2020, The Most Unthinkable Year In Sports

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, Anish Dhondi, Rohan Krishnan, & Nikhil Pradeep

2020, who saw this coming? A worldwide pandemic, systemic racism across the world, an election that tore people apart from each other, horrifying tragedies, yet through all the challenges we faced, all the sacrifices every one of us made, we, whether we know it or not, prevailed. We grew braver, grew an appreciation and gratitude for the people we had, the objects we possessed, the values we hold. One of the biggest things that kept us going all year was sports. Whether it was an ugly Sunday Night Football game between the Eagles and Cowboys, an NBA Bubble playoff game, whatever the spectacle may have been, sports brought people together, and at times, made us escape the reality we were facing in our world. We saw the power athletes had not just through playing their sports, but with their voices, with their actions, with their perseverance, that it inspired us to do the same, and it lifted us during these difficult times. Here are some of the monumental moments that we saw in 2020:

The Day Sports Came to a Halt by Saransh Sharma

On August 26th, 2020, we saw the Milwaukee Bucks boycott their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man who was shot 7 times in the back and killed while unarmed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just 30 miles away from Milwaukee. The fallout led to the cancellation of two other NBA playoff games that day. The rest of the MLB games on that night were postponed, and tennis star Naomi Osaka announced that she would not play in her Western & Southern Open Semifinals match, set for August 27th, the next day. On the 27th, many NFL teams had canceled their practices in tribute to Blake, and all seven major league sports in the United States went to a halt. We also saw the NBA nearly boycott the remainder of the season. Players such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard favored the motion to boycott unless a plan to keep the conversations to help end racial injustice. A plan was put in place by the NBA of initiatives to support throughout the NBA bubble, and thanks to the help of Former President Barack Obama, the NBA was able to get back and continue the season.

These actions led to many players having their forms of silent protest before their games or matches, such as taking a knee during the National Anthem, wearing a mask or shirt with the names of victims killed by police due to racial injustice across the country. Overall, it brought more awareness to the injustices going around our country into the sports world, as fans learned of the importance to push for changes for this country. Had it not been for the events that transpired on August 26th, which led to a full day without any sports nationwide on the 27th, we as a country would be in a much different position.

NBA Season Dropped for the Second Time in the Last Ten Years by Pranav Thiriveedhi

In 2011, the NBA season under commissioner David Stern saw a league-wide lockout, allowing for the absence of professional basketball across the country. Many people thought that the issues present under David Stern would not be a problem under incumbent commissioner Adam Silver, but on March 11th, 2020, the NBA season was suspended. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz All-Star Center and two-time Defensive Players of the Year tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the postponement of their game against the OKC Thunder. Gobert’s positive test led to the indefinite suspension of the 2019-2020 NBA season. Word of this terrible news spread like fire across the United States, even while NBA games were being played that day. Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, was devastated to hear about the season suspension moments after coming out with a win over the Denver Nuggets. With so much emotion and tragedy going across the NBA world, and even after the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, the suspended season was the worst thing for many to hear. 

But we are not quitters. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every single person not only around the country but around the world, making us rethink and reinvent our old ways. After the NBA’s indefinite hiatus, and after a struggle to make it work, on June 4th, the NBA board of governors approved for the resume of the season in a competitive bubble format on July 30th, 2020. And you guys know how the rest went. The Orlando bubble proved to be very successful, all the way from the last eight regular-season games to the NBA finals, which helped show that the 2019-2020 NBA season was the most historic and craziest professional basketball season ever. 

The ‘Flex My House’ NFL Draft by Rohan Krishnan

The National Football League was preparing to have their annual draft at Las Vegas this year, and the plans were so extravagant that it included a stage on the water at Bellagio Fountains. Players would be taken by boat to the main stage to be drafted. This spectacle would have made for one of the most memorable drafts of recent memory. Due to the pandemic, however, it became a TV-only event. Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, started the Draft from his basement and behind him was a huge video screen, showing the fans for each team and reactions from players and their families. It was a weird experience for prospects and fans as they did not get to walk up to a stage and get the customary hug from Goodell. Nothing is the same without a huge crowd to cheer or boo for their team’s selection. However, the first night had stellar ratings, drawing a record 15.6 million viewers.

The NFL did a fantastic job of not having any technical issues and proved that in the face of a crisis, a Draft can be done from home. It was also fun to see the memes pop up on social media, giving plenty of memorable moments. Roger Goodell looked like he was about to fall asleep on Day 2 of the Draft, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury did the Draft from his $4.45 million mansion, as he dunked on everyone else’s draft setup, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was chilling on his yacht. Watching the event was a welcome distraction for all fans across the country since it was one of the very few live sporting events since the pandemic started in mid-March. It was also special to watch the draft prospects hanging out at home with their loved ones and showing their reactions to the world as they start a new chapter in their lives. 

The Struggle of the Bubble by Anish Dhondi

After the NBA shut down in March, the NBA planned its way back to a restart in July. The process was strange for both players and fans. The world had to go months without sports, one of the largest forms of entertainment. When the NBA restarted again, players were in an unorthodox situation. They were restricted to their hotel ‘bubble’ in Orlando, where after they played games, they could see their opponents walking around in the same bubble, which gave a unique experience. The style of the game also changed with no fans, the games for the players were very quiet. Watching on TV, we did not notice as much as they add in fan audio, but the players could hear every little thing that they all were saying. This led to players on the bench getting more technical would than usual, as any chatter on the bench could be heard very clearly by the referees. At the end of the NBA Playoffs and Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers were the NBA Champions. Strangely, people will find any reason to discredit a LeBron James ring, calling it a ‘Mickey Mouse Ring.’ In reality, winning the championship was more difficult than fans realize. Portland Trail Blazers star, Damian Lillard, came out and said that playing in the bubble was a lot harder competition-wise. Traditionally, the season and playoffs require a lot of traveling to satisfy homecourt advantages along with other distractions, Dame said that in the ‘bubble life’ was just eat, sleep, and ball. NBA players were also fully rested as they did not have to deal with any travel or jet lag and could recover their bodies for the next game much faster than usual. Overall, the bubble was a huge success, with no positive cases that required a second shutdown. Credit to Adam Silver, one of the best, if not the best commissioner in sports, for creating the safest environment possible for players and teams. After this strange bubble experience, it was not over for 2020. 

