Archive for December, 2013

By Jesse Granger

Saturday night two of the most anticipated rematches of 2013 will come to fruition right here in Las Vegas.  The MGM Grand Garden Arena is the site for the long awaited rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. Silva is possibly the greatest mixed martial artist ever, but it’s Weidman who holds the strap heading into the rematch, after a second round knockout in July.  Before the middleweight grudge match though, is a rematch between the superstars of the women’s division – TUF coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate.  As usual, the UFC has stacked this New Year’s week card with awesome matchups, so here’s some tips on betting the card.

Josh Barnett (-240) vs Travis Browne (+180)

Before either rematch takes place, the octagon walls will be tested when two massive heavyweights face off.  Josh Barnett stands at 6-foot-3 and tips the scales at 248 pounds, and he will be looking up at Travis Browne at 6-foot-7.  Browne is the much better striker, and is much quicker on his feet.  He enters the bout on a wave of momentum off of back-to-back knockouts of Gabriel Gonzaga and Alistair Overeem, but now faces a new challenge.  Barnett is one of the craftiest heavyweights around, and his catch wrestling submission game is lethal.  Browne is inexperienced on the mat, and Barnett will control the match once he gets it there.  If -240 is too steep of odds for you, taking Barnett by submission could be a good bet, as 20 of Barnett’s 30 career wins have come by way of submission.  

Ronda Rousey (-1000) vs Miesha Tate (+650)

The term grudge match is often thrown around lightly.  This is not one of those times.  Anyone who watched even a single episode of this season’s Ultimate Fighter knows that these two women can’t stand each other.  When the two fought for the Strikeforce Title in March of 2012, Rousey finished Tate with a first round armbar, which is exactly how all seven of her pro fights have ended.  There’s no doubt that Rousey is the better fighter here, shown by her gaudy -1000 odds, but when betting you are always looking for value. You aren’t going to find a fighter with +650 odds with much more value than Tate.  Rousey’s odds are inflated by her name recognition amongst casual fans, and Tate is much better than odds makers are giving her credit for.  Tate had Rousey in trouble the first go-around, getting her back early on, plus Rousey has never been past the first round. Tate +650 is worth the risk for a lucrative payout.

Anderson Silva (-125) vs Chris Weidman (+105)

It’s not very often you can get the world champion of a division as an underdog, and that alone is tempting.  But it’s also not very often that Anderson Silva is in a fight in which he isn’t the champ.  Weidman won the first round in the first fight, then finished Silva with a brutal knockout in the second round.  But the fight is still viewed by many as a fluke, due to Silva’s whacky antics.  Those same antics led to him becoming the best fighter on the planet, and unlike some I don’t see him changing his ways.  The Spider will be back and as good as ever. Weidman has the wrestling advantage, but Silva will dominate the standup.  Getting one of the pound-for-pound greats at only -125 is as good a value as one can ask for.  It seems inevitable that Silva will get his belt back Saturday night.  

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

By Jesse Granger

LAS VEGAS – Cody Kessler threw for a season high 344 yards and 4 touchdowns, as USC handled Fresno State 45-20 in Saturday’s Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Kessler broke the Las Vegas Bowl record for touchdown passes in a game before halftime. The previous record of three was held by three others, including Las Vegas Bowl Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo of Utah State.

“He’s a student of the game, and he wants to improve every week,” Coach Clay Helton said. “If you look at him from game one to now, he’s really protecting the ball well now with a high level of accuracy.”

Kessler completed 73 percent of his passes on the day, finished with a passer rating of 207 and was named the game’s most valuable player. Only four receivers caught passes for USC, but with the talent they have at the position, it’s not always necessary to spread the ball around.

“Our receivers are just freak athletes,” said Kessler. “That’s my job, to get the ball to them, and let them make plays and make the right reads.”

Star wide-out Marqise Lee – in what is likely his last game as a Trojan – finished with 118 yards and a pair of touchdown grabs. Lee gained most of his yardage after the catch.

“If you give Marqise Lee just an inch, just like you saw today, he’s going to catch an in-route and he’s going to take it the distance,” Helton said.

Nelson Agholor added 5 catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns, including a 40 yard bomb from Kessler in the first quarter.

