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2012 Boston Red Sox: Beantown is burning

Hosted by Akiem Balium- Host of 10 Minutes on the Clock on The Real Sports Talk Network, and Blogger for TRST’s the Sports Realist. Follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem

The calendars still say September 2011 in Red Sox Nation.

In New England, everyone still seems to be acting like it. It’s fresh in every one of our memories how the story of the 2011 Boston Red Sox ended. They were 13 ½ games up on the Tampa Bay Rays & a sheer lock for the American League Wild Card. And they were a favorite in the American League to get back to the World Series in 2011.

Then, came September.

One of Green Day’s popular hits is “Wake Me When September Ends”. If any in Red Sox nationwere sleeping throughout last September, they wouldn’t  believe the result. Los Calcetines Rojos had blown that 13 ½ game lead to the Rays on the last day of the regular season, resulting in sheer heartbreak for their fans.

I wonder how much that song was requested by Red Sox fans on the many rock radio stations in Boston throughout that month…

For many in Boston & throughout the New England region, it was an unwelcome flashback of what their team was known for prior to breaking their Curse in 2004 with a World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.

That year,of course, the Sawx had some company when it came to late-seasons collapses. The Atlanta Braves also coughed up a huge Wild Card lead only to lose that to the eventual World Series champion Redbirds from the Lou.

But, the Braves’ late season collapse didn’t result in the circus-like atmosphere Boston experienced with their late-season gak-job.

It was later documented by Major League Baseball in the brilliant program “Game 162”, but their highest ratings probably come out of Central Florida & St. Louis, not New England.

Newspapers later spilled the beans on what was going down with the City of Beans’ baseball team. It turns out that Boston’s players like Jon Lester, Josh Beckett & others were seen heavily drinking beer & eating fried chicken during games in the Red Sox clubhouse.

I’ve  never drank beer even though I’m past drinking age (22). I love fried chicken, but I know eating it & strenuous activity like playing baseball isn’t the best of winning combinations. But, to play devil’s advocate, given the fetish of MajorLeague Baseball players to sunflower seeds, it could turn out to be par for the course when it comes to baseball clubhouses.

The late-season collapse & chicken-n-beer induced partying at the Fenway clubhouse led to an unraveling at Yawkey Way. Terry Francona was let go. Theo Epstein packed his bags and became president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, by the way, made a typical Cub-like mistake by not hiring Tito as their new skipper after Mike Quade was fired by Epstein.

Terry Francona shouldn’t have just been shown the door the way he was by the Red Sox brass. It really showed the arrogance of baseball owners to begin with, especially Boston’s. Francona should’ve been able to leave on his own terms. He only was the glue that kept the team together as they made history in 2004 & only padded it with a second Commissioner’s Trophy in 2007 over Colorado.

Perhaps, Epstein & Francona saw the coming storm that was about to envelop the Cityof Beans in 2012. Francona became an analyst (and a good one at that) for ESPN. Meanwhile, Boston decided to make a managerial hire that would make New York Mets fans cringe to this day.

It was Bobby Valentine. Bobby V is known as much more of a disciplinarian than the otherwise easy going Francona. Early on, it was seen as a step in the right direction that antics like what happened in the latter part of the 2011 would not be tolerated  under “The Valentine Administration”.

His last name may be Valentine, but it has earned him no love in 2012 from Red Sox players, fans, or the press. The first tipping point was when the Red Sox blew a 9-0 at Fenway on its 100th anniversary to the arch rival Yankeesin the late innings. Then, Valentine stupidly dissed one of the main stalwarts of Boston’s success throughout the 2000’s in Kevin Youkilis. Dustin Pedroia even came to Youk’s side over that of the manager & even fired a broadside himself: “Maybe that works in Japan”. That fire was doused, but only for a short period of time. Youkilis was ultimately traded to the Chicago White Sox,the first of many signs that the soap opera on the diamond that was the Boston Red Sox were giving up on 2012.

