Mississippi State did exactly what it needed to do: survive the SEC schedule and earn a first-round bye in this week’s SEC Tournament. That result is not good enough for some as MSU was chosen in the preseason to win the SEC West. That prediction was made based on the potential of this year’s squad. Would Renardo Sidney play like the McDonald’s All-American he was in high school? How would the team perform when Dee Bost returned from suspension? When it was all said and done, MSU finished 9-7 in conference, three games behind division winner Alabama. MSU played to its potential at times but also underperformed at critical moments this year. Losses to SEC West cellar dwellers Auburn and LSU put a sour taste in the mouths of the Bulldog faithful. However, the Bulldogs responded with wins against SEC champion Florida and won at Thompson-Boling Arena against Tennessee in Jack Cristil’s last radio broadcast as the voice of Mississippi State athletics. A lot of people are critical of Rick Stansbury when it comes to coaching, but he seems to shine during the SEC Tournament. As head coach, he has two championship trophies and two more finals appearances since taking over from Richard Williams in 1998. If history happens to repeat itself, MSU won’t win its quarterfinal game against the LSU/Vanderbilt winner. In 2002, MSU won the tourney, lost in the finals in 2003 and was bounced in the quarterfinals (with a first-round bye) in 2004. MSU won the tourney in 2009 and lost in the finals last season. However, the field could not have shaped up any better for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs play its first game Friday against the LSU/Vanderbilt winner. MSU split the season series with the Tigers, but one bounce here and there could have turned the two matchups into sweeps in either team’s favor. MSU lost its only meeting with the Commodores this year, but was very much in the game. They made some crucial mistakes in the final minutes and let a winnable game slip from their fingers. Last year MSU proved that they could lose to Vandy mid-season and beat them when it matters most: in the SEC Tourney. It seems like a possibility again this season.
On the other half of MSU’s bracket sit three reams that MSU is a combined 4-0 this season. The Bulldogs swept the Razorbacks, defeated Tennessee on the road and upset the ranked Gators in Starkville. If the Bulldogs can play up to their full potential and get Sidney plenty of rest, MSU can cruise into the finals for a third straight year. Will it be that easy? Of course not, MSU has made the incredibly easy look impossible in athletics since 1878. But working in MSU’s favor is two seniors who have been on the wrong side of Stansbury. However, they have learned from the error of their ways and embraced their roles on the team. The result is Kodi Augustus averaging career-highs in points and rebounds and a rejuvenated Ravern Johnson after his suspension and benching. The national media (Andy Katz and Pat Forde in particular) may not like how Rick has handled this season, but he’s done wonders with the hand he was dealt and has his team in position to win two SEC Tourney titles in three years. The ride to this position has not been a smooth one, but the roads have settled. Stansbury and crew seem to make magic every SEC Tournament, and this year’s field is set for MSU to make more magic.
ARIZONA CARDINALS @ ATLANTA FALCONS
Arizona showed they are not the same team without Kurt Warner, struggling against a young St. Louis Rams. Atlanta had Pittsburgh beat before falling in overtime. Falcons get the win at home.
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS
Baltimore had a relatively easy Monday night, facing a Mark Sanchez afraid to throw down field. Cincy will look to take advantage of the Ravens depleted secondary. TOCHO gets their first win of the 2010 season. Lewis, Owens, and Ochocinco have a lot in common: T.O. committing copyright infringement and Lewis destroying Ocho.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS
I don’t know what would possess Cleveland to sign Jake Delhomme. He’s not the consistent QB he used to be. The Chiefs should control this game after an impressive showing against San Diego.
CHICAGO BEARS @ DALLAS COWBOYS
Dallas looks like a team struggling to find its identity. That is not a good thing if they want to be the first team to host a Super Bowl. Many people feel that Chicago should not have beaten Detroit. The Bears need a statement game, and this game is not it. Dallas wins.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ DETROIT LIONS
Both teams have issues at quarterback. If it were Kevin Kolb vs. Matthew Stafford, I would be tempted to go with the Lions. But it is Michael Vick vs. Shaun Hill. Vick will use his mobility to steer clear of Ndamukong Suh. Barring any questionable play calling from Andy Reid, Philly should win this one.
BUFFALO BILLS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS
Buffalo loses this game by default. You don’t take a safety and expect to onside kick the safety punt. Don’t you know that you can fair catch a safety punt? Chan Gailey is already on the hot seat, in my opinion, for that call.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ TENNESSEE TITANS
Vince Young and the Titans looked great week one. Granted, it was the Oakland Raiders. Troy Polamalu will wreak havoc, but Vince will figure out a way to outscore the Steelers dialed-down offense.
MIAMI DOLPHINS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Do I go with my favorite team, or do I use my better judgment and pick the favored team? Miami is still a work in progress. Chad Henne is still developing as a QB. As long as he doesn’t stare down Brandon Marshall, Henne should avoid major trouble. However, Minnesota is still the better team and should win.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Panthers gave the Giants their best shot, but turnovers squandered any chance of a season-opening victory. Tampa Bay should provide easier competition and a win. Matt Moore’s play should resemble what we saw late last season and not what we saw last week.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ DENVER BRONCOS
This game is the team that should have lost at the team that should have won. The Tebow magic did not work against the Jaguars. Seattle’s win over San Francisco proved that no one really wants to win the NFC West. Denver has better overall talent, so the Broncos should win.
ST. LOUIS RAMS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS
Do we have to watch this game? With the way Oakland performed against Tennessee, I would not be surprised if Sam Bradford led his team to victory. Cleveland/Detroit from last season and Cleveland/Tampa Bay from last week proved to us that two bad teams can put on a somewhat entertaining game. Jason Campbell wins one as a Raider.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ NEW YORK JETS
If this were college, the NY Jets would not be playing for their national championship. Ray Lewis rang Dustin Keller’s bell HARD. That’s why Keller ran out of bounds six inches short of the first down marker. Rex Ryan can dial up blitzes on Tom Brady if he wants to, but Brady will burn that Jets defense. Darrelle Revis can shut down Randy Moss, but Wes Welker will run routes around Antonio Cromartie. Even with a young Patriot defense, I don’t have enough faith in Mark Sanchez to win this game.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
San Diego missed Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNiell Monday night. In a game the Chargers should have won easily, San Diego played unmotivated and let a cheap win get away. San Diego is the clear favorite in the AFC West and will play like it against the team of two-named players.
HOUSTON TEXANS @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Houston got one monkey off its back in beating the Indianapolis Colts for only the second time in 17 attempts. It is imperative they keep the momentum going. Washington played a sloppy game but scored a victory because Alex Barron wanted to put Brian Orakpo in a headlock as time expired. Donovan McNabb is still trying to figure out the talent around him. Houston’s offense will be firing on all cylinders this week.
NEW YORK GIANTS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
This is little brother vs. big brother. Big brother usually gets the better of little brother. I hope the Giants took notes on how to beat the Colts: run early and run often. Keep Peyton Manning off the field, and get an early lead. If the Giants can do all that, they will be poised for a victory, however they will not win. Peyton Manning and the Colts rarely start 0-2, and it won’t happen this year.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Mike Singletary is looking for a better performance from his team. It will not come this week. New Orleans prayed to the scheduling gods, and their prayers were answered. Getting 10 days off is the closest thing to a bye week in the NFL. The Saints will be rested and ready to get after Alex Smith. The 49ers defense is good, but not good enough to slow down Drew Brees.
Last Thursday Mississippi State showcased the progress it made under second-year head coach Dan Mullen. ESPN showed the world how far we had come. At the end of the game, it was us coming up short again. MSU football has not been able to get over the proverbial hump quite yet. Mullen has made impressive strides in a short amount of time. We are no longer an automatic conference win but are from being the perennial doormat. Despite two early turnovers, we still had a chance to win the game on a last second drive. Besides the dropped passes, there is a lot to be optimistic about.
In the first half, Cam Newton had his way with the MSU defense, outgaining the Bulldog offense by himself 146-125. Manny Diaz and staff made critical adjustments on the fly and held Newton to only 82 yards (22 of those receiving) in the second half. The MSU defense dictated when Newton would scramble. Even more importantly, after giving up 17 first-half points the defense shut out the potent Tiger offense. When it was time to make a stand late in the game, the defense came through on 3rd down and the ensuing blocked field goal.
FLAGS, FLAGS, FLAGS
MSU only committed two penalties for 25 yards: a personal foul that was a bit of acting on Auburn’s part and an illegal block. The two penalties are a far cry from the 5.6 penalties per game MSU averaged a season ago. To date, MSU is only averaging 2.5 penalties and 27.5 penalty yards per game. Dan Mullen wants his team to give “relentless effort,” and his team is giving that effort while playing disciplined football.
NOT FOLDING JUST YET
In years past, when MSU would go down by a double-digit deficit, we would fold when given the opportunity to make a comeback. We lacked the offensive firepower to score points in a short period of time, and the defense would eventually break from being on the field too long. With Mullen learning the spread offense from Urban Meyer, the Bulldog offense has the ability to march up the field gaining huge chunks of yards at a time. Coupled with Diaz’s high-risk, high-reward defense, MSU can put points on the board in a hurry.
There are still some minor details we need to work on to become more consistent. We have been here before: where the MSU fan base thinks we are ready to make the leap into the next tier of SEC schools. When we get there, we usually take two steps in the wrong direction. If not this season, next season will definitely be the year MSU causes major hell for the other teams in the conference. That is the beauty of playing in the best conference in the country: every week is a chance to score a major upset and get the momentum that can carry you through the rest of the season.
ESPN.com won’t bamboozle me. These picks are straight up. No spread or anything
Hopefully I will be able to update these weekly. Instead of typing in every pick, I’ve learned how to use the handy dandy print screen feature on the computer. This will make life a lot easier for me. So…with that said, here we go.
Today, I try to look in my crystal ball and predict this season’s Eastern and Western division champions.
How the media voted at SEC Media Days:
Eastern Division (First Place Votes)
1. Florida(153) – 1030
2. Georgia(15) – 791
3. South Carolina(8) – 790
4. Kentucky – 462
5. Tennessee – 450
6. Vanderbilt(1) – 194
Western Division (First Place Votes)
1. Alabama(157) – 1034
2. Arkansas(6) – 726
3. Auburn(10) – 691
4. LSU(1) – 653
5. Mississippi State – 320
6. Ole Miss(3) – 293
SEC Champion: Alabama (143), Florida (17), Auburn (7), Arkansas (3), Ole Miss (2), Georgia (2), LSU (1), South Carolina (1), Kentucky (1).