The 2020-21 NBA season had to begin to avoid future seasons from being delayed. Teams that played in the bubble received the shortest offseason (72 days for the defending champion Lakers) of all-time, while players outside of the bubble received the longest. The shortened offseason has resulted in players taking additional rest during the regular season to avoid injuries, like Westbrook, Kyrie, Kawhi, and Kevin Durant periodically sitting out games. No fans, along with the difference in rest have made a big difference, as teams that received the most rest are seemingly starting the season on fire. The Magic and the Cavs are surprise teams in the East who were well-rested and started the season with wins that no one expected. In the bubble, we saw a whole different type of play from some players who went off like TJ Warren, Devin Booker, and Damian Lillard with no fans to cheer or boo at them. As many described, it felt like playing at an empty practice gym. 

As the vaccine is slowly getting pushed out, I truly hope that the NBA can start incorporating fans into the games safely because, without fans, the game does not feel as exciting to watch or play.

A New Injury Designation in the NFL by Nikhil Pradeep

Most avid viewers of the NFL know that injuries are simply part of the game, and no matter how far medical and biophysical science goes to improve safety equipment, that fact is not going to change. The sheer amount of force, power, and most importantly, the heart that NFL players play with is just too much for injuries not to be an integral part of the league. In 2020 however, a new type of injury designation showed up in the game-day rosters and fantasy team news articles for those associated with the NFL: the COVID-19 identifier. In these unprecedented times, there were insane circumstances that left NFL general managers scratching their heads and fantasy football players livid. The prime example that inevitably will go down in history is the Denver Broncos having no available QBs to play Week 12 against the New Orleans Saints, a situation that some believe to be poorly handled by the league office and commissioner. There was no exception granted to the Broncos after having pleaded their case for excruciating circumstances, with the game played with Kendall Hilton, a practice squad wide receiver, at quarterback. The result of the game needs no explanation, but the event itself shows the frailty of the NFL’s plan to get their league running again during the time of this virus. Couple this with the league’s handling of the Ravens’ multiple weeks long COVID-19 spread, which resulted in the shifting of games throughout the weekend schedule, and you start to see how bad of a job the league did in handling this year’s rollout of the NFL season. Compare this to the NBA bubble that was deemed a complete success by many within the media, and you begin to wonder how Roger Goddell and his team thought their plan would suffice in the first place.

But we are talking about 2020, and anything that could have happened did happen this year. All things considered, it might have been necessary to play this year and steamroll through multiple COVID-19 cases to even have a league to play in for years in the future. The NFL is by no means a graceful sport, and maybe the methods the league office takes to run it are the same way. All in all, there were not an absurd amount of cases, especially not an amount that endangered a significant portion of people’s lives, and it resulted in a rather entertaining season in a rather dreadful year. On the positive side of things, there were not games completely canceled, all 256 games were fully played. That being said, there are ways to improve the handling of an unforeseen event like this in the future. The NFL will not be praised for their forward-thinking in handling this virus, but at the end of the day, the league, players, and personnel will all benefit.

The NFC (L)East: The Worst Competitive Division Ever

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC East’s current leader, the Philadelphia Eagles, has a half-game lead over the other 3 teams in the division, who are in a 3-way tie for second place in the division. These teams must be good, right? Well, they certainly are competitive, and they have had their fair share of injuries, unlucky losses, roster changes, blowouts, coaching turmoil, and everything in between. All of these teams have 3 wins, with the Eagles only having a half-game lead over the rest of the division due to the tie they had with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. This week has some big division games coming, with the Cowboys hosting Washington on Thanksgiving Day, the Giants playing the Bengals, and the Eagles hosting the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Here are our predictions for who wins the NFC East:

Current NFC East Standings:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1), Division Record: (2-2)
  2. New York Giants (3-7), Division Record: (3-2)
  3. Washington Football Team (3-7), Division Record (2-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Division Record (1-2)

Saransh’s NFC East Winner: Washington Football Team

Washington Remaining Schedule: @ Cowboys (3-7), @ Steelers (10-0), @ 49ers (4-6) vs. Seahawks (7-3), vs. Panthers (4-7), @ Eagles (3-6-1)

Yes, I am a Washington fan, but no, I am not saying this in a biased sense. Right now, of the 4 starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, the one quarterback that I trust most to not turn the football over and make poor decisions, win games, and use their experience to their advantage, is none other than Alex Smith. For New York, Daniel Jones has shown improvement over a 2-game stretch, where they played Washington and Philadelphia, but is still a turnover machine. For Dallas, Andy Dalton is still shaky and does not have the best chemistry with all of the Cowboys’ WRs, although he has a very nice connection with CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. And lastly, for Philadephia, Carson Wentz has the clock ticking on him as the starter in Philadelphia. Alex Smith is a born winner, and when he had come into Washington, he was at the time in the top-5 in terms of winningest active QBs at the time (2018). Then, of course, the gruesome leg injury happened which nearly ended his career and his ability to ever walk again, yet he is here on a football field, inspiring the young Washington Football Team to be in winning situations and even win games, something that has not been seen in Washington for years. Alex Smith may never be even half of what he was as a QB before his injury, but he is still a winner and a leader, and the other quarterbacks in the division are not showing that right now. On top of that, Terry McLaurin has been unreal and is easily the most underrated wide receiver in the entire league, but most of all has been another great leader on the field and in the locker room.

The defense, who are middle-of-the-pack against the run, is ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass and 3rd in sacks. Having guys like rookie sensation Chase Young be double and even triple-teamed at times, has allowed the rest of the front seven, like Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan, to get constant pressure along with Young. Then there is the secondary, led by cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, who have quietly led the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. To be fair, the stats are misleading, as this defense has had some big games, such as their 7-sack performance in Week 1 against the Eagles, but also poor games, like giving up 30 points to a Lions offense without Kenny Golladay. If they can find even the slightest bit of consistency, as the offense is beginning to show now under Alex Smith, this team can win the games they should win, and do enough to win the division.

