The Obstructed PAC-12 Preview-2019

The season is almost here. Most years I start off with the conference the National Champion resides in (mostly SEC or ACC with Alabama and Clemson). So I figure I can give some love to start on the back end of the power 5, which is the PAC-12.

Earlier this summer, I posted about what was wrong with the PAC-12 as not only have they missed the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive year, but also not being close as a consideration for the playoff. While some PAC-12 fans scream that there’s an East Coast Bias (or more of a “Southeastern” Coast bias), they can’t really argue much as the conference has not been overly competitive as a whole in this time period.

Will that change in 2019? Anything is possible. And there is hope among that Washington will revamp and re-tool on offense with Jacob Eason replacing the inconsistent Jake Browning at QB. Oregon hopes Justin Hebert wins the Heisman and takes the Ducks back atop the division and get back to the Playoff. Stanford will always be a threat. However, the PAC-12 South will be do or die for a few programs, especially at USC where Clay Helton is probably in a “win or go home” bit. Chip Kelly suffered an embarrassing first year at UCLA. Kevin Sumlin will start to have some of his guys come in and run his style of play at Arizona while Herm Edwards tries to show last year was no fluke at Arizona State. So it should still be fun to watch the PAC-12, but will they get a Playoff spot?

PAC-12 NORTH

Jacob Eason took a long and winding road to play back in his home state in Washington

(1) WASHINGTON HUSKIES: Goodbye Jake, hello Jacob. The Huskies will not have the polarizing Jake Browning at quarterback (you either loved him or hated him in Seattle) and say hello to Georgia transfer Jacob Eason. Eason was considered the best quarterback coming out in 2015. However, injuries and falling out of favor with new coach Kirby Smart made him return home to Washington. Eason has an arm and is more of a pocket style quarterback than Browning ever was. And that to me will pay dividends for the Huskies. The offensive line returns four of five starters from last year (and the 5th starter started 32 games prior before an injury). They will be a problem for opposing defensive lines both for the pass and the run. The Huskies will miss Myles Gaskin but will have Salvon Ahmed if he can improve his running lanes. Defensively, the Huskies only return 2 starters. Washington has recruited strong up front and has been one of the strengths of the defense under Chris Peterson. If the likes up front can continue the trend, Washington will be very problematic. The linebacking corps may be a weakness as nobody returns and have questions there while the secondary returns only one starter there (Myles Bryant). However, hopes are high for that corps and many feel Kyler Gordon is going to be a stud. Washington’s schedule is VERY favorable to them and one that could have the potential to easily run the table in the PAC-12 which will net them that Playoff berth for the first time since 2016. Their toughest game away from Seattle is at Stanford and then will have to travel to Arizona the week after. So if the Huskies escape those, it could be a memorable season. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 11-1. I don’t know if they escape Stanford alive, but the rest of the schedule is manageable. Will it be enough for a Playoff?

Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello broke the school record for passing yards at Santa Margarita Catholic set by Carson Palmer, a Heisman Trophy and No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft out of USC. (Don Feria/isiphotos.com)

(2) STANFORD CARDINAL: Every time people shrug off Stanford that is where the Cardinal come up and make a big threat for the PAC-12. Last year however, a key reason why Stanford is not heavily considered to make noise for the upcoming year is simple: the defense. Needless to say they struggled (115th against the pass; 78th overall). The Cardinal return only 5 starters which is also a concern. But if the Cardinal’s front 7 can roll (the line should be excellent with Jovan Swann and Michael Williams), it could help the secondary which has potential though concerns at safety. However, Paulson Adebo could be another star cornerback in the making in the PAC-12. However, Stanford will have a solid quarterback leading the way in KJ Costello, who was probably only behind Justin Herbert in the conference as best quarterback. But what it will come down to is if they can keep healthy in the run game as Bryce Love is no longer there (and had a lot of injury plagued moments). Cameron Scarlett could have a big year and be more of a disciplined runner than Love was which I think is more beneficial for the Cardinal as well. Stanford’s schedule is an interesting one early on with a home tilt with Northwestern but then two road games at USC and UCF while coming back to home to face rival Oregon. If they go 3-1 in that span, keep an eye on the Cardinal the rest of the way especially hosting Washington October 5. BEST CASE SCENARIO: 11-1 WORST CASE SCENARIO: 5-7 MY PREDICTION: 10-2. I think the Cardinal stun Washington but will have a hiccup out at Washington State and they have historically struggled at USC.

Herbert is a Heisman front-runner in 2019

(3) OREGON DUCKS: Justin Herbert is without question the best quarterback Oregon had since Marcus Mariota and also hopes of a Heisman resides with him also like Mariota. If history repeats itself, Oregon will find themselves in either Atlanta or Tempe for a Playoff game. Do they have enough talent to do it? Yes. The Ducks bring back their entire offense from last year which should not go unnoticed with a great balanced running attack with CJ Verdell and Travis Dye getting the bulk of the carries. Dillon Mitchell may be gone but the receivers will be good if not better than last year with Herbert throwing it around. Defensively, while the Ducks have never been mistaken for Alabama’s defense or Clemson’s defense, will be better than what it has been over the last few years. The line will be a question outside Jordon Scott but high hopes are with freshman Kayvon Thibodoeaux who if he can show he is a monster in his first year, watch out. The secondary will be improved from last year (which returns three starters and if the Ducks can get a strong pass rush) and with new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos bringing different attacking packages could give teams fits. Oregon’s schedule out of the gate starts in Dallas against Auburn. If the Ducks win that game, you have to think they are going to be talked about as a contender. If not, there is no margin of error (there may not be one even if they do win against the Tigers) the rest of the way and a loss at Stanford may actually deflate the sails and chances of Herbert at a Heisman. BEST CASE RECORD: 12-0 WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5 MY PREDICTION: 9-3. Oregon gets the short end where they have to run around to face Auburn, Stanford, and Washington. Road games at USC and Arizona State will be intriguing but I think Herbert will win those games to still keep him in the Heisman consideration.

Davontavean Martin will provide Gage Gubrud a major target at Washington State

(4) WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS: You always wonder when that year at Washington State the shoe will drop for Mike Leach, but he’s a quarterback whisperer. Gardner Minshew went from “who is this guy?” to a cult icon in Pullman and was figured in the Heisman race until that blizzard in the Apple Cup where he was just unable to throw. As always, Leach’s offense will rely on the quarterback play in the Air Raid. And the defense does “just enough” to hold teams at bay (most of the time). So the question will beg if Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud will be that guy. From all looks of it he can, but let’s see what he has on paper. He has receivers who can catch like Davontavean Martin and playmaker Dezmon Partmon. So as a person who thinks Mike Leach is a quality head coach, I wouldn’t doubt the Cougars offense to roll, well the passing game is. On defense the Cougars will need more of a pass rush but are high on West Virginia transfer Lamonte McDougle at nose tackle. And they have a quality safety in Jalen Thompson so if the Cougars can the front on defense rolling, this could be a major sleeper not just in the PAC-12, but in college football (much like last year). Washington State has a schedule that thankfully in the PAC-12 can be very manageable including having a nice run against Stanford and Oregon. But the road games are going to test the Cougars (Houston, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon, California, and at Washington). I think Washington State is strong enough to compete with all of those teams away from Pullman, but Washington is the obvious albatross here. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 6-6 MY PREDICTION: 8-4. That road schedule is not going to be fun and with Oregon making strides and Utah being that physical monster, I don’t see the Cougars enjoying that same success as they had last year.

