Plenty to be excited about for this new year
Happy New Year!
Some random thoughts on, well, a bunch of random stuff, not all of which involve sports:
n Having Christmas and New Year’s Day both on a Monday is cool because it’s a great three-day weekend to spend with family and friends. But having to go back to work the Tuesday after stinks. The day after Christmas also should be a holiday.
n I love traveling. It’s a blast, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to do a lot of it in my life. But as I write this at noon on New Year’s Eve while sitting in the airport in Atlanta heading back from the Fiesta Bowl, I cannot escape the thought that I can’t wait to get back home. Traveling without your family over the holidays is awful, especially when you have young kids (I have 5-year-old twins).
n For anyone who does travel a lot and has a spouse who has to stay back home with the kids, you know just how awesome that person is. My wife has been putting up with the nagging — I mean, wonderful little bundles of joy! — kids for five days now, and she certainly needs a break. Good thing for her, I return to Mr. Mom duties today.
n Speaking of “Mr. Mom,” the movie: How many of you still repeat this awesome joke? 220, 221, whatever it takes. Ha! By the way, I nearly killed myself working on a 220 outlet about 15 years ago. Plugged something into a hot outlet, got zapped backwards about five feet. My wife and especially her dad, who knows a million times more about handiwork than me, still make fun of me for it.
OK, on to sports.
n What a fun Fiesta Bowl game between Penn State and Washington. I was very surprised the Huskies, led by a terrific coach in Chris Petersen, seemed unprepared and played so poorly with a lot of mistakes for most of the first half. The second half was much more competitive as PSU held on for a 35-28 win.
n Did you know Saquon Barkley is awesome?
n Here’s a better question: Would you draft Barkley, or any running back, in the top 10? My general feeling is no because running backs have such a short shelf life, are prone to injury and, if they go to a team that has a lot of holes on offense, their impact can be minimized. The difference is a tremendously versatile hybrid back who’s a threat on the ground and can catch 60-plus passes in an NFL season, such as the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell. I think Barkley falls into that mode (he caught 54 for PSU this year). So yes, I would take him in the top 10. But not top five.
n I still can’t get over Trace McSorley going 12-for-12 on third down in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s darn near impossible and one of the best sports stats I’ve seen in a while.
n Receiver DaeSean Hamilton capped a terrific career with an excellent performance in the Fiesta Bowl, catching five passes for 110 yards and two TDs. He’s such a good young man, and he became an incredibly reliable receiver this season. Yes, he dropped the big pass at Pitt in 2016, but I don’t recall him dropping another ball since.
n Aside from Barkley, tight end Mike Gesicki will be the best NFL player from this Penn State team. He was unguardable the past two seasons. If he can improve his blocking, he will be a star at the next level, because you know he will catch everything.
n The Nittany Lions lose a ton of talent next season, most notably Barkley, Gesicki and Hamilton on offense, as well as seven defensive starters, including safety Marcus Allen and linebacker Jason Cabinda. The team will not be as good, so it could be a 9-3 or even 8-4 kind of season. Although, the schedule is favorable, with tough games against Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin all at home. The only tough road trips are Pitt and Michigan.
n James Harrison is a traitor.
n Harrison also is a good businessman and very smart for doing what he did.
n Athletes don’t care if they hurt your feelings as a fan. They do what’s best for them, and that’s the way it has to be. Fans shouldn’t take any of it personally.
n The best line I saw about Harrison going to the Patriots went something like this: He doesn’t have to tell the Patriots the Steelers’ signals. They already have them.
n I see Patriots vs. Vikings in Super Bowl. Vikings are probably the better team. But can’t pick against Tom Brady.
n The Texans would be crazy to fire Bill O’Brien now. Give him at least one full season with a healthy Deshaun Watson at quarterback. If the Texans struggle next year, O’Brien should and probably will be gone.
n Speaking of Watson, he no longer plays for Clemson. So take Alabama in the playoff. Probably by a lot.
n I actually like Oklahoma to win the national title, but all bets are off with Baker Mayfield sick.
n Had some good conversations with colleagues about Penn State basketball out at the Fiesta Bowl. If Patrick Chambers can’t get the job done with an NCAA Tournament appearance this year or next — and yes, I’m willing to give him the additional year — then Syracuse legend and current Orange assistant coach Gerry McNamara would be an excellent replacement. The Scranton native would bring instant name recognition credibility that could finally be the boost the Lions need.
n College basketball is wide open this year, with a good 10 teams capable of winning it all. If Duke figures everything out with its young stars, it is the favorite. My darkhorse picks are Texas A&M and Purdue.
n Warriors will smoke the Cavs in NBA Finals. Best dynasty we have in major American sports right now.
n Pirates should not trade Andrew McCutchen or Gerrit Cole this winter. Give the team as currently constructed a chance to see what it can do in the first half. A wild-card berth could be possible. If out of it by July, then trade both.
Enjoy the new year, everybody.
Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM.