American sports

College Football Week Two Roundup

The college football season is now truly underway, with some brilliant matchup’s this past weekend that remind us all why we love the game. There were not any major upsets, but the games were entertaining from start to finish as the top ranked teams asserted their dominance. Let’s take a look at ten talking points from this past weekend.

1) LSU Win Big

LSU were the big winners of week two, knocking off a top ten Texas side in their house 45-38. The game of the weekend lived up to expectations, and now LSU fans are dreaming of the college football play-off.

QB Joe Burrow had a monster 471 yards and 4 TD’s, with receiver Justin Jefferson getting three of them along with 163 total yards. LSU have often struggled at the QB position, but now they have a stud in Burrow. They have NFL talent on both sides of the ball, and can legitimately think of the top four now.

2) Texas Have Plenty to Play for 

Texas will feel disappointed they could get a statement win at home, however they still have plenty to play for this season. It’s been a difficult decade for this storied program, but they now have a team with legitimate top ten hopes.

Boyhood fan Sam Ehlinger had a monster game 401 yards and 4 TD’s along with 60 rushing yards, leading the team. Texas were in this game until the very end against the best LSU side in years. They dropped to 12th in the AP Top 25 poll, but they can easily get back into the top ten.

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LSU QB Joe Burrow is the answer their fans have been waiting years for. He has led them to a play-off spot in a flying start to their season. Photo: AP/Michael Democker.

3) Clemson Overcome Texas A&M 

Clemson passed the test with a convincing 24-10 victory over a resurgent Texas A&M team. The final score doesn’t accurately reflect that Clemson flat out played better than Texas A&M throughout.

QB Trevor Lawrence rebounded from a patchy opening game with some beautiful throws, notably his TD. He added a rushing score also, and with how talented this Clemson team is he needs only to play sensibly and execute for them to have a good chance of victory. Texas A&M looked second best, but there’s no shame in that when you play Clemson.

4) Big Upsets in Week Two

Part of the fun of college football Saturday’s is checking out whose on upset alert, and there was some big results this past weekend. Maryland was the pick of the bunch, dismantling 22nd ranked Syracuse 63-20. This was a massive win that puts the program 22nd in the AP polls, the first time they’ve been ranked since 2013.

Other notable upsets were 23rd ranked Stanford getting rolled over by USC 45-20, an especially impressive result when considered USC lost it’s starting QB J.T Daniels for the season in week one. 25th ranked Nebraska also fell on a missed FG against Colorado 34-31.

5) Michigan Survive Close Call

The Michigan revival under Jim Harbaugh hasn’t quite gone to plan so far. His return to Ann Arbor was supposed to bring the glory years back but so far it hasn’t quite worked out. Only once have they finished in the top ten and they haven’t finished better than 10-3 under him.

So far this season they have looked less than convincing. They gave up 21 points in a 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee, and this past weekend needed double overtime to beat Army 24-21. Army played an incredible game in the Big House, however no disrespect to Army, but they shouldn’t be scaring Michigan this much in their stadium.

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Michigan players celebrate a double overtime scare against Army. They will need to improve before they face tougher competition. Photo: David Guralnick/Detroit News.

6) Heisman Week Two Report

After a scintillating week one, it was a quieter weekend for some of the key players in the early Heisman Trophy race. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts saw limited action in a 70-14 demolishing of South Dakota, going 14-18 for 259 yards and 3 TD’s, along with 47 rushing yards.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was similarly dominant in their 62-10 win over New Mexico State, going 16-24 for 227 yards and 3 TD’s, with 33 rushing yards also. After falling behind in the opening week, Trevor Lawrence of Clemson reasserted himself in the Heisman race with his win over Texas A&M.

7) AP Top 25 Rankings

After a fairly predictable opening week, week two saw some movement in the AP Top 25 polls. The biggest move is LSU claiming the final play-off place in fourth, displacing Oklahoma and Ohio State after their statement win against Texas.

Michigan dropped from seventh to tenth after two uninspiring wins against Middle Tennessee and Army, vaulting Auburn and Florida to eighth and ninth respectively. Texas dropped from ninth to 12th, along with rivals Texas A&M who fell from 12th to 16th after losses last weekend. Washington fell from 14th to 23rd after a 20-19 upset loss against California.

8) True Freshman Impressing 

The 2019 season has already seen some true freshman QB’s assert themselves at their respective programs. Hank Bachmeier has impressed as Boise State upset Florida State on opening weekend, now they sit 22nd ranked and 2-0.

Sam Howell has done the same at North Carolina, leading them to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2014. He’s led the Tar Heels to comeback wins against South Carolina and Miami, showing up big in both games. Bo Nix has led eighth ranked Auburn to a massive in against Oregon, showing that the future is looking bright for these three programs.

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Boise State true freshman Hank Bachmeier was a highly rated recruit who has now led his team to a 2-0 start and top 25 ranking. Photo: Boise State Broncos.

9) Storied Programs Start Slow

Many of the teams in the early Top 25 rankings are not a surprise, however some other storied programs have started at the other end of the spectrum. Tennessee were the shock of week one as they lost to lowly Georgia State, but they lost again 29-26 against BYU. This is the first time they have started 0-2 since 1988 and head coach Jeremy Pruitt is definitely on the hot seat.

