Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

Steve Fisher has retired as San Diego State basketball coach and it certainly is the right time for his departure.

His final team wasn’t all that good — 19-14 to snap a streak of 11 straight 20-win campaigns — while playing in a Mountain West that was mediocre at best and now firmly entrenched as a one-bid league when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

Several times this season, I tossed out social media comments that it would be Fab Five Fish’s final season. It just had that feeling about it.

Longtime assistant coach Brian Dutcher — one of the most genuinely nice people in college basketball — takes over the program.

Fisher, 72, went 386-209 in 18 seasons with the Aztecs and posted 12 20-win seasons and led the program to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a string of six straight.

Making six straight NCAA Tournament appearances was surreal for a program which was among the worst in the nation when Fisher was hired.

Remember, I was covering that awful program when Fisher was hired and he was far from the preferred target.

I broke the story that then-Utah coach Rick Majerus interviewed for the job and Majerus was close to taking it a few days later before he said no. Fran Fraschilla also was offered the job (nope, I didn’t break that one) as was then-Gonzaga coach Dan Monson (yep, broke that one and was waiting at the airport for his Sunday night flight to arrive and when he didn’t come out of the jet way, I knew that was a problem for San Diego State).

At that point, then-athletic director Rick Bay turned to Fisher, who was desperate to get back into college coaching. He had been fired at Michigan a few years earlier and I still remember how stunned I was upon meeting him that he had gray hair in 1999, just a few years after having a full head of brown hair while coaching the Wolverines.

The Aztecs were putrid in his first season and went 5-23 and then Fisher booted five inherited players off the team to free up scholarships.

Two seasons later, led by junior-college transfer Randy Holcomb, the Aztecs made the NCAA Tournament. Credibility had arrived for a program that previously had none.

Eventually, the 20-win seasons became an annual thing but there was still the matter of the program having ZERO NCAA Tournament wins. And you really don’t have a program if you’ve never won an NCAA Tournament game.

Finally, the Kawhi Leonard-led Aztecs had the best season in program history in 2010-11 with a 34-3 mark — a season that will still be the best in school history in 2117 if the world exists.

San Diego State finally got that elusive NCAA tourney win by beating Northern Colorado and eventually lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion Connecticut. The Aztecs also topped 30 wins when they went 31-5 in 2013-14 and again reached the Sweet 16 before falling to Arizona.

If you haven’t figured it out, 30-win seasons aren’t supposed to be accomplishments achieved by the San Diego States of the college basketball landscape.

Last season’s final hurrah was not a good one for Fisher but he certainly elevated the program to heights nobody foresaw. Dutcher has been his right-hand man for all of those 18 seasons so the program philosophy won’t change.

The challenge for Dutcher is to have last season’s subpar campaign be an aberration. Once programs like San Diego State fall back into being just another mid-major program in a poor basketball league, it becomes harder to rise back up. Isn’t that right, UNLV?

But know this: Dutcher steps into a far better situation than the one Fisher inherited. The days where nobody cared that San Diego State even had a basketball program seems like centuries ago.

It was a good run for Steve Fisher but good for him to recognize that it was time for him to depart.

   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

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

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

The links tradition is on a roll now … unlike the San Diego Chargers.

Three fourth-quarter collapses have saddled the Chargers with a 1-3 record and coach Mike McCoy is two losses away from being fired.

McCoy won’t be dismissed if the Chargers lose to the Oakland Raiders this Sunday unless he punches Dean Spanos after the game.

But when the Chargers get smacked around by the Denver Broncos four days later on Thursday Night Football, you can expect McCoy to be informed the following morning that his services are no longer needed.

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt would certainly be named interim coach and the extra 72 hours would come in handy to help the staff in preparations for the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 24.

Sure hope there aren’t some Chargers’ fans bemoaning that the team isn’t 4-0. Good teams don’t blow three games in the final five minutes in three of the first four weeks.

