Archive for the ‘college football’ Category

The world is a better place tonight because Alabama didn’t win the College Football Playoff’s national championship.

Yeah, imagine that. Alabama didn’t win.

That means Nick Saban lost.

Even better.

Clemson scored the winning touchdown with one second left when quarterback Deshaun Watson tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow to give the Tigers a 35-31 victory over the Crimson Tide.

Instead of “Roll Tide,” it is “Roll Tears” for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide never trailed in the contest until one second remained. At times, it felt like Clemson was destined to come up short.

Even the winning drive was a little shaky as the Tigers squandered time and almost had to settle for a tying field goal.

But Watson capped off a 420-yard, three-touchdown passing performance with his game-winning throw to give Clemson its first national title in 35 seasons.

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney couldn’t stop crying in the postgame interview and Watson kept thanking God and it just kept feeling surreal that someone other than the powerful Crimson Tide won the national title.

Alabama is loaded with talent but there was Saban’s defense crumbling in the final quarter. Clemson rolled up 21 fourth-quarter points as four different receivers finished with more than 90 yards receiving.

The Tigers ended up with 511 offensive yards against a defense that allowed an average of 244 through its first 14 games. The Crimson Tide totaled 376 yards and we learned that receiver ArDarius Stewart has a much better throwing arm than quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Hurts sure has the potential to be an NFL running back once his body matures and he spends more time in the weight room but he didn’t look much like a solid passer for the second consecutive playoff game.

Clemson avenged last season’s loss to Alabama in the title game and this contest will long be remembered.

Primarily because of Clemson’s impressive fourth-quarter dash.

And partly because of this — Nick Saban was on the losing end.

This was the first time one of Saban’s teams lost a national championship game in six attempts.

Roll Tears, indeed.

Time for Weekly Links and hopefully these hot stories heat things up.

You see, it is minus-7 degrees on this Friday night and feels even colder. When my phone said feels like minus-17 last night, I really wanted to throw it out in the cold so it could find out for itself.

Oh yeah, went out to start my car tonight so the engine wouldn’t die. Too late, it was already dead. #PolarBearWeather and I don’t really get along too well.

 

So off to the links and I drew the preview assignment for the College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Clemson.

I’ve been saying Alabama would go undefeated since early October so no reason to change now. Clemson has a ton of solid players and should make it a game — just as the Tigers did last season before losing 45-40 in the title game.

The Crimson Tide has NFL players everywhere. Lucky for Nick Saban, he doesn’t have to fit them under a salary game.

And Saban sent offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin packing after the semifinal win over Washington. Maybe we can change his name to Lame Kiffin.

Fits pretty well.

Here is the stellar preview of Monday’s national championship game — http://sun-sentinel.sportsdirectinc.com/football/ncaaf-preview.aspx?page=/data/NCAAF/matchups/g8_preview_2.html

 

My NFL preview for the week is the AFC wild-card game between the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Dolphins defeated the Steelers 30-15 in the regular season when running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted twice.

I say quarterback play will be the bigger factor in the rematch. Roethlisberger will be making his 18th postseason start – he has won two Super Bowls – while Miami journeyman Matt Moore will be making his first career playoff start.

Not saying Moore won’t step up but it also won’t surprise me if he puts together a disastrous Brock Osweiler-like performance either (translation: rotten).

The Dolphins were badly hoping Ryan Tannehill would be recovered from his knee injury to play in this game but he appears to be another week or two away.

Here is the stellar Dolphins-Steelers preview — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20170108023&home=23&vis=15&action=click&contentCollection=football&region=supplemental&module=sports-stats-module-nfl&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

 

I was asked recently what is the best assignment to draw and that answer was easy: College basketball remote writethrus.

They pay 2 1/2 to three times more than the previews. Heck, they pay better than most live assignments I’ve handled since living in Boise.

Not leaving the house to write about college basketball and getting paid better than covering a live college hoops game from courtside is pretty amazing. Who needs to deal with snow and sliding on icy roads? Not me.

So here is how it goes: I file first-half running copy with notes at halftime, I file a first lede about two minutes after the game concludes and I finish up with the write-thru with quotes about an hour later.

And I don’t even have to deal with the egos of any coach. Perfect.

 

So this week, I learned that Hall of Famer Rick Barry has a son who plays for Florida. (Yeah, I did the math too).

Oh sure, he shoots free throws underhanded just like his famous father.