Washington should beat Dallas on Thanksgiving and should beat the Eagles to complete the season sweep to finish 4-2 in the NFC East overall. Outside of that, Carolina should be a win, and a sneaky win could come against the 49ers, who will be without George Kittle and most likely also Jimmy Garoppolo. Without the 49ers win, they would finish 6-10, and they would finish 7-9 with it. Either way, I do not think any other NFC East team finishes with more than 5 wins. The Giants, who are the biggest competition to Washington for the division title, have all but two of their remaining games against teams with winning records, and I do not see the Giants doing enough to get past Washington. HC Ron Rivera has battled through cancer this season, and Alex Smith, while being nothing more than an average QB, has still made one of the greatest comebacks from an injury in the history of sports. This team not only could end up being the best in the NFC East when it is all said and done, but also the most inspiring. Whatever happens in this wild division, it will be intriguing (and ugly) to watch, and all of these teams will have their work cut out for them this offseason.

Pranav’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

Let me start by saying I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. ‘Go Birds’ and all that stuff, but this year? The Eagles stink, and no single person can be blamed. Sure, Carson Wentz and his disgusting attempt at being a marginally good quarterback, or Doug Pederson and his awful play-calling, have failed miserably, but this is a team problem that is not a one-week fix. Let us face reality here, the Eagles have tried to fix these problems every week, yet nothing has changed. Fans and critics thought it might be because half the team is injured but the truth is the Eagles are not the best in the NFC East, regardless of their place in the division presently. At the beginning of the season, Dallas and Philadelphia split the predictions for winners of the NFC East, but after the injury to Dak Prescott, Dallas doesn’t have a shot. The Philadelphia Eagles, for the last few weeks, have been too quick to crown themselves as the division winners, but now everyone can see that they might have called it too early. They have probably the hardest remaining schedule in the NFC East, playing four Super Bowl contenders in a row: Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona. 

On the other hand, the dark horse team in the NFC East, the New York Giants, are riding on a few wins. The New York Giants and I hate to say this, are the best team in the division. No one expected them to be anywhere outside of the last place in the division to start the season, and even more after Saquon Barkley’s season-ending injury, but things change. For starters, the Giants have the easiest remaining schedule, and being tied for second is a big help for them because one win already puts them in the driver seat for the East. The Giants are better than the Washington Football Team, having the series sweep. The Giants are also better than the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite having split the season series, the Giants have dominated both matchups with ball control, as they lost their first matchup with Philly due to avoidable penalties. And lastly, the Giants are better than the Dallas Cowboys, and I do not even have to explain. I know I should have no bias as an Eagles fan, but I will never give the Cowboys any love unless they have 1:1 odds to win something.

That being said, the Giants are in the position to take the NFC East, but this is still a division too early to call. We don’t know what is going to happen, or what more (or less) to expect, and to be honest with you, it is not good. All I can say is that none of these teams are going anywhere this season and will be undergoing major changes this offseason. 

Rohan’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

I am also a Washington fan like Saransh, yet I believe the Giants will come out on top and take the NFC East crown. Joe Judge is doing a solid job in his first year as head coach of the Giants, and the team is making incremental progress game after game. Daniel Jones is starting to pull it together with consecutive no turnover performances, and I trust the Giants defense the most in this division. The Giants defense is ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring average this season, with several standout players, including lockdown cornerback James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Leonard Williams. Also, over the last 6 games, the Giants are 3-3 and those three losses are just by 6 points. One of those losses includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are viewed by many as Super Bowl contenders. The Giants were playing the best football of any team in the NFC East before their bye, and I think they will get 3 more wins (CIN, CLE, DAL) to win the division. I view Dallas as the biggest competition to the Giants. They have the easiest road as they still get to play each of the East teams once and have opponents like the 49ers and Bengals on their schedule. They have also been very competitive, nearly beating the undefeated Steelers at home and knocking off the Vikings recently on the road. The offense looked solid with Andy Dalton back and Zeke had his best game in a while, totaling over 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. Tony Pollard has also been a nice touch, as he added some quality carries and a TD against the Vikings. They also have a special talent in CeeDee Lamb who is looking like the best rookie receiver in the draft class. However, the Cowboys defense needs to improve, especially their poor secondary. Their run defense is atrocious as well, allowing a whopping 153.8 yards on the ground per game to opposing offenses. 

The Cowboys hopes for winning the NFC East division will likely disappear if their defense is not up for the task. Washington, meanwhile, has a solid chance but a few problems of their own. Let us start with the defense, who was supposed to be one of the best units in the league under DC Jack Del Rio but has not lived up to the hype. By looking at the numbers, you might think that Washington has an above-average defense, however, it’s the complete opposite. Their defensive line has plenty of talent like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne, but have failed to take advantage of poor offensive lines, which proved to be critical in getting swept by the New York Giants. These losses hurt Washington big time as the Giants now have the tiebreaker. The linebacker core and secondary are both very weak and it showed when they played average offenses like the Lions. However, I also think a better offense would have a positive impact on the defense. The offense is badly underperforming overall, ranked 29th in the league, and Alex Smith is nothing more than an average quarterback. Washington has a bright future with star receiver Terry McLaurin and rookie running back Antonio Gibson, and their offensive line is looking better than expected, but aren’t going to go far with the style and play of this offense. The Thanksgiving game between Washington and Dallas will be very critical, as Washington can take the tiebreaker over Dallas with a win. 

Finally, Philadelphia is terrible, starting with QB Carson Wentz. He currently leads the league in interceptions and is making head-scratching mistakes game after game. Ever since that ACL injury, Wentz has been trending downward and could crash down to the point of no return. Carson is not the only one to blame, though. The coaching staff has regressed, and Head Coach Doug Pederson should be fired this offseason. Veterans like Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Mills are on the decline. The Eagles are a dumpster fire and could very well lose out and only win 3 games this season, as they have the toughest remaining schedule in the division. 

This division is all-around terrible, and we might see the worst division winner of all time. The worst record that a playoff team has ever recorded is 7-9 (Seahawks, 2010), and it is hard for me to envision an NFC East team even getting to 7 wins. It is crazy to think that one of these teams is going to host a playoff game. I do see this division coming down to the very last game, however, and that game would be Week 17: Cowboys @ Giants, a winner-take-all game to decide the division. One thing we can all agree on is that the team that makes the playoffs will not go far, and all of these teams have to make major changes this offseason. 

