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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!


Day: Favorites from ACC Kickoff Day 2


Friday marked the Coastal Division's turn to take the podium, and I may be a little biased, but Clemson really stole the show (until Steve Addazio took over for a few minutes). From paisley shirts to pillows at the Ritz Carlton, here are some of my favorites from Day 2 of the ACC Kickoff...

Favorite fashion choice: Ben Boulware

How can you not love Boulware's choice of paisley shirt paired with a pink tie and fake capris? The ensemble came from a combination of Clemson's M.H. Frank, J. Crew, the Belk's in Easley, and teammate Adrien Dunn's closet, and it's safe to say that Boulware matched his explosive play on the field with his loud outfit choice. I would also like to point out that Boulware was wearing socks, so take notes, Coach Fedora.

It was a slight bummer that the session moderator instructed the media to ask Boulware about football and not his fashion statement. It's also a slight bummer that it may be the last time we see such a statement from the linebacker, so appreciate it while you can, Clemson fans—when Dabo was asked whether Boulware could don such a look for Tiger Walk, he responded with a simple, "Absolutely not."

Favorite quote: Dabo on recruiting

A reporter from Pennsylvania questioned Dabo about recruiting in the state of South Carolina and whether or not Clemson's recent success has sealed off top talent in the state from other schools like Penn State.

In response, Dabo talked about how he focuses first on his program and the people within it while encouraging recruits to choose the best fit for them: "We have a complete commitment from our university, our administration. We have great facilities, it's important. At the end of the day it's about the people there. You can go stay at a Ritz Carlton, but if they treat you like crap, you ain't going back…I don't care how fluffy their pillows are."

I loved Dabo's answer as a whole, and he acknowledged that Clemson is not for everybody, but recruits are going to know what to expect, pillows and all.

Close second: Politics are pretty inescapable right now, so players and coaches alike have been asked what their slogan would be if they were to run for President. Dabo's was the most catchy of the day: "Don't be a meanie, vote for Swinney!" He gets my vote every day of the week.

Favorite personality: Steve Addazio

Steve Addazio is a human shot of espresso, as one reporter put it on Twitter. And that's a good thing. He started the Boston College session with a 1500-plus word opening statement in which he had to have mentioned at least half of his players and addressed essentially every aspect of his program.

But he had me excited before he even got into all of that, because he himself was "Awfully excited to be here today. Awfully excited that the start of college football is going to be happening here. We're all in a buzz about it. You start to feel that thing heading into summer once the 4th of July is over. It's about football. That's the greatest thing there is. We're talking about the best sport in America." Now, I do like baseball just a tad more, but the excitement is real.

Go Coach Addazio. Go ACC. Go football season, but more importantly, go Tigers

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Day: Favorites from ACC Kickoff Day 1


Football is upon us. The ACC kicked off the 2016 season with a bang on Thursday, officially announcing the creation of an ACC Network in partnership with ESPN, which is a huge positive for all ACC sports.

But football was the focus for the rest of the day in Charlotte, as the head coaches and player representatives from schools in the Coastal division had a chance to talk to the media about the upcoming season.

From socks to Snapchat, here are some of my favorites from Day 1 of the ACC Kickoff.

Favorite fashion choice: Fedora's lack of socks vs. Des Lawrence's Jesus socks

The disparity in the sock game amongst the University of North Carolina representatives was really…something. Head Coach Larry Fedora elected to go sock-less with his suit, citing that he was recently at the beach and could not make himself wear socks yet. That combined with his beard made for quite the look for the Tar Heel coach, but fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?) his players did not take after his fashion choices.

Cornerback Des Lawrence was rocking his Jesus socks for his time at the podium, and when asked about the holy garments, he said that, "These are my Jesus socks right here. Just a slight dab, as we kids would like to say. Time for us to dress up, get outside of our comfort zone. Fun for us to do. I didn't know coach wasn't wearing any socks. That's his thing. I don't really know what that is. He's looking good."

If you say so, Des.

Favorite quote: Fuente on tempo

The media was anxious to see how Justin Fuente is going to lead Virginia Tech in his first year after taking over for Frank Beamer, and one of the questions dealt with Fuente's offensive philosophy. After first listing traits like running the football and then throwing downfield, Fuente delivered this comparison: "Lastly, tempo, in my opinion, is an advantage. I also believe it's like anything else, it's probably like sugar and pizza, soda pop. Too much of it is not a good thing."

To clarify, he followed the remark up with the thought that he does not believe in moving the ball so fast that it hurts the defensive side of the game. Overall, it felt like a Dabo-esque analogy to me. I approve.

Close second: The much longer tenured Duke's David Cutcliffe joking about the new coaches: "Now we got Dabo, Jimbo, and Bronco." If nothing else, the ACC.

Favorite social media post: Cutcliffe's panda Snapchat

I loved all of the social media coverage of the event, especially the ACC Digital Network bringing in players and coaches alike to experiment with virtual reality technology. They documented the experience on their Snapchat story, and my favorite social media post could've easily been watching players slice through thin air while participating in virtual reality Fruit Ninja, but Coach Cutcliffe using the panda filter on Snapchat was just too fantastic. Bless ESPNU for giving us such a gift.

Favorite question: Married life?

ACC Kickoff is certainly a time to talk all things football, but I appreciated that one reporter took the time to ask Pitt's Nathan Peterman about what he's learned from married life, as the Panther quarterback will celebrate three months of marriage next week.

Peterman matched the great question with an equally great answer: "Well, my father-in-law asked me that about a month ago, too. Morgan is her name. I know she's watching at home, too. She's awesome. I think it's just really learning to gel together, learning to mesh together. She's been great supporting me. Just can't wait for many more months, to go through this whole season with her by my side. It's been awesome. I just learn to be a servant every day and to have fun with her."

Go Nathan Peterman. Go ACC. Go football season, and it's just getting started.

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Day: Why what Chad Kelly said at SEC Media Days literally does not matter


Chad Kelly ran his mouth a little bit while in front of the mic yesterday at the final day of SEC Media Days.

In other news, water is wet.

He declared himself to be the best quarterback in the country in addition to insisting that LSU's Death Valley is the "real" Death Valley, obviously a jab at his former program and perhaps teammate in Deshaun Watson. I just laughed the comments off, remembering the tantrum Kelly threw the last time he was in Memorial Stadium during the 2014 spring game (Dabo Swinney dismissed him shortly afterwards). Though social media give $wag Kelly quite a bit of attention for his remarks, what he said literally doesn't and shouldn't matter, especially to Clemson fans.

This isn't the first time Kelly has crowned himself the top QB in the nation. In April, he said that he maintains the mindset that he's the best and that nobody could stop him, and honestly, he should. I hope Deshaun Watson also plays with that mentality. And I hope Wayne Gallman thinks he's the best running back. And every Tiger on that field at their respective position. You don't become the best without first believing that you can be. The difference is obviously that Kelly talked about it during a very prominent forum, but that just matches what we know of his personality. I look forward to watching him try to live up to his words in the fall.

To add insult to injury for Clemson fans, Kelly also instigated this exchange when asked about playing LSU in Baton Rouge this season:

"I'm excited to get down there to the real Death Valley," Kelly said. "I'm anxious to get out there and play. My boy, (LSU quarterback) Brandon Harris, like to FaceTime me and show me this is the stadium I'm coming to. He better get ready because it is going to go down there."

A reporter then asked: "You said the real Death Valley?"

"The real Death Valley, yes sir," Kelly responded. "The real Death Valley with 100,000 people. Yes sir."

If the sentiment itself didn't give it away, the smirk it was delivered with cemented that this was blatantly a knock on Clemson, and it was intended to get a reaction out of the Tiger faithful.

But here's the thing. Clemson is coming off one of the best seasons in program history, and energy around the Tigers seems to be at an all-time high, both from within the program and outside of it as well. Are people truly doubting the legitimacy of Clemson as a national powerhouse? Not that I've really seen, so why would a snide remark from a guy whose character prevented him from remaining a Tiger even have any traction? Clemson doesn't have to be on the defensive right now; the Tigers have earned the right, at least for the moment, to own and take pride in their success (and maybe even carry themselves with a little bit of $wag, but we all know that's not really their style).

Worry about Kelly if the Tigers get the privilege of facing him in the postseason. But today marks 50 days until Clemson kicks off their 2016 campaign, and that's what I'm focusing on.

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Atkinson: 2016 SEC preseason media poll? Here is mine.


Today's the day every college football fan has waited for this summer. The first of the 2016 preseason media polls will be released starting in Hoover with the final day of SEC Media Days on tap.

It's "talking season" and the July preseason polls give us all something to yak about or in the case of Sturg and his Crimson Tide, something to crow about. However, we all know they're essentially meaningless and simply a guess at predicted order of finish.

Sturg and I set sail for ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte next Thursday morning and in the era of transparency, I'll post my ACC ballot here next week. But for now, here's my preseason SEC poll…

SEC West
1. Alabama - Until someone knocks off the Tide, I'm going with the best coach in the history of college football to replace several important players on both lines of scrimmage and win the West. Looking for a new starting QB has been a non-issue the last three seasons for Nick Saban and company…and Alabama will be just fine with whichever of the four grabs hold of the job.

2. LSU - No thanks to an incompetent AD in Joe Alleva who left Les Miles inexplicably twisting in the wind last November, Les Miles is back and should be good news for Tiger fans. LSU is a tempting pick to dethrone the Tide with the SEC's most electric player on offense in star Leonard Fournette and almost everyone back on the offensive and defensive lines.

3. Texas A&M - Going with A&M here is arguably high, especially given the offseason turmoil Kevin Sumlin endured with virtually every QB on the roster exiting stage left coupled with bringing in a new offensive coordinator in UCLA's Noel Mazzone. John Chavis' defense steadily improved and boasts the top pair of defensive ends in America. But Oklahoma transfers QB Trevor Knight and RB Keith Ford could be the biggest key for the Aggies.

4. Ole Miss - Chad Kelly is one of the top returning signal callers in the SEC and he'll have to be this year with a young offensive line that will likely feature four sophomores and freshmen. Talent isn't an issue in Oxford despite losing All-SEC players like Treadwell, Nkemdiche and Tunsil to the NFL Draft in May. However, distractions from a swirling NCAA investigation will be an issue and likely dog Hugh Freeze and his team all season starting in Orlando against FSU on Sunday, Sept. 5.

5. Auburn - The Tigers are an enigma and Gus Malzahn is treading on thin ice on the Plains. A brutal four-game start to the season with Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M and LSU won't be easy to navigate but having all four at home definitely will help, as Malzahn breaks in a new QB with Florida State transfer John Franklin III. Hiring Kevin Steele to run the defense doesn't turn many heads (including mine) despite having six returning starters.

6. Arkansas - I'm a big fan of head coach Brett Bielema and the coaching job he's doing in "Fayettenam" (have you ever been there and no it's not worse than Starkville). A strong, pounding running game and physical defense is how you win in the SEC and Bielema's squad needs a stronger start to the 2016 campaign than last year when the Hogs were in virtually every game.

7. Mississippi State - Who's gonna be last in the West because unfortunately somebody has to carry that title. The straw that stirred the Bulldogs' drink in standout QB Dak Prescott graduated and is now wearing a Dallas Cowboy uniform. There's a lot to like about new starting QB in big sophomore Nick Fitzgerald. Dan Mullen has adapted his offensive philosophy and tailored it to maximize his personnel and a backloaded schedule should help, as he figured it out.

SEC East
1. Tennessee - What's not to like about the Vols? They've got it all. So will this be the breakthrough year? It damn well should be with 17 starters returning, including one of the SEC's best signal-callers in Joshua Dobbs and a standout tandem of running backs in Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. I love senior defensive back Cam Sutton leading a defense that's littered with speed, experience. It all hinges on the first-seven games for the Vols this season because starting Oct. 29, their last-five games are a cakewalk.

