Virginia Tech, Tennessee Will “Go Racing” in 2016

With a capacity of 160,000, Bristol Motor Speedway will become the largest college football venue in 2016.

With a capacity of 160,000, Bristol Motor Speedway will become the largest college football venue in 2016.

College football regularly draws thousands of fans per game, with many schools averaging more than 80,000 fans. Virginia Tech is known for being a perennial power in the ACC, and Lane Stadium regularly draws crowds of 66,000 fans. Tennessee also has a strong fan base in the SEC, with 6 digit crowds of over 100,000 every game. Now imagine those two crowds put together to form a giant crowd and throw in a finish line, banked turns, and pit row for show, and that’s what you’ll get in 2016.

According to reports, the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers will play a nonconference game in 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. The venue is most widely known for hosting NASCAR races twice per year, drawing crowds of 160,000 plus. Bristol will serve as a figurative AND geographic neutral site for the two teams (Virginia Tech will travel 124 miles; Tennessee will travel 113).

But perhaps the most staggering statistic is the sheer amount of people in attendance. 160,000 fans would BLOW the existing NCAA record of about 115,000 fans at the University of Michigan’s “Big House” out of the water. Considering that these two schools are steeped in tradition, history, and success (names like Peyton Manning and Michael Vick come to mind), this game has the potential to be HUGE. No pun intended.

While it is unsure how the stadium will be configured for the game, the likely assumption is that the field will be placed in the infield area between the two pit roads used by NASCAR. Engineers would likely have to construct a turf field to place over the existing asphalt. Perhaps the two teams will even bring in trailers as temporary locker rooms. The good news is that there are precedents for unique sports engineering.

In 2008, Michigan State hosted North Carolina in an NCAA basketball contest at Ford Field, the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions using a specially-constructed court. In April 2009, the two teams met again at Ford Field in the national championship game (UNC won both games, thank you very much!). Several basketball games have also been played on aircraft carriers docked in harbor (again, UNC beat Michigan State in 2011). And the NHL has nearly perfected its outdoor ice rinks built on football and baseball fields in the annual Winter Classic.

Tennessee is a program in a rebuilding phase after losing star players Tyler Bray, Cordarelle Patterson, and Justin Hunter to the NFL. New coach Butch Jones (previously of Cincinnati fame) has the Vols at 3-3, and they nearly upset #6 Georgia last week. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is 5-1 and ranked #24 in the AP Poll. Head coach Frank Beamer, who has led the Hokies since 1987, has won 10 games 11 of the past 14 seasons, and Virginia Tech has won 4 ACC Championships since 2004. So this mammoth game will feature two great programs three years from now. Wouldn’t it be appropriate if the winning team got a checkered flag?

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The Open Championship: Phil Rises To Raise the Jug

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Phil Mickelson becomes the latest golfer to have his name engraved on the famous Claret Jug.

The Open Championship from Muirfield has not lacked drama at all this week. Playing in rough conditions, the normal names rose to the top of the leaderboard playing the golf we all love to watch. For the first two rounds it looked like Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, and Hunter Mahan were the ones to beat as they played the course with the right amount of strategy and precision, yet the day and tournament belongs to one man and one man only, Phil Mickelson.

Lefty showed complete guts, poise and composure, shooting a 66 in the final round of the tournament to finish at 3-under par. With a person who has a track record of falling apart in major championships that are not at Augusta, Michelson has learned to play a great round and tournament. Phil has finally played a complete game of golf and it does not look like he is slowing down at all.

As he came in making four birdies as he closed out the tournament it shows how a true competitor and champion plays. The great players make the best and memorable shots in the highest amounts of pressure. This Open Championship coming from Scotland will be known for Tiger still not putting three rounds together in a Major championship, a countrymen of Lee Westwood falling apart along with Adam Scott, but the show will be forever stolen by Phil finally winning one of the Major championships that has been haunting him his entire championship

As we leave The Open Championship we have some great questions answered and still some questions that are sticking around. There is just one thing that we know is for certain; today is Phil Mickelson’s day and he rose to take one of the two monkeys off his back. Congratulations to you lefty your play the last two weeks has you as the most deserving player to hold up the Claret Jug.

New Fantasy Football Keeper Rule

Let’s say you’re a big fantasy football player, and you play with the same players in the same league every season. Instead of playing in a keeper league, this new rule will help one try to determine what player they believe will have a good season the next year.

Four years ago in my high school league, my friend and I came up with a new keeper rule. It was unlike any other keeper league or keeper rule I was aware of, and it made the league interesting as we had to pick a “sleeper” player on our team to keep for our team the next season. The catch to this rule was based off of limitations for the players you can choose to keep. What I mean by this limitation is that we set up the rule based off of a players draft position and players ranking at the end of the season in terms of points.

The limitations were different for each position in our starting lineup. For example, ever since my friend and I created we set up the limitation that one cannot keep a quarterback that was drafted in the top 10 or finished top 10 in points at the end of the season, for running back top 20, wide receiver top 15, tight end top 5 and one can keep any defense and kicker. This rule has kept the league interesting as it adds a new type of thinking to predict what sleeper will have an even better season the next season.

