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Can Iowa Repeat As B1G West Champions?

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Iowa’s magical 2015 season ended on a sour note. Their undefeated dream started to turn into a nightmare with the never-ending, game-winning drive by Michigan State in the B1G Championship Game, and ended with Christian McCaffrey trampling all over them in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. Thanks in part to a comfortable schedule and the return of some of their most important players on both sides of the ball, Iowa fans can have hope for another great run in 2016 with a possibility of a happier ending.

Along with JT Barrett, CJ Beathard is probably the best Quarterback in the B1G. He loses 4 of his top 5 targets from last year, including big-play WR Tevaun Smith (17.6 yds/catch). The Hawkeyes do retain Beathard’s favorite WR Matt Vandeberg (65 rec for 703 yds in ’15), and TE George Kittle, who was named the NCAA’s best Tight End.

Their offensive line does lose two All-B1G performers, who combined for 86 career starts, but they return five offensive linemen who started at least two games in 2015. The Hawkeyes should have a strong backfield, despite the loss of Jordan Canzeri, with the return of LeShun Daniels (646 yds 8 TDs), Akrum Wadley (6.0 yds/carry 7 TDs), and Derrick Mitchell (6.2 yds/carry).

The one weak spot for Iowa’s defense will be in the pass rush thanks to the loss of both of their starting Defensive Ends: Drew Ott, and Nate Meier. Ott’s injury in ’15 really hurt the defense as they gave up 4.4 yds/play with him in the lineup, and 5.5 yds/play without him (stats via SB Nation). Other than those two losses, most of the gang is back together again as the defense returns 7 starters and 72% of its snaps from 2015. The biggest news of the offseason for Iowa fans came when CB Desmond King announced he would be coming back to Iowa City for his senior season despite being a 1st-round caliber draft prospect.

Desmond King will also be very important to Iowa’s Special Teams unit as both a kick and punt returner (Avg 24.4 yds/KR, 14.2 yds/PR). The Hawkeyes do lose a key piece of their team in Kicker Marshall Koehn who was incredibly important to Iowa’s success in close games in 2015, including a 57 yard game-winning FG against Pittsburgh.

Iowa received a lot of criticism from the national media for a weak schedule in 2015. I suspect that criticism to be loud again in 2016 as Kirk Ferentz has called up Miami (Ohio), and FCS champions North Dakota State to join their in-state rival, Iowa State, on their non-conference schedule. The Bison are a tough opponent and won’t be huge underdogs in Kinnick, but Iowa won’t receive much credit for winning any game against an FCS opponent at home.

The Hawkeyes avoid Ohio State and Michigan State on their B1G schedules for the second straight season, and they get the Michigan Fightin’ Harbaughs to come to Iowa City on a Saturday night. They get to face 3 out of the 4 other B1G West contenders at home (Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska), but they do travel to Minneapolis to play a Minnesota team that almost beat them in Kinnick last season. The only other relatively tough game on the schedule will be a trip to Penn State to play James Franklin’s Nittany Lions in November. Iowa could be allowed to lose 2 or 3 of those games listed above and still be playing Nebraska for the right to play in the B1G Championship on the day after Thanksgiving. That’s exactly how I see the Hawkeyes’ 2016 season shaking out.

Other than replacing a few key players on the Offensive and Defensive Lines, which are historically very stout at Iowa, a major concern would be Kirk Ferentz’s track record with handling high expectations. The last season the Hawkeyes won 11+ games was 2009, which was a memorable season in which Iowa ended the season with an Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. In 2010 the Hawkeyes were ranked #9 in the nation heading into the year, and they returned Iowa City legend QB Ricky Stanzi along with many other stars and future NFL draft picks. That season ended in heartbreak with an 8-5 record. They lost those 5 games by a combined 15 points.

Will we see history repeat itself in 2016? Will the balls that bounced the Hawkeyes’ way in 2015 bounce the other way? The expectations are high again in Iowa City, which brings a certain level of anxiety among the fan base. I don’t see another 8-5 debacle, but I think Iowa fans should be very happy with a 9-2 or 8-3 record heading into the Nebraska game where they’ll hope Tommy Armstrong Jr. will repeat his 0 TD/4 INT performance of 2015 to send the Hawkeyes to the B1G Championship Game for the second straight year.

