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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!


The JumpOff weekly NBA update with Tyler Butler


Process is defined as a particular series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. The Philadelphia 76ers certainly believe they have a process.

And they'd would like for the fans to believe in it as well. It seems as if the 76ers were purposely trying to tank their season and trade away their best assets in order to land the top picks in the NBA draft. They have gone by the same process for the last few seasons, but the process always turned into a failing project.

However, this season seems to have a different feel to it. The biggest project of all is starting for the Eastern Conference All Stars! Yes, Joel Embiid is an Eastern Conference starter, and he deserves every accolade that comes his way. He has been unable to play a full season since getting drafted 3rd in three years ago and actually suffered a knee injury as I was typing this blog. Embiid currently is averaging 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game this season.

The Sixers also have another injured you star that has yet to see the floor in their 6-10 point guard Ben Simmons. You read that last sentence correctly. Simmons is a point guard with the passing ability of LeBron James. You can also add fellow big men in Okafor and Noel.

Philly has won seven out of their last 10 games and are improving by the week. They still have a long way to go in order to make the playoffs due to being seven games back out of the eight spot, but it's still another half of season to play. The 76ers who was once the NBA's laughing stock is now one of the exciting teams to watch. The NBA had to physically take over the team because the tanking was so obvious at one point. But was the tanking a process? Tanking did allow Philly to land Embiid, Simmons, Okafor, and Noel.

Was there actually a plan for all this madness? Time will only tell, but something is telling me that Philly will be decent sooner than later.

Player Spotlight: Kawhi Leonard

The best two-way player in the NBA…and that is San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard. Leonard may be the most underrated NBA star in the league. I couldn't be happier that he was voted as a started, but one could make the argument he should've been left off for Westbrook. Over the last four games, he is averaging over 30 points.

Coach Pop was prepping Leonard to take on a bigger role for the team last season because it was now his team. He has improved every season that he has been in the league. He decided to take on that challenge and work with NBA legend Kobe Bryant in the offseason.

Obviously it has paid off due to Kawhi having a career year in scoring. He's currently averaging 25.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 3.1 APG. You should get very familiar with his name, especially when you're coached by one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.

Team Spotlight: Golden State Warriors

This team is ridiculous. Golden State is destroying teams at a rate that should be under investigation. Since they suffered a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors are averaging close to 119 points per game. They beat the Cavs 126-91, Thunder 121-100, and Rockets 125-108 in a three game stretch.

They currently have three players averaging over 20 points per game in Durant, Curry and Thompson. How can you stop this team? I have an easy answer for you. IT'S NOT HAPPENING!!!

I apologize, it can happen. This Warrior team does have a weakness. The interior defense and rebounding. People underestimate what Andrew Bogut meant to this team. It will show in a seven game series.

Closing Rant

The NBA All-Star voting for starters should be revised. Fans should be allowed to vote, but not for starters. Russell Westbrook not being a starter was as horrible of a robbery as I can remember. He was robbed worse than Karl Malone championship dreams by Jordan.

It was worse than Phil Jackson robbing the Knicks for a front office position. It was worse than that last pass from Rogers than ended my hopes of any advancement for the Dallas Cowboys.

How can you average a triple double for the entire season and not be named a started amongst your peers? That's like you being in sales and making the most sales in the entire company of Charter. Then your co- worker sells one triple play gold package and the customer tells the CEO, "he should be employee of the month because I liked him." Sadly, they gave him the award!

I understand that this is a popularity contest, but Westbrook deserves to be an All Star starter. I say to the outraged about the outcome of the All-Star election that we demand a recount, or maybe we should protest. That seems to be the new way of making changes these days.

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Tales From The Cockpit: Shift the Hate




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Last Thursday on The Huddle with Greg McKinney I predicted a Gamecocks victory over the Tigers in next year's Palmetto Bowl...but it was very tongue-in-cheek and though based in some legitimacy, it was also lending itself to the reality that this may be our last chance for a few years to win a game in this rivalry.

That being the case, I'm calling for all Gamecocks fans to move on from our in-state hatred for a little while.

Take a deep breath and hear me out before losing your mind...

