Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Your predictions: Will Portland Timbers finally win a road game? -

Portland Timbers vs. San Jose EarthquakesPortland Timbers' Eric Alexander restrains Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski as the Timbers won, 2-1, at Jeld-Wen Field, July 3.
Fresh off their most recent Cascadia Cup clash, the Portland Timbers travel to San Jose to face the league-leading Earthquakes Wednesday evening at Buck Shaw Stadium (7:30 p.m., KPDX).

The cards appear to be stacked against the Timbers in this match: on the road against the top scoring team, while missing Donovan Ricketts and Diego Chara to injury. Recall, though, that back in July the Timbers were coming off an embarrassing loss to Colorado before they defeated the red-hot Earthquakes.

Will the Timbers, who are still winless on the road this season, pull off an even greater upset and take down the leaders on their home turf? Or, will this match resemble many other road games for the Timbers. Post your predictions below.

Our Timbers bloggers offer their predictions:

Kip Kesgard:

Timbers 0, Earthquakes 2. San Jose has been flying a bit under the radar with many soccer fans, but the soccer media have noticed how quickly the Earthquakes have turned things around after their struggles in 2011. San Jose currently leads the Western Conference with 56 points, a full 8 points over the second place Seattle Sounders FC, and they are tops in the league in goals scored. Granted, when you have one of the best pure scorers in MLS in Chris Wondolowski, that shouldn't surprise anybody. However, San Jose has witnessed Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Simon Dawkins also contribute goals to the cause while 16 different Earthquake players have registered assists in 2012. To say this is an offensive juggernaut is an understatement. What has helped the Earthquakes is an improved defense with Jon Busch taking over the top goalkeeping spot while their defensive line has been outstanding in keeping the goals allowed average near the top of the league.

Portland would have enough of a challenge already in traveling to the Bay Area, but there are additional situations that make this an extremely difficult match for them to steal any points within. The Timbers remain winless on the road in 2012 and news is that Diego Chara and Donovan Ricketts will be out for two weeks for injuries suffered against Seattle, and Ricketts could be out longer depending on the severity of his shoulder sprain. Goalkeeper Joe Bendik steps into goal for the Timbers, and I would expect Eric Alexander to step in for Chara, but there are rumors abound there will be more changes forthcoming. I'd be ecstatic if the Timbers could somehow earn a draw in the midweek match, but I feel the Timbers will unfortunately continue their road futility for another match.

Jennifer Kesgard:

Timbers 1, Earthquakes 4. As much as I like to remain optimistic, our road record is not brilliant. Neither is the fact we will probably go through another two or three keepers in the next week. Unless a massive earthquake opens the ground and swallows up San Jose, I don't see this being a very good result for us. Before I would have made a prediction with us with a win, because in the past we had been able to do amazing things at the least expected times, but the last time I said that we still lost. I always hold out hope, but I'm not expecting to be thrilled at the final whistle.

Rick Curwen:

Timbers 0, Earthquakes 3. In their last six matches, San Jose Earthquakes are 4-1-1, have scored 14 goals and conceded six and are 10-1-3 at home this season. The Timbers' fortunes have been a little more mixed with a 2-2-2 record that includes nine goals for, 10 against.

The difference in firepower between the teams is staggering. San Jose leads the league in goals scored at home this season with 36. Conversely, the Timbers are at the foot of the road goals table with six.

The loss of Diego Chara will hurt the Timbers and expose our back four to the Earthquakes' goal grabbers Chris Wondolowski (19 goals this season), Alan Gordon (12), Steven Lenhart (8), and Simon Dawkins (7). Gavin Wilkinson has hinted at changes for this match which could see Kris Boyd and Danny Mwanga starting up front. Timbers goalkeeper Joe Bendik will be making his first MLS start in place of the injured Donovan Ricketts.

Given our form on the road this season I don't see the Timbers holding out and bringing any points away from this match. However, there is one light at the end of the tunnel. In their short MLS career the Timbers are unbeaten against three teams and San Jose (1-0-2) is one of them. Philadelphia and Vancouver are the others.