Miami lost a close game to Florida on opening weekend, but now compounded it with a 28-25 loss to North Carolina. They are now 0-2 for the first time since 1978, with new head coach Manny Diaz already struggling.

10) More Quarterback Injuries in Week Two

The opening two weeks have been rough for quarterbacks, with the likes of USC and Northwestern losing their starters on opening weekend. Week two unfortunately saw South Carolina QB Jake Bentley go down with a Lisfranc fracture on his left foot. This will require season ending surgery, and is a tough break for a player who was hoping to build his NFL Draft stock this season.

Kentucky QB Terry Wilson was the other big casualty, as he is now out for the season after tearing his patellar tendon in his knee in his teams win against Eastern Michigan. This is a tough break for a player who led the team to it’s first ten win season since 1978 last year.

This rounds up some of the main talking points from a busy week two of the college football season. If you have comments about this piece or the week two results feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to anyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

 

 

 

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College Football Week Two Preview

The opening week of college football didn’t provide many shocks, but that should change this weekend. There are some marquee games which will impact the Top 25 polls, as teams get up to speed after the opening week. Let’s look at the ten major talking points heading into week two.

1) Texas A & M @ Clemson Matchup 

The biggest matchup of the week is Texas A & M visiting Death Valley to face number one ranked Clemson. Last seasons game in College Station was a close 28-26 Clemson win, with home field advantage giving added confidence.

Texas A & M are now in their second year under Jimbo Fisher and showed signs of improvement in week one despite facing lowly Texas State. This will be a close game where Clemson will have to be at their best to win, but they will enter the game as favourites.

2) Massive Opportunity for Trevor Lawrence

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence took the college football world by storm last year, coming in mid-season and leading them to a national championship as a true freshman. This year the expectations are massive yet in the opening week he struggled.

He went 13-23 for 168 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT’s, yet the Clemson team still handily beat Georgia Tech 52-14. This can be put down to opening week rust, but this will not cut it against a very talented Texas A & M side. Clemson will need more than it’s rushing attack to win this game.

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Trevor Lawrence struggled last weekend, and will need a big game against Texas A & M if he harbors Heisman hopes this year. Photo: Ken Ruinard/Greenville News.

3) LSU @ Texas 

This is another massive game involving a team from the Lone star state, as LSU rolls into Texas. This top ten match-up between sixth ranked LSU and ninth ranked Texas will have play-off implications.  Both sides won comfortably in week one and have looked resurgent this season.

After years of struggle at the position, both LSU and Texas now have QB’s they feel confident with. Joe Burrow for LSU has rebounded from a difficult time at Ohio State, whereas Sam Ehlinger has lived out a dream and proved people wrong at Texas. This will be a highlight game this weekend.

4) Sam Ehlinger and Grant Delpit Marquee Matchup 

There are plenty of big name players on both teams, but the key matchup of the game will be Sam Ehlinger and Grant Delpit. Ehlinger has improved every year whilst at Texas, and could rise up draft boards with another good season. Key to that will be a impressive win in this game.

Standing in his way is the player some have called the best player in college football. LSU safety Grant Delpit is a likely top ten pick in next years NFL Draft,after proving himself a beast at LSU. Whoever wins this matchup will likely prove key to their teams victory.

5) Can Cincinnati Shock Ohio State?

A potential shock of the weekend could unfold in Columbus, Ohio, as Cincinnati will prove a stern test for Ohio State. The Bearcats are feeling confident after a 24-14 win against UCLA, and have taken a massive step forward these past two years.

Head coach Luke Fickell has taken them from 4-8 to 11-2 last year, along with an AP Top 25 berth. He was a former player and coach at Ohio State, so he knows the school well. Ohio State were not challenged in week one, and therefore new QB Justin Fields may struggle if pressured early. Ohio State should win, but an upset could happen.

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Texas QB Sam Ehlinger grew up a longhorns fan, and has helped restore them back to prominence. A win against LSU will thrust them into the play-off hunt. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images.

6) What Can USC do Against Stanford? 

This game was set to be another big matchup, however both teams are dealing with quarterback injuries. K.J Costello will miss this game for Stanford with a head injury, and J.T Daniels has a torn ACL for USC.

Stanford will go into the game as favourites as they are ranked 23rd in the polls, and their QB Davis Mills matches up well with USC QB Kedon Slovis. Mills is more experienced and was a former five star recruit, whereas Slovis is a true freshman going up against a good Stanford defence.

7) Can Opening Weekend Losing Sides Rebound? 

Opening week losses can ruin a season after it’s barely begun, so this week will prove crucial to those who lost last weekend. Top of the list is Oregon, who lost agonizingly to Auburn. They face a good Nevada side, however they should rebound comfortably.

Making unwanted headlines last weekend was Tennessee, who may struggle again this week against BYU. Both sides are 0-1, however BYU’s 30-13 loss to 13th ranked Utah is respected more than Tennessee’s loss to Georgia State. This will be a close game that BYU should feel quietly confident about.

8) Upset Alert for Week Two?

Everyone in college football loves upsets, and there’s some contenders in week two. Clemson could fall to 12th ranked Texas A & M, whereas sixth ranked LSU could lose to a very good ninth ranked Texas side.

