Ranger Rundown: June 5, 2017

I’m going to start a weekly (or maybe bi-weekly) column assessing the play of the Texas Rangers for (hopefully) the rest of the 2017. In it, i’ll offer insight and analysis over the team’s play with fan perspective along with journalistic objectivity.

Date: June 5, 2017
Next Game: 58/162, Tue. Jun 6 vs. New York Mets

Team Record: 26-31, 4th AL West
Personal Power Ranking: 20

It kind of stinks that we’re starting this off on a pretty gloomy note. The Rangers are at their low point of the season, sliding to 2-8 including a pair of four-game losing streaks after being eaten up and spat out by a stretch of schedule that pitted them against some of the league’s hottest teams.

LAST WEEK

The Rangers opened up a homestand with a matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays last Monday, a balanced squad that made for a pretty even pairing. That series saw team captain Adrian Beltre’s return to the lineup from a hamstring injury, and Elvis Andrus emerge an elite offensive threat.

Texas would go onto drop two of three to Tampa Bay in that series, both losses thanks to a serious implosion in the back end of the bullpen.

Texas held a 5-2 lead in game one of the series, only to eventually see a pitching meltdown outweigh a strong offensive outing in a 10-8 loss. After a win Tuesday, a similar trend emerged Wednesday- Texas led 4-3 late until Matt Bush allowed his first home run of the season in a game that newly-shaven Sam Dyson would completely squander and Texas would lose in extras, 7-4.

Andrus was by far the most outstanding player through the week, racking up an impressive 10 RBIs total, aided by a career-best 5 RBI performance on Tuesday. He has emerged as one of the top offensive threats at shortstop in the American League and one MLB’s elite when considering his rock-solid defense.

MLB.com projects Andrus’ to record homers and 72 RBIs, both which would be career bests. As of now, he is the most likely Ranger to be featured in July’s MLB All-Star Game.

As for the weekend series, it was one of the ugliest in recent memory. Houston came to town and completely manhandled the Rangers, dropping them to 1-5 on the homestand. After hanging a whopping 40 runs in three games on Minnesota in their midweek series, the Ranger staff was no match for the Astro bats, slightly cooling them off to half that total, but nonetheless conceding all three games as Houston won their eighth, ninth and tenth straight contests.

This series really opened a lot of eyes in the Ranger/AL West community that the proverbial torch of AL West power has been passed. We’ve seen Ranger teams go on late season pushes for the pennant (exhibit A: 2015, a team that sat 48-52 at the deadline and won their division).

If the Rangers make the playoffs this season, it appears it’s going to be through one of the two AL Wild Card spots, as it seems increasingly less likely that they’ll catch Houston and their current 15 game lead.

THE BULLPEN, OH, THE BULLPEN.

The bullpen struggles are the most pressing issue of this team to date.Texas ranks 26th in the MLB in bullpen ERA at a 4.76.

Moving on from Sam Dyson will significantly buoy the staff. In his nearly two full years in Texas, Dyson slid up and down the performance spectrum. Emerging as a key back-end arm down the stretch after he was acquired at the 2015 trade deadline, Dyson would go onto save 38 games in 2016 after Shawn Tolleson was phased out as the Ranger closer after a disastrous start of his own.

In 2017, Dyson was aligned with a Similar fate to Tolleson. His stat line was horrendous this season- a 1-6 record with an appalling 10.80 ERA out of the bullpen. He failed to convert a single save in four opportunities and saw Matt Bush assume his post.

Dyson was reportedly very upset and his teammates were very sympathetic when they learned of his departure. He was supposedly a good clubhouse guy and is a solid professional. Of course, we all feel for the guy, but it was simply time to move on.

After wowing at the 2017 World Baseball Classic for the first-time champion United States, Dyson simply couldn’t effectively locate any pitches to effectively record outs against major league hitters. He leans heavily on his sinker, which had little to no effectiveness this season, ultimately leading to his Ranger demise.

Jose Leclerc was activated off the DL as his replacement. A solid young left-handed arm, Leclerc could be a nice replacement for Dyson, paired with fellow young lefty Alex Claudio, who has posted a 2.83 career ERA in four campaigns for Texas.

dyson1280_pq89hker_m7sr5vhqTHIS WEEK

Texas welcomes in the underachieving New York Mets (24-30) to Globe Life Park this week for a quick two-game interleague set. Two wins would be a huge step in the right direction for a team that recently sat in wild card contention.

It doesn’t get much easier in the later half of the week, as the Rangers will head to the nation’s capital for another interleague tilt with the Washington Nationals- a top team in the National League.

If the Rangers could take care of business at home against New York and steal a pair of games at Washington, their record would sit at 30-33, which would go a long way on the road to .500. Realistically, if the team looks to contend, they need to be back at the .500 mark by the end of June.