Canyon Barry matched his season best of 20 points on Tuesday as the Gators knocked off Ole Miss to land my story angle.

Here is the stellar Ole Miss-Florida remote writethru — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=60&story_id=155582

 

In my other one, I really didn’t learn anything new. Already knew Gonzaga was really, really good. And the Zags beating up on San Francisco is a twice-yearly tradition.

But wow, Bulldogs junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss keeps getting better and better. He had been sick earlier in the week but he was making the Dons feel awful with his play as he established career highs of 36 points and 11 rebounds on Thursday.

Williams-Goss was a fine point guard at Washington for two seasons before departing. He sat out last season as a transfer and now looks like one of the top players at his position in the country.

His superb performance led to him landing the angle on my story.

Here is the stellar Gonzaga-San Francisco remote writethru — http://www.reuters.com/article/bkc-gonzaga-sanfrancisco-writethru-idUSMTZED16CBWTCJ

   I drew the preview assignments for the Orange and Peach bowls this week.

   That is certainly a step up from those Poinsettia, Potato and Cactus bowl previews I wrote earlier this month.

   You might not recognize why the Peach Bowl is important at first glance. Well, the College Football Playoff folks still are using bowl names for the national semifinals even though you typically only hear people talk about Alabama and Washington being a playoff game and seldom hear a mention of the Peach Bowl.

   Alabama coach Nick Saban is of the same mindset as me (that won’t happen often, trust me). He doesn’t see Saturday’s game as a bowl game either because, you know, it is really, really important to win the game.

   Most people can’t tell you who won most of last week’s bowl games. … Because most don’t matter.

   This game does matter so you have your big-game preview writer (hey, that’s me) handling one of the three most important college football games of the season.

   I see Alabama winning the contest and I don’t think I’ll be wrong about that (geez, Saban and I in agreement again).

   Here is the stellar preview of the national championship semifinal game between Alabama and Washington — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/12/29/Peach-Bowl-Preview-Nick-Saban-Alabama-eye-title-not-bowl-vs-Washington-Huskies/9671483039696/

 

   The Orange Bowl features a really good matchup between Michigan and Florida State.

   I realize Wolverines outside linebacker Jabrill Peppers is the best player on a college football field anytime he steps on one but the most fun player to watch Friday night will be Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook.

   There are three running backs projected to go in the first round of the NFL draft and Cook (who hasn’t announced a decision yet) is the only one of the three that didn’t skip his bowl game.

   LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey both opted to call it a career, apparently because they don’t want to HURT their draft stock. Kind of sad because most highly competitive players would see it as one more time to HELP their draft stock.

   Take it from somebody who covered a college football program for eight seasons, there are all kinds of players and coaches in the LSU and Stanford programs complaining to one another about their selfish teammates.

   Anyway, Cook is playing in the Orange Bowl and he might end up having the best NFL career of the trio. He didn’t win the Doak Walker Award as the best running back in the nation – he was a semifinalist – but if you look at overall skill, production and measurables, he’s got the look of a guy who can make a major impact as an NFL rookie.

   The Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are surely salivating at the thought of potentially having him in their backfields.

   Cook received the honor of being my Orange Bowl preview angle, here is the stellar preview — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/12/26/Orange-Bowl-Dalvin-Cook-Florida-State-square-off-against-Jabrill-Peppers-Michigan/5021482731996/

 

   All the veteran players on the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles know Sunday’s game is meaningless.

   I covered an NFL team for seven seasons and the final week of the season is a very long one when a team has nothing at stake. The focus isn’t the same and the players just can’t wait to make it through the game and start their offseasons.

   So it is kind of cute to see the young Dallas stars get all worked up that everybody is calling the game meaningless. It is being called that way for a reason — the Cowboys have clinched homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and the Eagles have already been eliminated from contention.

   Let me say this again … Cowboys and Eagles this Sunday is meaningless. MEANINGLESS. … One more time — the game is meaningless.

   But quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott beg to differ. Prescott is 23, Elliott is 21.

   Both these players are going to be solid NFL players for a long time. Sometime down the line … 2019 perhaps or maybe 2021 … the Cowboys will have nothing to play for and these guys will be signing a different tune.

   At that point, they will be saying the game is meaningless. And they will be right.

   Here is the stellar Cowboys-Eagles preview — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20170101021&home=21&vis=6

Next-to-last Weekly Links of the year … dang, where did 2016 go? Will be sad to see it end.

