Big Ten Football: Preseason Power Rankings

The Big Ten has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons as of late. Urban Meyer is about to serve a three-game suspension for Ohio State after a report from Brett McMurphy said that Urban had specific knowledge of domestic abuse allegations against a member of his coaching staff, Zach Smith, in 2015. At Maryland, DJ Durkin is currently on administrative leave after the death of lineman Jordan McNair.

Despite the controversies, Big Ten football will still be played this season, and the top of the conference is loaded with talent. Ohio State and Wisconsin are the two favorites to represent the East and West in the Big Ten Title game, but Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State will look to play spoiler.

Here are my preseason power rankings for the Big Ten.

14. Illinois

Can Lovie Smith turn this program around? Only time will tell, but is too late? Last year was a learning year for the Fighting Illini as they started 16 freshmen. These freshmen like running back Mike Epstein and safety Bennett Williams will be more experienced and will look to improve upon their disastrous 2-10 2017 season. If the Illini can take the next step forward this year, 2019 will be full of promise with the arrival of 5-star quarterback Isaiah Williams.

12. Rutgers

Rutgers is not very good, but they’re not as bad as you think. A lot of their struggles are due to the fact that they are members of the Big Ten East, which is significantly tougher than the West with games against Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State. Chris Ash is in his third year and will look to continue the trend of increasing wins each year, tallying 2 and 4 wins in his first two years. Defense is the strength of the Scarlett Knights, lead by linebacker Deonte Roberts. The offense is still a work in progress. Truthfully, if Rutgers can win 5 games this year, that would be a huge win for the program.

12. Maryland

Like Ohio State, Maryland is embroiled in controversy after the death of lineman Jordan McNair. Coach DJ Durkin is on administrative leave after being accused of abuse and disparagement. If Durkin is not on the sidelines, that changes everything for the Terps. Putting controversy aside, the biggest reason for Maryland’s struggles last year was due to injuries. Both quarterbacks, Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, are back from season-ending injuries from a year ago. However, your guess is as good as mine as to how the Terps season will play out without their coach.

11. Indiana

Last year, Indiana’s season came down to a few miscues. The Hoosiers had four single-digit losses. If the ball bounces the other way, they could’ve been a bowl team. Also, just today, a week after naming Peyton Ramsey the starting quarterback, graduate transfer Brandon Dawkins left the program. Despite the issues on offense, the defense has improved every year under Tom Allen, finishing 27th in the country in 2017. In order to make a bowl, Indiana will have to learn how to win the close games.

10. Minnesota

Can Fleck and the Golden Gophers row the boat to relevancy this year? It will all start with true freshman Zack Annexstad under center, who happens to be a preferred walk-on. Early on, look for the Golden Gophers to rely on running back Rodney Smith for production. The defense should be solid once again, which allowed 22.8 points per game in 2017. That being said, Minnesota is an extremely young team that is still a few years away from true success.

9. Purdue

The hype for coach Jeff Brohm is real. After bringing the Boilermakers to a bowl game last season, hopes are high that Brohm can eventually bring the Boilermakers to the upper tier of the Big Ten. The quarterback position is still a mystery since Brohm has yet to name either Elijah Sindelar or David Blough as the starter. Jackson Anthrop is a game changer at receiver. However, Purdue lost the majority of their contributors on defense. Their success will hinge on their ability to come up with stops in big moments.

8. Nebraska

I firmly believe that Scott Frost can make Nebraska a contender not only in the Big Ten West, but in the college football landscape. Though, it takes time to build a program and get your guys that are tailored to your style of play. True freshman Adrian Martinez will be the first freshman quarterback to ever open the season for Nebraska. Stanley Morgan Jr. is also an exciting receiver that could be a first round pick next year in the 2019 NFL draft. Don’t expect Nebraska to compete for a Big Ten title just yet, but be patient. It’s coming sooner than later.

Mark Dantonio Michigan State HC

7. Iowa

The Iowa Hawkeyes seem to always play spoiler for Big Ten title hopefuls. Two years ago, they upset Michigan on a last-second field goal. Last season, they blew the doors off of Ohio State, which most likely led them to miss the playoff top four. Kirk Ferentz’s team lost top rusher Akrum Wadley so expect the Hawkeyes to open it up a bit more with returning quarterback Nathan Stanley. Circle September 22 on your calendars because that’s when Wisconsin comes to town. Let’s just say this. If I was a Wisconsin fan, I would be extremely nervous going into this game.

6. Northwestern

Coaching is the top strength of the Northwestern Wildcats because Pat Fitzgerald is the most underrated coach in college football. The Wildcats also return experienced quarterback Clayton Thorson, who will be one of the Big Ten’s best at the position. There’s no secret as to why Pat Fitzgerald has stayed with this program all of these years despite being brought up for numerous coaching vacancies. Fitzgerald wants to be the man to win a Big Ten Title and bring the Wildcats back to the Rose Bowl, which would be their first since 1995. It’s unlikely that happens this year, but with Fitzgerald at the helm and an important game against Wisconsin at home later this year, you never know what can happen.

5. Michigan

The time for Michigan to rise to the top of the Big Ten is now. With the Urban Meyer scandal, a potential step back for Penn State, and potential problems with the Michigan State offense, this could be the year that Michigan Wolverines play for a Big Ten title, which they have never done since conference realignment in 2011. The defense will be one of the best in the country lead by linebacker, Devin Bush Jr. and defensive tackle Rashan Gary. The season will all depend on if Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson is the real deal. If Patterson becomes Michigan’s best quarterback in the Jim Harbaugh era, a 10 win season is more than attainable.

4. Penn State

Before we talk about this year’s team, take a bow, Saquon Barkley. You helped bring the Nittany Lions back to the top of college football. Now, it’s time for senior quarterback Trace McSorley to be “the guy.” Penn State lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but James Franklin is a Top 5 recruiter in the country. If McSorley can carry the load until the young guys get up to speed, the drop off from last year will be minuscule.

3. Michigan State

Do not sleep on Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans. Nothing about this team screams the SportsCenter Top 10 in terms of talent, but this group is experienced, disciplined, and well-coached. The Spartans lose only four starters from last year and return veterans at every major position including quarterback Brian Lewerke and linebacker Joe Bachie. If Michigan State can play Michigan State football aka control the field and play good defense, they could upend Ohio State at the top of the conference.

2. Wisconsin

Had it not been for a 6 point loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, Wisconsin would have made the College Football Playoff last season. This year, expectations should be very high as the Badgers bolster one of the best offensive lines in the nation to go along with the return of quarterback Alex Hornibrook and Heisman hopeful running back Jonathan Taylor. The Badgers have some holes to fill on defense, but the Badgers are the proverbial favorite to represent the Big Ten West in the conference championship game.

1. Ohio State

This preseason, the biggest story at Ohio State has nothing to do with the play on the field. All of the storylines revolve around the Urban Meyer controversy and his three-game suspension. As bad as it is at Ohio State, it will only get worse in terms of media attention once Meyer returns from his suspension. Let’s remove Urban Meyer from the equation right now. The Buckeyes are still the best team on the field in the Big Ten. Defensive end Nick Bosa, who will most likely be a Top 5 draft pick, anchors a defense that has NFL talent all over. The biggest transition will be at the quarterback position as Dwayne Haskins takes over for JT Barrett. Expect some growing pains early, but if Haskins shows promise, the Buckeyes will fight for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Tiger Woods: The Athlete Who Will Unite America

America is a very divisive place in 2018. Well, at least that’s the case on social media. The right hates the left with a passion. The left hates the right with a passionThere are political, socio-economic, racial, and sexual orientation divides. One side tweets out an opinion. The other side attacks the tweet. An argument ensues, and most of the time, nothing is solved. Rinse and repeat.

