Holiday Viewing Guide

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The Holiday season isn’t done just yet which means that there are still sports to view on a random weekday.

Tuesday Dec. 31st

(In Progress) AdvoCare v100 Bowl: Boston College vs Arizona – 9:30am ESPN: The country’s best RB Andre Williams vs a tough and under appreciated Arizona team.

Chik-Fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M vs Duke – 5pm ESPN: It’s probably your last chance to see Johnny Manziel as a collegiate. There is also the possibility of a shootout on New Year’s Eve.

San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks – 5pm REGIONAL COVERAGE: The Sharks ended the Ducks 10 game winning streak on Sunday night. Ducks are probably out for revenge.

Portland Trailblazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5pm NBA TV: Two of the top teams in the Western Conference get down to business. Portland is looking to end a two game losing streak, a first for them this season, and OKC continues to try and get by without starting guard Russell Westbrook.

-Coolest event today is not the games themselves but the adventures of Fox Sports announcers Gus Johnson and Bill Rafferty. Check it out on AwfulAnnouncing.com

Wednesday Jan. 1st

Tottenham @ Manchester United – 9:30am NBCSN: It’s a full slate of games for the Premier League. This is the best match up of the day.

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs Wisconsin – 10am ABC: Two teams that could be in the BCS if it wasn’t for a tough loss here and there. Should be the game of the morning.

Winter Classic: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Detroit Red Wings – 10am NBC (may change due to weather): It’s become and annual tradition on New Years day and made even cooler by HBO’s 24/7 show. This year a Canadian team finally gets to show it’s stuff on New Years Day. This time it’s outside in the Big House at the University of Michigan.

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs Stanford – 2pm ESPN: This is going to be a good ole fashion, hard hitting football game. Should be tough, close and fun to watch.

Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs Central Florida – 5:30pm ESPN: Baylor scores a ton of points and Central Florida has been this seasons “cardiac kids”. Also, UCF QB Blake Bortels is a possible first round draft pick and has a smoking hot girlfriend.

 

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The Year That Was

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It’s really just a gut feeling when it comes to the biggest moments in sports for 2013. There will always be moments that will be left out but most moments or events are pretty obvious. In any event, here is the list, in no particular order, that we came up with.

THE BAD

Boston Strong

The terrorist attack in Boston at the finish line of the Boston Marathon left three dead and 260 injured. But you can’t keep Boston down. The culprits were caught or killed and the city recovered as the Boston Red Sox went on to win the World Series. David Ortiz, aka Big Papi, said it best thought:

Lance Armstrong

Remember that great story of a man who beat cancer and went on to win seven straight Tour De France? Yeah, not true. He cheated. He told Oprah.

Aaron Hernandez

From up and coming NFL star to charged with murder. It’s a sad story but one that some saw coming.

THE ODD

When the Lights Went Out In New Orleans

Who could forget when half the lights went out during the Super Bowl. After which the San Francisco 49ers went on a tear. It wasn’t enough as the Baltimore Ravens held out to beat the 49ers. Either way, you can be pretty sure that the lights won’t go out in the Meadowlands for the 2014 Super Bowl.

The Finish

Possibly the greatest finish in college football history in one of the biggest games of the year. You’ve seen it before but it’s worth watching again.

The Hit

This launched Jadeveon Clowney into the public conscience. It’s a perfect play by a defensive end. NFL QB’s should be worried.

THAT JUST HAPPENED

Anderson Silva’s reign at the UFC Middleweight Champion came to an end in July when he was knocked out by Chris Weidman. His reign lasted over six years.

KTFO

THE GOOD

Team Jack

While Auburn may have had some of the best finishes of the college football season the best moment may have taken place back in April when Jack Hoffman ran for a touchdown in the Nebraska spring game. Jack had a brain tumor removed and is fighting another one. Find out more here.

Goodbye Mariano

The respected paid to this man is well deserved. He is one of the greatest closers in Major League Baseball history. Credit to Joe Girardi and the Yankees for sending him out in a very cool way.

