Jonathan Lowe

College Football: Seven on the Line (9-9-17)

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By Jonathan Lowe
September 9, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

OK.  I didn’t leave you folks much time to chew on this week’s games.  Heck, if you’re a regular to the site, you may not see this until after kickoff.  But in all of this revelry, there are more important issues at hand.  Some of the games scheduled for today had to be postponed or cancelled due to the impending threat of yet another catastrophic hurricane set to hit American shores in less than two weeks.  While most of the country gets to sit back, sit up, and cheer vociferously, we should keep the people of South Florida in mind as they get ready to deal with the behemoth that is Hurricane Irma.  And let’s not forget those in Southeast Texas starting to get lives back on track after the devastation that was Hurricane Harvey.  As tough as it is to move forward in this post, here are today’s highlights.

Split Ends
Utah at BYU: I’m going to spend a a brief amount of time on this (and the next) matchup.  Most rivalries are built on proximity and conference affiliation.  This is one of those cases.  After the brief hiatus a couple of years back, the “Holy War” got back on the regular-season stage last season.  For the better part of 90 years, these programs fought over conference supremacy.  More recently, this game has been setup for later-season status points and year-round bragging rights.  But I’m glad that it’s still kickin’.  This rivalry just feels natural.  Really, it’s about as natural as…

Iowa at Iowa State: Some rivalries are, well, just built on proximity. As many of you readers know, I have a personal stake in this game. Spending four years of my life in Ames, this day was marked on the calendar every year. Many of my peers would make the trek to Iowa City every other year, while making our home site as uncomfortable as possible on those other occasions. And while only about a two-hour drive lies between the two campuses, the football programs only spent four years battling it out in the same conference (1907-1910). This game is purely for bragging rights. And, truthfully, that’s probably the way it should be.

Guards
Boise State at Washington State: For quite a while, WSU was a bit of an outpost. Sure, the University of Idaho is a stone’s throw away. However, when you looked at college football in that part of the country (from the Cascades to the Bitterroots), you relied on the Cougar program for your fix. Then, a little-known school in the city of Boise said, “Hmm, why don’t we give this D-IA football a try.” The Bronco program has been building for a long time. From Junior College to a short NAIA stint to lower divisions of the NCAA, BSU had a pretty good history before stepping into the higher division of college pigskin. Once the move was made, the program quickly gained attention. First, it was for their trademark Blue Turf. After a while, it was due to them being able to rack up a ton of wins and some pretty impressive bowl trophies. This weekend, could the Broncos take a step toward becoming the place to go for college football in the Inland Northwest?

TCU at Arkansas: No, it’s not Oklahoma-Alabama. This game, though, could be a launching (or stall-worthy) point of the early season for each team. That appeared to be the case for the Horned Frogs last year. They entered this particular matchup a top-15 team. After the double-overtime loss in Fort Worth, Gary Patterson’s team didn’t look quite the same. Yeah, they rebounded against Iowa State and SMU. However, the team lost 5 of their last 8 to finish with a pedestrian 6-6 record (6-7 if you include the Liberty Bowl loss to Georgia). On the other side, the win was supposed to be a coming out party for the Razorbacks. They rose into the Top 25 that next week, then inside the Top 20 before alternating wins and defeats for the rest of the regular season. As these teams head into the rematch in Fayetteville, the Horned Frogs look to return to their above average standards, while the Hogs try to finally turn the corner under Bret Bielema.

Tackles
Stanford at USC: This game may not ask the “What’s Your Deal?” question anymore, but it is still a BIG deal when speaking to the importance of West Coast pigskin. The Cardinal got a week off after their trip Down Under. The Trojans got out of the gate slowly, needing a big finish to prevail against Western Michigan. Now, it that was last year’s MAC-champion Broncos, OK. But the new-look WMU — minus quarterback Zach Terrell and coach P.J. Fleck — should have been a little easier to handle for USC. But Sam Darnold has a chance to boost his Heisman stock again if he carves up the Cardinal’s stingy defense. And a victory here might mean more for Trojans in the long term. Both teams will play Notre Dame. Both will travel to Pullman. However, Stanford has a regular season edge by hosting Washington in early November.

Auburn at Clemson: When these two squads opened the 2016 season on the Alabama Plains, one set of Tigers were “reeling” while the other set was “smarting”. The team that sports mostly navy had folks wondering if its head coach had lost the magic that guided the program to a national title game. The team that sports mostly orange looked to turn the bitter loss of that championship opportunity into positive momentum. Auburn, the losing squad, found out that it could still play with the top of the title-contending list. Clemson, the winning squad, discovered a propensity for nail-biting finishes. This year, one set of Tigers should be back, while the other set of Tigers should be reloaded. This game will let us know which Tiger narrative is closer to the truth.

Center
Oklahoma at Ohio State: Just a few months ago, this was being touted as a battle of coaching legends. Bob Stoops had the chance to save some face against a man that didn’t just beat him on the Oklahoma plains, but also in a national title game. But Stoops’ sudden retirement now brings a matchup of “Grizzled Veteran vs. Rising Rookie”. Lincoln Riley began his Sooner head coaching career with a runaway victory over UTEP. The second stanza will be a little trickier to write. All the while, Urban Meyer has been rolling along. The Buckeyes had first-half struggles at Indiana. The second half proved a little more fluid on offense, easing any tension that may have been around in the first thirty minutes. A win at the Shoe should provide an answer, although muted, to Alabama’s win over Florida State.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: NFL predictions from my crystal football

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By Eric Nelson
September 7, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from the Land of Lakes...

•Shield Predictions: I have looked into my crystal football and see these 10 things happening in the 2017 NFL season:

  1. – After exhaustive research of birth records in his hometown of San Mateo, CA, the US Census Bureau announces that New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is 30, not 40. Brady’s freakish ability to defy age fostered the research…
  2. – Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft immediately dispute the USCB’s report and hint that it is part of a smear campaign led by Commissioner/dictator Roger Goodell
  3. – The intense dislike between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh reaches new heights in their two games. Bengals-Steelers becomes so acrimonious that Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor speak out against the carnage…
  4. – The Minnesota Vikings – desperate for quality offensive lineman – coax HOF legends Randall McDaniel and Ron Yary out of retirement…
  5. – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones begs, pleads and even tries bribery to get Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension reduced. But, Goodell doesn’t budge and Zeke sits…
  6. – The Alt Right adopts the Washington Redskins as their favorite team and applauds the franchise for keeping the controversial nickname, but does a quick 180 and disavows any ties to the Redskins after they sign QB Colin Kaepernick
  7. – Miami’s Jay Cutler finds football bliss in South Florida and leads the Dolphins (who have the coolest uniforms in the NFL) to the playoffs…
  8. – The Chargers barely move the meter in Los Angeles and wind up getting less attention than Crenshaw High’s football team. As a result, LA begs San Diego to take back the Chargers and the Clippers…
  9. Randy Newman’s 1983 hit song, I Love LA is banned from the radio airwaves in St. Louis and San Diego…
  10. – Seattle’s Blair Walsh kicks a walk-off winning field goal against New England in overtime as the Seahawks wins Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis 24-21…

 

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Will this be a Vikings Super Bowl season?

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By Larry Fitzgerald
September 5, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

The preliminaries are over. The rosters have been trimmed to 53 players, and all indications are that the 2017 Vikings are good but not good enough. The worst running team in football last year has Sam Bradford at quarterback.

Bradford has a career-losing record as a starter. He’s never won a playoff game. You find me a QB with a career-losing record as a starter who won the Super Bowl.

“I think the pressure is on Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur,” said former NFL running back Marshall Faulk. “I look for an offensive team to establish an identity. For 10 years their identity was Adrian Peterson. It’s his show. Shurmur advocated for Bradford. He had him in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and now Minnesota.”

Florida State rookie running back Dalvin Cook will start at running back. He has looked great. Latavius Murray, the Pro-Bowler from Oakland, has not. He has to come through big with his talent and experience. The offensive line is better.

In recent years, history tells us teams with Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks win the big games. Last year Tom Brady was suspended the first four games. No problem — New England still won the Super Bowl for the fifth time, 34-28, with the mother of all rallies after trailing by 25 points.

Mike Zimmer’s defense is loaded. He has five Pro Bowlers! The team invested over $100 million in guaranteed money, a franchise record, in three of the Pro Bowlers. Can you say the heat is on?

Last year the NFL lost 10 percent of its following audience. It was an election year. This year, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was not hired by any NFL team. No job the first week of September, all because he protested cops getting away with killing innocent Black men. The team owners have spoken: We don’t care about talent, we want no part in protest directed at the national anthem on NFL Sundays.

Playing and singing the national anthem at sporting events did not start until 1918, 17 months after the United States was in the war to end all wars. Over 100,000 Americans were killed in action. Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox were in the World Series. Ball players and others had to fight to defend their country.

Francis Key’s lyric “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” better known as the national anthem, was written after the bloody attack by the British in the war of 1812. Patriotism and tradition came together to rally Americans in unity hip to hip.