The Impact of Cam Newton to New England

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

Wow, did Bill Belichick just outsmart the entire NFL again or what? I mean, think about it, he waited for Cam Newton’s value to deteriorate (due to the lack of interest) just enough to the point where he could sign Newton to the league-minimum deal of $550K in guaranteed money (base salary is $1.05M with incentives it goes up to $7.5 million). If this is not the greatest free agency scheme Belichick has ever pulled off, then I do not know what is. All the talk about Belichick being content with Jarrett Stidham at QB, and potentially even tanking for Trevor Lawrence in the upcoming draft, has been put to bed in the most Belichick-way possible, by signing a former MVP to replace another former MVP. Now, we all know that Tom Brady is the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time, but replacing him at age 42 with a healthy Cam Newton who still has got some prime years left in him, is not a downgrade at all, and if it does not work out or Belichick simply likes the team but sees a different vision beyond Cam Newton, then Belichick can let him walk, and Cam can get a bag elsewhere, the same way guys like Teddy Bridgewater did this past offseason, and Case Keenum did in 2018. Now for the big question, which is what we predict will happen in Cam’s first season in a Patriots uniform.

The Rejuvenation of SuperCam by Saransh Sharma

If there is any player who played at an MVP and near-Super Bowl winning level that I would trust to return to that form after years of injuries and being doubted, it is Cam Newton. The chip on his shoulder has been there ever since he was brought into Auburn after being suspended at Florida for stealing a laptop, which led to him being kicked out of the school, going to JuCo, and then coming back to Auburn a whole different player, winning the Heisman, becoming a National Champion, and getting drafted first overall to the Carolina Panthers in 2011, a team that had not achieved any real success since 2002 when they went to the Super Bowl and choked against 2nd-year QB Brady and the Patriots. Newton quickly established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, making a Pro Bowl as a rookie, and running away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He later went on to make multiple playoff appearances, and then in the 2015 season, went to the Super Bowl, and took a lot of criticism for his play and his press conference responses. Newton’s season in 2016 was cut short due to injury, but had a very successful 2017, only for that to end, and then injuries to hamper him the last 2 seasons. But still, the last healthy version of Cam we saw took his team to the playoffs, threw for over 3300 yards and had 28 total touchdowns. Now, with a better offensive line than he had in New England, an all-time great head coach, and having a chance at rejuvenation, Cam Newton is in the best shape of his life and looking to prove everyone wrong.

The Patriots receiving core still is not the best, but you also have to realize how unhealthy they were last season, which led to sloppy, inconsistent play from the players who were able to stay healthy. Edelman led the league in drops with 13, Mohamed Sanu was only with New England for 8 games due to being traded midseason, and due to a nagging injury, did not see the field or targets very often, first-round pick N’Keal Harry only played 7 games with injury, and rookie Jakobi Meyers only started one game, which a 13-9 win against Dallas in Week 9. And do not forget that they never had a consistent tight end option or running game due to injuries, and they had Antonio Brown, Demariyus Thomas, and Josh Gordon at one point, who all got released or traded (Thomas). New England just did not have anything on offense consistently to be a contender, thus their Wild Card game loss. With Newton, they now bring a healthy and more balanced offense. The team is honestly very similar to that of Carolina when they went to the Super Bowl, where they had a big-bodied receiver (Sanu), other good receivers who can play outside and in the slot (Edelman and Harry), a check-down option (White), and a power running back (Michel), and an elite defense to help out. That being said, it is not as good of a receiving core and offense as that in Carolina, more of a ‘Great Value’ version of it, if you will. I think Newton has a chance to show flashes of his MVP form with the similarities in the offense’s structure, but mostly be his 2013-self, where he first showed he could be an elite QB, and there is no better Offensive Coordinator than Josh McDaniels to help lead him.

As for how the team will do, New England should win the division, and I believe Newton will do a great job of leading the team, but I do not anticipate them winning more than 10 games. New England will go 10-6 and hold the tiebreaker over Buffalo to win the division, locking them up with the 3-seed in the AFC. A matchup with a tough Steelers or Chargers team is my prediction, but I think that both teams, due to their elite defenses, will slow the passing attack down, and there simply will not be enough that Newton can do to lead his team to victory, so the season will end at the Wild Card. 

As for his free agency, being on a 1-year deal at the moment, it is up to Belichick to decide what the next move with Cam is. I think that Cam will actually go elsewhere to a younger, more QB-needy team, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could be seeing the last of Ben Roethlisberger, but have an exciting and young roster around him, and an elite defense. Also look out for Cleveland and Oakland, other exciting and young teams who, if they choose Newton over their current QBs, would become contenders and could see an infusion of a veteran presence comforting for them.

Can Cam Avoid His Kryptonite, The Injuries? by Rohan Krishnan

To start off, I am definitely a fan of this move by the Patriots. Adding a player at a cheap price to an important position is a very smart decision and this is the perfect example of a low risk high reward move. Cam Newton is indeed 0-8 in his last eight starts, but he was playing with an injured shoulder. When Cam was healthy, he was a very respectable quarterback. From Weeks 1-9 in 2018 when healthy, Newton averaged 236 passing yards per game, totaled 15 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. Furthermore, Cam was a beast in the running game by leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards (342) and touchdowns (4). 

Signing Newton, a former MVP, is very exciting for the whole Patriots fan base, but I would not say it is a lock that he would start just yet. He has dealt with a lisfranc injury which is very annoying to deal with. He also needs to show up to camp healthy and prove to the coaches that he can still play. This is why the Patriots gave him a very cheap contract because Newton needs to prove himself. If everything goes well in training camp for Cam, I think he would have a very solid comeback season in New England. I do not think he will return to MVP form, but he is capable of playing like a top 12 quarterback in the league. Even though the Patriots lost Tom Brady, they still have an elite coaching staff that could bring out the best out of Cam’s skillset. Josh McDaniels is a fantastic offensive coordinator, and we all know how big of a mastermind Bill Belichick is. I think Newton will prove all of the doubters wrong this season and New England will find a way to continue their playoff streak. I have the Buffalo Bills winning the division even with the Newton signing, but I predict New England will sneak in as a wild-card team. I don’t have them going far in the postseason as I have them losing in the first round, however the Patriots will stay as a competitive squad. 

