Trevor Denton | Daily TrojanThe most common complaint about the NBA in 2018 is that it lacks competition.At the end of the day, the Warriors and Cavs will always find themselves playing each other in the NBA Finals, critics lament. Many NBA critics feel that the 82-game regular season and four-round Playoffs are just window dressings when the conclusion is already set in stone. On the other hand, fans around the country love the NFL for the exact opposite reason. They enjoy the league’s perception of parity, where each team possesses an equal shot at winning a championship, despite its previous season’s record. The four-round, single-elimination Playoff format creates a sense that any team can make a run for first place, much like the New York Giants in 2007 and 2011 (shoutout to my former sports editor Ollie Jung, a die-hard Giants fan).Yet, as the NFL gets ready for its 52nd Super Bowl on Feb. 4, the Football League faces predictability issues similar to the NBA’s. Since 2003, only four different quarterbacks have won the AFC Championship: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco (the obvious outlier). For Brady, 40, this will be his eighth Super Bowl appearance in his 18-year career. He’s had an extended run of greatness that’s been ongoing since my first days of watching sports. Yes, the NFL’s highly touted parity does exist, but only across half of the league. Compared to the AFC Championship, 13 different quarterbacks have won the NFC Championship since 2003. There are some future Hall of Famers in that group, like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. But there are many more Flacco-esque head scratchers like Colin Kaepernick, Rex Grossman and 2018 winner Nick Foles. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will make his eighth career appearance in the Super Bowl. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.For the most part, superior play by a few quarterbacks in the AFC has translated directly to more wins in the Super Bowl. Since Brady’s first appearance, the AFC is 11-6 in the Super Bowl, with another win likely on the way in two weeks. The AFC’s run is not quite on the level of the NBA Western Conference’s utter domination, but it’s pretty damn close. The NFL’s AFC problem starts with a lack of depth at the quarterback position. Aside from bouts with Manning and Roethlisberger, Brady simply hasn’t experienced much competition in getting to the Super Bowl. This year, he defeated Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans and Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs — two quarterbacks who ranked in the bottom half of the league for completion percentage. A sixth Super Bowl victory in Minnesota would certainly be impressive, but Brady didn’t exactly go through a difficult road to get there. Several recent draft classes looked promising in terms of quarterback talent, but players ended up not panning out as expected. 2012 offered Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as can’t-miss prospects. Both of their careers have since been derailed by injuries. In 2015, two Heisman Trophy winners in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were drafted No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. They were supposed to take over as the new group of elite NFL quarterbacks sooner rather than later, yet in 2017, both showed signs of regression. Their teams (the Buccaneers and Titans) finished with a combined record of 13-19. NFL teams need to get better at scouting and developing young quarterbacks in order to make the league more interesting, and prevent older “signal callers” from continuously dominating the league. This year’s quarterback draft class includes several talented prospects including USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma. But only time will tell if any rise up to challenge the Roethlisberger-Brady hierarchy. In the meantime, a 40-year-old quarterback will attempt to win his sixth Super Bowl, with the narrative feeling all too familiar for a league that prides itself on producing the unexpected. This week, I wanted to start doing something a little different with my column. From now on, I’ll be concluding with three things I enjoyed in sports this week: 1. Andrew Wiggins’ game against the Clippers on Monday night. I had the pleasure of attending the Clippers-Timberwolves game at the Staples Center. Both teams were ravaged by injuries. Deandre Jordan, Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverly all sat out for the Clippers while Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford were unable to play for Minnesota. Still, the two Western conference foes turned in an intense, fun and fast paced game. The T-Wolves ultimately eked out a close victory thanks to a spectacular 40-point performance by Andrew Wiggins. With Karl-Anthony Towns and Butler on the roster, it’s easy to forget about Wiggins. On Monday, he reminded everyone why that’s a very bad idea.2. USC’s four-game winning streakI wrote about the Men’s Basketball team’s current winning streak in more detail on Monday, but it’s worth bringing up again. They have a talented enough roster to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, and now they’re finally playing up to that potential. USC should be a fun team to watch over the last half of conference play. 3. Jake Olson “throwing dimes” When the Trojans were in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, video surfaced of the team’s blind long-snapper launching drives at TopGolf. Olson showed off more of his incredible athleticism on Monday, as the USC Athletics Instagram page posted video of him of completing perfect passes on the football field. Olson continues to inspire and amaze (also don’t count him out of the 2018 USC quarterback competition). Trevor Denton is a sophomore majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “T-Time,” runs Wednesdays.
