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ESPN Upstate Blog

Join us here everyday for thoughts, predictions, scores, and more with some of the best sports authorities in the Upstate.  We have blogs from Greg McKinney of "The Huddle," Mark Sturgis and Price Atkinson from "Straight Up With Sturg" and more!


Thanksgiving and the three Fs: Family, Food, and Football


Every Thanksgiving, groups of people come together for the three sacred F's. The 24th of November is a special day to all but Walmart who is now bringing a black cloud by having Black Friday sales on Turkey Thursday.

You even have families and friends come together in the neighborhoods to play a game of football on a bed of orange and brown leaves as they smell the aroma of heaven coming from surrounding kitchens. I can remember playing tag football as a child beside my apartment with my friends Ryan Borja and James Booth. All three of us were just trying to kill some time before the first game came on or leaving to go over to our families' houses. Now as an adult, I get to watch other children playing as we did until it's time to eat or watch the traditional Cowboys or Lions game.

How did this tradition start? It all began back in 1929. The Detroit Lions was known as the Portsmouth Spartans. New owner and former Detroit radio station guru George A. Richards bought the team and moved them to Detroit. Even though the team had some promise, they still couldn't win over the Detroit natives.

They were a baseball town due to the Tigers winning the 1934 American League pennant the same year as their arrival. The first few weeks the franchise struggled to fill the stadium. The radio guru then came up with a genius idea to boost attendance. Richards' WJR was one of the larger radio stations in the country at the time. He used his prestige with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations across the United States. Thanksgiving football was born.

That move made the Lions attendance jump from 15,000 to 26,000 and they actually had to turn fans away at the gate. Hard to believe, the Lions actually turning fans away. Thirty years later the Cowboys followed suit.

Tex Schramm also known as the man who created the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders wanted to find a way to market his team better. The teams' success was such an excellent marketing plan that the NFL in 2006 decided to add a 3rd game to the mix for dessert. Who is satisfied with six hours worth of football when you can have more?

It's just like eating on Thanksgiving. You know you should stop after that first huge plate, but why would you when you didn't get to taste grandma's sweet potato pie? As of today, we are no longer forced to watch the Lions stink up the place in their horrendous Thanksgiving Day uniform. And thank God the NFL did not make the Pittsburgh Steelers wear those Pelican Bay prison like uniforms either. Let's talk about the games for this Thanksgiving.

Who would have thought that the Lions without Megatron would have a better offense? Matt Stafford has Detroit looking formidable. Minnesota on the other hand is staying afloat despite losing their starting QB and RB. It was a real defensive battle throughout the game and it was fitting that an interception by Sam Bradford is what decided it. The game started off promising with both teams scoring on opening drives. Minnesota took the lead for the first time early in the fourth, but for the seventh time this season the Lions rallied and held on for a victory.

Now it's 4pm and I'm hungry! I purposely won't eat anything all morning so I can chow down when the real food is ready. It's also time for the game of the day to start and the Cowboys- Redskins game did not disappoint. During the game I almost tackled a kid because he looked like Josh Norman. I didn't talk to any of my cousins because they had the other guy's last name.

On the field, Dak and Zeke continued to amaze me. I thought they were going to blow the game open but penalties derailed opportunities to score. The Cowboys secondary however continues to depress me and looked even worse when JJ Wilcox went down. And Kirk Cousins had a feast, throwing for 449 yards to become the first Redskins QB to tally more than 400 yards twice in one season. He exploited the weak secondary of the Cowboys all night, and at times it didn't look fair. It almost ruined my meal!

It would have been a lot worse if it wasn't for the football Gods blinding Cousins with the sunlight from the windows in AT&T stadium. Unfortunately, the Skins defense had to sit at the kiddie table for Thanksgiving. They held Zeke for less than 100 yard rushing, but he still was able to gain 96 and picked up over 100 total yards. The defense also was able to wake up Dak Prescott after driving his shoulder to the turf. After the hit, Prescott then led the Cowboys down the field three consecutive times for a score and the Cowboys pulled off another victory in this magical season.

It was the most entertaining game of the day, but the real entertainment came after the clock struck zero. Josh Norman and Dez Bryant were having a game within the game. It got so heated that the refs had to go speak with each player on the sidelines. After the dusk settled on the field, Norman was quoted saying Dez had said told him he was going to "empty the clip" on him. Dez on Twitter saw the comments and informed Norman to stop lying on him. Roger please schedule these two team next year on Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Now it's 8:00 pm and we're all full and about to fall asleep, but there's one more game to go. Families are dwindling and going their separate ways. Some may still be playing a late night game of cards. Others have been bamboozled by all the Walmart advertisements and decided to go shopping.

Not me, I still have hours of football to go. At least that's what I thought. Unfortunately the second round of dressing (not stuffing) and ham put me down for the count. A Pittsburgh-Indianapolis matchup didn't spark much interest in me. The Colts as an organization has more holes than a Thanksgiving Day game of Connect Four. They wouldn't have had enough to beat Pittsburg with Luck on the field. I hope you all enjoyed the day of Family, Food, and Football. I know I did.

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ESPN Upstate's Week 14 college football staff picks


The postseason is here, thankfully. I'm as anxious as all of you, well at least as Clemson fans, to watch this all shake out starting tonight with the Pac-12 title game.

