2017 NFC East division

2017 NFC East division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further adu, here is the 2017 NFC East division preview.

4. Washington Redskins

Last season: 8-7-1

Strength of Schedule: 7

Last season was an up and down one for the Redskins. This year the schedule makers didn’t make it any easier on them. Aside from playing in the tough NFC East, Washington must also play the AFC West. The AFC West is arguably the best division in football. As if the tough schedule wasn’t enough to deal with, the Redskins have glaring weaknesses on both sides of the ball.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Offensively, their line is average but consistent. The running back situation is somewhat of a mess. None of Washington’s running backs had more than 750 yards last season.

Rob Kelley, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson all got significant carries and return this season. Washington also drafted Samaje Perine from Oklahoma. Without a clear cut go-to running back, the offense will be one dimensional.

The strength of the offense is the passing attack, but it isn’t even all that great on paper. Kirk Cousins is an average NFL quarterback who will not lead a team to a Super Bowl. In their division, he won’t even be able to get them into the playoffs this season.

He doesn’t have the best of receivers either. His number one receiver is a converted quarterback. Cousins’ other viable offensive weapon is tight end Jordan Reed who has had nagging injuries keeping him out of the lineup.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins are going to struggle. The Redskins gave up 23.9 points per game last season because they couldn’t stop the run. Teams ran for an average of 119.8 yards per game. This problem wasn’t addressed in the draft or in free agency. Washington did draft Jonathan Allen, but are playing him at defensive end and his strength is against the pass.

With the lack of a running game and a defense that can’t stop the run, teams will control the flow of the game and the clock against the Redskins. Washington will be playing from behind and Kirk Cousins will have a higher interception total this season. Their seventh ranked schedule is also a major reason on why they will have a rough year.

Prediction: 5-11 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3. Philadelphia Eagles

Last season: 7-9

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

The Eagles made a lot of moves in the offseason to help out second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. They made it a point to do so because the second season is the most important in the development of a quarterback.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: http://www.csnphilly.com)

Heading into the season the Eagles have the best ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus. That line should pave the way for a solid year by LeGarrette Blount, who led the league in rushing touchdowns last season.

Wentz was also given a new huge weapon at receiver in Alshon Jeffery. Jordan Mathews, who had 73 receptions in 2016, returns to play alongside Jeffery. Carson Wentz is also blessed with a really good tight end, Zach Ertz, who led the team in catches with 78.

The Eagles have a very talented defense that allowed 20.7 points per game last season. The defense hasn’t changed much and should play similar to the way they did last season.

Philly has road games outside the division against the Chiefs, Panthers and Seahawks. They also have home games against the Cardinals, Broncos and Raiders. A tough division and tough schedule are what may hold Philadelphia back this season.

Prediction: 7-9 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2. New York Giants

Last season: 11-5

Strength of Schedule: 8

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: https://rukkus.com/)

New York’s season came to an abrupt end in the playoffs against the Packers after a 38-13 thrashing. It was just a bad game for the Giants and not a true indication of how good they really are. In reality, the Giants are a team capable of winning the Super Bowl and it starts with their defense.

Quietly, the Giants had one of the best defenses in the league last season. They gave up just 17.8 points per game, which was second best in the NFL. Their defensive line got lots of pressure and the amazing secondary put fear into opposing quarterbacks.

The weak spot of the defense is the linebacking corp and if they can just be average, then the Giants will have an elite defense yet again.

Offensively, the Giants can sleep easy knowing Eli Manning is still under center. He doesn’t get the shine like most Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, but he hasn’t missed a game since before Nov. 21, 2004. Manning is consistent and the team knows they will be able to get 4,000 yards and 25 or more touchdowns from him.

He has Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as targets for 2017. This is going to make his job easy.

The only question mark on the offense is at running back. Paul Perkins is the man but can he shoulder the load for an entire season? He only carried the ball 112 times for 456 yards last season and will be taking over for Rashad Jennings. If he can be the workhorse, the Giants will have a dangerous offense that can win them a lot of games.

New York has talent on both sides of the ball. They will continue to build off of last season’s success and have another solid campaign in 2017 but it won’t be good enough to knock off the Cowboys for the division title.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1. Dallas

Last season: 13-3

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

2016 was a great year for Dallas as they ran out to a 13-3 record and a first-round bye. Unfortunately, their defense let them down against one of the game’s best quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers. Dallas fell to the Packers 34-31 in the divisional round of the playoffs and their surprising season came to end. This year there are Super Bowl expectations for America’s team.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

The entire team is led by their running game. It is no secret how talented the offensive line is in Dallas and the Cowboys used it to their advantage. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,631 yards last season. The success of their running game took pressure off rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott should take a leap this year as the Cowboys will attempt to open up the playbook. Dak threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. The formula for success is still to run the ball, but with a better understanding of the offense and solid weapons around him, Dak could have an even better sophomore season.

The issue with the Cowboys is their defense but more specifically, their pass defense. Dallas addressed their defense by adding Taco Charlton to try and create quick pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They also drafted Jourdan Lewis out of Michigan, who was one of the best corners in the nation. To improve the secondary even further, they signed Nolan Carroll from the division rival Eagles.

All these moves should improve the defense but there is a potential superstar, who isn’t a new acquisition, waiting to be unleashed.

Jaylon Smith was a consensus top five pick last season before he blew his knee out in a bowl game. Smith sat out last season after the Cowboys drafted him in the second round. If Smith can stay healthy, he will be a Pro-Bowl caliber player. Adding him to this defense could be the difference in losing to Green Bay and heading to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII.

With all the talent the Cowboys have on offense, the defense just needs to be average. They will be better than average with the moves they made in the offseason and the Cowboys will be a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season.

Prediction: 12-4, division champion

 

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2017 NFL Draft Day 3

2017 NFL Draft Day 3: Future Stars

The first two days and three rounds of the NFL draft have finished. The third day of the draft is rounds four through seven. These players drafted on day three sometimes do not even make the roster. So what players remaining, after day two, have a chance to become stars in the NFL? Here are some who may answer that question.

Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss

2017 NFL Draft Day 3

(Photo Credit: Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports)

Chad Kelly is flying high under the radar. Kelly is the nephew of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly. Chad Kelly had a pretty solid career while at Ole Miss. Going 14-8 as a starter and even notched a win against Alabama. Kelly threw for 6,858 yards, 50 touchdowns, and just 21 interceptions. He also added 958 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in his career.

Kelly had a lot of problems off the field that have derailed his career. He was kicked off the team at Clemson for actions against the coaching staff. Once he left Clemson he landed at East Mississippi Community College, more commonly known as Last Chance U. There Kelly led EMCC to a 12-0 season and an NJCAA National Football Championship.

If Kelly has learned from his past mistakes and can be a model citizen off the field then there is a chance he can become a star in the NFL. He has great arm strength and can make NFL throws. Kelly has played primarily in the shotgun and will need to work on his under center mechanics. Also he has great touch passing skills and is much better when moving outside the pocket and throwing. If a team takes a risk in the sixth or seventh round there is a good chance Kelly becomes an NFL starter one day.

Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

Dede Westbrook was one of the top five receivers in all of college football last season. Some would argue he was the best. Last season he had 80 receptions, 1,524 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Westbrook is an excellent route runner with big play capability. In the open field, Westbrook is explosive and turns a lot of good plays into big plays. Some say his size is an issue but make no mistake, Westbrook could be a scary playmaker in the NFL.

 

Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego St.

Donnel Pumphrey is only still available because of his size, 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds.. The Las Vegas product is the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history. NFL tacklers will be able to arm tackling him but that is only if they can catch him. He is so quick and fast that when he sees a hole he hits it without a second thought.  Pumphrey may not become an every-down back in the NFL but he can create momentum-changing plays. One NFL team will be very happy one day because of the risk they took on him.

 

Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

Malachi Dupre has fallen mostly because LSU has not had a quarterback capable of helping any receiver. LSU has had some of the worst quarterback play in the country which is why Dupre only put up 98 receptions, 1,609 yards, and 14 touchdowns in his three years at LSU. If you throw the ball in Dupre’s direction there is a good chance he will catch it. He has one of the best catch radii of all the prospects. He will have to work on his route running but with a solid quarterback Dupre could break out as the next great LSU wideout to turn pro.

Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina

2017 NFL Draft Day 3

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OC3Yp4T7KI)

Ryan Switzer may be the most underrated, underappreciated player in this draft. Similar to Dede Westbrook and Donnel Pumphrey, size is the only reason for that. In his senior season at North Carolina, Switzer snagged 96 receptions for 1,112 yards, and six touchdowns. He has also proven to be a great return man who returned seven punts for touchdowns in his collegiate career. Switzer can be a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type playmaker in the NFL and that is a reason teams should draft him as soon as possible.

Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood

Connor Harris could have been a first round pick. He has it all, the size, the speed, and the intangibles. Teams seem to be holding it against him that he played in division II but Harris is a tackling machine. Harris holds the record at 633 career tackles. He has the ability to drop in coverage and has shown impressive ball-hawking skills as well. Any team that drafts him is getting a player who doesn’t have to come off the field and is a prototypical, old-school linebacker.

Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

Jake Butt is the victim of a bad injury at the worst time. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery got a lot of heat for skipping their bowl games but had Jake Butt done the same then he wouldn’t have torn his ACL for the second time in his career. Butt would have been a second round pick without the injury but now teams are scared. He averaged 11.9 yards per reception for his career and is a guaranteed first down waiting to happen. Every team in the NFL needs a tight end that can get them out of a jam like that. If Butt can become healthy and get a shot, he has a great chance of being a top 10 tight end in the league.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

The Need for an Eight Team Playoff

(USA Today)

(USA Today)

There must be an eight team playoff in college football. This college football season has been the best of any in recent history. There is constant rhetoric on who should have been in the playoffs and who shouldn’t.  There is constant questions on who is capable of challenging the unbeatable Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama has clearly looked like the best team in the country, but games are not won on paper and anything can happen once the ball is kicked off. There are upsets every week and Week 11 showed it more than ever. For the first time since 1985, the second, third and fourth ranked teams all lost on the same day. It was madness and chaotic and we all loved it! College football still has a little guy, Western Michigan, that went undefeated and gets absolutely no love at all. Their schedule is blamed for their low rankings at the end and throughout the year. There is an issue with the current format of a four team playoff.

College football is exciting and a four team playoff system was a great start, but we want, no, we need more. There needs to be an eight team college playoff. Part of the reason the college game went to a playoff system was because the BCS system didn’t allow the nation to see a true champion. There was rarely a year in which the third ranked team in the BCS didn’t have a case to be in the national championship. This year is no different. As mentioned previously, Western Michigan went undefeated and has to settle for playing in the Cotton Bowl. This isn’t the first time a small school had been disrespected by the polls.

The Little Guy

(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

(Photo: Steve Grayson/WireImage)

Why can’t the little guy get a chance to upset Goliath? There are plenty examples of teams who did not have a snowball’s chance in Hell to win against a college football giant, but somehow found a way. In 2006, Boise State won one of the greatest games in college football history.

The 2006 Boise State team was a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which is now extinct in football. It was a conference that was considered one of the worst in the country.  Boise State had two big non-conference wins that season. The Broncos beat Oregon State 42-12 and they also won at Utah 36-3. Boise finished the season undefeated, but the BCS only ranked Boise at eighth. Boise State was never considered for the national championship because of their weak conference. They had to settle for playing number 10 ranked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl which became an instant classic.

To sum up the game, with a 1:02 left in a 28-28 tie, Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky threw an interception to Marcus Walker who ran the interception back 34 yards for a touchdown to give Oklahoma a 35-28 lead. Fast forward to Boise State’s next possession with 18 seconds remaining. It was fourth and 18. Boise State ran the famous hook and lateral that worked for a touchdown. The game was tied at 35 with just seven seconds remaining.

Oklahoma got the ball first in overtime and Adrian Peterson ran it in for a 25 yard touchdown to give Oklahoma a 42-35 lead. Boise was able to answer with a touchdown and head coach Chris Petersen decided to go for two. Boise State ran the statue of liberty in for the two-point conversion and the win, 43-42. The Broncos finished the season with a perfect 13-0 record and the only team left undefeated that season.

Continuing with the theme of small conference schools being snubbed, the next example is the 2008 Utah Utes who were in the Mountain West. Utah won at (24) Michigan, then beat (11) TCU and (14) BYU at home. They finished ranked sixth in the final BCS rankings and had to settle for playing in the Sugar Bowl against (4) Alabama. Utah easily won the Sugar Bowl 31-17 even though they were 10 point underdogs. They finished the year as the only undefeated team in the country, but were not the national champions.

(ESPN/The Associated Press)

(ESPN/The Associated Press)

That same year Boise State finished the regular season undefeated as well, and was ranked ninth in the BCS. The Broncos only had one impressive win that season in which they won at Oregon 37-32. It was the famous LeGarrette Blount punch game. That year Boise didn’t even get to play in a BCS Bowl game. They played TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl and lost 17-16.

2009 left the BCS in chaos at the end of the year as there were five undefeated teams: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State. The national championship game ended up being Alabama versus Texas. The other three undefeated teams were not given the chance to play for a national championship.

Texas had gone 3-0 against the top 25 with only one of those wins coming on the road. Cincinnati had gone 4-0 against the top 25 with three of those wins coming on the road. Texas was chosen because of their name. The small schools always get the short end of the stick when being listed with the best of the best.

(https://www.reddit.com/r/CFB/comments/3ucxld/week_13_trash_talk_thursday_trashgiving/)

(https://www.reddit.com/r/CFB/comments/3ucxld/week_13_trash_talk_thursday_trashgiving/)

The last example of small schools from small conferences comes from 2010 from TCU. TCU won at (24) Oregon State to open the season. The Horned Frogs only had one other ranked game which came on the road against (6) Utah. TCU demolished the Utes 47-7. In the end their wins weren’t impressive enough as they finished the season in the BCS ranked third. The two teams that finished ahead of them, Auburn and Oregon, were both undefeated as well. TCU ended up in the Rose Bowl against (4) Wisconsin and won 21-19 to finish the season undefeated.