Timbers fans, share your final score predictions and how you think this match will play out in the comments below.

Will LaMarcus Aldridge Stick Through Portland Trail Blazers' Rebuilding Project? - Bleacher Report

"Franchise" stars haven't lived up to their names in recent times. With Dwight Howard's nightmarish tantrum and Kevin Love's frayed patience in mind, all small-market teams should now legitimately fear their superstars bolting for greener pastures.

The Portland Trail Blazers are no different. As a small-market team, they too will face challenges keeping their franchise player LaMarcus Aldridge. Add in their recent fall to the rebuilding zone, and the challenges become magnified.

No player in the NBA likes to stay in a rebuilding team. Losing day after day makes stars feel as though their talents and efforts are not being appreciated enough and leads them to become impatient and unhappy. If pushed too far, the players leave for promising powerhouses where they can win games and contend for titles. 

Rebuilding periods coinciding with athletic pinnacles can be a powerful catalyst to franchise stars deserting their home teams. Too many superstars have fled their teams in fear of wasting their primes on lesser teams with low chances to win rings. Dwight Howard and LeBron James come to mind in recent memory.

The same could happen to LaMarcus Aldridge. He's entering his utmost prime at 27 years old and will look to be in a contending squad, not a rebuilding one. As a competitive athlete seeking to be the best, Aldridge will surely abhor wasting his valuable heyday away on a losing team without a clear path in the immediate future.

The Blazers' most necessary measure to convince Aldridge would be completing and terminating their rebuilding process as quickly as possible and returning as rapidly as they can to playoff contention. Sparing a year or two for rebuilding might work, but any process stretching to more than three years will be unacceptable to the 27-year-old power forward. 

Will LaMarcus Aldridge stay in Portland?

Will LaMarcus Aldridge stay in Portland?

  • Yes, he is loyal and will stick around.

  • No, he will be too unhappy with the team.

Another possible strategy for the Blazers to appease Aldridge will be laying out blueprints and making aggressive moves to improve his supporting cast. This summer's daring moves, including offering a max contract at All-Star center Roy Hibbert were ineffective but impressive nonetheless. Continuing to make such sharp moves will help both the team and Aldridge himself.

Some superstars are simply disgruntled at playing in small markets. Fortunately, Aldridge is not one of them. Ever since his two-year tenure in Texas, where he turned down NBA offers and returned after his freshman year, Aldridge has built a reputation as a loyal player, sometimes sacrificing time or money for his team.

If the Blazers take care to put effort in improving the team as much and as soon as possible, Aldridge will see no reason to harm his reputation, abandon Portland and bolt for a bigger and better team. While the future seems murky in Portland, successfully retaining Aldridge will foreshadow a bright future.

Oregon Ducks' De'Anthony Thomas on the Cover of Sports Illustrated - Bleacher Report

Well, it's about time. "The Fastest Man in Football" is finally getting his due. Rob Moseley of The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.) has tweeted that De'Anthony Thomas will be on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated with the heading: The Fastest Man in Football. See the photo below.

Perhaps, it took Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion or Snoop Whatever to call out USC for letting Thomas get out of Los Angeles. Or maybe, the people at Sports Illustrated just know their college football.

The truth is that DAT has been lighting it up for the Oregon Ducks. He is, quite literally, a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

In three gamesâ€"and he's barely played until halftime in eachâ€"Thomas has rushed 13 times for 228 yards and four touchdowns. On the receiving side, he's caught 11 balls for 154 yards and three TDs.

Thomas has also fielded seven punt returns (most teams kick far, far away from him) for 93 yards. He has yet to run back a punt return for six, but it's only a matter of time.

Thomas is electrifying, unstoppable and just plain fun to watch.

If there is a better player in all of college football today, let him show himself.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Arizona Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks: Complete Game Preview - Bleacher Report

The Oregon Ducks (3-0) will play host to the Arizona Wildcats (3-0) at Autzen Stadium on Saturday evening. 

