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Friday, December 27, 2013

Must See Sports – Fourth Weekend of December 2013

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 6-4
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 100-80
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage FINAL Record (series only): 22-13-4

It’s the final Must See Sports of 2013! One last chance for Yours Truly to maximize that record for the year…. Here goes nothing!

Saturday, December 28

NCAA Basketball

#8 Villanova Wildcats at #2 Syracuse Orange

This is a big power matchup of former Big East rivals. Syracuse headed for greener pastures in the ACC after last year. However these schools are quite familiar with one another and familiarity breeds contempt.

This game is in the Carrier Dome, where the Orange is very tough to beat. The Orange is an experienced, senior-led team behind forward C.J. Fair (Sr. – 18 PPG, 5 RPG). Fair’s decision to return for his senior season is going to go a long way toward getting the Orange a high seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. In addition, sophomore forward Jerami Grant (13 PPG, 6 RPG) appears to be evolving into Fair’s Robin for his Batman.

The Wildcats are off to a hot, 11-0 start. They are ranked #8 and hope to have a more satisfying conclusion to their 2014 season than their early exit in last year’s NCCA Tournament. Senior shooting guard James Bell’s (15 PPG, 7 RPG) performance will be key.

Villanova plays fundamentally sound basketball and plays big under the glass. They are going to offer the toughest challenge that Syracuse (also 11-0) will have faced all year. The ability to keep Villanova junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston (17 PPG, 5 RPG) contained under the glass with their 2-3 zone defense might be the X-factor in this game. While the Orange does not have a big notch under their belt like Nova has from beating then #2 ranked Kansas earlier this season, I think the Orange look like a serious Final Four contender while Villanova still appears to be in the developmental stage.

Advantage: Syracuse

New conference...same view of C.J. Fair for Nova. 1

#6 Louisville Cardinals at #18 Kentucky Wildcats

The defending national champions travel to visit their re-emerging cross-state rivals in Lexington. The Cardinals, so far, look just as good as when they cut down the nets a year ago. Having key players like senior point guard Russ Smith (17 PPG, 5 APG) and junior power forward Chane Behanan (8 PPG, 6 RPG) returning to the lineup gives Cardinals Head Coach Rick Pitino a substantial advantage.

His rival coach, Kentucky’s John Calipari has a different formula. He looks for players who have the potential to be in the NBA after one year. While Coach Cal has to spend more time reloading his gun every year, his recipe keeps Kentucky as a perennial championship contender.

Kentucky has a host of super freshmen this season. However, the big man on campus is freshman forward (and all-but-certain 2014 NBA lottery pick) Julius Randle (18 PPG, 11 RPG). He has lived up to the hype that preceded him leading into the season. Receiving less attention from the media, but not from opposing coaches and players, is freshman guard Aaron Harrison (15 PPG). The long, quick Harrison has an impressive range and, in concert with Randle, is a tough puzzle for opposing defenses to solve.

Both of these teams are a combined 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, so something has to give. While Kentucky is at home, in this early season contest I like Louisville’s experience and ball movement just a bit more.

Advantage: Louisville

You're supposed to put a hand in the shooters face, but it takes more than that against Julius Randle. 2
Sunday, December 29


Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Chicago Bears (8-7)

Aaron Rodgers (2,218 yds., 15 TD, 4 INT, 67% comp.) is coming back for the Packers. That changes the landscape. As well as Jay Cutler (2,935 yds., 17 TD, 11 INT, 63% comp.) has been playing and as much as Matt Forte (1,229 yds., 7 TD, 4.6 avg.) has been playing like a man possessed, and in spite of having the home field advantage at Soldier Field, Rodgers’ return to the lineup is a game changer.

Rodgers has been chomping at the bit to return to the lineup. He knows what is at stake. I’m confident that he is prepared to the nth degree face the Bears. The Bears were going to have trouble as it is with Packers running Eddie Lacy (1,112 yds, 10 TD, 4.2 avg.), whether Rodgers played or not. Now they have to deal with the former league MVP.

Advantage: Packers

I think he'll have a better seat on the plane this week. 3
San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

The scales completely tipped in the 49ers’ favor when QB Colin Kaepernick’s (2,887 yds., 19 TD, 8 INT, 58% comp.; 500 rush yds., 5.7 ypc) favorite target in 2012, wide receiver Michael Crabtree (16 rec., 255 yds., 1 TD, 4 GP), returned to the lineup. I expect Arizona to put up a tough fight. However, San Francisco has the ball-control advantage; they run the ball better and stop the run better than the Cardinals. As previously mentioned, I think Crabtree, in spite of playing on the road, is the difference maker in the NFC West showdown.