How I see things shaping up.
1. Florida – 11-1 (7-1)
2. South Carolina – 9-3 (5-3)
3. Georgia – 7-5 (4-4)
4. Kentucky – 6-6 (2-6)
5. Tennessee – 5-7 (2-6)
6. Vanderbilt – 1-11 (0-8)
1. Alabama – 11-1 (7-1)
2. Arkansas – 10-2 (6-2)
3. Auburn – 9-3 (5-3)
4. LSU – 6-6 (4-4)
5. Mississippi State – 7-5 (4-4)
6. Ole Miss – 6-6 (2-6)
SEC Champion: Alabama – The loss of so many defensive starters concern me. If the Tide can stay healthy throughout the season, the defense will have had enough games under their belt to not crumple under the pressure of the Georgia Dome lights.
Having time to sleep on it, I finally figured out a pop-culture analogy for this LeBron hysteria. This is eerily similar to the hype around Drake. Both are the young futures of their respective careers.
Drake is the messiah that is supposed to save hip hop. He splashed onto the scene in early 2009 with “Best I Ever Had.” A few months later he inked with Lil Wayne and Young Money Records. Throughout 2009 and most of 2010, he dropped hit after hit. When it was time to produce, he came up short. His debut album didn’t even sell 500,000 copies in the first week. Meanwhile, the Kobe Bryant of the game, Eminem, drops his “Recovery” album a week later and sells almost 750,000.
Drake had all the hype, but Eminem sold the most. LeBron is the most exciting NBA player, but Kobe Bryant still won the championship.
The two most storied franchises in NBA history meet in the NBA Finals for the 12th time come Thursday. Will Boston hang banner number 18, or will Los Angeles make it a repeat?
Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher – Two years ago, I would have said Derek Fisher. He is the wily veteran that plays bigger in the postseason than the regular season. Today, he is two years older and has trouble defending the younger, faster point guards. Rajon Rondo fits that description and then some. When these two teams met in the Finals two years ago, Rondo was seen as a liability. Now, he is the best player for the Celtics. EDGE: RONDO
Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant – Kobe is not quite ready to be past his prime. In the fourth quarter in game six against the Suns, he made shot after shot. He has that killer instinct not seen since Michael Jordan. Ray Allen is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. He can match Kobe shot for shot if need be, but Kobe is the better player in this matchup. EDGE: BRYANT
Will Paul Pierce go Willis Reed style again?
Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest – The Master Flopper vs. The Master Defender – The physically unstable vs. The mentally unstable – I could go on and on, but it will be interesting to see how Pierce handles Artest’s defense. Artest will be a neutralizer on Pierce in the half-court. The Lakers don’t shoot as many threes as the Magic, so there won’t be many opportunities for Boston to get out on fastbreaks. Pierce is better offensively than Artest, and it is vise versa on defense. Defense wins championships. EDGE: ARTEST
Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol – The Celtics broke the bank to pick up KG – giving up All Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, and Gerald Green. They also threw in Ryan Gomes and Theo Ratliff for good measure. The Lakers got Gasol for essentially nothing minus the two first-round draft picks – Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie. In 2008, KG exposed Gasol as a soft big man. Gasol has gotten tougher between now and then, but no one plays old-school, physical defense like the Celtics. Will Gasol punch back, or will he go back into his shell? I believe he will revert back to that big man with no gusto. EDGE: GARNETT
Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum – Kendrick Perkin’s only job is to rough people up in the paint and look as unhappy as possible while doing it. He’s not known for his offensive prowess but he’s averaged double figures in points for the first time in his career. His physical style will give Andrew Bynum fits. Bynum is more polished offensively but can be a bit too much of a finesse player at times. He’s been injury prone at times and comes off as soft. He tends to disappear at times. In the Western Conference Finals against the Suns, his points by game were 4 ,13 ,2 ,12 ,2 , 10, and he never reached double figures in rebounds. EDGE: PERKINS
The only player of significance coming off the bench for the Lakers is Lamar Odom. Everyone else is the average role player. Similarly, the only big name coming off the bench for Boston is Rasheed Wallace. Excluding those two players, I’d rather take Tony Allen, Glen Davis and Nate Robinson over Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar. EDGE: CELTICS
Doc Rivers vs. Phil Jackson – 10 rings to 1. Enough said. EDGE: JACKSON
When it is all said and done, the Celtics take the series four games to two. Rajon Rondo will win the Finals MVP award.
I don’t know enough about hockey to sound halfway competent about the sport, so you won’t get a preview until I do some stat crunching. Until then, enjoy some “D2: The Mighty Ducks.”
The St. Louis Rams are completely over-thinking the draft process this year. The Rams have the first-overall pick in this year’s draft and are largely undecided on who to draft. Initial mock drafts after the regular season had them going with the best-available player, Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh. As time progressed, Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford worked his way back to the top of the mock draft. The Rams would be making a Sam Bowie-esque pick if they were to go with Bradford.
