Saturday, December 30, 2023

Buckeyes rotten in Cotton, lose 14-3

    The Ohio State Buckeyes offense played awful early and late, and while neither Devin Brown before his injury nor Lincoln Kienholz afterward distinguished themselves, the stories of the night are going to be Ryan Day's conservative playcalling, and how much Day is willing to gamble off this game on Brown and Kienholz for the 2024 Buckeyes.

The 14-3 Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri isn't as important as how it happened and how it could affect next season for Ohio State.

Ohio State finished with only 106 yards passing and TreVeyon Henderson led the offense with seventy-two yards rushing.

Ohio State will open the 2024 season on August 31st at home against Akron.

For the first time in a long time, Ohio State may have more questions than answers during a long off-season.

Olentangy Offerings

1) Devin Brown injured his ankle in the second quarter and after an aborted attempt to return, left the game for good.

As much as I would like to blame the loss of Brown for the Ohio State defeat, it's not so.

Brown completed four of six passes for only twenty yards at the time of his injury.

2) Ohio State scored their only points under Brown on a forty-four-yard field goal by Jayden Fielding in the first quarter.

Fielding would miss from forty-eight yards in the third quarter when his kick hit off the upright.

3) The offensive line play was brutal as Missouri sacked Ohio State quarterbacks four times and controlled the run game as the Buckeyes reluctance to throw allowed the Tigers to key on TreVeyon Henderson.

4) Jesse Mirco's punting season has been disappointing, to say the least, but Mirco was not a problem against Missouri, placing three punts inside the twenty, and hitting one of sixty-one yards.

5) The player of the game for Ohio State had to be defensive end Jack Sawyer, who sacked Missouri quarterback Brady Cook three times.

Sawyer hasn't announced his decision for the NFL Draft but his play last night may have made him a few dollars extra, should he decide to go pro.

6) Missouri didn't score their two touchdowns until the final quarter against an exhausted Ohio State defense, and it's hard to blame the defense for allowing those scores.

Missouri held the time of possession battle 34-26 but it seemed to be more than that as I watched the game in live action.

7) I did think Ohio State got hosed a bit on the first Missouri touchdown drive when Josh Proctor was called for a late hit on Missouri quarterback Brady Cook.

I thought Proctor hit Cook just as he was stepping out of bounds and it wasn't late.

8) Ohio State committed eight penalties on the evening and continued the struggles with special teams that will likely cause the demise in the coming days of special teams coach Parker Fleming.

Three of the eight came from the special teams, including a holding call on a punt that was fair caught.

9) Ryan Day was downright timid in his playcalling and while the offensive line didn't do their part in protection, Day didn't want to throw downfield often when Devin Brown was in the game, and he did next to none with Lincoln Kienholz.

If this game was so important to win, as was proclaimed before the game, and if it was a chance to measure the quarterbacks for 2024, why wouldn't you try to use as much of the offense as possible?

There were complications with Lincoln Kienholz in using the entire offense but that wouldn't apply to Devin Brown and I don't think the offense was too wide open even before Brown was hurt.

10) Ohio State has to be disappointed with the loss and changes are going to have to be made on the coaching staff and personnel.

Ohio State enters a pivotal season with four quality teams entering the Big Ten next season, the competition will be tougher so the Buckeyes will not be able to show up and win every game on talent alone.

Ryan Day's seat may be warm now, next season will either solve issues in the program or bring bigger problems to the forefront.

It's going to be a long offseason in Columbus. 


 The final few bowl games and the college semi-finals are the standouts of the weekend along with the next to last week of the NFL regular season.

Last Week: 10-15
Overall: 160-87


Washington over Texas 38-36
Alabama over Michigan 24-14

Cotton Bowl
Ohio State over Missouri 26-21

Peach Bowl
Ole Miss over Penn State 20-7

Orange Bowl
Georgia over Florida State 35-13

Fiesta Bowl
Oregon over Liberty 44-14

Music City Bowl
Auburn over Maryland 29-24

Arizona Bowl
Toledo over Wyoming 31-25

ReliQuest Bowl
LSU over Wisconsin 34-17

Citrus Bowl
Tennessee over Iowa 24-10

Browns over Jets 27-17
Broncos over Chargers 24-14

Games of the Week
Ravens over Dolphins 27-24
Chiefs over Bengals 35-20

Friday, December 29, 2023

Browns ground Jets, Clinch Playoffs!

  The Cleveland Browns offense couldn't be stopped in the first half and despite a second half that saw the offense sputter, the Browns had more than enough to defeat the New York Jets 37-20 in Cleveland.

Joe Flacco threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns to lead Cleveland with David Njoku catching six passes for 134 yards to lead the receivers.

The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Browns, who improved to 11-5 with the win and retained Cleveland's slim chance of winning the AFC North title.

Cleveland completes their regular season next Sunday in Cincinnati against the Bengals.

Brownie Bits

1) Amari Cooper was unavailable after suffering a heel injury in his record-setting game against Houston last Sunday. The Browns took another blow to their receiving corps when Elijah Moore left the game with a concussion late in the first half.

Moore had caught five passes for sixty-one before the concussion and his loss left the Browns very basic at wideout.

2) Joe Flacco was solid other than his double-pump pass that was tipped and turned into a pick-six by Jermaine Johnson.

Give Johnson the credit for making a tremendous play, as he leaped into the air, came back down, jumped again to tip the ball, and then caught it and ran for the score.

3) The Browns appear to have found themselves a potential gem in Ronnie Hickman, who had a pick-six of his own.

Hickman, who the Browns signed as a free agent after the draft, is playing in place of the injured Grant Delpit, and should he continue to improve, I could see a scenario in either of the next two off-seasons where the Browns could decide to save some cap space and use Hickman as a starting safety rather than Juan Thornhill or even Delpit.

4) David Njoku was the dominant offensive player of the first half but even then Njoku still fumbled on one play with the Jets recovering.

Njoku may be just one of those players you never receive consistency from and you simply have to accept the occasional mistake,

5) I am not a fan of the Thursday night games but the Browns playing in this one could give the team some clarity for the final week of the season.

If Baltimore defeats Miami, they would clinch the AFC North and the Browns could be locked in as the fifth seed should New England upset Buffalo.

6) If those results occur, the Browns could play it safe in Cincinnati and allow some injured players some time to recover.

I'm never in favor of those decisions usually but there is a difference between resting healthy players and giving injured ones an extra week to heal.

7) The player who has developed into an impact player over the last month has been Jeremiah Owosu-Koramoah.

JOK didn't have a sack or interception in this one but he is developing into a three-down linebacker with the ability to pass or track the quarterback or drop in coverage.

8) The Browns decided to protect the lead in the second half with so much at stake and so many receivers out of the lineup, running the ball and keeping the clock moving.

I understand that under the circumstances and think it was a good idea to try to avoid yet another injury to the receivers but it did allow the Jets to tee off on the running game.

9) The offensive line did its job yet again in giving Joe Flacco time to throw.

Flacco was sacked just once and took only one hit on the evening.

For a team with question marks at tackle, the line has done what they need to do in keeping the pocket clean.

10) Defensive Alex Wright collected one sack between his rookie season in 2022 and the first thirteen games of this season.
Wright has one sack in each of the last three games, so perhaps the former third-round draft choice has found something late in his second season.

11) Turnovers are still a problem for the Browns that will eventually bite them hard.

Three more against the Jets, two of those fumbles, and the Browns seem to be having a season that the football gods are tapping them on the head with the team succeeding despite the turnover problems.

