Dickey, Price Lead Cy Young Betting

 

With just nine days left in the season, it’s do-or-die time for some teams while others are happily contemplating how to spend their winters. For bettors it’s time to really give some thought to who is going to be taking home those individual awards this year.

Bovada released its latest odds for MVPs and CY Young winners on Monday. Here’s a look at the Cy Young odds. These findings might surprise you, but then again, they might not.

Dickey Favorite in NL Cy Young Race

R.A. Dickey has been the shining star of the New York Mets this season, winning 19, striking out 209 and recording a 2.66 ERA.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is now considered the favorite (4/5) to take the National League Cy Young Award.

The righty has been one of the few bright spots for a New York Mets team that has struggled for the better part of the season. Almost unthinkably, Dickey has compiled a 19-6 record on a team that has only gone 70-83. His 2.66 ERA is best amongst NL starters and his strikeouts (209) second behind Clayton Kershaw (211). Still, playing on a losing side could hurt his chances in the long term.

Washington’s Gio Gonzalez is a close second (5/4) behind Dickey, at least in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Gonzalez leads the NL with 20 wins (compared to eight losses) and is ranked fourth in both ERA (2.84) and strikeouts (201). Having led the Nationals to the postseason for the first time in more than two decades, he’ll be given a lot of consideration by voters.

Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel takes the third spot (5/1). The bullpen guy has converted 39 of 42 save attempts, registering a 2-1 record with an ERA of 1.08. The righty has been essential for the Braves who are getting closer and closer to that Wild Card berth. But will the voters consider a closer as a legitimate contender?

Price Edging Weaver in AL Cy Young Stakes

Tampa Bay's David Price has led by example, compiling 18 wins and a league-best 2.58 ERA along the way.

David Price has led an impressive Tampa Bay rotation all season and is now considered the favorite (10/11) to take home the American League Cy Young award.

The lefty has compiled a 18-5 record, with those 18 wins good enough for second behind L.A.’s Jered Weaver (see below). Price’s ERA is a miniscule (by AL standards) 2.58 and easily the best in the league. 188 strikeouts is good enough for sixth place on the list.

Price’s edge is slim though. Jered Weaver is hot on his heels with odds of 11/10 to take the award. Weaver has been outstanding for the Angels this season and you could easily make the case that without the right-hander, the Angels would not still be in the hunt for postseason play. His 19 wins (compared to four losses) have been invaluable.

Weaver’s also put up an impressive ERA of 2.74, good enough for third in the league. If there’s a downside for Weaver in the eyes of the voters, it’s that he’s only scored 136 strikeouts, good enough for just 23rd across the league. Another knock could come if the Angels fail to make the postseason, although that’s certainly something facing David Price too.

Third on the list of oddsmakers favorites is Detroit’s Justin Verlander. The reigning Cy Young award winner and MVP has had another impressive season tallying a 16-8 record with an ERA of 2.72, good enough for second in the league.

Verlander’s strength in voter’s eyes will be his strikeout tally (231) which is tops in the league, ahead of team mate Max Scherzer (228). Another key figure is the number of innings he’s pitched. Verlander leads the league with 231.1 innings pitched, which is nearly 11 more than second place Felix Hernandez (220.2) and almost 20 ahead of third place James Shields (212.1). That’s an extra 2-3 games he’s effectively thrown.  Still, it is unlikely he’ll be favored for the second straight year, especially if the Tigers fail in their bid to catch the White Sox for the AL Central.

Finally, Fernando Rodney is 5/1 to take the award. There’s no denying that the Tampa Bay closer has been outstanding this year. He’s converted 44/46 saves and added a pair of wins to boot. His miniscule ERA of 0.64 is simply ridiculous. But, like Kimbrel in the National League, how likely is it that voters will go with the closer over a starter?

A Wild, Upsetting Week Three in the NFL

There was no shortage of crazy upsets and bizarre endings in NFL games this week, capped by an incredibly controversial finish in Seattle, as the Seahawks beat the Packers 14-12. Week three turned out to be the zaniest and most unpredictable of all so far, but as always, there’s something we can learn from this mess as bettors moving forward into week four. We definitely saw what teams are made of and more importantly, what teams are capable of. Here are the highlights (and lowlights) of week three in case you missed it and what to look in the upset category this week.

Upsets, Upsets and more Upsets

The Saints, the 49ers, the Packers, the Lions, the Eagles and the Steelers; what do all these teams have in common? They were favorites in week three, who lost in upsetting fashion and who probably upset many bettors this weekend.