They Can’t Beat The Big Boys. Or Can They?

(http://www.bendbulletin.com/slideShows?layout=2&storyId=1430295)

(http://www.bendbulletin.com/slideShows?layout=2&storyId=1430295)

There is a common theme with all these undefeated small schools. Utah, TCU and Boise State were almost always involved. Utah has had two undefeated seasons in the past 13 seasons and accomplished both of their undefeated seasons in the Mountain West Conference. The Utes ended up leaving for the Pac-12 because it is a power five conference. TCU finished with their only undefeated season in the Mountain West as well, but left for the Big 12, a power five conference. They left because of the disrespect year in and year out towards the Mountain West Conference. The last of these three teams, Boise State, has had three undefeated regular seasons in their last 11 seasons.

Typically a program this consistent would have played in a national championship, but Boise has yet to play for one. There is a bias against teams not in the power five and Western Michigan is the snub this season. The most common response from someone who argues that these teams don’t deserve the shot because of their small conferences has one of two responses.

The first is “let’s see if they do this again next year and next year if they are undefeated they should be in.” There are two problems with that reaction and the first is the team that is undefeated this year is a completely different team than they will be the next year. The second issue is that statement has proven to be false because Boise State had three undefeated regular seasons in four years and never got the chance.

(http://www.nobodywinsontheblue.com/2013/08/2013-boise-state-football-preview.html)

(http://www.nobodywinsontheblue.com/2013/08/2013-boise-state-football-preview.html)

Another common response is “Oh they would get blown out by Alabama and other big schools”. That statement is once again false as there are countless examples of smalls schools upsetting the goliath schools. Above there were examples listed, including Utah beating Alabama, and here are some more: In 2010 FCS member Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss 49-48, FCS James Madison won at (13) Virginia Tech 21-16 and perhaps the biggest upset of all time, 2007 Appalachian State beat (5) Michigan 34-32.

All these small schools pulled off what many believed to be impossible but the game is played on the field and not on paper, or by the amount of stars a recruiting class has. Western Michigan might be able to beat Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio State but everyone assumes they have no chance because of history. Yes, these programs have been national powers for decades but that doesn’t mean the little guy can’t hang, or win. An eight team playoff needs to be made with certain requirements similar to the ramifications in college basketball. These requirements are needed because of the mistakes made since the inception of the four team playoff.

Playoff Mistakes

The college football playoff started in 2014 and is only entering their third year. In 2014, college football fans were so happy to finally receive the playoff system that they had been so desperately asking for for almost a decade. Fans were so happy in fact, there was no chance it would be criticized in the first year, but they had set precedents in which would eventually make the committee look like hypocrites.

(http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2014/12/02/college-football-playoff-projection-alabama-oregon-florida-state-tcu/19748763/)

(www.reddit.com)

In 2014, heading into conference championship week the rankings were as follows: (1) Alabama 11-1, (2) Oregon 11-1, (3) TCU 11-1, (4) Florida State 12-0, (5) Ohio State 11-1, and (6) Baylor 11-1. All six teams had won their game on championship week by wide margins. The final college football rankings finished with TCU dropping to sixth and Ohio State finishing in fourth, thus knocking TCU out of the college football playoff. The reasoning given by the committee stated that TCU did not win their conference therefore Ohio State deserved to be in. TCU and Baylor were both 8-1 in conference play, but Baylor beat TCU head to head 61-58.

Fast forward to this year where the playoff committee selected Ohio State over Penn State. Ohio State had one loss on the year to Penn State. Penn State had two losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Two years earlier the playoff committee favored Ohio State because they won a conference championship and yet this year left Penn State out who won head to head versus Ohio State, won the division in the BIG 10 in which Ohio State is in, and won the BIG 10 Championship. The college football committee that said conference championships matter two years earlier ignored that Ohio State didn’t win their conference.

Essentially the committee is saying head to head wins mean nothing, nor do conference titles after this year’s playoff selection. Subliminally they are saying whoever can bring in the most revenue will make the playoffs if they have a good year. If revenue matters that much then push it to an eight team playoff to create even more dollars.

In the first year, the college football playoff paid out 500 billion dollars to schools which was the largest payout ever, which improved in areas of 200 million from the final BCS season. In total there was a 63 percent increase in postseason revenue. Doubling the amount of teams in the playoff could essentially double the amount of money to be made with extra games of importance.

 

What Should an 8 Team Playoff Look Like?

(AP Images)

(AP Images)

If and when college football goes to an eight team playoff, there needs to be a few rules on who can make the playoffs. In the current system a conference championship means nothing and part of what has made college football great for the past 100 years is the thrill of winning the conference. In basketball, winning your conference give you an automatic bid to the tournament. Football should follow that model to an extent. There are 10 conferences plus four independent schools so with a six team playoff not everyone can automatically get a bid. Here is how college football should handle the eight team playoff that would make everyone happy.

If you win the conference championship of a power five conference (BIG 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, ACC) you are guaranteed a spot in the eight team playoff. To accommodate for small schools and give them the chance they have earned, the sixth spot goes to the highest ranked team from the group of five conferences (AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, Sun-Belt, Mountain West). There would be two spots remaining and those spots should be At-Large bids given to the best two teams remaining in the country. This is what this year’s eight team playoff would look like in this format:

(1) SEC Champion: Alabama vs. (8) Group of 5: Western Michigan

(2) ACC Champion: Clemson vs. (7) Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

(3) At-Large Bid: Ohio State vs. (6) At-Large Bid: Michigan

(4) Pac-12 Champion: Washington vs. (5) BIG 10 Champion: Penn State

(David Dermer / Associated Press)

(David Dermer / Associated Press)

This college football playoff would have the perfect amount of teams. Aside from the two At-Large bids, nobody can argue the selection of the other six teams. There will always be that argument of bubble teams and who is the most deserving bubble team. In this format some people would be mad that USC isn’t in because of how hot they were towards the end of the year. The simple solution is to tell USC, if you win your conference and you’ll be in.

 

This format doesn’t require a team to go undefeated. An early loss in the season would allow you a second chance to bounce back and win the conference. That can’t be said now. Penn State and Oklahoma won their conference and don’t get a shot to be the national champion. Western Michigan is told good job on going undefeated but your conference is weak, and so is you’re schedule so just take this Cotton Bowl bid. The four team format was a great start, but this eight team format would be the perfect way to crown a champion.

Eliminate College Conferences

Change. It is a simply spelt and pronounced word, but becomes complex when people start to deal with change. People run away from change out of fear. People usually grimace at the thought of change. Change is often looked at as a bad thing, but change can also be viewed as a great thing. Change is needed for growth and knowledge. Society finds it hard to change things that are long standing traditions, even if they do not work, are outdated, or completely wrong.

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

Take a look at the national anthem controversy for instance. Rather than admit its flaws, people are back-lashing against Colin Kaepernick. Why can’t we admit our faults as people or as a society? Because people hate change, whether it’s for the betterment of society or not. It is so much easier to go with the flow rather than to adapt.

