Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


Derby Day & The Return to Jerry’s World

I could not be more excited about tomorrow. First off, it’s Derby Day. That in and of itself makes for a fantastic day. But what makes the day even better is the Arkansas-Texas A&M game later in the afternoon. I cannot think of a better fall Saturday combination than the North London Derby and Arkansas playing on SEC on CBS. Well, maybe if the Red Sox-Yankees game meant something… But let’s forget about that. I’m still living in 2013 on that front.

I’ll start off with Arsenal. I don’t care who you are or what you might be doing, but if you are an Arsenal fan in any capacity, you have to be excited for Arsenal-Spurs at The Emirates. This is our chance to dig Tottenham’s grave, as the Mauricio Pocchettino reign has gotten off to a hilariously bad start. Think he had losing at home to West Brom as part of his grand plan?

When I first became a fan, I didn’t quite understand the joy Arsenal fans get from Spurs misery. But now I love every second of it. It’s not personal. But I hate those guys. And I hate everything about that club. My hatred of Tottenham is almost comical. I have such little respect for their club and their players that I almost feel sorry for everyone still walking around wearing Gareth Bale jerseys. Arsenal is just better in every way.

And for Arsenal, this is a time to forget all the distractions and just play. Prior results do not matter when the Gunners take the field on Derby Day. All that counts is beating Spurs. Players and fans have more of a connection on this day than any others, and the new boys should thrive off of that positive energy at The Emirates. Recently, games against Spurs have seen Arsenal players let go of their anxieties and troubles and just play. Just go out and let the adrenaline take over.

Tactically, I want Arsenal to field the same team as they did against Aston Villa, with Alexis Sanchez coming back in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving Jack Wilshere the nod ahead of Aaron Ramsey, but if Ramsey’s going to get back to his best, the rush of this atmosphere could do it. I also worry about Wilshere in intense matches. One moment of losing his cool could cost his team dearly. If the team is lacking bite, bring on Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini, but at the start, beat Spurs with pace and skill rather than guts and brawn.

For everyone involved for Arsenal, this is a chance to show the world that they mean business. It is also a chance to forever endear themselves to the fans. Score a winner against Spurs, and we’ll love you. For Danny Welbeck and Sanchez, and even for Özil, a goal tomorrow would go a long way.

My prediction for the match is an optimistic one. I just can’t fathom a loss to this wretched Tottenham side. I’ll say 3-1 good guys. Arsenal will bring the punch, and Spurs won’t be able to match. Get excited.

Before I will be able to catch my breath after the Arsenal game, it will be time for Arkansas. Beyond what’s at stake, the simple fact that I will get to hear Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson call a Razorback game again gets me fired up. There is no better announcer out there than Mr. Danielson. He’s insightful, unbiased, and coupled with Lundquist’s excited tone on big plays, he and Verne make for an excellent team.

I expect there to be plenty to talk about, for Arkansas and Texas A&M are well-matched, albeit in an odd way. Lots has been made of this game being A&M’s passing attack vs. Arkansas’s rushing attack. But it’s more than that. This game will come down to defense, and the respective abilities of the defenses to capitalize on mistakes.

Kenny Hill may be good, but he’s still inexperienced on the big stage, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle a little bit. If Arkansas can get pressure up front, Hill might throw a few ducks. And it will be up to Arkansas’s secondary to take advantage of those errors. And the opposite is true as well, as I can guarantee you Brandon Allen won’t play the perfect game.

Arkansas’s offensive line should have little trouble wearing down the Texas A&M defense as the game goes on, so expect giant holes to open up for Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams in the second half. If Arkansas can sustain drives in the opening half and keep the score close, I think they’ll close the game well. However, should A&M get ahead early, I don’t think Allen is quite good enough to lead Arkansas back through the air.

It’s funny to think back to the last time this game was played in Dallas. Bobby Petrino was the coach and things were great. Tyler Wilson threw for a school record 510 yards as Arkansas came back from an 18 point deficit at the half to win a thriller. Jarius Wright had 281 yards receiving on 13 catches. (Arkansas also came back to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl later that year – the last time they played there.)

It’s been a long three years for Arkansas football since that day, and things have certainly changed. But now, Arkansas is back at Jerry’s World. This time, they won’t be passing the ball quite so much, but after two years of crumbling and rebuilding, this is finally an Arkansas team worthy of taking the field on the big stage. I don’t know if they are quite ready to win a big time SEC West game, but I can’t wait to see them fight.

Tomorrow will be a great day to be a fan. It’s a day worth celebrating. Now go out and win the games, boys.




Sports Saturday – Arsenal and Arkansas

It feels like I haven’t written anything about sports in forever. The lack of content has been a simple matter of time. Getting back to school has kept me thoroughly busy. And while I’ve actively sought time when I could write for my blog, the problem has been that I just haven’t had time to watch much sports. Every night I’ve got some sort of commitment at 7 or 8, and I get back to my room and find all games I want to watch are over. Last night for example, I wanted to catch some of the Steelers-Ravens game, but I only saw the very first series and the very last series. I’ve even been too busy to go to my school’s sports games.