MOVING FORWARD

Given a pretty tough schedule, it’s going to be interesting to see if Texas can rally back to contention. This is where it gets tough as both a fan and journalist; of course I want and believe this team can contend, but if things don’t turn around quickly, the harsh reality of a rebuilding season and selling at the trade deadline will loom quickly on Arlington.

Injuries haven’t helped, but the starting rotation and bullpen that this team has featured makes me queasy. Credit where credit is due, Austin Bibens-Dirx and Dillon Gee are professional athletes, but they’re borderline Major League players who aren’t easy for a fanbase to get excited about and aren’t going to help a team’s immediate playoff push.

Hope is on the horizon nonetheless. Cole Hamels, AJ Griffin and Tyson Ross are all on the brink of returning, and when paired with the solid top three of Yu Darvish, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez, a healthy rotation puts Texas’ among the league’s elite. If those guys were to get going, the Rangers could more than likely see wins start to come.

Carlos Gomez is sure to help matters as well. Earning a reputation as a high energy, boom-or-bust guy, he is surely to add a boost to the lineup when he returns from his May 15 hamstring injury.

There’s a lot of what-if’s in this evaluation, but right now, the overarching feeling from this team is different from years past. In 2014, the completely battered team still was clinging to a .500 record, but the writing was on the wall that they were out of contention.

In 2015, the June edition of the team featured so few impact players that would affect the playoff run that it almost seemed like a completely different squad. Last year, the Rangers were firmly atop the AL West, and were the first team to reach the 50-win plateau.

Here in 2017, we find an enigma of a team still looking for its identity. Unfortunately for baseball fans, impatient as they come, we’re just going to have to wait and see if this team can contend, and whether the injury bug can be rallied past.

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Questions and Observations from a Pirates of the Caribbean fan after watching ‘Dead Man Tell No Tales’

*SPOILERS*

I offer insight and analysis into the next hit of Disney’s swashbuckling saga Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Men Tell No Tales.

  1. It generally moved quicker than most of the past films– The official run time for Dead Men was 2 hours and 33 minutes, which is actually the second-longest film of the franchise behind At World’s End (my least favorite film of the franchise and which seemed like it’d never end). Still, the action was engaging and easy to follow, captivating the audience’s attention which, for me, made it seem to go by fast. In the past, lengthy shots of ocean scenery and irrelevant background images have made the film drag on, but that was kept to a minimum in this film.
  2. The movie followed the plot line of past films- If you’re a fan of Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) random appearance on any Caribbean island (this time it’s St. Martin) narrow escapes, swindling of the powers that be, tolerable violence, overcoming the odds and acquiring a crew, following with conflict resolution with old friends and ultimately sticking to the bad guy, you’ll be happy with this installment of Pirates. It pretty much holds to form with all the other films.
  3. Jack’s banter is more witty and sexual that ever. It seems like the writers most definitely adjusted Jack’s dialogue to reach a more modern audience. From more sexual innuendos to a marijuana reference, Jack’s character usually doesn’t engage in this much banter. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times summed it up pretty well  in his review:  “Dead Men works well enough as a stand-alone, swashbuckling comedic spectacle, thanks to the terrific performances, some ingenious practical effects, impressive CGI and a steady diet of PG-13 dialogue peppered with not particularly sophisticated but (I have to admit) fairly funny sexual innuendo.”
  4. Don’t go expecting to see a lot of Kiera Knightley and/or Orlando Bloom- When I first heard that Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Kiera Knightley) were returning to the films, I expected them to be a big part of Jack’s adventure. Upon reading up before watching, I realized that their roles would be rather isingnifcant, and they were. Bloom shows up in the first and last scenes, but maybe has a minute and a half of dialogue. Kiera Knightley has literally none. That being said, it was good to see the Turner family reunited. It tugged on the sentimental heart strings of any Pirates fan who holds films 1-3 near and dear to their hearts.
  5. Bardem plays a good villain– Javier Bardem was excellent as Armando Salazar. Having seen his work in thrillers like No Country for Old Men, Sicario and Skyfall, I knew what to expect from his villainy. His mannerisms in these films are very believable and the audience definitely buys into the fact that he’s a dude to be feared. I also thought it made for an interesting dynamic in the Bardem residence given how Javier was casted for this film right after his spouse, Penelope Cruz, was cast as the main antagonist and Jack’s first legitimate love interest in the last film (Angelica in On Stranger Tides).
  6. I really find it hard to believe that’s the last that we’ll see of Barbossa–  Spoiler- Barbossa dies. However, we’ve already seen that in the first installment of the franchise, Curse of the Black Pearl, only for him to be brought back to life by Calypso in Dead Man’s Chest. Given the fact that Hector (Geoffrey Rush) has appeared in every single film, I thoroughly believe that he will make some kind of return for the rumored Pirates 6. Barbossa has proven to be a valuable asset to the story, no matter what side of Jack’s interests he finds himself on.
  7. The movie does a really good job filling in holes and tying everything together before what we can presume will be the last film of the franchise- The film offers more insight into Jack’s past than ever. First, it introduces the audience to Jack’s uncle for the first time, who was largely insignificant and didn’t do much for the storyline. More importantly, the film distinguished Jack’s initial defeat of Salazar as what established his legacy. Salazar states that Jack’s heckling from the Crow’s nest of his ship reminded him of a bird chirping, so seamen began to call him ‘Jack the Sparrow.’ Next, It depicts Jack’s quick-wit and outmaneuvering of Salazar as what won the favor of his crew. It also showed that he received the compass that doesn’t point North in this battle win Salazar, and after the defeat, his crew presents him with his hat, sword, beads, and many other intricacies that make Jack Sparrow. For the first time, the audience is offered insight into the life of Barbossa as well, revealing his daughter, Carina Smith/Barbossa (Kaya Scodelario) as a main character, and establishing more of his on-land past. All this did a good job of tying  up loose ends and answering Pirates fans questions about their favorite characters before what we can presume is the no-holds-barred final adventure in the sixth film.
  8. Why would Jack give away his compass so easily?– I touched on it earlier, but this was my main question. In a drunken, muddy stupor, Jack gives his valued compass that his been a fixture in almost every past film away for a handle of rum in St. Martin. I realize he’s drunk, but that has to be Jack’s most valuable possession. He was told in the aforementioned battle by a crew member’s last breaths to never give the compass up. This causes a chain of events that ultimately leads to Salazar and crew’s freeing from The Devils Triangle, the purgatory where Jack staved off certain death and trapped Salazar’s crew. In my opinion, Jack shouldn’t have just given away the compass, more development should’ve gone into it, perhaps a tangential story on Jack losing the compass.
  9. From an entertainment aspect, Disney hit the nail on the head again.- I always say about Pirates films that you can’t really watch for accuracy or believability. It’s a fantasy movie, and you’ll often find that those who watch the movie critically enjoy it much less than those who open their minds to fantasy. That’s what makes it so great, it’s such a fun story to follow and the action gets you on the edge of your seat like you’re a kid again. Storyline and feasibility aside, the movie was thoroughly entertaining. I strongly believe that the casual moviegoing audience will especially enjoy Dead Men tell no Tales.

Quick column: Soon, we will know Devin Booker by one name

We know the biggest NBA superstars in the past by their abbreviated names. Kobe.. MJ. Shaq. This has stayed consistent through today’s NBA. LeBron. Curry. Russ.

Soon, their will be another name to add to that list. Devin.

Devin Booker, that is.  A quintessential rising star in today’s NBA, the 20 year-old Booker has torched NBA defenses and has established himself as a stud young player for the Phoenix Suns of the NBA’s Western Conference.

Drafted 14th overall out of Kentucky in the 2015 NBA Draft, he entered the NBA as a somewhat overlooked prospect. Since then, he’s proved all the doubters and teams that passed on him in that same draft wrong- improving his scoring average from 13.3 PPG (which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team) to an astonishing 21.1 PPG as a second year player. At just age 19, Booker became the fourth youngest player to reach 1000 career points.

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Booker seems to be the whole package so far during his time in the association.  Standing at 6’6″ and weighing 206 lbs., he has a competitive frame that allows him to manipulate defenses and stay in front of opposing players on defense. He can shoot three pointers at an impressive 37% clip, while also proving to be an above-average free throw shooter (83% between his first two seasons). Primarily playing the shooting guard position, Booker has proven to be a competent passer as well, averaging 3.2 assists this season.

It’s not just the stats that work well in Booker’s case, however. He possesses many intangibles that wow the fans when he takes the floor. For one, he moves away from the basketball very well. He can also score in a variety of athletic ways, and is effective under contest from defenders. Furthermore, he seems to possess the ‘clutch gene,’ nailing two buzzer-beaters this season, directly influencing victory for his team.

Booker is a rare athletic specimen that the NBA has never seen before. Given his young age, he is a player sure to wreak havoc on opposing defenses and compete for scoring titles.

Many will continue to speculate the potential of his career, but for now, we can be assured of one thing- Devin- or maybe Dev- is a rising star to keep an eye on.