12) The playoff-clinching win sends Cleveland to the postseason for the third time since the 1999 return of the Browns.

That's anemic but it will be the second in the last four seasons.

13) Not a fan of the all-white uniforms and white helmet.

The jersey reminded me of the terrible uniforms that Dee Haslam thought were wonderful and lasted for the minimum time allowed.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

    The tributes never stop as we make time to say goodbye to various contributors from the sports and non-sports world. 

Goodbye to George McGinnis at the age of 73.

The top power forward in the history of the ABA, McGinnis isn't remembered as well as he should be due to his fast decline as a player in his final seasons after the merger with Philadelphia and Denver.

The 1975 scoring leader and co-MVP in the ABA with Julius Erving, McGinnis led the Indiana Pacers to two titles in the ABA, and in the 1975 ABA playoffs against San Antonio, Big George finished game four with the first 50+ point triple-double, fifty-one points, seventeen rebounds, and ten assists.

McGinnis finished his ABA career averaging twenty-five points and just under thirteen rebounds a game before moving to the NBA and the Philadelphia 76ers where he averaged a double-double in his first season in 1975-76.

McGinnis was joined by Julius Erving with the Sixers in the following year and their skills didn't always mesh well, even with the Sixers reaching the NBA finals in the first year.

McGinnis was traded to Denver for Bobby Jones, who helped Philadelphia to a title. After a good first season with the Nuggets, McGinnis's legs began to go and was traded in 1980 to Indiana in a trade that landed Denver Alex English.

McGinnis made six All-Star teams, three in the ABA and three in the NBA before retiring in 1982.

Goodbye to Frank Wycheck at the age of 52.

Wycheck played eleven years, most of them with the Tennessee Titans, making three Pro Bowls as a tight end/H-Back, and caught 505 passes in his career.

Wycheck is most famous as the player who threw the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson with sixteen seconds remaining in Tennessee's 2000 playoff win over Buffalo resulting in the "Music City Miracle".

Buffalo had taken the lead and with seconds remaining, kicked the ball to the Titans on the left side of the field, Wycheck took the squib kick and fired the ball across the field and backward for a legal lateral to Dyson, who took the pass and ran seventy-five yards for the game-winning score.

Wycheck was the Titans' radio color commentator from 2005 to 2016 before retiring due to head trauma suffered during his career.

Goodbye to Vic Davalillo at the age of 84.

The diminutive Venezuelan native played sixteen years in the majors, most notably with the Cleveland Indians, where he made his only All-Star team in 1965 and a Gold Glove in 1964.

Davalillo was known for his "stepping into the bucket" hitting stance and his difficulty for pitchers to strike out in his career with six teams.

Davalillo left the majors for the 1975 and 76 seasons before returning for four seasons with the Dodgers, where Davalillo would comprise the best pinch-hitting duo of the time with fellow veteran Manny Mota.

Goodbye to Hartland Monahan at the age of 72.

One of the early standouts of the expansion Washington Capitals, Monahan played for six NHL teams from 1973-81.

Monahan scored forty goals in his two seasons with Washington but just twenty-one over the rest of his career with the other five teams.

Goodbye to Ryan Minor at the age of 49.

One of the nicest guys in sports that I've ever met. Minor was a two-sport star at Oklahoma for both the baseball and basketball teams and was drafted in both sports, Baltimore in baseball and Philadelphia in basketball.

Minor was named the Big Eight Player of the Year in 1995 for the Sooners in basketball and would manage for several seasons in the Orioles organization managing at Low A, High A, and AA.

Minor played parts of three seasons for the Orioles and Montreal Expos, most notably as the player that started in place of Cal Ripken on the evening Ripken's consecutive game streak ended.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Inoue Unifies Again!

   Naoya Inoue got more than most bargained for in a strong effort by Marlon Tapales but even in a gutsy attempt by Tapales, the greatness of Inoue was far too much as Inoue took away Tapales's WBA and IBF junior featherweight titles by tenth round knockout in Tokyo.

Adding those titles to the WBC and WBO championships that Inoue owned entering the fight means that Inoue completely unified the division in the two fights that the Monster has fought in the weight class.

Inoue was expected to overpower Tapales but Tapales showed the willingness to engage with Inoue and took the power shots very well, even fighting back after a fourth-round knockdown and winning the seventh round on my card, which is rare against Inoue.

Still, even though Tapales fought much better than expected, he was overmatched by Inoue, who could be the best fighter in the world and if he is rated behind anyone, it's Terence Crawford and no one else.

Inoue announced his desire to stay in the division to defend his titles rather than vacate them almost immediately as he did with his bantamweight titles. He is expected to face former WBC bantamweight and super featherweight champion Luis Nery in the spring.

Nery is a fighter who was once rated by some as a top ten pound-for-pound fighter and has won four straight since suffering his only loss in 2021, a seventh-round knockout loss to Brandon Figueroa.

Nery will be the hardest puncher that Inoue has faced other than maybe Nonito Donaire but Nery is likely to have issues with the speed of Inoue and his chin gave out against Figueroa, it's hard to see him holding up against Inoue.

Naoya Inoue is a special fighter and has already stamped himself as a Hall of Famer.

The question is this- Who will be the fighter that truly pushes him to the limit?

I don't see anyone doing so at 122 pounds, is that fighter at 126 pounds?

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 198 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica: 179 Pts (2)
Vince Samano: 131 Pts (2)  

Monday, December 25, 2023

Boxing Challenge

   Early Tuesday morning in Tokyo, Naoya Inoue will attempt to unify his second division in two years as Inoue will place his WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles against the WBA and IBF belts held by Marlon Tapales to create one champion in the division.

Inoue won his two titles from the man who was regarded as the best fighter in the division before Inoue rose in weight from bantamweight, as Inoue ripped through Stephen Fulton in eight rounds in July, while Tapales took advantage of a sluggish start from Murodjon Akhmadaliev to slip by with a split decision win in April to win his two championships.

Inoue is heavily favored to dispatch Tapales and I think it could be a short night.

Style-wise, Akhmadaliev may have been a more difficult opponent for "The Monster" and Tapales doesn't seem to have the skill to trouble Inoue or the strength to come forward aggressively.

Should Tapales pull the upset, it will be the biggest upset in the lighter-weight classes in decades.

Boxing Challenge

Ramon Malpica; Inoue KO 6 
TRS: Inoue KO 2
Vince Samano : Inoue KO 5

Merry Christmas!

 Happy Holidays from myself and my hard-working staff here at TRS!

Hope the holidays are safe and happy ones!

Boxing Challenge: Wilder Upset!

  The heavyweight heavy card from Saudi Arabia on Saturday was supposed to be a preamble to a superfight that has been awaited for years.

Instead, the fight will not happen as while Anthony Joshua dominated Otto Wallin with Wallin's corner stopping the fight after the fifth round, Deontay Wilder was unable to do his part as he sleepwalked through a unanimous decision defeat to Joseph Parker in the co-main event.

Joshua was very sharp in carving up Otto Wallin, busting him up around both eyes and hurting Wallin in the fifth round before Wallin's corner stopped the fight with their fighter unlikely to turn the tide in the future.

I had Joshua ahead 49-46 at the time of the stoppage, and while Wallin is a solid contender, he might have been well-matched for Joshua because Wallin isn't known as a big puncher, Joshua didn't have to worry about his chin letting him down.

Joshua now will have to wonder about his next opponent as his agreed-to-March battle with Deontay Wilder was contingent on both men winning.