If one is ever looking for a change up in their fantasy football leagues, this is it. I now run my own leagues in college and implement this rule and it seems to be working really well so far. Play this new exciting style of fantasy football that will be sure to challenge your players this season.

Rafael Nadal Upset at Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal has just been upset in the first round of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. Nadal, the #5 seed in the Genelemen’s Singles tournament, lost to unseeded Belgian Steve Darcis in straight sets, 6-7, 6-7, 4-6 on Monday afternoon in London. In Nadal’s nine Wimbledon appearances, he had never lost in the first round, and the Spaniard had never lost in the first round of ANY major championship.

Darcis, 29, had previously won only one of his three career Wimbledon matches. He last reached the second round in 2009, before losing to #22 Ivo Karlovic. Darcis, ranked #135 in the ATP World Rankings, now owns a career record of 73-80 with two singles titles. Lukasz Kubot of Poland awaits Darcis in the second round.

Nadal won the French Open last month in Paris, his eighth French Open title and 12th major championship. Still, questions were raised when the two-time Wimbledon champion was seeded #5, below Spainard David Ferrer, who Nadal defeated in straight sets in the French Open final this year. If Nadal had won out, he would have faced longtime rival Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately for Nadal, his time in London is over, and he will now have to regroup from the biggest loss of his professional career.

Justin Rose Outplays Phil Mickelson to Win U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson has been so close at the U.S. Open before. Five times he finished as the tournament’s runner-up in his 20+ year career. Heading into the final round of the 2013 U.S. Open, it looked like Mickelson was ready to finally win the championship that has long eluded him. Unfortunately, Sunday marked the sixth runner-up finish for Mickelson, who finished two strokes behind Englishman Justin Rose in the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia.

Mickelson shot a four over par 74 on Sunday that included two double bogeys in his first five holes. Mickelson trailed the leaders by one shot after his first nine holes, but responded with a holed wedge shot for eagle on the short par 4 tenth hole that propelled Mickelson into the lead. But Mickelson struggled on the back nine as well, making bogeys at thirteen and fifteen.

Meanwhile, Englishman Justin Rose was putting a nice Sunday round together behind the scenes. Starting the day at +1, Rose birdied three holes (4, 6, and 7) on the first nine holes to pull to even par at the turn. Rose birdied the 12th and 13th holes to take the lead at -1, and held on for the final five holes. The tough stretch of 14 thru 18 proved difficult even for Rose, who bogeyed two holes coming in. He nearly holed out a birdie approach on 18 before making par to take the clubhouse lead at -1.

Meanwhile, Mickelson, two groups behind, had to come from behind to force a playoff. On the par 4 16th hole, Mickelson missed a ten foot birdie putt by an inch on the lip of the hole. He failed to convert a long birdie putt at 17, and stood before the 18th hole needing to make birdie to force “extra innings”. His drive found thick rough on the left side of the hole, and his second shot failed to reach the green. After missing his approach shot on 18 by a few feet, Mickelson had once again fallen victim to being a U.S. Open runner-up. “I had come so close to getting the ball in the hole, and I just couldn’t get it in the hole,” Mickelson claimed. He turned 43 on Sunday.

Rose, 32, became the fifth straight winner of the U.S. Open to win his first career major. “Philadelphia is my town,” Rose said after the victory. He previously won the 2010 AT&T National tournament held at nearby Aronimink Golf Club in West Philadelphia. After holing his final putt, Rose pointed to the skies above and held back tears towards his late father Ken, who taught a young Rose how to play the game.

World #1 Tiger Woods struggled mightily at Merion, finishing in a tie for 32nd place at +13. #2 Rory McIlroy and #3 Adam Scott also struggled to finishes of +14 and _15, respectively. Defending champion Webb Simpson finished at +13 as well. Plenty of players were close to Rose and Mickelson on Sunday as well. Charl Schwartzel birdied his first hole to tie the lead briefly, but struggled late and finished at +8. Playing partner Steve Stricker, also seeking his first major victory, made a triple bogey on the second hole and finished at +6. Jason Day tied Mickelson for second place at +3, and Hunter Mahan, who held the lead for much of the first nine holes, finished at +5.

For many weeks, the golfing community questioned whether Merion Golf Club, playing less than 7,000 yards, would hole up with advances in technology and distance in the game today. Inches of rain early in the week exacerbated prospects of low scores, and some believed scores would trump -10. However, nobody finished the tournament under par, and the best round of the tournament was three-under par 67. For all the criticism and controversy of Merion as a host course, the Philadelphia venue proved it could live up to its storied past. Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam in 1930, Ben Hogan hit his famous one iron and won in 1950, Trevino outdueled Nicklaus in 1971. And Justin Rose now owns his own piece of Merion history in 2013, a story sure to last a lifetime.

 

2013 US Open: Merion Provides a Classic Test

The 18th hole at Merion, 521 yards in length, will undoubtedly challenge the world's best golfers this week.

