Friday, 2/16 Quick Hitters: On UofA-ASU, Ayton’s dominance, Fitz returns, and picking the Daytona 500!

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong. I predicted a 10 point ASU victory over Arizona in Thursday’s college basketball matchup from Tempe. UofA’s 77-70 win was just the opposite and hallelujah!

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-First of all, Thursday night’s crowd at Wells Fargo Arena was arguably the loudest in the stadium’s history. Props to ASU fans for filling the joint. And bringing notable announcer Michael Buffer to announce ASU’s starting lineup before his signature “LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMBLLLLEEEE” line was pretty darn cool.

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Friday, 2/9 Quick Hitters: UofA / ASU Recruiting, Ranking the Pac-12 HCs, Trades Galore, and more!

-Let’s start with the elephant in the room from college football’s National Signing Day…according to 247Sports’ team rankings…ASU is 36th and UofA sits at #58. Am I worried? Not in the least. Last I checked Herm Edwards was hired in early-December which gave him and his staff nearly two months to improve upon Todd Graham’s class. For Kevin Sumlin, it was closer to 2.5 weeks. And in three days, Sumlin signed Arizona’s highest rated recruit, QB Kevin Doyle from Washington D.C.

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-Props to Herm for finishing with a solid class…but if you’d like to bet me that next year Sumlin’s Arizona class will rank significantly above Edwards’ ASU signees, message me on Twitter @eacohen83. In fact I’ll take it a step further, if Sumlin’s 2019 class isn’t in the top-30, I’ll be prepared to eat some MAJOR crow.

-Georgia is going to be really, really, really good these next few years. What Kirby Smart has done in only 2+ short years…almost a National Championship + elite recruiting classes = brilliance. The Bulldogs will be the new Alabama in terms of success for years to come.

-I don’t want to say a lot about Arizona basketball after their garbage performance at home against UCLA on Thursday night. I’m still REALLY upset about it. But the fact is, if you think this team is a Final Four contender (as I previously had), you’re in for some major disappointment. As it stands right now, I’d be more surprised if they made the Final Four than if they lost in the first round…

-For those who have asked, here are my personal rankings of the Pac-12 coaches from worst to first:
12. Jonathan Smith (Oregon State)
11. Mario Cristobal (Oregon)
10. Herm Edwards (ASU)
9. Mike McIntyre (Colorado)
8. Justin Wilcox (Cal)
7. Clay Helton (USC)
6. Mike Leach (Washington State)
5. Kevin Sumlin (Arizona)
4. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
3. Chris Peterson (Washington)
2. Chip Kelly (UCLA)
1. David Shaw (Stanford)

Wondering where I would’ve ranked Rich Rodriguez? Likely 8th on this list…

-At first I absolutely hated what the Cavaliers did on Thursday before the NBA’s Trade Deadline. By dealing Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a 2018 first round pick to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, it didn’t at first glance appears that the Cavs made their team better. But a subsequent 3-way trade netting them PG George Hill (from Sacramento) and SG Rodney Hood (from Utah) gave Cleveland the firepower and defensive ability they recently have been lacking. Mind you that LeBron’s club is far from a lock to represent the East in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year (and his eighth straight year dating back to his days with the Heat) but these moves definitely help. Many props to Cleveland GM Koby Altman who wasn’t afraid to press the reset button right before the All-Star Break. Thomas was a disaster next to LBJ and he needed to go. For the Lakers, they were also the biggest winners on deadline day as they’ve freed up enough money to sign two max contract free agents in the coming offseason(s).

-Don’t underestimate the Suns late trade on Thursday afternoon…having acquired Orlando PG and former 10th overall pick Elfrid Payton. While he’s known more for his crazy hair than his game on the court, Phoenix desperately needed a competent ball distributor and Payton brings them just that. While I still strive to see the Suns lose games in bunches to achieve a higher draft pick, the Payton experiment is certainly worth watching as the team plays out the string in 2018.

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-Let’s put it this way about the Suns, it’s hard to be much worse than they were on Wednesday night…3 of 32 from three point range has to be among the most pathetic statistics by any team this season.

-Five years, $137 million for Jimmy Garoppolo, a QB who has started what, eight games in his career? Ridiculous. I understand he’s never lost as a starting QB but it’s a SMALL sample size to say the least. Next week I’ll write a breakdown of NFL starting QBs…but there’s no way I’d have Garoppolo higher than 15th. Some players are about to get P-A-I-D!

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-Like many fans, players, agents, and observers, I’m disgusted by the pathetic lack of movement lately among baseball teams when it comes to marquee free agents. Pitchers and catchers report in a week or so and as of now, Houston is the CLEAR CUT best team in the league. Do something people! If players like Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and Alex Cobb are still unsigned one week from today, something is CLEARLY wrong with the system.

-I really could care less about the Winter Olympics especially considering my favorite sport in the games, hockey, is being played without NHL players. Just looking at the U.S. roster…considering I haven’t heard of 90% of the players, it’s hard to expect them to be medal contenders.