How are the Saints 0-3?

Although the Saints were 0-2, they were nine point favorites against the 0-2 Chiefs at home, but after blowing an 11 point lead in the fourth quarter, the Saints ended up in overtime and lost on a Ryan Succop field goal 27-24.

Many called the 49ers the NFL’s best team after week two, following impressive wins over Green Bay and Detroit, but a 24-13 loss to Minnesota on Sunday will likely drop them down the power rankings and in standings.

The Packers, the rest of the NFL and basically the entire sports world were stunned at what happened to Green Bay in a 14-12 loss to the Seahawks. We’ll get to this one more a bit later.

The Lions fell in overtime as well and gave up 44 points in a 44-41 loss to the previously winless Titans. A field goal decided the game in OT, and the replacement referees helped the Titans with an egregious error, enforcing a penalty from the wrong spot, which gave the Titans better field position and a shorter distance for the game-winning kick. It wasn’t the only costly ref mishap at the end of a game this week, but again, we’ll touch on that in a bit.

Then the Cardinals wiped the field-turf with the Eagles 27-6. Who knew the Cards would be 3-0? Answer: Nobody except hopeful, optimistic Cardinal fans and there weren’t many of those before the start of the 2012 season.

Like the Saints, the Steelers also suffered a fourth quarter meltdown against a 0-2 team; as the Raiders rallied from 10 down to win 34-31. Sebastian Janikowski knocked the 43-yard game-winning field goal through the posts as time expired in Oakland.

Seahawks “Win” Against Packers

Back to the Monday Night game that had everyone buzzing. The Seahawks benefited most from the referee mistakes that took place this weekend and the Packers suffered the most.

People will be talking about his play and this call for the rest of the season

Down 12-7, Seattle was facing fourth down with eight seconds remaining from the Packer 24-yard line. Russell Wilson heaved up a hail-mary pass toward the endzone into a mass of Green Bay defenders. Seattle receiver Golden Tate was also there and at first appeared to come down with the game winning catch and M.D. Jennings, a Green Bay defender also held on to the ball. After some obvious indecision by officials, the play was ruled a TD.

After the replay however, it was clear that it was Jennings who possessed the ball first and that the play would be ruled an interception, resulting in a Packers victory. Tate grabbed onto it after Jennings had already pulled it to his chest. The play was then reviewed and amazingly upheld as a Seattle touchdown.
Green Bay players stormed off the field, initially refusing to participate in the mandatory extra-point, but later returned, if not as the most heated team anyone had ever seen.

We’ll see what the league does, if anything, about these replacement refs and we’ll see if the Packers can put this one behind them as they prepare for New Orleans next week.

Upsets to Look for Next Week

Saints at Packers– And that’s the first game we should look at as an upset alert. Already 1-2, the emotional Packers could easily get more off track with a loss to New Orleans. Even though the Saints are 0-3, we know they talent they possess with Drew Brees and a bevy of great receivers. Don’t be surprised if the Saints win this one in upsetting fashion over the distraught Packers.

Titans at Texans– We certainly saw what the Titans can do on offensive after their 44 point explosion against the Lions. The Texans are 3-0 and are at home, but they could be the next team to go down. Nobody is safe in the NFL and it looks like the Titans are hot. Even still, look for a fairly large spread in favor of the Texans this week and look to take advantage of it by taking the Titans to cover.

Dolphins at Cardinals– I never thought I would be saying this, but the Fins will likely be the underdog in their game against the Cards. However, the Cards have scraped by in two of their wins and frankly, have gotten lucky. Look for their luck to run out and for the Dolphins to restore order this week on the road.

Three Unbeaten Teams Left Standing in NFL

If we had to give week three in the NFL a title, it would have to be “The Week of Upsets”. We should know by now that on any given Sunday, anyone can win in the NFL, but it’s still surprising when almost every game ends in an upset. Only three teams came out of week three unbeaten, but are they really teams bettors can rely on for sure-things later this year?

Atlanta Falcons

If there’s any team if the NFL that we can call consistent, it’s the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons earned another decisive win against a tough team in the San Diego Chargers this week and they did it away from home, 27-3. They continue to put up solid offensive numbers while limiting opponents. Matt Ryan looked crisp in the win throwing for 275 yards and three scores, while Michael Turner did his part, rushing for 80 yards and a TD. The defense held the Chargers to just 280 yards of total offense and picked Phillip Rivers twice. This is also the same defense that intercepted Peyton Manning three times in the first quarter last week, giving him his first loss as a Bronco. I know it’s early, but if there’s any team bettors can bank on for moneyline wins this season, it appears to be the Atlanta Falcons.

