We’re not yet halfway through the NHL season, but it’s a good time to look at the playoff contenders at this point. Toronto is one of the favorites after signing John Tavares in the offseason, but is that enough to make a run at the Stanley Cup? We take a look at the Atlantic Division contenders and their status for the 2018 playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
WILL: If Auston Matthews is your fourth highest scorer, things are looking pretty good. Toronto’s addition of John Tavares has yielded great dividends thus far (18 goals, 14 assists), and that was added to a team poised to break out. Coach Mike Babcock has coached some great teams in his time in the NHL, but this could be his best.
WON’T: Youth normally isn’t a huge issue, but it is something to note. Tavares is the veteran of the top scorers at 28 years old, but that also could mean they will be good for the foreseeable future. They’re also eight points behind Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division right now, so there’s still plenty of work to do.
Tampa Bay Lightning
WILL: Tampa Bay is scoring four goals per game, which is top in the NHL. They’ve scored 22 more goals than the next highest team in the league, and that’s with Steven Stamkos being third on the team in scoring. It’s similar to how the Big 12 plays college football, as the Lightning will try to push the pace to get teams into a track meet. That’s too many sports references, back to hockey. The Lightning have the best record in hockey, and just have to pick up the pace when the playoff arrive.
WON’T: Jon Cooper has made Tampa Bay a yearly contender in the Eastern Conference, and it seems that they’re right on the brink of a breakthrough. It just never seems to come. They were close in 2014, but couldn’t capitalize on a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals. One thing is for sure: this blistering pace of scoring needs to continue if they want to hoist the Cup.
WILL: This fella named Eichel is something special. Jack is tied for fifth in the NHL in assists, and his playmaking abilities have the Sabres third in their division. He and Jeff Skinner have provided the spark on offense for this team, and they could be one hot goaltender away from making a playoff run.
WON’T: Well first, there’s this.
Toronto came to Buffalo’s house and made it feel like a home game for the Leafs. That’s probably what happens when you haven’t made the playoffs in eight years. Buffalo has to win over its own fans before they can convince the NHL they’re serious.
WILL: The Canadiens haven’t missed the playoffs two years in a row since 2000, so they at least have that going for them. Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin have been putting on a show for Montreal. They are going to need it if the goaltending continues this trend.
WON’T: Montreal currently sits at sixth in the Eastern Conference, but only five points separate them from 13th. This doesn’t feel like the makings of a Stanley Cup team, especially with Carey Price not showing much improvement after his worst statistical season of his career in 2017.
WILL: It would be weird if Boston didn’t make the playoffs, honestly. Stanley Cup Playoffs and Boston Bruins hockey seem to just go together. Boston has only missed the playoffs twice since 2007, and they missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker in one year and were out by two points in the other. Is Zdeno Chara ever going to hang up the skates?
WON’T: Chara and the older core got a year older, which may mean that time is running out. It’s been eight years since they won the Stanley Cup, and the East continues to get more competitive with more and more young talent getting added to the conference.
WILL: They’re not going to blow you away with their big names, but they will beat you on a nightly basis. Mark Stone, which sounds like a player someone created on NHL 19, is having a career year, and we’re not even halfway through the season yet. Matt Duchene is second on the team in scoring, and only by one point to Stone.
WON’T: Craig Anderson used to be the only reason Ottawa won hockey games, now he’s the reason they’re losing them. His 3.58 goals allowed per game aren’t helping the Senators, and that’s really not going to help if they make the playoffs.
Detroit Red Wings
WILL: Detroit wins because……well they’re Detroit. The Red Wings always seem to be in any NHL conversation thanks to their past, which means they’re never out of the playoffs whether you want them to be or not.
WON’T: It seems like the winning left with Mike Babcock, and the Red Wings said, “Hey let’s just try to win with fourth stringers on our first line.” Look, Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist are fun to watch, but many people couldn’t name a serious contributor on the team outside of them. Also, Jimmy Howard may still be solid, but he’s not going to win you games if he’s facing 34 shots per game.
WILL: Let’s be honest, this is a team that’s still lucky to have a hockey team. Hockey in Florida isn’t natural, so the fact that this team’s been around since 1993 seems like a win.
WON’T: Pavel Bure ain’t walking into the locker room anytime soon. Florida’s also gone through three inconsistent goalies already, and Roberto Luongo appears to be the “best” option.
Don’t know much about the AAC? You’ll learn a lot this week when College GameDay heads to Orlando.
We’ve made it to the week where the SEC plays against competition that they make fun of everyone else for playing. Seriously, this is hypocritical. FCS teams are on deck for the SEC, which is a complete joke since everyone associated with those teams like to gloat about their tough schedules. Give me a break. No worries, the AAC will take the spotlight this week, and put on a show.
Under the Spotlight
#12 Syracuse (+10) vs. #3 Notre Dame
When Dino Babers took the job at Syracuse, many believed he would be successful. Coming from Baylor, Babers brought an explosive offense with him that has been the catalyst to the Orange’s ascension into the Top 15. It all starts with Eric Dungey. Syracuse’s quarterback has struggled with staying healthy the last three years, but is dynamic when he can stay on the field. What will a neutral site game do for the Orange? They beat Clemson at home last year, but this might hurt them….NOTRE DAME 31-30
#24 Cincinnati (+7) at #11 UCF
Finally this conference is getting some love from ESPN. College GameDay is coming to Orlando, and will give UCF a chance to prove their worth. They’re going to earn it against a Cincinnati team that seems to be the only team in the conference that plays defense. UCF has struggled twice this year, but hung on for wins in both games. Will this be the game that finally does them in? If you don’t know who to watch, anyone on UCF’s offense is a treat. McKenzie Milton is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and has a ton of weapons. On the other side, Cincinnati boasts some talent as well. Michael Warren II and Kahlil Lewis are having great years for the Bearcats. Will UCF keep their undefeated season alive? Playing this one at home gives them a great chance, but they’re due for a loss….CINCINNATI 38-30
#16 Iowa State (+3) at #15 Texas
Tom Herman’s been talked about a lot lately, but not for anything good. He gets a chance to ignore that noise, and hopes that they can do so a little more comfortably than last time. The Longhorns don’t have to worry about facing the Cyclones on the road, however, and that’s a huge bonus….TEXAS 42-35
Arizona (+10.5) at #8 Washington State
Everyone continues to expect a loss by Washington State, and maybe they’re right. Wazzu in the playoff would be exciting, but they don’t have the best track record. Arizona looks to play the role of spoiler. Remember when Khalil Tate was in the Heisman conversation? Do you remember that he’s still playing college football? Tate’s been limited in the run game by his own coaches, who apparently think that they’ll win football games without him running….WASHINGTON STATE 44-41
#22 Northwestern (+2) at Minnesota
This is a Wildcats team that is in the Big Ten Championship game against a Minnesota team that has been wildly inconsistent. This line makes no sense….NORTHWESTERN 24-17
TCU (+2) at Baylor
Remember in 2014 when these two teams couldn’t be stopped offensively and got screwed in the playoff selections? Well, that seems like a distant memory with how average both are now….BAYLOR 33-20
#9 West Virginia (-5) at Oklahoma State
West Virginia’s loss to Iowa State is a reminder that we still don’t know if the Mountaineers are a legitimate playoff team. Oklahoma State has proven they can ruin those dreams like they did with Texas….WEST VIRGINIA 49-42
Wisconsin (+4) at Purdue
Wisconsin is a road ‘dog to Purdue. Let that sink in. That’s how bad the Badgers are this year….PURDUE 34-28
Duke (+28.5) at #2 Clemson
Duke has been a fun story all year, but Clemson is trying to prove they can hang with Alabama. One team has some serious talent, while the other is hoping they don’t get blown out….CLEMSON 45-21
UConn (+17) at ECU
Expect a ton of points. If you need a terrible game featuring two bad teams but a couple good players, this is your game. UConn’s quarterback, David Pindell, is worth watching.
Iowa (-14.5) at Illinois
Iowa may be down, but not enough to be an underdog on the road against Illinois. The Illini are better than in the past, and need to win their final two games to be bowl eligible….IOWA 28-17
USC (-3) at UCLA
My, how both teams have fallen. It’s hard to remember that Chip Kelly is back in college football with a team this bad….USC 20-14
Middle Tennessee (+16.5) at #17 Kentucky
This won’t affect Middle Tennessee’s chances to host the Conference USA title game, so they might as well give Kentucky everything they got in the tank. Only problem is they usually struggle with Vanderbilt, and Kentucky is sliiiiiiightly better….KENTUCKY 34-13
NC State (-17) at Louisville
Will Louisville be better without Bobby Petrino? Doubtful, but you never know I guess….NC STATE 42-10
At this rate, the College Football Playoff Committee might be running into a difficult decision. They could have to pick four teams from the following list:
- ACC Champ Clemson (13-0)
- Big 12 Champ West Virginia/Oklahoma (12-1)
- Big Ten Champ Ohio State/Michigan (12-1)
- Notre Dame (12-0)
- Pac 12 Champ Washington State (12-1)
- SEC Champ Alabama (13-0) or Georgia (12-1)
How do you pick four teams from that list? It probably won’t happen, but you never know. If Clemson and Alabama go undefeated, they’re in for sure. After that, it becomes dicey. If Georgia wins the SEC, they’d most likely get in at 12-1, but what about the other 12-1 teams? And what about Notre Dame? It’s safe to say that someone will be unhappy if we get into that situation.