Several players continue to protest today. Marshon Lynch of Oakland has been protesting for years and nobody noticed. Eric Reid of San Francisco as well. Kaepernick has his supporters. Some will be protesting against the NFL this season, like Spike Lee, several New York police officers, and the great Henry Aaron, who can’t believe the NFL is denying him the opportunity and a job.

Kaepernick made a business decision to leave San Francisco. He bought out his remaining contract, becoming a free agent. Had he not bought out his contract, it’s conceivable he would still be with the 49ers. Once he was not under contract anymore, the politics of the NFL owners have spoken loud and clear.

For what it’s worth, this is my 39th season covering the NFL and the Vikings. Here’s what I think will happen:

NFC North
1) Green Bay, 2) Vikings, 3) Detroit, 4) Chicago
NFC West
1) Arizona, 2) Seattle, 3) San Francisco, 4) Los Angeles
NFC South
1) Atlanta, 2) Tampa Bay, 3) New Orleans, 4) Carolina
NFC East
1) New York Giants, 2) Dallas, 3) Philadelphia, 4) Washington
AFC East
1) New England, 2) Miami, 3) Buffalo, 4) New York Jets
AFC South
1) Houston, 2) Tennessee, 3) Jacksonville, 4) Indianapolis
AFC West
1) Kansas City, 2) Oakland, 3) Denver, 4) San Diego
AFC North
1) Pittsburgh, 2) Baltimore, 3) Cincinnati, 4) Cleveland

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Scott Taylor

NFL Picks Week 1

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A New Season for the Fearless Prognosticators

Scott Taylor

“The Coach”

Dr. Football

“Dr. Football”

 

By

The Coach and Dr. Football
September 5, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@staylorsports ‏

 

Another National Football League season is upon us and as we get set for the big slam-bang opening spectacular on Thursday night, there are a few things that have us confused (which, of course, isn’t saying much):

 

  1. Colin Kaepernick does not have a job but Josh McCown (Jets), Mike Glennon (Bears) and Nathan Peterman (Bills) all do. And they will all start the season opener.
  2. What is it with NFL runningbacks? From Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson to Ezekiel Elliott, there just seems to be something off. Could it be CTE? Just asking for a friend.
  3. The Minnesota Vikings are one Sam Bradford injury away from Case Keenum.
  4. Is DeShone Kizer the answer in Cleveland? We’re certainly rooting for him, but…
  5. Will, the Browns (1-15-0), Bears (3-13-0) Jags (3-13-0), Chargers (5-11-0), Rams (4-12-0), Jets (5-11-0) and 49ers (2-14-0) ever be competitive teams again? There is no sense, at the start of this or seemingly any season, that these teams are ever going to get better.

The 2017 season shapes up as a showdown in the AFC between Pittsburgh and New England and a showdown in the NFC with, well, the team of the week. Will Dallas be as good as 13-3-0 again? Is Atlanta really a 11-5-0 team and is Carolina really a 6-10-0 team? Is Seattle that much better than everybody else in the West? Is Detroit a Wild Card hope? Are the Giants getting better or worse?

The AFC seems pretty easy to handicap. The NFC is a crapshoot. At least, that’s how it looks after more than a month of pre-season practice scrimmages and a group of teams that actually lost intra-squad games.

Last year, The Coach and Dr. Football were pretty good. The Good Doctor was 174-93 straight up and 142-125 against the spread. The Coach finished 177-90 straight up and 141-126 against the spread. Those were both money-making finishes.

This year, if we can answer all the pressing questions, we should have another winning season. However, the fact that it’s called gambling, not “sure thing,” always makes for some interesting arguments.

It’s time to look at a complete crapshoot – Week 1 in the National Football League:

 

THURSDAY NIGHT

Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)
Line: Patriots by 9

Last year the Patriots started the season without Tom Brady and they still won the Super Bowl…how good will they be with him in control all season?
The loss of Julian Edelman will hurt, and that factor alone will slow down New England, but you just get the sense that Brady will figure it out.

Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

 

Early Sunday

New York Jets (0-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-0)
Line: Bills by 9

ESPN.com says the Jets will challenge the franchise record for the fewest points in a season…and it’s hard to disagree. LeSean McCoy will run wild on the Jets too.

Dr. Football: Take the Bills to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Bills to win but not cover.

 

Atlanta Falcons (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0)
Line: Falcons by 7

The defending NFC champions will rid their Super Bowl hangover with a huge road victory against the once again rebuilding Bears.

Dr. Football: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)
Line: Texans by 6

J.J. Watt’s inspirational acts in the past few weeks have a funny way of propelling a man on the field…and with the fact that the Jaguars haven’t addressed their O-Line problems, expect J.J. to play like the Pro Bowler he is.