The 18th hole at Merion, 521 yards in length, will undoubtedly challenge the world’s best golfers this week.

The 2013 U.S. Open is just days away, and as the golfing world descends on Philadelphia’s Merion Country Club, there is one main thought on everyone’s mind: Tiger Woods. It’s been five years since Woods won his last major championship at the 2008 U.S. Open, and now that he’s back on top of the world rankings, many believe it is his time to reclaim major glory. Many people believe the short 6,996 yard Merion will be dominated by Tiger.

But think again, sports fans. Merion is the epitome of a classic style course. And despite the fact that it will play under 7,000 yards, a very short layout by PGA tour standards, golfers will be challenged with some of the toughest holes in U.S. Open history. Three of the four par 3’s at Merion are longer than 230 yards, requiring many players to hit long irons or even fairway woods into challenging greens. There are only two par 5’s on the entire course, and they are both in the first five holes. Three holes (par 4’s at 5, 12, and 15) feature greens sloped so severely that players missing in the wrong spots will NOT be able to hold the green with a chip shot. And the 18th, one of the best finishing holes in major championship golf, plays at more than 520 yards.

The 17th hole, a 256 yard par 3, is one of three par 3s longer than 230 yards.

The 17th hole, a 256 yard par 3, is one of three par 3s longer than 230 yards. Beware that front left bunker!

But Merion also features decades of history and tradition. Designed in 1912, Merion first became noted as the site of the 1930 U.S. Amateur Championship, where Bobby Jones famously completed his “Grand Slam”. In 1950, Ben Hogan hit his famous one iron on the 18th hole to force a playoff in the U.S. Open just weeks after shattering his pelvis in a car accident. Hogan would go on to win the playoff. And in 1971, Lee Trevino defeated Jack Nicklaus in another playoff to win the U.S. Open. Players will tee off on the first hole just ten feet from the iconic white clubhouse and thousands of fans. And most notably, there are no flags at Merion; red and orange wicker baskets grace the flagsticks.

Tiger Woods visited Merion for the first time two weeks ago, and liked what he saw. “Merion will do very well for the U.S. Open,” Woods said to the media. “It’s going to have some holes that [players] are going to abuse the golf course with, but they’re also going to have some holes on the golf course that are going to abuse them.” It will be Woods’ next attempt to catch Jack Nicklaus and his record 18 major championships. Tiger will have to bring his A game though, as Nicklaus one said, “Acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world.”

That makes sense, since Merion sits on only 126 acres of land, the smallest course on the PGA Tour this year. That has forced the USGA to make some quirky changes. Corporate hospitality tents sit in backyards of mansions across the street from #14 and #15. The driving range, scoring tent, and locker rooms sit on Merion’s West Course, located one mile away from the championship course. Merion’s current driving range will house a spectator village with concessions and merchandise tents. And only 20,000 tickets will be sold per day, making for a claustrophobic, yet intimidating atmosphere before, shall we say, “opinionated Philadelphia fans.” (Good luck Sergio!)

But the truth is, this might not be the best course for Tiger. Finesse and putting prowess are required for success at Merion, and Tiger has struggled with both recently. Shorter hitters like Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, and Jim Furyk could find success at Merion by playing accurate, consistent golf. From experience, I can tell you it’s not an easy test of golf. In 2010, I shot 81 from the normal tees with two birdies, and a quintuple-bogey 8 on the par 3 17th. But this year’s U.S. Open will once again be fun to watch.

Explosions Rock Boston Marathon

UPDATE 4:03 p.m.: According to the NY post, 12 are dead.  Controlled explosion going on right now as a bomb squad precaution.  Cities across US are stepping up security while Boston police found device in trash can.  Multiple amputations; burned children according to ABC.

UPDATE 3:47 p.m.: Boston police are finding “secondary devices” among carnage that have not exploded.  According to FOX news, three people confirmed dead.

UPDATE 3:41 p.m.: According to NBC, eyewitnesses saw “two packages or bags” placed near site of explosion.

There have been a pair of explosions near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon today. Two explosions occurred at about 2:30 pm EDT inside Copley Hotel in Downtown Boston. Reports indicate that blood was present on the sidewalks outside hotel, and emergency officials have indicated there are human injuries. There have been no reported casualties as of yet.

A large cloud of white smoke appeared after the first explosion, indicated by a loud bang. The second explosion occurred about 20 seconds after the first. A Boston Herald news reporter running in the marathon said “There are at least a dozen that seem to be injured in some way.” Police have not yet determined whether the explosions were a result of an accident or whether foul play was involved.

The Marathon was the headline event of Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776. Police have cordoned off the area around Copley Square in Boston, and we will keep you up to date with reports as they come in.

UPDATE: A CBS affiliate has picked up on the first explosion.  The second happened immediately after.  https://vine.co/v/bFdt5uwg6JZ

UPDATE 11:16 p.m.: Authorities have confirmed three fatalities and at least 140 injuries, many of them severe in nature.