Clemson: Clemson dominated the game in terms of total yardage against Boston College (424-113), but couldn’t translate that into points. The Tigers still won 27-7, so it didn’t matter. Duke and South Carolina remain on their schedule, so there’s no time to relax.
Oklahoma: Marquise Brown is beginning to be productive again, which is scary if you’re facing the Sooners. Oklahoma also hasn’t seemed to miss Rodney Anderson much, as Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks picked up where he left off.
West Virginia: It wasn’t the quickest start the Mountaineers have ever had, but it didn’t matter. TCU took a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, but West Virginia outscored them 47-7 in the final three.
Ohio State: It was about as ugly of a game that you could have in the first half. Ohio State’s offense couldn’t do anything, but neither could Michigan State’s. The Spartans never got anything going, and the Buckeyes scored enough to win fairly comfortably.
Michigan: Many thought the Wolverines were in trouble when Rutgers tied it at seven. That didn’t last long. It comes down to the game against Ohio State to end the year
Notre Dame: Even with Brandon Wimbush starting, the Irish didn’t start slow. After a couple of sloppy games, Notre Dame took it to Florida State right off the bat. Hosting Syracuse appears to be more difficult than it was at the beginning of the year, and then they travel to USC. Notre Dame throws a big wrinkle into the College Football Playoff Committee’s decision if they finish undefeated.
Washington State: Everyone, including myself, just assumes they’re going to lose. But they simply won’t. Is this team legit? Talk about adding another wrinkle into the committee’s decision. All I know is we need Mike Leach in the playoff, so let’s make that happen.
Georgia: Auburn didn’t really stand a chance, and couldn’t find an answer for D’Andre Swift. It shouldn’t be tough for Georgia to win the last two games of their schedule, and then they can focus on figuring out how to upset Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Good luck with that.
Alabama: Tua Tagovailoa’s health may be the only thing that determines Alabama’s fate. Then again, they still might be good enough to win with anyone at quarterback. Tua makes them nearly unstoppable, but he’s gotten hurt the last two weeks. That will get Tide fans thinking for the rest of the season. It might not matter, but it’s something to watch going forward.
This season could finish one of two ways: it’s a boring end with Alabama crushing everyone, or chaos implodes college football. One is clearly more entertaining than the other. There are still plenty of ranked matchups that provide intriguing storylines in Week 11!
Last week: 12-2 straight up; 10-4 against the spread
Season: 93-46 straight up; 66-72-1 against the spread
Under the Spotlight
#10 Ohio State (-4) at #18 Michigan State
Nebraska gave the Buckeyes a good scare last week, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset. Was it a sign of things to come? Ohio State cannot afford another loss if they want to make the playoff. Michigan State continues its roller coaster of a season, but lately it’s seemed like things are going in the right direction. Can they continue this positive trend? They host a team primed for another letdown, so it’s definitely possible….OHIO STATE 34-31
#23 Fresno State (-3) at Boise State
Besides UCF, no one is playing better than Fresno State. It’s crazy to think this is the same team that lost to Minnesota, but they’re on fire as of late. No one can touch them, but that might change this week. Boise State needed a poor decision by a freshman to beat BYU, so this might not be the test we thought it would be. It’s still Boise State though, even if that fact doesn’t carry the same weight….FRESNO STATE 31-24
#16 Mississippi State(+24.5) at #1 Alabama
Somehow, Mississippi State finds themselves in the Top 25 as a three loss team. That’s how crazy college football has been this year. This is a team that came in with a lot of hype, but that quickly evaporated. Alabama “struggled” against #3 LSU and won 29-0. Imagine what will happen if they don’t struggle….ALABAMA 42-17
#24 Auburn (+14.5) at #5 Georgia
This is the game that almost ruined Georgia’s playoff hopes last year. Auburn handled them easily, but the Bulldogs got a chance for revenge in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia dominated the rematch, and made it to the national championship. Not much has changed for them, and you can bet Kirby Smart will have his team prepared for this one….GEORGIA 33-17
Wisconsin (+9) at #20 Penn State
Wisconsin has been inconsistent to say the least, and this matchup doesn’t bode well for teams like that. Penn State is still a great team despite their #20 ranking, and playing at home always gives them an edge….PENN STATE 40-20
Kansas (+10.5) at Kansas State