Dr. Football: Take the Texans to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Texans to win and cover.

 

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at Washington Redskins (0-0)
Line: Pick

Expect both teams to be greatly improved this year, especially Carson Wentz. Watch him emerge as the dominant leader that the club expected when they drafted him.

Dr. Football: Take the Eagles to win.

The Coach: Take the Washingtons because they’re at home.

 

Arizona Cardinals (0-0) at Detroit Lions (0-0)
Line: Cardinals by 1.5

Matt Stafford is the highest played player in the NFL? Puhleeze. Arizona’s David Johnson will be the best player on the field in this one.

Dr. Football: Take the Cardinals to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Lions.

 

Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Tennessee Titans (0-0)
Line: Titans by 2

Expect the soon to be uprooted Raiders to win the AFC West, and to shake the stigma of not showing up for 1 p.m. road games.

Dr. Football: Take the Raiders in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Raiders.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-0)

Rescheduled: Week 11 …Due to Hurricane Irma…
Line: Dolphins by 3

Expect Jay Cutler to be hot out of the gate before returning to his not-that- impressive self. Tampa Bay will win the NFC South, but will struggle in this one.

Dr. Football: Take the Dolphins to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Dolphins to cover and hold your nose.

 

Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
Line: No Line

Flacco or no Flacco, the Raven defense will win this one.

Dr. Football: Take the Ravens to win.

The Coach: Take the Ravens.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0)
Line: Steelers by 9

I would think a nine-point spread is just being polite. I expect Pittsburgh to beat these clowns by 21.

Dr. Football: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

 

Late Sunday

Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Los Angeles Rams (0-0)
Line: Rams by 3

The wheels came off the Colts bus last year, and I don’t believe they fixed the ol’ clunker. The Colts are rebuilding, and with Andrew Luck unable to start, expect the Rams to run away with this one.

Dr. Football: Take the Rams to win and cover.

The Coach: Yikes, I’m taking the Rams to cover.

 

Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-0)
Line: Packers by 3

Lambeau Field is a tough place to start a season, but the aging Packers won’t put up much of a fight against a focused and motivated Russell Wilson.

Dr. Football: Take the Seahawks in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Packers to win and cover.

 

Carolina Panthers (0-0) at San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
Line: Panthers by 6

The 49ers expect to be much improved this season, but they won’t hit their stride for a while. Carolina has too many weapons.

Dr. Football: Take the Panthers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Panthers to win and cover.

 

Sunday Night

New York Giants (0-0) at Dallas Cowboys (0-0)
Line: Cowboys by 3.5

Even without Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys have too many other weapons that will penetrate the Giants excellent defense.

Dr. Football: Take the Cowboys to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Cowboys to win and cover.

 

Monday Night

New Orleans Saints (0-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-0)
Line: Vikings by 3.5

Minnesota has a history of having players they cast aside come back to bite them, and this game will be no exception. Adrian Peterson is out for revenge, and he’ll get it.

Dr. Football: Take the Saints in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Vikings to win and cover.

 

Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0)
Line: Broncos by 3.5

Sure the Chargers will take a while to get used to their new temporary home, but the fact is they will be the same team on the road, which happens to not be very good in Denver.

Dr. Football: Take the Broncos to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Broncos to win and cover.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Minnesota Twins have a trio of outfield talent

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By Eric Nelson
September 1, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the Minneapple...

•Talented Threesome: There are many reasons why the Minnesota Twins are making a splash this season and three of them are in the outfield. LF Eddie Rosario (25 years old), CF Byron Buxton(23) and RF Max Kepler (24) are young, athletic and have plenty of upside. They can hit, catch, throw and run…

•Gap Coverage: Minnesota pitchers clearly benefit from having this trio roam the outfield. Rosario, Buxton and Kepler cover lots of ground. They routinely run down potential extra base hits in the gaps, or race in to catch would be bloop singles…

•Flashbacks: The Twins have not had an outfield this good since the “Soul Patrol” of Shannon Stewart, Torii Hunter and Jaque Jones, who played together from 2003-2005…

•Playoffs?: Apparently Twins Territory is not aware that their team has a legitimate chance of making MLB’s post-season. Target Field attendance for Tuesday’s Chicago White Sox-Minnesota game was just 20,530. On Wednesday the crowd was 21,172. Thursday’s match up drew 21,288…..

