A lot is going on in the world of professional sports.
With the NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAAB, and NCAAF attracting mainstream attention, it’s hard to keep up with everything. Not to mention the off-season moves being made in baseball.
I took the liberty of highlighting some of last week’s key moments across the board.
HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
Is it March already?
It’s not even two weeks into December and college basketball has already seen upsets aplenty. The AP top-25 saw the top two teams fall to unranked opponents this past week.
Duke had flirted with disaster in earlier games against Texas and Florida, but it wasn’t until the Blue Devils went on the road to Boston College that the team got its first loss of the season.
Ranked first in the AP Poll for five weeks of the season, Duke dropped to fourth in this week’s incarnation.
The second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks suffered back-to-back home losses for the first time under Bill Self. It was just the 10th and 11th home losses during Self’s tenure as coach.
The Jayhawk’s losses came at the hands of the unranked Washington Huskies and 16th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils. The Sun Devils, one of only four unbeaten teams in the top 25, made the jump to fifth in the poll. Kansas dropped to 13.
Florida was another school that saw a sudden decrease in the past week. The Gators began their season 6-0 and ranked fifth before losing three straight and falling to 22.
Other big drops in this week’s poll are Notre Dame (nine spots) and Cincinnati (eight spots).
Villanova benefited from Duke and Kansas’ losses to jump to the number one spot. Michigan State was leapfrogged by Nova, but advanced from three to two. Wichita State, Duke, and Arizona State round out the top 5.
Other than Arizona State’s huge leap from 16 to five, West Virginia had the largest increase in ranking. The Mountaineers have won nine in a row since dropping their first game to Texas A&M. WVU defeated 15th ranked Virginia and Pittsburgh last week.
Florida State (19), Arizona (23), and Texas Tech (24) are new to the polls this week. Minnesota, Nevada, and USC dropped from the polls.
IT’S TIME TO SHAKE THINGS UP AGAIN
The biggest headline in baseball since the Astros’ World Series victory was that Marlins superstar Giancarlo Stanton was headed to New York to join the Yankees. The Yankees obtained the reigning National League MVP and cash considerations in exchange for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, and Jose Devers, the latter two being Single-A prospects.
Most baseball fans would associate the words “Derek Jeter” and “Yankees” with success, considering The Captain’s iconic 20-year career in New York. Despite being a 14-time All-Star and 5-time World Series Champion, Jeter is off to a rocky start as an executive.
Jeter, named CEO of the Miami Marlins in September 2017, stuck by his decision to trade Stanton in a conference call December 11. Jeter claimed that the Marlins will have more flexibility in rebuilding the organization without Stanton’s 10-year, $295 million contract.
Meanwhile, Stanton joins a Yankees squad that was a game away from representing the American League in the World Series.
Switching to the West Coast, the Los Angeles Angels became the home for the “Japanese Babe Ruth” on December 8.
Shohei Ohtani left the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan to pursue a career in America.
The 23-year-old was named MVP of the Pacific League in 2016 as a pitcher/designated hitter. Ohtani’s success as a two-way star is what drew comparisons to Ruth.
With no American League pitcher having more than 15 plate appearances in a season since the designated hitter was introduced, it will be interesting to see how LA handles Ohtani.
DOORS OPEN AND DOORS CLOSE
All of Philadelphia held its breath when Carson Wentz went to the locker room in Sunday’s game against the Rams. The worst was confirmed when it was announced Wentz suffered an ACL tear.
The Eagles, now 11-2, will be without their star QB for the rest of the season. Wentz injury opens up a number of doors around the league.
Wentz’s injury (in addition to Alvin Kamara’s injury and less-than-stellar performances from Case Keenum and Russell Wilson) thins out the field for MVP. Tom Brady, Le’veon Bell, and a few others now compete for the coveted prize.
Wentz’s absence opens the door for a number of NFC contenders to take over the top spot. Despite clinching the division with the win over Jared Goff and Co., Minnesota, the L.A. Rams, New Orleans, and Carolina are all within two games of Philly.
Even if Nick Foles rallies the Eagles in their final three games (@NY Giants, vs. Oakland, vs. Dallas), the playoffs won’t be kind to Philadelphia.
Atlanta and Seattle both sit at 8-5, with Detroit, Green Bay, and Dallas all still in contention. Even with home field advantage, the Eagles’ road to their first-ever Super Bowl victory is all uphill.
IT’S BOWL SEASON
And then there were four.
Top-seeded Clemson takes on Alabama in the third chapter of their never-ending College Football Playoff rivalry, this time in the Sugar Bowl. Baker Mayfield looks to capture all the trophies when Oklahoma takes on Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
The field wasn’t as cut-and-dried as in past years, with arguably eight different teams making a case for the four playoff spots. It came down to the conference championship games.
Clemson soundly defeated Miami to guarantee the Tigers a spot in the CFP as the sole ACC representative. Oklahoma became the representative for the Big 12 with a win over TCU in its conference championship game.
Georgia’s 28-7 victory over Auburn knocked the Tigers out and put the Bulldogs in.
The final spot wasn’t as obvious as in previous seasons. Despite not making it to the SEC Championship, Alabama had an impressive resume with only a single late-season loss. Having spent their entire season atop the polls, Bama remained the only team to compete in every CFP by being named as the fourth seed.
Big 10 champion Ohio State was the first team out of the CFP, despite defeating Wisconsin, a team that was previously ranked third in the CFP rankings.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith