Archive for: October 2012

West’s Best Bets – America’s Finest City

The West’s Best Bets hits the road once again leaving the City of Angels and heading down the coastline to America’s Finest City and my hometown, San Diego. If you believe Ron Burgundy, San Diego was founded in 1904 by the Germans and means a whale’s vagina. In the real world, San Diego was first claimed for Spain in 1542 as Alta California. In 1769, the Mission San Diego de Alcala was formed which gave the city its current name. In 1821, San Diego became part of Mexico and finally became part of the United States in 1850 following the Mexican-American War.

Enough of the history lesson, let’s look at two of the city’s major universities. I could hit the interstate and get there quicker, but instead I opt to get back on the PCH and check out all the beach towns along the way: Huntington, Newport, Laguna and upon entering La Jolla, the home of the University of California, San Diego, I realize that this is truly the good life. Recognized as one of the Top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report, this school is absolutely gorgeous – let’s see how it does in the rankings:

King Triton

Athletics Teams

The University of California, San Diego competed in Division III up until the 2000-01 season when it moved to Division II. They attempted to make the move to Big West Conference in Division I last year but the vote to raise student activity fees failed.

  • Baseball – Five Tournament appearances and two College World Series appearances including a 2nd place finish in 2010. They have won four regular season Conference Championships including the past three.
  • Softball – Reigning National Champions and six tournament appearances.
  • Women’s Basketball – Six tournament appearances, one Final Four and three conference championships.
  • Women’s Soccer – Seven National Championships, one runner-up, one Final Four and 11 tournament appearances in the past 12 years as well as seven conference championships.
  • Total National Championships (26 at DIII, 3 at DII) – Women’s Soccer (7), Women’s Volleyball (7), Women’s Water Polo (5), Women’s Tennis (4), Men’s Soccer (3), Men’s Volleyball (1), Softball (1), Men’s Golf (1).

The University of California, San Diego doesn’t have a football team, it fielded a team back in 1968, went winless and the school abandoned the program. It seems as though the women’s teams are the ones keeping UCSD on the athletics map finishing in the Top 5 of the NACDA Directors’ Cup five times in the past decade including two second place finishes. Suffice to say that the importance of athletics is not at the fore front at UCSD, for that I award them 18 out of a possible 30 points.

UCSD Alum Lisette Diaz

Women

For a school in such a beautiful city, I was somewhat disappointed. I guess focusing on academics has its negative effects on the “hotness” level. Surprisingly enough, the female athletes were a lot more attractive than the traditional campus beauties- cheerleaders. While looking at their cheer squad, I kind of felt like they were all added on skill and not their looks. This is not to say that there has never been a hot girl at UCSD, former US Miss World Lisette Diaz and World Poker Tour player Maria Ho claim UCSD alumni status. – 17 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

Located about 15 miles northwest of downtown San Diego and the famed Gaslamp Quarter, UCSD students are not that far away from some great nightlife. However, if you are looking to stay on or around campus, the best spots to hit up to watch the game or down a couple beers are definitely passable. My favorite was the Home Plate Sports Café with plenty of TV’s and an upstairs loft with comfy couches. When it came to the best pub and all-around setting, I absolutely love Porter’s Pub, but remember, it is a pub with beer and live music, so don’t expect too much from the kitchen other than traditional bar food.  – 15 out of 20 possible points.

Bikinis & Dogs? Sign Me Up!

Weather      

Incredible weather with not much change due to seasons with high temperatures in the 60’s during winter and upper 70’s in the summer. Lows temps drop into the high 40’s in winter and mid-60’s on summer nights. I would like it to be a little bit hotter in the summer so as to make beach going a little warmer and thus bring out more of the lovely ladies.  – 12 out of 15 possible points.

Academics

This is where UCSD shines, trailing only behind UCLA in applications, UCSD is highly selective and the average GPA of accepted freshmen was 4.06 on a 4.0 scale. The current faculty has produced several Nobel Prizes as well as Field Medals, National Medals of Science, seven MacArthur Fellows and two Pulitzer Prizes. The school and its various colleges has been ranked in the top of their respective fields by 20 different publications and research groups. – 9 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE – 71%

It is time to leave the hillside beach town of La Jolla and head inland towards our next stop; San Diego State University. I hop back on the I-5 and head towards my childhood home just south of the 52 and west of I-15 in the tiny town of Tierrasanta. I wave to my old hood and continue on down the 15 to the 8 and head west a couple miles to the SDSU campus. Let’s see how they match up with their cross-town rival:

SDSU Alum Marshall Faulk
Andy Hayt – Getty Images

Athletics Teams

San Diego State University competed in the NAIA from 1921-1956 before moving to Division II and finally joined Division I in 1970. They have been in the WAC and are currently in the MWC for one more year when all teams move to the Big West except for their football team which moves to the Big East…sure they are an East coast school.

  • Football – Bowl Record of 5-4, three National Championships (D-II) and 13 Conference Championships (Six in Division I). The 1966 team went undefeated in Division II.
  • Men’s Basketball – Eight tournament appearances, advancing once to the Sweet Sixteen. They also have a NAIA National Championship in 1941 as well as 12 regular season championships and six regular season and Tournament Championships since moving to Division I.
  • The Men’s Soccer team lost the National Championship Title game to Clemson in 1987.
  • 9 Total National Championships although only one at the Division I level. Men’s Volleyball in 1973.

San Diego State University athletics has only been on the sports radar for the past decade or so. Prior to the 2010 season, their football team hadn’t won a bowl game in nearly 40 years. The real stars on campus lately are the basketball team with back to back regular season championships. For that, I award SDSU 20 out of a possible 30 points.

Hef’s Main Squeeze Crystal Harris

Women

I cannot explain how only 18 miles separates the two schools and yet the women are monumentally hotter at San Diego State than they are at UCSD. Perhaps it has something to do with the more lenient academic acceptance rate, so thank God for that. Once again returning to Playboy and Hugh Hefner’s favorites, Crystal Harris was Playmate of the month in 2009 and quickly moved up to Hef’s number one girl after Holly Madison left the mansion. – 22 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

There are a number of great bars and pubs in the Rolando neighborhood near SDSU, but since you are closer to the Gaslamp Quarter, I suggest you hit that up for a great evening on the town. If you are looking just to stay around campus, I suggest hitting up any of the establishments on El Cajon Blvd. with my favorites being McMurphy’s Pub and Effin’s Pub & Grill, great places to drop in and watch the game or guzzle suds, nothing pretentious, just great college bars.   – 16 out of 20 possible points.

Weather      

Same as UCSD – Incredible weather with not much change due to seasons with high temperatures in the 60’s during winter and upper 70’s in the summer. Lows temps drop into the high 40’s in winter and mid-60’s on summer nights. Even though the temperature doesn’t change, the ladies at SDSU tend to dress like it is warmer and thus less clothing – Win.  – 13 out of 15 possible points.

Gorgeous View
Photo courtesy of San Diego 12

Academics

San Diego State University is considered a “selective” college accepting in the range of 28 to 33% of all applicants over the past three years. For four years in a row, SDSU has ranked No. 1 in productive research facilities for small schools. It is also home to the first MBA program in Global Entrepreneurship and was ranked No. 9 by Fortune magazine for Small Business Entrepreneurs.   – 6 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE – 77%

This was truly a no-brainer, sorry SDSU. Although the academics and neighborhood of UCSD are top-notch, the all-around winner of the battle for America’s Finest City goes to San Diego State University. With a larger athletics program and less selective student body, the fun of college will be found at SDSU. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go to UCSD or even USD for that matter, San Diego is an absolutely beautiful city and their schools are great. If I could wave my magic wand and move my house to San Diego for what I am currently paying, I would do it in a second. If I had to choose between SDSU and UCSD for a more authentic college experience, SDSU wins hands down.

WINNER – SAN DIEGO STATE

Big Winner – SDSU

Arizona State Basketball Has Shining Stars

Wells Fargo Arena was abuzz two Saturday mornings ago with the new season of Arizona State Sun Devils Men’s Basketball just about to tip-off  the 2012-13 season with the annual Maroon & Gold Scrimmage. The 30 minute scrimmage featured two new, up & coming stars to the Sun Devil faithful; redshirt freshman guard Jahii Carson and junior guard Evan Gordon who transferred from Liberty University.

Carson, the phenom from local Mesa High School was ranked as high as No. 33 by Rivals.com and was being heavily recruited nationwide. He was Arizona’s top in-state basketball player in decades and was a Parade Magazine Second-Team All-American. In the 2011 Class 5-A Tournament, he scored 37 points in the opening round, 38  in the second and an amazing 58-point effort including 25-38 from the field. Carson set school records his junior year in points per game and assists per game and then went on to break them the next year with 32.2 ppg and 6.6 apg.

In the scrimmage, Carson switched from the maroon team to the gold team and back to the maroon for the three 10-minute periods with his squad winning each period. He finished with 18 points and played nearly the entire scrimmage.

“I was just happy to be out here playing with my teammates that I didn’t get to play with last year,” said Carson, who was deemed academically ineligible in 2011-12. “Coach Herb, he let me play my game. That’s one of the things that he allowed me to do — he let me play my game, and that’s to get into the paint and make things happen.”

Evan Gordon
Photo by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

Another standout in the scrimmage was junior guard Evan Gordon. The younger brother of NBA player Eric Gordon, Evan recently transferred to Arizona State after playing two years at Liberty where he led the team in scoring his sophomore year. Gordon finished with eight points and led the Maroon team to a  47-33 victory.

Head Coach Herb Sendek thanked the fans for coming out and relayed the following message:

“This is a team that’s going to be easy to cheer for,” he said. “We have great guys on the team, they’re going to give a great effort, they’re going to play well together — it’s going to be an exciting style of play.

“I think it’s going to be a season we can all be proud of.”

I, for one cannot wait to see what the Sun Devils have when it comes to playing a rather tame non-conference schedule before embarking on taking a very tough Pac-12 Conference schedule.  Their non-conference schedule begins November 11 at home vs. Central Arkansas and includes a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Las Vegas for the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational where they open up against the Arkansas Razorbacks and the winner will go on to play against either the Wisconsin Badgers or Creighton Blue Jays.

The Devils will open up their Pac-12 schedule at home for the first time since the 2007-2008 season against the Utah Runnin’ Utes on January 2nd and then host defending Pac-12 Tournament Champion Colorado Buffaloes four days later. The dreaded stretch comes two weeks later when they host the No. 12 ranked Arizona Wildcats on the 19th of January and the No. 13 ranked UCLA Bruins on the 24th. This tough conference will truly test the mettle of the team and I am confident that with the addition of two rising super stars in Carson and Gordon, things in the desert aren’t as bad as once believed.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter at @asudave.

Pac-12 Football: The Weekend When Everything Changed

Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

Two Top-10 ranked teams, two teams with seemingly nothing left to play for other than pride and an epic battle between two others fighting to prove that they belong—this past weekend shuffled everything up in the Pac-12 Conference, except in Eugene.

From the Pacific Northwest to the dusty borderlands of the Sonoran desert, upsets shook the Conference, dashing National title hopes for the Oregon State Beavers and putting the USC Trojans’ season in serious jeopardy, with games against two of the Top Three schools in the country still to come.

No. 7 Oregon State 17, Washington 20

Otto Greule, Jr./Getty Images

Otto Greule, Jr./Getty Images

After three straight losses for the Washington Huskies, head coach Steve Sarkisian demanded more from his squad. And they delivered.

After two 50-plus point losses on the road to the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats, the Huskies answered by intercepting Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion four times and handing the Beavers their first loss of the season.

Attempting to go 7-0 for the first time in school history, the Oregon State Beavers traveled to Seattle with Mannion fresh off minor knee surgery, looking to keep their National Championship hopes alive. Instead, Mannion threw three interceptions on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.

After Mannion’s fourth pick, he was replaced by Cody Vaz who immediately threw a touchdown pass to even the score with just under five minutes to play. Unfortunately, that was plenty of time for the Huskies to come back and hang the game-winning field goal in the final minutes.

With Oregon dominating the North division, the only chance that Oregon St. has left is to beat the Ducks on Thanksgiving weekend, provided that they get past No. 14 Stanford in Palo Alto.