•Bidding Time: The Twins are doing their part to aid Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas. The Twins are holding a relief auction that runs through September 2. Items to bid on include, autographed cleats from Buxton, Kepler, Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano

•Giving Back: Minnesota United is also doing good things in the charity department. The Loons are hosting a back-to-school drive on September 9 before their match with the Philadelphia Union at TCF Bank Stadium. Supplies collected will be donated to St. Paul Public Schools – the district where Minn U’s future home, Allianz Field is being built. Fans who donate receive a buy-one-get-one ticket offer that can be used at the box office on the day of the Philadelphia match, or for either of the team’s last two games on September 23 against FC Dallas, or on October 7 against Sporting Kansas City…

•Raw Deal: There is plenty of hype surrounding new U of M football coach PJ Fleck – who could turn out to be a good hire. Of course, wins and losses will be the judge of that. That said, I believe Tracy Claeys did not get a fair shake from the Gophers and actually did a good job as HC…

•Claeys Data: For the record Claeys was 2-0 in bowl games and his Gophers were 9-4 last season. Minnesota’s Holiday Bowl win against Washington State in December was a signature win. Fleck is stepping into a good situation in Dinkytown. The cupboard is not bare and Claeys deserves credit for that…

•Fab Five: My top five NFL venues are … 1. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City. 2. Lambeau Field, Green Bay. 3. CenturyLink Field, Seattle. 4. LA Coliseum. 5. Hard Rock Stadium, Miami…

•Shield Cathedrals: Arrowhead has incredible tailgating, cool architecture and fabulous gameday energy. Lambeau oozes history and is an NFL mecca. CenturyLink has a unique look, fantastic views of the Seattle skyline and is home base to Seahawk fans who shatter the sound barrier on a weekly basis. The Coliseum is an LA landmark that has plenty of tradition. Hard Rock’s new canopy protects fans from Miami monsoons and shields them from scorching South Florida heat, yet exposes the players to the elements…

•Stadium Criteria: Deciding on the top five stadiums was a challenge. There are plenty of fabulous facilities on the NFL map such as Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati), FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland), Heinz Field (Pittsburgh) and Levi’s Stadium (San Francisco). The only easy decisions were eliminating domes or retractable roof facilities. Blocking out the elements creates an artificial and sterile setting. Weather games usually garner huge television ratings because NFL Nation loves watching duels in the rain, ice and snow…

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Scott Taylor

Blaine’s Hendricks Signs One-Year Deal with Jets

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Scott Taylor

By Scott Taylor

September 1, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@staylorsports ‏

 

A National Hockey League team located about seven hours by car north of the Twin Cities has decided that Minnesota hockey players make the best leaders.

In fact the three players considered to be the “leaders” of the Winnipeg Jets are Minnesotans – captain Blake Wheeler from Plymouth, defensive star Dustin Byfuglien from Roseau and now, highly-regarded penalty killer Matt Hendricks from Blaine.

This week, the Jets agreed to terms with the 36-year-old veteran Hendricks on a one-year deal worth $700,000.

Hendricks Tweeted: “Very happy to be joining the @NHL Jets organization. Can’t wait to meet the guys and get the season off to a good start!”

Hendricks spent the last four seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. Last year, he had four goals and seven points in 42 games and for the second straight season he led the Oilers in the faceoff circle, winning 132-of-232 draws (56.9 per cent).

photo courtesy: Edmonton Oilers

Hendricks, a left-handed shooting centerman, has also been a staple on the Oilers penalty kill. In fact, he is among the Top 25 NHL forwards in shorthanded time-on-ice during the last five seasons.

He has played 521 career NHL games with Colorado, Washington, Nashville, and Edmonton and has totaled 49 goals and 100 points with 664 penalty minutes and a career faceoff percentage of 53.9 per cent.

Hendricks, who is 6-foot, 205 pounds, was drafted by the Predators in the fifth round (131st overall) in the 2000 NHL Draft. He’s the son of an American Marine and a Swedish mother. He and his wife Kimberly have five-year-old twins, son Gunnar and daughter Lennon.

He represented the United States at the World Championships in 2015.

He has been called, “a great team player,” and “an outstanding leader.” In Winnipeg, that would describe all three Minnesota players.

 

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Jonathan Lowe

College Football: Seven on the Line (2017 Opening Weekend…sort of)

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By Jonathan Lowe
September 1, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

With the beginning of the college football season happening last Saturday, this does feel a bit awkward (even though I missed getting this out by Thursday’s games anyway).  You can’t say “Happy College Football New Year!”  There aren’t enough fireworks yet to compare it to the Fourth of July.  Of course, Thanksgiving actually falls in the sport’s calendar.  So…happy College Football President’s Day?  We promise lots of touchdowns and half off of a new mattress?  Sounds plausible.  Anywho, tonight (Friday) kicks off my list of intriguing games for the first full week of the season.

