Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Get ready for the return of Premier League, plus what’s next for Brittney Griner?

Happy Friday, everyone! Another week down. Congrats!

Let’s get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

PREMIER LEAGUE FANS

Rejoice, soccer fans: The Premier League is back! Arsenal visits Crystal Palace this afternoon to kick things off, and then all 18 other teams open their respective seasons this weekend.

In case you missed it this summer, the rich got richer as reigning champions Manchester City added Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund. The third-leading scorer in the Bundesliga last year, Haaland is a huge reason why our soccer expert Roger Gonzalez calls City “the clear-cut favorites to win the league” in his preview of all 20 teams.

But that means there’s lots of pressure on Haaland, too, notes soccer reporter James Benge in his Manchester City season preview.

  • Benge: “Haaland scored 115 times in 116 games for Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund. … He may just be on one of the great hot streaks at the start of his career. The very best and only the very best of strikers can be relied upon to regularly outperform their expected goals (xG) to some extent but not to the level Haaland has. … This is a team who fetishize the close range shots in line with the goal more than anyone else. … Haaland’s sweet spot is City’s and vice versa.”

Our team of soccer experts has done a terrific job previewing other top teams, including…

We also have expert picks for title winners, top four, bottom four and individual awards.

We’ll have live analysis over the weekend — and the French Ligue 1 begins this weekend as well — so be sure to stay tuned to our soccer coverage going forward.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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CLAYTON KERSHAW AND THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS

The Dodgers are very likely going to cruise to another NL West title as they own the best record in MLB. The only thing they didn’t need was an injury to one of their stars. Clayton Kershaw exited his start against the Giants after experiencing back pain while throwing warm-up pitches in the fifth inning.

This is worrying for a couple of reasons, our MLB expert Mike Axisa notes. First, it’s far from Kershaw’s first back issue.

  • Axisa: “He missed 41 days with back inflammation in 2014, 74 days with a disc herniation in 2016 and 39 days with a back strain in 2017. Kershaw also spent short stints on the injured list with back issues in 2018 and 2020. Last season, a flexor injury cost him much of the second half and postseason, and he missed time with a hip injury earlier this year.”

The 34-year-old hurler has been terrific this season with a 2.64 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, both top-10 marks in the NL (min. 80 IP). Any extended absence would be a tough blow for the Dodgers, whose rotation is starting to look a little thin.

  • 1. RHP Walker Buehler (out since June 10 with a forearm injury, could return in September)
  • 2. LHP Clayton Kershaw (exited Thursday’s start with an injury)
  • 3. LHP Julio Urías
  • 4. RHP Tony Gonsolin (23 1/3 innings away from his previous career high)
  • 5. LHP Tyler Anderson
  • 6. LHP Andrew Heaney (healthy now, but limited to five starts by shoulder trouble so far this year)
  • 7. RHP Ryan Pepiot (9 2/3 innings away from his previous career high)

Not so honorable mentions

Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison

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Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was found guilty on charges of drug smuggling and cannabis possession in Russia and sentenced to 9 years in prison. She was also fined 1,000,000 Russian rubles (just over $16,000).

  • As part of a statement, President Joe Biden said the sentence is “more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”

Griner was arrested in February for allegedly carrying a marijuana concentrate in her luggage. She has been detained ever since and recently pleaded guilty. Wednesday, during the closing arguments of her trial, Griner said she “never meant to break any law.”

This is far from the end of Griner’s story, though. In late July, the U.S. reportedly offered a prisoner swap that would free Griner and corporate security director Paul Whelan in exchange for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout. While the WNBA star has now formally been sentenced, a prisoner swap still remains a possibility.

Previewing the college football season: 22 questions for 2022 🏈

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We’re rapidly approaching the 2022 college football season, and, boy, has it been a wild offseason. From transfer portal craziness to NIL deals to realignment on the horizon, we have plenty of storylines to get to. That’s where our college football insider Dennis Dodd can help, as he examined in his 22 compelling storylines that will dominate 2022.

Let’s start with the biggest one: Who will make the College Football Playoff? Dodd says usual suspect Alabama as well as reigning champion Georgia will both be there… but what about the other two teams?

  • Dodd: Ohio State: Ryan Day has his best team since the 2019 powerhouse that was upset by Clemson in the CFP semifinal. Day is 28-3 since then with one Big Ten loss to his name. So, yeah. If the defense comes together under new coordinator Jim Knowles, watch out. Utah: Kyle Whittingham has reached the peak of his career entering Year 18. The Utes have the physicality to match up with anyone and the ability to go undefeated. They open the 2022 season ranked No. 4 in the CBS Sports 131.”

But before we get to the end of the season, we have to start at the beginning, and as Dennis notes, this Week 1 is absolutely loaded.

  • Cincinnati at Arkansas
  • Oregon vs. Georgia
  • Utah at Florida
  • Notre Dame at Ohio State
  • Florida State vs. LSU
  • Clemson vs. Georgia Tech

All 22 of these storylines add another layer of excitement to the season, and guess what? We’re now 22 days from kickoff. Let’s go!

Which teams didn’t do enough at trade deadline? ⚾

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There was plenty of movement at the MLB trade deadline: Our trade tracker was incredibly busy all day. But not everyone got in on the action as much as they should have. Of course not every team can be declared a “winner” at the deadline, and there were a few squads who simply didn’t do as much as they needed to.

Who stands out among that underwhelming bunch? That’s the question our MLB experts answered in their “Batting Around” roundtable this week, and our Matt Snyder says one of the league’s best teams left their fans wanting more.

  • Snyder: “I’ll go with the Mets. … They could have been more aggressive in shoring up the bridge to closer Edwin Diaz with more setup men than Mychal Givens — whose Mets debut was a disaster — and catcher remains a big question mark while All-Star Willson Contreras didn’t even get traded. … The Mets haven’t won the World Series since 1986 and they have a collection of talent that could get it done again. Why they didn’t go absolutely full throttle to load the roster before the deadline is beyond my comprehension.”

While the Mets were the best team on this list, a pair of AL Central clubs didn’t fare too well, either.

What we’re watching this weekend 📺

We’re watching the NWSL on Paramount+.

Friday

🏀 Sparks at Dream, 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network

🏀 Mystics at Sky, 8 p.m. on NBA TV 

Saturday

Yankees at Cardinals, 7:15 p.m. on FOX

Sunday

🏀 Sun at Sky, 1 p.m. on ABC

🏀 Aces at Storm, 3 p.m. on ABC

Padres at Dodgers, 7 p.m. on ESPN

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