2. Florida - Everyone is sleeping on the Gators. Not me. Tennessee is the rightful favorite in the East but Florida has owned Rocky Top with 11-straight wins. Second-year head coach Jim McElwain got a head start on the three new head coaches in the division this year by taking the Gators to the SEC title game last season. They'll need to get the QB situation figured out quickly but one of the nation's best secondaries will pair with All-American candidates DT Caleb Brantley and LB Jarrad Davis.

3. Georgia - It's no secret that injuries to top running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel won't make Kirby Smart's first season easy, starting with UNC in the opener where both are questionable to play (as of now). An experienced offensive line that combines for almost 100 career starts helps, however the defensive line cannot afford to underachieve again.

4. Missouri - The Tigers always surprise and I think they'll do just that again this season with head coach Barry Odom taking over. Eight starters returning on defense is huge, especially up front but scoring is the name of the game. And that's where it could get tricky for Mizzou, replacing four starters on the offensive line and new pro-style QB Drew Lock under center.

5. South Carolina - I've said five wins is the ceiling for this team and if USC can get out of the gate 3-3, which includes three SEC games on the road, I think they can get there. Despite the loss of Skai Moore to an offseason neck injury, Will Muschamp's defense has a rock in the middle with senior linebacker TJ Holloman leading a unit that will be infinitely better than last year (430 ypg allowed).

6. Kentucky - UK shot out of the gate the last-two seasons, including a 4-1 start last year before falling apart in the second half, highlighted by a 24-7 halftime lead that turned into a 38-24 loss at home to rival Louisville. The Wildcats have been notoriously weak on defense and only two returning starters in the front seven will make stopping the run and getting off the field on third down even more difficult.

7. Vanderbilt - Can Derek Mason's team find some offense? Any offense will do. Vandy boasted one of the SEC's top defensive units last season, allowing just 21 points a game. However, the Dores struggled mightily and let me emphasize mightily on offensive, crossing the 21-point mark just twice. Underrated junior running back Ralph Webb (1,152 yards in 2015) is the key to unlocking more points this season and rising in the division standings.


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Day: Top Moments of the Braves First Half


The Braves may have been one of the worst teams in MLB before the All-Star Break, but that doesn't mean that the first half didn't have its highlights. In no particular order, here are my top five (serious and not-so-serious) Braves moments of 2016 so far.

"The chicken bone incident"
Once it became evident that Erick Aybar was going to be just fine after a rogue chicken bone got him scratched from the lineup, this was undoubtedly my favorite story of the entire season. I don't even need the second half to be sure (unless by some miracle the Braves make the postseason).

Braves Twitter had a field day, poking fun at the idea of a wayward chicken sacrifice to try to save the Braves' season. Julio Teheran might should consider himself lucky, as his missed start because of an ingrown hair on his leg is slightly less remarkable than Aybar's misfortune. Personally, I'm still waiting for the notification that someone broke a rib laughing at our injury report.

The firing of Fredi Gonzalez
I was in Chick-fil-A when I got the news, and I'm pretty sure I embarrassed my brother with how audibly excited I was. I've never been a huge fan of Fredi, and I knew it was only a matter of time until he was fired this season. I recognize that he wasn't exactly given much to work with this year, but I don't think anyone expected the Braves to be quite as bad as they were at the outset; part of the blame has to fall on leadership.

Plus, I can't imagine Fredi was the guy the Braves wanted in the dugout when they start bringing up prospects like Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. While Brian Snitker isn't necessarily the answer, either, I think getting Fredi out of the clubhouse was a major step in the right direction for this Braves team and their front office.

The Freeman cycle
The Braves may find themselves last or close to it in many categories this season, but they did have the first player to hit for the cycle in 2016 in Freddie Freeman. He was the first Brave to do it since Mark Kotsay in 2008 (I actually remembered this), and Freeman joined some other elite company, becoming the third Brave to accomplish the feat in the last 100 years.