Boston was also one of the most injured teams in baseball this season. Josh Beckett complained to reporters one time after it was found out that he was playing around of golf 24 hours prior to a start. He claimed that he deserves some time off. All players do, just not 24 hours before a start (in which he was shelled).

There have also been constant complaints to John Henry, Larry Lucchino, & Ben Cherington about the manager. Henry looks like the only person in the Boston city limits that has given Bobby V a vote of confidence. Reliever Alfredo Aceves has had two run-ins with the manager that we know of. Bobby Valentine seems to already be planning his exit strategy by making numerous appearanceson Michael Kay’s radio on ESPN 98.7 in….New York.

Even David Ortiz, who looked like the most clutch ballplayer in the history of clutch ball players from 2003 to 2007, once questioned if he still wanted to play ball in Boston. He once said that the Red Sox clubhouse was turning into the “hellhole” it was pre-2003/04. Lester & Beckett looked like shells of themselves.

And of course, there was the blockbuster Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers for some leaves from Southern California palm trees & some sand from Redondo Beach.

It is unbelievable to think that a team with a payroll like Boston’s has developed into this, but Valentine’s last managerial job in the majors was with the New York Mets. His only claim to fame with that was being in the 2000 Subway Series vs. the Yankees—which the Bronx Bombers won 4 games to 1.

This season for Boston has become the definition of a sports soap opera. I want to know if NESN or another local Boston TV station is looking for actors throughout New England to play Francona, Papi, Henry, Lucchino, Youk, Valentine, Pedroia, & others. It would be their version of “The Bronx is Burning”—except that was based on the 1977  New York Yankees season that had a happy ending of course.

This whole thing with the Red Sox has occurred because Red Sox management sleazily & arrogantly thought that what happened in September 2011 superseded the successes they had in 2004 & 2007. And, do we have to go back & remember the last time the Sawx won a World Series prior to 2004. It was the most favorite numeral for Yankee fans for a long period of time.

The movement to get Valentine out of Beantown & back at ESPN is so strong, that columns have been written about bringing back Francona (which they really should) while they may decide to go the White Sox route & hire Jason Varitek. Sports area huge thing in Boston & those fans have little tolerance for losing teams. Perhaps, the only thing Red Sox fans can take solace in is that last year’s Red Sox have a great shot to be eclipsed….

….by this year’s Yankees.

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WWE Monday Night Raw is too Damn Long!!!

Hosted by Denton Day-TRST WWE Analyst

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Urlacher ready to go for Week 1

By Tim Kelly-Editor, Host, and Founder of TRST

Follow Tim on Twitter @KashKelly_TRST 

Despite reoccurring issues with his left knee, when the Bears host Andrew Luck and Colts Sunday, Brian Urlacher will be starting at the middle linebacker spot.

Urlacher said Sunday that despite the fact “that his left knee will likely never be the same, it is a done deal that he will be out on the field week one.”

Despite the fact that injuries have set Urlacher back over the past few seasons, when he has been out on the field Brian has been one of the best inside Linebackers in the game, as show by his 103 tackles and three picks last season.

While rumors have surfaced of Urlacher having secret knee procedures, it appears he currently is as healthy as can get as the Bears head into a season with high expectations. The Bears will have to be careful with how they push Urlacher this year so that he is available late in the season, and hopefully in the playoffs.

Maybe taking a break from his unwatchable/unlistenable XFinity commercials will help to preserve his knee…

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Replacement Refs, Strasburg, Lurie/Reid, Colangelo & USA Basketball-10 Minutes on the Clock 9/1/12

Hosted by Akiem Balium- Host of 10 Minutes on the Clock on The Real Sports Talk Network, and Blogger for TRST’s the Sports Realist. Follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem

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Could 2012 Be the Year of the Controversial Call?

By Akiem Balium- Host of 10 Minutes on the Clock on The Real Sports Talk Network, and Blogger for TRST’s the Sports Realist. Follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem

Remember last year when the NFL was engaged in a battle of wits with the NFL’s Players Association over the terms of a new CBA that led to a lockout that nearly threatened the start of the preseason? Of course, eventually, a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement was reached & the Players and League won’t be doing this dance for presumably the next decade.

What didn’t get covered much during the offseason was that the league is engaged in yet another collective bargaining tango—this time with its referees. While the USA was fixated on all-things NBA and Olympics, the league was dealing with this problem and still is. The refs have said on numerous occasions that they want to negotiate. Recently, the NFL announced that the replacement officials we have seen a lot of during this preseason shall indeed be present for Week 1 of the NFL season.

This can be seen as yet another negotiating ploy on behalf of the league. But what the refs can also do is use this to their advantage. Roger Goodell does not look any better here than he did last year when he and his henchme…uh….owners tried to bully DeMaurice Smith and the players in agreeing to an 18 game regular season.

Officials can have as much influence on NFL games as they do in basketball, soccer, or hockey games because of the common borderline nature of calls & the complexity of the NFL’s rules. There’s a reason why Ed Hochuli goes into great detail when deciding on calls that can go either way.

But this time (and possibly this year) controversial decisions from officials now will be looked at two fold. Of course, we’ll be looking at them from the stand point of how the official got the call wrong. But, every challenge by a coach or critical comment by a player is also a shot at the league itself.

The only good thing that has come out of this snafu is that it has led to the firstfemale referee to officiate an NFL game. But, outside of this landmark achievement, fans, the media, and players are already blowing their respective whistles by calling BS on the commissioner.

The owners don’t know this, but sooner than later they’ll be doing the same thing. Behind closed doors of course as to keep up the image of a united front against the NFLRA, but they’ll be doing so as well. What if the first controversial call happens against…say….the Cowboys and Jerry Jones—on the Thursday Night Football opener at MetLife Stadium vs. the rival Giants. I bet you all of the money he poured into his theme-park of a megapalace in Arlington, Texas that he’ll be spewing four-letter words about the “scab refs” in his office in the greater DFDub.

It tempts me to want to give these referees a chance. After all, there’s a huge difference between the preseason and the real thing. But, the impressive credentials of some of the “scab refs” include that they officiated games…in the Lingerie Football League.

Huh? Come Again!

Those refs are probably more qualified to be photographers for Playboy magazine given what that “league” is all about. The LFL tries to sell us on the idea that they’re “all about football” when in truth it’s only about 25% gridiron. The other 75% is T&A and I say that’s even a conservative estimate. Most of the ladies in the LFL only use it as a platform to enhance their opportunity of landing a major modeling coup. Yeah, Alex Morgan, Lindsey Vonn, and Destinee Hooker did so too. But, at least they’re athletes first and sex symbols second.

Back to the NFL, though. Saying that you have credentials to officiate NFL games becauseyou were in the Lingerie Football League is like saying you have presidential credentials because you served 3 years as a school superintendent. It’s going from Class-A ball into the big leagues overnight and skipping “Go” twice.

With the season only a week away, some will say that any potential embarrassment these officials cause to outcomes of games will be the original zebras’ fault for trying to make the league look bad. But, the longer the owners of the NFL continue to show arrogance as they did with the players for much of last year,they will be the ones to look bad all around.

Even though I’m sure the NFLRA wishes nothing but good luck to the replacement referees for the time (hopefully short, save the female) that they’re calling games in the league’s regular season, they know something. They know that ultimately, one(or a few of them) will blow it one too many times. The NFL will continue to look worse and worse and worse as more bad calls get noticed.

Plus, as we all know, the NFL is a sprint instead of the marathons of baseball and basketball. One blown call can be the difference between postseason & offseason. One blown call can be the difference between a season that didn’t meet expectations and a Super Bowl.

The extremely ironic part about it is even when one of the replacement referees blows a call(and if the preseason is any indication, the first major blown call is only a flea-flicker away), the NFL will still take action against criticism by players and coaches. They’ll still be fined for criticizing the scab refs as they do with the real refs. This would make the league look totally incompetent because then they’d be treating these replacement officials as if they were permanent replacements instead of temporary. Also, these replacement zebras will tell you that even they didn’t ask to be put in this position. Sure, they appreciate the opportunity to call games on this stage and the prestige (celebrity) that comes with it—just not in this unusual fashion.