Green Machine

This may be one of the best stories of 2013. Why write about it when MLS Insider did this great piece on it.

Now let’s see what 2014 has in store for us.

Weekend Viewing Guide Fri. 12/27-Mon. 12/28

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

FRIDAY DECEMBER 27th

Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington vs BYU – 6:30pm ESPN: Should be a lot of offense even if UW is a team in the middle of a coaching transition. They still have a veteran QB in Keith Price and an all everything RB in Bishop Sankey. BYU has QB Taysom Hill and he is a beast to bring down.

Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors – 7:30pm NBA League Pass (regional coverage): One of the surprises in the NBA this season has been the play of the Phoenix Suns. Currently sitting in second in the Pacific Conference they take on the third team Golden State. It should be a rocking good time in Oaktown on Friday night.

 

SATURDAY DECEMBER 28th

Louisville @ Kentucky – 1pm CBS: This battle in the bluegrass state is always one of the must watch events of the college basketball regular season.

Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville vs Miami – 3:45pm ESPN: Louisville just missed out on a second straight BCS berth and Miami is in the post season again after a self exile. Game is in Orlando and is big recruiting game for both schools and a preview of an ACC game next year.

UFC 168 – 7pm PPV: Anderson Silva is coming off of his first loss since January of 2006. Can defending Champion Chris Weidman do it again? The Co-main event features Ronda Rousey vs Meisha Tate for the women’s Bantamweight title. They don’t like each other and a good fight or at least a great finish is in store.

SUNDAY DECEMBER 29th

Liverpool @ Chelsea – 7:30am NBCSN: A battle between teams at the top of the table in the Premier League. It’s a nice way to start off your day.

San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals – 1pm FOX: The 49ers are coming off an emotional last minute win on Monday Night Football. They now have to go to Arizona which has been on an absolute tear. Arizona needs to win and get some help in order to get into the playoffs. This will be a very close game.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears – 1:25pm FOX: Winner goes into the playoffs and the loser goes home. Aaron Rodgers is back for Green Bay. Let’s do this.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys – 5:25pm NBC: Like the Green Bay @ Chicago game, the winner goes on the loser goes home. Will the Cowboys QB Tony Romo play or will it be up to back up Kyle Orton? So many questions and only 60 minutes to find out the answer.

 

Anaheim Ducks @ San Jose Sharks – 7:30pm  Regional Coverage:  Two of the best teams out west get another chance to see who is the biggest fish in the sea.

Who’s calling what in the NFL? See here. 

The Changing of the Guard

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The end of the MLS season mark the beginning of a lot of change that’s far from finished. From coaching changes to player movements and it’s not even January. Some of the bigger changes come with retirement. Quite a few of the players who helped build MLS into what it is today have decided to call it a career and the list may shock you.

Brian Ching: He played in some 330 games, scored 118 goals, three MLS Cups and an MVP. To this day no one knows why a US National Team having trouble scoring goals didn’t put in Ching during the 2006 World Cup. Either way, he was one of MLS’ most dangerous strikers and a great representative of MLS. 

Brian Ching

Pablo Mastroeni: The ultimate captain on the field. He would definitely check your papers if you went through the midfield. He had upwards of 335 appearances, 65 USMNT appearances and an MLS Cup.  He was the one you would build a team around.

Kevin Hartmann: The only MLS player with 400 plus appearances. Most career victories and clean sheets to go along with his two MLS Cups. He is the standard of what an MLS Keeper should be.

Ramiro Corrales: The man has been around…since the inaugural season of MLS. Yes, his first MLS stint was with the San Jose Clash back in 1996. He had some stints elsewhere but he will always be the anchor of the San Jose Earthquakes. He went off in style too. 

Matt Reis: A captain’s captain. He anchored the New England Revolution since 2003. He had multiple chances at an MLS Cup but kept coming up short. He was still a rock between the pipes in MLS for a long, long time. He’s also a hero.

