College Football Bowl and Playoff Preview

It’s that time again ladies and gentlemen. One of the best times of the year, college football postseason. Now we get even more excitement to go along with bowl games, welcome in the playoff system. We will now get to see who the best team is in the country using a playoff system. I will be writing about every bowl and playoff game there is. I summed up each teams season and put a prediction to each game. Just scroll down and read about the games that interest you! Thanks for reading. -Trent

  • R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 20 @ 11:00 AM
    Nevada(7-5) VS Louisiana-Lafayette(8-4)

–     The Wolf Pack is led by senior QB, Cody Fajardo. Fajardo has passed for 2374 yards with 18 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions this season, and also rushed for nearly 1000 yards with 13 touchdowns. He has had a down year this season, which has been his worst season since his freshman year of college. But, he is ready to show the nation why he was one of the better dual threat quarterbacks the last two years. He will be joined in the backfield with junior running back Don Jackson, who also rushed for almost 1000 yards. The Wolf Pack are in the middle of the pack in all statistical categories, but they may be better than their record shows. They lost to Arizona 35-28, Boise State 51-46, and Colorado State 31-24. All three of those programs had good seasons this year. Nevada will need Jackson and Fajardo to have big games if they want to beat the Rajin’ Cajuns.

–   After a 1-3 start, the Rajin’ Cajuns went 7-1 their last eight games of the season. They were the 26th best rushing team in the nation with 228 yards a game. But, they were also ranked 102nd thru the air with 188 yards a game. They use a 2-back system while using the read-option with their senior QB, Terrance Broadway. Running back Elijah McGuire carried the ball only 150 times for 1165 yards and 14 touchdowns. That is an astounding 7.8 yards a carry. The other running back, Alonzo Harris, ran the ball 159 times for 737 yards and 12 touchdowns. Broadway can run the ball, but he has struggled throwing it this season with only 12 touchdowns with 9 interceptions on the year. The Rajin’ Cajuns will need the read-option to work to win this game.

-PREDICTION: Fajardo and the Wolf Pack will be too much for the Cajuns in this game. Nevada will find a way to stop the run, and Broadway will make too many costly errors late in the game. 34-27 Nevada.

  •  Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 20th @ 2:20 PM

           Utah State(9-4) VS UTEP(7-5)

-The Aggies finished 2nd in the Mountain West conference this season behind Boise State. They had a unfortunate start of the season when their star quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, went down after the third game with a season ending injury. They tried three different quarterbacks out until they decided to go with sophomore, Darell Garretson. Garretson has passed over 1100 yards with 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Garrettson found his secret weapon in WR ,Hunter Sharp, who caught just a little under 1000 yards this season. Their leading rusher, Lajuan Hunt, rushed for 524 yards this season. Utah State obviously is not an offensive power, but they do have a pretty good defense that ranked 21st in points allowed this season with 21. They are also in the top 40 in rushing defense and top 25 in total defense as a team. As long as the Aggies can control the clock they are a tough team to compete against.

– The Miners come in with the 34th ranked rushing attack that averages 212 yards a game. They are lead by the hard nosed sophmore, Aaron Jones. Jones picked up 1233 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns. UTEP is a one sided football team, because outside of their rushing attack they on average 144 yards thru the air, which make them the 120th ranked passing attack in the nation. Quarterback, Jamiell Showers, passed for over 1700 yards this year, but he has been inconsistent all season. UTEP will need to rely on their young running back to lead the way in scoring against Utah State. UTEP is towards the lower 3rd in defense. They rank as the 81st defense in all of NCAA.

-PREDICTION: Look for Aaron Jones and the Miners to get the ground game working early and they will get some points on the board in the first half. Utah State will come out in the second half and make some good defensive adjustments, and Garretson will hook up with Sharp for a late game touchdown to seal the deal. Utah State wins 24-21

  • Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 20th @ 3:30 pm

Utah(8-4) Vs Colorado State(10-2)

– Utah ended the year 5th in the Pac-12 conference. Utah’s loses came to the hands of Arizona State(in overtime), Oregon, Arizona, and Washington State. Overall this season the Utes have held their own all season, and they have had some good quality wins in Michigan(at the time), UCLA, USC, and Stanford. The Utes are led by quarterback Travis Wilson and running back Davontae Booker. Wilson threw for over 2000 yards with 17 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions on the year. But, Booker is the real star. The Junior rushed for 1350 yards with 9 touchdowns on the season. Thanks to Booker, Utah ranks 54th in rushing with 176 yards a game. On the defensive side of the ball, Utah is ranked 73rd in total defense allowing 401 yards a game. Utah has leaned on their offense all year, and it will be the same during their bowl game.

-The Rams had their best season since 2002, and they finished 2nd in the MWC behind Boise. But, when there is good news there is also bad news. Their coach, Jim McElwain, got hired in at Florida to become the Gators new head coach. McElwain is a Nick Saban prodigy, and he is known for his high powered offense. That is exactly what they were this season. The Rams were 22nd in the nation in scoring averaging 36 points a game. Their defense was solid as well, ranked 34th, averaging 23 points allowed a game. Colorado State is led by the 8th best passer in the nation, Garrett Grayson. The senior gun-slinger passed for 3779 yards, 32 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions. Graysons favorite target is the 6’2 sopohmore, Rashard Higgins. Higgins caught for 1640 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year. Think their passing attack is good? Well so is their running game. Dee Hart, the Alabama transfer, is the man that will carry the rock for the Rams. Hart had 1254 yards on the ground with 16 touchdowns. Colorado State will allow yards, but they don’t always break. They only allow 23 points a game scored on them. With McElwain going to Florida, OC Dave Baldwin will coach the time in the bowl game.

-Prediction: This should be an offensive explosion. If you like to watch a back and forth score fest then this game should be for you. Booker and Wilson will have a field day gaining yards against the Rams defense. But, the combo of Grayson to Higgins will become too much for the Utes to handle.  41-30 Colorado State

  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Dec. 20th, @ 5:45 pm

            Western Michigan(8-4) vs Air Force(9-3)

– The Broncos come into the Bowl Game after finishing 3rd in the MAC. They have a very explosive offense, and a great balanced attack thru the air and on the ground. Sophmore quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 3146 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions this season. Terrell will be throwing to Corey Davis(1232 yards) and Daniel Braverman(912 yards). Whenever the passing game wasn’t working they could always go to their fabulous run game. Jarvion Franklin, who is a freshman, rushed for 1525 yards and 24 touchdowns. With having a sophomore quarterback and a freshman running back, the Broncos could be dangerous in a year or two. Even with them having a great offense, they have just as good of a defense. They rank 47th in the country in total defense. This was a good year for the young Broncos.

– The option running Falcons finished 3rd in the MWC. They ended on a great note upsetting Colorado State in the last game of the regular season 27-24. Air Force is 8th in the nation on the ground averaging 272 yards a game. Air Force has 3 primary backs with 2 fill in backs when needed. It’s hard for defenses to key onto any single player because you never really know who could get the ball. The Falcons leading rusher is Jacobi Owens who had 1054 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year. For only throwing the ball 162 times all year, quarterback Kale Pearson has been very efficient. He has thrown for 14 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. It will be a tough offense to stop for the Broncos.

-Prediction: Air Force ranks 35th in rushing defense. The question is which running game will be better? Air Force will get more yards, but Franklin is going to be too dominant for the Falcons to handle. 27-17 Western Michigan

  • Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Dec. 20th @ 9:15 pm

          Bowling Green(7-6) vs South Alabama(6-6)

– Bowling Green finished 1st in the east, but they lost to Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game. They started off the season good going 5-2, but ended bad going 2-4 with a 3 game losing streak. The Falcons have a very balanced offensive attack. They rank 45th thru the air, and 55th on the ground. Quarterback James Knapke threw for 2805 yards with 13 touchdowns. The duo of Travis Greene and Fred Coppett will be the primary ball carriers for the Falcons. They do allow 33 points a game against them though, and that ranks them 108th in the nation. Good balanced offense with a suspect defense.

– South Alabama became bowl eligible after only their second season in the FBS. They could have won more than 6 games this year, but they just cant score many points. The Jaguars only average scoring 22 points a game which makes them 107th in the nation. The positive side the South Alabama is that they have a good run attack, and they don’t allow their opponents to score much. The Jaguars have 6 running backs that they will use during games. They love to switch in and out for fresh energy. Their leading rusher is Kendall Houston who carried for 652 yards this season.

-Prediction: This game could either be a close win for South Alabama or a blow out win for Bowling Green. If South Alabama doesn’t score more than 21 then Bowling Green will win pretty easily. I see the Falcons getting this one. 31-14 Bowling Green

  • Miami Beach Bowl, Dec. 22nd @ 2:00 pm
    BYU(8-4) vs Memphis(9-3)

– BYU had a strange season. Most people thought this team had the schedule to go undefeated and maybe even challenge for a playoff birth. But, that never got going. The Cougars lost their stud quarterback after going 4-0 to start the season. Once Hill got injured the Cougars went on a 4 game losing streak, but then they ended the year on another 4 game winning streak. When Hill went down the Cougars ended up going with Christian Stewart as their signal caller. Stewart(in only 8 games) threw for 2262 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Cougars have a very good offense. They are 33rd in passing, 42nd in rushing, and 20th in scoring. They have a very suspect defense, but they have a good enough offense to out score other teams.

-Memphis had a very good year, and they ended up coming in 1st in the American conference. Their three losses came to the hands of UCLA, Ole Miss, and Houston. This team was no push over all season, and they showed in during conference play. Memphis had a very good defense. They play tight coverage, and their corner backs will bump the opposing wide-outs all game long. They are ranked 22nd in total defense, and 5th in points allowed. Offensive wise they are lead by Paxton Lynch who thew for 2725 yards and 18 touchdowns. Whenever Memphis could score they typically won because of how dominant their defense was all year.

Prediction: This will end up being a defensive game. Stewart and the Cougars will get some points, but it wont be as much as they are used to scoring. Memphis will lock down on defense and make this a close game. 17-14 BYU

  • Boca Raton Bowl, Dec. 23rd @ 6:00 pm

Marshall(12-1) vs Northern Illinois(11-2)

-Marshall had a perfect season going until they lost to Western Kentucky on the last week of the regular season. But, they still won the C-USA. The Thundering Herd is about as dangerous as you can get on offense. They average 45 points a game which ranks them 5th in the nation, 275 rushing yards a game which ranks them 7th, and 287 passing yards a game which ranks them 18th. Most of this is behind the arm of senior quarterback Rakeem Cato. Cato passed for 3622 yards and 37 touchdowns this season. Cato’s favorite target is Tommy Shuler who caught 77 passes for 953 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. On the ground, Devon Johnson, has rushed for 1636 yards and 16 touchdowns. Their defense is also really good too. They only allow 20 points a game which ranks them 22nd, and they rank 29th in total defense.

-Northern Illinois is the MAC champs after defeating Bowling Green in the finale. Their only two losses came to the hands of Arkansas and Central Michigan. The Huskies are in the middle of the pack in about every category besides rushing and passing. Passing wise they rank 101st in the nation, but they are pretty good on the ground. The Huskies rank 14th in the nation on the ground. Cameron Stingley and Drew Hare both are close to 900 yards a piece on the ground. They have a very good balanced rush attack. Even though they don’t pass the ball all that well wide-out, Da’Ron Brown, has caught for over 1000 yards this year with 6 touchdowns.

-Prediction: Marshall will be ready to revenge their one loss this season, and they are going to be ready to take it out on the Huskies. But, if NIU can get their pass game going, and keep up their rushing attack then anything could be possible. I see it going like 44-28 Marshall

  • San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Dec, 23rd @ 9:30 pm

Navy(6-5) vs San Diego State(7-5)

– The dreaded triple option attack. When most defenses see Navy on their schedule they will dread preparing for the option. You have to account for the quarterback, both running backs, and the full back who gets the ball plenty as well. Go figure, Navy is 2nd in the nation for rushing yards, but 127th in passing. Quarterback, Keenon Reynolds, leads the team in rushing with 1082 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. As I said before the option is so tough to defend they average 33 points a game, and all defenses know that they will be running the ball. Navy is also ranked 89th in points allowed.

– The Aztecs finished first in the MWC-west division this season. All of it was behind running back Donnell Pumphrey who had 1761 yards and 19 touchdowns. They ranked 30th in rushing this season and 106th in passing. Luckily their defense has done enough for them to stay in games. They rank 14th in points allowed and 21st in total defense. If it wasn’t for that defense then this could be a 4 or 5 win team.

-Prediction: Reynolds and Navy will get tons of rushing yards, like normal. But, so will Pumphrey. If the Aztecs can continue to play defense like they have all year then they will get the win, but I don’t see it happening. 35-24 Navy

  • Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, Dec. 24th @ noon

Central Michigan(7-5) vs Western Kentuck(7-5)

-The Chippewas had a very up and down year to say the very least. They would be playing good, and then all of a sudden they would lose to a team they shouldn’t lose too. They had an average offense and a decent defense that got them by when needed. The Michigan transfer, Thomas Rawls, is the main running back for Central Michigan. Rawls rushed for 1103 yards with 10 touchdowns on the season. Quaterback, Cooper Rush, also had his ups and downs. Rush threw for 2664 yards and 20 touchdowns. He didn’t always make the best decisions, but he did enough to win them 7 games. The big thing that helped the Chippewas was their defense was ranked 16th in total defense. But, they still gave up 32 points a game.

-The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky ended the season on a high note winning four straight games, and a win against Marshall. WKU sure does know how to score though. They average 44 points a game, and that ranks them 6th in the nation. They also average 365 passing yards a game which ranks them 3rd in the nation. They are led by Brandon Doughty who threw for 4344 yards and 44 touchdowns on the season. Even if their defense doesn’t stop a team they can outscore almost anyone.

-Prediction: The Chippewas have a good defense, and they sure are going to need to use to beat WKU in this game. IF Doughty can keep throwing like he did all season then WKU will easily, but if CMU holds Doughty and forces a few turnovers then CMU could win this game. 38-24 Western Kentucky

  • Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24th @ 8:00 pm

Fresno State(6-7) vs Rice(7-5)

– Fresno State comes into the Hawaii bowl with a first place finish in the MCW-west side. They lost to Boise St for the MWC championship game. As their record shows, they have had a very streaky year all season long. They went from a 3 game losing streak to a 3 game winning streak, and back to a 3 game losing streak to end the season. The Bulldogs can get some scores on the board with their solid rushing and air attacks, but they have a very suspect defense to say the very least. Fresno State allows 32 points a game which ranks them 101st in the nation, and they are 108th in the country in total defense. Luckily, for the Bulldogs, they have a solid quarterback in Brian Burrell. He threw for 2576 yards, and 22 touchdowns this season. His favorite target is Josh Harper who caught over 80 passes, and a 1000 yards this season.

– The Owls had five losses, but three of those losses came to top 25 teams in Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and also Marshall. Take those three tough losses out they would be sitting 7-2 on the season. Rice has a better team than most people will give them credit for. Quarterback, Driphous Jackson, will be ready to show the nation what they are made of in the Hawaii Bowl. Jackson threw for 2524 yards on the season. Rice will be able to put up some points in the bowl game, like they have all year long.

-Prediction: Burrell and the Bulldogs will need to keep up with Rice to win this game. Fresno State won’t be able to rely on their defense to stop Jackson and that mighty offense for Rice. As long as Fresno State can score points they will win, but if Rice can hold them then they will win. 24-21 Fresno State

  • Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dec. 26th @ 1:00 pm

Illinois(6-6) vs Louisiana Tech(8-5)

– The Fighting Irish finally make a bowl game. Their last one was back in 2011 when they lost to UCLA. The Fighting Illini won their last two games of the season against Penn State and Northwestern to get into a bowl game. Illinois had to rely heavily on sophomore quarterback Wes Lunt this season. Lunt passed for 1729 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lunt missed four games this season due to injury, and senior quarterback Reilly O’Toole played took his place during those stretches. It is still not know who will be under center during the bowl game, but both quarterbacks are capable of throwing the football. They also have a good running back in junior, Josh Ferguson. He had a little bit of a down year from his sophomore year, but he still carried the ball for 685 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Fighting Illini will need to count on their offense since their defense is no sort of spectacular. Illinois ranks 112th in the nation in total defense, and they rank 108th in the nation in opponents scoring.

-Quarterback, Cody Sokol, leads the charge for the Bulldogs. Sokol threw for 3189 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. The Bulldogs have one of the best offensive scoring teams in all of FBS. They average 37 points a game which ranks them 13th in the nation. The lead ball carrier is, Kenneth Dixon, who totaled 1236 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season. The Bulldogs also had a very good defense this season ranking 31st in total defense on the year.

-Prediction: Either Lunt or O’Toole will lead the Illini into a tough matchup against a good C-USA team. The Big Ten have been down for the last few years, and Illinois will be the first team to try and change that. But, Sokol and the Bulldogs won’t let that happen. Sokol and Dixon will put up tons of points during this game. 42-21 Louisiana Tech

  • Quick Lane Bowl, Dec. 26th @ 4:30 pm

Rutgers(7-5) vs North Carolina(6-6)

-Rutgers first season in the Big Ten went better than expected. Many thought that the Scarlet Knights couldn’t hang in the Big Ten, but they held their own. Rutgers did lose to the “big” teams like Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Nebraska. But, they did get quality wins as well like Michigan, Navy, Indiana, and Maryland. Rutgers came in as more of an Air Raid team with senior gunslinger Gary Nova. Nova compiled 2667 yards and 20 touchdowns, but he had 12 interceptions with it. Luckily for Nova he had arguably the 2nd best wide-out in the Big Ten in junior, Leonte Carroo. Carroo caught for 1053 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Rutgers didn’t have much of defense, which ranked 92nd in the nation, so they will need to rely heavily on their offense.

-The Tar Heels ended with the same record as last season in the ACC. North Carolina had the 34th toughest schedule this season, and that is a hard task to accomplish for a young team like the Tar Heels. UNC rely on dual threat quarterback, Marquise Williams. Williams threw for 2870 yards and 20 touchdowns along with 7373 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns. Williams was the Tar Heels leading rusher as well.

-Prediction: If Rutgers wants to win this game then they need to come into this game with one task: Stop Marquise Williams. If they can stop Williams, and they need to get the ball to Carroo early and often. The key to the game for UNC is to obviously get Williams going, and to get the read-option going. If UNC can do that and force Rutgers to run the ball and take away the passing game then they will win. 41-38 Rutgers

  • Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, Dec. 26th @ 8:00 pm

North Carolina State(7-5) vs UCF(9-3)

-The WolfPack started off the season great going 4-0 and jumping into the top 25. But, then their down-fall began. Their last 8 games they went 3-5. The best part of their season was going out and beating rival UNC the last week of the season 35-7. Florida transfer, Jacoby Brissett, is the man under center for NCST. Brissett had to sit our last season, but he was finally eligible to play this year and won the job. Jacoby passed for 2344 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Brissett is also their 2nd leading rusher behind main ball carrier, Shadrach Thornton. Thornton rushed for 811 yards and 9 touchdowns. NCST is ranked 97th passing, and 38th on the ground this season. Defensively they are stout as they rank 45th in total defense.

– The Knights started the season off 0-2 losing to Penn State and Missouri. But, they went 9-1 their last 10 games to end the season. UCF  switched to sophomore quarterback, Justin Holman, during the 2nd game of the season. That switch worked out just right. Holman threw for 2661 yards and 20 touchdowns on the year. Holman did enough to put UCF 64th in the nation in passing per game. UCF is a very young offense, but their defense is full of veteran leaders. The Knights allow opponents offenses to score 17 points a game which ranks them 8th in the nation. They are also ranked 3rd in the nation in total defense. UCF only allows 282 yards a game.

-Prediction: This game will all come down to the quarterback play. Who plays better? Holman is going up against a good Wolfpack defense, and Brissett is going up against a great Knights defense. Even if Brissett plays well, NCST will need to force Holman to turn the ball over to win. 28-21 UCF

  • Military Bowl, Dec. 27th @ 1:00 pm

Virginia Tech(6-6) vs Cincinnati(9-3)

-Hokies started the season off as good as any team could. They went to Columbus, Ohio and beat the Buckeyes 35-21. But, that was as good as the season went for Va Tech, because the downfall was about to begin. Out of all 6 of their losses 5 of them were decided 6 points or less. The 6th loss was a blowout to Miami. There have been rumblings the last few seasons that long time Head Coach, Frank Beamer could be getting fired after seasons end. Beamer could be coaching for his job, possibly. Frank was able to bring in Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer in as their leading quarterback. Brewer wasn’t very consistent this season, but he hold onto the starting job all season. Frank Beamer has been known for defense during his tenure at Virginia Tech, and once again they are ranked 17th in the nation in total defense.

-The Bearcats got a five star transfer from Notre Dame last season, and this was the season of Gunner Kiel. Kiel was ranked in the top 5 of all recruits in the nation 3 seasons ago. He committed to Indiana, then LSU, and then finally he went to Notre Dame. Kiel found himself in a quarterback shuffle with the Irish so he decided to take his talents to Cincinnati. The redshirt sophomore QB threw for 3010 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. Kiel found himself liking junior WR, Shaq Thompson. Thompson caught a team high 61 passes, and caught for under 700 yards this season. The offense ranked 25th in total offense, and they also ranked 13th in passing. But, the defense was the Bearcats issue. They ranked 100th in total defense, and 66th in scoring defense.

-This game should be an intriguing one since there is a really good offense going against a really good defense. Both quarterbacks should have a good day, but they wont be the deciding factor. The running backs will be the deciding factors in this game. If Brewer can get some help on the ground against a very weak defense in Cincinnati then the Hokies could pull this off. But, if the gunslinger Gunner Kiel gets some help as well then the Bearcats will win. The defenses will need to make the running games beat them, and try to shut down the passing attacks. 38-30 Cincinnati.

