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Friday, September 6, 2013

Must See Sports – First Weekend of September 2013

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 2-2
Last week's advantage/disadvantage record in series: 1-1
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 41-34
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 13-10-4

It’s a busy sports weekend as we return to FOOTBALL!

Saturday, September 7th
Major League Baseball

Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
John Lackey – Red Sox (8-12, 3.22 ERA) vs David Huff (2-0, 3.32 ERA)

The Yankees began to come back from the dead in August to make a serious push for a place in the 2013 American League playoffs. Their pitching has been underwhelming; they haven’t missed many bats this year. So I assume that Yankees Manager Joe Girardi is starting pitcher David Huff for the first time this season to shake some things up. Or it could just be Phil Hughes’ (4-13, 4.86 ERA) staggering inconsistency and incompetence, as he was removed from the rotation to make room for Huff.

The Red Sox are proving that they can be the deserved front runner in the American League playoffs. The Sox have the best record in the American League as of this morning. They won series against the playoff bound, division leading Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers and the contending Baltimore Orioles. This team looks like a team poised for a serious October run. The eye test tells me that the A.L. pennant is the Tigers’ to lose, but on paper…in the box scores and standings, the Sox are the best in the league.

John Lackey is one of the better starting pitchers in the American League. If you cover up the “W-L” columns on his stat sheet, he’s having a great year. That’s why wins and losses are meaningful pitching statistics, when put in context. Lackey has several hard-luck losses this year, but he would probably be the first to admit that in most of those losses, he didn’t manage the situation to the best of his ability when it mattered most. It’s what’s indicative of a clutch pitcher. In October, it won’t matter if you give up one earned run or 10; it’s about winning.

That said, Boston has had the upper hand over the Yankees this year and Lackey should be able to outduel the underused Huff on the mound.

Advantages: Game – Red Sox, Series – Red Sox

Get used to that view, Phil Hughes. 3

NCAA Football

#6 South Carolina Gamecocks at #11 Georgia Bulldogs

This game is a coin toss. The Bulldogs lost a tough, hard-fought game on the road against a national championship contending Clemson team. The Cocks bludgeoned their visiting neighbors to the north, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Heels have deservedly low expectations and met them. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier knows the battle between the hedges will be a few levels tougher.

The Bulldogs do not have to stop Carolina’s running game, anchored by Mike Davis (115 yds., 1 TD, 9.6 avg.), but they cannot let him run wild. I think Georgia has too many weapons to go along with home field advantage in their SEC opener and a hot fire underneath them to drop a second straight game. They just need to take care of the football.

Advantage: Georgia

Fear Jadaveon Clowney!

#14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at #17 Michigan Wolverines

Notre Dame’s trip to The Big House will be the last in a string of traditional annual contests with Michigan going back to 19th century. With Notre Dame’s ACC affiliation commencing in 2014 and the realities of modern college sports, yet another rivalry will apparently bite the dust.

That is next year. This is this year. This game matters now for both teams. Michigan junior quarterback Devin Gardner has some fat shoelaces to replace, as in departed senior Denard “shoelace” Robinson. The test drive in the win last week against Central Michigan was smooth. Now he’s on the highway.

Tommy Rees is filling in for the departed Everett Golson, but only because Golson hastened his departure by enhanced academic advancement techniques and was dismissed from Notre Dame. Rees was sharp against Temple, but that is a far cry from the defense he’ll face against Michigan. The backfield has some new blood in Amir Carlisle (68 yds., 9.7 avg.). he and fellow junior running back Cam McDaniel (65 yds., 5.4 avg.) should give the Irish a power dimension they lost following the departures of Golson and senior Theo Riddick.

Gardner is the X factor in this game and I am simply not convinced that he can make up for the departure of Robinson with the help of an unproved/untested backfield against 2012’s national runner-up.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Sunday, September 8th
NFL Football


Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

I need not explain that I am biased, but I do expect the Saints to win their season opener at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against their archrivals. Both teams have potent offenses. Both teams had some question marks on defense from last season (the Saints had a series of adjacent question marks and exclamation points). Both teams made some adjustments – the Falcons drafted heavily on defense while the Saints hired Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan and changed schemes.

The differentiators will be the raucous home crowd and the return of Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. The coach was suspended for the entire 2012 season and has a chip on his shoulder. The last time Payton coaches with a chip on his shoulder after a disappointing (2008) season, the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Advantage: Saints

The Saints-Falcons's like that! 1
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers 

This could be an NFC Championship Game preview. I’m convinced that the Niners are the toast of the NFC heading into the season. Green Bay was undone by its sore lack of a running game in 2012. Adding Eddie Lacy from Alabama with a second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft doesn’t guarantee a top ten running attack, but it will demand respect from opponents. That alone will give Aaron Rodgers (4,295 yds., 39 TD, 8 INT in 2012) more room to operate and he operated with dominance in spite of the backfield deficit.  

Green Bay can win this game, but I don’t think they will. The 49ers have no weakness and are at home. The only window for weakness is quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,814 yds. 10 TD, 3 INT, 98.4 rat. In 2012). He is in his first full year as a starting quarterback against coaches who had all offseason to prepare for him. He also runs enough read-option plays to give the Clay Matthews, III (13.0 sacks in 2012) and the rest of the Pack ample opportunities to rough him up.

Advantage: 49ers

If I were Aaron rodgers (left) I'd rather be looking up at (girlfriend) Destiny Newton (tramp stamp, right) from the ground than linebackers like the 49ers' Patrick Willis. 2
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have never successfully defended Jerry World against the G-men. I expect the futility to continue. The Cowboys have all the makings of a potential train wreck. Their defense is suspect and their running back depth behind running back DeMarco Murray (663 yds., 4 TD, 4.1 avg. in 2012) is non-existent.

Eli Manning (3,948 yds., 26 TD, 15 INT in 2012) and company have something to prove. Injuries and mental errors let some games slip last year. As a result, the Giants missed the playoffs, unable to defend their Super Bowl XLVI championship. They drafted well and resigned key free agents. They have the right man under center and on the sidelines. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will have to wait another year to taste the Giants’ tears in his palace.

Advantage: Giants

Wednesday, September 11 – NEVER FORGET

Major League Baseball

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Jake Peavy (11-5, 4.01 ERA) – Red Sox vs David Price (8-7, 3.51 ERA) – Rays

This series is critical. Any chance the Rays have of catching and passing the Red Sox in the American League East division race probably rests upon them beating the Red Sox in this series. Should they lose the series, they lose precious ground. Should they be swept, I think the division race is all but over.

Price has looked like new money since returning from an injury that caused him to miss most of May and the entire month of June. He has lost his last two decisions, however, and was torched yesterday at Anaheim (6 ER in 7.0 IP). That lightning usually doesn’t strike Price in back-to-back starts. Peavy has also looked great since being acquired in a trade with the Chicago White Sox. He’s probably felt great, too, just to be out of Chicago and with a winner.

Tampa has been in a rut, dropping nine of their last 12 games. However, they have stopped the free fall, splitting their recent road series at the Los Angeles Angels. A three game series at the Seattle Mariners should also boost their confidence heading into the showdown with Boston at the Trop. The Red Sox also have the misfortune of Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.79 ERA) being on the mound in the first game of this series. Also, centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (.299, 8 HR, 52 RBI, foot) and catcher Jared Saltalamacchia (.263, 11 HR, 52 RBI, back) are currently day-to-day with minor injuries and not playing tonight against the Yankees.

Advantages: Game – Rays, Series – Rays 


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