Chris Albright: Mr.Versatility. He played just about every position for five separate clubs and had two dozen appearances with the USMNT. Under-appreciated by the media and maybe by the fans but never by his teammates.

To these players and others, a big thank you for helping make the league what it is today.

Bowl Game Viewing Guide

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The bowl season, like the holidays, is upon us. With so many games to choose from we figured that we should save you some time and point you to what should be the best of the best this bowl season. All times are Pacific by the way.

Saturday Dec. 21st

New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs Washington State – 11am ESPN: This game has a tendency to be close. With two teams excited about being there, this could be as good as last years game.

Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State vs USC – 12:30pm ABC: Fresno State QB Derek Carr could propel himself into the first round of next years NFL Draft with a great showing in this game. USC, a lot of changes coaching wise so we’ll see if they can not lay an egg like they did last year in their bowl game. If they do show up, this could be one of the top 10 games of the bowl season.

Tuesday Dec. 24th

Hawaii Bowl: Oregon State vs Boise State – 5pm ESPN: Spike the egg nog and settle in for a shootout in the Pacific. Both teams can score a lot of points and Oregon State comes in with Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks.day Dec. 24th

Thursday Dec. 26th

Poinsettia Bowl: Northern Illinois vs Utah State – 6:30pm ESPN: The last time you can see NIU QB Jordan Lynch and a chance to see a very underrated Utah State team.

Friday Dec. 27th

Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington vs BYU – 6:30pm ESPN: Should be a lot of offense even if UW is a team in the middle of a coaching transition. They still have a veteran QB in Keith Price and an all everything RB in Bishop Sankey. BYU has QB Taysom Hill and he is a beast to bring down.

Saturday Dec. 28th

Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville vs Miami – 3:45pm ESPN: Louisville just missed out on a second straight BCS berth and Miami is in the post season again after a self exile. Game is in Orlando and is big recruiting game for both schools and a preview of an ACC game next year.

Monday Dec. 30th

Music City Bowl: Georgia Tech vs Ole Miss – 12:15pm ESPN: Two teams that are still licking their wounds from tough overtime losses to arch rivals. This could make or break each team going into next season especially Ole Miss. They have a young team and a win here could prove to be a huge stepping stone going into next season.

Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs Texas – 3:45pm ESPN: This game is notorious for being awesome. Two years ago, it was the RGIII show as he and Baylor hung 67 on Washington. Last year it was a last second field goal. It’s also Mack Brown’s last game as head coach of Texas. They’ll show up for him and could give a BCS robbed Oregon a run for their money.

Tuesday Dec. 31st

AdvoCare v100 Bowl: Boston College vs Arizona – 9:30am ESPN: The country’s best RB Andre Williams vs a tough and under appreciated Arizona team.

Chik-Fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M vs Duke – 5pm ESPN: It’s probably your last chance to see Johnny Manziel as a collegiate. There is also the possibility of a shootout on New Year’s Eve.

Wednesday Jan. 1st

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs Wisconsin – 10am ABC: Two teams that could be in the BCS if it wasn’t for a tough loss here and there. Should be the game of the morning.

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs Stanford – 2pm ESPN: This is going to be a good ole fashion, hard hitting football game. Should be tough, close and fun to watch.

Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs Central Florida – 5:30pm ESPN: Baylor scores a ton of points and Central Florida has been this seasons “cardiac kids”. Also, UCF QB Blake Bortels is a possible first round draft pick and has a smoking hot girlfriend.

Friday Jan. 3rd

Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs Oklahoma State – 4:30pm FOX: Possible shootout factor here. We’ll see if both teams can recover from heartbreaking season finale losses that kept them out of a major BCS payday. Mizzou still has one of the better front four’s in all of football and is worth checking out.

Orange Bowl: Ohio State vs Clemson – 5:30pm ESPN: Two years ago Clemson gave up 70 points in this game to West Virginia. Ohio State may be able to do that to them but Clemson might be able to do it to Ohio State too.

