What If Wednesday: Matt Barkley Went Pro

On December 22, 2011, USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley announced his intentions to return for his senior season. A sure top-five pick, Barkley’s return sets up a promising 2012 campaign for the Trojans, and he still remains the projected top prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft, but what if he had opted to forgo his senior season? THE SPORTS DISPENCER analyzes what could have been in this week’s edition of What If.

Top Five Shakeup

Matt Barkley’s entrance would add a third elite QB prospect to an already deep quarterback class. The Colts would be left to decide between Matt Barkley, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III. All three prospects provide their own unique skill sets and would leave analysts scrambling to assemble an accurate mock draft. Here is ours:

1. QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)

The Colts find it hard to choose anyone other than the prospect dubbed the best since Manning.

2. QB Matt Barkley (Washington Redskins via St. Louis Rams)

Washington still trades up to the two slot but opts for a more traditional quarterback in Barkley.

3. QB Robert Griffin III (Cleveland Browns via Minnesota Vikings)

The Vikings auction their pick off to the highest bidder, and the Browns’ two first-round picks are difficult to overlook.

4. OT Matt Khalil (Minnesota Vikings via Cleveland Browns)

The Vikings pick up an extra first-round pick and still get their man.

5. RB Trent Richardson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

With RG3 heading to Cleveland, the Alabama star finds a home in Tampa.

Resurgence of the Browns

Unwilling to shell out three first-round picks, Cleveland lost out in their pursuit of Robert Griffin III, but with Matt Barkley’s arrival, the Browns would receive the franchise quarterback they have long coveted. The Heisman winner’s presence would make an instant impact in Cleveland. His playmaking ability and star status would revitalize the Browns and give fans the franchise star they have long deserved.

USC Plummets

In 2012, Matt Barkley’s return positions himself as Heisman frontrunner and leaves the Trojans poised to contend for a Pac-12 and BCS title. His connection with All-American wide receiver Robert Woods spells trouble to opposing defenses and will land both in the top five in next year’s draft. Had Barkley chosen not to return, his loss combined with the loss of offensive tackle Matt Khalil would have proven too difficult to overcome and likely have knocked the Trojans out of title contention.

* Photos Courtesy of CBS Sports, Waiting for Next Year, Inside So Cal

What do you think? Anything we missed? Any other What If Wednesday suggestions? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

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Top 5 Tuesday: Memorable Mustaches

Few things can define a man like a mustache. There are countless athletes sporting the iconic fixture upon their face, but we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s finest.

5. Adam Morrison

In his short NBA career, Adam Morrison won two NBA championships riding the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers. His play on the court was of little impact, but his mustache could bring fans to their feet. His minimalistic upper lip hair may not be as stylish as those of LeBron James or other NBA stars — at least he has two rings.

4. Mike Cowan

Few caddies have found as much success as Michael “Fluff” Cowan. While caddying for the likes of Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, and Michelle Wie, Fluff’s walrus-like mustache always seems to draw a crowd.

3. Hulk Hogan

It may be a stretch to call professional wrestling a sport, but Hulk Hogan can not go unrecognized. The WWE star was an ’80s icon and a key player in professional wrestling’s surge in popularity, and while lifting the championship belt, piledriving The Undertaker, and fighting Rocky Balboa, his ‘stache was there every step of the way.

2. Mark Spitz

Hair is something not typically associated with swimmers, but nine-time Olympic gold medalist Mark Spitz shed the fear of reduced aerodynamics aside and grew Olympic swimming’s greatest mustache while inspiring a noteworthy follower.

1. Rollie Fingers

Coming in at numer one is none other than baseball Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. In his illustrious 18-year career, Fingers garnered seven All-Star selections, three World Series titles, a Cy Young, and an MVP, but most importantly, baseball’s best ‘stache. The Oakland A’s star donned a classic handlebar mustache that is fondly remembered to this very day.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Star Pulse, Almighty Philly, Bleacher Report, Around the Horns, SIBatting Forever Mont

Indy 500 Preview

I will be the first to admit that auto racing is not typically THE SPORTS DISPENCER’s forté, but sport’s most prestigious race draws a crowd of casual and serious fans alike. This year will be no different, and when the green flag waves, viewers will be in for a treat.

After days of qualifying, the starting grid has been set, and several drivers seem poised to contend. Today, we preview who to watch and who will win in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Ryan Briscoe

Starting from the pole, Ryan Briscoe is the odds on favorite to walk away with the title, but the talented Aussie has struggled to break the top ten since joining Penske Racing. Expect Briscoe to contend, but his inexperience leading at Indy will prove too costly to overcome.

Helio Castroneves

After last year’s disapointing finish, three-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves is on the prowl for win number four. He has yet to regain his past form, but experience alone will help to keep Helio close in Indy.

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon is as consistent as they come. The 2008 Indy 500 Champ has finished in the top six in his last six starts. Last year, Dixon lead 73 laps while pulling out his second straight top-five finish. Starting in fifteenth may seem a question mark, but it could turn out to be just what he needs. Expect Dixon to blend into the field early, but when he makes his move, experience and consistency will land him right where he belongs — in victory lane.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy Auto Evolution, ESPN, Bleacher Report, NY Daily News

Ridiculous Baseball Catch

In the bottom of the ninth, Lower Columbia College was leading Everett Community College 4-2. With two outs and a man on base, tensions rose as Everett DH Keone Kela stepped up to the plate.

The pitch was delivered down the middle, and the Everett slugger swung for the fences. The ball rocketed to left field, and fans celebrated what seemed to be a sure home run, but as the ball traveled over the low outfield wall, Columba College outfielder Derrick Salberg made a play for the ages.

Most Improved NFL Teams

Training camp is still two months away, but as rosters begin to take shape, THE SPORTS DISPENCER takes an inside look at what teams have made the largest leaps and bounds this offseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After closing out the Raheem Morris era in Tampa, former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano hopes to turn around the Bucs from a disappointing 4-12 campaign. Schiano will have a quality core to work with in 2012. The offseason additions of top-tier guard Carl Nicks and receiver Vincent Jackson bolster the offense and supply Josh Freeman with the talent necessary to return him to his 2010 form. The Bucs will rely heavily on rookie selections Mark Barron and Lavonte David to perform well against the elite offenses of the NFC South, and if they do so, Schiano may find himself a permanent home in Tampa.

Kansas City Chiefs

What could go wrong did go wrong for the Chiefs. Kansas City quickly lost its top offensive and defensive players to season-ending knee injuries, and without Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, tensions began to mount. Head coach Todd Haley lost the locker room and was let go soon thereafter. The Chiefs then turned to defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to lead the way, and in his first game as interim head coach, Kansas City defeated the undefeated and heavily favored Green Bay Packers, Green Bay’s only loss of the season. With key players returning and a new staff in place, Kansas City has nowhere to go but up in 2012.

Philadelphia Eagles

Last year the Eagles had the talent to contend but stumbled to a measly 8-8 record. An offensive core of Vick, McCoy, and Jackson provides Philly with the offensive firepower to keep games close, but they lacked the defensive presence to shut down games. The Eagles first had to address the glaring need at defensive tackle, and with the 12th overall selection in this year’s draft, they did. Ole Miss standout Fletcher Cox was thought by many to be the top defensive lineman in this year’s class. His furious pass rushing ability will slow offenses and give Philadelphia the defensive intensity necessary to close out games late.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams’ organization digressed in 2011. The injury bug halted progress and sent quarterback Sam Bradford spiraling into a sophomore slump. After a last-place finish in the NFC West, the Rams cleaned house and hired head coach Jeff Fisher to assist GM Sam Snead in the rebuilding process. After trading back, the Rams found themselves in possession of three second-round picks and additional first-round picks in 2012 and 2013. Snead’s active negotiating helped the Rams garner one of the league’s strongest drafts. First-round selection Michael Brockers fills up the hole at defensive tackle and provides the Rams with an elite run-stopping force. In the second round, St. Louis rolled the dice with troubled North Alabama cornerback Jenoris Jenkins. He will be paired with free agent pickup Cortland Finnegan to form one of the league’s top cornerback duos. Question marks still remain at outside linebacker, but the Rams’ newly found defensive prowess could lead Jeff Fisher to another playoff birth.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Bleacher Report, Philly.com

What If Wednesday: David Stern’s Veto

In a three-team blockbuster NBA trade, longtime Hornets point guard Chris Paul was set to leave New Orleans to don purple and gold. Hornets GM Dell Demps successfully dealt a disgruntled superstar to the Lakers in return for quality talent from both Los Angeles and Houston. All three parties were benefited, that was, until commissioner David Stern vetoed the deal for “basketball reasons” while acting as owner of the league-operated Hornets. Instead, New Orleans was relegated to trading Chris Paul to the Clippers. Stern’s actions drew heavy criticism, but what if he had chosen differently? THE SPORTS DISPENCER analyzes what could have been in this week’s edition of What If.

Lob City Loses Out

After David Stern nixed New Orleans’ original deal, Chris Paul still found his way to Los Angeles but not in the manner expected. Four days after the Lakers and Hornets agreed to terms, New Orleans sent Chris Paul to LA’s “other” team. The Clippers experienced an instant upgrade at the point guard position. Paul provided a spark plug on offense and his instant connection with power forward Blake Griffin kept the Staples Center electric while helping the Clippers win their first playoff series since 2005. Stern’s decision not only resurrected Los Angeles’ weaker franchise, it finally gave fans a reason to cheer.

Improved Lakers

What benefited one Staples Center resident, hurt the other. After agreeing to terms with New Orleans, the Lakers had filled their team’s biggest hole. They dealt away size for youth and speed at the point guard position, but after David Stern’s news broke, the Lakers had to turn to 37-year-old Derek Fisher to start. Fisher underwhelmed and Los Angeles was left searching for a way to fill the void. At the trade deadline, GM Mitch Kupchak received Ramon Sessions from Cleveland in an attempt to help increase production. Sessions fit well in coach Mike Brown’s system, but his defensive inadequacies were exploited early and often. Paul would have provided the Lakers superior offensive skill, but most importantly, his NBA All-Defensive talent would have matched up well against Russell Westbrook and the West’s other top-tier point guards, allowing the Lakers to make a deeper postseason run.

Odom’s Opportunity

After the Paul deal fell through, the Lakers’ sixth-man Lamar Odom was left in limbo. Then on December 11, Los Angeles brashly dealt Odom to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Uncertainty and a shortened offseason hurt Lamar. He struggled to mesh with the Mavericks and never truly found a place in their system. After putting up career-low numbers, Odom parted ways with the Mavs on April 9. Had the original Paul deal not fell through, Odom would have found himself at the center of New Orleans’ young core of talent. His veteran leadership would have meshed well with the Hornets raw talent and ultimately benefited both New Orleans and himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Photos Courtesy of Hoop Smack, Zimbio, Real Clear Sports

What do you think? Anything we missed? Any other What If Wednesday suggestions? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Top 5 Tuesday: Greatest Sports Movies of All-Time

Comebacks, underdogs, and unforgettable stories, sports cinema is filled with them. History has provided us many great examples, but today, we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER scoured the records to compile five of the film industry’s finest.

5. Caddyshack

What do you get when you add Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, and a troublesome gopher? Ninety-eight minutes of knee-slapping cinematic gold. Caddyshack is one of the genre’s funniest and most quotable films. Its slapstick humor and loose-limbed dialogue have won over audiences and critics alike, most notably Tiger Woods, who dubbed the movie his all-time favorite.

4. The Natural

The 1984 Barry Levinson classic stars American icon Robert Redford as baseball prodigy Roy Hobbs. A rising star, Hobbs has no shortage of “natural” talent, but his career is sidelined after he is shot in cold blood. Years later, the middle-aged rookie takes the league by storm and single-handedly leads the last-place New York Knights to a pennant. The film thrilled audiences in what James Berardinelli praised as “the best baseball movie ever made.”

3. Hoosiers

Sports writer Bill Simmons has argued, “Any ‘Best Sports Movies’ list that doesn’t feature either Hoosiers or The Natural shouldn’t even count.” This list has both, and coming in at No. 3 is Hoosiers, the heart-warming tale of a small-town high school basketball team’s road to the state championship. Hoosiers captivates audiences and teaches the power of working as a team.

2. Raging Bull

Unlike the others on this list, Martin Scorsese’s 1980 hit is dark — very dark. Raging Bull tells the story of Jake LaMotta’s fall from grace. A promising middle-weight boxer, LaMotta struggles with his inner demons. After winning the title belt, LaMotta’s career begins to decline. His sadomasochistic rage and jealousy ultimately alienate his friends and destroy his marriage. Soon after its release, Raging Bull met critical and commercial success while cementing the legacies of both Scorsese and De Niro.

1. Rocky

After climbing atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the “Italian Stallion” makes the trek atop today’s Top 5. Rocky is the anti-Raging Bull. Unlike Jake LaMotta, Rocky Balboa does not fall from grace — he rises to it. A small-time boxer and loan shark’s enforcer, Balboa is chosen to fight against Apollo Creed, the heavy-weight champion of the world. Although a relatively unknown challenger, Rocky lasts all 15 rounds to complete his underdog story. The 1976 Academy Award winner was an instant success and spawned five sequels earning it a long-lasting spot amongst sports cinema’s finest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Anything we missed? What would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of PB Pulse, Movie Viral,