For the last couple of decades it has been fun to poke fun at Clemson fans' delusions of grandeur as they expected to win a national title year-after-year and finished each season just above average. Well, now those fans aren't delusional. The reality is that over the last five seasons Clemson has elevated themselves to the world of national power and left Carolina in its wake.

As Gamecock fans, we don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to bantering with Tigers fans. So why waste our time?

I think it's time to refocus our sports hate and rivalry furor and us it on our rivals that are not only within reach, but in the way of what our programs needs to accomplish first before they are even close to being on Clemson's level again.

The SEC East.

We have a leg to stand on with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Recent success against these teams, including beating an over hyped Tennessee team during a rebuilding season this year, gives us a little bit more clout. Add in Kentucky's unfortunate recent success over our boys and we have 4 teams to throw legitimate sports hate at.

That should fill the void for us.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying Carolina fans need to go out and buy Clemson gear or ignore the 100+ year rivalry...just that we should put that distaste on the back burner, for now.

As I pointed out in a blog earlier this season, nothing happens overnight in college football. Dabo Swinney didn't get the job in Clemson and then suddenly become a legitimate contender. It took 4-years to gain recognition and 8-years to reach the pinnacle.

Will Muschamp may never bring the Gamecocks to the level that Clemson is on right now, but I have faith that he can get them back to a level in which we are able to once again enjoy the smack talk that this rivalry brings...we just don't have any logical argument at the moment.

I also believe in fighting fan hypocrisy and as a Gamecock fan that dealt with so many Clemson fans trying to belittle our little 5-year run, I want to be the difference and be the better fan. To do that, I will allow them to enjoy their success and celebrate their team's glory.

That being said, I will point out the ridiculousness of the rare Clemson fan making their title about USC...happily.

For the next few years, I'll focus on the Gators, Dawgs and Vols....but you better believe Clemson Hate Week will still happen every single November and once the Gamecocks are back to being even slightly relevant, then I will consider the rivalry to be reborn.

Until then, down with the rest of the SEC East. Go Gamecocks.

Forever to thee.

-Ditti

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

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The JumpOff weekly NBA Update with Tyler Butler


Last week I went on a small rant about today's NBA. Since then, I've watched a ton of great basketball.

I hope you guys have been watching the Houston Rockets since the last player spotlight about James Harden. We were blessed to witness the game of the year so far in Houston vs Oklahoma City. It was Westbrook vs Harden! Both players did not disappoint either. Houston was up big going into the fourth quarter, but Russell Westbrook led back the young Thunder team.

Harden finished with 26, 12, and 8. Westbrook had another monster game with 49 points and a career high eight three pointers! The Rockets were able to seal the deal with a pair of free throws with 0.7 seconds remanding to sneak away with a 118-116 victory at the Toyota Center. This is what the NBA needs!

Two superstar who literally does everything for their team to have a game come down to the wire. A OKC/ Houston playoff matchup would be a dream scenario. In the Eastern conference, there is another player who is starting to do everything for his team as well. I promise you guys that I will not make this an all Chicago Bulls blog, but what Jimmy Butler has done these last three game is remarkable! There was a false report that came out about Butler about being on the trade block. The Bulls were just coming off of turmoil with the benching on Rajon Rondo and loosing 6 out of their last 10 games. They had the Cavs, Hornets, and Raptors coming up on the schedule. Not only did he help the Bulls beat all three, but he averaged 38 points per game during that stretch.

Butler is now running the point guard position. This was a position that he told Thibs he could run even when one time MVP Derrick Rose was still there. I'm not sure how long he's going to keep it up at this pace, but in the meantime it's very impressive. Jimmy Butler is not the only impressive wing in the Eastern Conference right now. That leads me to my player spotlight for the week.


Player Spotlight: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

If you don't know who the "Greek Freek" is then where have you been? Giannis has been on a terror all season long! He is currently averaging stats very similar to Jimmy Butler, if not better. Here's the comparison.