  • Hyundai Bowl, Dec. 27th @ 2:00 pm

Arizona State(9-3) vs Duke(9-3)

-Since coach Todd Graham(27-11) took the program over in 2012 the Sun Devils have been a very competitive team in the Pac-12 conference. They did not disappoint this year either. Arizona State started off with an amazing 8-1 record with wins over Stanford, USC, Utah, and Notre Dame before losing their last 2 out of 3 games. Their last two losses were to Oregon State and Arizona by  one score each. With the loss to Arizona, the Wildcats took the place of the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon. Coach Graham knows that his team is slowly improving year by year, and coach Graham could be in line for a big job this upcoming season if contacted. Graham had a solid veteran leader in senior quarterback, Taylor Kelly. Kelly was injured for four games this year, but he still totaled 1874 yards and 20 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions on the year. The Sun Devils ranked 29th in passing offense in the nation, and that was due to Kelly and his junior wideout, Jaelen Strong. Strong was known for his acrobatic catches all season long, and he caught 1062 yards with 10 touchdowns on the year. If Strong wasn’t enough alone for weapons around Kelly, the Sun Devils also had half-back DJ Foster to rely on. Foster ran for 1002 yards and had 9 touchdowns on the ground. The Sun Devils were towards the bottom in defense this season, but they ended up being ranked 15th in the final poll this year.

-When you say the words Duke Blue Devils, what do you think of? Basketball? Coach K.? Of course. How about football? Most likely not, but you better start thinking that way, folks. Duke is turning into a good football team under coach David Cutcliffe. Duke played Florida State last season in the ACC championship game, but lost. This season they had another good season going 9-3, and barely missing out on facing FSU again. Just like Arizona State, Duke started off 8-1 and then lost their last 2 of 3 games.  Duke got beat by North Carolina late this season and that ruined their dreams of playing for the title game again. Luckily, for the Blue Devils and Cutcliffe, they got their big tandem back of QB. Anthony Boone and WR. Jamison Crowder. Boone and Crowder hooked up for 942 yards and 9 touchdowns on the year. Duke also had a good defense this season only giving up 20 points a game, which ranked them 20th in the nation.

-Prediction: If the Sun Devils want to win this game they need to stop the option with Anthony Boone and force him to throw the ball. They will also need to get Jaelen Strong going early. Get some quick passes to him and let Strong get loose in the open. ASU will want to control the clock, and let Foster pound the rock in the red zone.  On the other side of the ball, Duke needs to create some space for Boone to roll out from the pocket and let him make some throws. Boone has been better on the run this year, and let his veteran skills come into play. If  Duke can get some points on the board first, and get their defense some hope then they could pull this off. 31-28 Arizona State

  •  Duck Commander Independence Bowl, Dec. 27th @ 3:30 pm

Miami FL(6-6) vs South Carolina(6-6)

-This was not the season head coach Al Golden was picturing coming off of a 9-4 season last year. Golden was pinned to make a huge decision this past offseason when “suppose to be start”, Kevin Olson, got kicked off the team for multiple DUIs. The Hurricanes were left with true freshman Brad Kaaya, transfer Jake Heaps, and long time QB Ryan Williams. Williams was going to take Olsens spot until he tore ligaments in his knee. Golden was left to make a choice that would affect the whole season, and Golden picked Kaaya as the starting quarterback of the Hurricanes. Kaaya can’t get the blame for the Hurricanes 6-6 season this year. Kaaya threw for 2962 yards and 25 touchdowns. Miami had a very fluid offense this year scoring 30 points a game. When Golden picked Kaaya to become the starting QB he knew that senior RB Duke Johnson could take alot of pressure off of the true freshman, and he wasn’t wrong. Johnson ran for 1520 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. The “Duke” was in the heisman run for most of the year, but since the Hurricanes didn’t have a good year that slipped away. Much of the blame can’t be put on the offense. So who gets the blame? Well, Golden of course, but also the defense. In all 5 of the losses the opponents scored 30 points or more, and the 6th loss was 28 points. What do we know for sure? The defense needs some work, Kaaya has established into a good QB for the future, and Golden is fighting for his job.

-This was not the type of season Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks saw coming. They started the season off with a #9 ranking in the nation, but they got a throttling from A&M in the home opener. Even with the lose, SC started the year off 3-1 with a big win at home against Georgia. After the 3-1 start the Gamecocks went 3-5 to end the season with not so good of losses against Kentucky and Tennessee. The whole reason behind the #9 preseason ranking was because the Gamecocks returned almost everyone on offense, and their defense was suppose to be pretty sharp as well. Their offense did rank 30th in the whole country led by senior, Dylan Thompson. Thompson did end up in the top 20 in best QBs in the nation throwing for 3280 yards with 24 TDs on the season. SC also had a good run game with speedster, Mike Davis. Davis ran for 927 yards with 9 touchdowns. The defense on the other hand was less than desired for. They ranked 90th in the entire country in total defense, and they also ranked 70th in points against. Spurrier has already said he will be back next season, but he will have his work cut out to turn this program around in the tough SEC.

-Prediction: The Hurricanes lost their last 3 games of the season with allowing 30 points our more in all 3 losses. Two of those losses came against Pitt and Virginia, and both of those teams don’t have the passing attack that SC has in Dylan Thompson. What I’m trying to say is for the Canes to win this game they will need to give Kaaya some help, and that will all start defensively. Golden will need to keep SC off of the field, and let Kaaya and Duke Johnson do work on the ground. If Kaaya can get some confidence going early then Miami could be pretty tough to beat, especially against a week South Carolina defense… Spurrier knows that Miami will be coming into this game with a gameplan to stop Thompson. Well, lets see what Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds can do on the ground game then. If the Thompson can spread the Miami D out, and the running backs can find some holes it will be a long game for the Canes. 27-24 South Carolina.

  • New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27th. @4:30 pm

Boston College(7-5) vs Penn State(6-6)

– When you think of a good running game, as of late, you think of Boston College. They rank 15th in the country in rushing yards a game with 251 yards. Their passing game isin’t all the strong with ranking 123rd in the nation, but when you have such a good running game, with a really good dual threat at QB who needs a passing game. Well, maybe BC if they want to get a better record, but that’s a different story for another day. That dual threat QB I was talking about is senior, Tyler Murphy. Murphy threw for over 1500 yards and also ran for over 1000 yards on the season. He led the team in both passing and rushing. Whenever BC does go against a team with a good run attack(Colorado State, Clemson, and FSU) they don’t put much numbers up. Coach, Addazio, needs to come up with a gameplan for a good defense in Penn State for the upcoming bowl game.

– Penn State got some great news in the middle of this season. They were informed by the NCAA that the sanctions have been reduced, and they could now play in bowl games and also get some scholarships back for recruiting. This was big news for new coach, James Franklin. The Nittany Lions haven’t played in the post season since back in 2011 when they faced Houston. When Penn State hired coach Franklin from Vanderbilt they were hoping for a fresh start, and that is exactly what they have. Franklin has been recruiting well so far, and he has a good young quarterback Christian Hackenburg, who was the number 1 QB coming out of high school 2 years ago. Hackenburg did have a littler bit of a down year, from his excellent freshman season, throwing for 2606 yards and only 8 touchdowns. The season could have been worse than 6-6 if it weren’t for the Nittany Lions D. Their defense ranked 2nd in the whole country. The Penn St defense only allowed 269 yards a game, and that is pretty impressive.

-Prediction: Penn State was #1 in rushing defense this season only allowing 84 yards a game on the ground. As I above, BC was ranked 123rd in passing yards a game. Obviously, BC, has a good run game, but Penn ST has a great run defense. For the Eagles it will all rely on their passing attack to win this game. Murphy will get his yards on the ground, but he will HAVE to pass the ball efficiently for BC to win this game… Penn State should be able to contain BC for the most part on the ground, and in the air. But, if Hackenburg has a bad game then BC could stay in the game long enough to actually win it. As long as Hackenburg plays like he can then I see no way BC has a chance in this one. 34-20 Penn ST

  • National University Holiday Bowl, Dec. 27th @ 8:00 pm

Nebraska(9-3) vs USC(8-4)

-There was some shocking news that came out of the Nebraska camp last week. Coach, Bo Pelini, was fired after 7 seasons as the HC for the Cornhuskers. This was a bit of a surprise since Pelini has never won less than 9 games during his tenure in Nebraska. Nebraska wasted no time in finding their next coach, and that was Oregon State coach, Mike Riley. Unfortunately, for coach Riley, he won’t have senior RB Ameer Abdullah on his squad next season. Abdullah was 11th in the nation in running this season, and he ran for 1523 yards and 18 touchdowns. Abdullah is a very flashy back who can make anyone miss when he gets in the open field. Luckily, for Riley, he will have sophomore QB Tommy Armstrong back as his QB next season. Armstrong threw for 2314 yards and 19 TDs, and also ran for 664 yards this season. His top two targets were Kenny Bell and Jordan Westerkamp. Nebraska also had a middle of the pack defense this season.

-The Trojans are headed in the right direction from season to season, but they havent been able to put it all together yet. They hired Washington coach, Steve Sarkisian this past offseason, and he appears to be the right man for the job. They’ve shown flashes of the old Trojans with big wins against Stanford, Arizona, and Notre Dame. But, they also still have some bad losses like Boston College. The good news for the Trojans is that they have a very dominant offense, and barring early leaves to NFL, they return most of their players from this season. Junior QB, Cody Kessler had one of the most impressive years ever. Kessler was 10th in the entire nation in passing, and he threw for 3505 yards, 36 touchdowns and ONLY 4 INTs. Kessler loved to throw the ball to Nelson Agholor, who caught 97 passes for 1227 yards and 11 TDs this season. The USC offense also got a unexpected boost from junior RB, Javorius Allen. Allen rushed for 1337 yards and 9 TDs on the year. The defense wasn’t up to par this season. They were ranked the top 60 in defense, but that was not good enough in the high powered Pac-12.

-Prediction: This game should be a barn burner, and much scoring. I don’t see either defense stopping either offense, but if I had to choose the key to the game it would be Kessler vs Abdullah. Which player will put the team on their back and lead them to victory? On a side note: I see Armstrong having a big game because USC will keep 7 or 8 players in the box to stop Abdullah. I also see George Farmar having a big game for USC since the Cornhuskers will be doubling Agholor all game. 42-41 USC

  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 29th @ 2:00 pm

Texas A&M(7-5) vs West Virginia(7-5)

– The best way to sum the Aggies season is to say they can’t beat good teams(most of the time). Their losses came to; Miss. St, Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU, and Missouri. They did beat Auburn, but that was about their only good win they had all season. Besides all of the technical stuff, the biggest question mark at the beginning of the season was: who is going to replace Johnny Football in College Station? Well, coach Sumlin thought he had his answer in Kenny Hill. Through the first 6 games Kenny”Trill” Hill was running away with the heisman tropy, but that ended once the better competition came around. Hill got replaced for the last 4 games of the season, due to a suspension, with 5 star freshman Kyle Allen. Allen was efficient enough, but Kenny Hill did have the better season. Whoever plays under center during the bowl game will have plenty of weapons at WR. Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Ricky Seals Jones, and Malcome Kennedy all have caught over 40 catches each. The Aggies just may have the best WR corp in the whole country, but those WR’s sure cant play defense. Sumlin fired their DC at the end of the season, and as of today they are still searching for a replacement. They were ranked 101st in total defense.

-The Mountaineers did lose 5 games this season, but they were all to good and respectable opponents; Alabama, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, and Kansas State. West Virginia was a pretty competitive team all season, and they even beat Baylor this season. WVU was ranked 11th this season in total offense, and that was all led behind QB Clint Trickett. Trickett threw for 3285 yards and 18 TDs this season. Trickett was their bright spot this year, but you want to know some bad news? Well, coach Dana Holgorsen, reported that Trickett may not play in the bowl game due to injury. IF Trickett can’t play then duel threat sophomore, Skyler Howard will be the man under center. Howard has thrown for 483 yards and 5 TDs on the year. The Mountaineers will also rely heavily on WR Kevin White. White was the #6 WR in the country this season catching for 1318 yards and 9 TDs. On the other side of the ball, WVU is ranked in the 50’s for total defense. They will have their work cut out for them stopping the Aggies in the bowl.

-Prediction:  This game is a little hard to predict. It looks more and more likely that freshman Kyle Allen will be the man starting for A&M. But, if Trickett plays or does not play, that is what will change everything. Let’s assume that Trickett will be ready to go for the bowl game and he plays.. WVU won’t have the defensive backs to play man to man against all of these WRs the Aggies have. Look for WVU to play some zone against the Aggies. If WVU can force Allen to make some mistakes they could win this game. But, that would rely on the defense making plays to stop the high powered attack of the Aggies… Now to the Aggies. They have a running back by committee in Trey Williams, Tra Carson, and Brandon Williams. WVU will be so focused on the passing game that they just might forget that A&M also has some running backs. I think if the Aggies can run the ball for more than 120 yards that they will get the win. 45-38 Texas A&M

  • Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 29th @ 5:30 pm

Clemson(9-3) vs Oklahoma(8-4)

– Clemson had arguably the toughest schedule this season. They started their first 2 out of 3 games @ Georgia and @ Florida State. The Tigers ended up losing both games, but they were competitive in both of them. The Tigers started off with Senior QB, Cole Stoudt. But, they ended up switching to freshman Deshaun Watson. When the freshman was healthy he looked pretty good. He ended up throwing for 1466 yards and 14 TDs. Clemson really liked the freshman to freshman duo of Watson to Artavis Scott. Scott was one of the best freshman WRs in the game(if not the best). He caught team highs of 68 catches and 7 touchdowns. Enough about their freshman players. How about their defense? Yeah they are okay. When I say okay, I mean the BEST in the nation. The tigers were #1 in the nation in total defense. They only allow 259 yards a game on them. This could be a scary team next year.

-The Sooners went from the preseason #4 team to a unranked team to end the season. Oklahoma just couldn’t get any big wins this season. They lost to TCU, Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State this year. Oklahoma didn’t beat one team this season who was ranked in the top 25. It’s not like a 8 win season is bad by any means, but it almost seems like every year Oklahoma has the team to go and “win it all”, but they just can’t get it done. Anyhow, on to some stats. Sophomore, Trevor Knight, threw for 2197 yards with 14 TDs and 9 INTs. This was not the year that Knight was suppose to have. He was suppose to lead them to the title. But, that didn’t happen like normal. The ONE bright spot came from freshman, Samaje Perine. Perine was 8th in the nation in rushing with 1579 yards and 21 touchdowns. He ran that well without even rushing much in the first 3 games of the season! In week 4 vs WV he ran for a NCAA record of 242 yards with 4 touchdowns. This kid is remarkable for a freshman. Also, WR Sterling Shepard had another good season. Shepard caught for 957 yards with 5 TDs. Oklahoma ranked 53rd defensively.

-Prediction: Watson won’t be playing against Oklahoma due to a ACL injury. Which means Cole Stoudt will be back under center. Stoudt is going to have to play the game of his life to beat the Sooners. Artavis Scott, the next Sammy Watkins, is going to have to make Stoudt look good. I’m going to be honest. I think Stoudt is pretty bad. I really see Oklahoma winning this, but if turnovers happen then anything is possible. The thing I’ll be watching is Perine vs Clemson’s #7 rushing defense. Let’s see how good he can be under national spotlight against one of the best defenses in the nation. 24-20 Oklahoma

  • AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Dec. 29th @ 9:00 pm

Arkansas(6-6) vs Texas(6-6)

-Arkansas started the season off losing to Auburn 42-21. The other 5 losses that the Razorbacks have encountered were 7 points or less. Arkansas’ record may not have been the greatest, but for how tough their schedule was this season they were a mighty impressive team. If Arkansas was in any other conference I believe that would have won at least 8 games this season. Arkansas was able to hang in all of those games because of their 24th ranked defense, but also because of their great running game. The Razorbacks had the 28th best run game in the nation. They were led by duo Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Williams ran for 1085 yards and 11 TDs, and Collins ran for 1024 yards and 12 TDs. Arkansas also has a very good veteran QB in  Brandon Allen. Allen threw for 2125 yards, 18 TDs, and only 5 INTs. Look for Arkansas to have a good year next season.

-Texas got “rid” of long time coach Mack Brown last season, and they decided to go with Louisville coach, Charlie Strong. Strong was/suppose to be the next big thing in Texas. Strong is a very disciplined coach, and he dismissed 9 players for breaking rules or academic issues during the season. He is trying to get the program in as good of shape as it has been in a long time. Strong started off on the right track defensively with his defense ranking 26th in the nation. But, his Longhorns started off shaky offensively. It started off by losing their starting QB, David Ash due to injury. Strong was forced to throw in youngster Tyrone Swoopes in real early. Swoopes made alot of mistakes, but he played pretty well throwing for 2352 yards on the season. Running backs Jonathan Gray and Malcome Brown both helped Swoopes carrying the ball. I do believe Texas found their right guy in Strong, but it will take time.

-Prediction: This game will come down to the running game. Which offensive line will open up more holes, and which duo of running backs will make more plays. I really don’t see either QB lighting the opposing team up. Arkansas, statistically, has the better duo, but don’t count out Brown and Gray for Texas. Both of those running backs were 5 star players for a reason, and they both have shown plenty of flashes of great skill. Arkansas does have the better D and that will really help them win this game. 20-14 Arkansas

  • Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30th @ 3:00 pm

Notre Dame(7-5) vs LSU(8-4)

-The Fighting Irish started the season off 6-0, and they were ranked as high as #5 in the nation during that streak. The following week they lost to Florida State, by a controversial call, and it all went downhill from there for the Irish. They went 1-5 during there last 6 games of the season. This was suppose to be a big year for Notre Dame since they got their QB back in Everett Golson. Golson did help the passing game, he averaged 293 yards a game which ranked them 16th in the country, but Notre Dame still struggled during that dreadful second half. Brian Kellys defense was ranked 69th in the country. The Fighting Irish just couldn’t stop many offenses. They really struggled to stop the passing attacks.  Rumors have it that coach Kelly could be on the hot seat, but his job will be safe for at least next year.

– LSU started off the season with a good win against Wisconsin, and they went 4-1 to start the season. LSU did lose to all quality teams this season in Miss. ST, Alabama, Arkansas, and Auburn. 8-4 is a down year in Les Miles eyes though, and they will be out for blood against Notre Dame. The Tigers believe they are a much better team than their record shows…. One of the bigger story lines during last off season was the signing of the #1 recruit in the nation, Leonard Fournette. He carried the ball for a team high 891 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season. Fournette was also the teams main kick returner this season… LSU’s defensive is ranked 8th in the nation, and if their offense finds a grove they are a tough team to beat.

-Prediction: Will the Irish’s spread work against a tough LSU defense? It should be interesting to find out. Since LSU plays in the SEC they see all kinds of offenses and styles, and this Notre Dame offense will be nothing new to Les Miles. Notre Dame is going to have to spread LSU out, and let Golson use his feet to make some plays. Notre Dame won’t win this game if Golson can’t establish a rhythm running the football… For the Tigers to win this game they will need sophomore QB Anthony Jennings to play a good game. Jennings has been mildly inconsistent this season, which is why LSU couldn’t beat some of those better teams in the SEC. Jennings will get some help from Fournette and the Wideouts, which will help LSU pull away. 27-21 LSU

  •  Belk Bowl, Dec. 30th @ 6:30 pm

Georgia(9-3) vs Louisville(9-3)

-The Bulldogs had it made having the best backfield in all of NCAA with juniors Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Georgia also signed a freshman named Nick Chubb who was not suppose to see much playing time this year, but nothing went like it was suppose to for Mark Richts ball club. Keith Marshall only had 12 carries all season due to injuries, Todd Gurley(911 yards and 9 touchdowns), who could have won the heisman trophy hands down, had injuries and some law issues, and Nick Chubb was forced into action very early in the season. The good thing is, Chubb did not disappoint as a freshman, he ran for 1281 yards and 12 touchdowns… Georgia also had to replace long time QB, Aaron Murray from last years club. Senior, Hutson Mason, was the man for that job. Mason threw for 2019 yards, 20 TDs, and only 4 INTs this season. Mason was able to find his favorite target Chris Conley alot during the season, and the veteran OL did a great job protecting him… Mark Richt has had a good defense almost every single year during his tenure, and he had another good one this season ranking 20th in the nation.

– When Charlie Strong decided to go to Texas last offseason, Louisville went back to HC, Bobby Petrino. Petrino didn’t miss a beat this season, going 9-3 in his first season back with the Cardinals. The three losses came to the hands of Virginia, Clemson, and Florida State… This was the first season Louisville was in the ACC. They came from the American conference, and some analyst didn’t know how they would fair in the ACC, and I would say they did pretty well overall. The Cardinals were able to stop the offenses in the ACC pretty well all year. They ranked 7th in the nation in total defense this season… Their offense was pretty good as well. Sophomore, Will Gardner, played well under center this season. He threw for 1669 yards and 12 TDs.

-Prediction: We will be witnessing two entirely different offenses in this game. Louisville has a very fast attack with the football. They like to do alot of screens with their duo of RBs; Brandon Radcliffe and Michael Dyer. The Cardinals also like to throw the deep ball to their stud wideout, Davante Parker… Georgia on the other hand will be running it up the gut with Chubb, and throwing those shorter passes like slants and curls… Both teams have solid defenses and it should be interesting to see the gameplans designed for either team. I believe Louisville had the tougher defensive backs of the two teams, but Georgia has the better defensive lineman and linebackers. This one will be closer than some may think. 31-30 Georgia

  • Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 30th @ 10:00 pm

Maryland(7-5) vs Stanford(7-5)

– Maryland made the transition from the ACC to the Big Ten this season. Many predicted the Terps to win 4 or 5 games this season, and they obviously did much better than that. Randy Edsall implemented a fast pace to the offense, and QB CJ Brown really excelled doing it this season. Brown threw for over 2000 yards this season in the spread, and he was able to get the ball out quick to the speedster Stefon Diggs. Diggs missed some games this season due to injury, but he was still able to catch for 654 yards this season. Diggs is a hot commodity for the NFL next season, and that could really hurt Maryland if he forgoes his senior season.

