Category Archives: #NCAAFOOTBALL

2016-THE YEAR IN REVIEW

As we continue to wind down the sports year of 2016 it is time to take a look back.  It was a year that saw Cleveland of all places take center stage twice.  We saw the city of Denver throw a retirement party for a football icon.  We witnessed a team owned by an iconic figure, led by a future Hall of Famer buzz-saw its way to hoisting the Stanley Cup.  We also witnessed baseball history that was over a century in the making.

Eleven days into the year Alabama defeated Clemson to win a national championship game for the ages.  It was a thrilling  45-40 offensive show in which the schools traded touchdowns in the final 1:07 of the game.  The University of Alabama has now won 16 National Championships.  2016 was the fourth under head coach Nick Saban.

The Carolina Panthers were the story throughout most of the 2015-16 NFL season.  Their 15-1 record made them the favorite to win Super Bowl 50.  The Denver Broncos endured six weeks without future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning who was sidelined with a foot injury.  The Broncos finished the regular season with a 12-4 mark, good for first place in the AFC Western Division by one game over the 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs.  Manning would return from his injury in time for the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs.

Peyton Manning’s return and the Broncos relentless defense would develop into the story of the 2016 NFL Postseason.  Following a bye during the Wild Card Round the Broncos would knock off the Steelers (23-16) and win a nail biter for the ages in the AFC Championship Game.  Denver defeated the New England Patriots 20-18 to advance to the 50th Anniversary Super Bowl.  The Broncos defense would sack Patriots quarterback Tom Brady 4 times, knock him down 20 times and intercept him twice.

The 15-1 Panthers would win the NFC Championship by defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round (31-24), and dominating the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC Championship Game.

The Broncos defense lead by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller would be the story of the Super Bowl.  League MVP Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked seven times.  The Denver defense would also force three turnovers.  Peyton Manning would finish his storied career on top.  Despite his injury ridden final season Manning would walk away wearing his second championship ring.

The Carolina Panthers weren’t the only Panthers team making headlines in January.  The NHL Florida Panthers began 2016 riding a winning streak that began on December 15, 2015 with a 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  They entered 2016 winning ten straight.  Victories in Ottawa on January 7, and in Edmonton on January 10th capped off the longest win streak in the NHL in 2015-16, and 2016-17 to date. Florida would finish the season with a team record 103 points on their way to an Atlantic Division Championship.  More importantly the long floundering franchise from South Florida has become relevant again.

Just days before the Florida Panthers became the talk of the NHL, an event happened in Pittsburgh that would have an impact on the rest of the season.

On December 12 the Penguins were out of the Metropolitan Division (and Eastern Conference Wild Card ) picture with a record of 15-10-3.  Owner Mario Lemieux felt their was a need for a leadership change.  Head coach Mike Johnston was let go and replaced by Mike Sullivan.  Sullivan was head coach of the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.  Under Sullivan’s leadership Pittsburgh would go 33-16-5 the rest of the way.  They finished 2nd in the Metropolitan Division behind the President’s Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals.  The Pens would enter the postseason with the second best record in the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh was dominant during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Victories over the New York Rangers (5 games), Washington (6 games) and Tampa Bay Lightning (7 games)  would send  them to the Stanley Cup Finals where they would defeat the San Jose Sharks in a 6 game series to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.  It was Sidney Crosby’s second championship, he also skated away with the Conn Smythe Trophy.

The San Francisco Bay area was buzzing with playoff excitement this past spring.  While the San Jose Sharks were battling the aforementioned Penguins, there was an even bigger story grabbing local and national headlines.  The Golden State Warriors dominated the NBA regular season with a record-breaking 73 wins.  Golden State would follow the regular season with dominant 5 game victories over the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers.

The Western Conference Championship Series turned out to be one for the ages.  The Warriors would hold on to win in seven games over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  The Thunder was led by Kevin Durant, who would by the way, sign with Golden State as an unrestricted during the summer.

Like the Carolina Panthers and the Washington Capitals, the Golden State Warriors dominance would be challenged.  Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were leading a dominant charge of their own in the Eastern Conference.  Four game sweeps of the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks, followed by a six game victory over the Toronto Raptors sent the Cavs to the NBA Finals to take on Golden State.

A seven game epic would end with the Cavaliers winning their first ever NBA Championship.  While Sidney Crosby was hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup, Lebron James was hoisting the Finals MVP Trophy and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

There is so much to cover in what has been an eventful year, too much for one blog.  This is the first of a two parter.  Next week we cover the Olympics, baseball and who was the best of the best.  Stay tuned and see you next week to wrap up a loaded sports year.

Advertisements

FOOD FAMILY AND LOTS OF FOOTBALL

As I write this the  American tradition that is Thanksgiving weekend is winding down.  I have to say I am very thankful for all I have been blessed with. I have a loving family, great friends and a love for sports.  The Good Lord blessed me with the ability to write about it too!  That being said, what a time to be a sports fan!

A tradition arose in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day in 1934 when the hometown Lions took the field against the Chicago Bears.  It was a gimmick introduced by new Lions owner G.A. Richards to draw fans for the newly relocated franchise.  The Bears were the NFL defending champions that year and they won the game 19-16 in front of the largest crowd of the season.  26,000 fans showed up at University of Detroit Stadium, thousands more were turned away.  The contest determined the NFL’s Western Division Champion for 1934.  The Lions and Bears would face each other every Thanksgiving up until 1938.  Due to World War II there were no games between the teams from 1939-1944.  The Lions would pick up the tradition in 1945, but without the Bears.  Their first post war opponent was the then Cleveland Rams.  Football has been played in Detroit on Turkey Day ever since.

With the advent of television in the 1950’s the NFL has been a living room staple alongside the turkey and trimmings on the dining room table. The first football game to be televised was on November 22, 1956 when the Packers defeated the Lions 24-20.

This year we had three games on Thanksgiving all with playoff implications.  The aforementioned Lions would win on a game ending field goal to take sole possession of first place in the the NFC North.  The Minnesota Vikings strange season continued with a loss in Detroit. After a 5-0 start the Vikings have now slipped into second place with a record of 6-5.

The middle contest was a renewal of one of the NFL’s storied rivalries.  The Dallas Cowboys, who have hosted the second game on the Thanksgiving schedule since 1966 (except 1975 and 1977 when the late afternoon game was hosted by the then St. Louis football Cardinals) played their arch-rivals from our Nations Capital.  The Cowboys 31-26 victory over the Redskins was their 10th straight.

In 2006 the NFL added a third contest on Thanksgiving in conjunction with scheduling games on Thursday night throughout the season.  The Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the Indianapolis Colts catapulted them into first place in the AFC North (at the time of this writing they were tied by the Baltimore Ravens with their win earlier today).

With the development of Black Friday, and the four-day holiday weekend the sports world would grow too.  Friday and Saturday has long been a staple of college football rivalries.  Over the years matchups such as Alabama vs. Auburn, Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and Notre Dame vs. USC came about.

The oldest rivalry played annually on Saturday after Thanksgiving is Michigan vs. Ohio State.  This year’s game didn’t disappoint.  In an epic double overtime thriller Ohio State defeated Michigan 30-27.

Not to be outdone, the National Hockey League has made a tradition of holding afternoon games on Black Friday.  The tradition originated in Boston over the years with the Bruins hosting an afternoon game on the day after Thanksgiving.  This year the executives at NBC along with Gary Bettman’s wonderful scheduling committee broke with the New England tradition.  The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers played on national television to kick off a full NHL schedule on Friday.  By the way the Bruins played a night game and lost to the Calgary Flames 5-1.  I’m thinking the hockey gods weren’t smiling on the break with New England’s afternoon hockey tradition.

As this great American break winds down and we resume business in workplaces other than retail tomorrow there will be plenty to discuss around the water cooler.  Sports will always have a place alongside the food, family and the insane amount of holiday shopping that takes place in the United States on November’s final weekend.