College Football

Jonathan Lowe

College Football: Seven on the Line

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By Jonathan Lowe
October 20, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

Well, I guess I took my bye last week.  Funny, since I didn’t even get my thoughts started until a quarter of the way through the season.  But it’s time to hunker down.  There’s a lot of games featuring a lot of big names, along with a lot of names we haven’t really heard of in a while.  This week, though, we’ll focus on some of the lesser-known names.  There are some intriguing stories from those programs that don’t necessarily demand the spotlight.  Here, though, why not give some pixels to those teams playing for, in their minds, as much as the national contenders are.

 

Split Ends
Memphis at Navy: The Beale Street Tigers are possibly proving that they’re not a one-coach, one-quarterback program.  Justin Fuente is in Blacksburg now.  Paxton Lynch is playing on Sundays in Denver.  Quietly, though, Memphis has piled up a 5-1 record.  Granted, they lost to the only opponent most folks feel is legitimate (Ole Miss).  But in past seasons, this program would hope to not be blown by the Rebels the same way that they did to Bowling Green (to the tune of 77-3).  My, how times have changed.

The Midshipmen have already taken down one of their contemporaries (Houston) at home.  They get the chance to take down the other two contenders (Memphis and Tulsa) in Annapolis as well.  And, hey, they’re also doing it with a different leader.  Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is trying to earn an NFL paycheck.  And at his alma mater, the triple option keeps churning along.  Navy only outscores opponents by 8 points a game.  They are out-gained by their opponents (392.0 to 398.6).  But Ken Niumatalolo keeps putting his kids in position to win.  That’s all that matters.

 

BYU at Boise State (Thursday, Oct. 20th): The Cougars may have found their swagger after three straight wins.  However, Kalani Sitake’s team seems to play right on the edge.  Their three losses have come by a total of seven points.  Three of their four wins wins have come by a total of eleven points.  The only comfortable spread for BYU (in either direction)…at Michigan State, believe it or not.  The Cougars look to stretch their three-game win streak to four, along with ending the Cinderella hopes of another Mid-Major stalwart.

The Broncos just continue to win, with the Washington State victory looking better by the week.  They’ll also be seeking some revenge.  The Cougars ended BSU’s dreams of unbeaten bliss early, winning in a Week 2 matchup in Provo.  You know that the Broncos are going to score (35.3 ppg, 466.7 total ypg), but could their defense be the side that carries the night (19.3 papg, 371.0 yapg)?  They’ll need it to be stout against an extremely balance BYU attack.

 

Guards
Washington State at Arizona State: Speaking of the Palouse, did anyone realize that the Wazzu Cougars are 3-0 in the Pac-12 (well, outside of some of my friends)?  This all coming to pass after starting the season 0-2 (losses to the aforementioned Broncos and FCS neighbor Eastern Washington).  The attacking offense has an opportunity to put up more eye-popping numbers against a Sun Devil defense that allows 506 yards a game.

Is the season starting to turn into a disappointment for Todd Graham’s bunch?  They’re right where they have been over the last few years, which is right in the South Division hunt.  But last week’s loss to Colorado put them behind the eight-ball.  It’s almost assured that the program will go bowling again.  However, if they want to reach the next level, they may have to win out and get some help along the way.

 

South Florida at Temple (Friday, Oct. 21st): Who knew that the Bulls were 6-1?  The only loss Willie Taggart’s team has endured this season was against Florida State.  The 35-point total was also the squad’s worst offensive output of the year.  USF is averaging 44.1 points a game.  Leading the way, quarterback Quentin Flowers has amassed a total of 2,190 yards (1535 passing and 655 rushing) and 20 touchdowns (13 passing and 7 rushing).  Those aren’t quite 2016 Louisville numbers, but they are impressive.

The Owls had a magical season last year.  While 2016 won’t match what happened in 2015, Temple has showed a lot of resolve after their season-opening loss to Army.  That appeared to be amplified in Saturday’svictory over Central Florida.  Matt Rhule’s guys came back from a 25-7 2nd quarter deficit to stun the Knights in the last second of the 4th.  That puts the Owls at 4-3 and on track for a second straight bowl bid.  With a win on Saturday, they would also be on track to play in their second consecutive AAC title game.

 

Tackles
We all know that the SEC West is tough.  It has been apparent how competitive the ACC Coastal and Pac-12 South have been in recent years.  This year, though, how ‘bout we give a nod to the MAC’s West Division.  Entering this weekend, five of the six teams sports a winning record.  The division leader is enjoying its first-ever period of time in the nation’s Top-25. On Saturday, the top four will square off in a weekend that could boil the division down to a two-team race…or open it up into a five-team free-for-all.

Central Michigan at Toledo: The Chippewas survived a big scare from Northern Illinois.  Now, they’ll head on the road to face a Rockets squad that has been pretty great in all facets of the game.  Toledo hasn’t missed a beat under new coach Jason Candle, scoring 43 points and amassing 565 yards per game.  They’ve also been fairly stubborn on defense, allowing 23.3 points a contest (five points below CMU’s average).  The Rockets may not have their perfect season intact, but they still have a chance to put their stamp on a division crown.

 

Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan: I don’t think that this can be said enough.  The Eagles of Eastern Michigan are doing special things this year.  Their last .500 season was 2011.  Their last winning season was 1995.  Their only bowl season was 1987.  In its 42nd season of Division I play, this program sports a record of 139-321-7 (a .305 winning percentage).  The fact that they’re 5-2…the fact that all three directional Michigan schools will head to a bowl game in the same season…EVER!  Maybe the Cubs are destined to win it all.  On the other side, the Broncos are only playing to stay in the New Years’ Six bowl hunt.  No pressure.

 

Center
Texas A&M at Alabama: OK.  So, I couldn’t completely ignore the contenders.

The Aggies found magic in Tuscaloosa before.  It was Johnny Manziel’s breakout contest in his glory days.  It was Kevin Sumlin’s announcement that this program could play with the SEC’s big boys.  They haven’t beaten the Crimson Tide since that Saturday afternoon in November of 2012.  Last season, ‘Bama came into College Station with the Aggies sporting a 5-0 record.  The Tide proved, once again, to be too good for “Gig ‘Em”.  Could this be the best chance for the Aggies to get past the Tide since that 2012 upset?

The winner of this tilt will be favored to win out all the way until the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.  Ole Miss, Auburn, and, most importantly, LSU will have a say in the proceedings.  However, you’d have to believe that either the Tide or Aggies will take the lead in the drive for the SEC title and a national semifinal berth.

 

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS The Minnesota Vikings are the NFL’s shining light

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By Eric Nelson
October 11, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the capital of the Purple Nation…

•Bright light: On a sun-drenched October Sunday in the Twin Cities, light was cascading through the glass roof at US Bank Stadium. This natural illumination gave everyone a clear view of Minnesota dominance, as the Vikings lit up Houston 31-13. Minnesota (5-0) is now the NFL’s shining light and the only perfect team left this season…

•Purple trifecta: In the win, the Vikings got contributions in all three phases of the game. Minnesota’s crushing defense bottled up Texans QB Brock Osweiler (184 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception) and the Texans running game (59 yards total). Their opportunistic offense was solid as Sam Bradford threw for 271 yards – including TD tosses to Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson. And the Vikings special teams was special, as Marcus Sherels returned a punt 79 yards for a TD in the second quarter…

•Purple power: The Vikings are on a roll and have morphed into an NFL powerhouse. They lead Green Bay (3-1) by 1 1/2 games in the NFC North. Minnesota has a bye this week before returning to action on October 23 in Philadelphia…

•Titletown collision: With no Vikings game to follow this week, the Minnesota fandom can focus on the Dallas-Green Bay matchup at Lambeau. Can Cowboys rookie gunslinger Dak Prescott outduel Packers star Aaron Rodgers? That will be the main focus in Wisconsin as Dallas (4-1) tries to stay hot…

•Miami makeover: Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium has a new look after a $500 million renovation. The facility now has a canopy that shields 92 percent of the fans from the South Florida heat or rain. According to the Miami Herald, Hard Rock opened in 1987 and was originally named Joe Robbie Stadium. It has also been called Pro Player, Land Shark, Sun Life and Dolphin Stadium. Miami will host Super Bowl 54 in 2020…

•Lofty ranking: Former Pittsburgh Panthers star Larry Fitzgerald Jr. is the top WR in college football history according to Sports Illustrated. Fitzgerald now plays for Arizona and grew up in Minneapolis. Marshall’s Randy Moss was ranked second…

•Carolina monsoon: That was quite the downpour Notre Dame and North Carolina State played in on Saturday in Raleigh. Thanks to Hurricane Matthew, conditions were more fit for fish than football players. The Wolfpack (4-1) splashed their way to a 10-3 win over the Irish (2-4)…

•Element ball: Weather games are one reason why football is so popular. Seeing teams play in pouring rain, blizzards, hurricane-like winds or scorching heat is always good theater. Weather translates into high television ratings because viewers like to see elite athletes cope with difficult conditions…

•Rebound game: Minnesota needs a bounce back effort Tuesday night against Los Angeles in the WNBA Finals. The Lynx lost Game 1 on Sunday 78-76 at Target Center. Game 3 of the best of 5 series is Friday night in Sol Cal…

•Breaking news: Madison Bumgarner is human. San Francisco’s post-season pitching ace actually gave up three earned runs in five innings Monday night in the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. Jake Arrieta’s three-run home run off Bumgarner in the second snapped his playoff scoreless innings streak at 24. However, the Giants won 6-5 in 13 innings and trail 2-1 in the series…

•Going, going, gone: The Los Angeles Sports Arena is being torn down. According to the LA Times, The arena was the initial home of the Lakers after they moved to LA from Minneapolis, and the Clippers after they moved there from San Diego. Muhammad Ali then known as Cassius Clay once boxed there, and Michael Jackson closed out his first solo concert tour, “Bad” in the arena…

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Jonathan Lowe

College Football: Seven on the Line

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By Jonathan Lowe
October 6, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

Gotta say, this is one of the thinner weeks of the season for marquee matchups.  Because of this (and the looming presence of more postponements due to Hurricane Matthew), I’m providing a CliffsNotes© version of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend.

Split Ends
Texas vs. Oklahoma: A win over the Sooners last year may have saved Charlie Strong’s job.  If the Longhorns lose this go-round, would the Texas athletic department kick Strong out of Austin?

Iowa at Minnesota: The Gophers are looking for that win that will move the needle upward on the program success meter.  The Hawkeyes just gave Kirk Ferentz a contract extension through 2025.  If they can’t retain Floyd of Rosedale, will the higher-ups start to regret that decision?

Guards
Toledo at Eastern Michigan: It appears that Western Michigan has the early edge in the MAC’s Western Division.  But just because the Broncos took down Central Michigan, don’t think there aren’t other contenders.  Did you know that the Eagles are 4-1?  We are talking about once-in-a-generation success, folks.  It would be wise to keep an eye on this.

Virginia Tech at North Carolina: The Hokies have quietly put things together after losing to Tennessee in that epic setting known as Bristol Motor Speedway.  The Tar Heels had quietly put things together after losing to Georgia in the season opener…until they stunned Florida State last week in Tallahassee.  Larry Fedora’s squad don’t want to provide the chance for the world to re-introduce itself to Va. Tech.

Tackles
Florida State at Miami: First thing first, this game may have to be delayed or moved due to the potential damage left behind by Hurricane Matthew.  As of this post, the game is still scheduled to take place on Saturday.  Now, the quick note on the actual game.  The last time that the playful Hurricanes faced their rival this late into the season with an unbeaten record was 2013.  The last time the program did that this late in the year and stayed undefeated after their tilt with the Seminoles…2003.  That was the last year the ‘Canes had double-digit wins (11), a share of a conference title (Big East), and a premium bowl appearance (Orange Bowl, where they beat FSU for the second time that season).

Alabama at Arkansas: For all the success and trophies that Nick Saban has amassed as the Crimson Tide coach, there’s one distinction he’s only achieved once.  The only undefeated season that he authored while in Tuscaloosa was the 2009 campaign.  The Tide usually have one hiccup each season.  They’ve already gotten past a potential one in Ole Miss.  There are potential letdowns down the road (as in, the next three games on the schedule).  But could a trip to Fayetteville be the undoing for ‘Bama?

Center
Tennessee at Texas A&M: Well, now it appears that Tennessee might be on “extra” borrowed time after last week’s Hail Mary victory over Georgia.  But this game may come down to defense.  Can the Vols’ slow down the usually potent TAMU offense?  Can the Aggies’ shore themselves up to counter UT’s dynamic QB-RB combo?

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Jonathan Lowe

College Football: Seven on the Line

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By Jonathan Lowe
September 29, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

So, I’ve been a bit silent this season.  Even though I haven’t piped up with my usual brand of football non-knowledge (That phrase could be a thing.  Try it out on your friends…), that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been paying attention to the season.

