No one from Guido…er Gator Nation would join me on the pod so Florida expert Ben Bussard returned to the show once again to break down the Gators this fall.
Your Atlanta Braves have finished Interleague play with a record of 9-6. They will take their winning interleague record and smile as they welcome the Washington Nationals into town. These next two weeks before the All-Star break will be very crucial and will determine who comes out on top of the N.L. East. Currently your Braves are in 1st place while the Mets are half a game back and the Phillies are two and half back. It won’t be easy either. The Braves face the Nationals and Marlins at home, while they hit the road the week before the break to Philly then New York. The last road series didn’t go to well as the White Sox swept the Braves. With that said, the Bravos will need to be on their game when they hit the road to face the two teams that have the best shot at removing them from the top. This also means they need to win the home stand against the Nats and Marlins.
The keys to staying on top during the divisional battle: Strong pitching, and early scoring.
The Braves will need a strong showing from their starters as well as the bull pen. They can’t afford to have Hanson go 3 or 4 innings then get pulled like his previous two starts. They also need Kawakami to bring it just like his last start. 7 innings and only giving up 2 hits is certainly a good way to get a W.
The Braves will need to jump out early in the run column to set the pace for the game. They are very capable of doing so with Prado leading off, Glaus continuing to crush the ball, and the resurgence of Chipper and McCann. They will miss Heyward during the next two games with a thumb injury but hopefully it doesn’t continue to bother the J-Hey Kid for much longer.
Jumping out early will certainly help for tonight’s game as the rookie phenom of Stephen Strasburg takes the mound. We all know what he is capable of doing. In his first four starts he has struck out more batters than any other pitcher. It certainly is going to be a good game tonight. Especially after the Braves were thrashed yesterday afternoon 10-4 by the Detroit Tigers. Look for the Braves to come out swinging ready to defeat the young rookie.
Predictions for the divisional battle – The Braves finish 7-5 and still in first place going into the All-Star Break. They’ll need great efforts off the bench as well as from the bullpen if they want to continue to stay on top.
Don’t forget to continue voting for your Atlanta Braves to be All-Stars. Especially Prado and Glaus who are the guys that deserve it the most.
Since there’s no point in watching the World Cup any more, here are today’s brief predictions.
Germany v. England (10am)
Miroslav Klose returns for the German squad. Expect a return to the form they showed in their 4-0 opening defeat of Australia.
Prediction: Germany wins
Argentina v. Mexico (2:30pm)
Argentine coach Diego Maradona’s declared that he’d streak through the streets of Buenos Aires if they won the World Cup. He’ll likely shed a layer of clothing for every win from here on out.
Prediction: Off comes the jacket, Argentina wins
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the knockout stages. No more draws or goal differentials, from here on out its win or go home.
Uruguay v. South Korea (10am)
This has been South America’s cup so far. Every squad from the continent has advanced to the next stage. Uruguay have looked brilliant behind the work of Diego Forlan. I don’t see that changing today.
Prediction: Uruguay win
United States v. Ghana (2:3opm)
It’s a grudge match of sorts. The Black Stars bounced the US from the tournament back in 2006. The United States will need to match the physicality of Ghana if they expect to win.
Prediction: Ghana wins
Today is the last day of group play. We’ve been treated to an amazing opening round here in South Africa. The finalists from 2006 have both been sent packing. Powers England and Germany had to work for their spots in the knockout stages. South Africa have been valiant as hosts, almost making their way into the second round. Despite three draws, New Zealand go home feeling like world beaters. Meanwhile, the tiny United States has captured the hearts of their countrymen and moved into the second round.
Brazil v. Portugal (10am)
Brazil are in. Portugal, by virtue of their 7-0 victory against North Korea, are likely in. A draw would assure the Portuguese of their place in the second round. A loss doesn’t spell disaster, but they’ll have to keep it from being a blowout.
Prediction: Brazil wins
Ivory Coast v. North Korea (10am)
Portugal put the pressure on Drogba and Co. by rattling off 7 goals against the hapless North Koreans. The Elephants didn’t do themselves any favors in losing to Brazil by two goals. They’ll have to make up a 9 goal differential in order to move on to the second round. In short, Ivory Coast will be praying for a blowout, while they try to orchestrate one of their own.
Prediction: Ivory Coast wins, but not by enough
Spain v. Chile (2:30pm)
Spain need a win to get up and out of this group. Especially considering that Switzerland will be heavy favorites in their match against Honduras. Chile has looked good, but I like the Spaniards in the event they decide to show up.
Prediction: Spain win
Switzerland v. Honduras (2:30pm)
Every underdog has had its moment of glory here at the World Cup. Well, everyone except Honduras.
Prediction: Switzerland win
New Zealand can write some more history today with a win and advancement to the knockout stages. They’ll be facing the Paraguayans, one of the five South American squads that have been dominating this World Cup.
