NCAA Shuffle

Realignment. A word that has been looked down upon around the NCAA. But there is no cause for alarm; this buzz word is taking shape and changing the landscape of the NCAA along with it. The NCAA conference overhaul blew up last year when the Big 10 lit up the proverbial powder keg by adding Nebraska to their roster. Then the Pac 10 became the Pac 12 after the University of Colorado and University of Utah joined. . .the Big 10 now has 12 teams. . .has your brain melted yet?

Additional conferences such as the Mountain West Conference and the Big 12 lost members. The Big East has two big defects with Pitt and Syracuse bowing out. As the list goes on and the realignment continues, experts are interpreting these moves as both good and bad. Some sideline gurus are applauding smaller conferences like the Big 10 and Pac 12 for adding teams in order to compete with bigger conferences and forge new rivalries while naysayers see these moves as moneymaking power plays with new contenders grappling for the national spotlight. Whatever the case is, realignment is good for college sports. Why not mix it up the status quo? Everybody loves a good rivalry, students will be able to smack talk new adversaries and the current game of NCAA conference musical chairs is only adding to the drama that is college sports.

Now you might be confused with this NCAA migration but, regardless of where your favorite college team ends up, Pro Sports Memorabilia has a great selection of authentic sports memorabilia from dozens of NCAA teams. Check out our assortment of autographed collectibles including autographed photos and game used memorabilia.

What a Year for Baseball

The 2011 MLB season has been one for the record books – more major milestones have been reached and records broken than any other year I can remember. Below are just some of the examples of things that have happened this season:

  • Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals broke his own 2010 record by hitting 30 home runs in 10 consecutive seasons. Now in his 11th season, Pujols has hit over 440 home runs, averaging just over 40 a year, which is a lot for one of the few sluggers never mentioned in the Mitchell Report.
  • Speaking of the Mitchell Report and power hitters, another name that was never brought up was Jim Thome. Currently playing for the Cleveland Indians again, Thome just became the 7th player in history to hit 600 home runs. This guaranteed Hall-of-Famer joins this short list with other Hall members like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays & Hank Aaron. Other notable players in the club that may not make it to Cooperstown because of their association with performance enhancing drugs include Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa & Alex Rodriguez. On a side note, I find it very interesting that the Minnesota Twins kept him both on their roster and playing regularly all the way up to his 600th home run, and then they placed him on waivers to ultimately trade him back to Cleveland. It seems they waited to ensure Thome hit the milestone while on the Twins simply to give them more publicity; I can’t imagine they weren’t already planning to trade him before he got to 600.
  • Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers has had a career-defining season on the mound, and has helped lead his team to the AL-Central title. He is not only leading the American League for the pitching Triple Crown (Wins, ERA & Strikeouts) but is leading the entire MLB as well; if it were a six-pointed crown he would win it also because he also leads in Innings Pitched, Opponents Batting Average and WHIP. The 2011 season has been one for the record books for Verlander and he was only a few innings away from making baseball history. He pitched his second career no-hitter early in the season, which was a perfect game until a late walk, and since then has had two outings where he carried a no-hitter into the 8th and another into the 6th. Verlander will likely win the AL Cy Young award and should be a favorite to win the MVP as well with his closest and possibly only competition being Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees.
  • It should come as no surprise that America’s team, the Yankees, had two players make history in 2011. First, Derek Jeter hit his 3,000th hit, joining the exclusive club with 27 other players of which only 3 are not in the Hall of Fame (and that includes Pete Rose who is still banned). Jeter is the only player to hit the milestone with a home run besides Wade Boggs, and one of the few to complete the feat with one franchise. Jeter already holds the record for most hits by a Yankee and though he is 37, will likely play a few more years with the Bronx Bombers and end his career having never played an inning with another franchise – something very uncommon in the free-agent era.
  • Mariano Rivera, another player who has played every inning of his career with the Yankees, broke what for a while seemed to be an unbreakable record. Just recently, Rivera completed his 602nd career save, breaking Trevor Hoffman’s previous record. The next closest active pitcher is Francisco Cordero who only has 324, so this record should hold up for many years. I believe one of the reasons this record is such an accomplishment is because in this day and age, many closers throw 100 MPH or more, and doing that for numerous seasons is usually not possible for a human’s arm. Aside from the flamethrowers, many closers today did not begin their career as a closer but as a starter or long reliever that since lost their stamina. John Smoltz was the perfect example of this, playing most of his career as a starter for the Atlanta Braves, hurting his arm and transforming into a solid closer late in his career. Rivera was able to stay strong and healthy because he did not throw as hard, but instead threw a cut fastball that simply jammed hitters into hitting ground balls, keeping his ERA just over 2 for his career. He has also been the team’s closer his entire career except for his first two years in the big leagues when he was used as a starter and setup man for John Wetteland.

Pro Sports Memorabilia is lucky enough to have many collectibles celebrating these historic events, but quantities are limited, so get yours now!