Houston Texans

Johnson and Houston's offense haven't slowed down in 2012

The Texans got off to their first 3-0 start in franchise history on Sunday by beating the Denver Broncos 31-25. Houston has been a little shakier at times on the defensive side than Atlanta, but has enjoyed an even more explosive offense. With arguably the best running back in the league in Arian Foster and undoubtedly one of the best passing attacks led by Matt Schaub, the Texans are sure to score you points and cover spreads when their defense shows up to play. Schaub only threw the ball 30 times against Denver and still managed to rack up 290 yards through the air and four TDs. Big-play receivers, like Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter also helped the Texans offense look good and they are just another reason to like Houston in pretty much any matchup this season.

Arizona Cardinals

The surprisingly strong Arizona defense has led them to three victories

Now here is by far the surprise team in the league  in 2012. The Cardinals squeaked by with wins over Seattle and New England in weeks one and two and it’s safe to say they got lucky in each contest. Seattle dropped two potential game-winning grabs in week one, only to lose 20-16 , while the Pats missed a chip-shot field goal attempt in route to a 20-18 loss last week. However, this week the Cardinals didn’t have to rely on an opponent’s late-game miscues, but rather their own strengths, as they cruised to a 27-6 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Kevin Kolb simply outplayed Michael Vick this week as he completed 17 of 24 passes for two scores, compared to Vick’s 17 of 37 with no TDs. The Cardinals pass defense is now ranked 7th in the league after their performance against Vick on Sunday. Arizona is still a fairly risky pick, as they haven’t proven themselves yet, but 3-0 is 3-0 and it’s impressive any way you slice it.

Monday Night Football Vs. Baseball Contenders

 

Monday night means one thing: Monday Night Football. Actually, check that. This week it means two things: MNF and the race for baseball’s postseason.

With just 10 days left of the regular season, Major League Baseball is beginning to heat up. Monday sees plenty of contenders looking to secure a spot. Meanwhile, the NFL Monday night game features an intriguing – if not all that fan-friendly – matchup between Green Bay and Seattle. Settle in with the remote and get ready to flick between the action.

NFL: Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks

(8:30 PM ET)

Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

Green Bay (1-1, 0-0 road) heads to the rowdy confines of CenturyLink Field for a showdown with Seattle (1-1, 1-0 home) that will hopefully go some way to clearing up what each team is about this season.

The Packers spluttered in their season-opener against San Francisco before showing an improved performance against the Chicago Bears. Seattle lost a close one in Arizona and then thumped Dallas in the Pacific Northwest. Will the real Packers and Seahawks please stand up?

Green Bay enters the game as 3-point favorites, a number that has dwindled from the opening -6 odds.

In years gone by, this fixture would have been considered just about a dead cert for the Pack. Green Bay is 10-5 all-time against the Seahawks, including seven wins in the last nine. The last time the two teams met, the Packers won 48-10.

Seattle hasn’t beaten Green Bay since November 2006.

Green Bay is 2-2 all-time in visits to Seattle.

But that dominance could be lacking this season as the Packers struggle to find their feet. Aaron Rodgers (522 yards, 3 TDs, 68 percent completion rate) hasn’t quite looked like Aaron Rodgers and the team hasn’t looked sharp around him, especially in the running game. The Packers are averaging just 75.5 yards per game.

Seattle has no such problems running the football. Marshawn Lynch has averaged more than 100 yards per game while the team has averaged 148.5. Meanwhile, rookie QB Russell Wilson has been steady if not stunning, which is exactly what the ’hawks needed.

Having had four days extra to prepare, the advantage still sits with Green Bay, but the eight (yes, eight!) upsets on Sunday’s schedule makes you wonder if it’s not worth taking the Seahawks in this one.

It’s a tough choice, but Green Bay still looks like a good pick. Take the Pack to win this one outright and to beat the spread. With the over/under set at 44 points, take the over. This could turn out to be the shootout we’ve been waiting for from Green Bay.

If you’re looking for some side action, take Aaron Rodgers (at -125) to go over 299½ yards and Marshawn Lynch (at -135) to break 92½ yards rushing.

 

MLB: Kansas City Royals @ Detroit Tigers / Cleveland Indians @ Chicago White Sox

7:05 PM ET / 8:10 PM ET

In the race for the AL Central title – and the postseason berth that comes alongside it – Detroit and Chicago are both in action tonight.

