Weekly Staff Pick ’em

We're going to try out a new weekly staff pick 'em game where Blake and I make 10 predictions across the NFL, NBA, and NCAA. We'll grab two of the top NBA games of the week, then 4 NFL and NCAA football match-ups. The plan is to run the weekly segment for 10 weeks and then see who is the almighty sports master. We hope to add in guest picks from week to week to spice things up. David is this week's special guest and occasional Crimson Slate contributor. Let's get right down to it.

Continue reading Weekly Staff Pick ’em


Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers
Micah's Pick: Clippers 116 – 97
The Thunder are just too depleted to start the season. I don't see this one even being real close. Westbrook kept the Thunder in the game vs the Blazers for three quarters, but the Clippers are much better than the Blazers.

Blake's Pick: Clippers 110 – 90
The Thunder are in bad shape. With only 9 players, I can't see this being too competitive. The Clippers are good enough to win the West this year.

David's Pick: Clippers 107 – 95
Obviously the Thunder are going to struggle early. At LA just adds to the margin.

New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers
Micah's Pick: Cavs 95 – 82
King James comes home to a high profile, yet easily winnable game vs the Knicks.

Blake's Pick: Cavs 103 – 94
Ahh, the highly anticipated return of King James to his hometown. Add in Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, budding scorer Dion Waiters, and big man Anderson Varajeo, and you have yourself quite the ensemble. Melo will get his, too, though. Cavs win.

David's Pick: Cavs 101 – 88
Are the Knicks going to be any good at all? We know the Cavs should win this one easily at home.


Oklahoma Sooners at Iowa State Cyclones
Micah's Pick: Sooners 55 – 14
The Sooners may have blown any chance they had at a slot in the 4 team playoff, but their pride is still on the line. I see the Sooners coming out and running up the score on a patchy Iowa St defense.

Blake's Pick: Sooners 42 – 23
OU needs a win. They need it NOW. Any more losses, and OU is staring the Liberty Bowl in the face. I think OU is too big on both sides of the trenches and too fast outside.

David's Pick: Sooners 48 – 24
You do know that OU has only lost 5x in 78 games against ISU right?

TCU Horned Frogs at West Virginia Mountaineers
Micah's Pick: Horned Frogs 52 – 41
TCU has made one of the more memorable turnarounds in recent memory. Going 4-8 last year to starting 6-1 this year has been nothing short of amazing. Boykin has truly raised his game from a year ago and this is now one of the top offenses in the nation.

Blake's Pick: Horned Frogs 47 – 37
This will be an epic shootout. TCU hung 82 on Texas Tech. The Frogs may not score that many in any basketball game this year. West Virginia has a sudden swagger to their defense after naming a new DC mid season. I expect a lot of fireworks, with the better “team” winning. TCU’s defense gets a stop or two.

David's Pick: Mountaineers 41 – 38
Yes this is my one upset special of the week. If TCU clears this hurdle they will win the Big 12.

Auburn Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels 
Micah's Pick: Tigers 38 – 20
Ole Miss has been playing a bit above their heads all year. Auburn states their case for a spot in the SEC college football playoffs.

Blake's Pick: Tigers 35 – 31
It may be just me, but I’m not quite sure Auburn is as good as they were in 2013. They’re still really good, but not quite that team they were last year. Bo Marshall is capable of being a Heisman-type quarterback. He also can be really bad. See last week vs LSU. Auburn has enough in the end.

David's Pick: Rebels 24 – 21
I see a bounce back for Ole Miss playing at home.

Florida State Seminoles at Louisville Cardinals
Micah's Pick: Seminoles 31 – 17
Florida State's last hurdle until they skate into the playoffs. While I don't think they are near as good as last year's championship bunch, they're good enough to roll through the ACC.

Blake's Pick: Cardinals 27 – 24
This game is on Thursday night. National TV will be there. Bobby Petrino would want nothing more than to beat FSU in front of the entire nation. Florida State has won 23 games in a row, easily the longest winning streak in the county. Louisville will be ready. They rolled “The U” earlier at home and are always tough at home. UPSET ALERT!

David's Pick: Seminoles 27 – 21
I know this could be the other big upset but I just don’t see it.


Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys
Micah's Pick: Cardinals 34 – 24
With Romo banged up and the Cardinals coming to town, I can easily see another Cowboys slip up here.

Blake's Pick: Cowboys 21 – 20
This game hinges on Tony Romo’s availability. He claims he will play if he can manage the pain. Arizona is quietly 6-1 and has the best record in the NFL. Dallas is coming off a heart breaking loss to Washington. I think Arizona is really disciplined and that will show. Dallas needs to get to the bye week on a win… I’ll go with the home team.

