College Football Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide

Apollo’s College Football Preview Series | #2 Alabama Crimson Tide

#1: Florida State Seminoles

Which team can lose its three year starting quarterback, Butkus Award winning linebacker, twelve other players to the NFL, and still be heavy favorites to make the college football playoffs? Only Alabama!

If Nick Saban taught us anything it is to never count out Alabama. Let me paint this picture for you. Alabama is coming off a disappointing end to their previous season. They lost multiple starters including their multi-year starting QB. Does that sound familiar? Well, this was the situation in 2009 and 2011 and we all know what happened in those years.

The 2014 Alabama Crimson Tide might be the most talented team in the nation. They will return multiple future NFL draft picks on offense and defense.  Former Jameis Winston backup, Jacob Coker, is already getting Heisman consideration;  probably because of the weapons he will have. Amari Cooper is one the best WR in the nation. Christion Jones is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball. DeAndrew White, Chris Black, Robert Foster, Raheem Falkins and newcomer Cameron Sims will add great depth to the passing attacking. O.J. Howard is a mixmatch at the TE positon. Oh yea, there are also 3 great running backs. TJ Yeldon is only 1,155 yards away from Shaun Alexander’s record and 16 TDs away from Mark Ingram’s record. Both of those records are quite doable…except there is this stud called Derrick Henry who will demand carries. Getting everyone involved will be task of new Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin. Kiffin has experience in this before during this time at USC under Pete Carroll. Remember Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Matt Leinhart, Dwayne Jarrett, and Steve Smith anyone? This offense should be exciting.

The defense should be better than last year. Nick Saban did his annual Kansas City Shuffling of his coaching staff and it might pay off. Chris Rumph and Greg Brown “resigned” and took positions at other colleges. Kirby Smart added secondary to his list of duties and Kevin Steele stepped down from Director of Player Personnel to take over the inside linebackers job. In my humble opinion, the most exciting coaching change was bringing back Bo Davis as defensive line coach. Alabama had a brick wall defensive line when Bo Davis was leading the pack. Now he’s back with some new tools to play with A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, Jarran Reed, Tim Williams, Dee Liner, Brandon Ivory, Dalvin Tomlinson and incoming freshman Da’Shawn Hand and Josh Frazier. The linebacker unit lost C.J. Mosley but Denzel Devall is expected to fill in as leader of the front seven. Landon Collins is arguable the best defensive in the nation and he will lead a very young but talented secondary.

Alabama’s schedule is not that hardest one out there…but it’s not a cakewalk neither. Alabama kicks off the season in Ben Hill Griffin Bryant-Denny Dome against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Alabama is currently 6-4 in the Georgia Dome but 4-0 when it’s against a non-Florida Gators team. The Crimson Tide has won the previous three Chick-fil-A Kickoff matchups by a 103-44 margin of victory. The Tide looks to regain its national powerhouse status early but a beat down on West Virginia will not surprise anybody. The first true team will come September 20th against the Florida Gators. The Gators will be returning one of the best defenses in the nation with their own outstanding pass rush and lockdown corner. Alabama will have a bye week before their next text against Ole Miss at Oxford. Ole Miss has all the talent to win the SEC West…but which Bo Wallace will show up to this game? Bama has TAMU at home and will travel to face a much improved Tennessee Vols team. After this second bye week, Bama will head down to the Baton Rouge to face the Bayou Bengals. Many experts are writing off LSU this season, but never count out the Mad Hatter. Alabama will finish the regular season with THE most anticipated game of the season…The Iron Bowl. Alabama will be looking for payback and will go full throttle (see 2011 Iron Bowl). If they win the West, a matchup with UGA or South Carolina looms in Atlanta.

Best Case Scenario: 13-0 2nd Seed in the College Football Playoffs

Realistic Scenario: 12-1 SEC Champs and still 2nd Seed in College Football Playoffs

Worst Case Scenario: 10-2 and an Orange Bowl selection

How My New Car Cost Me $1,000,000

“I Will Always Have a Car Loan”

The next time that you hear someone say this phrase, please sprinkle holy Evian on them immediately and then refer them to this blog. That phrase is not only false, but it will cost us MILLIONS of dollars over our lifetimes.  Millions? Yes, millions! Let’s break things down so we can get a clearer picture of what I mean.

The average brand new car in March 2014 was $32,086 with an average monthly car loan payment of $710 with the assumption of a 48 month loan term at 3% interest.   For the record, this example has already made our total loan repayment $34,068 before we really get too deep. Yes, we just lost $2000 before we even left the car dealership lot. But let’s move on to bigger fish.

Typically, cars lose 20% in depreciation in the first year, 15% in the second and third year, and then 10% in the fourth year. So in this example, this would mean that the car is worth $16,691.

The average age of cars on the road in the United States today is a little over 11 years old. Most automobiles are pretty dependable nowadays because of the advances in quality and technology—so 11 years is not a stretch at all. So given that information, we could have owned the same car for over 50% less money if we had just waited a few years and bought with cash. But, I’m still not done.

Let’s assume we repeat this “gotta have a new car” buying habit for 40 years. For simple math purposes, let’s assume each new car costs exactly as much as the first car did.

So after 40 years, we have bought 10 cars and lost:

(a) a whopping $20,000 to car loan interest

(b) a monstrous $173,950 to depreciation

But it gets worse, you also lost:

(c) a life-changing $2.36 million dollars!

2MILLION DOLLARS

(Assumes we invested $404 per month in lost depreciation and car loan interest every month into a good mutual fund at 10% rate of return for 40 years)

CAN YOU AFFORD TO LOSE THIS MUCH MONEY?

For giggles, let’s assume we learned our lesson on the first car, but we still bought the first car anyway. In that scenario, let’s deposit $404 per month for just four years and then wait 40 years. After 40 years, you still lost the opportunity to:

(d) a still life-changing $760,000 dollars!

700K

CAN YOU AFFORD TO LOSE THIS MUCH MONEY?

A Very Subjective Top 10 Hip-Hop Songs of All Time List

Warning: Strong language 

I decided to take a break from looking at millions of numbers in the basketball data base to take on a more personal endeavor. I am here to rank my favorite 10 Hip-Hop songs of all time. It was a tough list! I had to leave off such classics like Arrested Development’s “Tennessee” and the always infectious “ATLiens” by Outkast. I even wanted to include some lesser knowns such as the artists Wax, ATL, and my dude, Immortal Technique. Ultimately, nostalgia probably played a large factor, but it is my list. Who cares?

To make the list I had only one requirement: Talent. So, Drake, Nikki Minaj, Lil Wayne (by himself), Ja Rule, Tyga, and Nelly obviously were disqualified by default.

Make a custom playlist and let the music flow.

#10 – Tupac – Hail Mary

I was young when this came out, but that didn’t stop me from loving the hell out of this song. The beat is straightforward and lends itself to Tupac just letting it fly. His cadence is perfect over the beat. Kastro and Young Noble come in right in the middle and just kill it. I have never felt the street life struggle, but this song made a young 7 year old me think I had. That is saying something.

#9 – Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy

Oh shit! If you ever feel down and like you can’t make it through, then listen to this song. From rags to riches. The beat is even and old school 80’s throw back. Biggie shines with his patented aggressive approach to rapping, and the phrase “It was all a dream” is perhaps one of the more legendary lines in all of hip-hop.

#8 – T.I. – Rubberband Man

The beat and melody in this song are already catchy enough. Throw in one of the catchiest hip-hop choruses ever and T.I. claiming how he is wilder than the Taliban, and you really can’t go wrong. You can’t catch T.I., that shit just bounce right off him.

#7 – Three 6 Mafia – Body Parts

Probably one of my favorite beats of all time. This was before Three 6 made ridiculously stupid radio friendly rap. This is pretty much gangster rap. This song starts off hard and never really stops. This track actually makes it sound like they mean business! Maybe they did back then. Favorite line-“Hickory dickory dock as I pull out my glock n im ready to pop…BITCH!”

#6 – Del The Funky Homosapien – Catch All This

I had to give Del a spot in this list. The beat is insane. And Del has a trademark voice and style that you just cannot forget. He goes off on this track. While most people rap about women or drugs, he is an awesome throwback to being braggadocios using metaphors and ridiculously awesome rhymes. I dare you to listen to this and not want to listen to it on repeat.

#5 – Clipse – Grindin

I really wanted to rank this higher. Seriously, one of the best beats in any genre…ever. Also, you have Pharrell back when he was on everyone’s album before he was really that famous, you have two dudes going off on the track talking about playground basketball and drug dealing, and then you have the chorus. The chorus is THE epitome of what a hip-hop chorus should be. If you can listen to the chorus without nodding your head, well you were probably decapitated by Three 6 Mafia a few songs earlier.

#4 – NWA – Straight Outta Compton

Before Ice Cube was making kids movies and Dr. Dre was selling high definition headphones, they were singing about gang banging in California. This song is undeniable. One of the earliest gangster rap tracks, and they kill it. Ice Cube sounds like he could probably kick your ass…if he weren’t busy filing Coors Light commercials. Best line almost ever? “Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube, from the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes.” Yeah, you know what is coming when you hear that iconic line.

#3 – TRU – I Always Feel Like

Master P had his hands in a lot of things back in the day. NONE, and I repeat, NONE were better than TRU. Using a hook from a terrible 80’s song, they turn this into an absolute gem and monumental song in hip-hop. The beat is perfectly set, Master P, Silkk the Shocker, C-Murder, and Mia-X paint a perfect picture of selling drugs and doing general gangster shit. Seriously, one listen will make you want to jump right into the dope gang. Well, if somebody wasn’t always watching you.

#2 – Grandmaster Flash – White Lines

I don’t even need to write one damn thing. The bass line, cocaine, the electro beats, and the brass make this simply one of the best songs ever, in any genre. If you don’t agree, well you are probably a Drake fan.

#1 – Cash Money Millionaires – Project Bitch

Lets just set aside for one second that this is THE greatest beat and melody ever laid down in a hip-hop track. Lets look at some highlights of each MC.

Mannie Fresh – “To the ladies havin babies without no drama, to my niggas with figgas say I love my baby momma.”

Lil Wayne – When I come through in a Rolls Royce, leave them with no choice but to hop up in it an just let me make they throat moist.”

Baby – I got a credit card hoe, a scam type hoe, a fraud type hoe
Like to snort that dope, a dick suckin pro
A calico hoe, a real solid bitch out Chicago
I got a (Brat) type bitch like to whine an shit
I got a project bitch like to start some shit”

And of course, Juvenile doing his thing – “My momma send me by my grandma, my grandma flipped out an said we ain’t gone have no evil in this house.”

Pure poetry gold.

So. Agree? Disagree? Who is in your top 10?

Top-101

Top 5 Faux Financial Emergencies

With Back-to-School season quickly on the horizon, shoppers all over America will soon reach maximum panic mode.  As hard as it is to believe, the vast majority of parents forget that their children start school every year in August (or September).  Obviously, I’m being exaggeratory.  However, many parents swear school shopping is an emergency and that they must use their “only for emergencies” credit card to get them through this unexpected situation.  Because I generally hate shenanigans, it is time for another great list—Top 5 Faux Financial Emergencies:

(1) School Shopping | While we are on the subject of school shopping, let’s park here a bit.  If something happens at the exact same time every single year, then it is not an emergency.  Emergencies by definition are unexpected, catastrophic, and costly.  College-ruled paper obviously does not fit this definition.

(2) Christmas Shopping & Other Gift Shopping | Christmas shopping and birthday shopping are in the same category as school shopping. These occasions happen at the exact same time every year but catch people by surprise way too often.  Even gifts for weddings and baby showers aren’t unexpected—unless you weren’t invited :-/

(3) Automobile Maintenance & Repairs | Not only are oil changes not surprises but there is usually a reminder sticker in your windshield telling you to change your oil after a given mileage or given date.  Other automobile repairs are a bit trickier but not exactly rocket science.  Tires eventually wear out.  So budget a little bit for a new tires every month until you need new tires.  Please use this same strategy for car batteries, brake pads, etc.  If your transmission goes out, then yes, that is an emergency.  Act appropriately.

(4) Brand New Minivan & Other Bad Car Choices | College students (usually with student loan debt) graduate from school and suddenly “need” a new car.  New parents (with student loan debt and maybe new debt now) suddenly “need” a new minivan because their paid-for sedan is too small and uncomfortable for their 8 pound baby.  Automobile purchases are a lot cheaper if you save up ahead of time and buy smart.  I know this.  You know this.  Yet, financing always seems to happen.

(5) Home Renovations | This tends to get the baby boomers more so than millennials, but it affects everyone.  You have a reached some sense of unhappiness and all of a sudden, your kitchen or bathroom just isn’t good enough anymore.  All of a sudden, getting a $50,000 home equity line of credit (HELOC) seems like the smartest thing ever.  It isn’t.

Can you name any faux emergencies that I didn’t mention?

emergency-money-bank2

King of the Point Guard Hill: Part 1 – Methodology & Passing

magic-johnson-statue

You don’t get a statue by being average.

Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Steve Nash (RIP), Jason Kidd, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury, Peewee Kirkland, Pistol Pete, and I really could keep going. Point guard is probably the deepest and most decorated position in the NBA. Whether you enjoy the complete game control of a Magic or the ball dominating scoring machine of a Starbury, point guard has never been a position that was ever lacking talent in the NBA. Bonus points for point guards giving all of us short guys a position to play on the court!

mugsy_bogues

When I first started to compile the data on these guards, I realized just how much talent there is right now in the NBA. Even guards who aren’t at the top of the list in passing could be at the top in scoring, and vice versa. The point guard position is more versatile than it has ever been. Guards are also having to learn to play with the ever increasing number of shooters they have at their disposal, which is truly an amazing thing to watch.

Before we get into the first part, passing, I would like to go over the methodology of how I ranked and compiled this list of point guards. Keep in mind, not all of them will have overwhelmingly great passing stats, but that is because some are scorers.

Pete Maravich

Pistol Pete Maravich. The original playground point guard.

Methodology

When looking at a point guard and passing skills, we cannot simply look at assists and call it a day. This is not 1970, we have advanced data tracking now. The key is knowing how to interpret this data and make it easy to sort out players. Knowing this, I compiled a formula that helps us see who the best floor generals are. I won’t give away my exact formula, but I will give you some bullets explaining myself a little bit.

  • I use both points created per game and points created per 48 minutes. I weighted points created per game a little more heavily, since these points are actually being scored, instead of hypothetically. Although, I tried to give credit to those who may not play heavy minutes, a la Kendall Marshall (weird to see him on here, I know).
  • I counted free throw assists according to the percentage of free throws made.
  • I counted secondary assists according to what an average made shot would be worth, according to points per weighted shot stats.
  • I used all of this to give us a nice number. There is no real average, as these numbers will fluctuate from season to season and I have not evaluated all seasons. Anything approaching a 30 score can be seen as truly elite. 20 would seem to indicate about an average passer for the position, and anything below that is falling into below average range. Again, there is no real average as I have not evaluated all seasons, but these are the trends for this season.
  • It is easier to make it to average (20) than it is to 30 and below 20. So, you either have to be very good or very below average to score further away from this middle point.
  • I will affectionately call this stats….. Actual Passing Score! APS!

Erasing Variable Factors

I wanted to look at this as objectively as possible. Ricky Rubio is surrounded by wildly inefficient shooters (save for my homeboy, Kevin Love. If you missed my article on that, well scroll back a few days!) yet still puts up great passing numbers. Chris Paul puts up great numbers surrounded by 2 elite finishers and 3 elite shooters. I am neither rewarding Rubio for his numbers with less, nor am I punishing Paul for putting up his numbers with great talent surrounding him. The numbers are what the numbers are.

Ricky Rubio

Ricky has almost no one to throw the beauties to…

I did not take into account each teams 3 point or 2 point ability. All shots are weighted equally. Same with the Rubio and Paul situation. No one gets rewarded or punished. The numbers never lie. (Well, maybe sometimes)

I also did not take into account assist opportunities or missed shots that would have been assists. It is great that these players found them, but the shot was not made. This was mainly due to a few reasons: 1) A bad pass could lead to a missed shot, yet they would still get credit for assist opportunity, 2) passing at the last second to a poor shooter is a bad pass that still counts towards an opportunity. I do not have access to all of this data, so I simply left it out in all fairness to everyone.

One last thing. I included some injured players for the sake of including them. Rondo, Bledsoe, and Deron Williams all missed time, but still averaged 5 assists a game and at least 30 games played. Which was my qualifying cut off.

Rajon Rondo rocks iRenew Sports bracelet against the NY Knicks

Rajon was still a bad ass, despite recovering from injury.

So, now that you have an idea what the formula is about and my methodology, lets look at the rankings.

Rankings

Now that I am done rambling and boring everyone to death, lets look at the big board!

  1. Chris Paul – 34.3 APS – LA Clippers
  2. Rajon Rondo – 32 APS – Boston Celtics
  3. Ricky Rubio – 30.4 APS – Minnesota Timberwolves
  4. Kendall Marshall – 29.2 APS – LA Lakers (Now with the Milwaukee Bucks)
  5. John Wall – 29.1 APS – Washington Wizards
  6. Ty Lawson – 28.6 APS – Denver Nuggets
  7. Stephen Curry – 25.9 APS -Golden City Warriors
  8. Russell Westbrook – 25.4 APS – Oklahoma City Thunder
  9. Brandon Jennings – 24.5 APS – Detroit Pistons
  10.  Jeff Teague – 23.9 APS – Atlanta Hawks
  11.  Kyle Lowry –  23.6 APS -Toronto Raptors
  12.  Jameer Nelson – 23.3 APS – Orlando Magic (Now with the Dallas Mavericks)
  13.  Deron Williams – 23.3 APS – Brooklyn Nets
  14.  Michael Carter-Williams – 21.4 APS – Philadelphia 76ers
  15.  Mike Conley – 20.5 APS – Memphis Grizzlies
  16.  Tony Parker – 20.4 APS – San Antonio Spurs
  17.  Isiah Thomas – 19.9 APS – Sacramento Kings (Now with the Phoenix Suns)
  18.  Trey Burke – 19.4 APS – Utah Jazz
  19.  Goran Dragic – 19.1 APS – Phoenix Suns
  20.  Kyrie Irving – 18.9 APS – Cleveland Cavaliers
  21.  Damian Lillard – 18.8 APS -Portland Trailblazers
  22.  Kemba Walker – 18.4 APS – Charlotte Hornets
  23.  Eric Bledsoe – 18.1 APS – Phoenix Suns
  24.  Jose Calderon – 17 APS – Dallas Mavericks (Now with New York Knicks)

chris paul

A young Chris Paul agrees with the rankings.