Split Ends
Colorado State vs. Colorado: This may be one of the most underserved rivalries in FBS.  Sure, the Rocky Mountain Showdown has really been a Rocky Mountain Beatdown over the decades (the Buffaloes lead the series 64-22-2), but the “brotherly” animosity stretches the roughly 45 miles between campuses.  Last season, the Buffs used a 44-7 whuppin’ as a spark plug to its most successful season in 15 years.  It resulted in a 10-win campaign, a Pac-12 South title, and a top ranking of 9th in the country.  But CU graduated its all-everything QB, Sefo Liufau.  This means that the Rams, who blew out Oregon State in one of the few “Pre-Opening Week” openers, could be in line to institute a little get-back on Saturday.  CSU QB Nick Stevens now becomes the veteran signal caller in this matchup, and he’ll look to rebound from a disastrous performance (6-20, 31 yds., 2 INTs, 0.6 QBR) last season.

Appalachian State at Georgia: One year ago, the Mountaineers pushed Tennessee to the bitter end in Knoxville.  In my estimation, they missed a big opportunity to get the biggest victory of its FBS lifespan.  Now, App State has another chance to knock off a historical SEC brand name in its own backyard.  They don’t return as many starters as they did off of their 11-2 2015 season, but key starters are back from last year’s 10-3 campaign (including QB Taylor Lamb and leading rusher Jalin Moore).  On the other sideline, the Bulldogs have their own multi-punch offense, with QB Jacob Eason and the backfield tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.  You’d also have to think that Kirby Smart will have his guys on edge.  They know that a well-hyped Volunteer squad had to pull out last year’s victory in OT.  The Mountaineers couldn’t provide another scare, could they?

 

Guards
Wyoming at Iowa: A year ago, I thought that Craig Bohl needed one of those breakout seasons to feel safe about another season (and beyond) in Laramie.  Boy, did he deliver.  The Cowboys finished with a share of the MWC’s Mountain Division crown and, based on tiebreakers, earned a spot in the conference’s championship game.  The program also made its first bowl appearance since 2011.  Going into this season, Cowboy signal-caller Josh Allen is not only an All-American candidate.  He’s being looked at as the potential #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Plus, this team is headed to a place that’s lost some of its mojo over the last few years.

I don’t know if many folks know what to expect from the Hawkeyes this season.  Two years ago, they shocked everyone (admit it die-hard Hawk fans, you too) by riding an undefeated regular season into the Big Ten Championship game.  Last year was good, but still a slide back at 8-4.  The real problem, though, might be the expectations of holding serve at Kinnick Stadium.  Since 2012, the Hawkeyes have lost an early-season, non-conference home game four out of five years.  That includes last year’s walk-off stunner at the hands of North Dakota State.  And what should happen the next season?  In walks the same coach that built the Bison program which knocked you off the season before.  Hmmm…

Troy at Boise State: I’m just going to continue down my list of MWC Mountain Division contenders, if you don’t mind.  The Broncos have been voted the favorites (yet again) to represent the de facto East Side in the league’s title game.  But they welcome in another worthy Mid-Major opponent to open the season.  The Trojans aren’t the favorites to win the Sun Belt, but they are in the mix, ranking second in the league’s preseason poll.  Both teams come into this matchup with proven quarterback play (Brandon Silvers for Troy; Brett Rypien for BSU).  Both teams will also hope to get a leg up on the other.  We don’t know if Colorado State, Appalachian State, or Wyoming can knock off their Power 5 opponents.  We do know that the winner of this game should have a quality win on its resume be season’s end.  That would be a helpful factor when parsing through candidates for the Group of 5 spot in the New Years’ Six bowls.

 

Tackles
West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech: In this part of the world, it’s more about the Backyard Brawl (WVU-Pitt) and the Commonwealth Cup (Va. Tech-UVA).  However, this battle for the Black Diamond Trophy has some history to it as well.  The two programs have met 51 times going into Sunday night’s matchup.  They played every season for 32 consecutive seasons, but their 2005 meeting was the most recent in the series.  This matchup features two teams coming off of 10-win seasons and sporting new leaders under center.  The Mountaineers will rely on Florida transfer Will Grier.  The Hokies announced that redshirt freshman Josh Jackson will take the helm.  Neither team is considered a favorite in the top-heavy conferences that play in.  Va. Tech will play Clemson and at Miami later in the season.  WVU will have to contend with the Oklahoma schools.  A win, though, could be a good kickstarter to another successful season.

Michigan vs. Florida: I’m not quite sure what to make of Jim Harbaugh.  At times, his eclectic outlook of life provides a chuckle.  At times, that same aloofness makes him somewhat insufferable.  I believe it’s the latter feeling that Jim McElwain has toward the Head Wolverine at this point.  Besides the verbal back-and-forth about which players will make it on the field Saturday, there’s opportunity for each program in this game.  Both are trying to re-establish themselves as rightful owners to their respective conference crowns.  To get there, both will have to overcome their most bitter (and, right now, more talented) rival.  The winner of this game in Jerry Jones’ palace will at least get their momentum headed in the right direction as they ultimately eye the end of the season.

 

Center
Florida State vs. Alabama: I’m sure you already know that Nick Saban has never lost to one of his former assistants.  Thanks to SB Nation, I’m certain that you’re aware of the thrashings that have taken place in these matchups.  That includes Bama’s 38-0 victory over Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State team in a national semifinal and two wins (by an average of 26 ppg) over McElwain’s Gators in SEC title games.  You already know this.  But you also know that Jimbo Fisher might be different.  He’s already done a fabulous job of following the legendary Bobby Bowden, amassing a 78-17 record since taking over (an .821 winning percentage).  And that notation comes after his national championship and subsequent semifinal appearance.  The Seminoles have the talent to guide Fisher to another title.  However, the mystique of Saban is potent, and the command in these situation is powerful.  We’ll see which team gets a leg up on the rest of the country after Saturday’s showdown.

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Mayweather stops McGregor by TKO

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By Larry Fitzgerald
August 28, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

LAS VEGAS — The legend of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. grows after defeating mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor in the 10th round by TKO in a marvelously entertaining Las Vegas spectacle.

McGregor is the biggest name in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and his flair and showmanship has made him a name that sparks fire in fans and the entertainment business of the UFC.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Conor McGregor

Likewise, we live in a violent world and Mayweather has learned the good and bad side of violence. He does not hide from it. He’s a great 50-0 undefeated champion.

Although his character is damaged due to having served time for the domestic abuse of the mother of his children, Mayweather has rebounded and found a way to make a fortune being demonized by millions. That’s part of Mayweather’s genius: He accepts that he’s flawed with talent and zeal and God-given skills.

Make no mistake about it: he is a brilliant business man.

Just like when sports fans years ago wanted to see Larry Bird beat Magic Johnson — two great players, one White, one Black — it gets the coals hot and stokes the rage, and in many cases, the frenzy is fueled by racial differences.

It’s not personal, it’s business, and part of hyping the fight was the desire of thousands to see McGregor and his on-the-edge personality beat up Mayweather.

Mayweather has shown a history of struggling with southpaw-style fighters. McGregor was a little bigger with just enough awkwardness to sell this first-time fight as a win-win.

But McGregor’s youthful flair (he’s 29; Mayweather is 40) and surge of confidence ran into Mayweather’s superior boxing experience. McGregor has never fought more than five rounds before, and Mayweather stuck to his plan and allowed McGregor to burn so much energy being the aggressor.

As the fight wore on, Mayweather was then able to take the fight to McGregor. He started sticking jabs to a worn out McGregor’s face to win by TKO.

Not many thought this fight would go past five rounds, and certainly not 10 — nobody but Mayweather, that is. Mr. 50-0!

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Thomas U. Tuttle

A Few Thoughts on the Twins

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

Just when you think they are finished, wrapped up, cooked well-done and ready for slicing and dicing – here come the Minnesota Twins to surprise everyone but themselves! It’s been that way all year and has continued into the home stretch.

So here are a couple of thoughts on the 2017 season through late August:

* The fact that this Club is so resilient and determined makes it all the more difficult to accept the teams acquiring, and then jettisoning, a solid playoff run asset like Jaime Garcia – just the kind of accountable and tested starting pitcher a serious team acquires late in a contending season.

* It was also disheartening that new Twins management felt inclined to move closer Brandon Kintzler at the same time. The first time All-Star was having a solid year and seemed primed for a playoff push. His confident presence was also a big asset in the locker room/bullpen given Minnesota’s shaky reliever coterie.

* All of this has been hashed  over the past  few weeks, but the Boy Wonders (Derrick Falvey and Thad Levine) at the helm of the ballclub felt compelled to make moves that they believe will be beneficial to the future of the franchise. NOT the current squad. And that is a disconnect, according to one Twin, that speaks to disrespect.

* It’s the wait-till-next year attitude that has been around baseball for time immemorial. To essentially quit on a young team that has been entertaining – as well as competitive – for 100-plus games, well, that’s frustrated players, media, casual fans and season ticket holders alike.

