Joe's Morning Sports-Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Alabama is ranked first in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season, followed by Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State.  Texas A&M was fifth and Florida sixth, followed by unbeaten Cincinnati at seventh, the best ranking for a non-Power Five team in the seven-year history of the selection committee’s rankings.  Another unbeaten team from outside the Power Five was not so highly regarded by the committee.  BYU was slotted 14th, behind eleventh ranked Oklahoma and 13th ranked Iowa State among others.

Minnesota is calling off its scheduled game Saturday at rival Wisconsin due to COVID-19 cases within the program.  The Gophers said they had nine players and six staff members test positive over the last five days, with more presumed positive results pending.  The move likely knocks the 18th-ranked Badgers out of consideration for the Big Ten championship game.  This weekend's scheduled Utah/Arizona State and Tulsa/Houston matchups also have been scrapped. Utah was rescheduled to face Washington on Saturday.  A total of ten scheduled games this week involving Football Bowl Subdivision teams have been postponed or canceled.

Just like that, the Atlanta Hawks transformed themselves into a playoff contender.  A team that averaged less than 25 wins the last three seasons added to its impressive young core with a whirlwind of free-agent signings.  The latest came when Sacramento decided not match Atlanta's four-year, $72 million offer sheet to Bogdan Bogdanovic.  Flush with cash heading into free agency, the Hawks quickly signed forward Danilo Gallinari and guards Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn.

The Omaha World Herald reports that former Husker linebacker Luke Gifford was suspended by the NFL for two games for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs.  He'll be eligible to return for the Dallas Cowboys' game on Dec. 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals.  Gifford went undrafted in 2019 but is in his second season with the Cowboys.  He's played in twelve games during his career, six last year, and six this year, almost exclusively on special teams.  He has nine total tackles.  At Nebraska, Gifford was a team captain as a senior in 2018 and started all twelve games that season.  The Lincoln Southeast graduate finished his Husker career with 109 total tackles, including 15.5 for loss and seven sacks.

College basketball gets underway across the country today.  The Nebraska men host McNeese State at 11:00, the Nebraska-Omaha men battle Austin Peay at the Gulf Coast Showcase at Estero, Florida at 1:00, the Creighton women entertain Drake at 3:00, and the Nebraska-Omaha women visit Ames, Iowa to play Iowa State at 12:00.

This week’s Hausmann Physical Therapy Star Athlete of the Week goes to Caleb Busch of the Burwell football team.  In last Friday’s 42-36 double overtime loss to Dundy County-Stratton in the Class ‘D-1’ State Championship, he rushed for 220 yards off 40 carries and two touchdowns.  This season, Busch ran for 2409 yards and 52 TDs.  He was nominated by Coach Luke Gideon.  Congratulations to Caleb Busch of the Burwell football team, he is this week’s Hausmann Physical Therapy Star Athlete of the Week.

The Lutheran High Northeast boys basketball team gets their season underway on Thursday, December 3rd when they host Wisner/Pilger as part of the Northeast Nebraska Tip-Off Classic.  They will then visit West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic on Saturday in the second day of the tournament.  The Eagles return experience from Haydyn Beaudette, Grant Colligan, Cort McKeown, and Trystan Scott from last year’s 13-10 team.  Lutheran High Northeast’s home schedule includes games with Wisner/Pilger, Twin River, Pender, Norfolk Catholic, Walthill, Humphrey St. Francis, and Riverside.  The Eagles will also compete in the Stanton Holiday Tournament December 28 & 29, and the Wausa Post Holiday Tournament on January 8-9. 

The Norfolk Catholic girls basketball team gets their season underway on Thursday, December 3rd when they host Omaha Gross as part of the Grand Island Central Catholic Tip-Off Classic.  They will then take on the host team on Saturday at Grand Island.  The Lady Knights return experience in Carly Marshall, Emily Faltys, Elly Piper, Jozy Piper, Tiffani Peitz, and Anna Neuhalfen from last year’s 17-8 squad.  Norfolk Catholic’s home schedule includes games with Omaha Gross, Bishop Neumann, Lutheran High Northeast, West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic, Battle Creek, Wayne, Pierce, and O’Neill.  The Lady Knights will compete in the Battle Creek Holiday Tournament December 28-29. 

The Norfolk High girls & boys swim team gets their season underway on December 3rd when they host South Sioux City in a dual. The Panthers have 14 boys and 24 girls out for the team this year.  They return eleven swimmers that competed in the State Championships last year in Mason Olmer, Nathan Filipi, Trey Foecking, Benjamin Spray, Ian Matteo, Annika Harthoorn, Kiran Walker, Taylor Rossman, Joslyn Jacobs, Maggie Waddington, and Elsie Olberding.  Norfolk will participate in invitationals at Hastings, Columbus, Lincoln Southeast, Millard South, Millard North, Ralston, Kearney, and the Heartland Athletic Conference Meet at Lincoln Southeast and Fremont.  The Panthers will also be on the road for duals with Fremont, Grand Island, and Kearney while hosting South Sioux City, Lincoln East, Columbus, Lincoln Southwest, and Lincoln Southeast.

The Norfolk Catholic wrestling squad gets their season underway on December 5th when they compete in the O’Neill Invite.  The Knights, who have 17 wrestlers out this season, return state qualifiers in Francisco Mendez & Alan Olander from a year ago.  The team will participate in tournaments at O’Neill, Stanton, Boone Central, Pierce, Wilber/Clatonia, David City Aquinas, Cross County, Oakland/Craig, Plainview, and the Mid State Conference Meet at O’Neill.  Norfolk Catholic will host a triangular with Battle Creek & Pierce on January 21st and Madison on January 28th. 

Hausmann Physical Therapy Star Athlete of the Week:  Caleb Busch of the Burwell football team.


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In other news

Nebraska softball senior outfielder Tristen Edwards was one of 50 players nationally named to the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List.

Nebraska center Kate Cain was one of just 15 women's basketball players across the country to be named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watch List when it was announced yesterday.