Stats courtesy of ESPN. Image courtesy: https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thehoopscolumn.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F10%2FDevin-Booker.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thehoopscolumn.com%2F2016%2F10%2F01%2Fdevin-booker-doesnt-miss-from-downtown%2F&docid=k5feW4Ic2DoW6M&tbnid=gX9wKw4qjF9yIM%3A&vet=1&w=1310&h=873&bih=583&biw=1202&q=devin%20booker&ved=0ahUKEwimv9yixtTSAhUT9WMKHbdzC_YQMwg0KAMwAw&iact=mrc&uact=8

How the College Football Playoff would shape up if conference championship chaos happens

A lot of chaos could take place in the coming week. Many competitors take a gamble on playoff chances when they take the field for their respective conference championship games. I took an in-depth look at one possibility if Conference Championship apocalypse takes place:

Here’s how I project Tuesday’s release of the College Football Playoff Rankings to shape out:

  1. Alabama 12-0
  2. Ohio State 11-1
  3. Clemson 11-1
  4. Washington 11-1
  5. Michigan 10-2
  6. Wisconsin 10-2
  7. Penn State 10-2
  8. Oklahoma 10-2
  9. Oklahoma State 10-2
  10. Colorado 10-2
  11. USC 9-3
  12. Western Michigan 12-0

Here’s what each team needs to do to find themselves in the playoff:

#1 Alabama– As the nation’s only undefeated Power 5 team, all Alabama needs to do to is  knock off an inferior Florida team.

#2 Ohio State– Even if they don’t have a shot to play in the Big Ten Championship, we’ll say a one-loss Ohio State team is a lock no matter what chaos ensues.

#3 Clemson– Clemson needs a home win over a 6-5 South Carolina team, followed simply by a win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game.

#4 Washington– If Washington wins the Pac-12 championship game to (Colorado/Utah), you’d have to think they’re overall body of work warrants a CFP berth.

# 6 Wisconsin– Wisconsin needs to defeat either Penn State in the Big Ten Championship game, and either Clemson or Washington to lose their respective conference championship games.

#7 Penn State– Penn State needs to defeat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, and

#8 Oklahoma– Oklahoma needs to convincingly win the De facto Big 12 Championship game/ Bedlam rivalry game vs. in-state rival Oklahoma State. Having no conference championship game is a double-edged sword; They don’t have to deal with the potential for upset like Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and Wisconsin do. However, a convincing win in the Big 12 Championship could help their case if chaos ensues.

#10 Colorado- Colorado needs to upset Washington in the Pac-12 Championship game, and needs Alabama, Clemson, and Wisconsin to lose as well. Even that may not be enough for the Buffaloes.

Outside Contenders-

#5 Michigan- It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Michigan, having lost a clunker at Iowa and head-to-head at Ohio Sate, could find themselves in the playoff over Ohio State or the winner of the Big Ten Championship game. It’s even harder to imagine the committee selecting the Wolverines over a Pac-12 championship game winner, as well.

#9 Oklahoma State: The Central Michigan and Baylor losses (even though the NCAA admitted Oklahoma State shouldn’t have lost to Central Michigan) holds Oklahoma State back a lot. They need Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and Wisconsin to all lose.

#11 USC: Though it’s been a great run for the Trojans, 3 losses will likely keep the Trojans out of the playoffs.

#12 Western Michigan: Good for the Broncos. Their 12-0 regular season is something to be proud of. However, they play in the MAC, whose talent level simply just doesn’t stack up compared to the schools ahead of them.

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Chaotic Scenario:

ACC Championship: #20 Virginia Tech defeats #3 Clemson

Pac-12 Championship: #10 Colorado defeats #4 Washington

Big Ten Championship: #7 Penn State defeats #6 Wisconsin

Bedlam/De facto Big 12 Championship: #8 Oklahoma defeats #9 Oklahoma State

MAC Championship: #12 Western Michigan defeats Ohio

*The SEC Championship was not included, because when Alabama’s level of play is compared to the lackluster recent play of Florida, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Gators knock off the tide. Even if they do, A one-loss Alabama team is a lock for the CFP

Post Chaos CFP Rankings:

  1. Alabama 13-0
  2. Ohio State 11-1
  3. Penn State 11-2

Looking at the top three…

Ohio State has been designated as a CFP lock from the beginning of the article, so they’d likely slot in at #1. The Big Ten champion, Penn State, would slide in at #2. Despite the one loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama’s lone loss would be enough to keep them in the playoff (we’ve seen this trend in earlier rankings, i.e, Michigan and Clemson remaining in the Week 11 rankings despite losing to unranked teams). 

So now comes the extremely difficult decision. The race is so close, it will require the College Football Playoff committee to examine each eligible team’s regular season schedule.

Who takes the final playoff spot? Will it be…

Pac 12 Champion, 11-2 Colorado?

OR

de facto Big 12 Champion, 10-2 Oklahoma?

Here’s an in-depth look at each contender after the hypothetical chaos, listed by alphabetical order.

Colorado Buffaloes Resumé
Potential record: 11-2
Pac-12 Champions

Notable wins: Washington (11-2), Washington State (9-3), at Stanford (9-3)
Losses: at Michigan (10-2), at USC (9-3)

Oklahoma Sooners Resumé
Potential Record: 10-2
Big 12 Champions (by record, no official championship game)

Notable wins: West Virginia (10-2), Oklahoma State (9-3)
Losses: Ohio State (11-1), Houston (9-3)

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So, if these two teams are so close in this chaotic scenario, what sets them apart?