Bequette is becoming the face of Cal’s resurgence on defense

(5) CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS: The script was flipped last year. California went from all Air Raid with the defense optional approach to a defensive, grind it out approach. The Golden Bears were tough as nails against the pass and that really helps them out in their conference (especially with Herbert and Eason there) and solid agianst the run, but the offense tanked. Chase Gerbers was turnover prone and inconsistent. Devon Modster is a UCLA transfer who could really push Gerbers. If Gerbers starts, he needs to make sure his play improves tremendously. If not, the Bears will have to rely way too much on defense. Thankfully the defense brings back 7 starters including the secondary that helped them have a top 10 defense against the pass. The linebacking corps is also another bonus with Cameron Goode coming back from injury which really helps them out more. The Bears defensive line is headlined by Luc Bequette (5 sacks last year) and if they can continue to improve against the run, they could really spoil some teams in their division. But it will all come down to the quarterback play. We’ve seen great defenses go to waste because the offense isn’t as strong. California has the unfortunate deal of a schedule of facing Oregon, Stanford, and Washington away from Berkeley as well as having to travel to Ole Miss and UCLA. If they could muster two or three wins on the road, you have to think it would be a great season for the Bears. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 6-6 Road schedule is just too tough for the Bears.

Jefferson was one of the few bright spots the Beavers had in 2018

(6) OREGON STATE BEAVERS: Poor Oregon State. They have to get footing somewhere, but right now the PAC-12 North is not the most ideal place to get that footing. The good news last year was they ended a nice road losing streak with a win in Colorado and one that was pretty dramatic. Aside from that the Beavers defense was woeful at best allowing 35 or more points in 10 losses and was the second worst in the nation in most major defensive categories (scoring, rushing yards allowed, and total defense). They return seven starters (is it a good thing?) and having two transfers from Nebraska (Avery Roberts) and Oklahoma (Addison Gumbs). The secondary will be upper-classmen and safety David Morris could be underrated if Oregon State establishes any kind of pass rush. Offensively the bright spot is Jermar Jefferson, who rushed for 1,380 yards last year. The question will be who hands off to him, Jake Luton or another Nebraska transfer Tristan Gebbia. Seems like it will be Luton as the Beavers passing game wasn’t too shabby though Luton was injured at times. To keep Luton or Gebbia upright may be a problem as the Oregon State line allowed a lot of sacks last year which could repeat with only two starters returning. Oregon State’s schedule isn’t fun especially for a program trying to establish anything. They start the year hosting Oklahoma State and then a road trip at Hawaii before getting their home game against Cal Poly. And there is no Colorado either on the PAC-12 schedule so it may be another long year for Jonathan Smith. BEST CASE RECORD: 4-8 WORST CASE RECORD: 1-11 MY PREDICTION: 1-11 I could see the Beavers sting Arizona State or even UCLA, but it is very doubtful for either one.

PAC-12 SOUTH

Moss will be a big factor in Utah’s chances in 2019

(1) UTAH UTES: Utah has replaced Stanford as the PAC-12’s physical squad and have been that way for a while now. They are one of the top teams in the nation defensively and return 7 starters. They bring back two of their top linemen in Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu. Anae recorded 8 sacks and could have a monster year so those numbers can go up. The line itself could be the best in the nation which is something to be said. They are deep as is and will create plenty of havoc. If Penn State transfer Manny Bowen comes in and does his thing, the Utes could just be a national terror on defense which could be comparable to the likes of Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia. The secondary is pretty stout and could just only get better so that 53rd ranked passing defense will be higher in 2019. The question will be can Utah get an offense to at least stand toe to toe with Washington as both games last year the Utes had numerous problems with the Huskies only scoring a total of 10 points in two games against them. The guy under the spotlight will be Tyler Huntley. He started off shaky but started to roll in October before getting injured to end his season. If Huntley can be that dual threat and remain consistent, to add on with Zack Moss, the Utes could be knocking on the door of a playoff spot themselves. But it will all depend on the passing game of Utah. Utah’s schedule is pretty manageable with two major road games at USC and Washington. If they can split those and find a way going to the PAC-12 Championship at 11-1, they have to be considered for a Playoff spot. BEST CASE RECORD: 11-1 WORST CASE RECORD: 8-4 MY PREDICTION: 9-3 I just don’t trust Utah’s offense enough to think the Utes will take down Washington at all and I do worry on that USC game too.

Benjamin may be the best kept secret in college football

(2) ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS: Herm Edwards sent a few messages last year to critics. 1. He can coach in the college level. 2. The Todd Graham Era is long gone. What you got last year was an offense that emphasized heavy on the run (second in the PAC-12) thanks to Eno Benjamin who rushed for 1,642 yards and an improvement on the defense as the Sun Devils were traditionally ranked 100th or lower in most defensive categories under Graham. The defense was young on top of it and are bringing back 6 starters. If Merlin Robertson builds off his freshmen year (five sacks, 77 tackles) and Darien Butler does the same, the Sun Devils defense will only get stronger. But the question is going to be the line which struggled a lot (the rushing defense did improve under Edwards and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales, but they were 10th in the conference against the run) and probably need George Lea and Jermayne Lole to have big years to really have a formidable defense. Offense is where the questions will rise notably in the passing game as Manny Wilkins is gone as is top receiver N’Keal Harry. Kyle Williams is a monster deep threat but who will be throwing it to him, Dillon Sterling-Cole or freshman Jayden Daniels? So for early on you will probably see plenty of Eno Benjamin running the ball before we know who the play-caller is. Whoever it is, they will have a good running game and a solid offensive line. Arizona State’s schedule will have some speed-bumps for Edwards to build off his first year with a early road trip at Michigan State who wants revenge from last season and then a stretch of 3 road games in four (at Cal, Utah, UCLA) and then two big home games to end it with Oregon and Arizona. It’s very difficult to figure out what the Sun Devils will be with questions at quarterback, but if Benjamin is healthy, that only helps the cause. BEST CASE RECORD: 10-2 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 7-5. They could have a really good year or a really rough year. Or somewhere in between. Once the quarterback is figured out the Sun Devils should be okay.

Tate struggled under Sumlin’s system in 2018.

(3) ARIZONA WILDCATS: Kevin Sumlin’s first year was as up and down as you could get. Khalil Tate struggled in Sumlin’s system and that also played into the Wildcats struggles. The running game however, with or without Tate is still pretty strong with JJ Taylor (1,434 yards). But the focus will be on Tate if he can stay disciplined and be that dual threat a la Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M when Sumlin was there. But he will have an all new set of receivers as the top three guys are no longer at Arizona. The other issue that Arizona has and that has plagued Sumlin at Texas A&M was defense. The Wildcats surrendered yards both in the air (121st overall and last in the PAC-12) and on the ground (64th overall and 8th in the conference). They are undersized and not deep so we could see more of the 41-38 games in order for the Wildcats to compete. The one positive will be the linebacking group as they return all three starters led by Colin Schooler (119 tackles and 21 for loss). The issue is aside from depth is can they develop a pass rush when they see the likes of Herbert, Eason, Huntley, and others? Arizona’s schedule is tough despite an easy non-conference schedule (at Hawaii, Northern Arizona, and Texas Tech). Back to back road games at USC and Stanford right after a home game against Washington could really decide the fate of this team while ending with Oregon, Utah, and rival Arizona State (Oregon and Arizona State being road games) so getting to a bowl game will be huge in Sumlin’s second year before people start to get antsy in Tucson. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 6-6 Arizona will get off to a nice start but after their road trip to Colorado will be just murder the rest of the way save Oregon State.

