Huskie – Buffalo Match Up

A pair of Top Ten college football teams will meet in the PAC-12 Championship Game on Friday night, December 2nd. The Washington Huskies will face off against the Colorado Buffaloes with a lot on the line.

Both teams still have a chance to reach the College Football Playoffs where the top four teams will play for a chance to be the National Champions. Washington really just needs to win and they are most likely in since they hold the 4th spot in the rankings. The Buffaloes will need a lot of help from the committee even with a win.

The game is being played on a neutral field at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Levi’s is the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. The game will be highly viewed since it will be played in prime-time on the Fox network.

Washington was able to clinch the Pac-12 North Division with a convincing 45-17 win over rival Washington State last weekend. Huskies Quarterback Jake Browning led a first-quarter surge that saw the team score 28 points in the first on three Browning touchdown throws. He ended up passing for 292 total yards in the game as the Huskies won the Apple Cup for the fourth straight year.

The Colorado Buffaloes had a tougher time in beating Utah 27-22 to claim the PAC-12 South Division title. The defense forced two key fumbles by Utah which helped the Buffaloes get the win. They survived a late score and onside kick to come out with the win.

So it comes down to the 11-1 Huskies against the 10-2 Buffaloes for the PAC-12 Championship and a possible chance to play for the College Football Championship. Here is a preview of both teams and a game prediction.

Washington Huskies

Third-year Head Coach Chris Petersen has done a tremendous job with this team. Both the offense and defense are strong and rank in the top ten in college football. Led by QB Browning (who has thrown 40 touchdown passes on the season), running back Myles Gaskin and receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis, the four players have accounted for a total of 80 touchdowns in their 12 games. The offense ranks 3rd in the country, averaging 44.8 points per game.

Defensively, the Washington Huskies are also a top ten ranked unit allowing only 17.8 points a game to their opponents.

Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado can put points on the board also averaging 34.8 points per game. Senior Quarterback Sefo Liufau is a threat either running or passing the ball and if the Huskies don’t contain him you can expect a tight game. Other offensive threats come from running back Phillip Lindsay and receivers Shay Fields and Devin Ross.

The Buffaloes have a senior-laden group on defense who are currently ranked 13th in points allowed with a per game average of 18.8 a game. They will need to rely on a big game from that group and pressure on Browning to hold the Huskies down.


This will be a great game and one definitely worth watching if you are a fan of college football. I do not expect a defensive battle and that should favor Washington. Other than the loss to USC, Washington has been able to score in bunches and that could be the difference in this one.

Washington by 7 points.

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Four NFL Teams to Watch

Here we go with another great NFL season. So far here are the teams to watch as we see it.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals are going to go as far as Carson Palmer’s arm, Tyrann Mathieu’s knee, and the team’s offensive line can take them. Palmer played as well as anyone for the first 13 or 14 weeks of the year — he was neck-and-neck with Brady for NFL MVP at the midway point of the season — and then looked rather pedestrian (perhaps putting it kindly) over the last four-to-six weeks of the season (including the postseason, which included his 235 yard, one touchdown, and four interception stink bomb against Carolina in the NFC Divisional nfl-custom-dog-jerseyPlayoff game). Still, in 16 regular season games last year, he threw for 4,671 yards (a career high for Palmer and fourth among all quarterbacks in the NFL last year), 35 touchdown passes (another career high, and tied for second among all quarterbacks), and only 11 interceptions (his lowest career total in any season where he played in more than 10 games).

But as much as Palmer’s performance began to decline towards the end of the season, his teammates all agree that losing cornerback Tyrann Mathieu — was firmly in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, alongside JJ Watt and Aaron Donald — might’ve been what really derailed their season. As one of the emotional leaders of the defense (and arguably the group’s best player), losing Mathieu to another torn ACL injury in Week 15 of last years was a devastating and heartbreaking blow to the team. They simply couldn’t replace the energy he brought to the team, and the Cardinals really that knee to heal up, to help Mathieu get back to form.

New England Patriots

For the past seven consecutive seasons, the Patriots have been “the man” to beat in the AFC East, and even with Tom Brady’s four-game suspension to start the season, they’re still the heavy favorites to win the division in 2016.

In the Patriots first four games, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots offense will face the stacked Cardinals secondary, Ndamukong Suh, JJ Watt, and a Rex Ryan defense. Still, it’s not unrealistic to think they could pull out ugly wins over the Dolphins (who’ll still be adjusting to life under Adam Gase) and Buffalo (especially since this game will be in Foxboroughnew-england-patriots-sweatshirts-hoodies-women). After that? Six of their last eight games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, and the other two are against Seattle (who they’ll also play at Foxborough) and Denver (who will be dramatically different than the Broncos team they played last year).

