads his team in passing and rushing yards, and I’m sure he would lead in receiving too if they had someone who could throw it to him consistently.  He’s also been responsible for 25 touchdowns this season.  For his team to have a chance in this one, Prescott has to go off.

This is the best chance all you Alabama haters have to see the Tide slip up again.  Tune in to hear Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson on the call.

#21 Memphis (8-1) at #24 Houston (9-0) Saturday 7:00pm on ESPN 2

Memphis ruined any shot they had at the playoff by losing to Navy last week.  Meanwhile, Houston’s 20-point win over SMU was much closer than the score suggests.  This matchup will likely be a battle of two great junior quarterbacks.

Memphis’ Paxton Lynch is getting some mention as a top QB in this year’s draft class if he decides to declare.  It’s hard to argue that based on his body of work.  He’s one of eight guys in the country who’ve thrown for more than 3000 yards.  He’s ninth in completion percentage at 68.9.  And with 19 touchdowns on just two interceptions he takes care of the ball too.  A signature game in front of a national audience would validate his high draft stock.

Greg Ward Jr. is just as prolific, though his game is much different.  Ward is that dual-threat that we’ve seen open up the NFL to new possibilities.  At 70.4 percent, he ranks second in completion rate.  He’s the top rushing quarterback in the nation outside of Navy’s Keenan Reynolds who has an unfair advantage, running the triple option.  To average 92 yards per game on the ground as a QB is just sick.  The Tiger defense is going to have to keep a spy on Ward all night if they hope to hold him in check.

All of a sudden Memphis finds itself third in the division, needing a win here and a Navy loss to have a shot at the AAC West crown.  Houston, on the other hand, still has dreams of an undefeated season and a playoff spot.  This is easily the biggest game in the AAC’s brief history.

Oregon (6-3) at #7 Stanford (8-1) Saturday 7:30pm on Fox

Oregon is finally playing well.  They’ve won three in a row, but a fourth will be difficult.  Stanford is really good.

The Cardinal calling card has always been a stout defense.  Now that they’ve added offensive firepower to their arsenal they’re an absolute nightmare of an opponent.  They can, and will, pound you between the tackles with Christian McCaffrey who averages 134 yards per game.  That’s made life so much easier for Kevin Hogan who’s completing 66 percent of his passes now that most of them come off a play action fake.

The Ducks are finally getting the production they need from Vernon Adams, which is good news because they’re going to have to outscore the Cardinal to win this one.  In the last three games he’s thrown 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.  Like McCaffrey does for Hogan, Royce Freeman opens up opposing defenses for Adams.  The sophomore standout has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven of nine games this fall, with a pair of touchdowns in four of those seven.

It’s been a disappointing season for the Ducks but they’ve still got a chance to spoil Stanford’s playoff party plans.  There should be a fair amount of bad blood in Palo Alto.

#12 Oklahoma (8-1) at #6 Baylor (8-0) Saturday 8:00pm on ABC

The Baylor Bears have been waiting to prove themselves all season, but the Sooners have needed to prove themselves since taking a terrible loss to Texas.

This is the first of three gauntlet games that round out Oklahoma’s schedule.   They’ve got TCU coming to town next week and they’re headed to Stillwater for Bedlam against Oklahoma State in two weeks.  All three are huge obviously, but a loss here would significantly detract from the next two.  A quick note on quarterback Baker Mayfield: he’s completing 70 percent of his passes and averaging 10 yards per attempt.  That combination is astounding and needless to say, no one else is even close to that sort of production.

Baylor’s offensive machine is now operating with a backup quarterback.  Freshman Jarrett Stidham has the keys now after Seth Russell was injured two weeks ago.  He exceeded expectations last week against a formidable Kansas State defense.  He’ll need to be even better against hands down the best defense the Bears have seen all season.

Baylor also has a bumpy road ahead with trips to Oklahoma State and TCU, and a game against Texas on conference championship weekend that looks like the perfect opportunity to trip them up if they’re somehow still standing.  The odds are stacked against them, but that’s pretty much what they asked for.  Let’s see how they handle it.

Washington State (6-3) at #19 UCLA (7-2) Saturday 10:45pm on ESPN

Don’t pass out early.  The nightcap should be fun too.

Washington State has been entertaining this year.  At an astronomical 56.9 attempts and 417.3 yards a game, nobody throws it around the lot like the Cougars.  What else would you expect from a Mike Leach offense?  Luke Falk is another one of those guys completing passes at a 70 percent clip, but when you air it out 56 times a game it brings a whole new meaning to the stat.  UCLA’s defense has been banged up all season.  Falk and company will be aiming to take advantage.