I'm sparing everyone the phrase "13th data point" moving forward (online and on-air) because of two reasons: 1) there's only 13 people in college football who talk like and; 2) I'm at the point where I don't think they're needed.

Whether conference championships should continue is a larger point for another column (separate piece coming soon). So let's focus on the here and now of "Championship Weekend."

Let's start with what we know. Alabama wins the SEC title game, then they're No. 1. Clemson defeats Virginia Tech and the Tigers move to No. 2 as a result of winning the ACC. Despite not playing this weekend, Ohio State is a lock for one of the last-two spots, most likely No. 3.

Therefore the final spot (either at No. 3 or 4) is up for grabs.

There's only two conference title games that will have a major impact on the CFB Playoff and Sunday's final rankings. All eyes are on the Pac-12 this evening in Santa Clara, Calif., and the ACC title game in Orlando where a paltry $15 will get you primetime seating tomorrow night inside Camping World Stadium.

While I think No. 4 Washington and No. 8 Colorado will ultimately be the best and most exciting game of the weekend, not because of what's at stake but the element of intrigue. Why? Because a win by the Huskies won't necessarily lock-up a top-four spot, no thanks to their atrocious non-conference schedule (see Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State).

A win and U-Dub is firmly in the mix with the inside track to the semis and a date with the Crimson Tide in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. But a Huskies upset loss knocks the league out all together (Colorado's loss to Michigan in September is the Buffs' death nail) and paves the way for another Big Ten team, likely Penn State or the Wolverines.

If conference championships really truly matter like the Selection Committee has preached in the past, then Penn State and Wisconsin will get a long, hard look and consideration regardless of whichever win the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis (where you can grab a ticket inside Lucas Oil for $16.67).

That brings us to Clemson, where the formula is simple. Win and your in, lose and your out. A win gives Dabo's squad another ACC championship that will vault them past Ohio State to No. 2.

But what if…what if the Tigers somehow stumble? Then the door swings wide open. And make no mistake the entire Big Ten will be tuned in, rooting and cheering like crazy for Justin Fuente's Hokies to spring the surprising upset.

How far it opens and who walks thru will be determined by the outcome in Santa Clara tonight and how the Committee is weighing their specific metrics (SOS, conference champion, losses, eye test). And don't even think about three Big Ten teams getting. That's ridiculous.

The overwhelming consensus heading into the weekend and the final set of rankings shows a likely final outcome should everybody win is: 1. Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Ohio State, 4. Washington.

But…does it ever workout easy or upset free? Nope. Let's have some one more big weekend of college football!

Week 14 KB Greg Lonzo Mark H. Sturg Price Diesel Josh
W. Mich vs Ohio
W. Mich

W. Mich

W. Mich

W. Mich

W. Mich

W. Mich

W. Mich

Colorado vs Wash
Wash

Wash

Colorado

Wash

Wash

Wash

Colorado

Clemson vs Va Tech
Clemson

Clemson

Clemson

Clemson

Clemson

Clemson

Clemson

Temple at Navy
Temple

Navy

Navy

Navy

Navy

Navy

Navy

K-State at TCU
TCU

TCU

TCU

TCU

TCU

K-State

TCU

La Tech at WKU
WKU

WKU

WKU

La Tech

WKU

WKU

La Tech

Okla St at Oklahoma
Okla St

Okla

Okla

Okla

Okla

Okla

Okla

Alabama vs Florida
Alabama

Alabama

Alabama

Alabama

Alabama

Alabama

Alabama

Wisky vs Penn St
Wisky

Penn St

Wisky

Wisky

Wisky

Wisky

Penn St

SDSU at Wyoming
Wyoming

SDSU

Wyoming

SDSU

Wyoming

Wyoming

SDSU


Last Week

7-3

6-4

7-3

7-3

5-5

6-4

7-3

4-6
Total Record
77-53

84-46

78-52

81-49

80-50

85-45

74-56

61-69





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Tales From The Cockpit: The State of Gamecock Nation




Tales From The Cockpit is presented by NutriMost Greer.  If you want to lose 20-40 lbs in just 40 short days, then give Dr. Joe Pesce and NutriMost Greer a call today at 864-982-5868 and tell them that Ditti sent you!  I've lost 20 lbs already and am aiming to lose 20 more by Christmas and you can too!

There's no beating around the bush here...Saturday night was not fun.

There is no silver lining from that game, not one thing you can point to and feel hopeful about.  The only thing we can really say is, "Hey, at least they scored." 

If the Florida game was the Gamecocks' heavy dose of reality about who and what they are right now, then the Clemson game was like taking a shot to the head from Lucille (for the confused, it's a Walking Dead reference).  The thing is...it doesn't matter.  Or at least it shouldn't to Gamecocks fans.  

What did you honestly expect to happen?  

I pity any Gamecocks fan that actually went into the weekend with legitimate hope that Carolina would upset Clemson.  I mean all of the signs were there for you.  Clemson has the best offense and probably best defense that Carolina faced all season.  The game was in Death Valley, at night, and the first home game for the Tigers since their first regular season loss in over two years. 

But again...it doesn't really matter.

Before the season I said it was time for Gamecocks fans to show respect where it is due with Clemson.  This is a powerhouse football team right now.  They may come back to reality soon, they may not, but the fact of the matter is that they are one of the best programs in the country.  That is undeniable no matter how much of a homer you want to be. 

Dabo Swinney has built himself a winner and done so without any of the drama that we've become so accustomed to seeing in the college ranks.  No major scandals, no accusations, no star players on video drunk or doing drugs.  That is something I can respect, even when it's my Alma Mater's rival.

With all of that said...we're here to talk Gamecocks, so back to our team.

I said it in last week's blog and I'll reiterate it here, the season has been a success.  This includes this weekends lopsided loss.  6-6 was the goal, 6-6 is their record.  Fifteen extra practices and another football game to help develop an incredibly young football team.

Before the season I predicted 6-6 and was lambasted by both rival fans and Gamecocks fans alike.  I was told I was crazy.  Well, I may have gotten to 6-6 a little bit differently in my predictions than the team did in reality, but 6-6 is where they are.

I'm happy and you should be too.

Let Clemson fans gloat, let them talk trash and let them celebrate...their team earned them that right.  That's what the phrase "bragging rights" means.  That shouldn't stop you from being not only please with this years Gamecocks team, but also very excited for the future.

What Will Muschamp and his staff have done this season, with basically a bunch of scraps, is very impressive.  

The defense has overachieved all year-long (not counting the Clemson game), the offense is composed of almost all underclassmen and will only get better and depending on what site you look at the Gamecocks are bringing in a pretty solid recruiting class for 2017. 

Coach Muschamp has turned this thing in the right direction and it's all uphill from here. 

Jake Bentley and Rico Dowdle are the future of this program and provide an incredible first block in building this offense. Muschamp has skill position guys committed that will only bolster the offensive attack for the Gamecocks in 2017...the only question mark I have is the offensive line going forward, but we'll have to wait and see how that works out.

Defensively I have no worries.  Just look at the defense that nearly shut our boys out down in Gainesville.  That defense was recruited and built by our man Coach Boom and even Gators head coach Jim McElwain has admitted to it. 

So here we sit after a tough blowout loss to Clemson and I have nothing but positive thoughts running through my head.  Yes the point differential of 56-7 is larger than the 63-17 mashing we witnessed back in 2003, but this game was far less harmful to my psyche as a Gamecocks fan than the '03 tilt was.  In '03 we thought we had a shot, Clemson was beatable and our guys still got embarrassed...at home.

I'll say it again...to me, this loss meant nothing in the grand scheme of the 2016 season.  Absolutely nothing. 

The Gamecocks are 6-6, bowl eligible, have freshman talent emerging and recruits are coming.  Keep your heads held high Gamecock Nation.  Our boys deserve that.

Forever to thee.

-Ditti

Find me on Twitter (@Ditti33), Facebook (/ditti33) and Instagram (dittius33)

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Tales From The Cockpit: Bowling




Tales From The Cockpit is presented by NutriMost Greer.  If you want to lose 20-40 lbs in just 40 short days, then call Dr. Pesce and NutriMost Greer today at 864-982-5868!

It's official, the 2016 South Carolina Gamecocks football season has been a success.

Cue the cry-laughing emoji's and snarky comments from the rival fans, but it's the truth.  The Gamecocks have won 6-games and are going to a bowl game...therefore this season has been a success.

It really doesn't even matter what happens in Death Valley this weekend to be honest.  This could be a 2003 level blowout and I would still believe that Will Muschamp's first season as head ball coach at South Carolina was a complete and total success.

Look at it realistically. 

The Gamecocks finished 2015 with an abysmal 3-9 record, they lost to the Citadel, lost their legendary coach mid-season and watched their in-state rival play for a national championship.  It doesn't get much worse than that. 

But it did.

South Carolina then opened the 2016 season 2-4 with a loss to Kentucky and an offense that couldn't score more than 20-points.  The silver lining, that I pointed out weekly, was that the defense was playing far above their talent level, but a bowl birth didn't seem possible with the schedule the Gamecocks faced down the stretch.  

Then came Jake Bentley.

Once again, I was wrong about playing Bentley this year and never would have guessed that he alone would make the difference that he has and taken Carolina from the brink of back-to-back embarrassing seasons to a bowl birth...but he did.  Bentley is 4-1 since taking over for the Gamecocks and turned the season around with a huge win over division rival Tennessee in just his second collegiate start. 

So here we are, the Gamecocks are 6-5 and heading up to Clemson with a chance to play spoiler with the Palmetto State Championship is on the line.  The fans have been going at it on social media all week long...but for some reason I'm overly excited for this game.

Of course this game holds weight when it comes to state pride and trash talk for the 364 days that follow it...but in the end, it doesn't matter.  Not this year.  This year it was all about the bounce-back season.  Overcoming a 2-4 start, earning a bowl birth and finding the future.  That's more than I could have hoped for.

Again, before you jump down my throat, I would LOVE to see South Carolina pull the improbably upset and earn the bragging rights tomorrow evening...but if (when) they don't, it shouldn't hurt one bit.

What this team was able to pull off this season with the diminished level of talent left behind for the new coaching staff was incredible and all of the credit goes to Will Muschamp.

This Gamecocks team is young and has shown that they are not only buying in to Muschamp's plan, but have the ability to win with that plan.  Now we have hope and see a legitimate future.

Palmetto Bowl Prediction:

  • Clemson 42- Gamecocks 27
    • Carolina has played up and down to their competition all season long, but has not played a team as good as Clemson.  The first good defense SC faced since Bentley took over was Florida and they did not fare too well offensively in that game.  Clemson's defense is better than Florida's and unlike the Gators, the Tigers play offense pretty well too.  I want to be wrong, I really do, but I have to look at this realistically.  The Gamecocks only score 20.4 points per game while Clemson only surrenders 17.9 a game.  The Tigers also average 38.5 points per game.  Yes, the Gamecocks defense has played above their talent level all season long, but has not played an offense with the level of talent that Clemson brings to Death Valley tomorrow night.  

Muschamp has without a doubt turned this program around already and I cannot wait to see where this goes.  Win or lose tomorrow, I believe in Coach Boom and the future of this program.

Forever to thee!

-Ditti

Find me on Twitter (@Ditti33), Facebook (/ditti33) and Instagram (dittius33). 

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ESPN Upstate's Week 13 college football staff picks


Like the Thanksgiving holiday, rivalry weekend is a time filled with a kaleidoscope of emotions and feelings. 

However, much different than Turkey Day that’s complete with family warmth, cheer and laughter, today begins rivalry weekend that contains more dislike, disgust, hate, elation and angst. College football fans around the country are salivating at the thought of bragging rights for another year at work or the idea of having to “take it” for the next 365 days.

Clemson and South Carolina fans like Auburn-Alabama, Michigan-Ohio State, Florida or Florida State or Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalries have quickly shifted from Thanksgiving attire, briefly to Black Friday shopping garb and likely now to school colors as kickoff approaches tomorrow. 

It’s go time as battle lines are drawn and rivalries are renewed. 

The epicenter of college football this weekend resides in C-bus where No. 2 Ohio State hosts No. 3 Michigan in a colossal matchup destined to have a major impact on the College Football Playoff. While the winner is unlikely to find its way into the Big Ten title game (unless Penn State stubs its toe against Michigan State), I’m convinced the winner (regardless of which) will get the third or final spot into the Playoff. 

Michigan do-it-all junior Gabriel Peppers will be the best player on the field, but Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett will be the difference. The junior Texan has put together a quiet Heisman campaign and is a darkhorse finalist behind 24 touchdown passes and just four picks, while running for another eight scores. 

Jim Harbaugh has continued his ridiculous mind games by dressing out injured QB Wilton Speight last weekend and insisting this week he looks better and better every day. But a broken collarbone? I’m not an M.D., but regardless of a crack or full break, you’re not playing with that injury for at least 4-6 weeks. Get real Coach, we’re not buying the tricks. 

As a result, senior John O’Korn takes over under center again. And being played in the Horseshoe gives tOSU a big advantage. In my book, Michigan is still a year away from being a legit national title threat. Give me the Buckeyes in a close one. 

The epicenter in the Palmetto state is clearly Tiger town, as No. 4 Clemson hosts the Gamecocks at 7:30 pm. The formula for the Tigers is simple. Win tomorrow and then next weekend’s ACC title game in Orlando and Dabo Swinney’s crew is safely into the Playoff. A loss in either game and the Tigers are done, staring at a New Years Day six game instead of a semifinal in Phoenix or Atlanta.

Freshman Jake Bentley has been incredible since taking over during the Gamecocks’ bye week and Will Muschamp deserves ALL the credit for making the move to give his team a chance at postseason play. And it has definitely paid off, as USC is going bowling somewhere (something I thought was a pipe dream back in August).

Can the legend continue Saturday night in Death Valley? USC’s offensive line is serviceable except Bentley hasn’t seen the type of pressure this season like the Tigers can bring up front. Plus he’ll have to do it in the most hostile environment of his young collegiate career. 

USC’s defense has picked off 13 passes this season and they’re outstanding in the red zone. But the difference is Bentley won’t have the kind of time needed to throw the ball downfield and allow his most explosive weapons to make plays. I’ll take Clemson by roughly 17 points. 

Win or lose let’s all enjoy another big weekend of college football filled with hope, excitement, tailgating and high fives. On to our picks for Week 13...


 
Week 13 KB Greg Lonzo Mark H. Sturg Price Diesel Josh
S. Carolina at Clemson  
Clemson
 
Clemson
 
Clemson
 
Clemson
 
Clemson
 
Clemson
 
Clemson
 
USC
Wash at Wash St  
Wash
 
Wash St
 
Wash
 
Wash
 
Wash
 
Wash St
 
Wash
 
Wash
Boise St at Air Force  
Boise St
 
Boise St
 
Boise St
 
Boise St
 
Boise St
 
Boise St
 
Boise St
 
Boise St
Nebraska at Iowa  
Iowa
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
Ga Tech at Georgia  
Ga Tech
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
Michigan at Ohio St  
Ohio St
 
Ohio St
 
Michigan
 
Ohio St
 
Ohio St
 
Ohio St
 
Michigan
 
Ohio St
Auburn at Alabama  
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
Miss St at Ole Miss  
Ole Miss
 
Ole Miss
 
Miss St
 
Ole Miss
 
Ole Miss
 
Ole Miss
 
Miss St
 
Ole Miss
Florida at Florida St  
Florida St
 
Florida St
 
Florida St
 
Florida St
 
Florida St
 
Florida St
 
Florida St
 
Florida
Utah at Colorado  
Utah
 
Colorado
 
Colorado
 
Colorado
 
Colorado
 
Colorado
 
Colorado
 
Utah
 
Last Week
 
6-4
 
2-8
 
5-5
 
4-6
 
5-5
 
5-5
 
4-6
 
5-5
Total Record  
70-50
 
78-42
 
71-49
 
74-46
 
75-45
 
79-41
 
67-53
 
57-63
 
 
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ESPN Upstate's Week 12 college football staff picks


All hell has almost officially broken loose for the CFB Playoff power brokers. I’ll give you three words why - the Big Ten. 

The third installment of the CFB Playoff is potentially and likely to face its greatest challenge and dilemma yet in a few short weeks. All thanks to three teams named Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. And maybe cast some “blame” on Iowa, too. It’s going to be beautiful. 

In three years, we haven’t seen the Selection Committee sweat. I mean really, really sweat and squirm. Sure they’ve had some tough decisions to make, trying to pick the “four best” teams to play for all the marbles. The time is now with several non-conference champs now as top contenders. 

But we’re staring at a Big Ten Championship Game between a pair of two-loss teams (Penn State vs Wisconsin). And of course, there’s currently a pair of teams on the outside looking in regarding the Big Ten title game, all the while currently ranked in the Playoff’s latest top-four rankings (Ohio State and Michigan). 

I’ll spare you explaining any of the possible and crazy scenarios to state that the most intriguing thing I’m watching for comes in the form of how much value is placed on and given to winning the Big Ten title. We’ve heard and seen in the last-two seasons of the Playoff how much the Committee values winning a conference championship. 

But if Penn State beats Rutgers and then Michigan State to punch its ticket for the Big Ten title game and then goes to Indianapolis and wins it, they have to get in right? 

The easy answer is yes but the winner of the elimination game between Ohio State-Michigan is going to give the Committee their biggest headache yet. PSU’s kick-six, blocked field goal held up as they handed the Buckeyes their only loss of the season.

Head-to-head is one the Committee’s four main pillars when considering and ranking teams. Would they really rank tOSU ahead of Penn State when the final pairings are announced since the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes?

There are more questions than answers because so much football is left to play, which includes rivalry weekend, more upsets are certainly in store and because certain teams having statement-making opportunities remaining to impress or unimpress the Committee.

As for this weekend, wake me up when you find something good brewing on Saturday. Outside of Commissioner Greg Sankey finally brokering the Florida-LSU makeup game, it’s “Cupcake Saturday” in the SEC with most teams operating in tune-up mode for rivalry weekend next Friday and Saturday. 

The Pac-12 provides the best opportunity for compelling football this weekend with several key and important games starting with division leaders No. 22 Washington State and No. 10 Colorado in Boulder (3:30 pm, Fox). It was by far the hardest game for me to pick in our weekly picks below and a lot is on the line. 

Mike Leach’s Cougars could absorb a loss this weekend and still play in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a win over No. 6 Washington in the Apple Cup next Friday, due to possessing the tie-breaking win. 

Tonight is where it’s at in looking for game-of-the-week material. No. 5 Louisville has the entire stage set before a nationally-televised audience tonight on ESPN against Houston without competition from games elsewhere.

Greg Ward Jr. has battled a right shoulder injury all season but you can expect a big-time effort from the senior tonight in his final home game. It’s been 432 days since the Cougars defeated UofL last year and held Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson largely in check. 

Bobby Petrino’s Cards won’t be playing for just a win tonight but more importantly style points with every eye from the Selection Committee dialed-in. A win is required, but an impressive win is what UofL is really chasing, needing major help to make it into the Playoff without a marquee non-conference win or opponent on the schedule. 

Offensive fireworks should be aplenty tonight as well as in our Week 12 picks below...

 
Week 12 KB Greg Lonzo Mark H. Sturg Price Diesel Josh
Louisville at Houston  
Louisville
 
Louisville
 
Louisville
 
Louisville
 
Louisville
 
Louisville
 
Louisville
 
Houston
K-State at Baylor  
K-State
 
Baylor
 
Baylor
 
Baylor
 
K-State
 
K-State
 
Baylor
 
Baylor
Florida at LSU  
LSU
 
LSU
 
LSU
 
LSU
 
LSU
 
LSU
 
LSU
 
Florida
Miami at NC State  
Miami
 
NC State
 
Miami
 
NC State
 
NC State
 
NC State
 
NC State
 
NC State
Arkansas at Miss St  
Miss St
 
Miss St
 
Arkansas
 
Arkansas
 
Arkansas
 
Arkansas
 
Arkansas
 
Arkansas
SDSU at Wyoming  
SDSU
 
SDSU
 
SDSU
 
Wyoming
 
Wyoming
 
SDSU
 
Wyoming
 
SDSU
Oklahoma at WVU  
Okla
 
WVU
 
WVU
 
Okla
 
Okla
 
Okla
 
Okla
 
WVU
Tulsa at UCF  
Tulsa
 
UCF
 
Tulsa
 
UCF
 
UCF
 
Tulsa
 
UCF
 
Tulsa
Wash St at Colorado  
Colorado
 
Colorado
 
Colorado
 
Wash St
 
Wash St
 
Wash St
 
Wash St
 
Wash St
Southern Cal at UCLA  
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
Last Week
 
7-3
 
6-4
 
6-4
 
6-4
 
5-5
 
7-3
 
5-5
 
5-5
Total Record  
64-46
 
76-34
 
66-44
 
70-40
 
70-40
 
74-36
 
63-47
 
52-58
 



 
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How about THESE Cowboys?!?!


Why would you draft a running back that high? Why would you not trade up for a quarterback? Why didn’t they spend all of their cap space on free agents? Why does Jason Garrett still have his job? 

These were questions that were being asked before the season started. Eight into the season, the Dallas Cowboys are making a mockery out of every single one of them. 

The Rookies

After the previous season of not having a reliable backup QB, talking heads demanded the Cowboys draft a QB with their top pick. Dallas definitely considered it, because they brought in every top prospect at that position for a pre-draft workout. 

But one particular prospect caught their attention the most during the Senior Bowl - Dak Prescott. Some may not be aware but it was the Dallas coaching staff that coached the Senior Bowl last year. It was there that Prescott began learning the Cowboys offense. Dallas had no intention on taking a QB with its first-round pick unless it was Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. 

Once those two were selected first and second overall, Dallas took the third-best player on their board, which is now a current NFL MVP candidate Zeke Elliott. It was the obvious choice to make. McFadden is decent, but he’s not Elliot. Elliott is a younger, faster version of Demarco Murray and is proving it by rushing for over 1000 yards in just nine games.

The pick was questioned at first. No way does anyone draft a running back that high…right? Hasn’t the running back position been devalued? I’m glad owner Jerry Jones decided to go with what the team needed instead of what would have looked good and created buzz.

The Cowboys’ recipe for winning games has always been to pound the rock down their opponent’s throat. You couldn’t do it with an aging McFadden nor an injury-prone Lance Dunbar. They did sign Alfred Morris for insurance, which is a luxury to have as a backup.  Not only did they strike gold with selecting Elliott fourth overall, they found a diamond with Prescott in the fourth round. 

To demonstrate how far Prescott has come, he wasn’t even considered the backup when Dallas’ training camp arrived. That job belonged to long forgotten Kellen Moore. They considered Dak a “project” with hopes he could sit and learn from Romo. After injuries to Romo and Moore it would be up to the Cowboys to decide if they could rely on Dak. They didn’t at first as they attempted to land several QB’s via trade, but the asking price was too high so in came the rookie signal caller from Mississippi State. 

Prescott was dynamic during the pre-season and continued during the regular season. He has overcome the learning curve and obstacles you can throw at a rookie QB. He’s overcome learning a new offense with limited time, gained command of a locker room that is loyal to their veteran and long-time starter as well as won over an owner hell-bent on getting Romo back on the field for reasons beyond football. Now he and Elliot are running neck-and-neck for NFL Rookie of the Year. 

The Defense

Maybe the biggest story about this team is the defensive side of the ball. This was supposed to have been the biggest issue for the Cowboys. It didn’t start off well having both starting defensive ends suspended for substance abuse violations. They also had Orlando Scandrick coming back from a season ending injury and Morris Claiborne was playing lights out before he went down with an injury. Another two gems the Cowboys picked up in the NFL Draft was Anthony Brown, a rookie out of Purdue as well as fellow rookie Maliek Collins from Nebraska.   

The MVPs

Is it possible to give the MVP award to the entire offensive line?  Nothing is possible without the big guys upfront. Jones was also questioned when he took offensive lineman Travis Fredrick in the first round in 2013. Then they drafted Tyron Smith when the “experts” thought they should have taken J.J. Watt. Fredrick is now an All-Pro center when everyone else said he could have been drafted in later rounds.  Jones is known for being a gambler and I’ll say he’s playing his cards right. This may be one of the best Dallas offensive lines ever put together.

I know it’s only nine games into the regular season and I’m not crowing, but at 9-1 this team could be special.  Last season was so abysmal to watch for Cowboys fans, but this team has given them a reason to bring out everything silver and blue. I know Stephen A. Smith loves to say the Dallas Cowboys are an accident waiting to happen.  Well Stephen A., this year the Cowboys may have accidentally have found a winning formula in their rookies, solid defense and a stout offensive line.  HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS! 

-Tyler Butler ("Enough With The B.S Podcast")


 
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Tales From The Cockpit: Dose of Reality




Tales From The Cockpit is presented by NutriMost Greer.  If you're looking to lose 20-40 pounds in just 40 short days then give NutriMost Greer a call at 864-982-5868 today!

Saturday didn't go as well as Gamecock Nation had hope it would go, but it went just about how we should have expected it to.

Will Muschamp's return to the Swamp wasn't anywhere as bad as it could have been.  The Gators dominated every aspect of the football game and were able to do what no team had done in the Bentley Era...force turnovers. 

The Gators stout defense forced two fumbles and freshmen quarterback Jake Bentley's very first interception of his very young college career.  They were also able to hold the Gamecocks scoreless until there were just under 7-minutes left in the game.

That is where one of the silver linings comes for the Gamecocks.

The  11-play 80-yard drive leading to Carolina's lone touchdown was followed by another impressive drive that came up just short of making this a one possession ballgame in the final minute of the game. These two drives showed what Bentley is capable of and will be able to do with a little more experience under his belt and a better offensive line in front of him.