But of course, in typical 2016 Braves fashion, someone on Twitter brought up the fact that Freeman needed extra innings to complete the cycle, so maybe it doesn't quite count? You can decide for yourself, but I'll give Freddie his credit where it's due.

Fort Bragg game
Outside of the Braves not getting the win in the actual game, this whole event was such a win for everyone involved. I couldn't get enough of seeing the players interact with the troops and their families, and it was obvious that players and soldiers alike thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I hope this game sets a precedent for other sports to honor the troops in such a manner, as it is the least they can do to pay respect to those who protect their right to play the game day in and day out.

The first-half finish
To say the Braves have had a knack for the unusual in 2016 would be an understatement, and this perhaps culminated with their win over Chris Sale and the White Sox in their last series of the first half. As listed by @TeamATL10, in one game...
  • The Braves, who are the worst home-run hitting team in MLB, hit three homers and scored eight runs against Chris Sale, who is going to be American League All-Star starting pitcher.
  • The Braves let a shallow fly ball drop in between two infielders and two outfielders, allowing a run to score.
  • Matt Wisler fielded a bunt that would've easily gone foul, also allowing a run to score.
  • Ender Inciarte totally forgot how many outs there were, also allowing a run to score.
  • The White Sox turned a triple play.
  • BUT, despite all of that, the Braves scored 11 runs, the most they have scored in a game all season, and won the game.
The Braves went on to take two of three in that series, finishing the first half on a remarkably positive note, and though I may be the only one, I'm excited to see what the second half brings.
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Day: Thanks for the memories 'Ted'


I recently tried to pin down my favorite Clemson football memory, but after quite a good deal of consideration, I realized there was no way I could pick just one. Just when I thought I cemented the winner, another memory would come to mind, as I've been fortunate to see a number of remarkable games in person since my freshman season in 2013.

Beating Georgia in my first ever game as a student. The Orange Bowl win over Ohio State. Deshaun taking down South Carolina on one knee. Finding myself up to my ankles in mud during College GameDay before the Notre Dame game in a hurricane. The National Championship. The list goes on and on.

Needless to say, I'm excited for my senior football season to start. Actually, excited is an understatement. The past three years have made for an unreal time to be a Tiger, and I'm confident that 2016 will be no different. However, I am going to be making some different memories before I watch my boys in orange and purple run down the Hill for the first time in September.

Before I became a Clemson Tiger, I loved my Atlanta Braves. Win or lose, I still do, and I recently firmed up plans to attend my final games at Turner Field with my family. That should not seem out of the ordinary for a die-hard Braves fan, and it's not, except for the fact that the trip is taking place over the weekend of September 10, maybe better known as the day when Clemson's first home football game of 2016 is being played.

That's right. I'm missing the first home game of my senior season to go to Turner Field with my family one last time. That is how much the Ted means to me. The product on the field this year may not be what I would like to see, but that does not take away from the memories that I have at that stadium. Turner Field is the place where I came to understand and fall in love with the game of baseball when I was younger, a love that proved to have more of an impact on my life than I ever could have imagined. Though I now aspire to have a career in sports journalism, I did not like sports prior to becoming a Braves fan. But once that love of baseball was fostered, I could not get enough of going to games at the Ted. Even after my family moved to North Carolina, the memories of Turner Field kept bringing us back to Atlanta every summer to see our Braves.

Obviously, I have since come to love other sports, but the foundation was built from baseball at the Ted. So, in a weird kind of way, my excitement for 2016 Clemson football was developed because of time spent at Turner Field. In that sense, it's only right that I pay that beloved stadium its due respect before I enter Death Valley for the first time as a senior.

Thanks for the memories, Turner Field, and I can't wait to make just a few more before I have to say goodbye.

Note: Elaine Day is a senior at Clemson University and working as our "Straight Up With Sturg" show intern for the month of July.

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Q&A: Meet new "Straight Up With Sturg" producer Diesel


It's been over a week now, so you are probably aware of the new full-time addition to "Straight Up With Sturg." With Angry Zack heading off to greener pastures on weekday afternoons, our bud and 93.3 The Planet's "Diesel" (Greg Abee to our Entercom corporate folks in Pennsylvania) has moved over to the run the show every day from 4:00-7:00 pm. 