 

A couple of things to note with this list. The league is extremely deep with point guards. All of these point guards are still better passers than almost all of the league. So even if the 24th best APS is not average for point guards, it is still much higher than most players in the NBA.

Stats

Player Name
Assists Per Game
Passes Leading to Free Throws a Game
Hockey Assists Per Game
Points Created Per Game
Points Created Per 48 Minutes
Actual Passing Score (APS)
Chris Paul
10.7
1.0
2.2
24.5
33.3
34.3 APS
John Wall
8.9
1.0
1.7
21.3
28
29.1 APS
Rajon Rondo
9.8
1.0
1.5
23.0
32.9
32 APS
Ricky Rubio
8.6
1.3
2.0
20.2
30.0
30.4 APS
Kendall Marshall
8.8
0.8
1.3
20.0
33.0
29.2 APS
Ty Lawson
8.8
1.1
1.5
21.0
27.9
28.6 APS
Stephen Curry
8.5
0.5
1.7
19.2
25.1
25.9 APS
Russell Westbrook
6.9
1.0
1.7
16.4
25.4
25.4 APS
Brandon Jennings
7.6
0.9
1.6
17.0
23.7
24.5 APS
Jeff Teague
6.2
0.7
1.6
16.1
23.8
 23.9 APS
Kyle Lowry
7.5
0.7
1.5
17.2
22.6
23.6 APS
Jameer Nelson
7.0
0.9
1.1
16.2
24.1
23.3 APS
Deron Williams
6.1
0.9
1.8
15.1
22.4
23.3 APS
Michael Carter-Williams
6.3
0.6
1.5
14.9
20.7
21.4 APS
Mike Conley
5.9
0.7
1.1
14.9
20.2
20.5 APS
Tony Parker
5.7
0.6
1.7
13.2
19.5
20.4 APS
Isiah Thomas
6.3
0.9
0.9
14.5
19.9
19.9 APS
Trey Burke
5.7
0.6
1.2
13.2
19.5
19.4 APS
Goran Dragic
6.0
0.7
1.1
14.9
20.2
21.4 APS
Kyrie Irving
6.1
0.5
1.0
13.9
18.9
18.9 APS
Damian Lillard
5.6
0.6
1.2
13.5
18.1
18.8 APS
Kemba Walker
6.1
0.6
1.7
14.0
18.7
18.4 APS
Eric Bledsoe
5.5
0.5
0.7
13.2
19.2
18.1 APS
Jose Calderon
4.7
0.4
1.3
10.9
17.1
17 APS

 

Observations and Surprises

Lets just get this out of the way. KENDALL MARSHALL!? WHAT IN THE ABSOLUTE HELL???

Kendall Butter Marshall

Apparently, this was an appropriate nickname.

Alright. That is out of me. Seriously, if you asked me where I would rank Marshall as an eye test, he wouldn’t be anywhere on this list. However, this list is made without bias. So, now that the biggest surprise is out of the way lets look at some of the tiers and then some other general observations.

Top 5

Chris Paul obviously takes the cake here. He just creates more points than anyone else. The high rate of hockey assists shows his true vision. He sees plays before anyone else does, and displays this amply by making the right pass that leads to an assist.

John Wall is a slight surprise. I knew he was great, but I did not know he was this great. If we are going by pure passing, Wall is the best young floor general in the game. His passing is almost on par with Chris Paul. He is a truly elite passer already and he is only getting better.

Ricky Rubio is another I would like to touch on. Rubio sets up his big men. This is shown by the high amount of assist leading to free throws. He makes the correct pass, leading to points in any way he can get them. This is also displayed by his hockey assist numbers. Him and Wall are the true visionaries of the young point guards.

Rounding it out we have Rondo and Lawson. Lawson is surrounded by shooters and has been a nicely kept secret in the league. He uses his drive and dish abilities to create for team mates, and the stats back it up. And what is there to say about Rondo? If you didn’t know he was amazing, you do now. A willing and gifted passer.

John Wall

Wall on the break. 

The Middle Class

Watching Tony Parker you would think he grades out better than this. Tony may not set up his men in position to score, but he does run a very efficient offense. Parker is also a scorer. Often dragging the defense in to initiate an offense that will swing it around until they find a soft spot in the defense.

Michael Carter-Williams graded out better than I would have expected. They run a super fast offense, so lets give him credit for often finding the open man for the score.

For Goran Dragic to be such a great and efficient scorer, his passing is also very nice. Not too amazing or high generating, but he shows a clear understanding of how to run an offense, even if his game is not on point.

Isiah Thomas has a reputation as a me-first gunner. These numbers say something different. Falling almost exactly where I would set the average line, Thomas clearly has more skills than what he gets credit for as a passer.