Let’s face it, even the original referees make mistakes sometimes. We know it and so do they. These referees won’t get every call correct. There are moments like the Immaculate Reception or when the Tuck Rule was invoked in the Patriots/Raiders playoff game a decade ago that make you wonder (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion,of course) if the league would be better off with new officials.

One of my favorite shows on NFL Network is “NFL’s Top 10”. One of their Top 10 seriesfeatures what they ranked as the ten most controversial calls in NFL history. The Tuck Rule & Immaculate Reception are ranked #2 and #1, respectively. If the league doesn’t kiss & make up with its referees soon, Los Angeles (where NFL Network is based) might be adding a game or two from this year to that controversial calls Top 10 .

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TRST Pre-Season College Football Top 25! 5-1!

By Nate Sarmir-TRST College Football Analyst

Follow Nate on Twitter @NaterSarms

Click Here to read 25-21!

Click Here to read 20-16!

Click Here to read 15-11

Click Here to read 10-6

5. Oregon Ducks– The surprising departure of quarterback Darron Thomas (2493yards and 30 touchdowns) was a setback to Oregon’s chances of winning the Pac-12, but the Ducks remain the favorite to win the North Division. Sophomore Bryan Bennett (391 yards and 6 touchdowns) should be Thomas’ replacement, as he showed plentyof promise in limited action last season. Although running back LaMichael James(1646 yards and 17 touchdowns) will be missed, the one-two combination of Kenjon Barner (909 yards and 11 touchdowns) and De’Anthony Thomas (1200 total yards and 16 total touchdowns) will give the backfield plenty of talent in 2012. The defense finished fifth in the Pac-12 in points allowed, but could be even better next season returning 8 starters including All-Conference players: Defensive end Dion Jordan and Free Safety John Boyett. The Ducks have an experienced team,hungry for titles. Projected Record: 11-1

4. Louisiana State University Tigers– The Tigers were easily blown out in the national title game by Alabama, but all is not lost going into 2012. LSU has one of the top returning rosters next season, but it also features a handful of question marks. The offense will have one of the top backfields, Michael Ford (756 yards and 7 touchdowns)and Spencer Ware (707 yards and 8 touchdowns) and offensive lines, including twoAll-Conference offensive tackles Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst, in the nation, butthe Tigers will have to rely on Zach Mettenberger (92 yards and 1 touchdown) to improve the quarterback play. The defense will miss cornerback Morris Claiborne,tackle Michael Brockers, and Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, but this unit shouldstill rank among the nation’s best. The defense returns five startersincluding All-Conference Defensive end Barkevious Mingo and Free Safety Eric Reid, and All-American Defensive end Sam Montgomery. Projected Record: 10-2

 

3. Oklahoma Sooners-The Sooners were one of the favorites to win the national title in 2011,but slipped to a 10-3 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big 12. Althoughit was a disappointing season for Oklahoma, they should finish back in the top10 this year. The offense never recovered after an injury to receiver Ryan Broyles (1157 yards and 10 touchdowns), but the passing attack should be better withan offseason to sort everything out. Dominique Whaley’s (627 yards and 9 touchdowns) return from a broken ankle should help bolster the rushing offense and help totake the pressure off of quarterback Landry Jones (4302 yards and 28 TDs). The defense returns eight starters including All-Conference Cornerback Demontre Hurst. Also the addition of former Arizona coach Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator figures to only help this group get better in 2012. Projected Record: 12-0