Not only will this matchup be the first of a competitive Pac-12 slate of games for both teams, it will also be the first time the Ducks will have seen a high caliber opponent, who is respectively ranked at 22 in the AP Poll. 

The contest between these two teams will feature two spread offensive attacks that should provide for a lot of fireworks to finish off what should be a great day of college football.

Here is the Arizona vs. Oregon complete game preview. 

Gameday Information

Kevin Casey/Getty Images

Who: Arizona Wildcats (3-0; 0-0 A) at Oregon Ducks (3-0; 3-0 H)

When: Saturday, September 22, 2012 10:30 p.m. EDT

Where: Eugene, Ore. 

Stadium: Autzen Stadium (54,000)


Radio: Oregon IMG with Jerry Allen, Sirius 92, XM 199, Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM Tucson

Internet Stream:

Oregon Offensive Depth Chart

Kevin Casey/Getty Images

Wide Receiver: Daryle Hawkins (Bralon Addison)

Left Tackle: Tyler Johnstone (Kyle Long)

Left Guard: Ryan Clanton (Mana Greig)

Center: Hroniss Grasu (Karrington Armstrong)

Right Guard: Nick Cody (Hamani Stevens)

Right Tackle: Jake Fisher (Everett Benyard III)

Tight End: Colt Lyerla/Koa Ka'ai (Pharaoh Brown/T.J. Daniel/Koa Ka'ai)

Wide Receiver: Josh Huff (Eric Dungy)

Wide Receiver: Keanon Lowe (B.J. Kelley)

Quarterback: Marcus Mariota (Bryan Bennett)

Running Back: Kenjon Barner (De'Anthony Thomas)

Arizona Offensive Depth Chart

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Wide Receiver Dan Buckner (David Richards) 

Slot: Richard Morrison (Johnny Jackson)

Left Tackle: Mickey Baucus (Shane Zink)

Left Guard: Chris Putton (Addison Bachman)

Center: Kyle Quinn (Addison Bachman)

Right Guard: Trace Biskin (Faitele Faafoi)

Right Tackle: Fabbians Ebbele (Lene Maiava)

Tight End: Drew Robinson (Michael Cooper)

Quarterback: Matt Scott (B.J. Denker)

Running back: Ka'Deem Carey (Daniel Jenkins)

Fullback: Taimi Tutogi (Drew Robinson)

Slot: Austin Hill (Trevor Ermisch)

Wide Receiver: Terrence Miller (Tyler Slavin)

Oregon Defensive Depth Chart

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Defensive End: Taylor Hart (Arik Armstead)

Defensive Tackle: Isaac Remington (DeForest Buckner)

Defensive Tackle: Wade Keliikipi (Ricky Heimuli)

Defensive End: Dion Jordan (Tony Washington)

Middle Linebacker: Kiko Alonso (Rahim Cassell)

Weakside Linebacker: Michael Clay (Derrick Malone)

Strong Linebacker: Boseko Lokombo (Tyson Coleman)

Cornerback: Terrance Mitchell (Dior Mathis)

Free Safety: Avery Patterson (Erick Dargan)

Strong Safety: Brian Jackson (Erick Dargan)

Cornerback: Ifo Edpre-Olomu (Troy Hill)

Arizona Defensive Depth Chart

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Defensive End: Dominique Austin (Chris Merrill)

Nose Tackle: Sione Tuihalamaka (Tevin Hood)

Defensive Tackle: Reggie Gilbert (Dan Pettinato)

Strong Linebacker: Marquis Flowers (Keoni Bush-Loo)

Middle Linebacker: Jacke Fischer (Dakota Conwell) 

Weakside Linebacker: Sir Thomas Jackson (Hank Hobson)

Spur: Tra'Mayne Bondurant (Wayne Capers Jr.)

Bandit: Jared Tevis (William Parks)

Left Corner: Shaquille Richardson (Brendan Murphy)

Right Corner: Jonathan McKnight (Derrick Rainey)

Free Safety: Jourdon Grandon (Jamar Allah)

What Happened to the Ducks Last Week?

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks finished up their non-conference schedule by throttling the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles by a score of 63-15.

While the Ducks did drop down 7-0 after De'Anthony Thomas deflected a punt, the Ducks used 49 straight points to surge back into the lead and prove that there would be no upset on Saturday afternoon.

Marcus Mariota completed 21 of 28 passes for 308 yards, four touchdowns and one interception while De'Anthony Thomas continued to flex his versatility, as he racked up 222 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.

Though they did come out with a big victory, sloppy play at times coupled with more than a few penalties really cast a shadow on what was yet another blowout win for the Ducks.

What Happened to the Arizona Wildcats Last Week?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats completed their non-conference schedule with quite the win against South Carolina State, blanking the Bulldogs 56-0.

Though not much can be said about the Bulldogs football program, Matt Scott and the Wildcats looked impressive in their final primer before Pac-12 play.

Scott completed 30 of 36 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 61 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

The Wildcats also held the Bulldogs to just 154 total yards on the day, a defensive effort they will have to replicate if they want to have a shot at beating the Ducks.

What Does This Game Mean for Both Teams?

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

For the Ducks, this game means the chance to finally prove to the nation that they are the team they are hyped to be as they finally play a decent opponent in No. 22 Arizona.

Though there are better teams out there than the Wildcats, Arizona will pose Oregon's greatest test and will give the Ducks the opportunity to showcase their strengths and weaknesses against comparable competition for the first time this year.

For the Wildcats, this game is the chance to prove their worth and show that they can be a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 South.

While not too many people believe the Wildcats can pull away with a victory in Autzen, if they do, they would suddenly become one of the more dangerous teams in the Pac-12 and further enhance the strength of this conference in 2012.

Key Player for the Oregon Ducks: De'Anthony Thomas

If you get him the ball, De'Anthony Thomas will score.

Arguably the most versatile player in the nation, Thomas looks to be even better in 2012 than he was in 2011.

Should Arizona be able to crack the Oregon defense, De'Anthony will once again have to put the game on his shoulders with big plays as he helps march the Ducks down the field.

Key Player for the Wildcats: Matt Scott

Matt Scott has had somewhat of a breakout season in his first year as a starter for the Arizona Wildcats.

After waiting behind the talented Nick Foles, Scott has already proven that he is the perfect quarterback for the spread option system that Rich Rodriguez employs. 

If the Wildcats are to have any chance in this game, they will need Scott to play virtually flawless. He will have to zero-in on his receivers and pick apart the Oregon secondary, a unit which is perhaps the weakest link in a talented Oregon defense.

An impressive performance by Matt Scott should forward Arizona's chances of playing spoiler to the Ducks' 2012 college football season. 

Oregon Will Win If...

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The Ducks will win this game if they shore up some of the play of their offensive line while also clearing up their penalties. 

While the Ducks will put up points nonetheless, allowing constant pressure on Marcus Mariota coupled with costly penalties will give Arizona the chance it needs to steal this game away from the Ducks.

If those two issues are taken care of, however, the Ducks should be able to coast to victory behind the quick feet of De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner. 

This game will also give Marcus Mariota his first shot at picking apart an Arizona defense, something he must prove he can do if the Ducks wish to win this contest. 

Arizona Will Win If...

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats will win this game if the Ducks do not shore up their sloppy play and penalties as well as receive production from their new standout quarterback, Matt Scott.

Compounding penalties, in addition to turnovers, should be more than enough to give Scott and his offensive weapons the chance to move down the field and put up points at a rate faster than the Ducks'.

Though they need a few things to fall their way in this game, the Wildcats definitely have a shot at pulling quite the big upset this weekend. 


Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Oregon 45 Arizona 24

Though Arizona may test the Ducks for awhile during this game, Oregon will ultimately flex their muscle and come out with the win.

Matt Scott and the Wildcats are a great team, and there is no doubting that. The Ducks, however, are that much better and will be using this game to help solidify their place among college football's elites. 

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