Manchester, United Kingdom | AFP | Manchester United will be desperate to bounce back in the FA Cup fifth round against Huddersfield on Saturday, their first match featuring opinion dividing video assistant referee (VAR) technology.Defeat at the hands of Newcastle at the weekend left Jose Mourinho’s men second in the Premier League but just four points clear of Tottenham in fifth as the race for the top four heats up.Now they travel to Huddersfield — where they lost in the league earlier this season — ahead of a testing run of fixtures that could define their season, with major questions over how best to deploy club record signing Paul Pogba and new boy Alexis Sanchez. “It’s very difficult to put me in a position where I have to criticise my players,” said Mourinho when quizzed on Pogba’s lack of form, which saw the £89 million ($125 million) midfielder dropped by his Portuguese manager when United last faced Huddersfield a fortnight ago.There have been mixed reactions to the VAR system, which has been used in a handful of League Cup and FA Cup ties.The recent fourth-round FA Cup tie between Liverpool and West Brom proved particularly contentious as the extra official awarded Jurgen Klopp’s side a penalty, ruled out a goal for his opponents then confirmed another would stand.– Mourinho backs VAR –“When people ask us if we like it, if we don’t like it, if we agree with it or don’t agree with it, I think honestly it’s a question for the referees,” said Mourinho, who said he backed the system but that it needed adjustments to preserve the flow of the game.Share on: WhatsApp Pages: 1 2
London, United Kingdom | AFP | Harry Kane struck late to secure Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Sunday that moved Mauricio Pochettino’s side into the top four immediately ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Manchester United.Spurs appeared set for disappointment after struggling to break down a Crystal Palace fighting to move clear of the relegation places.But Kane finally found the breakthrough on 88 minutes, meeting Christian Eriksen’s corner at the far post and directing a header past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey who should have done better after getting a firm hand to the ball.A big, big goal. ? #OneOfOurOwn pic.twitter.com/2GMjXdkrPt— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 25, 2018“We left that very late. I thought it weren’t going to be our day, because we had a few chances, especially me…but we kept going until the end and eventually got our rewards,” Kane said after netting his 35th goal of the season.The win pushed Pochettino’s men two points above Chelsea and while they knew the positions could be reversed by the end of the day, they could be satisfied they had increased the pressure on Antonio Conte’s side. Pochettino made 10 changes to the side that drew with Rochdale in the FA Cup seven days previously but the more significant fact was that his line-up showed just one change to the team that drew at Juventus in the Champions League.The withdrawal of Jan Vertonghen after the centre-back picked up a knock in training the day before the game meant Eric Dier slotted in alongside Davinson Sanchez in central defence in an otherwise familiar Spurs line-up.FULL-TIME: @HKane heads home at the death to secure a massive three points at Selhurst Park! COME ON YOU SPURS! #COYS pic.twitter.com/zQBimHTBzb— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 25, 2018By contrast, Hodgson’s hand was forced by the absence of 12 senior players, leaving the Crystal Palace manager with few options.Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 20, came in at right-back for his senior debut and the depth of the home side’s injury problems was reflected on the substitutes’ bench where four of the seven replacements had yet to make a Premier League appearance for the club.The makeshift nature of the Palace line-up was reflected in a disjointed start that could have seen Tottenham three up inside 16 minutes had the visitors made more of a succession of defensive errors.Share on: WhatsApp Pages: 1 2