 

Anyway, we will start off with the Cactus Bowl preview. One of those easy angles, thank you Baylor.

The season started in scandal for the Bears, head-in-the-sand coach Art Briles got fired, Baylor won its first six games and then lost its final six regular-season games.

And in this era of mediocrity, 6-6 gets you in a bowl. The Bears play Boise State (10-2) in the Dec. 27 game in Phoenix.

As the lead sentence says … No college football program in America needs a fresh start more than Baylor.

So so true … and I must have done a good job on the preview because one of my co-workers said so.

Here is the stellar Cactus Bowl preview — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/12/22/2016-Cactus-Bowl-preview-Baylor-Bears-hope-for-positive-end-to-fouled-season-vs-Boise-State-Broncos/2921482434045/

 

The Poinsettia Bowl was Wednesday and Brigham Young defeated Wyoming 24-21 in a matchup of former conference rivals.

My preview angle began with BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, back in the starting role after Taysom Hill suffered an injury.

The thing I keep having trouble grasping is this: Mangum is a 22-year-old sophomore and I met him 5 1/2 years ago when he was a high school senior.

He was a pretty mature person back in the summer of 2011 and I remember saying “This kid is in high school and he is more mature than some of the San Diego State seniors I dealt with.”

If you do the math, Mangum should have been a fifth-year senior this season or already done with his college career. But he did the thing that BYU specializes in — the two-year Mormon church mission and a redshirt season.

Good way to have grown men play against college kids, huh?

Not an indictment against Mangum, just stating a fact.

Even weirder is the situation of Hill. He graduated high school before I even moved to Boise.

But there he was playing for BYU this season at age of 26.

Let this sink in … I’ve now been in this fine city for 7 1/2 years and Hill was already out of high school when I arrived.

Yeah, they do math weird in Provo, huh?

OK, here is the stellar Poinsettia Bowl preview — http://sports.yahoo.com/news/byu-wyoming-preview-050730982–nca

 

They played the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Thursday and the final score was 272-199.

OK, so it was really Idaho 61, Colorado State 50 but there might as well have been 471 points scored. When both teams score over 40, it really isn’t all that terrific of a time on the gridiron.

Suppose I should be thankful I didn’t have to cover that mess.

Actually, I am thankful. It was lower than 20 degrees out with snow everywhere. Not interested in the 50-minute round trip (or longer based on the roads).

Regardless, it was a big deal for Idaho. The Vandals are dropping down to the FCS level in 2018 and have been a horrendous program for most of the past two decades. So to roll up 61 points on a Mountain West team and win a bowl game is a big accomplishment.

Hmmm, maybe the Mountain West should invite Idaho into the conference before that the FCS thing starts up.

Yeah, here is the stellar Potato Bowl preview — http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/idaho-to-complete-unlikely-season-in-potato-bowl-121816

 

While working on the preview of the Indianapolis Colts-Oakland Raiders game, one thing kept coming to mind:

How the heck are the Colts going to miss the playoffs?

They have the most talent in the AFC South and have Andrew Luck at quarterback and there is a better chance of me starting at quarterback for the Houston Texans on Saturday than the Colts have of making the playoffs.

That is really, really sad.

Oh, not the me starting for the Texans’ part. Thinking back to the pickup ball days on Loukelton Circle, I’m an upgrade over Brock Osweiler.

But the Colts being on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season is lame.

Pretty sure coach Chuck Pagano will be sent packing after the season. Indianapolis might as well show general manager Ryan Grigson the door too.

Fact is, if you have all this talent and somehow trail both the Texans and Tennessee Titans in one of the NFL’s weaker divisions, you need to start over with new folks at the top.

Expect the Colts to be eliminated by the Raiders, who have ended a 14-year playoff drought behind star quarterback Derek Carr.

Here is the stellar Colts-Raiders preview — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161224013&home=13&vis=11

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey plays in the final game of his standout career on Saturday and he should be recognized as the all-time leading rusher in college football history when it ends.

But alas, that won’t be entirely true.

The NCAA is a weirdo organization and it doesn’t recognize bowl statistics if they are from before 2002. But eventually, the NCAA is going to come to its senses and count those games.

Even that group of people won’t be dumb forever, right?

So come Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl, Pumphrey (6,290) needs 108 rushing yards against a tough Houston Cougars’ defense to surpass Ron Dayne (6,397) as the all-time record holder. But he really needs to gain 836 yards if he wants to keep the record.

Count Dayne’s bowl games and the Wisconsin star — who played from 1996-99 — rushed for 7,125 yards.

Pumphrey may get the record Saturday to cap off a fantastic career but he will only be renting it.

Here is the stellar Las Vegas Bowl preview — http://www.albanyherald.com/sports/las-vegas-bowl-capsule/article_3e2232c7-43c3-5573-a907-b154c71c1d26.html

 

The San Diego Chargers are playing their next-to-last game in San Diego on Sunday as there won’t be a January reprieve this time around.

The team is off to Los Angeles, which means Dean Spanos gets to play second fiddle to Kroenke the Donkey (Rams owner Stan Kroenke) until the end of time. Or a shorter time span if Donald Trump learns where the bomb buttons are hidden.

Regardless, rubbing salt in the wounds of San Diego sports fans is this nugget: The Oakland Raiders can clinch a playoff spot by beating the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

Now that really hurts.

Oakland is on the verge of ending a 14-year playoff drought and has one of the top quarterbacks in the game in Derek Carr and one of the elite pass rushers in defensive end Khalil Mack. The Raiders can make some noise in the postseason too.

But Chargers’ fans don’t want to see this clinching, that’s for sure. There are already enough bad memories with the Raiders — Stabler to Banaszak to Casper rates as the worst and the 1980 AFC title game is right behind — and Oakland celebrating a playoff berth on the field once home to Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Junior Seau and LaDainian Tomlinson would be one final act of rubbing it in the faces of San Diegans.

The Chargers may be goners but San Diego’s intense hate of the Raiders will live on.

Here is the stellar Raiders-Chargers preview (back to the New York Times link!) — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161218024

A lot of people in the sports world predict which team will win a game.

Not too many try to predict the final score.

It’s not an easy thing to do, especially in a sport like basketball.

This is on my mind because one of those situations came up this week that truly impresses me.

Wait, are you allowed to say you were impressed over something that you yourself did? Is that what the modern folks mean by #humblebrag?

As if that word itself isn’t confusing.

So let me be humble and let me go brag — yeah, that makes sense — about my prediction of Tuesday’s NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves.

I saw this score “Spurs 105, Timberwolves 91” and I thought ‘That sounds kind of familiar.’

I went online and found my preview … scrolled to the bottom and there was my pick:

PREDICTION: Spurs 105, Timberwolves 92 (here’s proof at the bottom of the stellar previewhttp://www.reuters.com/article/bkn-spurs-timberwolves-preview-idUSMTZECC6RIRQ1U

Soooooo close — if Andrew Wiggins could have gone 2-of-3 from the line instead of a porous 1-of-3, I nail that score right on the head.

Just know that close call is way closer than most of the predictions. Could make a good laugh to keep track of all of them and check the scores because most of the time you will be far away from the actual score.

So when you are close, toot your horn … like I’m about to do over last season’s NCAA championship game.

Remember how that powerful North Carolina team was supposed to roll through the Final Four?

Well, I picked Villanova to win the national championship game … and I just missed nailing the final score.

Yes, I almost predicted the correct score for the most important college basketball game of the season.

PREDICTION: Villanova 77, North Carolina 73

Final score of the game: Villanova 77, North Carolina 74

Again, here is the proof at the bottom of the stellar NCAA title game preview — http://www.reuters.com/article/bkc-villanova-northcarolina-preview-idUSMTZEC443VZQAB

OK, done humblebragging (is that a word?). The point has been made. It doesn’t happen often but it feels good to almost hit the score of a basketball game.

I know, I know — now you will be expecting me to tell you the correct score of the 2017 NCAA title game.

Now that you are paying attention, I’ll probably miss by 30.

 

Let’s consider the Spurs-Timberwolves preview as part of the ever-popular Weekly Links.

Here is another one — San Diego State vs. Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl.

I see a lot of whining that Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey wasn’t a Heisman Trophy finalist. And then the failure to win the Doak Walker Award is somehow a sign of DISRESPECT.

Really? Pumphrey plays at San Diego State. Just the fact he was getting some Heisman talk was impressive. That he was one of THREE finalists for the Doak Walker Award (top running back) is a true sign of RESPECT.

Texas standout D’Onta Freeman won the Doak Walker Award and I see nothing wrong with that. He played fewer games than Pumphrey and had more yards. And did it against a tougher schedule.