In the second half USC turned to the ground attack to help preserve the lead. Led by Javorius Allen, who ran for 75 yards and 2 touchdowns, the Trojans were able to hold onto the ball for 41:27, compared to only 18:33 time of possession for the Bulldogs.

The USC offense fired on all cylinders, gaining 499 total yards, but was overshadowed by the defense. Fresno State’s offense entered the game as one of the most prolific in all of college football. Someone forgot to tell USC.

GameAction_03The Bulldog’s offense that averaged 570.5 yards and 45 points per game was completely outclassed, and held to less than half of those averages. Fresno State was only able to muster 37 yards on the ground, after not attempting a single rush in the first quarter.

The unbalanced attack allowed USC to put immense pressure on Derek Carr, who had his worst performance of the season. In his last collegiate game to impress NFL scouts – including Raiders’ GM Reggie McKenzie, who attended the game – Carr threw for 217 yards on 54 attempts and missed wide open receivers on multiple occasions.

“We came into this game saying we were going to be ultra-aggressive in all three phases of the game,” said Helton. “It didn’t all work, but we wanted that mind-set going in, and our players fed off of it.”

The Trojans played possibly their best game of the season on the defensive side of the ball, forcing the Bulldogs to punt 8 times, nearly double their season average of 4.25. Fresno State’s only two touchdown drives were set up by special teams’ blunders by USC. The first one was on a failed onside kick early in the game, and the second on a fumble by Agholor while fielding a punt.

The nation’s leader in touchdown receptions, Davonte Davis, was held to only 74 yards and a touchdown by junior defensive back Josh Shaw.

“It’s a challenging position to play defensive back, and playing Adams all day was just another challenge,” Shaw said. “I just wanted to be real physical with him and just kind of mix it up to frustrate him and Carr.”

The bowl win is USC’s first since Pete Carroll was coach, and its 32nd in school history. It capped off the Trojans 25th 10-win season, and a 6-1 record in their last seven games.

“There was a point in the season where these guys came together, and started playing together instead of as individuals,” Kessler said. “When we do that, people saw all year that when we play together, play as a family and play for your brother next to you, anything can happen for this team.”

By Jesse Granger

Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1) vs. Southern California Trojans (9-4)

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium (capacity 36,800)

When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 12:30 pm PT

TV: ABC


Why to watch

Las Vegas is always awarded with a quality matchup in the annual Vegas Bowl, but this year brings two powerhouse programs with star-studded lineups. The 20 combined wins by USC and Fresno State are only second amongst non-BCS bowls to the Cotton Bowl. This year’s bowl game also pits two teams from the same region against each other. The two campuses are only four hours from each other, so recruiting battles could be only the line when the Bulldogs and Trojans take the field Saturday afternoon.!cid__2_11C6C1EC11C65F38002293FA88257C40

For those who watch for elite caliber athletes, there will be plenty of NFL talent on display. USC is always stacked with a roster full of future-NFL players, and this year is no different. The Trojans pro-prospects are led by junior wide receiver Marqise Lee, who ESPN draft expert Todd McShay is projecting as the No. 1 receiver in next year’s draft. For once, USC doesn’t have the biggest star on the field. Fresno State signal caller Derek Carr has wowed scouts all year with mind-boggling numbers and, according to McShay, could be drafted in the top-10.

Then there’s always the Hollywood drama surrounding the Trojans. USC has found itself in quite a scenario, under the third head coach just this season. After firing Lane Kiffin on Sept. 28, Ed Orgeron did a great job as the interim. But upon the hiring of Steve Sarkisian, Orgeron abruptly resigned. Sarkisian will obviously not coach the team on Saturday with the ink still wet on his brand new contract, so offensive coordinator Clay Helton will lead the Trojans against Fresno State.