Meanwhile, Italy was expected to cruise their way through the group. Azzurri needs a win to to assure passage to the knockout stages. They’ll be taking on the Slovakians where were throttled by Paraguay last time out, but still have a chance to advance with a victory here.
In Group E, the Netherlands have already locked up a spot in the final stages, they’ll be playing a Cameroon squad that has already been eliminated. Denmark and Japan will be going head to head to determine just who makes it out of the group alongside the Dutch.
New Zealand v. Paraguay (10am)
I really don’t want to see this New Zealand story end. Paraguay have been solid throughout group play, earning a draw against Italy and dominating Slovakia. As much as I want the Kiwis in the knockout stages, good sense reigns supreme.
Prediction: Paraguay wins
Italy v. Slovakia (10am)
The Azzurri have to wake up at some point right? Italy have looked serviceable, but not great so far in this competition. Slovakia has the talent to make trouble here.
Netherlands v. Cameroon
Cameroon are playing for pride, Netherlands are going to be resting up for the knockout stages.
Prediction: Cameroon win
Japan v. Denmark (2:30 pm)
The formula is simple. Win and you’re in. Denmark is the better side here.
Prediction: Denmark win
KLSU’s Jason Templet returns to Heatin’ Up to preview his LSU Tigers and reveals why he doesn’t have the highest hopes for the upcoming season.
Teams are hoping it won’t be unlucky day 13 for them as Group C and Group D will be decided here at the World Cup.
England v. Slovenia (10am)
Slovenia have been pesky and they’ve been able to hang with teams along the lines of Algeria and the United States. The second half of the US game illustrated just what a more talented side can do to the Green Dragons. England is NOT the United States, they’ve got better players at every position and a wealth of international experience. Then again, the Three Lions have been very bad about playing down to the level of their competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if this won ended in a draw
Prediction: England wins
United States v. Algeria (10am)
If the United States cannot beat Algeria, they don’t belong in the World Cup. If they don’t win this game, the casual fan should no longer be “required” to cheer for the US team ever again.
Prediction: United States wins
Germany v. Ghana (2:30pm)
Horrendous officiating cost Germany a win in their second game. They’ll be without goal scoring machine Miroslav Klose and under pressure to advance with a win. Ghana welcomes back its two best defensive players John Mensah and Issac Vorsah, both of whom missed the match with Australia.
There’s also this whole thing about the Germans seeking revenge against Kevin-Prince Boateng, who injured German captain Michael Ballack back in their club seasons… make of that what you will.
Without Klose, I worry about the German firepower against a sturdy Ghanian back line. Lukas Podolski is one of the world’s best, but the magic of Podolski is his ability to link so well with Klose up top.
Serbia v. Australia (2:30pm)
Australia came into the tournament with hopes that they could make it out of Group D. While Australia still has a chance, they’ll have to do it without Harry Kewell or Craig Moore, two of their best players. The Aussies haven’t looked good all tournament and benefited from an understaffed Ghana back line in their draw last Saturday.
Prediction: Serbia wins
The day has finally arrived. The United States square off with the Desert Foxes of Algeria in a match that will decide their fate here at World Cup 2012. Win and they move on. Lose and they go home. Draw and, given a set of circumstances, they hang around.
You’ve all seen or heard the scenarios. The simplest way for the US to avoid any doubts and possibly win Group C is to simply w-i-n.
How do they do that Kirk? Well curious reader, here are the three players that are going to do it:
1. Landon Donovan
It goes without saying, but Landon Donovan is the barometer of this team. Another big day from him and the United States can start preparing for whomever emerges out of Group D. If he disappears like he’s been known to do in big games, its another disappointing end to the World Cup for the United States. Landon sparked the US in the 2nd half against Slovenia and looked brilliant for the second :45 minutes. Lets hope he’s got more in store for us today.
2. Oguchi Onyewu
There’s no way to describe how awful Onyewu was against Slovenia. I’ll cut him a little slack because he’s still working his way back from injury, but if he continues to be a defensive liability, Bob Bradley has got to make a change. Algeria will be looking to push the pace today and Gooch will be key to making sure the back four hold steady against barrages from the Desert Foxes.
3. Whatever midfielder is paired with Michael Bradley
So much has been made about who the United States’ second striker should be, that people forget that the US’ main guy hasn’t put a ball in the net yet. Jozy needs to get on the scoresheet today. Maybe pairing him with Donovan or Dempsey up top (and letting Stuart Holden or Benny Feilhaber take over duties on the wing) would give him a more confident player up top to feed him chances.
Then again, what do I know? More than Alexi Lalas.
Jimmy Carter of the Arkansas Traveler joins me to preview the Arkansas Razorbacks this fall and discusses why the Georgia game is the pivotal game for Ryan Mallet and company.