Formation | Culture | Mission

The Weekend Preview | 5 Dec 2014

It’s been roughly a month since I’ve done any writing. My apologies.

But while Fidelity Sports may sit idle for a while—especially while I’m busy preaching, making multiple trips to Ikea to buy hundreds of $1.99 frames, and breaking/separating my collarbone in a sledding accident—the rest of the sports world still carries on. I suppose it’s good, because we’ve got one heckuva weekend in front of us. In fact, it’s so big, it warrants the first-ever, all-inclusive, holiday-edition…

FIDELITY SPORTS WEEKEND PREVIEW!!!TM
*Exclusions apply
**Not valid in all states, such as kansas, which sucks

Holy smokes, just look at what’s coming up in the next 72 hours!: college football season is coming to an end, and by Sunday evening, the first CFB Playoff bracket will be set; college hoops is heating up, and there’s plenty of elite level (read: Louisville and Kentucky) action this weekend; there’s plenty of make-or-break NFL games this Sunday; AND, with Christmas just around the corner, I’m giving you access to the dopest 12 gifts for men this holiday season. In the edited words of Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys 2, “Stuff* is about to get real.”

***

SEC Championship Preview

On Saturday, Mizzou makes its annual SEC Championship appearance against an overrated Alabama college. Last year, it was Auburn; this year, Ole Bama. If you’re keeping track at home, Mizzou has now reached the conference championship game in roughly 67% of its seasons, which is first in the SEC by (probably) 40 percent.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Mizzou runs away with it and crushes Alabama. But not so fast. According to a simple Google search, Alabama is ranked #1 in the country despite having red-colored running water for its mascot. In fact, you could even make a case that the Tide (again, speaking of the football team, not the laundry detergent, though housewives consider both a little overpriced—HIIIYO!!!) is a stronger team, given the fact that they are the 14.5-point favorites in Vegas.

Let’s take a closer look.

Missouri Tigers
Rank (AP/Committee): 14/16
Record (SEC): 10-2 (7-1)
Points Per Game (Rank): 28.6 (70th)
Points Allowed (Rank): 19.7 (13th)
Total Sacks (Rank): 40.0 (T-6th)
Turnover margin (SEC Rank): +9 (2nd)

Alabama Crimson Tide
Rank (AP/Committee): 1/1
Record (SEC): 11-1 (7-1)
Points Per Game (Rank): 36.5 (21st)
Points Allowed (Rank): 16.9 (6th)
Total Sacks (Rank): 28.0 (T-42nd)
Turnover margin (SEC Rank): -2 (10th)

Pretty evenly matched, I’d say. Now, clearly, Alabama has a much better offense. This is the best Alabama offense in the past decade, and probably the worst Mizzou offense in the Gary Pinkel era. But Mizzou’s defense—especially its pass rush, which is the best in the country—is almost statistically identical to Alabama’s, which will make for an old-school, low-scoring battle of wills. And if there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that old-school, low-scoring battles of wills favor the underdog. Enter, la Mizzou.

Two more things. First, Mizzou is 11-1 on away and neutral fields in the past two seasons. That’s right, Eleven-and-One! We actually play better away from home. Alabama? A paltry 8-3. What!? Eight-and-Three? That’s the definition of paltry. Look: Paltry (pal’-tri): adj. insignificant, despicable; adv. see paltry. Second, Mizzou went 8-4 against the spread (ATS) this year, while Alabama went 4-8 ATS. As a favorite on the road, Bama was 0-3 ATS. When Mizzou was an underdog on the road, we went 4-0 ATS—in fact, we were underdogs in all four road SEC games and WON THEM ALL!!!

So if Mizzou is on a 6-0 win steak, plays better on the road, has the league’s best pass rush, is certainly an underrated team against the Vegas spreads… and has absolutely nothing to lose… I’m not so sure we lose this game by 14.5 points. I’m not so sure we lose this game at all. Instead, look for MU to run early and often, get a few deep balls to Bud Sasser, give some open-field looks to return phenom Marcus Murphy, hunker down and stop Bama’s run, shut down that Amani Cooper kid, and force Blake Sims into some rookie mistakes. Result? You heard it here, folks:

Missouri 20
Alabama 24

MIZZOU GON’ COVER THE SPREAD, HOMIES!!!

***

Fidelity Sports Presents: The 12 Dopest Christmas Gifts for Men

That’s right, y’all. Having trouble coming up with a Christmas list? Want to make a dozen subtle suggestions to your wife/mom? Then email her this list. We’ll start with the cheap stuff and move to the summit. Remember, as always, to prioritize year-end giving to your local church.

Quills Coffee Travel Mug ($18): You don’t need 30 ounces of coffee if it’s brewed well. That’s what I always say. Stainless steel, matte black finish, local art design, certified to 200*F just in case. Buy local at any Quills Coffee location.

Local Art by Why Louisville ($15-30): looking for a hand-drawn map of our great city? A print of depraved author Hunter S Thompson riding a horse? Or a picture of Elvis and Muhammed Ali fake boxing? The good folks at Why Louisville have got you covered.

Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer Poems, Classic Hardcover ($24): All of our generation’s greatest poets’ works in the Mad Farmer series. Also available in paperback, but the hardcover is worth the few extra bucks. Buy local at Carmichael’s Bookstore.

Sojourn Music’s New Album ($10-???): There’s a rumor going around that our new album will drop just in time to be the greatest holiday gift since tickle me elmo, but I’m not making promises. But the album isn’t just going to be good, it might just be the Official Soundtrack of The Fidelity Essays in 2015. Buy local at any Sojourn service. Maybe.

ESV Reader’s Bible ($22-30): The ESV isn’t my favorite version, and typically I’m just reading directly from the Masoretic texts, but Zondervan has got me really frustrated—and it takes A LOT to get me angry—with their 2011 Edition and their near maniacal destructions of all 1984 Editions (my English favorite). Here, finally, we get an affordable hardback Bible without obstructive verse numbers, misleading section headings and more footnotes than a David Foster Wallace novel. Buy locally at the Christian Book Nook or Lifeway store.

Vintage Sports Gear ($32-85): You’ve got a few options here. For sweet sports t-shirts, check out Charlie Hustle (KC-based) and Homage (Ohio-based). For the dopest in old-school college hoops shorts Retro College Cuts. And in case you’re wondering if there’s an Etsy page dedicated to vintage NBA jerseys, you’re in luck.

Marmot Work Gloves ($38): The classic leather work glove with fleece lining, this is the dopest gift under 50 bucks this Christmas season, according to me. Buy local at Quest Outdoors, but trust me, the St Matthews location just got bought out by yours truly (spoiler alert, guy family members).

New Balance 574’s ($55-80): The greatest sneakers ever born? The 574’s. And they’re available in a million colors, and Joe’s NB Outlet always has super low prices. Locally available at shoe stores, probably.

Harvard Business Review Subscription ($100/year): You don’t need to read it. Seriously. Just buy it and set a few copies out at work, a few around the office. Within six months, you’ll have a raise, and you can buy all the 574’s you want. Or even better: give generiously to your local church body.

Patagonia Better Sweater ($139): A basically-perfect jacket from one of the most economically and environmentally conscious organizations on the planet. Also available at Quest.

Chippewa Renegade Boots ($268): Worth it. Trust me. If you’re smart, you sign up for emails and wait till you can get 25% off. If you need a pair of lifetime books, Chippewa’s your best friend. Not available in stores.

2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro ($42,000): The greatest SUV ever—I recently sold my 97 to buy a minivan (I know, I’m a stud), and it was still purring like a lion at 284,000 miles—gets a Fidelity Package: black rims, off-road tires, fierce grille with TOYOTA spelled out circa 1985, and heated leather seats, because, well, we’re not animals. It’s like Toyota enginners overdosed on 5-Hour Energy and testosterone for a few days, and this is what we get.

Go ahead and thank me for taking the time late one Thursday evening to put this together. Totes worth it.

***

The Rest of Saturday’s CFB Games

Also this weekend, Oregon, Florida State, and TCU all desperately must avoid final-weekend losses to remain in the CFB Playoff picture, while Baylor, Ohio State, and Arizona still have a fighting chance of making it in with big wins (and a little help). Here are my predictions:

#2 Oregon over #7 Arizona 45-31
#3 TCU over Iowa State 21-16
#6 Baylor over #9 K-State 35-31
#11 Georgia Tech over #4 Florida State 31-28
#13 Wisconsin over #5 Ohio State 24-13

TCU and Florida State will go down as the two worst 11-win teams in NCAA football history, and they should be left out of an 8-team playoff, let alone a 4-team. Baylor’s not great, but they’ll TCB at home versus a strong Wildcat team, led by the wiley old coyote Bill Snyder. And I genuinely feel bad for Ohio State. They would be as good as Bama and Oregon this year—and probably 13-0—if they could have had either of their two best quarterbacks healthy all year. But alas, Wisconsin and their ridiculous running game will top them. So where does this all lead us? In desperate need of an 8-team playoff!!! (Seriously, how do you set up a system with 5 conferences and 4 playoff berths!? I think this is actually worse than the BCS computer!!!)

(1) Alabama 12-1
(2) Oregon 12-1
(3) Baylor 11-1
(4) Mississippi State 10-2
(5) TCU 11-1
(6) Georgia Tech 11-2
(7) Florida State 12-1
(8) Missouri 10-3

Anyway, my 8-team playoff won’t happen this year, because these are college kids after all, and they have to study for finals—wait, what was the reason again? Anyway, we’ll see two SEC teams like we deserve, TCU’s Horned Froggies will fall, the Big 10 and ACC will both be shut out (but then again, it’s basically basketball season anyway, what do they care?), and now matter what, beloved Fidelity faithful, the only thing that matters—the one thing I predicted six months ago—is that Alabama and Oregon will play for a national championship. Why? Because the last 12 months were just a formality, and because the National College Athletic Assocation is just Roger Goodell in reading glasses.

***

Holy smokes, this preview is getting long! I should probably not taking a 4-week break from writing meaningless drivel about sports again. Let’s just do one big finish to cover all we’ve got left.

Tiger Woods is in last place of some obscure tournament, because he completely duffed six chips on Thursday. As in, hit the ground and the five-dollar Titleist bounced a few feet. #Ouch

In the best College Hoops game of the season so far, two of my Final Four teams go head to head on Friday night: Kentucky and Texas! My full College Hoops 2014-15 Preview is coming soon, but for now, just know that Kentucky, Texas, Duke and Wisconsin are going all the way this year. (Look for Texas to win in an upset Friday night.)

What about Louisville Hoops? The Cards are lookin’ fantastic, again. The offense needs some work—as this week’s win over the Buckeyes showed through 20 excruciating minutes in the second half. Friday night, UofL plays Florida Int’l, and my boy Matt and I are going to be there for every minute. Clergy benefits!!

Speaking of Louisville hoops, Twitter was a buzz on Thursday with speculations of an NBA Expansion with new teams in Seattle (Western Conference) and Louisville (Eastern). By “a buzz,” I mean roughly 3-5 people were talking about it. #Trending

In the National Football League, playoff berths are on the line across the board. The Chiefs and Cardinals have both lost their last two games, and meet in Arizona (prediction: Chiefs 23-10), the Bengals and Steelers go at it in Cincy (Bengals by a FG), two AFC overachievers meet in Miami (gimme the Ravens over the ‘Phins in an upset), and the Seahawks will hit their December stride with a big win in Philly (by at least 10). The game of the week is out in sunny San Diego, and I like the Patriots knocking the Chargers back into the wild card fray, 31-21.

Last but not least, it’s elimination time in Fantasy Football Leagues across America, and Fidelity Sports chose a bad time to lay an egg last Sunday (the first of a two-week playoff). In my defense, I was preaching for 12 hours and my TE was ruled out somewhere in there. But if Johnny Clipboard thinks he’s getting off easy with his 30-point lead, he better think again.

Because that’s the beauty of Fidelity Sports: it’s not about the favorites and the sure things. Let the experts jabber all they want; let Vegas put the spread where they want. There’s a game to be played. This weekend, like every weekend, the coin will be flipped, the whistle will blow…. and absolutely anything can happen.

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