As many readers of this blog know, I am a fan of the Virginia Tech Hokies, Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals and the Arkansas Razorbacks. I rarely take the opportunity to comment on them as a whole, but with a recent scheduling announcement, the NFL draft a couple of weeks away, the NHL playoffs just beginning and the NCAA baseball season in full swing, I thought I'd take a little time to review some current news.
Hokies to Open 2018 Against The 'Noles: In the prior four seasons, the Virginia Tech regular season football schedule has been absent of both the Florida State Seminoles and Clemson Tigers, the top two programs in the ACC Atlantic Division during that time frame. That changes this season, as the Hokies will follow up a close loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a meeting in Blacksburg on September 30. In 2018, a schedule change announced this week will pit the Hokies against Florida State in Tallahassee to open the season on Memorial Day weekend. It's a shrewd move by the ACC, especially if Virginia Tech continues to make progress after last season's surprising performance under first year head coach Justin Fuente and transfer QB Jerod Evans, who is headed to the NFL. Given the recent success of Florida State and their last couple of recruiting classes, it's unlikely that the 'Noles won't be in the national championship mix for years to come. The advantage of having what could arguably be two of the top four teams in the league face off in week one is that early losses are much easier from which to recover than those incurred later in the season. It's unlikely that more than a team or two will go undefeated for the season, so a setback against a quality team to open the season can easily be forgotten by the time the playoff committee makes their final four announcement in December. Remember the Ohio State Buckeyes, the inaugural playoff champion? They lost to Virginia Tech at home in week two in 2014, but went on to run the table and lift the championship trophy. The ACC, with two of the last four national champions, is trying to oust the SEC as the top conference in college football, and opening season matchups like they'll put on display in 2018 can't help give them a boost in the court of public opinion, no matter how finicky that can be.
What Are The Redskins Thinking? It's been twenty-five years since the Super Bowl Trophy has resided inside the nation's capital. Given the way owner Daniel Snyder is handling things, it might be another quarter of a century until they see another one. Really? Another year of a franchise tag for Kirk Cousins? A mysterious firing of the General Manager? So that means no long-term deal for a quarterback that is easily capable of leading the 'Skins for the next five to eight years and a lack of football acumen in the front office. It's actually hard to believe that the NFC East, which recorded ten wins in sixteen Super Bowl appearances with every team in the division represented from 1971 - 1996, has just two wins in four appearances in the twenty years since. My point here is that unless things change quickly in Washington, I doubt they'll be among the division's teams other than New York to break through anytime soon. After drafting Kirk Cousins in the same draft where they took RGIII with the top pick, they've seemingly treated him as an afterthought, even though his play on the field has been stellar. I can understand the rationale for tagging Cousins and they can do it again in 2018 if they want to throw away a lot of money for a quarterback who will almost surely be playing elsewhere in 2019. Why not lock up the guy for a few years, especially since he is just entering what most experts consider to be a quarterback's prime? I don't get it, and apparently they don't either.
League Has Caps Right Where They Want Them: The easiest time to beat the Washington Capitals is in the playoffs. Despite sporting the best record in the league for a second consecutive season, few that follow the NHL expect the Caps to even get to the Eastern Conference finals. Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins knocked them out of the playoffs on their way to the Stanley Cup title, something Washington is still seeking after more than forty years in the league. This year, if the Caps get by the Toronto Maple Leafs, they'll probably need to get past the Pens again to advance, historically a difficult match-up for them. It almost defies the odds that Washington has only been to a single Stanley Cup final in a league that has what is clearly the most unpredictable playoffs year in and year out. I've heard all of the analysis, from the position that the Caps don't play the right style of hockey to win in playoffs to one that their regular season wins don't really matter that much. The analyst in me wants to agree, but the fan side of me just wants to say "Puck You" and chalk it up to bad luck. Heck, the Cubs broke through last year, maybe it's the Caps' turn in 2017. Why not? Oh yeah, they're not built for playoff hockey.
Razorbacks' Baseball Bounces Back: Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn suffered through his worst season as a college baseball coach as the Hogs finished at 26 - 29, with a monumental meltdown in the second half of the schedule. Injuries and youth played a big part in that, and as of this writing they stand and at 26 - 8 overall, 8 - 4 in the SEC and ranked 15th nationally with an RPI of 22nd. With Georgia, not one of this year's SEC powers rolling into Baum Stadium for an Easter weekend series, the Hogs stand a decent chance of bettering those numbers. After an impressive Friday night win last week over LSU, Arkansas blew an 8 - 1 lead on Saturday, then suffered a hangover 2 - 0 loss on Sunday to spoil what could have been a breakout series. With series opening pitcher Blaine Knight virtually unhittable, the Hogs are certain to be in position to win every series the rest of the way. If they can avoid a bullpen meltdown like last Saturday's, it's possible for them to make a run at hosting a regional in Fayetteville and challenging for another berth in the College World Series in Omaha.
Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg,
where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and
philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/
listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike
Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes
and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their
glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.