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College Football Playoff Predictions

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Over the first two years of the College Football Playoff it has been pretty clear who the 4 most deserving teams in the country are each year. In the 2014 season there was little debate that Ohio State was more deserving than Baylor and TCU, and Florida State had to be included as an undefeated defending National Champion. In 2015 there was a small crowd clamoring for Ohio State to get in over Oklahoma, but Oklahoma had the Big 12 title.

This 2016 season could be a lot messier for the Playoff committee. Consider this scenario: Clemson ends the season 11-1 with only a loss to Florida State; Florida State finishes 12-1 with a loss to Louisville or Ole Miss, but wins the ACC; LSU beats Alabama and wins the SEC at 12-1; Alabama finishes 11-1 with only a loss to LSU; Michigan finishes 12-1 beating Ohio State but loses to Michigan State; Ohio State finishes 11-1 with only a loss to Michigan; Oklahoma wins the Big 12 at 11-1 with a loss to Ohio State in the non-conference; and someone wins the Pac 12 at 12-1. This scenario would give you 8 teams with only one loss and a legitimate case for a College Football Playoff birth. Combine this scenario with our current presidential election and America could possibly explode. Putting that doomsday scenario aside for a second, here are my predictions for the 4 College Football Playoff participants.

Alabama

Alabama is the most boring dynasty in the history of sports, but that doesn’t make them any less dominant. The only real question mark on their roster is at Quarterback where Nick Saban has to choose a starter from a batch of four former 4-star recruits. Whoever wins the job behind center will have plenty of weapons to work with at the skill positions including: RB Bo Scarbrough, RB Damian Harris, WR Calvin Ridley, Bowling Green transfer WR Gehrig Dieter, WR ArDarius Stewart, and the most outstanding player of last year’s Championship Game TE OJ Howard. The defense will be loaded despite the loss of 4 players to the NFL Draft who were all picked in the first 2 rounds.

One other minor concern would be Alabama’s Offensive Line. They return 3 starters including possible top 10 pick LT Cam Robinson, but they must replace the glue that held 2015’s OL together in C Ryan Kelly. Last year’s starting Guard Ross Piersbacher, former 4-star recruit out of Cedar Falls, Iowa, will make the move to Center and is capable of picking up where Kelly left off.

Here’s a quick recap: Alabama’s two biggest question marks will be filled by a highly-touted Quarterback recruit, and a 4-star Offensive Lineman with a full year of starting experience. Another year, another title run in Tuscaloosa.

Florida State

Florida State’s schedule is about as rough as it gets in the ACC: they start the season vs. Ole Miss (in Orlando), @Louisville, @USF, vs. UNC, @Miami, and vs. Florida, BUT they get to face Clemson at home. I don’t think it’s possible to expect the Seminoles to run through this schedule undefeated, but this strength of schedule should look good to the Playoff Committee. I think that Florida State can make it into the playoff at 11-1 even if they don’t win the ACC, and could even make it as a 2-loss ACC champion. As a college football fan, it’s awesome to see a national power with 3 potential top-25 teams on their non-conference schedule. I just hope it doesn’t come back to bite them at the end of the season.

The Quarterback battle in Tallahassee was settled when Sean Maguire went down with an injured foot. With Maguire out for at least the first two games, 19-year-old Sophomore Deondre Francois will be the Seminoles’ starting signal caller. Francois is a former blue-chip recruit and provides much more upside at the position than Maguire.

The last time the Seminoles gave the Quarterback job to a first year starter his name was Jameis Winston and they won a national title. Can Francois do the same in 2016? He definitely has enough talent around him to do so. Florida State returns 17 starters from last season (not counting Sean Maguire) including Heisman-contender Running Back Dalvin Cook who averaged a staggering 7.4 yards per carry with 19 TDs last season while fighting through hamstring injuries. Pro Football Focus ranked the Offensive Line, which returns their entire 2-deep from last year, as the 10th-best in College Football. FSU lacks a bit of experienced depth on defense, but they have outstanding playmakers at every level of the defense. This team definitely has the talent to be a national title contender; the only question is whether they can overcome one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

Michigan

Much like the two teams above, the only questionable position on this roster is at Quarterback. That position becomes less questionable when you consider that Jim Harbaugh made Jake Ruddock into a 3,000 yard passer completing 64% of his passes last season. Harbaugh has a great track record with Quarterbacks including the development of Andrew Luck, and reaching a Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick. With Harbaugh at the helm, the Quarterback position will always be stable, if not excellent.

Outside of Quarterback, the Wolverines are stacked with talent. They return 3 of their top 4 Running Backs from last season; possibly the nation’s best receiving corps in Darboh, Chesson, and Jake Butt; and they will field one of the best Offensive Lines in the country with four returning starters. Their defense is even more impressive returning 4 of their top 5 Defensive Linemen from a dominant ’15 unit and adding the #1 recruit in the country at Defensive Tackle in Rashan Gary; 6 of their top 7 Defensive Backs return including possible Heisman dark horse Jabrill Peppers and shutdown Cornerback Jourdan Lewis. They lose their top 4 Linebackers from 2015, but have tons of talent ready to step in to a group that will benefit immensely from outstanding Defensive Line play.

The B1G schedule isn’t kind to Michigan this year with late-season trips to Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State on the docket. The reason I believe they will win the B1G and reach the College Football Playoff is that Michigan got better from 2015 to 2016 while I expect Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State to each take a step back this year (here is my preview on Iowa’s season ICYMI). Michigan definitely created a lot of offseason buzz this year, and I believe they’ll back that up with stellar play and possibly a National Championship.

TCU

I wrote my first article for Sports Rants in July highlighting TCU as a College Football Playoff sleeper, and I’m sticking to it. For an in-depth look at this 2016 TCU team you can check out that article here. They return a deep and experienced defense thanks to their 2015 unit being decimated by injuries. Kenny Hill showed flashes of brilliance at Texas A&M and is more than capable of providing high quality Quarterback play this season. Finally, the offense finished 3rd in the country in yards per game in 2015 despite losing their top 3 playmakers to injury. The Horned Frogs will hopefully see much better injury luck this season and steal the Big 12 title from Oklahoma, who has historically had trouble living up to high pre-season expectations.

National Champion: Alabama

In a year that could end in utter chaos, I’m going with the safest bet in sports. The Crimson Tide have won 4 of the last 7 National Championships, and outside of a difficult conference road schedule, there isn’t much reason to believe that this year will be much different. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to respect the greatest dynasty in the history of College Football.

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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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