The committee, through past rankings and media statements, has made it clear that the four best teams will make the playoff. However, certain metrics give their selections empirical backing, such as conference championships, FPI, and strength of schedule.

One glaring difference could be the value of a Conference Championship game victory. The Big 12, confusingly only having 10 teams, doesn’t have a championship game. However, the Pac 12 does. If the committee goes ‘old school,’ and picks a team based off a conference championship winner, the edge would go to Colorado.

The Football Power Index (FPI), a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is. Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule.

Oklahoma is ranked 8th with a 21.5 rating on ESPN’s power index, a tool that the committee has used in forming prior rankings. Colorado is ranked 13th with a 17.5 score.

Colorado, at this point having won the Pac-12 Championship game, has also defeated Washington State and Stanford, both 9 game winners. They’ve also lost to a 10 win Michigan team on the road, in addition to a 9 win USC team on the road.

OU is a total wild card. The competition they faced playing in conference play in the Big 12 wasn’t as tough as Colorado or Florida faced in the Pac-12 and SEC respectively. However, Oklahoma has the clear advantage when it comes to the losses they took, losing to a lock for the CFP, Ohio State at home, as well as a 9-win Houston team at a neutral site.

The committee showed two years ago, when the Big 12 possessed two 11-1 playoff contenders in Baylor and TCU, that it didn’t like the fact that neither team played in a conference championship game. All that being said, here’s how I predict the standings would shake out following this chaos…

Week 15 (post Conference Championship)

  1. Alabama 13-0
  2. Ohio State 11-1
  3. Penn State 11-2
  4. Oklahoma 10-2
  5. Colorado 11-2
  6. Michigan 11-2
  7. Clemson 11-2
  8. Washington 10-2
  9. USC 9-3
  10. Western Michigan 13-0
  11. Wisconsin 10-3
  12. Oklahoma State 9-3

Colorado’s victory in the Pac-12 Championship won’t be enough to clinch them a spot in the College Football Playoff, pitted against Ohio State. In the end, Colorado’s losses at Michigan and at USC, in addition to the victory in a conference championship game, might not be enough compared to Oklahoma’s season turnaround and stampede through the Big 12.

Oklahoma- for the second straight year, with a convincing win over their in-state rivals, could find themselves in the playoff.

This is just one possible scenario out of many. It’s unlikely that any one of Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State lose their conference championship games, let alone all lose. But it’s interesting to imagine.

Walking through Ephesians: One of the Bible’s most impactful books

In the New Testament book of Ephesians, chapter 4, God reveals some relevant and pretty pertinent concepts to the Christian life.

Chapter-by-Chapter Observations

In Chapter 1, the book discusses how In raising Jesus from the dead, God didn’t merely reverse the process of decay, but rather he transcended it.

In Chapter 2, the book distinguishes the difference between mercy and grace, Whereas Grace involves God giving believers what they don’t deserve, mercy means that God did not give punishment as it was deserved.

In Ephesians 4, the chapter opens up discussing the Unity and Diversity as one in the Body of Christ. By speaking life, and/or love, we grow closer to Christ.

Furthermore, in Chapter 4, the book discusses how to live this new life that we are chosen to live upon Baptism. The scripture goes into detail about how we must live as Christians to distinguish ourselves from Gentiles, or non-believers from a modern perspective. The scripture specifically identifies that we must speak the truth to one another and our neighbors, avoiding lying and deceit.

Interestingly enough, the scripture tells us to that it’s ok to be angry. However, it specifically enlightened  us that when we are angry, we musn’t sin. 4:26 HCSB: “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil and opportunity”

The scripture also goes into detail regarding thievery, foul language, bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slandering- basically that they shouldn’t be a part of a Christian’s life.

Overarching Themes

You are being put together for God’s dwelling in the spirit.

Jesus became what we are; so we can become like him (what he is).

Throughout the book, God clarifies and distininguishes what living as a Christian looks like. It’s these things and lifestyle choices that distinguish us from the ‘gentile,’ and that affirm our belief with God.

Seeking God out

God revealed himself in a big way to me today.

It was normally a day where I would’ve been in a negative mood. It was cloudy and cold when I woke up. It was a Monday, and I had to make my way to my 8:00 A.M. Spanish class. That routine has taken its toll on me recently.

But today was beyond normal circumstances. To start, it was Halloween, which is always fun, and a general fun atmosphere was about the campus. More importantly, it was my sister’s Sweet 16 birthday, and she was taking her driver’s test.

I woke up per usual, snoozing my alarm, and taking care of my normal hygiene routine. I then read my devotional for the day, and prayed hard for my sister, my family, the nation, and our campus.

I then took time to listen to some powerful worship songs as I made my way to class. I’m not sure what it was, but I really connected with God and had a positive attitude.

Whereas sometimes in Spanish I struggle to pay attention, I was locked in and receptive to the concepts. Whereas normally I would think I’d feel emotional about my sister taking her 8:30 driver’s test, today I was calm and relaxed.

I proceeded back to the student center to relax before my 10:00 class, and my Dad came through with a text letting me know my sister had passed her test. I had been listening to some strong worship music, and connected with God intimately. So when the good news came, I was even more joyful.

I’m thankful for the way that God has revealed himself to me today. It’s mainly because I sought him out. And on days that aren’t so good, I pray that I’d remember this, and seek God out. Because it’s then that he reveals himself in every way.

 

Week 8 College Football Predictions

My roommate and I have been predicting the results of each top-25 matchup in addition to the Missouri game. Headed into week 8, I possess a 56-14 record after going 17-1 in my picks last week. I’m pretty pleased with my performance so far. Here’s my week 8 picks:

BYU 13, 14 Boise State 24

I’ve yet to watch Boise State this year, but they’ve yet to lose.

6 Texas A&M 38, 1 Alabama 35

Texas A&M, armed by standout quarterback Trevor Knight and a rock solid defense, head into Tuscaloosa for the first time since a 59-0 blowout in 2014. This one has all the makings for a classic; as Alabama is led by up and coming running back Damien Harris and Freshman sensation Jalen Hurts. It’ll be back-and-forth, and I predict that the Aggies will catch lightning in a bottle once more in Alabama riding the wave to path to the playoff.

16 Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 21

Oklahoma seems to be rolling after starting of Big 12 play with 3 convincing wins. Baker Mayfield has re-entered the Heisman Trophy conversation, and his strongest receiver, Dede Westbrook, has followed suit. Patrick Mahomes is about the only thing that Texas Tech has going right for them so far.

North Carolina St. 28, 7 Louisville 31

I’ve loved what I’ve seen from NC State so far this year. A gritty win vs. Notre Dame amidst Hurricane Matthew followed by an OT loss to #3 Clemson the following week showed just how gritty the Wolfpack is. Lamar Jackson played extremely well last week in a close victory vs. Duke, but his teammates didn’t exactly lift him up. I feel that this will be a close one, with Jackson furthering his Heisman campaign in a Cardinal win.

10 Wisconsin 28, Iowa 14

Wisconsin has shown how tough they really are this season in their matchups against top-5 teams: An opening day win at Lambeau vs. #5 LSU, a white-knuckled  14-7 loss at the Big House to #3 Michigan, and an overtime classic in Madison that saw #2 Ohio State emerge with a 30-23 overtime win. Alex Hornibrook is playing well beyond his age, and Corey Coleman has shored up the Badgers’ run attack. Iowa has struggled to score recently and yet to recover from a home loss to FBS powerhouse North Dakota St., and will roll over for Wisconsin in this one.

22 North Carolina 35, Virginia 21

The Tar Heels have been the picture of inconsistency this season. Despite the loss, North Carolina put together a solid showing out vs. #18 Georgia in Atlanta week one, followed by a classic upset October 1 in a 37-35 win at #12 Florida State. Amidst terrible weather conditions, they failed to replicate any kind of success they had the week prior, flopping to a 34-3 home loss vs. Justin Fuente’s #25 Virginia Tech Hokies. It’s hard to tell how bad of a loss that is; as VA Tech has been pretty inconsistent themselves. From a talent level, former top recruit Mitch Trubisky and Ryan Switzer will lead a much more talented Tar Heel team over an unproven Virginia Cavalier team.

Eastern Michigan 14, 20 Western Michigan 34

I personally witnessed Eastern Michigan get slaughtered at the hands of the confusing Missouri Tigers on September 17th. Since then, they’ve reeled off wins in 4 out of their last 5, ahead of the leaders in the MAC this season. The Broncos from Kalamazoo, #20 Western Michigan, have flung out a strong offense that could go for fireworks this week. This is Western Michigan’s first conference test, after knocking off Big 10 bottomfeeder schools Illinois and Northwestern. I forsee the Broncos garnering their 8th win this week.

Illinois 3, 3 Michigan 35

Illinois has struggled to avoid the bottom of the barrel in the Big 10, despite the offseason addition of head coach Lovie Smith. Michigan is a bona fide Playoff contender, and led by Jabril Peppers, will roll all over the Fighting Illini at home.

Purdue 7, 8 Nebraska 38

Purdue, despite meeting their highest win total in the past four seasons already at 3- fired their head coach Darrell Hazell. It’s safe to say it’s a dumpster fire in West Laffayette. Meanwhile, one of the country’s most underrated teams, Nebraska, will use this game as an opportunity to garner win number 7 as the Corn Huskers approach legitimate playoff contention.

Memphis 24, 24 Navy 21

This game is extremely hard to pick. Memphis is favored on the road, but the Midshepmen toppled an early playoff contender two weeks ago with a win over #6 Houston. Both teams saw star quarterbacks (Paxton Lynch and Keenan Reynolds, respectively) depart last season, but have maintained success. I’ll take the line in this one; Memphis will pull of the road upset.

