Big Ten Getty 10 Football Helmets
Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone! It's Wajih AlBaroudi filling in for Zachary Pereles today and for most of next week. 

Congratulations on making it through this week. Now, allow me to guide you through sports news you need to know before the grind begins again. 

Good morning to everyone but especially to...

THE BIG TEN

More like the Bag Ten. The Big Ten announced a seven-year media rights deal with CBS, Fox and NBC. According to sources close to our Dennis Dodd, the deal -- which is set to run July 1, 2023 through the 2029-30 season -- has an approximate annual value of $1.2 billion, making it the biggest ever in college athletics

  • Big Ten fans will enjoy jam-packed football Saturdays under the deal: Fox will air the "Big Noon" game at (you guessed it) noon ET, CBS will have a contest in the 3:30 p.m. slot, and NBC will close with "Big Ten Saturday Night" in primetime.
  • CBS will air the Big Ten Football Championship twice (2024, 2028), while Fox will have it four times (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) and NBC once (2026). 
  • Each Big Ten school will earn an average of $75 million annually from media rights when USC and UCLA become the conference's 15th and 16th members in 2024

The deal smacks an exclamation point on what's been an incredible summer for the Big Ten. The conference made the aforementioned additions of USC and UCLA in late June, making it a significant player in each of the country's biggest media markets: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. 

And according to Dodd, the Big Ten could consider adding new members before or after the deal takes effect. Cal, Oregon, Stanford and Washington are among the programs on the conference's radar. Notre Dame is as well, but it reportedly seeks to remain independent. 

With the Big Ten and SEC becoming increasingly powerful, Dodd foresees the two conferences becoming the "closest thing to the NFL." 

  • Dodd: "They will be mini corporations running themselves with little or no NCAA oversight. That is a certainty. Deregulation is coming soon, perhaps by the end of the month. That means less enforcement and perhaps fewer FBS members to dilute the voting process. The two big boys will have such a monopoly the transfer portal and NIL won't matter. They will control it all. Revenue sharing? Cool. Pay the players? No problem."

Deshaun Watson gets 11-game suspension, $5M fine in settlement with NFL 🏈

Deshaun Watson USATSI Cleveland Browns
USATSI

Deshaun Watson's battle with the NFL has seemingly come to an end. The former Texans star reached a settlement with the league, and as a result he'll face an 11-game suspension and a $5 million fine.

  • Watson, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by 24 female massage therapists, was initially given a six-game suspension and no fine by former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, but the NFL appealed the ruling. 
  • The $5 million fine Watson received is the largest ever for an NFL player.
  • Watson will comply with a professional treatment plan as part of the settlement, and any lack of compliance could reportedly lead the NFL to extend his suspension. 

Though Watson claimed to "take accountability" for his decisions in a post-settlement statement released by the Browns, he didn't express such contrition while speaking to the media. Watson told reporters at the Browns facility he's "going to continue to stand on my innocence." 

Jacoby Brissett -- a 29-year-old journeyman who's started games for the Patriots, Colts and Dolphins -- will quarterback the Browns during Watson's suspension, which will allow him to return. Coincidentally, Watson's first game back will be against Houston, the team he began his NFL career with in 2017 and was traded from in March, on Nov. 28.

Watson will miss pivotal games against the Steelers, Chargers, Ravens, Bengals, Bills and Buccaneers during his suspension, leaving Cleveland little breathing room in its hunt to reach the playoffs for the second time since 2002. 

Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk headline top signings of offseason 🏒

Johnny Gaudreau USATSI
USATSI

The 2022-23 NHL season begins Oct. 11, but groundwork for the next Stanley Cup champion could very well have been laid over the last month and change of free agency. Our Austin Nivison broke down the biggest moves, along with the league-altering effect they could have this coming season and beyond. 

  • The Panthers acquired Matthew Tkachuk via trade and gave him a eight-year deal worth $76 million, a move Nivison believes will address the size and physicality questions they faced last year after being swept by the Lightning in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 
  • Jonny Gaudreau landed with the Blue Jackets on a seven-year deal worth $68.25 million, giving Columbus a "bona fide superstar" to help lift them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.  
  • While Calgary lost Gaudreau, it got a newly crowned Stanley Cup champion in Nazem Kadri, who joined the team on a seven-year deal worth $49 million. 

Here's Nivison on why Kadri, despite his advancing age, is exactly the player Calgary needed to keep its title hopes alive.  

  • Nivison: "That contract probably won't look great over the last few years, but that's not what Calgary is worried about right now. Kadri helps keep the team's Stanley Cup window open, and the Western Conference is up for grabs behind the Colorado Avalanche. Kadri is coming off a career year in which he scored 28 goals and totaled 87 points en route to winning it all with the Avs, and he will fit well behind Elias Lindholm as the Flames' second-line center. At 31, Kadri does come with age concerns, but those did not show at all in 2021-22."

For a complete list of the top signings, click here. 

Analyzing the Dodgers' closing options: Evan Phillips, Blake Treinen ... Clayton Kershaw? ⚾

usatsi-14671037-clayton-kershaw-dodgers-2020-1400.jpg

The Dodgers have been the best team in Major League Baseball for much of the season, yet one flaw stands out and could potentially stand in the way of their World Series run: the closer situation. Eight-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel has played decidedly below his reputation this season, leading our MLB writers to discuss the Dodgers' alternative closing options. 

Our MLB expert Dayn Perry made his case for Evan Phillips, who's enjoyed a breakout season for Los Angeles, but didn't close the door on a Kimbrel turnaround.

Meanwhile, our Matt Snyder believes it simply "can't be Kimbrel" because of his command issues. He listed Phillips, Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol as the best options, as the latter two are on minor-league rehab assignments. His juiciest idea, though: three-time Cy Young winner and former NL MVP Clayton Kershaw. Here's the case: 

  • Snyder: "Kershaw recently said he's focusing on October as he deals with a back injury. Maybe he'll only be able to pitch in short spurts. They'll have a full rotation because they are so stacked with depth. What about trying Kershaw in short relief upon his return and then maybe having him serve as playoff closer? That would be really fun."

For the full discussion, click here

What we're watching this weekend 📺

Friday

Brewers at Cubs, 2:20 p.m. ET on MLB Network
🏈 Panthers at Patriots, 7 p.m. ET on NFL Network

Saturday

🏀 Liberty at Sky, noon ET on ESPN
Astros at Braves, 7:15 p.m. ET on Fox
🏀 Mercury at Aces, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2 

Sunday

🏀 Wings at Sun, noon ET on ABC
Blue Jays at Yankees, 1:35 ET on MLB Network 
🏀 Mystics at Storm, 4 p.m. ET on ESPN