It is time for a change in college football by eliminating any and all conferences. They are unnecessary in this day and age. They serve no purpose other than to please tradition. This is a highly unpopular opinion but hear me out before you grab your pitchforks.

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-269730 ORIG FILE ID: 20160903_jla_sh5_731.jpg

(Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY)

The best teams need to play each other weekly regardless of their region or conference. Week one was one of the greatest weeks of college football ever. People are still glamorizing it because it was that epic. We saw great games all over such as (15) Houston defeating (3) Oklahoma. We saw Wisconsin upset (5) LSU. We saw unranked Texas A&M upset (16) UCLA. (18) Georgia beat (22) North Carolina. (2) Clemson had to sneak by unranked Auburn by six points. Fans saw Texas upset (10) Notre Dame in an overtime classic. On a Monday night game, (4) Florida State beat (11) Ole Miss.

Week two also saw some great programs matching up for exciting games. Arkansas was unranked and upset (15) TCU. (17) Tennessee beat Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in the most attended game in college football history with 156,990 in attendance.

(http://www.usatoday.com/videos/sports/ncaaf/2016/11/18/houston-dashes-louisville's-playoff-hopes-upset/94060980/)

(http://www.usatoday.com)

Since the first two weeks there still have been great non-conference games even as teams have gotten into conference scheduling. In week six, Navy upset (6) Houston 46-40 in one of the most exciting back and forth games of the year. Most recently in week 12, the same Houston team that was upset by Navy, and was unranked, ended (5) Louisville’s shot at making the playoffs. They upset the Cardinals 36-10.

All these non conference match-ups with top programs facing off gave us excitement. Fans of football rejoiced over how fun it was to watch these teams play their hearts off to win these big time games. These games mean so much more with the rather new playoff system that determines a true champion in college football. Eliminating conferences would not eliminate rivalries because schools would be able to schedule 10-12 games completely how they want. The only thing each school would  have to do is make sure they schedule their rival schools annually.

(MARK ALMOND)

(MARK ALMOND)

These huge games are what the fans want to see. It doesn’t have to be just about the fans either. The college football playoff committee highly values a team’s strength of schedule. Nobody wants to see Alabama playing teams like Chattanooga or Kent State, teams in which they manhandled this year. Ohio State shouldn’t be playing teams like Rutgers, who happens to be in their conference, or Tulsa. Clemson games are boring when they play teams like South Carolina State or Syracuse. Imagine Clemson scheduling Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. If a team goes undefeated with a non-conference schedule as tough as this, there would be no question they deserve to be in the playoffs.

One of the biggest problems with the state of college football now is that great teams still get snubbed from making the playoffs. We need the best four teams in the country making the playoffs as long as it is a four team format. Maybe one day it will be a six or eight team format to eliminate more doubt, because there will always be a team or two on the bubble.

Currently the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Big 12 are known as the power five conferences. Most people can agree these are the top five conferences in the country, with each taking turns on where they rank within the power five.

In the current playoff system, one of the power five conferences will not be represented. A champion from one of these conferences will not have the chance to play in the playoffs and prove they are the best team in the country. This doesn’t account for a team without a conference, such as Notre Dame, who could go undefeated and cause two power five conferences to be left out of the playoffs. It also doesn’t account for a year like this one in which Ohio State and Michigan both look like teams capable of winning a national championship.

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

The first ever college football playoff left out TCU and/or Baylor in favor of Ohio State. The debate raged on about which of these teams should have gotten in. Ohio State then went on to win the National Championship as a four seed to quiet the debate, but how do we know, without a doubt, that TCU or Baylor would not have done the same? How do we know TCU or Baylor would’t have beat Ohio State? This is the problem with conferences. The Big Ten was assumed to be the better conference which is why the playoff committee chose to take Ohio State over one of the Big 12 teams. It was all because the Big 12 conference doesn’t have a conference championship game.

There is another issue at hand when it comes to conferences and the entire playoff format. There is always a talk of two teams getting into the playoffs from the same conference. If that were to happen, two conference champions from a power five conference would be left out. This was the problem with the BCS system that the playoffs were suppose to fix. The question that should be asked is how can you be a champion of the nation if you weren’t a champion of your conference? Essentially that is what happens if two SEC or two Big Ten teams get into a four team playoff. Eliminating conferences erases all the doubt. It makes teams schedule harder competition and creates more exciting games. If a school didn’t do it, they wouldn’t get into the playoffs.

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Conferences started mostly due to how difficult it was to travel when teams were still taking buses. Colleges can afford to fly their teams in today’s sports and traveling is not as hard as it use to be. What is the need for conferences then? The idea of no conferences at all is highly appealing in my eyes, but will not be popular to most. It would be revolutionary to eliminate conferences. The most remarkable changes in the world once were thought to be outlandish. Conferences are a tired idea that is outdated and the sport can become more exciting by eliminating them.

 

 

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The College Football Playoff Should Expand to Six Teams

Overall, these two years of playoffs in college football have gone tremendously. Ratings have been through the roof, especially in the first year. The championship has never felt more undisputed, and the story-lines of “3rd-string quarterback” or “return to the throne” could not have been scripted with any more perfection.

But to be frank it’s a travesty to watch a playoff that is supposed to be all-decisive not include at least one team that was the winner of one of the best conferences. And when you have five conferences that are slated as the “best conferences” (that’s the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, of course) at least one champion gets left out, which sucks when sometimes they only have one or two losses. I specifically reference a greatly talented one-loss Big 12 champion TCU or Baylor team in 2014.

Throw in your possible non-power five busters, potential deserving conference runner-ups, or Notre Dame, and we’re talking about two power five conference champions not in the hunt for what is supposed to be an all-determining playoff.

Is what we have way better than any two-team championship game system or poll determinant? Yes. But leaping over the hurdle of making a playoff isn’t good enough. Why not go all-in on making the champion truly undisputed? It’s as if a vegetarian came off a 144-year diet of not having the best that food has to offer, but then after doing the hard part and enjoying a Big Mac he says, “Oh no, I can’t get into that five-star quality sirloin.” Just cut into that perfect bit of delectable cow now that you finally will eat something from the four-legged milk producer, college football.

Three other big reasons why the College Football Playoff should be six teams:

  1. Seeding will matter. Did Alabama in 2014 honestly say “YES! We got Ohio State instead of Florida State!”? I highly doubt it. In a six-team playoff, seeds number one and two get first-round byes, adding a bit of intrigue to selection day.
  2. Everyone loves an underdog. Who wouldn’t love to see a team like Western Kentucky go on an undefeated run? Better yet, that team could go beat an Oklahoma or a Clemson. With six teams, those normally mid and lower-tier teams have more of a chance to get in.
  3. Mo’ money. Simple addition kids, two more games equals two more chances at high ratings. Everyone loves a payday. The schools, the NCAA, the TV networks, everyone.

The counterpoint is somewhat supporting evidence of reason three above: two more games equals two more times for players getting hurt, two more sets of travel costs for families and students, and two more times players can’t get their academics as up-to-date as they could. I honestly cannot deny these negatives, but I think the pros of expansion far outweigh the cons.