Fresno State Keys

The Bulldogs threw the ball all over the gridiron this year at a record breaking pace. Carr threw so many passes the team may have needed to consider a pitch-count. The senior quarterback threw a Mountain West record 605 passes for 4,866 yards. That broke Carr’s own record for passing, by more than 700 yards. Carr also broke Kellen Moore’s Mountain West record for touchdown passes in a season with 48 touchdown tosses. Carr’s number one target, Davante Adams, caught 122 passes for 1,645 yards. Adams led the nation with 23 touchdown grabs, which was eight more than the second best. Fresno State moved the ball on opponents at will, racking up 572.4 yards per game, but the Bulldog’s third ranked offense will face the most talented defense of the year in USC. But the Mountain West has owned the Vegas Bowl recently, winning the last four, and six of the past seven. Will Fresno State’s unstoppable aerial assault be grounded against the Trojans talented secondary, or will it finish its record breaking year with a bang?

USC Keys

After USC’s 62-41 loss to Arizona State, the season seemed lost. But the Trojans rallied, and won five straight before falling to cross-town rival UCLA to end the year. Even with the lack of stability around the program, the defense remains one of the best in the nation. Led by linebacker Hayes Pullard, the Trojans finished 16th in the nation in total defense; that’s a feat even more impressive in the offensively stacked Pac 12. USC will look to shut down Carr and Adams, with the Pac 12’s first ranked pass defense. The Trojans allow only 214.5 yards per game through the air, close to half of Fresno State’s average. In today’s college football, stopping elite passing attacks is nearly impossible. But the Trojans will gladly surrender yards between the 20’s if they can hold the Bulldogs to field goals. USC’s red-zone defense is 3rd in the nation, only allowing 26 scores in 41 red-zone opportunities for their opponents. As good as Fresno State’s offense was, it did struggle in the red-zone, ranking 48th in the country. If USC’s seventh ranked red-zone offense can punch the ball in the end zone while holding Fresno to field goals, USC could run away with the game.

Final Note

Despite the announcement by Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Executive Director Dan Hanneeke that the game is sold out, there are still a small amount of tickets available.

According to the Fresno State Athletics site the ticket offices are closed, but tickets can be purchased for $55 at the Hard Rock Hotel on Friday Dec. 20 from 10 am to 4 pm.

By Jesse Granger

Saturday night the UFC Octagon will be back in Sacramento, for a card stacked with superstar fights of the lighter-weight variety.  While the average weight of the eight fighters on the main card is 140 pounds, these midgets will put on a hell of a show. 

Joe Lauzon (-175) vs Mac Danzig (+155)

To start off the card on national television, lightweights Joe Lauzon and Mac Danzig will face off.  Motivation won’t be a problem in this one, as both fighters will be fighting for their careers.  Both Lauzon and Danzig enter the bout on two-fight losing streaks, and have lost three of their last four.  While the odds are fairly close, I think Lauzon is a significantly better fighter, and will pull off the victory.  If you are seeking better odds than -175, a bet on Lauzon by submission might not be a bad idea.  18 of Lauzon’s 22 wins have come by way of submission, including his last five.

Chad Mendes (-800) vs Nik Lentz (+550)

There’s not much to talk about from a betting perspective in this one.  In all likelihood, Mendes will annihilate Lentz, hence the -800 line.  Mendes’ record is nearly perfect, with his only loss coming to pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo.  With those type of odds, there isn’t much value to be found here, unless you want to parlay Mendes with some other fights for a few extra bucks.

Urijah Faber (-155) vs Michael McDonald (+135)

This fight is guaranteed fireworks.  Faber and McDonald are two of the fastest bantamweights on the planet, and both possess unique finishing ability for their size.  McDonald has the most value of any underdog on this card.  The 22-year-old from Modesto, Calif. has won nine of his last 10, with the only loss coming to interim-champion Renan Barao.  Of those nine wins, seven have been by submission or (T)KO. He is the much younger fighter, and is riding a title wave of momentum.  McDonald has proven to be excellent at taking advantage of mistakes, and Faber’s wild kickboxing has plenty to take advantage of.  McDonald would probably be favored, if not for the fight being in Sac-town.  Faber will be fighting in his home town of Sacramento for the fifth time in his career.  Interestingly enough, that hasn’t served Faber all that well in the past, as he’s lost two of his last three fights there. 