David's Pick: Cardinals 23 – 20
A lot of this game depends on whether Romo is 100% healthy or not. Dallas defense is also missing a key player and their two losses have both come at home at the unfriendly confines of JerryWorld.

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Micah's Pick: Broncos 45 – 42
Denver hangs on in the highly anticipated Manning vs Brady shootout.

Blake's Pick: Broncos 33 – 27
Manning vs. Brady. Doesn’t get much better than this. Manning is playing his best ball nearing 40 years old. Brady is playing out of his mind, too. This may be the best game of the year. In the end, I think Denver has too many weapons on both sides of the ball.

David's Pick: Broncos 35 – 24
It seems like Denver is on a mission this year and New England is too up and down.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburg Steelers
Micah's Pick: Steelers 28 – 21
The Steelers are riding high from their big win over the Colts last week. Look for the home team to hold court.

Blake's Pick: Steelers 27 – 20
This game is always fun. They do NOT like each other. Pittsburgh is coming off quite the performance. Big Ben throws 6 TD and the offense hangs half a hundred. That’s hard to do in the NFL. Baltimore is steady, yet again. I think Pitt has the advantage of Heinz field and a guy named Antonio Brown.

David's Pick: Steelers 20 – 17
This is truly a toss-up game and I’m going with the home team and Big Ben.

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Micah's Pick: Saints 35 – 17
Can the Saints win on the road? I may regret this one.

Blake's Pick: Panthers 24 – 21
Major division implications on this game. Carolina is tough at home. New Orleans seems to be clicking after their big win over Green Bay. Jimmy Graham is getting healthy and Brees is…well…Brees. I think Cam Newton has a chip on his shoulder at all times. I’ll take defense over offense (note: Seattle/Denver Super Bowl – Jan 2014)

David's Pick: Saints 38 – 28
New Orleans has to win on the road at some point right? And Carolina’s defense has been nowhere near as good as last year.

Injury Train Rolls Through OKC

Whatever is in the water in Oklahoma City needs to be purified. Over the summer and into training camp, the injury train has slammed the Thunder. Most notably, Kevin Durant. KD injured, and ultimately, broke a bone in his right foot. Since then, Durant has undergone surgery and is slated to miss approximately 6 weeks. That puts him out until at least the second week of December.

Continue reading Injury Train Rolls Through OKC

Durant is not the only missing link. Promising rookie Mitch McGary is also sidelined for 6 weeks after suffering a fracture to his left foot. McGary stole the show at the Orlando Summer League where he showed off a silky mid-range game as well as the ability to create his own shot. Most notably, NBA analysts were impressed with his ball handling skills creating his own fast break after a defensive rebound. Most of the Thunder front office expected McGary to step in and immediately contribute.

The injury train continued to maul through the Thunder roster. Just this week, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb suffered a twisted ankle and back injury, respectively. Jackson, to many, was considered to be a leading scorer for the Thunder and possibly even be inked into the starting lineup. Jeremy Lamb is in his “make or break” year with the Thunder. He was the centerpiece to the James Harden trade and he hasn’t lived up to the hype yet. After this set back, Thunder fans have to wonder if he will ever pan out.

OKC opens up their season tonight (10/29/14) in Portland on national television. Here’s a breakdown of their active roster tonight, which will also be their roster against the Clippers tomorrow night. Yes, a back to back to start the season. Lovely.

PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Andre Roberson
SF – Perry Jones III
PF – Serge Ibaka
C – Steven Adams

Sebastian Telfair
Nick Collison
Kendrick Perkins
Lance Thomas

There weren’t any omissions. That is it. These are the 9 guys who will be in uniform tonight when the Thunder open their 2015 campaign against a very good Portland team, and tomorrow night against the Clippers, who some say are the favorites in the Western Conference.

Is it time to push the panic button already in Oklahoma City? Or will this group hang around and be right in it when full strength? I think the fate lies in the return of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb. These guys will provide valuable minutes at the guard position. No one expects these two to miss significant time. If the Thunder can go .500 while Kevin Durant rehabs his toe, this could be a special season.

I can’t remember a time where a team took this big of a blow to start the season, but whom else would you rather have than Russell Westbrook to lead the charge while the league MVP waits in the wings.


The Ongoing Debate of Bob Stoops

It happens every time. The college football season gets underway and…Oklahoma loses a football game? You better believe there's someone out there calling for Bob Stoops' head. Every. Single. Time. No loss goes unaccounted for. If Stoops loses a game, heads must roll, right? Let's dig in.

Continue reading The Ongoing Debate of Bob Stoops

So, just to get it out of the way up front, I am not amongst those who repeatedly call for Bob's head every time the Sooners fail to go undefeated. But I hear the noise and this won't be there first time I've gone to bat for Big Game Bob and likely won't be the last.

In fact, I penned an article a couple of years ago about this very same topic asking if Stoops had spoiled Sooner fans. The crux of the argument was that Stoops had put together one of the most successful runs of all programs in college football since taking over in Norman in 1999. Better than Alabama, better than Florida, better than LSU. Yet, it seemed, no one was ever calling for the heads of Saban, Myer, or Miles. Why was that? Had this fan base become so spoiled that anything less than perfection was simply unacceptable?

Now is the part where you begin to piece together the criteria for which you place the value on head coaches. Is it simply wins vs losses? Defeating your rivals? Conference titles? Bowl wins? National championships? The simple fact is that everyone has their own criteria to judge from. Everyone has their own biases and thoughts on "the way it should be."

If you came here looking for pure stats, take a quick look at my previous article. It is a couple years old, but most of the stats hold up relatively the same. Whatever criteria you base your opinions on, Bob has succeeded in nearly every one of them. 10-win seasons? Automatic check. Dominating rivals? Check check. Conference titles? Check. Bowl wins? National championships? This is where people start to get fickle.

Stoops is the only coach that won every single BCS bowl game during the BCS era. The only one. Did he lose his fair share? Sure, but he had the Sooners playing in a big time bowl game or national championship more years than not. That's what people fail to appreciate. Bob has always kept the Sooners relevant and right in the thick of the national title picture. They are almost always playing in a big time bowl, if not the biggest. Getting hung up on wins and losses in those bowl games is short sided. Would you rather be playing in the biggest possible bowl against the best possible opponent or would you rather play in the toilet bowl against a guaranteed victory opponent? Give me the big time game. Win or lose, I want to be playing on the biggest stage against the best in the country.

Has it really been that long that people have already forgotten the improbable beatdown the Sooners put on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last year? Let me remind you, Oklahoma was a FIFTEEN POINT underdog heading into that game. One. Five. As in more than a two touchdown dog. That is no small margin in football and next to no one (ahem) gave the Sooners a prayer. The Sooners flipped the script and won handily, 45-31. Sooner nation was electric. This was the Sooner Magic we had been missing. This was Big Game Bob's return to the limelight to slay the mighty SEC powerhouse.

And then the 2014 season rolled around and the Sooner hype train was in full throttle. A #4 preseason ranking had Sooner nation salivating over the potential of entering the first ever college football playoffs. Two mid-season losses later and that is but a fairly tale. Just like clockwork, out come the Stoops haters. "Bob's lost his fire," "Stoops has become complacent," "What has Bob done outside of the Sugar Bowl?" they say. Money in the bank, out they come.

Let me paint you a picture. Outside of winning the national championship last year, would you agree that defeating the mighty Crimson Tide against all odds in a BCS bowl game was the next best thing? How is it then that a silver medal does not earn Bob enough goodwill for even half of the next season?

"They've lost TWO games already! The season is over! It's a complete failure!" they shout. Those two losses have come by a combined five points. If one of the best field goal kickers in the nation converts on any of of the three missed kicks, are we even having this discussion right now? Want to know just how improbable it was for Michael Hunnicutt to not convert on what amounted to two separate attempts at extra point range? Let's just say that it's been proven that extra points are converted at a rate higher than 98% of the time. That's pretty high odds on converting both kicks inside the 20 yard range. But to fail on converting either of them in the same game? I'm not very good at math, but I know enough to know that those odds are astronomical. Add on the fact that Hunnicutt is one of the most accurate kickers in all of college football? Go ahead and pile some extra percentile points on to whatever insane odds it already was.

My point in all of this is, let's open our eyes and be realistic. Every loss is not Bob's fault and it's simply unfair to dig into that same box every time the Sooners don't live up to the unrealistic expectations. Does that make me a bad fan for refusing to lose my mind every time Oklahoma comes up short? Well, that's for you to decide. I want the Sooners to win just as much as anyone, but I also realize that it's unrealistic to expect perfection every single year and if you do then you're only setting yourself up for disappointment.

Bob Stoops is not the problem, quite the opposite. Bob Stoops is the best coach in all of the land and has my complete and full trust. Yeah, I said it. Not another coach I'd rather have. Boomer Sooner.