UCLA is still alive despite back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford.  They still control their own destiny with games at Utah and at USC after Wazoo.  Sure it’s tough to ask them to go out and win those last two, but that’s what championship teams do.

Josh Rosen has become a must-watch player for me.  He can make all the throws.  It’s clear he’s got the talent.  Now it’s a matter of him progressing as a quarterback, not just a thrower.  He has to learn how to diagnose defensive schemes and figure out how to consistently move his team down the field in order to take that next step.  I’m excited to see if he can do it.

Do the Bruins come out flat and fall on their faces again, or have they gotten their act together?  Stay up late to find out.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures for the Ducks

With the season getting to and past the half-way point it’s time for teams that are on the brink of disaster to step forward and avoid falling into a lost season. The Arizona State Sun Devils and the Oregon Ducks are in that desperate mode for a win. Desperation can breed focus for a team or it can cause a team to be nervous and tight. What will it do for the Devils and Ducks?

As usual the Sun Devils came out sluggish, couldn’t get anything really going, missed two field goal tries, and made their hometown fans feel real anxious. While the Sun Devils were struggling, the Ducks sprinted out to a 10-0 lead early behind a great 64-yard run by sensational running back Royce Freeman. As the Devils were struggling to find their way on the offensive side of the ball, I was starting to wonder if this early lead for the Ducks would turn into a blowout win for them.

The second quarter was when the Devils got the offense churning. Mike Bercovici led the Sun Devils on a three-minute drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Mike Lucien. That made the game 10-7 and the energy was back in the building. The crowd was back on its feet pleading for their beloved Sun Devils to continue their good play. The Ducks put an end to the good feeling.

The next possession for the Ducks was a quick two minute drill as Vernon Adams connected with Darren Carrington on a 39-yard strike to push the lead back up to 17-7. You could feel the humid air just get sucked right out of Sun Devil Stadium with that score. The Sun Devils were not done scoring though.

Momentum had shifted back to the Ducks and the Sun Devil faithful were back to their nervous selves. The Sun Devils decided that they were going to make this a game however.

The Devils struck quickly. Mike Bercovici hit wide receiver Gary Chambers for a 39-yard strike and all of a sudden it was 17-14 and momentum had once again come over to the Sun Devil sideline.

A sense of urgency with both these teams had become paramount in this game and the second half became much more interesting.

The third quarter was the quarter of fireworks.

Arizona State started with the ball in the third quarter and took it down into Duck territory, but only came out with a field goal. However, that was a major accomplishment for their kicker because he was a having a terrible evening. He had missed two field goals earlier and that may have been in his mind with this one, but he blocked it out and put the ball through the uprights. That made the score 17-17.

Oregon takes over and Vernon Adams immediately throws an interception. The momentum was back in favor of the Sun Devils and five plays later the Sun Devils hit pay dirt when their little stud running back Demario Richards ran the ball in from 22 yards out to make the score 24-17. That score seemed to demoralize Oregon to an extent. They appeared flat, disinterested, and just about ready to get back on the plane to Eugene, however, they were only down by a touchdown.

Oregon is a team that has been trying to find itself all year in this post Marcus Mariota era. It’s been a struggle for them because Mariota did so much for them and may have been able to hide some of their deficiencies, and the Pac-12 teams they have been beating up on for the past three years have exacted a bit of revenge upon the Ducks.
Oregon takes the ball and connects on a field goal to bring the score to 24-20, in favor of the Sun Devils. Could the Ducks take the lead and win this game?

The Sun Devils were not going to go quietly into the night for the Ducks. ASU came up with a quick score again. A 34-yard run by Kalen Ballage, a great pass to DJ Foster for 25 yards, and then a one-yard pass from Bercovici to Demario Richard in the end zone made the score 31-20 Arizona State and Sun Devil Stadium was rocking and rolling.
Desperation causes weird things to happen. Enter Charles Nelson of Oregon.

Charles Nelson takes the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to the house and the control that the Sun Devils had seized was GONE in the blink of an eye. That made it 31-27. The Ducks were not done with scoring in the quarter. They proceed to take their next drive and score on a 62-yard score by Kani Benoit and now Sun Devil fans were looking for anxiety pills because their 11 point lead had totally disappeared and became a three point deficit at 34-31.

In the fourth quarter all hell breaks loose.

ASU takes their opening drive of the quarter and ties the ball game up at 34. Now it’s anybody’s game and that feeling of whoever has the ball last will win the game is coming over me. Can either team take control of a game that they both need in a profound way? The answer came, at least I thought, a few minutes later when the Sun Devils got a five yard touchdown pass from Mike Bercovici to his tight end Kody Kohl to put Arizona State up by seven at 41-34.

We all know that as long as there is time on the clock, anything can happen, and that is exactly what happened. The Ducks, the team with the frantic offense, the team with the ability to score in bunches, and the team that can strike lightning fast does just that. They score with Vernon Adams falling away, throwing the ball to the back of the end zone and one of their talented receivers reaching up and snagging the ball for the score. Let’s not forget that there were 12 seconds left in the game. Tie game at 41 apiece. Sun Devil hearts were breaking all over the stadium.

We go to one overtime. Both teams score touchdowns and the score remains deadlocked at 48. How ASU is in this predicament is beyond me at this point because they have about 350 yards rushing and had the Ducks gassed, but crazy things happen in the Pac-12 on a Thursday night.

The second overtime begins. Both teams score touchdowns and we are knotted up at 55-55. The tension is thick and I have no idea who is going to win because neither defense is really playing well at all. They are tired and it looks like they will play until the next morning.

Play starts for the third overtime and the Ducks score on a touchdown throw, but it appeared that Bralon Addison had his foot out of bounds on the catch. It goes to replay. The controversial play is upheld. The Ducks, by rule had to go for a two point conversion, but it fails. Sun Devils take over and Mike Bercovici is intercepted by Duck defensive back Arrion Springs. Ball game.

At the end of the day, the Oregon Ducks made one more play than the Sun Devils. The play calling by the Sun Devils certainly should be called into question, but football is about making plays when needed. Arrion Springs of Oregon, made that play and maybe saved a season for his team.

More Than A Friday: Kill, Sloppy Football, and Site News

The Golden Gophers have been something of an uncomfortable subject in these parts, at least as a talking point. Understand, this is the Northern Illinois perspective that motivates that feeling of awkward towards the University of Minnesota, and specifically their departing head coach Jerry Kill.

When Kill led our beloved Huskies, he did well. In a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, NIU named Kill to replace the retiring Joe Novak after a disappointing 2007 season. Novak did many good things in Dekalb, but no one was writing home about what they did during that 2-10 season, which featured a 34-31 home loss to another directional Illinois school, Kill’s Salukis of Southern Illinois.

Kill went 23-16 in his three seasons leading the Huskies. He lost the Independence Bowl and the International Bowl in his first two seasons, and led the team to an 8-0 record in conference play before a devastating loss to Miami in the 2010 MAC Championship, which turned out to be his final game in the mid-major ranks. Were the Huskie faithful upset to be abandoned by their leader prior to the Idaho Potato Humanitarian Bowl? Sure.

Should they have been? Yeah, why not? No one, even a small school in rural Illinios wants to hear their program isn’t good enough for a man to finish what he started. Argue the flaws of the system, or the machine that is College Football as a business, if you will, but no matter how much I support the red and black, Minnesota is a better job than Northern Illinois.

NIU won their bowl game with an interim coach and ended up getting a huge win in the human resources department, poaching Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to replace Kill. So, it’s been “screw Minnesota” for the last six seasons, but the next guy did them dirtier.

Now, to be fair, Doeren was a staggering 23-4 in his two MAC Championship-winning seasons at NIU. His 2012 squad was and remains the only Mid-American Conference team to crash the high-major party, but that Orange Bowl berth against Florida State would be another contest the student athletes would take on without their full time head coach. Doeren would see plenty of Florida State in his next gig, with a guaranteed matchup against the ‘Noles in the ACC Atlantic Division. To date, he’s had little success with NC State in that regard, where’s he’s 0-for-2, with 2015 contest yet to be played.

As far as Kill is concerned, it was another “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” case with Minnesota, with Tim Brewster’s 2010 squad failing to achieve victory against the Huskies in Week 4 at home. Raise your hand if you recall anyone coaching the Gophers between Glen Mason and Kill1Note: my hand is not raised.. I suppose we can anticipate Kill having a role on the Big Ten Network in the near future.

Kill isn’t walking away because he cannot win, Minnesota is 29-29 with three bowl appearances since he’s taken over. He hasn’t lost his passion for a game that seems to have threatened to take his life, at least from where I sit. He’s choosing his remaining years over the game, and that’s admirable.

