I know theres absolutely no reason in the world to believe a word Floyd Landis has to say. After all, hes an admitted liar and cheat and has become a pariah in the dirtiest of sports. All that aside, I tend to believe the guy. I know lance Armstrong never failed any drug tests, but I find it just a bit too much to believe that hes one of the only ones in that sport to play by the rules.
The People of Chicago are going crazy because of one man Dustin Byfuglien! Big Buff, as he is known, single-handedly beat the San Jose Sharks by scoring three game winning goals, and thereby sending the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 18 years. The kid sure has delivered after being promoted to Chicagos top line.
Why They’re Here: Evan Royster is back, Joe Pa is still there and, well, they’re Penn State. All of those things could be either good or a bad. Royster is a stud and should be a first round draft pick next year, but putting too much of the burden on his shoulders could make Penn State one dimensional and against Big (11, maybe 12 next year) Ten defenses, that’s not going to cut it.
The Good: I love Evan Royster. He’s been one of my favorite running backs in college football for the past three years. Now that Jahvid Best and Toby “White Power” Gerhart are playing on Sundays, he’s probably my favorite. He’s got a big, powerful, Big (11, maybe 12 next year) Ten O-line to run behind and should be a force in the conference, and the nation, this year. They lost a lot of talent on defense, but I can’t imagine Linebacker U not reloading on linebackers, can you? Hopefully Joe Pa won’t have to answer questions every week about if and when he’ll retire, which should ease his role as a figurehead/marketing gimmick masquerading as a coach. Reporters should really just accept that Paterno is going to coach until he dies. Literally. His performance over the past few seasons has pretty much earned him a lifetime contract, so don’t be surprised if Paterno dies midseason in 2013.
The Bad: I don’t think Joe Pa has actually done any coaching in about 10 years. In that time they’ve played for a couple conference championships, made the BCS and were even in competition for the national championship game two years ago. So whoever’s actually been coaching the team is doing a pretty solid job. The Nittany Lions’ greatest challenge will be at QB. Judging from their spring game, they don’t have a guy who will make Penn Staters forget Daryll Clark anytime soon. The receiving corps is also a question mark. Last year, Clark would make plays for the offense in spite of his receivers. This year, there’s nobody that’s going to step up and do that for them.
The Last Word: If the Lions have to start giving Royster the ball 35 times a game, they’re in trouble. With Ohio State, Iowa and a resurgent Michigan looming, Penn State cannot afford to be subpar at quarterback. There’s no sign that they’ll be anything but. However, if their defense can bounce back and the running game can open up enough holes in the secondary, this team could be pretty good. I’ve got 50 bucks on them losing to Alabama in the second game of the season. That game will be their measuring stick, in the conference and in the nation. If they get destroyed, they’re basically done – Iowa and Ohio State are too good – but if they can keep it close or even cost me 50 green backs, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Final Record: 8-5
Ever since the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs, ESPN and their talking heads have been chiming away non stop as to where they think King James will play ball next season. For several years the Knicks have been preparing for this opportunity, but a dark horse has emerged as the leading contender to win the Lebron Sweepstakes the Chicago Bulls. Will the Annointd One be able to live in the shadow of Michael Jordan? Or will he be the one to step out of that shadow and lead the Bulls back to the Promised Land?
The last match of the European football season will be the most anticipated one: FC Bayern Munich will face off with Internazionale Milan in this year’s Champions League Final, played on Saturday at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain. Both squads have won the most prestigious trophy in club competition multiple times (Bayern in 1974, 1975, 1976 and 2001, Inter in 1964 and 1965) and have enjoyed a season of terrific domestic success.
Inter, led by controversial manager Jose Mourinho, won their fifth consecutive Series A crown and 18th overall, finishing atop the table with 82 points. In addition, the Nerrazurri also claimed the ‘Coppa Italia’, the annual cup competition in Italy. In Champions League play, Inter boast the tournament’s best defense, having ceded only 3 goals against in their last 7 meetings. It was in the knockout stages where Inter truly began to flourish, frustrating Chelsea and CSKA Moscow before stifling Barcelona’s brilliant attacking unit in the semifinals.
Bayern, on the other hand, has had an improbable run after a rough start to the season. Managed by first-year Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, the team eventually bought into their new boss’ strategy and gradually improved. They secured yet another Bundesliga title (their 22nd overall) along with a ‘DFB-Pokal’, the German cup. Reinforced by new acquisition Arjen Robben, FCB also put their stamp on Champions League play, advancing past Fiorentina and Manchester United while beating the latter in an epic battle. It was Robben’s spectacular volley goal late in the second leg of the quarterfinal that allowed Bayern to advance on aggregate. Lyon was no match then for Munich’s potent attack in the semifinals.
The table is nicely set in Madrid, not only for a spectacular matchup between these two titanic clubs, but for history to be re-written. The winner will be assured their first ‘Triple’ in club history. No german or italian team has ever won the coveted combination of two national titles along with the Champions League. Either Mourinho or van Gaal will also join the elite club of coaches who have guided two different teams to ultimate glory in the most illustrious of club competitions.
It sure seemed like the mainstream sports media made a really big deal out of Amir Khan last weekend when he dominated Paulie Malignaggi. Maybe it was because the fight marked his US boxing debut, or maybe it was the fact he now has superstar trainer Freddie Roach in his corner. Either way, the powers that be seem to be looking forward to a day when the biggest names in boxing are no longer Mayweather or Pacquiao.
Why They’re Here: In addition to throwing machine QB Case Keenum, the Cougars are bringing back a total of nine starters on offense. Keenum is obviously the key, but only losing two guys from a unit that routinely put up 400 yards a game will get you a long way. There are questions about the defense, but overall this could be the year a team from Conference-USA challenges for a shot at the national championship.
The Good: Case Keenum is back. He’s got his receivers back and a running back corps that could be one of the deepest in the nation. Unlike some college coaches who like to pretend they care about running the ball, coach Kevin Sumlin is content to air it out all day, every day. Keenum is obviously in the conversation for this year’s Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards, but will it be enough? The Cougars are bringing back three all-conference receivers to help Keenum out, so it just might be. Andre Ware better watch himself.
The Bad: The defense is awful. It’s atrocious. It’s abominable. Jim Brown could put on his pads right now and probably run for a buck fifty on these guys. If Steven A. Smith covered college football, he would call these guys a group of bonafide scrubs. They only return five starters, and if the guys behind the six who aren’t coming back couldn’t get on the field last year…man. The D ranked 112th in the nation last year and were dead last in C-USA, a conference not really known for its defense. Thankfully, they don’t play any rushing juggernauts, but trips to UCLA and Southern Miss could prove to be too much for Houston’s defense to tackle (literally and figuratively).
The Last Word: This is a team that lives and dies by scoring points. Their game against Air Force in last year’s Armed Forces Bowl exposed their total ineptitude at stopping the run, which is why they lost. They won’t see the triple option or anything like it this year, but any back with talent and some size will be trouble. As long as the defense can create turnovers and the offense can score 40 a game, the dubs (Ws) will keep going up. But it’s tough to win consistently when those are the requirements.
Final Record: 10-3
It seemed unlikely about a month ago. Boston struggled to win 50 games during the regular season and Los Angeles went through the motions to earn the No. 1 seed. The Celtics didn’t look strong and the Lakers seemed primed for an upset.
Dwyane Wade and the underwhelming Miami Heat appeared to be capable of beating Boston while the Lakers were pushed to the limit by the strikingly athletic Oklahoma City Thunder who had virtually no playoff experience.
These teams would be on the brink of the NBA finals? Not Cleveland, who crushed the NBA during the regular season? Or Orlando, who sported a mighty 8-0 record in the playoffs? What about Dallas, wasn’t this supposed to be its year?
During the second round the Lakers and Celtics beefed up their game. Los Angeles pounded undermanned Utah in four games while the Celtics pulled off the upset against Cleveland.
We’re about to be treated to a rematch of the 2008 NBA finals, which was a quick throwback to the Lakers-Celtics rivalry that has been going on for decades.