* There is a powerful philosophy in baseball today that emphasizes Sabermetrics and cost-benefit analysis at the expense of baseball “feel,” if you will. It’s the old “Moneyball” philosophy first expounded by Bill James, executed (once) by Oakland’s Billy Beane, and accepted as Gospel by this new generation of baseball leadership.

* The Theo Epstein’s and Jed Hoyer’s of the world have dictated strategy to fellow leaders like Falvey/Levine, with the youth contingent coming out of  a mold that views baseball metrics as essentially infallible. One of the great moments at the 2017 SABR analytics conference was HOF lefty Randy Johnson shrugging at the onslaught of information and saying, “I just threw my best heat and let them try to hit it. Did pretty good, too, for a country boy.” Classic…

* The Twins do have the potential for one of the best outfields in baseball for years to come. Max Kepler is underrated and Byron Buxton is figuring things out and Eddie Rosario could really be a powerful star if he hits up to his capabilities. You have to appreciate some of the other guys, too, like Zack Granite who tore up AAA Syracuse en route to the Bigs.

* Miguel Sano needs to watch himself as he emerges into the star Miggy already believes that he is. While his batting practice boomers are reminiscent of David Ortiz, so too are the youthful weight challenges overcome by Big Papi in Boston. Ortiz was not a great player until he pushed himself to become a complete athlete and fulfilled his great promise.

* The Twins essential Latin American guys, along with the Clubhouse in general, have respect for manager Paul Molitor and appreciate his style, among other things. Mollie goes easy on players – up to a point. He demands accountability but doesn’t hound the player who is working hard and playing solid baseball despite adversity and occasional youthful mistakes.

* This team is Molitor’s and the Twins skipper was not done any favors by the braintrust that eliminated a couple of his weapons. It wasn’t intended as a slap in the face, but probably felt like one to a gentleman who has to wonder how he’s ultimately going to fit in with these new management guys, fellows who could be his kids. Suffice it to say that the first ballot hall-of-famer has youthful superiors who are still figuring things out.

* It’s been a great run, considering the starting pitching has been shaky all year and the bullpen generally worse. This team believes in itself despite everything and keeps playing entertaining baseball. Kudos to the squad for having that never-say-die attitude in the face of daunting challenges and roadblocks placed by the front office. It ain’t over until it’s over, though the fat lady will likely be singing soon.

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Vikings: How good will they be?

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By Larry Fitzgerald
August 25, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

So much is riding on this 2017 Vikings season it makes you nervous even thinking about it. Playing the Seattle Seahawks in the pre-season last week was a measuring stick game. You know how good and consistent Seattle is, and how well-coached they are, and they seldom lose at home.

Seattle 20, Vikings 13 — not exactly what Vikings fans wanted. I was honestly surprised how successful they were running. It was a defensive game. I thought the Seahawks were better: they were more physical and ran the ball when and where they wanted to consistently.

I am disappointed right now in running back Latavius Murray. He was signed as a free agent from Oakland and can’t get on the field. If he doesn’t play this week against San Francisco that is a bad sign.

Rookie Dalvin Cook has been impressive but he is so young with much to learn. Last year, as we know, the Vikings could not run the football at all when Adrian Peterson got hurt. Now he’s gone and you don’t win in this league unless you can consistently run the ball.

Sam Bradford looks good at quarterback, throwing to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph. But his career win-loss record in St. Louis and Philadelphia concerns me and that is hard to ignore. I do like tight end Bucky Hodges, however; he a keeper.

With three weeks before the opener, the Vikings have time to get better. The NFL is a dictator league, so you have to force your will on your opponent. The players and coaches are all good, so good that they are able to figure out your game plan and your scheme.

Since 2001, the Vikings have been in the playoffs just five times, with just one playoff victory in 2009.

When you have the Super Bowl in your home stadium, you really hope your team can be good. My expectations are for this team to blow the roof off U.S Bank Stadium.

How realistic is that coming off of an 8-8 season? I’ll keep drinking the purple Kool-Aid because they do have a solid foundation with lots of talent on defense and special teams.

But the early signs bug me. I have concerns over talented Michael Floyd’s suspension for four games. Murray has done nothing yet, as I mentioned. They gave this guy $15 million to watch? And Laquon Treadwell, last year’s number one pick, is still a big question mark.

The offensive line is better, but can they jell and become a solid versatile group?

No reason to be alarmed just yet — the Vikings lost on the road to a good football team that made the playoffs. But there are legit reasons to share with you my concerns.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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