I’ll start off with this…Only at LSU.  That’s what I said this past Saturday.  After another inexplicably confounding loss that the Bayou Bengals suffered during the Les Miles regime, I said that phrase several times.  In my head, to myself, to anyone that would listen at the local bar.  I kept uttering the phrase “Only at LSU.”  Keep in mind, this is coming from a fan of the program most notably known for the follies of the Fifth Down and the Fleakicker.  But, over the last handful of years, how many wild finishes could one coach lead his program into (and, sometimes, never get out of)?  Apparently enough to where, less than 24 hours later, Miles was sent packing.  If nothing else, you have to admire the guy’s chutzpah.  But making hunches and eating grass can only get you so far these days.

Split Ends
Memphis at Ole Miss: This is a guilty pleasure game for me.  Last season, the Tigers vaulted into the spotlight after they defeated the Rebels at the Liberty Bowl.  That victory in mid-October was just a part of the momentum they sustained through Halloween, going 8-0 before falling to Navy in the first week of November.  A lot has changed in a year.  The quarterback of that team, Paxton Lynch in now the Denver Broncos’ rookie backup.  Most notably, head coach Justin Fuente parlayed his success on the banks of the Mississippi into the head coaching position at Virginia Tech.  It’s up to new coach Mike Norvell and new signal caller Riley Ferguson to pull yet another stunner.

Speaking of Mississippi, the Rebels might be the only two-loss team in the country with any glimmer of hope to make a Primetime Bowl push over the rest of their schedule.  Hugh Freeze’s team dusted themselves off before dusting Georgia last weekend.  They have the best two losses in the country this season, but they desperately can’t afford a third, and they direly need to avoid that in this this game.  The sour feelings finally erupted concerning Les Miles.  Would Hotty Toddy boil over if the Rebels dropped to 2-3?

Western Michigan at Central Michigan: Oh, Central Michigan.  It was all set up.  The MAC opener for these rivals was supposed to be big.  A couple of 4-0 teams set to square off, seeing which one would get a boost toward the division crown.  But the Chippewas just couldn’t play along.  Actually, it was Virginia that wouldn’t play nice.  The Cavaliers chose last week to win their first game in the Bronco Mendenhall era.  Well, I guess some would say it was karma for how CMU won at Oklahoma State back in Week 2.

The Broncos could probably care less.  They’ve got their own journey to worry about.  P.J. Fleck’s team will hope to complete their Land of Lincoln sweep (Northwestern, Illinois, and Northern Illinois) next Saturday.  Before that, though, they’ll try to stay undefeated in what should be an underrated offensive showcase.  Tell ya one thing…I need to find some time to watch the opposing quarterbacks (CMU’s Cooper Rush and WMU’s Zach Terrell) do their thing.

Guards
Tennessee at Georgia: Were the Bulldogs living on borrowed time last Saturday when they traveled to Oxford?  After three tight ballgames, UGA was downright UGLY in their loss at the hands of Ole Miss.  They spotted the Rebels the first 45 points of the game, while offering them a plate full of 510 yards of offense.  It was a crash down to Earth for first-year coach Kirby Smart.

Now, could the Volunteers be on borrowed time as they head Between the Hedges?  UT survived their scare with Appalachian State and held off a game Ohio squad.  But it may have been the reactions in their other two games that give us critics pause.  After an early 14-0 bodyblow against Virginia Tech, they took over that event at Bristol Motor Speedway.  Last week, though, was epic.  After falling behind Florida 21-0 in the first half, Butch Jones’ team found the rally button and sat on it through the second half.  The resulting 38-28 win broke an 11-game losing streak to the Gators and created a type of buzz not heard in eastern Tennessee since the late ‘90s.  All of that quiets down if the Bulldogs can hold serve in Athens.

Navy at Air Force: You know, there are some traditions in college football that I believe have been passed by for the better.  However, one that I personally like having stuck around in the fight for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.  I think it’s great that the nations Service Academy schools face one another every year, with a whole lot of pride at stake.  This season could bring about the best race in a long time.  Army is 3-1 going into their bye week.  They have the potential to record the program’s best season in 20 years.  Hopefully, I’ll get to put them on this list later in the season.

