General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

College basketball is always one of the tougher sports to predict typically because it is ALWAYS experiencing turnover, with all the one-and-dones that enter and leave the league before we really get a chance to see what they can do. It’s hard to blame them, with how messy the NCAA can get it’s no wonder these players jump to the NBA first chance they get. So that being said, I’m anticipating a fun year of college basketball. In this preview, I will try and project who will win each of the Power 5 conferences as well as putting in my own Top 25 and my preseason All Americans. I will not be predicting who I think will be the champs, as March Madness is so insane every year that I feel like trying to predict how it’s going to go in November doesn’t give the tournament its full due. I will, however, give who I think will be the number 1 overall seed, if that helps. Let’s get to the conference champs.

ACC: Duke Blue Devils

Duke Countdown To Craziness

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

The ACC is probably the best conference in college hoops right now. You’ve got the blue bloods such as Duke and reigning champs North Carolina, but the second tier of this conference is typically super competitive as well, such as Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Louisville (though with the whole Rick Pitino situation, Louisville may be removing themselves from this discussion). I’m going with Duke to win the ACC this year for two main reasons: Coach K and the recruiting class. Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the best college basketball coach on the planet right now and he always turns out a plethora of NBA talent, whether that be from one-and-dones or guys who stay all four years. This year he has a particularly talented group to go with Grayson Allen. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr are all in the TOP EIGHT of ESPN’s Top 100 Recruits for the class of 2021 (whether these guys are here that long is another story). Bagley is the highlight here as he is a big time recruit who was able to reclassify in order to be a part of this Duke roster. He’s 6’11 with all the tools you can look for in a player: athleticism, shooting, and post moves being major positives with this kid. The one thing that may hold this team back is Grayson Allen. Yes he is a supremely talented point guard, but his emotional outbursts are more renowned than his game is and that can become a distraction. He’s got to be the leader of this young team, being a senior this year, and if he’s having hissy fits on the bench then it could do a lot of damage to this team.

SEC: Kentucky Wildcats

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photo credit: A Sea of Blue

Was there really any other choice here? While the SEC may be a dominant conference in football, they are essentially a one-man race in basketball, with Kentucky having won the conference each of the last 3 years (feels like it should be more than that). John Calipari rivals Coach K as the best coach in the game but the main challenge Kentucky deals with every year is the one-and-done. Kentucky goes through these types of players more often than seemingly any team in the country, but Cal also encourages it. He feels that his guys should take the opportunity to go to the NBA as soon as they feel they’re ready, but has all his guys declare for the NBA Draft anyway so they can all get a sense of their draft stock before deciding whether they want to go forward or return to school. And with his coaching prowess and skills as a recruiter, he has no problem finding replacements for the guys he lost the year prior. This season, Kentucky’s top players are Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Nick Richardson, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt, joining a roster that returns very little from last year’s SEC champs. Kentucky’s only real competition this season will likely come from Florida, Texas A&M, or Alabama, but I think the gap between these schools are big enough that everyone else is playing for second place in the SEC.

Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Tom Izzo’s Spartan squad has never been one that typically deals with the one-and-dones, as Deyonta Davis is the only player in recent memory to leave for the NBA after one season in East Lansing. That bodes well for Michigan State because they’ve got a lot of good returning talent, particularly Miles Bridges (who may be my favorite player in all of college basketball) and Lourawls “Tumtum” Nairn. Michigan State also landed Jaren Jackson, ESPN’s #9 recruit, who looks to be a major contributor for this season. In the Big Ten, Michigan State’s main competition will likely come from Wisconsin, Purdue or even  quietly good Minnesota and Northwestern teams. Indiana’s potentially a wild card because it’ll be interesting to see how Archie Miller transitions to major college basketball after great success at the University of Dayton. But Michigan State is so loaded and have a Hall of Fame head coach, making it awfully difficult to pick against them.

Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

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photo credit: KUSports.com

Do I really even need to do this one? The Big 12 has been OWNED by Kansas of late, as the Jayhawks have won the Big 12 every year since 2005. That’s THIRTEEN STRAIGHT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS! Despite this, Kansas only has one national championship victory to show for it (2008) but they will be looking for another run this year. They lose Player of the Year Frank Mason to the NBA, but they do have Devonte Graham returning, which was huge for Bill Self’s squad, as Kansas’ recruiting class was a little light this season. Billy Preston was their only recruit in ESPN’s Top 50. But having another season of Devonte Graham will likely be good enough for the Jayhawks to hold off such competition as West Virginia, Baylor, and possibly Iowa State for a fourteenth straight conference title.

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats

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photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are back for Arizona and they’ll be running this offense with one new toy to play with: DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot 250-pounder out of Phoenix. Ayton is the #3 overall recruit according to ESPN, trailing only Bagley and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr (both guys are in the discussion for number 1 pick in the NBA Draft). Ayton is arguably as good as either of these guys and will be key to replacing Lauri Markkanen. Head Coach Sean Miller (older brother of Indiana coach Archie Miller) has had Arizona playing some really good basketball these last few years and it wouldn’t shock me to see these guys unseat UCLA as best in a weak conference, as only the Bruins and USC are expected to be competitive in this conference.

Preseason Top 25:

1.Duke Blue Devils

2.Michigan State Spartans

3.Kentucky Wildcats

4.Kansas Jayhawks

5.Arizona Wildcats

6.Villanova Wildcats

7.North Carolina Tar Heels

8.Florida Gators

9.Wichita State Shockers

10.West Virginia Mountaineers

11.Miami (FL) Hurricanes

12.USC Trojans

13.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.Cincinnati Bearcats

15.Minnesota Golden Gophers

16.Louisville Cardinals

17.Purdue Boilermakers

18.Gonzaga Bulldogs

19.Xavier Musketeers

20.Wisconsin Badgers

21.Northwestern Wildcats

22.UCLA Bruins

23.Baylor Bears

24.St. Mary’s Gaels

25.Seton Hall Pirates

Preseason All Americans

First Team:

G-Collin Sexton-Alabama

G-Devonte Graham-Kansas

F-Miles Bridges-Michigan State

F-Marvin Bagley-Duke

C-DeAndre Ayton-Arizona

Second Team:

G-Joel Berry-North Carolina

G-Trevon Bluiett-Xavier

F-Michael Porter Jr-Missouri

F-Johnathan Williams-Gonzaga

C-Mohamed Bamba-Texas

Projected Player of the Year: Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

Mississippi Valley State v Michigan State

photo credit: CBS Detroit

Bridges is one of the most exciting players in the game and as a freshman last year, he scored 16.9 points per game with 8.3 rebounds while shooting almost 50% from the field and 39% from 3. He’s got another year under his belt and I think given his abilities, we are in for a tremendous season from the sophomore forward from Flint, Michigan.

Projected #1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is just too stacked on paper for it to be anyone else at this point in the year. As I mentioned, in a sport typically dominated by freshman, Duke has 4 of the 8 best, including the number 1 overall player as well as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. However, we often see these super teams fall apart under the weight of media expectations, as teams with this much hype rarely ever live up to it, so while I am super high on Duke, it also wouldn’t shock me to see them underwhelm.

Those are my predictions for this college basketball season. Probably going to look WAY different when I do the postseason edition. Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 6

Last Week: 10-2                    Season Record: 18-6

Good week last time out, though I should also mention that both of my losses came when I picked the team that wasn’t favored (Mississippi State and Iowa). Turns out I may not have given Michigan State enough credit. I also damn near picked the exact score of the Clemson-VA Tech game (the score was 31-17, I said it would be 38-17). Anyway, enough tooting my own horn, on to the picks.

Wake Forest vs #2 Clemson (-21.5)

Wake Forest took Florida State to the brink last week. It took a beautiful touchdown throw by James Blackman for the Seminoles to escape the Demon Deacons. It is also worth noting that Wake had SEVENTEEN tackles for loss last week. That’s just incredible. Clemson has looked untouchable to start the season, which is amazing to me given how much talent they lost last season. I’m going to go with Clemson on this one. I don’t know if they cover that massive spread, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. Wake Forest doesn’t have enough offense to keep up.

Projected Score: Clemson 45 Wake Forest 17

#4 Penn State (-13.5) vs Northwestern

Northwestern hung in tight with a really good Wisconsin team and they actually led at the half. Penn State’s a different beast altogether, however. Despite the fact that Indiana once again limited Saquon Barkley’s rushing yards (56 yards on 20 carries), Barkley was able to find other ways to have a huge impact on the game, as he returned a kick to the house, threw a touchdown pass, and had 51 receiving yards. Trace McSorley and Dasean Hamilton also had big games for the Nittany Lions against the Hoosiers, which shows that Penn State is more than just their Heisman frontrunner. They’ll win this one relatively handily.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Penn State

Saquon Barkley has been the Heisman frontrunner as we approach the season’s halfway point (photo credit: Big Ten Network)

Projected Score: Penn State 48 Northwestern 27

#5 Georgia (-17.5) vs Vanderbilt 

After getting absolutely slaughtered by Alabama in Week 4, Vanderbilt had a nice bounceback performance against the #21 Florida Gators, hanging with them until the very end.  Georgia, on the other hand, perhaps turned in the performance of the year, going into Knoxville and abusing Tennessee 41-0 despite Jake Fromm’s very mediocre passing performance (7-15 for 84 yards with a TD and a pick). Georgia’s defense has also been wildly impressive, as displayed by the shutout of a previously-ranked Tennessee squad. Roquan Smith has been flying to the ball and has Georgia primed for a big win over Vanderbilt to further entrench themselves as the second-best team in the SEC.

Projected Score: Georgia 38 Vanderbilt 17

#23 West Virginia vs #8 TCU (-13)

Will Grier has been excellent for the Mountaineers to start the season, throwing for over 1300 yards and 13 TDS in the team’s first four games. Their one loss on the season was against a very good Virginia Tech squad that hung in tough with Clemson. TCU seems to have completely bounced back from a wildly underwhelming 2016 season as Kenny Hill has been a machine at quarterback. TCU has impressive double-digit wins over Oklahoma State and Arkansas and will look to do it again against West Virginia. They will, but West Virginia will make it a lot closer than the rest of the FBS has.

Projected Score: TCU 31 West Virginia 21

#13 Miami (FL) (-3) vs Florida State

Florida State has looked COMPLETELY lost without Deondre Francois. They did finally manage to get into the win column against Wake Forest, but it took a last minute TD pass by James Blackman to do it. They go up against a Miami squad that is coming off a beatdown of Duke in a revenge game from that lateral game a couple of years back. Malik Rozier has been very efficient for the U, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes and only tossing 2 INTs on the year. But the big star of this game is going to be Hurricanes runningback Mark Walton, who is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry on the season. Miami wins big.

Projected Score: Miami (FL) 49 Florida State 20

#22 Notre Dame (-15.5) vs North Carolina

Josh Adams was a monster against an overmatched Miami (OH) team, rushing for 159 yards on just 8 carries. He won’t be quite that good against a lackluster North Carolina defense that has allowed 30.6 points per game this season. The UNC offense has also been wildly inconsistent as they were only able to muster 7 points against Georgia Tech last week yet dropped 30 on a very good Louisville squad and 53 in their win over Old Dominion. Notre Dame’s defense will be the toughest they face yet and UNC won’t be too big an issue for the Fighting Irish.

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Josh Adams has had some of the more impressive rushing performances on the season (photo credit: One Foot Down)

Projected Score: Notre Dame 38 North Carolina 14

LSU vs #21 Florida (-2.5)

Ouch. Does it get any worse than losing to Troy for LSU? Actually, it does.

Troy spoils LSU’s homecoming and it doesn’t get any easier as they take on a Florida Gators team that seems to be starting to figure out their offense. Despite losing Luke del Rio for the season, Feleipe Franks looked like he had a fire lit under him after losing his starting job and played well in relief against Vanderbilt. For LSU, after absolutely dominating BYU in Week 1 (BYU’s offense never crossed midfield, and LSU was without star pass rusher Arden Key), the Tigers have looked lost, getting blown out by Mississippi State, narrowly beating an underwhelming Syracuse team, and culminating with an embarrassing loss to Troy. Their struggles will continue, as Florida takes this one in the Swamp.

Projected Score: Florida 30 LSU 10

Minnesota vs Purdue (-4)

Minnesota had been stuffing their non-conference schedule, allowing a grand total of 24 points in their 3-game slate. Then they take on conference foe Maryland and let up 31 points in a 31-24 loss. They look to right the ship (or “Row the Boat,” as head coach PJ Fleck likes to say) against a Purdue team that seems to have new life. They’ve trounced Ohio and Missouri for their two wins and competed from start to finish in their two losses to Louisville and Michigan. Jeff Brohm has been working wonders for the Boilermakers and I think this game ends up being a defensive slugfest, with Purdue pulling away late.

Projected Score: Purdue 20 Minnesota 17

#1 Alabama (-26.5) vs Texas A&M

The Aggies came very close to starting the season 1-3 yet find themselves 4-1 through their first five. They’ve been tested all year and aside from a Week 1 choke job for the ages, they’ve passed them all. Their greatest test will come against a juggernaut in Alabama that has just been unfair to start conference play. Against SEC opponents, they beat Vanderbilt 59-0 and Ole Miss 66-3. Alabama is so far ahead of everyone else it’s not even worth watching their games. Alabama wins a snooze-fest.

Projected Score: Alabama 52 Texas A&M 10

Michigan State vs #7 Michigan (-10.5)

The last time these two teams were at the big house was that famous botched punt that MSU took to the house for the victory. The Spartans were awful last season yet they were still competitive against an excellent Wolverines squad. Michigan will be starting John O’Korn at quarterback this week in place of the injured Wilton Speight as Michigan will look to shake their offensive woes on the season. I think Michigan wins, but it’s a low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 Michigan State 17

#11 Washington State (-3) vs Oregon 

This is going to be a fun game if you love offense. Washington State pulled off the shocking upset over then-#5 USC last week and Luke Falk has put himself into the thick of the Heisman race. Oregon is coming off a big win over California and are an Arizona State late field goal away from being 5-0 on the season. This is going to be a shootout in Eugene and I think Oregon is going to take this one, but Luke Falk will still put up big numbers and stay in the Heisman race.

Projected Score: Oregon 49 Washington State 45

Stanford (-4) vs #20 Utah 

I never thought I would say this, but Stanford has been able to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Christian McCaffrey. Bryce Love has been an absolute MONSTER for the Cardinal through their first 5 games, already over 1000 yards rushing on the season and Stanford hasn’t even played half their games yet. Love is averaging 11.1 yards per carry and one could make a strong argument that he ought to be the Heisman frontrunner at this stage in the year. Utah will have the unenviable task in trying to stop him. Utah is 4-0 on the season but it’s an unimpressive 4-0 for me. Their wins come against North Dakota, BYU, San Jose State, and Arizona and only the San Jose State game was a truly convincing victory for me. I think Stanford knocks off the 20th ranked Utes and I think they do it big.

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Bryce Love has done the unthinkable this season: replace Christian McCaffrey (photo credit: Rule of Tree)

Projected Score: Stanford 55 Utah 20

Those are my picks this week. I didn’t do Indiana’s game because they’re facing FCS opponent Charleston Southern and I can’t in good conscious do an FBS-FCS game unless it involves North Dakota State (who always seems to beat FBS teams) or Washington State (who always seems to lose to FCS teams). It just wouldn’t be very sporting of me. So if you have any other games you want me to do, let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Facebook and Twitter @jimwyman10.