What’s next for the USMNT?

The U. S. Men’s National Team certainly grabbed the nation’s attention during this World Cup, as they advanced from the ‘group of death’ over Portugal and Ghana.

Soccer has never had higher ratings in America than it has during Brazil’s World Cup, even after the USMNT exited the tournament. The question now is how does the USMNT keep everyone’s attention until Russia 2018?

The team’s schedule will actually be its biggest asset in terms of keeping the viewer’s engaged. I won’t pretend to know most of the ins and outs of who will or won’t play for the U.S. four years from now in the World Cup, I’ll leave that to my friend @MikeMcCall, but the USMNT could play an international tournament every summer leading up to 2018.

You get a chance to see ’14 breakout star Deandre Yedlin plenty the next four summers. PHOTO: Getty Images

That’s on top of World Cup Qualifying games (Summer ’16- Fall ’17). The revolution will truly be televised.

First up will be the 2015 Gold Cup July 7-26. The U.S. won the 2013 Gold Cup so a win in 2015 would automatically put the U.S. into the 2017 Confederations Cup as the CONCACAF representative (if they don’t win in ’15 they will enter a playoff with the champion for the Confederations Cup bid). The 2015 squad should look fairly similar to the current roster that you’ve come to know.

2016 could be the first year you start to see some roster changes. In the summer the U.S. will host the Copa America Centenario  starting June 3. The tournament will feature 10 South American teams (including Argentina and Brazil) and six CONCACAF teams (the U.S. and Mexico are automatically in).

If they qualify, the U.S. could also get some valuable international experience for its younger players in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil. Then in the fall World Cup Qualifying gets underway.

In 2017 if all goes according to plan the U.S. will again gain experience for its second-tier players in the Gold Cup, while the A-team gets a heck of World Cup walk-through in the Confederations Cup.

2014 was great, but the next four summers will be the most important in U.S. Soccer history. Not just from a developmental standpoint, but they’ll be huge for fan recognition as well. There’s plenty of room on the USMNT bandwagon, and now you don’t have to wait four years to become an American Outlaw again.

Here is where to find each of these International tournaments on your television.

  • 2015 Gold Cup: FOX Sports Networks
  • 2016 Copa America: BeIN Sports, Univision (come on ESPN pony up to get those English rights from BeIN!)
  • 2016 Olympics: NBC Networks
  • 2017 Gold Cup: FOX Sports Networks
  • 2017 Confederations Cup: FOX Sports Networks
  • 2018 World Cup Qualifying: FOX Sports Networks
  • 2018 World Cup: FOX

No hits keep coming

Oregon State Athletics/NCAA.com

When college baseball elected to make changes to the bats the sport was using in 2011, many coaches feared the changes were too drastic. The game was not quite at the level of gorilla ball in in the late 90s, but safety of pitchers and high scores were a concern, so the game switched to BBCOR bats and the scores have dramatically dropped.

The fact that changes may have gone too far the other way has been evident so far in 2014. Despite a season that is just four weeks old, there have been at least six Division I no-hitters.

Saturday saw not one, but two games that ended with zeros in the hit column.

Alabama used three pitchers to complete a 7-0 no-hitter over Mississippi Valley State, and Oregon State’s Jace Fry struck out 10 as he no-hit Northern Illinois. The trio of Justin Kamplain, Jay Shaw and Geoffrey Bramblet combined for the first no-no for the Crimson Tide since 1942.

Earlier in the week Miami’s Javi Salas tossed just the 23rd perfect game in college baseball history, as he struck out six in a 17-0 win over Villanova. It was the sport’s first perfect game since Virgina’s Will Roberts in 2011.

On Thursday BYU’s Kolton Mahoney threw the seventh no-hitter in school history against Nicholls State.

While the no-hitters are good for college baseball exposure, the lack of runs will only hurt the sport in the long run. Luckily ping ball fans don’t have to wait long for changes to be made. In October the NCAA voted change to a flat-seamed baseball that will boost offenses without bringing back the gorilla ball power numbers.