– Stanford had alot of issues outscoring their opponents this season. It sure wasn’t their defense’s fault that they had a down year this season. Their defense was ranked 5th in the nation. But, their offense ranked 87th in scoring this season. It seemed like Stanford could move the ball, but once they got to opponents territory then they would just stall. Coach, David Shaw, complained about his offense during alot of interviews this season. They needed to do a better job getting Kevin Hogan and the offense rolling sooner during the games. Hogan was able to throw for 2603 yards and 17 TDs this season, but it wasn’t good enough to get the points on the board… The issue with the offense has to all stem from the running game. Stanford has done a good job breeding RBs every year, but they didn’t really have a feature back this season. Remound Wright was their leading rusher with 552 yards, and they used other running backs as a committee.. A defense can only take a team so far.

-Prediction: I think Stanford will determine this game. Which team will show up? If Stanford has any type of a run game they will win this, but if they can’t get a run game going then I could see CJ Brown and the Terps pulling a upset here. Also, if Stefon Diggs does not play then that will be real bad news for Maryland. Diggs will be a huge part in the gameplan. Maryland will need his speed to break down that Stanford D… I could see Bary Sanders JR finally breaking loose and having a game that his dad will be proud of. Look for Stanford to run the ball effectively. 17-13 Stanford

  • Chick-fil-a peach bowl, Dec. 31st @ 12:30 pm

Ole Miss(9-3) vs TCU(11-1)

– Ole Miss started the season off 7-0 and were ranked 3rd in the nation. That is one heck of a start for the Rebels. They had a great defense this year which ranked them 13th in the nation. They were also ranked 1st in the nation in points allowed. Ole Miss allowed more than 20 points twice all season. That is pretty remarkable for such a young program… QB, Bo Wallace had a good season this year, he threw for 3085 yards and 22 TDs… The Rebel’s top WR, Laquon Treadwell got injured during the 9th game of the season. That was a big loss for the Rebels. They will need to find a way to replace him against TCU.. Coach, Hugh Freeze could be looking at a pay raise this offseason or even a better job at a bigger program. Stay tuned.

-No one in the nation can be more upset than TCU. The Horned Frogs lost to Baylor week 5 and that was their only loss all season long. They were ranked 3rd going into the last week of the season, and they beat Iowa State 55-3. TCU did exactly what they had to do, and the committee rewards them by pushing them down to number 6 in the nation behind OSU and Baylor. Gary Patterson’s squad will be out for some blood during their bowl game against Ole Miss… TCU had one of the most dominating offenses all season long2nd in the nation in scoring), which was led behind Trevone Boykin. Boykin was 7th in the nation in passing this season, and he threw for 3714 yards with 30 TDs… RB, Aaron Green also had a good season rushing for 854 yards and 8 TDs.

-Prediction: This is just a bad matchup for Ole Miss. Not because they can’t hang with TCU, but just because of what happened to TCU in the playoff rankings. TCU will be giving it all they have in this one to prove to the committee that they prove to be in the playoffs. I see Boykin having a field day against a great defense.. I also see Bo Wallace having a very good passing day in his last game ever for the Rebels. This should be one great game to watch! 41-35 TCU

  • VIZIO Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 31st @ 4:00 pm

Boise St(11-2) vs Arizona(10-3)

-Boise State had a good defense that was ranked 39th in the nation this season, but it was their offense that really shined once again. The man behind the offense was tailback Jay Ajayi. He was 4th in the nation, and he rushed for 1689 yards and 25 TDs. If Ajayi was on any other big program he could have very easily won the heisman this season… QB, Grant Hedrick, also had a good season. He threw for 3387 yards and 22 TDs this season… Boise had the 14th best offense this season.

-Rich Rod has always been known for his famous spread offense. His spread offense went to new heights this season for the Wildcats. Rich Rod started a freshman QB this season in Anu Soloman(3458 yards and 27 TDs) and he played like a veteran most times. The Wildcats started off 5-0 this season with a HUGE win @ Oregon. Arizona eventually made it to the Pac-12 title game against Oregon, but the Ducks were ready for that game. Oregon won 51-13.. Side note: RB Nick Jones ran for over 1200 yards this season. WR Cayleb Jones caught close to 1000 yards,

-Prediction: Boise should be able to move the ball effectively against the Wildcats D. Ajayi should have another monster game, but I dont see him being the X-Factor. The key for Boise is going to be Grant Hedrick. Can Hedrick give Ajayi enough help to win the game?… For the Wildcats they will need to continue to depend on Soloman. Lets not forgot that the kid is only a freshman, and he had a bad game last one against Oregon. If he rebounds in a good way then Arizona could win. 49-45 Arizona

  •  Capital One Orange Bowl, Dec. 31st @ 8:00 pm

Mississippi State(10-2) vs Georgia Tech(10-2)

-Coach Dan Mullen had the best start to a season you could have. The Bulldogs started off 9-0 this season and had the #1 ranking. During that stretch the Bulldogs beat A&M, LSU, and Auburn back to back to back. They would eventually lose two games to Alabama and rival Ole Miss, but they had a great year.. The main contributors, to the #9 offense, was QB Dak Prescott and RB Josh Robinson. Prescott threw for 2996 yards and 24 TDS and also ran for 939 yards and 13 TDs. Josh Robinson ran for 1128 yards and 11 TDs… As long as Mullen stays at Miss. St next season then they could have another great year.

– Georgia Tech has no run game. Said no one ever. The Yellow Jackets were 3rd in the nation running the football. Their QB Justin Thomas was their leading passer and rusher this season. He combined for over 2500 yards of offense for Ga Tech this season…. Their 3 losses came from Duke, NC, and Florida State in the ACC championship game. They ended up losing by 2 points to FSU, but the Yellow Jackets did play well for most of the season.

-Prediction: This one will come down to the running game, obviously. Both the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets like to run the ball, but they just do it two different ways. Georgia Tech will use the option and I formation to run where as the Bulldogs will spread everything out and do alot of read-options… Lets see who the better QB running really is. 28-17 Mississippi State

  •  Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 @ 12:00 pm

Auburn(8-4) vs Wisconsin(10-3)

-Last years national runners up had a bit of a down year this season. The Tigers did not come in expecting to lose 4 games, but they did lose to all good teams in the SEC(Alabama, Miss. ST, A&M, and Georgia). But, if you are going to be a contender you’ve got to beat the opponents. Their defense has been down for the most part of the season only ranking 59th in the nation during the season.. Auburn had a good rushing attack this season, ranking 12th, and the duo of Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis Payne did the work. Artis Payne rushed for 1482 yards with 11 TDs, and QB Nick Marshall ran for 780 yards with 11 TDs. Marshall also threw for 2315 yards, 18 TDs, and 7 INTs… Auburn sure does have a great offensive attack, but how much will that work in the bowl game is to be determined.

-The Badgers won 10 games in the Big Ten with having the 119th ranked passing game in the nation. They converted Tanner McEvoy, former saftey, to QB this season to try out the position. They were hoping his dual threat ability could help the Badgers, but that was a major fail. Then they ended up going with a 2 QB system by adding Joel Stave into the mix, but he hasn’t performed the greatest either. Luckily, they have the best running back in all of football in Melvin Gordon. Gordon was the leading rusher in all of NCAA by rushing for 2336 yards and an amazing 26 TDs this season.. Wisconsin also has the 4th ranked defense in the nation.. Side Note: Coach Gary Anderson left for Oregon State, and Wisconsin hired Paul Chryst from Pitt.

-Prediction: Auburn is going to have its hands full stopping Melvin Gordon, but they should be able to put a lockdown on the passing game. If Auburn can win the battle of the trenches I can see the Tigers winning this one. That is why the key to this game is the Auburn D-Line vs the Wisconsin O-Line. I believe Auburn will be able to move the ball on Wisconsin, but it won’t be like they are use to doing. I do see Gordon having another big day before he leaves for the draft. 24-21 Wisconsin

  • Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Jan.1 @ 12:30 pm

Michigan State(10-2) vs Baylor(11-1)

-Once again the Spartans had a dominant defense this season ranking 7th overall in the nation.. The only two losses came from both playoff teams in Oregon and Ohio State. Michigan State gave up the most points to both OSU and Oregon this season. Both of those teams run the spread offense, and that is exactly what the Spartans have struggled with… The Spartans had a great trio on offense of Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford, and Tony Lippett. Cook threw for 2900 yards, 22 TDs, and only 6 INTs. Langford ran for 1360 yards and 19 TDs. Also, Lippett caught for 1124 yards and 11 TDs. The Spartans weren’t just known for their defense this year.

– Baylor had the #1 offense and scoring offense in the nation this season. Bryce Petty was also the 5th best QB this season by throwing for 3305 yards and 26 TDs this season. The Big-12 Co-Champs only lost 1 game all season and that was to WVU. Baylor beat TCU in a shoot-out earlier in the season, and they ended up finishing 5th in the playoff standings. Baylor gave defenses all kinds of fits, but the Bears had a decent defense as well, ranking 40th in the nation…. Along with Petty, RB Shock Linwood had a good season running the ball. Linwood ran for 1226 yards and 16 TDs.

-Prediction: As I stated before, MSU had alot of issues with a spread offense. Well, Baylor loves to air out the football and give Linwood some space for running the ball. MSU will have their hands full this game defending Petty and the Bears.. MSU is going to need Langford to have a real good game running the ball. They will need to have good clock management to keep Petty off the field. I think Baylor will be too much to handle in this one. 42-31 Baylor

  •  Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1 @ 1:00 pm

Missouri(10-3) vs Minnesota(8-4)

-The Tigers ended up playing for the SEC championship game once again this year. They lost to Alabama, but once again they had a good season. The Tigers ended up having the 23rd ranked defense this season, but their offense was a tad shaky. When their offense couldn’t score they usually struggled. Just like they lost to Georgia 34-0 and lost to Alabama 42-13… QB, Maty Mauk, had to step in to become the lead guy this year. Mauk threw for 2551 yards, 23 TDs and 11 INTs on the season. He struggled against the better teams, but he was able to light up the weaker defenses.

-This was the year of the Gopher. Minnesota finally was able to have a good competitive team this season. They lost to TCU, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, but they also had a bad loss in their against Illinois… The Gophers had the 37th ranked defense this season, but they also had a great run game this season, averaging 224 yards a game. Minnesota had the 9th best RB in the nation in David Cobb. Cobb rushed for 1548 yards and 9 TDs… Look for Minnesota to have another good season next year.

-Prediction: If the Gophers have any shot in winning this game they will need a good outing by QB Mitch Leidner. He will need to use his arm and feet to create plays against a hard nosed Missouri defense. Cobb will also need to have a good game. Minnesota will try and free Cobb with screens and stretch plays.. I believe as long as Maty Mauk has a good game Missouri will win. But, Mauk will need to stay turnover free for it to happen. 30-24 Missouri

  •  Rose Bowl College Playoff, Jan 1. @ 5:00 pm

Oregon(12-1) vs Florida State(13-0)

-The Ducks had another stellar year on the offensive side of the ball this season. They ranked 3rd in total offense, and they were ranked 3rd in scoring this year. Oh, and to top that off they had the hesiman winner this year in Marcus Mariota. Mariota threw for 3783 yards, 38 TDs, and ONLY 2 INTs this season. He also ran for 669 yards with 11 TDs on the ground… RB Royce Freeman had a good year on the ground as he ran for 1299 yards and 16 TDs this year… Oregon wasn’t so great on defense this season though only ranking 81st in the nation. They also received some bad news that their top DB, Ifo Ekpre-Olomo for the rest of the season due to an injury. We shall see how much that affects them.

-Let’s think about something here. The last time the Seminoles lost a football game came on Nov. 24 2012 against Florida. That is over two years ago. As much as some of you don’t like Jameis Winston, the bottom line is he has never lost a college football game in his career. That is pretty remarkable. The former heisman winner didn’t have as good of a season this year as he did last, but he still threw for 3559 yards, 24 TDs, but he also had 17 INTs this year. Winston loved to get the ball to WR Rashad Greene this year. Greene had 1306 yards and 7 TDs through the air… FSU had the 51st ranked D in the nation.

-Prediction: For Oregon to win this game they are going to need to keep pressure on Winston. If Oregon’s D-Line cant contain Winston, the Ducks will need to send some blitzes his way. Winston hasn’t been the greatest under pressure this year, and Oregon will need that to continue… For Florida State to win this game they are going to need to put points up early. FSU has been known for slow starts, and finishing good at the end. But, we all know how good of an offense Oregon has, and if FSU starts slow again they won’t win this game… 42-31 Oregon

  • Allstate Sugar Bowl College Playoff, Jan. 1 @ 8:30 pm

Alabama(12-1) vs Ohio State(12-1)

-Alabama is once again in a big game. It could be due to their 11th ranked defense, or their 16th ranked offense, or their top ranked recruiting classes ever year, but I believe most of it has to due with Nick Saban. Saban is 86-16 at Alabama and he also has 3 National Titles with the Crimson Tide. He is a proven winner(in college football) and he gets the most out of his teams every year. Saban had a tough task in replacing AJ McCarron this season. He let Blake Sims have that opportunity, and Sims did very well. Sims threw for 3250 yards, 26 TDs and only 7 INTs……. Bama has a great running game with speedster TJ Yeldon(932 yards and 10 TDs) and power runner Derrick Henry(895 yards and 10 TDs)…. Heisman candidate, Amari Cooper(1656 yards and 14 TDs), had a exceptional year catching the ball.

-OSU started off a little rough this season losing at home to Virginia Tech, but it was all uphill after that game. They routed almost every team in there way including a 59-0 beatdown on Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. OSU had the 4th ranked scoring offense this season and the 8th ranked offense this year. Most of that was all with a unknown signal caller named JT Barrett. Heisman candidate, Braxton Miller, got injured during preseason training and he had to miss the whole season, so Urban gave the reigns to Barrett. The redshirt Freshman threw for 2834 yards, 34 TDs, and only 10 INTs. But, Barrett got injured during the Michigan game, and sophomore Cardale Jones will be taking over for the playoff games. It should be intriguing to see how poised he will be against a big opponent like Alabama….. Note: Ezekial Elliott rushed for 1402 yards and 12 TDs. JT Barrett also rushed for 938 yards and 11 TDs. OSU had the 11th ranked rushing attack.

-Prediction: The key to this game for me is going to be the QB play. Neither Jones nor Sims have had this big of a game in their career. Sims has more experience than Jones, but he is still doesn’t have the experience McCarron had. And Jones has only had one career start, and he won’t find a tougher defense than Alabama… Im also intrigued to see how Urban Meyer’s defense tries to stop Yeldon and Henry on the ground. It will be a tough task to stop the thunder/lighting duo… The only way I see OSU winning this one is if Cardale Jones gets some confidence going real early. The one thing OSU can’t afford is costly turnovers against a team like Alabama. I believe this game will be a closer game than the Rose Bowl. 31-28 Alabama

  • Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Jan. 2 @ 12:00 pm

Houston(7-5) vs Pittsburgh(6-6)

-This was a little bit of a different Houston team than we are custom to seeing. They had a better defense than they did offense, and that is almost unheard of when you think of Houston. They also had a better rush attack(48th) than they did passing attack(69th). Houston couldn’t figure out a QB this season. They tried two different ones, and they finally decided to go with sophomore Greg Ward. Ward ended up throwing for 1736 yards and 17 TDs… RB, Kenneth Farrow, ended up rushing for 934 yards with 12 TDs on the season.

-Pitt had one of the best running games in the nation, and it all had to do with James Connor. Connor was the 5th best runner in the game, and he rushed for 1675 yards and 24 TDs this season. Oh, and he is only a sophomore by the way…. WR Tyler Boyd had a team high 69 catches, 1149 yards and 8 TDs. The second WR on the team was JP Holtz with 18 catches. Obviously, Boyd was, Chad Voytiks only target.

-Prediction: I want to see how Houston decides to stop Connor. Not many teams have been able to key in on him and stop him. When teams think they have stopped him then Voytik will kill them through the air… I also want to see how Pitt will handle Greg Ward. Ward will be looking to go deep to WR, Greenberry. But, I see Pitt winning this one. 24-14 Pitt

  •  Taxslayer Bowl, Jan 2. @ 3:20

Iowa(7-5) vs Tennessee(6-6)

-The Hawkeyes didn’t have too many quality wins this year. Their best victory was to Pittsburgh(who went 6-6). This wasn’t the big competitive Iowa team that we are use to seeing in the Big Ten. They were about average in all of the categories. But, Iowa did have a good defense this year ranking 18th total. QB, Jake Rudock had a pretty decent year throwing for 2404 yards and 16 TDs. RB Mark Weisman ran for 802 yards and 14 TDs.

-The Volunteers had one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and they also were one of the youngest teams in the entire country. They were the 10th youngest team in the entire country. Butch Jones sure wasn’t afraid to start freshman. Half of their key contributors were true freshman. A big bright spot for the Vols was freshman Jalen Hurd. Hurd rushed for 777 yards and 3 TDs. Hurd was also very active in the passing game.

-Prediction: As stated before Tennessee is such a young squad, and even though they struggled, Iowa is still a veteran squad. Iowa also has a very experienced coach in Kirk Fertentz. I think Iowa will just pound the ball up the gut with using some play action in there to keep the Vols off guard.. If Tennessee wins this game it will be due to Jalen Hurd and the speed he brings to the table. 20-10 Iowa

  • Valero Alamo Bowl, Jan 2nd @ 6:45 pm

Kansas State(9-3) vs UCLA(9-3)

-KSUs only 3 losses came to Auburn, TCU, and Baylor. Bill Snyder sure had a good offensive attack with Jake Watters and Tyler Lockett. KSU was in the top 20 in passing the football this season, and Waters threw for 3163 yards with 20 TDs.. Lockett caught for 1351 yards and 9 TDs… The defense was pretty good as well. They were ranked 35th in the nation. Kansas State keeps getting better and better every year. Watch out for this team next season.

– UCLA had it made this season, well supposed to anyway. They had all of the better teams at home this season, they had a heisman candidate at QB in Brent Hundley, and they had most of their defense back this year. And the rest is history now. They went 9-3 which is not bad, but it was below expectations. Hundley still threw for 3019 yards and 21 TDs. RB Paul Perkins ran for a team high 1378 yards. But, there defense was not up to par. They ranked a mediocre 68th in the country. Defense is what ended up killing the Bruins.

-Prediction: KSU will need Waters and Lockett to have a big game to win this one. They will also need to have one more good defensive game against Hundley… The Bruins will need Hundley to have one more good game before he leaves to go to the NFL, but I believe Perkins will end up being the hero in this game. Perkins will end up rushing for more than 100 yards and lead the Bruins to victory. 41-34 UCLA

  •  TicketCity Cactus Bowl, Jan 2nd @ 10:15 pm

Washington(8-5) vs Oklahoma State(6-6)

-The Huskies beat all of the teams they were suppose to beat, but they couldn’t get any big victories. Coach Sark left to go to USC this year, and Washington ended up hiring Chris Peterson from Boise State. He did end up improving the team and they are headed in the right direction, but they need to get some more quality wins to make them look even better. The Huskies are still a young team, and I believe Peterson will get them back to dominance very soon. I think Peterson needs to improve the defense right away. They ranked 74th in total defense this season, and that needs to get better. But, watch out for the Huskies soon folks.

-Oklahoma State was very bipolar this year. They started off 5-1, and ended up going 1-5 to end the season. They did beat rival Oklahoma in the last game of the year though to even become bowl eligible. Small victories I guess? They had an abysmal defense ranking 94th in the nation. Their offense wasn’t much better either. Their offense ranked 78th in scoring, and they had the 102nd ranked rushing attack. This was not a good season for Oklahoma State, and I’m not so sure it will get much better next season.

-Prediction: Washington is going to need their passing attack to come alive this game. Cyler Miles was the 98th ranked QB this season, and Peterson is going to need everything from Miles. If Miles has another bad game this just go ahead and give the Cowboys the win now… Oklahoma State is going to need have a good rushing attack to win this game. We know their passing attack will be okay enough, but they wont win if they don’t have any rushing game. RB Desmond Roland will need to have a good game. 31-24 Oklahoma State

  • Birmingham Bowl, Jan. 3rd @ 12:00 pm

East Carolina(8-4) vs Florida(6-5)

-ECU had the 5th ranked offense this season, 15th ranked scoring offense, and the 5th ranked passing game. I would say that have a dominant offense. QB, Shane Carden passed for 4309 yards and 28 TDs this season. His top target was Justin Hardy who caught for 1334 yards and 9 TDs. Their defense was pretty good as well. They ranked 40th in the nation.

-Florida decided to let coach Muschamp go after this season. They will be hiring coach McElwain from Colorado State after the bowl game is over. Florida just hasnt been a very good team under Muschamp, and they want to get back to dominance like they were under Urban Meyer. The biggest issue with Florida is they don’t have much at the QB position. Jeff Driskel, former 5 star, has never become a good quarterback. He only threw for 1092 yards this season, and he even got benched during games because of all the bad decisions he makes. It can only go up from here for the Gators.

-Prediction: The ONLY way I even see this game being competitive is if the Gators have a good offensive attack. There is no way the Gators will stop Carden and ECU on offense. Either Driskel or Harris will need to match ECU in points, and I really don’t see that happening. 45-21 ECU

  • GoDaddy Bowl, Jan. 4th @ 9:00 pm

Toledo(8-4) vs Arkansas State(7-5)

-The Rockets have been a solid MAC team for years now. That did not change this season with them going 8-4 and 7-1 in conference play. The Rockets had the 18th best rushing attack and the 33rd best scoring offense. Their defense was shaky, but they were able to outscore almost everyone in the MAC so that didn’t matter a whole bunch. RB Kareem Hunt, had a big year rushing for 1360 yards and 11 TDs during the season.

-The Red Wolves had the 20th ranked offense in the nation and the 21st ranked scoring offense. They had a good balanced offense with QB, Fredi Knighton(2874, 18TDs) and RB, Michael Gordon(1064, 10 TDs). They ended up finishing 3rd in the Sun Belt this season.

-Prediction: This one is going to be a big offensive game. I think both rushing attacks will have big games. So, I think this one will come down to the QB play. Who will have the better passing attack? 47-41 Toledo

  • College Football Championship, Jan 12th @ 8:30 pm

PREDICTED: Alabama vs Oregon

-Prediction: This is pretty exciting. We have been waiting forever for a playoff and we finally have one. I have predicted it to be a Alabama and Oregon finish. Alabama would have a tough time defending Marcus Mariota, but Mariota hasn’t seen a defense as good as Bama all season. Alabama would send different blitzes and play more physical against Mariota’s WRs… On the otherhand, Oregon would have a tough time stopping Amari Cooper and Blake Sims. With Ekpre being out they will have to rotate players to cover Cooper and that would be the downfall of Oregon. 31-27 Alabama

 

 

Thanks for reading again. Follow us on Twitter for more updates and posts @2pointstance

 

-Trent

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Two Point Stance Podcast!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the first Two Point Stance podcast has arrived! This is the Pilot, we will be expecting the next ones to have better sound quality, and the conversation will flow better as we do more and more of these. In this Podcast, we discussed:

  1. The College Football Playoffs
  2. Surprises and Disappointments from the NFL Season
  3. Johnny Manziel starting this weekend
  4. How Ben was wrong, and right, with his NBA preview
  5. The MLB Winter Meetings

Please, check out the podcast here 

Email us 2pointstance@gmail.com with topic ideas, like us on Facebook

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Please, hit us up, let us know what you want to hear about, leave your comments, and subscribe to the YouTube channel!

Thanks – Ben and Trent

2014-2015 [Somewhat] Comprehensive NBA Season Preview

The Time has Come

It is almost here, ladies and gentlemen! The 2014-2015 NBA season is bearing down upon us. The preseason has begun, training camps are in full swing, and we are going to be in store for a FANTASTIC season!


 

Key Points to Consider

Before I walk you through the league, team by team, let’s take a look at some key points to remember as the season starts:

  • LeBron James and Kevin Love headline the new Cavs Line-Up.
  • Kobe Bryant comes back to the Lakers healthy this season, looks to regain his All-Star form.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves have a new, young nucleus, led by Andrew Wiggins.
  • Jason Kidd becomes the coach in Milwaukee; inherits Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher look to implement the Triangle Offense in New York.
  • Derrick Rose attempts a second comeback this year, looks to follow up strong FIBA World Cup.

 

Eastern Conference Division Listings

Atlantic Division

Central Division

Southeast Division


 

Western Conference Division Listings

Pacific Division

Northwest Division

Southwest Division


 

– Team by Team Previews –

Let’s take a look at each team; notable additions, notable losses, projected starting lineups, and the projected finishing position in their division, worst will be listed first, and the last team to be listed will be the projected winner of the division.


 

The Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

Philadelphia 76ers are my pick to finish last in the Atlantic Division. The team, while full of young talent, just does not seem to have the experience to put it all together on a night in, night out basis. The ‘Tank for Wiggins’ ploy that they employed last season did not work as they wish it had because Cleveland, for the third time in four years, swooped in and stole the first pick right out from under them. They wound up with the third selection in the 2014 NBA draft, selecting Joel Embiid, a center out of Kansas. Do not forget that this team was close to setting a record for consecutive losses last season, losing 26 straight games at one point.

Notable Additions: 

  • Nerlens Noel, a 2013 draft pick who will play for the first time this season after an ACL injury suffered while at Kentucky.
  • Joel Embiid, the team’s 2014 first round pick who will likely miss most, if not all, of the season.
  • Dario Saric, a high powered European power forward who was a first round pick this summer, who will also not play in the NBA this year, but it is a good draft-and-stash asset for the team.
  • Alexey Shved, a high flying Russian guard from the Minnesota Timberwolves, will look to have a breakout year in Philadelphia this year after being used sparingly in Minnesota.

Notable Losses: 

  • Thaddeus Young, a young, athletic power forward who is now a part of the new coalition in Minnesota, centered around Andrew Wiggins.
  • Eric Maynor, a solid solution at point guard, has departed, currently unsigned.

My prediction for the team is that they show flashes of potential, just as they did at the start of the year last year, but at the end of the season, it just proves to not be enough. Nerlens Noel becomes a defensive force, and slowly but surely, his offensive game will come along in time for the possible debut of Joel Embiid. The Sixers will be good soon, but not this year.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams
  • Shooting Guard: Tony Wroten
  • Small Forward: Hollis Thompson
  • Power Forward: Nerlens Noel
  • Center: Henry Sims

Predicted Record: 14-68


 

The Boston Celtics will finish fourth in the Atlantic Division this season. The Celtics are still attempting to work their way out from underneath the ‘Big Three’ era, and they’re going to have to find out what they want to do with Rajon Rondo, their disgruntled, All-Star caliber point guard. The team is at an odd place, roster-wise; they’re attempting to get younger, it seems, but they have an odd mix of veterans who just do not fit that mold. Ideally, they’ll attempt to shed the Gerald Wallace contract toward the deadline to a team who wants to acquire an expiring deal. It’ll be interesting to see how the pieces fit in Boston this season.

Notable Additions:

  • Tyler Zeller, a versatile big man who can come off the bench and give good energy in short spurts, and given a larger role, who knows what he will be able to do. Good size and athleticism.
  • Evan Turner, a rangy, streaky, and somewhat ball-dominant shooting guard who put up good numbers on a bad team in Philadelphia, but when traded to the Indiana, he couldn’t crack the lineup. So, which Evan Turner will the Celtics get? Hopefully the scorer they faced while in Philadelphia.
  • James Young, a young, no pun intended, shooting guard from Kentucky. He looks to bring some size to the shooting guard position, and he also looks to add some athleticism to the floor for the Celtics. His offensive game is going to develop as he gains experience, but it is limited at this point.
  • Marcus Smart, a bulldog at the point guard position, he will bring toughness into that lineup, and he will look to gain some skills from Rondo while they’re teammates. Look for a strong rookie season by Smart.
  • Marcus Thornton, a streaky three point shooter who can take over a game when he’s hot, and also disappear when he’s not. Will add a shooting threat to the Boston bench.

Notable Losses:

The Celtics did not suffer any notable free agency losses in the off season.

My prediction for the team, obviously, is that they’ll finish fourth in the Atlantic Division, riding a wave of mediocrity through the regular season, missing out on the playoffs. They have their moments, the rookies show sparks of potential, but it just won’t be enough. I see Boston, barring a blockbuster trade or huge free agent signing, being stuck in a place of mediocrity for the next few seasons; as currently constituted, their roster handcuffs them to a high lottery pick (10-14) for the foreseeable future.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: Rajon Rondo* (Currently Injured)
  • Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley
  • Small Forward: Jeff Green
  • Power Forward: Jared Sullinger
  • Center: Kelly Olynyk

Predicted Record: 31-51


 

The Brooklyn Nets will finish third in the Atlantic Division this year. Kevin Garnett is a year older, and if we’re being honest, he came back this year to collect the money that his contract says he’s due. If it wasn’t for this, he would have ridden off into the sunset last year after the Nets were finished, Mortal Kombat style, by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Lionel Hollins takes over as head coach after Jason Kidd left for Milwaukee, and he is going to be helped by the fact that Brooke Lopez will come back healthy this season for the Nets after missing much of the year with a foot injury.

Notable Additions:

  • Jarrett Jack, a versatile combo guard who is great in clutch moments – he almost beat the Spurs single-handedly in the 2012-2013 playoffs when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors. He has a smooth shooting stroke, and his mid-range game can be deadly. Good sixth-man candidate for the Nets.

Notable Losses:

  • Paul Pierce, a veteran small forward who was good in crunch time. A solid outside shooter, he would likely be the guy to hit a three when the Nets needed one last year. They lose the veteran leadership that he brought to the table, it will be interesting to see how the team shapes up without him.
  • Shaun Livingston, a veteran, lanky point guard who, when Deron Williams was not in the flow of the game, would take over the game at point, and he would run an efficient offense which was predicated on his ability to get to the hoop. He will prove to be a big loss this season, I feel.
  • Andray Blatche, a somewhat hot and cold player who could either take over a game, or disappear completely. He lacked the full effort that would have turned him into an All-Star caliber player to match the talent he has. Signed to play in China.
  • Marcus Thornton, a bench shooter who would provide a scoring spark off the bench, similar to the role the Jason Terry was meant to fill. Neither are with the team this season.

I think that as the season goes on, the Nets become a very deliberate team on offense, throw the ball in the paint and let Plumlee and Lopez go to work. They’ll be a much slower team than they were last season, and if my prediction comes true, look for them to attempt to play in a Memphis style, seeing as how Lionel Hollins is the coach now, this would not be a surprise. The Nets struggle through the East, but somehow, they wind up sneaking into the playoffs as an 8 seed.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: Deron Williams
  • Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson
  • Small Forward: Andrei Kirilenko
  • Power Forward: Mirza Teletovic
  • Center: Brooke Lopez

(Look for Alan Anderson, Jarrett Jack, and Mason Plumlee to fight for starting spots also.)

Predicted Record: 40-42


 

The New York Knicks will finish second in the Atlantic Division this season. With the arrival of Derek Fisher as the new coach, and allowing Phil Jackson to have an entire year now to implement his schemes via Fisher and find players who will suit his system, things could be looking up for the Knicks. Michael Jordan had not won anything of significance when Phil Jackson arrived in Chicago to coach the talented Bulls in the late 80’s as an assistant, and when he took over as head coach in Chicago, Michael Jordan and the Bulls won six titles in the 90’s. Jackson went on to coach the Shaq O’Neal and Kobe Bryant led Lakers teams and won five titles in the 2000’s. Will Jackson’s presence in New York have the same impact on Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks? That remains to be the big question. A lot will have to change on this roster, and in fact, a lot has changed with this roster in the off-season, so there remains hope in New York that Jackson can work his magic yet.

Notable Additions:

  • Jose Calderon, a point guard with a great basketball I.Q., who also has the ability to shoot from beyond the arc with great success, he shot 44.9% from downtown last season in Dallas. In order to implement the Triangle Offensein New York this season, they’ll need a point guard who is capable of shooting from beyond the arc.
  • Samuel Dalembert, a nice piece to put at center for the Knicks – he won’t blow you away with athleticism or with his offensive prowess, but he’s a big body to put below the rim, and he should help grab rebounds that were lost with the Tyson Chandler departure.
  • Cleanthony Early, a rookie out of Wichita State, he is an athletic wing player who will be able to help defend the perimeter and he will also be a very good fast-break player, being able to finish strong at the rim.
  • Shane Larkin, a second year point guard who is athletic and can handle the ball extremely well. His outside shooting game needs to develop more to become a serious threat, but he has good genes – he’s the son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, of the Cincinnati Reds. He will be a second option at point guard.

Notable Losses:

  • Raymond Felton, the starting point guard for the team last year. While inconsistent, he was still a threat to penetrate the defense and get to the rim, dishing to the wings for open shooters.
  • Tyson Chandler, a former defensive player of the year, Chandler was the main cog for the team on defense, and he was a big force on the boards for the team, something they’ll have to work to replace.
  • Metta World Peace, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, was on the team last year, but he didn’t seem to get much play with the squad. He signed on to play in China this year, and he has not been the dominant defensive player he was earlier in his career for quite some time. He had good ability in short spurts for the team though.

The Knicks will have some growing pains under the tutelage of Derek Fisher, but once they get the Triangle Offense ingrained into the way that they play, they’ll begin to show improvements. I think this team will be a better second half team than they show at the beginning of the season, and as they grow in confidence in the offensive sets they are running, they will begin to score more and win more. (Also, a bonus nugget, watch for Tim Hardaway Jr. to have a big season this year; I think he’ll take a big step forward in his second year.) They will make the playoffs this season.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Jose Calderon
  • Shooting Guard: Tim Hardaway Jr.
  • Small Forward: Iman Shumpert
  • Power Forward: Carmelo Anthony
  • Center: Samuel Dalembert

Predicted Record: 45-37


 

Winning the NBA Atlantic Division is the Toronto Raptors. This team has the potential to be an exciting, yet still young, team, but I don’t see their youth and inexperience holding them back the way it did last season. In the playoff loss to the Nets last season, I feel like the Raptors were still the better team, but they just “didn’t know how to win” yet. This year, having gone through what they did in the playoffs last season, they are more ready to take on the league this year, led by an amazingly talented back-court, I see them rising to the top in their division again this year. Another year of playing together will help Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry form stronger on-court chemistry, and the emergence of young center Jonas Valanciunas will help give the Raptors an outside and inside punch on offense.

Notable Additions: 

  • Jordan Hamilton, a combo guard/forward will be a good, solid wing player to come off the bench for the Raptors. The former University of Texas player has a solid outside shot, not someone who will blow you away with his athleticism, but he is a solid bench player who will be able to contribute well on a playoff contender.
  • Lou Williams, a shooting guard who is capable of getting hot in a hurry off the bench. This is the kind of second unit scoring threat that will prove to be very valuable on a playoff team – he will allow Derozan to get a rest, but will be able to keep a scorer on the floor, though not the same caliber player, obviously.

Notable Losses:

  • Steve Novak, a long and lanky shooter who does nothing inside the arc; in the current NBA, no team can ever have enough shooting depth, and losing the caliber of shooter that Novak is capable of being, is no small loss, however, do not expect to see the team flail wildly in the realms of the lower Eastern Conference teams due to his departure.

The Raptors, under head coach Dwane Casey, look to build on the successes of last season by having a similar, if not better, season than they did last year. The Raptors were one of the most surprising stories in the NBA last season, finishing with the third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and having the best season, record-wise, the franchise had ever experienced. Led by their dynamic guards, Lowry at point and Derozan at the two guard spot, the Raptors will outlast the hard charging Knicks at the end of the season to win the Atlantic Division for the second season in a row.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: Kyle Lowry
  • Shooting Guard: Demar Derozan
  • Small Forward: Terrence Ross
  • Power Forward: Amir Johnson
  • Center: Jonas Valanciunas

Predicted Record: 50-32


 

Central Division:

The young Milwaukee Bucks will finish last in the Central Division again this year, but they show signs of life, signs of true potential. Jason Kidd comes over as the new coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, following a [somewhat] nasty divorce with the Brooklyn Nets. He looks to impart some knowledge on the young roster that is full of potential, but it has failed to turn that potential into on court success consistently; Kidd will attempt to help this team grow into the up-and-coming team that it has the potential to be. If you’re a Milwaukee Bucks fan, you have a lot to look forward to, but I do not think that this year will be the year where the intangible potential that the Bucks have will become tangible success in terms of wins and losses.

Notable Additions:

  • Jabari Parker, a small forward from Duke who was the second overall pick in the draft, many national writers and analysts feel as though Parker has the potential to make the most impact of any rookie in the upcoming season. Many felt as though he was the more “NBA-ready” prospect when being compared to Andrew Wiggins, so he has the ability to come in and immediately add a go-to scorer to the Bucks lineup, something they haven’t had since the days of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, but Parker, so far, doesn’t seem to have the ball-stopping tendencies that Ellis and Jennings tended to display. My pick for Rookie of the Year.
  • Jerryd Bayless, a guard who will come in off the bench and be a scoring threat for the Bucks. The former Celtics and Grizzlies guard will bring in some shooting and will be a second unit offensive fulcrum for the team.
  • Jared Dudley, a guard/forward combo will also be a likely candidate for a role as a bench shooter. Dudley provides a reliable option if the team needs a big three during the time when most of the starters are resting, and his playoff experience can help the team down the stretch.
  • Kendall Marshall, a point guard whose main talent is distributing the basketball, he’s a facilitator. His shooting is streaky, and his mid-range game is come and go, but he is very good at penetrating the lane and dishing to teammates to get them better shots; will struggle if looked to as the main scoring option, but a very underrated passer.

Notable Losses:

  • Ramon Sessions, the team’s backup point guard from a year ago, he was in charge, more or less, of running the second unit, and he did a fairly good job. The Bucks have added Kendall Marshall to take his place, but losing Sessions is a noticeable loss for this team.
  • Carlos Delfino, a shooting guard who was capable of coming in cold off the bench and knocking down a three if the team needed one. Dudley and Bayless will act as Delfino this year. The loss was lessened when Dudley came back from Los Angeles in the trade the Clippers made with the Bucks.

The Bucks are in a much tougher division than they were last year: LeBron James and Kevin Love headline the host of new faces on the Cleveland Cavaliers roster, Pau Gasol joins forces with Derrick Rose and Co. in Chicago this season, but the Indiana Pacers will regress due to the losses of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. That being said, the Bucks will take a small step forward this season. They will have some very interesting rotations this season, especially seeing as how Jason Kidd and Gary Payton have been working with Giannis Antetokounmpo on his skills at the point guard position – he is 6’11” with a 7’4″ wingspan – and he had played quite a bit during the NBA Summer League at point. He will be an absolute nightmare for opposing point guards because there is not a point guard in the league who will be able to match his combination of size and reach. Larry Sanders and John Henson provide some really decent size in the lineup, and I would not be surprised to see if Kidd gets creative with his lineups to get mismatches, and just like the Phoenix Suns, I would not be surprised to see a lot of “small-ball” lineups hitting the floor this winter.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Brandon Knight (To begin with)
  • Shooting Guard: Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Small Forward: Jabari Parker
  • Power Forward: John Henson
  • Center: Larry Sanders

Predicted Record: 24-58


 

The Indiana Pacers are going to take a huge step back this season. The team who ended up with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference last season will not make this playoffs this season, following the departure of Lance Stephenson and the gruesome leg injury that Paul George sustained in the Team USA intra-team scrimmage back in early August. Coach Frank Vogel was signed to an extension in the off-season, but he will surely have to earn his money this season, missing the only two guys who could manufacture their own offense, off the dribble. What was supposed to be another great season for the Pacers fans will turn into “what could have been” and “waiting for 2015” when they’ll get their All-Star Paul George back on the floor.

Notable Additions:

  • C.J. Miles, a shooting guard/small forward combo who is capable of getting hot in a hurry from deep, he will look to crack the starting lineup this season due to the loss of Lance Stephenson and George’s injury. At the time, it was an “Eh, who cares, that’s pretty inconsequential” signing, but now, it could be big for the Pacers, it gives them a solid shooter and offensive threat, though an inconsistent one.
  • Rodney Stuckey, a guard who can also be used to run some offense through, was signed in the off-season, another loot from a Central Division team, the Pistons. He can get to the rim and can hit a mid-range jumper, but don’t expect to be blown away with his game like you would be by Steph Curry or Kyrie Irving. A solid second unit guard.

Notable Losses:

  • Lance Stephenson, the team’s former shooting guard, Stephenson was capable of playing point guard as well in short spurts, and he was a good all-around player. He led the league in triple-doubles last season with five, and he was able to get his own shot. He got teammates involved, and he manufactured offense both for himself, as I said, and others, which allowed his teammates to get better shots. He was often hard to deal with, free-lancing on offense and defense, and then pulling odd hijinks, blowing in the ear of LeBron James, laying down on the court after flopping and peeking to see if the refs were watching him; he wore out his welcome in Indiana, but there was no denying his talent.
  • Paul George [Injury]: He did not leave the team, but he did suffer a gruesome leg injury in the Team USA intra-team scrimmage in August, so most likely, he will not be playing for the Pacers this season. Look for his return next season.

The Pacers just won’t have the same offensive potency they had last season, nor will they have the same defensive intensity that they had last season with George and Stephenson as the main catalysts on both sides of the ball. The offense will most likely be clunky this season with the guards throwing the ball into the paint to Roy Hibbert or David West; it just won’t be a “fun” team to watch. One thing that will be interesting to watch this season will be to see if the Pacers stick with Roy Hibbert, or if they dump him, possibly in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers – Dion Waiters for Roy Hibbert, straight up – or if they find another partner, however unlikely that would seem at this point. His disappearance in the postseason was something of a shock; never mind the postseason, what about the last part of last season? The Pacers signed Andrew Bynum after Cleveland let him go, and from that moment on, Hibbert was not the same. Will those problems be fixed, or will Bynum just be one big, immobile missed-shots machine who will struggle to dominate players much smaller than himself. It will be interesting to see, but it won’t be Hibbert’s fault if they miss the playoffs, there is just too much missing from last season’s team. Pacers miss the playoffs.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: George Hill
  • Shooting Guard: C.J. Miles
  • Small Forward: Chris Copeland
  • Power Forward: David West
  • Center: Roy Hibbert

Predicted Record: 35-47


 

The Detroit Pistons finally have a head coach who will be able to work with their young center, Andre Drummond, and possibly turn him into the second coming of Dwight Howard, who Stan Van Gundy coached in Orlando. The Pistons, since the 2007-2008 season, have been below .500, failing to reach the playoffs for the last five seasons, this coming after the Pistons reached the Eastern Conference Finals for five straight seasons between 2002-2003 and 2007-2008. Van Gundy will look to replicate his Orlando formula in Detroit – a dominant center abusing opponents in the paint, and surrounding the center will be a bevy of knock down shooters who will be getting wide open shots because of the defense collapsing around the center. Things could be finally looking up for the Pistons.

Notable Additions:

  • Caron Butler, the small forward is a good veteran presence on this team. He is capable of knocking down the three point shot with consistency, he is not Reggie Miller or Ray Allen, but it is a serviceable talent, and his maturity is something that will help this team in close games down the stretch.
  • Jodie Meeks, a shooting guard mainly, Meeks is capable of getting hot from deep in a hurry. He is much more of a shooting threat than Butler is, and Meeks is coming off of a career season with the Los Angeles Lakers. A legitimate scoring threat in the back-court with Brandon Jennings now.
  • J. Augustin, will be a backup point guard who played very well for the Chicago Bulls last season in Derrick Rose’s absence due to his knee injury. He was inserted into the starting lineup and he was able to spark the offense when he was on the floor, a very surprising result. Should do well in spelling Brandon Jennings.
  • Joel Anthony, a veteran center/power forward will be able to be a help on the defensive end of the floor, he can help with rebounding, and he brings a good amount of energy to the game when he is on the floor. Always very active, he can be a disruptive force on the defensive end when he is locked in.

Notable Losses:

  • Chauncey Billupsa point guard who led the team to the Finals twice and won a championship with the team. This loss isn’t so much about what they lost on the court, so much as it is what they lost in leadership, experience, poise. Chauncey Billups was one of the best players the Pistons have had since the “Bad Boy” Pistons teams of the late-80’s, early 90’s. Big loss for the team, but in an intangible sort of way.
  • Rodney Stuckey, a shooting guard who provided back-court depth and some shooting, off the bench. Meeks is a better player, but depth never is a bad thing.
  • Charlie Villanueva, a power forward who had the ability to step out and hit a mid-range shot, he helped to stretch the floor for Josh Smith and Andre Drummond, and there is one thing you can’t teach in basketball, and that’s size; he is 6’11”.

The Pistons are on the right track. This season will be a season where Stan Van Gundy lays down the framework for what he wants to do in Detroit. There will be ups, there will be downs, there always is. The Pistons get used to playing in the Van Gundy system, pound the ball inside, kick it out to the open shooters, and vice versa. The Pistons are in a tough division, having to deal with the Bulls and the Cavs for the entire season, and while they may sneak a game or two away from those teams, they will struggle with them this season. The Pistons look to find their way, and their place in the East this year, a year which shows improvements, but not nearly enough. The Pistons finish third in the Central Division but fail to reach the playoffs this season.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Brandon Jennings
  • Shooting Guard: Jodie Meeks
  • Small Forward: Josh Smith
  • Power Forward: Greg Monroe
  • Center: Andre Drummond

Predicted Record: 37-45


 

The Chicago Bulls look to finish amongst the top of the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2011-2012 where they finished with the number one seed in the East. Derrick Rose looks to be healthy, finally, after his summer with Team USA, he looks to return to Chicago and be the on-court leader for the Bulls again. Coach Tom Thibodeau will now have a full complement of offensive players, both on the bench and starting. Every position on the floor will be an offensive threat this season for the Bulls, something that has not been the case for the last few years. Derrick Rose will have more teammates who are offensively capable to pass to, he’ll have three point shooters with him on the floor, and the always effervescent Joakim Noah will be back as well. The Bulls will push the Cleveland Cavaliers all season, they’ll have better chemistry out of the box, but they may not have the same talent top to bottom that the Cavaliers have.

Notable Additions:

  • Aaron Brooks, a point guard who will be able to come in off the bench to spell Rose when need be, he’ll mainly run with the second unit, and barring any massive injuries to Derrick Rose, for what would be the third straight season, he will not be asked to start many games, if any at all.
  • Nikola Mirotic, a European Power Forward who was drafted in 2011, but was a “draft-and-stash” player for the Bulls. He finally signed a contract with the Bulls after the 2013-2014 Euro season, and he is looking to come over to the Bulls and add a stretch power-forward to the roster; he shot .461 (46.1%) from three in Europe last season, and he is a career 85%+ free throw shooter, so if he develops a post game, the “hack-a-Shaq” technique would not be wise against him.
  • Pau Gasol, a power forward who has developed his game to the point where he is what every European player, sans Dirk Nowitzki, wishes they could be. He signed in Chicago after vowing to get out of Los Angeles, and not being able to get a confirmation from LeBron James that he would be returning to the Miami Heat. Pau will be able to mentor the young Mirotic, teach him the ropes, and will be able to add the stretch power forward/center into the starting lineup for Chicago. He’ll be a bit of a defensive liability, but his long-range, mid-range, and paint offensive game will more than make up for that; a truly versatile player.
  • Doug McDermott, a small forward from the University of Creighton, the fifth highest career scorer in NCAA Basketball history, will be a welcome addition to the Chicago Bulls. He has a great stroke from beyond the arc, he’ll knock down the open jumper, and he is big enough to take his man in the paint and score with his back to the basket if that’s what the particular set calls for. A versatile player who will need to prove himself before he gets copious amounts of playing time.

Notable Losses:

  • Carlos Boozer, a power forward who was amnestied by the team in the off-season. He was signed in the summer of 2010 to a max deal, and he just never ended up living up to the contract, and he was a liability. I know he is listed under “notable losses” but frankly, this was a good loss for the team.
  • J. Augustin, a backup point guard last season, he was thrust into the starting lineup when Derrick Rose went down. He played very well for the team, added a spark, much like Nate Robinson had the season before, which helped to lead the team on offense, despite the fact that he played relatively poorly for the Indiana Pacers the season before.

The Chicago Bulls have a window, they know it – and it is getting smaller. Derrick Rose is healthy, for now, but the real question is just how long will that last? Will he be able to stay healthy for the entirety of the 2014-2015 campaign? Who knows. Tom Thibodeau has done a great job since he took over the job in Chicago, and his best two seasons, arguably, have been the last two; Derrick Rose’s injuries had left the team compromised, their offensive potency was limited, yet Thibodeau still managed to get his team to the playoffs. The Chicago Bulls, this season, assuming that the knees and other various ligaments and tendons that Derrick Rose relies on remain healthy, will fight for the Central Division title, but the Cavaliers will just prove to be too much for the Bulls down the stretch. The Bulls will finish second in the division, making the playoffs yet again. Watch for the emergence of both Mirotic and McDermott, with my thinking that McDermott will find his role on the team first.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Derrick Rose
  • Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler
  • Small Forward: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
  • Power Forward: Pau Gasol
  • Center: Joakim Noah

Predicted Record: 56-26


 

The Cleveland Cavaliers have just had a calendar season unlike any other in recent memory, even better than that of the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. The Cavaliers thought that they would challenge for the playoffs this season that they would not be in the draft lottery any longer. Wrong. The Cavaliers missed the playoffs and shockingly, for the third time in the last four seasons, the Cavs won the NBA Draft Lottery, amazing considering they had the second worst chances of winning the draft lottery. Mike Brown, the coach for the Cavs last season, had been fired by this point, and LeBron James was busy playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. LeBron James and the Heat went on to lose in the NBA Finals to the Spurs, sending hope throughout the city that maybe, just maybe, James would return. This hope grew when James, ahead of the NBA Free Agency period, opted out of his deal with the Miami Heat. The Cavs, in the midst of all this, drafted Andrew Wiggins out of the University of Kansas. James decided on July 11th to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, announcing his decision via si.com and writer Lee Jenkins. After this news came out, rumors began to swirl about the future of Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, last year’s number one pick, with the team; they were not mentioned in his letter to si.com, so people were, naturally, speculating as to what they thought would happen. The team completed a trade with Minnesota for Kevin Love on August 23rd to complete their dream off-season. In the span of a month and a half, the team re-signed Kyrie Irving, signed LeBron James, traded for Kevin Love, and a host of other pieces. Oh, and Dave Blatt, formerly of Maccabi Tel-Aviv, is the new head coach of the team.

Notable Additions:

  • LeBron James, arguably the best player on the planet, the best small forward in the league, the chosen son of Cleveland and Akron. He will be the main offensive and defensive catalyst for the team this season. James, since going to Miami, has become a computer built out of fast twitch muscle fiber, increasing his field goal efficiency each of the last four seasons in Miami. He has added a post game to his repertoire, improved his mid-range jump shooting, his three point percentage, and his efficiency around the rim is the highest in the league. He is a one man wrecking crew, the best player of his generation, so this will be a huge signing for any team.
  • Kevin Love, arguably the best power forward in the game right now; Love is a double-double machine, having recorded 65 of them last season in 77 games. Kevin Love is deadly on offense from all points on the floor – he has a baby hook, a nice post game, his mid-range game is solid as well, and he can get hot in a hurry from downtown. He is a lethal offensive player, but he lacks that same intensity on defense. He’s a rebounding machine though, averaging 12+ for his career. This will bode well for the team, it will extend possessions, and it will lead to fast break opportunities. I failed to mention, he’s the best outlet passer in the league, and he led the league in assists travelling more than 20 feet last season.
  • Brendan Haywood, a center that Cleveland fans will remember from the early days of the first James stint in Cleveland. During a playoff game against the Wizards, Haywood fouled James hard while he went to the basket, and now, they’re teammates. Size is a good thing, size never hurts. He missed the entire season last year with a foot injury. Haywood will likely be a fourth or fifth option in the front court, but the size that he provides will always be a positive.
  • James Jones, a shooting guard who will not likely see much playing time, but when he is on the floor, he’s an underrated shooting weapon. He played in Indiana under Reggie Miller, so Miller passed on some tips and tricks to Jones, and it seems to have paid off – last season, in limited action, Jones knocked down a ridiculous 52% of his three point shots.
  • Shawn Marion, a small forward who will give the team a good defensive cog in the second unit, The Matrixsigned in Cleveland after James announced that he would be returning. He isn’t the same player that he was last decade, or even earlier this decade, but he is still capable of being a good wing defender for the Cavaliers’ second unit.
  • Mike Miller, a shooting guard/small forward combo, Miller played with LeBron James in Miami for 3 seasons, where he was oft-injured, but last season in Memphis he played in all 82 games with the Grizzlies, so he appears to be healthy. He had offers from other teams, such as the Denver Nuggets, where he would have more playing time and more money, but he chose to come with James to Cleveland where he has the shot to win another title soon.

Notable Losses:

  • J. Miles, a shooting guard who would start for the team when needed, and when he wasn’t starting, he would come off the bench and provide a spark for the team, whether that be on offense or defense.
  • Luol Deng, a small forward who is a former All-Star, he was able to be a perimeter threat on both offense and a very capable wing defender. He was built in the mold of a “diet LeBron James” – not as good on either end, but a similar type of player who can both score and defend.
  • Jarrett Jack, a guard who is very capable of running the first team offense or the second team, and is a very capable shooter, one who would be likely to have the ball in crunch time. A big loss for the team, but he was moved in order to make room for James and Co. to come to Cleveland, so in the end, it was a necessary loss.
  • Spencer Hawes, a center who was capable of stepping out and knocking down an outside jumper, a very “Kevin Love-ish” player: a big man who can step out and open up spacing on the floor while finding open teammates.
  • Alonzo Gee, a small forward who started for the team for much of the last 3 seasons. He was capable of knocking down outside shots, but his athleticism was better used in the paint and at the rim.

The Cavaliers will have their growing pains, I fully expect that. I expect it to take a while for Love, Irving, Waiters and Co. to figure out how to play with a player of the caliber of LeBron James. It will take a while to figure out the intricacies of the David Blatt offense. These growing pains will only take so long, however. I feel like the Cavaliers will be a very strong team all season and will win early on based on sheer talent, but later on in the year, they will begin to blow teams out due to their talent level paired with their schematic advantage. Once the Cavaliers get rolling, watch out. Kevin Love will find his groove, Kyrie Irving will also find his role, and LeBron James will continue to do what he does. This team will be one of the most fun teams to watch in the league, and it will be a team that will only get stronger as the season progresses. They’re in a relatively weak conference, and with the teams in their division, they won’t have much resistance aside from Chicago. The Cavaliers should run away with the number one seed in the East, and I am predicting that they’ll have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, finishing with the best record in the NBA; this is mainly because I think that the West will feast on itself, so I do not feel as though a team from the West will have the best record in the league. One other prediction that I will make is that I think the Cavaliers will lead the league in both scoring per game and points per possession; they’ll also be a deadly team on the fast break with Kevin Love’s long distance passing, LeBron James’ unstoppable nature in the open court, and Kyrie Irving, with his ankle-breaking handles and stop-and-pop shooting. This team will be fun to watch on offense, and their offensive prowess will carry the team early while they figure out the defensive rotations.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
  • Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters
  • Small Forward: LeBron James
  • Power Forward: Kevin Love
  • Center: Anderson Varajao

Predicted Record: 64-18


 

Southeast Division:

The Orlando Magic will finish last in the Southeast Division this season, sorry to all you Magic fans out there. This season in the Magic Kingdom likely won’t be any better than it was last year. The team didn’t get much better in the off-season, although it did get younger. Much of the team is now made up of [relative] no-name players, and the roster is rather guard heavy at the moment. The team did add Channing Frye, and versatile big man, but other than that, not much to speak of. They drafted Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, but I don’t see Gordon producing much this season, if ever. I feel as though they reached for him when they took him, but it remains to be seen what he will do.

Notable Additions:

  • ChanningFrye, a versatile big man who will stretch the floor and open up space for players, like Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic, to operate in. Should be one of the leading scorers on the team.
  • Elfrid Payton, a point guard, will add some explosiveness and athleticism to the point guard position. His shooting will need to be a point of emphasis that he works on, but he can be a disruptive player with his on-ball defense, so look for him to get his fair share of steals this season.

Notable Losses:

  • Jameer Nelson, the team’s starting point guard last year, he was the longest tenured Magic player on the team, and one of the main leaders on the team. It will be interesting to see how the guard-play turns out without Nelson on the floor with them.
  • Arron Afflalo, an athletic guard/forward who was traded back to Denver in the off-season. Capable of making a shot when they needed it most, his veteran presence will be missed on this very young Magic team.

The Magic will need to get good guard play out of their young back-court. Elfrid Payton will need to work out how to play with Victor Oladipo, who is entering just his second year in the NBA. If Oladipo can make a leap in his play this season; that will definitely help the Magic, but I would not bet on it. His offensive game is still very raw and unpolished at this point, but it will be interesting to see what facets of his game he has worked on and improved. I look for Aaron Gordon to be disappointing this season – finishing the season with both single digit rebounds and points – leaving the Magic unsure as to whether or not he can play at this level consistently. He is a less athletic, less talented Blake Griffin type player, but, if he is able to get the most out of his frame and his game, he could be a decent rotation player. The Magic get abused by the Hawks, Heat, Hornets, and Wizards all season, and finish quite a ways away from the next team in the division.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Elfrid Payton
  • Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
  • Small Forward: Tobias Harris
  • Power Forward: Channing Frye
  • Center: Nikola Vucevic

Predicted Record: 21-61


 

The Atlanta Hawks will finish fourth in the division. The Hawks snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed last year, and when they made it in, they gave the Indiana Pacers, the number one seed in the East, all they could handle. This was partially due to the fact that big men Pero Antic and Paul Millsap were able to step away from the paint, move around the perimeter, and draw the Pacers’ big men away from the basket, opening up lanes for Jeff Teague and Co. The Hawks are a talented group of players, on paper, and it will be interesting to see if they can put it together for an entire season. The Hawks started out relatively strong last year, but in the middle of the season, the team fizzled and looked uninterested, causing a slump. Toward the end of the season, they played well enough to finish in the eighth seed, good enough for a trip to the playoffs. They are in a very deep division, so they will be battling with the Heat, Hornets, and Wizards all season.

Notable Additions:

  1. Thabo Sefolosha, the former Thunder forward, he is a very good defender, and if he can get his outside shot to fall more consistently, this could prove to be a very good pickup for the team.
  2. Adreian Payne, a power forward/center from Michigan State, he will provide another big man who can step out and knock down a jump shot, he will also provide some youth and athleticism to the front court for the Hawks, but if Al Horford can stay healthy this year, he will not have as large a role as he could take on at this point.

Notable Losses:

The Atlanta Hawks did not lose any players of note during the off-season.

The Atlanta Hawks are not really a team who is going to blow the doors off of the league. I think, at best, they can win around the same number of games as they did last season. The team is just limited in their success because of the pieces that they have on the team; they do not have a truly transcendent talent, and they don’t have true scorer to go to either. Jeff Teague will, most likely, be the team’s leading scorer, and the Hawks will be better than they were last year if Al Horford can stay healthy this season. It would be nice to see a player like Pero Antic become the match-up nightmare that he can be, but as currently constituted, without any extrapolation or forecasting, I think that the Hawks will finish the year right around the same position that they did last season, but there are other teams who will leap over them, so they will miss the playoffs.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Jeff Teague
  • Shooting Guard: Kyle Korver
  • Small Forward: DeMarre Carroll
  • Power Forward: Paul Millsap
  • Center: Al Horford

Predicted Record: 38-44


 

The Miami Heat are in an unfamiliar position: they are no longer the best team in their division, let alone the Eastern Conference. After an off-season full of uncertainty and disappointment, the Miami Heat pulled together and regrouped post-LeBron. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have stuck around, so two thirds of the Big Three is still in the 305, but the main driving force of that group has moved to the 216, Cleveland, and this has left a bad taste in the mouths of the fans in Miami, but has delivered a wonderful narrative for the season to the rest of the country. That being said, things will be interesting this season in Miami. Rather than knowing that they would be the one or two seed, the Heat fans will actually have to wait and see where they’re team will end up. Charlotte is improved, the Wizards are improved, Atlanta is still Atlanta, and it will be very interesting to see what happens to this Heat team and how they approach the season.

Notable Additions:

  • Luol Deng, a very good consolation prize to losing LeBron James, Deng is capable of being a go to offensive weapon, and he will be the defensive catalyst for the Heat. He is a very good wing defender, and his outside shooting will fit in nicely with this team. Look for him to be a third option on this team, behind Bosh and Wade.
  • Josh McRoberts, a stretch power forward, he will be a good back-up to Chris Bosh, both of them have very similar games, but Bosh is obviously the superior player. McRoberts is not healthy at the moment, but when he is, he will give them solid shooting and a healthy dose of toughness off the bench.
  • Danny Granger, a former All-Star, will be looking to get another shot at his career. He was big for the Indiana Pacers until injuries derailed him last season, and he was traded to the Clippers, but after that, the Pacers were not the same team. He looks to bring some scoring to the Heat, and some veteran leadership to add to that of Bosh and Wade.
  • Shabazz Napier, a player who LeBron James called the best point guard in the draft, Napier has had a knack for knocking down big shots, in the NCAA tournament he led his team to a title last season, and he will be a player to keep your eye on, depending on how much playing time he gets. A streaky shooter, he can fill the basket in a hurry, but if he is off, it will be easy to see.

Notable Losses:

  • LeBron James, the best player in the league, the most dominant player in the league. It is never going to be easy to replace a player like LeBron James, so the Heat will definitely be worse off without him because what he did in Miami was basically act like a huge eraser. He would erase any problems with Spoelstra’s sets, both on offense and defense, and motivated his teammates to hustle because they would get open shots, better looks, and easier ways to score. He will be missed.
  • Ray Allen, the best three point shooter in league history is wavering between retirement and joining a team later in the season, no word on when a decision will be made.
  • James Jones, not a big impact player, but he was a knock down shooter for the team, shooting 52% in limited action last season, so his loss will be felt at those moments when they need a three, and he isn’t there to come in off the bench and go three for six from behind the arc.

The Miami Heat will look lost at certain moments this season on both offense and defense. After getting used to playing with LeBron James over the last four years, the Heat will now have to funnel their offense through their best offensive player, Chris Bosh. Bosh will look to become the player he was in Toronto again, with the addition of the three point shot that he developed in the last couple of seasons. Dwyane Wade will have to again realize that Bosh’s game has aged more gracefully than his own. Wade is the second option, the face of the franchise, but Bosh is their best player, and even last season, Bosh was the team’s second best player because Wade missed so many games. After Bosh, Wade, and Deng, the points will come from a slew of other players. James Ennis looks to become a scorer for the team, Shabazz Napier will be the new point guard in development with Chalmers and Norris Cole serving as the veteran point guards. The team will make the playoffs, but will not have home-court in the first round.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Norris Cole
  • Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade
  • Small Forward: Luol Deng
  • Power Forward: Chris Bosh
  • Center: Chris “Birdman” Andersen

Predicted Record: 46-36


 

The Charlotte Hornets will finish second in the Southeast Division this year, beating the Miami Heat, which will be a big step for this team. After making the playoffs last year, their last year being known as the “Bobcats”, the team will look to add on this success, and take a step forward this year. Al Jefferson was a big get for the team last season, and he didn’t disappoint. He finished last season with 21.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg, very good numbers for the team, and it gave Kemba Walker some breathing room on offense. I think this team will grow together this year, and it will be better than the team last year.

Notable Additions: 

  • Lance Stephenson, the former Indiana Pacers guard has joined the Hornets this off-season after not being able to come to terms with the Pacers. He went where he felt he would be appreciated, and something tells methat being able to learn/be around Michael Jordan may have also been something that he found appealing.

Notable Losses:

  • Josh McRoberts, the team lost McBob to the Miami Heat in the off-season. McBob likely thought that James would still be playing in Miami, but that was not to be the case. Still, this leaves the Hornets without him, but they replaced him with Lance Stephenson, a much better player, so the loss will not be as big.

The Charlotte Hornets are back, re-emerging from the dust and ash that was the Bobcats moniker, and they’re looking to bring back the success that they enjoyed as a franchise with the Hornets name. The team will be a much better offensive team this season, Kemba Walker will have even more room to operate because of the fact that Stephenson will attract defenders, and this will also open up scoring opportunities for Al Jefferson as well. Defensively they will also be better because Stephenson is a very good defender, and this will help the Hornets generate fast break opportunities. The Hornets defense will help lead to offense this season, a season I think which will go very well for the Hornets. The Hornets will make the playoffs again, and Steve Clifford will help to develop the team to the point where they are a tough out each and every night. Fall short of the Wizards, but have the talent and the will to beat the Heat.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Kemba Walker
  • Shooting Guard: Lance Stephenson
  • Small Forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrest
  • Power Forward: Bismack Biyombo
  • Center: Al Jefferson

Predicted Record: 48-34


 

The Washington Wizards will finish first, they will win the Southeast Division this season. After a season of breakthroughs last year, the team will continue to develop and improve this season. A rivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers may be forming as well, as Cavalier guard Dion Waiters called out the Wizards back-court of John Wall and Bradley Beal after they said that they were the best back-court in the league, Waiters has stated that he believes that he and Kyrie Irving make up the best back-court in the league, forgetting apparently about the Splash Brothers in Golden State. Moving on. The Wizards look to move into the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, eyes locked on a top four seed and home-court in the first round. Have they gotten appreciably better from the team last year? I think they have. I also understand that Bradley Beal is injured, has a broken wrist and will be out until early December, but in a weak Eastern Conference, this should not be a big issue once he comes back healthy. The Wizards will be a threat in the East, the question will be just how big of a threat will they be?

Notable Additions:

  • Paul Pierce, a veteran small forward will add experience and poise to this Wizards roster. In the Playoffs last year against the Pacers, the Wizards couldn’t put the Pacers away. The Wizards had chances to close them out, but they just didn’t have the experience to close out the Pacers, and they lost. Paul Pierce will be there to help keep their heads level, emotions in check, and he can still score. He can knock down a clutch shot to keep his team in the game. A really good get for this team.
  • Dejuan Blair, a veteran, undersized power forward, Blair will likely get some good rotation minutes in Washington. He is a beast on the boards, both on offense and defense, and he plays hard. Good reserve big man.