Saturday Jan. 4th

BBVA Compass Bowl: Houston vs Vanderbilt – 10am ESPN: Vandy is good and Houston is a team that can give people fits. If Vandy doesn’t come in ready to play it could be a long day in Birmingham for the Commodores.

Monday Jan. 6th

BCS National Title Game: Florida State vs Auburn – 5:30pm ESPN: It’s a great match up. NFL talent all over the field and a new take on an old school triple option. Should certainly be better than the last two national title games.

FULL BOWL SCHEUDLE

The Best of College Football 2013

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

With the bowl season rapidly approaching it’s time to look back at some of the better moments from the college football season. Let’s face it, there are really too many to count but here are four we’ll always come back to.

The Finish

It may be the greatest finish in the history of college football, the 100 yard (plus) missed field goal returned for a touchdown.

The Catch

Two week  before Auburn’s amazing finish against Alabama they had another one against their other long time rival Georgia.

The Other Catch

2013 Cardiac Kids, also known as UCF do it dirty to Temple and keep their BCS Bowl season intact.

UCF One Handed Grab

Team Jack

While Auburn may have had some of the best finishes of the college football season the best moment may have taken place back in April when Jack Hoffman ran for a touchdown in the Nebraska spring game. Jack had a brain tumor removed and is fighting another one. Find out more here.

Now Bowl Season (why ESPN calls it Bowl Week when it lasts for multiple weeks we’ll never know) is upon us. Happy Holidays.

What To Watch Thursday 12/12 – Sunday 12/15

THURSDAY 12/12

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos – 5:25pm NFL NETWORK: By the time they kick off the weather will be clear but a 10mph wind will just cut through people when it’s 18 degrees outside. It’s a short week and the possibility of a shootout is possible.

SATURDAY 12/14

Arsenal @ Manchester City – 4am NBC Sports Network: Ok, it’s a 4am match so DVR it and watch it when you get up.

Army vs Navy – Noon CBS: It’s Army vs Navy. Who cares what their records are, it is arguably the most tradition rich college football game out there.

Pittsburgh Penguins @ Detroit Red Wings – 4pm NHLN: Classic match up and an important one in the Eastern Conference.

UFC on FOX – 5pm FOX: A rematch of the Flyweight Title with Champion Demetrious Johnson taking on Joseph Benavidez.

SUNDAY 12/15

Liverpool @ Tottenham – 7:30am NBC Sports Network: A matchup of teams at the top of the table and a chance to watch Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.

Seattle Seahawks @ NY Giants – 10am FOX: Weather could play a factor in this one. Can the Seahawks rebound from a tough loss last week in SF?

Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys – 1:25pm FOX: Both teams are hanging on to their playoff hopes by a thread. Both need this game, bad.

 

A Not So Silly Season

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Over the last two years this time of year has been a proverbial revolving door when it comes to head coaches in college football. This year, not so much. The main reason is that nearly all of the major college football programs have hired a new coach within the last three years.

Look at the major college football conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and Sec. After the 2012 and 2013 seasons there was a total of 24 coaching changes. Between those five conferences this year there will be three coaching changes (give or take).

This is the first time since 2006 that the SEC isn’t changing out a coach. The man who changed that in 2007, Nick Saban at Alabama.

Most people felt back in September that the two biggest job openings this year would be USC and Texas. USC has already been opened and filled. Lane Kiffin was fired (not surprisingly) by USC back at the end of September. He’s been replaced by Washington Head Coach and former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian.

Steve Sarkisian

The Texas job, as of this post, will open possibly by the end of the week if the reports are correct. This will be the biggest job out there by far with all of the resources, money and pressure one could want.

Next year could bring a back the typical ‘silly season’ but let’s hope, for the coaches and the fans, that it comes around as often as the World Cup because it can drive people, well, silly.

A Wrap on MLS 2013 & Where The League Goes From Here

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The 2013 MLS season came to a close on Saturday as Sporting KC hoisted their second MLS Cup in franchise history with a penalty shootout win over Real Salt Lake. It was the coldest MLS Cup ever played and the culmination of a fantastic rebranding by Sporting KC. Unfortunately a lot of people may not have been watching because the league is still not part of the fabric of North American sports culture.

