SportsBlog entries for October, 2016 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

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Entries for October, 2016


October 28, 2016

A Look at the College Football Playoff Field

By bryanflynn

When the first College Football Playoff rankings are released on Nov. 1, the University of Alabama is going to be the top team. The Crimson Tide have rarely been challenged this season, as they have steamrolled most of their foes.

Alabama is just one of 12 teams that is still alive for the playoffs. These 12 teams from the major conferences are either undefeated or have just one loss as the season moves into the final month.

Joining Alabama as the only undefeated teams are the University of Clemson, Baylor University, West Virginia University, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska and the University of Washington.

Boise State University and Western Michigan University are also undefeated but face a nearly impossible hill to climb to get into the playoff. Both are in contention for a New Year’s Six bowl, along with one-loss teams the United States Naval Academy, San Diego State University and Troy University.

A second tier of teams are the one-loss teams from the major conferences, including the University of Louisville, Ohio State University, University of Utah, Texas A&M University and the University of Florida.

There isn’t a team left alive in the playoff field that doesn’t have some obstacles in its way. Beginning with the SEC, here are the chances of the ones still left.

Alabama must get past Louisiana State University, Auburn University and the winner of the SEC East gets the Tide in the SEC Championship Game. While there are some roadblocks, Alabama has a good chance of finishing undefeated.

Texas A&M finishes the season with tough games against the University of Mississippi, LSU and Alabama. If the Aggies can run the rest of the table, and other conferences have mayhem, they have a chance to get in the playoff anyway.

Florida would be the biggest longshot out of the three SEC teams. The Gators have the University of Georgia, LSU, Florida State University and whoever wins the SEC West. This team will more than likely slip again along the way.

Washington is the last unbeaten team in the Pac-12 and still has plenty of hurdles. The Huskies face Utah this weekend, and then the University of Southern California, Washington State University and the conference title game. This team will be playoff worthy if it can get past this slate.

Utah is the only other Pac-12 team still alive. If the Utes fall to Washington, their playoff hopes are gone. Beyond Washington, Utah just has the University of Colorado and the conference championship game. This is an all or nothing weekend for this team.

The Big Ten is simple for Michigan: get past Ohio State in the season finale and the championship game. It is an easy schedule for the Wolverines until they meet the OSU in a major showdown.

Nebraska is also undefeated in the Big Ten but wouldn’t face Michigan until the conference title game. Just to set up a potential matchup ...

October 28, 2016

JSU’s Jones on Homecoming, Alcorn and More

By bryanflynn

In his final season with Jackson State University, defensive end/linebacker Javancy Jones is happy to still have a chance playing in the SWAC Championship Game. The Tigers are tied with Alcorn State University, with their homecoming game against Prairie View A&M University taking place this Saturday, Oct. 29.

Jones suffered a hyper-extended knee early in JSU’s game against Grambling State University on Sept. 17. He missed most of that game and the Tigers’ matchup against the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the following week.

Even after missing nearly two full games due to injury, Jones has proven once again that he is one of the best defenders in the SWAC. He is 10th place in tackles with 41 total and 23 solo, ninth place in sacks with three, third place in tackles for a loss with 13 total, and tied for fourth place in forced fumbles with two.

This hasn’t been the perfect senior season for Jones. Beyond needing to overcome an injury, he is also trying to be there for his family while his mother deals with an illness.

Jones missed practice time right before JSU opened the season against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I was ready physically because of the work I put in the offseason, but mentally, it has been work with my mother being sick,” Jones told the Jackson Free Press.

At the same time, he says has enjoyed seeing the improvements that the Tigers have made as the season has gone on. “JSU is in great hand with this new coaching staff,” Jones says. “The future looks bright, and I’m glad I get to be a part of the beginning.”

With this week’s game at the center of homecoming week, Jones says he talked to his teammates about staying focused on their matchup against Prairie View.

“I’ve told the guys to remember that we are the main attraction this weekend,” he says. “We needed to remember it is OK to have fun, but get home early and get rest for Saturday.”

Despite being a senior, this will actually be Jones’ third homecoming game, as Grambling State didn’t show up for his freshman homecoming game due to a team protest over athletic department conditions.

“I didn’t get a homecoming game my freshman year, so I don’t know what the younger guys are going through exactly, but I’m going to enjoy my last homecoming just a little,” he jokes.

Every team, coach and player says they take the season one week at a time, but a potential showdown with Alcorn State for the East Division title on Nov. 19 is intriguing for JSU, as that game could mean a berth in the SWAC Championship Game.

“It doesn’t matter if that game is for the division title or not,” Jones says. “My freshman year, we were in the championship game no matter the outcome, and they beat us, and the next year they were in no ...

October 26, 2016

Prescott More Impressive Than Wentz

By bryanflynn

Sunday Night Football should see an increase in ratings this week when the Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles. The rating should be helped with the Cowboys alone, who produce a strong reaction in nearly every NFL fan.

The game should also get a boost from two rookie quarterbacks: Dak Prescott, who is still at the helm for the Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles feature quarterback Carson Wentz.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn’t return to practice today, but he was on the field throwing the ball to teammates. Romo won’t be back this week, but Dallas is going to have to answer the question sooner or later about the team’s quarterback situation.

Head coach Jason Garrett knows which way the locker room is leaning, and that should help guide him to his decision. There is no reason to announce to the rest of the league what will happen when Romo is fully healthy, but he needs to have a plan in place to avoid a quarterback controversy.

