This is the time of year when I make my predictions for the upcoming sports seasons. Last year I didn’t do half bad. Well, not so much with college football, but in the rest of the sports world I could have made some money in Vegas had I followed my own advice. In college hoops I took Duke to upset #1 Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. I did get the winner right, however Wisconsin upset the Wildcats before they could get to the final game. In hockey, being from Northwest Indiana just outside of Chicago, I knew that the Blackhawks had a good shot at going far and had a great chance at the Stanley Cup. I did think that the Kansas City Royals would go far in the playoffs, but I didn’t expect Coach Yost to lead his team all the way as World Series Champs and I never saw Houston coming on the way they did. In the NFL, as much as I am a Dolphin fan and root against the Patriots, I knew New England would be good. I didn’t pick either the Patriots or Seahawks to make the Super Bowl, though I did pick them to make it to the Conference championship games. Finally, in NASCAR, I would say my predictions were pretty good. Although I wasn’t quite dead on with my prediction that Harvick would repeat as champion, I did say that Kyle Busch or one of the other young drivers would give him fits in trying to defend his title. Let’s see how I can do this year. Remember, if you win off my picks and want to give me a cut, you can send it to the Island Sand Paper, care of the all-seeing Swami Yost.
Predicting this year’s Championship Playoffs is tough, in my opinion. The four teams in the playoffs are fairly evenly matched. The Orange Bowl pits (4)Oklahoma against unbeaten(1)Clemson. Clemson will dominate this game early, but Oklahoma will make a late bid for an upset, but fall just short. In the Cotton Bowl (3)Michigan St. will go up early on (2)Alabama, but after a big turnover and some shaky defense in the second half by the Spartans, the Tide will come back for the victory. The championship game will be a hard fought close game and will come down to a turnover or a key play on special teams. In the end Alabama will emerge as the national champions. As far as our Florida teams, (9)Florida State will play on New Year’s Eve before the semi-final playoff games. Florida State will hold on to an early lead for the victory over (18)Houston in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The (19)Gators will host (14)Michigan in a tough matchup in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Wolverines will give the Gators fits on defense and unless Florida can run the ball effectively, they will lose the game by double digits. Finally in what I consider “The Runner-Up Bowls”, (7)Ohio St. will dominate the Fighting Irish of (8)Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and (5)Iowa will overpower (6)Stanford defensively and win a low scoring contest in the Rose Bowl.
Next season is a little tougher to call without seeing the freshman that are coming in, but there looks to be a shift next year in the conferences. The SEC is on the verge of a comeback with the ACC slipping a little in 2016. The Big Ten will be better but the conference will have more parity and there won’t be a clearly dominant team. My surprise pick for next year is the Michigan Wolverines. The Florida Gators will make some noise and could challenge for the championship. Clemson will be great again, but will fall to whichever SEC team is represented in the championship game, more than likely Alabama again.
In the NFL, there won’t be a repeat of last year’s Super Bowl matchup. Seattle is coming on strong at the end of the season behind some improved play by Russell Wilson, but their defense allows too many points to go far in the playoffs. The Carolina Panthers will not have a perfect season, but picking who will end their winning streak is a tough task. Arizona is probably the only team that could take them down right now, but my BOLD PREDICTION is that the Minnesota Vikings will play in the Super Bowl. In the AFC, the playoffs will go through New England. Cincinnati had a shot at taking it to the Pats, but losing Andy Dalton is huge. My pick to challenge the Patriots for the Conference Championship is Pittsburgh. I’m picking the Steelers to defeat my shocker pick, the Minnesota Vikings in a blowout.
In the 2016 season, there will be a mild changing of the guard in the NFL. The teams that we are all used to competing for the Lombardi Trophy won’t be business as usual. Teams like Tampa Bay and Oakland will be in the thick of things come playoff time. Cincinnati will defeat Arizona in Super Bowl 51.
In baseball, things will be the exact opposite as the NFL. The teams that were good last year will still be good and the teams that were bad will still struggle, except for two exceptions. The San Francisco Giants and the Chicago White Sox will be much improved. The Giants seem to always win in even years, winning World Series titles in ’10, ’12 and ’14. The prediction isn’t based on this streak, it’s based on the fact the Giants have signed some top talent. The same is true for the White Sox who just signed last year’s All-Star Game Home Run Derby champ, Todd Frazier. Both teams will make the playoffs but not go far. The Toronto Blue Jays will represent the American league in the World Series, but will lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Last year’s NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, picked right up where they left off last year and I can’t see anyone challenging them in a multi-game series. So who will they face in the NBA Finals? Cleveland and Atlanta could definitely battle it out to see who represents the Eastern conference, but like in the MLB, the championship game will include a team from north of the border. The Golden State Warriors will repeat as NBA champions after defeating the Toronto Raptors in 6 games.
Last year I didn’t go too far out on a limb when I said that Kevin Harvick would repeat as the NASCAR champ. Harvick seemed to be stuck in second place all year, including a second place finish behind Kyle Busch. Although there are plenty of great young drivers now in NASCAR, 2016 will be a battle of the veterans. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick will be back at the top. Jimmie Johnson will win four races during the regular season and place high in several others. In the end Johnson will win the finale in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and be the 2016 Sprint Cup Champion.