2. Alabama Crimson Tide– After claiming the national title, Nick Saban and his coaching staffhave some work to do in order to get this team back to No. 1 by the end of nextseason. The Crimson Tide suffered some key losses on both sides of the ball, but Saban has recruited well and this team should be able to reload by midseason. AJ McCarron (2400 yards and 16 touchdowns) had a breakout performance in the national championship against LSU and will be expected to build upon that game in 2012. Losing Trent Richardson is a huge blow to the offense, but Eddie Lacy (631 yards and seven touchdowns), Kenny Bell (255 yards and 2 TDs), and Jalston Fowler (385 yards and4 TDs) are a capable group. The offensive line is verystrong with four returning starters including All-Conference Offensive GuardChance Warmack and All-American Offensive tackle Barrett Jones. Six startersare gone off the nation’s best defense, which returns five experienced starters including four seniors. The defense will be tested early with games againstArkansas and Michigan in September. Record: 12-0


1. University of Southern California Trojans– If any team is going to end the SEC’s run of dominance, the Trojans are going to be that team. Quarterback Matt Barkley(3528 yards and 39 touchdowns) decided to return for his senior year and will be throwing to one of the top receiving corps in the nation. Also the Trojans added ex-PSU running back Silas Redd (1241 yards and 7 touchdowns) after the sanction fallout at PSU. Replacing offensive tackle Matt Kalil will be one of the biggest question marks for Coach Kiffin.The defense showed improvement last year, but must replace four starters,including all-conference selection defensive end Nick Perry. The defense still has talent though with four All-Conference players: Defensive End Wes Horton,Strongside linebacker Dion Bailey, Cornerback Nickell Robey, and Free Safety T.J. McDonald. The Trojans won’t have the depth of LSU or Alabama, but there’s plenty of talent coming back to Los Angeles for a run at the national title next year, the Trojans return two All-American players and seven All-Conference players for 2012. Record: 12-0 and 2012 NCAA National Champions.

 

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TRST Pre-Season College Football Top 25! 10-6!

By Nate Sarmir-TRST College Football Analyst

Follow Nate on Twitter @NaterSarms

Click Here to read 25-21!

Click Here to read 20-16!

Click Here to read 15-11

10. Arkansas Razorbacks– Arkansas’s offseason started with turmoil, after Head Coach Bobby Petrino was dismissed for a very public affair, the Razorbacks got back to football. As they got back to football, it became very apparent that the Razorbacks are closing in on the reign of Alabama and LSU, and that they will have a good chance to make some noise in the  SEC this year. All-Conference Quarterback Tyler Wilson (3422 yards and 22 TDs)turned down the NFL for another season with the Razorbacks, and the offense will get a boost with the return of running back Knile Davis (1322 yards and 13TDS in 2010) who returns from a leg injury that prevented his participation last season. The running back position will be a battle for Davis though because while he was out  Dennis Johnson was All-SEC last year gaining 670 yards and 3 TDs. The receiving corps must be revamped, but wide receiver Cobi Hamilton (542 yards and 4 TDs) and tight end Chris Gragg (518 yards and 2 TDs) provide a solid foundation to rebuild around. New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes will have his work cut out for him in 2012, as the Razorbacks will be replacing three of their top players; Defensive end Jake Bequette, linebacker Jerry Franklin and safety Tramain Thomas. That taken into consideration, seven starters are returning to the Razorbacks defense. All-Conference punter Dylan Breeding will also stay for his senior year. Projected Record: 10-2

9. South Carolina Gamecocks– After finishing 11-2 and sweeping the SEC East for the first time in school history, Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks look to repeat in 2012. Although Georgia is favorited over the Gamecocks in the SEC East, they will have to battle the Gamecocks in South Carolina. Quarterback Connor Shaw (1218 yards and 12TDs) played well at the end of the season, and the offense will get a boost with running back Marcus Lattimore (818 yards and 10 TDs) returning from a torn ACL. Replacing receiver Alshon Jeffery is the biggest question mark facing the offense in 2012. The Gamecocks will have some stability though with Wide Receiver Ace Sanders (338yards and 2 TDs) and TE Justice Cunningham (142 yards and 1 TD) returning. The Gamecocks finished third nationally in total defense in 2011, but suffered somekey departures, including end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.They return 7 starters including All-Conference Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.The future also looks bright at the QB position with the recruitment of PA Gatorade Player of the year and State Champion Quarterback Brendan Nosovitch. Projected Record: 11-1