But the Romo-Prescott problem is for another week. This week, it’s the quarterback drafted second overall against a fourth-round quarterback.

Before the preseason, it seemed highly unlikely that Wentz and Prescott would be starting for their respective teams. Even more unlikely is that both quarterbacks have a combined 9-3 record.

Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be this successful this fast. Instead, Prescott has the 5-1 Cowboys on a five-game winning streak coming off their bye week. Wentz has the Eagles at 4-2, and the team beating the Vikings last week ended a two game losing streak.

Both quarterbacks have very similar numbers, but Prescott has been better. He has thrown for 1,486 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception. Wentz has thrown for 1,324 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

Prescott is completing 68.7 percent of his passes with a 103.9 passer rating, and Wentz is competing 63.8 percent of his passes with a 92.7 passer rating. Prescott is averaging 8.2 yards per pass, and Wentz is averaging 7.2 yards per pass.

Even when needing to use their legs, Prescott has been better. The Cowboys rookie has 20 rushes for 67 yards and three touchdowns, but Wentz has 43 yards on 18 carries and zero touchdowns rushing.

Both quarterbacks must work on protecting the ball in the pocket and rushing. Prescott has four fumbles, and Wentz has six this season. Wentz has been sacked 12 times for a loss of 60 yards, and Prescott has been sacked nine times for a loss of 44 yards.

In fact, the Cowboys’ fourth-round draft pick has out-played most of the quarterbacks in the NFL.

Prescott is second in the NFL in completion percentage at 68.7 percent and trails only Tom Brady. He is fifth in yards per pass attempt at 8.7 yards, with Brady, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers ahead of him.

Among quarterbacks ...

October 26, 2016

Bowl and SWAC East Hopes

By bryanflynn

College football is heading into its home stretch as October fades into November. It is time once again to look into the bowl and SWAC East hopes for Mississippi teams.

This season has featured more bad than good, with just one team that has a winning record at this point in the season: the University of Southern Mississippi. At 4-3, the team comes off a bye week with a winning record.

Delta State University, at 4-4, and Alcorn State University, at 3-3, are the only teams that currently even boast a .500 record. The University of Mississippi (3-4), Jackson State University (3-4), Mississippi State University (2-5), Millsaps College (2-5), Mississippi College (2-6), Belhaven University (1-6) and Mississippi Valley State University (0-8) all have losing records.

Things aren’t looking good for the teams in our state. Time is running out for a dramatic turnaround, and for most teams, even a turnaround won’t earn them a winning season.

Even as bad as things are right now, Mississippi teams still have hopes of a bowl or SWAC Championship Game berth. Here is a quick look at those hopes for five teams.

Mississippi State is still mathematically alive to reach a bowl game. The Bulldogs should get a win this week against Samford and reach 3-5 on the season.

MSU has to be kicking itself for missing a field goal in a loss to the University of South Alabama, a late rally against Louisiana State University, an overtime loss to Brigham Young University and leaving too much time on the clock so the University of Kentucky to make a game-winning field goal.

If a few of those four losses had gone the other way, the Bulldogs would be playing for six wins this weekend or already have six wins. Discounting a blowout loss to Auburn University, MSU has four losses by a combined 13 points.

Even if they win this weekend, the trouble for the Bulldogs is finding three more wins. MSU’s schedule over the last four weeks is home games against Texas A&M University (6-1) and the University of Arkansas (5-3) with road trips to the University of Alabama (8-0) and UM in between the home games.

It seems impossible to find three more wins in those four games. MSU would have to upset three teams just to make a bowl game.

While still alive, the reality is the Bulldogs’ bowl streak ends this year. It could have gone differently for MSU, but close losses doomed this team.

The schedule looks a little better for the Rebels, even with two straight losses to Arkansas and LSU. They still have to win three more games to reach a bowl game, but they have opportunities to get there with the remaining games.

UM faces an Auburn team that has found its lost offense. The Tigers look like a tough game to win ...

October 25, 2016

Epstein, Francona And Maddon Earned Hall This Season

By bryanflynn

The 2016 World Series is set to begin with game one on Tuesday, Oct. 25. When the first pitch is thrown, one thing might already be set in stone: No matter the outcome of this World Series,

three men have earned their place in Cooperstown. With the tough requirements for entering the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, that might sound strange.

These three men are Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona and Cubs Manager Joe Maddon. People might argue against Maddon, but it is hard to argue against Epstein and Francona.

The Boston Red Sox hired Epstein in 2002 as general manager, which made the 28-year-old the youngest general manager in MLB history. Two years later, the team he put together finally broke the “Curse of the Bambino” that plagued the Red Sox.

That 2004 Boston team came back from a 0-3 deficit to the New York Yankees and won the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals and won their first World Series since 1918.

Epstein signed and brokered the trades that brought some of the biggest pieces to the Red Sox, setting up the 2004 World Series teams. He brought a second World Series to Boston in 2007 when the Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 4-0.

The Chicago Cubs hired Epstein to be the president in 2011. That set in motion the Cubs’ trip to the World Series this season. If the Cubs win this series, he has a chance to be a part of two organizations that broke long title droughts.

But even if the Cubs lose, Epstein should still get into the baseball Hall of Fame as quickly as the rules allow. The work he has done with Boston and Chicago are unprecedented.

One of Epstein’s biggest hires with the Red Sox was manager Terry Francona. He hired him after Boston had lost to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS.

With the hopes of a whole city weighing on each player and coach every single season, it is hard to get everyone on the same page in such a short of amount of time. Francona worked magic in the 2004 and 2007 World Series wins for the Red Sox.

In 2011, the Red Sox decided not to pick up his option for the 2012 season. Francona resurfaced in 2013 as the manager of the Cleveland Indians.

He led the Indians to the AL Wild Card in his first season before Cleveland took a step back in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He righted the ship this season, and the Indians reached the World Series.

Like Epstein, Francona has the chance to reverse the fortunes of two long-suffering franchises. If the Indians win, he should be added to the Hall of Fame as quickly as possible, but he should get in win or lose.

Maddon is best known for his ...

October 21, 2016

Watch Game One of the 2016 World Series at MSHOF

By bryanflynn

This has been one of the best MLB postseasons in a long time. That should mean things are setting up for one of the best World Series in a long time.

Game one of the World Series will be on Tuesday, Oct. 25, and fans have something special to do instead of just sitting on the couch and watching: The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is holding a game one viewing party. But at the event, you can do more than just watch the Fall Classic on the big screen and mingle with other fans.

Former and current MLB players will be on hand before the game starts. Fans will be able to ask questions and get autographs with a great lineup.

Players scheduled to appear are 2017 Hall of Fame inductee pitcher Jay Powell, who won game seven of the 1997 World Series; 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Brantley, who pitched in the 1989 World Series that saw an earthquake hit before the start of game three; current St. Louis Cardinals third base coach Chris Maloney, who played at Mississippi State University; former University of Mississippi and New York Yankees player Jake Gibbs, who is in the College football Hall of Fame; former UM great Joe Gibbon, who won the 1960 World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates; former University of Southern Mississippi great, who currently is managing in the minor leagues; former USM pitcher Chad Bradford, who was a major focus of the book and later film “Moneyball”; and former Delta State University star Barry Lyons, who played for the New York Mets.

Other players will be added as their schedule makes them available.

The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with a barbecue dinner, and players will come out at 6:30 before the game starts. Players will discuss their playing days in the majors, answer questions and discuss game one of the World Series.

All proceeds from this event will benefit the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Tickets for the viewing party begin at $50 and must be purchased in advance.

To buy them, go by the museum office or at this link. For more information about this event, call 601-982-8264.

October 21, 2016

Six Reasons NFL TV Ratings Are Down

By bryanflynn

There has been plenty of talk this week about the state of TV ratings for NFL games. Currently, the league is experiencing a dip of 10 to 11 percent in the ratings from the previous season.

Everyone is speculating what is causing the ratings to drop, but there is no magical answer to the decline in viewership.

But here are my reasons, from smallest to biggest.

6. Scandals

It seems like the scandals never end in the NFL—Bountygate, Conclusions, Deflategate, domestic violence by players, and so on and so forth.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see fans stop tuning in because they are tired of hearing about a different scandal each week. After a while, everyone gets fed up with the constant, never-ending negative news coming out of the league.

These fans will probably return around the playoffs as long as another giant scandal doesn’t grip the league for the rest of the season. If the scandals keep up, these fans could find something else to watch.

5. Anthem Protest

Just look on Facebook or other social media sites, and you will see articles on folks protesting the protesters in the NFL.

Since players started kneeling during the national anthem, fans have supported and criticized the players involved. Those who dislike the protest have decided not to watch.

Casual fans and those who don’t follow a team regularly are probably the ones more likely to not watch because of the anthem protests. Hardcore Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and other national-team fans are going to tune in each week.

These fans will come back at some point, but they will probably not watch while they are mad at the players. Few people are that upset over the players to not watch at all, so in reality, this could make up a small number of viewer loss.

4. MLB Playoffs

The ratings for the MLB playoffs are up this year. Why? Because fans have strong interest in the teams still alive this postseason.

They want to see if the Chicago Cubs can break their curse and win their first World Series since 1908. They want to see if the Cleveland Indians can win their first World Series since 1948.

With the playoff games on TBS, MLB Network and FS1, fans are finding channels they don’t normally tune into and watching this postseason.

MLB’s postseason is going to steal more casual fans from NFL games. Everyone wants to see something they have never seen before, and a ton of people have never seen a Cubs or Indians team win the World Series.

These fans will return to football once the World Series is over in late October or early November, depending how long the series lasts. This is one of the few times in recent years that the MLB playoffs have been more compelling than the NFL regular season.

3. Too Much NFL

October 20, 2016

A Title Drought Will End

By bryanflynn

Somebody is going to break a championship drought this year in the MLB playoffs. Every team left hasn’t won a title in 20 or more years.

The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. That is a drought of 68 years, but the Indians did reach the World Series in 1954, 1995 and 1997. Cleveland’s only other World Series win came in 1920.

In 1954, the New York Giants swept the Indians, winning the title. The Atlanta Braves won their only title during their 1990s dominance of the National League, but sputtered in the World Series against Cleveland. The Indians’ last World Series loss came in 1997 when the Florida Marlins, now the Miami Marlins, won the championship.

Cleveland dispatched the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 in the American League Championship Series and reached this year’s World Series. This is just the sixth AL pennant the Indians have won as a franchise.

Toronto’s title drought will now stretch to 24 years when next season starts. The Blue Jays won back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993.

Title droughts are also part of the National League Championship Series. The Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are tied 2-2 in their best of seven series.