Wilder's defeat was pretty dull as Wilder walked around a patient Parker with his powerful right hand cocked but could never seem to get the punch off as Parker respected the power and boxed from the outside.

Parker's offense wasn't a lot more active than Wilder but it was enough to easily win on the cards of the judges at 120-108, 118-111, and 118-110, the latter score agreeing with my score.

Wilder-Joshua could still happen, but it's unlikely that Joshua would take that risk now with the shine removed from Wilder's pedestrian performance.

At 38, Wilder looked very much the part of an aging fighter, seeing openings and unable to fire at them, and when you consider the money Wilder has made in his career, he shouldn't need to continue unless he wishes to.

As for Parker, adding the name Wilder to his resume gives him a boost and could make him a desirable opponent for an up-and-coming prospect, or perhaps get him into a title eliminator that could eventually earn him another title shot.

Being Christmas Day, time is a little short so I'm going with the results from the rest of the card with my scores to the right.

I have not watched the Frank Sanchez-Junior Fa match.

Daniel DuBois KO 10 Jarrell Miller (DuBois leading 88-83)

Dmitry Bivol:  Unanimous Decision over Lyndon Arthur (Bivol 120-107) to retain his WBA light heavyweight title.

Agit Kabayel KO 4 Arlanbek Makhmudov (Kabayel leading 29-28)

Flip Hrgovic KO 1 Mark DeMori

Jai Opietaia KO 1 Ellis Zorro

Frank Sanchez KO 7 Junior Fa

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 196 Pts (9)
Ramon Malpica:177 Pts  (8)
Vince Samano: 129 Pts (5) 

Cooper hangs loss on Houston

   Amari Cooper set an all-time Browns record for receiving yardage at 265 yards on eleven catches, two of those for touchdowns as the Cleveland Browns defeated the Houston Texans 36-22 in Houston.

Joe Flacco threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns for Cleveland in the win as the Browns improved to 10-5 on the season.

Cleveland did not clinch a playoff position with the win but their playoff chances are ninety-six percent after the victory.

The Browns will host their final regular season home game on Thursday night against the Jets, with a  win clinching a playoff spot.

Brownie Bits

1) The record-setting game by Amari Cooper broke the record previously held by Josh Gordon and the record-breaking catch came late in the game when the Browns discovered Cooper was only ten yards off the pace.

2) Amari Cooper entered himself into the record books in two other positions, one of which is a surprise.

Cooper became the first Browns receiver in history to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

That's a surprise considering some of the receivers in Browns history, a few of which are in Canton.

3) Cooper also joined Terrell Owens as the only receiver to post one thousand-yard receiving seasons with three teams.
Cooper with the Raiders, Cowboys, and now the Browns while Owens made his mark with the 49ers, Cowboys, and Bills.

4) Joe Flacco's day was excellent and while he threw two interceptions, one was excusable as the Browns were forced to go for it on a play near the end of the first half as an injury to Dustin Hopkins took a field goal attempt off the table.

5) I really liked the play call by Kevin Stefanski on the first drive that targeted Amari Cooper deep for a fifty-three-yard gain to the Houston six-yard line and set up the Browns first score.

Stefanski is at his best when he attacks but isn't overly clever in his playcalling. Starting the game aggressively downfield has lower risks than the gimmicky short-yardage plays he often used with DeShaun Watson.

6) Dustin Hopkins pulled a hamstring chasing Houston's Dameon Pierce on Pierce's kick return score.

This forced the Browns to eschew any field goal attempts and to try for two-point conversions after touchdowns, which the Browns were successful on two of three chances.

7) I'm still determining the status of Dustin Hopkins but with a short week to prepare for the Jets, I would be extremely surprised if Hopkins kicks on Thursday night.

The question then becomes- who will be the kicker for the Browns on such short notice and how much experience will he have?

Former Browns Cade York and Zane Gonzalez are available and the name often mentioned in the past has been veteran Robbie Gould, although Gould may not be in shape after not kicking all season.

I wonder if this could be a damaging blow to the Browns, depending on how long Hopkins could be out of the lineup when you consider how excellent he has kicked this season.

8) I worried about the Browns patchwork offensive line against a solid Houston pass rush but Cleveland caught a break with Will Anderson unable to play and Jonathan Greenard, the leader in sacks for Houston, left the game early with an injury.

The Browns line didn't allow a sack of the less-than-agile Joe Flacco, so they played well, even if they caught a break in personnel not being available for Houston.

9) The Browns defense gave up two late touchdowns with the game well in hand but had kept Houston off the board before that and despite it being Case Keenum rather than C.J. Stroud in another lucky pull for the Browns, the defense played well, sacking Keenum and Davis Mills three times.

10) Za'Darius Smith had two of those sacks and had a third overturned due to a Cleveland penalty.

I wouldn't say Smith has disappointed in his first season with Cleveland but he hasn't quite been the force that the Browns expected opposite Myles Garrett with five and a half sacks this season.

11) Cleveland may have had a sizable lead at halftime but the finisher was the eighteen-play, ninety-four-yard drive in the third quarter.

Possessions that end in touchdowns on long, punishing drives can grind down defenses and help your defense not only in rest but in how you can play on the field as the opponent is limited in just what they can do with a deficit and time winding away.

12) I mentioned the ninety-six percent chance of a playoff spot for the Browns.

A win against the Jets would clinch but here is the scenario that would keep the Browns on the outside.

Lose to the Jets and Bengals. Buffalo wins at least one of their two games, and two of these teams win both their games, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Houston (one of the three will win the AFC South), Pittsburgh or Cincinnati- And even then it would come down to tiebreakers.

Cleveland could make things a lot easier by polishing off the Jets on Thursday but even if they don't, the Browns still seem in solid shape.

Saturday, December 23, 2023


  The bowl season continues to roll and the NFL is down to the final three weeks of its season with the PPM picking the winners of all of them!

Last Week:  11-3
Overall: 150-72


Birmingham Bowl
Troy 36 Duke 28

Camellia Bowl
Arkansas State 37 Northern Illinos 32

Armed Forces Bowl
James Madison 36 Air Force 29

Potato Bowl
Georgia State 19 Utah State 16

68 Ventures Bowl
South Alabama 28 Eastern Michigan 13

Las Vegas Bowl
Utah 29 Northwestern 10

Hawaii Bowl
San Jose State 29 Coastal Carolina 24

Quick Lane Bowl
Bowling Green 23 Minnesota 21

ServePro Bowl
Texas State 28 Rice 21

Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Kansas 34 UNLV 24

Military Bowl
Tulane 40 Virginia Tech 23

Duke's Mayo Bowl
North Carolina 40 West Virginia 21

Holiday Bowl 
Louisville 24 USC 10

Texas Bowl 
Oklahoma State 50 Texas A&M 45

Fenway Bowl 
SMU 38 Boston College 17

Pinstripe Bowl 
Miami 22 Rutgers 17

Pop-Tarts Bowl
N.C. State 28 Kansas State 24

Alamo Bowl
Oklahoma 29 Arizona 26

Gator Bowl
Clemson 29 Kentucky 21

Sun Bowl
Oregon State 35 Notre Dame 32

Liberty Bowl
Memphis 41 Iowa State 35

Browns 21 Texans 20
Bills 31 Chargers 21

Games of the Week
Dolphins 35 Cowboys 32
49ers 27 Ravens 23

Friday, December 22, 2023

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend is all at one site in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with a terrific card of heavyweights with some light heavyweight and cruiserweight action tossed in, so I decided to make the entire card part of the challenge.