8. Michigan Wolverines– With Ohio State ineligible for the Big Ten title, the balance of power in the Big  Ten is clearly resting in the Legends Division. The Wolverines are the early favorites, thanks to the return of quarterback Denard Robinson (2056 yards and 18 TDs) and an improving defense. Coach Brady Hoke’s first year in Ann Arbor was a success, as Michigan won 11 games and played in a BCS game for the first time since the 2007 Rose Bowl. For the Wolverines to crack the top five, Robinson has to cut down on his interceptions (15) and improve his completion percentage (55%). The defense showed big progress under coordinator Greg Mattison, but will be replacing two key starters on the line. The Wolverines will have one of the nation’s best secondaries led by J.T. Floyd. Also middle linebacker Kenny Demens looks to surpass 100 career tackles this year. The Wolverines won’t have an easy schedule next year, as Alabama and Notre Dame await in their non-conference play, while they have conference road games against Ohio State and Nebraska. Projected Record: 10-2

 

7. Florida State Seminoles– This Seminoles did not have the big season most expected in 2011, but the pieces are in place to win the ACC Championship in 2012. And when youconsider the losses at Clemson and Virginia Tech, Florida State becomes an evenbigger favorite to win the ACC. The defense should be among the best in thenation with returning All-Conference players such as Defensive end Brandon Jenkins and Free Safety Lamarcus Joyner, while the young talent on offense should be improved with another offseason to work with quarterback EJ Manuel(2417 yards and 16 TDs) and running back Devonta Freeman (531 yards and 8 TDs).How well this young offensive line can develop will determine just how high Florida State can climb next season.Projected  Record: 9-3

 

6. Georgia Bulldogs-It’s not crazy to think Coach Mark Richt could go from almost losing his job  after a disappointing 2011 to contending for the national title in 2012. The Bulldogs have the pieces to contend for a top-five finish this year, starting with quarterback Aaron Murray(2861 yards and 33 TDs) and a defense that returns nearly everyone including All-Americans OLB Jarvis Jones and FS Bacarri Rambo. Improving the rushing attack, Isaiah Crowell (847 and 5 TDs), was one of the priorities during preseason practices. The offensive line will have to replace two key stalwartsin left tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones. The receiving corps looks solid with the return of starters Malcolm Mitchell (665 yards and 4 TDs)and Tavarres King (705 yards and 8 TDs). Projected Record 11-1

 

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TRST Pre-Season College Football Top 25! 15-11!

By Nate Sarmir-TRST College Football Analyst

Follow Nate on Twitter @NaterSarms

Click Here to read 25-21!

Click Here to read 20-16!

15. Texas Longhorns- The Longhorns aren’t quite the favorites for the Big 12 title, but they are definitely setting themselves up for a run at title in the near future. After a rough couple of years, really since Colt McCoy graduated, Texas appears poised to put themselves back in National landscape in 2012. The defense should impress, as seven starters return. This unit will be led Senior Defensive End Alex Okafor and Junior  Cornerback Carrington Byndom, who were two rare bright spots on the Longhorns in 2011. The offense has to make great strides in 2012 if the Longhorns are to compete for the Big 12 title. While Ash didn’t blow anyone away in the regular season last year with just four touchdowns to eight interceptions,  Ash appears to have earned the No. 1 quarterback spot after his great performance in the Holiday Bowl last year.  Numerous Longhorns offensive coaches, believe that Ash’s made huge strides on his poise in the pocket this offseason. A more poised Ash, should help the Longhorns improve an offense that wasn’t very impressive in 2011. At the running back position, Malcom Brown appears to have emerged as the feature back for the Longhorns heading into 2012.. Annually Texas has a great recruiting class. But to be successful in 2012, the Longhorns need some of their younger players to step-up and take control of the offense if they wish to win big in 2012. Record: 9-3