No. 9 USC 36, Arizona 39

On a day when USC Trojans receiver Marqise Lee and quarterback Matt Barkley broke records, Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott was just a little bit better. Scott finished the game with 27-of-50 attempts for 369 yards and three touchdowns, as well as 100 rushing yards and a 10-yard scamper for a touchdown.

Lee broke the school and conference record for receiving with 345 yards and two touchdowns, which also landed him in the Top Five in NCAA history. Barkley was no slouch either, passing for a school-record 493 yards and tying Carson Palmer with three 400-yard passing games.

Barkley ended up with three touchdowns on 31-of-39 attempts, but his Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game was knocked down, as well as their National Championship hopes, leaving the Trojans a win shy of 800 games as a program.

While USC has a tough schedule including the AP No. 2 Oregon Ducks and the BCS No.3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Arizona’s schedule is relatively light against cellar-dweller newcomers Utah and Colorado. Arizona travels to the Rose Bowl to face the Bruins this weekend, and if they run the table, they will play for the Pac-12 crown.

Washington State 17, No.17 Stanford 24

Aside from a short pass to Jamal-Rashad Patterson who took it 70 yards for a touchdown, Stanford Cardinal quarterback Josh Nunes looked lost against the Pac-12 whipping post Washington State Cougars.

Nunes finished the game with just 7-of-15 passing for 136 yards and a touchdown. If not for the stellar defense by the Cardinal, this game could have gone the Cougars’ way.

The Cardinal defense sacked Cougar quarterback Jeff Tuel a school-record 10 times and returned an interception early in the fourth quarter for a touchdown. They also held the Cougars run game to -16 yards.

This sloppy offense will most likely get them past Colorado next week, but they will need to wake up and improve, as they host No. 11 Oregon State the following week, then travel to No. 4 Oregon and finish at upstart UCLA.

UCLA 45, Arizona State 43

Rick Scuteri/US Presswire

Rick Scuteri/US Presswire

Anytime a game is won as time expires, you know it was a close game and a hard-fought match up. UCLA Bruins true freshman kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn felt the pressure but drilled the 33-yard field goal to put the Arizona State Sun Devils’ season in jeopardy.

Both quarterbacks had monster games as UCLA freshman Brett Hundley completed 19-of-29 for 274 yards and four touchdowns and a pick. Arizona State signal caller Taylor Kelly finished with 25-of-35 for 315 yards, four touchdowns and a pick as well.

It was Kelly’s interception in the final minutes of the first half deep in Bruin territory that led to a UCLA touchdown. They took the lead going into the half that ended up costing the Devils the victory and a chance at playing for the Pac-12 crown.

If UCLA can survive the visiting No. 22 Arizona Wildcats in the Rose Bowl this weekend, they travel to Pullman the following week to face Washington State, but finish the season against No.17 USC and No.14 Stanford.

The road for Arizona State to the Pac-12 South crown seems to have come to an end as three of their next four games are on the road facing No.11 Oregon State, No.17 USC and ending their season at No. 22 Arizona for the Territorial Cup. Fortunately for the Devils, they still have a chance to become bowl eligible when Washington State visits Tempe for their final home game on November 17.

Cal 27, Utah 49

After consecutive victories over then-ranked No. 25 UCLA and Washington State, it seemed that Cal Bears coach Jeff Tedford had secured himself at least another season in Berkeley— now it seems about as clear as mud.

After straight losses to Stanford and Utah, who was previously winless in the Pac-12, Tedford will be lucky if he even makes it to the end of 2012 as the head coach of the Bears. They host Washington this Friday night, then travel to Autzen to take on the No. 4 Ducks and end the season at home against No. 11 Oregon State.

The Utah Utes notched their first conference victory after four straight losses. They could win at least two of their last four games facing the Washington State Cougars at home and ending their season in Boulder versus the lowly Colorado Buffaloes. If they win those games, they will have to beat either Washington in Seattle or Arizona at home to become bowl eligible.

Colorado 14, No. 4 Oregon 70

uo_cuAfter letting their foot off the throttle last week in Tempe, the Oregon Ducks had no idea what impact it would have on their BCS standing. Head coach Chip Kelly and his Ducks scored 43 points against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first half last week, and Kelly allowed his starters to sit the second half.

As a result, the Ducks didn’t score in the second half, and the final score of 43-21 looked a lot closer than the game really was. When the BCS rankings came out and Oregon dropped from the No. 3 spot to No. 4, the Ducks were going to make a statement against the Colorado Buffaloes.

The Ducks came out running on all cylinders and scored 56 points in the first half, added another 14 in the third quarter for good measure and put an exclamation point on the statement with a 70-14 victory. Unfortunately, the BCS computers didn’t think their victory over a one-win team, no matter how monumental, was enough to move them up in the rankings.

Oregon still has some tough games left to play this year, traveling to L.A. to face the No.17 USC Trojans this weekend and finishing up the season in Corvallis for the Civil War against the No. 11 Oregon St. Beavers. Prior to that, they travel to play Cal and host the No. 14 Stanford Cardinal in their final home game on November 17.

With the speed and dominance of this Oregon team, I see them playing Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship, making a return trip to the National Championship game and bringing home the title to Eugene.

Tucson’s First Nano-Brewery

When I was thinking about getting a personalized license plate for my truck a number of years ago, I knew I wanted an Arizona State plate first and foremost to help the student athletes and secondly I wanted to honor a true hero and ASU legend that I share my birthday with – Pat Tillman. His number at ASU was 42 and many different versions of his number were taken and then I got crafty, my license plate is XLII or 42 in Roman Numerals.  When I met J.P. Vyborny, the head brewer at Ten Fifty-Five Brewery a couple weeks ago at the Great Tucson Beer Festival, I originally thought that they were using insider police information as a 10-55 is code for possible DUI, don’t ask me how I know that. After doing some research, I learned that he named the brewery after his late brother whose initials are MLV or 1055 in Roman Numerals. He was instrumental in bringing Chris and J.P. together and they now brew in his honor. Here I thought I was the only crafty one, but they took it a step further.

Keep on Meme-ing

A nano-brewery is often described as having less than 4 US beer barrels brew system, Ten Fifty-Five will have a three barrel system that can produce 100 gallons at a time. They are hoping to have their tasting room open to the public sometime next month in the industrial park next to the original Nimbus Brewery at 3810 E. 44th St. Their philosophy is simple as stated on their Facebook page:

“We want to put good beer in reach of those that want to enjoy it, and help nurture the developing brew culture in Tucson. We want to make beer for beer drinkers like us; adventurous beer drinkers that are just as likely to try something new as they are an old favorite. We are committed to the idea of the local nano-brewer; a small batch company using fresh ingredients and open minds to make some great tasting brew. Look for us soon, we’ll be looking for you.”

I had a great time talking to J.P. about beer at the beer festival and look forward to tasting his creations and in turn honoring his brother. The listing of their beers sound incredible and I, for one am looking to try their staple beers as well as many new and inventive creations. Again from their Facebook page:

42 Hand-Burned Tap Handles – My Favorite Number

Sugar Skull Chocolate Milk Stout – Built on a solid milk stout recipe we’ll be adding free trade Ecuadorian Cacao nibs and Tahitian vanilla. My grandmother loves this easy drinking stout.

Lazy Duck American Wheat – This crisp wheat beer is refreshingly light for its style, perfect for a hot Tucson summer. The use of torrified wheat makes for a dry, crackery finish.

Leap Pale Ale – This flagship brew will be a craft beer drinker’s favorite. This beer makes good use of flavorful American hop varieties, but is gentle enough to appeal to non-hop-heads.

Two Suns Citra IIPA – This brew is a hop-head’s dream! The Citra hop variety lends bright, tropical citrusy notes, and is well complemented by the rich, slightly sweet background. This is an all-around big beer, in every way.

The Milk Stout and Double IPA are going to be the first ones I try, but I assume that the Pale will be a great session ale and the wheat will be perfect for the hot Arizona summers. It is so promising to hear and see so many craft brewers joining the market here in Tucson, as far as I am concerned, the more breweries the better and I look forward to many new nano-breweries opening their doors and allowing the good people of Tucson to taste great beer.

HOORAY BEER!

Arizona State Football: 7 Players Who Need to Step Up for the Sun Devils

step up

It’s Homecoming weekend in Tempe, not only for past students of Arizona State University but also for UCLA redshirt freshman signal-caller Brett Hundley, who was born in Arizona. The Chandler High School product returns to the Valley of the Sun fresh off a 21-14 victory against Utah. Hundley has had his ups and downs this season with a four-touchdown game against Nebraska to a four-interception game against Cal a couple of weeks ago.

If the Sun Devils hope to avoid a late season implosion like last year, they need to focus on a good 5-2 UCLA team, and these are the players that I think need to step up to secure the victory and the elusive Pac-12 South crown.

No. 7 Jaxon Hood  

Arizona State v MissouriTrue freshman defensive tackle Jaxon Hood has shown flashes of brilliance this year, and that has defensive coordinator Paul Randolph excited. So much is riding on his 295 lb. shoulders since ASU’s do-it-all defender Will Sutton is still questionable for this week’s matchup. Facing the Pac-12’s leading rusher in Johnathan Franklin, Hood and the rest of the defensive line will need to stop the run and avoid another debacle like last week.

 

No. 6 Evan Finkenberg

Left tackle Evan Finkenberg will be facing a tough opponent in outside linebacker Anthony Barr who is a monster sack machine. Finkenberg will be essential in providing protection for quarterback Taylor Kelly as well as establishing the running game. It’s no question that the entire O-line needs to be on point, but Finkenberg needs to keep Kelly safe.

No. 5 Brandon Magee

After sitting out last year with a ruptured Achilles tendon, linebacker Brandon Magee is back this year with something to prove in his senior year. The two-sport athlete was signed by the Boston Red Sox, but he has been giving his all to Graham and the football team. Magee needs to put his money where his mouth is and be the leader for this defensive squad.

No. 4 Alden Darby

darbyBehold the legacy of Arizona State’s legendary linebacker Pat Tillman. Head coach Todd Graham unveiled the camouflage jersey this week, and safety Alden Darby earned the privilege of wearing said jersey in practice. Darby is well-deserving of this honor, and he needs to show his coach, team and all the members of Sun Devil Nation by continuing to be a leader on and off the field, emulating Pat Tillman.

No. 3 Chris Coyle

Arizona State has produced several tight ends that are currently playing in the NFL, so the onus is on current tight end Chris Coyle to continue in that commitment to excellence. UCLA has a veteran secondary with incredible cornerbacks that will be covering ASU receivers like glue. This should open up things for Coyle, so I feel that an epic game is on the horizon for the 6-3, 230-lb. letterman.

No. 2 Taylor Kelly

TKComing off an abysmal game against Oregon where he completed only 10 passes for 93 yards, it is imperative that quarterback Taylor Kelly bounce back and show the resiliency that is required of a Division I quarterback. With a 67 percent completion rate and 168 QB Rating, Kelly has proven that he deserves to be the starting field general for Graham and the Devils. His 15 touchdowns and four interceptions is a good ratio, but he will need to improve on it to win this key Pac-12 matchup.

No. 1 Jon Mora

Walk-on place-kicker Jon Mora has taken the kicking job away from Alex Garoutte. This isn’t the first time this season that Mora has been tabbed over Garoutte. After Garoutte’s dismal 1-for-4 performance against Cal, Mora was the kicker against Colorado and made his only attempt for 38 yards. Garoutte regained the starting job for the Oregon game and missed a 43-yarder. With this game lining up to be quite a close one, it goes without saying that every point will be needed, and Coach Graham has to feel confident in his kicker.

If the aforementioned players step up tomorrow, there should be no reason why the Devils will not only win this game but also the Pac-12 South crown.

 

Arizona State Football: 7 Reasons the Sun Devils Will Win the Pac-12 South

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 

With so much riding on the new regime of Arizona State Sun Devil football, coach Todd Graham is well on his way to bringing respectability back to the desert.