I understand the Rams have a dire need for a quarterback and drafted defensive linemen with two of their last three first-round draft picks (Adam Carriker, 2007 and Chris Long, 2008). Just because you’ve drafted that position with a high frequency in recent years does not mean you should pass up on a can’t-miss prospect like Suh. The Detroit Lions drafted wide receivers with three of four first-round picks before 2007 (Charles Rogers, 2003; Roy Williams, 2004 and Mike Williams, 2005). Matt Millen would have been an absolute fool to pass on Calvin Williams in the 2007 draft. The moral of this story is to not let past draft errors lead you to pass on can’t-miss prospects.
The Philadelphia Eagles are openly shopping Donovan McNabb and are only asking for a draft pick 42 or better. The Rams have the first-overall pick and the first pick in the second round. Why the Rams are not going after a six-time Pro-Bowl QB is beyond me. I know the money logistics are probably not possible, but the Rams should be able to do something with no salary cap heading into the 2010 season. If they trade for McNabb, they address their need for a QB and still have the first-overall pick to draft Suh. I do not doubt Sam Bradford’s potential as a serviceable NFL quarterback. I believe Suh will have the bigger impact from week one of the regular season and have a better career.
This video is a must watch. The press conference can be compelling at times. Odds are you get bland and generic comments, but on occasion you get a Mike Gundy, Dennis Green, or Terrell Owens. In this video, you get all of those plus Allen Iverson’s famed practice rant and Joe Namath drunk on the sidelines going “Broadway Joe” on Suzy Kolber. Props out to DJ Steve Porter for this amazing work of art.
All credit goes to ESPN for this video
The 2010 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off in less than 12 hours. Will Kentucky add a tournament championship to its regular-season championship? Will Mississippi State repeat? Will another team make it four games in four days for the third year in a row?
(E5) South Carolina vs. (W4) Alabama – The eastern division utterly dominated the west this season. I expect that trend to continue in the tournament. This game could be the rare exception. South Carolina goes how Devan Downey goes. When he is on, the Gamecocks can hang with any team in the conference, as evident by their win over Kentucky. Alabama will bring that defensive toughness that can get you far in the tourney. Will the Tide be able to slow down Downey? Winner: Alabama
(W6) LSU vs. (E3) Tennessee – LSU was the worst team in the SEC this season. Bruce Pearl will turn up the defense in an attempt to put the game out of reach early. Trent Johnson will work a slow, methodical pace to hide his lack of depth. In the end, Tennessee wins easily. Winner: Tennessee
(W5) Auburn vs. (E4) Florida – Auburn’s play is a bit unpredictable at times. It is a mystery which team will show up. Florida is not quite on the bubble, but they can’t afford to give the selection committee a reason to not put the Gators in the field of 65. Winner: Florida
(E6) Georgia vs. (W3) Arkansas – Arkansas got off to a slow start but came around when Courtney Fortson joined the team. Georgia is the best 6-seed in the history of the tournament, even better than the 2008 team that won it all. They’ve beaten Tennessee, Illinois, and Georgia Tech. Arkansas cannot afford to bring anything less than 100%. Winner: Arkansas
(W4) Alabama vs. (E1) Kentucky – Kentucky is head-and-shoulders better than everyone on its side of the bracket except for Tennessee. John Calipari is in unfamiliar territory. The SEC tournament is a different kind of beast. He was able to dominate the Conference USA tournaments. He will get Alabama’s best shot but should be able to win convincingly if he keeps his freshman-laden team focused. Winner: Kentucky
(E3) Tennessee vs. (W2) Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy has proven he can put talented teams on the court. He has not proven he can win when it counts, in conference play and in the conference tournament. Ole Miss has the talent to knock off Tennessee, but the Rebels lack the clutch in the coaching department to make a run for the tournament crown. Winner: Tennessee
(E4) Florida vs. (W1) Mississippi State – Mississippi State showed it can play with every team in the SEC until the debacle on Senior Day against Tennessee. The Bulldogs lost to Florida by 9 in Gainesville. On a neutral site, MSU should be able to close that scoring gap and come away with a win. Winner: Mississippi State
(W3) Arkansas vs. (E2) Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings, 2010 SEC Coach of the Year, has done a masterful job with a Vanderbilt team that did not make the NCAA Tournament last season. He took the same squad, and in one year’s time, turned them into a true threat to make a deep run in the Big Dance. Arkansas can score, but will they be able to be as efficient as Vandy? Winner: Vanderbilt
(E3) Tennessee vs. (E1) Kentucky – Kentucky will be looking to get some revenge from their last meeting, which Tennessee won. Each team won on its home floor. In a neutral-site game, I go with the team with more talent. That team is Kentucky. In addition to having more talent, UK will only have one game of fatigue on them as compared to UT’s two games. Winner: Kentucky
(E2) Vanderbilt vs. (W1) Mississippi State – In their previous meeting, Mississippi State shot the ball horrendously from three, but still found a way to be in the game and lose by only three points. Barring foul troule and another poor shooting night, MSU should be able to come out on the winning end. Winner: Mississippi State
(W1) Mississippi State vs. (E1) Kentucky – It took overtime and some very questionable officiating for Kentucky to leave the Humphrey Coliseum with a win February 16. Neither team played their absolute best on that evening, but Kentucky was able to utilize its height and length advantage to out-block MSU. Kentucky is the better team overall, but the winner will be the better team for those 40 minutes. Winner: Kentucky
Chargers Release LT – His days as a productive no. 1 running back are over. As much as I would hate this move (I’m a Dolphin fan), he could take a pay cut and sign with the Patriots. They always seem to take aging backs and use them well. Look at Corey Dillon, Antowain Smith and now Kevin Faulk. They are not Pro-Bowl caliber, but New England knows how to maximize their players’ strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.
