Sunday, January 20th, 2013

***(2) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Atlanta Falcons: 3:00 PM ET (FOX)***

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The San Francisco 49ers put on perhaps the most impressive offensive showing against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round, winning 45-31. Perhaps most impressive about the win, was the fact that the Packers kept it close late, tying the game 24-24 midway through the third quarter, before Colin Kaepernick led three straight touchdown drives, putting the game out of Green Bay’s reach.

The Atlanta Falcons were considered by many analysts to be the most likely home team to lose their Divisional Round matchup – and they nearly did. The Seattle Seahawks, once again, had to come back from a multiple-touchdown deficit. With 30 seconds left in the game, the Seahawks scored to go ahead 28-27. However, Matt Ryan was not about to be denied a playoff win, yet again, and led the Falcons down the field to set up Matt Bryant for the game winning, 49-yard field goal.

Prediction: The Atlanta Falcons are in for a very rude awakening. If they can keep Matt Ryan on his feet, they might only lose by 10. San Francisco wins 42-21.

***(4) Baltimore Ravens at (2) New England Patriots: 6:30 PM ET (CBS)***

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In the more thrilling of the two AFC Divisional Round games, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos in overtime 38-35. The Broncos were a heavy favorite due to in no small part to their 11-game win streak. The last game the Broncos had lost was to the New England Patriots, Baltimore’s upcoming opponent.

The Patriots put a 41-28 beating to the Houston Texans, reminiscent of the 42-14 destruction of Week 14. The Pats are hoping not to have another repeat this week of their matchup during the regular season with the Ravens, when they lost 31-30. Both teams have been through a lot since then and this game looks to be a real block buster.

Prediction: The Ravens lost a heart-breaker in last year’s AFC Conference Championship game to the Patriots after a dropped TD pass and a missed field goal. This year, they get their revenge. Baltimore wins 35-31.

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Saturday, January 12th, 2013

***(4) Baltimore Ravens at (1) Denver Broncos: 4:30 PM ET (CBS)***

The Baltimore Ravens handled their business against the Indianapolis Colts at home Sunday afternoon, winning 24-9. With Ray Lewis spotlighted in an emotional return, after tearing his left arm triceps muscle mid-season, the Baltimore defense shined most brightly, allowing zero touchdowns and 3 field goals.
This week the Ravens travel to Denver to play perhaps the one team no one wants to face: the Broncos. Denver is well rested, enjoying a much deserved first round bye. Considering they played the Kansas City Chiefs in their season finale, they really have been off for two weeks.

Prediction: Because the Ravens played such a stellar game against the Colts, they will likely play the Broncos down to the wire. That said, Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. Denver wins 27-21.

***(3) Green Bay Packers at (2) San Francisco 49ers: 8:00 PM ET (FOX)***

The Green Bay Packers rolled over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field Saturday, winning 24-10. The score of this game doesn’t explain much about how it went. The Vikings put the first points on the board with an early field goal, but fell behind 17-3 by halftime. Green Bay managed just one more score in the second half, going up 24-3 in the third quarter. Minnesota capped the game with an essentially meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Standing in the Packers way this week are the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps the remaining NFC team most feared. The 49ers beat the Packers on the road in Week 1, however, both teams are far from where they were. The “Niners” are led by a different quarterback, altogether.

Prediction: 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is under a major microscope this week, as his decision to swap Alex Smith out for Colin Kaepernick was a hot topic. If Green Bay beats San Francisco when Smith beat the Packers earlier this season…don’t check your email/texts/mailbox Jim. San Francisco wins 35-20.

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

***(5) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Atlanta Falcons: 1:00 PM ET (FOX)***

The Seattle Seahawks are the only wild card team left in the playoffs and are rolling. In Washington D.C., the Redskins went up early 14-0 in the first quarter and looked to be in control when Robert Griffin III suffered another knee injury and wasn’t the same.
The Atlanta Falcons have the NFC’s best record (13-3) but seemingly have yet to earn a consensus respect the #1 team usually commands. With an unmatched passing attack, Atlanta will put up a formidable test for Seattle’s gritty secondary.

Prediction: Seattle needs to make sure they don’t get behind to Matt Ryan or they might not escape again. That said, Seattle wins 28-24.

***(3) Houston Texans at (2) New England Patriots: 4:30 PM ET (CBS)***

In a less than stimulating opening game, the Houston Texans held off the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13 at home to slip into the divisional round and must now face the Patriots in Foxborough, MA.
The Patriots have wonderful memories of facing the Texans in Week 14 in their house to the tune of 42-14.

Prediction: Expect a similar outcome to Week 14, as the Patriots will be itching to get back to the Super Bowl. New England wins 38-17.

Sat. January 5th, 2013

***(6) Cincinnati Bengals at (3) Houston Texans: 4:30 pm ET (NBC)***

The Bengals (10-6) will travel south to Houston where they will face the Texans (12-4). This should make for an extremely interesting game. The Texans offensive strength is undoubtedly their running game, led by Pro-Bowler Arian Foster. Cincinnati’s defense is formidable and boasts the seventh best pass defense and 12th best rush defense, allowing just 107 yards rushing per game. On the flip-side, the Bengals air attack is one of the best in the league, headed by star receiver, A.J. Green. Houston’s pass defense is suspect at times, ranked 16th in the NFL.

Prediction: Look for Cincinnati to play much like their season closer against the Baltimore Ravens. Cincinnati wins 24-21.

***(6) Minnesota Vikings at (3) Green Bay Packers: 8:00 PM ET (NBC)***

The Vikings (10-6) and Packers (11-5) face off Saturday night in what may be the most exciting of the Wild Card Round match-ups for a couple reasons. One, they are heated division rivals. Two, they just played each other last week in a closely fought battle that came down to field goal as time expired. Not only did it seal the playoff spot for Minnesota, but allowed San Francisco to swipe the No. 2 seed and bye from the Packers.

Prediction: The Packers will be playing angry, revenge on their minds. Green Bay wins 31-17.

Sun. January 5th, 2013

***(5) Indianapolis Colts at (4) Baltimore Ravens: 1:00 PM ET (CBS)***

The Colts (11-5) head east to face the Ravens (10-6) in Baltimore. Behind the arm of rookie Andrew Luck, Indianapolis has been this year’s feel-good story in the league. With head coach Chuck Pegano battling and overcoming leukemia this season, the Colts have pulled out some truly inspirational victories under long odds. This week will be no different as Baltimore is favored.

Prediction: Look for Baltimore to establish the run game with Ray Rice and play tight playoff defense. Baltimore wins 31-24.

***(5) Seattle Seahawks at (4) Washington Redskins: 4:30 PM ET (FOX)***

Seattle (11-5) makes its way east to Maryland as well, only they’ll take on the Redskins (10-6), winners of the NFC East Division. If there is one team that no one wants to face, home or away, it’s the Seahawks. Seattle has been as hot as you can get over the last month. With a statement win over their in-division rival, San Francisco, Seattle has all the workings of a team that can make a Super Bowl run. Led by rookie quarterbacks, Seattle and Washington look to have bright futures in Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, respectively.

Prediction: Seattle is trending up while Washington is in for an emotional hangover after Sunday Night’s win against Dallas. Seattle wins 28-14.

AFC NFC

The end of the 2012-13 NFL season approaches with Week 17.

With just this one week comes a litany of playoff implications, even in the AFC, with all playoff spots clinched. In the NFC, there are three teams still on the outside looking in; the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.

For Dallas Cowboys Fans

Dallas’ situation is the most simplistic – Win and you’re in. Lose, you go home. The Cowboys will travel to D.C., where they will face the rookie QB Robert Griffin III and his Washington Redskins.

For Washington Redskins Fans

Washington’s playoff situation has a bit more leeway than that of Dallas’.  A win for Washington also secures the NFC East Division Title and the 4th seed (cannot reach higher mathematically). However, should the Redskins lose to the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, they are not necessarily eliminated from the playoff race. They can still clinch a playoff spot if Chicago and Minnesota both lose, as they hold the tie-breaker between potentially four 9-7 record teams; themselves, the Bears, the Vikings and the New York Giants.

For Chicago Bears Fans

Chicago’s playoff chances are not assured but also not highly unlikely. For the Bears to make the playoffs they must first beat the Detroit Lions on the road. The Vikings also need to lose to Green Bay at home, which, according to ESPN’s “Accuscore,” is not an impossibility with the Packers a 67% favorite to win.

For Minnesota Vikings Fans

Minnesota’s playoff destiny is in its own hands, to speak proverbially. If they beat the Packers, they secure the 6th seed in the playoffs. If they lose that game, they need the Bears, Cowboys, and Giants to lose as well (In essence, leaving the standings identical). A Vikings win closes the door on any playoff hopes of both Chicago and New York.

For New York Giants Fans

New York is most certainly in the most dire of the NFC playoff race situations. The Giants not only most win their season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, but must also have the Vikings, Cowboys and Bears all lose their finale games.

Among the teams in the NFC that have already clinched their spots in the playoffs, some outcomes may affect the seeding.

For Atlanta Falcons Fans 

The #1 spot is locked and assured for the Falcons. Notwithstanding their dominance this year, Atlanta has received criticism for its lack of success in the playoffs, losing in the first round of all three of its last berths since 2008.

For Green Bay Packers Fans

Green Bay currently holds the #2 seed and will retain it with a win. A loss to the Vikings may result in trading the #2 seed for San Francisco’s #3 seed, should the 49ers beat the Cardinals at home. The Packers will concede the #2 to the Seattle Seahawks if both Green Bay and San Francisco lose and Seattle wins, claiming the NFC West Title and tie-breaker with a head-to-head victory in the “Fail-Mary” game against Green Bay. The Packers cannot fall lower than the #3 seed, secured with a first round home field advantage at-worst.

For San Francisco 49ers Fans

San Francisco has the same luxury of an assured first round home field advantage at-worst if they beat the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park Sunday. Should the Packers lose, a Niners victory secures a #2 seed and first round bye along with the NFC West Division Title. If the 49ers lose to the Cardinals and the Seahawks beat the Rams, San Francisco will lose the NFC West to Seattle and snag the #5 seed. They’d then have to play either Green Bay, Seattle, Washington or Dallas, on the road in the “wildcard round.”

For Seattle Seahawks Fans

Seattle is assured at least the #5 seed but stands to move up to as high as #2 with help. If Seattle wins and San Francisco loses, the NFC West division title will belong to the Seahawks, as well as home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If Green Bay also loses in the previous scenario, Seattle holds the tie-breaker over Green Bay for the #2 seed and first round bye.

All the AFC playoff spots are secured, however, there still exist situations where movements in seeding can occur.

For Houston Texans/Denver Broncos/New England Patriots/Baltimore Ravens Fans

Because Houston and Denver have identical 12-3 records they hold the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively (Houston beating Denver gives them the tie-breaker). Should Houston beat Indianapolis on the road Sunday, they will lock up #1. Should they lose and Denver wins, the Broncos will take the #1 spot. If New England wins along with Denver, a Texans loss drops them to the #3 spot and gives the #1 and #2 seeds to Denver and New England respectively. If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose, the Patriots will take the #2 seed from the Broncos, as they own the head-to-head tie-breaker. If both the Texans and the Broncos lose, a Patriots win gives them the #1 seed, leaving Houston and Denver at #2 and #3 respectively. If New England loses and Baltimore Ravens win, the Ravens will move up to the #3 seed and the Pats fall to #4.

For Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals Fans

Indianapolis and Cincinnati have the #5 and #6 seeds locked up respectively.

 

AFC-North

For the last decade the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been top dogs, winning the division championship eight of the last ten years between the two.

The Steelers have definitely seen the most success, winning the Super Bowl in the 2005-06 and 2008-09 seasons. Most recently, the Steelers reached the Super Bowl in 2010-11 season, losing to the Green Bay Packers.

Before Week 14 of this season, the Ravens sat in first place in the division with a 9-4 record. Trailing them were the Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers, both with 7-6 records and both in the wild card race.

The Bengals played the Philadelphia Eagles in the Thursday Night Football game. Cincinnati won handily 34-13, narrowing the gap with the Ravens and putting pressure on both Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The Ravens hosted the Denver Broncos with a chance to clinch the division title. Denver had other plans, beating the Ravens soundly in front of the home crowd 34-17.

With “Big Ben” Roethlisberger back in the lineup after being out three weeks due to injury, the Steelers went on the road to play the surging Dallas Cowboys at “Jerry World.” No doubt Pittsburgh looked at this as a must-win game. Dallas, being in their own tight division race, had other ideas.

