If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m ready for college football to begin.  So I decided to preview the best division in the best conference in CFB, the SEC West.  And there is no more debating the fact that the SEC is the best confrence.  The SEC is head and shoulders above every other conference, considering they’ve won the last five National Championships.

 

Trent Richardson

Alabama Junior RB Trent Richardson

Alabama

 

 

2010 Record: 10-3

2010 Bowl Game: Capitol One Bowl vs. Michigan St. W 49-7

2011 Projected Record: 12-0 (SEC West Champions)

Alabama has a very favorable schedule this year.  They play both Arkansas and LSU at home.  This definitely helps considering they will be breaking in a brand new quarterback to replace Greg McElroy.  The QB battle between A.J. McCarron and Phil Simms will continue throughout August and possibly into the first game against San Jose State.  Luckily, Heisman candidate Trent Richardson will be able to take the load off of the new quarterback’s shoulders by running the ball.

Arkansas

2010 Record: 10-3

2010 Bowl Game: Sugar Bowl vs. Ohio St. L 31-26

2011 Projected Record: 10-2

Like Alabama, Arkansas is losing a great starting quarterback in Ryan Mallet.  However, I expect Head Coach Bobby Petrino will have Junior Tyler Wilson ready to go against tough SEC secondaries.  Also, look for half back Knile Davis to run the ball well as an upperclassman this season.  As a sophomore, he had 13 rushing touchdowns and averaged over 100 rushing yards per game.

Auburn

2010 Record: 14-0

2010 Bowl Game: BCS National Championship vs. Oregon W 22-19 (OT)

2012 Projected Record: 5-7

Unlike Florida, LSU, and Alabama, I don’t think Auburn will make it to a bowl game after winning the BCS National Title.  To start, the loss of Cam Newton is very hard to deal with, especially with a third year coach in Gene Chizik.  However, like Alabama and Arkansas, they do have a fantastic tail back in Michael Dyer.  But he will be carrying the entire load for the Tigers, something that a sophomore will, in all likelihood, not be able to do.

LSU

2010 Record: 11-2

2010 Bowl Game: Cotton Bowl vs. Texas A&M W 41-24

2011 Projected Record: 11-1

The Tigers are definitely poised to make a National Title run in 2011.  With Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson returning, the Tigers are one of the few teams in the West with returning starting QB(s).  And Les Miles always has his team ready to take on the best in the nation.  One thing that could hinder LSU is their lack of experience at running back with no juniors or seniors on roster.

Ole Miss

2010 Record: 4-8

2010 Bowl Game: NONE

2011 Projected Record: 5-7

Although I believe the Rebels will improve in 2011, I still don’t think they will make a bowl game.  Ole Miss is coming off a season in which they only won one SEC game (vs. Kentucky) and lost to FCS opponent Jacksonville State.  Luckily for Rebel fans, Coach Houston Nutt signed a top-25 recruiting class this past season.  Despite this, I doubt the Rebs will be able to replace QB Jeremiah Masoli, who was a major player in three of Ole Miss’s four wins.

Mississippi State

2010 Record: 9-4

 

Chirs Relf

Mississippi State Senior QB Chris Relf

 

2010 Bowl Game: Gator Bowl vs. Michigan W 52-14
2011 Projected Record: 8-4

The Bulldogs are coming off one of their best seasons in the past decade, finishing in the top 20 for the first time since 1999.  They are returning senior QB Chris Relf, who has the best passer efficiency in school history.  The Bulldogs have 17 other seniors on roster, including running backs Vick Ballard and Robert Elliot.  Look for Mississippi State to be playing in January again.  And don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs get to an SEC Championship game within the next five seasons.

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1 Run – 0 Hits

That’s what the scoreboard at Progressive Field in Cleveland read earlier today.  Ervin Santana threw the first ever no-hitter at the Prog (formerly Jacob’s Field), but he allowed one unearned run off of a passed ball in the first inning.  Despite being down for the first 4+ innings, Santana blew away the Indians hitters by striking out 10 and only walking one.  But the question remains, does this one run taint the no-no?