It now comes down to which team can win two out of three games to face Cleveland. Both the Cubs and Dodgers are currently in title droughts.

Los Angeles hasn’t won the World Series since 1988, when the team defeated the Oakland Athletics. That World Series is memorable for the Dodgers Kirk Gibson limping around the bases after hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning and winning game one.

That 1988 World Series is also known for the Los Angeles pitcher Orel Hershiser’s pitching dominance. In game five of the series, Hershiser pitched a complete game that finished off the A’s for the title.

But it has been 28 years since that World Series win, and the Dodgers haven’t won or even been back to a Fall Classic. Los Angeles is looking for its 22nd NL pennant and a possible seventh World Series win.

Nearly everyone knows that Chicago hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. The Cubs only have two World Series titles won back-to-back in 1907 and 1908. That is a drought of 108 years.

And the “lovable loser” Cubs haven’t been to a World Series since 1945. That’s 71 years since they even reached the World Series.

Chicago is looking for its 17th pennant and possible third World Series win. This could be the year that everything lines up for this “cursed” franchise.

More than likely, most fans, both casual and hardcore, would love to see the Indians and the Cubs in the World Series—two tortured franchises with heart-breaking losses in the postseason that can lead to years of therapy for any fan.

Who fans will root for is interesting in and of itself. Cleveland just ...

October 18, 2016

Goldberg Returns to WWE

By bryanflynn

As human beings, we love nostalgia. We love TV series from our youth and get excited about “Twin Peaks” and “Gilmore Girls,” among other shows now getting a breath of new life.

We love listening to music that is considered classic, like those 1990s hits from my high school and college years. We get excited about new sequels such as “Independence Day: Resurgence” that come 20 years after the original.

Our love of the past is why, to wrestling fans, the signing of Sting to the WWE was such a big deal. Then you see his match with Triple H at WrestleMania 31. The match was full of nostalgia, with members of DX and the NWO making appearances.

But the match also showed that the Sting of 2015 wasn’t the Sting of our youth. The WrestleMania match needed all the outside interference because neither him nor Triple H were same men they used to be during Monday Night Wars.

If the WrestleMania match wasn’t enough to convince anyone that Sting was done in the ring, watching his match with Seth Rollins confirmed it. The match between Rollins and Sting wasn’t very good and that was before Sting’s neck was injured by Rollins’ botched powerbomb into the turnbuckle.

Sting was forced to retire after the match, once the injury revealed he suffers from cervical spinal stenosis, a neck condition that could leave him paralyzed or dead if he keeps performing in the ring.

Professional wrestlers normally have long careers, with some working in the ring until they reach their 70s. That doesn’t mean wrestlers should still be in the ring.

Sting was 55 years old when he joined the WWE. That was the last major draw from WCW to join the company. His best years were behind him and not in front of him.

Father time catches up to us all. The Undertaker really shouldn’t be in the ring anymore, and he is nowhere near the wrestler we grew up watching. His last couple of WrestleMania matches were only watchable because that is the only time of year he shows up.

His match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX is mainly remembered for Lesnar winning and breaking Undertaker’s streak of 20-0 at the event. The match was just alright at best and is only notable because Taker lost.

Undertaker is 51 years old and looks to be done after this past year’s WrestleMania 32. It would be shocking if he showed up for WrestleMania 33.

Now comes the return of Bill Goldberg. It has been more than 12 years since Goldberg was in a WWE ring. His last match was against Lesnar at WrestleMania XX.

Goldberg, for those who don’t know, was a professional football player before injuries cut his career short. He was once one of the biggest stars of the Monday Night Wars, as WCW inflated his win streak to 173-0.

Last night (Oct. 17), the ...

October 17, 2016

Sanderson Farms Championship is One Week Away

By bryanflynn

One of the biggest sporting events of the year returns next week. Central Mississippi will host the PGA Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson.

Tournament week begins on Monday, Oct. 24, but the general public won’t be allowed on the grounds until Wednesday, Oct. 26, which is the Allen Exploration Pro-AM.

This year’s Pro-Am features two former professional athletes. Former football player Herschel Walker and baseball player Paul Maholm will play when the Pro-Am tees off at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Walker played college football at the University of Georgia, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 and was a three-time All-American. The Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft, shortly before the USFL folded that same year.

He played for Dallas until 1989, when the Cowboys traded him to the Minnesota Vikings. The trade was the start of the Cowboys’ 1990s Super Bowl runs as the Vikings struggled.

Walker played in the NFL until he retired at the end of the 1997 season. While still active in the NFL, the star running back competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Since retiring, he took on two Mixed Martial Arts fights and won both. At age 54, Walker is still in fantastic shape.

Maholm, a Holly Springs native who won an amateur golf tournament when he was 14, was a three-time letterman at Mississippi State University and an All-American in 2003. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him that year with the eighth overall pick.

The star pitcher spent time with the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers before his career ended in 2015.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, the Sanderson Farms Championship begins when gates open at 7 a.m., and first tee at 7:40 a.m. The full field of 132 players won’t be announced until Friday, Oct. 21, but several players have already committed to the tournament.

Five former tournament winners will be in the field including 2015 winner Peter Malnati. The other four champions are Nick Taylor (2014 champion), Chris Kirk (2011 champion), D.J. Trahan (2006 champion) and Cameron Beckman (2001 champion).