In 2011, when the team started 6-1 overall and 4-1 in conference, the Sun Devils were nationally ranked at No. 19 in the BCS poll and looked like they had the Pac-12 South crown all but wrapped up since USC was serving a postseason suspension. Then came the implosion—four straight losses to teams with losing records and an embarrassing display in the Las Vegas Bowl getting demolished by Boise State in front of a national audience.

A new dawn has come, and the Devils will claim the Pac-12 South. Here are seven reasons to believe.

7. D.J. Foster

One of the most regarded and heavily recruited players in Arizona high school history, D.J. Foster decided to stay home and play for the Sun Devils. He averages 5.74 yards per rush with two touchdowns and 15.77 yards per reception with three touchdowns.

He is the consummate all-around athlete who will take ASU higher and higher this year and in the future.

6. Will Sutton

Will SuttonThe joy of recovering a fumble on Oregon’s first drive last week quickly turned to concern when standout defensive lineman Will Sutton had to be helped from the field.

ASU currently leads the Pac-12 in total defense and ranks first nationally against the pass, but its rushing defense is suspect. With their top run-stopper on the sidelines, things could get ugly fast, and they did. Oregon went on to rush for 406 yards, and that is with Chip Kelly resting his starters.

The good news is that Sutton has been at practice and is progressing and will lead the Devils in the coming year to cement a great defense.

5. Embracing Tradition Builds Character

There is a lot to be said for tradition. In portions of the country where there are no professional sports, children are brought into this world with the sole reason of dressing them in the gear of their school of choice. The schools with long and storied histories as well as rich traditions tend to have more of a commitment to the past, present and future of the team and school.

This is something that had been missing and was brought back by new coach Todd Graham. Graham returned the team to practice at Camp Tontozona and began a new tradition called the “Devil Walk” leading the team from Wells Fargo Arena into the stadium.

 4. Pac-12 South Redemption

After starting the season 6-2 and 4-1 in conference, the Sun Devils were ranked No. 20 in the AP poll, No. 18 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 19 in the all-important BCS standings.

All they needed to do was win one or maybe two games against teams that all had records under .500 and they would represent the South in the Inaugural Pac-12 Championship. They lost four straight and were decimated in the Las Vegas Bowl. With the new regime, culture and attitude, everybody knows that they need to return to the championship game to prove that they are worthy.

3. Revenge on a National Level

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks destroyed Arizona State last Thursday in front of 70,000-plus fans and even more as it was broadcast on ESPN. After scoring the initial touchdown of the game, Oregon scored the next 43 points…all before halftime.

If it wasn’t for Oregon coach Chip Kelly replacing his starters, it would have been a lot worse. This game will stick in their craw as a low point in their season, a sheer disaster in front of a sold-out crowd at home, and they cannot wait to return the favor in Autzen for the championship game.

2. USC Has a Tough Remaining Schedule

USC is no longer on suspension, so it seems odd that I am discrediting the No. 9 team in the country in stating that ASU will win the South and not USC—oh well.

With such a daunting schedule, I see the Trojans taking a big hit in the rankings, if the Devils have anything to say about it. With five remaining games, I see them losing three of them and finishing 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference. While looking at ASU’s remaining schedule, I see them winning four of five, finishing 9-3 overall with a 6-3 conference record and holding the tiebreaker.

Arizona State Introduces Todd Graham1. Todd Graham

Discipline, honor, character and integrity are all things that this football program has lacked and are all things that Todd Graham has brought with him and instilled in this team.

Forget about all the offseason hullabaloo about Graham being about as stable as a window on a submarine, Graham is the real deal, and he is here to stay and will take the Devils far and deep into the future.

West’s Best Bets – Life’s a Beach

Welcome back to the West’s Best Bets, this week’s installment takes us further down the California coastline on the famed Pacific Coast Highway and eventually the beach. With only 13 miles separating them, the schools of Los Angeles couldn’t be any further apart. While the University of California – Los Angeles is a public institution and the University of Southern California is private, you would think that the campuses were in the wrong neighborhoods.

Located in Westwood, bordering the extremely affluent towns of Brentwood, Bel-Air, Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills is a sprawling campus that was originally called the UC “southern branch.” The name University of California at Los Angeles became the official name in 1927.  The campus is absolutely gorgeous and is a short six-mile trip to Santa Monica and the iconic pier and beach park. It is no wonder that UCLA is the most applied-to university as well as being the most selective public university in the nation. Over 72,000 freshman applications were received for the fall of 2012 with only 17.8% were accepted. Time for the rankings:

Lew Alcindor & “The Wizard of Westwood”

Athletics Teams

  • Football – Bowl Record of 15-16-1 with a Rose Bowl record of 5-7, one National Championship (shared) and 17 Conference Championships.
  • Men’s Basketball – 44 tournament appearances, 18 Final Fours with 13 National Title Game appearances and 11 National Championships including a streak of seven straight. They also have 40 regular season Championships and three Tournament Championships.
  • Baseball – 18 Tournament appearances and four College World Series appearances. They have won eight regular season Conference Championships including the past two.
  • Softball – 11 National Championships and seven time runners-up.
  • 108 Total National Championships
  • Other men’s teams National Championships (60) – Volleyball (19), Tennis (16), Track & Field (8) Water Polo (8), Soccer (4), Gymnastics (2), Golf (2), Swimming & Diving (1).
  • Other women’s teams National Championships (26) – Water Polo (7), Gymnastics (6), Track & Field (5), Volleyball (4), Golf (3), Tennis (1).

The University of California, Los Angeles has a tradition of winning. The basketball streak of seven straight National Championships is a record that will never be broken, not to mention the litany of other records including an 88-game regular season winning streak, a 38 game NCAA Tournament winning streak and four perfect, undefeated seasons. Add to that their football team notched eight consecutive Bowl game victories; including three Rose Bowls and the sheer dominance of their Men’s Volleyball and Softball teams, I award UCLA – 28 out of a possible 30 points.

Do the UCLA Women Put Them Over the Top?

