September 1, Week in Sports
:: COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON BEGINS (NCAA Football)
:: MLB PLAYOFF RACES HEAT UP (Pro. Baseball)
:: NFL SEASON PREVIEW (Pro. Football)
COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON OFFICIALLY KICKS OFF
The college football season officially started last Thursday, and by the end of the weekend, dozens of games had been played. The college football season eventually culminates in 32 bowl games, where the top 64 teams in the country play on the national stage.
Because ranking all of the teams in order is extremely complex (since every team in the country has a different schedule, different opponents, different styles of play, etc.), every college football season is filled with controversy and conflicts of opinion. For many teams in the country, just making a bowl game is a huge accomplishment. The most elite teams in the nation, though, have their hearts set on making the national championship game–which features the top two teams in the country. In order to have a good chance to make it to the national championship, a team can only afford to have one or two losses. But sometimes, even one or two losses won’t cut it. In 2004, Auburn went undefeated, but there were two other undefeated teams who were ranked higher, so Auburn was denied a chance at the national championship. In short, sometimes going undefeated isn’t good enough, so every single game matters.
For better or worse, then, following the college football season mostly involves keeping track of the upsets and watching to see how ranked teams fare against other ranked teams. This week’s big victory (and big upset) came when No. 24-ranked Alabama beat No. 9-ranked Clemson. Clemson is the first top ten team to fall this season, which means they will be knocked out of the top ten in next week’s rankings. But rest assured–those rankings will change many, many times before this season is through.
Quote of the Week: ”A pair of parachuters who were slated to deliver the game ball for North Carolina’s opener against McNeese State inadvertently landed eight miles away–at Duke’s stadium. “In about five years,” said concerned UNC associate AD Rick Steinbacher, “maybe this will be funny.” Oh no–it’s plenty funny right now.” — Stewart Mandel, SI.com
Further Reading: ”The Tide Is Rising” — Ivan Maisel
ROUNDING THIRD…MLB PLAYOFF RACES HEAT UP
As we enter the month of September, this year’s playoff races are beginning to take shape. The regular season ends on September 28, and the playoffs begin on October 1. Only eight teams make it to the postseason–four from the American League and four from the National League.
Several of the eight playoff spots are all but guaranteed already. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Tampa Bay Rays, and Chicago Cubs are virtual locks to make the postseason. The Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox are likely to make it into the playoffs, as well. That leaves just a handful of playoff spots. Here are some of the key battles to focus on in September:
1. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are currently scrapping it out in the NL East. Whoever wins the division will secure a playoff spot, while the other team will go home empty-handed.
2. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are competing for the NL West. While the Diamondbacks have taken command of the lead in the past weeks, it is a shaky division and nobody is counting the Dodgers out.
3. The Minnesota Twins, White Sox, and Boston Red Sox are fighting for two playoff spots in the American League. The White Sox and Twins are competing for the title in the AL Central. The Red Sox are poised to win the Wild Card, but whoever finishes second in the AL Central could certainly give them a run for their money.
Of course, no team has guaranteed their spot in the playoffs yet, which means that nobody is safe. If one team collapses or another team catches fire, the face of the playoffs could change in a heartbeat.
Quote of the Week: “[The Angels are] in the HOV lane for 90-plus victories and a fourth division title in the past five years. And if you can find a weakness in their everyday lineup, the Rally Monkey will wax and buff your car.” — Gene Wojciechowski
Further Reading: Current MLB Standings — via ESPN.com
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
This weekend marks the beginning of the season for the NFL–the most popular sport in the country. The season officially begins on Thursday, when the New York Giants play the Washington Redskins. The rest of the Opening Week games will be played on Sunday and Monday.
There are a number of teams that are widely expected to be hugely successful this year, such as the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. And while some teams are expected to be a major disappointment this year, the vast majority of the teams in the league fall somewhere in the middle. The result is that at this point in the year, every team has a chance to make the playoffs, no matter how bleak things look–it is one of the reasons why the sport is so popular. There is no telling where the season will take us. For the time being, though, these are some of the big storylines of the season:
1. New England Patriots: Last year, the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season, but then they were devastated by a loss to the underdog New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Can Patriots quarterback Tom Brady bring the team to a championship this year?
2. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys, “America’s Team,” are perennial contenders, and this year many analysts predict that they will win the Super Bowl. However, as good as the Cowboys have been in recent years, it hasn’t helped them in the playoffs, where they have not won a game since 1996.
3. New York Jets: The Jets traded for Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre during the offseason. Will Favre help catapult the Jets to the playoffs? Will the Packers still win their division without their Hall of Fame quarterback?
Quote of the Week: ”There are exactly 267 games that matter in an NFL season, and it’s always a guessing game to predict the winners and losers.” — Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
Further Reading: ”Fact Check: The 2008-2009 NFL Preview” — ESPN the Magazine Staff
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
:: FOOTBALL: The NFL season begins this week. With games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday, you can expect to hear a lot about all of them from your friends, family, and co-workers–particularly from those involved in “fantasy football” leagues. Visit www.nfl.com for details on the game schedules.
:: TENNIS: The U.S. Open continues this week, finishing up on September 7th.
MLB (Pro. Baseball): In the final month of the regular season, teams are still jockeying for spots in the post-season–either by winning their division, or by taking the Wild Card spot. [Official MLB Website]
NFL (Pro. Football): The regular season begins this week. The standings will begin to take shape in just a few weeks, once teams begin to play their division rivals. [Official NFL Website]
NCAA FOOTBALL (College): The college football started last Thursday. USA Today and the Associated Press have both ranked Georgia as the number one team. [NCAA Football, ESPN]
MEN’S GOLF: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Major Championships: The Masters, U.S. Open, The Open (The British Open), and the PGA Championship. Now that the PGA Championship is over, mainstream golf news will most likely revolve around Tiger Woods’ return from injury and preparation for next year’s Majors. [Official PGA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson
MEN’S AND WOMEN’S TENNIS: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Grand Slam tournaments: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. The U.S. Open is currently underway–it runs through September 7. [USTA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic
NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL (College): Now that the tournament is over, college basketball news will focus on which players leave their schools for the NBA, and which college teams land the premier high-school players for next season. [CBS Sports]
NHL (Pro. Hockey): The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals, completing the 2007-08 season. [Official NHL Website]
NBA (Pro. Basketball): The Celtics defeated the Lakers to win the NBA Finals, ending the 2008 season. [Official NBA Website]