Advantage: 49ers

How do you defend Michael Crabtree when he's healthy? This is ridiculous. 4
Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-7)

We discussed this game at length yesterday in the Hat Trick.  Dallas’ defense is simply too porous to keep them in this critical game. Considering the injury to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, (and) barring an injury to Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (1,476 yds., 9 TD, 5.1 avg.), I think the Cowboys’ holiday goose is cooked.

Advantage: Eagles

Kyle Orton will get the start for the Cowboys. This should be great. By "great", I mean a debacle for Dallas! 5
Tuesday, December 31

NCAA Football

Chick-Fil-A Bowl
#24 Duke Blue Devils vs #21 Texas A&M Aggies

Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe, the well-deserved winner of the Walter Camp coach of the year award, has done something that has not happened in nearly a quarter-century: reminded the nation that Duke does, in fact, have a football team. His ability to take a few good men in a few years and make this perennial doormat in to ACC Coastal Division champions in nothing short of extraordinary.

Still, what goes up must come down. It will be a two-step process for the Blue Devils. After being obliterated in the ACC Championship Game by #1 Florida State, led by Heisman Trophy winning QB Jameis Winston, the Dukies get to be cannon fodder for the SEC’s Aggies in Johnny Football’s swan song. Duke is legit; they’re not great.

Duke’s strength is its defense. Redshirt sophomore free safety Jeremy Cash (109 tak., 4 INT, 4 PD) could have Sunday football in his future, could be next year…most likely will be two years later. But he is a high motor, high impact player out of Plantation, Florida who can crash offensive game plans and shut down passing lanes. Their best known stand out, who will be playing in the NFL next year is senior wide receiver Jamison Crowder (96 rec., 1,197 yds., 7 TD), who single handedly propels the Duke offense, in my opinion.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (3,732 yds., 33 TD, 13 INT, 69% comp.; 686 rush yds., 8 rush TD, 5.2 ypc.)), the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, has lit up the scoreboard against the best defenses, including Alabama and Missouri (in spite of losses in those games). The closest Robin to this Batman is wide receiver Mike Evans (65 rec., 1,332 yds., 12 TD). While the Aggies’ defense has often left much to be desired, I don’t think the Blue Devils have nearly enough pop in their offense to keep up with Mr. Football and the explosive Aggies for four quarters.

Advantage: Texas A&M

Johnny Football is Texas A&M's leading passer and leading rusher. He's also the leading womanizer, clearly. Without a doubt, he's the #1 "player" in College Station!
Wednesday, January 1

NCAA Football
2014 Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio

#5 Stanford Cardinal vs #4 Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State “shocked the world” with a potent upset over the then-ranked #2 Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game. Actually, they shocked anyone not familiar with OSU’s annual tradition of choking late in the year when it counts the most. Anyone familiar with the Big Ten, the Buckeyes underwhelming performances or Michigan State’s overwhelming defense saw something that should not have been surprising.

The Cardinal’s defense is no joke, either. They are going to get a heavy dose of the Spartans’ power back Jeremy Langford (1,338 yds., 17 TD, 5.0 avg.). Langford and the Spartans O-line will likely face their toughest test of the season. Stanford is a stingy defense playing in a defense-optional conference. Good luck containing Cardinal senior linebacker Trent Murphy (58 tak., 14 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD, 5 PD). Nobody else has this year.

Stanford’s offense revolves around the running of workhorse running back Tyler Gaffney (1,618 yds., 20 TD, 5.3 avg.). The Cardinal will run into a tougher defense than they are used to facing. The Spartans may have the best secondary in the country. If Gaffney can’t get it going early, passing could prove difficult. Expect Spartans cornerback Darqueze Dennard (59 tak., 4 INT, 10 PD) a likely first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, to line up and weigh down on Stanford’s Ty Montgomery (58 rec., 937 yds., 10 TD), neutralizing the Cardinal’s best aerial threat.  

Stanford is a 3.5 point favorite in this game, according to Odds Shark as of December 10, 2013. However, this game favors the Spartans on paper from my personal vantage point. The game is a bit closer to Stanford’s back yard, though. I think the Spartans, overlooked and underrated until knocking off Ohio State to win the Big Ten, keep the party going and pull off a minor upset in the Rose Bowl.

Advantage: Michigan State

Considering the weather in East Lansing and the weather is southern California, I'm going to guess that the cheer squad will be able to break out these unis for the first time in a few months. 6
Don't forget to vote in the fan polls! 

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