MLS CUP 2013

An article in the Wall Street Journal this past week pointed out that despite Sporting KC being in and hosting the 2013 MLS Cup, there was not a lot of media coverage and most fans in the area would be watching the Missouri Tigers in the SEC title game which was on at the same time. Whether this still held water come game time remains to be seen but the lack of coverage outside of the soccer community speaks for itself.

So what is MLS to do?

A lot of soccer purists, and to some degree the league, wants to switch to the FIFA calendar which would put the season between August and May. Now outside of North America this works. In North America that is suicide.

SKC FANS

The NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, College Football & Basketball all play during this time. The current league schedule ranges from March to December which in some people’s minds is still ludacris but it gives the league a fighting chance during to grab eyeballs during the summer months.

If MLS did go to the FIFA calendar the playoffs would presumably fall into April & May. The same time as the NBA and NHL playoffs not to mention the Masters, NFL Draft, Kentucky Derby and the start of the Major League Baseball season. So the consensus seems to be that there is no right answer. it’s a tough battle either way.

MLS also has to address the TV ratings issue. For as much support as you see at stadiums including the incredible turnout in Kansas City with the below freezing temperatures the ratings are not there as ESPN analyst and former league MVP Taylor Twellman has pointed out many times.

MLS cannot go head to head nationally with the NFL or major College Football games like the SEC Championship. The MLS Cup this year, when the smoke clears, would have been better served being played on Friday evening and here’s why:

-High School football would be winding down.

-The college football game or games would not be as anticipated as say the Big Ten or SEC title game on a Saturday

-The NBA & NHL are still early in the regular season.

The fact’s are that the MLS is not front and center in the North American sports consciousness. That could change over time but they league, the owners and the pundits cannot get wrapped up in their soccer silo and think that the rest of North America will come along for the ride.

Now a look back at our predictions made back at the start of the season:

5. New Coaches: There are 5 new head coaches roaming the sidelines in MLS this season and that now makes 12 former MLS players now managing clubs. Two of the biggest debuts square off in week one. Mike Petke of the New York Red Bulls and Caleb Porter for the Portland Timbers. Both teams have high expectations, a rabid fan base and a longing for MLS post season glory.  Porter and Petke lived up to and exceeded expectations. While neither of them won the MLS Cup, Portland was the top team in the West and New York the top team in the East and winners of the Supporters Shield.                                                                                                 

4. The Donovan Odyssey: US Soccer poster boy Landon Donovan has taken a leave of absence from soccer but is returning to the the 2-time defending MLS Cup Champions LA Galaxy at the end of March. Will he be the same player on and off the field? Can he lead, along with Robbie Keane, the Galaxy to a 3rd straight MLS Cup? Yes and no, but they did make the playoffs. 

3. Can Toronto FC Make The Playoffs?: Only the Red Bulls have gone through more coaching changes than TFC. However, the Red Bulls have been in MLS for all 18 years (formerly known as the MetroStars) while TFC kicks off it’s 7th MLS season on Saturday. They have never made the playoffs and after another off season of sweeping changes it is left to 1st time coach Ryan Nelsen to get this team into the MLS playoffs for the 1st time. Nope & they did make major changes in the front office…again.

2. Running With The Red Bulls: The New York Red Bulls have arguably the most dangerous player in MLS in Thierry Henry. They’ve shaken up the coaching staff and the team but is it enough to get them their 1st MLS Cup? Maybe. If new signee Juninho  can be half of what he was and the back-line and pull together then they may just be the team the beat. It’s a lot of ‘if’s’ but in the sports saturated New York market the Red Bulls have to win. Not just for the team but for the league. They won the MLS Supporters Shield. Their first major trophy in their history. 