What if I were to tell you that there was someone who could unite America? Specifically, what if I were to tell you that this someone was one of the most famous athletes of all-time? LeBron James? Tom Brady? Nope.

The athlete to unite America is Tiger Woods.

What transpired this past Sunday was magical. Tiger Woods, who is arguably the greatest golfer of all-time, entered the final round of the PGA Championship with a score of -8, which was 4 shots behind the leader (and eventual winner), Brooks Koepka. Tiger has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. Frankly, it’s felt like it’s been more than 12 years since Tiger was true “Tiger.” The Tiger that became the most popular athlete on the planet in the mid-2000s has been a shell of himself lately due to personal problems and health issues. However, August 12, 2018, was different. Tiger turned back the clock like it was 2005 and reminded America what he could do if his game is on. The problems of the country become secondary when Tiger is in contention.

Once Tiger showed up to the course looking like this, it was a wrap.

The Sunday red shirt AND a backward hat? If I were competing that day, I would’ve gone home because I knew I didn’t stand a chance. It turns out that the field actually didn’t stand a chance (besides Brooks) as Tiger shot a final round -6 / 64, which was his lowest-ever final round in a major.

Just listen to this crowd. Who else even comes close to hearing those roars? In golf, no one. In other major sports? No one as well. Tiger Woods is in a league of his own.

No one moves the needle like Tiger. I can’t think of an athlete who has moved the needle more than Tiger in the past 30 years. You might have to go back to the days of Muhammad Ali to find an equal counterpart. The Tiger Effect is real. When Tiger is in the hunt at a major, the ratings are to the moon. It’s been years since Tiger was in contention, but last Sunday, Tiger had a legitimate shot to win, and all of the eyeballs were on him. Tiger Woods is the most powerful athlete in his sport, and it’s not even close.

Let’s go back to my original point. Tiger Woods can unite America because he has the ability to stop people of all races, colors, and creeds in their tracks and turn on the television. This isn’t just a sports fan talking. This is an American. If you were on Twitter this past Sunday, there were barely any political discussions. There was no hate being spread. It was only reactions to what people were witnessing on a golf course in St. Louis. Stephen A. Smith summed it up best in the video below.

You may love him. You might even hate him. But, you are going to watch him.

America needs Tiger Woods.

Follow me on Twitter @danny_giro 

College Football: ACC Coaching Power Rankings 2018

Who is #1 in the ACC Coaching Power Rankings?

The ACC is an interesting conference when it comes to the strength of its coaches. There is one king in the ACC, and that’s Dabo Swinney. It’s a no-brainer, and his resume speaks for itself. Every other coach is playing for second. A few names such as Mark Richt of Miami, Bobby Petrino of Louisville, and Justin Fuente come to mind. If no one can knock Dabo off the top, can any team at least take down Clemson for conference supremacy?

ICYMI:

Big XII Coaching Power Rankings

Pac-12 Coaching Power Rankings

Big Ten Coaching Power Rankings

Here are the ACC Coaching Power Rankings.

14. Syracuse – Dino Babers

Well, at least they beat Clemson last year. Syracuse football is one of the toughest jobs in the country because of the location. Syracuse is a basketball school in central NY that is trying to compete with the likes of Florida State and Miami every year. Florida or Central NY?  It is a pretty simple choice for most kids. Getting kids to turn down the sunshine for snow is not exactly the easiest recruiting pitch. Do I think Dino Babers is a bad coach? No. Do I think he can do better than back-to-back 4-8 seasons? Absolutely. If Babers can win at least three games in the ACC this year, he might have a job for a few more years. Baby steps for the Orange.

13. Steve Addazio, Boston College

Steve Addazio is a smart coach. If you’re a vital member of Urban Meyer’s staff for two National Championships at Florida, you must be doing something right. However, his time at Boston College has been below average in the win/loss category. In 6 seasons with the Eagles, Addazio’s record is 31-33. For a Power 5 school, it’s nothing to brag home about. However, Addazio is well-respected and revered by both his peers and the school, who signed him to a contract extension through 2020. For my money, Steve Addazio is probably one of the most likable dudes out there. I use the word dude because Addazio coined the legendary phrase, “Guys being dudes.” For that, Addazio has my stamp of approval.

12. Pittsburgh – Pat Narduzzi

Pittsburgh football is the definition of mediocre. Since 1999, the Panthers win total has been between 5 and 9 wins besides 2009, which was their only 10 win season this century. Will Pat Narduzzi be able to take the Panthers back to the top tier of college football, which is a place they have not been since Dan Marino played quarterback. Narduzzi is a master of defense and proved that by becoming one of the best defensive coordinators in college at Michigan State. In three seasons at Pittsburgh, Narduzzi’s Panthers have been slightly above average with a season-high win total of 8. Last season, Narduzzi shocked all of college football when his Panthers beat previously unbeaten Miami in the final game of the regular season. Can Narduzzi build momentum off of that historic win?

11.Virginia – Bronco Mendenhall

The record may not show it, but Bronco Mendenhall has made significant strides with Virginia. Winning has not exactly been part of the program with their last winning season coming in 2011. Mendenhall built a very respectable program at BYU with 11 straight trips to bowl games. Year 1 was a learning year for Mendenhall and the Cavaliers, which resulted in 2 wins. However, the Cavs shocked a lot of people last year as they not only tallied 6 wins but reached a bowl game. Let’s see what Mendenhall can do in Year 3 with the program.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

LeBron James Declines Option With Cavs And Becomes A Free Agent

There it is. NBA free agency starts on Sunday, July 1 at 12:01 AM, but the news that we all knew was coming just became official. LeBron James will not opt into his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and will become a free agent.

LeBron is the key to this year’s free agency. Wherever he signs will have a domino effect on the status of superstars such as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Will LeBron stay in Cleveland or leave to form a potential super team?

Right off the bat, the opt out news is a win for the Lakers and the Sixers. Both of these teams have the cap room to sign LeBron outright. Behind those teams are the Cavs. Opting into the deal would have meant LeBron would have probably requested a sign and trade. With LeBron becoming a free agent, the Cavs can offer the King more money and more years than any other team in the NBA. In turn, this LeBron news hurts the Rockets because the likeliest path for LeBron to Houston would have been through a sign and trade. It’s still possible, but unlikely to happen.

For my money, there are two teams in the LeBron sweepstakes: the Lakers and Cavs. Both teams have the most to offer. LeBron to LA has been a rumor for a few years now, and it gets stronger and stronger each day.

LeBron to LA makes a lot of sense. The Lakers have the ability to clear enough cap room to not just sign one, but two players to max contracts. That means if LeBron becomes a Laker, Paul George might be right behind him, who opted out of his deal the other day. Like the Cavs, the Thunder can offer Paul George the most money and teaming up with Russell Westbrook is not a bad consolation prize. That being said, if George stays in OKC or takes his talents elsewhere, the Lakers could still sign LeBron and trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly wants out of San Antonio. This would require a lot of moving parts and the deal would in all likelihood be packaged around Brandon Ingram, but the Lakers would be willing to part ways with their young talent for the rights to the best two-way player in the game in Leonard.

Do the Cavs have any chance at resigning King James? Hypothetically, they do, but if I’m a betting man, I’m putting my money on the field to sign LeBron. There’s too much tension between LeBron and Dan Gilbert. LeBron did what he promised he would do, which is win the city of Cleveland a championship. Now, it’s time to win more championships and the best place for him to do that would be in LA, Philly, or Houston.

The NBA offseason is full of rumors and they will only heat up as the days go by. Who knows, maybe LeBron will only sign a one year deal to stay in Cleveland and then play the free agency game again next year. I don’t expect LeBron to drag this decision out. I would bet that he makes his decision by July 4th.

So where will LeBron James end up? Your guess is as good as mine.

.

.

.

.

.

Just kidding. He’s going to the Lakers.