With just one game separating the two, Detroit (80-72, 46-31 home) will be looking to defeat Kansas City (70-82, 34-40 road) whilst hoping Chicago (81-71, 43-31 home) drops a game to Cleveland (63-90, 29-49 road).

Both teams have had the better of their opposition this season, with the Tigers holding a 7-4 edge over the Royals, and the Sox besting Cleveland 8-4 so far.

Justin Verlander (15-8, 2.74 ERA) goes for Detroit whilst Chris Sale (17-7, 2.82 ERA) takes the mound at ‘The Cell’. Unsurprisingly, both are favorites.

If you’re looking to bet on this, go with both home teams. There might not be a lot of glory involved, but a smart bet is a smart bet. Then take Detroit to edge out Chicago for the division title at the start of next week.

 

MLB: Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays

4:05 PM ET / 7:05 PM ET

Baltimore (87-65, 45-33 road) remains one-game back of the Yankees for first place in the AL East after both teams fell on Sunday afternoon.

The Orioles now face a four-game set north of the border, starting with a doubleheader on Monday. Toronto (66-85, 36-38 home) is long gone from postseason reckoning but will be looking to play spoiler this week, first against Baltimore then the Yankees. The Jays would also like to leapfrog Boston and get off of the bottom of the division.

Game 1 sees Henderson Alvarez (9-13, 4.87 ERA) go up against Baltimore rookie Steve Johnson (3-0, 1.91 ERA). Game 2 pits Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.72 ERA) against Wi-Yin Chin (12-9, 3.98 ERA). Expect a split of the doubleheader, with Baltimore taking the second game. Unless Game 1 goes to extras; then take Baltimore who appears to be unbeatable after the ninth.

Best Bets for Sunday’s NFL Games

With another beautiful NFL Sunday upon us, it’s time to look at this week’s slate of games and determine where the best edges are on the lines and the over/unders for week three. There are plenty of picks that have money-making potential, but here are just a few that I like for today’s NFL contests. Good luck with your wagers in week three!

Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints

The Saints should roll right over the hapless Chiefs

Each and every week on the NFL schedule I look for a game like this and jump all over it. The Kansas City Chiefs are obviously one of the weakest teams in the NFL this season, judging on their performance in their first two games, while the Saints are a team that is severely underachieving. Each team is coming into the game with a 0-2 record, but we know New Orleans can’t stay down forever. With the amount of talent they have an offense, they are bound to return to the winning Saints we all know and that will surely happen this week.

Although the spread doesn’t look like the most desirable wager at -9 for the Saints, the moneyline should be a safe play to bet New Orleans. Also, you’ll want to take the over on 53 points in this game. New Orleans should score at least 30 and they’ll probably give up quite a few scores too, considering they currently share the league lead for points allowed after two weeks with 75 given up. They’ll do better against KC, but should still allow 20-30 points.

Houston Texans at Denver Broncos

I love going after the team I consider to be the weakest link, like Kansas City, but I also look for the strongest teams and try to ride their winning coattails. The Texans are certainly one of those teams and they are playing a Denver team that got shellacked last week by Atlanta. Some will shy away from betting this game as Denver is still a bit of a mysterious wild card this season. With Peyton Manning wowing us in week one and then throwing up a dud of a performance last week, we’re still not sure where he is at and if he is the sharp Manning we used to know. However, we do know that the Texans are a solid pick most weeks and with just a -3 point spread against Denver, it seems too good to pass up. Bovada has Houston at +110 on the moneyline, so it appears you can’t go wrong betting either line in favor of Houston to make some dough. Although Denver may keep things close, look for Houston to improve to 3-0.

St. Louis Rams at Chicago Bears

The Rams may surprise people today

The Rams have been able to score points in each of its first two games while the Bears struggled against Green Bay last week. Chicago is still hard to figure out offensively and you’re never sure which Chicago will show up. For this reason, I like the Rams to cover +7.5 points and at +265 on the moneyline, taking St. Louis to win outright wouldn’t be a bad idea either. The Rams are one of the most improved teams so far in 2012 and showed off their offensive potential in last week’s win over the Redskins. They still aren’t getting very much credit on the lines, so look for them to surprise many this week as well as later on down the line.

Ravens-Pats Showdown Headlines Week 3 in the NFL

Emotions will be running high when New England makes the trip to Baltimore on Sunday night.

Earmarked as a huge showdown between unbeaten teams before the season started, New England and Baltimore may both have been on the losing end of the stick in Week 2 but this Sunday’s matchup still serves up as the NFL’s marquee Week 3 matchup.