Notable Losses:

  • Trevor Ariza, a player similar in fashion to Luol Deng, Ariza is a typical “three and d” player; he will play good defense on the perimeter, and he has the ability to spot up on the three point line and just wait for his teammates to hit him with the pass. Ariza was a key cog for them during the playoffs last season, and this will be a big loss for the team. Paul Pierce can mimic him on offense, but he won’t be able to replace Ariza’s defense.

So, what do the Wizards have to do this year? They’ve got to make sure they can keep both John Wall and Bradley Beal healthy; the team will go as far as Wall and Beal can take them. They resigned Marcin Gortat in the off-season, so they can keep their inside presence, and Nene Hilario is still there as well. Once the Wizards get healthy, they should be a very formidable team, but they’ve got to get healthy first. The Wizards started off slow last year as they waited for Wall to get healthy, but this season, he will start off healthy, and the Wizards have to keep him that way. Beal will likely continue to develop and become a better and better player, so this can only help. Paul Pierce will knock down some clutch shots to win them some games, and overall, I do believe that they’re going to have a much better year than they did last year, but it will be a hard fought division between the Wizards, Heat, and Hornets, all of whom can win the division, but I feel as though the Wizards have the talent and the determination to win the division.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: John Wall
  • Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal* (Currently Injured)
  • Small Forward: Paul Pierce
  • Power Forward: Nene* (Currently Injured)
  • Center: Marcin Gortat

Predicted Record: 49-33


 

Western Conference

Pacific Division:

The Los Angeles Lakers will finish last in the Pacific Division again this year. Sorry folks, all you Lakers fans, I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but this team won’t be good again until after Kobe Bryant retires. It’s a hard truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. Bryant has handcuffed this franchise with his contract: there just isn’t enough money to go around to sign multiple “max” players, and even when they had the chance this summer to sign players like Carmelo Anthony and [possibly] LeBron James or Chris Bosh, they did not want to play with Bryant, not many do these days, and until Bryant retires, the Lakers will struggle to attract the big name free agents they are accustomed to acquiring. Look at the Dwight Howard mess from a couple seasons ago. A team with Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace [Ron Artest] could barely make the playoffs as a seven seed in the West. When it came time for Dwight to re-up and sign an extension with the Lakers, he chose not to do so, and he decided he would be happier in Houston than playing with Kobe Bryant and being the face of the Los Angeles Lakers after Bryant retires. He did not want any part of that, and promptly left. That is not something the Lakers are used to have happen to them, they’re used to getting who they want, no questions asked. On that note, if you’re uncomfortable blaming Kobe Bryant, you can very well point the finger at Jim Buss. Since he has been running the team, he has been nothing but incompetent, and Lakers fans are sick of him being the man in charge, and until he turns full control of the team over to his sister Jeanie Buss, things will not likely be any better than they are now. It’s going to be a long year, Lakers fans.

Notable Additions:

  • Carlos Boozer, the power forward was a victim of the amnesty clause in Chicago, and as he made his way through the waivers, the Lakers decided that they would take the chance on Boozer, and offered more for his services than any other team, and they were awarded the veteran who will likely find his way into the starting lineup.
  • Jeremy Lin, the now veteran point guard will be able to add some energy on the court, and he will likely help with ticket sales, if they’re an issue this season, as Lin will appeal to the large Asian population on the West Coast. He will be a definite improvement over Steve Nash, who hurt his back carrying a bag two weeks ago, so look for Lin to start.
  • Julius Randle, a power forward out of Kentucky, he will look to fill the void that was left by Pau Gasol. He and Gasol are very different players, Randle being more of a ‘bully’ and Pau being a finesse player, but Randle will look to contribute early to this team. Randle is a sort-of Zach Randolph player, below the rim, very calculated, and his athleticism will not blow you away, but I feel as though he, at some point, will be able to average a double-double for the season.

Notable Losses:

  • Pau Gasol, a very large part of the team last year, Gasol is able to score from nearly any point on the court. He can shoot the three, he can shoot the mid-range jump shot, he can score in the paint; he is just so versatile. This will be a big loss for the team, and the Lakers fans will see what they’ve lost, and maybe now they’ll appreciate what they had in Gasol.
  • Jodie Meeks, a shooting guard who is able to get hot in a hurry from downtown. Meeks was always a threat to score when he was on the floor, and as a team who needs points, the Lakers can’t have enough players like Meeks who are unselfish and knock down shots when they have an open look.
  • Jordan Farmar, a back-up point guard, a decent player to command the second unit. With injury prone players like Lin and Nash at the point guard position, the Lakers could have used him.
  • Chris Kaman, a center from the team last year who started his fair share of games for the Lakers. Despite the fact that he’s never lived up to the expectations that he had coming from the 2003 draft, he is big, and you can’t teach size.

The Lakers season will not be a fun one. New coach Byron Scott will look to have the Lakers actually play defense this year, something they forgot how to do under former coach Mike D’Antoni. The team will go through Bryant on offense, that is without question, but what will come of Nick “Swaggy P” Young? Currently injured, Young will come back eventually, and unless something is done about it, he and Bryant will likely compete to see who can take more shots per game. Offensively, they will be rather limited, actually. Boozer is well past his prime days in Utah, Bryant too is past his prime, his health is no longer a guarantee as it once was, Lin is not a very efficient point guard, and at center, they are incredibly limited offensively. Jordan Hill cannot get his own shot unless he is right next to the hoop, and even then, it is not a pretty sight. Things will not go well for the Lakers this year, again. Don’t look for anything too exciting from the Lakers this year, but do expect to see a grumpy and defensive Kobe Bryant for much of the year as the Lakers languish around the bottom of the Western Conference again this season.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Jeremy Lin
  • Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
  • Small Forward: Wesley Johnson
  • Power Forward: Carlos Boozer
  • Center: Jordan Hill

Predicted Record: 26-56


 

The Sacramento Kings, not the Queens as Shaquille O’Neal so famously called them last decade, will beat the Lakers in the Pacific Division this season, although, they will finish fourth in the division, out of the playoffs, again. The Kings now have two Team USA Gold Medalists on their roster now, as both Boogie Cousins and Rudy Gay were on the roster for Team USA this summer as the team won the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Cousins remained emotionally in check for the entirety of the tournament, although, Jonas Valanciunas nearly found out why you should never mess with Boogie the hard way. Cousins wound up to punch Valanciunas for elbowing Cousins in the neck, but he didn’t strike Valanciunas. Moving on. The Kings will be a different team this year, they are bigger at the point guard position, Isaiah Thomas has moved on, but the Kings added Darren Collison, formerly of the Clippers, and Ramon Sessions, formerly of the Bucks. I look for Cousins to play much better this year, to be down on his technical fouls, and to challenge for, if not take, the title of the best center in the NBA.

Notable Additions:

  • Darren Collison, a very fast player, Collison will look to speed up the pace of the game from the point guard position. Collison is more of a true point guard than a scoring point guard, so look for him to get Boogie, Gay, and co.
  • Ramon Sessions, on good teams, Sessions has played well. A better player than people give him credit for, he is a capable scorer off the bench, and he is someone who will get his teammates better looks. Very good back-up point guard who could, if Collison gets injured, easily start for this team.
  • Nik Stauskus, a rookie from Michigan, Stauskus will provide the team with solid shooting from all points on the floor. Stauskus has a good all around game, but it will be interesting to see if he can find a spot in the rotation early in the season, or if he will have to wait to prove himself.

Notable Losses:

  • Isaiah Thomas, the teams do everything point guard last year chose to sign with the Phoenix Suns in the off-season, adding to their gaggle of guards in the back-court in Phoenix. The team will miss his scoring and his bailout plays, which occurred surprisingly often last season.

The Sacramento Kings will be in for another long season with little or nothing to show for it. How can the Kings prove everyone wrong and make the playoffs this season? A few things will need to happen:

Ben McLemore will need to play much better than he did last season. He will have to emerge as a go-to offensive threat for the Kings. He is very athletic, and in college, he had a very solid outside shot, but at times last season, McLemore looked lost, out of place, he’ll have to turn things around this season. Along with that, Rudy Gay will have to play as a less selfish, more efficient player. Gay takes a lot of shots, too many shots, in fact, and it showed. In Toronto last season, his shooting percentage was 38.8%, but in Sacramento, this was bumped up to 48.8%, a 10% bump, and if he can continue this and be the unselfish player that he was in the FIBA World Cup, things could be looking up. Lastly, Boogie Cousins needs to be able to remain level headed, and he has to dominate the glass on both ends of the floor. If he can average 28 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks, that will be a huge help to his team, he would be the main offensive weapon and the main line of defense, and he should be able to average those numbers in the current NBA which has become a smaller, more finesse league, he should be able to body his man and dominate.

If the Kings can do all of those things, and other teams under-perform, the Kings may be able to sneak their way into the playoffs, but I don’t see the stars aligning in Sacramento this season. Kings barely miss the playoffs.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Darren Collison
  • Shooting Guard: Ben McLemore
  • Small Forward: Rudy Gay
  • Power Forward: Jason Thompson
  • Center: Demarcus Cousins

Predicted Record: 38-44


 

The Phoenix Suns will finish third in the Pacific Division again, another solid year out of the Suns. This season will be an interesting one for the Suns. Were they a fluke last year, or was the team that was on the floor last year legitimate, a perennial contender? It will be interesting to see. With two sets of brothers on this team, both the Morris Twins and the two Dragic brothers, they are unique in that manner, despite the fact that having those sets do not guarantee them anything, it is something of an oddity for any professional sports roster. Resigning Eric Bledsoe, “Mini LeBron”, was big for the Suns who now have a slew of guards, having drafted Tyler Ennis from Syracuse and then Zoran Dragic, a guard/forward combo out of his native Slovenia. Jeff Hornacek will have the option to throw some very unique lineups on the floor this year, which I will discuss later on.

Notable Additions:

  • Isaiah Thomas, the former Sacramento Kings point guard will add to the depth that the Suns can enjoy this season. He is quick, small, and elusive; his handles allow him to create open space in which he can shoot or drive to the hoop, and when he drives, the defense crashes around his penetration, allowing for open opportunities for his teammates.
  • Zoran Dragic, not much is known about the younger Dragic bother, but if he is anything like the player his brother is, it is a good thing that the Suns signed him, for their sake, not allowing him to be wooed and courted by competitors in the NBA.
  • TJ Warren, the leading scorer from the ACC last season, TJ Warren should be able to find a comfortable home in Phoenix last year. One thing that can’t be overstated is the need to have a player who can put the ball in the basket, and Warren can do just that. He should be able to find a role for himself in the rotation this season.

Notable Losses:

  • Channing Frye, a stretch power forward/center combo, he signed with the Magic in the off-season, he takes with him an amount of floor spacing that is not easily replaceable, but due to the makeup of this team, as it currently is constituted, this loss should not be too huge, the speed at the guard position will more than make up for the loss of Frye.

This season will be interesting for the Suns if for no other reason than the lineups that Coach Hornacek will be able to throw on the floor. One possible lineup could be Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, and TJ Warren. The tallest player on the floor would be 6’8″, and that lineup would be fast, explosive, and hard to keep up with. The two teams in the league this season who will be able to have the most fun with their lineups, not named Cleveland, will be the Milwaukee Bucks and these Phoenix Suns. There is so much lineup flexibility in Phoenix, and it will be interesting to see what Hornacek will be able to do with this. The fact that they locked up Bledsoe for the next few years was a huge deal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Suns make some moves during the season, especially with the number of guards they have on the roster, I would not be shocked to see if someone is dangled on the trade market. The Suns should be a very fun team to watch, a very fast team, and it will be interesting to see how these players fit together.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Goran Dragic
  • Shooting Guard: Eric Bledsoe
  • Small Forward: P.J. Tucker
  • Power Forward: Markieff Morris
  • Center: Miles Plumlee

Predicted Record: 42-40


 

The Golden State Warriors will finish second in the Pacific Division this year, finishing just behind the Los Angeles Clippers. Under the leadership of first time coach, but five time champ Steve Kerr, the team will look to lengthen their run in the post-season this year, and just as it has been for the last couple of years, the season will be another fun one in Oakland for the Warriors fans. The Splash Brothers will be back in full force, and with the signing of Shaun Livingston, expect him to run the point during certain sets, and this will allow Steph Curry to move to the two guard spot, Thompson to the small forward, and this will open up more looks for both Curry and Thompson. This team could very well beat the Clippers in the division, could  very well win this division, but I do not see them winning this season with a brand new, rookie head coach. With that being said, expect for them to win a few games this year.

Notable Additions: 

  • Shaun Livingston, a long and lanky point guard, Livingston was the solution to the problems at point guard that the Brooklyn Nets experienced last season. With Deron Williams being injured and not fully healthy, Livingston ran the Brooklyn offense well last year, and he should continue to do the same thing in Oakland this year.
  • Leandro Barbosa, this Brazilian guard/forward combo is looking to bounce back from a few injury plagued seasons. He played well for Brazil in the FIBA World Cup, so it will be interesting to see if he can return to the player who used his speed to get open for shots and get to the hoop.

Notable Losses:

  • Jermaine O’Neal, the veteran center is no longer on the team, and while he was nearing the end of his career, he was still a big body that would get in the way and cause disruptions at the rim.
  • Steve Blake, the veteran point guard knocked down a few big shots for the Warriors last year, and despite the fact that he did that, his loss will not be a major one.

Things will be wild in the Pacific Division. There is no love lost between the Clippers and Warriors, there will likely be a few skirmishes during the contests between the two teams this season, just as there was last season. The Warriors will have absolutely no problem scoring this season, not that they have in the past, but Thompson has been lighting up the scoreboard in the preseason, shooting a ridiculous 56.3% from behind the arc, so look for the Warriors, who should have better offensive spacing, to knock down even more threes this season. Steph Curry will continue to improve as a player, his shooting will be impeccable, and this year, he will enter MVP discussion, although I feel that award will go to LeBron James. Steve Kerr will be a good coach this year, and I don’t think that he will have the same clashes with the front office that Mark Jackson did, and the season should be a good one for the Warriors.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: Steph Curry
  • Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson
  • Small Forward: Harrison Barnes
  • Power Forward: David Lee
  • Center: Andrew Bogut

Predicted Record: 55-27


 

The Los Angeles Clippers will win the Pacific Division again this season, their team is just too strong, just too deep. Year two with Doc Rivers will add some stability to the team’s offensive and defensive sets, so there will be less uncertainty as to what to do in certain situations, and this will just add to the cohesiveness that this team is looking to build. Blake Griffin has really worked on his jump shot this off-season, and the “hitch” that was present in his shot last season is no longer present, the actual shot itself is much more natural, more fluid than is has been in past seasons, and in the preseason, he has been using this very much with a good deal of success. Given the fact that he has an improved jumper, this will not allow defenses to play off of him as much as they have on defense in the past, which should allow for him to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. The core of the team remains intact, and this should be one of the more fun teams to watch in the NBA this season.

Notable Additions:

  • Chris Douglas-Roberts, a shooting guard, formerly of Charlotte, will add to the great depth that this team already. His athleticism will be beneficial in the second unit, and his skill at getting his floaters to fall will be a valuable asset for this team.
  • Spencer Hawes, a center, formerly of Cleveland, will fit in nicely on this roster. Able to step out and hit long range shots, particularly the three, Hawes will be able to spread the floor, especially when he is on the floor with either Griffin or Jordan, Hawes will pull an opposing big man out of the paint, and this will open up driving lanes for the guards and forwards.
  • Jordan Farmar, a back-up point guard, he will be a reserve who will come on to spell Chris Paul, and he will not be asked to play a large number of minutes barring any injuries to Paul.

Notable Losses:

  • Darren Collison, the team’s back-up point guard last season, he went to Sacramento to get more playing time. He was a good guard for the Clippers last season because his speed allowed them to push the ball up the court, opening up opportunities for players on the break.

This team is going to be fun to watch. Blake Griffin has improved upon his offensive game in the off-season, Chris Paul is still Chris Paul, one of the best offensive/defensive guards in the league; Paul plays both ends of the floor. He is not blindingly quick, but he is a very cerebral player, he thinks about what he is going to do, analyzes what the defense is giving him, and he takes advantage of that. The “Lob City” moniker may have slowly faded away, but the team still jumps out of the Staples Center on a nightly basis. It will be interesting to see if the rivalries formed with the Warriors and the Grizzlies will continue; I do believe that they will. The Clippers are a team that seem to be able to get under the skin of the other teams, I am not sure whether it is the flopping that Blake Griffin is accused of, the show-boating that they have been known to do with their flashy alley-oops, who knows what it is, but it seems to annoy the other teams. If you’re a Clippers fan, you are also aware that Steve Ballmer is the new owner of the Clippers, having bought the team from the Sterling Trust, so you will no longer have to deal with the shadow that Donald Sterling cast over the franchise. Ballmer is clearly excited to own the team, and maybe, just maybe, the Clippers will become the number one team in Los Angeles for the next decade or more; the Lakers look to be a long ways away from becoming the team they want to be. A new arena could be in the works for the Clippers as well, no longer being a tenant in the Staples Center. All of this is speculation, but one thing that is for sure is that it is an exciting time to be a Clippers fan.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Chris Paul
  • Shooting Guard: J.J. Redick
  • Small Forward: Matt Barnes
  • Power Forward: Blake Griffin
  • Center: DeAndre Jordan

Predicted Record: 59-23


 

Northwest Division:

The Utah Jazz are in for another long season in the Western Conference. The team, who is largely uninteresting, will struggle, again, to deal with the teams at the upper end of their division, let alone the Western Conference as a whole. The Jazz are full of players who could end up being very good players, but they just haven’t lived up to the potential that they have. Players like Rudy Gobert, their center, played well during the FIBA World Cup, but he just hasn’t been able to put together a full season of consistent play. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are two very good young players, but they need to put together more consistent seasons for this team to take a step up out of the basement of the division.

Notable Additions:

  • Dante Exum, a point guard from Australia, Exum will look to add depth to the back-court for the Jazz, with second year player Trey Burke, the Jazz are now young at the position. Look for Burke and Exum to play together in stretches, with Exum likely sliding over to the shooting guard position.
  • Steve Novak, a power forward who will roll off screens and shoot the open three when he gets a chance. He is a very good shooter, and teams can never have enough shooters on the roster.

Notable Losses: 

  • Richard Jefferson, a veteran small forward, is well past his prime playing days, but his experience is something that cannot be replaced easily.

The Jazz this season will need to get production from Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks this season, consistently, night to night, in order to have a chance. Their inside game should be decent with Gobert, Kanter, and Favors, but the consistency needs to be there more consistently, if you will. Given the opportunity, I think that Alec Burks could be poised for a career year, he would be my player to watch on the Jazz’ roster. I think that Exum will struggle to find his game, having mainly played against sub-par competition in Australia, the speed of the game may overwhelm him initially, and it will be interesting to see if he can be the player that the GM’s saw at the Nike Hoops summit in 2013.I think that the other teams in the division are just too good, too strong for the Jazz to overcome their inconsistencies, and they finish the season last in the division.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Trey Burke
  • Shooting Guard: Alec Burks
  • Small Forward: Gordon Hayward
  • Power Forward: Derrick Favors
  • Center: Enes Kanter

Predicted Record: 25-57


 

The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to have a fun season, albeit with a bad record. The Timberwolves had a notable off-season, trading away Kevin Love, but they acquired Andrew Wiggins, among other pieces, from the Cleveland Cavaliers. This team now has a very young core to build around, a core of Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, and Gorgui Dieng. Pair Wiggins with Ricky Rubio, and this team will be fun. I, however, do not think that this fun will translate into wins, not yet anyway. The team is just too inexperienced, too raw and untested at this point. Wiggins has the potential to be great, Bennett can only be better than he was last year, and the team as a whole, they will grow together as the season progresses. They’ll not make the playoffs, and they’ll finish fourth in the division, but it will be really fun to watch players like Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins, Glenn Robinson III, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Bennett, and Thaddeus Young grow together, gain confidence in each other, and learn how to play together. Things will be looking up for the Timberwolves over the coming seasons.

Notable Additions:

  • Andrew Wiggins, a guard/forward combo, Wiggins will add a great deal of athleticism on the perimeter for the Timberwolves. His defense will be ahead of his offense in the early portion of the season, he will be a very good defender on the wing, he will be able to jump out of the arena, and his fast break abilities will be elite.
  • Thaddeus Young, a young power forward who will be a good offensive piece for the Timberwolves. He was on the Sixers for the last few seasons, and he put up good numbers on bad teams, and he will be one of the pieces that will attempt to replace Kevin Love.
  • Mo Williams, a veteran point guard will look to stabilize this roster. Having been on teams with LeBron James in Cleveland, Mo Williams knows what it is like to win, and he will look to show the young Timberwolves how to win, what it takes to win, and he is still a good player, so there is always that too.

Notable Losses:

  • Kevin Love, the best power forward in the game right now, Love averaged 26 ppg and 12 rebounds a game last year, this will not be easy to replace. Love was the best player on the team for the past six seasons, but he has nothing to show for it because the team that was around him was never any good. They challenged for the playoffs with Love, but never had enough firepower to crack the top eight in the Western Conference.

The season will show a great deal of development in this Timberwolves team. The team that is on the floor at the beginning of the season will not be the same team that is playing in Minnesota at the end of the season, they’ll be so much better, so much more cohesive as a unit than they will be opening night. Wiggins will be a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, and he will likely be the main weapon on offense for this team. His shooting will struggle early, will be streaky, but as he continues to play more and more, gets more comfortable in the system, his performance will improve. As I said, he has the tools to be an elite perimeter defender, and he will have a size advantage over most shooting guard in the league as he is 6’8″. Zach Lavine will be another high-flying player for the Timberwolves. He is a very raw player, but he has all of the physical tools to become a good player, but it will all depend on if he can develop the necessary skills. Anthony Bennett has figured out his sleeping issues which attributed to his lack luster play last season, so he should resemble the player he was at UNLV rather than the one he was in Cleveland last season. Look for a much improved season from him this season.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Ricky Rubio
  • Shooting Guard: Andrew Wiggins
  • Small Forward: Corey Brewer
  • Power Forward: Thaddeus Young
  • Center: Nikola Pekovic

Predicted Record: 33-49


 

The Denver Nuggets will try to bounce back this season after a tough season last year which left them with a shell of the team that had expected to have. So many players were injured: Nate Robinson, Danilo Gallinari, and Javale McGee all had season ending injuries early on in the season, and this handcuffed what the team was able to do from the get go. I expect this team to be much better this season than they were last year. The team is fast, led by point guard Ty Lawson, I will expect them to push the pace of the game and to score in bunches this season. Last season was an aberration for the team, due to the plethora of injuries they sustained, so I think that this season will go much better for the Nuggets, a fringe playoff team in the West.

Notable Additions:

  • Arron Afflalo, a former Nugget, he spent last season in Orlando, but the Nuggets traded for the veteran shooting guard in the off-season, trading away French guard Evan Fournier. Afflalo will help take the burden off of Lawson to score, and this can only help Lawson be a more efficient player.
  • Alonzo Gee, a veteran small forward whose athleticism is his greatest asset. He will be a good player on the fast break and on defense, and his inside game, finishing at the rim, will be a benefit for this team as well.

Notable Losses:

The Nuggets did not suffer any notable free agency losses in the off season.

The season will be better for the Nuggets this year than the season was last year. Brian Shaw will be in his second year being the head coach of the Nuggets, and he will have a much healthier team this year. It is hard to implement the system that you want to run when you have an injured team. The Nuggets will have a much deeper team this season than they did last year, and look for Nate Robinson to provide a spark off the bench with immediate scoring. He will be the spark plug of the second unit, inserting him will add energy and a certain level of intensity to the lineup. Gallinari will be a good shooter for the team, spotting up behind the arc, waiting for the open looks which will no doubt come. Javale McGee is going to do some freakishly athletic things on both offense and defense, if he can stay healthy this season.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: Ty Lawson
  • Shooting Guard: Arron Afflalo
  • Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari
  • Power Forward: Kenneth Faried
  • Center: Timofey Mozgov

Predicted Record: 44-38


 

The Portland Trail Blazers enter the season with higher expectations than they did last year; last season they entered the season with little to no expectations, LaMarcus Aldridge was uncertain as to if he wanted to be in Portland any longer, Damian Lillard was coming off of a strong rookie season, looking to continue his development, but nobody thought that the Blazers would do anything. The Blazers were the surprise of the league last season, the healthiest team in the league last season, their starters played more games as a unit, the same five guys, than any other team in the league. This allowed the team to develop good chemistry, solid rotations, and this health allowed the team to play in these set rotations without having to force people to play in positions where they do not fit.

Notable Additions:

  • Chris Kaman, a center who will not play all that often, will come off the bench and just be a big body, a center who will get in the way, basically. Brings size and not much else.

Notable Losses:

  • Mo Williams, a veteran point guard, Williams brought experience to the team which helped in crunch time last season. His shooting from the outside will also be missed, but as a team, they have plenty of shooting on the wings.

This season will be a continuation of last season, obviously, but I do think that this season will not be as good, record wise, as last season, but the Blazers will continue to work on their team chemistry, and they’ll make the playoffs again this season. Damian Lillard will continue to get better, he’s still young; Aldridge will continue to be a nightmare matchup, stepping out, knocking down the mid-range jumper with consistency. The Western Conference will eat itself up, teams tearing each other up for the bulk of the season, and Portland has Oklahoma City to deal with in its division. Portland’s record will not be as good as a year ago, but they will still have a successful season, albeit one where they will struggle to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Damian Lillard
  • Shooting Guard: Wesley Matthews
  • Small Forward: Nicolas Batum
  • Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Center: Robin Lopez

Predicted Record: 48-34


 

The Oklahoma City Thunder will win the Northwest Division, again. Okay, moving on, right? Well, the Thunder will be without Kevin Durant for the first 6-8 weeks of the season, Russell Westbrook will be able to take all the shots he wishes, but I’ll get to that later on. Last season ended in disappointment for the Thunder, losing to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder have so much talent, at some point I would think that they’ll be placed under the microscope by the national media. They have the second best player in the league in Durant, the most athletic point guard in the league in Westbrook, and they have been to the NBA Finals one time in their careers, after the 2012-2013 season. The talent that has accumulated in Oklahoma City should be able to carry the Thunder through the Western Conference, leading them to the NBA Finals, but that has not happened, and I feel as though they should be able to find their way further in the post-season than they have lately.

Notable Additions:

  • Anthony Morrow, a shooting guard who can really stroke it from downtown, will look to benefit from the open looks that will accompany playing with Westbrook and Durant. Shot 44% from deep last season.

Notable Losses: 

  • Thabo Sefolosha, a wing defender who would be tasked with slowing down the team’s best offensive off-guard or small forward, his loss on the wing will be felt on the defensive end, but on offense, it will be beneficial to have him off the floor.
  • Derek Fisher, a veteran point guard who was able to spot up behind the three point line and knock down shots for the Thunder. He is now the coach of the New York Knicks, so the Thunder are losing his veteran leadership, but with Durant and Westbrook on the floor, having both had their fair share of battles, they should be fine without him.

The Thunder, as I stated, will be without Durant for the first 6-8 weeks of the season due to his broken foot. This will allow Westbrook to take control of the team on offense, the sets will flow through him, and his numbers will see a huge spike. He’ll be the main scoring option, the main facilitator for the team, and he will help to drive the defense for the team. Durant will come back and be who he has been, the deadliest off-the-dribble shooter in the league, the best scorer in the league, but it will take a few games or so for Durant to be able to find his place in the rotation, in the sets. The Thunder will have the best record in the Western Conference this season, they’ll run through the West this season, and they’ll have home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. They will finish with the second best record in the league, a few games behind the Cavaliers.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Shooting Guard: Jeremy Lamb
  • Small Forward: Kevin Durant (Currently Injured)
  • Power Forward: Serge Ibaka
  • Center: Steven Adams

Predicted Record: 61-21


 

Southwest Division:

The New Orleans Pelicans will finish last in the Southwest Division, but they are a team on the rise in the NBA. Led by All-Star Anthony Davis, the Pelicans will look to make playoffs for the first time since the team was known as the Hornets. The team has solid depth all over the roster, but it will be interesting to see if they can put all the pieces in place and perform well enough to make the playoffs, as many of the nation’s top analysts have predicted that they will. The Pelicans are the hot pick to make the playoffs, but I just feel as though the division has too much depth, and it will be too crowded in the Western Conference for the Pelicans to make it this season.

Notable Additions:

  • Omer Asik, a center from Houston, Asik will dominate the boards on the inside, allowing Davis to have more room to operate on the offensive and defensive ends. Asik is a very good center, and this will aid the Pelicans ability to get more rebounds and have more of an inside game this year.
  • John Salmons, a veteran small forward, Salmons will be able to be a player on offense who is able to score, and he will be able to assist mainly when there are no other scorers on the floor for the Pelicans.

Notable Losses:

  • Anthony Morrow, the shooting guard was a good shooter for the team last year, shooting 44% from downtown last season. There can never be too much shooting on an NBA roster.

The Pelicans are looking to break through. Anthony Davis is the next rising super star in the league, and he is determined to get his team to the playoffs. He had a great summer with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, leading the USA, along with Kyrie Irving, to the title in the first FIBA World Cup. His skill set is so rare, he was a guard up until the last two years of high school. His defensive abilities are also rare, being able to step out on the perimeter and guard the power forwards who like to step back and take jump shots, and also being able to block those shots when they are taken. The Pelicans will have a very good lineup this year, the team has the tools they need to make a run at the playoffs, but they’ll have to fight through their division in order to get to the playoffs, and that looks unlikely.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Jrue Holiday
  • Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon
  • Small Forward: Tyreke Evans
  • Power Forward: Anthony Davis
  • Center: Omer Asik

Predicted Record: 41-41


 

The Memphis Grizzlies will finish fourth in the division, but will make the playoffs. The Western Conference is so amazingly tight, especially the Southwest Division, which I think will be the best division in the NBA this season. Having pushed the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Grizzlies have added some pieces and are looking to make another push at the Western Conference Finals this season, but they have a slew of teams in their way.

Notable Additions:

  • Vince Carter, the veteran scorer has signed with Memphis. This will help give the team someone who can score, but more importantly, he will be able to give the team some shooting from the outside, something that they have been lacking for the last few seasons.

Notable Losses: 

  • Mike Miller, the veteran guard/forward combo played in all 82 games last season for the Grizzlies. He added some three point shooting that they needed, but he decided that he would take the chance to play with LeBron James again in Cleveland, this time, although he could have made more money elsewhere.
  • Jerryd Bayless, a guard who can come off the bench and score for the team, adds a spark to the team when he is inserted to the lineup.

The Grizzlies are a tough team. They play slow, they play good defense, and they bully the opponent. They slow the pace down and force the opponent to play at their pace, and this is how they have so much success. They play inside-out, feeding Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the paint, and then it is up to the big men to kick it out to Conley who will do what he feels is best. The Grizzlies are always a tough out, and this season should be no different. Watch for Jarnell Stokes to make an impact this season, a very good pick for the Grizzlies.

Predicted Starting Lineup: 

  • Point Guard: Mike Conley
  • Shooting Guard: Courtney Lee
  • Small Forward: Tayshaun Prince
  • Power Forward: Zach Randolph
  • Center: Marc Gasol

Predicted Record: 50-32


 

The Houston Rockets will finish third in the division this season, making the playoffs again this season, the second season for Dwight Howard in Houston. The team was crushed with their early exit in the playoffs last season, having been eliminated by the Trail Blazers on Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beating three point shot in game six last season. James Harden was a part of Team USA this summer, and he will be looking to improve upon his all-around game this season. A couple players from the team last year are no longer around, but it will be key to see that Dwight Howard can return to the form which he displayed in Orlando, but has been missing since.

Notable Additions:

  • Trevor Ariza, the veteran small forward is back in Houston. He will bring three point shooting and good, quality defense to the team this season. Ariza has won a title with the Lakers, and it will be useful to have a player of his skill and experience on the roster.
  • Jason Terry, the veteran shooting guard will look to continue his career here after what have been a couple of very bad seasons.

Notable Losses:

  • Chandler Parsons, the young small forward was blossoming into one of the up-and-coming young stars on this roster, but the team had decided to not match the deal that Dallas had offered Parsons.
  • Jeremy Lin, the now veteran point guard has failed to live up to the hype that was surrounding him in New York City when ‘Linsanity’ was at its highest point.

The Houston Rockets are in a tough division. They are in a tough conference, but they have two of the best players in the league. James Harden and Dwight Howard will have to propel this team through the season, Howard will have to dominate in the paint this season, dominate on the glass, and if he could be a better free throw shooter that wouldn’t hurt anything at all, but that is a bit of a pipe dream at this point in his career. Harden could go out and play some defense, but again, that is a bit of a pipe dream at this point. Harden and Howard will both be able to score, but the Rockets will need scoring from other positions as well. Patrick Beverly will need to continue to be a good defensive player, but he will need to score some as well. Donatas Motiejunas will have a much better year this season than last year, and he could look to be a good scorer from the power forward position. The Rockets are becoming familiar with the playoffs, and I have no reason to think that they won’t be able to make it back again this season.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Patrick Beverly
  • Shooting Guard: James Harden
  • Small Forward: Trevor Ariza
  • Power Forward: Terrence Jones
  • Center: Dwight Howard

Predicted Record: 52-30


 

The Dallas Mavericks have had a very strong off-season, and the team will parlay this into a higher seed in the playoffs than they had last season when they were the eighth seed. Dirk Nowitzki is nearing the end of his career, but he still wants to have the chance to win another title or two, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is doing all that he can to put the right pieces around the German in order to get them in the playoffs, and hopefully back to the NBA Finals again. They have started out well so far this year, I think that it will be a good year for the Mavs.

Notable Additions:

  • Chandler Parsons, the former Rockets forward will look to continue his career in Dallas. He was a very good player for the Rockets last year, a good shooter, Parsons will be a very nice complimentary player next to Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Tyson Chandler, the center who helped anchor their championship defense from a few seasons ago, Chandler returns to Dallas, via trade, and he will look to continue his winning streak in Dallas.
  • Jameer Nelson, the veteran point guard will take over the starting duties in Dallas, and he will fill the shoes left by Jose Calderon.

Notable Losses:

  • Vince Carter, the veteran guard/forward combo won them a playoff game this year. His presence will be missed on the team, but with the addition of the youthful Parsons, this will not be as big a loss as it would have been had Parsons not been signed.
  • Jose Calderon, the veteran point guard added perimeter shooting for this team last year, but he was traded to New York in the Tyson Chandler trade.

The Dallas Mavericks will not be the same team they were last year. With an interior presence, thanks to Chandler, the defense will be better for the Mavs this season, and this will allow them more opportunities on offense in better positions. Parsons will be a very good player next to Nowitzki, and his youth and athleticism will be a nice injection into the lineup. Monta Ellis will be a scorer as he always is, and the newly acquired point guard, Jameer Nelson, will be a more well-rounded player than they have had in the past. This team will have little problem on offense, and with the addition of Tyson Chandler, the defense will round into form as well. They’ll finish behind the Spurs in the division, but ahead of the Rockets this season.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Jameer Nelson
  • Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis
  • Small Forward: Chandler Parsons
  • Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki
  • Center: Tyson Chandler

Predicted Record: 53-29


 

The San Antonio Spurs, the defending champs, will win the Southwest Division again this season. The Spurs have been other-worldly since Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich got together. Having ousted the Miami Heat in five games in the NBA Finals, many are picking the Spurs to repeat, but at what point does age just become too much for these players, and they begin their fall down the Western Conference? Apparently not this season. Barring massive injuries to this team, the Spurs should be able to cruise through the regular season yet again, coming into the playoffs with a top four seed in the West.

Notable Additions:

  • Kyle Anderson, a Boris Diaw like player, Anderson fell to the Spurs at the end of the first round in the NBA draft, and they will look to use his skill set much as they use Diaw.

Notable Losses:

The Spurs did not suffer any notable free agency losses in the off season.

The San Antonio Spurs are a very unique organization. They do not operate as most franchise’ in the NBA do, they have a very good international scouting department, and that allows them to find talent outside the USA, and by doing so, this allows them to find players who will be able to fit the Spurs’ culture. They are not selfish, they find the open man. Players like James Harden would not be a good fit in the Spurs’ culture because Harden, at times, can be selfish, and the players for the Spurs are not. The San Antonio Spurs are the epitome of a Grade-A franchise in the NBA, and this is what allowed them to beat a team in the Finals last season when they were clearly the less talented team, but the Spurs played as a team better than the Heat did. Popovich is one of, if not the, best coaches in the league, and he knows how to get the most out of the players he has.

Predicted Starting Lineup:

  • Point Guard: Tony Parker
  • Shooting Guard: Danny Green
  • Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard
  • Power Forward: Tim Duncan
  • Center: Boris Diaw

Predicted Record: 57-25


 

Wrapping Up

Well, there you have it. My prediction for the season, team by team. How does that all end up shaking out? Well, here is a brief summary of how I think the standings will look at the end of the season.

 

Eastern Conference Final Standings:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (64-18)
  2. Toronto Raptors (50-32)
  3. Washington Wizards (49-33)
  4. Chicago Bulls (56-26)
  5. Charlotte Hornets (48-34)
  6. Miami Heat (46-36)
  7. New York Knicks (45-37)
  8. Brooklyn Nets (40-42)
  9. Atlanta Hawks (38-44)
  10. Detroit Pistons (37-45)
  11. Indiana Pacers (35-47)
  12. Boston Celtics (31-51)
  13. Milwaukee Bucks (24-58)
  14. Orlando Magic (21-61)
  15. Philadelphia 76ers (14-68)

Western Conference Final Standings:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (61-21)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers (59-23)
  3. San Antonio Spurs (57-25)
  4. Golden State Warriors (55-27)
  5. Dallas Mavericks (53-29)
  6. Houston Rockets (52-30)
  7. Memphis Grizzlies (50-32)
  8. Portland Trailblazers (48-34)
  9. Denver Nuggets (44-38)
  10. Phoenix Suns (42-40)
  11. New Orleans Pelicans (41-41)
  12. Sacramento Kings (38-44)
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves (33-49)
  14. Los Angeles Lakers (26-56)
  15. Utah Jazz (25-57)

This is going to be a great season, folks. Welcome back, NBA, nice to see you again.


Written by: Ben Winks

2014 MLB Playoff Preview

The 2014 MLB Regular Season is now behind us, what were the results?

AL EAST:

Derek Jeter’s final season for the Yankees ended without him seeing the postseason as the Yankees fail to make the playoffs; the Fighting Showalter’s, the Orioles, of Baltimore claimed the AL East.

AL CENTRAL:

The battle tested Detroit Tigers fought off a hard charge by the upstart Kansas City Royals to win the AL Central, and the Royals themselves fought off a late charge from the Cleveland Indians to claim the top AL Wildcard position.

AL WEST:

Mike Trout powered the potent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim offense throughout the season, leading his team to the AL West title and the top seed in the AL. The Oakland A’s finished second in the division despite having the best record in baseball for much of the season; the A’s finish as the second AL Wildcard team.

NL EAST:

The Washington Nationals claim the NL East this season; the team with names such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg got help from all sorts of players this year, such as Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche. The Nationals have the top seed in the NL playoffs.

NL CENTRAL:

The St. Louis Cardinals, led by ace Adam Wainright, won the NL Central this season, a race which found itself being run until the last day of the regular season, narrowly beating out the Pirates of Pittsburgh who won the first NL Wildcard position.

NL WEST:

Clayton Kershaw helped lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to the NL West title this season, posting a 21-3 record with a 1.77 ERA. The San Francisco Giants claim the second NL Wildcard position.

How will this play out?

WILDCARD MATCHUPS:

In the AL Wildcard match-up, the Oakland A’s travel to Kansas City to take on the Royals in the first win or go home showdown. Jon Lester is on the mound for the A’s, pitching against big game James Shields. The Royals will be at home, but I think that the pitching of Lester is just too much for the inexperienced Royals to overcome; A’s move on to face the Angels.

In the NL Wildcard game, the San Francisco Giants fly across the country to play the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Madison Bumgarner will take on former All-Star starter Edison Volquez. The Giants are a better team than the Pirates, and I feel behind the pitching of Bumgarner, the Giants will move on to face the Nationals in the NL Playoffs.

ALDS SERIES PREDICTIONS:

LAA vs. OAK:

These teams played each other 19 times during the regular season, the Angels won 10 of those games and the A’s won the other nine games, so this series is basically a coin flip. Based on the way that the A’s have been pitching down the stretch, I think that the Angels will pull this series out and will move on the the ALCS.

BAL vs. DET:

The Detroit Tigers were meant to play in the postseason. Their rotation is other-worldly, David Price, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Justin Verlander the projected lineup, it will be hard to have any success against this group in the playoffs, and I do not think that the Orioles season will continue; Detroit moves on to face the Angels in the ALCS.

NLDS SERIES PREDICTIONS:

WSH vs. SF:

The San Francisco Giants have a knack for making things interesting in October – not this year. Washington is the superior team, but I think that the Giants will have something to say, but come up short in the end. Washington moves on to play in the NLCS.

LAD vs. STL:

Despite Kershaw’s great season, he cannot pitch every night. The Dodgers come up against a Cardinals team who can hit and has a solid rotation. In a tough series, the Cardinals close out the Dodgers again this season; Cardinals move on to face the Nationals in the NLCS.

ALCS:

The Tigers and the Angels square off the the AL Pennant, but who wins? The Detroit pitching is so good, and the Angels can hit. I think that the Angels money spending finally pays off, and with the bats of Trout, Pujols, and co., they can get through the Detroit Tigers who lack a reliable bullpen. Angels move on to play in the 2014 MLB World Series.

NLCS:

The Nationals look to avenge previous playoff series losses to the Cardinals by taking their revenge this year, but it is not meant to be. Despite the lackluster regular season, the Cardinals hop on the shoulders of their starting rotation and follow them to the World Series, crushing the hopes of the Nationals yet again.

WORLD SERIES:

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim square off to see which way is better, to buy the title, or to build it. The Angels have under-performed for the past couple of years, and the Cardinals may have been suffering from a bit of a World Series hangover as they crawled out of the gates this year.

It’s a tightly contested series, both pitching staffs are solid, both teams can hit the ball, but the difference is the Cardinals desire to makeup for their failure against the Red Sox last season; the Cardinals are the 2014 MLB Champions, defeating the Angels in 6 games.

 

Ben Winks

Dazed and Abused: The NFL Nightmare

As of late, the NFL has gone from the Golden Goose of the American sports neighborhood to the troubled kid who just can’t seem to get their act together. With the recent flood of domestic violence issues, the gross mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation, and the child abuse, or alleged child abuse by Adrian Peterson on his four year old son, the NFL is getting an extraordinary amount of publicity, but not for the reasons they would like.

At a recent press conference, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell spoke about the Ray Rice situation, how the NFL will revamp their player conduct policy, their domestic violence training, etc., but what did Goodell really say during the press conference? Nothing. He said absolutely nothing during the 45 minutes that he was up at the podium. He was asked question after question, and he dodged question after question, failing to actually answer any of the questions posed to him. I found it amazing, as I watched the press conference, that a man of his stature with that amount of responsibility would speak for that long without saying anything.

What caused this to happen? The domestic violence issues of which I spoke, most notably the Ray Rice situation, a situation that, unfortunately for the NFL and the Rice’s, was caught on surveillance cameras in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino.

On February 15, 2014, Ray Rice and (then) Janay Palmer, were arrested at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino following what was initially described as a “minor physical altercation”, and Rice was released from jail on “simple assault” charges. Four days later, on February 19, 2014, video from the casino was released which showed Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator, sparking the beginning of the speculation as to what happened in the elevator. This story lay dormant for, what seemed to be, a long time, until July 24 when the NFL announced that Rice would be suspended for two games at the beginning of the 2014 season. The Ravens had addressed this in the interim, but the league itself remained quiet, and this did not sit well with the vast majority of the populace.