1No Beckham? No Problem: The loss of one of the world’s sports and entertainment icons shouldn’t slow down MLS or the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy will get Donovan back after a few games and they still have the man who lead them all the way to the MLS Cup glory in Robbie Keane. The league on the other hand is entering it’s 18th season and is bringing in more and more top talent from around the world. There is only one David Beckham but the level of play, energy and popularity of the sport are growing and with all due respect to Becks, he probably couldn’t have taken the league any further. Who? Oh the guy with the discounted rate for a new franchise in Miami that will fail miserably…yeah we’re good but we appreciate all you do. 

What To Watch Thurs. 12/5 – Sun. 12/8

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It might not be as festive as last weekend but the next four days have no shortage of sports drama.

THURSDAY 12/5

San Jose Sharks @ Pittsburgh Penguins – 4pm Regional Broadcast: Believe it or not this is a very dynamic match up of leaders in their divisions. The Sharks head east with 43 points to their name while the Pens have 39 points and have yet to hit on all cylinders.

Louisville @ Cincinnati – 4:30pm ESPN: One of the final times (probably) to see Teddy Bridgewater as a collegiate QB. He and the Cardinals have to win if they want a chance at another BCS Game. Cincy still has a chance at a BCS berth but this game is really for the Keg of Nails and a piece of the conference championship.

FRIDAY 12/6

MAC Title Game: Bowling Green State vs Northern Illinois – 5pm ESPN 2: Time for the MAC title game and it’s usually really, really good. Northern Illinois escaped last year beating #18 ranked Kent State in 2 OTs. The goal this year, DO THE SAME THING. NIU wins and they get into the BCS for the second straight year. QB Jordan Lynch also gets to improve his Heisman Trophy chances. Bowling Green and Head Coach Dave Clawson look to get to a 10 win season. Something even Urban Meyer couldn’t do at BGSU.

SATURDAY 12/7

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State – 9am ABC: Bedlam. They call it that for a reason and both teams had two weeks to get ready for this one. OU can spoil the Cowboys possible Big 12 title and BCS Berth. OU owns the overall series but Oklahoma State won in Stillwater two years ago and last years game went into OT. Again, Bedlam.

Texas @ Baylor – 12:30pm FOX: Baylor wins and they get the Big 12 title and a spot in the BCS along with Texas Head Coach Mack Brown possibly losing his job. Texas wins and they can go to the BCS with a Big 12 title if their old rival Oklahoma can bring home another Bedlam victory.

Sporting KC welcome Jason Kries and Real Salt Lake to Blue Hell
Sporting KC welcome Jason Kries and Real Salt Lake to Blue Hell

MLS CUP: Real Salt Lake @ Sporting KC – 1pm ESPN: It’s MLS Cup in one of the best venues in all of MLS. It’s two of the best teams led by two of the best coaches representing two of the best run organizations. Should be an absolute dandy. WELCOME TO BLUE HELL.

Big Ten Title Game: Ohio State vs Michigan State – 5:15pm FOX: It’s for all the marbles. Ohio State wins and they’re in the National Title game. Easier said then done as they have to go through one of the best defenses the Big Ten has ever seen in Michigan State.

Mountain West Title Game: Utah State @ Fresno State – 7pm CBS: Laugh all you want. Two amazing coaching jobs and two of the best teams you haven’t seen all year. End your night with what promises to be a good ole fashion wild west shootout.

SUNDAY 12/8

Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles – 10am FOX: The Eagles found their wings with QB Nick Foles. The man has yet to throw in interception this season. But the Lions find the end zone like kids finding candy on Halloween.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers – 1pm FOX: Seattle wrapped up a playoff berth with their dismantling of the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. They win this and they pretty much lock up the NFC West and get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But it’s the Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll vs the 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. This rivalry goes back to their USC vs Stanford days. Harbaugh is not going down without a fight and the 49ers have looked really good over the last two weeks.

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints – 5:15pm NBC:  It’s a fight for supremacy in the NFC South. This is the first of two games between two potential playoff teams over the next three weeks. Get ready.