Several notable names will be in the field, including two-time major winners Angel Cabrera and Retief Goosen. Cabrera won the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters, and Goosen won the 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open. Other major winners in the field are Stewart Clink, the winner of the 2009 British Open, Lucas Glover, winner of the 2009 U.S. Open, and David Toms, winner of the 2001 PGA Championship.

Several notable names committed to playing are Boo Weekley, Ricky Barnes, Stuart Appleby and Ben Crane. Former University of Mississippi standout and Brandon, Miss. native Jonathan Randolph is also committed to playing.

Friday the tournament opens at 7 a.m. with morning tee times beginning at 7:40. The field will be cut down on Friday with the tournament resuming ...

October 14, 2016

USM Looks to go 2-0 Against The SEC

By bryanflynn

Next week the University of Southern Mississippi will host Marshall University for homecoming. But before the team can start to enjoy the festivities, it must first get past a showdown against Louisiana State University.

LSU is spending a good deal of time in the news this football season, and most of it is for what is not happening on the field. The Tigers have fired their head coach Les Miles, former Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette has spent most of the season injured, and LSU and the University of Florida have been fighting about a makeup date over a cancelled game.

Miles shouldn’t have been fired after a 2-2 start in the first four games. Where are the Tigers going to find a coach that will average 10 wins a year now? Former University of Mississippi coach Ed Orgeron is now the head Tiger and gets to make his case to keep the job after the season.

At this point, Fournette should shut himself down and get ready for the NFL draft. The running back has been injured for most of the last two seasons. He needs to heal up and show out at the combine. If he does play again this season, it will be just to show the folks at the next level his commitment and ability to get back on the field after injury.

Florida gave up a home game, and both schools have to buyout their Nov. 19 foes, but they will play. In the end, the Gators will need this game more than the Tigers if Tennessee loses to Alabama on Saturday and if UF can beat Georgia later.

Now, to LSU against USM.

This is an interesting match up.

Southern Miss is coming off a game where the University of Texas, San Antonio burned USM’s defense for 532 yards. The Golden Eagle defense wasn’t much of a “Nasty Bunch” as just plain nasty against the Roadrunners.

Much like the other loss this season against Troy University, USM started slow on offense, was sloppy on both sides of the ball and couldn’t cover or tackle on defense. When they go against LSU, the Golden Eagles can’t play the way they didn’t against Troy and UTSA and still have a chance to win.

USM scores 40.2 points per game, and LSU scores 25.2 points. On the flipside, the Golden Eagles’ defense is allowing 27 points per game, and the Tigers only allow 14.8 points.

The question is which team can reach its average. LSU struggles on offense and won’t have Fournette against USM.

Southern Miss can put up points, but can the Golden Eagles’ offense put up enough points on a very stout LSU defense? The Tigers struggle to score on offense and make it a struggle for foes to score on defense.

While LSU won’t have Fournette, it will have Derrius Guice at running back. This season, Guice has run for 402 ...

October 14, 2016

JSU Look to Win Three Straight

By bryanflynn

Jackson State University got off to a rough start at the beginning of the Tony Hughes era with three losses out of the gate.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas pounded the Tigers 63-13 in the season opener. UNLV had the game well in hand at the half with a 42-7 lead, and JSU got outscored 21-3 in the second half.

The team looked to have righted the ship in the first half against Tennessee State University with a 23-19 lead at the break. The second half was another matter, as TSU outscored the Tigers 21-0 and won 40-23.

Entering SWAC play, Grambling State University jumped out to a huge 28-0 lead in the third quarter. JSU added a touchdown in the third and another in the fourth, but GSU’s lead was too large to overcome in the end.

The first win of the season came in the fourth game against the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. JSU jumped out to a 25-10 lead at halftime with a 71-yard interception helping the Tigers build it.

UAPB began a comeback in the second half, as the team scored 10 points in the third quarter and cut the JSU lead down to 25-20. The Tigers added a late third-quarter touchdown, sealing the 32-20 victory.

JSU looked to begin a winning streak against Mississippi Valley State University. The Tigers fell behind 7-0 early in the first quarter against an inspired Delta Devils team. JSU added a field goal late in the quarter, cutting the deficit to 7-3.

MVSU made another touchdown in the middle of the second quarter, building the lead to 14-3. JSU scored 13 points in a furious rally before halftime, taking a 16-14 lead.

Neither team could score in the second, so the Tigers notched the second season win. JSU, which is currently at 2-1 in the conference, owns first place in the SWAC East, with Alcorn State University in second at 2-2.

The team comes off a bye week and looks to win its third straight game for first time since 2013, when the Tigers won six straight. During the winning streak, the Grambling State game ended up being cancelled after the GSU players began boycotting athletic department conditions.

In the SWAC East, it looks like a two-horse race between JSU and ASU. Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University are both 1-4 in SWAC play, and MVSU is 0-4 in conference play.

If you throw out the UNLV game, JSU has been outscored 45-24 in the second half. In SWAC play, the Tigers have been outscored 69-62.

The second-half struggles cost JSU wins against Tennessee State and nearly allowed UAPB’s comeback. Finishing games in the second half might be the difference from reaching the SWAC Championship game or watching Alcorn State play in it again.

JSU hosts Southern University this weekend as it looks for win number three. The Jaguars ...

October 11, 2016

Rebels Still Have A Shot at Winning SEC West

By bryanflynn

The University of Mississippi is the highest ranked two-loss team in the nation in both polls. The team is No. 12 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll and No. 13 in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll.