Thompson-Robinson could be a massive threat for UCLA

(4) UCLA BRUINS: If Kevin Sumlin’s run in 2018 at Arizona was a nightmare, then Chip Kelly’s run at UCLA was an absolute disaster. UCLA started off 0-5 including home losses to Cincinnati and Fresno State and went 3-9 overall. Is there hope? Yes. UCLA returns 8 starters on offense and 9 on defense. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is that quarterback that is a dual threat and with seasoning he could be a major threat in the conference. Joshua Kelly at running back will provide a strong rushing game while Demetric Felton and Theo Howard will have bigger roles in the passing game. On defense, where they really struggled, they will have an improved secondary with Darnay Holmes at corner. The linebacker group is going to be solid with Keisean Lucier-South showing promise and Krys Barnes leading the way, but the problem is the line. They struggled tremendously and doesn’t seem like it will get better as the other units will probably have too much pressure to make big plays. UCLA’s schedule isn’t easier than last year with a road trip to Cincinnati and then home to San Diego State and then the Sooners roll into town another 0-3 start is possible before they take their conference schedule on the road to Washington State. Speaking of, road trips there, Arizona, Stanford, Utah, and rival USC won’t be fun (at least Oregon or Washington isn’t on the schedule) so again, Kelly and UCLA will have their work cut out for them. BEST CASE RECORD: 9-3 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 5-7 I fear that Kelly’s style on offense is just not going to cut it in the PAC-12 where they seem to be more reliant on defense and getting beaten on the D-line could be a major issue.

Daniels is the next great hope at USC

(5) USC TROJANS: My guess is that in Clay Helton’s first two years that needed two PAC-12 championships and a Rose Bowl win was enough to keep his job for 2019. However, Helton will start out 2019 as the head coach on the hottest seat in the PAC-12 and maybe the nation (a debate can be made for Gus Malzahn at Auburn). But maybe it wasn’t the Trojans that declined as much as it was some of the teams started catching up to them. Even in Sam Darnold’s last year in Los Angeles you noticed some cracks to the team as they were just not as strong and got obliterated by Ohio State. With the likes of Utah, Arizona State, and Cal getting better, the Trojans had no answers. JT Daniels was a true freshman last year so you could expect improvement especially with a solid group in Michael Pittman Jr and Tyler Vaughns. However, what has decimated the Trojans the last couple of years has been the offensive line. If they can’t get that going, the growth for Daniels is stunted. On defense, the Trojans weren’t bad, but weren’t good. That’s not great when the offense is “middle of the road” at best. But there are some bright spots especially up front with Christian Rector at end and Jay Tufele at tackle. The linebacking corps also seems solid with Jordan Iosefa, Palaie Gaoteote IV, and John Houston all expecting to have big years. However, the secondary was beat badly and the majority of the defensive backs are very inexperienced. So, the pass rush needs to be very strong to take pressure off the younger players. USC has a not-so-fun schedule as they have road games against Washington and Notre Dame in consecutive games while seeing Oregon and Stanford at home and a late road trip to Arizona State and Cal. Its schedule could be the one that dooms Helton’s tenure. BEST CASE RECORD: 8-4 WORST CASE RECORD: 4-8 MY PREDICTION: 5-7 I can see USC upsetting the likes of a Utah and/or Stanford but I think they are just going to have issues stopping anybody on the run and keeping Daniels upright.

Johnson is a quarterback’s nightmare fo opposing teams

(6) COLORADO BUFFALOES: How things have gone south for the Buffaloes since their 2016 run to the PAC-12 championship. Mike MacIntyre is gone and in comes Mel Tucker, a Nick Saban/Kirby Smart disciple that Buffaloes fans hope to bring that Alabama/Georgia attitude to Boulder. It maybe a rough start. Tucker will have a quality starting quarterback in Steven Montez. Montez will have a solid group of receivers headed by Laviska Shenault (1,011 receiving yards), and KD Nixon (636 yards). But if Tucker follows the styles of Saban and Smart, expect more of a running game, which was anemic and moreso now that Travon McMillian is gone. Alex Fontenot is going to be the featured back, but expect others to carry the load. But the question may end up being is if the Buffaloes line open up holes for those backs and that isn’t a certainty. On defense is where Tucker may have more of his fingerprints on given his strength. However, five starter return and the ones who are new are very new. He could mold them into monsters or it may take a year of adjustments. Nate Landman will anchor the defense at linebacker while Mustafa Johnson is a monster for opposing quarterbacks. However, the secondary has to make strides which they fell off after a nice run in 2016. The line will give them so much to do but it is the secondary who will need to step up big time. Colorado’s schedule has a rough non-conference run with their rivals in Colorado State, their old Big 12 foe in Nebraska, and Air Force, which runs options and has always given Tucker fits. The road trips aren’t fun seeing Oregon and Washington State in back-to-back weeks while seeing Utah in Salt Lake City to end their season. The home schedule won’t be fun either especially near the end with Stanford and Washington coming to Boulder. It may be a rough first year for Tucker in Colorado. BEST CASE RECORD: 6-6 WORST CASE RECORD: 2-10 MY PREDICTION: 3-9 Too many questions on both sides of the ball for Tucker to answer and teams are far more talented than the Buffaloes right now in the PAC-12

Hopefully if there is a PAC-12 Championship rematch it will be better than last year.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP: UTAH VS WASHINGTON: This would be a rematch of last year’s title game which was exciting as watching paint dry. However, if it is that game again, I think it will be a little more fun to see with Utah’s offense being a little more polished and if Washington’s defense takes a step back. My take is that the Huskies will be playing for a playoff spot and after a second tilt, will have an improved defense when they see Utah. But I think you will see another relatively low scoring game but I think Eason makes some plays down field to set the Huskies up for scores and it will be enough to edge the Utes. But will it be enough for the committee to put them in the Playoff? WASHINGTON 24, UTAH 17

TOP 3 QUESTIONS

Oregon’s match against Auburn is a statement game for the Ducks and the PAC-12

(1) IF OREGON WINS WEEK 1 AGAINST AUBURN, WILL THAT CHANGE THE DYNAMIC THAT THE PAC-12 CAN HANG WITH THE SEC? It will be a boost for the PAC-12 if Oregon wins that match-up. However, many fans in the SEC will say Auburn is a maligned program with a coach that can be fired midway through the season. To me, Auburn should always be considered a massive threat to any team as they’ve showed by beating Georgia and Alabama. So it will help out. It also could give Oregon that boost they haven’t seen since 2014 when they made the playoff.

Sumlin struggled at Arizona in his first year with the Wildcats

(2) IF UCLA OR ARIZONA DOESN’T IMPROVE IN THE SECOND YEARS OF THE CHIP KELLY OR KEVIN SUMLIN ERAS RESPECTIVELY, COULD EITHER ONE BE FIRED? Not for Sumlin as the buyout is too high and maybe Kelly too. However, Kelly cannot afford anything worse than 4-8 in year two of his run. People project the upward trend on the Trojans. I’m not too high on that but Kelly has won in the past so there is something to be said. I just don’t think that his offense is as flashy largely because other teams especially in the PAC-12 run a similar style to his now.

