We all have hopes of some sort….maybe at work, at the family level, our hobby, whatever. Sometimes, those hopes do or don’t match reality. So..it’s HOPE vs REALITY time.

….HOPE vs REALITY time comes early to the Billikens this year. The Bills have high HOPES this season. On Tuesday, those hopes will start to face reality as SLU hosts Memphis. While Memphis isn’t the “power” that it once was on the NCAA side, their trip to the NCAA last year was the 1st time in 8 years. Prior to that, Memphis had gone to the NCAA 8 of 9 seasons.  It’s a good step up in competition for the Billikens so it could be an early yardstick regarding the Billikens REALITY this year down the road.

….All Coaches, no matter the sport, HOPE that their team will rise to the occasion against a “big’ opponent and also take care of the softer parts of the schedule with convincing wins. The REALITY is that football is played with emotion. Sometimes, favored teams can’t or don’t raise their emotions to the same high level as they do in the really “big games. Notre Dame is a perfect example last week. The Fighting Irish had a very impressive 35-14 win over Clemson on Nov 5. A week later, ND squeaked by Navy 35-32. It started too easily for ND against the Midshipmen. In the 1st half the Irish scored 5 TD’s on 6 possession with the other possession resulting in a missed FG. But after half-time, the ND offense was dead in the water. Navy demonstrating the poise, maximum effort & performance that we’ve come to expect from our military schools  fought back and made it a “game”.

…In a few situations, REALITY really exceeds the HOPE!  At the start of the 2022 MLB season, not many.. if any…fans, sportswriters, experts had much true HOPE for the Cleveland Guardians. Not even being in the cupcake Division of the AL (Central) seemed relative to them. The Athletic publication had 30 baseball writers vote preseason to vote on the division Champions in the upcoming ’22 season. Not ONE of them chose Cleveland. They weren’t alone! Not 1 writer from Sports Illustrated, The Ringer, CBS Sports, or USA Today picked the Guardians to win the AL Central. The REALITY was that the Guardians…actually did win the division! Why the huge unforeseen surprise? Proven stars like  José Ramírez and Shane Bieber were expected to be the “stars” of the Cleveland Guardians. And…they were—Ramirez batted .280, 29 HR, 126 RBI’s, 20 Stolen bases with an OPS of .869 But, the emergence of young, talented players pushed the Guardians along further…much further than expected.23 year old, Andrés Giménez was probably the strongest surprise. He batted .297, 17 HR, 69 RBI, OPS .837. He also stole 20 bases! Cleveland played the ’22 version of Whitey Ball—fewest strikeouts in the MLB, 3rd most stolen bases(5 players has 20+ stolen bases), 5th in HITS, 8 players had 20+ doubles. Every good team in post 2000 years has a dominate Closer. Probably not many could name Emmanual Clase as the “man” in the bullpen for Cleveland. He registered 42 saves with an ERA of 1.36! BTW…Cleveland was 27th in the MLB in team salary! Cleveland really left its “stamp” of REALITY by winning 16 of 18 games in a September stretch.

…The REALITY is that after yesterday’s blowout loss crushed lots of HOPE in Columbia, MO.   The Tigers dropped to 4-6 in ’22. Btw…when a top 10 team gets a lead in a game, they’re going to keep trying to score—again, again & again. They think that it’ll help them move up in the rankings (like Tennessee on Saturday). The Tiger wins this year are over 3 cupcakes & a good win– Abilene Christian, La Tech, Vanderbilt and the nice win over S. Carolina. The high hopes for Coach Drink’s teams has yet materialized. In 2020, the Tigers were 5-5 and in’21 dropping the “Bowl” game against Army saw them finish at 6-7 under Coach Drink.  Mizzou hasn’t won a bowl game since 2014 and that  win was in the Citrus Bowl (not exactly a real significant bowl).

….Coach Drink is a persuasive talker & recruiter but it’s HOPE vs REALITY TIME. This year, at this moment, recruiting is at a fever pitch for the signings in ‘23. According to NCAA recruiting experts, 7 SEC teams are rated in the top 10 around the country in their recruiting this year.  3 more teams at #15, #17, #18. Then, the final 4 SEC teams are rated—#43-Kentucky, #51-Auburn, #52-Vanderbilt and the lowest ranked recruiting class in the SEC by this agency was Mizzou @ #59.

…The HOPE in the Lou is that the BattleHawks can recapture their active, strong fanbase again in  spring ’23. The Ka-Kaw fans are waiting anxiously to cheer on their team @ the StL Dome. I’m really not concerned about the ‘Lou supporting their team, I’m concerned that it won’t “make it” at the other cities. The REALITY is that the league leader in attendance last time around was the St. Louis  BattleHawks with 28,000+/game. I don’t know if their gaudy figure will be matched again but I do expect StL to be one of the leaders in attendance. The REALITY is that the League needs some type of TV exposure to survive. Ka-Kaw 😊

…In College Football, the HOPE in Texas A&M when they hired Jimbo Fischer last September to a 10 year, $95m contract was that he’d take the Aggies back to prominence.  Well….not so much..the REALITY is that A&M has taken a giant step backward. The 13-10 loss to Auburn last Saturday put A&M at 3-7 for ’22 season. With 7 losses, there’s no way that they can qualify for a bowl (6 wins are required in the 12 game season—a really low bar). In his 58 games as HC he’s showing a pedestrian 37-21 record. When he was hired, A&M gave him a replica of the National Championship trophy with A&M’s name on it & the date empty! They probably wish now that they’d left the Head Coach’s name empty on the trophy too 😊

…Thanks for the read! I have HOPE that you’ll respond to any part of this blog—put them on my Facebook page directly, or put them on my web page…www.bobryansportsblog.com,or email to me & I’ll use your initials to publish it. The REALITY is that it’s very easy!  Have a super week!   Bob

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