Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sportz Assassin's Week 17 Playoff Predictions

Last week and there are a lot of playoff spots and seeds on the line.  All we know right now is that the Chiefs have the No. 5 seed in the AFC locked up.  The four AFC division winners are set, but no one knows exactly where they are seeded.  Four teams are vying for the final AFC wildcard spot and none of them have their own fate in their hands.

In the NFC, we have two division championship games (North: Bears-Packers, East: Cowboys-Eagles).  None of the division winners are set (South: Panthers/Saints; West: Seahawks/Niners) and only two teams (Seahawks, Panthers) know that they are in right now.

So how will it shake out after the day is done?


1-DENVER BRONCOS:  I have them winning in Oakland and capturing the top seed in the AFC.  That's huge because I don't think they want to have to go into Foxborough for a AFC championship game

2-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:  I have them pummeling Buffalo and locking down the No. 2 seed.  They have a lot to lose in this one.  A loss could knock them down to a No. 4 seed.

3-CINCINNATI BENGALS:  I have them beating Baltimore and staying undefeated at home.  Since the Pats are going to win, the Bengals will get the No. 3 slot and host the final wildcard team next weekend.

4-INDIANAPOLIS COLTS:  It really doesn't matter if they win or lose -- though they'll beat Jacksonville -- since the three teams above them will also win.

5-KANSAS CITY CHIEFS:  They are already locked in here.

6-MIAMI DOLPHINS:  The Dolphins get in due to them beating the New York Jets (this one will be close, though) and Baltimore losing to the Bengals.  That combination puts Miami in the playoffs.

OUT:  Baltimore, San Diego and Pittsburgh.  I will say that Pittsburgh needs the most to happen to get into the playoffs, but it isn't out of the question.  The Ravens must go to Cincinnati, the Chargers play a good Chiefs team that needs to get itself going again and the Dolphins laid an egg last week and face a weird Jets squad.  A Steelers win over the Browns would get them in if the other three lose.


1-SEATTLE SEAHAWKS:  Do you really think they will lose at home to the Rams?  Especially one week after having their home invincibility debunked by the Cardinals?  Nope.

2-CAROLINA PANTHERS:  This is close, but I have the Panthers winning in Atlanta.  The Falcons would love to knock off Carolina and have every motivation in this final game to a bad season.  But I see Carolina prevailing.

3-PHILADELPHIA EAGLES:  No Romo?  No NFC East title.  No disrespect to Kyle Orton, but Romo's ability saved their season over the last few weeks.  Eagles beat Cowboys and win the East.

4-CHICAGO BEARS:  I know that Chicago looked bad last week and the Packers get Aaron Rodgers back.  I just see Chicago beating an aching and rusty Rodgers in a very cold Chicago evening.  

5-NEW ORLEANS:  Yeah, I have the Saints here.  They'll spank the Buccaneers at the Superdome and clinch their playoff spot and nearly winning the South.

6-SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS:  I have the Niners losing at Arizona today and falling the the No. 6 seed.  Arizona, who needs a Saints loss as well, just misses out of the postseason after an amazing year.  Due to the Saints win over the Niners a few weeks back, the Saints win the tiebreaker and face Da Bears.


6-Dolphins at 3-Bengals
5-Chiefs at 4-Colts
BYE: 1-Broncos and 2-Patriots

6-49ers at 3-Eagles
5-Saints at 4-Bears
BYE: 1-Seahawks and 2-Panthers

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

NFL's Hot Seat Report Is Very Murky

We are just days away from from the end of the NFL's regular season which means Black Monday is looming.  That's the day where a lot of coaches get relieved of their duties.

This year is extremely interesting.  One, there has been a lot of turmoil in several organizations.  Two, heading into the weekend, only 3 of the 16 games have zero playoff implications.  Some of the coaches that may be on the hot seat are a win away from making the playoffs.

Instead of doing a ranking of who is on the hottest of seats, I'm just going division by division to get a bit of perspective on any heat.

Hot Seat check:
Ice cold
Cool breeze
Piping hot



The only coach that feels safe is Chip Kelly (Eagles).  Whether they beat Dallas and win the NFC East or not doesn't matter; he's good.  No one else can say that.  In Dallas, Jason Garrett (Cowboys) has the backing of Jerrah Jones but not everyone believes that.   The Cowboys are the epitome of average over the last 17 years or so and a loss would put them at 8-8 ... their 3rd straight 8-8 season and making them 136-136 over the last 17 seasons.  The fact that he may not have Tony Romo for this big game (and Jones' belief about Romo's awesomeness) helps him if they fall.  If I had money on it, Garrett will stay at least one more season.

The other two jobs are interesting.  Both are multiple Super Bowl winners who had really bad seasons this year.  Tom Coughlin (Giants) to me should come back.  I know his style can wear thin, but it also has proven to work.  I don't think it's all his fault (*cough* Eli) and I think he deserves at least another season after what he's done for that team.  Hopefully if they want him gone, maybe just a retirement can make this easier.  Mike Shanahan (Redskins) is currently overseeing a mess in Washington.  With all these rumors coming out about the coaching staff, the owner Daniel Snyder and the franchise QB Robert Griffin II, it is hard to believe that Shanahan won't be the won't chopped off.  But in DC, you never know.


We all know Sean Payton (Saints) is good and the guy on everyone's hot seat list over the last two years, Ron Rivera (Panthers) is now probably safe too.  I mean, how can you fire Rivera when he is one more win from tying the franchise record for most wins?  Mike Smith (Falcons) is most likely fine.  However, was this season just a blip caused by a slew of injuries or is this franchise in decline?  I ... and the front office ... are leaning toward the former.

Down in Florida, Greg Schiano (Buccaneers) will probably be gone.  Sure, the team seemed to stabilize after the whole Josh Freeman debacle, but the writing is on the wall.


Mike McCarthy (Packers) has done a lot in Green Bay and is gravy.  So is Marc Trestman (Bears) in Chicago.

Jim Schwartz (Lions) is done.  Personally, I've felt this team has woefully underperformed during his helm in Detroit.  This team has all the talent in the world but Schwartz' leadership has caused them to make so many errors.  Dropped passes, bad passes, personal fouls, bad penalties and all of that are universally attributed to Schwartz' leadership.  Leslie Frazier (Vikings) is also done.  Minnesota had that surprising playoff appearance last year but Frazier has done little else there.


This isn't a very hot division.  Pete Carroll (Seahawks) and Jim Harbaugh (49ers) are golden.  Bruce Arians (Cardinals) could win Coach Of The Year for the 2nd straight season for two different franchises.  Jeff Fisher (Rams) probably is safe despite not having St. Louis doing much in his two seasons there.  Not much to see here.


Bill Belichick (Patriots) is going nowhere.  Rex Ryan (Jets) probably is.  The irony is that Ryan probably did his best coaching job this season.  However, the circus that surrounds this organization and the lack of improvement of anyone on offense should force him out.  It seems as if Ryan may be better served going back into that defensive coordinator role and again be one of the best at it.

Doug Marone (Bills) is finishing up his first season where he had an injured rookie quarterback and other injury issues.  He should be good.

Joe Philbin (Dolphins) is an interesting case.  They are surprisingly inches away from winning a wild card berth.  On the surface, it would make little sense to fire a guy that make get the Phins to the postseason for just the 2nd time in 12 years.  Still, this franchise has been stuck in the friend zone for a few years now and Philbin looked extremely weak during the entire Richie Incognito drama.  I think that what happens this weekend goes a long way to his future in South Beach.


The Texans job is already open.  Gus Bradley (Jaguars) won 4 games with that joke of a roster so he should be okay.  Chuck Pagano (Colts) has his team back winning divisions like Indianapolis is used to.

Mike Munchak (Titans) could be gone.  The Titans have turned into that team you totally forget exist just because they live in that below average world.  Still, he didn't have Jake Locker for a lot of the season so maybe he gets a break.  Tough call.


Marvin Lewis (Bengals) has gotten the Bengals back into the playoffs and his owner loves him.  He may get a statue erected outside Paul Brown Stadium.  John Harbaugh (Ravens) has his team close to the playoffs and is coming off a Super Bowl title.  Mike Tomlin (Steelers) has had missteps this season that has put his legacy in question, but the Steelers rarely make rash decisions.  Rod Chudinzki (Browns) has had one heck of a time at quarterback this year yet the Browns, despite their record, have been very competitive.


Andy Reid (Chiefs) is good.  So is John Fox (Broncos).  Mike McCoy (Chargers) is in his first season and has the Chargers playing good ball right now.

That leaves one slot.  I feel bad for Dennis Allen (Raiders).  He was hired to take over a team that decided to just weather their salary cap horrors to start fresh in 2014.  The problem is that he may not be the guy who sees the upside of that transformation.  He's done a decent job considering, but this is Oakland and no one sticks around for very long.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

No More Candlestick: Remembering The Stadiums Of Yesteryear

I am 38 years old so I remember the days in the 1980s when sports fans pined over the old stadiums like Crosley Field, Ebbets Field, Polo Grounds and others.  Those odd shaped arenas made to fit inside city blocks.

In my day, most of the NFL featured stadiums built in the 1960s and 1970s that were cookie cutter, multi-purpose, sterile and mostly artificial turf.  I would never pine for those days of those stadiums.  They were ugly for both baseball and football (imagining the giant Hefty bag outfield wall at the Metrodome, the pushed in seats at Riverfront or Three Rivers Stadium), ugly in general (the Kingdome) and dangerous (people tearing knees at Veterans Stadium).  Even the most beloved stadiums -- places like Cowboys Stadium and the Astrodome -- were nightmares.

One of the few remaining nightmares has been snuffed out this weekend when the San Francisco 49ers played (probably) their final game at Candlestick Park.  Candlestick was built in 1960, hosted both the Giants and 49ers and even one season of the Raiders and at one time had artificial turf.  It was known for being windy and chilly and fights outside the stadium.  I think of Will Clark and Dwight Clark.  Of the 1980s when going into the 'Stick in either football or baseball was a tall task.  Montana to Rice.  Young to Rice.  Clark, Matt Williams and Kevin Mitchell.  That camera shaking in the wind.

The 'Stick ... or 3Com Park, Monster Park or Candlestick Point ... surprisingly lasted this long despite the need for a replacement.  Plus the great success of the Niners meant they deserved some Cowboy-esque digs.  After the Giants left over a decade ago, you thought that the Niners could get something nice.

It was a dump.

They all were.  That doesn't mean we cannot remember them fondly.  How "Welcome To The Jungle" rained down at Riverfront Stadium.  The fear of that defense mixed with Terrible Towels at Three Rivers Stadium.  Snowballs being thrown at Santa at Veterans Stadium.  Rocking RFK Stadium.

And those domes.  King.  Silver.  Hoosier.  Astro.  Metro.

We remember watching our NFL players kicking up that baseball field dust.  Those stands that were either too close or too far from the action.  Weird foul territory for baseball.

Now, only a few remain.  The Chargers want to replace Qualcomm Stadium (once Jack Murphy Stadium) after the Padres abandoned it a while ago.  Lambeau Field has been redone and looks awesome.  Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is one of the loudest and still great place to watch an NFL game.

Whatever the name of Oakland Coliseum is now (it is really is the only stadium used for both baseball and football.  Many regard it as the worst stadium in American sports.   With The Stick (as well as the Metrodome) gone now, this is pretty much the last of this era of bad MLB/NFL stadiums.

A fond farewell.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

ACC Already Finding Out That More To The Party Means More Griping

I've always been on the fence regarding all this conference expansion.  I was all for the ACC adding Miami and Virginia Tech in the early 2000s ... but reluctantly in it adding Boston College.  The Canes and Hokies were already in the ACC's footprint and would add some much needed football punch (both had recently been in BCS championship games).

Though it is ultimately about both, then it was more about the talent and the ACC football championship game than TV markets.  Since then, the ACC has added Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and (sort of) Notre Dame to the mix.  That has made this a 15-team league in basketball and a 14-team league in football.  I thought that the WAC went way over their heads in the 1990s when they were a 16-team league and that the Big East was headed in the same direction.

The WAC quickly broke up.  Half the league moved on to form the Mountain West Conference while the WAC kept most of the smaller programs.  Today, the Mountain West is thriving while the WAC doesn't sponsor football anymore.  The big Big East suffered the same fate.  The league fractured into many directions.  Some went to the ACC, Rutgers went to the Big Ten, West Virginia to the Big 12 and the non-football schools left to form the new Big East.  The leftovers are now in the American Athletic Conference.

A large membership like that is tough.  Tough to be able to get everyone's wants and needs under one umbrella.

Now we are in a new area of this.  The ACC and SEC are already 14-team football leagues (the ACC, again, has 15 in hoops).  The Big Ten will become a 14-team league next year with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers.  The SEC is now stretched from Texas to Florida.  The ACC is as far south as Miami, as far north as Boston and soon as far west as Louisville.  The Big Ten will stretch from Nebraska to New Jersey.

Catering to all these schools will be tough.

It's already starting to show in the ACC.  Syracuse AD Daryl Gross has a problem with the ACC's football scheduling.  He doesn't like the fact that his program may go many, many years between trips to some of the premiere recruiting markets in the league, such as Miami and Atlanta.  For instance, Syracuse played at Georgia Tech this season.  It may be 2027 before the Orange get back to Atlanta for another game.

There have been rumors of solutions.  One is to add a ninth league game (the ACC now has eight).  The other is to realign divisions.  A third would be to eliminate those rivalry games.  One more is to just guarantee that you play everyone at least once in a two-year span.  That means you would go no more than four years between trips to any ACC city.

Right now, the ACC has two seven-team divisions that play eight conference games.  Syracuse will play the teams in the Atlantic Division (Florida State, Boston College, NC State, Wake Forest, Louisville and Clemson) once each year.  Their seventh conference game is against their cross-division rival, Pittsburgh.  The final game is against one other Coastal Division team in a home-and-home deal.  This year, they played at Georgia Tech.  Next year, Georgia Tech will come to Syracuse.  That means it will take rotations with the other six Coastal Division schools -- 12 years worth of games -- before the Orange will see Ga Tech again.  So if Syracuse is trying to recruit in Georgia, they can't sell the fact that he will get to play a game near his home.