Kansas State has been disappointing, while Kansas has surprised us in a good way. Too bad that might not change this outcome….KANSAS STATE 24-17
BYU (-14) at UMass
Zach Wilson is still kicking himself over his decision to hang onto the ball at the end of the Cougars loss to Boise State. UMass receiver Andy Isabella is coming off of a 303 yard performance, and will have the Cougars full attention on defense….BYU 35-31
Oklahoma State (+21) at #6 Oklahoma
Oklahoma State is the same team as last year, just without the ranking. Get a big win over a ranked team, and follow it up with a disappointing loss to an average Big 12 team. Oklahoma is somehow still hanging around in the playoff conversation despite a few close calls….OKLAHOMA 55-52
Northwestern (+10.5) at #21 Iowa
Northwestern is leading the Big Ten West and is a double digit underdog. That’s how messed up this division is this year. Everyone also continues to overlook Iowa….IOWA 27-21
UCLA (+13.5) at Arizona State
Chip Kelly couldn’t find a way to beat his former team, but they can get their third win of the season against a team that’s had its fair share of ups and downs….ARIZONA STATE 44-30
Oregon (+4.5) at Utah
There weren’t many that thought both teams would be unranked in this matchup. It still should be fun watching Justin Herbert and Tyler Huntley duel. Weird things seem to happen when these two teams play….OREGON 37-34
Florida State (+17) at #3 Notre Dame
Ian Book is out for Notre Dame, which means its the return of Brandon Wimbush. Does that put the Irish on upset alert? It shouldn’t, but you never know with this team….NOTRE DAME 31-13
#2 Clemson (-20) at #17 Boston College
Can Boston College really do it? AJ Dillon needs to have a monster game for an upset to happen. Clemson is loaded and has more talent at every position….CLEMSON 49-27
Oregon State (+24) at Stanford
Is it weird to think that the Beavers are as close to the Cardinal as they’re every going to get? Ok, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but Oregon State might legitimately be thinking upset….STANFORD 25-17
It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the end of the series. It’s been a great debate between Lebron and Jordan so far, and we get a final tally today. Jordan leads, but it would be tough for him to win in the future. Jordan’s 17-22 weren’t good models, and all Lebron would have to do is produce average silhouettes for those numbers (assuming he continues his shoe line). For now, we stick to the 16 shoes both of these players have released.
Lebron 13 vs. Air Jordan 13
People tend to like the Jordan 13’s as an underrated shoe, and he started his second three-peat with this model. He would win the championship in the 14’s, but this shoe is still a popular model. Lebron’s 13th shoe was another model that fit his needs on the court more so than off of it. Some of Lebron’s colors were cool, but there weren’t many. Having a bulky shoe also hurts the King here.
ADVANTAGE: Jordan (Jordan leads 8-5)
Lebron 14 vs. Air Jordan 14
Jordan’s last championship was won in the 14’s, which may be why people like them. The “Ferrari” colorway (all red) is really cool, and fans like the “Last Shot” as well. Winning a championship will always help sell a shoe, which is something Lebron can’t say with his 14th model. Lebron went with a low-top shoe and added a strap, which were two cool additions, but it’s not enough to beat Jordan.
ADVANTAGE: Jordan (Jordan leads 9-5)
Lebron 15 vs. Air Jordan 15
To keep it simple, the Jordan 15’s are hideous. I’d have to be dared to wear them. There are people who say they like them, but they won’t have to worry about me snatching them up before they do. Lebron’s 15th shoe went back to a high-top, but added an all flyknit upper. Lebron wins this one because his colorways were insane. His colorways that were similar to his first shoe were dope, and the ones he wore in the finals were also insane.
ADVANTAGE: Lebron (Jordan leads 9-6)
Lebron 16 vs. Air Jordan 16
Lebron’s just now debuting new colorways of his 16th silhouette, but they’re already miles ahead of the Jordan 16. Jordan did better after his worst shoe, but it’s still not a popular or good looking sneaker. Lebron’s going to gain an advantage by the Lebron 16’s being a low-top shoe with flyknit and the fact that the NBA doesn’t have any limitations for shoes this year.
ADVANTAGE: Lebron (Jordan leads 9-7)
So, Jordan comes out with the win in this series! Jordan Brand has some great shoes in his line. Sneakerheads would argue that there are multiple shoes that are the best shoes of all time. Lebron’s line is still young, and would most likely take over this series until shoe 22. Jordan’s line struggled after 14, which would give the King a chance to take the lead. Regardless of the future, both lines have some dope shoes, and fans love both lines. This was a fun series to do, and I hope you enjoyed it! How do you think the tally should have been? Is the score right? Let me know!