For this week, though, we’ll focus on the Academies at hand.  Overall, this we’ll be a question of which triple-option attack is best.  The Midshipmen had the advantage over the last couple of years.  Now that Keenan Reynolds has graduated, the advantage switches over to the Falcons, who roll behind senior QB Nate Romine.  Air Force is averaging 359.3 rushing yards a game.  Navy is settled in at 316.3 per contest.  That ranks them 2nd and 5th in the country, respectively.  Know whom they’re both behind?  How ‘bout the Black Knights of Army (374.8)?  Guess I can’t leave them out of the discussion, even when they’re not playing.

Tackles
Stanford at Washington (Friday night): For the Cardinal, it’s old hat.  Take on a Big XII opponent to open the year?  Nothing to see here.  Battle USC in an early-season conference matchup?  Nothing to see here.  Travel down the coast to face UCLA at the Rose Bowl?  Nothing to see here.  Most obstacles put in Stanford’s way have been dealt with in efficient fashion.  Now, it’s another road trip to see what the newest contender has in store.  For the moment, this is the only top-25 opponent the Cardinal will face on their schedule.  Will this result need to leave a lasting impression?

For years, the Pac-12 North has come down to Stanford or Oregon.  Whether it was a cardinal-clad Andrew Luck, a neon yellow-clad Marcus Mariota, or their big-time coaches (Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly, respectively), no other program could seem to make a big dent in catching up the to heights these two had reached.  The Ducks are now in restock mode, which means someone has to fill the void.  That would appear to be the Huskies.  Chris Petersen has this program surging to a potential position it hasn’t been since 2000, when Rick Neuheisel guided his team to an 11-1 record, a share of the Pac-10 title, a Rose Bowl victory, and a top-3 national ranking.  Protecting their home turf this week sets them on the path to recreate those Y2K memories.

Wisconsin at Michigan: The Badgers could easily be called “the Stanford of the Upper Midwest.”  They just plug along, playing whichever team is placed in front of them, and, most of the team, coming away victorious.  Most of those wins aren’t real pretty, and that was the case in two of their first three games in 2016 (the Akron game did turn into a blowout).  Then, East Lansing happened.  It wasn’t just that Paul Chryst’s team scored an impressive road win over Michigan State.  The Badgers forced the Spartans to tap out.  It was a dominating performance over a (former) top-10 team.  Now, they hope to cause some Ann Arbor angst as they return to the Great Lake State.

Jim Harbaugh wasn’t supposed to make Michigan this good, this quickly, right?  Yes, he had success at the University of San Diego (7-4 in his first season).  It took until his second season to go 11-1.  Yes, he turned Stanford into a power.  But that wasn’t until his final season in Palo Alto (12-1 in his fourth as coach).  But, in his third college job, he hit the ground sprinting, finishing 10-3 in year one.  Now, he has a top-5 squad and abundant showdowns looming.  If the Wolverines can navigate their schedule (sprinkled with the Badgers, Spartans, Hawkeyes, and Buckeyes), they may get a spot in the national semis (no matter what happens in the Big Ten Championship).

Center
Louisville at Clemson: Who’d have thought that, one month into the season, that Deshaun Watson would be trying to catch up to Lamar Jackson?  The Cardinals have been this year’s revelation, with Jackson at the center of it.  The sophomore quarterback has accounted for 25 total touchdowns, and that’s just in the squad’s first four contests.  By the way, I can’t say over four full games because he hasn’t PLAYED in four full games.  His dual-threat capabilities have been off the charts (1,856 total yards and 5th in the nation in rushing), and they have his team soaring up the national charts.

Watson, one of the Heisman frontrunners going into Labor Day weekend, hasn’t had a poor year, but it hasn’t been spectacular.  The Tigers struggled when facing on of their collegiate own (Auburn).  They didn’t look overly impressive when beating Troy.  In pecking order of potential ACC supremacy, they’ve been passed twice (first by Florida State, now by Louisville).  Winning this game means a return to that prominent position of conference frontrunner…at least, for the month of October (they’ll play at FSU on Oct. 28th).  Dabo Swinney says that his team has to “Bring your guts.”  This week, the coaches better be sure to bring some defense.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Brian Dozier’s power display is becoming historic

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By Eric Nelson
September 5, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the capital of Twins Territory…

•Tater time: Minnesota 2B Brian Dozier is producing more power in the Twin Cities than Xcel Energy. Dozier slugged three more home runs in the Twins 11-5 loss to Kansas City Monday and has 38 this season. Dozier has been scorching hot since the All-Star break, hiking his average to .279 with 91 RBI and 92 runs scored…