Helton is definitely in a “win now” mode

(3) WHAT DOES CLAY HELTON DO TO KEEP HIS JOB AT USC? Win the PAC-12 South. A debate can be made that the PAC-12 South is the worst division among the Power 5 (between them or the ACC Coastal Division). If USC cannot overtake a division that is weak and given the talent they have over the years then a change must be needed in a big way.

That’s it for the PAC-12.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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NBA Mock Draft v2

NBA Mock Draft v2, By Bryce Olds (@ItsBrizz)

 

So, in my last NBA Mock, I did a simulation where I also tried to predict the order as well and I didn’t perfectly predict that, but if you’re interested in seeing how that went, you can view it here. For this mock, I’m gonna try and predict the whole First Round. I’m not sure if this will be the last version, but for now, enjoy my updated Mock Draft.

Pick #1: Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans.

I think this one is just painfully obvious, so I won’t take too much of your time on this one, but with all the AD rumors I’m not sure what will happen with this pick. Maybe someone else is making this pick, I have no idea, all I know is that this pick will be Zion Williamson.

Pick #2: Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies

This one is also pretty obvious to me, and it’s saddening. It sucks that such an exciting player and great talent is being forced to play in Memphis. I wish him the best and I think he’ll do well but the poor kid is gonna have a hard time getting his name out.

Pick #3: R.J. Barrett, SG/SF, New York Knicks

I don’t know what is going to happen to this pick or who’s going to make it, but I’m confident that R.J. will be the third pick in the draft. If he does end up with the Knicks, I’ll be very happy with it. I know it isn’t Zion but this kid can play and loves the spotlight, two things you need to have if you’re gonna play in the city of New York.

Pick #4: Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Los Angeles Lakers

Again, I can see this pick being moved as well. But, if the Lakers make this pick, I think they go with Cam Reddish. Interestingly enough, I had the Lakers taking Reddish in my original mock as well, just at 10th overall and not fourth. But hey, Cam is a great talent and I can see them selecting him at fourth.

Pick 5#: Jarrett Culver, SG/SF/PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

I think Culver is going to be a really solid player on both sides of the ball in the NBA, so the Cavs pairing him with the young Sexton will really help the Cavs start to reform their team after the end of the LeBron era. Culver won’t be the LeBron replacement, but he could be a solid piece on an upcoming team.

Pick #6: Darius Garland, PG, Phoenix Suns

I think the Suns make the move they have to here, they have messed up on so many draft picks that they need to take one that works, and I think Garland is their guy. I think he is for sure the second-best point guard in this draft behind Morant, and the Suns should keep this pick and take him. I’ve seen rumors that the Suns want to move this pick for a veteran guy, and I think that is an incredibly stupid idea and they should just take who they get at six and continue the rebuild.

Pick #7: De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Chicago Bulls 

The Bulls got it rough this draft, like the Suns. Being the third worst team in the NBA and getting the seventh pick is a nightmare, but getting Hunter is not a bad consolation prize. Hunter is kind of like Culver, but a little less offensively skilled. I think he’ll fit the gritty nature of the Bulls and help them be a bit more competitive next season.  

Pick #8: Jaxson Hayes, C, Atlanta Hawks

I know the Hawks have a young center in Dedmon, but you can’t pass up on having a trio of Trae Young, John Collins, and Jaxson Hayes if you’re the Hawks. That young trio is just exciting to even think about, think of all the fancy assists and lobs Trae could throw to Hayes and Collins. I think this is the move the Hawks have to make if it’s possible.

Pick #9: Sekou Doumbouya, PF, Washington Wizards

The Wizards need something to go their way, between the Wall injury, Beal being the center of like 45 different trade scenarios, they need something of their own. I think Doumbouya is something the Wizards can be happy with as they try to build their future after the mess of contracts they have on their roster.

Pick #10: Nassir Little, SF, Atlanta Hawks

I think the Hawks making a lineup of Trae, Huerter, Little, Collins, and Hayes is what they absolutely need to do if it’s possible. That is such a powerful, young lineup that I would be very interested in seeing grow in the future.

Pick #11: Coby White, SG/PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

I don’t think D Rose and Jeff Teague are the answer at PG for the Timberwolves, so I think they take the last first-round worthy PG left. White is a fun player, and I think pairing him with KAT will be a deadly duo and can help Minnesota start being a more competitive team again.

Pick #12: Brandon Clarke, PF, Charlotte Hornets

Clarke is a solid player and is going to help out any team he gets drafted by. Now if the Hornets lose Kemba it’s going to be a sad, hurting offseason for them, but getting a solid draft pick in Clarke would help ease that pain and give Hornets fans a reason to be optimistic about the future.

Pick #13: Romeo Langford, SG/SF, Miami Heat

With D Wade retiring, and the having only three other true guards on the roster, the Heat are in desperate need of a guard. Langford would be a good fit in Miami, I think he has the attitude and flare Miami fans love and they’ll come to like him in South Beach.

Pick #14: Bol Bol, C, Boston Celtics

This is going to be an interesting offseason for the Celtics, they could end up with anything from a Kyrie and AD pairing to a team led by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. But based on the team right now, they need a new center to come off the bench and maybe even replace Horford once he’s done. With Hayes off the board, I think letting Bol recover and get healthy for the future would be their best option.

Pick #15: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Detroit Pistons

This was probably the hardest pick to map out, the Pistons need a PG to replace Jackson, but all the good first round guards are off the board. So, with that in mind, I think they take Keldon. Keldon is honestly a great fit for the Pistons, he is a gritty guy who can get a bucket when you need him to and plays great defense, so I think the motor city will come to like him if he ends up there.

Pick #16:  Kevin Porter Jr. SG, Orlando Magic

Porter Jr. I think is an underrated player in this draft, and he would be a great piece for the Magic. I know that they need a PG but Porter Jr. is better than any PG available at this point and with Fournier aging, it’s time to get a new look at the SG spot.

Pick #17: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Atlanta Hawks

So while I was writing this, this pick got traded from Brooklyn to Atlanta. In that deal was also Taurean Prince, so the Nassir Little pick makes even more sense. Originally I had Rui Hachimura going at this pick to Brooklyn, but because this is now Atlanta’s pick, they go a different route and select Walker. Walker is a great scoring SG and could maybe even be a depth piece for them as they have a solid lineup already.

Pick #18: Rui Hachimura, PF, Indiana Pacers

Instead of Brooklyn taking him, the Pacers decide to take the best available player in the draft in Hachimura. They don’t really need a PF per se, but I think if Rui did slip this far it would be impossible to pass up on him.

Pick #19: PJ Washington, PF, San Antonio Spurs

Washington is a solid player and will be for a long time in the NBA. With Pop’s guidance, he can really help PJ turn into a massive threat in this league and be the next great Spur.  

Pick #20: KZ Okpala, SF, Boston Celtics

The Celtics are in need of some help off the bench since it looks like Morris will be leaving, so KZ makes a lot of sense for them. KZ is a tough player and a good talent and should be able to get some solid production for the C’s off the bench.

Pick #21: Tyler Herro, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder need help, it’s pretty obvious. I think a guy like Herro can come in and really help take the pressure off of Westbrook and PG when it comes to scoring, even if they wouldn’t want to start him he would be great off the bench and would provide a nice spark.  

Pick #22: Ty Jerome, PG/SG, Boston Celtics

The Celtics may be losing Kyrie and Rozier this offseason, so if they don’t take a player that can play the PG spot in this draft I’d be stunned. At Pick 22, it may be a little bit of a stretch but Jerome can be a nice piece to have and can start if needed.

Pick #23: Carsen Edwards, PG, Utah Jazz

I know that is maybe a stretch, but hear me out. Edwards lit up the NCAA Tourney out of nowhere this March and I think a lot of teams slid him up on their boards because of this. Utah needs it’s next PG, as Rubio seems to be out, it makes sense for both sides.

Pick #24: Cameron Johnson, PF, Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers as of right now are pretty stacked in their starting five, so adding the best available player in the draft to their rotation can only help things. Johnson is capable of adding a lot to this team whether he’s starting or coming in as a rotation player.

Pick #25: Darius Bazley, SF, Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers need a new SF, there’s no question about it, and I think Bazley is their guy. He’s a solid prospect that has been impressing while being independent. The Blazers like the hard nose, blue-collar guys and Bazley fits the bill perfectly.

Pick #26: Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs need a lot of things, and a new center that can actually score and is not eating up cap space like its a meal would be nice. Kabengele is a great addition to the Cavs and is probably a steal at 26 overall.  

Pick #27: Luka Samanic, PF, Brooklyn Nets

Samanic is a big man from Croatia that does have a lot of skill and can make an impact at the NBA level. The Nets could have a hidden gem here if he falls to 28.

Pick #28: Luguentz Dort, SG, Golden State Warriors

Dort is a bit of an interesting pick, especially for Golden State, It looks more and more like Finals MVP Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are retiring soon, so the Warriors will need new guards to help fill the rotation, and Dort is a solid pick for that.

Pick #29: Goga Bitadze, C, San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are known for turning picks into something with almost magic, and I can see Goga being one of those picks. He’s a good raw talent and with the work of Pop, he can become a great player in this league.

Pick #30: Grant Williams, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

I can see the Bucks doing a lot with this pick, but Willaims makes the most sense to me. He can come off the bench and be a spark or you can move him into the SF or PF spot and play him alongside Giannis, which is both hard to guard and hard to score on.  

So that wraps up the second edition of my mock, if you enjoyed it you can check out more of my stuff on my twitter @ItsBrizz, or you can complain about something I said people like to do that too.

Why the Cowboys will have to overpay for Dak Prescott

With technology and social media at an all-time high, the world in sports has evolved. Why am I bringing this up? Well, anybody who goes on Twitter (myself included) seeing sports-related Tweets or posting sports-related Tweets about teams, players, etc. is posting it right there on emotion, most of the time having a “hot take” at that moment.

For those who are saying I’m a hypocrite for pointing this out, well, I have done my share in venting and taking hot takes on Twitter (I try not to, but human emotion does take over).

Why am I bringing this up? Rewind to 2016 when the Dallas Cowboys were the toast of the town, dominating with two young rookies of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Elliott was a first round pick by the Boys in the draft, but Dak was drafted in the 4th round as a backup to Tony Romo. Well, we know the story: Romo gets injured and Prescott takes over. And wins game after game after game for the Boys.

The toast on Twitter? Dak Prescott. He did no wrong. He was considered a front-runner for both rookie of the year and MVP. He had a great background story, a sympathetic one, etc. Life was good for the young quarterback. People went “there is no earthly way Romo should return at quarterback given how Dak is playing” But then…things started to change.

Dak’s Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones came out and said he wasn’t sure if Dak should remain the quarterback if and when Romo returns from injury. Nearly a week later, Dallas’s torrid run at 11-1 ended in New York, losing to the Giants. Many on Twitter went after Jones, who made the comments during that week. Other people started to question Dak’s ability to lead the team into the post-season and wondered if Dak was the right man, especially that Romo was on the mend.

Dallas kept Prescott as the quarterback and had homefield throughout the playoffs. They lost to Green Bay at home in a classic battle though Prescott did nothing wrong (more of what Aaron Rodgers was doing was the reason why Dallas lost).

After the season, it was reported Elliott would be suspended due to violating the NFL personal conduct policy. While he appealed his case and played early on, Elliott struggled as did Prescott. When Elliott had to serve his suspension, Prescott and the Cowboys really struggled. They went 3-3 without him, but the three losses were embarrassments, and were ones who were fighting for the playoffs (Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chargers) and the wins were to teams who were pretty much done for with the season (Giants, Raiders, Redskins).

Dallas finished at 9-7, but many wondered if Dak is the right guy for the job.

The next season a healthy and suspension-free Elliott came back. Dak’s numbers however, didn’t show the improvement or growth like some had believed and many questioned his ability to be that guy getting the Cowboys back to the promised land for the first time in 25 years. However, the trade of Amari Cooper helped things for Prescott as he finally got that big time receiver he lacked since Dez Bryant left after 2016. His numbers were stout after the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper and Dallas won the NFC East for the second time in 3 years. A win over Seattle in the first round, but the Boys fell to the eventual NFC Champion Rams. Many pointed to the fact that Dak did not make the necessary plays as Los Angeles stopped Elliott on the run and made him pass. Of course, the take is “Dak is not an answer at quarterback and doesn’t deserve any contract extension that he is asking for.”

Which, the extension value? $30 million per year.

Needless to say, the Cowboys are in a bind. Is Dak worth that much in the scheme of things for NFL quarterbacks? No. But we have to realize a key issue here: he is an adequate, if not good quarterback. And in the NFL, you DO NOT let a franchise quarterback go unless you know you have another franchise quarterback right behind. Teams who haven’t that franchise quarterback are the teams who often languish at the bottom (see the Cleveland Browns pre-Baker Mayfield, Detroit Lions pre-Matthew Stafford, Buffalo Bills). Sure, they may have a year or two with some backup quarterback who has a nice run, but they still don’t sniff a post-season berth or they remain near the bottom and will continue to be that way. Prescott is at anything a constant for Dallas. Yes, he isn’t going to put up those massive numbers like a Brady, Brees, or Rodgers. But he doesn’t need to. He has to make sure he plays smart (which overall he does), and makes those needed plays to win games (still has SOME work there, but overall, he’s not the worst at it).

Again, I don’t think Dak is worth $30 million, but to Dallas, they may have to pay him that regardless. Not having a franchise quarterback really destabilizes a franchise. And in Big D where the owner is desperately wanting to return to the glory years of the early/mid 90’s, it is not great to have massive question marks at the one position you don’t need to have the question mark.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Kyrie and the Knicks, by @ItsBrizz

Kyrie and the Knicks, by Bryce Olds (@ItsBrizz)

The Celtics losing in the second round in five has caused some issues in the organization, particularly with Kyrie. Ever since the season has started, speculation about him leaving has seemed to be all people have talked about, the media, the fans, and even some players. Personally, I think he will leave this summer, but if he going to New York or LA, that’s a tougher question. As a Knicks fan, I feel very indifferent about Kyrie.

My first problem with Kyrie is, honestly, I don’t trust him. Kyrie stated during the preseason to all Celtics fans that he’d love to resign and stay “if they’d have him.” Well, everything he did after that contradicted that statement drastically, saying things like “ask me July 1st” or “I’m not gonna miss this shit when I’m done playing.” Most of his quotes have been backpedaling on his statement about resigning, which as a Knicks fan I love, but as someone who might have to have this guy on my team, it makes me nervous.

