Go ahead and say it, I already know what you’re thinking: “Aaron, are you really giving us a ‘Things To Look Forward To In 2012 List?’ You’re only like the 3,000th sportswriter to do that this week. Geez, get an original idea. I thought you were better than that.”
First of all, I’m not better than that. But more importantly, come on, lighten up, it’s the New Year! Besides, I could give you a list of 500 things to look forward to in 2012, and it would still be more entertaining, and end quicker than last night’s Baylor-Washington game…which I still can’t believe happened by the way.
All bad jokes aside though, I really do think 2012 could be a banner year for sports. We are in line for quite possibly the most exciting NBA season in recent history, the most exciting NCAA Tournament of my lifetime, and a fantastic Summer Olympics. Not to mention the return of the best pro football player on the planet (Peyton Manning, who we all know will play- and play well- in 2012), the changing address of the best baseball player on the planet (Albert Pujols) and the mental breakdown of the best basketball player on Earth too (I fully expect Kobe Bryant to pull a Tonya Harding and have Troy Murphy clubbed in the knees by the end of February. Mark that down, it will happen.)
Granted, 2011 was a fun year. But there’s plenty more ahead in 2012.
Here are 50 story lines that I’m excited about, plus my BCS bowl game picks…
1. The Miami Heat: As I joked the other day, I’ve already started on my second book, it’s called ‘The Likeliest Champion,’ and it’s about the Heat’s inevitable 66-0 regular season. My God do those guys look good.
2. Watching Mark Sanchez Fulfill His Destiny In The NFL: As the NFL’s most eligible clipboard holder, and backup to Phil Rivers next year in San Diego.
3. The 2012 Summer Olympics: Or as I like to call them, “Those three weeks where we’ll all get excited about Michael Phelps again.”
Actually, speaking of the Olympics…
4. The Redeem Team Part II: So you’re telling me we can bring LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Carmelo, Chris Paul and the boys back from 2008….and replace Jason Kidd with Derrick Rose, Tayshaun Prince (yes, he was actually on the last team) with Kevin Durant and Carlos Boozer with Blake Griffin?
Jaw, meet floor. The 2012 Olympic team will go down as the best collection of basketball talent ever.
5. The Best NBA Draft Of The Last 15 Years: But no, seriously, look at the names. Anthony Davis; Andre Drummond; Harrison Barnes; Perry Jones; Thomas Robinson; Jeremy Lamb; Terrence Jones. I’m already drooling just thinking about it.
6. The Worst NFL Draft In The Last 15 Years: You know, since everyone has known that Andrew Luck would be the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft…before the 2011 NFL Draft.
7. And The NHL Draft Too: Ohh, who the hell am I kidding? I have no idea what’s going on with the NHL Draft. Do they even have a draft?
8. Year One Of The Urban Meyer At Ohio State: Granted, Ohio State may not be bowling per se. But when every Saturday in Columbus feels like a BCS bowl game, does it really matter?
Speaking of interesting college football stories, how about…
9. Three Months Of ‘Welcome to the SEC’ Headlines For Texas A&M: Before the Aggies actually are “welcomed” to the SEC… by getting stomped out every Saturday for three months straight.
10. Pitt Basketball Somehow Finagling Their Way To A No. 2 Seed In The NCAA Tournament: Followed by Pitt somehow losing on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Just mark it down. You already know it’s going to happen.
11. Six Words: Tim Tebow in the NFL Playoffs. We’re one game away from it happening, and if it does, the world may very well come to an end in 2012.
12. The Cam Newton Experience: Admit it, he’s a lot more fun to watch than you ever expected.
And by the way, if 2012 is the year that the Panthers actually surround him with competent, professional football players… watch out.
13. Albert Pujols In Anaheim: Who said the only baseball being played is in New York, Boston and Philadelphia?
14. Peyton Manning’s Return: Which you know is gonna happen, and you know you’re gonna feel foolish about when the Colts go 11-5 record next year. Mark my words, it will happen.
15. Watching On Draft Day As Kellen Moore: Goes about 100 spots and three rounds later than he should. Which will of course be followed by…
16. Kellen Moore Replacing An Injured Starter In Late November And Winning Three Straight Games: Which might actually make Cris Carter’s head explode on live television. Which will immediately go down as my favorite moment of 2012.
17. Kris Humphries Continued Evolution Into “The Most Hated Man In The NBA”: Which is simply the most perplexing story line in sports right now.