Demetrious Johnson (-135) vs Joseph Benavidez (+110)

The oddsmakers have all but eliminated any shred of value in this main event by putting Benavidez at only +110.  These two faced off at UFC 152 in September of 2012, and the champion, Johnson, barely escaped by the skin of his teeth via split decision.  The fight was razor close, and no one could name a clear winner after 25 minutes in the octagon.  While I lean slightly towards Johnson in this one, there isn’t much value at -135 when these fighters are nearly dead even when it comes to skill.  Johnson has the speed advantage, but only by a hair, and Benavidez makes up for that with technique and fluidity in his boxing.  This is a great fight to watch, not such a great fight to bet.

IMG_6118

By W.G. Ramirez

Heading into the 2013-14 boys basketball season, Arbor View coach Kyle Hageness had no clue what to expect from diminutive point guard Corey Moore.

After all, the 5-foot-9 senior spark plug spent his junior season behind Navonte Hill, who is now playing at Arizona Western College.

Seven games into the season, the Aggies are undefeated. And heading into Friday’s showdown with Centennial, which is also 7-0, the Bulldogs might want to be wary of more than Arbor’s proclaimed star, Justin Burks, as the Aggies are getting it done from a well-rounded bunch.

Including Moore, whose leadership hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“It’s definitely a pleasant surprise, we hoped he could do that,” Hageness said. “But (Corey’s) matured so much from his junior to senior year, he’s taken on leadership roles, he communicates on the floor, off the floor with the players. He wants to play defense. He gets us into what we need to be into.

“He’s become that kind of kid that can lead us.”

His stats might not back up Hageness’ statement – Moore averages a bleak 5 points per game – but it’s the attitude he brings out on the court, and leadership he displays in getting some of the most lethal scorers in position during the game.

While Burks is the name everyone knows, teams will be making a big mistake in ignoring Chuck Porter, Tristan Lacy, Isaiah Simmons or Terrell Butler – four other players who on any given night can pump 20 into the books for Arbor View. And with Moore pulling the strings and doing the little things it takes to be a great point guard, he’s doing a pretty good job making every one of those guys – not to mention a talented bench – look great.

Though Hageness said Corey is in the background, “getting not a whole ton credit all the time, but deserving an awful lot of that credit,” there is one player who knows how important his point guard is to Arbor View basketball.

“A lot of teams still come out thinking I’m the only player Arbor has, but in the Legacy tournament we showed that’s not true,” said Burks, who signed his letter of intent to play college ball at Cal Santa Barbara. “Corey’s definitely a big key to this team. He brings energy, he gets everyone excited, he makes everyone play harder and he’s a real good facilitator.

“He picks everyone up and he makes us play harder. That’s what I look for every game, he just comes out with that same fire, that same energy that we all need.”

Like during a recent tournament at Legacy High School, where Moore established the first triple-double in school history. And he did it without grabbing a single rebound.

Moore scored 12 points, had 10 assists and 10 steals.

Then, in a tight battle at home against Green Valley, with 54.1 seconds left in the game, Moore challenged 6-foot-4 Troy Cropper and 6-foot-7 Tyrell Crosby in the paint and came away with a key defensive rebound. It might have been the biggest play of the game.

And it came from the littlest guy on the court.IMG_6127

“People don’t realize how much heart he has,” Burks said. “He’s smart, he’s real deceptive, his change of speed is ridiculous and he really catches people off guard with that, a lot of times they don’t expect that from him. He’s very underestimated, but he’s showing people this year.”

Moore admitted he feels he has something to prove, especially when three of his teammates return after successful seasons that garnered all-conference and/or all-state honors. His goal, like any other point guard, is to prove he’s the No. 1 floor general on the floor, but to also lead the Aggies to the state tournament.

“I feel like there’s nobody I can’t guard and there’s nobody I can’t get open on my team,” Moore said. “My teammates been telling me all summer that I needed to prove … I’m the best point guard in the city. That really just drives me to do it, to prove everybody wrong.”

Seven games into their undefeated season, he’s certainly done all the right things to prove to his coach and teammates he can handle the job.

“Corey is the (guy) that makes everything go,” Hageness said. “Those kids know that if they get themselves open, Corey will find them. He dishes the ball to those guys and gets them where they need to be. Defensively, he’s probably our best one-on-one defender. We don’t have a stat for how many times he’s been on the ground, we don’t keep that one. But Corey’s leading that one. He’s got the keys to the car.

“He’ll do what it takes to win.”