Outside of these Maryland are coming off a 79-0 win and could upset 21st ranked Syracuse at home. As I mentioned above Cincinnati could also shock Ohio State in Columbus. 25th ranked Nebraska face a tricky road test against a good Colorado side. Teams that might also struggle include West Virginia, UCLA and Tennessee.

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The moment Oregon’s hopes of victory faded in the final seconds against Auburn. Their season effectively starts this week now. Photo: Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports.

9) Games of the Weekend

The two standout games are undoubtedly Texas A & M at Clemson 3.30PM ET Saturday, before LSU travels to Texas 7.30PM ET. All four teams are ranked in the top 12 and would love to make early play-off claims with a win.

Outside of the obvious games, some hidden gems include Syracuse travelling to Maryland noon ET, Cincinnati vising Ohio State at the same time and Nebraska at Colorado 3.30PM ET.

10) Injury Curse Strikes at Northwestern 

Opening week injuries are tough, especially in this case. Northwestern QB TJ Green is out for the season after suffering a foot injury in their loss to Stanford last weekend.

The injury occurred in the third quarter, and means he may now be forced to seek a medical redshirt to preserve his eligibility as a fifth year senior. Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson will now take over, with the former five star prospect having a bye week to give him extra time to learn this offense.

That wraps up my preview of the main talking points heading into a loaded week two of the college football season. If you have any thoughts about this weekend’s game leave them in the comment section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you for reading this article!

 

 

College Football Week One Talking Points

This is the first in a new series, examining the main talking points from the opening week of the college football season, from the eyes of an Englishman now living in the U.S.

The opening weekend didn’t throw up many shocks, however here are my ten major talking points. Also a quick disclaimer before I begin, this is simply a shallow dive into the main stories of the week through the eyes of a fan, if you want more in-depth articles it’s probably best to read the analysts articles.

1) Big Win for Auburn and Bo Nix 

Bo Nix and the Auburn Tigers took down the Oregon Ducks 27-21 in the only surprise result between ranked teams last week. The true freshman Nix threw a go-ahead touchdown with nine seconds remaining in a legendary moment on his debut.

Nix struggled during the game, going 13-31 for 177 yards with 2 INT to match 2 TD’s, but the five star phenom has Auburn fans feeling excited about the next three years. Auburn jumped to tenth in the AP Top 25 poll, and now face Tulane in their home opener on Saturday.

2) Oregon Big Losers in Week One 

Oregon will feel distraught after an especially tough opening week loss. The team played well throughout and led right up until the final nine seconds, with a long recovery ahead if they want to compete for the College Football Playoff.

Senior QB Justin Herbert was the better QB in the game, going 28-37 for 242 yards and a TD. Receiver Johnny Johnson III built good chemistry with Herbert, to the tune of seven receptions for 98 yards. This is a tough loss, but starting this week against Nevada, their schedule helps them going down the stretch.

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Bo Nix played beyond his true freshman status to earn the comeback win against Oregon last weekend. Photo: Ron Jenkins (AP).

3) Jalen Hurts Already Anointed Heisman Favourite?

Jalen Hurts proved the pre-season hype on him as a Heisman contender was justified in week one. The Oklahoma QB had a monster six touchdown game in their 49-31 win over a good Houston team. 332 passing yards and 3 TD’s was matched with 176 yards rushing and another 3 TD’s.

The Alabama graduate transfer smashed the Oklahoma record for single game yardage with 508, Baker Mayfield previously held it with 396 yards. Some call it the Lincoln Riley effect, but Oklahoma could have three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners come December.

4) Big Debut for Justin Fields

Another high-profile summer transfer showed up big in week one, Ohio State QB Justin Fields. The sophomore standout was key as Ohio State rolled over Florida Atlantic 45-21. He lit up the first quarter with 4 TD’s, in a statement performance on his debut after transferring from Georgia.

This Ohio state team is loaded with NFL talent, and Fields has shown after week one he can take over from Dwayne Haskins. The team will face a tougher test this week against Cincinnati, but they have already shown this team will be a serious play-off contender this season.

5) Florida State Return Still on Hold 

The Florida State Seminoles hoped to put last season behind them, but old demons returned in a 36-31 loss to Boise State in Tallahassee. The team collapsed in the second half after looking dominant in the first half.

QB James Blackman looked good with 327 yards and 3 TD’s, but they let Boise State score 23 unanswered points to steal the win. This FSU team has plenty of NFL talent, but under Willie Taggart they struggle to close games out. 5-7 is not acceptable at FSU, and Taggart will feel the pressure even more after this loss.

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A Florida State players reflects the mood of the team as they let Boise State come back for the win as the pressure piles on head coach Willie Taggart. Photo: Mark Wallheiser/AP.

6) Georgia State Win Upset of Week One

Another historic program currently struggling is Tennessee, and their home loss to Georgia State 38-30 was undoubtedly the shock of the opening week.  It’s been a while since Tennessee has been a title contender, but this is a new low for the once proud program.

A fourth quarter collapse gave the underdog Georgia State team the win. This is a historic win for their team and they deserve the plaudits. This season may prove tough for Tennessee fans in the ultra competitive SEC.

7) USC QB J.T Daniels Out for Season 

Week one was brutal for USC despite a 31-23 win against Fresno State. This is because of a torn ACL for starting QB J.T Daniels, after being sacked in the second quarter.

