Friday, August 31, 2012

Sooner Than Later

For each year of the Obama Administration, twenty-three year old Landry Jones has been under center calling plays for the Oklahoma Sooners. Amassing over 12,000 yards passing, 93-touchdowns, and 29-wins, Landry Jones is on the precipice of becoming the winningest quarterback in Sooner history. However, can Landry Jones be a serious contender for this years Heisman Trophy, and lead the pre-season fourth ranked Sooners, to a run at the National Championship?

In short, yes.

Jones is flying under the radar with all of the pre-season hype surrounding So. Cal quarterback Matt Barkley and Mountaineer signal caller Geno Smith. Despite Jones averaging fewer interceptions per attempt than Barkley, (39.70 vs. 35.60), Heisman hype has still swayed to the more popular Trojan. Two-years older and two-inches taller than Barkley, Jones has the opportunity to become the third Sooner to bring the Heisman back to Oklahoma since 2003, following 2008 trophy winner, Sam Bradford and '03 winner Jason White. Playing behind an offensive line of veterans with over 100-starts as a unit and a defense which will put Jones in great positions to lead the Sooners on many-a-scoring drive, it's arguable that he's got the better opportunity to both stay undefeated in the revamped Big XII, and put up monster numbers along the way.

We can circle a key date in Jones' assault of the Heisman Trophy as the sooners travel to Morgantown, West Virginia on Saturday, November 17th. Very similiar to last season as Baylor's Robert Griffin III traveled to Lawrence, Kansas and came out with an overtime victory after needing a three-touchdown 4th quarter to reach OT. Griffin followed up that performance by returning home to torch Jones' Sooners 45-38 and make himself the outright Heisman frontrunner. For the 23-year old Jones, a victory in Morgantown over fellow Heisman contender Geno Smith and a follow up of Big XII in-state rival Oklahoma State the following week could sew up another Heisman for the Sooners and the Big XII.

While a healthy offensive line and the emergence of either the suspended Jaz Reynolds or returning Kenny Stills are major factors of the success of Jones, 2012 does look promising for the future NFL quarterback and the Oklahoma Sooners.

Boomer . . Sooner

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oregon Trails

Quack, Quack, Quack.

Since head coach Chip Kelly took over in Eugene, the Ducks have taken it to the their PAC-12 foes, year in and year out. An eye popping 34-6 under Kelly, Oregon has brought a new speed to the Pacific Northwest, speed which is usually reserved for those of the Southeast Conference. Whether it was former Ducks quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas, or even current Ducks signal callers Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota, the Ducks offense is sure to be high-flying under Kelly.

Despite the departure of the previously mentioned Thomas, and super-back LaMichael James, the 2012 Ducks come into this season with some punishable speed, again. Senior runing back Kenjon Barner returns to Oregon coming off a season in which he averaged 6.2 yards per carry finishing just 61 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season, while splitting time with a slew of Oregon backs. Also returning is, Heisman hopeful, sophomore running back De'Anthony Thomas. Why the buzz around Thomas? In 2011, as a freshman, Thomas punished the PAC-12 scoring 18 all-purpose touchdowns. In 55 rushing attempts, Thomas found the endzone 7-times while putting up close to six-hundred yards. Even more impressive is Thomas' play in open space, 46-catches, nine-touchdowns. Despite the quarterback competition still under way between Bennett and Mariota, ask yourselves this question; With Thomas and Barner in the backfield, does it matter?!?!

The road ahead . . . A pre-season No. 5 ranking, the Ducks are sure to be heavy favorites in their first five games of 2012, including PAC-12 games vs. Arizona and a road trip to Pullman against the Cougars of Washington State. The real fact of the matter is, Oregon doesn't play a ranked opponent till November 3rd and their titanic trip to Southern California to play the 'Men of Troy,' who have created more preseason buzz than ever heard of. If Oregon and Chip Kelly wanted to make a statement that they not only are the class of the PAC-12, but that they aren't just a flash-in-the-pan, they're going to have to do it through USC.