After countless "Straight Up" cameos the last year and half, Diesel now brings his Appalachian State fandom (and loyal P1's) front and center to ESPN Upstate. You probably know he likes fast music, fast cars and fast women among the obvious.

But here are some things about the newest member of the Sturg family that you probably didn't know...

How'd you get the nickname Diesel?
So there I was at the Irish Pub (a bar/volleyball court) to play company volleyball, when a blazing hot former promotions director sees me in my cut off shirt and says “wow, you look really ‘Diesel’ today”. That was the day before I did my first air show. Up until then I had planned to go on the air as “Unleaded”. Whew. #BulletDodged
 
While spinning tunes for 93.3 The Planet, worst song currently on the play list?
I cringe when anything slow comes up. Worst song IMO is Smashing Pumpkins “Landslide” cover.
 
Where's the best place to catch a college football game?
Are we talking about a bar or a venue?  Also, is insobriety a place? 
 
Where were you when Appalachian State beat Michigan in 2007?
About 10 rows from the top of Michigan Stadium. Just below the scoreboard.  Still about a mile from the field. That place is huge.
 
Least favorite college football program (regardless of Division)?
Georgia Southern, or as we App fans affectionately call them “The Stink”.  It’s truly a love hate feeling.  I love that they’re our rivals – and in true rivalry fashion – either team has a chance to win no matter how their year is going.
 
Who's your pick for next year's Super Bowl halftime show?
Chicken wings!
 
What would you name Katy Perry's next album?
“Diesel Me All Night”
 
Why are you such a big Clemson fan?
My grandfather, uncle, and sister all went there. My grandfather played both football and basketball while at Clemson and was on the 1940 Cotton Bowl team that defeated Boston College 6-3.
 
How many Crown Royals is too many in front of your Mom at her own house?
Ha. Three.  Any more than that while drinking at home is “a waste of good booze” in her opinion.
 
Fireball or Jäger?
Had one of the worst nights of my life on Fireball. So Jager all the way.
 
Blondes or brunettes?
Hot is hot. But I prefer ‘em dark, stormy, and a little crazy.
 
Favorite "Sturg-ism?"
D-YOOOWN T-YOOOOWN GREENV-YILLE
 
What's your go-to sports app on your iPhone?
ESPN Championship Drive
 
What's the most embarrassing app currently on your iPhone?
I’m totally hooked on “Boom Beach” right now.
 
How many weeks before you get the balls to tell Sturg on his show that Alabama football sucks?
Need Alabama to lose first. Otherwise...
 
One thing our listeners may not know about you?
My social security number.


(If you've heard him on 93.3 The Planet, then you know he's got an army of fans and P1's across the Upstate and worldwide!)
 
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Hangtime's Highlights: Meet new Straight Up W/ Sturg intern "Hangtime"


We've got a new intern for the semester at "Straight Up With Sturg." No, he doesn't have the long beautiful brunette locks or NBA-level dance moves of our former intern last semester and current Charlotte Hornets' Honey Bee Victoria Vesce (who is now also working as a correspondent for CoachGott.com). But he does have some serious hangtime.

Meet Erskine College senior volleyball player "Hangtime" Mike Michelau.

At 6-foot-5 with some serious hops on the floor, Mike will be know as "Hangtime" on the show. He's a native of Trevor, Wisc., All-Conference performer for Erksine as well as a big Kansas City Chiefs and NBA fan. I hope our love of college football will rub off on him this semester despite not being in season now.

Victoria set the bar high with her fun, quirky and dog-friendly "Victoria's Views" weekly vidoes. So here's the first installment of "Hangtime's Highlights." Got feedback? Drop him a line on Twitter at @MichaelMichelau. I'm sure you'll appreciate it as well as a follow.

Welcome to the team Hangtime!




#HangtimesHighlights
 
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Orange Bowl leftovers from ESPN Upstate's trip to South Florida


From palm trees on the beach to cactus in the desert, ESPN Upstate is following the Tigers every step of the way to bring you all the best and most coverage from the road and games.

And trust me when I say Sturg and I had fun in Miami-Fort Lauderdale over the last few days. We’re both worn to the core but winning makes all the difference in the world. After a few days back home, we’ll be headed out to Arizona for the CFB Playoff National Championship between the top-ranked Tigers and Alabama.

But first I wanted to share a few leftovers from the Orange Bowl before fully turning the page to Arizona…

The Orange Bowl does it right

I had never been to the Orange Bowl until now. And I had heard Sturg talk endlessly about how awesome his previous trips were. Having now experienced it, I cannot say enough great things about the all the wonderful people, staff, volunteers and Orange Bowl Committee Members who make it special. From UK grad Steve Roberts who serves on the Committee, to Larry Wahl and Schuyler Easterling (a Clemson grad), I can’t sing their praises enough for putting together a first-class event from the minute you arrive until departing.

The media party the night before the game at Shooters Waterfront in Fort Lauderdale was a blast (which had nothing to do with the best conch fritters I’ve ever had). Post & Courier beat writer Aaron Brenner nailed it calling the Renaissance media hotel a “weeklong personal frat house” because that’s exactly what it was.

The auxiliary press box we were in next to the main press box was a home run. We couldn’t have picked a better spot because it was essentially a small private suite converted into makeshift press facilities to accommodate overflow media. Ultimately, it was a South Carolina media box filled with mostly all TV and radio friends like the WYFF/WSPA/Fox Carolina guys, radio dean Phil Kornblut from SportsTalk in Columbia to outer outlets around the state.

By the way, thanks to Kornblut for the wireless internet save last night!

Nude beaches avoided

Most of the time when we hit the road on these trips, we like to add a layer of fun to the equation that’s loosely tied to football but more for our personal enjoyment and fun.

We made a bet before the trip and thankfully there wasn’t a winner with the loser having to “visit” a local nude beach!

“The” Sturg question: Clemson or Alabama?

The Cotton Bowl wasn’t even into the fourth quarter as the question began on social media, with Sturg’s family members asking while out celebrating New Years Eve and also friends texting both me and him: “Who will Sturg be rooting for in Arizona…Clemson or his alma mater Alabama?”

It’s going to be asked a million times over the next 7-10 days. His answer: “I can’t lose. I’m going home a winner no matter what.” Translation: He’ll be able to spin it either way no matter who wins.

He’s sure to quickly grow tired up of it by the time we hit the air on Monday’s “Straight Up With Sturg” but it’s gonna be asked until the final horn sounds in Arizona. As one of his closest friends, I know he’s truly conflicted and don’t think he’ll pick a winner either way. Rather allowing the chips to fall where they may.

Lime-A-Rita confirmation

Sturg proudly proclaimed on the air earlier this week that he’d never ever touch a Lime-A-Rita. Because they’re gross and also because he was too much of a man to stoop that low. Well folks, that was a boldface lie. 

After a quick trip to the restroom before going over to our terminal at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, I came out looking for him, only to find Sturg heading for the Lime-A-Rita stand by baggage claim. Too much of a man huh there Sturg? I’ll be sure to ask him how good and refreshing it tasted on Monday’s show. 

Sturg’s junk got “cuffed” by TSA
After his refreshing drink downstairs, Sturg and I made our way thru the TSA security line. We passed thru the actual screening portion but the hispanic TSA screener that Sturg called “rude” ultimately insisted upon providing him with a free government “massage.”

Grabbing my bags, I walked over to a fuming angry Sturg who was now putting on his shoes and belt on a nearby bench. He looked me in the eye and angrily stated in a loud voice: “Dude, that guy just grabbed my f$*kin’ pecker! And he didn’t just grab it, he freakin cuffed it in his hand!!”

Add another question to Monday’s show list: Did the TSA screener cuff or not cuff Sturg’s junk this afternoon? I’m working to find the agent’s name to see if he’ll join us live on the show to settle the debate.