•Rare air: Dozier is now chasing history with his power burst. He has 36 home runs while playing 2B this season and two as a DH. The AL record for home runs by someone playing 2B is 39 set by Alfonso Soriano of the NY Yankees. The MLB record is 42 set by St. Louis’ Rogers Hornsby and Atlanta’s Davey Johnson. Johnson had 43 home runs in 1973, but one came as a pinch hitter for the Braves…

•Royal crush: Dozier has 10 taters against KC – the most any opponent has ever hit against the Royals in one season…

•Bright spot: It clearly has been a gloom and doom year for the Twins (51-87) who have given their fan base little to cheer about. However, Dozier has been a beacon of light in the darkness and is a building block for Minnesota in the future…

•Royal Nation: Give KC fans credit – they travel well. The crowd for Monday’s Royals-Twins game at Target Field was 20,992 and many of them were sporting Royal blue jerseys and caps. The Royals have definitely gotten a bounce from winning the 2015 World Series and playing in the 2014 Fall Classic. Of course, Royals fanatics have reason to watch their team play against the Twins – KC is 12-2 against Minnesota in 2016. The Royals (71-66) are 4 1/2 games out of the AL’s second wild card spot…

•Playoff-bound: The St. Paul Saints (61-39) are the American Association North champs for the second straight season. The Saints begin the playoffs Saturday night at CHS Field…

•Limited options: The Minnesota Vikings had to get a quarterback after losing Teddy Bridgewater to a freakish non-contact knee injury in practice last week. The Purple had to bolster the position because counting on Shaun Hill for the entire season would be risky. Give GM Rick Spielman credit for acquiring Sam Bradford from Philadelphia. The price tag was high (first and fourth round draft choices), but Bradford has some upside…

•Career revival: It’s a gamble to give up a lot for Bradford, who has underachieved in the NFL. But, part of that is because Bradford has battled many injuries. The 28-year old Bradford is a seven year vet and was chosen first overall in the 2010 draft by St. Louis. Bradford had a remarkable career at Oklahoma winning the Heisman Trophy in 2009…

•Boomer Sooner: The Vikings definitely have an Oklahoma flavor in their backfield. Like Bradford, Adrian Peterson also played for the Sooners. Both Bradford and AP have to be disappointed that third ranked Oklahoma lost to number 15 Houston 33-23 last Saturday…

•Slip-up: It’s taking some folks awhile to realize the St. Louis Rams now are the Los Angeles Rams. During Thursday night’s LA-Minnesota game in Minneapolis, referee Bill Vinovich twice referred to the Rams as St. Louis while explaining penalty calls on the field mic…

•TV tandem: Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk are the television analysts for Rams pre-season games. Both guys had fabulous NFL careers and are in the Pro Football HOF…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Colin Kaepernick takes a stand by taking a seat

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By Eric Nelson
August 30, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the sports-centric Twin Cities…

•Rip city: From coast to coast and all across the USA, critics are banging on Colin Kaepernick like a piñata. The 49ers QB is being ripped for not standing during the national anthem at Friday night’s Green Bay-San Francisco game in Santa Clara, CA. The haters are entitled to their opinions and I understand some of their venom, but they are also missing the point…

•Taking a stand: By taking a seat Kaepernick has taken a stand – and it is perfectly legal. The Constitution gives him that right and the NFL does not mandate a player standing while the Star Spangled Banner is being played. Kaepernick won’t stand because he says the US historically has oppressed African-Americans and other minorities. Hard to argue with that. It’s a fact. Hard to argue that a certain segment of the population feels like the system is stacked against them. That’s a fact too…

•Chill out: I am not sure why some people are so freaked out by this. It’s okay to disagree with Kaepernick, and maybe there is a better way to get his point across. But, he has the right to sit. I applaud Kaepernick for taking a huge PR risk and standing up for his beliefs. There will be repercussions, but Kaepernick doesn’t care. He wants to get his message across. What’s popular isn’t always right and what’s right isn’t always popular…

•Sports gridlock: Minnesota fans have plenty of sporting choices this Thursday. Winnipeg takes on St. Paul at CHS Field (7:05 pm). The Chicago White Sox and Twins battle at Target Field (7:10 pm). The LA Rams and Vikings play the first ever NFL night game at US Bank Stadium (7 pm). And Oregon State goes against the U of M at TCF Bank Stadium (8 pm)…

•Game train: Each of those venues is connected by the Light Rail green line. Technically it is possible to take the train from event to event, and sample parts of each game…