TCU 33, 12 West Virginia 41

After not choosing to expand on Monday, the Big  12’s newest members, TCU and West Virginia, meet up in week 8. TCU has had a tough schedule, but fought all the way back to contend with #16 Oklahoma in a 52-46 home loss three weeks prior. West Virginia has started off great this season at 6-0, and picked up a convincing Big 12 road win at Texas Tech last season. I see this one materialzing as a shootout, wit TCU and star QB Kenny Hill taking the L at WVU.

19 Utah 16, UCLA 7

Utah has once again emerged as a quiet contender out West in the Pac-12. Preseason #16 UCLA has yet to live up to the hype this season. I forsee Utah coming out with a solid, clean road win vs. the Bruins.

17 Arkansas 28, 21 Auburn 24

This game has the makings for a classic. Arkansas has excited me this season, and aside from not showing up for the second half vs. Texas A&M last month, has shown their skill their only other loss in playing well vs. #1 Alabama, and handling their out-of-conference schedule. This same matchup was won by Arkansas in 2OT thriller in Fayetteville last year. Auburn has played well recently despite two early losses, good losses vs. Clemson and Texas A&M at that, but Arkansas will win in another SEC Saturday night classic.

Oregon St. 14, 5 Washington 63

A few weeks ago, I would stood up as one of Washington’s biggest doubters. Then, they beat Stanford and Christian McCaffrey 44-7 at home. The then went on to put up 70 points on the road at Oregon. I don’t care if Oregon’s having a down year; 70 points on the road at another Power 5 conference school is impressive. Jake Browning and the  Huskies will beat up another Oregon school this weekend.

11 Houston 35, SMU 21

Greg Ward and the Cougars have had a strange season- proving their worth with a neutral site win vs preseason #6 Oklahoma in Houston after the Peach Bowl upset of Florida State last season, and have roughed up AAC competition with the exception of a tough loss to #24 Navy a few weeks ago. Houston will pick up a nice win this weekend up the road in Dallas.

2 Ohio St. 35, Penn St. 24

My roomate is a Penn State fan, so I wish the Nitanny Lions the best for his sake. However, #2 Ohio State has distinguished itself as a National Championship contender by virtue of the arm of J.T. Barrett. Penn State won’t be a pushover, but I see Ohio State emerging victorious in this one on their path to the playoff.

23 Ole Miss 27, 25 LSU 23

The last time these two teams met in Death Valley, two  seasons ago, LSU beat #3 Ole Miss in an old-fashioned 10-7 defensive showdown. This year’s edition may not turn out exactly like that matchup, as LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly were both watching that game from the sidelines. They’ll have a huge impact offensively. I like what I’ve seen from Ole Miss so far this season; I see them emerging with a good SEC road win this week.

Middle Tennessee 21, Missouri 42

Missouri has been a strange team to watch this  season. They’ve performed like a top offense vs. Non ‘Power 5 schools’ (Eastern Michigan, Delaware State), averaging 70.0 PGG in those two games, while putting together cringe-worthy performances, garnered by an offense that is not much more than anemic, averaging 14.8 PPG vs. Power 5 teams. This game won’t be a pushover, especially not for this team, but I see the Mizzou’s non power 5 success continuing  in this one, and QB Drew Lock, who somehow still leads the SEC in passing yards, re-gaining some confidence.

 

NBA Playoff Predictions in October

EASTERN CONFERENCE

  1. Cleveland 56-26
  2. Indiana 52-30
  3. Boston 51-31
  4. Toronto 49-33
  5. Detroit 48-34
  6. Atlanta 44-38
  7. Charlotte 43-39
  8. Chicago 42-40
    Washington 40-42
    New York 37-45
    Miami 36-46
    Milwaukee 37-45
    Orlando 31-51
    Philadelphia 27-55
    Brooklyn 19-63

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Quarter Finals

Cleveland over Chicago
Indiana over Charlotte
Boston over Atlanta
Detroit over Toronto

Semifinals

Cleveland over Detroit
Indiana over Boston

Conference Finals

Cleveland over Indiana

WESTERN CONFERENCE

  1. Golden State 66-16
  2. San Antonio Spurs 59-23
  3. Utah 49-33
  4. L.A. Clippers 47-35
  5. Portland 45-37
  6. Oklahoma City 44-38
  7. Houston 44-38
  8. Dallas 42-40
    Memphis 38-44
    Denver 37-45
    Minnesota 36-46
    New Orleans 34-48
    Phoenix Suns 32-50
    Sacramento Kings 30-52
    L.A. Lakers 26-56

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Quarterfinals

Golden State over Dallas
San Antonio over Houston
Utah over Oklahoma City
Portland over L.A. Clippers

Semifinals
Golden State over Portland
Utah over San Antonio

Conference Finals
Golden State over Utah

AWARD PREDICTIONS

MVP: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio

Mizzou hockey falls in Border War on Ice

JEFFERSON CITY, MO- In the first home matchup of the 2016-17 season, Mizzou men’s club hockey took a 6-3 loss at the hands of the visiting Kansas Jayhawks.