Can Cam Newton Pave His Road to Glory in Foxborough? By Pranav Thiriveedhi

As everyone already knows, the Patriots recently signed Cam Newton, former Auburn Legend and NFL MVP, to replace Tom Brady, who was arguably the greatest football player to ever play. This move by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots was spectacular! Being able to grab an amazing NFL QB to replace Tom Brady was an awesome move to keep the Patriots “Super” Era still afloat. Before Cam’s entry into New England, QB Jarrett Stidham, was poised to start for the Patriots and was expected to produce some great work for them to either give the Pats the 1 or 2 seed in the AFC East, which would really be amazing after the biggest loss to the team in franchise history. But now, with Cam Newton under center, the Patriots really have a chance to get back into the driver seat and hold that position as AFC champ for a little more time. 

Obviously, this only makes sense if Cam stays healthy, and plays at a level he did when he took the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl just a few years ago. It’s hard to write about health because that obviously is determined in the game, but what we can talk about is Cam’s playing level on the field. I am not going to lie, but I can see Cam Newton having his best season yet if all goes well. The former Heisman Trophy winner has the best receiving core he has ever played with for the next season, with receivers like Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Mohammad Sanu. I don’t think he has played on a team with that many great receivers. Cam Newton also has a little bit of the Christian McCaffrey energy in the form of James White (no argument there) and Sony Michel, who is really showing he can be a brilliant member of the New England Patriots. The Patriots have also given Cam Newton an advantage in the always underrated Offensive Line, a line that always has been sitting in the top 10 in the league for a long, long time. Carolina really didn’t give that opportunity to Cam, which means we never saw Cam Newton perform with more time, something Tom Brady has had the pleasure of having almost his whole career. 

Now with legendary coach Bill Belichick, an amazing offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels, an awesome receiving core with two running backs that play in all parts of the field, and a top 10 Offensive Line, the Patriots and Cam Newton can really do something next year. I predict that the Patriots will easily get that above 10 wins season and will lock up the AFC East with the 1st seed. They, along with a healthy Cam Newton, will also make a big run in the playoffs, and maybe even have a shot (not a guarantee) at capturing the Super Bowl. 

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice, as well as everything else going on. With so much going on, it is very hard to keep up with it all, but it is still important to educate yourself, so please feel free to use all of these resources to help you out:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

http://issuesintheworld.carrd.co/

NFL Draft 2020: What to Watch For This Weekend

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFL Draft will commence Thursday, but instead of in the Fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it is online. Never thought I would be saying those words in my lifetime. Anyways, this year’s draft presents a lot of compelling storylines, such as finding quarterbacks that could be Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s successor, the Justin Herbert and Tua debate, Chase Young to the Redskins, and the plethora of veterans that could be traded for draft picks. Here are the storylines to watch out for in this year’s NFL Draft:

Saransh’s Storyline: Herbert or Tua? Who’s the First QB After Joe Burrow?

Joe Burrow being the Number 1 overall pick is something that has been established for quite a while now, but the quarterback contention after him is what really gets interesting. Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama was the obvious Number 1 overall choice until Joe Burrow and LSU beat them back in November, and then Tua’s chances were completely thrown out the window when he hurt his hip and his season was over for good. Since then, Tua has been fully recovered since February, and had been doing workouts and drills with teams, and was at the Combine. Despite that, scouts and analysts, including myself, still wonder how he will be able to prevent another major injury that could derail his career, as this one nearly did.

The other big-name quarterback heading into this year’s draft is Justin Herbert out of Oregon, whom many thought would have entered the draft last year and could have been a first-round pick. He has now upped his stock and could potentially be a top-5 pick in the draft. While he could not lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he led them to a Pac-12 Championship victory, as well as a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Having had his best season yet as a college quarterback and winning so many big games after a very rough season for the team the year prior, that along with his Combine and Pro Day showings are having people put Herbert ahead of Tua in their draft boards.

In the top 6 picks of this draft, 3 teams, those being the Detroit Lions at Number 3, the Miami Dolphins at Number 5, and the LA Chargers at Number 6, they all need a quarterback, and Herbert and Tua will be the first guys looked at. While I believe the reports that the Lions are trading down and believe they will trade down, I see Herbert going first over Tua, and going to South Beach and quarterbacking the Dolphins and their young yet exciting offense for the next few years, and Tua going to LA. If the Lions do not trade, however, I expect Herbert in Detroit, Tua in Miami, and then Jordan Love in LA, although speaking of Love, the soft-spoken quarterback of Utah State is someone worth mentioning in this conversation. Love could potentially go higher than both Herbert and Tua, but he could also end up as a late first-rounder, or even early second-rounder, depending on how teams judge him, much like Josh Allen did in 2018, going to the Bills, yet many even thought he could surpass Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and go first in the draft. Keep an eye out for Love, but Tua and Herbert will be the ones getting all the attention.

Rohan’s Storyline: Where Will Trent Williams Finally Be Traded to and What For?

Trent Williams has still yet to be traded by the Redskins despite publicly demanding a trade in late March, but it could happen in this year’s draft. NBC’s Peter King recently reported that Trent Williams is the most likely player to get traded during the draft. Even though the Trent Williams holdout saga has been going on since June of last year, the Redskins still hold all of the leverage in a potential trade. Under the new CBA, if Trent sits out another year, he will not be able to enter free agency and remain a Redskin. He can either play this upcoming season and show his worth, or sit out and incur a ton of fines. Furthermore, Trent is an All-Pro Left Tackle and is still one of the best offensive lineman in the league, so Washington can still get a decent return. Now, which teams in the league make the most sense to acquire Williams? I am going to go with the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Minnesota Vikings, with Cleveland being the most likely destination. 

ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted this morning that Trent Williams is “still on the table” for Cleveland. If the Browns miss out on or elect to not draft one of the top tackles who include Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills and Andrew Thomas, then I think this significantly boosts the chances of a deal that sends Trent to Cleveland. Baker Mayfield took 40 sacks in 2019, and adding a top tier tackle would shore up the left side of the line for the Browns. The Browns also have offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who worked with Trent his whole career in Washington. I predict the Browns will trade for Trent since they have been the team showing interest for a while now, but as mentioned Los Angeles and Minnesota could trade for him too. I expect the Redskins to start fielding calls after the top 4 tackles in this draft are taken. JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington reported that the Redskins will only trade him for a package of comparable value, but what would that package consist of? I think they are asking for at least a 2nd-rounder, but at this point it seems at least a 3rd-round pick is more reasonable. If a trade with Cleveland were to happen, my prediction is that Washington will receive Pick #74 (3rd-rounder) and Pick #187 (6th-rounder) in this year’s draft. 

Pranav’s Storyline: Should New England Stick with Stidham, or Find a New QB?

Tom Brady leaving New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest storyline of the offseason, leaving the Patriots with a huge problem: filling Brady’s shoes. After a 20 year run, Bill Belichick has to look for a new quarterback in a league with not many options. During the Brady era in New England, the coaching staff had great quarterbacks on the roster to help out when Brady was unavailable, from the 2009 season with Matt Cassel who went 10-6 (somehow missing the playoffs), to the 2016 season where Brady’s suspension from the year before came into effect, giving both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett the opportunity to perform for New England. Both quarterbacks played well under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s coaching scheme, but due to the threat that they would likely take Brady’s spot as a starter later, owner Robert Kraft shipped them out to other teams. 

The 2020 Patriots are now left with Jarrett Stidham, a young quarterback from LSU, who showed promising features through various training camp meetings, practices, and mostly during the pre season games. The Patriots also hold 12 draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft (4 compensatory picks), including the 23rd pick. Since this draft has only a few stellar quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert), who will be taken very early, the New England Patriots would be left with quarterback picks like Jordan Love, who is an above average quarterback from Utah State. If I was Bill Belichick, I would put my money on Jarrett Stidham, giving him a year under center, and letting the first round pick in the draft go to another position in need, such as safety or defensive end. The Patriots have had a lot of success in trusting a no name quarterback to lead the team in the most difficult situations, so maybe Stidham can outperform initial expectations and prove that he was the right choice. You never know, Jarrett Stidham could be the next Tom Brady…  

 

How Will Coronavirus Affect the Sporting World and its Fans?

The current pandemic of coronavirus that has occurred has truly changed the future of sports as we see it for 2020 and beyond. The NBA decided to have a hiatus after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, which then led to many NCAA Conference tournaments being cancelled, which led to March Madness being cancelled. Then, the MLB had their season start postponed for at least 2 weeks, and the MLS has been shut down for at least 30 days. Around the world, the Premier League has been shut down until April after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Coronavirus. The Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Champions League, Europa League, and all country-run tournaments have been shut down until April. Not only has the sports world been affected, but the real world as well. Currently, many of the States in the US have gone into States of Emergencies, colleges are online for the rest of the semester, and in places like Italy, you cannot leave your house unless for an emergency. Here is what the effects of what has transpired will be, and what more we can expect to happen, not just in our country, but throughout the world:

Did NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Save Sports As We Currently See It?

I do not believe many people would have thought that sports being shut down in the United States was even imaginable if it were not for Adam Silver having suspended the NBA. The important thing to realize is that Adam Silver did the best thing possible by suspending the NBA season. The importance of keeping the players, coaches, front office, team staff, media, and fans safe is far more important than the remaining 20+ regular season games plus playoffs. Not only did Silver suspend the season, but he already came up with a plan for how players and teams must react over the ‘minimum of 30 days’ hiatus.

The reason why it is important to note how important this gesture was by Adam Silver is the fact that every major league in our country followed suit. The NCAA Conferences cancelled their basketball tournaments and all other sporting tournaments, as did the NCAA with March Madness and their championships, the MLB postponed their start by at least 2 weeks, the MLS and NHL shut down for a month, and the NFL, while their season is over, is discussing ways to change the NFL Draft. Also, multiple tennis tournaments supposed to happen in the US have been cancelled, and now even the French Open, and The Masters’ have been postponed.

Did Rudy Gobert Also Contribute to Saving Sports Now?

I know a lot of people have been giving Gobert a lot of hate for how he handled the situation and for originally taking the whole notion of Coronavirus and social distancing as a joke, but he has since owned up to it, made public statements, and donated money in order to let people know that this is very serious indeed. But if GObert did not get Coronavirus, Silver wouldn’t have suspended the NBA season and no leagues would have followed (at least in the United States). So, indirectly, Rudy Gobert did help out with that. But this should be a lesson to everyone to practice social distancing, keep your hands to your own belongings, and if you do touch someone else’s belongings, to wash your hands and clean the things that you use frequently.

Will and When Will the 2020 Olympics Happen?

Honestly, while I do think the Olympics will happen, the question is of when. There is currently talk of many Olympic qualifiers being cancelled (not even postponed), such as the 2020 Euros and Copa America for soccer now happening in 2021. As of this past week, the Olympics are scheduled to go on as scheduled, but the talk of postponing them is very serious. Honestly, I think the best option is to hold the Olympics in 2021 after all the qualifiers which are now getting postponed to 2021 are happening.

How Would the NFL Draft Take Place?

So, before the outbreak of coronavirus, the NFL Draft was set to take place in Las Vegas at the Fountains of Bellagio, but now no one seems to know what is going to be the alternative option. Players and families will definitely be asked to stay home, and the NFL has already said there will be no fans present. I am not really sure what the NFL is going to do about it, but I have seen that they are discussing what to do, as they have already indefinitely cancelled OTAs and free agency visits.

How Do College Athletes Get Affected?

The NCAA had announced a few days back that all spring sports players are getting what is called a ‘Redshirt Corona Year’ (not the official name, but it is the name that spring sports athletes used in order to plead for this to be taken into effect), meaning that now all spring sports athletes will have an additional year of eligibility, and that this lost year will not affect them. So, while academically they can move on, athletically their eligibility will not be affected.

When Will the NBA Come Back, and Will the NFL Be Affected?

The current talks are that the NBA could come back around July and end in August, but whether this means that the regular season will continue or not remains to be seen. NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie suggested that we have a 28-team tournament in replacement of the NBA Playoffs, almost as if we are making the NBA Playoffs like March Madness, and the NBA is taking that into consideration. On a more serious note, the NBA is discussing permanently starting the season on Christmas Day, as they did during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. That season ended like regular in June and the regular season was cut down to 66 games. Whether or not that is the new format of the regular season remains to be seen, but how this season plays out is so vital to the future of the NBA.

As for the NFL, with OTAs now cancelled, the talk of training camp being cancelled as well and going straight into preseason is a very real possibility. Assuming that the statement made from the White House that the Coronavirus lasts until July or August, training camp would be cancelled, and the NFL would have either have the choice of going straight to preseason or skip preseason and go into training camp in order to avoid player injury. With the new 14-team playoff being put into effect this upcoming season, avoiding player injury is more vital than ever, and with a 17-game regular season starting as soon as 2021, this coming season could be a way to see how shortened or no preseason would work out.