•Choices, choices: This sports cluster forces fans to make choices on which event to attend. The Vikings pre-season contest will command the most attention – especially with Tuesday’s unfortunate injury to QB Teddy Bridgewater. But don’t ignore the Beavers-Gophers game, which kicks off the U of M football season that is filled with hope and promise. The Saints, of course, are a first place team, while the Twins are irrelevant…

•Raising the bar: U of M fans are hoping that their team can finally have a break through season and win 9 or 10 games. If it doesn’t happen this year, it might never happen. The Gophers don’t play Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State – three of the top teams in the Big Ten. Minnesota has a favorable schedule and needs to pounce on this opportunity. The Gophers goal should be winning the Big Ten West…

•Trending down: Oregon State is one team Minnesota better beat. The Beavers were 2-10 last season and lost their last nine games. Oregon State’s only wins were against Weber State and San Jose State…

•Tundra showdown: Unranked Wisconsin has a tough challenge in week 1. The Badgers play 5th ranked LSU at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field on Saturday…

•Dak does Dallas: Tough break for star-crossed Cowboys QB Tony Romo who is out with a back injury. Rookie Dak Prescott now gets his chance sooner than expected. Prescott was outstanding at Mississippi State and has Cowpoke fans excited because of his pre-season success…

•Trending down: The Twins continue to spiral downward. Minnesota has dropped 11 straight games after Monday night’s loss at Cleveland. The last place Twins trail the first place Indians by 25 1/2 games in the AL Central…

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Jose Altuve and Brian Dozier are little giants

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By Eric Nelson
August 16, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Scotch Tape…

•Second to none: Last week fans in Minneapolis got to see two of the top 2B in MLB. Houston’s Jose Altuve and Minnesota’s Brian Dozier treated Target Field crowds to some impressive baseball. Both guys are solid with the bat and the glove, and are proof that size does not matter in sports…

•Little giants: Altuve had a couple of four hit games for the Astros against the Twins and leads the majors with a .362 batting average. Despite being a smallish 5-6, Altuve has 19 home runs, 73 RBI and has scored 86 runs. Altuve is a legitimate MVP candidate. Meanwhile, Dozier has plenty of pop in his bat too. Dozier is only 5-11, but has become one of MLB’s top power guys in the second half of the season. Dozier has 26 home runs and has hit a tater in three straight games. Dozier already has 101 career home runs in four seasons…

•Bad idea: There has been recent speculation that the Twins might peddle Dozier, because he has value on the trade market. Let’s hope the Twins are not that foolish. Dealing Dozier would be a major mistake and send the wrong signal to a fan base that has seen too many stars leave Minnesota and excel in other cities…

•Peachtree showdown: Next up for Minnesota is a two-game series against Atlanta at Turner Field beginning Tuesday night. The Twins (47-71) have the worst record in the AL and the Braves (44-74) have the worst record in MLB…

•Party-time: Get ready for the MLS in Minnesota. On Friday night Minnesota United is throwing a party at CHS Field to formally announce that the MLS is coming to the Twin Cities next season. A new soccer-specific stadium will be built in St. Paul and the team will play at TCF Bank Stadium or Target Field before it opens…

•Ram-packed: Even the suits who run the shield had to be blown away by the turnout for the first NFL game in Los Angeles in 22 years. The Dallas-LA Rams game at the Coliseum drew 89,140 fans. The game even had a Hollywood ending as the Rams rallied for a 28-24 win…

•Win with flair: Because they are a novelty, the Rams are currently the trendy team in LA. But, they better win games, and do it with a Tinsletown flair, or the honeymoon will be quicker than a Kim Kardashian marriage. Losing does not go over well in So Cal…

•Show Me State support: Meanwhile, St. Louis is still coming to grips with losing the Rams. KMOX Radio in St. Louis is trying to ease the sting by broadcasting Kansas City Chiefs games this season. The Chiefs and Rams play Saturday night at the LA Coliseum…

•Double defections: As odd as it seems, LA and St. Louis do have one thing in common – both cities have lost two NFL teams. The Raiders and Rams both left Los Angeles and the Cardinals and Rams bolted St. Louis…

•Borton’s book: Former U of M women’s basketball coach Pam Borton has written a new book titled, “On Point.” It is a motivational book designed to give readers a game plan for success in business, sports or anything else. Borton coached the Gophers for 12 seasons and took the team to the NCAA Final Four in 2003-04…

•Golden sendoffs: If this really is the last time we see Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt perform in the Olympics, then we should all give thanks for being able to witness their greatness. From Beijing to London to Rio de Janeiro, these superstars have wowed fans across the globe…

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Former Gopher Jack Brewer Discusses How He Hopes to Affect Change

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Segment 5: Sports and social action do intertwine at points in history.  Today appears to be another one of those moments.  Former Gopher and NFL safety Jack Brewer is looking to help the conversation about racial tension and community policing with a new initiative.  He takes some time to explain what’s behind the “Trust 2 Protect” campaign.

