Phils vs. Giants, "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Wild Card" Edition

Phils vs. Giants, "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Wild Card" Edition

Last night, the Phils' come-from-behind-and-then-keep-coming-from-ahead victory against the Giants moved them squarely in to the lead for the NL's Wild Card slot. For a team who just a month ago was flirting with a .500 record, you would think this development would be filed under the "Good News" heading. Yet according to skipper Charlie Manuel0, it barely even registers as news at all.

"We don’t care about the wild card," said Uncle Cholly when asked about the team's cemented status as the best second-bests. "We want to win the division."

Easier said than done, these days, I'm afraid. The Braves remain the class of the NL East by two-and-a-half games, and have straight-up refused to budge in the standings of late. In both of their last two games (against the Dodgers and Nationals, respectively), the Braves have trailed going into the final frames, and have squeaked out wins nonetheless. With Cubs slugger Derrek Lee now on the way to the ATL, things don't look to be getting easier anytime soon, either.

Still, the Phillies haven't exactly been slouches recently either, now winners of 18 of their last 23 games. With Chase officially integrated into the lineup and Ryan Howard hopefully on the way later in the week, the team looks to keep up its steamrolling ways into the waning months of the season. Unfortunately, we can't send one of our H2O hookup to the mound every night, and tonight we're relying on Joe Blanton to secure the series win one game ahead of time. Joey Bland had been giving a quietly effective month's service for the Phils (3.82 ERA, 25/8 K:BB) before getting knocked around a little against the Dodgers last Thursday. The perenially under-heralded Matt Cain takes the hill for the bad guys, with a 3.11 ERA but a Hamels-ian 8-8 record.

7:05 first pitch from CBP. Yeah, I wouldn't mind the division either, but I'd certainly feel a lot more comfortable with the WC in our back pocket. One foot in front of the other, guys.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.