Daniels was a five star phenom in California and was hoping to step up after a mixed freshman season. USC had PAC-12 championship hopes, which now lie in the hands of true freshman Kedon Slovis. The season just got a whole lot tougher for USC.

8) Running Backs Put on a Show

Running backs stole the show for a lot of Offences in week one. Clemson junior Travis Etienne led the way with 205 yards in their win against Georgia Tech. Fellow junior D’Andre Swift ran for 147 yards in Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt. Jonathan Taylor got 135 yards and 2 TD’s against USF.

Cam Akers of Florida State and Eno Benjamin of Arizona State are two more highly touted backs who ran for over 100 yards on opening weekend. All of these players are juniors, which means the 2020 NFL Draft running back class may be the best in years.

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Clemson Running Back scampers past his sideline in one of his three touchdown runs to open the season. He will likely be a first round NFL Draft pick next year if he declares. Photo: Richard Shiro/AP.

9) UCLA Struggle Once Again

The Chip Kelly era started with massive promise, but is now in danger of flaming out. The once heralded coach is now on the hot seat after they lost their opening game 24-14 to Cincinnati.

UCLA struggled with ugly turnovers from QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and struggled for identity in a tough loss to a better Cincinnati team. The 3-9 record last year is well below expectations and this season hasn’t started any better.

10) No Major Top 25 Surprises in Week One      

Week one didn’t provide much upsets for the top 25 ranked sides, other than Auburn upsetting Oregon. Ranked teams usually like to start the season with easier opponents to give them time to get up to speed before the real season starts.

The NCAA does try to provide showcase games in the opening week, but more needs to be done to ensure we get bigger games in the opening week. For now the AP top 25 has stayed largely the same other than Auburn and Oregon moving.

That wraps up my brief look at some of the major talking points from the opening weekend of college football. Do you have any thoughts on these points or your college football team? Let me know either in the comments section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to anyone who reads this I really appreciate it!

 

 

 

2019 Rolex 24 LMP2 Preview

The big change at the top of the IMSA WeatherTech series is the split of the DPI and LMP2 machinery for 2019. This has had a massive effect on the health of the LMP2 entries, with many teams opting to move into the DPI class as they look to continue fighting for race victories.

For the Rolex 24 there are only four entries, and only two of these are for the full IMSA season. This is been an issue for the series all winter, with the health of the class beyond this season looking very shaky right now. Despite the long-term reservations of this class, the small entry more thank makes up for in quality what it lacks in quantity. Let’s assess each of the four contenders for class victory and a priceless Rolex watch.

#18 DragonSpeed Oreca 07-Gibson: Ryan Cullen/Roberto Gonzalez/Pastor Maldonado/Sebastien Saavedra

DragonSpeed has risen quickly to become one of the most competitive LMP2 teams in both the European Le Mans Series and the World Endurance Championship. The team have now turned their attention to the Rolex 24, and have brought plenty of talent with them.

This #18 entry is piloted by the WEC driver pairing of Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado. They currently sit 4th in the WEC points and have quickly formed a strong duo. They are joined by Sebastien Saavedra, former Indycar racer who transitioned to the IMSA series last season. Completing the driving crew is another sportscar convert from single-seaters, Ryan Cullen.

All four drivers have sportscar experience and whilst Maldonado is the star name because of his F1 career, all four are very quick and can win this class for the team. The crew struggled slightly in the pre-race qualifying session, however it’s impossible to judge ultimate pace from one session as we don’t know the programmes’s teams were running at the test.

 

#38 Performance Tech Oreca 07-Gibson: Cameron Cassels/Kyle Masson/Robin Masson/Kris Wright 

Performance Tech were one of many teams that graduated from the LMPC class up to the main Prototype class last season. The team flashed potential, most notable with their 4th place qualifying result for the Rolex 24 last year, but the team did struggle to translate this into consistent results across the year.

The team have retained a driver line-up largely familiar with the team, beginning with Kyle Masson. He raced with the team in the series last year and is quick racer. Cameron Cassels steps up to the series after good results in the LMP3 support series last year. Kris Wright is another promising driver who won the LMP3 class last season and has now been rewarded with a promotion for the Rolex 24.

The team were the slowest of the LMP2 entries at the pre-race Roar, however over a 24 hour race one lap pace is not a key to victory. The team have a years worth of experience with this Oreca and the series, and can go for the win. They’re drivers are not as flashy as other line-up’s in this class, but they are consistent and underrated for sure.

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#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Oreca 07-Gibson: Gabriel Aubry/Enzo Guibbert/Mark Kvamme/Matt McMurry

2018 was a difficult year for the PR1/Mathiasen team, and one they will hope to rebound from this year. The team partnered with Indycar team AFS Racing, and switched from a Ligier to Oreca chassis halfway through the season. The team now have some experience with the dominant Oreca chassis and will go into the Rolex 24 with renewed confidence.

The driving crew is a mix of young talent and experience, led by Gabriel Aubry and Matt McMurry. Aubry is currently proving his talents in the WEC and looks a highly promising prospect for the future. Matt McMurry, despite only being 22, has a wealth of sportscar experience and is a proven talent at this level. Enzo Guibbert is another talented young racer who has shown good performances in Europe. Experienced Am Mark Kvamme completes the crew. He won’t be as fast as his young teammates but he does have a wealth of experience at this level.