End of conversation.

While we’re talking about Pumphrey, he has 6,290 career rushing yards and is 108 yards away from passing Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne as the all-time leading rusher in college football history. But the real truth is that Pumphrey needs to rush for 836 yards against the Cougars if he wants to keep the record.

The NCAA is a silly entity to begin with but one of the more ridiculous things is that bowl game stats count for the current players but not for the all-time greats from last century.

At some point, this nonsense will be fixed — most Big Ten schools already have added the past bowl game stats to their own record books. When it happens, Dayne’s total will grow from 6,397 to 7,125 and the record will once again be his.

Not Pumphrey’s fault but how awkward will it feel for him two or three years from now when the NCAA catches up to modern times and learns that updating statistics from the past isn’t all that hard.

They will be like, “Mr. Pumphrey, your record just disappeared like all those vinyl ones from the past.”

Here is the stellar bowl preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/64201/preview/top25/

 

Here is an NFL preview to finish off this edition of Weekly Links.

The Washington Redskins are 6-5-1 and might need to win each of their last four games to reach the playoffs.

So you think a four-game winning streak to end the season sounds preposterous?

That’s exactly what the Redskins did last season to qualify for the playoffs.

It also let us know for sure that Kirk Cousins was a bona fide NFL starting quarterback as he was on fire down the stretch of the season. Cousins is having a solid campaign this season but now gets the chance to step it up again.

Funny how football works.

The Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and how odd is it that Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson fancies a return to Philadelphia?

He was sent packing by former Eagles coach Chip Kelly three seasons ago. You may have noticed Kelly was booted from Philadelphia and now coaches in San Francisco.

It will be quite a statement if the Eagles take Jackson back … squarely putting the blame on the former control freak coach.

Here is the stellar Redskins-Eagles preview (not using New York Times this week for the link because I’m giving love to one of the entities that leaves my byline on — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/NFL/2016/12/08/Washington-Redskins-look-for-finishing-kick-similar-to-last-year-vs-Philadelphia-Eagles/1091481221332/

It was an abbreviated work week for me since Tooth No. 19 was called up to Tooth Heaven.

That added up to a lack of fun in my life and a diet consisting of yogurt, applesauce, pudding, mashed potatoes and chicken noodle soup.

Dang, I can’t wait to eat pizza again.

So it will be an abbreviated Weekly Links as well since I only had half a week to choose from this time.

It does make it easier that way with fewer articles to sort through. So we’re going with two conference championship games on the college football side and one also-ran NFL game from the professional ledger.

 

I’m still not sure why we must go through a College Football Playoff this year to determine the top college team in the nation.

The same team that was the best in September is the best at the beginning of December. And will be again when the season is over.

Alabama is the only truly good college football team this season. Actually, the Crimson Tide are great. And they didn’t miss a beat when they lost star safety Eddie Jackson with a broken leg.

The Crimson Tide meet Florida in Saturday’s SEC title game and there isn’t much of a chance that an upset will happen.

The Gators are without six defensive starters and using a backup quarterback. Heck, perhaps Alabama should play all their third-stringers to even things up.

Crimson Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen (seven sacks, two fumble return touchdowns) is the top defensive player in the nation and he and his teammates don’t look capable of losing at all this season.

But first, they look to win the SEC title.

Here is the stellar Alabama-Florida preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/67487/preview/top25/

 

I keep hearing it said that Ohio State and Michigan are the top two teams in the Big Ten.

But when asked to write the national preview for the Big Ten championship game, I didn’t need to visit either team’s websites.

So maybe Ohio State and Michigan are the third and fourth best teams, huh?

Kind of complicates things that Wisconsin and Penn State are playing for the Big Ten title when it comes to the CFP selection committee. We are looking at the possibility of a Big Ten team that didn’t play in the conference title game making the national playoffs?

Nothing makes it more clear how worthless your conference championship game is than that fact.

Penn State won the division that Ohio State is in and if it wins the conference title game, perhaps the Nittany Lions are the Big Ten team that should be part of the CFP.

The problem, though, is that Ohio State is currently the No. 2 seed. So for Penn State to get in, either Clemson or Washington gets bumped out. Sorry, that isn’t how this whole deal is supposed to work.

But know this: If two Big Ten teams make it this season, we will quickly move closer to the eight-team playoff.