Tony Parker

Parker has slept with two women in this picture. After he sees my rankings of him, he may come after my woman.

The Bottom Rung

Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Eric Bledsoe. All young guys, all below average passers. The young crop is clearly score first dominated. They do have some ability, but this is not where they bread their butter. Overall, I am a little disappointed by the lack of play making skills by the young guys. Clear difference in play styles from the two studs in the top 5.

Jose Calderon. Oh, boy. I have been singing his praises for years. I even made a special exception for him, knowing he was an incredible floor general who was very undervalued. Judging by the numbers, this is no longer the case.

Kyrie Irving

Pretty much sums up every Kyrie Irving possession.

Extra Notes

  • Rubio and Wall are clearly different players from Lillard, Irving, Bledsoe, and Walker. It will be interesting to see how the scoring evens (or widens) the playing field.
  • The young guys are largely score first. Interesting to see if this trend continues going forward.
  • Vets, unless they are stars, tend to gravitate towards the average. I find this interesting. I look at it as the veterans know how to run an offense, and make the right plays. Average point guard play is very often a good sign. Anything below that 20 mark and things tend to look bad for those teams.
  • Paul, Rubio, Dragic, Deron Williams, and Parker clearly know how to run a break. The hockey assist numbers show a clear vision of when to pass to get a defender off of their target for the extra pass.
  • Westbrook is WAY better of a playmaker than he gets credit for. He is one to keep an eye on as the ranking go forth.
  • Rubio, Wall, Marshall, Westbrook, and Rondo all took hits due to low minutes played. It will be something to watch to see if they can get a larger role to see if those great stats extrapolate out.
  • Stephen Curry is a great passer, no doubt. But lets stop the Steve Nash comparison. He will never pass like that. Still, an incredible passer.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook may dress like an idiot, but he is a wizard with the ball.

 

Conclusion

Paul, Rubio, Wall, Rondo. Those are the elite passers in the NBA right now. Other guys are good, some even great, but these 4 stand out way above the rest. You want to see more playmaking ability from other younger guys, but we will see if they can make up for it in the scoring analysis. Veteran guys give you exactly what you expect, a steady hand. It is a great time to love point guard play. So watch these guys drop dimes everywhere and I look forward to seeing you back for part 2!

 

College Football Preview: Florida State Seminoles

Apollo’s College Football Preview Series | #1 the Florida State Seminoles

FSU
There is no doubt that the defending champs will start the season #1 in all polls. There’s no doubt that Jameis Winston is the greatest QB in college football (maybe even ever). And there’s really no doubt that FSU will repeat as ACC Champs. The question is: Can Famous Jameis do the impossible by repeating as Heisman winner AND lead the Seminoles to another national championship? Jameis is losing some of his favorite targets to the draft but Florida State returns 8 on a defense that was good enough to stop Auburn’s rushing attack.

Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. are gone and so is the 1800 all purpose yards and 23 touchdowns they produced. Senior RB Karlos Williams is more than ready to take over duties. However, despite Williams’ senior status, it’s going to be hard to keep incoming freshman and former 5* recruit Dalvin Cook off the field. Dalvin is a 5’11 197lb running back with 4.46 speed. Williams and Cook could quickly become a deadly duo.  BSC Championship Game hero Kelvin Benjamin took his celebrity status to North Carolina, but Jameis still has his 1st and 4th favorite target returning in Rashad Green and TE Nick O’Leary. Looking to replace Benjamin is another 5* incoming freshman, Ermon Lane. He might not have the side of Kelvin Benjamin or the speed of Rashad Green, but he’s not the 2nd ranked WR recruit for nothing. He’s very strong with great hands as well as possesses the route running skills of an NFL player. He could be another Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin. I’ll give Ermon Lane 5 games before he becomes a household name.

The biggest departure for FSU wasn’t a player but a coach. Former Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left the Land of Oranges for the Land of Peaches. If you think Pruitt can be easily replaced then think about this. When he was the secondary coach at Alabama, the Crimson Tide had the best secondary in the nation. He leaves for FSU and Alabama’s secondary looked more lost than Christopher Columbus. This is the realization that Jimbo Fisher will face this season.