The team showed their one lap pace is good, setting the fastest time at the Roar qualifying session. They were almost half a second clear of their rivals, although for the race consistent pace and a clean run are much more important than one lap pace. The team has a good chance of winning this class, and based off the Roar they would be favourites to claim the class pole also.

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#81 DragonSpeed Oreca 07-Gibson: Ben Hanley/Henrik Hedman/Nico Lapierre/James Allen 

The second DragonSpeed entry is this #81 car, the teams usual ELMS entry. The team have flashed potential in the ELMS, but have not quite found the ultimate pace to challenge consistently for the title. It’s clear however that the team have more than enough pace to be able to challenge for this Rolex 24 victory.

The team have brought over their usual ELMS driving talent, of Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and Nico Lapierre. Lapierre is a former Toyota factory driver and is a very quick driver at this level. Ben Hanley is a fellow single-seater convert who has found a place to show his considerable talents after a few years out of car racing. Henrik Hedman is the Am in this entry, but he has shown solid pace and has years of experience with the team. Completing the team is James Allen, a young Australian with bags of potential and has already shown tremendous potential at this level.

The #81 crew got the best of their teammates in the pre-race Roar, finishing almost a second better than them in qualifying. The team can take promise from this good showing, and will fancy their chances against the two American based teams in the race. Either one of these DragonSpeed entries will likely be favourites for the race, barring any accidents or mechanical issues during the 24 hours.

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Who do you guys think will win the LMP2 class at this years Rolex 24? Let me know in the comments section below. A massive thank you must go to Motorsport.com and LAT Images for those featured in this page. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism and thank you for reading!

2019 Rolex 24 DPI Preview

The only place to be as a racing driver in late January is Daytona International Speedway, for the annual Rolex 24 season opening extravaganza for the IMSA WeatherTech series.

The winter has seen substantial change, with the DPI formula cars now being given center- stage, after sharing the top class with European spec LMP2 cars for the past five seasons.

The DPI class has been given a power boost, with the cars already looking much quicker in the Roar pre-race test. The DPI class boasts an impressive eleven car entry, with factory backed efforts from Cadillac, Acura, Nissan and Mazda. The level of manufacture support shows that the class has a long-term health, with more car makers strongly rumoured to be joining the class from next year.

Let’s take a look at the eleven entries that will be fighting for the overall victory and the Rolex watch.

#5 Mustang Sampling Action Express Cadillac DPI: Filipe Albuquerque/Joao Barbosa/Mike Conway/Christian Fittipaldi 

For the #5 crew 2018 was an up-and-down year for the team. They won the Rolex 24 after narrowly missing out in 2017, yet aside from a further win in Long Beach the team struggled. Albuquerque finished the year sixth in the points, a down year for one of the benchmarks in the series for the last few years.

For this year regular driver Christian Fittipaldi is only doing the Rolex 24 before retirement, so former Audi factory man Albuquerque steps in alongside Barbosa for the full season. Regular endurance co-driver Mike Conway returns to a strong entry looking to give Fittipaldi the perfect send-off.

The team will be pleased with fourth and top Cadillac car in the Roar qualifying for pit-box and garage selection, however to be almost 0.9s back from the factory Mazda team is a slight concern. The team have a proven entry and reliable car but lady luck needs to smiling on you if you’re to win the Rolex 24 such is the competitiveness of this class.

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#6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05: Dane Cameron/Juan Pablo Montoya/Simon Pagenaud

The factory Acura programme instantly became a force in the IMSA series last season, with the might of Team Penske behind it this was not surprising to many. Going into 2019 the team looks increasingly formidable, with a year now behind the team to iron out any reliability issues.

Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya are the full season pairing again, with former Indycar champion Simon Pagenaud joining them for the endurance rounds. Montoya is the star name in this entry because of his F1 experience, however it’s Dane Cameron who is the hidden gem of this entry.

Seventh fastest in qualifying for deciding the pit garage/box selection will slightly hinder the team, but less than two tenths away from their team-mates in third just shows the fine margins that make a big difference in this series.

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#7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05: Helio Castroneves/Ricky Taylor/Alex Rossi

The #7 took the only win for Acura last season, however they were less consistent over the year when compared to their teammates. After making their debut last year the team can now go into this years Rolex 24 knowing they have a good chance of winning this race.

Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor return to form a very strong duo, and for the Rolex 24 have former Indy 500 winner Alex Rossi on board. Rossi is a quality signing will be very quick in the Acura, with the only knock on him being a lack of significant sportscar experience.

The team were very quick in the pre-race testing, finishing best of the rest behind the Mazda’s in the pit selection qualifying session. To be at the front of a very tightly packed field is a good result, with the only downside being the 0.8s gap to the factory Mazda duo.

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#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPI: Fernando Alonso/Kamui Kobayashi/Jordan Taylor/Renger van der Zande 

The Wayne Taylor racing team created all the pre-race headlines this winter when they announced that double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso would be joining the team for the Rolex 24. He made his debut in the race last year, but this year he joins an already formidable team as he looks for his first Rolex 24 victory.

Coming off an incredible Petit Le Mans victory last October, are returning dynamic pair Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. Both proved last year to be a good pairing and very quick. Completing the line-up is Toyota factory driver Kamui Kobayashi, another headline maker adding to an embarrassment of riches for this team.