A General PSA

As I am writing this, I am currently at home with my family doing my best to practice social distancing and preventing the spread of Coronavirus. This virus is very scary, so I highly encourage everyone to please stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. With many grade school and college students now finishing the rest of their semesters at home, and with many people working their jobs from home, it is imperative that we realize the seriousness of this. Sure, there are times when we will need to go out places and see people and go study or work, but health always comes first. So please, I encourage everyone reading this to please wash your hands constantly, practice best health and hygiene, practice social distancing, try to avoid big gatherings and going traveling or eating out, and most importantly, realize that this isn’t a joke and that we can go on with life, even though these tough times are upon us.

2020 College Football National Championship: ‘Geaux Tigahs’ or ‘Go Tigers’

Coach O vs. Coach Swinney. Burrow vs. Lawrence. Stingley vs. Higgins. ‘Tigahs’ vs. Tigers. This is LSU vs. Clemson. This is the College Football Playoff National Championship that will kick off the new decade. This game has Instant Classic written all over it. In what could go down as the best College Football Playoff ever, with 3 of the 4 teams having come in undefeated, the top 2 offenses (LSU and Clemson) and defenses (Ohio State and Clemson) in the nation featured, and 3 of the 4 best coaches in the game right now (Coach O, Swinney, and Lincoln Riley). It is only fitting that the way this season ends, is with the best matchup possible at every position, coach, stat, you name it. Here is how this heavyweight matchup will be won:

#1 LSU vs. #3 Clemson: Jan 13th, 8:30PM, ESPN/ABC

To win or not to win is the question with two undefeated teams remaining going into the National Championship, the first time that two 14-0 teams have ever met in the College Football National Championship. Since the inception of the Playoff, the higher-ranked team has never won the championship, and Clemson vs. Alabama has been the most frequent matchup. This year, Clemson goes to play a different top dog in the SEC in LSU, and a transcendent talent like no other.

While many people thought that Trevor Lawrence could be the next transcendent QB talent, it was Joe Burrow who stepped into the spotlight after transferring this year from Ohio State to LSU. Burrow’s pocket presence, throwing on the run, accuracy, poise, and winning attitude caught the eyes of many, as he has beaten at the time top-10 teams in Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. If he were to win this National Championship, he and LSU would have beaten 7 Top-10 teams in the Nation in one season, the most ever in College Football history in one season. All these traits and wins led him to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, and now he is on pace to be the most obvious Number 1 pick in the NFL since Jadeveon Clowney in 2014 when the Houston Texans drafted him. Burrow in the semifinal against Oklahoma had 403 yards passing and 7 TDs at halftime, 8 in total, 4 of them to Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase added 2 more. Oh, and starting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire got shut down after the first half and they still put up 63 points. Don’t be surprised if they put up 50 on Clemson.

Clemson, on the other hand, had a much tougher matchup against the 3rdundefeated team in the playoff in Ohio State. Looking very lost and lifeless while down 16-7, Trevor Lawrence slid awkwardly and had a helmet-to-neck collision with an Ohio State defender which was called targeting. Lawrence looked gimpy but only sat out one play, and that play ended up being a 67-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to bring Clemson right back in it. The rest of the game ended up being a classic, but the determination from Trevor Lawrence, the big plays down the stretch by Travis Etienne, having Tee Higgins healthy for the right moments (him and Justyn Ross’s health will be key to the Championship Game), and the interception to seal it by Nolan Turner were key. At the end of the day, Dabo Swinney did what he does best, outcoach the opposing coach.

So, the big question rising is, can Dabo outcoach Coach O? Well, yeah, he could outcoach him, but the way LSU has played this year, is outcoaching Coach O enough for you to beat LSU? One thing you have to realize is that LSU has only scored under 35 once, and that was against Auburn. In that game, Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn outcoached Coach O, but then Coach O got LSU’s offense to turn on the jets in the second half with a heavy dose of read option between Edwards-Helaire and Burrow, and once Auburn got down, they couldn’t come back. If Clemson wants to have a chance against LSU, it has to be the players on the field, not the coaches, who find their way to sustain the lead, if they get one. I think Clemson could get off to a hot start, but LSU won’t be slowed down long enough to not win this game. Coach O will have the whole nation saying ‘Geaux Tigahs’. Prediction: 51-41, LSU.

2019-20 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The New Year’s Eve fireworks will be arriving a little earlier this year, as the College Football Playoff Semifinals get set to kick off this Saturday. Clemson and Oklahoma return to the stage with Clemson being the defending champion, and Oklahoma returning for the 3rdconsecutive year. This year, however, LSU enters the playoff for the first time and dethrones their SEC counterpart in Alabama, and Ohio State returns to the place they thought they should have been last year. This year also features a new feat, where 3 transfer quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to LSU; Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma; and Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State), are leading their teams into the College Football Playoff. So, will it be a transfer quarterback leading their team to a championship, or will Trevor Lawrence lead Clemson to a repeat?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU, 4PM EST, ESPN

The first game to kick off the playoff will be the battle of the Heisman winner and runner-up, Burrow and Hurts. This will be Hurts’ fourth time in the College Football Playoff (technically his third since he was backup and did not play last year, but it is his 4thsince he was with Alabama the past 3 years), with his 7thOffensive Coordinator (he had 5 different coordinators at Alabama and two Co-Offensive Coordinators at Oklahoma), coming off his third Conference Championship win. In terms of winning, overcoming adversity, and constantly playing the underdog role, Jalen Hurts might be the most decorated college football player ever. He is the true definition of a winner. While many scouts believe he is not the most NFL-ready QB, he certainly deserves the shot to be a starter on an NFL team come next season after he is drafted.

On the other side is Joe Burrow, Heisman-winning QB who has broken every SEC passing record in the book by a healthy margin, will be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals come April, and will lead the heavily-favored LSU into the Peach Bowl as the #1 team in the country. But things didn’t come that easy for Burrow. Burrow in 2017 was part of the Ohio State College Football Playoff team, where he played backup behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. At the time, not many people knew who he was, as he was a 3rd-string QB who had been redshirted. In 2018, Ohio State looked to life after Barrett, and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer, chose Dwayne Haskins well before the season began, leading Burrow to go into the transfer process, where LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron, served him to a lobster dinner and got him. Burrow last season led a struggling LSU offense that could barely put up 27 points in a game. This year, under new Offensive Coordinator Joe Barry, he leads the nation’s #1 offense, and has two 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, and a 1,000+ rusher in Clyde-Edwards Helaire (whom he may not have on Saturday due to injury). The transcendence of Burrow has been one of the most unexpected, but the story is incredible.