Let's look at the pros and cons of each solution:

-- Adding a 9th game to the conference schedule would be the least messy move.  The 9th game would mean you could play two teams in the other division on that rotating basis.  That would mean that it would take half the time as it does now between trips to a city.  That would mean Syracuse would head back to Atlanta in either 2019 or 2020 ... eight years ahead of the current projection.  It isn't a cure-all, but it is much better.

The con in this would be that the ACC has committed to play Notre Dame starting next season.  Every season, five ACC schools will play Notre Dame in a "non-conference" game.  With nine conference games and Notre Dame on the schedule, that leaves just two games to work on.

Ah, but what if you are Florida State, Georgia Tech or Clemson who play rivalry games against Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, respectively?  Those schools, in the seasons they play Notre Dame, would have just one unscheduled non-conference game.  Usually you'd like a lower end school or a FCS school in that spot, which would leave next to nothing for any other game.

-- Realigning divisions, to me, does nothing.  No matter how you figure it out, someone will get screwed.  I've been a guy that's liked a more geographic split of the ACC (NORTH:  Boston College, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest;  SOUTH:  Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, North Carolina).  But I understand that it would keep a huge advantage to the South since that is where the better recruits are ... and also the better programs.

They way it is split up now is nearly fair.  Each division has a Florida school.  Each division has two North Carolina schools.  Clemson and Georgia Tech are split up.  It could be better, however.  My split proposal would be:

ATLANTIC:  Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Virginia, Wake Forest

COASTAL:  Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia Tech

The only real change was swapping Virginia and Syracuse.  Virginia moving to the Atlantic means that each school in the league will go to the Commonwealth of Virginia at least once every other season.  Virginia-Virginia Tech get to still play their season-ending rivalry so it doesn't really make a huge difference.  Syracuse moving to the Coastal to split them up from Boston College, meaning every team will get a chance to play a game in the Northeast at least once every other season.  Semantically, Boston College should move instead of Syracuse since Boston is technically a coastal city, but the Cuse don't have the history in the conference and it wouldn't ruffle feathers to move them.

But, again, does it really solve anything?  Not really.

-- Eliminating those rivalry games is not an option.  I understand that not all of the cross division rivalry games are that meaningful.  Wake Forest-Duke isn't that important.  Neither is BC-Va Tech, Louisville-Virginia or Syracuse-Pitt.

However, Florida State-Miami is the biggest rivalry game in the ACC and the league isn't giving up that game every season.  Heck, that's the whole reason they split the leagues like they did so they could've had a FSU-Miami title game in Jacksonville (never happened).  NC State-North Carolina is probably the second biggest cross-division rivalry in the league.  Clemson-Ga Tech is no slouch either.

The ACC could choose to keep those three rivalries and break up the other ones but, again, it solves nothing.  Miami and Georgia Tech ... two of the teams AD Gross was complaining that he won't get to play much ... would still be involved in those rivalry games.

-- The final solution (hmmm, I should reword that) involves guaranteeing everyone plays at least once in a two-year span.  Right now, you don't play against five ACC schools in a given year.  The proposal means that you MUST play those five schools the following year.

I don't see how that works.  I mean, what's the point of divisions if you do this?  I guess everyone can have a three team list of schools they play every year and a rotation of the other 10 schools.

BC: Miami, Pitt, Syracuse,
CLEMSON:  Florida State, Ga Tech, Virginia
DUKE:  NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest
FSU:  Clemson, Ga Tech, Miami
GA TECH:  Clemson, Florida State, Louisville
L'VILLE:  Ga Tech, Pitt, Va Tech
MIAMI:  Boston College, Florida St, Syracuse
NC ST:  Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest
NO CAROLINA:  Duke, NC State, Wake Forest
PITT:  Boston College, L'ville, Virginia Tech
SYRACUSE:  Boston College, Miami, Virginia
VIRGINIA:  Clemson, Syracuse, Va Tech,
VA TECH:  Louisville, Pitt, Virginia,
WAKE:  Duke, NC State, North Carolina

Not bad off the top of my head, but ... again ... what's the point of the divisions?

To me, adding the 9th game would be the best option, though I can see that being a huge debate.

Friday, December 20, 2013

End Of P.J. Hairston's North Carolina Career Is Sad, But Reality

P.J Hairston will never play for North Carolina again.  For a recap of Hairston's trangressions, the short-short version is that Hairston was pinched three times during this past summer which triggered an investigation of improper benefits he may have received ... namely the use of a high-end SUV.  The school indefinitely suspended him pending a joint investigation between the university and the NCAA.  Today, it is announced that UNC will not file for Hairston's reinstatement.

What does that mean?  It means that there's just too much evidence against Hairston to bother.  I know that people like Hairston's family may have wanted the school to try anyway, but all it would have done was open a huge can of worms that would have further damaged the university as well as Hairston's character.  Since it was a joint investigation, the school knew where the verdict was heading before making an appeal.

This is one of the tougher stories that I've seen [disclosure: I am a North Carolina fan] regarding the Tar Heels.  It is one that has tested my belief in college athletic rules as well as punishment for players.  One that had my fight off my feelings of what is best for my team to what is best for the program.

When this all went down over the summer, I wanted Hairston gone.  I'm one of the old school Carolina fans who remember no problems in the athletic department.  Over the last decade, I've had to see the UNC football team embarrass every Tar Heel related as well as the academia of the university in on it as well.  I don't like that crap at all and if it meant forfeits, bowl bans and an overhaul of the department, so be it.

That is the climate of the fan base when this Hairston thing broke.  I wanted him out.  I wanted him away from the program.  I wanted the embarrassment to be punished.

Then I took a step back.  This is a 20 year old kid who made a bad mistake on two fronts.  On one front -- the laws we all must abide by -- which involved his speeding, weed possession and the rest of that stuff (that has since been dismissed).  The other front was the NCAA and their interest of that SUV he was driving.  The law is the law and he was dealt with (whether you agree with it or not).  The NCAA is a different story.

I wanted him gone ... but what does that do?  You took a 20-yr old that made a mistake and cast him out?  Instead of working with him we terminate a major source of structure in his life as well as his education?  While these are men in the legal sense, they are just college kids who do dumb stuff.  And truth be told, if some dude you knew told you it was cool to legally drive around a nice car you might take it.  Punishment, yes, but not expulsion.

The thing about mistakes is that they usually do have consequences.  And going by what we think we know now, Hairston may have compounded his mistakes by either lying or not being totally honest with the investigators.  The story we read wasn't the entire story.  There was more bad stuff that was uncovered (or the lying thing) that made the school stop and say that this fight isn't worth it anymore.

Hairston's family is upset about UNC's decision to not to file for reinstatement.  They feel that if the school really had their son's back then they would have gone through with the filing to see what happened.  I understand from their point of view but totally disagree with the logic.  The school had his back this whole time.  The school investigated this with the NCAA, kept him with the team and gave him the opportunity to gain their trust back.  But either the alley was too dark with secrets or filled with lies that the university couldn't go on any further.

Hairston broke too many rules that the NCAA and the university demanded he abide by.  The school didn't turn their back on him, he turned his back on the university.

The thing about attrition is that it can come too late.  You can be sorry all you want and have every intention of rectifying the situation but the damage is done.  I'm the first guy to blast the NCAA, but these aren't tough rules to follow.  And after the traffic stop with the alleged weed, possible gun and license problems, Hairston was on alert that there was big trouble on the horizon.  So about a month later, Hairston gets popped for speeding again.  Instead of walking gently on egg shells, he wore combat boots in the hen house.

I hate that this happened, but "it is what it is".  I was starting to have the feeling that Hairston really was remorseful and had been punished nearly enough (I was fine with a suspension until ACC play started).  But the longer this took, the more obvious that this wasn't going to end well.  While I hate not seeing him suit up for the Heels again, Hairston made this bed and he's the one who put his eligibility in question.  It is ultimately his fault.

His legacy at UNC (beyond this) is a guy who was right there for a break out.  His freshman year was noted for how off he was.  This great shooter just couldn't consistently find his stroke.  However, when he was inserted as a starter during his sophomore year, he was great.  He led the Heels in scoring and even flirted with the idea of going to the NBA (guess he wishes he did now).  With a young team lacking a proven scorer, this was set to be a huge year for Hairston.  All reports were that he was killing it in practice.  This was a huge opportunity for Hairston to have a big-time season, carry a legendary program and up his NBA draft stock.  Instead he blew his shot and may have this decision affect the rest of his life.

That's the saddest part.  Hairston should still get a shot in the NBA.  He's got an NBA body and huge range.  Guys like that can find a spot in the NBA.  With his recent track record, what he does there is anyone's guess.

I wish him well.  Despite this, he is always a Tar Heel and deserves our support even if he let us, the fans, down and let his teammates down.  While he can't get retribution at Carolina, I hope he truly does learn from this and makes an effort to make the best of his possible basketball career and the rest of his life.

Thanks for almost everything, P.J.

NBA Should Have Cap Exception For "Franchise Legend" Players

Kobe's contract may hurt the Lakers cap numbers,
but it was the right thing to do.
I love the NBA.  I love its place in sports.  It is, indeed, a star driven league and it is unapologetic about it.  You are close to the action when you go to the games so there is a natural feeling of closeness with the players.  They are wearing, essentially, underwear as their uniforms so there is no helmet or masks blocking their faces.  LeBron James going to the Miami Heat had more impact than Albert Pujols going to the Angels or even Peyton Manning going to the Broncos.  

The shame of it is when a long time player for your team gets sent somewhere else because, well, he's getting old and not the player he used to be.  It's hard to stiff them on their contract when they've meant so much to your organization.  Still, signing a guy for what he's done for you instead of what production he'll bring during the contract can weigh your team down.  

Obviously, Kobe Bryant comes to mind when this happens.  Kobe signed a two-year extension with the Lakers (beginning next season) that will net him $48M.  Do I think he will be worth $48M on the court for LA those seasons?  Nope.  But his overall value to the team, the organization and the city makes the money well worth it. To put it another way, during the seasons Kobe was winning championships and becoming the legend he is, it was impossible to pay him his true value and this new contract is a way of making sure he gets what he's deserved.  

I've been big on the NBA having some sort of cap exception for franchise players.  I call it the "Franchise Legend" exception.  A guy like Kobe, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki should be able to get paid for their service of staying with the same team and not be a cap casualty.  Like Hakeem in Toronto, Ewing in Seattle or even Karl Malone in Los Angeles, these stars should've had the ability to sign a nice contract worthy of a Hall Of Famer and it not limit the team's cap space and the ability to rebuild their team.  

The Lakers should have been able to sign Kobe to this mega deal and it have less of an impact on their cap.  I feel it is a reward for Kobe and all of the things he's done in LA (remember the Lakers signed Magic and Worthy to late deals for similar reasons) as well as the worth he has to the team itself and the dignity of his career.  Nowitzki deserves the same in Dallas.  He's the best player the Mavericks have ever had and shouldn't have to take a veteran's minimum deal just so he can stay with the club and they sign free agents.  Plus, it gives teams a reason to keep these guys late in their career and not just deal them out to start their rebuilding.

Maybe the rule should be at least 13 years in the NBA with the last 10 with the same team.  If LeBron stays with with the Miami Heat when he's 37 years old, he would've played 18 years in the NBA with 11 in Miami.  He should be able to sign his golden years with Miami and, by then, for the worth he gave that franchise.  Make it where guys who signed that deal have a no trade clause (most would anyway) making it where the player AND the NBA signs off on it (and the new team absorbs the entire cap hit).  Maybe make the cap number HALF of the yearly salary?  Sounds fair?  The NBA already has a stipulation over guys who reach Kobe's age that they can only sign 2-year deals.

So Kobe has played 17 years in the league (at least 13) with all of them as a Laker (at least the last 10).  He signed a deal starting next year that would pay him $23.5M.  Under my proposal, the cap number would be $11.8M and allow LA the other $11.8M to sign other players.  We get to reward a franchise guy and it doesn't totally hinder the organization from bringing on new guys.

Right now, that rule would apply to Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker.  Manu Ginobili, Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade are near that mark.  

To use a better example, say Wade plays another five years in Miami.  Wade should be able to sign a nice contract that is worthy of his stature for the Heat that doesn't bog the franchise's ability to build a team ... especially if The Big Three has been a memory.  

Even a guy like Haslem, who has stayed with the same franchise.  I know it is much more rare now, but a lot of franchises used to have that long-time steady veteran with the franchise.  I'm thinking of a guy like Dell Curry, who played 10 seasons with the Charlotte Hornets but the franchise didn't resign him and he signed with the Bucks (Curry wouldn't yet qualify for this exception because he only had 12 years of NBA service at the time.  But stick with me as I'm assuming the Hornets would have gotten him to stick around).  Curry isn't an NBA legend, but to Charlotte Hornet fans he is one of the greatest players they had.

Maybe I don't have everything thought out on this, but it's a start.  To me, I like seeing guys like Kobe, Duncan and Dirk play out their entire careers with the same team and not let cap space be the reason it doesn't happen.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Boeheim Blasts North Carolina's NCAA Tournament Advantage. WRONG!!!!!!

Syracuse's Jim Boeheim has become the old coot who mouths off about "in my day" nonsense.  His Big East was better than this ACC thing.  What he did was tougher than anything anyone has ever had to do.  Etc.

He just mouthed off that Duke and North Carolina are good programs ... but they get that advantage of playing NCAA tournament regional finals in their home state.  Per Boeheim:

"We’ve had great success when we’ve stayed in the East and we’ve had great success when we’ve gone outside," Boeheim said. "We got to the Final Four from Denver one year, we got there from Boston and Albany. I mean, that’s a little easier, you’re going to have more fans.
"If you can play in your region, that’s a huge factor. One of the reasons Duke and Carolina went to the Final Four about 25 out of 30 years was because the Regional was in Greensboro or Charlotte or some place every year.They had good teams but they also had the Regional in those locations every year.
"And people say neutral court, but that’s nonsense. If you can go to the Regional in your area it’s going to help you. We got there from New Jersey, we got there from Albany, we got there from Washington, D.C.
"So it’s easier to get there if you’re in your own area, there’s no question about that. But you just gotta play well and see what happens. Control your own destiny a little bit."

It really isn't true.  Or at least I don't think it is.  So let's look back at the last 30 years to see what regions Duke and UNC came out of to get to their Final Fours.  An asterisk (*) next to the year means a season they won the National Championship (Note that in 1991, both UNC and Duke went to the Final Four.  Oddly, Charlotte was the Southeast Regional Final host.  Kansas won that region and the two North Carolina schools came out of different regions).


*2010:  Houston
2004:  Atlanta
*2001:  Philadelphia
1999:  East Rutherford, NJ
1994:  Knoxville
*1992:  Philadelphia
*1991:  Pontiac, MI
1990:  East Rutherford, NJ
1989:  East Rutherford, NJ
1988:  East Rutherford, NJ
1986:  East Rutherford, NJ


*2009:  Memphis
2008:  Charlotte 
*2005:  Syracuse
2000:  Austin
1998:  Greensboro
1997:  Syracuse
1995:  Birmingham
*1993:  East Rutherford, NJ
1991:  East Rutherford, NJ

So there you go.  In the past 30 years, Duke and UNC have made 20 appearances in the Final Four (just barely off of Boeheim's claim of "25 out of 30".  Of those 20 Regional Final championships, only two were won in the state of North Carolina.  Both were the Tar Heels and neither of those teams went on to win the National Championship.

In fact, 7 times these two won the region held in East Rutherford, NJ ... which is kind of Syracuse territory.  Two other times it was actually won on Syracuse's home court!!!

Also of note, the 1994 Final Four was held in Charlotte.  Duke made it there but lost to Arkansas in the title game.

Now, the state of North Carolina has had plenty of sub-regionals.  Whether it is Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh or Winston-Salem, the state gets a lot of run.  Those four cities have hosted a sub-regional 22 times in the last 30 years.  A lot?  Yeah, but North Carolina gets those sites because the draw well, in the age of pod systems the state has a very high number of schools that get into the tournament and only Charlotte's arena is being used by another basketball tenant; the other three are wide open (Raleigh's arena is used by the NHL's Hurricanes).

In those same 30 years, Buffalo, New York, East Rutherford, Albany, Uniondale and Syracuse have been a sub-regional 12 times and, along with Newark, hosted the Regional Final 19 times.  North Carolina cities have hosted the Regional Final just four times in that span.

It is funny that Boeheim is whining about that this year of all seasons.  If Syracuse keeps up the good work, they could start the NCAA tournament in Buffalo and get to the Regional Final in New York City.  Home cooking?

By the way, here are Syracuse's Final Four runs in the last 30 years.

2013:  Washington, DC
*2003:  Albany
1996:  Denver
1987:  East Rutherford, NJ

Four regional final wins with only one not being in "Big East country".  And that one season, 1996, the Final Four was held in East Rutherford, NJ.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sportz Assassin's 2013-2014 College Football Playoff

For several years now, I've had posts on what I think college football playoffs should look like.  Unlike the BCS, I refuse to change up my format every year to tighten up the "perfect" system.  No, I'm staying the same.

My formula is simple.  Twelve teams make it in.  All games but the championship is on campus.  The champions of the so-called "BCS conferences" (now changed to Automatic Qualifiers) get in.  So the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 and the former Big East/current American Athletic Conference are in.  So is the highest BCS ranked conference champion of the non-BCS conferences.  After that, the top five non-champions according to the BCS rankings.

The seedings are based off the BCS rankings with the only movement to keep conference games from happening in the first round.  No more than three teams from a conference can get in.  Top four seeds get a bye.

So who are these teams?

No. 1 - Florida State (ACC champ)
No. 2 - Auburn (SEC champ)
No. 3 - Alabama
No. 4 - Michigan State (Big Ten champ)

No. 12 - Fresno State (top non BCS champ) at No. 5 - Stanford (Pac-12 champ)
No. 11 - Central Florida (AAC champ) at No. 6 - Baylor (Big 12 champ)
No. 10 - Oklahoma at No. 7 - Ohio State
No. 9 - Oregon at No. 8 - Missouri

South Carolina got knocked out due to them being the 4th SEC team on the list.

Here is the schedule.

12p-Central Florida at Baylor
3p-Oregon at Missouri
6p-Fresno State at Stanford
9p-Oklahoma at Ohio State

12p-Fresno St/Stanford at Michigan State
3p-UCF/Baylor at Alabama
6p-Oregon/Missouri at Florida State
9p-Oklahoma/Ohio State at Auburn


8p-National Championship Game (Pasadena, CA)

Are The Tar Heels A Title Contender?

We are in the middle of December but the question must be asked: Is North Carolina a title contender?

Yes.  But you never know.

No team in the nation can boast a trio of wins like the Tar Heels.  UNC has beaten the preseason No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the nation.  First, they beat defending champion (and then-No. 3) Louisville in a neutral site game in Connecticut.  Not only did they beat the Ville, they beat them going away.  About 10 days later, they went into Michigan State ... the then-No. 1 team in the nation ... and demolished the Spartans.  This past Saturday they beat then-No. 11 Kentucky and their stable of freshman and the "greatest class in NCAA history".

It shouldn't even be a question, right?  North Carolina should probably be ranked at least in the top three right now and have the nation shivering in fear.


UNC bookended their Louisville win with a home loss to Belmont and a loss at UAB as well as a lesser showing against Richmond the night before their win over the Cardinals.  How's that happen?

That's where the team is at.  They are obviously good enough to beat anyone.  Not only have they beaten title contenders Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky, they'll get to play Syracuse and Duke as well.  They won't be scared of anyone.  However, this team has gaping holes right now which makes everyone not scared of them.

How did they lose to Belmont?  They missed 26 of 48 free throws in that three point loss.  This is a very bad free throw shooting team (61%).  If you take out leading scorer Marcus Paige's 89% FT shooting, the rest of this team is a horrid 55%.   UNC, which is typically one of the best scoring teams in the nation every season, is just 76th in points.

The most unbelievable stat of all?  North Carolina has made 25 three-point shots all season long.  Only South Carolina and Louisiana-Monroe have made less.  However, UNC's 2.7 threes-per-game average is the worst in college basketball.  Yes, 351st.  Of the 25 threes they've made, Paige has made 21 of them.

The lack of threes make it tough for UNC to make comebacks if they are down (which happened against UAB) and the lack of free throw shooting makes closing out games tough (Belmont).  The shining light on all this is that, again, they've won the three biggest games on their schedule despite this and the fact that P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald have sat all season awaiting the judgments on their eligibility.

Those two could drastically change those huge gaps.  Hairston was the Heels leading scorer last season and, alone, hit 2.6 threes a game (at a 40% clip).  That would double the Heels' output right away ... and he did that on a team that had other guys (namely Reggie Bullock) who was also shooting a lot from distance.  Hairston would come in a be the go-to scorer with unlimited range and who would (a) free up Paige to make more threes as well as (b) space the floor to make the improving frontline scorers jobs easier.  Hairston was also a 78% free throw shooter last season and he'd most likely get to the line a lot more than anyone outside of James Michael McAdoo.

McDonald isn't the same class of talent as Hairston, but he's a fifth year senior who has been a distance shooter for Roy Williams.  Last year, he hit 36% of his threes and was a 79% free throw shooter (though he gets to the line a lot less).  Both of these guys would drastically help fill those gaping holes.

They'd also settle down the Heels' rotations.  Right now, the Heels are starting freshman Nate Britt alongside Paige to make a very small and thin backcourt.  Britt has been forced to play major minutes at the point guard spot as a freshman and forced Paige to play out of position at the off-guard.  It has helped in transition as there are essentially two point guards on the floor, but that has really hurt the depth and forced both players to have to play major minutes. It has also forced Williams to play a "big" lineup with J.P. Tokoto (the starting small forward) at the shooting guard spot, McAdoo (the starting power forward) at the small forward spot along side either Britt or Paige at point and a combination of two big men on the front line.

Hairston would come in immediately and be a starter at either the shooting guard or small forward.  McDonald would most likely still come off the bench to be Hairston and Tokoto's backup.  That means the Heels could employ this lineup:

C-Joel James

Tokoto deserves to stay in the starting lineup.  He's played very well and he's been a great defender as well as a guy that's really gotten Ol' Roy's transition game working.  The backcourt of Paige and Hairston is a scoring nightmare with few off-guards that could match Hairston's strength.

The bench rotation would be a lot more stout.  Britt would come in and spell Paige, McDonald would back up Hairston and Tokoto, with the big man rotation of Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Desmond Hubert, Jackson Simmons and Isiah Hicks coming in to wear out the opponents.  It allows Williams to have different kinds of lineups.  He could go with a quick scoring lineup of Britt, Paige, Hairston, McAdoo and Johnson.  He can run that big lineup of Paige, Hairston, McAdoo, Johnson and James.  Maybe a quick three point lineup of Paige, Hairston, McDonald, McAdoo and a big man.  Way more options than this current team.

In a season that doesn't really have any dominant team, the Heels have as good a shot as anyone if they can shore up that free throw shooting and more threats from deep.  After all, they have beaten the favorites already.  If they can claim a high seed ... maybe a first weekend of the tournament in Raleigh would help.  A second weekend in New York or Memphis (or anywhere) would be nice.

All that could mean nothing.  Hairston and McDonald could lose their eligibility and this is the team we are rolling with.  That's fine.  The pair could come in and mess up some of the roles this team has worked hard to define.  That happens.  This has been a season filled with unknowns.  What is known is that this Tar Heels team will have an interesting roller coaster ride of a season that will most likely end with a bid to the NCAA Tournament appearance.

Once there ... who knows?

Ranking The Candidates For Week 17 Sunday Night Flex Game

Could we see the Cowboys play for the NFC East
title in the Week 17 flex game again?
I originally wrote this Monday morning before the Ravens-Lions tilt.  I've since amended it to add in Baltimore's thrilling win at Detroit.

Just two weeks remain in the season and it is time to look at the prime candidates for the possible flex game for the final game of the NFL season.  If you don't know, a few years ago the NFL starting flexing the best game to the Week 17 Sunday Night Football time slot on NBC.  The game has always had playoff implications with a usual matchup of two teams needing the win to get into the postseason.

Let's assume one thing is likely:  two of the mix of the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers or Arizona Cardinals will be the NFC Wildcard teams.  Not an absolute, but it is most likely.

So here is who it could be:

1-EAGLES (8-6) AT COWBOYS (7-7):  Most likely the best choice.  Most likely it would be a game where the winner is the NFC East champion and the loser goes home.  It would pit the very TV-genic Cowboys who will gain interest from the hordes of their fans as well as the loads of people wanting the see them fail again.  The last two Week 17 flex games have involved the Cowboys playing for the NFC East title.  In 2011 (Giants) and 2012 (Redskins) they lost.  The NFC East ... say what you want ... is the top division draw in the NFL.  The only way this game doesn't happen is if the Cowboys lose to the Redskins in Week 16 and the Eagles beat the Bears.  [Cowboys won first meeting and own the division tiebreaker]

2-PACKERS (7-6-1) AT BEARS (8-6):  This would be another great game to have.  The longest rivalry in the NFL with a division title on the line.  Packers.  Bears.  Icy cold.  Two teams who have navigated through a season filled with their QB injuries.  The only thing that could derail this ... or even make this a bit odd ... is the Detroit Lions.  Right now, the Lions are ahead of the Packers in the standings and own the tiebreaker over the Bears [as I type this, the Lions are a half game back of the Bears entering their Monday Night game against the Ravens].  If Detroit wins out, they would be the NFC North champions and this game would probably mean nothing.  With the Lions' loss on Monday, the Bears and Packers are ahead of Detroit in the standings and all that must happen for this game to have all the meaning in the world is the Packers beating Pittsburgh this coming week and either the Lions losing or the Bears winning.  Detroit could throw a monkey wrench into this deal if the Packers lose or the Bears lose to the Eagles in Week 16 and the Lions beat the Giants which is a real possibility.  Detroit owns the tiebreaker over Chicago by beating them twice.  So if Detroit wins and the Packers and/or the Bears lose, the Lions could either clinch the NFC North earlier Sunday making this game moot.  However, if the Lions lose or both the Bears and Pack win next week, it's on. [Bears won first meeting; winner of a Packers-Bears finale will own division tiebreaker]

3-RAVENS (8-6) AT BENGALS (9-5):  Cincinnati's meltdown in Pittsburgh helps this game move up the chart.  If Baltimore beats Detroit tonight, Baltimore beat Detroit on Monday so they will remain a game back of the Bengals.  Baltimore won their first matchup with the Bengals meaning that they would only need to stay that one game back to make their finale mean something.  The Bengals get the lowly Vikings next week while the Ravens get an angry Patriots squad.  Going by that, Cincinnati could/should have the AFC North wrapped up by Week 17.  Regardless, a Ravens win over the Pats guarantees the finale will be for the AFC North title.  Still, the Ravens could be fighting for the final wildcard spot which would make this game a possibility.  [Ravens won first meeting; Ravens win in finale ties division record; Ravens own common games tiebreaker]

4-49ERS (10-4) AT CARDINALS (9-5):  It would take a lot for this game to happen, but it could happen.  If the Niners lose to the Falcons and the Cardinals win in Seattle.  Probably not happening.  If it did, then the Niners and Cardinals would be tied at 10-5 with their Week 17 matchup as the winner getting that final NFC wildcard spot. [49ers won first meeting and own division tiebreaker]

5-JETS (6-8) AT DOLPHINS (8-6):  A million things need to happen for this game to mean something.  Still, if all those things did occur, the Jets and Dolphins on primetime TV wouldn't be that bad.  While we are all freezing in our homes in our post-Christmas stupor and pre-New Year's mode, we can watch those always chat-worthy Jets try to sneak into the playoffs in South Beach against a better-than-you-know Dolphins squad.  [Dolphins won first meeting; division record is still up for debate]    With the Ravens win over the Lions on Monday, the Jets have been eliminated from the playoffs.


-Chiefs at Chargers:  San Diego may be fighting to get in the playoffs while KC may be trying to get the No. 1 seed.

-Panthers at Falcons:  Carolina may need this win for either a playoff spot or the NFC South title

-Buccaneers at Saints: See above.  The Saints could have to win this just to get into the playoffs.

-Lions at Vikings: As explained above, the Lions have an outside shot of still winning the NFC North

-Broncos at Raiders: Denver could be playing for the No. 1 seed or the No. 5 seed.

-Bills at Patriots: New England could be fighting for a bye week or even the No. 1 seed in the AFC

-Jaguars at Colts:  Colts are already in but their seeding could ride on this one

-Rams at Seahawks:  Seattle should have the top seed in the NFC locked down by now


-Redskins at Giants
-Texans at Titans
-Browns at Steelers

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Again, NBA, Can We Get Rid Of The Divisions Already?????

Does this look like a division champion to you?
I've probably written this post at least five times on this blog.  Still, it needs to be said:


I'm 38 years old, and back in my day (the 1980s, 1990s) most of our sports operated in the classic four division format.  Major League Baseball had the AL and NL East and West.  The NHL had the Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe Divisions.  The NBA had the Atlantic, Central, Midwest and Pacific Divisions.  The NFL, due to the nature of their schedule, had six divisions of the AFC and NFC East, Central and West.

Since then, all four major sports expanded their division formats.  MLB added a Central Division in each league.  The NHL and NBA expanded to six geographical divisions. The NFL went to a North, South, East and West divisions in each conference.

At the time, it was sold because each league greatly expanded (MLB expanded from 26 to 30 in the 1990s; NFL expanded from 28 to 32 from 1995 to 2002; NHL expanded from 21 to 30 from 1991 to 2000; the NBA expanded from 23 to 30 teams from 1988 to 2004) and that ... well, we'd get more fuzzy titles like Division Champions!

Turns out that only the number of teams make sense.  Sure, in the MLB and NFL, winning a division is important because there are just a few playoff spots available (MLB has all six division winners and four wildcard teams make the playoffs; NFL has all eight division winners and four wildcard spots).  In the NHL and NBA, it hasn't mattered.  A division title does get you into the playoffs, but usually you would've qualified for a division title even if you weren't in a division.

Even this year, where the Atlantic Division leading Boston Celtics are a woeful 9-12, they'd still be the 8th seed if there was no divisional format.

That's why this is getting ridiculous.

In the NBA, unlike all the other sports, there is no weighted schedule for divisions.  If you are the Pacific Division Lakers, you'll play virtually the same schedule as the Southwest Division Pelicans.  In the NHL, NFL and MLB you play your division foes at a much higher pace than any other team.  In the NBA, the Celtics will play the Knicks as much as they'll play the Bucks.  Go to most websites and their standings are ranked according to conference (which the NBA seeds the playoffs) instead of divisions.

The divisions are pointless.  Right now if things continue the way they are, the mighty Boston Celtics could hang a banner saying their 35-47 Celtics were 2014 Atlantic Division Champions.

Even the NHL realized this.  This season, the NHL scaled back their divisions from six to four and their standings look a lot better.  Imagine if the NBA scaled back to two divisions or, what I'd like, just have those two conference standings.  Again, the NBA seeds their playoffs according to the conference standings (for the most part) so the divisions are nothing more than window dressing.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Big Ten-ACC Challenge: A Sportz Assassin Wish List

The Big Ten-ACC Challenge is over and it ended in a 6-6 tie for the second consecutive season.  I'm an ACC guy so I was sorta happy with the split.  Here is my take on this year's challenge as well as what the future holds.

*RECORD:  The ACC is now 10-3-2 in the Challenge.  The ACC won the first ten years; the Big Ten won the next three; and they've split the last two.  The ACC owns a 88-67 record in Challenge games.  In 15 years, two have been ties and seven were separated by just one game.  From 2003 to 2007, the ACC won the Challenge by five games four of the five seasons.

*MARYLAND OUT:  This year, the ACC has 15 teams and the Big Ten 12.  That means that three ACC schools (Virginia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest) sat out the challenge.  I wished Maryland was left out.  Yeah, the Terps are better than any of the three excluded schools but they are also set to leave the ACC for the Big Ten next season.  That left a weird taste in my mouth as the ACC was represented by a school that wanted out for the opposing conference.  Since the ACC had to sit three schools anyway, I would've rather Maryland was one of the schools that were left out.

*INFRINGING ON EACH OTHER'S TURF:  Speaking of next season, it will be weird seeing ACC schools that hail from Big Ten country (Louisville, Notre Dame) while the Big Ten will have schools in ACC country (Maryland, Rutgers).  Watching Notre Dame-Iowa this season just brought that out to me.

*THANK YOU NEWBIES:  Speaking of Notre Dame, they were the only ACC newbie to lose this year.  The Irish lost to Iowa while Pitt (vs Penn State) and Syracuse (vs Indiana) both won their matches.  If you figure the horrid Clemson, Va Tech and Wake Forest as replacements for those schools, the ACC most likely would've went home a challenge loser for the fourth time in five years (with five years without a win).

*NO MORE WISCONSIN-VIRGINIA GAMES:  When I saw the lineup for the Challenge this season, I figured this game would've been a snorer.  Both place defensive games that stress ball control on offense.  Think a high school basketball game in the 1940s.

*DUKE WINS AGAIN:  Duke is an amazing 13-2 in the Challenge with a perfect mark of 6-0 at home.  I get the home record since it is difficult for non-conference schools to go into the Cameron Crazies to get a win.  It is just a different beast that usually only ACC players are prepared for.

*HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE:  In the 12 games, only North Carolina and Wisconsin won on the road.  Wisky won the aforementioned low-scoring battle with Virginia while the Tar Heels went into #1 ranked Michigan State's house and beat Sparty by 15.  The ACC has won 51 of 72 home games in this series (Big Ten has won just 43 of 73 home games).

*NEUTRAL SITE GAMES:  I like having these games on campuses.  In the Challenge history, there have been ten games held in neutral sites.  Technically those sites are hosted by one of the schools ... just not on campus.  I like the feel of these games being held in home arenas and not in Chicago (Illinois), Detroit (Michigan State), Baltimore (Maryland) or Milwaukee (Wisconsin).  In recent years, they've ditched the off campus games which I really love.  I like seeing Michigan play in Cameron Indoor.  Or Indiana in the Carrier Dome.  Or even big schools heading to those smaller college towns.

*NEBRASKA IS THE BIG TEN'S BEST:  With their win over Miami, the Cornhuskers owns the best Big Ten record in the Challenge.  Just three seasons in the league, the Huskers are now 2-1 in the Challenge and have been the most dominant school.  Okay, that's a stretch.  Ohio State and Purdue are both 7-6 in the Challenge ... but that makes those three schools as the only one's with winning records.

*EVERYONE IS DOING THE STREAK:  The longest current winning streak in the Challenge?  Purdue with five straight wins.  The longest current losing streak?  How about Florida State with six.

What Stadiums Would a 2014 World Cup In USA Have?

Soldier Field during 1994 World Cup
I'm not a soccer guy at all, but I do get into the World Cup a bit every four years.  With today being the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, I was just wondering what stadiums we have that would make a great World Cup in the United States.

I'm going off of stadiums that are already in place right now and would be available for the summer of next year.  I'm also listing 12 as my picks as Brazil will have that many stadiums hosting the actual World Cup.  I'm not having any city with two host stadiums either.  I also took out any baseball stadiums due to their use for the MLB season.  That knocked out some interesting picks like Yankee Stadium or Tropicana Field.

1-ROSE BOWL, PASADENA CA:  Pretty easy pick.  It's huge, historic, the weather would be nice and the city is obviously a destination place to have some matches.  The Rose Bowl also hosted the 1994 World Cup Final.  The Los Angeles Coliseum is an option but I just like the Rose Bowl better.

2-AT&T STADIUM, ARLINGTON TX:  The Dallas Cowboys' stadium is a marvel and of any arena in the United States, this is the one we'd love to show off.  It has a retractable roof and would be an outstanding place to have the World Cup Final.  The Cotton Bowl would be an option but, c'mon, you gotta show off this place.

3-FEDEX FIELD, LANDOVER MD:  You have to include the stadium in our nation's capital.  Maybe it isn't the greatest stadium, but it is big and very capable of hosting World Cup matches.  RFK Stadium would bring nostalgia as well as a stadium actually in DC, but FedEx is just better.

4-METLIFE STADIUM, EAST RUTHERFORD NJ:  Same as FedEx Field, you have to have New York host several games.  Beautiful stadium in our largest metro area.  As the host of the upcoming Super Bowl, it would have made a great event city for the Cup.

5-CENTURYLINK FIELD, SEATTLE WA:  We all know that Olympic and World Cup stadiums tend to have unique architecture.  This place has it.  This place is loud and a soccer lovin' city (huge MLS draw).  It is metropolitan and a base for many companies.  It also allows the Cup to be featured in the Pacific northwest.

6-UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX STADIUM, GLENDALE AZ:  Another retractable roof and another with nice architecture.  Great weather as well as a city that would feature another aspect of Americana.  Think about it.  So far we have the Hollywood of the Rose Bowl, the big size life of Texas, the history of Washington DC, the hustle and bustle of New York, the Pacific northwest and the desert area of Arizona.

7-SUN LIFE STADIUM, MIAMI GARDENS FL:  You may not realize it, but Sun Life Stadium has had quite a run in the over two decades it's been around.  You got to have South Beach on the list and with a diverse population.

8-GILETTE STADIUM, FOXBOROUGH MA:  Old Foxboro Stadium hosted the 1994 World Cup and I think the newer Gilette Stadium would work fine as a host.

9-SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO IL:  The Second City makes great sense hosting some Cup matches.  Soldier Field has a unique standing in America stadiums as it is old yet has been renovated as a basically new stadium.

10-RELIANT STADIUM, HOUSTON TX:  I'm a bit weary of having Texas with two venues, but Reliant is a perfect stadium to host World Cup matches.  Houston is different than Dallas the distance between the two cities is virtually the same as the distance between New York and Washington.

11-ARROWHEAD STADIUM, KANSAS CITY MO:  One of the most unappreciated stadiums we have, Arrowhead is a great place to watch a football game and would be great hosting a World Cup match.  It is loud, centrally located and the city is interesting.

12-INVESCO FIELD AT MILE HIGH, DENVER CO:  Okay, I may have gone with the whole "let's see a lot of the diversity of America" slant, and that's why I have Denver here.  You have the beautiful Rocky Mountain setting, a nice stadium and a different geographic setting.  The air will be a factor in any match played there.  Oh, and the mountains in the background.

So these are my 12 cities.  It makes the tournament spread across the country and, literally, all four corners of the nation (Seattle, LA, Miami and Massachusetts).  Joining them would be New York City, Washington, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City and Phoenix.

I hate that a few cities I would've loved to have it I left out.  Atlanta.  Nashville.  Baltimore.  Indianapolis.  San Diego.  Detroit.  Columbus.  There are reasons I did leave them out.

Anyway, this was just me doing a "what if" on a dark and snowy day.

Detroit News Station Puts A-Rod's Picture Up In Tribute To Nelson Mandela

One of the most influential men in the world, Nelson Mandela, passed away Thursday at the age of 95.  So you'd like to think that this kind of news would take on the most skilled and respected coverage.  Apparently not.

A news station in Detroit put the wrong picture next to Nelson Mandela's name and the face is the opposite of the respect that Mr. Mandela deserved.

(Hat tip:  Paul Huebner)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Auburn Does NOT Deserve a BCS Title Bid Over Ohio State ... And That's The Problem

After 11-1 Auburn won on a miracle, should they leap-frog
undefeated Ohio State for a BCS title shot?

Today, Auburn fans and SEC lovers are all over the place barking that the Auburn Tigers (and to a certain extent, a Missouri Tigers team that would win the SEC with a win over Auburn next week) should get a BCS Championship Game bid over undefeated Ohio State.  They claim that Auburn is better than Ohio State.  They claim that their body of work is more impressive than Ohio State.  That coming out of the SEC with one loss is more impressive than going undefeated in the Big Ten.  That the SEC's run of 7 straight championships (several with a 1-loss record and one with 2 losses) should mean something.

Maybe they are right.

Too bad.  This is what college football is.

At times, I love chaos in sports. I love when there are these kind of controversies.  Where things that these rule makers decide is best gets ruined by some loophole.  I especially love it when it happens to college football because it is usually their own fault.

I hate the BCS.  It sucks.  As long as it has existed, it has been rammed down my throat about how great it is despite all the constant tinkering that it has undergone.  It got to the point where the selling point was "well, it is better than what we had."  That argument tends to never work.

If Florida State (ACC), Ohio State (Big Ten) and Auburn (SEC) win their conference championship games, then the Seminoles and Buckeyes should play for the national championship.  Auburn sits out in the Sugar Bowl.  FSU and OSU finished undefeated while Auburn lost to LSU by 14 points back on September 21st.  In a sport where the tag line is "every game counts" then that loss to LSU counts a lot.  It counts just like that big ZERO counts in the loss column for both the Noles and the Buckeyes.

Do I think Auburn is better than either of those teams?  Maybe.  Truth be told, I still think Alabama is the best team in the nation.  I mean, Auburn's argument can be used against them in the fact that Bama has lost once and that was on a last second missed field goal attempt that was returned for a touchdown.  That win, plus the "Prayer at Jordan-Hare" two weeks ago kept Auburn from sitting at 9-3 right now.

Ohio State could be the kind of fake title game representative that Notre Dame was last year.  No, the Irish weren't one of the two best teams in the country last year, but they played their way into that game.  Of course, Ohio State hasn't lost a game over the last two seasons.  Does that count for something?

If so, then it should count that Auburn and Missouri ... the two teams fighting for the SEC title game ... were a combined 2-14 in SEC play last year.  One season later and they dominate a down SEC.  An SEC that is still very, very good but isn't as good as it has been over the past several seasons.  I mean, what was the best non conference win for the SEC???  Probably yesterday's South Carolina win over Clemson.  After that, maybe Ole Miss win over Texas.  Not really anything that impressive in the non-conference.

Truth be told, neither Ohio State nor Florida State have any non-conference wins of any note.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, next year we get a playoff which will solve absolutely nothing if not make it worse.  I mean, a four team playoff will have way more controversies that this.  Pitting a title game with two undefeated teams is pretty easy compared to picking who should be the two other teams in a playoff next year.  Sure, if the playoff was this season the Auburn-Missouri winner would be the third team in.  Who would be the fourth?  The Auburn-Missou loser?  Not likely.  Alabama?  Could very well be.  Oklahoma State has a great case.  How do you go through that?

Who cares.  More chaos for me!