Gameday Gold Part 5 / 7-14-16

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Kudos to the Minnesota Lynx for taking a stance

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By Eric Nelson
July 12, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State…

•Courageous stance: If you don’t take a stand, you take a fall. The Minnesota Lynx took a stand before Saturday night’s game against the Dallas Wings when they sported black warmup jerseys that said, “Change starts with us. Justice & Accountability.” On the back of the shirts were the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling – two African-Americans shot by police in Falcon Heights, MN and Baton Rouge, LA – a Dallas police symbol and the phrase “Black Lives Matter. The Lynx have taken some heat for this, but that is to be expected. I applaud the Lynx for standing up and making a statement. They had every right to voice their opinions on an explosive topic. Their message will hopefully get the ball rolling on positive change that is long overdue between police and African-Americans in the United States…

•Learning lessons: In the department of global affairs, sports is the toy department. But, these games that we passionately follow, also offer us valuable insight into teamwork and how to get along. In these incredibly polarized times, the USA can learn something from sports. Athletes of all races and backgrounds find a way to come together in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS and other sports. They rely on each other for success or failure. Color, religion or sexuality rarely comes into play. They are links in a chain with one common objective – winning games. Let’s hope the real world can take a cue from the toy department…

•Model of success: Sports is definitely not perfect when it comes to race relations and there are things that need to get better to foster more harmony and fairness. But, sports is far ahead of other things in the US when it comes to equality and learning to co-exist…

•New hire: The Timberwolves and Lynx have hired Ethan Casson as the franchise’s new CEO. Casson begins his duties with the organization on August 8. Casson comes from the San Francisco 49ers where he was their COO. Before that Casson was with the Wolves and Lynx for 11 years…

•Trending up: It’s been mostly gloom and doom for the Minnesota Twins this season. However, there have been some bright spots recently. The Twins just took three of four in Texas, and have won 7 of their last 10 games going into the All-Star break. Minnesota (32-56) is still a last place team in the AL Central, but the Twins are 5-2 against the Rangers (54-36), who lead the AL West…

•Power ball: Two guys who have fueled the Twins recent run are Max Kepler and Kennys Vargas. Both Kepler and Vargas began the season at Triple A Rochester, but since getting called up have made an impact. In 46 games, Kepler has eight home runs, 11 doubles and 33 RBI . In six games, Vargas is batting .471 with 3 taters and 4 RBI…

•Mid-season vacay: Except for Twins All-Star Eduardo Nunez, the rest of the team has a few days off. Minnesota’s next game is Friday against Cleveland at Target Field. The Indians (52-36) are on top of the AL Central…

•Homecoming: NY Jets CB Marcus Williams conducted his youth football camps last week in the Twin Cities. Williams, who played for Hopkins HS, had six interceptions for the Jets in 2015. Williams also was a star at North Dakota State…

•Mr. Dependable: Of all the qualities Tim Duncan had in his remarkable NBA career, the most impressive was durability. Duncan, who retired on Monday, played 19 seasons and was as much of a fixture in San Antonio as The Alamo. Duncan did not have a lot of flash and dash, but he could play. Game in and game out, Duncan showed up and performed at a high level. He is a two-time MVP and three-time NBA Finals MVP, who was a pillar on the Spurs’ 5 title teams…

•Low-key star: Duncan was the polar opposite of Kobe Bryant. Duncan played off the grid in central Texas, while Bryant achieved his greatness in Los Angeles – the entertainment capital of the USA. Duncan goes into retirement without any fanfare, while Bryant had going away parties in every city the Lakers played in last season. Duncan stayed out of the spotlight, while Bryant was always in it. They were two superduperstars who played at the same time, spent their entire career with the same team and won the same amount of championships. Both guys will be missed a lot…

•HOF-bound: Next stop for Duncan is the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Duncan is one of the NBA’s all-time greats and deserves every accolade he gets…

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