As far as going to eight teams opposed to the six I suggest, I think four extra games does cause enough con to outweigh pro. Why? Because plain and simple, I think there are plenty of years teams ranked five or six could make a case for being the number one team in the country. But there are very few years number seven or eight could make the same claim.

Look at the teams ranked number seven and eight in the final regular season AP poll over the past seven years. They average 1.6 losses at they end of the regular season, going a combined 7-7 in the following bowl games (polls and records from sports-reference.com). Eventual 2014 champion Ohio State trounced seventh ranked Michigan State during the season. Furthermore, number eight Mississippi State wouldn’t have stood much of a chance against OSU either. In 2013 I doubt Ohio State or South Carolina would have had a shot against Florida State. And in 2012 Kansas State or Stanford against Alabama? Forget about it.

So to me, six is the perfect number for a playoff in college football. No more, no less.

 

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NBA Mock Draft 3.0

The deadline has passed for prospects to either remain eligible for the draft or go back to college. This mock draft is updated to account for those player’s decisions.

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons F LSU: Some say the 76ers are stuck on who to pick and some say they are dead set on Simmons. I believe he will be the number one pick in the draft due to his potential and upside. He needs time to develop and grow, but will be a great player in the NBA. He is not as NBA ready as some of the other players, but over time may be the best player drafted in the past 10 years.
    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram F Duke: Brandon Ingram is going to jump right into the NBA and start scoring. He will make a quicker impact than Ben Simmons does and has just as high of a ceiling. Ingram has the talent to go number one overall, but he will be available at number two. He will be an important part of the Lakers rebuild. He will be the best player in the draft.
    Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

    Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

  3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown F California: I still believe the Celtics will trade this pick, so whoever they draft won’t play for them. They are loaded with young talent and need to trade for a star to play with Isaiah Thomas. Whoever they trade with will have the rights to the player the Celtics draft and I believe it will be for Jaylen Brown. He spent time working out with Draymond Green, which will really help him become a good NBA player. He should turn into a very talented defender in the NBA. He has shown the ability to shoot, but is inconsistent.
    (Photo Noam Galai)

    (Photo Noam Galai)

  4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender F Croatia: The Suns need some front court help to go along with their talented guards. Dragan Bender is this year’s Kristaps Porzingis. He is a stretch four at 7’ 1”, whose stock is going to benefit from scouts being wrong on Porzingis. He has a decent three point shot and is getting strong. Being only 18 really helps him because he could mold into a good player.
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Harry How/Getty Images

  5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield G Oklahoma: Buddy can score from anywhere at anytime on the floor. He is deadly from behind the arc and has developed a great all around scoring game that will translate well into the NBA. Some say his size is going to hurt him, but if we looked at size to determine ability, Isaiah Thomas wouldn’t be an all star. The Timberwolves can continue to build a dominate core that will grow into a championship caliber roster by going with Buddy.
    Jan 12, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles against the Creighton Bluejays during the first half at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 12, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles against the Creighton Bluejays during the first half at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

  6. New Orleans Pelicans:Kris Dunn G Providence: I originally had the Pelicans taking Jamal Murray here but Kris Dunn at seven was just too low. I tried to find a spot for him in the top five but I couldn’t. A few years back Damian Lillard was drafted around the same point of the draft and I think Kris Dunn can have that kind of same success as Lillard. Anthony Davis is the franchise player but they need a dominate guard to push this team into the playoffs. Dunn is arguably the best point guard in the draft. He would be a great young fit with the Pelicans.
    (Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah center Jakob Poeltl high fives kids during warmups before a game against Southern Utah at the Huntsman Center, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

    (Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah center Jakob Poeltl high fives kids during warmups before a game against Southern Utah at the Huntsman Center, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

  7. Denver Nuggets: Jakob Poeltl C Utah: Denver has a lot of work cut out for them if they want to become a playoff team again. Poeltl would create a very solid front court alongside Kenneth Faried. Mudiay will continue to grow as a point guard, but Poeltl will give them a rim protector and a solid scoring option inside the post.hi-res-c4fadaabc17e0e88917b7c1602629b6f_crop_exact
  8. Sacramento Kings: Jamal Murray G Kentucky: Jamal Murray is one of the best players in this draft that is flying under the radar. He has superstar potential and is a very good three point shooter. He will be doing his bow and arrow celebration regularly in the NBA and the Kings are trying to create a new “era”. Murray can help lead the way.
    (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

    (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

  9. Toronto Raptors:Henry Ellenson F Marquette: One of the Raptors flaws in the playoffs was front court depth. Ellenson will be able to provide that, along with his ability to stretch the floor. He will take time adjusting to the NBA game, but would be a good stretch front court player, who could also develop into a good rebounder.
    Washington's Marquese Chriss stuffs a dunk vs. Penn @ 2ndHlf. Huskies win 104-67, improve to 3-0 @SeaTimesSports

    Washington’s Marquese Chriss stuffs a dunk vs. Penn @ 2ndHlf. Huskies win 104-67, improve to 3-0 @SeaTimesSports

  10. Milwaukee Bucks: Marquese Chriss F Washington: Marquese Chriss is shooting up draft boards due to his athleticism. Many scouts think Chriss could go in the top five, but I don’t think he will go that high. He is very athletic and will dunk on anyone. He has a good wingspan that may allow him to become a good defender. He needs a lot of time to develop.
    (Photo: Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

    (Photo: Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

  11. Orlando Magic: Denzel Valentine F Michigan State: Many scouts want to compare Valentine to Draymond Green and that is understandable. He has proven to be a good leader and a talented perimeter shooter but he lacks the quickness to be a higher pick. If he turns into the player he was in college, the Magic will have a great player for a long time.
    (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

    (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

  12. Utah Jazz: Domantas Sabonis F/C Gonzaga: It is hard to predict what Utah will do. I think they will look to add depth and talent to their front court. Domantas Sabonis reminds me of a more offensively talented Joakim Noah:A good rebounder with tons of energy and passion. He will give you everything he’s got, 100% of the time.
     (USATSI)

    (USATSI)

  13. Phoenix Suns: Cheick Diallo F Kansas: I originally did not have Diallo in my mock draft, but many scouts believe he will go in the lottery. The Suns have three first round picks and can afford to try and hit a home run with one of them. He will be a developmental project, but has a lot of upside and has a good motor.
    (Jan. 1, 2016 - Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

    (Jan. 1, 2016 – Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

  14. Chicago Bulls: Skal Labissiere F Kentucky: Skal has the talent to be a top three pick, but had an underwhelming season at Kentucky. He has a good shot, but needs to get stronger for the NBA game. The Bulls will most likely let go of Noah, and possibly Gasol, so they will need help in the front court. Labissiere would also be a good fit for Fred Hoiberg’s system.
    Tarih: Temmuz 23, 2015Kategori: Milli TakımYorum Yok

    Tarih: Temmuz 23, 2015Kategori: Milli TakımYorum Yok

  15. Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz: G Turkey: International players are always tough to judge because of the level of competition they play against, but Furkan Korkmaz is a natural born scorer. He is 6’7”, so he may even be able to play some small forward as well as shooting guard. His offensive game is completely well-rounded and because he is so good offensively, his defensive game is behind. He may be a bit of a developmental project, but has a lot of upside. Denver has the time to wait for this pick to develop.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

