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twist: this week in sports talk november 26th, 2017

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You don’t love professional sports, but your livelihood and/or personal happiness depends upon your being able to converse intelligently about it. It’s a common dilemma with a simple solution: you need to learn a new language. You need to learn how to talk sports. And we’re here to help! The TWIST is our weekly Dandelion Chandelier guide to what’s happened on the field, on the court and on the ice. Every weekend you’ll find the three (and only three) things you need to know this coming week to speak cogently about professional sports with the boss, the gang at the office, your barber, your barista, your secret crush, or your in-laws. Do the TWIST every week and we promise you’ll know how to talk about sports like a champion.

Its been a feisty and contentious week in the world of sports, with ancient rivalries and dormant frustrations erupting anew. As a result, it seems apt to dedicate this week’s edition of TWIST: This Week in Sports Talk to the master class in talking smack delivered this week by the leader of the free world and the father of a shoplifting basketball player. During Thanksgiving week, no less. Some of the lines are absolutely choice: “Don King without the hair” is just a classic. To laugh, or to cry? Your call.

Meanwhile, for Those Who Do Not Follow Professional Sports, there are some other big fights you should be aware of before you head into the office. Here’s what you need to know this week (and not a single thing more).

3 for the week of November 26, 2017:

1.  It’s Rivalry Weekend in college football. Must know: It’s Week 13, and this is the final full weekend of play in the regular season. Teams are fighting for position in the College Football Playoff rankings, and for conference championships. It’s also Rivalry Weekend, when many legendary regional contests are held (let it be noted that the Harvard-Yale Game was last weekend). Nice to know: The game of the week is the SEC’s Iron Bowl, which will see undefeated Alabama at Auburn. Other key match-ups include Notre Dame at Stanford; Clemson at South Carolina; Georgia at Georgia Tech; Oregon State at Oregon; Washington at Washington State; and Ohio State at Michigan. Extra credit: On Friday, #2 Miami was upset by Pittsburgh 24-14, dealing the Hurricanes a major blow to their College Football Playoff hopes. And Ole Miss visited Mississippi State and delivered an upset victory in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving Day after quarterback Nick Fitzgerald suffered a severe leg injury.

2. Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting process starts with a bang. Must know: The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Hall of Fame ballot for 2018 was released this week, stirring the embers of a number of controversies and disputes between the BBWAA and the leadership of the Hall. Nice to know: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan (possibly the greatest second baseman of all time) was inducted into the Hall in 1990; this week he sent shock-waves through the community by emailing voters in the Association to ask them not to support any candidate linked to the use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). His letter read in part: “We [Hall of Fame members] hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.” Extra credit: One sportswriter has already renounced his vote this year, in an open letter exposing the tensions between the parties. He wrote, in part: “This year, the [BBWAA] asked the Hall to publicly release every ballot with the name of the writer who cast it. Transparency matters, and the BBWAA voted in favor of public accountability. The Hall rejected that overture, just as it had the BBWAA’s request for the ballot to be expanded beyond a maximum of 10 votes per year to address the glut steroid users’ muddled candidacies caused.” Expect the controversy to continue, as it raises fundamental issues about which offenses should bar a player from the ultimate professional honor (PEDs?) and which are not considered disqualifying (domestic abuse? Racial discrimination?) Wade into these waters with your expert sport colleagues, friends and family members with extreme caution. Best to do it before too many beers have been consumed.

3. Struggling NFL teams start tossing Hail Marys. Must know: The NFL regular season has only a few more weeks, and some teams are scrambling to try to save their seasons. Nice to know: Oakland Raiders Head Coach Del Rio, looking at a 4-6 record and the 26th-ranked defense in the NFL, fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and turned the unit over to assistant head coach John Pagano. The Denver Broncos are at 3-7 amid a six-game losing streak, and this week Head Coach Vance Joseph axed offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and promoted quarterbacks’ coach Bill Musgrave to play caller. The two AFC West rivals face each other on Sunday. Extra credit: Despite the turmoil on some teams, harmony seems to have been restored among NFL owners – Jerry Jones has dropped his threat to sue over the extension of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract. ‘Tis a Thanksgiving miracle!

For the remainder of the college football and NFL seasons, we’ll highlight the key weekend games you need to know about, and if we go to press before they’re over, it will be up to you to find out the final scores before hitting the office on Monday morning. Remember: you always need to know how “your” team did. Here are the key match-ups that the sports-minded will want to discuss this week:

College Football Games:

  • #1 Alabama at #6 Auburn – If the Auburn Tigers win (and so far they have just one loss in the SEC West), then they would be in position to be the highest-ranked two-loss team for consideration for the College Football Playoffs; they’ve been on a roll lately. Alabama’s Crimson Tide have won the last three meetings of these two teams, and they’re favored to take this one, too. The Iron Bowl winner will meet Georgia in the SEC Championship Game next weekend. No matter who wins, if you want to sound like an expert, you should say: “Good game, but not as good as the ‘Kick Six.’
  • #8 Ohio State at Michigan – After defeating Penn State last week, the Buckeyes’ playoff chances will remain alive if they can win this one. The Wolverines are out of the running for the playoffs, but Head Coach Jim Harbaugh’s legacy is on the line, as he is 1-4 in this classic rivalry. A win over the Buckeyes would be a decent close to a disappointing season.
  • #3 Clemson at #24 South Carolina – Win or lose, the Clemson Tigers will face Miami in a week for the ACC title. The experts say “the playoff selection committee loves the Tigers’ deep schedule, but a loss either here or against Miami in the ACC Championship would put Clemson in the tough position of hoping to land the No. 4 spot in the playoffs.”
  • #9 Notre Dame at #20 Stanford – If Notre Dame can get to 10-2 with a victory this weekend, they’ll probably be playing in one of the prominent college bowl games. Whether Stanford will be playing for the Pac-12 title next week or not is out of their hands (that depends on the outcome of the Washington State-Washington game). But the Trojans are playing to improve their shot at one of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. This game also has Heisman Trophy ramifications, with running backs Josh Adams and Bryce Love competing for the honor against Saquon Barkley.
  • Washington State at Washington – known as “The Apple Cup,” this historic rivalry has a little more meaning than usual this year. If WSU wins, the Cougars will play USC in the Pac-12 Championship. If UW wins, Stanford will win the PAC-12 North and play in the championship game. Washington State QB Luke Falk has had a stellar season and is being closely watched by NFL scouts.

NFL Games:

  • New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams – the Saints are going for their 9th straight win versus the “upstart” LA Rams
  • Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers are coming into this game on a five-game winning streak in which they haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game; Green Bay, on the other hand, has lost four of its past five
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons – this game is the Falcons’ to lose: the Bucs’ starting QB is on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, so Ryan Fitzpatrick will step in. The defending NFC champions, Atlanta is coming off a win last week in Seattle. Their chances to make the playoffs have improved, and the expectation is that they can win this one – if they don’t, the playoffs will probably slip out of reach
  • Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens – ESPN reports that there are eight AFC teams with 5-5 or 4-6 records who are fighting for a playoff berth – both of these teams are in that group. If the Ravens win, their odds of making the playoffs go up to 80-20. Even if the Texans win, ESPN estimates they’ve still only got a 1-in-4 shot.

Holiday shopping season is officially here! Don’t forget to check out our roundup of perfect holiday gifts for sports fans. That’s it. You’re good to go. See you next week.

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