The two fights at the top of the card will set up an awaited fight next spring.

Former three-title holder Anthony Joshua will take on a stern test in once-beaten Otto Wallin in a twelve-round bout that may be closer than expected.

Wallin has yet to fight often since his close decision defeat to Tyson Fury in 2019 but is returning after a win over former cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev and style-wise could be a threat to Joshua, should he be looking ahead to Deontay Wilder.

Joshua has won twice since his consecutive losses to Oleksandr Usyk with a decision over Jermaine Franklin and a seventh-round knockout of Robert Helenius and seeks a third win to cap off the year.

Should Joshua win over Wallin, he is planning to battle Deontay Wilder, who also is fighting on the card against former WBO champion Joseph Parker.

Wilder has fought only one round since his gallant loss to Tyson Fury in their third fight, in 2021,  icing Robert Helenius in October 2022, so who knows how that ring rust will affect the biggest puncher in the division.

Parker has always shown a durable chin but suffered his first knockout loss in 2022, falling to Joe Joyce in eleven rounds.

Parker has won three straight since against mediocre competition, so it is fair to wonder if Parker will hold up in his first challenge since losing to Joyce.

The top contender in the IBF will be in action as Filip Hrgovic battles veteran Mark DeMori.
DeMori hasn't fought anyone of note since being knocked out in one round by David Haye in 2016, so this is a showcase fight for Hrgovic and staying active.

Daniel DuBois has been stopped in both of his losses and yet he takes a very interesting opponent in Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller, who has been on tour against weak opposition since his PED suspension.

DuBois has the size and skills to do well against Miller, as long as his chin holds up.

Miller did stop former contender Lucas Browne in six rounds in his last fight, so that's something and DuBois hasn't shown a great chin, so Miller does have a puncher's chance.

The winner should be in line for a 2024 eliminator.

Two unbeaten fighters with plenty to prove with Arislenbek Makhmundov meeting Agit Kabayel in a ten-rounder.

Makhmundov has stopped eighteen of nineteen foes but the best of them, veteran Carlos Takam, lasted the ten-round distance.

Kabayel has beaten Dereck Chisora and Andrei Rudenko both by decision and has shown more boxing ability than Makhmundov but doesn't have the power.

The final heavyweight pits unbeaten Franks Sanchez against Junior Fa,

Sanchez looked to be on the edge of contention when he dominated Efe Ajagba in a match of unbeaten heavyweight prospects in October 2021 but hasn't fought a contender since in his four wins after the victory over Ajagba.

Fa was once a highly regarded prospect before losses to Joseph Parker by decision and an awful first knockout loss to Lucas Browne in 2022, so Fa is a heavy underdog in this fight.

WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol makes his 2023 debut with less than ten days to go in the year as he defends his title against Lyndon Arthur.

Arthur's not a gimme' as he owns a win over Anthony Yarde, but Yarde did stop Arthur in four rounds in their rematch.

Remember that Craig Richards, another lanky fighter from the UK, went the distance with Bivol and gave him a difficult fight so don't be surprised if Arthur fights better than expected.

Jai Opietaia was stripped of his IBF cruiserweight title last week in one of the dumber decisions in boxing as Opietaia didn't face mandatory challenger Mairis Briedis, despite Briedis giving permission for Opietaia to take an optional defense and Briedis stating that he would be unavailable to fight in December anyway.

Opietaia will face unbeaten Briton Ellis Zorro, who will be taking a jump from England's best to arguably the best cruiserweight in the world.

Boxing Challenge

Heavyweights. 12 Rds 
Anthony Joshua vs Otto Wallin
Ramon Malpica and TRS: Joshua Unanimous Decision
Vince Samano: Wallin KO 8

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Deontay Wilder vs Joseph Parker
R.L: Wilder KO 6
TRS: Wilder Unanimous Decision
V.S: Parker KO 8

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Daniel DuBois vs Jarrell Miller
R.L: Miller KO 6
TRS: DuBois Unanimous Decision
V.S: Miller Unanimous Decision

WBA Light Heavyweight Title, 12 Rds
Dmitry Bivol vs Lyndon Arthur
R.L and TRS: Bivol Unanimous Decision
V.S: Bivol KO 9

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Arlanbek Makhmudov vs Agit Kabayel
R.L: Makhmudov KO 8
TRS: Makhmudov Unanimous Decision
V.S: Kabayel KO 6

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Filip Hrgovic vs Mark DeMori
R.L; Hrgovic KO 5
TRS: Hrgovic KO 3
V.S: Hrgovic Unanimous Decision

Cruiserweights. 12 Rds
Jai Opietaia vs Ellis Zorro
R.L: Opietaia KO 6
TRS: Opietaia Unanimous Decision
V.S: Zorro Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Frank Sanchez vs Junior Fa
R.L: Sanchez Unanimous Decision
TRS: Sanchez KO 4
V.S;  Fa Unanimous Decision 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Bam unifies, Showtime bids farewell

      The boxing weekend's biggest fight came from Matchroom/DAZN from Glendale, Arizona with Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez taking the IBF flyweight title from Sunny Edwards to add it to the WBO title that Rodriguez owned entering the fight.

Edwards made the fight more entertaining than was expected before the fight as he was willing to exchange shots with the stronger puncher but that was to the detriment of the Englishman, who is known for his boxing skills and not his punching power.

I thought Edwards held his own early and had the fight even after four rounds but Sunny's left eye had been compromised in the second round and would only get worse as the fight progressed.

Edwards announced after the fight that he had suffered an orbital fracture and considering the eye damage, Edwards deserves kudos for hanging in there against the power punches of Rodriguez.

Round six saw both men land well with Edwards surprising with his eagerness to swap in the middle of the ring but even with Edwards's success, Rodriguez still won the round and controlled the seventh and eighth.

Rodriguez battered Edwards in the ninth and dropped him near the ropes as the round neared its end.

Edwards got up and reached his corner but his team wisely ended the fight.

I had Rodriguez ahead at the time of the stoppage 87-84.

Rodriguez was mentioned for a big fight with junior bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada, which could be an excellent action fight as well as a possible changing of the guard with the veteran Estrada attempting to make a final stand against the young tiger, Rodriguez.

In the co-feature, former WBA and IBF junior featherweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev knocked out Kevin Gonzalez in the eighth round to win a title eliminator that will eventually allow Akhmadaliev to fight for his old WBA title after Naoya Inoue vacates his 122-pound belts after his likely win next week over Marlon Tapales.

Gonzalez fought well early but Akhmadaliev broke down Gonzalez, dropped him twice in round six before knocking him down and finishing him off in the eighth.

Had Akhmadaliev fought like this against Marlon Tapales earlier this year, it would be Akhmadaliev that would be unifying titles with Naoya Inoye next week and in my opinion, would be a far more interesting challenge to Inoue than Tapales will be.

It was goodbye to Showtime on Saturday from Minneapolis with a three-fight card with a mismatch in the main event as David Morrell retained his minor title with a second-round drilling of Sena Agbeko in a super middleweight pairing.

Morrell was expected to dispatch Agebeko with ease and he did so, so there's not much else to say other than Morrell looks like the real deal but his competition has been less demanding than Morrell's talent deserves.

The problem is that Morrell looks to be one of the best three super middleweights in the world and in that world, the champion, Canelo Alvarez, doesn't seem thrilled with fighting the second-best, David Benavidez, and Benavidez doesn't seem intrigued with fighting Morrell.