The contest marks the first time the two teams have met since last year’s classic AFC Championship game, which saw Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff miss a game-tying field goal which led to New England winning and Cundiff ultimately heading out the door.

New England (1-1, 1-0 road) now knows how tough a missed field goal can feel. Stephen Gostkowski’s miss last week gave the Arizona Cardinals an upset victory over the team that was favorite to take the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Baltimore (1-1, 1-0 home) suffered a painstaking loss as the Eagles came from behind to win.

Historically speaking, New England has ruled over Baltimore. While every clash tends to be a close one, the Patriots have gone 6-0 against the Ravens in the regular season, and 1-1 in the postseason. Baltimore’s only win over New England came in January 2010 in an AFC division playoff game.

Separating the teams on the field is tough. There’s a parity to both team’s offensives that you might not have expected.

Traditionally a defense-first team, Baltimore is averaging 377.5 total yards per game. Compare that to New England’s 388.5. Baltimore has passed for an average of 261 yards while New England has compiled 262.5 yards through the air. Baltimore averages 116.5 yards per game on the ground, compared to 126 for New England. It would take an industrial strength shoehorn to separate those figures.

New Patriots running back Stevan Ridley has looked like a step up over BenJarvus Green-Ellis – who made his way to Cincinnati in the offseason – and is averaging 98 yards per game, more than Baltimore’s Ray Rice (83.5 YPG) who was a favorite to take the league rushing title this year.

New England does face the prospect of being without TE Aaron Hernandez on Sunday. The impressive third-year man injured his ankle in last week’s loss and looks to be out somewhere between four and six weeks.

New England signed Kellen Winslow to a contract midweek. Winslow – who had 75 catches for 763 yards in Tampa Bay last season – won’t be a featured tight end but he’ll get the opportunity for some catches, as will Wes Welker, who remains a little maligned at not receiving a big contract this summer (more on that later).

Nothing might separate the offensives, but there is certainly separation on the defensive side of the ball. And it’s not what you’d initially expect either.

2011 saw Baltimore’s defense run rampant while New England had one of the worst defensive records in the league. Fast forward nine months and there’s been a serious case of role-reversal.

New England is giving up 264.5 yards per game. Opponents are throwing for 202 yards and running for a paltry 62.5 yards. Those are numbers that you’d expect Baltimore to post. The Ravens meanwhile are giving up 404 yards per game, including 129 on the grounds. Part of this may be to do with the faster-paced offense the team is operating, but still, those are very non-Ravens like numbers.

All of this combines sees Baltimore enter the game as three-point favorites. Those three points account for homefield advantage, and that’s about it. Undoubtedly this will be a close one, and a game that could be a harbinger of what’s to come in January.

The over/under is set at 50, but it could easily go under that if Baltimore decides to refocus on rushing the ball.

Both teams have taken a battering in terms of Super Bowl odds this week. New England dropped from 5/1 to 13/2, but remains the current favorites to win it all. Baltimore dropped from 11/1 to 14/1. Both teams are still favored to take their respective divisions.

If you’re looking for a bit of side action on Sunday night, Bovada has a couple of specials relating to the disgruntled Wes Welker. The over/under is set at 5½ for number of receptions Welker will have against the Ravens. Over is -130; Under is Even. If you’re thinking long term, odds of Welker being a Patriot next season stand at +110 (yes) and -150 (no).


Week 3 Schedule

Thursday: NY Giants 36-7 Carolina

Sunday: (1 PM ET) Tampa Bay @ Dallas | Jacksonville @ Indianapolis | Buffalo @ Cleveland | NY Jets @ Miami | Kansas City @ New Orleans | Cincinnati @ Washington | St. Louis @ Chicago | Detroit @ Tennessee; (4:05 PM ET) Atlanta @ San Diego | Philadelphia @ Arizona; (4:25 PM ET) Pittsburgh @ Oakland | Houston @ Denver; (8:20 PM ET) New England @ Baltimore

Monday: (8:30 PM ET) Green Bay @ Seattle

Yanks Still Lead by One Game in East

The tightest race in the Major Leagues continues to develop new and interesting wrinkles as the Yankees and Orioles battle it out for the AL East crown. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Yankees hold a slim one-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles. Both teams won on Friday and each have won eight of their last ten. With neither team willing to give an inch, this race looks like it will come down to the last game of the year.

With the Orioles nipping at their heels all month, the Yankees knew they had to keep the pressure on the less experienced Baltimore team last night by beating a pesky Oakland squad. The Yanks accomplished that feat with the help of an outstanding performance from their ace, C.C. Sabathia and some late inning heroics from Russell Martin.