The outcries came from all corners of the country that the two game suspension given to Rice was a laughable suspension, a slap on the wrist. Browns WR Josh Gordon had already been suspended for a year, due to his violating the league’s drug policy, a year long suspension for smoking marijuana, and Ray Rice was suspended for two games despite the fact that he knocked a woman unconscious in an elevator. The numbers just didn’t make sense to most people, and this was also a major turning point where the public at large realized that Roger Goodell has been making up the disciplinary rules as he goes along, rules that were not collectively bargained like the drug policy.

Let’s delve into the Ray Rice situation and the gross mismanagement that was the NFL investigation. Ray Rice knocked his wife, then fiance, Janay Rice, unconscious in the elevator. Everyone knew what happened in that elevator, we just didn’t have the visual proof to see for ourselves that he actually did it, but everyone knew that was what happened. The NFL received the tape of what had happened inside the elevator in April, according to the Associated Press, and there was even a voice-mail acknowledging the receipt of the video. So, in April, the NFL had the video, they had every chance to see the video, and the Ravens, by the time the press conference with Ray and Janay Rice on May 23 occurred, had seen the video, they had seen what Rice had done to his wife.

Having seen the video, the Ravens still ran out both Ray and Janay Rice to talk about what had happened, in a vague way, and had Janay Rice apologize for her role in the incident! The Baltimore Ravens, by way of Steve Bisciotti, looked to be so inconsiderate, so cold, so deaf to the situation that you make the woman, a woman who was knocked unconscious by her husband, APOLOGIZE FOR HER INVOLVEMENT? ‘I’m so sorry that I was knocked unconscious in an elevator, I am so sorry that I put your precious little football team in a position to lose a running back who was averaging 3.1 yards a carry, who was washed up. I am sorry that I couldn’t hold onto consciousness as my brain was rammed against the side of my skull, that’s my bad, that’s on me.’

You’ve gotta be kidding me. I mean, honestly, really? That’s what the Ravens decided would be a good idea?

The NFL as a whole, the league office, isn’t out of trouble in this either; they’re lying to the public. You, me, everyone; Bill Simmons knows it, I know it. They’re lying through their teeth, using Roger Goodell as the human pinata, the media punching bag, to run out there and take the beating for the league as a whole. They’re lying to everyone.

They say that they didn’t see the tape, they didn’t know what was on it. The local law enforcement in Atlantic County say that they sent out a copy of the tape to the NFL. Two stories, diametrically opposed. Someone is lying here. Who has more to lose? Local law enforcement, or the NFL, a billion dollar business? Hmmm, let’s think about that long and hard.

During Bountygate, the NFL had access to all sorts of information, even information that was behind closed seals in court cases; they got so much information during their investigation for Bountygate that it left some private investigators stunned by how much access to information the NFL actually had. The NFL BURIED the Saints with their findings from Bountygate, and they want us to honestly believe that they were unable to get a copy of the video from inside the elevator. Do you honestly believe that the NFL was unable to procure a copy of the surveillance video? It would be incredibly naive to think that. Both the Ravens and the NFL had a copy of the tape. Rice’s defense attorney had a copy of the tape, saw it, told the Ravens how horrible it looked, and at that moment, the Ravens began to form their strategy how to keep Rice on the field and how to keep the video from going public. Rice filed for, and was granted, pre-trial intervention, and this, the Ravens thought, would keep the video from going public. As it turns out, this did not happen, mainly due to the fact that a TMZ employee made ONE phone call, received a copy of the tape, and went public with it. Funny, a TMZ employee made one phone call and received it, but the NFL, with all of its contacts and resources was ‘unable to get a copy’.

On September 8, 2014, the video went public. I personally watched it in the morning on SportsCenter, and I was stunned, not because of what had happened, but because of how it looked. I knew what had happened in the elevator, but seeing it was so jarring, so shocking; I was at a loss for words. Rice was released later that day, NOT because of what he had done and the Ravens opposition to his actions, but they released him because of the public relations nightmare that it would have been to keep him on the team! The Ravens were not reacting to an action of Rice – they knew what he had done, they had seen the video, they had heard him say what it was that he did to Janay Rice in the elevator – but they were reacting to the public’s reaction. Instead of getting out in front of the issue by releasing Rice the moment the Ravens saw the video, they waited for the public outcry to be so great, so overwhelming, that they just gave in to the pressure and released him. Poor leadership, poor management of the situation, and if it comes out that Roger Goodell and the Ravens lied about what they discovered in their investigations, Roger Goodell will be fired, and Bisciotti will be forced to sell his team.

Adrian Peterson book-ended the week of the Ray Rice video release by being in the news himself: he was being indicted on charges of negligent child abuse. Images of the four year old son he “disciplined” were leaked, they spread over the internet and social media, and it led the Vikings to immediately deactivate the All-Pro running back for their week two match-up with the New England Patriots. This now had the NFL at the center of two national discussions – domestic violence and what are appropriate means to discipline a child. This is definitely not where the NFL wanted to be, nevertheless, this is the situation they found themselves in. Peterson, if you have not had the chance to see the photographs, left open wounds and welts on the legs and ‘private’ areas of the little boy. He hit his son with a switch, a tree branch, and he said that he was disciplined that way as a child, so it would be fair to say that he did not think that there was anything wrong with that, but it is never okay to leave a four year old child with open wounds; that is not discipline, that is abuse.

Peterson has been placed on the Viking’s exempt list, a list which basically banishes Peterson from the team and prevents him from playing with the team as he sorts out his legal situation, despite the fact that he is still being paid. The tricky thing with the Peterson indictment is that it was in Texas, so I find it hard to believe that Peterson’s lawyer will look at the local court and say “Go ahead and go get your 12, let’s take this to court” and have the indictment of Peterson turn into a conviction. Peterson will likely not face any legal trouble for this situation, but I do believe that he is done playing for the season, and possibly done playing for the Vikings for good. The team will want to distance themselves from a man who many see as a child abuser.

To continue on with the theme of the NFL having a rough go of it in the eyes of the public, it was revealed last week that Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested this past off-season for aggravated assault in a domestic situation. This arrest stemmed from two incidents on back to back days involving his wife and his child. He was accused of aggravated assault that caused a fracture (toward the female victim, believed to be Dwyer’s 27 year old wife), and aggravated assault involving a minor – an 18 month old child Dwyer threw a shoe at. The main reason that this story broke was that Dwyer’s wife had been receiving text messages with pictures of knives in them along with suicidal messages from Dwyer, so she was attempting to get help for him.

The Greg Hardy case is possibly the most frightening of them all. I have supplied a link to the article from ESPN.com discussing the details of the testimony from the accuser. It is frightening. At one point during the testimony, the accuser states that “[Hardy] looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me…I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said just, `Do it. Kill me.`”

Hardy is also currently on the NFL’s ‘You’re banished’ list, with the Panthers following the Vikings and placing Hardy on their exempt list. Hardy sounds like a monster in the testimony, and that testimony does not list all of the details from the events that occurred. After he drug the woman across the floor by the hair, he threw her on a bed full of loaded weapons and told her that he was going to kill her. What kind of human being does something like that? A monster. That’s who.

The NFL is currently in the process of re-evaluating the player conduct policy, attempting to figure out a way to discipline players for their misconduct, and I’ll tell you what, it isn’t that hard. It really isn’t.

  1. You are convicted of domestic violence? You’re gone for a season. You’re convicted twice? You’re gone for life.
  2. Convicted of child abuse? You’re gone for a season. Twice? You’re gone for life.
  3. You get a DUI? You’re done for a year. Each time.
  4. Get arrested for having possession of an illegal substance? Yep, you get a year.
  5. Gun charge? Year.
  6. Attempted murder or rape? Lifetime ban.
  7. Sexual assault? Gone for good.

Players should be held to the same standards that we all are. It isn’t hard to live legally. Don’t do drugs, don’t drink and drive, don’t beat women or children, I mean, for Pete’s sake, what is going on? Everyone pitched a fit in Cleveland when Josh Gordon was suspended for a year due to his failed drug test, well, you know what? If he wasn’t one of the best wide receivers in the league, the entire city of Cleveland would not care about him. Gordon broke the player drug policy, which was collectively bargained as such by the NFL Players Association, so he has to face the penalties that accompany the rule breaking he committed..

The players in the NFL need to be held accountable. You break the law, there’s a penalty! Don’t act a fool and you won’t be suspended. You don’t hear anything about players such as Troy Polamalu or Philip Rivers getting into legal trouble, so it is possible to be a big name player in the league without being a hooligan. The players make their living doing what? Playing a game. When I was a kid, if I got in trouble, I was not allowed to play with my friends, I had to sit in time-out and think about what I had done (The last part of that sentence was written with a tinge of finger-wagging parent-speak). Players should not be allowed to play their game if they break the law and get themselves into trouble. It’s common sense. The law works, or at least it should, work the same for all of us, so if these players are guilty of the domestic violence and child abuse of which they are facing, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Jonathan Dwyer, and Greg Hardy, they should face stiff penalties and outstanding shame for their actions.

The NFL needs to begin to make an example out of some of these players if they want the legal issues to cease to be an overwhelming issue. Once stiff penalties begin to come down for these acts, maybe I’ll take the league seriously. The players must have been dazed, people in their lives are being abused, and we are all gathering round on Sunday to watch the gladitorial nature of the sport – we eat it up- but what we are failing to realize is that some of the players that we are cheering for, and maybe we aren’t failing to realize it, are monsters of the cruelest sort. Some of them are good, wholesome people, and then others are despicable human beings who deserve to answer for their crimes one hundred fold. It is never okay to beat a woman or a child, and it isn’t okay for the NFL to lie to you about what their investigation uncovered. The NFL is protecting their on-field product at the detriment to those who have been victims of violent crimes. Don’t be naive America, it’s time to hold these people accountable.

Ben Winks

College Football Week 4 in a nutshell

College Football is such a exciting event on Saturday afternoons and evenings. Friends and families get together to watch their favorite teams win with excitement, or lose with agony. Whats the best thing about Saturdays? You can always bank on upsets, and thrilling games every single Saturday. Of course, week four did not disappoint. We have learned some things, while there are still some head scratching going on as well after this past weekend. Lets get to the gist of things..

What did we learn from week 4?

  • Florida State can win with or without Winston:
    • It may not have been pretty by any means, but the Seminoles still got the job done. Sure, some people can say that Clemson “gave” that game away (they did), but Florida State still got a Win on that record. They now are 3-0 this season after winning the Nat. Championship last year. QB, Sean Maguire, played well for most of the game. He tossed 2 INT, which was nothing but inexperience, but the defense got the job done and gave the offense another shot in OT, and they did not disappoint. FSU ended up winning by 6 points, and they could have lost many of times throughout the game, but they never gave up, and the Seminoles are keeping their playoff hopes alive. Winston who?
  • Times COULD be changing in the SEC:
    • There really is not competition here. The SEC is still the most dominant conference in all of college football. They now have 8 teams ranked in the AP pool.. Thats right 8 teams. The next closest conference is the Pac-12 with 5 teams. Anyhow, back to the SEC, you may ask how times could be changing? Well, lets start off with Alabama. When you think of Bama what do you think of? Defense? Nick Saban? The face of the SEC? Well, right now Alabama’s offense has been there strength, not their defense. Now don’t get my wrong, Alabams defense is plenty good, but their offense is off to a fantastic start. Their new signal caller, Blake Sims, is averaging over 300 yards passing a game! While, their rushing attack is averaging over 250 yards a game. Alabamas offense has many weapons(Amari Cooper, Derrick Henrey, TJ Yeldon, etc) for Sims to throw to, and Lane Kiffin to coach. It may be time for people to start thinking of Alabama as an offensive show.
    • As good as Alabama has looked are they really the best team in the SEC anymore? Maybe, maybe not, but I can tell you that Alabama does have some company heading towards that top spot in the SEC. The next top ranked SEC team after Alabama would be Auburn. Now, Auburn just got done being the National Runner up last season, and they are currently undefeated, and ranked 5th in the nation. But, they just had their hands full at Kansas State. I know KSU is a pretty good team, but I’m not sure if Auburn is going to be the same team they were last year. Lets be honest, if it wasnt for 2 miracles then Auburn wouldn’t have even made it as far as they did last year. You can count on one thing, that wont happen again this year. Now, a team that could do big things this year? That would be the Georgia Bulldogs. Sure, they lost to South Carolina, but the Gamecocks are one of those really good teams too. But, I dont see Georgia losing another game all season, you heard it hear folks. They have a very favorable schedule from here on out, and their only ranked team they face is Auburn. Todd Gurley will make sure Georgia gets to that Conference Championship game as well as the playoffs. A couple other teams that need mentioned for the good is Texas A&m, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State. All three of those teams has the talent to compete with the best, but I think all 3 are another year away from really competing especially with that schedules they still play. Mississippi State just had a huge victory against rival LSU this past weekend. A name to remember is Dak Prescott, the signal call for Miss State, he is a true gamer.
  •  Times are dark in Ann Arbor
    •  Not only did Michigan get upset this week by Utah, but they ruined the Big Ten’s perfect week, by being the only Big Ten team to lose. Even Indiana went out of their way to upset 18th ranked Missouri this past weekend.. Yes, Indiana beat Missouri, but Michigan lost to Utah. Kind of a head scratcher don’t you think? Eh, not really. The seasons keep getting worse and worse in land of the Wolverines. When Brady Hoke first got hired he was suppose to be the savior at Michigan, and he sure didn’t disappoint his first season by going 10-2 and winning in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech, but then the downfall began. He then went 8-5, 7-6, and now has started 2-2 this season. In Michigans last 10 games they have a measly 3-7 record. When you coach at a prestige program like Michigan, the most winnigest program in college football, then you have to win football games plain and simple. Michigan fans don’t want 7 and 8 win seasons, they want conference championships. It all starts with the coaching not being able to develop the players. Brady Hoke has recruited mighty fine so far, but when you don’t get those 4 and 5 star recruits where they need to be then they wont produce how they should. Look for Brady Hoke to lose his job after this season IF he doesn’t win out and beat rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. For the forseeable future times only look worse and worse for Michigan.

The Four playoff teams after week 4

  • Florida State.. They are still the number ranked team in college football. As long as they continue to win their football games they will be there in the playoffs. FSU really don’t have that tough of a schedule left, the toughest team is Notre Dame at home. They very well could walk into the playoffs with flying colors. We’ll see, its still a very long and strange season.
  •  Oklahoma.. The Sooners are playing some good football this season. They just knocked off a solid West Virginia team this past weekend, and took it to Tennessee two weekends ago. This is the year the Sooners has all the tools to be a really good football team. They have a very good balanced attack on offense with QB Trevor Knight. Oklahoma also has a very good experienced Defense that is ranked in the top 15 in NCAA. Watch out for the Sooners.
  • Alabama.. I have to put Bama in the playoffs as of now.. I still think Georgia will take a spot over, but for now Alabama does deserve to be here. Alabama was very sloppy this past weekend by turning the ball over 4 times, but once they put the offense in gear and started playing Alabama football they looked great. As long as the offense continues to play well, Alabama will be just fine.
  • Oregon.. Ducks fans sure had a scare on Saturday night. Washington State almost gave Oregon their first loss of the season. It was a barn burner all the way to the end, and Marcus Mariota and the ducks prevailed. Its safe to say that Oregons defense better get it together before they play the tougher teams in the Pac-12..

 

Games to watch for week 5 
  •  #11 UCLA vs #15 Arizona State, Thursday night 10:00pm
    • This is a big showdown in the Pac-12 right away. The question everyone wants to know, is Brett Hundley playing on Thursday night? He is expected to play, but if he can’t play that will hurt the Bruins. Arizona State can put points up in a hurry. 
    • Prediction: UCLA 31 Arizona State 24
  •  #1 Florida State vs North Carolina State, Saturday 3:30pm
    • This game could get very interesting for a few reasons. Jameis Winston will most likely be playing this game, and it will be interesting how he responds from his one game suspension. It should be known that NCST is 4-0 this year, and could give the Seminoles a game.
    • Prediction: Florida State 42 NCST 24
  • #22 Ohio State vs Cincinnati, Saturday 6:00pm
    •   This is Ohio States first test since losing to Virginia Tech. I see UC giving Ohio State some problems in this game. Remember the name Gunner Kiel on Saturday. He is a transfer player from  Notre Dame, and he can sling the ball. UC is ranked 9th in the nation in passing yards a game with 353 yards. If the Ohio State O-Line can give JT Barrett time then OSU will win.
    • Prediction: Ohio State 41 UC 28
  •  Upset Alert: Missouri vs #13 South Carolina, Saturday 7:00pm
    • Missouri just got beat at home by Indiana, and they are not happy. Missouri is a good team, but they just had a bad week. I could see Maty Mauk really tearing into that young secondary of South Carolina. The Gamecocks allow 39 points a game, and I see Missouri putting up plenty of them.
    • Prediction: Missouri 45 South Carolina 42

 

Thanks for reading my first column! Leave me a comment, and let me know what you think.
-Trent Knoop (2PointStance) 

The Worth of [Saint] Nick Saban

Love him or hate him, Nick Saban is a sly guy. While coaching the Miami Dolphins in 2006, rumors began floating around that he may leave Miami for Tuscaloosa, Alabama; he ‘masterfully’ deflected the chatter. He said in late November of 2006: “When I was in college it was about coming to the pros. This is the challenge I wanted. I had a good college job. Why would I have left that if I was going to be interested in other college jobs? I took this as a challenge. We certainly haven’t seen this through and gotten where we want to go and finished the job here, so why would I be interested in something else?”

Later in December of 2006 he said the following when asked about the Alabama job again: “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach. I don’t control what [other] people say. I don’t control what people put on dot-com, (presumably ESPN.com), or anything else. So I’m just telling you there’s no significance, in my opinion, about this, about me, about any interest that I have in anything other than being the coach here [in Miami].”

He was gone 8 days later.

What’s the point? He’s been gone for seven and a half years, he’s led an immensely impressive program at Alabama since then, he’s been vindicated, for the most part, of his duplicitous actions. Why bring it up now? Well, just how much has it meant for the University of Alabama that he skipped town in Miami? How much has Nick Saban really been worth to the University of Alabama?

This is not merely a numerical, quantitative answer. Saban is the highest paid “state employee” in Alabama, making an average yearly salary of seven million dollars, this after his most recent contract restructuring. To the non-Alabama fan, mostly, Alabama is hated; by non-SEC fans, the conference is hated by the vast majority, and because Alabama is usually at the top of the totem pole, they field the most national ire of any of the top SEC schools. Throw in the fact that they have won 3 of the last 5 national titles, and the hate begins to grow exponentially, but in Tuscaloosa, Saban is known as Saint Nick.

Before Saban arrived, the program was stuck in a spell of mediocrity. From 2000 until Saban arrived after the 2006 season, the program went 46-38 (.5476) and managed to crack the top 10 in recruiting only once. The program was going nowhere fast, and it needed a jolt, needed some kind of spark that would breath new life into the once-proud program. Before Saban arrived, the recruiting trips used the same hokey and hackneyed sayings: “If you come to Alabama, you can join the ‘Tide, and you can wear the same uniforms the legends wore. Roll Tide.” This had clearly stopped working on the top recruits. Beginning with the recruiting class of 2002 and ending with the recruiting class of 2007, (the athletes were recruited prior to the 2007 season), a grand total of three five star recruits signed on to be a member of the Crimson Tide, with an additional 38 four star recruits. Average numbers for an average playing, storied program, fitting, perhaps of the on-field product, but not of the weight of the Alabama name.

After Saban arrived, the recruiting picked up exponentially. At its lowest point, in 2003, the Alabama class, as ranked by Rivals.com, was ranked #49 nationally, and in Saban’s first season of recruiting for the ‘Tide, he delivered the #1 recruiting class in the nation, and has continued to do so in all but one season. In the seven recruiting classes that Saban has been responsible for, the ‘Tide have pulled in 24 five star recruits, with an additional 107 four star recruits; amazing numbers for ANY program.

The average recruiting ranking from 2002-2007 was 23.667 nationally, and then with Saint Nick at the helm guiding the frigate Crimson Tide through the national recruiting waters, the national ranking on average has been 1.571. Saban averages a top two recruiting class YEARLY. That is not something to be taken lightly and surely enhances the on-field product that Alabama faithful have been enjoying over the last seven seasons.

Speaking of improving the on-field product, the difference is night-and-day from the time before and after Saban’s arrival. Before Saban arrived, as I said, the winning percentage, since 2000, was a meager .5476, and the record was 46-38. After Saban’s arrival, the winning percentage is .8314, with an overall record of 74-15. This includes three national title victories, each of them pulling in upwards of 20 million dollars of revenue for the University. With the increase in victories, the University is able to pull in more revenue from the bowl games, more national attention from places like ESPN, Fox Sports, etc., and this increased exposure only aids them in recruiting because what kid, coming out of high school or Junior College, doesn’t want to play for Nick Saban? What kid doesn’t want to win national titles? What kid, most importantly, doesn’t want a leg up on getting to the NFL? They all want, (at least), two of the three, so Alabama, as the numbers show, has greatly benefited from having Saban at the helm.

So, when posed the question “just how much is Nick Saban worth to Alabama?” a reasonable, objective college football fan can see through the numbers; Saban, while being paid $7 million a year, is still, in my opinion, underpaid when it comes to compensating him for the things that he has done for the University. He has elevated the program back to the heights that it enjoyed under Paul “Bear” Bryant, and the sheer night-and-day difference of the perception of the program is well worth the financial hit that comes with paying Saban. In terms of national exposure for the University, whether television, radio, social media, etc., on-field play/production, and financial revenue, which stood at $143.6 million last year, Saban has been worth an amount of money that cannot be accurately determined, but it is clear, Nick Saban is more important to Alabama than any other coach is to any other program, and this is coming from an Ohio State fan. Saint Nick got the ‘Tide, and is keeping the ‘Tide,his ‘Tide, rollin’.