Holding the minor WBA title will eventually put Morrell in a spot to challenge for a title, against Alvarez or a vacant belt but the big fights may elude Morrell for a while.

The super middleweight division has some talented young fighters but they are spread out among several promoters.

Christian Mbilli and Erik Bazinyan are based with Montreal's Eye of the Tiger, who works with Top Rank, Diego Pacheco, and Edgar Berlanga are with Matchroom, and Jaime Munguia is promoted by Golden Boy, so few if any have an incentive to try Morrell on for size.

I'd say the next step for Morrell could be Caleb Plant or Jermall Charlo, should Charlo not fight David Benavidez.

Plant may be the more likely choice, having suffered knockout losses to Alvarez and Benavidez but there is a grudge between Charlo and Plant outside the ring that may make a fight between them a better sale to fans.

In the co-feature, Jose Valenzuela didn't allow the judges to be involved in his rematch with Chris Colbert as Valenzuela knocked Colbert down in round one, and battered him throughout before a one-punch knockout ended the fight in the sixth round.

Colbert tried hard and landed an occasional counter right but he was outgunned by the harder-punching Valenzuela and took a lot of punishment for the third fight in a row had the judges not given the first fight to Colbert, unjustly, Colbert would be on a three-fight losing streak.

Colbert doesn't punch hard enough to keep top fighters off him, and while he is a skilled boxer he's not skilled enough to overcome that liability.

Valenzuela called for Gervonta Davis after the fight and considering the dearth of talent for PBC at lightweight other than Isaac Cruz, Valenzuela could get his chance in 2024, assuming Davis needs an opponent.

The opener was a blast from the past as two welterweight veterans Robert Guerrero battled Andre Berto in a rematch of their spirited 2012 match,

Guerrero won the first fight by unanimous decision and he would repeat the win in the same manner.

Berto was quicker, Guerrero stronger, and Guerrero would win the inside battles to win a reasonably entertaining unanimous decision by scores of 99-91 and 98-92 (x2).

I had the fight a bit closer for Guerrero at 97-93.

It was the type of pairing that fighters of a certain age and quality can still be successful as I don't have much interest in seeing either of these two against a contender or even a solid prospect but matched properly, older boxers can still have a place in the sport.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 187 Pts (6)
Ramon Malpica: 169 Pts (6)
Vince Samano: 124 Pts (6) 

Browns saved by prayer vs Bears!

     Joe Flacco rallied the Cleveland Browns from a ten-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to take the lead when Dustin Hopkins kicked a thirty-four-yard field goal to give the Cleveland Browns a 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Cleveland.

However, it's never easy or simple for the Browns, as the Bears moved into Cleveland territory with five seconds remaining for a Hail Mary attempt by the visitors.

Justin Fields' bomb bounced off several Bears and Browns jumping in a clump and landed in the hands of Chicago's Darnell Mooney for what would have been a Bears win and a devastating Browns defeat- BUT

the ball bounced off the hands of Mooney, who somehow kicked the ball into the hands of reserve safety D'Anthony Bell to allow the Browns another crazy 2023 win.

Joe Flacco threw two touchdowns with three interceptions and finished with 374 yards passing while both Amari Cooper and David Njoku finished with over one hundred yards receiving and a touchdown catch.

Cleveland improved to 9-5 on the season and maintained its one-game lead for the top wild-card position in the AFC.

The Browns will travel to Houston to battle the 8-6 Texans, one of three teams that are one game behind Cleveland for the wild card.

Brownie Bits

1) Joe Flacco threw three interceptions, but it can be argued that none of the three was his fault.

The first looked to be a miscommunication with the receiver, the second throw was on the money with Cedric Tillman getting hit just as the ball arrived, shooting the ball into the air to be plucked by Tremaine Edwards for the pick-six, and the final one, Flacco had an open David Njoku. Just as the ball arrived Tyrique Stevenson came flying into the picture with a tremendous play.

2) Flacco's fourth-quarter play was what you would hope for with over two hundred yards and leading the Browns to a touchdown and two field goals including the game-winner.

3) The Browns running attack wasn't gobbling up ground with only twenty-nine yards on eighteen attempts.

The running game will need to do better with two of their final three games on the road.

4) The offensive line took another blow with Joel Bitonio unable to continue after the first quarter.

Give Bitonio credit for the effort as he felt his back tighten up in warmups but tried to play anyway but the pain was too great.

5) The loss of Bitonio would mean the Browns for most of the game played with an offensive line missing four of the five players that started the season as only Wyatt Teller remains.

Ethan Pocic may have a chance to return this season and Bitonio's status is up in the air but all three of the tackles have been lost for the season, leaving the Browns to rely on players that were on practice squads earlier this season at tackle.

6) The offensive line that was the strength of the offense has suddenly become a liability with all these injuries, unable to push off the line in run blocking, and having difficulties keeping pass rushers off the immobile Joe Flacco.

Montez Sweat rampaged through the Browns blockers for three sacks on Sunday and I wonder just how the Browns are going to keep Jonathan Greenard and Will Anderson off Flacco next week unless Ethan Pocic and Joel Bitonio can play.

7) The play of the game came with three minutes remaining when Joe Flacco drilled a throw through tight coverage to Amari Cooper down the sideline, resulting in a fifty-one-yard touchdown that tied the game at seventeen.

It's the type of throw through windy conditions that big-armed passers make and smaller quarterbacks don't.

8) Give the defense credit for keeping the Browns in the game until the fourth quarter.

The defense allowed only ten points and their third-quarter hold on the Bears to keep them to a field goal that gave them a lead of 17-7 rather than one of 21-7, which essentially was the difference in the game.

9) The Browns received two massive plays from rookies who are in the lineup due to injury.

The biggest may have been Cameron Mitchell getting just enough contact on a fourth down run by a running Justin Fields to leave Fields just short of a first down on the Cleveland thirty-three on the first Bears possession of the fourth quarter.

The score was still 17-7 at that stage of the game and if the Bears score even a field goal on the drive, who knows how the Browns react to needing two touchdowns to win at that point.

10) Ronnie Hickman played well with five solo tackles and a pass breakup that forced a punt.

The former Ohio State Buckeye was undrafted and there may be a few teams kicking themselves for not using a day three pick on Hickman.

11) Marquise Goodwin was signed to be the deep threat to open the downfield passing game, yet Goodwin's injuries had not allowed him to be that threat.

In fact, Goodwin had caught only three passes for a combined ten yards but it was Goodwin breaking away for a fifty-seven-yard gain that kickstarted the Cleveland comeback.

The gain would lead to a Dustin Hopkins field goal, cut the Bears lead to seven, and allow the Browns to play one possession at a time rather than chase two scores.

12) So how does it set up for a battered Browns squad, holding a one-game lead over the two AFC South survivors (Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Houston are tied for first in the division at 8-6), Cincinnati, and Buffalo, with two of those four joining Cleveland for wild card positions.

Pittsburgh and Denver are one game behind that group and while not out of the running, will need some help in the remaining three weeks.

The Christmas Eve tussle in Houston looms large, win that one and I'd think it would be very tough for the Browns to not make the dance.

Lose to the Texans and things could tighten up considerably as the Texans would join the Browns at 9-6 and the other 8-6 have very winnable games with Buffalo visiting the imploding non-Brandon Staley Chargers, Cincinnati traveling to the punchless offense of the Steelers, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville on the road against mediocre NFC South foes Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

I think one more win could be enough, two would seal things up but two of their three remaining games are on the road against teams that are hustling for the postseason themselves (Houston and Cincinnati) for a team that is winning in strange ways, the margin of error isn't as great as one could think.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Boxing Challenge

     Another year of the boxing challenger nears the end of the road but boxing is finishing strong with two Saturdays with plenty of fistic action!

Matchroom and DAZN's main event may have the biggest bout of the weekend with the smallest participants as the IBF and WBO flyweight titles will be unified as England's Sunny Edwards takes on Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez in Glendale, Arizona. 

The smooth-boxing Edwards is a light hitter with only four knockouts in his twenty wins but he's extremely effective with what he does. If he is given credit from American judges who don't always favor a slick mover, Edwards could be the victor.

Rodriguez looked phenomenal in 2022 with wins over Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Still, he didn't impress in beating Cristian Gonzalez in April by unanimous decision, suffering a broken jaw in the process.

Rodriguez throws a lot of punches which is usually the most effective style against boxers, so this is a close fight to call.

But I have a feeling that Edwards is going to outbox Rodriguez and then get mildly shafted for his lack of aggression by the judges.

The co-feature is a WBA eliminator at junior featherweight with former champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev battling Kevin Gonazlez.

Akhmadaliev held the WBA and IBF titles before sleepwalking through much of the fight with a late rally falling short in April, losing his titles via split decision to Marlon Tapales and costing him a huge payday against Naoya Inoue.

The unbeaten Gonzalez has fought once outside of his native Mexico, his last win by unanimous decision over Jose Sammartin, and will be the underdog assuming Akhmadaliev is motivated entering the bout.

Minneapolis is the site for the final card for Showtime Championship Boxing as the pay cable network is ending its sports department at the end of the year.

The main event is the super middleweight no one wants to face- even the feared David Benavidez isn't interested in fighting the talented but still untested David Morrell, who defends his minor title against another opponent who likely has little chance in Sena Agbeko.

Morrell has impressively blown all of his competition and even though much of it has been second-tier level and below, the wins have been strong enough to want to see Morrell against better competition.

Morrell isn't likely to get that improved opposition against Agbeko, who lost almost every round against his best opponent Vladimir Shishkin.

The co-feature will be a rematch between Chris Colbert and Jose Valenzuela.

The two fought in March with Colbert winning 95-94 despite being knocked down and most people giving Valenzuela the edge.

Neither have fought since, so who knows what their current form will be.

The opener will be a rematch from eleven years ago as welterweights Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto hook up after their fun battle in 2012.

Guerrero won a unanimous decision, knocking Berto down twice, but Berto had his moments as well as the fight continued.

Guerrero's win over Berto allowed him the chance to cash a sizable check in his following fight against Floyd Mayweather and while I don't know that anyone was hungering to see the rematch, I'd rather see the two face each other in an evenly matched affair than get battered by younger fighters.

Boxing Challenge

Unification IBF-WBO Flyweight Titles 12 Rds 
Sunny Edwards vs Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez
Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano: Rodriguez Unanimous Decision
TRS: Edwards Split Decision

Jr Featherweights. 12 Rds
Murodjon Akhmadaliev vs Kevin Gonzalez
R.L and TRS: Akhmadaliev Unanimous Decision
V.S: Gonzalez Unanimous Decision

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
David Morrell vs Sena Agbeko
R.L: Morrell KO 7
TRS: Morrell KO 3
V.S: Morrel KO 6

Lightweights. 12 Rds
Chris Colbert vs Jose Valenzuela
R.L: Colbert Unanimous Decision
TRS and V.S: Valenzuela Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Robert Guerrero vs Andre Berto
All: Guerrero Unanimous Decision


   The Bowl Season starts and the NFL playoff race continues as the PPM returns after a first-time event in the PPM- Zero wins!

Last Week: 0-4
Overall: 139-69

Bowl Games

Myrtle Beach Bowl
Georgia Southern over Ohio U 27-21

New Orleans Bowl
Jacksonville State over Louisiana 30-23

Avocado Bowl
Appalachian State over Miami Ohio 40-38

New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico State over Fresno State 34-32

LA Bowl
Boise State over UCLA 34-24

Independence Bowl
Texas Tech over Cal 29-21

Toastery Bowl
Western Kentucky over Old Dominion 27-17

Frisco Bowl
UTSA over Marshall 37-20

Boca Raton Bowl
South Florida over Syracuse 28-14

Gasparilla Bowl
Georgia Tech over Central Florida 30-26

Browns over Bears 19-14
Raiders over Chargers 20-10

Games of the Week
Ravens over Jaguars 26-29
Colts over Steelers 20-16

Friday, December 15, 2023

Bingo Smith

     The recent passing of Bingo Smith brought some thoughts to mind that I hadn't thought of in quite a while.

In a series of events throughout one weekend, Bingo Smith was the first bounce in how I became a Cleveland Cavaliers fan.

In 1976, I was a basketball fan of two leagues, in the soon-to-be-merged ABA, I rooted for the Kentucky Colonels, and in the NBA, I didn't really have a favorite team that I liked as much as the Colonels but my lukewarm favorites were the Washington Bullets and the Phoenix Suns. 

My parents usually visited Ohio one weekend a year when I was a child and on this April weekend, I was getting closer to my eighth birthday and my dad flipped on the AM radio and found Game Two of the Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Bullets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

As we drove on the signal from WWWE in Cleveland became stronger and stronger and the game wound down to its final minutes, Cavaliers radio play-by-play commentator Joe Tait was in full excitement mode (even if we weren't traveling, the game was untelevised in either city) with the style that made him the best radio commentator in the league screaming to be able to be heard over the crowd noise.

With the Bullets leading the series 1-0, and the Cavaliers desperate for a win to avoid a 2-0 deficit and going on the road for game three in Landover, Bingo Smith drained a twenty-five-foot jumper (in the era without the three-point line) to lift the Cavaliers to an 80-79 win and a series tie.

In a series filled with improbable endings (three of Cleveland's four wins came either at the buzzer or under five seconds remaining), Bingo Smith had delivered the first and when we pulled into Ashland and my grandfather's house, I was still excited from listening to the game.

My uncle Russ was staying there that evening and as I talked excitedly to him (he was listening on the radio as well), he asked me if I was a Cavalier fan and then he said you should be.

In the way that seven-year-olds think, I said sure and that's the way it's been ever since.

Cleveland's series victory in seven games would be the only playoff series win that I would see for the next sixteen years, and when they would finally win a series (in those sixteen years, Cleveland would lose in the first round six times), and I would be watching it ( a win over the New Jersey Nets in five games) with my son.

Bingo Smith had been the first-round pick (sixth overall) of the then-San Diego Rockets from Tulsa in 1969 in the final year before the Rockets moved to Houston, averaging seven points in only sixteen minutes per game before the Rockets left him unprotected in the famous expansion draft where the Cavaliers used Topps basketball cards as their scouting records in the expansion draft.

Just imagine the difference in the league now, can you imagine a team allowing the sixth overall pick to be available in the expansion draft after one season?

Or can you imagine buying a bunch of basketball cards as your scouting materials for the draft? Crazy!

Known for his shooting range that would have seen even more success had Smith played in the three-point era, Smith would play for Cleveland for nine-plus seasons, being traded after eight games of the 1979-80 season to, ironically, the San Diego Clippers for a future third-round draft pick.

I use the word ironically as the Clippers didn't protect Smith after the season for the expansion draft of the Dallas Mavericks, who drafted Smith but Smith never played for the team and retired, making Smith the only player to be selected twice in expansion drafts and from the same city.

Smith had his number seven retired by the Cavaliers during the 1979-80 season when the Clippers visited the Cavaliers after being traded to San Diego as the second retired number (after Nate Thurmond) in team history. 

Bingo Smith- long-range marksman, member of the Miracle of Richfield, a retired number for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the man who started the ball rolling into making me a Cavaliers fan for life.

R.I.P. Bingo. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Football Rivalry Edition

     The end of the college football season usually brings rivalry games and The Athletic took a week-long look at some of the rivalry stories that make the game so great.

We begin with the Slab of Bacon, a trophy fought for between Wisconsin and Minnesota from 1930 and 1942 but disappeared in 1943 before being found in a Wisconsin storage closet in 1994.

The odd thing about the disappearance was that when the slab was found, the scores on the trophy had been filled in up to the 1970 season.

To this day, no one knows how the trophy disappeared in 1943, who filled in the scores in 1970, or how the trophy wound up in the storage closet in the Wisconsin Sports Information Department.

This article covers the Iowa Hawkeyes' various football rivalries (and the Hawkeyes certainly seem to lead the nation in legitimate rivalries) with one Iowa memory or note for each school in their wheelhouse.

For my money, the Floyd of Rosedale trophy between Iowa and Minnesota is the best in the game with the Paul Bunyan's Axe between Wisconsin and Minnesota a close second.

One rivalry that is especially fierce but doesn't always come up as one of the more bitter battles is between Arizona and Arizona State, which will be taking its rivalry to its fourth conference next year when both schools join the Big 12.

The battle for the Territorial Cup started in 1899 between the Wildcats and Sun Devils but had been missing from 1970 until being found in a church vault in 1983.

The Cup still didn't become the official trophy until 2001 and even today, the actual cup is delivered quietly to the winning trophy a few days after the game.

A same-size replica is awarded to the winning team for the post-game celebrations.

You don't really think of Houston and Central Florida as rivals but the deeper that you dig into the common history of the space program, Houston and Orlando (the home of UCF) have been rivals for a long time.

This ESPN article goes over the facts and history of NASA and how it could eventually be part of a rivalry between the two Big 12 schools.

After reading this article, the potential for a rivalry seems strong as it seems that the space folks have some legitimate disdain for the other from each side.

And it wouldn't be a TRS post on trophies without mentioning the Civil Conflict trophy, the much-derided rivalry idea of former UConn head coach Bob Diaco for the Huskies and Central Florida, which the Knights had literally no interest in fighting over.

The trophy that UCF abandoned on the field after a 2016 win in the rain, has rarely been seen again but there is what some claim to be the trophy but it has some differences in font and wood, which has been attributed to the rain damage needing to be repaired from the 2016 "Conflict".

The article tells the story of how the trophy was acquired and kept by UCF, the school that wanted nothing to do with the trophy and rivalry in the first place!  

Monday, December 11, 2023

I Tell Ya' Herbie

  The conference title games have been completed and the bowls are on their way, so it's time for an interim edition of I Tell Ya' Herbie.

I Tell Ya' Herbie:

                             I believe that Alabama is a better team than Florida State is currently and I also think that Florida State is the more deserving team and should have been the fourth seed no matter their status at the quarterback position.

The games should stand for something and this year they didn't.

I Tell Ya' Herbie:

Many have theorized about how Alabama was selected but one possible reason has yet to be mentioned.

Could this be the quiet backlash against Jim Harbaugh's various shenanigans at the University of Michigan? 

Washington could have arguably been placed first, yet Michigan was slated there, and had Florida State made it into the field, the battered Seminoles would have been a strong underdog against the Wolverines.

Instead, Michigan faces Alabama with the legendary Nick Saban and close to a month to prepare for the supposed favorite.

Could it be allowing Alabama in over Florida State be as simple as wanting the best shot at avoiding the humiliation of the scandal-plagued Wolverines and the man that flipped the bird to the NCAA and the Big Ten holding the trophy on the game's highest stage?

I Tell Ya' Herbie:

                             The hire that I've liked the most in the coaching silly season?

Bronco Mendenhall at New Mexico, a school that usually struggles at football, looks to be a perfect fit.

Mendenhall was very successful at BYU with a record of 99-43 and while his tenure at Virginia could have been more successful (36-38 in six years), he still made three bowl games and turned down a fourth bid.

Mendenhall coached at New Mexico as an assistant for four years, is from the West Coast, and will be coaching at a school where bowl bids are celebrated, so I think the Lobos have done well with the addition of Mendenhall.

I Tell Ya' Herbie:

                             The committee got it right with the selection of unbeaten Liberty over two-loss SMU as the G-5 representative in the New Year's Bowls but both schools got the shaft to certain degrees.

Liberty got an awful draw in the Fiesta Bowl against an athletic team in Oregon, and while the Mustangs and their two losses didn't deserve the G-5 slot as many had stated, they weren't treated fairly as the AAC champions to be relegated to the Fenway Bowl against a mediocre Boston College team that is basically playing a home game.

I Tell Ya' Herbie:

                             I wonder about how many bowls will still be around five or ten years after the twelve-team playoff begins.

I think the smaller bowls that many don't pay attention to will be okay as ESPN owns many of those and they are cheap programming at a time of year when they are searching for them,

However, the middle-range bowls like many of those held in Florida on or around New Year's Day may eventually have problems.

Those bowls won't be prized as much as they are currently and fans aren't as likely to travel to those games. preferring to save for the future when they can go to tournament games.

Should they become money-losing propositions, the bowls could cannibalize themselves, leaving middle-class teams either accepting lower payouts to be in the postseason or bowl games going out of business leaving fewer slots available. 

Browns tame Jaguars 31-27

       Joe Flacco threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns in his first home start as a Cleveland Brown as the Browns defeated the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars 31-27.

David Njoku caught two of Flacco's touchdown throws and finished with ninety-one yards from six catches to lead the Browns skill players.

Cleveland improved to 8-5 in breaking a two-game losing streak and will host the Chicago Bears next Sunday.

Brownie Bits

1) Before the game, the Browns announced that they had signed safety Grant Delpit to a three-year contract extension worth thirty-six million dollars.

Delpit is in the middle of a breakout season this year and the Browns needed to keep their playmaking safety.

2) So this being the Browns, Delpit roared out against Jacksonville with five solo tackles and a sack of Trevor Lawrence on a safety blitz before suffering a groin injury when on another blitz of Lawrence, Delpit landed on Myles Garrett and was forced to leave the game.

How much time Delpit will miss is still uncertain but it is "so Browns" to see Delpit injured on the same day that he signed his contract extension.

3) Joe Flacco did turn the ball over twice, once on an interception and the other on a fumble when he was sacked for the only time of the day.

Flacco even avoided a sack or two with some movement in the pocket.

When dealing with a lack of mobility, you are always concerned about blindside hits and fumbles from the quarterback, so the Browns will have to continue to receive solid play from the offensive line.

4) The Browns sacked Trevor Lawrence four times in the game, two of them from defensive tackle Maurice Hurst.

When defensive tackles are getting sacks, either one of two things are happening.

Either the edge rushers are forcing the quarterback to step in the pocket leading them directly to the tackle or the tackle is just blowing up the guards and breaking down the opponent's pass protection.

5) Myles Garrett didn't have any sacks but he did offer some complaints about the officiating.

I know Garrett gets held on every play and it is often not called but it's rarely a good look to gripe unless you have a specific poor call that costs you a game.

6) After the game, Kevin Stefanski named Joe Flacco as the starter for the remainder of the season and I think that was the best choice.

Even with the flaws of the aging Flacco, the ability to open the offense up with downfield tosses combined with the experience that comes with a thirty-eight-year-old quarterback made the selection an easy one.

7) Kevin Stefanski did use Dorian Thompson-Robinson a few times under center in short-yardage situations with DTR running once for a first down.

I like to see these looks but what I especially like is when play callers mix things up and show defenses that DTR (for example) can run, hand the ball off, and eventually show that the Browns can throw out of those situations.

I remember despising the Browns on the Wildcat formations when they had Josh Cribbs (a college quarterback) and never calling a pass play with Cribbs essentially neutered the formation as defenses never had to account for anything other than a Cribbs run of some sort.

The more things that a team can do, the higher the chances of an effective play call.

8) If you rip Kevin Stefanski for play calls that don't work, fairness says to give the man credit for his good ones.

And I LOVED the call that resulted in the final touchdown on a fourth and three.

With Joe Flacco in the shotgun, David Bell gives the appearance of staying in to block or being a desperation checkdown target but after the initial block, Bell moves to the center of the field, wide open with Flacco quickly popping the ball out to Bell, who then ran for forty-one yards with nary a Jaguar around for the score.

9) That play was set up by an over-the-shoulder interception by Greg Newsome, who made an excellent play on the Trevor Lawrence throw.

Martin Emerson grabbed two interceptions and the secondary played very well for most of the game.

10) Give Trevor Lawrence credit as the Jaguars leaned towards the former Clemson Tiger not playing due to an ankle injury in their previous game.

I picked Jacksonville mainly because of the announcement that Lawrence was going to start over C.J. Beathard and I liked the toughness that I saw from Lawrence despite the three picks.

Lawrence was beaten up and harassed all day yet hung in there and gave his team a chance to win a game that they could easily lost by a much larger margin.

11) This was a huge win for several reasons.

It stopped the losing streak at two and took advantage of losses by the three teams that entered the day tied with the Browns in the wild-card hunt (Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Houston) to move a full game ahead of all teams in the playoff scramble.

The bad news is that Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Denver all won their games to place a stunning six teams at 7-6 for two spots and only one game behind the Browns.

One slip and the Browns are back in a mass battle and dealing with the headache of tiebreakers.

12) Four games to go with a home game next week vs Chicago, at Houston, who had their quarterback injured yesterday (C.J. Stroud), home against the Jets on a Thursday night, and finishing in Cincinnati against a suddenly resurgent B.ngals team without Joe Burrow.

I think a split of those games gets them into the playoffs, perhaps as high as the fifth seed.

Three out of four definitely get them in, and maybe with some breaks, a shot at the division title.

Baltimore leads Cleveland by two games but has a brutal final four games in road trips to Jacksonville and San Francisco with home games against Miami and Pittsburgh.

I can see a scenario where Cleveland ties for the division title but it will take no less than three wins in the final four weeks to be in that position.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Haney dominates Prograis, Espinoza stuns Ramirez

     Many observers thought that Regis Prograis was a live underdog in his defense of his WBC junior welterweight title against lightweight king Devin Haney in San Francisco on Saturday.

They could not have been more wrong as Haney knocked Prograis down in the third round and won every round in a superb display of boxing to win the WBC 140-pound belt by a unanimous decision.

Prograis never was able to offer any offense against the pure skills of Haney, and after he hit the deck from a short Haney right in round three, Prograis was unable to win even on the inside against Haney and clearly looked to be a level below the new champion.

All three judges scored the fight the same as I did at 120-107.

Haney will certainly drop his remaining lightweight titles and stay at junior welterweight where he looked strong and natural at the weight.

Haney's future looks bright with the biggest potential fight with WBO champion Teofimo Lopez, which could happen with Haney having worked with Lopez's promoter Top Rank in the past, although it's unlikely to happen right away with Lopez expected to defend against former WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez in early 2024.

Ryan Garcia has been mentioned as a possibility but I don't see Garcia as a serious threat to Haney, although a Garcia fight would pad his wallet more than a little.

IBF champion Subriel Matias would bring a bruising style that I would love to see Haney against but Matias's link with PBC makes that a long considering the risk/reward ratio.

The PBC connection makes a chance at lightly-regarded WBA champion Rolly Romero even less likely than Matias in a fight that would be more fun at the press conferences than in the ring.

As for Prograis, a two-time champion, it's very evident from his last two fights that he looked stronger than he actually was in winning the vacant title last year due to the fading of his opponent, Jose Zepeda, and that the generation of junior welterweights that included Prograis, Josh Taylor, and Jose Ramirez turned out to be less than boxing watchers thought they would become.

One thing is for sure: Devin Haney is a terrific all-around fighter. If he has added a little more pop to his punch at the higher weight, Haney will be a very difficult out for any fighter around his division for quite a while.

Devin Haney may have delivered the performance of the evening but the fight from ESPN and Top Rank from Pembroke Pines Florida was the fight of the night and will be in the running for the fight of the year with previously unknown Rafael Espinoza shocking WBO champion Robeisy Ramirez to take his title via majority decision.

Espinoza was an unknown quantity entering the fight with an unbeaten record against unknown competition in his native Mexico but with 18 knockouts in 21 wins and a freakish 6'1 frame for a fighter in the featherweight division, one didn't know how good Espinoza was going to be.

The answer was very good as Espinoza won the first four rounds by outworking Ramirez and keeping the shorter man off balance.

Espinoza was winning the fifth until late in the round, Espinoza was switching his stances and just as he began to move, Ramirez fired a short bullet of a right hand that knocked down Espinoza with Espinoza beating the count but in serious condition.

Espinoza took advantage of the little time remaining in the round to survive but Ramirez took control of the fight and won every round on my card from the sixth through the ninth, appearing to be on his way to a difficult retention of his title with Espinoza earning deserved credit for a gallant effort.

Instead, Espinoza turned the tide by winning the tenth and eleventh rounds and the fight was literally on the line with my card reading 104-104, six rounds to five for Espinoza but Ramirez scored a 10-8 fifth round due to the knockdown.

Round twelve saw Espinoza firing all the punches that he had at Ramirez until finally hurting him late in the round and dropping Ramirez along the ropes.

Ramirez would gallantly rise and finish on his feet but the knockdown was enough to lift the challenger to a majority decision by scores of 115-111, 114-112, and 113-113.

I gave Espinoza the nod 114-112 in one of the biggest upsets of the year and the best fights of the campaign as well.

Ramirez appeared to lack focus in his pre-fight interview with Mark Kriegel due to various issues with his family in his native Cuba and I even thought before the fight that if Espinoza was as good as his record Ramirez could be in trouble as a fighter that isn't in the correct frame of mind.

Still, no one knew how good Espinoza was going to be, and while Ramirez would be very deserving of a rematch, that would depend on the WBO as Espinoza was an optional defense and the WBO"s  mandatory challenger Arnold Khegai could be forced on Espinoza before a rematch or unification possibilities. 

Boxing Challenge 
TRS: 181 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica: 163 Pts (0)
Vince Samano: 118 Pts (0)


  The college bowls don't start until the 16th, so this is a sparse PPM with just the pro football side to pick from.

Last Week: 6-9 (Yuck)
Overall: 139-65

Jaguars over Browns 24-20
Chargers over Broncos 23-17

Games of the Week
Eagles over Cowboys 34-31
Chiefs over Bills 40-36