14 for '14

By: Sam Farnsworth
By: Sam Farnsworth

Here is Sports Director Sam Farnsworth's list of 14 sports stories to keep an eye out for in 2014.

14 – NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26: For a game that is one of the most boring games to watch, by far the WORST of pro sports all-star games, a game that is completely irrelevant.  The Pro Bowl just got WORSE! This year the fans voted for ALL players that will go to the Pro Bowl. No coaches choices. Then once there the top two vote getters will pick teams, playground style. No more AFC vs NFC. And the top two vote getters are Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

How awful is this going to be? It’s going to take 30 minutes just to make picks.

I will give the NFL credit for making one smart decision with the Pro Bowl. That was to move the game up to the week before the Super Bowl instead of the week after the Super Bowl. At least when it’s the week before the Super Bowl, interest in pro football is still at its peak. It makes for a good day to have a Super Bowl party test run. An excuse to get out the grill, have the friends over for some food, games and conversation all while the Pro Bowl is going on in the background. Just the primer for the big game the following week. When the Pro Bowl was after the Super Bowl, was anyone even interested in watching anymore? Not me.

13 – Surprise in 2014 College Football Season: I’m going to give you the name of a player in college football that I believe is poised to have a breakout season on the national stage. What he did this season already is in elite company, but:   A – He needs to polish his passing skills a bit and needs to be more accurate in the air and less errant.  B – He needs to win more games. Especially the bigger, more important games so his team can keep him on the radar.

The guy I’m talking about is the quarterback for the Brigham Young Cougars, Taysom Hill.

As a sophomore this past season he did something that only 23 other players in the very long history of college football have ever done before. ONLY 23!!! A small group of quarterbacks to have passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 yards in a single season. Less than half of those 23 have happened on the FBS level too.

Hill totaled 2,938 yards through the air and 1,344 yards on the ground. H combined for 19 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns. Only five others have ever reached the 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in a season with Johnny Manziel doing that this season.

 But as I stated before, he has got to become a more accurate passer to hit those post season awards watch lists. He only completed 54 percent of his passes and threw for 14 interceptions in 2013.

And with games at Uconn, at Texas, Virginia, at Central Florida, at Boise State, at Cal and Houston and Utah State among others… if BYU can put together an 11 win season, then expect Hill to be in National Headlines all over the country in 2014.

 

12 – NCAA Basketball Tournament – Watch the CU Buffs: March Madness will be here before we even know it. And just like every year, everyone’s bracket is going to be blown up by some school that nobody cared about before the tourney. Who is going to be the next Floirda-Gulf Coast?

Will it be Radford from the Big South? Or maybe Princeton or Harvard from the Ivy League? Manhattan from the MAAC? Maybe 11-1 Incarnate Word from the Southland Conference?

I don’t know which team it will be. But I do know of one team that will make a strong run this year out of the PAC-12. And if they click at the right time, a possible Final-Four buster!

I’m talking about the Colorado Buffaloes.  A team that is coming off three straight 20-win seasons under head coach Tad Boyle. A team that is currently ranked 20th in the country in the AP Poll with a 12-2 record. Their only losses to #25 Baylor in first game of the season and to #7 Oklahoma State by five points. They had a big win over #6 Kansas at home and tomorrow, another big game when 10th ranked Oregon comes to Boulder.

Led by Junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie who will be a solid draft pick this year, also Junior guard Askia Booker, sophomore Center Josh Scott, Sophomore forward Xavier Johnson, freshman forward Wesley Gordon and others. The point is that this is a YOUNG team, a team that is already good and is only going to get better. They will make some noise in 2014 and with a majority of these guys coming back for the ’14-15 season they should start the season off nationally ranked top 15, poised for a high seed and a long run in the season following.

11 – NFL Draft in April: Jadaveon Clowney has declared for the draft. He’s likely to go in the top 2-3 picks. But it’s guys like Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Johnny Manziel (Tex. A&M) who will be getting lots of attention at the sexy position of quarterback. But I’m going to give you three names to look for at QB in the 2014 draft that will make noise come April.

