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What Are The Odds? Looking at the Top Preseason Contenders for the College Football Playoffs

Posted on August 26, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Ohio State has been anointed as the favorite to again raise the College Football National Championship trophy.

Ohio State has been anointed as the favorite to again raise the College Football National Championship trophy.

The anointing of Ohio State for a repeat national championship has begun—the Buckeyes were the first unanimous preseason #1 in the history of the AP poll when that venerable organization released its voting results earlier this week. Las Vegas is no less bullish on the Bucks, slotting Ohio State is a decisive 2-1 favorite to win it all in Glendale on January 11. There’s no question Urban Meyer has a terrific team. But does that make them a terrific bet?

Ohio State is not a perfect team. They have youth on the offensive line, with two sophomores in starting roles. They have to replace a pair of defensive lineman, something that can’t be overlooked in the run-heavy Big Ten.

While Meyer has a well-documented embarrassment of riches at quarterback, even that comes with its own challenges—he can’t afford to have the locker room split between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, even if Braxton Miller made everyone’s life easier by agreeing to switch to wide receiver.

Then there’s the suspensions. Four players will miss the season opener on Labor Day Night at Virginia Tech, including All-American defensive end Joey Bosa. If Ohio State gets through this game, which they remain favored to do, then that issue is past them. But it’s one more fly in the ointment.

None of this is to suggest that the Buckeyes are uniquely vulnerable or that they shouldn’t be ranked #1. What I am suggesting is that 2-1 is a very short price when the season is just beginning. You can likely wait until the beginning of the Playoff and get close to the same price, but without any lingering questions.

Public handicappers have to look elsewhere for value. Here’s a brief rundown of how the challengers to Ohio State are viewed in Las Vegas, and some pertinent thoughts on each group of teams:

THE PRIME CHALLENGERS: TCU (6-1), Alabama (13-2): This is rarefied air for the Horned Frogs, with their #2 preseason ranking in the AP poll being the highest in their history. The Crimson Tide are more interesting. It’s a short price, but about as good as anyone will get with a Nick Saban-coached team. If early games, like the September 5 prime-time affair with Wisconsin at Cowboys Stadium show an improved ‘Bama defense, the Tide are worth a serious look. Read the rest of this entry →

How Bike Racing is Gaining Popularity

Posted on August 20, 2015 by Scott Huntington

Some people are not fond of cyclists. Whether it’s some latent, xenophobic distaste for anything vaguely European or just motorists’ contempt for anything on the road that doesn’t go five over the speed limit, cyclists engender animosity from a vocal portion of the population.

bike racing

And even when cyclists aren’t hated, they’re frequently disrespected. When Kenny Powers said, “I play real sports; not trying to be the best at exercising,” a nation of lacrosse stick-wielding, ball-tossing dude-bros laughed — not because they thought him ignorant, but because they thought him wise.

Yet even in the midst of this hostile environment, bike racing is growing in popularity. Perhaps because Lance Armstrong committed the only capital crime besides murder in the United States — lying to Oprah — mountain biking seems to be catching on more than road racing.

I Want to Ride My Mountain Bicycle

As you might expect of a sport that has an enormous geographic feature in its name, mountain biking has been increasing in popularity more rural than urban areas. The club sport is catching on in Idaho, where the Idaho High School Cycling League has created a four-race season. That league was founded by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, which has made fifteen leagues in fourteen states.

Read the rest of this entry →

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Frank Gifford Was A Legend On the Field and In the Booth

Posted on August 09, 2015 by Dean Hybl
NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford has passed away at the age of 84.

NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford has passed away at the age of 84.

The sports world has lost a sports legend with the passing on Sunday of former New York Giants Hall of Famer Frank Gifford at the age of 84.

A star at the University of Southern California and then on one of the glamour teams in the NFL, Gifford went on to become a key part of the most talked about announcing trio in football history.

A native Californian, Gifford attended Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield Junior College before becoming an All-American halfback for the Trojans.

Selected by the New Yok Giants in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft, Gifford immediately became an important building block on a Giants team that by 1956 was among the best in the NFL.

Initially playing both offense and defense, Gifford earned Pro Bowl honors in just his second season. He would go on to earn Pro Bowl honors for seven straight years and was a four-time first team All-Pro.

In 1956 Gifford was named the NFL MVP as he rushed for a career-high 819 yards and led the NFL with 1,422 yards from scrimmage. The Giants won the World Championship with a dominating 47-7 victory over the Chicago Bears in which Gifford caught passes for 131 yards and a touchdown and also had 30 yards rushing.

The Giants reached back-to-back NFL Championship Games in 1958 and 1959, but lost both times to the Baltimore Colts. Read the rest of this entry →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Welcomes “Workhorse” Class

Posted on August 08, 2015 by Dean Hybl
With eight inductees, the 2015 Hall of Fame Class is the largest since 1967.

With eight inductees, the 2015 Hall of Fame Class is the largest since 1967.

With no quarterbacks and only one first ballot selection, the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class isn’t quite as glamorous as some others in recent years, but it is an important group of workhorse inductees who all enjoyed long and successful careers.

After a period from 1991-2005 when the HOF selection committee created a glut of worthy inductees by picking no more than five people in 12 of 14 years, they have spent the last decade filling the HOF with both glamorous and workmanlike candidates. The HOF has admitted at least six candidates every year since 2006.

