For any outside visitor looking in onto the area of Lakefield, Texas, it could have been seen as abandonment as the town itself was left lifeless on Friday nights. The reason for it: the Lakefield varsity football games at Towne Square Field. Signs that read “Closed: Gone to game”, countless vacated sparking spots, and with the only sound being the windchimes in front of the mom and pop stores meant one thing and one thing only, the Mustangs had a  game that night.

That enormous game was the home opener against their cross-town rival, the Riggington Cowboys, and it meant the world and more to the small town in central Texas to take home the W; it was a sense of pride, dignity, something they could hold over their “enemies”. To see such a divided area was almost a re-creation of the Civil War, once fellow brothers and sisters now turned mortal adversaries. The thought of the other side brought disgust and abomination.

The time was 6:00 P.M., one hour before kickoff, where Zach wrapped himself up in the team locker room, running through the playbook in his head, figuring out the best move to counter the stellar defense Riggington brought to the field. His hands stung of numbness like novacaine while drops of sweat rained down his back and he hadn’t even taken a snap. Could a 17-year-old such as himself be able to bring this team to victory where pressure breathed down his neck in the chase of glory?

Before the Mustangs took the field, while Zach was going over the PA draw with Jamar and Glenn-their seamlessly fool-proof plan-Zach felt a surge of pain in his throwing shoulder, the same kind of pain he had felt the other day at practice. While Glenn had asked with concern if Zach was able to play, the quarterback shrugged it off as if it was a simple growing pain, strapped on his helmet, and took to the field.

The September wind whipped around the field, dusk had finally rolled in, and the packed stadium filled with thousands of prideful fans were ready to endure the gruesome battle. Zach could hear both sides of the fans-the ones cheering him on and the ones that were going to make the next 40 minutes a long one. Lakefield won the coin toss and chose to receive the ball, a textbook decision by Coach Stamford, a part of his ideology on getting on the board first.

Taking the ball on the 32 yard line, Zach knew that to win this game he had to control the tempo, keeping the Cowboy defense at bay. With a quick halfback toss to Jamar for a six yard gain, the running game seemed to be a crutch for the Mustang offense. Run after run after run-Jamar sharing carries with senior fullback Taylor Johnson-it seemed that Lakefield had already figured out the flaw to the once-impenetrable defense, until they made a minor readjustment.

Throughout the entire drive, Riggington were banking on the fact that Zach, with his nervous tendencies, was going to force the ball and throw to double covered receivers, which is why they had started off in a cover 3 package with their defensive backs in zone coverage to keep an eye out for up-for-grab balls. Realizing that wasn’t going to happen, the Cowboys head coach-Tanner Williams-made the call in switching to a cover 2 and bringing the backs closer while emphasizing the blitz from their All-American defensive tackles, the Stoughton twins: Billy and Tim.

At first, it seemed as if their was no change at all as Lakefield took in the first six points with a slant route Glenn had run perfectly to create an option for Zach to throw t0. Quickly catching up was the Cowboy’s pistol offense, and within a blink of an eye, it was a tie game, barely enough time for the offense to catch their breath.

There was no time to run, Zach had thought to himself, if he had wanted to keep up with the swift Riggington offense. A play that had seemed fitting-where Glenn faked a curl and ran a post while Jamar acted as an option in the slot called “Tahoma 19”- was a play that could not have gone more wrong. On the tap of Zach’s right foot for the silent count, Glenn had been shoved by the right cornerback past the five yard mark- a clear penalty in any referee’s eye-the junior quarterback was still determined to make the throw to his to go-to-guy.

Unaware of his pocket came Billy Stoughton, beating the offensive line with his near-perfect bull rush. Diving into the quarterback’s right shoulder, the same spot where his agonizing pains had originated, time had seemed to slow down. The piercing sound of Zach’s shoulder snapping, the fall of the quarterback hitting the turf like lead, and the silence gasps of the crowd could have been copied and pasted from a horror movie. The town of Lakefield had just watched their season come to an end in just one simple yet devastating play.

Coaches and medics had rushed to the field to aid Zach, but it was evident he was not coming back to the game of football for a while, if ever. Carted off the field and binded by straps, the tears in Zach’s eyes had clogged his vision of the worried and plundered crowd. A sense of disappointment flooded his emotions as he helplessly laid in the back of the ambulance.

With their backup quarterback being a freshman, Coach Stamford made the call of moving Jamar to quarterback and having him run draw plays to wide down the rest of the game which resulted in a 24-14 loss. The bigger loss for the town of Lakefield was Zach Tempsen, their holy grail to a state championship, the athlete that was going to represent Lakefield for years to come, had been damaged in front of their eyes. Their was no immediate answer, which gave an insecure feeling to the townspeople, a desolate emotion none of them had ever felt before.

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Football is more than just a sport, especially in the small town of Lakefield, Texas, it’s an upbringing; a way of life that has been the lulling trend since the small town of 4,500 was founded for it’s oil reserves in 1909. Once just a giant plot of land used as public property for Midland County, the Mustangs now holds six state championships, 13 ex and current NFL football players, and one overzealous community.

The cookie-cutter, traditional Lakefield family consisted of a father slaving away at the scorching reserves, putting away 10-12 work hours a day, while the mother stayed at home, keeping everyone and everything in check. Their would be a son who either played football or a son that wanted out of the town and the daughter would be worked up in either cheerleading, the school drama, or student council. Some call the lifestyle monotonous and unexciting, others would call it simple and pleasant.

One standout in the Lakefield football hotbed is the Mustangs’ junior quarterback, Zach Tempsen. A prodigy since the day he could throw a spiral, Tempsen had always been an avid follower of Lakefield football, dreaming of the day he could dawn the crimson red and midnight black on his jersey. The only game Zach had missed was when he was four years old in ’97, the day his sister Sarah, now a Mustang cheerleader, was born. That was the year the Mustangs missed the playoffs by one game.

Tempsen had been fielding scholarship offers since the day he stepped foot on Towne Square Field, Lakefield’s varsity stadium, as a freshman in ’08. The stereotypical build- 6’2”, 210 lbs, a cannon of an arm with a mind of a field general, complimented by the intangibles of a father’s dream date for his daughter- charming, respectful, and most importantly, a strong demeanor. Even with Tempsen’s nose stuck in the playbook and not the textbooks, there was every reason for big name scouts to be drooling over QB1 of the Lakefield Mustangs.

It was a small town like Lakefield that had treated Zach like a big name celebrity. Burgers and drinks were free, girls came by the numbers, and autographs were treated of holy significance. But if there was one person keeping the feet of Zach on the ground, it was his father, Joe, that did not let his son’s super-stardom presence get to his head. Coming from a military family and a current sergeant at the local military base , Joe had taught his son the concepts of “keeping the eye on the prize”, humility, respect, and responsibility.  Joe supported his son like any proud father would, but there was a “glitch” in the Tempsen family-they weren’t the typical Lakefield parents to breath down their son’s back, expecting the unexpected out of him.

The reason for Lakefield’s preseason hype was not from just Zach, but junior running back Jamar Windsor- Zach’s best friend since grade school, a sidekick that always had his back. With Windsor’s blazing speed and robotic build, it looked like an All-Pro back in the backfield, but with character issues from a broken family and grades that didn’t impress even the local community colleges, Jamar had his work cut out for him. But with these two anchoring the helm of the Mustang offense, the world was at their feet.

And the brains behind the Mustangs? That would be Coach Bill Stamford, a Texas native who had recently moved to Lakefield in search of a coaching job, yearning to mold the minds of young student athletes. Coach, as players and residents alike had called him, was not one to buy into the whole “football-centered” town model, but rather asking his players to give back to the town that consistently gave to them, a major reason why he and Zach had clicked from the get-go.

All seemed ideal in the small “utopia” of Lakefield, except for one thing- the residents themselves. As radical as evangelical Christians, the townspeople rallied around their football team at all costs, and voiced their opinion by any means. One day a player can be the hero of the town, while in the blink of an eye and a careless fumble that costed the game, he would be the local punching bag-taking vicious vocal jabs while clearing off “For Sale” signs in front of his house. External pressure was always an obstacle players had to cope with while social status and representation being a bittersweet privledge.

Friday nights were like national holidays- stores and local businesses shut down while families made the pilgrimage to Towne Square Field and enjoying the one common interest all 4,500 of them had- high school football. The breezy, sub 70 degree Texas weather at dusk with the buzzing roar of the home crowd became a niche for Lakefield players. That jittery feeling was almost calming-they knew they were home.

Local radio broadcasters and newspapers were already stirring up a commotion about the opening game to the 2011 season- the nationally-televised rivalry game between Lakefield and their crosstown foes, the Riggington Cowboys, a team glamorized for their hard-nosed, impenetrable defense with two pre-season All-American seniors holding down the line. Coach Stamford tried to downplay the hype and maintain the daily focus of practice and drills, but it’s all Zach could think of. Essentially a national showcase for the public to truly see what the junior quarterback was all about, Zach couldn’t sleep with the idea of being the main target of attention outside of Lakefield.

There was no time or place to choke and with the decorated pride at stake, Zach wasn’t about to let himself, his family, or his town down. In a routine throw-and-catch drill with his receivers Thursday afternoon, that same Thursday before “the big game”, Zach tweaked his throwing shoulder on a skinny route pass to his main receiver- Glenn Daly-but brushed it off as if it didnt’ happen. He had a bigger picture to worry about, and something as small as a tweak wasn’t about to bring down the quarterback the night before the biggest game of his life.

Stay tuned for Part II in the near future

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We can all, or at least most of us, recount the late 90’s-early 2000’s, and no not for the Tomagatchi and Furbee fads, not for the reality television trend, and certaintly not Cisqo’s infamous “Thong Song”. I’m talking about some of Major League Baseball’s finest moments.

The Subway Series square off between the New York Yankees and New York Mets in 2000. Cal Ripkin Jr and Tony Gwyn’s last stands. And of course, the mass quantity of  home runs.

The excitement orbiting around Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa’s chase for Roger Maris’ 61 home run mark. Raphael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez slamming them out of the ballpark one out of every four or so at bats. And Barry Bonds’ ultimate reign of superiority of “king” by breaking the single season and career home record with 73 and 772, respectively.

It seemed as if baseball solidified itself as “America’s sport” with the hype and fandom surmounted around these sluggers and what they offered to the game. You didn’t even have to be a Cubs or Cardinals fan to appreciate what was known as “The Great Chase”. You were a fan of the game. It was second nature to watch such a historic record be broken in that fashion.

This heightened sense of euphoria around baseball’s passionate fans died down dramatically in 2007 when Senator turned “vigilante” George Mitchell released his 20 months of research on the correlation between baseball players and performance enhancing drugs called the “Mitchell Report”. It had seemed the devil had a long lost twin from Maine.

The list not only had the likes of Bonds, McGuire, Palmeiro, and Sosa, but some highly touted pitchers such as Roger Clemens, who arguably dominated the 1990’s with his fastball that has 7 Cy Youngs to back it up, and some suprise names as well, such as fellow Yankee, at the time, Andy Pettite, who resembles more of a small town farmer than a big time juicer.

I wasnt lying, was I?

For baseball fans across the world, it was like receiving a lump of coal under the Christmas tree. A favorite band selling out. A role model not living up to certain expectations. A feeling of disapointment and disheartenment. Blinded by the facade of artificial talent.

This, of course, led to federal investigations and court trials in the blink of an eye. Seeing Jason Giambi in a three piece suit rather than in pinstripes was as out of place as seeing the cast of the Jersey Shore at the Grammys this year. Accusations of perjury and lying in front of grand jury were charges I had never heard of my entire life but how quickly did they become a part of my daily vocabulary discussing with friends about what was to happen to next to our fallen heroes.

The shift in emotions of audacity to resentment from the baseball community was just the norm- why praise someone who cheated on their path to national glory? Where is there a spot in the Hall of Fame for these perpetraitors against the glorified and respectful careers of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays?

In comes the concept of the asterisk- letting the public know on the record books that the feat was not acheived naturally. It parallels the process of a sex offender alerting their neighbors of who they are and shameful thing they did to deserve the title. The comparison may be brash but the point is evident.

In any argument there are two sides, and in this case, it was the fans who believed those players lost their right of recognition because of steroid use and that even an asterisk next to their name would be more of a privledge than punishment. On the flip side, there are fans who stand by not only the players, but in the grounds of baseball in which even while taking PEDs, it takes athleticism to hit X amount of homeruns or strike out Y number of players.

A few years have passed, as we are in the year 2011 and ESPN headlines still read with these players and the lawsuit baggage they carry. In the most reason MLB news, prosecutors are deciding on whether or not to try Bonds AGAIN after he was found guilty of the one charge left against him: obstruction of justice. And the kicker is, it has absolutely nothing related to his steroid use.

Has the Steroid Era officially run it’s course or is it coming back with vengeance? A Mitchell Report part deux? Any good-natured fan would be crossing fingers and knocking on wood for this storm that has tornadoed itself into the national spotlight for the past four years to end.

But the question at hand is what do we do now with these so-called “culprits”? Do we let them bask in their own guilt by banning them from any sort of record book or hall or will the asterisk serve it’s purpose in alarming our younger generation fans of what happens to those who don’t play the game fairly. This whole ordeal runs full circle: just like the Steroid Era itself, time will be the ultimate keeper.

Will the shameful circus ever end?

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In the words of college basketball color commentator Clark Kellogg, “Watching these two teams shoot is like watching paint dry”.

I believe we can all agree, especially Greg Anthony, that this was one of the worst NCAA championships of all time. 53 to 41 points. 34% versus 18% field goal percentage. UConn’s winning mark was the lowest scoring win since World War II era with Wisconsin’s 39-34 win over Wazzu in’41.

Rather than bash the atrocious scoring efforts of both teams, watching this game helped make a comparison, aside from the title game, that the 2010-11 Huskies resemble the roster make up of the 2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers.

2011 NCAA Champions

Of course, the most notable, yet most controversial comparison lies between junior guard Kemba Walker and shooting guard Kobe Bryant. Naturally there are physical differences (Walker stands at a mere 6’1” while Bryant towers over him at 6’6”), playing level, experience, and team composition.

However, both have one common, “umbrella” characteristic that branch out into other minor feats: they both know how to control the game. Walker’s 23.7 ppg in the regular season, with an incredible 26.3 ppg within the Big East/NCAA tournament resonates to Bryant’s 27.0 ppg last season accompanied by a 29.2 ppg average in the post season, both roughly a 7% increase.

Next up, Walker’s stellar performance through out the entire March Madness earned him the “Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four” while Bryant’s magician-like showing during the 2010 post season earned an “NBA Finals MVP” accolade. Not enough? Let’s move on.

Incorporating teammates is another critical component to the two play makers’ style of play. Dishing out around five assists a game and an above 1.5 assist to turnover ratio reflects that the two sharp shooters aren’t all about the stats.

Speaking of teammates, there are some uncanny comparison in some UConn to LA players. Freshman forward Jeremy Lamb’s clutch 2nd half against Butler and hard-nose defense resembled Lakers’ forward Ron Artest and some of his 4th quarter heroics. Sophomore big man Alex Oriakhi’s near double-double season average and capability of shutting down Butler’s paint play echoed center Pau Gasol’s wall-like presence down low against the Celtic’s Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.

2010 NBA Champions

Not only do their rosters show commonalities, but their coaches seem to share some redeeming qualities as well. Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun became the oldest coach to win a NCAA basketball collegiate title at age 68, making it his 3rd title overall. On the flip side, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson isn’t drinking from the fountain of youth either- at age 65 was able to win his 11th NBA title. Yes, the numbers are a bit skewed, but the only NCAA coach to come close to that number is UCLA legend John Wooden with 10.

Digging further in the two teams’ alikeness, both have had a roughly the same roller coaster of a history the past 10 years. UConn’s 2004 winning year with Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon parallels the Lakers 1999-04 Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal era. The two teams both have had down falls and with a few rebuilding seasons, returned to national glory.

Who knows if Walker will replicate Bryant’s NBA career of any sort or will share even remotely the same impact #24 has had on the Lakers, or if UConn will be a collegiate powerhouse as the Lakers are to the NBA. However, if one thing is for certain, Walker’s leadership and performance of the Huskies tournament run shows at least a glimpse of what the guard has in store for the basketball world to see.

guard Kemba Walker

The show must go on

Posted: February 8, 2011 in NFL
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It’s now that time of the year: the National Football League has declared a world champion from the Super Bowl, the ever-so popular Pro Bowl has run it’s course (hope you caught the sarcasm), teams are scrambling to find the next-best bargain in free agency and college athletes begin to prepare and prove themselves in The Final Judgment, or what we call the NFL Combine.

What has seemed to be a cyclical time period in years past has now halted in front of one major obstacle: the collective bargaining agreement.

It seems to be a confusing and sort of vague subject for the common fan to get a grasp of, so let me break it down for you:

  • Two years ago, NFL owners opted out of the then current CBA contract because they believed the players got the bigger piece of the “pie” (which in reality they did, taking in roughly 60% of a team’s revenue)
  • During the tough times of our slumping economy, owners want to reconstruct the agreement to make it more even, such as aiding them in stadium debts from renovations and repairs as well as other needs. To accommodate this the players’ salaries must be cut.
  • When the owners chose to opt out, the contract was scheduled to expire March 3rd after the 2010 season. Once it does hit the 3rd of March, owners can choose to “lockout” their players by not paying them or holding any team-sponsored activities. Players may respond by forming together as a union and file an anti-trust lawsuit/go on strike.
  • The NFL Draft will occur but teams cannot sign draft picks, restricted and unrestricted free agents, or perform trades. Owners cannot really come in contact with their players.
  • It comes down to this: owners want roughly $1 billion off of revenue and implement an 18% pay cut to the players while players want the same deal from previous years. (courtesy of SFGate.com)

After all that technical red tape, nobody wants to see a lockout. Better yet, no player, owner, merchandiser or blue-collared fan can afford to see a lockout occur. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell believes that there will be an agreement before the expiration date. However, with all the media commotion and the tension between both sides of the argument, it could be a toss-up on how long this circus will last. In order to see another day of football a few things need to occur.

First off, and of course the most ideal circumstance, is that the media needs to stop hyping up the commotion and let the two sides figure it out. The fans of America do need to be updated on this current crisis, but I think it’d be better off if we didn’t see the NFL Players Association homepage announce  that “Union Representative  Rodgers Named Superbowl MVP”. It only adds more fuel to the fire.

Next off is the classic case of compromise: Owners want to add two more additional games to their schedules to bring in more money while players attest that their bodies take enough damage as it is. And the redundant dilemma of the rich arguing who should be richer. Why don’t you try this on for size: getting rid of the bye week, ultimately just adding one game while eliminating or decreasing preseason games to lessen the chance of a player injury.

And for the salary impasse? Players and owners/personnel should split their  respective revenue and re-work contracts with more incentives. Contracts with more incentives+player’s desire to gain more money+the debacle of ownership debt= Players playing (and getting paid) at the level they deserve while owners don’t feel regretful in unloading cash into their roster because of the high generation of revenue. If players are performing well, the more likely a fan will pay the X amount of dollars to see them play. It’s not rocket science.

What also needs to be looked at are rookie salaries. It was discussed that the NFL was looking into adopting a system the NBA currently has for it’s rookies by using a maximum salary cap to sign draft picks. It makes one sick to think that former 1st round picks-turn-busts Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell, and Matt Leinart walked away with tens of millions of dollars while not living up to the hype of their glamorous college careers.

Lastly, it was enjoyable to see that the NFL and the NFLPA finally met for the first time in months, in which players such as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as well as owners, like Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, were able to discuss the agreement. This is the foundation for what should/needs to happen in the future: owners and players actually meeting, rather than bickering, to deliberate on how to make things work.

It truly is a waiting game for us fans. Do I believe that there will not be 2011-12 season at all? Doubt it. But with the slow pace it’s already taking, you can only cross your fingers for so long.

Hey, at least pitchers and catchers report to camp in one week…

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and head of NFLPA DeMaurice Smith

Cam Newton v. LaMichael James

If you had looked at the final BCS standings for the 2010-11 season, you could not have even called, hell, even took a stab in the dark that the Auburn Tigers and Oregon Ducks held the number 1 and 2 spot, respectively. With predicted favorites Alabama and Ohio State falling early in a roller coaster of a season, in which five different teams held the top spot in the BCS standings, who would have known that the #11 preseason ranked Ducks would be squaring off against a #22 preseason ranked Auburn team. It only makes sense when each team had a Heisman finalist to lead them there, in which Oregon’s LaMichael James finished 3rd while Auburn’s Cam Newton took home the hardware (as well as other distinguished trophies). It’ll definitely be one for the books in this shootout but here is my breakdown of the 2011 BCS title game:

Quarterback
Oregon’s Darren Thomas did a nice job this season commanding the Duck’s explosive, video-game like offense by throwing for over 2500 yards, 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Thomas also proved he could be a solid duel-threat QB by rushing for 492 yards and five scores. However, it’s Cam Newton that takes the crown for this category by far. The Heisman, Davey O’Brien (Top NCAA QB), and Maxwell (College player of the year) award-winning quarterback has shown inhuman qualities while putting up unbelievable statistics: throwing for over 2500 yards, in which he completed 67.1% of his passes and 28 touchdowns AND rushing for 1580 yards and 20 touchdowns. Purely mind-blowing. Newton also has the drive in him to win it all, especially in Auburn’s 4th quarter comeback against Alabama on Nov 26.
EDGE: Auburn

Running Back
Running back is sort of a vague term for Auburn, as Cam Newton could have arguably handled both halfback and quarterback positions. However, the Tigers real starting running back Michael Dyer had a nice season to compliment Newton and Auburn, rushing for 962 yards, averaging 5.9 a carry with 5 scores. Dyer and even Newton could not compete with the stats of Oregon’s LaMichael James, the Duck’s dynamic running back. The 2nd runner up for the Heisman carried for an unimaginable 1786 yards, 21 touchdowns and had averaged over 150 yards a game.
EDGE: Oregon

Wide Receivers
When talking about both team’s offensive strengths, the position of wide receiver is rarely mentioned. Oregon’s Jeff Mahl was clearly Thomas’s number one target as he hauled in 943 yards for 12 touchdowns. There seems to be a parallel relationship between Thomas-Mahl and Auburn’s Newton and Darvin Adams, in which the junior caught for 909 yards and seven scores. Even so, it’s the broader picture that needs to be looked at: the depth of the receiving corps. It looks like that Mahl was the only true option for Thomas [the 2nd best receiver had only 36 grabs for 410 yards] while Newton was able to not only utilize Adams but senior Terrell Zachary (585 yards, 4 tds) and sophomore Emery Blake ( 472 yards, 7 tds).
EDGE: Auburn

Defensive Corps (Tackles/Ends/Linebackers)
No team in this BCS title game has a standout defense but there are some credible qualities about each defensive front. Junior defensive lineman (and soon-to-be 1st round pick) Nick Fairly anchors the Tigers defense with 10 1/2 sacks, 55 total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Besides that, it hasn’t been pretty for Auburn on defense, allowing 24.5 points per game in which they were ranked 54th in the nation. On the flip side, Oregon’s 12th ranked defense (18.4 ppg allowed) is something worth watching. With the pass rush coming from senior end Kenny Rowe (91 tackles, 6 sacks, 6 forced fumbles) and linebacker Casey Matthews (72 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 ints), the Ducks will be sure to keep Cam Newton on his toes
EDGE: Oregon

Defensive Backs
It seems to be that Oregon again has the upper hand on Auburn, as the Ducks double the total amount of interceptions the Tigers have, 20 to 10. Sophomores John Boyett and Cliff Harris each account for half of Oregon’s interceptions total (five apiece) and will be a real threat to the Auburn passing game. On the other hand, senior linebacker Josh Bynes for Auburn has been known to slip back into the back field to provide coverage against receivers and his stats back that up: a team leading 71 tackles and 3 interceptions.
EDGE: Oregon

Coaching
This could be a potential toss up for this category. Former coordinator Gene Chizik really got his claim to fame from his years spent as the Texas Longhorns defensive co-coordinator when the Longhorns won the national championship against USC in 2006. With a short-tenured head coaching gig at Iowa State, Auburn hired Chizik, in which he led the Tigers to an Outback Bowl win in 2009 and now to an undefeated record in 2010. Chip Kelly began his career as a head coach in Oregon, as he led the Ducks to an upset victory over then #5 USC to win the Pac-10, sending them into the Rose Bowl only to lose to Ohio State. Kelly has also led the Ducks to an undefeated season.
EDGE: Toss Up

Final Conclusion: Oregon’s offense is too powerful and fast paced for any normal BCS team to handle, especially against a sub-par defense such as Auburn’s. However, it is superhuman quarterback Cam Newton, who has not been stopped against powerhouse SEC teams all year, to come up victorious in this year’s national championship game.