The team was right in the mix at the pre-race Roar, although sixth in the qualifying session will be a slight disappointment. This team has all the ingredients to win this race, although every winner needs a clean run and a dose of luck to succeed over 24 hours against this quality field.

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#31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Cadillac DPI: Eric Curran/ Pipo Derani/Felipe Nasr

The defending champions return for another crack at the Rolex 24, after being the bridesmaid behind their teammates last year. They claimed the overall championship however, along with the North American Endurance Cup.

The championship winning partnership between Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr has been broken up for 2019, with Brazilian Pipo Derani joining countryman Nasr for the full season. Curran has now been shifted to an endurance rounds only deal with the team.

The team ran well at the Roar, finishing a close fifth in the qualifying session, less than a tenth behind their teammates. The DPI class gets stronger every year in IMSA and this line-up has only improved despite winning the title last year. This entry is one of the several that can seriously challenge for victory should they not run into problems.

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#50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPI: Rene Binder/Agustin Canapino/Kyle Kaiser/Will Owen

The IMSA series is improving in quality every year, with the addition this year of Indycar outfit Juncos Racing. This is the team’s first foray into sportscar racing, however they have a very good CV from the American open wheel scene.

The team went for the proven Cadillac DPI package, and will hope to impress in their first sportscar outing. The team have brought in plenty of drivers they have experience with, starting with young driver Rene Binder. He’s hoping to impress and cement himself in America after spending years chasing the F1 dream in Europe. Will Owen will provide sportscar experience and was a former Juncos driver, as was Kyle Kaiser. Both raced for the team in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

The fourth and final driver is a wildcard, the Argentinian Agustin Canapino. He’s been a proven winner in various Argentinian touring car series, and will no doubt grab his chance to shine on the international stage. This is the first race for the team in sportscar so they will have a lot to learn, but they could spring a surprise if others hit misfortune.

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#54 CORE Autosport Nissan DPI: Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Romain Dumas/Loic Duval 

The surprise package of the 2018 IMSA season was this CORE Autosport team, but it’s all change for the team this year. In an unfancied LMP2 entry they came within three points of winning the series title, with Colin Braun and amateur driver Jon Bennett.

After the rules change to separate the DPI and LMP2 entries and the closure of the ESM team CORE have made the step up to take on their Nissan DPI entry for the 2019 season.  The returning duo of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett have a long history together and work very well. They are joined by Porsche and Audi factory drivers Romain Dumas and Loic Duval, further adding to the talent in this team.

At the pre-race Roar they were off the ultimate pace, being the slowest DPI outfit in the qualifying session, behind even the fastest LMP2 entry. Whilst the team have to learn the intricacies of the Nissan DPI package, the team shocked everyone last year so why can’t they do it again this year?

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#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPI: Jonathan Bomarito/Olivier Pla/Harry Tincknell 

The Mazda factory DPI outfit started the year slowly but improved massively as the season wore on. The team have the might of Team Joest running their programme, and for 2019 they could prove to be a good outside bet for the championship.

On the driving front Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell return for the full season, and for the endurance rounds are partnered by Frenchman Olivier Pla. All three are proven at this level as quick sportscar racers.

In pre-race testing the Mazda team stole the headlines, securing a 1-2 in the qualifying session, significantly quicker than their rivals. Whilst this may not be reflected in the race, the team certainly have everyone guessing right now as to their ultimate pace.

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#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPI: Timo Bernhard/Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Rene Rast

The 2-3 for Mazda at Petit Le Mans last year gave the team some positive direction going into the winter, and they appear to have worked hard to maintain this forward progress. Team Joest and Mazda have clearly been working hard to make themselves regular contenders in this uber competitive class.

Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez return for another full season with the team, and for the Rolex 24 they have Timo Bernhard and Rene Rast joining them. Both are very quick prototype drivers who are high profile additions to the team.

The #77 car showed very well at the Roar test, setting an unofficial track record in the qualifying session. Their time was only closely matched by their team mates, showing the team have very good one lap pace. If they can stay reliable for 24 hours they will be tough to beat if they can consistently replicate their one lap pace shown at the Roar.

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#84 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPI: Chris Miller/Juan Piedrahita/Stephen Simpson/Simon Trummer

JDC-Miller are another team that have switched from LMP2 to DPI chassis this year as they continue hunting for overall race wins. The team have taken the safest choice and are running two Cadillac DPI chassis this season.

The team’s race winning line-up from last season has been split up, with Stephen Simpson moving to this #85 entry for this year. He is joined for the year by Simon Trummer, another single seater convert looking to find a long-term home. Joining them for the Rolex 24 is experienced racer Chris Miller, along with Indy Lights convert Juan Piedrahita.

The team were one of the surprises of last year along with CORE Autosport, and for this year with a proven Cadillac DPI package and a strong driver crew the team could be contending for the podium come Sunday afternoon.

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#85 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPI: Rubens Barrichello/Devlin DeFrancesco/Misha Goikhberg/Tristan Vautier

JDC-Miller’s win at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen last year proved they can be successful at this level after recently stepping up from the LMPC class. The switch to Cadillac DPI machinery is a big step for the Minnesota based team, and one that should bring more success for the team in the coming years.