The 2015 class of eight selections marks the largest class since 1967 and includes six former players as well as two executives. Bill Polian and Ron Wolf are the first football executives who were not owners to be selected for the HOF since Jim Finks in 1995.

While the marquee player from this class is certainly Junior Seau, all six players enjoyed long and distinguished careers. Several have been eligible for the HOF for several years, but had to wait for others to take their rightful place before it was time for them to receive their busts.

Moving forward, there are still some outstanding players “in the que” as well as several new candidates that will be eligible in the next few years, so it will be interesting to see if the HOF selection committee continues to push the number of new enshrines each year or if they pull back slightly in the coming years.

Regardless, the 2015 class is one for the ages and helps tell the story of football history over the past several decades. Below are brief capsules of each selection:

Jerome Bettis: Known as “The Bus”, Bettis ranks sixth in NFL history with 13,662 yards rushing. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and twice was a first team all-pro selection. An eight-time 1,000 yard rusher, Bettis spent his first three seasons with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams before being traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He rushed for a career-high 1,665 yards in 1997 and was a mainstay for the Pittsburgh rushing game for a decade. His final game was Super Bowl XL as he helped the Steelers win the Lombardi Trophy.

Tim Brown: Based on statistics alone, Brown certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame. He ranks fifth in NFL history with 1,094 receptions, sixth with 14,934 receiving yards and seventh with 100 receiving touchdowns. Between 1993 and 2002 he caught at least 76 passes every year (NFL high 104 in 1997) and had nine 1,000 yard seasons. Brown was a nine time Pro Bowl selection, but never received All-Pro honors. While Brown was a great talent and had great statistics, it seems hard to justify him as a HOF member when other great receivers from previous eras who were key parts of championship teams, most especially Drew Pearson and Otis Taylor, have not yet been recognized in Canton. Read the rest of this entry →

Triumphs in Tennis: What is Expected in the U.S. Open This Year

Posted on August 06, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
All eyes will be on Serena Williams and her attempt at the grand slam.

All eyes will be on Serena Williams and her attempt at the calendar year grand slam.

One of the great locations to watch Grand Slam tennis is Flushing Meadows, especially when the match is close and the atmosphere becomes electric in a distinctly New York kind of way. The best seat in the house is in the elevated bleachers high above the baseline inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, as you get up-close and personal with some of the best players in the world.

Tennis is a sport with a long season full of ups and downs for players. Studying for an online masters in coaching shows how professional athletes like these must survive the mentally and physically grueling pace of the games. The U.S. Open begins August 31st and is scheduled through September 13th of this year. A lot is expected from the players, and here are a few determined to do well.

Serena Is the Talk of Broadway
One of the themes that has emerged on the WTA Tour this year is that Serena Williams is capable of blasting the competition off the tennis court. Her play has become increasingly aggressive with each passing Grand Slam, and it is pretty clear that a triumphant win at the U.S. Open would be a great achievement for Williams. She has made a career of surpassing expectations and frustrating opponents and is capable of doing it again in Flushing Meadows. The tennis world is longing for this type of a compelling story, and there’s no one more qualified to pull this off than Williams herself.
Read the rest of this entry →

Some Brave Predictions for the 2015 Rugby World Cup

Posted on July 31, 2015 by Samantha Waites
Who will lift the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

Who will lift the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

For Rugby fans, the next sixty odd days can’t pass quickly enough. The 2015 Rugby World Cup is fast approaching and Rugby enthusiast just can’t wait for it to take stage. The wait for the World cup will be over in just over two-month’s time and following are a few brave predictions from me concerning the event.

The All Blacks won’t defend their Title

For Rugby fans around the world, loving the All Blacks is a hard thing to do since they pretty much win everything in sight. However, despite being the world’s best Rugby team at this point of time, it will be hard for team from New Zealand to defend its title. The reason for this is simple—they haven’t won a World Cup outside of their home soil. I cannot see the trend changing this time around.

The Irish will finally make it to the Semi-Finals

The Irish have tried again and again in World Cups to reach the Semi-Finals but for one reason or the other always seems to fall short of their mark. However, a maiden World Cup Semi-Final appearance is what the Irish victories against SpringBoks and Australia in the calendar year 2014 indicates.

Fiji will become a sorry tale a week after the Cup kicks off

Playing without some of their best players doesn’t help the cause of the most flamboyant Pacific island nation. The first five days of the competition is going to be tough period for Fiji as they’ll have to tackle two time Rugby champions: Australia with some of their star players missing.

Samoa will give Scotland a Scare

In the 2015 Rugby World Cup I can see the tiny nation of Samoa giving a massive scare to the team from Great Britain: Scotland. However, I can also see the Scots eventually coming through this nail-biting affair. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Lawrence McCutcheon: Ram Tough
      September 2, 2015 | 8:33 am
      Lawrence McCutcheon

      Lawrence McCutcheon

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season four times in a five-year stretch, but also threw a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIV.

      A third round draft pick out of Colorado State in 1972, Lawrence McCutcheon played in just three games without a single carry as a rookie. However, beginning in his second season, the fleet runner made five straight Pro Bowl appearances and finished in the top five in the NFL in rushing four times.

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