Strike Point Sports: Who's Hot/Who's Not
by Strike Point Sports - 09/06/2006
Strike Point Sports offers a weekly look at who's hot and who's not in the world of sports.
Mr. Philly…Ryan Howard
Treating his first full year like a game on the Xbox, this youngster has made as strong a statement for MVP as one can over the past couple of weeks. With 24 games still left on the schedule, 60 long balls is almost certain and anything beyond that cannot be doubted.
Howard is best in the majors with 53 home runs and 134 RBI. The Phils' first baseman has also bumped his average during his hot streak, currently hitting at a .309 clip. After seeing teammates Bobby Abreu and Corey Lidle shipped out the door, most would have thought the Phillies' chances of the postseason play was slim at best. However, Ryan Howard has simply put his team on his back and has carried them to just 1.5 games behind wild card leader San Diego.
College football's week one saw some impressive running backs that went off in their opening games. West Virginia's super sophomore Steve Slaton opened his 2006 campaign just like he ended last year's. Following up his 2005 Sugar Bowl performance, the Mountaineers' tailback carried the rock to the tune of 203 yards on 33 attempts while finding the endzone twice.
Not to be outdone was another second year player, Raymell Rice out of Rutgers. Playing at North Carolina, Rice exploded for 201 yards and three touchdowns, running all over the Tarheel defense.
Heisman candidate Kenny Irons was as consistent as most assumed he would be, pounding the ground game with 183 yards and a score against a pitiful Washington State front seven.
In a losing effort, Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe put up one hell of game despite his team's one-sided loss to the Buckeyes. Wolfe gained 171 yards on the ground, but also chalked up 114 receiving yards and a touchdown.
And to add to the list of talented sophomore backs, Oregon's Jonathan Stewart looked the best on Saturday. While he just ran for 168 and two scores, he was wonderful both through the tackles and bouncing outside to add to his running arsenal against an inferior Cardinal defense.
SEC Big Dogs
The Southeastern Conference continues to back the claim that it is indeed the best college football conference in the nation. Its tough enough to argue that the SEC is not the deepest, but try and explain how its frontrunners aren't the best of the best too? The top four teams in both the East and West divisions won their first game, while teams like Arkansas and Mississippi State are likely to be better as a whole. Florida, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee are all BCS contenders, while Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina are all expected to be bowl eligible. The biggest complaint for this conference is that the teams beat up on each other every year, leaving no one in great shape to bid for a the National Championship….Playoff system anyone?
Pete Carroll and the best job in sports
No Reggie Bush. No Matt Leinart. No LenDale White. No Problem. LL Cool J said it best and he must have been talking about those So Cal Trojans: "Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years."
If you were unaware, head coach Pete Carroll doesn't rebuild, he reloads. And with three straight No. 1 freshman recruiting classes under his belt, expect USC to be a major player in this year's BCS race. Junior quarterback John David Booty was brilliant in his first start, throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns, without any turnovers and a completion percentage better than 60 percent.
Just as good, the running game showed no signs of a letdown. Emmanuel Moody, C.J. Gable and Chauncey Washington did well as they shared the load and did most of the work to earn 192 yards on the ground. Though still the favorite in the Pac-10, a BCS roadblock will await them on Sept. 16 in the form of the rejuvenated No. 20 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Louisville's BCS Title Hopes
While the Cardinals won their opener easily at home against Kentucky this past Sunday, they had a bigger loss on the field. Starting running back and Heisman hopeful Michael Bush broke his right leg and was lost for the season. While Louisville has depth at the position and should get by against lesser competition, when Miami (FL) and West Virginia comes calling is when he will be missed. In a two-horse Big East where one loss can shatter any BCS hopes, Louisville will be hard pressed to earn one of those ten spots available.
MLB's Defending Champs
Once the Twins lost a chunk of their starting rotation in Liriano and Radke, Chicago appeared to have a vice grip hold on the AL wild card spot. Not so fast, as it is Sept. 5 and the Twins are in first place, albeit by only ½ game. And don't look now but Minnesota's rookie sensation appears ready to pitch again. More so this change in fortune is due to the awful play of the White Sox, seemingly dumping more games to bad teams than any playoff contender. In less than a week Chicago has dropped three games to the Devil Rays and Royals, not to mention last night's loss where they blew the game in the ninth and lost it in 10. That's four bad losses in five games and more are on the way if Ozzie Guillen's club doesn't clean up its act.
If his motorcycle accident wasn't enough (although it was his fault), Big Ben is in trouble again. After having surgery this past Sunday due to an emergency appendectomy, the Steelers' starting quarterback is out for this Thursday's game to open the season at home against the Dolphins. And with his absence comes a major swing in the spread. Before the news Pittsburgh had been listed as 5.5-point favorites. Now with Charlie Batch starting, the road Dolphins (-1) are now the favorites and they are getting big time action with the new line.
Please stop saying how the rest of the world has caught up with American basketball. The rest of the world does play a more beautiful, team-style of ball, however talent is talent and, frankly, we have a surplus of it. How do we lose to Greece and then the Greeks get rolled on in the Final against Spain by more than 40, even without its best player Paul Gasol? That makes our players look that much worse. Bottom line is our NBA players are superior. But if we host a one-month training camp and expect out players to gel, especially after they compete against each other during a seven month season, we are seriously kidding ourselves. The rest of the world has collective teams. We have a bunch of extraordinary athletes that are playing pick up ball with each other, running around trying to make plays.