Jimmy Butler (25 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.5 APG)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (24 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 5.7 APG)

Giannis emergence probably has come as a surprise to most, but not to me. I saw the potential his rookie season back in 2013. All the kid had to do is work on his jumper and put on some muscle. On draft day he weighed 196 pounds, since then he has added nearly 30 pounds of muscle.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Giannis is on track to become the seventh player in NBA history to improve almost every statistical category in each of his first four seasons. He would also become the first since Rod Strickland did so from 1988-1992. He is currently leading the NBA with 13.6 points per game in the paint, and fifth in the NBA with 1.97 blocks per game.

NBA scouts raved over his hand size which is larger than defensive guru Kawhi Leonard's. Giannis could become the first player to average 20 points, nine rebounds, five assist, two steals, and two blocks per game since those stats were tracked. All hail the Greek Freek!


Team Spotlight: Utah Jazz

The Jazz are back! Currently they're number 6 in the western conference. This team is defiantly not your old pick and roll Jazz. There are no more short John Stockton shorts, or knee high socks running around the court this time around. The Jazz has the right mix of youth and veteran leadership. They are led by former Duke assistant coach and now Jazz head coach Dan Snyder.

The star of the team is Gordon Hayward. The former Butler start has made a name for himself in the league. He is surrounded by veteran leadership in Boris Diaw, George Hill, and Joe Johnson. The front court is very solid defensively in Rudy Gobert and former Georgia Tech star Derick Favors. This may be the best team defensive team in the Western conference. They might not upset one of the top seeds, but don't be surprised if they win the 4/5 matchup in the playoffs.

Closing Rant
This is something new I'm going to end on all of my blogs with. A rant! It's pretty much what I'm tired of or feel like addressing. This is dedicated to the dreadful New York Knicks. Why are you so bad? Derrick Rose said that this was going to be a "Super Team!" Yeah, he actually said that. You shouldn't be shocked that he said it because technically he never finished high school. If someone else finishes it for you, then you didn't finish.

Phil Jackson refuses to let Jeff Hornacek actually coach this team. He is fixated on this team running the triangle. Granted he won 100 championships off of the triangle, but there is no Jordan or Kobe on this Knicks team. Hell there is not even a Ron Harper or Rick Fox on this team. The Knicks have been horrendous for the last few years, but this year was supposed to be different.

Spike Lee was supposed to make a movie about this year, but no one wants to watch that horror film. There is only one common dominator with the team the last few seasons. I can give you 15 reasons why this team has been stuck in mediocracy. Carmelo Anthony! I watch the Knicks try and run the triangle until the ball touches Melo's hand, and then it turns into an octagon. I used the word octagon because you literally have to fight Melo in order to get the ball back.

Don't you remember playing ball on the blacktop and there was always one guy you hate to pass the ball too because you know he's going to shoot no matter what. That's Carmelo Anthony. The front office decision making has not been the best either. Phil struck gold on drafting Kristaps Porzingis, but I'll give you $100 if you can name the rest of the Knicks…don't worry I'll wait.

I'm sure you probably named Rose, Noah, or Jennings. After those guys, the Knicks look like a "create a team" from NBA live 97. Changes need to be made in the big apple, but something is telling me that the problem the Knicks have won't change. Where's Frank Sinatra when you need him.

(Click here for the latest NBA Standings)
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Atkinson: Clemson will beat Alabama, my five reasons why


The ring is set. Turnbuckles fastened. And the lights overhead dimmed. It's showtime for Act II.

Many were in Apollo Creed's "There'll be no rematch. Don't want one" camp. Others having seen Rocky nearly pull off the unthinkable and craving one more fight will get that showdown.

The rematch between Alabama-Clemson should be as thrilling as last year when the nation's two best square off Monday night in Tampa. And it's what I expected when the CFB Playoff pairings were announced last month.

I argued before the two semifinals were played that the Alabama-Washington game would be the closer of the two games. However, I didn't expect an Ohio-sized, 31-0 beatdown Clemson delivered to the Big Ten's supposed "best" Buckeyes.

Without either being tested and matched in their respective semifinal games, the College Football Playoff National Championship Game will again pit the Crimson Tide and Tigers who've now separated themselves as America's top-two programs in the college football pecking order.