Eagles Release Westbrook – He served his purpose in Andy Reid’s pass-happy offense, but injuries are starting to mount. Plus, it is time for Philly to commit to running the ball between the tackles again to make things easier for whoever the team decides to keep as their quarterback.
Canseco still wants to fight Herschel – I simply do not think Jose gets it. He may be doing MMA as a celebrity stunt, but Herschel Walker is dead serious out being a legitimate fighter. That reason alone proves why Canseco should fear for his life if he were to get in the ring with Herschel.
Ole Miss looking for new mascot – …who cares? GTHOM!!! 41-27, 80-75, 71-63
I have reached that point as a MSU fan where losing close games we should win do not even bother me anymore. After last night’s game where I saw MSU lose a seven-point lead in a span of two minutes and melt in overtime, I stayed calm and content. After losses like that, I am usually sulking for about an hour. Officiating was horrible, and I was not yelling at the TV like I used to. I put the loss behind me before the game was officially over. What pissed me off more than anything was the action of a few fans in attendance. I understand the frustrations with the officials, but why would you embarrass your university…MY alma mater…on primetime national TV? Everything was set up perfectly to be a good night: record crowd, people actually wearing the shirts provided, the no. 2 team in the nation coming to town and an outstanding game. And all that gets overshadowed because a few drunken frat boys want to throw cups and bottles onto the floor. The thousands of phone calls and texts DeMarcus Cousins received from our fans gives us another black eye. One of the biggest games in recent MSU history, and idiotic fans want to make themselves bigger than the game they were not even playing.
Now that I’m off my soap box, the Kentucky game was a big must-win for the Bulldogs, and they lost it. They needed this win to improve a lackluster tournament resume. MSU has an RPI of 62 and can’t afford anymore bad losses the rest of the way if they want the NCAA Selection Committee to even bat an eye at them. MSU received the worst compliment any team could receive. Scoop Jackson called MSU a team that plays up (or down) to its competition. It is definitely hard to argue that fact. After eight losses, only one of them is by double-digit points. That one loss was a season-opening game against Rider, a team MSU refused to take seriously. Every other game either won or lost by less than 10 points were either won or lost in the final two minutes. If MSU wants to make a serious run at getting back on the bubble, they have to win out and beat at least one of the big three of the east in the SEC tourney. With the loss, MSU drops into second place in the west. They can still win the west because Arkansas has a tougher finishing schedule. They have Vandy, at Tennessee and Ole Miss left, and MSU has to go to South Carolina and a season finale at home against Tennessee. MSU’s NCAA tourney lives are in their hands at this point. The Bulldogs had their gut-check moment last season after a home loss to Auburn. Then they won out in the regular season and rode the momentum to a SEC tourney crown. Will they use this loss as a wake-up call? They have to. The leading scorer Ravern Johnson did not play. Jarvis Varnado was ineffective due to foul trouble. Even with all that going against them, they still take the country’s second-ranked team to overtime. There are no more excuses for this team from this point on. I’m trying to stay hopeful for the Dawgs, but anymore losses could give them a number-one seed, in the NIT.
This isn’t funny, but this was one of the best posterizing dunks I ever seen. Instead of having a NBA slam dunk contest this year, play this dunk on the jumbotron in place of every dunk and donate the prize money to Virginia’s scholarship fund.
at Vanderbilt (16-4, 5-1) 2/3/10 @ 7pm (SEC Network)
Last Season – W, 73-66 (in Starkville)
Last MSU win in Nashville – February 28, 2004, 72-69
Outside of Rupp Arena, Vandy’s Memorial Gymnasium is the toughest place to play in the SEC. The design and the benches being on the baselines seem to rattle teams. The fact that Vanderbilt is usually unbeatable complicates things for opposing teams. Vandy has lost only four games at home dating back to the 2007-08 season. MSU had a chance to win in Nashville in that ’08 season, but Shan Foster decided to go into sniper mode and shoot the cover off the ball. I said earlier MSU would win at Vandy, and I still think they will. The shooters are coming out of a slump somewhat. The three is not falling as frequent as it has in earlier games this season, but with as many as they take they will make enough to stay in the game.
The key for success, as always for the Bulldogs, is to keep turnovers to a minimum. In four of State’s five losses, they have lost the turnover battle. Jarvis Varnado has to put in more work than usual against Vandy, banging against 6-foot-11, 250 pound A.J. Ogilvy and his 6-11, 255 pound backup Festus Ezeli. Varnado has been able to contain Ogilvy in past match-ups, and neither Ogilvy nor Ezeli will be dominant factors if Varnado can stay out of foul trouble. Stansbury has been playing Kodi Augustus at center for a little bit trying to give Varnado some rest. Varnado is averaging 30 minutes-per-game and has logged over 32 minutes in every conference game. Barry Stewart will defend John Jenkins or Jeffrey Taylor, both averaging over 10 PPG. Stewart has done a great job defending the other team’s go-to guards this season.
at Florida (15-6, 4-3) 2/6/10 @ 12:30 pm (SEC Network)
Last Season – W, 80-71 (in Starkville)
Last MSU win in Gainesville – March 1, 2008, 68-59
Just like Mississippi State, Florida has been hard to figure out this season. The Gators have the marquee win over Michigan State at a neutral site, but needed a hail mary to beat a North Carolina State team that is near the bottom of the ACC and lost to South Alabama at home and Richmond. I said MSU would lose to Florida, but it depends on which MSU team decides to show up to the O’Connell Center. Florida’s three SEC losses are from teams ahead of them in the standings: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Their wins are against Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and LSU, teams MSU has beaten at least once with the exception of South Carolina. So if MSU plays like the team it is fully capable of, winning this game should not be an issue. But if the Dogs cannot put together the complete effort: shooting, defense, rebounding, and more importantly not letting one player take over a game, expect a loss to the Gators.