But wait, the rematch isn’t complete. Not yet.
After the Celtics took the first two games against the Magic in Orlando it would be difficult to imagine Boston not making it to the NBA finals. The Celtics need two more wins to advance and three of the next four games are in Boston.
Forward Paul Pierce has rediscovered his game. He’s averaging 25 points per contest. It helps that he doesn’t have to work as hard on the defensive end this series; trying to check LeBron James will wear anybody out. Pierce knows it’s important to maintain the homecourt advantage the Celtics took from the Magic. They can’t get complacent and he thinks the fans won’t let them either.
“Our fans aren’t going to let us relax,” Pierce said. “You all not going to let us relax. We’re going to try to close this out in two games. You all hear me? We’re coming home to close it out.”
Orlando is too good of a team to get swept. The Magic should split in Boston. Then again, they probably shouldn’t have lost the first two at home.
The Lakers, however, have toyed with the dwarfish Phoenix Suns. The Suns simply don’t have the size to stand up to the Lakers and it has showed in two games. Phoenix doesn’t play much defense, but giving up 128 and 124 points in the Western conference finals won’t win many playoff series.
In game one Kobe Bryant torched Phoenix for 40 points. So the Suns adjusted and tried to take the ball out of Bryant’s hands by double-teaming him. That didn’t work either as the Black Mamba dished 13 assists, equaling the most by a Laker in a playoff game since Magic Johnson in 1996.
Someone had to pick up the scoring in game two and that was power forward Pau Gasol who had 29. Gasol scored 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers pulled away. Phoenix big man Amare Stoudemire is having a hard time scoring and rebounding against the Lakers’ bigs.
Stoudemire didn’t give credit to Lakers forward Lamar Odom who went for 19 points and 19 rebounds in game one. “I’m not giving him no hype right now; he had a lucky game in game one,” he said.
Odom lucked out again in game two with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Maybe the rest of the Lakers frontline will keep getting lucky. Phoenix needs to win two straight to avoid elimination.
It’s an uphill climb for Orlando and Phoenix. If these two played in the finals it would be a fine series, but lack the earth-shaking force of Lakers vs. Celtics. Good thing we only have to wait about a week until that series is finalized.
I was as flabbergasted as the rest of you when I read about the money Lane Kiffin makes as the new head football coach at USC. But apparently its true the Men of Troy are paying Lane four million dollars a year to coach the Trojans. Which begs the question, what are they going to pay him when (and if) he actually wins something?
Why They’re Here: Zach Collaros showed everyone last year that he could step in for Tony Pike without missing a beat. The Bearcats know that they’ve got a quarterback that can play and in college football, that’s 90 percent of the battle. But the other 10 percent of the battle can be the difference between a bowl in January and a bowl in December. The Bearcats lost a lot of talent this offseason and assembling a team that can produce for Collaros is going to be tough.
The Good: With a solid quarterback in place, it’s easy for a team to come together. This team also has something to prove after the beating they suffered at the hands of Tim Tebow and the Gators in the Sugar Bowl. The Bearcats also return eight starters on offense, including a lot of key skill position guys. The offense should be firing on all cylinders when the season opens up against Fresno State. Let’s not forget that this is a team that went 12-0 in the regular season last year.
The Bad: Too many loses. In addition to Tony Pike, the Bearcats lost WR Mardy Gilyard, C Chris Jurek and most importantly head coach Brian Kelly. They also lost LB Demetrius Jones for the season because of academic trouble. The defense is only bringing back five starters and they weren’t exactly intimidating last year. The Bearcats and the entire Big East lost a lot of respect when Florida steamrolled them in the Sugar Bowl and they’re going to have to put together some impressive victories to get the voters to respect them in December. It’ll start on September 25 against Oklahoma.
The Last Word: If their defense can stop West Virginia and Pitt’s rushing attacks, they could legitimately win the Big East again. If Collaros can be exceptional – I’m talking Heisman exceptional – the Bearcats really have a shot at challenging for a BCS spot. . I don’t know that I see either of those things happening, but if they do watch out.
Final Record: 9-4