It’s finally here. The Kyrie 5 has been shown to the sneaker world. After a tremendous start to his sneaker line, Irving and Nike made some changes while keeping some things the same.
We’ve seen a few colors of the fifth silhouette, but one sticks out. Kyrie worked with Odd Future’s Taco to make a “Taco” Kyrie 5 PE, which included some camo and orange. It debuted in the Celtics win over the Milwaukee Bucks, and included a big swoosh on the heel, which is different from the other colors. Kyrie had been wearing an all black pair in practices, a white and green pair the other night, and the pair above was the first official image released. Those who have seen future colors say that we are in store for some cool color combinations, so stay tuned. So far, Kyrie’s fifth shoe looks great in pictures.
One thing I love about Kyrie’s line is that he keeps things simple and mostly the same. This is yet another mid top shoe that almost has the same silhouette as the other four shoes. There is some sort of shroud in the laces in this shoe, which is a first for the line. Everything else has a similar concept from the first four shoes.
Traction is excessive (in a good way) like the rest of his shoes, and the colors on the bottom of the shoe continue to be a nice feature. The collar of the shoe is very similar to the Kyrie 4 and the tongue looks like it was on the Kyrie 2. Cushioning appears to allow for better court feel once again, but should still feel comfortable.
This is the first shoe that doesn’t look slim. It gives the appearance that it’s a bulkier shoe, but that may just be the way the shoe looks in pictures. Adding the shroud and the extra design on the heel will do that. The Taco PE looks really good, so we will just have to wait and see more pictures or get them in hand.
Overall, the Kyrie 5 appears to be a solid shoe. I wouldn’t say it’s the most excited I’ve been for a shoe, but it’s another good Kyrie shoe. To be able to create five shoes and not have a single bad one is a major accomplishment, and Nike has found the right approach with Kyrie. If they can continue to keep things simple, this will be one of the best sneaker lines ever.
It’s sad to think that the season is already winding down, but that means the race for the four playoff spots is heating up! We’re down to nine teams that have a chance to make the playoff. The list of teams that can beat Alabama is even smaller. Let’s take a look at who still has a chance to play for a national championship!
Clemson: Everyone is labeling this team as the only hope to upset Alabama after this week. That may be true. The Tigers just put up 77 points on a terrible Louisville team, and may not be challenged until the playoff.
Oklahoma: This team is living dangerously by relying on their offense to win every game. Texas Tech almost stunned them this weekend, and Sooners fans may not want to find out what happens if their offense struggles.
West Virginia: Horns down! The Mountaineers went in to Austin and stunned Texas 42-41 on Saturday. Will Grier score the go ahead two point conversion and threw the Horns Down sign to the fans. Tom Herman apparently didn’t like that, but was ok mocking Drew Lock in their bowl game against Missouri.
Ohio State: Speaking of living dangerously, the Buckeyes almost lost to Nebraska. J.K. Dobbins had a huge game, rushing for 163 yards and three touchdowns. They needed it to avoid a major upset.
Michigan: Penn State came into Ann Arbor, and couldn’t find any success against the Wolverines defense. After losing their four biggest games in conference last year, Michigan is one win over Ohio State from completing their revenge tour.
Notre Dame: It seems like the Irish are due for a loss, because they keep struggling against below average competition. It’s going to be tough to win a national championship against elite teams if you can’t handle Northwestern.
Washington State: Cougars fans saw flashes of Luke Falk’s debacle against Cal last year. Wazzu pulled out the win, but it wasn’t a promising sign of things to come.
Georgia: Kentucky was pumped for the game this weekend, but the Bulldogs ended that excitement quickly. The SEC championship game is already set and Georgia will face….
Alabama: …..the Tide. Alabama made the third best team in the country look bad in Death Valley Saturday. Bama managed to score just 29 points, but held LSU to zero. Is there anyone that can legitimately beat this team? It seems less and less likely as the season goes on.
LSU: Well, the Tigers held Bama to just 29 points, but you won’t win many games if you don’t score. The fans in Death Valley did their part to help the home team, but nothing was going to help LSU beat Alabama. Even Devin White’s return didn’t seem to do much.
Kentucky: This is still a really good season for the Wildcats, but you could tell they were outmatched Saturday. Benny Snell couldn’t find much running room, and Kentucky was clearly the inferior team.
UCF: They didn’t lose, but their remaining strength of schedule took a big hit with USF and Houston losing. It was always going to be a longshot, but now it’s impossible.