The Gators are led by two outstanding young guards, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. Boynton leads the team in scoring and is second in assists. Walker is second in scoring and first in assists. They have length inside with Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons. Augustus is the best player on the team when he is on his game, but Ravern Johnson is built to pose a match-up problem for Florida. He can shoot over the short guards and can put the ball on the floor past the taller but slower forwards. He’s been in a three-point shooting slump as of late, but he has found other ways to score. His added versatility makes him that much harder to defend, especially when he is hot from behind the arc. Varnado is always going to find a way to get his points, whether it is from the free throw line, grabbing loose rebounds or having an efficient post offense. MSU needs more quality wins if they are to make Selection Sunday a little less nerve racking. This week is the perfect week to do that.
at Arkansas (8-11, 1-3) 1/27/10 @ 8pm (ESPN2)
This season: W 82-80 in Starkville (1/14/10)
The Dogs are in the second of their four road games in a five-game span. After a tough loss in Tuscaloosa, they head to Fayetteville for the second game against the Razorbacks. Since the last time these two teams met, the Hogs defeated Alabama, lost small to Florida and lost big to Kentucky. Courtney Fortson is getting into a groove now, averaging more than 17 PPG and over 7 assists a game. Arkansas is still led in scoring by Rotnei Clarke at 18 PPG. In the last contest, Barry Stewart held Clarke to 2-9 shooting, 2-7 from three and did not send him to the free throw line. The bigger issue for the Dogs is letting the big lead slip away. MSU was up by 19 on Arkansas halfway through the first half but still only managed to win by two even with Jarvis Varnado’s triple-double and 20 points from Dee Bost. MSU had a poor shooting afternoon against Alabama, and it would be hard to believe they will shoot 11 percent from three in two consecutive games. I see another hard-fought win for MSU on the road as they get back on the right track.
LSU (9-11, 0-6) 1/29/10 @ 12:30 (SEC Network)
Last season: L, 81-57 in Baton Rogue, L, 97-94 (2OT) in Starkville, W, 67-57 SEC Tournament semifinals
Last win in Baton Rogue: January 9, 2008 (61-39)
To say LSU has struggled this season is an understatement. They have been in position to win some conference games but have not been able to pull it off. They are coming off a loss by 19 to Alabama where the game was tied with 15 minutes to go in the game. Alabama is seventh in the league in three-point percentage but managed to shoot 52 percent against the Tigers. MSU, even after the poor shooting performance against Alabama, still shoots the three at almost 40 percent on the year, leading the SEC. The Tigers are led by Bo Spencer, Storm Warren and Tasmin Mitchell, accounting for 71 percent of the team’s offense. At this point of the season, Trent Johnson and crew are looking for something positive to build on. The only advantage LSU has against MSU will be having one more day to prepare than MSU since the Dogs are playing on Thursday night. That’s about as far as it goes.
I never thought I would be joining the club, but I guess I have to. I’m now in the Tebow Crush Conglomerate. Not because I like him, I still think people still glorify him a bit too much, but because a lot of people are still skeptical of his chances of being a legitimate NFL quarterback.
I know the title says “Tebow’s Draft Stock” but his draft stock is irrelevant right now. Tebow, as of right now, is a project QB. You have to take the time to groom him into a serviceable QB. Yes, he has mechanics issues and hasn’t taken that many snaps under center. Who else had the same thing said about them coming out of college? Vince Young. Young had (and still has) that ¾ delivery and took majority of his collegiate snaps from the shotgun at Texas. Yet, he still went third overall in the 2006 NFL Draft because of his intangibles. STOP!!! I’m not about to suggest that Tebow should go that high. All I’m saying is no QB is unfixable unless they’re named Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, or Jamarcus Russell. Tebow is committed to becoming an NFL QB, and placed in the right situation; he can be a good, not great or legendary, but a good QB. Now, if Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson can win Super Bowls and if Mark Sanchez can get a team to the AFC championship game as a rookie, Tebow can produce similar results. All three have something in common, great defenses. Quarterbacks get too much credit for winning and receive too much blame for losing. Dilfer, Johnson, and Sanchez were given keys to a Mabach and were asked not to wreck it. Those defenses were asked to lead the way, and all the QBs had to do was manage the game. As evidence, Dilfer’s and Johnson’s Super Bowl stats:
- Dilfer: 12/25, 153 yds, 1TD, 0 INT
- Johnson: 18/34, 215 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Their respective opposing QB’s had less than stellar games. Kerry Collins threw 4 interceptions against the Ravens and Rich Gannon was picked off 5 times against the Bucs. Sanchez was in position to win, but Peyton Manning figured out the Jets defense. There is no reason to believe Tebow can’t be surrounded with a good defense. His mechanics can be fixed. He has a traditional throw, but he drops the ball down to waist-level before release, something that won’t be rectified by draft day but can be worked on in OTAs and training camp. Learning how to take snaps under center can be fixed with time and more reps. This is Tebow’s ideal situation: draft him in the third round and build a defense around him. If he has to throw the ball 35 times a game, he won’t pan out. Build a D around him and give him a productive running game. On occasion you can ask him to become a gunslinger, but you can’t expect that from him week in and week out.