Misha Goikhberg was very impressive last year and is paired this year with Tristan Vautier. He is a very quick and experienced racer who moves across from the Spirit of Daytona team. GP3 racer Devlin DeFrancesco returns to the team after last year and completing the line-up is star name and former longtime F1 racer Rubens Barrichello.

The JDC-Miller motor sport team proved last year they are a very well run team who can perform well in IMSA. They should have time during the winter to get used to the new Cadillac DPI package, and they have every chance to spring a deserving surprise with Rolex 24 victory.

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Who do you think will win the Rolex 24 this weekend? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. A massive thank you to Motorsport.com and LAT Images for the photos featured in this post. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism and thank you for reading!

 

Can Football Learn From the NFL?

As England still comes to terms with a crushing 2018 World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia, many are reflecting on how well the team played throughout the tournament. A particular strong point for the young England side has been their prowess from set-pieces.

Kieran Trippier’s free-kick against Croatia set a World Cup record, with England scoring nine goals from set-pieces during the tournament. Russia 2018 in general has seen in a rise in set-piece goals, with a record 30% of total goals up to the quarter-finals coming from corners or free-kicks, bettering previous recent records of 23% from the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

With set-pieces becoming increasingly important to international tournament football, not much has been written about what influenced England’s set-piece excellence under Gareth Southgate. England’s attacking coach Allan Russell has been praised by Southgate and his players, whom they credit for their drastic improvement in set-pieces.

Russell has spent his entire adult life within the world of professional football, yet Southgate has looked further afield for his set-piece influences. The England manager has spent time in the U.S visiting NFL franchise the Seattle Seahawks, has visited the last two Superbowl’s and has had numerous discussions with NFL analysts and NBA coaches to find out how their players find space in tight areas.

It was frequently seen in England World Cup games, when the team was taking a corner beforehand the players would quickly huddle together, before going into a line formation. As a casual fan of both football and American football this sounds much more like an NFL play then a football set-piece.

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England players set-up for a corner against Colombia using a move known as “the love triangle”. Nine of England’s 12 World Cup goals came from set-pieces. Photo copyright: Getty Images. 

With England showing how vital set-pieces can be in major international tournaments, will world football begin to follow the England example and adopt the mindset of an NFL franchise when it comes to set-pieces.

In the simplest sense a set-piece in football can be largely similar to an NFL play, a chance to score from a dead ball.  The NFL is constantly using shifts and motions to buy players space in tight windows, something that could prove massively beneficial with set-pieces.

Teams could use cleverly designed set-pieces where players disguise and then go in motion to fool opposition defenses, much like an NFL offense does. Football has tended to view American sports with a certain level of ignorance, dismissing it as not relevant to football.

What Gareth Southgate and England have highlighted is that in a time where set-pieces are becoming increasingly important in major tournaments, there is a lot world football can learn from American sports in how to create space in tight areas of the pitch.

By Jordan Wilkins find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

Let me know your thoughts on this article in the comments section below. 

2018 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part 2

Here is the second part of my preview looking at the 21-car GTD class at this years Rolex 24, the opening round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Championship. With eight different car makers competing for the class win, with last years winners Alegra Motorsport not returning the race is anyone’s to win. Here’s the second half of the high quality entry list. For a look at my previous prototype and GT class previews, click these links. 2018 Rolex 24 Prototype Preview Part 1 2018 Rolex 24 Prototype Preview Part 2  2018 Rolex 24 GTLM Preview  2018 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part 1

#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Alessandro Balzan/Cooper MacNeil/Jeff Segal/Gunnar Jeanette 

Reigning double champions Scuderia Corsa return this year, but with some changes to their line-up. The team have secured championship title sponsors WeatherTech support for this season, and this has precipitated a change to their driving crew.

Alessandro Balzan is retained, but now will be joined by Cooper MacNeil for the full season. Both are very quick and experienced racers at this level, but they may find it tough to replicate their recent championship success with the class improving year on year. Joining them for the Rolex 24 is Jeff Segal and Gunnar Jeanette. Both are quick drivers and with this teams experience and speed they have a very strong line-up for the race.

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#64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Townsend Bell/Sam Bird/Frankie Montecalvo/Bill Sweedler 

The Scuderia Corsa team expanded to include a second entry for the Rolex 24 this year, with another strong line-up. The team signed 2014 Rolex 24 class winners Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, and have bolstered the driving talent with Frankie Montecalvo and Sam Bird.

Bell and Montecalvo are quick GT racers who will prove consistent pace across their stints. Sweedler is the am in this crew but is experienced enough to stay out of trouble. The star turn in this entry is Ferrari factory GT driver Bird, who came close to class victory last year on his debut before a late race engine blow-up.

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#69 HART Acura NSX GT3: Ryan Eversley/John Falb/Chad Gilsinger/Sean Rayhall

After providing factory support to the Michael Shank Racing Acura programme last year, the Honda American Racing Team branch out on their own for a partial season this year.  The team hopes to compete in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds, and with an Acura that showed promise last year they may shock people with a top five result in the class.

The team have signed Pirelli World Challenge Acura driver Ryan Eversley, along with recent LMP3 ELMS champion Sean Rayhall. Both are quick drivers who will be quickest of the four drivers for this car. John Falb is a very competent amateur racer who partnered Rayhall in Europe last year, and has plenty of IMSA experience. Completing the line-up is Chad Gilsinger, who works for Honda and has been a long time driver for this Honda internal race team.