After a back and forth battle, the game went to overtime. The Steelers won the coin toss and looked to be in control, but on only the second play of the OT period, Big Ben threw an interception to Brandon Carr, which he returned to the Steelers one-yard line. A chip shot field goal by Cowboys Kicker Dan Bailey sealed the victory for Dallas and sent the Steelers home one game behind the Bengals in the Wild Card race and two games behind the Ravens in the division race.

The good news for the Steelers is that they have the easier schedule between the three to finish the year, hosting Cincinnati and then Cleveland. Cincinnati, after travelling to Pittsburgh, must then play the Ravens. Assuming the Steelers beat the Bengals next week, they will own the tie breaker over the Bengals should they finish with identical records. With the Indianapolis Colts sitting in the fifth spot with a 9-5 record, the sixth will have to be either the Steelers or Bengals, as all other AFC teams below them have losing records and cannot make the playoffs.

In any case, it looks as though the AFC North race will end dramatically.

SAN FRANCISCO – With the “What have you done for me lately?” attitude found everywhere throughout the sports world, there are numerous occasions when single game performances, good and bad, are blown way out of proportion. At the root of such occasions a common theme can be found – expectations. Perhaps no quarterback in the NFL has to fight lower expectations than Alex Smith.

This has never been more evident than after the 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks 13-6 in the week seven, “Thursday Night Football” game in Candlestick Park on October 18, 2012.

Smith did not play his best game of this season by far. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Very mediocre numbers by NFL quarterback standards. The reaction to Smith’s performance, however, was not standard for this type of performance.

Rewind to just after week five – Alex Smith and the 49ers were coming off of the most lopsided victory of the 2012 season, beating the Buffalo Bills 45-3. In fact, of all 92 NFL games played this season, the 49ers own two of the three largest margins of victory (34-0 over the New York Jets ranks third).

Going into the highly anticipated week six match-up against the 2012 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, Smith was receiving praise, not for “managing” football games, as was the case during the 2011-’12 season, but as a true leader and veteran capable of leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory in 2013. A poor outing by Smith put an end to that.

Smith threw three interceptions in a 26-3 defeat at the hands of the Giants and once again, murmurings of Smith’s inabilities resurfaced.

Pregame analysis for the Seahawks match-up was littered with doubts of Smith’s capability to get the Niners to the “promised land.” Anything less than a perfect game against Seattle was predestined to attract scorn from the naysayers, chomping at the bit to compare Smith in a bad light to the Aaron Rodgers and Tom Bradys of the league. But is that fair?

Let’s do that comparison using concrete facts. Luckily for us, both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have faced the Seattle Seahawks this season (the Patriots just the week before the 49ers), so it shouldn’t be difficult.

Here are the passing stats:

Alex Smith – (14/23) 140 yards 1 TD 1 INT

Aaron Rodgers – (26/39) 223 yards 0 TD 0 INT

Tom Brady – (36/58) 395 yards 2 TD 2 INT

Looking at the stat lines, all three QBs completed over sixty percent of their passes (Rodgers – 66.7%, Brady – 62.1%, Smith – 60.9%) and each threw an equal number of touchdowns to interceptions. Smith ranks right between the two, throwing for more TDs than Rodgers yet less INTs than Brady.

Smith out-shined both Rodgers and Brady in his touchdown passes per completion percentage (Smith – 7%, Brady – 2.7%, Rodgers – 0%). He also finished between the former MVPs in yards per attempt (Brady – 6.8 yards/att., Smith – 6.1 yards/att., Rodgers – 5.7 yards/att.).

The glaring hypocrisy of the whole mess is that the Patriots and the Packers both lost to the Seahawks, whereas, the 49ers won. The story line after the Packers’ loss was the terrible call that gave Seattle the victory over Green Bay. After the Patriots’ loss it was how great a comeback the Seahawks mounted over the Pats, once again winning on a last second pass play.

Neither Tom Brady nor Aaron Rodgers received even a tenth of the criticism that Smith received, even though Smith compares not only similarly, but in some areas more favorably than both Brady and Rodgers. Why?

Expectations – and it’s about time they changed.

Smith ranks tenth in the NFL in Total QBR (quarterback rating) this season. He ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers and 14 other starters.

Smith has the highest Total QBR in a single game this season (99.2 on a 100 scale). This game is also the fifth highest rating of any quarterback in any game since 2008.

The 2012 college football season kicks off Thursday August 30th.