Ervin Santana
Ervin Santana getting the traditional Gatorade bath

To answer this question, you first have to look at some statistics.  For one, Santana only faced 29 batters, just two over the minimum.  The reason for this is that Santana was able to maintain composure after the early run, only walking one batter in the remaining eight innings.  Next, Santana’s ground ball to fly ball ratio was 12-5.  This means he earned the no-hitter, it wasn’t just his defence making great plays.  For a comparison, the Indians combined GB-FB ration was 4-14.  Finally, Santana recorded the highest game score (see formula below) of the season for a pitcher with 94.  So according to the statistics, Santana pitched the best game that has been pitched this season.

The last time that a run was allowed in a no-hitter was almost 18 years ago when Darryl Kile of the Houston Astros beat the Mets 7-1.  Santana was only 10 years old at the time.  When Kile threw his no-no, the article in the following morning’s edition of The Deseret News did not focus on the one run.  It instead focused on Kile pitching the game of his life only five days after the passing of his father.

Although Santana (to my knowledge) does not have a story like that, I would expect the Los Angelas Times to report on the fact that Santana had only one walk.  Or maybe that he took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning against Baltimore in his last start.

Lastly, the pitch that Ezequiel Carrera scored on was a passed ball, not a wild pitch.  It was actually a strike, but back-up catcher Bobby Wilson couldn’t hold on to it.  Had it been a wild pitch seven feet over Wilson’s head, then maybe the no-hitter would be marked with an asterisk.  But Santana pitched the game of his life.  This no-hitter shouldn’t be tainted for him because of a young catcher’s mistake.  So congrats to Ervin Santana on the third no-hitter of this season!

Formula: 50 + 1*Outs + 2*IP after the 4th + 1*K – 2*H – 4*ER – 2*UnearnedRuns – 1*BB (ESPN)


Now that the NFL lockout is over, we can focus on what really matters: Brett Favre speculation.  First, he landed in New York as a Jet.  Then, he sailed off to Minnesota to become a Viking (twice).  Now, it seems the rumor mill has him flying into Philadelphia as an Eagle.  Bad puns aside, it looks like the Favre train will keep going throughout training camp and even into the regular season.

Brett Favre

Favre training in Mississippi

Vick has already said that he would love to have Favre as his back-up.  And who wouldn’t?  He’s got more passing yards and touchdowns than anyone else.  And most importantly, he has a ring.  But I highly doubt Favre will want to play second fiddle to anybody, let alone a proven player like Vick.  For one, there is no chance that Andy Reid would start Favre in front of Vick.  Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and he won’t want to ride the pine in Philly, even if it means getting a second ring that way.  Not to mention the fact that Reid is on the hot seat as the Philly head coach.  If he decides to start Favre instead of Vick and it backfires, he could be fired before the season is over.

Also, the Eagles shouldn’t even want Favre as their back-up.  His main job would be to coach and mentor Vick.  First off, Vick’s style of play is far different from Favre’s.  In years that he has started over half of his team’s games, Vick is averaging 5.6 rushing touchdowns per year.  Favre averages just over 0.7.  Favre will be of no use as a coach to a player like that no matter how great Favre may be.  But beyond being a coach, Favre would be a poor mentor to Vick.  Vick is trying to get on the right path in life.  And since his prison release, he’s done a pretty good job.  Favre could be a huge detriment to Vick’s progress.  Let’s not forget that just last year Favre was fined $50,000 for not cooperating in the NFL’s investigation into his alleged sexting of a female employee of the New York Jets.  If this was the only incident in his career, it might be fine.  But before the 1996 season he also ran

Michael Vick
Michael Vick is only 31 years old

into some trouble.  Favre was banned from drinking alcohol by the NFL after he admitted to being addicted to Vicodin.  He also spent 46 days in a drug rehab clinic for said addiction.  Don’t forget the Vick has gotten in trouble for drug use, specifically marijuana.

One final reason the Eagles shouldn’t want Favre is the new salary cap.  The cap has been set at $120 million, $4 million lower than the 2009 cap.  The Eagles need to know that their money is better spent getting weapons for Vick than getting him a back-up.  My suggestion: Plaxico Burress.  Sure he’s a risk.  But remember the last guy who came out of prison to play for the Eagles.  And Burress carries much less controversy than Vick did.  He also brings as much publicity to the team as Favre would.  At the end of the day, it’s best for everyone if Favre just stays home in Mississippi and does his job as a grandpa.