2011 NFL Predictions – NFC

And now, my NFC predictions:

NFC East – Anyone who does not think the Philadelphia Eagles are going far has not been following football long enough. Michael Vick is better than ever, and with a receiving corps. of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (who is back in uniform despite his health scare), their offense is better than it was with Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook. Don’t forget about their offseason pickups, a couple corners giving them easily the most dominant secondary in the league and a rookie kicker who set an NCAA record with his career accuracy percentage playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their final season in the Big 12.

NFC North – The Green Bay Packers are by far the best team in the North and quite possibly the favorites to win the Super Bowl. My guess is that no other quarterback /wide receiver duo will have more touchdowns than Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings. Donald Driver may be near the end of his career, but he is still brave enough to do a quick slant over the middle right into the opposition’s linebackers and safeties. Last year John Kuhn was able to carry a relatively small load, but if Ryan Grant can stay healthy teams will be running all over the field trying to defend the best passing team and quite possibly a top running one as well. It does not hurt that my Chicago Bears still do not have a line to protect Jay Cutler from linebackers like A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews, and with an aging defense the Monsters of the Midway may look more like household pets this year.

NFC South – Even with the New Orleans Saints having Drew Brees, an extremely offensive minded coach and the Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, I believe they have too many playmakers for any individual to really get in a groove and carry their team to the playoffs. The Falcons, on the other hand, have Matt Ryan (also known as “Matty Ice”) who has quickly become one of the calmest quarterbacks in the game, especially when the pressure is on. Alongside stars like Michael Turner and Roddy White, Atlanta’s offense should score over 400 points again this season, making it tough for any team to beat them.

NFC West – This division is likely the weakest in the league and can be compared to the AL Central in Major League Baseball. Last year the Seattle Seahawks won and were 2 games under .500 with only 8 teams in the NFC finishing with a worse record. After winning Rookie of the Year last season, Sam Bradford is poised to be even better in 2011 with new target in Mike Sims-Walker on the outside. Assuming the St. Louis Rams can continue to grow with Bradford and keep their workhorse Steven Jackson healthy, I see no reason why they won’t win the West by a landslide and possibly work their way into a first-round bye.

Let me know what you think! Who do you have going to Indy? Stop by Pro Sports Memorabilia for all your NFC memorabilia needs.

2011 NFL Predictions – AFC

The 2011 NFL season kicks off this Thursday, September 8 with a Super Bowl showdown. The 2009 champion New Orleans Saints will travel to Wisconsin to play the reigning champions, the Green Bay Packers. With a summer that included the NFL Lockout and the craziest free agent period in the history of the league, this season brings more fan anticipation than any I can ever remember.

Perhaps the biggest story of the preseason has been with the Tennessee Titans and their star running back. After holding out for over a month for more money, Chris Johnson finally got what he wanted, a 4-year contract worth over $53 million, with $30 million guaranteed. This not only makes him the highest paid running back in the history of the sport, but he is now one of the top 10 highest paid players in the league. If you ask me, Tennessee will not have the salary cap room to bring in enough talent to support CJ and make a Super Bowl run anytime in the near future, especially on the defensive end of the ball.

The following AFC teams, however, are my favorites to win their respective divisions and make a legitimate run deep into the playoffs:

AFC East – Even with the New York Jets having one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL with Antonio Cromartie & Darrelle Revis, their offense will continue to struggle regardless of adding Plaxico Burress. With Tom Brady still being one of the best quarterbacks and adding a new target in Chad Ochocinco, the New England Patriots will again clinch the division early enough to rest some of their starters late while also getting a bye in the first round.

AFC North – This division will be a two-team show between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and the Steelers will come out on top again. Ray Lewis simply does not have the same quickness he once did, and in order for the Ravens to win, their defense needs to hold opponents to low point totals to have a chance. Unfortunately, the 270 Points Against total from 2010 will simply go up making things harder on Joe Flacco and the offense. “Big Ben” Roethlisberger will not have to deal with a suspension this season, and with the aging yet aggressive receiver Hines Ward running down the sideline, there will surely be many touchdowns through the air. On the other side of the ball, USC alumni Troy Polamalu will prevent touchdowns with his stellar coverage and hard-hitting tackles.

AFC South – My pick for the South may be a stretch, but I am going with the Houston Texans. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster are easily top three at their positions, and an additional year of maturity should help them lead Houston to a much better finish than their 6-10 record from last season. Matt Schaub is also one of the most underrated players in the league. This dynamic offensive trio is ready to overtake division rival Indianapolis who has been without franchise quarterback Peyton Manning all preseason.

AFC West – Though they were most people’s favorite last year but choked down the stretch, I still need to give it up to the San Diego Chargers. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates still dominate the passing game in California, and Ryan Matthews showed flashes of brilliance last year leaving Chargers fans hopeful that they’ve finally found a suitable replacement for former star running back LaDainian Tomlinson. The biggest advantage the Chargers have entering the season is they get to play the other teams in their division twice. Based on the performance of the AFC West this preseason, I would not be surprised if San Diego is the only team to finishes above .500.

Agree with my predictions? Think I’m way off? Let me know who you have going to the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis! Check in tomorrow for my NFC predictions, and be sure to check out our AFC collectibles on Pro Sports Memorabilia.