2014 College Baseball No-Hitters*

February 21, Reed Garret of VMI, 3-0 over Lafayette

March 1 Jake Stinnett of Maryland, 4-0 over UMASS

March 5, Javi Salas of Miami, 17-0 over Villanova

March 6, Kolton Mahoney of BYU, 5-0 over Nicholls State

March 8, Justin Kamplain, Jay Shaw and Geoffrey Bramblet of Alabama, 7-0 over MVSU

March 8, Jace Fry of Oregon State, 2-0 over NIU

*Let me know if  you know of any no-hitters I missed. College Baseball isn’t the easiest sport to track.

ACC Power Rankings

Ok we’re four weeks into the season so it’s time for some Power Rankings (or just rankings, I guess there is no real power behind them). I’ll start with the ACC tonight and then put up my SEC rankings tomorrow.

14. Wake Forest (2-2 0-1 ACC): The Demon Deacons had a nice win, 25-11, over Army this week but still have a ways to go before moving up at all in this pole. Wake Forest’s longest run of the season is 23 yards. Defensively they’ve been ok, giving up just 15.8 points per game, but they still have work to do to move up at all.

13. Duke (2-2, 0-2 ACC): The Blue Devils have plenty of work to do on defense. It’s off to an 0-2 start in the ACC after losing 58-55 to Pittsburgh this weekend, following a 38-14 loss to Georgia Tech. In those two losses Duke gave up a combined 1,067 yards.

12. Boston College (2-1, 1-0 ACC): The Eagles do have a conference win under their belt thanks to a 24-10 win over Wake Forest in the rivalry, but they followed that up by losing 35-7 to a Southern Cal team who scored just 17 points on Utah State this weekend. I think Steve Addazio is the dude to get BC back on track, but he’ll need a few years.

11. Syracuse (2-2, 0-0 ACC): Syracuse has bounced back nicely from an 0-2 start with two cupcake wins, including last weekend’s 52-17 thrashing of Tulane. The Orange have been balanced on offense but we’ll find out how good they are in two weeks when they make their ACC debut at home against No. 4 Clemson.

10. Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0 ACC): Somehow the Hokies are 3-1 going into Thursday’s ACC opener against Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech needed triple overtime to take down a second straight regional rival in a 29-21 win over Marshall. Logan Thomas and the Hokies offense don’t inspire much confidence at all, but VT could ride it’s defense to another bowl eligible season.

9. Virginia (2-1, 0-0 ACC): The Cavaliers have one of the stranger wins of the 2013 season as it took down BYU 19-16 in its season opener. UVA then came crashing back down to earth thanks to a 59-10 loss to No. 2 Oregon. The Cavs passing attack needs work, starter David Watford is just 65 of 98 for 481 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions. We’ll find out more about UVA as it travels to Pitt on Saturday.


8. North Carolina State (2-1, 0-1 ACC): The Wolfpack feel short on Thursday night for another top five upset in Raleigh. The defense looked surprisingly good, but until Brandon Mitchell returns I don’t know how many Ws N.C. State will be racking up. The good news is with the exception of a trip to Tallahassee, the Wolfpack have a very manageable schedule.


7. Pittsburgh (2-1, 1-1 ACC): The Panthers received a rude welcome to the ACC thanks to Jameis Winston and Florida State, but bounced back for its first ACC win over Duke on Saturday. Pitt’s defense will give up points all year, but quarterback Tom Savage should be able to win his fair shair of the shootout.s

6. North Carolina (2-1, 0-1 ACC): The Tar Heels let a big lead slip through their fingers on Saturday against Georgia Tech. I can’t figure UNC out just yet. I really like quarterback Bryn Renner, but the offense has stalled against both GT and South Carolina this season. UNC needs a statement win over East Carolina this weekend (easier said than done).

5. Georgia Tech (3-0, 2-0 ACC): I think this Yellow Jacket offense could be the most dynamic attack that Paul Johnson has had in Atlanta. Vad Lee is off to a great start as the full-time starter and he actually has a nice crop of receivers to compliment the option rushing attack. Defensively things look much better this year under Ted Roof than they did a season ago.

4. Maryland (4-0, 0-0 ACC): In its final ACC season Maryland is off a quiet 4-0 start. The Terrapins thumped West Virginia 37-0 last weekend in College Park. C.J. Brown has been efficient this season with 1,050 yards passing, seven touchdowns and just one interception. The Terps are off this week before heading to Tallahassee on October 5. We’ll see just how improved Maryland is then.


3. Miami (3-0, 0-0 ACC): The Hurricanes have the second most impressive win in the ACC this season, a sloppy 21-16 victory over No. 12 Florida. Still I’m not that sold on Al Golden’s extremely young team. Miami travels to USF this weekend and then will host Georgia Tech in two weeks. Until its meeting with the Yellow Jackets we won’t know if this Miami team is truly different than last year’s mediocre squad.

2. Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC):  The Seminoles have been very impressive so far this season. They’re ranked No. 8 in the country, have averaged 52.3 points per game and given up just 8.7 points a game. Jameis Winston sure does look like the real deal, but the schedule hasn’t allowed us to really know just how good he or this team is. That won’t change after a trip to Boston College this weekend.

1. Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC): The Tigers are riding a ton of momentum right now. Clemson defeated LSU in the Chic-fil-A Bowl to end the 2012 season and started 2013 off with a 38-35 victory over Georgia. Perhaps most impressive though was Clemson’s performance on Thursday night. The Tigers started slow and quarterback Tajh Boyd didn’t have his A-game. Yet they found a way to get it done on the road 26-14 over N.C. State. They’ll be on cruise control until their October 19 showdown in Death Valley with Florida State.

Seven Players Ejected in Week 1

Bruce Ely / The Oregonian

College Football kicked off its first season where targeting is an eject-able offense this weekend. By my count there were seven (updated seventh post added at the bottom) ejections under the new rule. NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding says that the number of targeting penalties called during week 1 were about on par with with how things were called in 2012.

Tulane corner Lorenzo Doss was the first offender as far as we know.

Thursday night also featured ejections of Indiana State’s Carlos Aviles for a vicious hit on a punt return. Everything the gif above shows tells me that Aviles deserved to be tossed. It was a second half ejection which he means he as to sit out the first half of this week’s game.

On Saturday there were three more players ejected, including Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell for the vicious hit on the Nicholls State quarterback posted above. The hit certainly looks like it warranted a flag, but Mitchell disagrees.

“I really don’t think so but the referee was entitled to his own opinion, he had to do what he had to do,” Mitchell told The Oregonian. “It was kind of shocking, man … I haven’t been kicked out of the game since high school basketball, got T’d up.”

His ejection occurred during the first half so he will be eligible to play Saturday against Virginia.

Cal defensive end Chris McCain was ejected for a late hit on Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian in which he targeted the QBs head. The Pac-12 has since reviewed the play, after claiming a technical failure didn’t allow for it during the game, and announced that McCain will be eligible for the entire game against Portland State on Saturday. His ejection occurred during the second half so he wouldn’t have been eligible otherwise. Obviously the hit didn’t warrant an ejection in the first place, but it was roughing the passer.

Texas A&M defensive back Deshazor Everett also seemed to be unnecessarily called for targeting for his hit on a Rice receiver. Yes Everett’s hit was late and very stupid, but it wasn’t targeting. He led with his shoulder and didn’t hit the receiver in the head. The ejection occurred in the second half so he will have to sit the first half of Saturday’s game against Sam Houston State (and he didn’t even sign any autographs).

Colorado State linebacker C.J. James was the lone player to be called for targeting and have the ruling overturned during a game. The only video of the hit I could find was on this strange sports show on YouTube (is it a guy just talking to the TV?). James hit Colorado’s QB late (barely) and was called for roughing the passer and targeting. After review it was determined he didn’t target the head and the hit was just late. James remained in the game.

Updated: A seventh ejection was pointed out to me by Jeremy North on twitter. UAB tight end Kennard Backman was ejected for targeting on a block against Troy. He is the first offensive player to be ejected. I’ve got some low quality video of the hit up here.

It will be interesting to see how this rule continues to come into play once conference play heats up.

Week 1 Picks

Now that we can finally move on from the Johnny Manziel autograph saga, lets break down the week 1 action.

North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina- Thursday 6 p.m. ET on ESPN:

UNC.edu

The season gets started on ESPN as North Carolina visits South Carolina at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Gamecocks are favored by 13 points.

USC has the most dynamic defensive player in the county in Jadeveon Clowney, and a unit that allowed just 18.2 points per game a year ago will be strong again in 2013. Offensively Connor Shaw, who is USC’s leading returning rusher and passer, will lead the way again. He completed 67.5 percent of his passes a year ago.

UNC signal caller Bryn Renner is one of the more underrated passers in the country. Last year the Tar Heels were 8-4 as Renner completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Renner and Larry Fedora’s high octane offense should be able to move ball on USC, even without Hard Knocks star Giovani Bernard.

Pregame reading: South Carolina has won 13 straight openers, Steve Spurrier thinks UNC is good enough to end that streak.

Pick: I think USC will get it done, but I think the Tar Heels will cover. I’m going with USC over UNC  24-17.

Top Five Heisman Trophy Contenders

No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU in the Cowboys Kickoff Classic- Saturday 9 p.m. ET ESPN

US Presswire

For an opening-weekend match-up between two top-20 teams, this game flown a bit under the radar. Perhaps that’s because UGA-Clemson has the makings of heavy-weight prize fight.

Still this is an intriguing match-up. LSU will be looking to replace eight players on the defensive side of the ball, including a whole new defensive line.

I think that Zack Mettenberger will thrive under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. He’ll also benefit from the fact that the expectations have been lowered from the ridiculous levels they were a year ago, when Tigers’ fans referred to him as the Mettsiah. Les Miles hasn’t announced whether or not if running back Jeremy Hill will play in the opener after an off-season arrest.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson has also been coy with the media about his team. Patterson hasn’t announced whether Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin will start at quarterback. Pachall started the year 4-0 last year before withdrawing from TCU to receive treatment for substance abuse following a DUI. Boykin filled in for Pachall the final 12 games and threw for 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Patterson hinted that TCU may actually find a way to get both quarterbacks on the field for the fist snap on Saturday, but I think that’s just a little bit of gamesmanship. The Horned Frogs will be without the reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year, defensive end Devonte Fields, as he serves a two-game suspension to start the year.

Pregame Reading: Nola.com: LSU vs. TCU 5 things to keep an eye on.

Pick: I think LSU comes in with a chip on it’s shoulder and handles TCU with ease. I’m taking the Tigers over the Horned Frogs 27-10.

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson- Saturday 8.p.m. ET ABC

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It doesn’t get any better than this for an opening-week match-up.

Two national-title contenders, with two potential Heisman finalists under center, will really set the tone for the final year of the BCS era. UGA’s title hopes could survive a loss in week one, while Clemson would likely be relegated to a best-case scenario of the Orange Bowl with a loss to the Bulldogs.

What makes this match-up so exciting is that both teams are going to put up points. In part because they’re very talented on offense, and also in part because both teams tend to struggle with not letting teams score lots of points. Clemson averaged 41 points per game last season, while allowing 24.8. UGA scored 37.8 points per game, and gave up 19.6 (but they gave up 20 points or more in eight of 14 games).

The Tigers should be better on defense in their second season under defensive coordinator Brent Venables. I’m not sold that the UGA squad will be better after losing so much talent to the NFL last year (seven defenders were drafted in 2013), and the fact that Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended for the opener.

Pregame reading: Cool story from David Ching on ESPN.com on the history of the Georgia-Clemson rivalry.