Like a year ago, my prediction was on Clemson. And again this year…give me the Tigers. Even with the talk around Nick Saban's best-defense-since-he-got-to-Alabama, I like Clemson even more this year than last.

Here's my five reasons why Clemson will beat Alabama on Monday night…

#1 Leadership
Clemson boasts a team filled with leaders. Not just leaders, but players who are experienced and at key positions for the Tigers. Of course it starts with Deshaun (more on him below) but there's much more. Senior center Jay Guillermo is the unquestioned leader up front. Running back Wayne Gillman and wide receiver Mike Williams lead by example with non-stop motors and big-playmaking ability. Senior tight end Jordan Leggett has been around the block and is a two-time Mackey Award finalist as the nation's best tight end.

Senior linebacker Ben Boulware is the vocal leader, willing to share if/when asked about working all season to get back to this very point of the postseason and much more including four fingers deep. Senior defensive tackle Carlos Watkins leads the deepest unit on the entire squad where it's often a different standout from game to game.

Safety Jadar Johnson may have talked a big game leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, but his play "quarterbacking" the secondary was akin to serving as Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee's starting centerfielder batting down and snagging balls all over the yard.

#2 Lane Kiffin-Steve Sarkisian factor
Make no mistake about it, getting rid of Lane Kiffin eliminates a distraction around the program. However, sending the new FAU coach packing in an unprecedented move between CFB Playoff games is unheard of. Even if Lane was being Lane.

But it won't be without growing pains. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian takes over for Kiffin (again) but spent the entire season as a control analyst, meaning he didn't have any on-field coaching or player development duties. True freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts hasn't heard the same voice calling plays and Sark's rhythm could very well be different.

#3 Jalen Hurts
Speaking of Hurts, the Channelview, Texas native had his late-season momentum stymied by Washington in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, managing just 57 yards passing due in large part to the Huskies' outstanding secondary. I'm sure he'd tell you the only number he cares about is the one on the scoreboard. But he's not a redshirt senior and he'll be standing in the sport's ultimate spotlight for the first time as a true freshman with the pressure of college football's most rabid fan base expecting another title.

#4 Deshaun Watson
I've said it once and I'll say it one final time…Deshaun is the best, most dynamic player in the CFB Playoff. His leadership is unquestioned, productivity in big games is unmatched and his poise under pressure is incomparable.

You know how "excited" Saban is to have the best quarterback in college football since Cam Newton on the other side of the field. Plus he's directing a Clemson offense that'll be the best Bama has seen and faced since the Tigers and Watson's 478 yards of total offense last January. I think he'll be THE difference in this football game.

#5 Motivation
Don't ever underestimate how powerful motivation can be. Having worked and prepared for an entire year to hopefully get another shot at a national championship, the Tigers are now 60 minutes away against the team that stood in their way a season ago.

As dominant as the 14-0 Crimson Tide have been all season, I think it's better Clemson is facing Alabama than anybody else. Why? Because it was the very program in the Tide that ripped Clemson's dream almost a year ago. Plus you want to say you've beaten the very best and there's no doubt the Tide are just that.

Prediction: Clemson 26, Alabama 20.


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Podcast: "Straight Up" Fiesta Bowl episode #2 (Dec. 31, 2016)


It’s gameday in the desert! Finally, New Years Eve has arrived and with it comes today’s two CFB Playoff semifinals. 

In our second “Straight Up Fiesta Bowl podcast,” Sturg and Price talk about gameday chatter and excitement on the ground, players who might prove to be an ex-factor tonight and surprises to expect from both teams. (If you missed yesterday's podcast, click here to listen.)

Plus we’ll talk with The Clemson Insider writer Will Vandervort to get his thoughts on the game and then we’ll wrap it all up with our Clemson-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl predictions.

Happy New Years Eve!!



 
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Podcast: "Straight Up" Fiesta Bowl episode #1 (Dec. 30, 2016)


So what do Sturg and Price do while on the ground at the Fiesta Bowl without being able to bring you “Straight Up With Sturg” due to bowl coverage on the station? 

We podcast instead! 

And here’s our first “Straight Up Fiesta Bowl podcast” of the trip. 

We’ll give you observations from the ground in the greater Phoenix area, lack of Clemson and Ohio State fans we’ve seen so far, chatter locally around the game, what happened with our incident last night with the Tempe Police Department and more. 

Tomorrow morning we’ll check in with a Fiesta Bowl pregame podcast with guest interviews and predictions. Stay tuned for that tomorrow. 

In the meantime, enjoy today’s podcast below!


 
 
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Atkinson: Five reasons why Clemson will beat Ohio State


It’s no secret that the hype surrounding Saturday night’s second College Football Playoff semifinal is the game with all the buzz. 

Two teams in Clemson and Ohio State are so closely matched on both sides of the football in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, each supplied with future NFL stars who’ll litter the University of Phoenix Stadium pitch. 

Clemson has the best and most dynamic player of the four teams remaining in quarterback Deshaun Watson. Ohio State counters with a head coach in Urban Meyer that most (including me) believe is second only to Alabama’s Nick Saban in game planning and preparation

The No. 3 Buckeyes are a narrow, two and a half-point favorite all due to Meyer being worth roughly a touchdown outta the gate. While the Urban Meyer factor has been beaten like a dead horse in the national media, it’s certainly a fair point. 

Dabo Swinney’s team sits as an interesting underdog in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. But the No. 2 Tigers are also the team I expect to come away with the win and move on to face undefeated Alabama in the CFB Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa. 

Here are my five reasons why Clemson will beat Ohio State…

1) The two defenses in this game are so good neither has to bring pressure to get to opposing quarterbacks this season. Clemson and OSU are capable of playing a base defense in loading the box or dropping extra players into coverage. Hell, the Tigers were rushing three against FSU back in October and repeatedly brought the Noles’ Deondre Francois to the turf.

But because Meyer insists on a run-run-run offense mixed with short, sideline throws, Clemson’s fast defense won’t be stretched out all over the field like Alabama did last year or even Louisville earlier this year. Brent Venables’ unit is much better equipped to handle what tOSU does offensively. 

2) “Dudes.” Don’t get me wrong, the Buckeyes are absolutely LOADED with talent. It’s mostly young talent, but they’ve got bodies most every other school in America craves come National Signing Day. 

However, the Tigers have a bunch of dudes largely considered one of if not THE best nationally at their respective positions: true frosh DT Dexter Lawrence. DE Christian Wilkins, WR Mike Williams, TE Jordan Leggett and of course Watson. There’s simply more players in orange and white capable of dominating and taking over than those who’ll be donned in the scarlet and gray. 

3) Playmakers. tOSU sports arguably the nation’s best secondary led by Malik Hooker along with Marshon Lattimore and company. On the other side of the football is a “sixtet” of weapons Clemson counters with offensively that makes defensive coordinators heads spin. 

After Michigan and Penn State both punched the Buckeyes in the mouth, it could’ve been game, set, match with an ensuing blowout. Except neither Big Ten foe had anywhere close to the offensive firepower the Tigers bring into this desert showdown. 

4) Motivation. Remember when Wisconsin was knocked off out of the Final Four by Kentucky yet came back the following season and upset the undefeated, 38-0 Wildcats in the very national semifinal they had lost almost 365 days earlier? I do.

Motivation is a powerful tool. Having spent time around this team and coaching staff, there’s no question this bunch of Tigers is driven by the loss to Bama from a year ago. They talked about refocusing in January immediately upon returning to campus from Glendale. And they did. 

Don’t underestimate how close this band of brothers is. The juniors who went thru “Senior Day” ceremonies at Death Valley in November and are not expected to return are all playing for each other. They’re tight, close to one another and focused on doing what they came oh so close to doing last year.

5) Two words: Deshaun Watson. He’ll be the best player on the field Saturday night. Will he force throws or turn the ball over like he’s been prone to? He clearly won’t be able to get away with those type of mistakes in a game of this magnitude and have the Tigers live to play one more game. 