QB – Derek Carr from Fresno State. Do NOT confuse him with his brother David Carr. Derek has a better arm and is more NFL ready than his brother. Derek will be a starter in the NFL in the next three years.

QB – Brett Smith from Wyoming. The NFL likes the new breed of mobile quarterbacks. Smith is one of these guys that can run and throw. He has over 8,000 yards passing and 1500 yards rushing in his three year career. I think he is comparable to the likes of Andy Dalton who has found his role in the NFL.

But the guy that I’ve got my eye on - the guy that I think could be the surprise quarterback in the draft, the sleeper QB that may not go until the 3rd or 4th round is Brett Hundley from UCLA.

As a redshirt freshman he threw for over 3700 yards and 29 touchdowns to go with 355 yards rushing and 9 TD. He did even better overall this year completing 67 percent of his throws for over 3,000 yards and 24 TD. But he was even more deadly on his feet rushing for 748 yards and 11 scores and he even had a touchdown reception too. Brett Hundley is the QB to watch for in the 2014 NFL draft.

10 – The Sprint Cup season in NASCAR: I’ve admitted on this show before that I don’t care much for NASCAR and I don’t follow it a whole lot. But there are some very good reasons to watch what’s going on in NASCAR this year.

1st  - Jimmie Johnson.  Winner of five straight Sprint Cup Championships from 2006-2010 and added his sixth overall this past season, Johnson is making a statement for the most dominant driver in NASCAR history. He trails only Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most Cup Championships in a career. Each of them had 7. Johnson is now just one away.

2nd - All eyes will be on Danica Patrick when the Sprint Cup season begins on February 23rd at the Daytona 500. Danica won the pole last year and finished eighth in the race. If she were to win this year, it would be THE story in NASCAR for the entire season. Even if Jimmie wins his seventh title.

And 3rd - The story of Austin Dillon. The future of NASCAR will make his debut and will do so in the Number 3 car, the number made famous by Dale Earnhardt. The number that has not been driven since Earnhardt’s death at Daytona in 2001. Will Dillon’s career become so successful that the memory of Earnhardt in the number three begins to fade in the minds of racing fans? Will they associate that number more with Dillon than with Earnhardt? We’ll get our first look next month at Daytona.

Sidenote - Juan Pablo Montoya who has been in NASCAR for the past 13 years will make his return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his first INDY 500 since winning the race in 2000. He will return with Penske Motor Sports for the race that will take place on May 25th.

9 – Another New World Series Winner: The New York Yankees won three straight World Series titles from 1998-2000. Since then, there has not been a repeat World Series Champion. By repeat, I mean no back-to-back winners. Always a different team.

2001 – Arizona Diamondbacks                                    2009 – New York Yankees

2002 – Los Angeles Angeles                                         2010 – San Francisco Giants

2003 – FLORIDA Marlins (not Miami)                       2011 – St. Louis Cardinals

2004 – Boston Red Sox                                                  2012 – San Francisco Giants

2005 – Chicago White Sox                                             2013 – Boston Red Sox

2006 – St. Louis Cardinals

2007 – Boston Red Sox

2008 – Philadelphia Phillies

The longest such run in MLB history happened from 1979-1992 at 14 years without a repeat winner.

79 – Pirates, 80 – Phillies,  81 – Dodgers, 82 – Cardinals, 83 – Orioles, 84 – Tigers, 85 – Royals, 86 – Mets, 87 – Twins, 88 – Dodgers, 89 – Athletics, 90 – Reds, 91 – Twins, 92 – Blue Jays (repeated in 93).

This is definitely one story to watch for in 2014. I do not believe the Boston Red Sox repeat as World Champions. They will have strong contention from the Tigers, Dodgers, Rangers, Angels and the A’s. That’s what to look out for in 2014.

8 – No More BCS during the 2014 season… sort of: We will have our first regular season of College Football in 2014 where you don’t have to be the best (according to a computer) to be the champion. Starting next season college football will move to a four-team playoff (Which actually won’t take place until 2015.. sorry). It’s a step in the right direction. But a committee still makes the decision on the four teams. Will it still be very biased and corrupt? Until we get to an eight team playoff, we’re not making progress. And until we have a 16-team playoff in college football, I won’t be satisfied. But at least we’re making a step in the right direction in 2014.