The schedule is pretty favorable for FSU, but not as easy as it was last year. They start their road to 4 in Jerry Land against the good Big XII foe Oklahoma State. After that game, they can cruise through their schedule. They face Boyd-Watkins less Clemson at home as well as Notre Dame. Their biennial trap game at North Carolina State is earlier in the season this year. They face Louisville in Kentucky, but they will not have Teddy Bridgewater or Charlie Strong. Their toughest games will be against their most hated rivals. The first test is against the heavy favorites to win the ACC Coastal Division, the Miami Hurricanes. Under Al Golden, the ‘Canes have improved their record each year. They will get the pleasure of hosting the Seminoles in their stadium this year. Now that the Heat bandwagon is all but gone, Miamians will gravitate towards the next successful Miami team. I fully expect the stadium to be packed for this game as well as the rematch in the ACC Championship Game. Will Muschamp’s job might be one the line when his Gators travel to the Doak. This Gator team SHOULD…emphasis on SHOULD…be a lot better than they were last year. They return one of the best defenses in the nation. Get through the schedule and they will be a lock for the college football playoffs.

Best Case Scenario: 13-0 and #1 Overall Seed in the college football playoffs.

Realistic Scenario: 12-1 but finish in the top 4 for the college football playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: 9-4 with an ACC Championship Game lost.

Never Leave Kids an Inheritance

Please let me clarify before you start calling me a cold-hearted jerk.  As long as children are still dependents, then I believe parents should do everything in their power to perpetually provide for their spouse and children from the grave—hefty term life insurance and thoughtful savings invested into a good mutual fund (an endowment per se).  Whether the children are 2 years old or 17 years old, that is my firm stance.

However! The average age of death is roughly 75 years old, and parents are typically 20-30 years older than their descendants.  So in this example, the “children” are between 45 to 55 years old.  Suffice it to say, it is fairly disingenuous to call someone who might have grandchildren a “child.”  For that very reason, I wouldn’t give my children anything if I make it into my twilight years.

Yep, I would leave my “children” absolutely nothing.  Zip.  Zilch.  Natta.  Zero.

But what are a few reasons why I would do this?

(1) Proverbs 22:6 | “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  As a result, I do not worry about my future adult children.  I trust them to do well (better than well) because that is what Baxters do—pray hard, love hard, and work hard.  Because of early guidance and early monetary investment, our children will be far more successful than we could have ever imagined them to be.

(2) Actual Children | The amount of actual young children, orphans especially, who could benefit from the death of an old geezer is almost endless.

(3) Other Elderly People | There are so many widows, widowers, and otherwise disabled elderly who could really use a leg-up from a person who knows (or knew) exactly how they feel.

(4) Worthwhile Charities | Do you know who usually leaves big gobs of money for shelters that take care of battered women? Usually old dead people.  What about animal shelters? Again, old dead people. How about full ride academic scholarships? Once again, old dead people.  With all that good going around, why wouldn’t I want to be an awesome dead person too?

What about you? In an ideal world, would you give all your money to your kids?

Retirement

PS: All of this assumes that I do not have a successful business that my children could potentially become owners of one day. In that case, a succession plan is necessary so that that transition is a smooth one and not a train wreck.  However, since successful businesses are statistically improbable, I am assuming I just have a regular job that I have retired from.

Do You Follow Teams, Players, or Storylines?

Being from the state of Alabama, I have grown up my whole life not really having a dog in the fight.  We do not have any major professional sports teams in our state.  Sure, there are fans of professional sports teams that live in Alabama, but their passion doesn’t match the passion that is exuded over college sports—particularly college football.  Literally, during bowl season, the Alabama television markets are by far the biggest watchers of even the most obscure bowl game.  However, this is an article about professional sports, so let’s get to the point so that we can begin discussion.

There are supposedly three (3) major sports leagues in the United States; though I’d argue that there are only two (2)—the NFL and the NBA.  Given that, people follow those sports for a variety of reasons.  Below of the three main reasons:

(1) Team | If you live in metros like Boston, San Antonio, or Denver, then you follow your particular teams because you live there and are immersed in the frenzy all year long.  Also, transplants of those types of metros tend to follow their favorite teams even while in another state or country.  Then of course, you have the random fans who follow teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers even though they aren’t even sure what state Pittsburgh is actually in (it is Pennsylvania, for the record).

(2) Player | Blame it on unrestricted free agency, fiery fantasy sports, or wholesome hometown pride, but individual players or sets of players are followed now more than ever.  Our favorite players connect directly to us through Facebook and Twitter—connectivity that fans from the 1980s and 90s could only imagine.  Heck, some of these athletes even have their own mobile apps!

This individual player fandom is probably most prevalent in the NBA, but it can exist in other sports too.

(3) Storylines | Do remember last year’s NFL season?  There were people who have hated Peyton Manning since his freshman year at the University of Tennessee who all of a sudden were pulling for Peyton Manning.  Why?  He had a great storyline.  He was trying to achieve the impossible—come back from a near career-ending neck surgery and win a Super Bowl in perhaps his final year in the league. All eyes were on the Denver Broncos.  So many eyes that even casual fans were paying attention.  Be careful though: fandom of this genre tends to have the briefest shelf life—once the amazing story is over, the fans disappear.