Florida State, ranked No. 14 in the AP and No. 16 in the Coaches, is the next two-loss team in the rankings. The University of Oklahoma, the third best two-loss team, is ranked No. 19 in the AP and No. 20 in Coaches.

The Rebels’ road opponent this weekend, the University of Arkansas, is the last two-loss team ranked in both polls. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 22 in both the AP and Coaches polls.

Just like the Rebels, Arkansas boasts two quality losses, with defeats to the undefeated University of Alabama and Texas A&M University. UM has lost to Florida State and Alabama, with the Crimson Tide still undefeated, and FSU with loses to the University of Louisville and the University of North Carolina.

Even with the two losses, the Rebels are still alive in the SEC. UM needs to win out and have Alabama lose twice along the way.

The good news is Alabama gets the University of Tennessee and Texas A&M in back-to-back weeks. The Tide must still face Louisiana State University and an improving Auburn University in the Iron Bowl at the end of the season.

Arkansas is part of a tough three-game stretch for the Rebels. UM to LSU next and hosts Auburn to close out October.

A nearly sure win against Georgia Southern University begins Nov. 05. If the Rebels don’t stumble their way out of October, a major showdown looms on Nov. 12 against Texas A&M.

UM finishes the season at defensive-minded but offensively challenged Vanderbilt University and in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State University. That’s a tough stretch to close the season, but every team in the SEC faces a similar stretch at this point.

Lets just hope the Rebels did a better job with their two weeks to prepare for its game against Arkansas than MSU did with its two weeks before it played Auburn. The biggest story was Rebel quarterback Chad Kelly rushing the field during his brother’s high-school game back in Buffalo, N.Y.

It should be exciting when the Razorbacks and Rebels meet up.

Last year’s score was 53-52 and included overtime, a crazy fourth-and-25 lateral and a two-point conversion for the win. These teams have a history of playing some wild games when they get together.

Recently, Arkansas has gotten the better of UM in this series. The Razorbacks have won four of the last six and seven of the last 11 meetings.

While the Razorbacks haven’t beat MSU the last four years, they have been in the heads of the Rebels, including a 30-0 victory in 2014.

Against LSU, the Rebels are 4-4 in its last eight ...

October 10, 2016

Hopes for Bowl Dim at MSU But Still Alive

By bryanflynn

Rarely do you see a game turn as quickly and suddenly as the game between Mississippi State University and Auburn University on Saturday, Oct. 8. It looked like the Bulldogs would take advantage of their two weeks to prepare for the Tigers.

Auburn’s first drive ended when MSU intercepted a tipped pass. One might think that is where the game turned, but it wasn’t until after the Bulldogs went on offense that the Tigers began their stride.

Auburn forced MSU to try a field goal after that interception, and the kicking game came up lame for head coach Dan Mullen. Another missed field goal, after a missed field goal lost the University of South Alabama game, turned this game.

In their next three drives, the Tigers went nine plays for 80 yards, 12 plays for 79 yards and 12 plays for 60 yards. All three drives resulted in Auburn touchdowns to build a 21-0 lead.

Here is how the rest of the Bulldogs’ drives went for the first half: three plays and punt, seven plays and a lost fumble, three plays and a lost fumble, three plays and punt, six plays and punt, one play and a lost fumble for an Auburn touchdown, and one play at the end of the half.

Auburn had one more touchdown drive before the sack-fumble by the Bulldogs. At the half, the Tigers led 35-0, and it was really all they would need for the rest of the game.

MSU, with two weeks to prepare, couldn’t tackle, stop the run or cover receivers, and it didn’t look like the Bulldogs knew where to line up at times on defense. Auburn also whipped the Bulldogs’ offensive line most of the game on defense.

The Tigers got pressure with their front four on the defense as the five Bulldogs offensive lineman struggled to keep a clean pocket. MSU’s play-calling was questionable at best throughout most of the first half.

Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald didn’t seem to have anything going for him against Auburn. His throws were poor, by and large, and when he did have a good throw, the receiver would end up dropping it.

MSU wide receiver Fred Ross had a game to forget. Ross fumbled a couple of punts, which the Bulldogs recovered, and he might have dropped more passes in this game than he has during his entire college career.

The Bulldogs looked like they were just going through the motions on Saturday, and the Tigers took them behind the woodshed for their lack of focus. Auburn racked up 432 yards on offense and didn’t do much in the second half, and the Tigers limited MSU to just 298 yards on offense.

Auburn was six for 13 on third downs and averaged 11.3 yards per pass and 4.1 yards per rush. The statistics don’t tell the full story since Auburn was so far out in front that they really ...

October 7, 2016

One Blowout to Rule Them All

By bryanflynn

One-sided games are not unusual in college football. Nearly every season has a few games where the score gets lopsided in favor of one team.

In 1916, one of the biggest blowouts in college football took place, and today is the 100th anniversary of that mauling. The game involved the Georgia Institute of Technology and Cumberland College.

Georgia Tech rolled to an amazing 222-0 win over Cumberland. The Yellow Jackets scored 63 points in the first quarter alone.

But why did Georgia Tech pour it on Cumberland? And why was the game so one-sided?

The second question is easier to answer than the first. Cumberland dissolved its football team in 1915 but failed to properly notify Georgia Tech that it was cancelling the game.