Iowa Hawkeyes gear at Fanatics.com

NCAA Football

Ex-Oregon Duck Doug Brenner Sues Willie Taggart, NCAA, University for $11.5 Million

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Former Oregon Ducks offensive lineman Doug Brenner has filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, University of Oregon, former Ducks’ head coach Willie Taggart, and former Ducks’ strength coach Irele Oderinde, for $11.5 million in alleged damages, according to The Oregonian’s James Crepea.

Per the report:

“Brenner’s attorneys allege the University of Oregon was negligent for failing to prohibit, regulate or supervise the workouts, which they describe as ‘physical punishment regimens.’ The lawsuit also alleges that Taggart and Oderinde, both now at Florida State, were negligent in imposing and carrying out the workouts, and that the NCAA has failed to regulate such practices by coaches of its member institutions.”

Brenner was hospitalized last year, January 2017, with “rhabdomyolysis and subsequent injuries” after a series of intense offseason workouts, and is seeking damages for the medical bills he accrued due to the workouts, along with the “severe injuries, some of which are permanent, permanent renal injury, a shortening of his life span by upwards of 10 years, increased susceptibility of kidney failure, kidney disease, and death, severe physical and emotional pain, [and premature death] and an impaired opportunity to play football in college and thereafter.”

The report goes on to say that offensive lineman Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick were also hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, but neither player has been named as being a part of the lawsuit.

Taggart is now the head coach, and Oderinde is currently the strength and conditioning coach for the Florida State Seminoles.

One of the lawyers representing Brenner, Mark McDougal, said the following about the workouts referred to in the lawsuit:

“The drills were done in unison, and whenever a player faltered, vomited, or fainted, his teammates were immediately punished with additional repetitions. A key goal of this lawsuit is to force the NCAA to ban these kinds of punishing, abusive workouts. These workouts are contrary to NCAA guidelines for protecting players from injury and death. The NCAA needs to enact and enforce regulations that outlaw these practices.”

 

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MLB

Hurricane Florence Could Impact A Number of Games

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Hurricane Florence could threaten a number of games scheduled this week as the major storm system continues to threaten the United States Eastern Coast.

According to USA Today Sports, here are the games that could be impacted by the pending storm:

NFL

Sunday, Sept. 16

Carolina at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Indianapolis at Washington, 1 p.m.
New England at Jacksonville, 4:25 p.m.

College football

Wednesday, Sept. 12

Campbell at Coastal Carolina, 2:00 (rescheduled from Saturday)

Thursday, Sept. 13

Boston College at Wake Forest, 7:30

Saturday, Sept. 15 

Georgia Southern at No. 2 Clemson, 3:30
Middle Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia, 7:15
No. 13 LSU at No. 7 Auburn, 3:30
East Carolina at No. 11 Virginia Tech, 12:20
No. 15 West Virginia at North Carolina State, 3:30
No. 18 Central Florida at North Carolina, 12:00
Ohio at Virginia, 3:00
Southern Miss at Appalachian State, 3:30
Colorado State at Florida, 4:00
Old Dominion at Charlotte, 6:00
Norfolk State at Liberty, 6:00
Marshall at South Carolina, 7:30

MLB

Wednesday, Sept. 12

Miami at N.Y. Mets, 4:10, Game 2 TBA
Oakland at Baltimore*, 7:05
Washington at Philadelphia*, 7:05
Toronto at Boston, 7:10

Thursday, Sept. 13

Chicago Cubs at Washington*, 4:05
Oakland at Baltimore*, 7:05
Miami at N.Y. Mets, 7:10
Toronto at Boston, 7:10

Friday, Sept. 14

Chic. White Sox at Baltimore, 7:05
Miami at Philadelphia*, 7:05
Toronto at N.Y. Yankees*, 7:05
N.Y. Mets at Boston, 7:10
Washington at Atlanta*, 7:35