New York celebrates Martin's walk-off blast

The Yankees nursed a 1-0 lead from the fourth inning on, backed by Sabathia’s three hit, shutout through eight innings. After leaving in the ninth inning, the Orioles then got to closer Rafeal Soriano. Brandon Moss hit a game-tying solo homerun to send the game into extras, but Martin quickly responded in the bottom half of the tenth, hitting a walk-off homer to win the game for New York 2-1.

The Yankees will send Ivan Nova (21-7, 4.85 ERA) to the hill in game two against Oakland today to square off with Travis Blackley (5-3, 3.36 ER). Nova is 1-0 in Oakland this season with an ERA of 3.29 in two starts while Blackley will be facing the intimidating Yankees lineup for the first time this year. Take the Yankees to cover the -1.5 runline in this one and look for their bats to breakout against Blackley.

New York suffered a bit of a lull in August and saw Baltimore rally to get even in the standings. Since then, the Yanks have stepped up their game, rattling off 11 wins in 15 games, but surprisingly the Orioles haven’t gone far and are still just one game back with about two weeks to go in the season.

Jim Johnson's 46th save is a team record

Miguel Gonzalez picked up his seventh win of the season after pitching six and one-third innings and allowing just two runs on seven hits. The O’s broke up a 2-2 tie in the top of the sixth with an RBI double from Matt Wieters, his third RBI of the night, and then tacked on one more in the inning off an RBI single from Mark Reynolds. Baltimore held on to the 4-2 win, which catapulted the O’s into first place in the AL Wild Card.

Jon Lester was handed his 13th loss of the season and just his first in 15 decisions against the Orioles.

The O’s will hope to get even in the standings once again today as they face the Red Sox in game two. Randy Wolf (5-10, 5.66 ERA) will make his third start in an Orioles uniform this season since coming over from Milwaukee and he will be taking on Aaron Cook (4-10, 4.93 ERA). Since the Orioles have already beaten Cook both times they have faced him, look for the O’s to stay hot and to cover the -1.5 runline today in a victory that will at least keep pace in the East race.

Week 4 College Football Schedule Features Glut of Exciting Games

T.J. Yeldon and the 'beatable' Alabama are favored by nearly 50 points over Florida Atlantic.

Week 4 of the College Football season kicked off earlier this week with wins for Kent State, Boise State and Baylor. Now the real action gets under way with Saturday’s epic slate of games, featuring some exciting games to come out of the Top 25.

Ranked Games

We took a quick look at the ranked games yesterday, but let’s get down to business: who’s going to win?

#18 Michigan (2-1, 0-1 road) is a 6-point underdog against #11 Notre Dame (3-0, 1-0 home). The beastly Notre Dame defense looks too tough for Michigan, so go with the Irish to win outright. The last three meetings have been won by just 12 combined points. Take Michigan to beat the spread.

#6 Oklahoma (2-0, 1-0 home) is 14½ point favorites against #15 Kansas State (3-0, 0-0 road) and in all honesty it’s hard to look past the Sooners in this one. Take Oklahoma to win the game and beat the spread on the back of another outstanding performance from Landry Jones.

#10 Clemson (3-0, 0-0 road) has lost nine of the last 10 at #4 Florida State (3-0, 3-0 home) but took an impressive victory in Memorial Stadium. The Seminoles are 14½-point favorites, but expect the Tigers to beat that spread. Take Florida State to win outright though, in what should be a close encounter.

#22 Arizona (3-0, 0-0 road) has surprised everybody this season under first-year coach, Rich Rodriquez. The Wildcats will need to wait another week to register a fourth win – equally last season’s tally – as #3 Oregon (3-0, 3-0 home) will run away with this one. Arizona should just keep it within the 21½-point spread though.

Top of the Polls

Elsewhere in the Top 25 there are some intriguing matches to get involved in. Here’s a look at those at the very top of the list.

Florida Atlantic (1-2, 0-2 road) enjoyed some time in the spotlight this week thanks to DE Cory Henry’s comments suggesting #1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 home) ‘can be beat’. Don’t expect it to be the Owls doing the beating though. The best the Sun Belt team can hope for is beating the pointspread, which sits at 49½ in favor of the Crimson Tide. As good as ‘Bama are, take the Owls to keep it a little closer than that.