In typical Patriots fashion, the offense looks largely the same; after all, if you have #12 under center, there isn’t really a need for too much else. The only real changes made around Tom Brady are the acquisition of offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper (who New England received as part of the trade that sent defensive end Chandler Jones to Arizona) and the signing of tight end Martellus Bennett (who gives the Patriots their best #2 tight end since Aaron Hernandez). Point being, outside of Brady’s suspension for the first quarter of the season, the team isn’t much different than the squad that went 12-4 last season and lost in the AFC Championship game.

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Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter 2016 as the odds-on favorite to win the division (potentially extending the streak of a different team winning the AFC North to five straight seasons). Even after losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and star running back Le’Veon Bell for a combined 14 games last season, they still finished with a 10-6 record, and pulled off an upset victory over Cincinnati in the Wild Card playoff game. As per their traditional modus operandi, the team eschewed making any significant additions in free agency, and focused on adding young talent through the draft whom they can develop into future starters (thanks to their benchmark organizational stability). Cornerback Artie Burns from the University of Miami (their first round pick) and defensive back Sean Davis out of the University of Maryland (taken with their second round pick) are ultra-athletic guys who will initially provide depth to the much-maligned Steelers secondary, but will groomed into eventual starters.

But as long as this team has Roethlisberger, Bell (whose appeal for his four-game suspension will take place in the second week of August), and sublime receiver Antonio Brown, the offense has the ability to outscore nearly anyone they play. Even with wide receiver Martavis Bryant lost for all of 2016 (he was suspended by the NFL missing his mandated drug tests), the team is optimistic about some of the young, offensive talent they’ve drafted and developed: namely, wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates. Both players have had great training camps, and will be heavily relied upon to fill Bryant’s shoes.

Green Bay Packers

Having lost the NFC North throne last year to Minnesota, the Packers spent the offseason trying to get everyone back into the best possible shape, in order to reclaim their division crown.

Aaron Rodgers spent the offseason training harder than ever and cleaning up his diet (going heavily vegan, eating only a little meat but entirely nixing any dairy consumption). He reportedly lost about 13lbs in the offseason, and is at his lowest weight since his rookie year. Rodgers will also get wide receiver Jordy Nelson — his favorite target — back from injury (although he’s starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list as a precautionary measure), while the other young receivers on the roster (Davante Adams and Jeff Janis) are also healthy and have gained more NFL experience. Rodgers should also get more support from his running game, given that Eddie Lacy spending the offseason training with P90X creator Tony Horton, and lost close to 20lbs as well.

On defense, the Packers had a few changes up the middle of their defense, as they try to fix their perennially leaky run defense (ranked 21st last season). Letroy Guion takes over at nose tackle for the retired B.J. Raji, while Sam Barrington and Nate Palmer are penciled in at inside linebacker (allowing Clay Matthews to move back to outside linebacker). The biggest change in the secondary is moving defensive back Damarious Randall into the starting lineup. The coaching staff is absolutely enamored with Randall’s abilities, and has spent the 2016 OTA’s and training camp to date moving him around between nickel cornerback and free safety, trying to turn Randall into their own version of Tyrann Mathieu.

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Will the Oklahoma Sooners be in the 2016 College Football Playoffs?

College Football Playoffs

oklahoma sooners playoff 2016If Bob Stoops, coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, can help his team simply make it to Columbus Day without them burying themselves in an insurmountable hole, then the 2016 University of Oklahoma Sooners football team should be in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 Championship game, and a repeat appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Demanding Schedule

Oklahoma may very well have the most demanding non-conference schedule this season, featuring their season opener against the 15th ranked University of Houston Cougars (which will be played in NRG Stadium in Houston on Labor Day weekend), and their match-up with the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes just two Saturdays later (thankfully, at least that game takes place in Norman).

After a merciful week off, the Sooners then get 13th-ranked TCU (in Ft. Worth), followed by a return trip to the Metroplex for the Red River Shootout against the University of Texas (the only team to defeat Oklahoma in the regular season last year). Past that, the only two real threats on the Sooners schedule — the University of Baylor Bears and in-state rival Oklahoma State University Cowboys — both travel to Norman for their match-ups.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield

Oklahoma Sooners football seasonWherever the Sooners end up by the end of this season, it’ll likely be a direct correlation to the performance of star quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting a year ago, thanks to an “organized chaos”-style of improvisation that the Big 12 hasn’t seen since the days of Johnny Manziel. He threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns last season (and only seven interceptions), and added 405 yards and seven more scores rushing as well.

Mayfield won’t have to do it all himself, though. He still has running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon in the backfield. Perine’s blend of size, power, and toughness, complimented by Mixon’s explosive, game-breaking ability, gives the Sooners offense a very dangerous level of balance for when Mayfield isn’t orchestrating this high-flying passing attack.

Sooners will be hard to beat

It might seem strange to say this for a team coached by Bob Stoops, but if the Sooners defense can do just enough to get the football back in the hands of the offense, this team will be very hard to beat. Oklahoma did lose four key starters to graduation, but they’ll still have Ogbinnia Okoronkwo on the outside and Charles Walker on the inside of the defensive line, headlining one of the best groups in the conference.  While the pass rush is supremely important in the pass-heavy Big 12, this team will go as far as the run defense takes them. In the two games the Sooners lost last season — against the Longhorns and the Clemson Tigers in the playoffs — they surrendered over 300 yards rushing in each game.