Pick: I think Clemson gets it done at home in a shootout. I think the Tigers take down Georgia 42-35.

Dark-horse Heisman Trophy contenders

Other Picks:

Rutgers at Fresno State- Thursday 10:30 p.m. ET ESPNU- I think Fresno State has a chance to make some noise this year. They start off with a win over Rutgers.

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virgina Tech in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff- 5:30 p.m. ET ESPN: Let’s get real here, the Crimson Tide will roll by three touchdowns.

No. 19 Boise State at Washington- Saturday 10 p.m. ET Fox Sports 1: I like the Huskies’ QB Keith Price so I’m going with UW over Boise in an upset.

No. 11 Florida State at Pittsburgh- Monday 8 p.m ET ESPN: Pitt needs to run the ball to be successful, and I just think that FSU is just too big up front for that to happen. Even if Jameis Winston has some debut jitters, I like the Seminoles by two touchdowns.

Lincoln defeats South Gwinnett

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Occasionally people actually pay me to write stories. Last night was one of those occasions.

If you follow me on Twitter (how could you not!?), you realized I was in Norcross to cover the Lincoln-South Gwinnett game that was being televised on ESPN for the Tallahassee Democrat.

NORCROSS, GA. — The Lincoln Trojans opened up the 2013 season in fine fashion on Saturday afternoon with a 34-21 victory over South Gwinnett at Norcross High School near Atlanta. The game was televised nationally on ESPN.

Lincoln took control in the first half thanks to a dynamic performance by senior quarterback Darius Harvey. Head coach Yusuf Shakir was pleased with how his young team handled its first test of the year.

“I think it was a great game for us,” Shakir said. “I just think it builds confidence. You could see we were young because we would get hot and then we’d have kind of little lulls. That’s just being young.”

You can read the rest of the story on Tallahassee.com right here.

I figured since I flooded some of your timelines last night with updates from the game I’d provide you with the actual game story.

Here are some of my additional thoughts on the game:

  • Lincoln quarterback Darius Harvey looks like he could be poised to have a big year now that he’s surrounded by play-makers like John Burt. Harvey started off hot last night going 7 of 10 in the first half, but was just 2 of 8 in the second half. If he can become more consistent he should see his offer list grow. He already added an offer from Howard last night according to Chris Nee of 24/7

 

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  • I already mentioned Burt, but it was his coming out party last night. The junior had four grabs for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 47-yard kickoff return and an interception in the game. He’ll be a fast riser in the class of 2015.
  • Lincoln’s two big-name prospects also lived up to the hype. Jeff Williams, a Louisville commit had a pair of sacks and looked like he’s got potential to star in a 3-4 system. While four-star Kendall Randolph lived up to the billing. South Gwinnett stayed away from him for the most part, but he still managed to come away with an interception.
  • On South Gwinnett’s side I think that they’ll be ok. If they had avoided the turnovers and cut down on some of the penalties then they would have been in last night’s game more. I was impressed with how sophomore QB Josh Shim moved the ball late in the game and he could have a bright future when he takes over the reigns from senior Malik Brown.
  • I didn’t stick around for the late night beating that Booker T. Washington handed Norcross. I had to get to a Chic-fil-A to file my story. I thought Norcross would put up a better fight than that, but I think last night’s result may speak more to Booker T.’s talent than Norcross’.

The beginning of the end for Breaking Bad

The final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad begins tonight.

It will be a bittersweet eight weeks for fans of Walter White. I personally think the show ranks up there with The Wire and The Sopranos as one of the best television shows of all time.

The series could end in a number of ways. Will Walt get caught? Or will he be killed?

Rather than bore you with my theories on how it all ends (the only thing I’ll say is that if Frankie Muniz doesn’t make a guest appearance I’ll be disappointed) I’ll give you a bit of a watching game instead.

My friend Mike and I decided to set an over-under on the number of times Jesse will say “bitch” in the final eight episodes. He set it at 4.5, and I took the over while he took the under.

Let me know what you guys think, and how many will we get tonight?