-Starting a new weekly feature here – I’ll name the teams that I think will be in the finals of the six most popular major sports (including college). Based on injuries, transactions, etc… I’ll revise weekly as necessary:
NBA: Golden State vs. Boston
College Basketball: Villanova vs. Michigan State
NHL: Boston vs. Dallas
MLB: Houston vs. Washington
NFL (2019): Pittsburgh vs. New Orleans
College Football (2019): Alabama vs. Michigan

-Finally – I failed to mention in previous blogs that nearly a month ago, one of my favorite sports broadcasters of all-time, Keith Jackson, passed away at the age of 89. To me and many others, Keith was the voice of college football during our childhoods. His smooth yet elegant style of broadcasting with a flair for the dramatic was what set him apart from the run-of-the mill announcers.

And if this video doesn’t give you chills…I don’t know what will…

Rest in peace to one of the all-time greats.

 

Monday Musings – December 11th: Are the Eagles toast without Wentz? And is ASU basketball top-5 worthy?

Well folks, the answer to both questions to lead off this column is unfortunately yes.

-If Eagles QB Carson Wentz sustained a torn-ACL as feared late-Sunday, Philadelphia’s chances at winning the NFC are all but over. Sorry Eagles fans, while I’m somewhat of a Nick Foles believer (considering he’s a fellow Arizona Wildcat), he’s not going to be able to win your team a big game in January. Sorry, just not happening. The Eagles defense, as we saw on Sunday vs. the Rams is good, but far from elite. To win the NFC, the Eagles will have to rely on running the ball 65% of the time. Good luck if and when they get behind.

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Four Downs, 11/13 – November Football Questions…and Answers

For those of you who love the sport of football like I do, November is the absolute best month for entertainment. The contenders are separated from the pretenders and each week is more of a thrill ride than before. While I’m very excited about my Arizona Wildcats college basketball season, talk to me about it after the college football regular season.

This week I’m going to answer four tough football-related questions starting with a local one…

FIRST DOWN: Is ASU’s Todd Graham back on the hot seat after his team’s poor play the last few weeks?

You bet he is. The Sun Devils’ defense was as red hot as the QB play in Tucson during the middle of October…but USC derailed ASU’s high hopes on October 28th. Since then ASU struggled to beat a weak Colorado squad at home before giving up 44 points to an unimpressive UCLA squad on Saturday night.

Just think, 16 days ago ASU was playing for the lead in the Pac-12 South division. Now they’re hanging on by a thread to bowl eligibility having to beat either Oregon State in Corvallis or UofA in Tempe to achieve a .500 record.

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Four Downs – October 30th: UofA crushes, ASU gets crushed, my CFB top-10, & Heisman rankings

After a giant college football weekend in which the national landscape was muddled further, I figured it would be best to dedicate this column solely to CFB talk.

If you’re looking for my thoughts on Week 8 of the NFL and that INCREDIBLE Game 5 of the World Series (never seen anything like it), tune in to Monday’s Daily Blender¬†from 1-3pm on 1580 The Fanatic, 99.3 FM, 95.9FM in the East Valley, at 1580thefanatic.com, or on the app.

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Monday Musings – 10/23: The Cardinals stink but at least ASU & UofA have hope…

I’m scrapping the Four Downs format for this week as there’s just TOO much randomness to discuss in the world of sports. It’s a Quick Hitters-type of column…but I’ll call it Monday Musings.

Remember, if this column isn’t enough of me, check out The Daily Blender, weekdays from 1-3pm on 1580AM, 99.3FM, online at 1580thefanatic.com, or via the 1580 The Fanatic app!

-What an astonishingly pathetic effort by the Cardinals on Sunday…but…I’ve got good news for all of you Arizona Cardinals’ fans. After the 33-0 loss in London to the Rams, it’s apparent that your team will be bad enough to finish among the top-10 worst records in the league. Worse record = higher draft pick = better chance to select a franchise QB.

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Continue reading “Monday Musings – 10/23: The Cardinals stink but at least ASU & UofA have hope…”

Four Downs – October 16th: The best regular season football weekend in Arizona…EVER?

This was an absolutely incredible football weekend for the Cardinals, Sun Devils, and Wildcats. Offhand I can’t remember a more successful two days for our Arizona teams in recent memory. For me personally, as awesome as UofA’s win was on Saturday, watching my favorite NFL player, Aaron Rodgers go down with a broken collarbone on Sunday and my beloved Cubbies losing two in LA was almost as crushing.

While I’ll do my best to wrap up these last few exhilarating days in this column, I hope you’ll tune in to The Daily Blender, weekdays from 1-3pm (this week 12-3pm) on 1580 The Fanatic. The show starts today (Monday) and I’m looking forward to fun sports talk BY THE FANS, FOR THE FANS with fellow hosts Jeffry O’Brien & Charles Wulf.

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