While many Mizzou athletic teams have abandoned the ‘Border War’- the rivalry game between Kansas and Mizzou- Mizzou hockey has kept it up. The teams are scheduled to meet 5 times this season.

In front of roughly 200 fans at Jefferson City’s Washington Park Ice Arena, a solid Mizzou contingency saw their Tigers start off slow. Kansas overwhelmingly possessed the puck in the Tiger defensive zone all throughout the first period, and added two goals. The Jayhawks would lead by a 2-0 tally entering the second period.

The Tigers returned to the ice in the second much more determined. Five minutes in, Mizzou forward Matt Baker went top shelf to halve Kansas’ lead at 2-1. Shortly after that, Mizzou roared back into contention with a Hassan Beig one-timer that tied the game at 2-2. It was almost a different game compared to the first period.

In the third period, the frustration boiled over for both teams, as multiple scrums, and a legitimate fight broke out, initiated by a Jayhawk. Both teams were assessed penalties.

Kansas would strike first in the third period by virtue of a Jimmy Samuels a crafty wrist shot from the left side that found the back of the net. They’d add another goal after some sulky passing led to Jack Holbrook’s second goal of the night. A sense of urgency came about the Tigers, but Kansas would put the game out of reach with their 3rd goal of the period. Mizzou would add a late goal, followed by an empty-netter by the Jayhawks.

Kansas took game one of the series, 6-3. There’s no love lost between these two, especially after tonight’s chippy matchup, and the teams take the ice for game two of the series on Saturday afternoon, again in Jefferson City. Next semester, they’ll meet in Independence, MO on February 23, to settle the series.

Celebrity Worship will always leave you unfulfilled

Speaking generally, today’s generation (specifically- even though I hate this term as I never hear it used in a positive context- ‘millennials’) has a huge problem on their hands- celebrity worship.

If you look around the high-profile media landscape, celebrities are the infatuation of the market. Almost every news source invests large amounts of time and resources on covering the ins and outs of the lives of celebrities. For a while, all I could do was wonder why.

A specific incidence of celebrity worship occurred right before I opened up my laptop. I’ve mentioned before how I am a huge user of the popular social media app Snapchat. Today, the featured a special avenue to where users could send in their personal pictures and videos wishing the popular musician and pop culture idol Beyonce Knowles a happy birthday, and celebrate with her.

First off I just want to say that this is no mean an attack on Beyonce. She has done a lot of good for the world and has inspired many. However, just the fact that Snapchat went out of its way to glorify a celebrity on their birthday is abhorrent. Not only is the app itself literally worshipping the celebrity by adorning them with their own personal means of inflating their ego, but they’re also encouraging their users to engage in this behavior.

For a long time prior to this, I struggled with the concept of why anyone would be so reverent to any celebrity. Speaking generally, time and time again they mess up; be it high profile cases of breaking like athlete O.J Simpson or straight up falls from glory like singer Lindsey Lohan. What is the point of devoting your time, energy or even thoughts to these people?

I remember a specific time when I ranted on this to my closest friend, Adam Kronenberger, and he really explained it best- he said ‘Those who worship celebrities are looking for their God on Earth.’

When he said that, it clicked for me, and resonated to the point where i still remember those words. That’s exactly it. Those who doubt our God, the ever-present, ever-loving force that provides all the good in our life, look for their savior on this Earth.

They want something tangible. They want a God something they can see, hear immediately, smell, touch, and oh yeah- pay to even be in the presence of.

But the thing is, no matter how much they see, hear, smell, touch, or pay the celebrity they worship on this life- they’ll never be saved.

You see, our God requires they key element of faith. He doesn’t need us to touch him, to see him, and certainly not to pay him to be in his presence. He’s all around us in every aspect of our life. He simply just needs the O.K. from you.

Christ-follower C.S. Lewis said it best- “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun. Not because I see it, but because I see everything around me.”

A celebrity might never even acknowledge your presence, even if you devote a life-long fandom towards them. On the contrary, our God has loved you from the start. He’s seen out and fine-tuned every aspect of your life, and sent his son to die for every person’s sins, past, present and future.

To close, I want to make it clear- there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the talents or respecting the artists who have achieved fame on this Earth. However, as Christians we must stay strong and keep an energized division between worship and respect. There are too, plenty of people who have achieved earthly fame and yet keep their devotion to God first and foremost.

To those who don’t yet know Christ, but find themselves worshipping a celebrity, I encourage you to break free from the enslaving mindset of celebrity worship and turn your life over to Christ, truly the only one worthy of praise. His love not only offers more fulfillment than any celebrity ever could, but simply acknowledging his presence ensures the precious gift of remaining by his side for all of eternity.