The Chargers aren’t a good team so the meltdowns aren’t a total surprise — and gosh, how excited was Drew Brees to get to rally the New Orleans Saints from 13 points down for a 35-34 victory over the franchise that discarded him?

The Raiders are 3-1 and quarterback Derek Carr is on the verge of stardom.

OK, on to the link, the stellar preview of the Chargers-Raiders game is here — http://www.foxsports.com/san-diego/story/chargers-hope-to-solve-fourth-quarter-woes-vs-raiders-100616

 

“Mike lives in Boise, might want to handle” came the directive as if it rates as a special occasion to write about two Mountain West programs.

But audiblizing into the plan is an easy thing when you have a great boss. Plus, I knew there was an easy angle to this Boise State at New Mexico preview.

New Mexico was 30.5-point underdogs last season and beat Boise State on the famed blue turf in Boise. Let that sink in, 30.5-point underdogs. A team that heavily favored really has to suffer an extreme drop in its quality of play and its entire coaching staff has to be totally outworked and outsmarted by the opposing staff.

And that is what happened as New Mexico posted a 31-24 victory. Then the Lobos rubbed it in by posing for team pictures on the field with a New Mexico state flag.

Seriously, the Lobos pack a New Mexico state flag when they go on the road?

That is really kind of weird, isn’t it?

So don’t believe Boise State coach Bryan Harsin when he acts like his team isn’t out for revenge. What coaches say for public consumption is seldom the same as they say behind closed doors.

Here is the stellar preview — http://charlotteobserver.stats.com/cfb/preview.asp?g=201610070092

 

Jim Harbaugh sure comes off as a prima donna and/or an egomaniac these days, doesn’t he?

The funny thing is he was outstanding to deal with when he was an NFL player.

I dealt with him when he was on the San Diego Chargers and he was terrific to deal with at all times. One time, the team was doing offseason public caravans and he asked the staffers to bring him by my newspaper. Harbaugh was quite a hit with the circulation ladies, let’s just say that.

The bigger barometer on how good he was to deal with is this: The Chargers cut him (yep, Ryan Leaf era) and he fielded my call on his home phone in Coronado. Spent 15-plus minutes filling up my notebook.

Most NFL players go into hiding in such a situation.

I also can’t help but laugh about the time Harbaugh told me he was interested in the San Diego State football coaching job, a story that I broke. But you see, the Aztecs weren’t all that interested in him.

A couple members of the athletic department were still upset that Harbaugh had publicly intimated his University of San Diego team could beat San Diego State.

One of the assistant athletic directors even chided me for my article and insisted they wouldn’t hire him.

But San Diego State did interview Harbaugh as part of a poorly executed coaching search. The same assistant AD gave me a hard time after I broke the story that Dennis Erickson was interested, giving me the same “we’re not hiring him” lecture.

Oh yeah, the school did interview Erickson too.

Think of this — current Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was one of the two finalists. So a downtrodden San Diego State program could have hired either Fisher or Harbaugh and they still messed things up.

The Aztecs hired Chuck Long, who lasted three seasons and twice suffered home losses to lower-level Cal Poly.

A big miss for San Diego State. Of course, we also know what would have happened. Harbaugh would have won 18 games over his first two seasons and landed a better job.

That’s what guys who know how to win do.

And here’s the stellar Michigan-Rutgers preview — http://www.espn.com/ncf/preview/_/id/400869636

 

Here’s a little baseball for you to round out his edition of the links.

The Chicago Cubs had the best record in the majors this season but we all know their history — 108 years since they last won a World Series.

The San Francisco Giants have a different type of formula — they have won the World Series (2010, 2012, 2014) in every even-numbered season this decade.

Should be an interesting series and the Cubs already caught their biggest break. The Giants had to play in the National League wild-card contest and ace Madison Bumgarner was needed to pitch a four-hit shutout.