The other silver lining was once again the defense. 

Yes, the Gamecocks defense gave up nearly 400-yards in the game, but they forced two turnovers and held the Gator offense to just 20-points.  Doing that makes a game winnable and Carolina had its chances, but dropped passes and turnovers of their own was their undoing. 

What this game represented was a heavy dose of reality for the Gamecocks and their fans. We were all riding high after the 3-game winning streak and upset of Tennessee.  We had hope and even started believing in the slightest of chances to sneak a division title.  

Then came reality.

The reality is, this is the 2016 Gamecocks.  They have overachieved on defense all season long (and continued to do so on Saturday) and they have promise, but a long way to go on offense.  

The Gator defense was hands down the best defense that Jake Bentley has seen.  When you couple that with the fact that he was also facing that defense in the first road game of his career and the fact that said first road game was in the Swamp...you get your dose of reality.  

Jake Bentley will be great, heck he kind of already has been, but the problems that have doomed the Gamecocks all season cannot be ignored.  Those problems can, however, be fixed through recruiting...and I trust this coaching staff in that department above all others.

So, as I tweeted out on Saturday, this loss didn't really matter.  It was a necessary dose of reality, but in the end a win this week over WCU gives the Gamecocks 6-wins and a bowl birth.  That, in my opinion, is the ultimate sign of progress in a season we thought was lost just 4-weeks ago. 

A 6-win season and a bowl game is without a doubt a successful season after the 3-9 debacle that was 2015.  If you don't see any progress from this season, then you're not looking.

As always, keep your heads held high and look to the future...it's a promising one!

Forever to thee!

-Ditti

Find me on Twitter (@Ditti33), Facebook (/ditti33) and Instagram (dittius33). 

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ESPN Upstate's Week 11 college football staff picks


Is now a good time to remind everyone that today is the start of the 2016-17 college basketball season? 

Why not? The hand we’ve been dealt with college football games tomorrow doesn’t jump off the page. But without fail, the minute we dismiss the lack of marquee games is the weekend when all hell breaks loose.  

Nonetheless, there’s impactful games around the country, including a particular showdown in the great Northwest. No. 20 Southern Cal at No. 4 Washington in Seattle takes the cake for me as the best game and biggest possible upset.

The Trojans are a team nobody is talking about. And justifiably so from the standpoint they’re 6-3 overall and have no shot at making the final four thanks to a 1-3 start to the season, which included a 52-6 beatdown by Alabama in the opener. 

Don’t look now, USC has won five straight, none of which have been close except for a 21-17 win over No. 12 Colorado. Clay Helton’s move removing Max Browne at quarterback and inserting Sam Darnold has turned the Trojans’ season around, as Darold has become the Pac-12’s newest star.

Since taking over the USC offense, Darold has thrown for more than 230 yards in every game with 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Oh yeah, he’s added another dimension to Helton’s offense with the ability to create, improvise and make plays running the football. 

(Thanks to Darold for making USC relevant again, so I could at least feature the “Song Girls” once this season.)

In my book, Washington is one of the three, most-complete teams in the country along with Alabama and Clemson. The Huskies are stout on both sides of the football with Heisman Trophy candidate Jake Browning’s 34 touchdown passes and a top-10 defense that’s forced 22 total turnovers. 

Playing at Husky Stadium is huge and could be the difference but I expect this confident bunch of Trojans to be in the game late into the fourth quarter.

Elsewhere, Georgia could put the death nail into Auburn’s ultra-slim hopes and path to the CFB Playoff, while Baylor could deliver a similar blow to Oklahoma in Norman tomorrow. Texas hasn’t lost at home this season with No. 16 West Virginia coming to Austin. 

The top-two teams host more-than-capable opponents, as No. 1 Alabama welcomes Mississippi State and No. 2 Clemson hosts Pittsburgh, my preseason pick to the ACC Coastal Division. Likely upset candidates? I say no. 

One game that DOES catch my eye is No. 3 Michigan on the road at Iowa. Kinnick Stadium is one of the country’s most underrated and difficult road environments to play in. The Wolverines, who have lost three-straight in Iowa City, will leave the state of Michigan for just the second time all season! 

The Hawkeyes have the nation’s best defensive back in Desmond King and boast one of the Big Ten’s top red-zone offense, converting on 26 of 28 opportunities. Michigan leads the nation in scoring and total defense, which is what a possible upset boils down to. Can Iowa’s offense consistently move the football and find the end zone instead of selling for field goals? 

South Carolina’s hopes at the SEC East are narrowly alive but I expect a close, low-scoring game that Florida eeks out tomorrow in The Swamp. Mostly because it will be Jake Bentley’s first collegiate snaps outside of Columbia, though the Gators have major injuries on both sides of the ball. 

Before I get back to my basketball, here’s how we see this weekend shaking out...

 
Week 11 KB Greg Lonzo Mark H. Sturg Price Diesel Josh
S. Carolina at Florida  
USC
 
Florida
 
USC
 
Florida
 
Florida
 
Florida
 
Florida
 
USC
Kentucky at Tenn  
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
App St at Troy  
Troy
 
Troy
 
App St
 
App St
 
Troy
 
Troy
 
App St
 
App St
Auburn at Georgia  
Auburn
 
Auburn
 
Auburn
 
Auburn
 
Auburn
 
Auburn
 
Auburn
 
Auburn
WVU at Texas  
WVU
 
Texas
 
WVU
 
Texas
 
Texas
 
Texas
 
Texas
 
WVU
NC State at Syracuse  
NC State
 
Syracuse
 
NC State
 
NC State
 
Syracuse
 
Syracuse
 
NC State
 
Syracuse
Minn at Nebraska  
Minn
 
Nebraska
 
Minn
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
LSU at Arkansas  
LSU
 
Arkansas
 
LSU
 
Arkansas
 
Arkansas
 
LSU
 
LSU
 
Arkansas
Colo St at Air Force  
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
Colo St
 
Air Force
Iowa State at Kansas  
Iowa St
 
Iowa St
 
Iowa St
 
Iowa St
 
Kansas
 
Iowa St
 
Kansas
 
Iowa St
 
Last Week
 
9-1
 
6-4
 
6-4
 
8-2
 
5-5
 
5-5
 
8-2
 
5-5
Total Record  
57-43
 
70-30
 
60-40
 
64-36
 
65-35
 
67-33
 
58-42
 
47-53
 
 
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Tales From The Cockpit: Renewed Hope




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A few weeks ago I would have never expected to say this…but our Gamecocks are officially one victory from bowl eligibility and still have an outside chance of winning the SEC East and playing in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

Of course that chance relies on a lot of things including an unexpected win by the Gamecocks in the Swamp on Saturday and a Tennessee loss to either Missouri or Vanderbilt (among other things)…but that doesn’t change the fact that the team that finished 2015 with a 3-9 record could still possibly play in Atlanta in December.

Even without the outside and quite unlikely chance at the SEC Championship Game, you can’t help but be overwhelmingly optimistic about what Will Muschamp has done so far at South Carolina.

There is no denying that the talent level is sub par overall, yet the team is winning games it didn’t a year ago and is knocking on the door of the 6-6 record I had hoped for before the season began.  A prediction that I was told was far too lofty…by other Gamecocks fans.

Now here we sit, our boys have a winning record (5-4) and even though they have tough games on the road against the Gators and Clemson, they have Western Carolina coming to Williams Brice in between.

A very winnable game that will make 6-6 a reality.

Before the season began, I wrote my season prediction blog for ESPN Upstate and was questioned by Gamecocks fans for my 6-6 projection.  The way they’ve gotten to the point is a little differently than I had expected them to, but they’re here.

What’s even more interesting to think about is the “what could’ve been” aspect of the 2016 season.  Had Jake Bentley been ready earlier and possibly gotten the offense in gear, the Gamecocks could be sitting atop the SEC East for all we know.

The loss at Kentucky was avoidable, a win there and our boys would be sitting at 6-3 with a 4-3 SEC record.  Another “what could’ve been” thought revolves around the Georgia game.  Not only when it comes to wondering if that game would have been winnable with Bentley under center, but wondering how much differently that game might have gone if it hadn’t been moved due to Hurricane Matthew.

The Georgia game could have been played on a Saturday night under the lights with 80,000+ screaming Gamecocks fans…that’s a far different environment than the Sunday afternoon game we witnessed.  And again, Bentley.  A victory over the Bulldogs and we’d be looking at a 7-2 football team with a 5-2 SEC record which would be good enough for first place in the division.

The problem?

The “what could’ve been” thought process changes nothing.  Coach Muschamp and his staff didn’t think Bentley was ready until UMass, the avoidable loss in Lexington happened and the horrendous natural disaster that impacted so many along the East coast couldn’t be avoided.

So here we are, 5-4 and 3-4 in the SEC.  Heading to the Swamp where our boys literally drove the final nail into the coffin of our new coaches tenure in Gainesville.  The Gamecocks will face a less than stellar Gator offense but a very strong (Muschamp built) Florida defense.

This will be the toughest defense that Bentley has faced and his biggest test thus far in his very young college career.  Playing in the Swamp is never easy, especially when it comes as the very first road SEC match-up for a freshman quarterback.

That being said this game is very winnable, but will take a lot of what we’ve seen the past few weeks continuing if it is going to happen.  The Gamecock defense will have to play how they played against Tennessee rather than how they played against UMass for starters.  Giving the Gators an early lead in the Swamp could be disastrous…and we’re very familiar with that.

The biggest factor this weekend will be the play of the offensive line and Jake Bentley.

Bentley will have to continue to protect the football.  So far he has not turned the football over, if he can continue that trend then the Gamecocks have a great chance of winning this football game, but it will still take even more.

Over the last few weeks the South Carolina rushing attack has been imperative to their success with Freshman Rico Dowdle rushing for well over 100-yards in each of the last two games.  For this to continue against the stout Gator defense, the offensive line will have to have their best game of the season.

I know, this is a long list of factors, but I truly believe that this win is possible.  It’s also possible that Saturday will be a long day.

The good news?  Western Carolina is next and a win in Williams Brice against the Catamounts gives our boys 6-wins and a bowl game!  So as always, heads up and eyes to the future!

Forever to thee!

-Ditti

Find me on Twitter (@Ditti33), Facebook (/ditti33) and Instagram (dittius33). 

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