#2 LSU (3-0, 0-0 road) visits an Auburn (1-2, 1-1 home) side that has been very disappointing this season. Losses to Clemson and Mississippi State were followed by an overtime win over everybody’s favorite upset machine, Louisiana-Monroe. LSU is 21-point favorites in this one, but a strong performance from Auburn should see them beat the spread. LSU will win outright.

#5 Georgia (3-0, 2-0 home) hosts Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 road) in an SEC matchup that should follow the lines. Georgia is favored by 14½, and looks more than capable of beating a Vanderbilt team that’s not as good as Mizzou, who the Bulldogs knocked off in Week 2.

Elsewhere in the Top 25, expect #13 USC (2-1, 1-0 home) to rebound from last week’s loss to Stanford by beating California (1-2, 0-1 road) at the Coliseum and smashing the 16-point spread. #19 UCLA (3-0, 2-0 home) host an Oregon State (1-0, 0-0 road) side that beat Wisconsin last time out. This one should be a good game, and that 7½-point spread (in favor of the Bruins) may well be snapped by the Beavers on the way to an upset win.

#21 Michigan State (2-1, 1-1 home) will entertain Eastern Michigan (0-3, 0-2 road) in a bid to rebound from last week’s loss to Notre Dame. Don’t expect the Eagles to come out of this one with a ‘W’, but take them to beat the 31½-point spread. Sure, the Spartans are capable of putting up the points on the MAC’s basement team, but there are inklings that it won’t be as many as Purdue did last week.

Finally, if you’re still looking for some excitement, forget the rankings and tune into Syracuse (1-2, 0-0 road) versus Minnesota (2-0, 3-0 home) for the first Minnesota night game in forever. With the Orange entering the game as -1 favorites, this will be a close one, but it should be worth a shout taking the Golden Gophers to win outright. Minnesota 4-0? Who’d have guessed?

Reds and Nats Clinch NL Playoff Spots

Two NL teams locked up playoff berths on Thursday and while one was in the same position two years ago, the other hadn’t been to the postseason since 1933.

The Cincinnati Reds (91-59) get points for clinching first. Their 5-3 win yesterday over the Chicago Cubs earned them a road sweep and secured them a spot in the NL Wild Card, but with an eleven game lead in the Central, it’s only a matter of days before they are officially crowned division champions.

The Washington Nationals (91-58) punched their postseason ticket a little while later in to the night, as they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 at home. With a five and a half game lead over Atlanta, Washington expects it too will nab the East division title before the regular season is through.

It was certainly a special night in Washington for Nationals fans, who haven’t cheered on a playoff team in almost 80 years. The Nats have come a long way since moving from Montreal and changing their name from the Expos. After enduring 100-game losing seasons in 2008 and 2009, the Nationals can claim 2012 as their first winning season in Washington.

Johnson has led the Nats to the best season in team history and it's not over yet

 

As the fans applauded the win and the berth for their beloved Nats, manager Davey Johnson and his team knew they had done something extraordinary, but they also realized that it’s not over yet and that they have bigger plans for this season.

“That was fun, but it’s not what I had my eye on,” Johnson told ESPN.

The Nationals are setting their sights on an NL pennant and a 2012 World Series Championship and according to odds makers, like Bovada, it’s not too much of a stretch. The Nats are currently listed 11/4 favorites to take the NL and 7/1 to win the whole shebang.

Meanwhile, the Reds big day was somewhat dampened by the absence of its leader, manager Dusty Baker, who missed his second straight game with an irregular heartbeat. However, like Washington, Cincinnati is thinking bigger and hopes that Baker will be in the dugout when they clinch the division.

Baker missed his team clinching a berth, but he is sure to be there when they win the Central

“Hopefully, he’ll be back with us tomorrow and when it really matters, when we clinch. Hopefully, we get to celebrate this weekend with him,” said relief pitcher Sean Marshall in an ESPN.com article.

After the Reds do clinch, they’ll be looking ahead to the postseason, where they will be 9/4 to win the NL pennant and 13/2 to win the World Series, which is slightly better odds than Washington.

Both of these teams are certainly capable of going all the way with the talent they have in the rotation and in the lineup, but I have to give the slight edge to the Reds because they do have, albeit only a little, but at least some playoff experience. However, I would be very surprised if it’s not one of these two teams coming out of the NL to represent the league in the World Series. Atlanta and San Fran should put up a fight, but look for either the Nats or the Reds to make the trip to the World Series in 2012.

Ranked Games Highlight College Football Week 4

Mante Te'o and the Notre Dame defense will look to take down the Michigan Wolverines.