The means he will only pitch once in the series against the Cubs. Chicago went up against Bumgarner twice this season and lost both times.

All the pressure is on the Cubs and players like probable NL MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo need to play much, much better than they did in the 2015 postseason.

Anyway, here is the stellar Game 1 preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mlb/event/2016/410446/preview/

Remember all those years when I covered San Diego State football and the program couldn’t even make one of those lousy bowl games few people care about?

Remember how awful some of those teams were? Remember how they lost in the ridiculous Kibbie Dome to Idaho? Remember when they lost at home to Cal Poly? (and lost to the Mustangs again after I was no longer on the beat).

Hard to forget what a pitiful program the Aztecs were but guess what happened this week — something truly, truly remarkable.

I was writing the national preview about San Diego State playing a game as a ranked program for the first time since 1995.

You know, back when Bobby Ross was coach of the Chargers and Ken Caminiti of the Padres was in the process of juicing his way to stardom. Back when the basketball Aztecs were losing games under a former junior-college coach named Fred Trenkle (true, you can look it up).

The football Aztecs didn’t last long as a ranked program way back then as they lost to Wyoming and disappeared from the rankings for 21 long years.

They play South Alabama this Saturday and one word of caution: The Jaguars defeated the Aztecs 34-27 in overtime in San Diego last season.

One other notable thing is that senior running back Donnel Pumphrey is just 129 yards away from becoming the 21st player in college football history to reach 5,000 career yards.

That is kind of impressive, don’t you think?

Anyway, here is the link to the stellar preview — http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/no-19-aztecs-seek-revenge-against-south-alabama-092816

 

OK, on to some other links.

I knew Sports Illustrated had a website but I had no idea my previews land there. The big showdown between Wisconsin and Michigan ended up there. We’ll see if the Wolverines continue putting up points in bushels when they face the Badgers for the first time since 2010. Here is that preview — http://www.si.com/college-football/game/1621711

The college football landscape of today means Oklahoma is finished after starting off the season with a 1-2 record. The funny thing is that the Sooners finally open Big 12 play on Saturday against TCU. Tells you how little conference races matter these days if Oklahoma truly has nothing to play for. Upi.com kept my byline on the preview so we will link to them — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/09/29/TCU-vs-Oklahoma-Prediction-preview-pick-to-win-Big-12-football/9331475169451/

Interesting that at the bottom there is a prediction for that game. I didn’t make that prediction. I did make a prediction for another company with a different preview I wrote of that same game — and I picked Oklahoma to win. You can see that here — https://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/52455/preview/top25/

Here is one for the NFL fans. Russell Wilson vows to play when the Seattle Seahawks visit the New York Jets on Sunday. While the Seahawks worry about the health of their quarterback, the Jets must be wondering about the psyche of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The guy committed eight turnovers (six interceptions, two fumbles) last Sunday. That is really hard to do. Here is the stellar preview — http://www.krdo.com/sports/seahawks-should-have-wilson-for-game-against-jets/99756764

And one final link for the baseball people. The St. Louis Cardinals posted a controversial victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday and here is my preview for their Friday contest against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The wild-card race between the Cardinals and San Francisco Giants will be decided this weekend. Shelf life is short on baseball previews but here is a stellar one — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mlb/event/2016/399088/preview/

It is time to do that new tradition — the weekly links thing.

I had the preview assignment for the San Diego Chargers versus the Indianapolis Colts and I kind of think you Chargers’ fans might be in store for a happy Sunday.

No, you won’t see rookie Joey Bosa in uniform for the first time. His hamstring is too sore — that’s what happens when you put a couple million dollars in your back pocket.

Um, no, I don’t know this from first-hand experience.

But the winless Colts are pretty banged up. Quarterback Andrew Luck has an achy shoulder and I lost count trying to figure out many Indianapolis defensive backs were injured.

OK, I got the abacus out — the number is six.