  16. Boston Celtics: Stephen Zimmerman JR C UNLV: Zimmerman is a very talented seven footer. He has above average handling ability for his size and has a very consistent mid-range jumper. He was plagued with injuries throughout the year that did not allow him to become a dominant player. He needs to hit the weights because he is skinny and will get pushed around in the NBA. With all that being said, he’s only 19 years old and could develop into a potential all star in the right system, with the right coaches.
    (Photo: Travis Register, 247Sports)

    (Photo: Travis Register, 247Sports)

  17. Memphis Grizzlies: Malik Beasley G Florida State: Memphis is a team that grinds out games and plays a tough, physical defensive style. They usually struggle with having a go-to scorer. Beasley would provide an excellent scoring option for the Grizzlies. Some scouts say his weakness is creating for others, but with Mike Conley Jr. at the point, he would not have to create shots for others. He would be a perfect fit with the Grizzlies.
    ALEX GOODLET/GETTY IMAGES

    ALEX GOODLET/GETTY IMAGES

  18.  Detroit Pistons:Caris LeVert G Michigan: The Pistons took a big step under Stan Van Gundy this year by making the playoffs. Now they need to add depth to take another step in the playoffs. LaVert would be a viable option off the bench and could develop into a long-time starter.
    (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

    (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

  19. Denver Nuggets: Deyonta Davis F Michigan State: This would be Denver’s third pick of the first round. It is possible they use all three picks to trade up, but if they decide to keep all three of the picks, they would try to take the best player available, Devonta Davis. Davis is big and has been molded by Tom Izzo. His game may grow in the NBA, but as of now he is an offensive liability. Time will tell if he can develop his offensive game, but he is NBA ready on the defensive end.
     Sean Rayford AP

    Sean Rayford AP

  20. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Ulis G Kentucky: Paul George is a superstar and Myles Turner has shown brilliant flashes. For the Pacers to take the next step they need to find a solid point guard and drafting Ulis would give them that. The common knock on Ulis is that he is too small. If you watched any Kentucky games you know he made up for his size in his ability to create for his teammates and score. He is a gritty team leader and Indiana would get a quality player if they drafted Ulis
    Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

    Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

  21. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince: F Baylor: Atlanta needs a player who can defend against other teams’ best players in the playoffs. With Teague, Horford and Millsap the Hawks have plenty of scoring. In reality, they need someone to slow down LeBron if they want to get further in the playoffs. Prince has great length and good defensive instincts. He would be a great fit with the Hawks.
    North Carolina's Brice Johnson celebrates after a basket against Notre Dame during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

    North Carolina’s Brice Johnson celebrates after a basket against Notre Dame during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

  22. Charlotte Hornets: Brice Johnson F North Carolina: Brice Johnson had a tremendous year for North Carolina. He is very athletic and is a high percentage shooter. He needs to bulk up some for the NBA, but that should happen over time. Brice Johnson could be the piece the Hornets need to make a deeper playoff run next season.
    (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports Images)

    (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports Images)

  23. Boston Celtics: Thon Maker F/C Australia: This would be the third pick for the Celtics and they could afford to take a risk. The Celtics may trade, but if they don’t, I see them taking a very talented, yet unknown, Thon Maker. He is a freak athlete at 7’1”, who has great handles for his size. He could turn out to be the best player in the draft, or the worst. Only time will tell.
    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  24. Philadelphia 76ers: Patrick McCaw G UNLV: McCaw was UNLV’s leading scorer and at 6’7” he has great size for the NBA. He can play on the ball and off the ball. His versatility and athleticism is what will intrigue teams. He is also good for at least one steal that leads to a breakaway dunk per game, as he did it regularly while at UNLV.
    Demetrius Jackson celebrates a three-pointer in the first half against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament's Midwest Region final at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Elsa / Getty Images)

    Demetrius Jackson celebrates a three-pointer in the first half against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Region final at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Elsa / Getty Images)

  25. Los Angeles Clippers: Demetrius Jackson G Notre Dame: Jackson has a nice burst of explosion and has a great assist to turnover ratio. He is polished, developed and will be one of the older players drafted. Because of his age you expect to get a more mature player who is capable of dictating an offense. The Clippers will look to add depth and Jackson would be a good second option to have behind Chris Paul.
    http://aba-liga.com/news/tabid/86/id/35663/p/15/enjoy-the-best-actions-from-november.aspx

    http://aba-liga.com/news/tabid/86/id/35663/p/15/enjoy-the-best-actions-from-november.aspx

  26. Philadelphia 76ers:Timothe Luwawu G France: There is a chance the Sixers package picks 24 and 26 to move up for a better guard, but if they keep both picks look for them to take Timonthe Luwawu who is a bit of an unknown from France. He stands at 6’7” which is great for a guard. He is quick off the dribble and a good three point shooter.
    Photo: AP

    Photo: AP

  27. Toronto Raptors: Malachi Richardson G Syracuse: A lot of teams have started to fall in love with Richardson. He has the ability to create shots, but needs to develop other parts of his game. This pick may take a while to develop but they may need him sooner if Demar DeRozan leaves this summer.
    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

  28. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Bembry G St Joesph’s: The Suns may not have a huge need for another guard, but they have three first round picks. Bembry can score from any part of the floor and would be a good option for anyone needing some scoring.
    Oregon State's Malcolm Duvivier goes up for a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

    Oregon State’s Malcolm Duvivier goes up for a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  29. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Payton II G Oregon State: Tony Parker isn’t getting any younger and the Spurs need to look at developing his replacement. Payton is just like his dad when it comes to getting his hands on the ball defensively and  Gregg Popovich will love that. He is also very explosive and athletic and he could be a great piece to go along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
    Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) dunks the ball over Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) and forward Jon Horford (21) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

    Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) dunks the ball over Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) and forward Jon Horford (21) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

  30. Golden State Warriors: Damian Jones F/C Vanderbilt: Damian Jones is a very athletic seven footer who was instrumental in the success of Vanderbilt. Drafting Jones would create a deeper front court for the Warriors.

Top 5 Upcoming NBA Games (Week of 3/28-4/3)

PHOTO: KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO: KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IMAGES

There are just two and a half weeks remaining in the NBA season so these games are just getting bigger and more important. Teams are fighting to get in the playoffs and teams who know they are in are fighting for better seeding for the playoffs. Here are the top five games of the week in the NBA.

#5- Toronto Raptors @ San Antonio Spurs (Saturday, April 2): The Raptors are looking to tune up before their playoff run. They are the second seed in the East and it is expected to stay that way. They are quietly the two seed and nobody really respects them. This is a game that allows them to see where they stack up against the second seed in the opposite conference. The Spurs are still chasing the first seed but it seems unlikely. This will just be a competitive game between two of the top teams in the NBA. The Spurs will be tested but will ultimately protect their undefeated home record.