The back seven of the Sooners defense features Jordan Evans and a group of young and athletic options to fill in for the departed Dominique Alexander and Blake Martinez. Junior cornerback ,Jordan Evans, and junior safety, Steven Parker, headline an experienced secondary that’ll feature five upperclassmen when the team goes into nickel looks.

Still, no player will have the spotlight shining as brightly on him as Mayfield. If he — and the offense — can overcome a still-coming-together interior of the offensive line, and if one of the team’s receivers steps up to become Mayfield’s new favorite target (especially after the departure of wide receiver Sterling Shepard), there’s little reason to think the Oklahoma Sooners won’t be among college football’s “Final Four,” and Mayfield won’t receive another invitation to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York this December.



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Is Michigan Football Ready to Take the Next Step?

Is Michigan Football Ready to Take the Next Step?Yes, with Jim Harbaugh as head coach they are.  Clearly a new era was launched on December 30th, 2014 when Jim Harbaugh was introduced as the Head Football Coach at the University of Michigan.  Harbaugh was a highly successful college and professional head coach after his playing days were done. A former college quarterback at Michigan, under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, it made sense for Harbaugh to return to his alma mater and return the team to it’s former glory.

In the years since Lloyd Carr left the program in 2007, the Wolverines have had a rather pedestrian record of 46 wins and 42 losses; and,  it would have been worse if Brady Hoke didn’t have an 11-2 record in his first year at Michigan in 2011.  Enter Harbaugh, fresh from success in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. His coaching record indicates the ability to turn a program around quickly and that was the hope in Ann Arbor.  But in college, he would be inheriting the players recruited by prior coach Hoke. At least in year one he would need to assess his talent level and implement his system as quickly as possible.

Harbaugh was able to accomplish both. On offense, he identified his quarterback (Iowa transfer Jake Rudock) who would lead the team in his final year of eligibility. Rudock did nothing but improve all year under the tutelage of Harbaugh.  On defense, Michigan implemented a scheme that worked well with their personnel. The defense ranked second in the conference in total defense allowing only 280 yards per game with their pass defense being the best in the conference.

So now that Harbaugh has a year under his belt and has been able to recruit for the past year and bring in his players, what is the next step for Michigan?  He led the team to a 10-3 record and a Citrus Bowl win in year one.

Well, if you listen to the oddsmakers, Michigan will be in the running to win the National Championship this season. Las Vegas futures have them routinely in the top five with teams like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.  To do so, they will need to find a quarterback to replace Rudock. John O’Korn, another senior transfer from Houston, is the leading candidate.  They also return with several All-American candidates in defensive backs Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis, as well as lineman Chris Wormley and tight end Jake Butt.

Harbaugh made quite a splash in his first full recruiting year with most analysts listing Michigan in the top 5 or 6 classes. This included the nation’s top high school recruit in Rashan Gary from New Jersey.  So I believe it’s safe to say that Michigan is positioned to take another big step in the 2016 college football season. The quarterback position should not be a concern with Harbaugh’s track record of coaching them up.  The defense will only get better in year two of Michigan’s system.

The only real concern is that their two toughest conference games (Ohio State and Michigan State) will be played on the road.  Whatever happens, this will be an exciting team (and coach) to watch.

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Can the Clemson Tigers do it again?

Last season, the Clemson Tigers football team had one of their best seasons in school history in years. Clemson played in their first National Championship since 1981. They gave the Alabama Crimson Tide all they could handle in the National Championship GameRecap for Clemson Tigers 2016 before falling in the final seconds 45-40.  Can they do it again in the fall of 2016?

Starting quarterback, Heisman runner-up and All-American Deshaun Watson, elected to stay at Clemson for one more year before entering the NFL Draft next year. Watson is a guaranteed #1 or #2 pick in the NFL Draft. The Tigers’ defensive players Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd, Mackenzie Alexander, T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse were all selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. Not one Clemson offensive player was taken in this year’s draft.

The Clemson Tigers should be in prime position to compete for the National Championship in 2017. Watson is returning to the Tigers and if you think he had a very strong 2015 campaign, he is going to have an even stronger 2016 season campaign as long as he can stay healthy. He is also returning with some of the same weapons he had last season. He will be in serious contention to win the Heisman Trophy, and he might he even take the award home this year.

Head coach Dabo Sweeney proved to everyone last year that he was a great coach.  He proved that he can guide a team in to the championship,  after spending years as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator.

Also, you can’t forget about Clemson’s defense. Defensive players such as Ben Boulware, D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins will be returning to anchor the defense. Last year, their defense was fast, quick and tenacious. They had a great knack for getting to the quarterback as well as corner backs. They will make it tough on any team’s best wide receiver. So, I expect great things from Clemson in 2016 as they try again for the National Championship.

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