College football is back. The MLB pennant races are fire-hot! And another sport played on grass picks up after this week!
Saturday, August 31, 2013
#5 Georgia Bulldogs at #8 Clemson Tigers
The Georgia Bulldogs look strong this year. They came very close to reaching the BCS National Championship game a year ago and have returned more than enough players that should feel like they have unfinished business. Quarterback Aaron Murray (36 TD, 10 INT in 2012) is a Heisman hopeful coming into this season. Running back Todd Gurley (1385 yds., 17 TD in 2012) has fist team All-SEC potential. The defense, while sometimes allowing more points that most SEC defenses last season, is expected to be on par with last year's squad that sacked the quarterback 32 times last year. Mark Richt has a great opportunity to not be an NCAA bridesmaid this year.
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney has had the Tigers with high preseason hopes in the last two seasons. Each of those seasons delivered results short of those expectations. Still, the talent is evident, as reflected in their #8 preseason ranking. Quarterback Tajh Boyd (69 passing TD the past two seasons, 10 rushing TD in 2012) returned for his senior season. I believe that was the right choice and he has an opportunity to push his stock up toward the early rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Junior wideout Sammy Watkins (57 rec. in 2012) has an opportunity to break out of the shadows of DeAndre Hopkins, now with the NFL's Houston Texans.
I tend to be biased toward the SEC. But Clemson is on a different level than most non-SEC programs. They stunned LSU in last year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl and do not appear to have as many defensive vulnerabilities as Georgia. Being an LSU man, I am sure I have friends who will not approve of me "taking sides against the family", but I like the home ACC school in a minor upset on national television (ABC).
|Clemson had plenty to cheer about in their last nationally televised matchup against an SEC team. 1|
#12 LSU Tigers vs #20 TCU Horned Frogs
from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX
LSU is reeling after two consecutive underachieving seasons: a 2011 season in which their 13-0 start was soured in the BCS National Championship game by the team that finished second in the SEC West division: the Alabama Crimson Tide, now two-time defending BCS National Champions, and a 2012 season without 2011 Heisman Finalist Tyrann Mathieu due to disciplinary issues and a narrow, last-minute loss to Bama at home that likely would have sent the Tigers to the SEC Championship Game with a win.
TCU has remained competitive after its move to the Big XII. This is a school that can hang with the best in recruiting. This is probably why the Frogs are ranked in spite of a losing Big XII record and only seven wins overall last season. LSU sent 11 players to the NFL from last year's team. But this team reloads. The backfield is loaded, anchored by sophomore Jeremy Hill (12 rushing TD in 2012), junior Kenny Hilliard (5.7 YPC in 2012) and senior Alfred Blue (6.8 YPC in 2012). The embarrassment of riches that the Tigers have in the backfield is reminiscent of a video game rather than an actual backfield.
TCU has a pseudo-home field advantage, but not really. I expect this game to be competitive early, but not close at the end. I hope ESPN's advertisers get their spots run early.
|Jeremy Hill overpowers South Carolina for a touchdown last season. 2|
Major League Baseball
Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees
Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 3.76 ERA) - Orioles vs Andy Pettitte (10-9, 4.05 ERA) - Yankees
I understand why teammates of embattled Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (.272, 4 HR, 9 RBI) have publicly rallied around him. They've been a completely different team since he returned from a hip injury earlier this month. The good karma appears to have spread to the pitching staff. Andy Pettitte was consistently inconsistent, with more bad than good until the month of August. Pettitte is riding a string of three consecutive winning decisions and has only surrendered two earned runs in his last four starts, including seven scoreless innings against the heavy-hitting Toronto Blue Jays in his last start. The Yankees have gone from left-for-dead after the All-Star break to having a chance at the postseason, albeit in a crowded field.
The Orioles have been just on the outside looking in in the American League playoff chase. They are 3.5 games back of the Oakland Athletics for the second A.L. Wild Card spot as of Friday evening. Wei-Yin Chen is struggling to get his groove back. After being a vassal of control for most of the season, Chen has a 1-4 record and an ERA of 6.00 in an August that included a demotion to the minors. This U-turn could not come at a worse time for the O's. First baseman Chris Davis' (.303, 47 HR, 122 RBI) bat can only bring in so many runs if Chen gets blown to smithereens like he did in his last start (8 ER in 3.2 IP).
Advantages: Game - Yankees, Series - Yankees
|Many critics mocked Rodriguez's comeback, but he's having the last laugh, so far. 3|
Wednesday, September 4
Major League Baseball
Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox
Rick Porcello (10-7, 4.39 ERA) - Tigers vs Ryan Dempster (6-9, 4.67 ERA) - Red Sox
ESPN.com is listing Ryan Dempster as the Red Sox probable starter for Wednesday's game. However, there is no guarantee Dempster will start. At the moment, he is serving a five game suspension for intentionally hitting Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees in his last start, an embarrassing loss. His sub-par pitching this season is not helping his cause to remain in the rotation when he returns.
This is a matchup of two teams in a dogfight. The Tigers are fighting for home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs while the Red Sox are struggling to pull away from the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East division race. While reigning (probably will be "repeating") A.L. M.V.P. Miguel Cabrera (.358, 43 HR, 130 RBI) is listed as day-to-day with an possible sports hernia, he should play in this critical series. While Rick Porcello has been consistently average in his starts, the Tigers bats are so hot that they require a flame retardant so that they don't disintegrate. I also have zero faith in Dempster at this point.
Advantages: Game - Tigers, Series - Tigers
|One door closes and another one opens. Tigers ace Justin Verlander may not have worked out with supermodel Kate Upton, but he and his teammates are in the driver's seat for the ultimate prize: a World Series championship. 4|
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1) Image from www.orangeandwhite.com
2, 3) Images from http://espn.go.com
4) Image from www.cr17.com