Final Score Prediction: Auburn 42 Oregon 35

2011 NFL Mock Draft (Picks 1-10)

Posted: January 7, 2011 in NFL
Tags: ,

I know it’s a little early, but I believe with all the heat and chaos on which college football hot shot is or isn’t entering the upcoming NFL draft. But, with the first 10 picks a lock (position wise, that is), I figured I’d take a stab at the first 10 picks for the 2011 NFL Draft.

1. Carolina Panthers – AJ Green, WR, Georgia
The Panthers made headlines earlier this week by announcing to the press that they would take prized Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with their 1st overall pick. However, with Luck making his announcement to stay at Stanford for another year (and another run at the Heisman), look to see the Panthers help out current QB Jimmy Clausen with an eccentric, talented wide out like Green to help out the poor, current receiving core. With aging and injury plagued Steve Smith not the same top receiver he was for the Panthers a few years ago, Green would be the first receiver since 1996 (Keyshawn Johnson) to be taken 1st overall.

2. Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson, CB, Louisiana State
The Broncos’ season has just been dismal. From a the firing of a failed 2nd year coach with just being absolutely horrific on defense, it’s clear where Denver needs to draft. Peterson would provide a nice fit with a potential scenario of current veteran corner Champ Bailey retiring or moving to safety alongside Brian Dawkins. With a hard-nose style of defense and great man coverage in the corner, I can see Peterson becoming an immediate impact player.

3. Buffalo Bills – Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
A lot of draft analysts had Clemson defensive end (and recently declared) Da’Quan Bowers as the Bills pick here to help improve their pass rush. However, the Bills have had constant quarterback problems throughout the years (Kelly Holcomb, JP Losman, Trent Edwards) and while few believe the franchise can rest upon the shoulders of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills would be naive to not take Newton here. Plus, the city of Buffalo could use a little flair to it’s football team and that and more is exactly what Newton would bring.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – Nick Fairly, DT, Auburn
Back to back Auburn picks here but Cincinnati desperately needs an anchor in their 4-3 defense. Fairly is a versatile defensive tackle in which he can stop the run as well as provide a solid pass rush, killing two birds with one stone. The Bengals either take Fairly or Bowers at this spot.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
One would think with the quarterback catastrophe the Cardinals faced this year they would end up drafting one, but the defensive players in this draft are too good to pass up on. Bowers is the best defensive end, if not, arguably, the best defensive player in this draft and plays like an tough end as well as linebacker, in which he’d be well suited in Arizona’s 3-4 defensive scheme.

6. Cleveland Browns – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Cleveland Browns have consistently struggled at defensive, especially against the pass. Amukamara is a shut down corner, and with Peterson already taken, it’s a no brainer for the Browns to take Prince here. Amukamara is a definitely worthy of a starting position and I believe he’d compliment Joe Haden quite nicely.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
It’s either Mallet or Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, but the 49ers cannot have another Alex Smith. That’s why I believe Mallet has the edge over Gabbert because of his experience and has proven himself by playing in the SEC, much tougher than the Big 12. If San Fransisco wants to move out of the bottom of the NFC, they need to take a quarterback here.

8. Tennessee Titans – Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
After the Titans organization recently stated they do not intend to bring back former 1st round pick Vince Young at quarterback, it just doesn’t make sense for them to draft similar styled QB Cam Newton if he were to drop. However, the Titans have a void to fill after they lost DT Albert Haynesworth to free agency, Dareus would be a great fit here with his bulky physique and pass-rush edge.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
There aren’t too many offensive lineman in this year’s draft, so the Cowboys need to capitalize early with their pick. All but one of the Cowboy’s offensive lineman are over 30 and with injuries to Marc Colombo and penalty problems with Leonard Davis, Solder is the safe pick here.

10. Washington Redskins – Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
The Redskins could either take a running back (Mark Ingram out of Alabama), or a wide receiver (Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State, if not, Alabama’s Julio Jones) with their pick here. But Paea is a great defensive player that leaves Washington no choice but to pick him up. Albert Haynesworth has shown that he is not a reliable defensive tackle so it would be a great step forward for the Redskins defense to have Paea up front.

And that’s it! I will be doing the remaining picks section by section as we near the draft and tread on through the playoffs.