18. Seeing If 2012 Is Finally The Year John Calipari Wins His First National Championship: Which, I think it will be, by the way.
Speaking of which, during the Wildcats late season run, also get ready for…
19. Two Months Of “Anthony Davis Will Need To Carry Kentucky” Headlines: Before the mainstream media actually sits down and watches Kentucky, and realizes that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is by far the Wildcats most important player.
20. Chris Paul To Blake Griffin: That is all.
21. The Downfall Of The Dallas Mavericks: Isn’t it ironic that every single NBA fan on the planet knew that the Vince Carter signing would work out terribly, yet no one in Dallas’ front office did?
22. Fun Alex Rodriguez Rumors: Hey, did you hear that Alex Rodriguez is now getting “treatment” for his injured knee in Germany?
Oh, it’s happening. Just the same way that Peyton Manning got “treatment” for his neck in Germany, and Kobe Bryant got “treatment” for his shoulder in Germany.
What a weird coincidence!
23. Butler’s Unexpected Run To The 2012 College Basketball National Championship Game: I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but we all know it will.
24. Matt Barkley’s Return To USC: Which, by itself, made the sport of college football about 37,000 times more interesting heading into 2012. On the same note, who’s ready for…
25. The Year Of Lane Kiffin: It’s not quite as cool as “The Year of the Dragon,” but pretty close. You know what would be even cooler? Seeing Lane Kiffin lift that crystal ball above his head in January 2013. We could be 11 months away from it happening.
26. The Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem Fight: Ok, so technically this fight might be happening tonight. You know what though, I don’t care? It’s my list, and I’m keeping it here anyway.
27. Michael Jordan’s Second Marriage: If you thought Kim Kardashian’s wedding was big, well… actually you’re right, that was way bigger than this one will be. Still, I wouldn’t mind being Jordan’s fiancée Yvette Prieto, or her accountant right about now.
28. Ron Zook Buying A Beach Front Property On The Island Of Misfit Coaches: Seriously, with the Zooker gone, who the hell am I going to make fun of next year?
Oh wait, that’s right…
29. Charlie Weis: Who is now the new head coach at Kansas! And, he even brought Dayne Crist with him! I tell ya, sometimes the jokes just write themselves.
30. The Summer Of Dwight: If you’re sick of seeing “Where will Dwight Howard end up” stories already, wait until July; it’s all anyone will be talking about. And you will hate it. Just trust me on that one.
31. Kemba Walker’s Rookie Year With The Charlotte Bobcats: Also known as “The only reason to ever watch the Charlotte Bobcats.”
32. Will RGIII Stay Or Go?: Personally, I think he should go. Because really, is there a better way to go out than with a 67-point, 777 yard effort like Baylor had last night?
33. A Potential 49ers-Lions Rematch In The NFL Playoffs: Which will also go down as “The most anticipated postgame handshake… EVER!!!!” And if a fight does break out, I’ll go ahead and back Jim Harbaugh. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
34. The Big East Basketball Tournament: It’s my favorite sporting event on the planet, and if West Virginia has its way, 2012 will be the last one of its kind. My suggestion? Get there while you can.
35. The Ricky Rubio Era In Minnesota: I don’t know if the Timberwolves are a better basketball team than they were at this time last year (my hunch is yes). But they certainly are more entertaining.
36. Floyd Mayweather’s Stint In Prison: Which really isn’t something we should joke about. Especially since you know, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Don’t drop the soap, Floyd!
37. The Search For The Next Head Coach Of Penn State’s Football Program: Which by my calculations, should finish up around April of 2014.
38. Three More Weeks Of “What’s Wrong With Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant” Headlines: Before everyone realizes that the Thunder are the best team in the West, and that not surprisingly, there’s actually nothing wrong with them at all.
39. The Revival Of The Indiana Basketball Program: The Hoosiers have some of the most loyal fans anywhere, and believe me, after what they’ve been through, deserve all the success that they’ve got coming to them.
40. Year Two Of The Will Muschamp Era At Florida: Which- as far as many Gators fans are concerned- is also hopefully the last year of the Will Muschamp era at Florida.
41. Jimmer-Mania: If there was ever an excuse to actually go to Sacramento, Jimmer just might be it.
42. Aaron Rodgers: I don’t watch a ton of NFL games, but from what I hear, this Aaron Rodgers guy is pretty good at football. I fully expect that to continue into 2012.