So what type of fan are you? Why? #teamfan #playerfan #storylinefan

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Music News: Summer NAMM 2014

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend Summer NAMM 2014 in Nashville.  NAMM, which is short for the National Association of Music Merchants, is a biannual event where many of the giants of the music industry, as well as smaller start-ups, come together to showcase their new products. The winter NAMM is held around January in Anaheim, CA, and the generally smaller summer NAMM is held in the Music City in July.

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As this event is closed to the public, this was my first time getting to get inside through some very special connections of mine. As soon as I arrived in Nashville and I made it to the convention center, the area was abuzz with people entering the show. NAMM was held at the Nashville Music City Center which is an absolutely stunning venue, conveniently located downtown across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame. As you walk into the building you notice that not only is a NAMM a great place to check out new gear if you’re a gear head like me, but there are a few areas where you can catch performances from some of Nashville’s up-and-coming talent.

Inside the showcase you are visually and sonically assaulted with so many sights and sounds, for a first time show goer it can really be quite overwhelming to take it all in or know where to start. There are product demonstrations, concerts, product giveaways, guest speakers and industry workshops. Larger companies like Gibson, Boss, and Casio have a large presence, and for many of the smaller companies NAMM is a great way to generate buzz about their products and secure dealers. For a music lover like me it was a very rewarding experience.

I spent two hours walking the show, trying out products and networking with people in the industry, and even then I only began to scratch the surface of all there was to do. When I was done with the show, I decided to get a little bit of guitar shopping in. Nashville is one of those cities where you just have to take a look at their selection and there are plenty of great vintage shops near downtown. Although I will caution the prices in these places are not for the faint of heart, but then again these are the same shops where you might run into Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Billy Gibbons, or Keith Urban. I dropped into Carter Vintage Guitar after reading about them in Epiphone’s press release about the NAMM show. This place was an absolute treat! They had guitars ranging from a couple of hundred all the way up to over $167,000! If you love vintage gear, even if you can’t afford it, this is a great shop to stop in to get up close and personal with music history.

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Even though I didn’t get to stay at the show and Nashville the entire 3 days that it was held, visiting on Friday was a definitely a worthwhile experience and I think it’s something every gear lover should try to do at least once, especially if you can make it out to the larger Anaheim show.

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Top 3 Success Tips for the Unemployed

Unemployment—we have all been there for one reason or another.  Some of us complete high school or college only to realize we cannot get a job as fast as we had hoped.   Others of us have had solid jobs but are now in between jobs due to layoffs, injuries, etc.  The reasons are endless but the feeling we all share when unemployed is the same—anxiety!

I personally felt this anxiety during the 1st quarter of 2012. During December of the preceding year, I had willingly resigned from a major nuclear facility to relocate to be with my brand new wife.  The only problem with that is that the new city’s major industry was automotive—an industry that I knew very little about and had very few connections in.

While I applied for numerous jobs every day, visited every career fair in the area, and possibly overcompensated on domestic cooking and cleaning duties, I still made one mistake that I sorely regret—I left “easy money” on the table!  Here are my tips on how not to let much-needed “easy money” slip through your fingers while unemployed.

(1)  Don’t Be So Picky – Having worked for a Fortune 200 company as a student and as an engineer, I was very snobby about small insignificant issues with new jobs.  For instance, if it was a short-term contract job, I didn’t want to do it.  If it was a “teacher’s salary” permanent job, I didn’t want to do it.  Luckily, I grew out of this habit once debts and bills started being due.  And guess what? Once I started being humble and less of a brat, better job opportunities opened up that were previously unavailable.

(2)  Be Entrepreneurial – Although it may take a few lucky bounces to land a permanent job with benefits, you do not need luck if you start your own small business.  You may not know this but many people in your town need their kids watched, their dogs walked, their leaves racked, and their houses cleaned.  If you visit websites like CARE.com, you will see tons of opportunities to make the equivalent of $20-$30 per hour!

The best thing about those jobs is that they do not take up all of your day or all of your week.  This will still give you plenty of time to apply for full-time jobs and to interview for full-time jobs.

(3)  Knock on Doors – Fun fact. You cannot find jobs online.  Well, at least not at the same rate as you would if employers have a personal connection with a living, breathing person.  Online job hunting only has a 1-2% success rate. I don’t know about you, but that’s a horrible success rate.  So my advice now and forever is to visit employers in person, ask for tours, and attend career fairs.  Those are sure fire ways to get your name out there, especially if you do not know anyone at the very beginning of your job search process.

Also, do not be afraid to get a head hunter or a recruiter—they are monetarily incentivized to look for great opportunities for you.  The more money you make, the more money they make too.  So take advantage of this relationship.  Recruiters know way more employers than you will ever know.

Can you think of other tips? Do you disagree with these tips? #unemploymenthustle

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