Our Call: PAC-12 North Champions (10-2)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Better Than Ever

June 28th's #1 overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Davis, pulled down the rebound and held the ball out as the final buzzer sounded. With that, the United State's men's basketball team once again won Olympic gold and for the second consecutive summer Olympic Games, proved they are the most dominant and elite basketball squad in the world. Headed by the 6' 8", 250 lb., reigning NBA MVP, LeBron James, U.S.A. Basketball can be confident when they look toward the FIBA World Championships in 2014 and of course toward the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

Worth Noting . . .

We'll have to take him on his word, and considering he would be 37-years old by the summer of 2016, the already 16-year veteran of the NBA, Kobe Bryant, has played in his last Olympics. Whether contrived as most would criticize or not, Bryant does and says all the right things and has proved himself to be a leader among men in these most recent Olympic games. He didn't have to be the 'team on my back' guy as he was in Beijing, his role however was to be the constant threat and used when needed. Bryant was the elder statesmen in London and has most likely left an indelible mark on his younger teammates, the previously mentioned Anthony Davis, Oklahoma City star James Harden, and Minnesota star forward Kevin Love.

As Spain turned to the "box and one" defense to slow the scoring of reigning and 3x NBA scoring champion, Kevin Durant, in the second-half of Sunday's gold medal game, it became increasingly obvious on a world stage just how scary his talent is. Durant's offensive explosiveness was seen throughout the 2012 NBA postseason and will continue to be as he launches his assault on the NBA record books, but in the Olympics, he's only begun to scratch the surface. Durant's 30-points he dropped on Spain made up 33% of the U.S. offense and allowed LeBron to play defense against Spain's big front line. In his first Olympics, Kevin Durant introduced himself to the world in a big way.

It wasn't the 37-points and 10 of 12 from behind the arc in pool play against Nigeria, it wasn't the 18-points against Argentina, and it wasn't the 17-points against Australia. In his third Olympic medal winning performance, the 28-year old Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony solidified himself once more as a remarkable international player. 'Melo had a tough NBA season in 2012 and has been criticized heavily in New York, however the Olympic stage seemed to be exactly what he needed to get back on track. Maybe it was sitting on the same bench as his former college coach with whom he won a National Championship with, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, or maybe it was just being away from the Big Apple, either way Carmelo Anthony seems to be back.

Countless times in their eight London Olympic games, U.S. Hoops not only looked to but counted on Clipper point-guard Chris Paul to control their offense and play relentless defense. The Winston-Salem point guard can be penciled in to lead the U.S. for not only the next four years and in Rio, but possibly beyond. Paul's offensive game allows him to seemlessly fit in and run an offense full of superstar scorer's but also turn his defensive efforts on some of the best guards the world has to offer. If Spain's Ricky Rubio is healthy enough to return to run the point for his national team in 2016, expect fireworks as Chris Paul and Rubio square off.

The Chosen One . . .

Then there is the last six months of one LeBron James. An MVP, an NBA Championship, and now a gold medal, now that's a haul. While he has been putting in work in London, everyone in Boston and Brooklyn and all the way out to L.A. has been preparing their plan to stop LeBron, something the world had no idea how to do this summer. LeBron played all five positions this summer and did everything the U.S. men's basketball team needed him to do. When LeBron needed to, he took over in a way it seems as only he can do now. As his teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh got healthy after their deep NBA postseason run, LeBron ramped up his game and came to play in London. The type of unselfish play that James put in this summer has made some of us turn the corner on the man who bolted Cleveland for Miami and gave us all a sick taste in our mouths. If there is a player whom we talk about in such high regard as we've began to talk about Kobe Bryant after the Rio Olympics, it'll be LeBron.

Down The Road . . .