I can’t imagine how I would have been able to watch the Red Sox this year were they in the pennant race. A year ago, I made time every night to watch the games. But I don’t think that would have been possible this go around. My courseload this semester revolves around hundreds of pages of reading each week, and I’m not able to watch sports and read at the same time – or at least not effectively.

The two sports that work with my schedule are soccer and college football.  I can always wake up early on the weekends, and at college, nothing much happens before noon anyway. And Saturdays are usually flexible enough that I can devote a few hours to watching the Arkansas game. However busy I am, I think I need to spend at least a few hours watching sports each week to keep me sane, and Saturday has been that time for me. Then on Sunday, I’m back hitting the library, maybe catching a little of the Patriots.

So sitting here now on Friday afternoon with my first real free time in a while, I finally have time to write. And I have to say, it feels really good. I do want to have more content as we go forward, but it all dependent on whether my schedule clears up at all. But now, I want to get to writing about sports.

Tomorrow is a big day for my teams. At 7:45 am, I’ll arise for the Arsenal-Manchester City game at The Emirates. A year ago, I made the short trip across the pond for this match, so needless to say, I won’t be sleeping in. And a few hours later, Arkansas plays old Southwest Conference rival Texas Tech on ABC. I might even try to watch a little bit of College Gameday to get myself reacquainted with the sports world. I feel like I’ve been living under a rock. And of course I’ll have to watch some of the Georgia-South Carolina game if only to hear the best music there is – the SEC on CBS theme gets me fired up like nothing else. I’m getting excited while listening to it right now.

I’ll start with the Arsenal match. This is a big one. I think Arsenal are facing Machester City at the right time. They won’t have had much time to fix what wrong against Stoke City, and they haven’t yet hit their goalscoring stride that will surely come soon. I’m not particularly afraid of their attack at the moment, and don’t think they’ll be putting six past Wojciech Szczesny.

However, that’s not to say I think this match will be much like the 3-0 result in the FA Community Shield. Arsenal themselves are not in a great place, but I think the international break should have settled some nerves that might have arisen after the poor performance against Leicester City. Danny Welbeck’s arrival also has improved morale, both in the locker room and in the stands, and supporters will be fully behind the team.

I’d like to see Welbeck start up top, even with only two days of training under his belt. He has played with enough of these guys in the England setup that he should settle quickly. Going with Yaya Sanogo could inject some doubt into the minds of the players, and that isn’t what you want to do when you’re playing the champions. Even if Welbeck only goes 60 minutes, his presence alone should boost the confidence of those around him.

The lineup I’d like to see is as follows: Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Mathieu Debuchy and Szczesny. One other player I want to see involved is Tomas Rosicky. He’s played a bit part in the campaign thus far, and I think he’s one who could get the engine going. Should the attack look stagnant, Rosicky would be the first man I’d bring on.

I think Wilshere should play in place of Aaron Ramsey, as it’s not worth risking his health so early in the year. Wilshere might have some problems with Yaya Toure, but the Ivorian hasn’t been at his best this year. However, Wilshere will need to stay disciplined to help out Arteta, who might not be back to 100% himself.

My prediction for the game is 2-1 Arsenal, which would be a huge confidence boost. The Gunners badly need a win over top opposition, and I think today is the day they do it. Expect a strong performance from the attacking midfielders, who will begin to form an understanding in the final third. It should be a fascinating encounter. But regardless of how it goes, after the endless international break, I’ll be excited enough to see the Premier League back in action.

Now to some thoughts on the Arkansas game. I don’t know a whole lot about Texas Tech, as I’ve yet to watch them play. However, I believe the Hogs are talented enough to hold the fate of this game in their own hands. I have watched most of the previous two games, and generally I have been impressed. Say what you want about Nicholls State, but Arkansas’s offensive execution a week ago was amazing.

My favorite part about this Razorback team is the offensive line. They look like a Bret Bielema team should look. After years of watching Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson harassed every time they dropped back to pass, it’s fun seeing the big boys push around defenders at will. Most of the success the Hogs have had running the ball this year has been down to the massive holes that the line has opened up. Give Alex Collins a little space, and he’ll do the rest.

Even though quarterback Brandon Allen has been better – that term is relative given that he only had to throw 5 times last weekend – I do not trust him with ball. He has thrown far too many costly pick-6’s. As such, I don’t want to see a balance of passing and rushing. I want to see the running backs opening up the pass. If Allen is only throwing on play-action every now and then, we will all be better off. When he tries to do too much, he messes up in a big way. He can’t do that today.

The defense will have their hands full, but they look improved from a year ago. Texas Tech will pose a nice test before the Razorbacks head back into SEC play. I liked what I saw from a bunch of the freshmen that took the field last weekend, so it will be interesting to see how much Bielema plays them with the improved competition.