Stanford’s win over Southern California in Week 3 made sure that the AP Polls had a very different look about them when they were released on Sunday. USC dropped from #2 to #13 in one fell swoop. This came on the back of those unlikely exits (Arkansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska) a week earlier.

This weekend’s ranked games offer some teams the opportunity to promote their stock further while others may well be looking up at the Top 25 come Sunday afternoon. Here’s a look at the four ranked games on tap this Saturday.

 

#18 Michigan @ #11 Notre Dame

(7:30 PM ET) This is the closest contest to pick from this week’s ranked games, at least according to the bookmakers. #11 Notre Dame (3-0, 1-0 home) enters the game as 5-point favorites. The Fighting Irish have impressed defensively, particularly in limiting Michigan State to 3 points last weekend.

#18 Michigan (2-1, 0-1 road) had a rough outing against Alabama in Week 1 but has continued to improve the past two weeks. The Wolverines were favorites to take the Big Ten but another loss this weekend could prove costly ahead of conference play.

The recent rivalry between these two makes it even tougher to pick a winner. It looks good for Michigan in that seven of the last eight games, the underdog has gone on to victory. Michigan has won the last three games by a combined 12 points, and taken six of the last seven. But that Irish defense looks like it’ll be tough to get by, especially at South Bend.

 

#15 Kansas State @ #6 Oklahoma

(7:50 PM ET) #6 Oklahoma (2-0, 1-0 home) has had an extra week to prepare for this Big 12 opener following last week’s bye. Wins over UTEP and Florida A&M have not really shown what the Sooners have inside the engine this year, but Saturday’s game will be a good first look proper.

#15 Kansas State (3-0, 0-0 road) has made fairly easy work of Missouri State, Miami (FL) and North Texas but last year’s mauling at the hands of the Sooners will be fresh in the mind. As will the fact that Oklahoma has taken five straight in the series.

Oddsmakers have opened their books accordingly, offering Oklahoma as 14½-point favorites. Kansas State will need to limit the offensive output of Landry Jones if they’re to get anywhere in this game, a tough ask if ever there was one.

 

#10 Clemson @ #4 Florida State

(8:00 PM ET) It’s time for #4 Florida State (3-0, 3-0 home) to face a challenge. The Seminoles have outscored their opposition (Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest) by a total of 176-3. Impressive, but that’s hardly sterling competition there, is it?

#10 Clemson (3-0, 0-0 road) beat Auburn in Week 1 before easing to victories over Ball State and Furman. That Auburn win is the one that has the Tigers at #10 in the polls.

Florida State starts 14½-point favorites in this one. Clemson has lost nine of the last 10 in Tallahassee, a statistic that haunts the team coming into this one. However, the Tigers bested Florida State last season on the back of 141-yards and two touchdowns from WR Sammy Watkins. If the Sophomore puts up those numbers this weekend, you can expect Clemson not only to beat the spread, but to beat Florida State outright.

 

#22 Arizona @ #3 Oregon

(10:30 PM ET) Like Florida State, the main criticism surrounding #3 Oregon (3-0, 3-0 home) has been that the Ducks have yet to play quality opposition. Many suspect when Chip Kelly’s team does come up against stiffer competition, it might start to slip down the rankings.

Meanwhile, #22 Arizona (3-0, 0-0 road) has been a surprise package under new coach Rich Rodriquez. A win this weekend would match the entire tally for last season. And with the offensive output the Wildcats can put up – 604 yards per game so far – a win is not completely out of the question.

However, oddsmakers have the Ducks as 21½-point favorites heading in. Oregon has a barnstorming offense of its own so the Wildcats will be in for a touch ride, that’s a big spread, and one that’s certainly beatable. Whether Oregon is beatable at Autzen Stadium is another thing.

 

AP Top 25 (Week 4 Fixtures)

#24 Boise State 7-6 BYU (Thursday)

Florida Atlatic @ #1 Alabama

#2 LSU @ Auburn

#22 Arizona @ #3 Oregon

#10 Clemson @ #4 Florida State

Vanderbilt @ #5 Georgia

#15 Kansas State @ #6 Oklahoma

Missouri @ #7 South Carolina

Maryland @ #8 West Virginia

#18 Michigan @ #11 Notre Dame

California @ #13 USC

Kentucky @ #14 Florida

UAB @ #16 Ohio State

Virginia @ #17 TCU

Oregon State @ #19 UCLA

#20 Louisville @ Florida International

Eastern Michigan @ #21 Michigan State

South Alabama @ #23 Mississippi State

Idaho State @ #25 Nebraska

#9 Stanford, #12 Texas both on a bye week