Prediction: Spurs 102-97

#4-Boston Celtics @ Golden State Warriors (Friday, April 1):  Golden State is continuing their pursuit of the record for most wins in a regular season and do not have many teams remaining with a chance of beating the Warriors. The Celtics are one of those few teams with that chance. They are well coached and play hard. The biggest issue for the Celtics are that the Warriors are having a legendary season and will be at home for this game which means they will win.

Prediction: Warriors 112-100

#3- Atlanta Hawks @ Toronto Raptors (Wednesday, March 30): Two of the top three teams in the East go head to head in this matchup. Both teams are having great seasons but still many people think neither will beat the Cavaliers. The Raptors and Hawks are both trying to build and go further than last season and are also looking for some more respect. The Hawks have been steady all season and I think they steal this one in the six.

Prediction: Hawks 93-87

#2- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Houston Rockets (Sunday, April 3): James Harden gets to go up against his former team once again but this time in H-Town. Oklahoma City was able to get a four point win when these teams met recently on March 22. Russell Westbrook even had a triple-double. I see this game going the same way. Russell will have a near triple-double and the Thunder will win the game.

Prediction: Thunder 110-104

#1 Los Angeles Clippers @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Wednesday, March 30): These teams may not meet in the playoffs because of the Warriors and Spurs but they are third and fourth in the West. Both teams will likely win their first round series but then the Clippers would most likely meet the Warriors while the Thunder are set to meet up with the Spurs. Crazy things happen in the playoffs and the only way these two teams play one another is if they both get huge upsets. This will be a playoff type game and atmosphere and is the best game of the week. I think the Thunder defend their home court in this one.

Prediction: Thunder 108-105

Best Remaining College Basketball Games

There is still one month of regular season college basketball to be played before teams get into their conference tournaments. A lot of teams will be fighting for spots in the tournament or for higher seeds, making this next month exciting. Here are some of the games that should be great to watch the rest of the way:

The first game between Kansas and Oklahoma was a close game with some controversy. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

#6 Kansas at #3 Oklahoma, Saturday February 13

The first time these two teams played in Lawrence, Kansas, it was an overtime thriller that many say was the best played game all season. Now the rematch has a chance to be another classic and could result in the winner being the Big 12 regular season champion. Oklahoma should have the edge playing at home and with Buddy Hield on their side.

#15 Texas A&M at LSU, Saturday February 13

Texas A&M dropped a game at home to South Carolina, which has made the SEC wide open. LSU now leads the SEC with an 8-2 record. This game specifically will be a good watch because Ben Simmons will be going up against a great team. If the Tigers can win this game it would help move them off of the bubble.

Alex Caruso has plenty of big game experience, which will be useful down the stretch. Photo courtesy d1nation.com.

#22 Kentucky at #15 Texas A&M, Saturday February 20

Kentucky only has three SEC losses and can win the conference with how wide open it is. Jamal Murray has been on fire and he looks like he is capable of carrying the Wildcats to a championship. Texas A&M has a few key games left and this will be there last big test of the regular season.

#12 Miami at #9 North Carolina, Saturday February 20

Miami is a team that no one is talking about, but is capable of beating anyone in the country. Angel Rodriguez has the potential to lead Miami to big wins down the stretch. North Carolina can really help separate the top of the ACC with a win in this game.

#3 Oklahoma at #10 West Virginia, Saturday February 20

These teams are currently tied at the top of the Big 12. Oklahoma can seal a Big 12 championship with a win over Kansas and West Virginia. West Virginia’s defense should make this a great game to watch. Their press going up against Buddy Hield will make it a very interesting game.

#7 Virginia at #12 Miami,  Monday February 22

The second game in the round robin that will decide the ACC is Virginia at Miami. Virginia’s defense, again, is always great to watch, but their offensive ball control drives some fans crazy. Miami isn’t a great scoring team, so they will have to make the most of each possession.

Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono has led Villanova to a number one ranking this season. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

#1 Villanova at #5 Xavier, Wednesday February 24

Villanova is number one for the first time in school history and is in the Big East driver’s seat. A win over Xavier in this game could seal it for the Wildcats as well as get them closer to locking up a number one seed. If Xavier is able to win every other game on their schedule and get a help in the form of a Villanova loss, or two, this game would put them at the top of the Big East. This is also a revenge game for Xavier, who lost at Villanova by 31 points earlier this season.

#9 North Carolina at #7 Virginia, Saturday February 27

The last of the ACC round robin features a culture clash. Virginia is going to play great defense and hold the ball on offense, while North Carolina will try to get out on the fast break every chance they get. The winner of this game could be the number one seed in the ACC tournament.

#2 Maryland at #18 Purdue, Saturday February 27

Iowa doesn’t have any marquee games down the stretch, making this the best game left in the Big Ten season. If Iowa slips up this could decide the Big Ten champion. Purdue has plenty of talented big guys making their team a Big Ten throwback. Maryland has enough talent on its roster to make this game interesting, but they will need to be tough to beat Purdue.

Jamal Murray has been heating up lately, making Kentucky a serious threat. Photo courtesy twitter.com.

LSU at #22 Kentucky, Saturday March 5

Another revenge game on the slate. Kentucky lost to LSU in Baton Rouge and now gets them in Rupp Arena. This game is the season finale for both teams and could decide the SEC. With Jamal Murray heating it up, Simmons and Murray will be a great battle of freshmen.

#11 Oregon at #23 USC, Saturday March 5

Oregon is leading the Pac-12 and this game could put the icing on the cake. The Ducks are playing great basketball and are capable of making a deep tournament run. USC has been a surprise this season and could still win the Pac-12.

 

 

 

Mid-Season Final Four Picks

The college basketball season is half way over and there are a lot more games to be played, but it is never too early to start predicting the Final Four. There has been enough games to see which teams are showing signs of being able to make a deep run in March Madness. These are the teams that I predict will be in the Final Four this season.

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield has all the tools to lead Oklahoma to a Final Four.

 

  1. Oklahoma Sooners- The Sooners have just one loss this season and it was to Kansas. That game went to triple overtime and was well played by both teams. If Oklahoma can go into that environment and battle that well, they have the potential to win it all this April. Oklahoma has a star player who can get points at any time, in Buddy Heild, which will come in handy in highly competitive games in the tournament. The other members of the starting five are also very talented and can score when Heild is being shut down. The guards Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard are both talented and can be useful in the guard-centric game that is March Madness. The post has two good players in Khadeem Lattin and Ryan Spangler who can get rebounds and score from the post. The only problem that may come to end the Sooners’ goals of reaching the Final Four are their lack of depth. Against Kansas, their bench had no player play for more than 16 minutes or score more than three points. The bench had a total of five points in the 55 minutes played. If the Sooners can get over their lack of depth they will be in the Final Four.

    If Marcus Paige is fully healthy, North Carolina will be dangerous in March.

  2. North Carolina Tarheels- North Carolina has a very experienced team to work with this season. The most important player is point guard Marcus Paige, who does everything for the Tarheels. He has only played 11 games, but his ability to stay healthy will determine his team’s success this season. He averages 15 points and five assists per game and will get better once he gets 100 percent healthy. Brice Johnson provides North Carolina with an athletic big man who can score and play defense. Their other starting big man, Kennedy Meeks, has also had injury problems, but is a physical presence in the paint. Justin Jackson and Joel Berry average 13 points per game to help with the scoring punch. The Tarheels have talent and depth with nine players averaging over 10 minutes per game. They will need this depth come tournament time in order to reach the Final Four.