Time and time again under the brightest lights and most intense pressure, the Gainesville native has shined. Whether it’s throwing the football into tight coverage or making plays with his legs on third down, Watson has done it. If this game becomes a shootout and both teams start going score for score, give me Watson’s arm and playmaking prowess over OSU’s J.T. Barrett any day of the week.

Prediction: Clemson 36, Ohio State 27



 
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Part II: ESPN Upstate's bowl game staff picks (post-Christmas games)


Time to get serious. Christmas is in the clear and New Years is now in the crosshairs with an array of good and bad bowl games sandwiched in between.

Bad football is better than no football for most. Horrendous matchups like the St. Petersburg Bowl’s Miami (OH) vs Mississippi State or even the Quick Lane Bowl’s Maryland vs Boston College delivered surprisingly compelling football down to the final few plays. 

And there were even a few shocking surprises like BC’s 36 points, Wake Forest lighting up the scoreboard with 34 to beat the American Athletic Conference champ Temple in yesterday’s Military Bowl or late last night as mediocre Baylor shocked 10-2 Boise State 31-12 in the Cactus Bowl.

With bowl games, you have absolutely NO idea what type of effort or motivation you’ll get from a given team outside of the two CFB Playoff semifinals. 

Coaching changes at respective schools are always the thing to look at like Temple’s loss with former head coach Matt Rhule off to Baylor. It’s the reason why I think South Carolina likely pulls the upset against 10-2 South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl since Willie Taggert has bolted for Oregon.

There’s several intriguing games ahead starting today with No. 16 West Virginia against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Alamo Bowl tomorrow night always produces a high-scoring affair and No. 10 Colorado versus No. 12 Oklahoma State should be no exception

We’ll see which No. 21 Tennessee team shows up against Nebraska Friday afternoon in the Music City Bowl, where Vols head coach Butch Jones is the one coach in America most needing a bowl win heading into the offseason. The Orange Bowl showdown between No. 6 Michigan and No. 11 Florida State is the best of the New Years Day Six.

There’s no better way to kick start the 2017 countdown Saturday than a fantastic New Years Eve matchup between Heisman winner Lamar Jackson’s No. 13 Louisville Cardinals and now permanent head coach Ed Orgeron’s No. 20 LSU Tigers in the Citrus Bowl. Cannot wait for that one…just hoping we’ll be able to catch most of it before leaving for the stadium in Glendale. 

Speaking of Glendale and the CFB Playoff, the highly anticipated Clemson-Ohio State game at the Fiesta Bowl highlights the two semifinal games Saturday. Will Deshaun Watson rise above and make plays throwing the football free of turnovers? Can tOSU quarterback J.T. Barrett find ways to exploit the Tigers’ defense with his arm along with x-factor, h-back Curtis Samuel? 

The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is all about the line scrimmage. Will No. 4 Washington match No. 1 Alabama at the point of attack on both sides of the football and bring the physicality needed to stay competitive against the Tide? Does Bama signal caller Jalen Hurts finally begin to feel the pressure on the big stage? 

Here’s our post-Christmas bowl picks...