Now, to the game. Oklahoma’s wide receiving core, led by CeeDee Lamb, who is regarded by many including me as the best receiver in college football and the upcoming NFL Draft, will cause problems for Derek Stingley and Grant Delpit, the best cornerback and safety in the country, respectively. His speed and quickness is almost Tyreek Hill-like, as he has the ability to take any pass to the house. The problem here for Oklahoma’s offense come with the running backs, who will be led by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks is getting the starting nod after Trey Sermon had a season-ending injury midseason against Iowa State, and after Rhamandore Stevenson was one of 3 Sooners players suspended for failed drug tests. Brooks is a great back, but not good enough to lead an already-fringe running game. Hurts will be required to put his head down and run with the ball himself quite a bit, which, as great of a runner as he is, is exactly what LSU wants, is for their linebackers to stop the run and not have to worry about helping out too much in the passing game.

For LSU, the running game will most likely feature Edwards-Helaire (according to Coach O), but even if they don’t have him available, the three backup running backs have had healthy doses of experience in the offense this season and have been very effective in scoring touchdowns, with 9 TDs between the 3 of them. As far as defenses, don’t expect too much of it, this will be a high-scoring game. But as I said earlier, the lack of ability to keep pace could haunt them, much it did for Oklahoma the past few years. Oklahoma is too thin in the run game, and does not have enough talent in the secondary to stop the core of Chase, Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and Terrace Marshall. Prediction: 49-41, LSU

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State, 8PM ET, ESPN

The defending champion Clemson Tigers find themselves playing in a playoff game rematch once again, but not against Alabama this time. Clemson instead is squaring off against Ohio State this year, the team with the nation’s best defense and best defensive player in Chase Young. Clemson has been decimated by the media the entire year for having an incredibly weak schedule for an elite Power 5 conference team, yet that criticism hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Coach Dabo Swinney has kept his mouth out of the media trap and instead focused on the field and players and looks to go for back-to-back 15-0 seasons. Trevor Lawrence has had a down year but really picked up last year’s form towards the end of the season, Travis Etienne keeps showing why he could be the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Brett Venables-led defense keeps feasting on opposing offenses.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been Top 2 in the rankings ever since they went into Madison, Wisconsin and won 48-0 on Saturday Night Football back in October. Their electric defense has helped them sport a ball-control oriented offense that is run-first behind JK Dobbins and then uses a lot of 5-wide Spread to pass the ball out of with Justin Fields, a transfer QB from Georgia (Georgia is probably regretting benching him for Jake Fromm, which prompted Fields’ transfer request). Speaking of Fields, another Heisman finalist who has defied odds, he is coming into this game nursing a knee injury he suffered against Michigan back at the end of November, and it hasn’t shown too much improvement since. Fields had a great one-legged performance in the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin in their 14-point comeback win, however, and despite the knee, looked good for most of the game. Much like in that game, Ohio State will use Dobbins on early downs, and then look towards their Fields and their receivers, such as KJ Hill Jr. and Chris Olave to make plays downfield.

This game comes down to running back play, Dobbins vs. Etienne. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage better in this one will win the game, as ball control and clock management will be vital. Clemson often goes for this approach in semifinal games, and. Ohio State will need to use this in order to keep Fields healthy, because unlike in 2017, they do not have a Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow-type guy on their bench that can come in and perform on the big stage. While on paper this matchup would favor Clemson, the Chase Young-led pass rush might be too much for Lawrence and could force him into throwing interceptions, something he has done often this season compared to last. Predcition: 34-31, Ohio State

NFL Mock Draft 1.1: 1st 10 picks

I did a mock draft after week 9, but that was a bit to early to make some predictions. Here is NFL Mock Draft 1.1 (with the 1st 10 picks). The draft is from April 25th-27th.

1st Pick: Kansas City Chiefs, Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan;

He is the best option because of the weak O-Line that he has. If they don’t draft him, Alex Smith and the Chiefs will give their fans a hard time to breath.

2nd pick: Jacksonville Jaguars, Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon;

Sharrif Floyd is an option, but he just is not as aggressive as Dion Jordan. I’m a huge Stanford fan, so I watch Stanford-Oregon every single year. Jordan just impresses me so much by the fact that he is the 1st one to hit the QB, EVERY SINGLE TIME DOWN THE FIELD. He is the ideal fit for a terrible D.

3rd pick: Oakland Raiders, Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida;

Floyd is the perfect pick because he brings a lot of help to DT Richard Seymour.

4th pick: Philadelphia Eagles, Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia;

Smith is a QB that all fans enjoy. Also, Mike Vick seems like a wierdo that can just throw INTs, and seems a little like Tebow, a lefty that just can’t complete a pass. He threw 8 TDs, and 656 yards in a 70-63 win over Baylor, so Eagles fans, start chanting “GENO SMITH!” when it’s time for the Eagles to make a pick in the draft

5th pick: Detroit Lions, Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M;

With Joeckel protecting Stafford, the Lions could repeat their 2011-2012 playoff run.

6th pick: Cleveland Browns, Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama;

Man, Milliner can be a lockdown D-fender (defender). He is the perfect way for the Browns to fill in their D and add on with CB Joe Haden.

7th pick: Arizona Cardinals, Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma;

Johnson can protect his QB as well as he protected Landry Jones.

8th pick: Buffalo Bills, Jonathan Cooper, OG, UNC;

Cooper will be a great fit because of his speed, and blocking ability. He also bring a lot of strong D to the Bills (not to mention he’s 6’2”, 311 lbs).

9th pick: NY Jets, Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia;

Jones is a great player, breaking many Georgia records and SEC records. He will help one of the worst D’s from last year, and turn them into one of the most intimidating.

10th pick: Tennessee Titans, Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah, BYU;

Ansah only had 4.5 sacks last season, but that’s not the case here. What makes him intimidating is that he’s a 6’5”, 271 lbs linebacker who has huge hands and arms.