Despite everything you've just read, the Olympics in London proved again that the world is getting even better at basketball than they were four years ago in Beijing. A seven-point victory over Spain for the gold medal really shows that even more so. With this Olympics most likely being the last time we see stars such as Tyson Chandler (29), and Kobe Bryant (33), and who knows what type of Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, and Blake Griffin type injuries could show up four years from now, it's even that much more important that the NBA stars continue to water the seeds they've planted over the last several years. All things considered, tip your cap to these NBA superstars for showing up and doing exactly what they needed to do over the last several weeks. . .

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

He's Pretty Remarkable

Now that it's over, we can reflect.

From Sydney, Australia at age 15 to London, England at age 27. From becoming the youngest American to make the Olympic swimming contingent in nearly seventy years back in 2000 to becoming the most decorated Olympian in the history of the Olympics by 2012, Michael Phelps has become both legendary and iconic. Now he hangs it up.

With another fantastic two week Olympic effort, Michael Phelps came to London and accomplished everything he possibly could ever dream of. With his performances in 4x100 meter medley relay, the 4x200 meter freestyle relay, the 200 meter individual medley, and the 100 meter butterfly, Michael Phelps added to his record smashing gold medal total, 18 in all. Leaving no doubt, Phelps wrapped up his final individual and relay golds by turning in remarkable performances, performances saved for athletes of a different kind, athletes just like Phelps. However, it was his humility which we appreciated even more so. There wasn't the exuberance he showed in Beijing when he was not only shocking the world one night after another, but also himself, rather the picture of someone 'getting it,' getting the moment. Someone understanding that everything he was accomplishing, piling medal on top of medal, piling performance on top of performance, Michael Phelps was in the moment of rewriting record books and in itself, history.

For the next fifty-plus years, Michael Phelps will be the answer to each of the following questions:

Who owns the record for most Olympic medals won?

Who owns the record for most Olympic gold medals won?

Who won (3) consecutive gold medals in the 100 meter butterfly?

Who won (3) consecutive gold medals in the 200 meter individual medley?

Answer: Phelps, Michael.

Time for a rhetorical question. Who is the greatest Olympian of all time? It's not the conversation we have in other sports such as basketball with Michael Jordan vs. Magic Johnson or in baseball with Babe Ruth vs. Hank Aaron, the best Olympian of all time is now a no doubter, it's Michael Phelps and spending time defending him over any other would be a disservice to the remarkable efforts Phelps put forth to win 22 Olympic medals between 2004 and 2012.

Ther was a split-second after Phelps failed to medal in his first Olympic event in London, the 400 meter individual medley, but just a split second when we worried that he looked too human, and saw the reality of the goal he was chasing. Then it was over. Phelps turned in a masterful leg of the 4x100 meter freestyle relay and helped the United States win a silver medal, his first of the games, and the medal which got him off and running. Over the next and final five events of Michael's seven-event program, he'd pick up four gold medals and a silver, a mind-blowing haul for most Olympians, but for a guy who picked up eight in Beijing, his London performance seemed pedestrian.

London made him real to you and I. His inability to pound the water in exuberance after winning during these Olympic Games was a sign, a sign that he not only knew it was coming to an end, but he physically couldn't enjoy the sport any longer. His actions spoke volumes in London, they echoed everything Phelps had said pre-Olympics. His talk about how he had lost interest after Beijing. The acknowledged stories that he was skipping training sessions on a consistent basis over the past four years. His open declaration that these would be his last Olympic Games, no matter the outcome. Despite his PhelpsPhans pleas to hit Rio in 2016, and the pleas of his own mother, Michael Phelps is d-o-n-e.

For all of us who have had the pleasure to watch Michael Phelps in the pool, it's been a treat. We've enjoyed seeing one man dominate more than any other, we've seen his abilities tested, we've seen him doubted, but most of all, we've seen him win. With his twenty-two medals over a period of twelve-years, it might just be over, passing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina in these Olympics to become the greatest medal winner of all time was clearly his mission, mission accomplished.

He's pretty remarkable.