My second problem with Kyrie is, he did not seem like he even wanted to lead the Celtics. Again, as a Knicks fan, I loved that Kyrie hated being the guy in Boston, but it makes me wonder, what if the Knicks don’t get him a co-star? I mean don’t get me wrong, if the Knicks do get Kevin Durant, I’ll feel a lot better with Kyrie being the wingman, but say they don’t get KD and they end up with another free agent who maybe is good but isn’t better than Kyrie and he has to be the guy again? Kyrie couldn’t lead the Celtics past the second round with a good group, I can’t even imagine the nightmare of Kyrie being the leader of a 17 win team with almost strictly young guys.  

My last problem isn’t exactly a problem with Kyrie, but it’s a problem none the less, the New York media. Kyrie was furious with the Boston media all last season, and while Boston media can get annoying, New York media takes that up about 10 notches. I don’t know how he’d react to the media in New York, and if he is the leader of this Knicks team, he might want out as fast as he wanted in.  

Kyrie is an incredible player, someone who’d bring exciting basketball back to the Garden. I think he has been a little unfairly treated by the media and wasn’t used to being the leader, but what I said still remains true. If the Knicks can’t get a guy like KD, Kawhi, or even Jimmy Butler, I would stay very, VERY far away from Kyrie.  

Thanks for reading my piece, if you enjoyed and want more of my work, you can check out my articles on my twitter @ItsBrizz.   

 

Sources:

Kyrie’s Quotes: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/celtics/2019/02/01/kyrie-irving-backpedals-boston-celtics-commitment/2743445002/  

https://larrybrownsports.com/basketball/kyrie-irving-interesting-quote-walking-into-arena/486464

 

NFL Super Bowl Odds

As the NFL Draft wrapped up in Nashville on Saturday evening, big football fans are already excited for the upcoming season. We are about 4 months away from regular season NFL football, and the clock continues to tick. With the offseason nearly complete, experts are starting to map out their contenders and pretenders before the season. Obviously, not everyone will be right, and there is bound to be a team with high expectations that disappoints. But I’m going to take my crack at picking six teams who I believe are safe bets to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy in 2020. After that, I’m going to end by giving you my rankings for the other NFL teams in terms of best to worst bets and compare them to some data gathered from this article on early Super Bowl 54 odds. Let’s get into it!

 

The Favorite: New England Patriots

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MyTop SportsBook Odds: +700 (co-favorite)

 

You cannot bet against Tom Brady and the Pats until they prove otherwise. The dynasty is coming off of yet another Super Bowl Title and the G.O.A.T. is looking to add another ring. The Patriots had an interesting offseason, losing Trey Flowers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Trent Brown, and a few others. But they also acquired Michael Bennett via trade and brought back Phillip Dorsett, Jason McCourty, and special teams Star Matthew Slater. At 7-1 odds (according to MTSB), there really is nothing to lose by betting on Bill Belichick’s boys in Foxboro.

 

The Team To Avoid: Kansas City Chiefs

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MyTop SportsBook Odds: +700 (co-favorite)

 

I truly think Patrick Mahomes is the best player in football right now, but I don’t know how this Chiefs offense will flow without speedy wideout Tyreek Hill, who was huge for them in 2018 and will likely face a long suspension. MyTop SportsBook says it bluntly and straight-forward, right now you shouldn’t bet on the Chiefs, because 7-1 odds are a bad bet with their current franchise State. Obviously, the Chiefs are still a serious contender, but I just can’t list them as my co-favorite alongside New England right now.

 

My Sleeper Team: Atlanta Falcons

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MyTop SportsBook Odds: +3500 (19th best)

 

This is quite honestly a great bet to place down right now, because I think the Falcons will surprise a lot of people this season. They haven’t really been fully healthy as a unit since 2017, and this season marks another shot at redeeming their forgettable Super Bowl loss. With guys like Deion Jones and Devonta Freeman back on the field, Atlanta isn’t a team to sleep on. As long as they have former NFL MVP Matt Ryan tossing the pigskin, they will compete in the NFC South.

 

My Odds:

 

*(These are basically a power rankings list of which teams I’d bet on from highest to lowest.  MyTop SportsBook Odds are in parentheses.)*

 

Patriots (7-1)

Saints (9-1)

Rams (9-1)

Chargers (16-1)

Bears (12-1)

Chiefs (7-1)

Eagles (14-1)

Colts (16-1)

Browns (12-1)

Packers (20-1)

Cowboys (20-1)

Texans (25-1)

Steelers (22-1)

Vikings (22-1)

Seahawks (25-1)

Ravens (30-1)

Falcons (35-1)

Panthers (55-1)

Jaguars (35-1)

49ers (25-1)

Redskins (150-1)

Broncos (60-1)

Titans (70-1)

Raiders (66-1)

Lions (90-1)

Jets (80-1)

Bills (100-1)

Giants (75-1)

Buccaneers (75-1)

Bengals (150-1)

Dolphins (150-1)

Cardinals (100-1)

 

NBA 2018-19 MVP Odds

NBA 2018-2019 MVP Odds, By Bryce Olds (@ItsBrizz)

The 2018-19 NBA Regular Season has come to a close, meaning the debates about MVP are now raging more than ever before. I believe it’s down to two players, James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. These two have had incredible seasons, but there is only one MVP trophy, and I have some odds to determine who it should be.

The last set of NBA MVP odds were unanimous that Giannis Antetokounmpo was the favorite, but online sportsbooks believed the race was closer than those in Vegas. In early April, Bovada gave James Harden a +150 (40%) chance, while BetOnline had Harden at +180 (35.7%). The Westgate Superbook in Vegas, on the other hand, only gave Harden a +300 (25%) shot, while making Giannis a prohibitive -400 (80%) favorite. Whether it’s Bovada or BetOnline all these sportsbooks in this comparison chart are pre-screened to guarantee that they’re safe sites to place bets at, so you can be guaranteed it’s a safe option for NBA MVP or playoff betting.


Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Odds: -100

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I think Giannis is the all-out favorite for the MVP, and he’d get my vote. Harden has had a statistically great season but in terms of team success, Giannis takes it for me. He led the Bucks to a 60-22 season, best in the NBA and looks like his form is keeping up in the playoffs so far.


James Harden’s Odds: +100

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I think Harden’s season has been great, but Giannis’ has just been a touch better. Not to discredit Harden’s performance this year, but Giannis has turned the corner this year and I think he should take home his first MVP. Despite that its illogical to ignore the tremendous season offered up by last year’s MVP. In reality Giannis will all but certainly win this award but Harden did in no doubt give some contention. 


Thanks for reading my first Pro Sports Fandom article, I am excited to join the team and I hope to be adding new content very soon! If you’d like to drop my personal twitter a follow, click here!

 

The Obstructed Big Ten Review-2018

It was a different vibe after last season in the world of the Big Ten. Sure, they had failed to get a team into the Playoff, but the compass was pointing north. Michigan’s recruiting would get them off the snide, Michigan State had just won another 10 games, Penn State was strong, Wisconsin was strong (and many projected them to finally take that step), Purdue and Northwestern were looking to make massive strides as was Minnesota. And Iowa was Iowa (in a good way)

Then the 2018 season happened. Michigan and Ohio State fulfilled their end of the bargain, though for Ohio State, controversy plagued them and they had too many close calls to the weaker squads. Penn State had hiccups along the way. Michigan State and Wisconsin both disappointed. Purdue got off to a slow start as had Northwestern. And Minnesota was up-and-down. And Iowa was Iowa (in a bad way) And what you got was no team for the second straight year making the Playoff from the Big Ten.