’m not afraid to admit it. Yes, I’ve only picked ONE correct game in the playoffs so far (Colts over Ravens). No one is perfect, and I am far from it. But here comes the turnaround. The conference championships, Vikings/Saints and Jets/Colts.
AFC Championship Game – New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
The regular season rematch. Let’s pray the Colts don’t quit halfway through the third quarter. I know the Colts allowed the Jets to get into the playoffs by shutting it down, but in all fairness the Colts have won every game their tried to win. I know the Jets have the best defense, but I do think Peyton Manning will be able to spread the ball around against Revis and company. Revis may shut down Reggie Wayne, but no one else on that D can contain Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon., not to mention Donald Brown and Joseph Addai coming out of the backfield. The Colts have too many weapons to stay stifled for a full 60 minutes. Colts win 20-10.
NFC Championship Game – Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
The two titans of the NFC go head-to-head for a trip to the Super Bowl. You really can’t go wrong picking either team. The Vikings have a swarming defense with an amazing pass rush. On offense, you have Brett Favre and all the drama he’s put everyone through. But he’s had a career year. He and Sidney Rice have been clicking, plus they have Adrian Peterson. He hasn’t had a 100-yard game since playing the Lions, but when Brett Favre plays like he has been, why do you need a 100-yard rusher? He helps provide offense balance along with Chester Taylor. The Saints, on the other hand, allow their offense to jump on opponents early, then their defense take advantage of obvious pass situations. But if there is a good day for Peterson to rush for 100 yards, the Saints rush D is the one to do it against. If the Vikings get down early, they should be able to still have balance on offense and stay in the game. I don’t think the Vikes will get down. The game will stay close with the men in purple coming out on top. Vikings win 31-26.
The Bulldogs (15-3, 3-0 SEC) leave the friendly confines of the Humphrey Coliseum for a 90-mile drive to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide.
at Alabama (11-7, 1-3) 1/23/10 @ 11am (CBS)
Last Season – in Starkville, W 83-74; in Tuscaloosa, L 87-85 (2OT)
Last MSU win in Tuscaloosa – January 19, 2008, 66-56
The Tide is sputtering right now in the opening stages of conference play but should not be taken lightly, especially when playing Mississippi State. The Tide have had their hearts broken plenty of times this season, allowing come-from-behind wins from Vanderbilt and then-unbeaten Purdue. They got up early on Tennessee but lacked the offensive potency to keep the shorthanded Vols down, eventually falling 63-56. Anthony Grant will have Alabama back in the NCAA Tournament before long, but for right now their role is spoiler. Coming from Virginia Commonwealth, Grant definitely knows about playing spoiler, upsetting Duke in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. He has also been an assistant under Billy Donovan at Marshall and at Florida. The Tide does, however, have a pretty formidable inside-outside duo in JaMychal Green and Mikhail Torrance and get key numbers from Senario Hillman and Tony Mitchell.
Rick Stansbury’s teams always find away to lose a game they should win pretty easily, and I have one of those gut feelings that it might happen Saturday. They have earned every SEC victory they have so far this season, but they could have made things a bit easier on themselves. They led by 19 before winning narrowly by 2 against Arkansas and needed a late rally and defensive stand to hold off Georgia. Alabama is not what they were in the early 2000s, but they always play MSU tough. Anything less than a complete 40-minute effort and MSU will be leaving Coleman Coliseum with a loss.
Before I delve any further into this, I will pose a question that I’m going to give two answers for, the politically correct answer and the flat-out truth.
Why isn’t there a playoff system in place for the FBS (Division I-A)?
The politically correct answer: We don’t want the college football season to interrupt finals and take away the Christmas break from our student-athletes.
The truth: We stand to lose too much money if we attempted a football playoff and the in-season games won’t mean as much
Now, the hot topic in college football nowadays is whether a playoff system should be implemented. Me personally, I’m all for a four-team playoff season. The FCS (Division I-AA) goes with a 16-team format, but that’s too much when all you’re trying to do is put the two best teams in a position to play each other. The excuse that a playoff system might cut into academics is complete garbage. The FCS starts their playoffs right after Thanksgiving and runs until right before Christmas, final exam time for most, if not all, college campuses. You don’t hear the student-athletes complaining, and there hasn’t been any type of intervention trying to stop the FCS from having a playoff system. The student-athletes’ grades must not be that bad (or not that much of an issue) if they continue to play during exam time.
I’ve squashed the politically correct answer. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter. It’s all about the money in the land of college football. The (assumed) fact that it lessens the importance of some in-season games doesn’t matter. We’re not giving USC a pass because they lose to Stanford in-season and still have a high enough BCS ranking to earn a spot in the playoffs. That doesn’t matter because all I want is four teams. The top four teams in the BCS get in, regardless. There are no conference tie-ins to the playoffs. I don’t care if it’s one SEC team, one PAC-10 team, one Big Ten team and one Big XII team; or if it’s two SEC teams, an ACC team and a non-BCS team. It’s simple, win and get in.