Philip Rivers has always enjoyed success against the Colts and it won’t surprise me at all to see him walking off the field giddy once again with Indianapolis having allowed a league-worst 73 points.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.espn.com/nfl/preview?gameId=400874624

 

Did you know Alabama coach Nick Saban attended Kent State? It is a fact.

He is helping his alma mater’s finances by bringing them to town for Saturday’s whipping. The upcoming victory will also be Saban’s 200th as a college coach.

Also saw during the week that Saban was on campus the day of the infamous Kent State shootings in 1970. He and a buddy stopped to eat and that kept them from being in the area when the tragedy unfolded and four college kids lost their lives.

Here is that preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/52385/preview/top25/

 

Michigan’s all-purpose star Jabrill Peppers is now a Heisman Trophy candidate. How do I know?

Because I said so (or wrote so).

When someone with a national stage writes such a thing, it is out there forever and the legend begins to grow. He won’t win the trophy but he might be the best all-round player in the nation.

Here is the Michigan versus Penn State preview — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/2016/09/21/Michigan-vs-Penn-State-College-football-game-preview-predictions-score/9261474432584/

 

And how about those Padres? They have won seven of their past eight games against the San Francisco Giants and have even done the unthinkable — beaten Madison Bumgarner in each of last his two starts against them.

Bumgarner will try to beat those rookie-laden Padres and a victory would be the 100th of his career. Hard to believe he has already been around that long, isn’t it?

The 2014 World Series hero has been in a bad mood lately and it probably has to do with his sinking team. The Giants have lost eight of their past 12 games and are in danger of missing the postseason in an even-numbered year (they won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014).

Here is the stellar baseball preview for you — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mlb/event/2016/399122/preview/

I warned San Diego State on these pages back on Feb. 28 that it wouldn’t make the NCAA tournament if it didn’t claim the Mountain West’s automatic bid.

Apparently, the Aztecs didn’t get the message.

San Diego State lost to Fresno State in the conference tournament on Saturday and you can guess what happened on Selection Sunday.

Yep, that solid streak of six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances reached an end.

So the Aztecs will be playing in the NIT — stands for the Not Interesting Tournament — on Tuesday night against IPFW instead of being in Dayton for the First Four.

I really can’t find any fault with the selection committee for not choosing San Diego State. I’m stunned that some other teams got into the field – looking at you Syracuse, Michigan, Tulsa and especially you Vanderbilt – but not surprised that the Aztecs were passed over.

We all know the problems with the resume – start with only one Top 50 win and that oh-so-dreadful loss to San Diego – but the severe drop-off of the Mountain West finally caught up with the league. This is the first time since the conference’s inception that an outright winner of the regular-season crown didn’t make the NCAA field.

Those powerhouse days where Utah, New Mexico, BYU, UNLV assured the league was a Top 6 conference are long gone. San Diego State’s rise and those short stints of Wyoming and Air Force competing for the league crown only enhanced the Mountain West’s strength.

With so few of those 18 wins over Mountain West competition this season carrying any weight, there was no way to counter the sluggish early season issues San Diego State experienced.

And when the Aztecs blew that nine-point lead with 1:04 to play against Boise State two weeks ago, there was only one conclusion: The conference tournament was now must-win for San Diego State.

But they didn’t win it and so the reality is the Aztecs get included on the list of snubs.

South Carolina … Monmouth … St. Bonaventure … Saint Mary’s … Valparaiso … San Diego State.

I analyze those snubs and I don’t get how Vanderbilt (19-13) is part of the field. A win over Kentucky never did so much for a school.

Or Michigan with its 4-11 record against Top 50 teams. If you really get to play 15 teams of that caliber, you should be able to win more than 26.7 percent of those games if you are truly an NCAA tournament team. I would expect Utah State to go 4-11 – or maybe 5-10 – if it were presented with that many of those games.