Women

With such close proximity to the beach, Hollywood and Rodeo Drive, it’s no surprise that the women at UCLA are hot. I was thoroughly impressed with the current student body as well as three of my childhood crushes in Winnie Cooper, Jessie Spano, Princess Vespa from Spaceballs and Blossom, well, maybe not Blosssom. I spend most every day with a UCLA alum – the Food Network’s Giada de Laurentiis. Another notable UCLA hottie is Bridget Marquardt from the Girls Next Door and you know what they say “If she’s good enough for Hef, that’s good enough for me.” – 22 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

It seems like there is always a party going on with all levels of beautiful people and celebrities galore within a couple miles of campus. So, if you are looking to see and be seen, LA-LA Land is right up there with the best scenes in the country. However, if you are looking for your neighborhood sports bar or college bar head to nearby Barney’s Beanery or O’Hara’s (the old Maloney’s), you will not be disappointed – 17 out of 20 possible points.

Weather

Beautiful beach weather with a wide range of temperature changes are the norm in the city of Westwood and nearby Los Angeles. Sunny and warm weather keep the co-eds in shorts and sundresses for most of the year and the beach at night is a crisp and cool alternative – 13 out of15 possible points.

I assume she is on the Honor Roll

Academics

As previously stated, UCLA is the most selective of all public universities in the nation and for good reason. Ranked as the #25 University in the country by U.S. News & World Report, #9 on the list of top research universities and #14 by the London Times for International Universities, UCLA is definitely a top tier school. Their roll call of alumni, students & faculty includes 12 Nobel Laureates, 12 Rhodes Scholars, 12 MacArthur Fellows and 3 Pulitzer Prize Winners – 8 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 88%

Leaving the beautiful campus and jumping on the 405 to the 10, I head inland towards downtown Los Angeles. I am almost afraid to exit the freeway approaching the campus of the University of Southern California as it is located in South Central Los Angeles, yes that South Central. Absolutely astonished that such an elite private institution such as USC would be located in such a “diverse” neighborhood has put the school at a slight disadvantage with first impressions being so important. It is this diversity that the school has embraced as it has the largest number of international students of any university in the country. Let’s see how they match up with their cross-town rival:

USC Has a Rich Football Tradition

Athletics Teams

  • Football – Bowl Record of 31-16 with a Rose Bowl record of 24-9, 11 National Championships and 38 Conference Championships
  • Men’s Basketball – 16 tournament appearances, advancing twice to the Final Four. They also have seven regular season Championships and one Tournament Championship.
  • Baseball – 36 Tournament appearances and 21 College World Series appearances with 12 National Championships.
  • 95 Total National Championships
  • Other men’s teams National Championships – Track and Field (28), Tennis (20), Swimming & Diving (9), Water Polo (7), Volleyball (4), Gymnastics (1).
  • Women’s teams National Championships – Volleyball (3), Tennis (2), Basketball (2), Golf (2), Tennis (2), Track & Field (1), Swimming & Diving (1).

The University of Southern California is world renowned for its perennial champion football team. Its 11 National Titles, six Heisman Trophy Winners (not including Reggie Bush), 38 Conference Championships, the nation’s best bowl winning percentage (min. 10 games) and 33 Rose Bowl appearances are all phenomenal. What impressed me most is that USC athletics won at least one National Title for 26 consecutive years and for that, I award USC – 27 out of a possible 30 points.

Sing me a Song, oh Song Girls

Women
Oh, my goodness gracious –this campus is on fire with gorgeous women. It isn’t just the Song Girls that are smoking hot; it’s the student body in general. There have been a number of notable USC alumni hotties including Miss India America, Diana Pinto, Kelly Preston, Cybill Shepherd  and wrestler/model Eve Torres 22 out of 25 possible points.
Local Bars & Pubs
You are most likely not going to want to go to many of the local bars in South Central, but definitely check out the college bar 901 Club or the 9-0 to students and there is also an on campus bar called Traditions. If you are venturing out into Los Angeles, the nightlife scene is stellar.  16 out of 20 possible points.

Weather
Same as UCLA – Beautiful beach weather with a wide range of temperature changes are the norm in the city of Westwood and nearby Los Angeles. Sunny and warm weather keep the coeds in shorts and sundresses for most of the year and the beach at night is a crisp and cool alternative 13 out of 15 possible points.

Academics
The University of Southern California admits approximately 20% of applicants with an average GPA of 3.7 out of 4.0. U.S. News & World Report ranks USC at #24 in the country and #48 in the world. The School for Cinematic Arts is the top-ranked college in the country along with video game design and physical therapy programs. The recent class admitted 247 National Merit and seven National Achievement Scholars. 8 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 85%

WINNER-UCLA

It looks as though we have our first upset with UCLA finishing with a slim 3 point victory. The tradition of USC is rich, but the lifestyle of the typical UCLA student seems to be just a little bit better. Whether it is because it is closer to the beach or just in a fancier neighborhood, you can’t deny that both schools are wonderful, but it seems that UCLA is just a little bit better and they have Giada.

I have watched Food Network for Years – I Don’t Know Why

Great American Beer Festival Awards

This past weekend, the city of Denver, Colorado hosted the annual Great American Beer Festival and ten Arizona Breweries entered 42 different beers, coincidentally my favorite number, in hopes of bringing home medals for their hard work. Arizona favorites Four Peaks Brewing from Tempe, SanTan Brewing  from Chandler, Papago Brewing from Scottsdale Dragoon Brewing  and Thunder Canyon Brewery from Tucson, Oak Creek Brewing from Sedona and Lumberyard Brewing from Flagstaff represented the state well.  Entrants from corporate restaurants with local brews included BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse from Chandler as well two Rock Bottom Breweries from Arrowhead and Desert Ridge.

With over 580 breweries and over 2,700 beers this year, over 50,000 people attended the event and the following awards were given to Arizona breweries:

  • In Category 21, there were 51 entries for the Wood and Barrel Aged Beer – the Jerry Maker from BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse beat out the Bourbon Barrel Aged Night Sail from Island Brewing and Local Species from Blue Mountain Barrel House to bring him the Gold Medal.
  • In Category 51, there were 111 entries for American Style Strong Pale Ale with Melvin from the Thai Me Up Brewery taking Gold and Lumberyard IPA bringing home the Silver Medal , Laughing Dog IPA was awarded the Bronze.