As with each new year, the associated press has determined that these are the top 25 teams in college football for 2012:

AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 USC (25) 0-0 1445
2 Alabama (17) 0-0 1411
3 LSU (16) 0-0 1402
4 Oklahoma (1) 0-0 1286
5 Oregon 0-0 1274
6 Georgia 0-0 1107
7 Florida State 0-0 1093
8 Michigan (1) 0-0 1000
9 South Carolina 0-0 994
10 Arkansas 0-0 963
11 West Virginia 0-0 856
12 Wisconsin 0-0 838
13 Michigan State 0-0 742
14 Clemson 0-0 615
15 Texas 0-0 569
16 Virginia Tech 0-0 548
17 Nebraska 0-0 485
18 Ohio State 0-0 474
19 Oklahoma State 0-0 430
20 TCU 0-0 397
21 Stanford 0-0 383
22 Kansas State 0-0 300
23 Florida 0-0 214
24 Boise State 0-0 212
25 Louisville 0-0 105

 

Predictions

Kentucky @ (25) Louisville – Sunday Sept. 2, 2012:

It’s always hard to pick these games. A rivalry game always has potential for upset and in this case, Kentucky seems to be fully capable of blindsiding #25 on the road if they play a clean game. Because of the home crowd, I give the slight edge to Louisville.

Louisville wins 24-23

Bowling Green @ (23) Florida – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Classic SEC warm-up game for the Gators. Some analysts have Florida as a SEC dark horse this year.

Florida wins 45-13

Missouri State @ (22) Kansas State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Kansas State looks to continue moving forward after a breakout 10-3 season in 2011. Missouri State will need a miracle.

Kansas State wins 35-14

San Jose State @ (21) Stanford – Friday Aug. 31, 2012:

Stanford faces no small task in replacing Andrew Luck which cannot be anything but a step backwards. Coach Shaw won’t have too much to be concerned about week one however.

Stanford wins 31-17

Savannah State @ (19) Oklahoma State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

OK State’s offense took two huge hits in losing both Veteran QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon to the NFL. The defense may need to step up to buffer the blow as they gave up 26 points per game in 2011. Savannah State will not likely put more than 20 on the board, though.

Oklahoma State wins 28-10

Miami (OH) @ (18) Ohio State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Welcome back Urban Meyer! Look for this Ohio State team to be markedly better than the Buckeyes from 2011. Meyer has a knack for making instant improvement everywhere he goes.

Ohio State wins 38-20

Southern Miss. @ (17) Nebraska – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Nebraska looks to be fast and ready to run in 2012. Southern Miss. is about a 20 point underdog in this game but I see it being a little closer.

Nebraska wins 31-21

Georgia Tech. @ (16) Virginia Tech. – Monday Sept. 3, 2012:

Why they have to play Monday is unknown to me but what I do know, is that VT has a tendency to start slow and GT is no slouch. Look for the Yellow Jackets’ triple option offense to confuse an untested 2012 defense.

Georgia Tech wins 28-24

Wyoming @ (15) Texas – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

After a disappointing 2011 season for the Longhorns, they look to turn things around and again, win the Big 12. To do that, they must start by crushing the outmatched ‘Pokes of Wyoming.

Texas wins 40-7

(14) Clemson @ Auburn – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Expectations are high for Clemson this year. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We’ll see how the past few stellar recruiting years will pan out for Clemson. Auburn struggled to beat Utah State at home in last year’s opener.

Clemson wins 21-17

(24) Boise State @ (13) Michigan State – Friday Aug. 31, 2012:

Ah, the annual event of Boise State facing a BCS team in a battle of the ranked in week one. Although Boise has a great track record in the past, they lost a lot on their defense and will struggle to keep Spartan points off the board.

Michigan State wins 31-21

Northern Iowa @ (12) Wisconsin – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Wisconsin has high hopes for another 10+ win season. All signs point to Michigan and Wisconsin facing each other in the B1G Championship. First things first, tune up game against NIU.

Wisconsin wins 49-10

Marshall @ (11) West Virginia – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

West Virginia makes the move from the Big East to the Big XII this season. Some analysts expect the Mountaineers to challenge Oklahoma for the conference title.

West Virginia wins 34-17

Jacksonville State @ (10) Arkansas – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

The Arkansas Razorbacks were supposed to be flying high this season until Head Coach Bobby Petrino was caught in a scandal and fired in the off-season. The talent level alone keeps Arkansas afloat at #10 but will have a tough road ahead. After the first week at least.