Then-head coach of the Yellow Jackets John Heisman threatened to sue Cumberland for $3,000, roughly $65,000 in today’s dollars, if the tiny college from Lebanon, Tenn., cancelled the game.

Instead, a student manager put together a team of 13 players that consisted mostly of fraternity brothers to head to Atlanta and fulfill the contract obligations.

The myth of why Heisman wanted to play the game so badly was that Cumberland beat the Yellow Jacket’s baseball team, which Heisman also coached, 22-0 in the spring of 1915. He even threw in $500 (worth about $11,000 in today’s dollars) and paid the travel expenses for the Cumberland team he was about to slaughter.

Georgia Tech scored on its first play of the game, and Cumberland fumbled on its first play, which the Yellow Jackets recovered for a score. That was how the matchup went—Georgia Tech would need only one to three plays to score and forced Cumberland into 15 turnovers.

The Yellow Jackets led 126-0 at halftime. Heisman showed some mercy, allowing the teams to play the third and fourth quarters at 12 minutes instead of the normal 15 minutes.

Georgia Tech scored on every single one of its possessions, tallying 32 touchdowns. Cumberland had six interceptions, nine fumbles and zero first downs.

The Yellow Jackets racked up 501 yards of total offense on just 29 offensive plays with 20 first downs. Cumberland finished with negative-28 yards, and the team’s main offensive highlight was a 10-yard pass completion on a fourth-and-22 play.

Cumberland has shuttered its football program five times at various points, despite being a college-football powerhouse at one point. In 1903, the team finished with a 6-1-1 record after a spectacular run of beating the University of Alabama, Tulane University and Louisiana State University by a combined 113-0 score in the span of six days. Cumberland’s only loss was a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Sewanee, and its lone tie came in an 11-11 game against Clemson.

That season, Cumberland met Clemson University in the championship game of the former Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which contained teams that later formed the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference. Cumberland now ...

October 6, 2016

A Lot Has Changed Since 1908

By bryanflynn

It might be a challenge to find anyone who happened to be alive the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, meaning it has been 108 years since the team last won it all.

The last time the Cubs were even in the World Series was 1945. Chicago has waited 71 years to see a Cubs team in the championship series.

To put those 108 years in perspective, there were only 46 states and 65 sovereign nations, and the president was Theodore Roosevelt. MLB only had 16 teams, compared to the 30 teams today.

The highest-paid MLB player was Nap Lajoie, who made just $8,500 (that would be $210, 678 in today’s dollars) that season. MLB players salaries now average $4.4 million.

The average ticket price to see a game was just 25 cents (that would be 6.20 in today’s dollars) in 1908. Today, a ticket will cost you an average of $44.81.

There wasn’t even a NFL, NBA or NHL when the Cubs last won the World Series. Baseball was America's game, but football has since been dethroned it.

Every Chicago team in the four major sports but the Cubs have won a championship: the Chicago White Sox (two titles), Blackhawks (six titles), Bulls (six titles) and Bears (nine titles).

The Braves have won the World Series in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta since the Cubs won it all. Of the teams founded after the Cubs’ last World Series win, the Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks have won one or more titles.

Even long-suffering teams have broken out of their funk while the Cubs have waited for another title. The New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shed their loser labels by winning a Super Bowl, and the Golden State Warriors became good again en route to a title.

A few “curses” have been lifted since the Cubs’ 1908 win. Most notably, the Boston Red Sox have won three World Series, starting with the epic 2004 title, followed by the 2007 and 2014 titles.

In 1994 the New York Rangers broke their own curse and won the Stanley Cup. The biggest curse to be lifted recently happened for the whole city of Cleveland when the Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals.

The Cubs have their own curse, “The Curse of the Billy Goat” that occurred during the 1945 World Series. A lot written has been written about the curse, but the jest of the matter is that the team insulted Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis’ goat, so Sianis cursed the ball club.

That was the final World Series appearance for the Cubs, and the club has become known as “loveable losers” ever since the curse.

But things could change this year. The Cubs won 103 games, the most in MLB ...

October 6, 2016

Saints Still Alive For The Playoffs

By bryanflynn

Normally at 1-3 heading into their bye week, you would think the New Orleans Saints’ season would be over. Since the playoff format changed in 1990, only 14 percent of 1-3 teams have made the playoffs. That number works out to 183 teams. Last season, the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs made the playoffs after a 1-3 start.

Remember, I said normally. This season, 13 teams in the league currently have a 1-3 record. That is nearly half the league, and if you add teams that are 2-2, that number balloons to 18 teams.

Currently only 14 have a winning record, and only three are still undefeated. Except for the 3-1 Atlanta Falcons, every team in the NFC South has a 1-3 record like the Saints.

New Orleans still has seven 1-3 teams left on the schedule, including the both, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice. The Saints also play the .500 Kansas City Chiefs for eight games against teams .500 or under at this point in the season.

That leaves four teams with a winning record on the schedule. Those teams are the undefeated Denver Broncos and three teams at 3-1 in the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons.

If the Saints beat all the teams at .500 or below left on their schedule, they would finish 9-7 on the season. Right now in the NFC, nine teams that have a .500 record are worse.

Unless the 3-1 Falcons run away with the NFC South, chances are, the Saints are still alive in their division. The Carolina Panthers, last year’s Super Bowl loser who are also at 1-3, could come back, as well, to take the NFC South.

I know what you're thinking: How can the Saints still have any playoff chance with their defense? It’s true that New Orleans has the 32nd ranked defense with 32.5 points per game.