What about the teams that get snubbed? Don’t be 42-point favorites at home and lose to Stanford. Win your conference, go undefeated and don’t leave YOUR destiny in the hands of a computer. When you have to pray to a bunch of journalists to give you a high enough ranking to justify you going to a particular bowl game, you’ve already lost that end of the battle.
What about the bowl games? Simple enough, nothing. Leave the current bowl lineup the way it is. Add two more New Year’s Day bowl games, but they’re not bowl games, they’re BCS national semifinal games. You already have the BCS National Championship game when the national title used to rotate between the four BCS bowls (that’s how Miami, then a Big East school and Nebraska, a Big XII school, played in the Rose Bowl, traditionally a Big Ten-PAC-10 bowl game, in 2002). Play both semi-final games at a neutral site, and for a true neutral-site game, split tickets 50/50. If you’re top-4 in the BCS, I’m pretty sure your fan base will want to travel to see you play for a national title. Since everyone is trying to make money, have stadiums bid to host the semifinal games. Make the winning bid known two years in advance.
Let’s look at last season, the top four teams in the BCS were
- Oklahoma (12-1)
- Florida (12-1)
- Texas (11-1)
- Alabama (12-1)
Oklahoma would have played Alabama, and Florida and Texas would play in the other semifinal. Getting to watch these two games THEN seeing the winners play each other in the BCS national championship game the very next week is much more intriguing than seeing Oklahoma/Florida, Texas/Ohio State, and Alabama/Utah.
That’s my proposal for a four-team college football playoff. This is as flawless as it’s going to get and it’s not flawless. But it’s better than five or six teams griping about trying to get two spots (one really since, the SEC champion will get one spot majority of the time).
HOV, H to da O-V…..not really. I am reintroducing myself to the blog world, making the jump from blogger to wordpress. This time, I’m going to let the readers get to know me a little bit better (from a sports sense, that is) rather than reading a few sentences trapped in an “about me” section. I’m going to pick at the deepest regions of my brain to help you, the reader, understand my thought process better when it comes to sports. So with all that non-logical BS I just said, welcome to my sports world, the Sports Domain!!!!
If it’s not painstakingly obvious from the color scheme of this blog, I am a die-hard Mississippi State Bulldog fan, two months away from being considered a member of our esteemed alumni. Secondly, I have pride in the SEC in non-conference play in any sport (except Ole Miss, unless they’re in a bowl game winning money for us. Other than that, the Rebels can kick rocks). Outside of Bulldog and SEC affiliations, I like Miami Hurricanes football and Tar Heel basketball. My first memory of college sports action…I remember watching the 1993 Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Miami. I, not knowing anything about SEC dominance at the time was the only one in the room saying Miami would win. And of course by the end of the game, in typical kid fashion I didn’t stand behind my pick. I was. My first (recallable) college basketball memory was watching North Carolina and seeing Eric Montross. How I still remember that and why him, I don’t know. It is what it is.
On to the professional sports, starting with football. I am a Miami Dolphin fan. I became a fan when they drafted J.J. (James) Johnson out of Mississippi State in 1999. I know that’s not a logical reason to like a football team, but I grew out of liking the Dallas Cowboys because they stopped winning when it mattered. I still like them a little, but I don’t see any success for them as long as Tony Romo is quarterback and Roy Williams is their so-called number one receiver. I also try to follow any MSU players that are in the league now.
My first (recalled) NBA memory was playing Bulls v. Blazers on the Super Nintendo. In reality, I do remember staying up to watch the triple-overtime game between the Suns and Bulls from the 93 NBA Finals. I was, and still am a Chicago Bulls fan, but my favorite team is the Indiana Pacers. I’ve always been a Reggie Miller fan, and I remember where I was when I first heard about Ron Artest going into the stands at The Palace. I was at Fort Rucker, getting ready to go to a Troy (then Troy State) football game, then CNN showed the footage. I was like “damn, we were a missed goaltending call (Tayshaun Prince, yes I’m talking about you) away from going to the NBA Finals a year ago and you do this, Ron?” I was a Sacramento Kings fan before they had to implode that team. They should have a championship ring, but the officials wanted to say otherwise (2002 Western Conference Finals, the worst officiating job ever).
And now, America’s favorite pastime, the great game of baseball. My favorite team is the Atlanta Braves, and I vividly remember them losing all those damn World Series in the early 90’s. They finally got to the promised land in 95, and those damn Yankees beat us in 96 and 98. I became a Boston Red Sox fan out of my pure disdain and hatred of the Yankees. And damn Grady Little for leaving Pedro in the game in the ninth of game 7 of the 03 ALCS.
Other sports tidbits: I’m…..
- For a college football playoff (4 teams only, please)
- Against the play-in game in the NCAA basketball tournament
- Against home-field advantage being decided in the All-Star game
- For U.S. national team soccer
- For Mike Tyson in a fight versus Muhammad Ali
- For professional wrestling (WWE in particular)
- Against a seven-game first round series in the NBA playoffs
- For Al Davis stepping down from the Raiders, his ship has sailed