43. Lou Holtz “Going Out On A Limb” And Picking Notre Dame To Win The 2012 BCS National Championship: Followed by the Irish surprisingly, not winning the title.
44. The Fifth Straight Year That I, Aaron Torres, Will Get Really Excited For The NHL Playoffs: And then tune them out after two games. It really has become an annual spring tradition.
45. Novak Djokovic’s Continued Dominance Of Tennis: Yes, tennis just made this list. And right now, Djokovic is as dominant in his sport as any athlete in the world. If you’re not watching, 2012 is the time to start.
44. James Harden’s Beard: Which I only suspect will continue to grow well into the New Year.
46. The Memphis Grizzlies: Who continue to be the single most fascinating sociological experiment of my lifetime.
47. This Picture Of LaMichael James: Which truly is the holiday gift that keeps on giving.
48. Watching The Development Of Andre Drummond: If you haven’t seen the UConn center play this year, well you’re in for a treat. And even if you have, be warned: He’s gotten better every single game, and really is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.
49. More Tim Tebow: Because admit it, you just can’t get enough of him!
50. The BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama. Les vs. Nick. The Honey Badger and Trent Richardson. Where do I sign up?
Speaking of which, let’s quickly get to the BCS bowl game picks:
Oregon (-5) over Wisconsin: January 2, 4:30 p.m. ESPN
One of the single goofiest subplots of the college football season came on opening night after Oregon got beaten down by LSU. It was the Ducks second straight loss to an SEC opponent, and third straight loss in a “showcase game” dating back to the 2010 Rose Bowl, and well, Oregon fans weren’t all too happy about it. Plenty even had the audacity to wonder if Chip Kelly could “win the big game.”
Yeah, about that… Now coming off their third straight Pac-10/12 title, the Ducks are 22-3 over the last two seasons, with two of those losses likely coming against eventual BCS National Champions (Auburn last January, LSU in September). Still worried about Chip’s coaching acumen, Ducks fans?
If so, that’ll end on January 2. The simple truth is that as much as I appreciate what Wisconsin has done the past few years, they simply don’t have the speed (or anywhere close actually) to keep up with Oregon for two quarters, let alone four.
Things will be close for a quarter, but over by halftime.
Stanford (+3 ½) over Oklahoma State: January 2, 8:00 p.m. ESPN
Annnnnd, if you’re looking for the exact opposite of what will happen at the Rose Bowl, stay tuned into the Fiesta later that night.
To put it as simply as I can, I just don’t think Oklahoma State- and their defense in specific- could be in a worse position heading into this one. Stanford is healthier than they’ve been in months, and while I expect Oregon to score quickly and in bunches in the Rose Bowl, I’m thinking the exact opposite happens here; essentially I’m thinking Stanford chews up a lot of clock, and wears down the Cowboys defensively.
They say the best defense against a team like Oklahoma State is a good offense, and it’s something Stanford will prove here.
The Cardinal will win going away.
Michigan (-2 ½) over Virginia Tech: January 3, 8:00 p.m. ESPN
Every time I watch Michigan, I can’t help but think of the song, “Then I saw her face…now I’m a believer. Not a trace… no doubt in my mind.”
Basically, that’s how I feel about Brady Hoke. I don’t know if it’s the chubby cheeks. Or the gruff exterior. Or just that he looks reeeeeeeally good in maize. But I do believe in Hoke, and with a month to prepare for this one, I do believe in Michigan too.
They’ll get a win here, and roll into 2012 as a top five team.
Clemson (-2 ½) over West Virginia: January 4, 8:00 p.m. ESPN
Wait, ya’ll did watch West Virginia this year, right?
Clemson should win this game by at least a touchdown.
BCS National Championship Game:
Alabama (-1 ½) vs. LSU: January 9, 8:00 p.m. ESPN
I have some strong opinions on who’ll win this game…but you’ll have to check back next week to find out what they are.
Happy New Year everyone!!
(Love the article? Hate it? Disagree with something Aaron said? Have a few reasons why you’re excited? Comment below, or e-mail Aaron at ATorres00@gmail.com.
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And finally, it’s official: Aaron has written his first book! It’s called The Unlikeliest Champion, it’s about the 2011 UConn Huskies National Championship team, and is available for order at www.uconnbook.com or on Amazon.com. Get your order in today!)