I don’t know if it is such a bad thing thing that we only won two awards this year as that means that there is a multitude of new beer being brewed out there that is absolutely incredible. It is tough to see that perennial awarded beers from Four Peaks and SanTan came home empty handed, but it doesn’t mean I like them any less.

Arizona State Basketball Looking to Quiet Critics

With so many coaches in the hot seat these days, no seat is hotter than that of Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Herb Sendek. While Sendek’s Sun Devils haven’t shown promise since the departure of standouts James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to the NBA, there is reason for hope and redemption in the desert.

Sendek is entering his 20th season as a head coach and he knows basketball. He also knows to not let hometown boys get wooed to conference competitors or, worse yet, the evil empire 90 miles southeast in Tucson. Last year, local high school senior Jahii Carson was being heavily recruited and was ranked No. 33 by Rivals.com, but Sendek was not about to let the Mesa native leave home and worked his magic to get Carson to sign with ASU. Unfortunately, Carson was unable to clear academic requirements and red-shirted. Fortunately, he was able to learn from experienced players as well build the discipline required of a Division I basketball player.

“Simply put, we can’t wait to watch Jahii in a uniform in a game,” Sendek said. “Every Sun Devil should be really excited to watch him. He is dynamic and explosive. One of our responsibilities as coaches, and really the part I enjoy as much as any other is putting our guys in the best position to be successful and I think Jahii obviously has some real gifts on the open floor. I think he is going to be particularly good at using ball screens. He’s a guy that can really create shots not only for himself but his teammates and so I think he will allow us to open some things up and in particular do some fun things with pick and roll that we probably weren’t in as good of a position to do this past year.”

It is rare that the hiring of assistant coaches register in the media, but Sendek went way out of the box when looking to hire two new assistants. In fact, the assistants have such great coaching pedigrees that many in the media claimed that he had just hired his replacement. Larry Greer, an advance scout for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, is one of the best at what he does. He recognizes talent, can predict how opposing teams are going to play and will relay that information by putting the best game plan forward.

Eric Musselman was also tabbed by Sendek to join the coaching staff this summer. Musselman has been a head coach for  three seasons in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings as well as stints in the CBA, USBL and most recently Coach of the Year for the NBA D-League Los Angeles D-Fenders. Musselman has also served as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies. Suffice it to say that his 24 years of coaching experience will help tremendously. ESPN analyst and former National Champion coach Fran Fraschilla said of Musselman on Twitter: “Eric is one of the best basketball minds that I know.”

Two big name transfers will also be playing this year after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer requirements. Scottsdale native Bo Barnes left for the beaches of Hawaii and set the freshman record for three-pointers made with 57. He looks to bring that long range jumper to the Sun Devils in grand fashion. NBA standout Eric Gordon‘s younger brother Evan Gordon played two seasons at Liberty University and led the team in scoring his sophomore year. With their combined experience and the expert tutelage of Sendek and staff, Barnes and Gordon will have an immediate impact to the Sun Devils.

Lastly, we shift our focus to the experienced players on the ASU roster and their massive improvements. Their two big men, 7-0 Ruslan Pateev and 7-2 Jordan Bachynski, are hoping to make a big splash this year in the paint. Bachynski, a devout Mormon who spent two years on a mission before coming to Arizona State, is the complete package. He is intelligent, articulate and has a work ethic that is second to none. Already a husband and father, Bachynski has made great strides to being a better player and person.

Finishing the season strong last year, Bachynski set his career-high scoring 20 against a tough Stanford team and followed it up with 19 against USC a couple weeks later. His abysmal free throw shooting average of .400 skyrocketed to .702, making 33 of 47 from the charity stripe in the last 13 games. His blocks and rebounds nearly doubled over the final stretch as well. Pateev also impressed coaching staff with his offseason improvements and will be part of the solid foundation for the Devils.

Carrick Felix
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Two other seniors for Sendek who will be the heart and soul of the squad are guards Carrick Felix and Chris Colvin. Felix has been a roller coaster ride for Sun Devil fans and when he is on, the team responds, but if he isn’t hitting, it also brings down the team. He is the Devils’ leading scorer in last year’s wins with 14.4 ppg, yet in their losses, he only manages 8.8 ppg. If the coaches can get Felix to show up for all games, this year could be great for Felix and ASU.

Junior college transfer Colvin sputtered out of the gate last year and finally found his groove come February. It was like there was another player out there for the final 15 games of the season where Colvin nearly doubled his totals for points, field goal percentage and assists per game. There will be a crowded back court with the three newcomers in Carson, Barnes and Gordon, but I think Colvin will get a chance to prove his worth.

The Pac-12 Conference will be extremely tough this year with a log jam at the top of the heap and I don’t expect Arizona State to win the conference or even finish in the Top 5. I do feel, however, that all the pieces are in place for Sendek and the Devils to have a good season in 2012-13. Furthermore, I predict that they will play in the postseason this year if all things fall into place and that is really all that is needed to quell the “Fire Sendek” rumors.

West’s Best Bets – Battle by the Bay

As we continue down Interstate 5 into the Golden State of California, we embark on the third installment of the West’s Best Bets. This week we take the long drive through southern Oregon and the Shasta National Forest on our way to our next destination, the University of California at Berkeley or Cal for short.

I knew that California was big, but I had no idea just how big after driving eight hours with really not much going on in this region. Heading back towards the coast and towards hippy central, I rolled down my window to check if the city really smelled like body odor & patchouli coming from the great unwashed. Much to my pleasure, there was no such scent, but I did have a sudden craving for granola and desire to play hacky sack.

A couple miles west of the Berkeley Marina in the San Francisco Bay lays the University of California Berkeley. This “City of Learning” was chartered in 1868 and covers over 1,200 acres with the central core of campus focused on 178 acres. Now on to the rankings…

Athletics Teams

Aaron Rodgers

  • Football – Bowl Record of 10-10-1 with a Rose Bowl record of 2-5-1, five National Championships and 14 Conference Championships.
  • Men’s Basketball – 17 tournament appearances, three Final Fours and are 1-1 in the National Title Game. They also have 15 regular season Championships.
  • Baseball – 12 Tournament appearances, six College World Series appearances and two National Championships including the very first College World Series in 1947.  They have won 13 regular season Conference Championships.
  • 84 Total National Championships spanning from 1920 – 2012.
  • Men’s teams National Championships (69) – Rugby (26), Crew (16), Water Polo (13) Swimming & Diving (4), Gymnastics (4), Tennis (3), Track & Field (2), Golf (1).
  • Women’s teams National Championships (7) Crew (3), Swimming & Diving (3), Softball (1).