Anyway, here is the stellar Wisconsin-Penn State preview (note: that isn’t my prediction at the bottom but going with this entity’s copy because they didn’t strip off my byline) — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/12/02/Penn-State-vs-Wisconsin-prediction-preview-2016-Big-Ten-football-championship/3371480706731/

 

I didn’t write about any NFL teams headed toward a championship game this week.

The Philadelphia Eagles still have a chance to make the playoffs but does anybody really think that is happening with six losses in eight games after a strong 3-0 start?

And the Cincinnati Bengals? Not mathematically eliminated but even quarterback Andy Dalton is already trying to figure out what went wrong with five games still to go.

The Bengals made the playoffs in each of the past five seasons before this year’s miserable campaign.

The Eagles are revamping under first-year coach Doug Pederson and his tune has changed from talking about the playoffs to talking about the process.

Coaches who talk about the process typically aren’t doing much winning in the present.

That’s a fact.

Here is the stellar Eagles-Bengals preview (in the New York Times again!) — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161204004&home=4&vis=21&action=click&contentCollection=football&region=supplemental&module=sports-stats-module-nfl&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

This week marked the second time this season that I handled the national preview for a ranked San Diego State football team.

Repeat — the Aztecs are ranked. Again.

The only thing that would be more surreal would be seeing a guy with no political experience become president.

Oh yeah … that Trump guy was considered to have more integrity than the slimy Hillary woman, huh?

Anyway, I was looking forward to writing the preview of the San Diego State-Wyoming game so I could write about Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey.

He now ranks fourth in NCAA history in career rushing yardage and he will soon become the all-time record-holder unless he suffers a major injury.

But I had to go in another direction because San Diego State still ranks poorly in understanding the media and how sportswriters do their jobs.

You would think it would be a no-brainer to have the running back who just went over 6,000 career rushing yards attend your weekly press conference. Especially since the school still carries this notion that he is a bona fide Heisman Trophy winner and there are only a few weeks left before that prestigious ceremony.

There are also quotes from last Saturday’s victory at Nevada on the school website. None from Pumphrey on the night that he became just the fifth player to go over the 6,000-yard mark. Beyond dumb if you want some national pub for your guy’s remarkable achievement.

With the Aztecs back in the national rankings, a savvy intelligent media relations department would make sure their main guy was in circulation. Just imagine the national preview angle pumping up Pumphrey on all the major sports websites in this country.

Repeat, Pumphrey featured on ALL the major sports websites.

Instead, San Diego State dropped the ball … so the replacement angle of the preview tells another fact:

The Aztecs got walloped the first time they were ranked this season.

Here is the stellar San Diego-Wyoming preview — http://www.foxsports.com/san-diego/story/wyoming-faces-tough-matchup-with-no-24-san-diego-state-111616

 

Alabama is on its way to winning another national championship. I personally don’t even think we need a playoff to determine this year’s winner.

Even with star safety Eddie Jackson gone for the season, this team is loaded. Heck, Nick Saban could direct his kicker to play quarterback instead of true freshman star Jalen Hurts and probably would still win the title.

But here we are in Game No. 11 and Alabama is once again playing a lower-level opponent that it could crush 150-0 if it so wanted.

No offense to Chattanooga, but perhaps the Mocs can see if Alabama will just send them the check and not insist on them showing up.

Now that we are in the College Football Playoff era, perhaps the SEC can add another conference game and stop this type of silliness.

There is no reason for this game to be played … well, except to add dollars to my paycheck.

Here is the stellar Chattanooga-Alabama preview — https://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/52858/preview/top25/

 

Carson Wentz has been an immediate hit as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and his strong play has prompted comparisons to a guy who care out of nowhere as a rookie in 2012.

A guy named Russell Wilson.

Wilson has guided the Seattle Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances since bursting on the scene and he will be on the same field as Wentz this Sunday.

Wilson is impressed with Wentz … Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is impressed with Wentz … heck, nearly everybody is impressed with the guy who went No. 2 overall despite playing at FCS power North Dakota State (you know, the program that beats major-college programs every season).

It is one of the few times I will be glad to turn on the television and see the Seahawks play.

And here is something I learned while searching for this preview: My work runs on the NBC Sports website.

And something else I learned: NBC Sports has a website.

Here is the stellar Eagles-Seahawks preview — http://scores.nbcsports.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161120026&home=26&vis=21

 

Here is something truly remarkable — the Los Angeles Lakers have won seven games entering their Nov. 18 contest against the San Antonio Spurs.

Last season, the Lakers didn’t notch win No. 7 until their 34th game. That win came on Jan. 1.

But Los Angeles is a solid 7-5 under first-year coach Luke Walton and the players are thriving in Walton’s fast-paced system.

Young point guard D’Angelo Russell and young power forward Julius Randle are emerging stars after stagnating under former coach Byron Scott, who never connected with the younger players on the squad.

The Lakers have a couple pillars for their foundation and Walton looks to be a natural as coach. It is still hard to see Los Angeles contending for a playoff spot this season but the future is brighter and the franchise is no longer going to be a laughingstock.

Compiling the worst record in franchise history at 17-65 last season was embarrassing. Walton might double that win total in his first season.

Here is the stellar Spurs-Lakers preview — http://www.kion546.com/sports/preview-spurs-at-lakers/166837913

Melvin Gordon wasn’t very impressive as a rookie so naturally a lot of people wondered whether he was on his way to being a bust.

Pretty sure that topic has been squashed by the performance of the San Diego Chargers running back this season.

Gordon has already passed last season’s total for rushing yards (646) and ranks third in the NFL with 768 yards entering Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Even more eye-opening is that he leads the NFL in touchdowns with 11 (nine rushing, two receiving).

Do you remember all those touchdowns Gordon scored last season? Can you recall even one?

You certainly can’t because Gordon didn’t score a single one. It was like Donald Trump built a wall and nobody with the last name of Gordon was able to gain access to the end zone.

And he kept fumbling the ball to make matters worse.

But coach Mike McCoy has gone from being a doubter to a full-fledged supporter of Gordon, who announced his budding star status with 196 rushing yards against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

That output ranks ninth in Chargers’ history. The great LaDainian Tomlinson holds the single-game record of 243.

Speaking of 200-yard rushing performances, Miami has an emerging star as well in Jay Ajayi, also in his second season. Ajayi has a college-like 529 rushing yards over the past three games, including becoming just the fourth player in the NFL history to rush for 200 yards in back-to-back games.

Sure made an easy preview angle for me, I can say that. Here is the stellar Dolphins-Chargers preview (and let’s say that I had no idea my work was running in the New York Times. Wow.) — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161113024

 

 Feels weird to type this but the Los Angeles Clippers have been the most impressive team in the NBA over the first two-plus weeks of the season.

The Clippers (7-1) were hard-pressed to win seven games in two-plus months during most of their San Diego tenure.

But coach Doc Rivers has them playing superb defense and that is translating to victories heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers are allowing just 88.3 points per game and everybody is buying in. Chris Paul is healthy and playing solid defense. Blake Griffin is healthy and enjoying playing defense. And DeAndre Jordan, of course, is playing superb defense.

Way too early to predict whether or not the Clippers are finally going to hurdle their playoff hiccups but know this: They routed the San Antonio Spurs by 24 points in San Antonio last Saturday. You might recall the Spurs went 40-1 at home this season.

The Clippers try to avenge their lone loss of the season when they visit Oklahoma City. Here is the stellar Clippers-Thunder preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/nba/event/2016/944815/preview/

 

Michigan has a promising quarterback in sophomore Wilton Speight and it is time to share an interesting story that I have heard a few times this season.

In the spring of 2015, shortly after Jim Harbaugh took over as coach, HBO was filming a special and Harbaugh brutally ripped one of the quarterbacks.

Oh, they blocked out the kid’s face and number but that didn’t help too much in this case. You see, Speight is 6-foot-6.

Michigan only had one tall quarterback like that.

The worst line from Harbaugh was this: “If you want to look at me with that look, go (expletive) somewhere else.”

Speight thought really hard about doing that all summer long. He eventually decided against transferring.

Now fast forward to 2016 and Speight is playing tremendous football for a 9-0 squad ranked third in the nation.

Sometimes the best move a kid can make is to, well, not make a move. He stayed put and it worked out well.

You can find more detail in the stellar Michigan-Iowa preview — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/11/09/Michigan-vs-Iowa-College-football-game-preview/2041478697219/

  

Somehow it is already college basketball season and the campaign commences on Friday night.

One of the numerous tip-offs involves No. 13 Gonzaga, a program that lost stars Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis from a 28-8 team.

But no worries, the transfer wagon paid Spokane, Wash., a visit and dropped off three pretty good players. So instead of a transition season in which the Bulldogs would roll through their weak conference but stumble against more powerful foes, Gonzaga is in terrific shape.