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#71 P1 Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3: Robby Foley/Kenton Koch/JC Perez/Loris Spinelli 

P1 Motorsport make the step up to IMSA from the feeder Lamborghini Super Trofeo and IMSA Prototype Challenge series, taking on an Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

Kenton Koch raced for the team last year in IMSA PC and is a fast young driver who is a great signing for this team. Loris Spinelli has proved one of the fastest Lamborghini Super Trofeo drivers in the world and now steps up to IMSA, with team owner JC Perez and Robby Foley completing the driving crew.

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#73 Park Place Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Jorg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Tim Pappas/Norbert Seidler

Long term IMSA entrants Park Place Motorsport have scaled back to a North American Endurance Cup only entry this year, but retain the same driving talent from previous years.

Porsche factory racer Jorg Bergmeister heads the line-up, with GT racing ace Norbert Seidler joining the team. Both are very quick GT racers and will likely be the stand-out drivers in this car. Patrick Lindsey and Tim Pappas are both very good amateur driver and this is crucial to have in a pro-am class such as GTD.

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#75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Maro Engel/Kenny Habul/Thomas Jager/Mikhael Grenier

SunEnergy1 racing made their debut in the IMSA series last year, and for this years have teamed up with Riley Motorsport to help assist them during the season. The team came about thanks to Australian businessman and amateur racer Kenny Habul, a driving who has developed into a quick am driver.

He is joined for the Rolex 24 by two Mercedes factory GT drivers in Maro Engel and Thomas Jager. Both are seriously quick in the AMG GT3 and will anchor any chances this car has of a class podium. Completing the line-up is young French-Canadian Mikhael Grenier, who is the reigning European Lamborghini Super Trofeo champion and looking to impress on his IMSA debut.

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#82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3: Santiago Creel/Martin Fuentes/Ricardo Perez de Lara/Miguel Molina/Matt Griffin

Leading Ferrari GT team Risi make their debut in the GTD class for the Rolex 24 this year, running a customer programme for a trio of Mexican racing drivers, who are hoping that with a leading team behind them they can achieve a good class result in the race.

Drivers Santiago Creel and Martin Fuentes are leading one-make Porsche and Ferrari racers and are ably supported by am driver Ricardo Perez de Lara. All three have plenty of GT racing experience and will likely run consistently throughout the race. The leading driver in this will be Ferrari factory racer Miguel Molina, who bolsters the team significantly and will drag this car into class leading contention. Irishman Matt Griffin was a very good late addition to this entry, and provides a wealth of experience and pace to what could be a surprise contender for a good result in class.

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#86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3: A.J. Allmendinger/Trent Hindman/Katherine Legge/Alvaro Parente

Michael Shank Racing are forced to adjust to running a customer programme this year after enjoying factory Honda support last year. This has forced the team to scale back to one-full season entry, with this #86 entry currently scheduled to only contest the Endurance Cup rounds, although the team are hoping to add further rounds to their schedule.

The team have secured a very strong line-up for the race, with both A.J. Allmendinger and Katherine Legge returning to the team this year. Legge secured two wins for the car last year and Allmendinger has been a regular endurance driver over a number of years. Alvaro Parente is a seriously quick GT racer and McLaren factory driver, along with Trent Hindman who is a young GT driver showing a lot of potential. Watch out for this entry as a outside contender for class victory.

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#93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3: Lawson Aschenbach/Mario Farnbacher/Come Ledogar/Justin Marks

This second MSR entry is the teams full-season IMSA programme, with the team looking to build on a strong debut season for the Acura GTD programme. The team have signed former Stevenson Motorsport driver Lawson Aschenbach and Justin Marks for the full-season, with Mario Farnbacher and Come Ledogar joining them for the endurance rounds.

Aschenbach is a quick GT racer with over a decade’s worth of experience at this level. Marks moves across from Nascar but has some sportscar experience so will surprise many in the race. Farnbacher joins brother Dominik in the race and has proven his speed in various GT machinery across the world. Ledogar is another McLaren factory GT driver who will excel at this level despite a lack of experience with this car. Both MSR entries are contenders for victory but they will have to stay out of trouble.

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#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3: Don Yount/Mark Kwamme/Jens Klingmann/Martin Tomczyk/Cameron Lawrence

Long time BMW entrants Turner Motorsport return for another crack at the Rolex 24, although the team currently do not have firm plans for a full season entry. The team used the pre-race Roar to test potential drivers for the race.

Former LMPC runners Don Yount and Mark Kwamme got behind the wheel, and will provide some experience for the team over the race along with late addition Cameron Lawrence. BMW factory drivers Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyk will be the pace setters in this entry although any hopes of a podium finish may prove doubtful with two amateur drivers. A clean run and faultless driving from all five may yield a top six finish for the team which would be a great result for the privateer team.

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That wraps up both part two of my GTD preview and my series of previews for the upcoming Rolex 24. I want to say a massive thank you to anyone who has read this page I hope you have liked it and if you have please feel free to comment, like or follow my blog. I also need to say a massive thank you to Motorsport.com for their incredible photos which grace these previews. For all the latest motorsport news check out their website Motorsport.com . Stay tuned for more sports blogs coming soon!