Arkansas wins 56-14

(9) South Carolina @ Vanderbilt – Thursday Aug. 30, 2012:

It’s a rare occurrence to have a week one conference game. Especially dangerous when a top ten team goes on the road to face a conference foe. Vanderbilt isn’t the most threatening team in the SEC by any means, but they should not be overlooked.

South Carolina wins 31-24

Murray State @ (7) Florida State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Murray State was a huge story in the college basketball world in 2011-’12. Too bad that won’t help them from getting destroyed by the Seminoles on their way to trying to win the ACC.

Florida State wins 45-10

Buffalo @ (6) Georgia – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

The Georgia Bulldogs crack the preseason top 10 for the first time since starting at #1 in 2008. It’s been a while since Georgia made big waves in the SEC. Buffalo should provide good practice.

Georgia wins 31-7

Arkansas State @ (5) Oregon – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Oregon looks to get off to a fast start to the 2012 season with a warm-up game against Arkansas State. The Ducks will be flying in this game with new QB Marcus Mariota and potential Heisman candidate RB DeAnthony Thomas putting up points.

Oregon wins 49-13

(4) Oklahoma @ UTEP – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

The Sooners have national championship aspirations this season and with good reason. NFL prospect Landry Jones returns for his Senior season and will get UTEP to cut up before the tough games begin.

Oklahoma wins 45-9

North Texas @ (3) LSU – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

LSU is on the BCS National Championship rebound after losing 21-0 to Alabama last season. With Tyrann Mathieu unavailable this season, LSU really has to worry about North Texas upsetting…I’m kidding. N. Texas is toast.

LSU wins 48-3

(8) Michigan @ (2) Alabama – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

This is the marquee game of the week without question. Michigan is the top ranked B1G team and Alabama is the top SEC team. Regardless of the outcome, whichever team loses will have work to do to get back into the BCS conversation. Michigan is returning Denard Robinson with a steadily improving defense under Brady Hoke.

Alabama wins 28-21

Hawaii @ (1) USC – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

With all the talent USC has returning in 2012, the #1 spot is deserved. With a tough schedule this season, it’s hard to think USC will make it through unscathed. Hawaii will not be the team to taste victory against the Trojans this year.

USC wins 42-7

***Locally***

Southern Utah @ Utah State – Thursday Aug. 20, 2012:

After a 6-6 season in 2011, the USU Aggies are hungry for a new season and hopefully even more improvement. There’s no reason to think that they can’t add to last year’s success and they will start that road by hosting in-state D-2 Southern Utah.

Utah State wins 35-14

Washington State @ BYU – Thursday Aug. 30, 2012:

New Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach begins his tenure with the Cougars by heading down to Provo and taking on his alma mater BYU. BYU is expected to be good on defense while Leach is an offensive mastermind with tools at his disposal.

Washington State wins 27-24

Northern Colorado @ Utah

Utah heads into its second year in the Pac 12 with high expectations and improvements all around the offensive side of the ball. Northern Colorado will be a great opportunity to solidify some positions for the Utes and prepare for tougher competition later on.

Utah wins 42-3

There seems to be two top dogs remaining in the NBA playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.

English: Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11

English: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spurs have been on a tear lately, going 20-0 in their last 20 games. These 20 victories include series sweeps over the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers as well as convincing victories in Games 1 & 2 of their Western Conference series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Miami Heat have also completed Game 1 & 2 of their conference finals series with the Boston Celtics.

Both Eastern and Western Conference Finals series head back to the lower-seeded teams’ home courts for Games 3 and 4 in Boston and Oklahoma City, respectively.

Ah, all of a sudden, the task doesn’t seem so easy for the favorite Spurs and Heat.

The Thunder fans are real hyped fans. What would you expect from a state whose entire population is currently stir crazy waiting for college football to start? Seriously, what else is there? (See also Jazz fans).

Both the Spurs and Heat have had to overcome being behind late in a game and overcoming deficit to earn the win. Alternately, they have each cruised for a dominant victory.

Spectacular as each team is, the Heat and Spurs both have chinks in the armor that have been exposed at one point or another in these playoffs.

For the Heat, interior play has been absolutely key. With the injury suffered by Chris Bosh early in the second round against the Indiana Pacers, the Heat’s defense against the low post and rebounding has been a cause for concern. The Pacers were able to take advantage of the deficiency in Games 2 and 3 of that series and earned W’s against the favored Heat. Of course, Dwyane Wade‘s struggles to score were no small factor either.

LeBron James has produced consistently the entire postseason, averaging 29.6 points/9.2 rebounds/5.8 assists per game. Dwyane Wade more than any other Heat player determines the outcome of the game. When he plays well, he compliments LeBron’s contributions and victory is imminent. When Wade plays poorly, LeBron finds himself in the same scenario as rookie Michael Jordan, scoring 63 points against the Celtics in 2 OT in a losing effort.

The Spurs are the epitome of “team basketball.” Their crisp passing and intelligent play has been frustrating the last 20 teams San Antonio has faced.

Tony Parker, who is averaging 20.5 points/3.8 rebounds/7.1 assists per game in the Spurs’ “sweep-fest” is clearly the most valuable Spur at this point. He and Tim Duncan are the strongest contributors on the team with great production out of Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and others. It appears the only thing that can stop the Spurs is either father time as the games move forward, or the offense missing jumpers and letting the opposition go on the fast break.

The Thunder and Celtics both have their backs to the wall and will look to defend their home courts in order to steal one on the road. You can bet if the Spurs or Heat can get just one win on the road over the next two games, it’ll be a Spurs/Heat finals.

A view of Tiger Woods as he walks off the 8th ...

A view of Tiger Woods as he walks off the 8th green at Torrey Pines during this morning's practice round at the 2008 U.S. Open in San Diego, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed not long ago that Tiger Woods was the favorite in any PGA event in which he competed.

At the height of Woods’ fame and success, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would surpass Jack Nicklaus‘ record of 18 PGA major championship victories.

Tiger’s rise to glory was unprecedented and unrivaled.

So was his fall.

Woods’ struggles over the last 3 years, on and off the golf course, are well documented.

The question “will Tiger win four or more majors?” transitioned to “will Tiger win a major ever again?”

Woods once again sparked the golf world’s interest when he won the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament that is held just two weeks before the illustrious Masters tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club.

Woods’ victory is especially significant considering the field of competition included Masters championship hopefuls Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson and more.

As most golfers will agree, a sometimes overwhelming aspect of the game of golf is mental. One great shot begets another just as one horrible shot the same.

On a larger scale, winning a tournament after a winless streak (especially following unprecedented domination) can open a flood gate of momentum that can turn a golfer 180 degrees.

Will Tiger Woods win the 2012 Masters tournament?

No one knows for sure.

I would think, however, that the field surrounding Tiger Woods in the 2012 Masters tournament may be a little more concerned that the sleeping dragon has awakened.

English: Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patric...

Image via Wikipedia

NASCAR is regarded among professional drivers as the elite level car racing league. NASCAR is divided into separate series. The Nationwide Series (the lesser of the two “big dogs”) and the Sprint Cup Series (the elite). The perennial contenders for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship are among the best drivers on the planet.

Indy Car celebrity Danica Patrick has long desired to race in the NASCAR series and got her chance when she announced in November 2011 that she would be signing on with JR Motorsports, one of racing’s biggest teams, to race a limited number of NASCAR circuit races.

The weekend of the 54th running of the Daytona 500, Patrick was given the opportunity by JR Motorsports to drive in three races this weekend for her Sprint Series debut in the Daytona 500 (the third of the races).

The first race was Thursday, February 23, 2012 at the Gatorade 150 (Gatorade Duel), which is the qualifier for the Daytona 500. Patrick slammed into the wall on the last lap of the qualifier, wrecking her car.

The second race, Saturday February 25, 2012 was the Nationwide Series race at Daytona, where Patrick once again wrecked. This wreck was due to a teammate bumping the “Go Daddy” #7 car and sending Danica into a spin.

Finally, Patrick entered Monday’s Daytona 500 with hopes of a top finish in her Sprint Series debut.

It didn’t take long for her hopes to be dashed as she was involved in a six-car pile up on the very second lap of the race, leading to extensive damage to her car, and overall a 38th place finish in her debut.

I think it’s generally accepted that Danica Patrick is the worlds best female driver. You’ll get no dispute from me and I think you know where this is going.

Three races. Three crashes. One small step for mankind, one giant leap for men.