7 – NBA Draft 2014: When was the last time a draft in the NBA has been so loaded with number one talent? Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle,  Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart and the list goes on. This is the kind of talent that will have us seeing teams jockeying for position for a top pick in the draft. The competition to Tank will begin shortly after the All-Star break on February 16th in New Orleans. (If it hasn’t started already.) But the nice thing about the NBA is there is the lottery. So even if you finish with the worst record in the league, you are not guaranteed of that number one overall pick. But finishing anywhere in that top 3 or 4 will still land you a number one caliber guy. So let the losing begin in 2014!!!

6 – NBA Free Agency 2014: With the talent coming out in the draft this year, you might argue that the draft will be the biggest story in the NBA this season. I prefer to differ! I think the biggest NBA story of 2014 and the most interesting to watch will be the Free Agency Class of 2014. Look at these names that are scheduled to be free agents this year:

Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Pau Gasol, Eric Bledsoe, Gordon Heyward, Tim Duncan, Trevor Ariza and the list just keeps goin.

And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. How about this group from the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks?!

Lebron James, Ray Allen, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Anderson, Joel Anthony, Shane Battier, Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason, Jr. and Greg Oden. That’s 14 of the 15 members on the Heat roster. However, it’s the big 3 that will have all of the attention. And James, Wade and Bosh each have ETO power. ETO = Early Termination Option. In other words, they can ditch their contracts now and become three agents. By the way… that’s 14 of the 15 members of the Heat scheduled to become free agents.

As for the Knicks it is Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Amar’e Stoudemire who have the same ETO.  

If the Heat win again this year, I guarantee you Lebron will terminate his contract and test free agency. L.A. Never looked so good!!!

Forget about the Knicks and Melo. No WAY he stays in N.Y. Major disappointment. He’ll hook up with either Brooklyn or the Lakers in my opinion.

In other words, all eyes on the Lakers in the summer of 2014!

5 – 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: On January 8th the results of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame voting will be revealed. Why is this one so high on my list? Because this class is LOADED with potential Hall of Famers which includes many of our PED/Steroid linked players like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, Palmeiro and others. But look who else is on this list:

Moisés Alou

     

1st

Jeff Bagwell

     

4th

Armando Benítez

     

1st

Craig Biggio

     

2nd

Barry Bonds

     

2nd

Sean Casey

     

1st

Roger Clemens

     

2nd

Ray Durham

     

1st

Éric Gagné

     

1st

Tom Glavine

     

1st

Luis Gonzalez

     

1st

Jacque Jones

     

1st

Todd Jones

     

1st

Jeff Kent

     

1st

Paul Lo Duca

     

1st

Greg Maddux

     

1st

Edgar Martínez

     

5th

Don Mattingly

     

14th

Fred McGriff

     

5th

Mark McGwire

     

8th

Jack Morris

     

15th

Mike Mussina

     

1st

Hideo Nomo

     

1st

Rafael Palmeiro

     

4th

Mike Piazza

     

2nd

Tim Raines

     

7th

Kenny Rogers

     

1st

Curt Schilling

     

2nd

Richie Sexson

     

1st

Lee Smith

     

12th

J. T. Snow

     

1st

Sammy Sosa

     

2nd

Frank Thomas

     

1st

Mike Timlin

     

1st

Alan Trammell

     

13th

Larry Walker

     

4th

 

A player must receive 75% of the vote to get in. Each member of the Baseball Writers Association of America can vote for up to 10. I personally would vote for seven. Here’s my list:

Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines and Frank Thomas. We’ll find out very soon who the class of 2014 will be.

4 – 2014 Winter Olympic Games – Sochi, Russia: It’s another Olympic year! The Winter Games will be fun to keep an eye on this year. Of course Hockey will be one of the favorites. For some of you out there, I know you’re big into figure skating. I personally don’t care for it, but it’s one of the more popular events. There are so many great stories that will emerge out of the games, as there always are… but there are two that have my interest right now on the slopes.

No. 1 – Lindsey Vonn making her comeback from a blown knee and trying to repeat as the Downhill Gold. The only American woman to win gold in downhill and did so in 2010. Going for the repeat. The bigger story may be if Tiger Woods is on hand to watch her race! Previously said he wouldn’t go.

No. 2 – Bode Miller back on the slopes for the U.S. Ski Team once again. He will be trying to repeat as the gold medal winner of the Super Combined. Bode a controversial figure in the sport. He has admitted to skiing “buzzed” before. He likes to drink and ski. But he is also one of the most successful American skiers of all-time.

3 – Super Bowl 48: I don’t need to spend a lot of time on this one. You all know how I feel about this game. Before the 2012 season I predicted that the Broncos would be ousted in the playoffs only to return to the 2013 season even better and go on to win Super Bowl 48. I stand by that prediction today. But the great story of this whole thing is what Peyton Manning has done. Two years ago he wasn’t even sure if he would ever play the game again after four neck surgeries. Now he has come back even better than ever having set new NFL single season records in passing yardage and touchdowns. He is a sure fire winner for his 5th NFL MVP award and what better way to cap it off than with his second career Super Bowl title? It’s the only way to cap it off. If he does not win the Super Bowl, then everything he and the Broncos accomplished this season means absolutely nothing. So look for the Denver Broncos to defeat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl on February 2, 2014.

2 – World Cup Soccer: The World Cup of soccer is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest sporting event in the world. Only played once every four years, It is certainly the most popular one. And this year… the World Cup goes to the land where the game of Futbol became “The Beautiful Game” (O Jogo Bonito!). Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup. This is the country that I spent two years in and where I was bit by the soccer bug and it has had me ever since. I love the Brazilian people… I love the Brazilian culture… and I LOVE Brazilian Futbol.

As much as I would love to see the United States finally make an appearance in the World Cup championship game, it’s not going to happen. Team U.S.A plays in “The Group of Death.” The same group as Germany (2nd in the World), Portugal (5th in the World), and Ghana (24th in the world). There is no way Team USA gets out of this group. But if by some miracle they do… look for Team USA to get to at least the semifinals in Brazil. One of the more interesting things I will be watching for is the reunion of Team USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann that was on the West German team that won the 1990 World Cup and the 1996 unified Germany team that won the Euro championships. He was the head coach of the German National team in 2006 World Cup leading them to a 3rd place finish. Now… he will face his former team as the coach of the US National Team.

In the end… the 2014 World Cup will end with “uma grande festa” as Brazil will win its 6th World Cup Championship

1 – Tiger, Tiger, Tiger Woods Ya’ll: If Tiger Woods ever wins a major again, it’s going to be this year! He turns 38 years old… still pretty young in golf years.  He is ranked the number one golfer in the world still. And three of the four major championships this year will be on courses where Tiger has won a major before, and the fourth course… Woods finished second in a major.

THE MASTERS – APRIL 10-13 AT AGUSTA NATIONAL – Woods 4X champ at Augusta. (97, 01, 02, 05)

U.S. OPEN – JUNE 12-15 at PINEHURST No. 2 – Last time the U.S. Open was at Pinehurst was in 2005. Tiger Woods came from behind to finish just outside the lead. He finished second by two strokes with a final score of two over par.

THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (BRITISH) – JULY 17-20 at ROYAL LIVERPOOL – The Open Championship was held at Royal Liverpool in 2006… Tiger Woods won by two strokes. One of two majors that year. The third and most recent open championship of his career.

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP – AUGUST 7-10 at VALHALLA GOLF CLUB (Louisville, KY) – The PGA Championship was previously held at Valhalla in 2000. In that year, Tiger Woods beat Bob May in a playoff for his second career  PGA Championship. The second of four that he currently has.

I feel that Woods best chances at a Major Championship this year will come at either the Masters in April at Augusta, or the British at Royal Liverpool in July. That’s what to watch for in 2014.

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