Don’t ask me how, but somehow the Pittsburgh Pirates are only 0.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.  The lowly Pirates (who ironically have the 7th most World Series titles) haven’t had an above-.500 season since 1992.  That was also the last time the Pirates made the playoffs.  Barry Bonds led that Pirates team in home runs.  By any measure, the Pirates have been the laughing stock of the MLB for nearly the past 2 decades.  It seems like there is one team like that in every league; a team that is so obsolete that the casual fan may have forgotten that they even exist.  Here are those teams.

NBA – Charlotte Bobcats

Despite being owned by the greatest of all time, the Bobcats do not have much going for them. 

charlotte
Kobe and Gerald Wallace, who was traded to Portland

They have the third lowest franchise winning percentage (.387) and their only playoff appearance resulted in a quick exit at the hands of the Orlando Magic.  Oh and they just traded away their all-time leading scorer Gerald Wallace.  The lockout certainly doesn’t help them either.  If the major market owners get their way (and in my opinion they will), Charlotte will be left out to dry, trapped in a realm of obscurity.  The only other team in the running for the NBA was the Clippers, but Blake Griffin will bring them back up whenever the NBA starts back up again.

NHL – New York Islanders

The New York Islanders might as well play in the AHL (the dragon mascot would fit).  They haven’t made it out of the first round of the NHL playoffs since 1993, a Pittsburgh Pirates-esq streak.  And since the NHL lockout, which canceled the 2004-05 season, they have had only 1 season above .500.  They are also averaging the lowest attendance per game in the NHL with a meer 11,059.  They do have one bright spot in John Tavares.  Unfortunately, he shares the same name as his uncle, who is the all-time scoring leader in the National Lacrosse League.  It’s unfortunate because many people (especially in upstate New York) associate Tavares with a lacrosse stick.

NFL – Buffalo Bills

Like the Pirates, the Bills have not made the playoffs since last century.  But it’s more than just not making the playoffs.  It’s a combination of bad coaching, bad management, and bad players. 

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson making a joke

Their last coach to be tenured more than 4 years was Marv Levy.  He was fired after the 1997 season when the Bills went 6-10.  Their only season above .500 since 1999 came in 2004.  That year, the Bills were one game away from the playoffs when in week 17 they had to play the Steelers.  However, the Steelers had already clinched a first-round bye and ended up playing their JV squad for the majority of the game… and the Bills couldn’t win.  That effectively sums up the past decade in Buffalo, culminating with Steve Johnson’s infamous drop last season.  But hey who know maybe Ryan Fitzpatrick is the guy that Ralph Wilson’s been looking for… or maybe not.

 

This time, winning wasn’t everything.

Earlier today, Abby Wambach, Megan Rampinoe, Alex Morgan, and Ali Krieger were at a rally at Eastview Mall in Victor, NY for their return to the United States.  Over 2,000 people attended the rally, which was held in a food court.  Wambach emphasized how grateful they all were for the overwhelming support.

Soccer Players at the Rally
From left to right: Abby Wambach, Ali Krieger, Megan Rampinoe, and Alex Morgan

That support was matched tonight at Sahlen’s Stadium as the WNY Flash beat MagicJack 3-1.  Christine Sinclair had 2 goals for the Flash who are now 8-2-2.  But the real story was the sell-out crowd of 15,404, a WPS record for attendance.  Although every game going forward won’t be a sell-out, I expect to see attendance go up for many WPS and lower-tier men’s leagues accross the nation.

Although Wambach did not play, she did give a speech at half-time for her home town.  She acknowledged the loss to Japan and she implied that the team was moving forward and looking forward to the London Olympics, saying:

“I’m not coming home next summer without gold”


“There’s a small difference between winning and losing.”

Truer words were not spoken after the US lost a heartbreaker to Japan in penalty kicks today in Frankfurt, Germany.   The US missed too many shots in the first half.  Had the ball bounced differently, the US could have won in regulation and we’d all be out celebrating.  Regardless of the final result, this world cup have had a tremendous impact on the US soccer scene.

After the 1999 victory, sign-ups in girl’s soccer leagues sky-rocketed.  This set the stage for people like Alex Morgan, who scored the first goal in the loss to Japan.

Hope Solo and Abby Wambach after the loss

Hope Solo and Abby Wambach after the loss

But can the impact be the same even though the US lost?