Several thank you’s

I big “thank you” to several people who made the trip possible starting with our Entercom Upstate bosses Steve Sinicropi and Mark Hendrix. Without their support, leadership and drive, we wouldn’t be able to leave the building and go provide comprehensive coverage for our ESPN Upstate listeners on the air and via all our social media platforms. 

Also, a special thank you to our trip sponsors this week in State Farm insurance agent Kevin Dunn, Wing Zone, Quality Auto of Anderson and Parham Smith & Archenhold Law Firm. Without their financial support and commitment to us, Sturg wouldn’t be able to pull off the top-notch travel accommodations he scores for us on the road. 

I mentioned two names above but thank you to Orange Bowl communication staffers in VP Larry Wahl and assistant Schuyler Easterling. They took care of us in advance starting with credentialing, providing a location to “The Xtra Point” postgame show after the game on 93.3 The Planet as well as offering assistance and help with any needs or issues during our visit in town. Thanks guys!

Arizona is next!

The trip is fully booked. And we’re locked and loaded for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Glendale, AZ. Stay tuned this coming week on ESPN Upstate and all our social media platforms for the info on where and what we’ll be doing LIVE from Arizona!


 
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Day 2 (am): Top 10 things said between co-hosts on a frustrating morning


Three hours of sleep wasn’t enough but it’ll have to do. The Westin by the Atlanta airport should have charged us by the hour last night since we were hardly there. 

A pair of weary and tired ESPN Upstate co-hosts made their way into and thru Hartfield-Jackson International Airport this morning and when I say we BARELY made the plane…I mean it. Barely as in Sturg and I were two of the last three or four travelers to board less than five minutes before the plane was scheduled to leave.

The fun didn’t begin until we hit the ground in Fort Lauderdale where we encountered long line after longer line. Damn it sucked. We spent more time on the airport grounds than we did actually in the air from Atlanta to South Florida en route to the Orange Bowl.

In the spirit of travel fun (and mostly frustration), here’s some of the Top 10 things you would’ve heard between Sturg and I this morning (in order)…

10. “Yep, we should’ve taken that 6:00 am shuttle instead.” (Sturg in reference to the 6:20 shuttle we took that ultimately got us thru security and onto the plane minutes before leaving)

9. “I’m sorry but this is just piss poor.” (Sturg’s reaction after waiting 30 minutes for our checked radio equipment to arrive at baggage claim…we waited at least another 20 minutes before it arrived)

8. “This just gave us another opportunity to meet another nice man here in South Florida, who could give us a hand here.” (Sturg getting cheesy with our Uber driver Claude after we decided to Uber to the rental car facility instead of standing in a 100-person deep line waiting for shuttle buses)

7. “Here we go. Time to get in another long line. Damnit!” (Sturg on finally getting to the Avis rental car counter)

6. “Maybe my idea to split up and you go get the rental car, while I wait for the equipment wasn’t such a bad idea after all?” (My comment to Sturg after 20 minutes in line at Avis)

5. “Come on bro. Don’t play Avis-tour-guide up there. Starting playing Avis—get-the-next-person-to-the-counter-and-into-a-vehicle.” (An increasingly frustrated Sturg too himself after watching an Avis attendee joke with the same couple at the counter for a LONG time as we all waited)

4. “Boomer Sooner.” (Me trying to lighten Sturg’s mood after 30 minutes in the Avis line)

3. “Did you bring your swim trunks?” (Me further trying to lighten Sturg’s frustrated mood  after 40 minutes in the Avis line)

2. “This is just freakin’ ridiculous!” (Sturg when he finally blew a fuse in the Avis line)

1. “Yesssss!” (Both of us when we finally escaped the airport and could finally smell the oranges on the Interstate)

Check back again with us later…much more to come including “Straight Up With Sturg” LIVE this afternoon (4:00-6:30 pm) from the Orange Bowl’s media hotel with ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge, who’ll call the game tomorrow and many more guests!



 
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