Saturday, Sept. 15

Washington at Atlanta*, 1:05
N.Y. Mets at Boston, 4:05
Toronto at N.Y. Yankees*, 4:05
Chicago White Sox at Baltimore, 7:05
Miami at Philadelphia*, 7:05

Sunday, Sept. 16

Chicago White Sox at Baltimore, 1:05
N.Y. Mets at Boston, 1:05
Toronto at N.Y. Yankees*, 1:05
Miami at Philadelphia*, 1:35
Washington at Atlanta*, 1:35

*- games with playoff implications

Minor League Baseball

Wednesday, Sept. 12
Carolina League: Potomac (Va.) at Buies Creek (N.C.), 1:05

Thursday, Sept. 13
Carolina League: Buies Creek (N.C.) at Potomac (Va.). 7:05
International League: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) at Durham (N.C.), 7:05

Friday, Sept. 14
Carolina League: Buies Creek (N.C.) at Potomac (Va.), 7:05
International League: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) at Durham (N.C.) 7:05

Saturday, Sept. 15
Carolina League: Buies Creek (N.C.) at Potomac (Va.), 6:35
International League: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) at Durham (N.C.), 7:05

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NCAA Football

Braylon Edwards Apologizes for University of Miami Tweets, Stand by his Stance

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Former NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who currently works for the Big Ten Network, has been suspended by the Big Ten Network for tweets he made on Saturday night after the Wolverines lost 24-17 to Notre Dame.3

Edwards, a former All-America wide receiver at the University of Michigan, heavily criticized Wolverines’ offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, calling him “weak,” and called Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson “scared.”

Edwards played wide receiver for Michigan from 2001 to 2004, and then was drafted to the NFL.

Edwards then went on to target the Michigan team as a whole, tweeting  “f—ing Michigan offense so predictable … Michigan football is sadly one thing … Trash.”

Edwards was criticized by Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday for his tweets and then was officially suspended indefinitely by the Big Ten Network.

“Effective as of Sunday, Sept. 2, Braylon Edwards has been suspended indefinitely from his role at the Big Ten Network due to a violation of the network’s social media guidelines”, the Big Ten Network wrote in a since deleted tweet, according to Chris Vannini of The Athletic.

“No. 1, first of all, it’s not true. It’s not factual,” Harbaugh said of the comments. “There’s nobody in our program who thinks those things about any player on our team, let alone the two players he describes. On the other level, I was disappointed a member of the Big Ten Network would choose to attack the character of two of our players. That’s disappointing.

“We’ll handle things within the program,” Harbaugh said. “That’s all we control.”

“And, I would say, if somebody wants to attack the character of anybody on the ballclub, then come after me. I don’t think it’s right. It’s not true. And nobody in the program thinks that about any player on our team. Just so you know that’s not coming from anybody inside the program.”

While Edwards admits that his tweets were “excessive”, he stands by his criticism of the Wolverines, and says that he plans to reach out to Ruiz and Patterson through his brother, Berkley Edwards, who is a running back for Michigan.

Edwards added that former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr “called me out in the media” and he realizes now he shouldn’t have done the same to Ruiz and Patterson.

“I admit I was excessive and emotional and inebriated. Mix those together. But the focus of my tweets remains intact. I stand by that. I was over-excessive Saturday night at 10:29, but I don’t back down on my overall stance as an alum and a fan. I’ve always defended Michigan. Even this year, I was high on Michigan,” Edwards said according to the Detroit News.

“I’m a man. We make mistakes. I’m sorry. I should not have gone that way. I still agree with the overall message — what do we do now (as a program)? But I apologize — shouldn’t name individual players. They’re still kids. That’s what I apologize for,” Edwards told the media outlet.

Now that there is Legal sports betting in the USA it will be interesting to see what happens when Edwards returns. Some sportsbooks have started taking wagers on whether or not he will keep his job in the end and for how long.

For now, Edwards has a lot of time to sit at home and reflect before his return to the Big Ten Network.

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