An absolutely amazing collection of National Championships shows competency in all sports and absolute domination in others. When it comes to the big three sports however, their last NC was in 1959 and only have only racked up three Conference Championships in the past 40 years.  It is hard to ignore the 84 National Championships though and for this I award University of California Berkeley 23 out of a possible 30 points.

Women

Playboy’s Ophelia Shalott

I wasn’t expecting much and thus I was not disappointed when it came to the women at Berkeley, at least they weren’t all Lilith Fair rejects that refused to shave or shower. The cheerleaders are always going to be hot, but let’s not forget about Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin and Playboy’s Ophelia Shalott.  – 16 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

In the town of Berkeley alone, there are several lounges, dive bars, pubs as well as Bison Brewing and the Triple Rock Brewery. For those adventurous types, if you explore the Bay Area the number explodes and the heart of the craft brewing industry is within a stone’s throw. World renowned breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam, Firestone Walker, 21st Amendment, Lagunitas, Lost Coast and my favorite Russian River Brewing are all within an hour’s drive- 17 out of 20 possible points.

Weather      

Being that Berkeley is right on the bay, there is always a coastal breeze and although there is sun, I don’t think it ever gets hot there. On the plus side, the temperatures rarely drop into the 30’s and snow only hits the mountaintops in the winter. This Mediterranean climate is probably what brings out the hippies and it would be a little nicer to enjoy the bay without having to always wear a jacket.  – 9 out of 15 possible points.

Academics

What can I say about Cal’s Academics that you don’t already know? The enlightened children of business industry executives and CEO’s are all dying to get into Berkeley to prove their parents that they don’t anything other than their iPhone and North Face jackets. On average, Cal only accepts approximately 1% of those that apply with an average GPA of 4.19 on a 4.0 scale. They are nationally ranked in the Top 10 in 48 out of 52 programs. – 9 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 74%

Hooray for Cal

I leave Berkeley and the super nerds behind and hit the highway to San Francisco for a little scenery. I jump on I-80 and begin my journey over the legendary San Francisco bay. Much to my dismay, I am not on the Golden Gate Bridge as I thought it was the only bridge connecting San Francisco to the mainland. I make my way through downtown San Francisco, pass by various hookers, mostly male and finally find the bridge…which is red. Sausalito is beautiful, but I have to get back to work and get my ass to Palo Alto, another half hour or so to the south. Situated on the west side of San Francisco bay, the campus encompasses over 8,100 acres just outside of Palo Alto. Here are my findings:

Athletics Teams

Can Tiger Help Stanford over Cal?

  • Football – Two National Championships, Bowl Record of 10-12-1 with a Rose Bowl record of 5-6-1 and 12 Conference Championships.
  • Men’s Basketball – 16 tournament appearances, four Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eight, two Final Fours and one National Championship in 1942 as well as two pre-tournament championships. They have fifteen regular season Championships and five Conference Tournament Championships.
  • Baseball – 30 Tournament appearances including 27 out of 30 years while going to the College World Series 16 times and winning back-to-back championships in 1987-1988.
  • 61 total Men’s National Championships including Tennis (18), Water Polo (11), Golf (8), Swimming & Diving (8), Gymnastics (5), Outdoor Track & Field (4), Cross Country (4) and Volleyball (2).
  • 42 total Women’s National Championships including Tennis (17), Swimming & Diving (9), Volleyball (6), Cross Country (5), Synchronized Swimming (6), Water Polo (3), Basketball (2), Rowing (1) and Soccer (1).
  • 116 total National Championships and 448 individual sport champions.
  • Winner of the NACDA Directors’ Cup for the past 17 years straight, the award has only been given out for 18 years.

Absolute dominance- for this I award Stanford University 29 out of a possible 30 points.

Women

Super Hot Jennifer Connelly

Women with big brains turn me on…as long as they are wearing skimpy outfits that show off their “assets.” Unfortunately, too many women had their noses buried in books and were always bundled up. The night life/party scene seemed to bring out some beauties, but I doubt they were Stanford students. I have always had a thing for Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Connelly though. – 20 out of 25 possible points.

Local Bars & Pubs

Much like Berkeley, Palo Alto has its fair share of good college bars and pubs but it seems to be overrun with wine bars, like it was still stuck in the 90’s. There is a Gordon Biersch and a local brewpub called the Firehouse Grill & Brewery, but you really need to leave P.A. to find some real night life.  – 15 out of 20 possible points.

Weather

The coldest winter I have ever spent is the summer in San Francisco is a famous saying from Mark Twain an it pretty much rings true 35 miles south east in Palo Alto, but at least it gets into the 80’s there…or so I am told. The winters are a little cooler than Berkeley, but once again, no snow…just a bunch of rain– 8 out of 15 possible points.

Academics

Study, Study, Study

                                                              

Is there anything about Stanford’s academics that you don’t know? Wait, I am repeating myself. In a head to head battle of academia, the Ivy League of the West is head and shoulders above the rest. Stanford is a virtual breeding ground for billionaires, the millionaires settle for Berkeley. Google, PayPal, Netflix, LinkedIn, Victoria’s Secret, Pandora, Electronic Arts, Cisco Systems, Trader Joe’s, Dolby Labs, Charles Schwab, Capital One, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo! And Sun Microsystems were all were founded with Stanford degrees. If you are looking to get ahead and you are smart enough, get your ass to Stanford   – 10 out of 10 possible points.

FINAL GRADE 82%.

Although the oldest university in California is in Berkeley and everybody knows about how awesome it is, Stanford is just that much better. It is sad to see a school rank so well and not get past the first round but if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Stanford truly stands in a world by itself on the west coast when it comes to academics but to also win the Director’s Cup for athletics 17 years straight, there just no beating that and let’s not forget the tree.

The Tree Loves to Win!