Were this game in Fayetteville, I would have Arkansas by two touchdowns, but given that the game is at Texas Tech, I think it will come down to the fourth quarter. It will be up to Brandon Allen not to make mistakes. Should he keep the ball safe, I predict Arkansas will take the game in the end. This will be the afternoon that the running back trio announces themselves to the country.

Enjoy the action tomorrow, and check back for post-game coverage. I’ll make sure to find the time.



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Grazing In the Sports World Grass

I wanted to follow in the footsteps of one of my favorite sports writers with this piece, using the style of Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy’s “Picking Up the Pieces” articles. In it, I will hit on many topics with only a single paragraph. My current title is a work in progress for this segment going forward. If you have a better idea, put the name in the comments or tell me on Twitter (@MrMcGinnis94).

The Patriots begin their preseason tonight against the Washington Redskins. In what is pretty much his only action of the entire year, Ryan Mallett will see the majority of the snaps tonight at quarterback. The former Razorback deserves a shot in the NFL due to his physical tools, and I think his time is running out to earn a trade to start games somewhere else. Not much else happens in the preseason opener, so make sure to keep your eye on Mallett.

Following that, I am getting excited quickly for the coming Arkansas football season. I fully understand that the degree of difficulty of the schedule (many say the Hogs have the toughest schedule in the country) could make progress hard to see this year, but I fully believe in what Bret Bielema is doing to rebuild the program. I really like the way the offensive line is shaping up, and it makes me giddy to think about the trio of highly regarded running backs hitting the holes. This team will begin to resemble the Houston Nutt Razorback teams from the Darren McFadden era, and in my mind that’s a good thing. If Casey Dick was good enough to ride his running backs to successful seasons, why can’t Brandon Allen? I’ll have a lot more to say in the coming weeks, but the August 30 opener at Auburn can’t get here soon enough.

Moving to baseball, I was really impressed with Joe Kelly on the mound for the first time with the Red Sox last night. There hasn’t been a good sinkerballer in Boston in a while, and last night the new arrival showed he has top notch stuff on the hill. He isn’t a number one starter by any means, but he could be a solid number two or three on a great team. It was also fun to see him beat out a ground ball base hit – I hope other Red Sox players were taking notes. And it was also good to see Xander Bogaerts turning it around at the plate. His struggles have gone on far too long for a player as talented as he is.

To basketball, news has broken this morning that the Kevin Love to Cleveland trade we’ve all been waiting for has been all but confirmed. Minnesota should be happy enough with the return – two number one overall picks plus a first rounder for a player who would have left for nothing in a year is a good deal. I can’t wait to watch Love play with LeBron James. Think about all of the fast break dunks LeBron will get from Love’s outlet passes. It is a match made in heaven. With perimeter threats on the roster, Love will also be able to play in the post more than he ever could in Minnesota, and I expect him to reach new heights this year on the block. He is one of my favorite two or three players to watch in the NBA, and I’m glad he will get a shot to play for a championship. I don’t think this puts Cleveland above San Antonio, but they are certainly the favorites in the East.

All is quiet on the Celtics front these days. Looking at the roster, there is a lot of redundancy as it currently stands. Shooting guard in particular is full of talented individuals who won’t be happy with sitting on the bench. Marcus Thornton is the name that makes the least sense on the this roster given his age and ability. I think he’s gone before December. And with Vitor Faverani making the news for the wrong reasons, he too could find himself looking for a new job before long. When there isn’t any other news, getting arrested for drunk driving is not a smart move for a player on the fringe of the team.

To Arsenal, there isn’t much in the news this morning other than that Theo Walcott’s return to training is scheduled for the end of the month. As I’ll say in a post in the near future about Walcott, I think he has a key role to play in the coming season, and getting him on the field as soon as possible will be vital for Arsenal’s success. And there is also the confirmation from Arsene Wenger that Manchester United have officially lodged a bid for Thomas Vermaelen, but that’s hardly news at this point. I’m ready for transfer rumors to stop so that the talk can be about the play on the field again. Is it Sunday yet?

And yesterday brought about the retirement of Howard Webb, the high profile Premier League referee who was in charge of the 2010 World Cup Final. He is a tremendous referee and his authority on the field will be missed. I was trying to think about Arsenal matches he had done recently, but none came to mind. I picture him doing Manchester United matches. But apparently after United, Arsenal has done the second best of any team with him in charge. I guess we’ll miss him in more ways than one.

Lastly, I have formed a Fantasy Premier League league for all to join. I’m not a big fan of fantasy sports in general, but the Premier League does it excellently – for all who don’t know, the league’s official website hosts the game which features a FA Cup style cup among all the millions of participants in the second half of the year – and it’s a wonderful way to keep up with players across the entire league. The league is under this blog’s name on fantasy.premierleague.com. Click join private league – the passcode to join is 1154525-274716. I’ll be trying to get as many people as I can to play, so please join even if you’re only slightly interested. Tell your friends as well.

That’s all for now. Have a great day and thanks for reading.