All the pumping-up chatter heaped upon Syracuse was sickening last week. The argument was that the Orange shouldn’t be penalized for not having coach Jim Boeheim – suspended for cheating, by the way – at the beginning of the season. Well, Boeheim was there on the sidelines for each of Syracuse’s final six games and the squad went 1-5. Repeat: 1-5. And into the field they go.

And Tulsa. Probably shouldn’t pick on Tulsa because it is exactly the type of school that would normally be on the side of the shaft. Fans of the Golden Hurricane themselves were probably surprised they weren’t passed over. But sorry, never expected Tulsa to make it into the field.

Give me Monmouth over any of those four schools. Then we can debate and argue and pick hairs about the rest of the snubs.

Something tells me always-angry South Carolina coach Frank Martin must have gone ballistic to see Vanderbilt in the field and not his team. The Gamecocks beat the Commodores in their lone meeting.

Wait, lots of team beat the Commodores – 13 losses and somehow Vanderbilt goes dancin’.

I just don’t get it.

Anyway, San Diego State is a 2 seed in the NIT so that lets everyone know they weren’t close to making the field. The NIT traditionally takes the NCAA committee’s First Four Out and makes them the No. 1 seeds.

So that would make the Aztecs team No. 73 or 74 when it came to deciding on the 68-team field.

All San Diego State can do now is show up and play in the NIT. The last time the Aztecs failed to reach the NCAA tournament – in 2009 – they advanced to the NIT Final Four.

And getting to New York is the only way the Not Interesting Tournament becomes interesting.

Rick Pitino learns he’s headed to the Hall of Fame in the morning and wins the NCAA title at night.

Then he reveals afterward that he agreed to get a tattoo if Louisville won the national crown.

I’m guessing that tattoo won’t be of Karen Sypher, the now-jailed woman involved in the scandalous late-night 15-second sex session with a married Pitino at a restaurant in 2003. All the details of the salacious affair came out at an extortion trial, an embarrassing sordid tale that has continued to make Pitino an easy punchline.

Want to know my initial thought when the fireworks went off after Louisville’s 82-76 victory over Michigan when Pitino frantically ducked?

Mike Sullivan@MrSportsBlog

Pitino ducked pretty fast when he heard that explosion — kind of as his worst nightmare came true … Karen Sypher with a gun.

Pitino does happen to be one heck of a basketball coach and his Cardinals were stellar over the final stretch of the season, winning their final 16 games to earn the title in an exciting contest with the Wolverines.

The gruesome broken leg suffered by guard Kevin Ware in the Elite Eight made Louisville the preferred storyline and the Cardinals had to overcome a 12-point deficit in the championship game.

Luke Hancock scored 22 points and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, Peyton Siva had 18 points and Chane Behanan contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Michigan got a fine effort from National Player of the Year Trey Burke, who scored 24 points, and a stunning performance from backup Spike Albrecht, who scored 17 points. Albrecht had never scored more than seven in a college game before a strong showing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

The exciting pace of the game – there were even a couple dunks of the Florida Gulf Coast variety – and competitiveness made the final one of the best in recent years. And Pitino certainly outcoached Michigan counterpart John Beilein, who wasted countless seconds on multiple occasions late in the game by failing to have the right personnel in the contest when the Wolverines needed to foul.

The title victory capped a superb last 10 days for Pitino, who also recently found out he will have a horse – named Goldencents – in the Kentucky Derby.

Hall of Fame, national championship, first-ever tattoo, horse in Kentucky Derby, his 30-year-old son landing the Minnesota job … and oh, Pitino is the first coach to lead two different schools to a national title. He won with Kentucky in 1996.

Hey, that might be the thing Pitino smiles about most. The Kentucky (basketball) Derby was pretty one-sided this season, wasn’t it?

John Calipari’s Kentucky team didn’t even crack the 68-team NCAA field. Meanwhile, Pitino is walking off the court as a champion.

Hmmm … maybe that tattoo will be of a frowning Calipari.