Yes.  In my opinion, it could even be greater.  The games this year earned higher ratings than those in 1999.  That means more people were tuned in to hear about Hope Solo’s redemption story and Christie Rampone’s quest for a second title.  And more people were able to realize that soccer can be exciting.  This final was the most exciting game of any sport I’ve watched in the past year.  If people can’t get excited about this, they can’t get excited about anything.

Believe it or not, this also affects the world of professional soccer in Europe.  One of the main criticisms of soccer is the lack of talent in the professional ranks in America.  I doubt the talent level will change.  But I expect to see ESPN start to carry more Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga games next season, especially with the NBA lockout.  I also expect Fox Soccer Channel to be carried on more basic cable packages.

And I haven’t even gotten to the WPS in America.  Started in 2009, the WPS has been growing over the past 2 years.  It should explode over the next few months.  In fact, the Western New York Flash vs. magicJack game on Wednesday in Rochester, NY is expected to be a sell out.  Who knows how long this excitement will last, but it is good for America as a whole to have some excitement around a women’s sport.

Finally, even the fact that the US lost can be used as a positive.  Next year is the Summer Olympics in London.  If/When the US plays Japan, the ratings will be as high as they would be for a Michael Phelps race or a Usain Bolt run.  The excitement will be reborn in an oportunity for redemption.  And if the US women are successful, the excitement around soccer will explode, regardless of how the men do.

Having said that, the men do need to step up their game if soccer wants to get to the same level as hockey, basketball, football, and baseball.  The WPS can’t become the 5th major league in America.  But the MLS might be able to.  For that to happen, the men need to get to AT LEAST the quarterfinals of the Olympics next summer.  If they can’t do that, all of the women’s efforts will be for naught and soccer could be set back another 10 years in America.

But for now, the Women’s National Team have brought soccer to the forefront of American minds.


At this point, we all know about the Roger Clemens saga.  He was a great pitcher who got even greater, had some roid rage incidents (just ask Mike Piazza), and was named in the Mitchell Report.  Soon after, he testified in front of Congress by his own choice.  Then began the 3.5 year process of gathering evidence to prove that Clemens lied in front of Congress.

Then today, on the second day of the trial, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled a mistrial.  He was infuriated that a video of a Congresswoman reading the affidavit of Laura Pettitte was shown to the jury after he ruled that Mrs. Pettitte’s testimony could not be used in this trial.  Judge Walton will decide on September 2nd as to weather or not the case will proceed.

This should not be a difficult decision for Walton.  Americais about to default on its debt, something that’s never happened before.  There is no reason whatsoever that any more taxpayer dollars should go to this “case”.  Everyone has their opinion on Clemens as to weather or not he did in fact use PEDs.  For the most part, people will not change their opinions based on this court ruling.  Those who say he is clean will say “he’s giving up so that this ugly episode can be over” and those who say he used HGH will say “just because there wasn’t enough evidence, doesn’t mean he didn’t use them.”

On top of that, Clemens’ reputation is already tattered to the point that he will not get into the Hall of Fame through the BBWAA vote.  Despite having over 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts, there is no way that 75% of voters will agree that he deserves a plaque in the same room as guys like Cy Young and Bob Gibson.  Mark McGwire received fewer than 20% of the  votes this year and he came clean last spring.  People hate liars and Clemens is looking like one right now.

To further prove how little this trial would matter, let’s take a look at his potential punishment.  The worst possible punishment Clemens could receive would be 1 year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine.  Let me get this out of the way: ROGER CLEMENS WILL NOT BE GOING TO PRISON.  The government wouldn’t waste its resources on a guy who will (in all likelihood) never be in this kind of situation ever again.  So that just leaves a fine.  If he were to get the maximum $100,000, Clemens would have no problem paying that.  In his career, he made more than $120 million.  Not only that, but he hasn’t made less that $1 million in a season since 1987.  And none of that is even counting his endorsement deals and other things of that nature.  Sure he isn’t making it now, but he is probably smart enough to put some of it in the bank.  At the end of the day, $100,000 to Clemens is probably about $1,000 to anyone else.

But more than anything else, everyone is tired of seeing Clemens’ face.  No one made him deny his PED use in front of Congress.  He should have not said anything and slipped away into the heart of Texas (something G.W. Bush did right).  When I turn on Sports Center, I’d much rather hear a story about Abby Wambach and Hope Solo than a story about something that is relatively irrelevant to sports in today’s world.