So the question now is, can the Big Ten return to being that conference that was a massive threat not just for the Playoff, but a national championship.

In the Big Ten East, it was Ohio State despite all the controversy. However, the Buckeye close calls and the beatdown loss to Purdue really eliminated them from a talk on the Playoff. Michigan’s slow start at Notre Dame probably hindered their shot and their fate was sealed in Columbus where they had no response to the Buckeyes. Penn State’s two home losses to Ohio State and Michigan State deflated their season and the beatdown that was given to them by Michigan set them back. Michigan State’s offensive woes were horrid to the point they nearly collapsed in their final regular season game to Rutgers. Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers all remained a struggle (though the Terrapins did knock off Texas for the second straight year).

The Big Ten West was a mess. Northwestern won the division at 8-4. Wisconsin, who many had to be a favorite for the title, had issues with the offense and at times defense, and realized the schedule wasn’t as easy as years before fell apart. Iowa never gained consistency nor did Purdue nor Minnesota. Nebraska got off to a very slow start, but turned it up in the second half of the season. And Illinois….um, yeah.

So looking back at my godawful predictions, let’s see what I got right, wrong, and also let’s see what to look ahead on.

Huge turnover rate from the year before, tougher schedule, and issues at quarterback were why I projected Wisconsin to have an off-year and was stunned how others had them as a National Championship contender.

I WAS RIGHT ON: Mostly the Big Ten West, but especially Iowa and Wisconsin. Iowa because while many feel like they are pretty vanilla in terms of how they play football, it isn’t like they rank near the bottom and stink yearly. I had them in 2nd place at 8-4 so voila. Wisconsin I was right on. I didn’t like their schedule. The turnover rate for returning starters was pretty high. Alex Hornibrook is not anyone’s answer (have fun with him Florida State fans) and their schedule was pretty tough compared to years prior. Though to be fair, the losses at home to BYU and Minnesota took me aback.

I WAS WRONG ON: The Big Ten East. I’ll just say that. Thank you Michigan State for crashing and burning. Thank you Rutgers for somehow being able to take a major step backwards. Thank you Penn State (notably James Franklin) for faltering against Ohio State and letting it spoil your season. Thank you Michigan for being dominant in games 2 through 11. Thank you Ohio State for winning by the skin of your teeth. Honorable mention goes to Nebraska for their slow start under Scott Frost.

Haskins did everything he could to have Ohio State win the Big Ten

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State. The one thing that the Buckeyes did right and had it not been for him, Ohio State may have ended up 8-4. Haskins did it all at quarterback for the Buckeyes, which really had been up and down since their national championship run in 2014. He made the needed throws, adjusted, and did all the things in order for the Buckeyes to avoid some disaster losses to Nebraska and Maryland. But when the guy was on fire, he was a Heisman lock. He had some moments, but again, he made the adjustments.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan. Of course, people will be ridiculing him more in part because of the inability of winning the big game against Ohio State (0-4 now) and how Michigan can’t get over that hump. But this was the first time really that the Wolverines looked like a dominant team under Harbaugh prior to that. The recruits are coming in, and with Urban Meyer not on the sidelines in Columbus, he can really take the Big Ten East.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM: None. Nobody really sneaked up an anyone this year.

Lewerke and Michigan State’s offense was anemic at best in 2018

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Michigan State. The Spartans defense is a top ten defense in the nation. But the offense stepped back to about 50 years ago where they couldn’t pass, couldn’t run, and couldn’t do anything right. Some you can point to the injury to Brian Lewerke, but for only so long. The running game struggled and the special teams were a problem. The hope was with a solid offense to go along with the defense, the Spartans would have been in the mix for the Big Ten title and possibly a playoff. But the offense killed this team.

COACHING CHANGES: Mike Locksley replaces DJ Durkin/Matt Canada at Maryland; Ryan Day replaces Urban Meyer at Ohio State. The big news was Urban Meyer stepped down. Of course there will be debate whether it was Ohio State politely asking him to step aside in light of the controversies that plagued him all season or if Urban really wanted to coach and if his mental state is in question. Anyway…Ryan Day takes over an elite football program and all eyes in Columbus and Buckeye Nation will be on him. If the Buckeyes struggle in 2019 (their schedule isn’t demanding as no power 5 non-conference game happens, and the road game at Michigan is their toughest one right now) and if he can’t beat Michigan, he will be looked at very closely after this year so for him, there’s no “getting accustomed.” It is win or else. Mike Locksley takes over at Maryland again (he was the interim after the Terps fired Randy Edsall and was a meager 1-5), but he went under the tutelage of Nick Saban at Alabama for three seasons including transforming Alabama into an offensive juggernaut. So there is hope perhaps for the Terps with Locksley.

TOP 3 QUESTIONS

Harbaugh vs. Ohio State…..yeesh.

IS IT BOOM OR BUST FOR JIM HARBAUGH? Yes and no. I think yes because he HAS to beat Ohio State now with Urban Meyer gone and the fact the Buckeyes and Michigan State come to Ann Arbor, a place where Harbaugh is 0-4 against both. Next year Michigan’s schedule is VERY favorable of a 12-0/11-1 run (road games at Wisconsin and Penn State are on there, but honestly, I don’t see the Badgers being a threat again nor do I see Penn State look as dominant as they have in the past few seasons). However, while maybe not a Playoff berth will happen, but giving the Wolverines a Big Ten title would also suffice and a return to the Rose Bowl will temporarily satisfy the Maize and Blue faithful. But he has to do something against Ohio State. And it’s not up for debate on that.

IS THERE ANYBODY IN THE BIG TEN WEST THAT CAN LOOK LIKE A MAJOR THREAT TO THE BIG TEN EAST? Nope. Wisconsin showed they were not the legit threat. And until they find something at quarterback and handle a tough road schedule, they cannot be taken seriously. But Michigan, at Ohio State and two interesting road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota (who beat them in Madison this year), and I don’t see the Badgers winning more than 8 or 9 games. Purdue is in a similar situation at quarterback, but if that gets solved, they avoid Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State this year, but three roadies at Penn State, Northwestern, and Wisconsin is going to be tough. Nebraska if the trend continues upward (Ohio State and Wisconsin both are at home), could see the Big Ten Championship game (I said that last year and failed miserably however), but they are a year away at the earliest.

WHO IS ON THE HOTTEST SEAT HEADING INTO 2019? Well probably the obvious is Lovie Smith if Illinois can’t get to a bowl game and given how Smith has now been there for 5 seasons, yep, time is ticking. But also while I don’t think either one is in danger of losing their jobs for next season, both James Franklin (Penn State) and Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) started to get plenty of critics within their own bases. Franklin for not beating any of the Big Ten threats last year (1-5 in the last two seasons against Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State) and Dantonio for having inexplicable futility in some of Michigan State’s losses during the season (home to Northwestern, at Nebraska) and just inept play on offense (3 of the last 4 games the Spartans failed to score a TD and the other game could only muster 14 points to Rutgers…..AT HOME). So both Penn State and Michigan State need rebound years in a big way (of course, both have to travel to Columbus-good luck with that), but people will bicker more if these two teams fail to take that next step.