Going back to 2005, his heath issues have been among the world’s worst kept secrets. He had a seizure while leading SIU in 2005, and in 2010, he was treated for dehydration after a game at Northern. From 2011 to 2013, Coach Kill had four gameday seizures, promoting a 2-game leave of absence in 2013, but all seemed well when he returned to the Gophers sideline in 2014, where he seemed to have coached without incident.

Then, this week, he retired, citing health reasons. And, it was admirable. Poof; the animosity from NIU was gone. They felt bad for the guy. You might even say they were grateful for what he did for the Huskie football program and maybe even his mark on the game of College Football. This led me to wonder if we might want to let the Doeren thing become water under the bridge, but no such thing was happening.

“Oh no. NC State can still suck it!” And there you have it.

Whatever I Watched Last Night, It Wasn’t Good Football

I honestly don’t know how, in a vaccuum, I could watch a 3 OT College Football game with a dog in the fight, and come away unentertained or unimpressed, but Oregon and Arizona State did just that on Thursday night in Tempe. The Sun Devils ran 100+ plays on offense, but ignored their bread and butter for the most part, running the football. The ground game is also Oregon’s go-to, but they got away with not going to that well tonight, with a 61-55 road victory.

I prefer physical football, and I think we got that from Oregon’s Royce Freeman and ASU’s Kalen Ballage, who exploited your garden variety poor tackling we’ve become accustomed to in Pac-12 Country. The visiting Ducks didn’t seem to need physical as much, as they relied on explosive plays and defensive breakdowns, and the Sun Devils were happy to yield the latter of just enough occasions to prevent the Ducks from flying back to Eugene with a 4-4 record in a disappointing season.

Oregon’s problems aren’t new. Through this dominant run that seems to have come an end this season, they’ve never been fantastic on defense. It just hasn’t shown because the offense scoring 60 points per game2That’s a perception stat, not a researched one., which masks a lot of defensive deficiencies. The code seems to have been cracked; pick them apart and don’t let them off the field on third down.

Another thing, Vernon Adams, for all he gives you, just isn’t Marcus Mariota. Say what you want about system quarterbacks, but Mariota would thrive in whatever system he played in. Ditto for Mark Helfrich. He isn’t Chip Kelly, and when the Ducks find their backs against the wall, they don’t have that guy on the sideline with the confidence to know they’ll overcome the adversity. It didn’t show so much in Year 1 with Helfrich, but it was there.

As for the Sun Devils, they have turned the corner as a program, but they’re not ready for prime time on a consistent basis. Give it up for Todd Graham, building this program into something better than anyone I’ve ever witnessed, a team that plays with pride and counts on its defense to win, but they’re missing too many pieces to get it done in 2015. It doesn’t mean he should be on a hot seat3Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either., but he has to keep the Arizona high school talent in state and in Tempe. There are plenty of good quarterbacks in this state, and he’s still still going with Mike Bercovici.

Don’t get me wrong, Berco plays with the heart of a lion, and we saw plenty of that on Thursday night, but they can’t take the next step without more talent at the most important position on the field. Now, we just have to see if this 4-4 start is a slide back to mediocrity or simply a down year for Graham and the program. For a great program, these should be the worst of times, but if we’re back to business as usual at ASU, those three consecutive 10-win seasons we saw from Graham to start his tenure with the Devils will soon be easily forgotten.

MTAF News

I want to take a minute to introduce some additions to our More Than A Fan family. B. George Young, Chase Holik, and Nick Brzezinski joined our staff this month. BG will offer a little bit of local flavor to people in my neck of the woods, as our Arizona columnist, so stay tuned to what’s happening in the World of Sports, here in the desert from Mr. Young. Chase joins us from Austin, Texas, where College Football is kind of a big deal; he’ll opine on what’s happening in the state of Texas and the Big 12. Nick’s column will debut next week, with a zany breakdown on everything from the weekend, and I sincerely hope you look forward to that at least half as much as I do.

Josh Flagner is a familiar name around here, or at least he should be, he launched the site and handed me the keys last month. He’s been around with his football picks, and he’ll continue to do that for rising TV star Jeff Nomina’s NFL Pick ‘Em Contest, but I’ve given Josh a new role. It will be similar to what BG is doing for my local market, but back in Cleveland. Yes, we do have a fantastic regional site for Cleveland sports at MTAF Cleveland, but I felt it was unfair to neglect my native land on an all-sports site, like our publication’s main page is.

That’s all for this week; I wish you all the best for a great weekend, as my two worlds collide at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday, where the Cardinals visit the Browns for the first time since 2003.

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1. Note: my hand is not raised.
2. That’s a perception stat, not a researched one.
3. Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either.