But the rest of the NFC South isn’t much better. Tampa Bay is 31st with 32 points per game, Atlanta is 29th with 31 points per game, and Carolina is 28th with 29.5 points per game.

The Saints have the fourth-ranked offense with 28.5 points per game. Atlanta has the best offense in the league at 38 points per game, Carolina is sixth with 27.3 points per game, and Tampa Bay is 25th with 19.3 points per game.

Let’s look at this as a glass-half-full situation. New Orleans has been this bad on defense with an extreme number of injuries. The Saints, in theory, should get better on defense as the season goes along, and they begin to see defensive player return.

There is hope for the defense if it can get players back and play like it did in the second half against the Chargers. New Orleans outscored San Diego 21-10 in the second half and forced timely turnovers.

Right now, New Orleans ...

October 4, 2016

Should Dallas Stick With Prescott?

By bryanflynn

The next two weeks might be the last time Dak Prescott is on the field as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys for a while. Multiple reports state that injured quarterback Tony Romo will take back the starting job in week eight if everything goes right with his rehab.

That means Prescott plays this week against the Cincinnati Bengals (week five) and next week against the Green Bay Packers (week six). Dallas has a bye week in week seven, and Romo would start in week eight against the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Prescott wins his next two starts to get the 3-1 Cowboys to 5-1 at the bye, should Dallas switch to Romo? Would it be better for the team to ride Prescott until he struggles and then have an ace in the hole with a healthy Romo ready to relieve him?

Prescott has won three straight games, something no Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback has ever done. That means he has done something not even Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach could accomplish.

The only Cowboys rookie quarterback to win three games in season was Quincy Carter. Prescott should have four wins, but Dallas was too conservative in its 20-19 season-opening loss to the New York Giants.

Since that loss, Prescott notched his first NFL comeback against the Washington Redskins and his first comeback from two scores down against the San Francisco 49ers. Prescott led a beatdown of the Chicago Bears between those two comebacks.

Dallas is currently in second place behind Philadelphia in the NFC East standings. The Cowboys have a one-game lead over both the Giants and Redskins.

Even if Prescott splits his next two starts, 4-2 is something very few people thought would be possible when Romo went down in the preseason. You could make the argument that Prescott has earned the right to be a starter much like Tom Brady did years ago.

Even if Romo does return, will he come out healthy in a six-game stretch against Philadelphia, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens, Washington, the Minnesota Vikings and the Giants.

It would be surprising to see Romo make it out of the back-to-back games between the Steelers and the Ravens healthy. Over the last couple of years, Romo has been more brittle than plastic left in the Mississippi summer sun.

Sure, Romo has experience and abilities to make plays in the passing game, but Prescott has extended his NFL record 131 passes thrown by a rookie without an interception. He hasn’t fumbled either and has only been sacked six times.

Romo may have more experience, but that is what playing Prescott now will give him. He is going to struggle at some point. Every quarterback has a bad game during each NFL season.

Why not save Romo in case Prescott becomes injured or struggles? Last season, the Denver Broncos turned to Brock Osweiler when Peyton Manning was injured and ...

October 3, 2016

Celebration of Greatness: Jerry Rice

By bryanflynn

Jerry Rice not only has greatness but the type of personality that lights up a room. Even coming down the stairs with Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and several members of the Mississippi legislature including Sen. John Horhn, Rice commanded attention.

As the governor spoke at a press conference on Sept. 30, it was hard to keep your eyes off Rice as he stood waiting to receive a plaque that proclaimed that day as Jerry Rice Day. The former San Francisco 49ers receiver’s personality and greatness was worthy of his high standing.

Rice didn’t mind taking friendly jabs at both the governor and lieutenant governor. He took a good-natured jab at Bryant after he finished reading his list of accomplishments, telling Bryant that he got each one right.

He stopped Reeves twice, once to tell him how much he loved beating Reeves’ beloved Saints when both teams were in the same division and again to correct Reeves, saying that he wasn’t he just the greatest wide receiver in football but “the greatest football player of all-time.”

Rice can brag because he owns so many NFL records that the amount of records he owns is an NFL record in itself. But really, he was just joking with our state leaders and the fans and media in attendance.

Later that night, a crowd of people were waiting on Rice at the upper level of the Jackson Convention Center in a VIP room. People talked and visited as they waited the NFL Hall of Fame player to enter the room.

When he made his entrance, every person stopped their conversation, and all eyes fell on Rice as he strolled across the room. As he walked around, the fans looked like kids on Christmas morning, with wide eyes and surprise.

Those who wanted Rice’s picture, to shake his hand or just to talk with one of the best football players quickly mobbed him. Senator Horhn set up a line for everyone to get their picture taken with Rice, and he stood and talked with each person a bit before they took the picture.

Richard Schwartz, the title sponsor for the event said “it was a no-brainer when the opportunity arose to bring Rice back to Mississippi.”

“Jerry Rice is a hero and he inspires us with the way and the things he did as a football player,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said he uses Rice as an example when speaking to high schools across the state. “I use Jerry Rice as a personal inspiration and to explain goal setting. (Rice) was the greatest natural athlete, but he worked hard and didn’t let anything stop him as he became the greatest athlete,” he said.

Rice signed jerseys, footballs, pictures and took more pictures as the night in the VIP lounge went along. He never stopped smiling or laughing with each person. It was amazing watching someone that famous so at ease with the throng of people ...