14. Clemson Tigers- The defending ACC champs are in position to compete for a second straight ACC title. Quarterback Tajh Boyd (3,328yards and 33 TDs) and receiver Sammy Watkins (82 catches, 1219 yards, and 12 TDs),will form one of the top pass-catch combinations in the nation. Running back Andre Ellington (1,062 yards and 10 TDs) looks to, (and should), top 1,000 yards for a second straight season in 2012. While there’s no shortage of weapons in the back field, the Tigers might have some trouble after losing three starters on the offensive line, to graduation.  The defense allowed nearly 400 yards a game in 2011. Defensively many seniors graduated, which leaves the Tigers with a very young defense. Despite great skill position talent, the Tigers won’t successfully be able to defend their ACC  Title because of a young defense and inexperienced offensive line.  Record: 7-5

13. Michigan State Spartans- After back-to-back 11-win seasons, the Spartans look to gain that elusive 12th win and a perfect season in 2012. The Spartans should be the biggest challenger to Michigan in the Big Ten, but they will have to replace star quarterback Kirk Cousins and the team’s top three wide receivers. Andrew Maxwell (171 yards and 1 TD) will replace Cousins and will have two young Wide Receivers ,Tony Lippett (Sophomore) and Bennie Fowler (Junior), as targets. With all the questions surrounding the consistency of the passing attack, look for the offense to lean more on running back Le’Veon Bell (900 yards and 11 TDs) and a strong offensive line that returns four starters. If the Spartans are able to finally get that 12th win, it will likely be because Le’Veon Bell was able to lead the offense, with over 1,000 rushing yards.  Losing defensive tackle Jerel Worthy was a tough blow, but defensive end William Gholston is back after registering 12 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2011. The linebacking corps could be among the best in the nation, with Denicos Allen, Max Bullough and Chris Norman all returning. Their schedule isn’t lacking any exciting games, as Michigan State hosts Boise State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Nebraska in East Lansing, while playing Michigan and Wisconsin on the road. Record 11-1

12. Wisconsin Badgers- There’s a lot of new faces stepping into key positions, not only on the field, but also on the coaching staff for the Badgers in 2012.  The biggest loss is quarterback Russell Wilson, who turned in a terrific senior year and led the Badgers to another Rose Bowl appearance after transferring from NC State. With Wilson departing,the offense will lean on running backs Montee Ball (1759 yards and 32 TDs) and James White (683 yards and 6 TDs). Ball is certainly a Heisman candidate after finishing in the top  five in voting in 2011. However, the offensive line will be replacing three starters. Wilson’s replacement, Joe Brennan, was impressive in preseason camp, but needs to prove himself in a game situation. The defense ranked 15th nationally in yards allowed and mostof the core will return in 2012. Senior Mike Taylor and Junior Chris Borland will form one of the most exciting linebacking duos in the nation as the Badgers look to win the Big Ten. Record 10-2

11. West Virginia Mountaineers- A conference change in 2012 didn’t change the fact that this team will be a factor on the national scene this year. Quarterback Geno Smith (3798 yards and 25 TDs) will lead one of the top passing attacks incollege football, especially with receivers Tavon Austin (1186 yards and 8 TDs), Stedman Bailey (1279 yards and 12 TDs) and Ivan McCartney (585 yards and 3 TDs) returning in 2012. While the passing game shouldn’t be an issue, the rushing attack and offensive line must show improvement. Losing defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel to Arizona was a tough blow for West Virginia’s defense.The bigger question on this defense is whether the Mountaineers can replace Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin, linebacker Najee Goode and cornerback Keith Tandy. Record: 10-2

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L. Armstrong, Sox/Dodgers deal, NHL CBA, Shot Putter Stripped of Gold-10 Minutes on the Clock

By Akiem Balium- Host of 10 Minutes on the Clock on The Real Sports Talk Network, and Blogger for TRST’s the Sports Realist. Follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem

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LeBron James $300 Basketball Shoes my thoughts (Nike LeBron X)

Hosted by Tim Kelly -Host, Owner, and Founder of the Real Sports Talk 

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