    Trevon Bluiett isn’t talked about a lot nationally, but the Musketeers leading scorer is one of the most talented players in the country.

  3. Xavier Musketeers- The Xavier Musketeers have had one bad game all season and that was a loss at Villanova by 31 points. This happened to be under bad circumstances as point guard Ed Sumner had to leave the game with a significant head injury only a few minutes into the game. He still hasn’t returned, but Xavier has won every game since. The Musketeers have great shooters in, Trevon Blueitt, Myles Davis and J.P. Macura, who help stretch the defense. When the defense is stretched Jalen Reynolds and James Farr are able to face one on one coverage in the post, which is a match-up they usually win. When Sumner comes back, he and Remy Abell will be able to penetrate defenses and cause them to break down. The Musketers also have depth, so much so that they can’t find minutes for all of their talented players. If they can keep the players happy and playing as a team, they will be able to make their first ever Final Four.

    Tyler Ulis has been the main reason Kentucky has been successful and will be the key to a deep tournament run.

  4. Kentucky Wildcats- Honestly all of the teams in the top 15 are so close in how well they have played that this spot is a toss up.  Kentucky has beaten Duke and Louisville, but has lost to Ohio State, UCLA and LSU. With four trips to the Final Four in the last five years, John Calipari has a knack of getting his teams to peak late in the season. The Wildcats have great guard play, which is always a key to winning in March. Point guard Tyler Ulis has done exactly what his team has needed from him this season, by scoring, passing and defending. Jamal Murray is a great outside shooter, who can fill out a stat sheet within a couple of minutes. He does take some ill-advised shots, but outside of him and Ulis the rest of the team hasn’t scored enough this season for Murray not to shoot the ball a lot. The third starting guard is Isaiah Briscoe. Briscoe can’t shoot well, but does defend well and get to the basket on the offensive end. The big men have been the issue this season for Kentucky. Alex Poythress has been inconsistent, Marcus Lee can only score on dunks and freshman center Skal Labissiere hasn’t been strong enough to pull down rebounds or get his shots off. The inside is a mess, but Calipari will find a way to make Poythress more consistent before the year is finished, while the guards will continue to improve as the season goes on.

Dark Horses of the 2016 College Football Seasons

Team 1: This team is a pretty obvious pick but a team most people still overlooking. Rocky Top Tennessee Volunteers. They were a really good team in 2015 and is a team that is trending up. Tennessee has a pretty great backfield of Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd. Those two players combined to find the end zone 40 times on offense. Their defense will return pretty much intake if juniors don’t leave early.  This is still the same Tennessee team that almost beat the SEC and National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide and on October 15, 2016 Bama will travel to Knoxville to revisit their rivalry.

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

As far as scheduling goes on paper Tennessee’s only real test is Bama. They play in the weakened SEC East with the departure of former Florida QB Will Grier and former Georgia head coach Mark Richt. But they do have to go to Athens to play the Bulldogs, so that could be a trap game. After the Oct. 15th game against Bama they will have a well deserved bye week and finish the season with Carolina at Williams-Brice, home to Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, and Missouri. They will finish the regular season in Nashville against Vandy on Nov. 29th.

As of January 13th, ESPN has the Vols ranked as the 17th ranked recruiting class for 2016.

The 2016 Vols are posed for great things, most likely a 11-1 regular season. It is very possible that the Vols could end the regular season undefeated. Because after the National Championship, Clemson, in a losing effort, showed the nation Nick Saban can not stop a good spread offense from scoring a bunch a points on his defenses. And with Dobbs and Hurd in the backfield they qualify as a good spread offense.

Team 2: This team was 8-5 in the 2015 season, but they are only remembered for a hellacious beating they took to the hands of Clemson. The 2015 Miami Hurricanes were actually a good team. They have one of the nation’s best signal callers in Brad Kaaya. He threw for 3238 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only 5 interceptions. Miami also brings back their top rusher, Joseph Yearby, who ran for 1002 yards. Also Stacy Coley, their top receiving threat, just announced he is staying in school. Miami’s 2016 defense will be anchored by the linebacker crew that was blessed by fire in 2015. So Miami is returning their top three offensive weapons, all of their linebackers, and bring in new head coach Mark Richt. All Mark Richt needs is a good backfield and a weapon on the edge and he has that here in Miami

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

And as far as scheduling goes they have their toughest ACC game is at home against bitter rival Florida State. And they draw the short end of the straw having to go to Notre Dame on Oct. 29th, but they might have a bye week the week before that game since it looks like the school’s fall break is on the week of the 22nd. Just like Tennessee, Miami is trending up in the ACC Coastal, a division that is slowly trending down. They play the ACC’s three traditional road trap teams NC State, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, but I really think this Miami team and this Miami coach wants to bring Miami back. And if he does not Warren Sapp will blast him on twitter. Here are some the tweets.

As of January 13th, ESPN has the Canes ranked as the 16th ranked recruiting class for 2016. And they are always on the radar to shake up National Signing Day.

This 2016 Miami seems different. It is very likely Miami can go through the regular season 11-1 or 10-2 but both records resulting in a trip to Charlotte for the ACC Championship against either Clemson or rival, Florida State.

Team 3: This team is really really a dark horse. Now unlike the other two teams this team is not championship ready, but this team will definitely get a great bowl game in 2016. They had a losing record but went out with a bang with a win over a rival on the road. The Texas Longhorns were a sub .500 team in 2016; they went 5-7. At one point in the season, Charlie Strong was on the verge of losing his job but with a season-ending win over Baylor he got to keep his job as HC. They return their dual-QB system of Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes. D’Onta Freeman, their top back is going to be in the backfield for them. On the outside, they are returning freshman John Hurt, their top receiver. The Texas defense is expected to bring back 8 starters on defense and will be lead by their strong defensive line.

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Courtesy of, www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

The schedule is pack with some tough opponents like opening week against Notre Dame. Their notable home games are Notre Dame, TCU, and Baylor. Week 2 they have a game against UTEP, which to most is a tune-up before their trip to the West. They go to California to play the Golden Bears in week 3, have a week 4 bye, and then play Oklahoma State in Stillwater. They also have the pleasure of playing Texas Tech and Kansas State on the road. And don’t think I forgot about the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma on October 8th. We all know Oklahoma didn’t forget the 2015 game.

As of January 13th, ESPN has the Longhorns ranked as the 33rd ranked recruiting class for 2016. And don’t expect Texas to finish outside the top 30 maybe even in the top 20.

Now I know I’m probably on a stranded island with the Texas love, but history tells us Texas can’t be down for long. Charlie Strong isn’t a loser, it is not Strong’s blood to be a loser for long. I might be a year too early on this train but I have feeling that Texas will be a team that can win 9 or 10 games.

Stats Courtesy: ESPN

*Team Schedules from FBSchedules.com

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