 
Bowls Greg Lonzo Mark H. Sturg Price Diesel
Pitt vs N’western  
Pitt
 
NW
 
Pitt
 
Pitt
 
Pitt
 
Pitt
WVU vs Miami  
WVU
 
WVU
 
WVU
 
WVU
 
WVU
 
WVU
Indiana vs Utah  
Utah
 
Utah
 
Utah
 
Utah
 
Utah
 
Utah
Texas A&M vs K-State  
A&M
 
A&M
 
A&M
 
A&M
 
K-State
 
A&M
USF vs
S. Carolina
 
USF
 
USC
 
USF
 
USF
 
USF
 
USC
Arkansas vs
Va Tech
 
Va Tech
 
Arkansas
 
Va Tech
 
Arkansas
 
Va Tech
 
Va Tech
Okla St vs Colorado  
Okla St
 
Colorado
 
Okla St
 
Okla St
 
Okla St
 
Colorado
Georgia
vs TCU
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
 
Georgia
Stanford
vs UNC
 
Stanford
 
Stanford
 
Stanford
 
UNC
 
Stanford
 
UNC
Nebraska
vs Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Nebraska
 
Tenn
 
Tenn
 
Nebraska
 
Nebraska
S. Ala vs
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
S. Ala
 
Air Force
 
Air Force
 
S. Ala
Michigan vs FSU  
Michigan
 
Michigan
 
Michigan
 
Michigan
 
Michigan
 
Michigan
Ga Tech vs Kentucky  
Kentucky
 
Kentucky
 
Kentucky
 
Ga Tech
 
Ga Tech
 
Ga Tech
LSU vs Louisville  
LSU
 
Louisville
 
LSU
 
Louisville
 
Louisville
 
LSU
Wash vs
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
 
Alabama
Ohio St
vs Clemson
 
Clemson
 
Ohio St
 
Ohio St
 
Clemson
 
Clemson
 
Clemson
W. Mich
vs Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
Wisky
 
W. Mich
 
Wisky
Florida
vs Iowa
 
Florida
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
 
Florida
 
Iowa
 
Iowa
So Cal vs
Penn St
 
So Cal
 
Penn St
 
Penn St
 
So Cal
 
So Cal
 
Penn St
Auburn vs Oklahoma  
Okla
 
Okla
 
Okla
 
Okla
 
Okla
 
Okla
Bowl record  
10-3
 
7-6
 
9-4
 
8-5
 
9-4
 
7-6
 
 

 
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ESPN Upstate's bowl game staff picks (pre-Christmas games)


Bowl season is officially off and running as of today with a slew of games on the docket. 

Things don’t get amped until after Christmas but mediocre college football bowl games is better than no college football at all. Right? What better way to pass the time while wrapping presents, attending family get-togethers or finishing off your final work hours before Christmas. 

Stung made the executive call to break our ESPN Upstate staff picks for the bowl season into two different sets: pre-Christmas and post-Christmas. 

So we’ve all picked the bowl games thru Christmas Day below, which includes our final regular-season standings. Unlike the regular season, bowl games are a crapshoot and come down to which team is more motivated and wants to be there. 

Here’s how we’ve played the pre-Christmas bowl games...

 
Bowls KB Greg Lonzo Mark H. Sturg Price Diesel
UTSA vs
N. Mexico
 
UNM
 
UNM
 
UNM
 
UNM
 
UNM
 
UNM
 
UNM
SDSU vs Houston  
Houston
 
Houston
 
Houston
 
Houston
 
Houston
 
SDSU
 
Houston
App St
vs Toledo
 
App St
 
App St
 
Toledo
 
App St
 
App St
 
App St
 
App St
UCF vs
Ark St
 
UCF
 
UCF
 
UCF
 
Ark St
 
UCF
 
UCF
 
UCF
ULL vs
S. Miss
 
ULL
 
S. Miss
 
S. Miss
 
S. Miss
 
ULL
 
S. Miss
 
S. Miss
Tulsa vs
C. Michigan
 
Tulsa
 
Tulsa
 
Tulsa
 
Tulsa
 
Tulsa
 
Tulsa
 
Tulsa
WKU vs Memphis  
WKU
 
WKU
 
WKU
 
WKU
 
WKU
 
Memphis
 
WKU
BYU vs Wyoming  
BYU
 
BYU
 
BYU
 
BYU
 
BYU
 
BYU
 
Wyoming
Idaho vs
Colo St
 
CSU
 
CSU
 
Idaho
 
Idaho
 
CSU
 
CSU
 
CSU
ODU vs
E. Michigan
 
ODU
 
ODU
 
ODU
 
ODU
 
ODU
 
ODU
 
ODU
Navy vs
La Tech
 
La Tech
 
La Tech
 
Navy
 
Navy
 
La Tech
 
La Tech
 
Navy
Ohio vs Troy  
Troy
 
Troy
 
Ohio
 
Ohio
 
Troy
 
Troy
 
Troy
MTSU vs Hawaii  
Hawaii
 
Hawaii
 
MTSU
 
MTSU
 
MTSU
 
MTSU
 
MTSU
 
Reg Season
 
83-57
 
92-48
 
83-57
 
87-53
 
86-54
 
92-48
 
80-60





 
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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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