That’s it for this week.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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76ers Top Pacers

This would be the first game that Joel Embiid would appear in since the last couple of weeks. He scored 18 of his 33 points in the fourth-quarter as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Indiana Pacers 106-89.

Embiid also grabbed 12 rebounds and recorded two steals. He showed in this game why he is one of the best players in the world right now.

Ben Simmons scored 15 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded six assists, and recorded one steal. Jimmy Butler scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded four assists, blocked one shot, and recorded one steal.

Tobias Harris scored 16 points for Philadelphia. He also grabbed eight rebounds, recorded four assists, blocked one shot, and recorded one steal.

The 76ers scored 21 bench points. James Ennis III and Mike Scott each scored eight points off the bench. Ennis III grabbed five rebounds and recorded one steal. Scott grabbed six rebounds, recorded two assists, and recorded two steals.

Philadelphia’s biggest lead in the game was 18 points and Indiana’s biggest lead in the game was 14 points.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 18 points, grabbed five rebounds, recorded two assists, and recorded two steals for the Pacers. Darren Collins scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded two assists, and recorded one steal.

Indians scored 37 bench points and Domantas Sabonis scored 10 of them. He also grabbed six rebounds, recorded six assists, and recorded one steal.

The Philadelphia 76ers move into the number three spot in the east and the Indiana Pacers move back to the number four spot in the east, even though both teams have an identical 42-25 record right now.

Philadelphia won the season series against Indiana 3-1. The Pacers next game will be at home against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. The 76ers next game will be at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Manny Machado to Padres: Obstructed Thoughts

One of the last remaining free agents in the off-season in Major League Baseball finally has a home.

Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres agreed to a 10-year, $300 million contract, thus presumably spiking the Padres chances of being a major threat in the NL West.

Machado, a 4-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner with Baltimore, hit .297 with 37 HR last year combined with the Orioles and Dodgers while registering an impressive .905 OPS in the process. Many felt like he may be more of an asset to a team than current prized free agent Bryce Harper (primarily for the position on the field). However, some wondered after his comments about not hustling every play would diminish his contract chances. Needless to say, that’s a firm no.

So what are some takes I have on this?

PADRES MADE A GREAT MOVE: I get it: you don’t want to shell out $30 mil per year for the next ten years if your team signed him. However, San Diego is close to just having a sick team with the farm system they have led by Fernando Tatis Jr. (a guy whom my friend says is a can’t miss-to which I won’t really dispute; he’s going to be something else). Also, it has been too long for Padres fans to really get pumped up about the MLB season. There was false hope in 2015 when the Padres signed James Shields and then traded for Justin Upton and Wil Myers. But that failed miserably. But with Machado, Myers, Hunter Renfroe, and Eric Hosmer, it’s now a formidable lineup and if they get Manuel Margot going, it will be very scary. So to me, with everything falling in place in San Diego, this is a sign that the Padres are now a threat in the NL West to the Dodgers.

BRYCE HARPER STILL NOT OUT OF DISCUSSION WITH THE PADRES: If you could only imagine the Padres throwing out that money to Machado, and then they could still get Bryce Harper? It’s possible. Not probable, but possible. I don’t know if a team can invest in TWO $30 million guys for ten years, but stranger things have happened before.

SAN DIEGO IS ONE TEAM WHO CAN AFFORD MACHADO/HARPER WITHOUT MUCH CONSEQUENCE: I think a reason why the Padres signed Machado was because of their standing financially and from a roster standpoint. The big spenders of the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees were not even remotely rumored to pick up Machado in part because of their payrolls. The Dodgers did a payroll shift when they traded Kemp, Puig, and Alex Wood to Cincinnati, thus making people believe Harper is going there (and still very well could). And the teams like the Cubs and Yankees will be looking at mega extensions to their young stars such as Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge and so forth. San Diego has a great load of talent in the farm system, but while we could see the Padres start displaying their young guns, they are safe from having to lock down any of their stars in the foreseeable future. That is also why I think the Chicago White Sox have been active trying to get Harper or Machado.

IT WILL BE A FUN YEAR IN SAN DIEGO: Again, the Padres have desperately tried to put out a winner in the last few years but have come up short in a big way. Ever since the team moved to PETCO Park the offense has been a very weak point and people have not taken the Padres seriously. Machado is a great hitter who doesn’t necessarily needs to rake it out all the time. He can hit them in the gaps and elsewhere. Put him with a crew of Hosmer and Myers, and you have a pretty good crew there. It may be another year before we really see how legit San Diego is, but they will be pretty exciting nonetheless.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Bruce Arians Named Head Coach of Buccaneers; Can They Go From Worst to First?

Bruce Arians was hired to be the new head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is 66 years old. Arians will also have a four-year deal and a fifth-year team option, according to a source that told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Bruce Arians retired after the 2017 season with the Arizona Cardinals. One of the reasons why he decided to take this job was because Jason Licht is the general manager for Tampa Bay. He used to work in Arizona’s front office in 2012 as the Director of player personnel and in 2013 as the Vice President of player personnel.

Arians is expected to bring in some interesting names as his assistants. Todd Bowles is expected to be the defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers. He was the head coach for the New York Jets from 2015-2018. Bowles was the defensive coordinator with the Cardinals when Bruce Arians was coaching there.

Harold Goodwin will be the running game coordinator and the offensive line coach. Byron Leftwich will be the passing game coordinator. Leftwich was the Arizona Cardinals Offensive Coordinator after Week 7. Clyde Christensen will be the quarterbacks coach.

With Bruce Arians being hired as the new head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is it possible this football team moves from worst place in the NFC South to first place in the NFC South in 2019?

Tampa Bay will be a much better football team next season with the presence of Arians alone. He will be the alpha male this team needs in the locker room. Bruce Arians will discipline quarterback Jameis Winston really well.

The offense has a lot of talent. They have players like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate. The Buccaneers also have Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, and Jacquizz Rodgers in the backfield, but they might be able to find another running back in the draft or sign someone in free agency. A player like Le’Veon Bell could do the trick for this Tampa Bay team.

The defense has some good personnel like Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Lavonte David. They need to draft some more defensive personnel, but Bowles could fix this defensive scheme. Tampa Bay played a 4-3 defensive scheme last season and they could very well switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme for next season.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have seven picks in the NFL Draft. They will own the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Tampa Bay finished with a 5-11 record for the past two seasons. They haven’t made it to the playoffs since the 2007 season when the Buccaneers finished in first place in the NFC South with a 9-7 record. They lost in the first-round that season against the New York Giants.

Speaking of first place, it won’t be easy for Tampa Bay to jump from worst to first because of the schedule they have to face. Their homes next season will be against the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers, the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, and the New York Giants.

Their road games will be against the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, the Detroit Lions, the Jacksonville Jagaurs, the Tennessee Titans, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Seattle Seahawks.

Five of those teams on Tampa Bay’s schedule made it to the playoffs this past season.

They could be an 8-8 or 9-7 team next season. The New Orleans Saints will probably be the best team in the division again next season. The Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers both missed the playoffs this season after making it to the postseason a season ago.

Arians’s record with the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2017 was 49-30-1. He made the playoffs twice with them. I don’t think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win the NFC South next season, but it is very possible they could be one of the two wild card teams in the NFC.