Former Washington standout Nigel Williams-Goss is the new point guard, former California 3-pointer bomber Jordan Mathews will be the new shooting guard and former Missouri power forward Johnathan Williams will be a fierce inside threat.

I remember being surprised Williams-Goss was leaving Washington. He was one of the top players in Pac-12 as a sophomore. Point guards on overmatched opponents such as Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland are probably already worried about guarding him.

Then the Zags have 7-foot-2 center Przemek Karnowski back. His career was supposed to be over last season but a back injury that required surgery limited him to just five games and he received a medical redshirt season.

Those four players combine with sophomore guard Josh Perkins to give Gonzaga a pretty solid lineup. The Zags won’t be taking a step back this season. Mark Few will once again have a good team.

Here is the stellar Utah Valley-Gonzaga preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaab/event/2016/946360/preview/top25/

It is not very often that I would watch an NBA regular season game without being paid. Thursday night is that rare exception.

Kevin Durant is going up against his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates for the first time as a member of the Golden State Warriors and tension is everywhere.

These two teams met in the Western Conference finals last season and the Thunder held a 3-1 series lead before the Warriors roared back to win the series

Then Durant left Oklahoma City on July 4 … for the Warriors.

Westbrook has made it very clear that he was unhappy with Durant’s decision to leave as a free agent and his ultracompetitive juices will certainly be churning overtime.

Heck, he showed up to the arena wearing a photographer’s bib. One of Durant’s passionate hobbies is photography.

Yeah, it’s on. At least in Russell Westbrook’s eyes.

Here is the stellar preview of the Thunder-Warriors game — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/nba/event/2016/944758/preview/

 

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman let NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have it again on Thursday, saying the commissioner is at fault for the huge drop in television ratings this season.

Sherman said the commish has stripped the fun out of the NFL and doesn’t allow the players to be entertainers like other leagues.

“Because the league isn’t fun anymore,” Sherman told reporters. “Every other league, you see the players have a good time. It’s a game. This isn’t politics. This isn’t justice. This is entertainment. And they’re no longer allowing the players to entertain.

“They’re no longer allowing the players to show any kind of personality, any kind of uniqueness, any individuality. Because they want to control the product. They want to control the messaging, etc., etc.”

Entering Week 9, Monday Night Football ratings are down 20 percent from last season, according to Nielsen data. The Sunday Night Football package is down 18.5 percent and Thursday games are down 21.8 percent.

Another thing that is down is the performance of the Seattle offense. The Seahawks have scored one offensive touchdown in their last nine quarters and quarterback Russell Wilson hasn’t accounted for a single touchdown over the past three games.

Maybe Sherman needs to remind his offensive teammates that the game is supposed to be fun.

Here is the stellar preview of Monday’s Buffalo Bills-Seattle Seahawks game — http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/seahawks-look-to-get-offense-on-track-against-bills-110316

 

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi has a chance to make history this Sunday when his team plays the New York Jets.

Ajayi is one of only four players – O.J. Simpson (twice), Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams are the others – to rush for 200 or more yards in back-to-back games.

And nobody has ever done it in three straight games.

Ajayi is certainly an unlikely candidate to be the first. He was a healthy inactive for Miami’s opening game of the season. Now the second-year pro from Boise State is making it clear he plans to be carrying the load for the Dolphins for a while.

Another thing that will make Ajayi’s bid at history tougher is the fact the Jets lead the NFL in rushing defense (74.0 yards per game).

Here is the stellar preview of the Jets-Dolphins game — http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/jets-defense-out-to-slow-dolphins-ajayi-110216

 

Sometimes it seems that every college football coach has spent the time on the staff with early every other college football in the land. It is a profession where long hours are spent together, making it easy to form deep bonds (or sheer hatred).

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will see one of his close pals this Saturday when the Wolverines host Maryland.

DJ Durkin is the first-year coach of the Terrapins and he is making the team better than forecasters predicted. That’s not a big surprise if you listen to people talk about his pedigree and coaching potential.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s part of the Harbaugh coaching tree.

Durkin spent three years on Harbaugh’s Stanford staff from 2007-09 and then he was Michigan’s defensive coordinator last season.

The intense Harbaugh doesn’t usually play nice on game day but the postgame embrace will be one that he enjoys.

Here is the Maryland-Michigan preview —http://www.detroitnews.net/index.php/sid/249048671