BCS Championship Rematch as Alabama Visits LSU

No. 1 Alabama will look to repeat January's National Championship win over LSU as it visits Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Saturday night sees the eagerly-anticipated showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 LSU, a rematch of last season’s BCS National Championship Game.

It’s true that the Tigers’ loss to Florida in Week 6 has rubbed some of the shine from this one – it’s not being billed as the ‘Game of the Century’ this year – but make no qualms about it, this is still one huge game, and one that we’ll see in primetime.


A Rematch for the Ages?

Saturday’s game will be the third meeting between these sides in (just) under a year. We don’t need to spend hours rehashing last year’s regular season win for LSU or Alabama’s national time win in January. We all remember what happened then. The question is what will happen now?

Alabama makes the trip to Baton Rouge, La., with an unbeaten record and nine straight weeks at the top of the rankings. LSU awaits hoping a victory will catapult the team to the SEC Championship Game in Miami at the very least, and even return the team to the national championship conversation. A slipup by Notre Dame or Kansas State before the season is out could make that a very real possibility, providing the Tigers win this weekend.

Alabama has the number one defense in the country, conceding just 8.1 points per game, which will put scoring at a premium for the Tigers, who average 31.0 PPG. The Tigers’ defense is no slouch either, conceding just 14.6 PPG (9th). It looks unlikely that Alabama will reach the 40-points it averages this season.

Both teams are likely to build their game around these tough defenses and their exceptional running games. The Tide is 22nd in the country when it comes to rushing the ball (214.4 YPG) while LSU is nipping at those crimson heels at 24th (208.4 YPG). If you’re not one for a war of attrition, don’t tune in Saturday night.


At Home On the Road

LSU enters Saturday night’s big-time clash with a 22-game home winning streak, the longest current streak in the FBS. Tigers Stadium has become a fortress, a smelting pot of noise, intensity and terror. Few visitors that pass onto the field emerge with anything but a big fat loss. That gives the Tigers a huge advantage, right?

Wrong. The Alabama-LSU rivalry is somewhat unique in College Football in that the road team has emerged victorious more times than not. The current road record in this rivalry stands at 28-13-1. LSU has posted a 12-9 record when traveling to the Cotton State. Alabama has posted an even more impressive 16-4-1 record when visiting Baton Rouge. So home field advantage could well be tossed out of the window come Saturday night.


Looking for an Edge

Alabama has dominated the all-time head-to-head, compiling a 45-24-5 record against its SEC West rival. The Crimson Tide won 21-0 last time out in a small affair known as the BCS National Championship Game.

LSU however has ruled the roost in recent history, winning two straight before last January’s loss. Those two wins came as the Tigers won seven from nine, and nine from 12, dating back to 2000. Make no mistake; LSU is not scared of the Tide.

As Alabama dispatched of the previously unbeaten Mississippi State last weekend, LSU took a week off to prepare for this weekend’s epic showdown. We all know a bye week ahead of a big game can be the biggest advantage a team takes into a game, and it’s something LSU has made good use of over recent seasons.

Following a bye week, LSU is 5-1 over the last six seasons. Those five wins include three victories over Alabama. Looking back further, LSU’s résumé includes a fourth post-bye week victory over Alabama back in 2004. You have to go all the way back to 1996 to find an Alabama win over the Tigers following an off week. That is surely advantage LSU. Alabama fans will be relieved to hear that the one loss LSU has faced in those six games was to another No. 1 ranked side, Florida.

Tigers coach Les Miles has guided his team in three games against No. 1 ranked opposition. In 2007 LSU defeated Ohio State, before losing to Alabama in 2008 and Florida in 2009. A win in Baton Rouge would round that record out to a neat .500, whilst a loss would lend itself to questioning whether he has what it takes to beat the best of the best.

One final consideration to mull over; the two sides have met on November 3 just twice before (2001, 2007) with LSU winning both encounters on the road.



Despite hitting the road this weekend, Alabama opened as 8-point favorites to defeat the Tigers. That number has already risen to 10 with some bookmakers, and is likely to see more movement in the 72 hours or so we have left until kickoff.

Alabama is 5-3 against the spread this season while LSU is 3-5, including 1-4 over the last five. The Tigers are 2-4 ATS in their last six home games. 61 percent of bettors are currently backing the Crimson Tide to cover the spread.

The over/under is 42, with 64 percent of bettors opting for the under at this time. The total has gone under in three Alabama games and four LSU games this season. More tellingly, in the 74 meetings between these two sides, the final score has totaled more than 42 points just 13 times (.176), suggesting the under is the smart choice here.

Top 3 NBA Games of the Day

The NBA season tip-offed last night with some excited games between the Lakers and Mavericks and the Heat and Celtics, but the real regular season schedule begins today as 16 NBA clubs make their 2012-2013 season debuts. NBA fans, it’s time to celebrate and bettors, it’s time to place your bets. Here are three games from today’s slate you won’t want to miss.

Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons

One game on today’s schedule that has suddenly become more intriguing is the Houston-Detroit matchup. Linsanity certainly upped the watchable factor for this one before the season began, but the latest trade sending James Harden to Houston has increased interest even more. The Rockets look like a team determined to make a run in the West this season and they begin that quest in Detroit against the Pistons.

There will be some question marks surrounding both teams entering today’s contest. For the Rockets it will be chemistry and for the Pistons it will be youthful inexperience. I think the Rockets are the more talented team and in the long haul of the NBA season will be better, but they will probably have some kinks to work out with their new acquisitions. Look for Detroit to cover -3 at home today and start off the season with a win.

San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Hornets

Davis is the early frontrunner for rookie of the year

Unlike many of the teams featured here, the San Antonio Spurs are relatively unchanged from last season and why would they want to fix something that isn’t broken? This is the team that has led the league in regular season wins two years in a row. Meanwhile, the Hornets will debut another youthful front five that includes top draft pick Anthony Davis this year. Davis already excited NBA fans while helping the Kentucky Wildcats to a NCAA Championship last season, but he added to the hype by averaging nearly a double-double (14.9 points and 9.9 rebounds) during the NBA preseason.

This matchup is youth versus experience and although the Hornets have a lot of buzz (pun intended) surrounding them this season, expect nothing less than a easy win for the Spurs today. The Hornets definitely have potential and should be vastly improved this season, but the Spurs will undoubtedly be one of the best teams in the league again. Take San Antonio to cover -6.5 points today.

Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers

Aldridge vs. Gasol will be one of the key matchups tonight

We will see if the Lakers can bounce back off last night’s loss and see how Kobe Bryant will holdup after playing on his sprained right foot against the Mavericks. Bryant and the Lakers’ new additions actually played quite well, but the Mavericks bench outscored LA’s and it was enough to make the difference. Tonight the Blazers will look to start their season right give the Lakers an 0-2 record.

We saw how effective Dwight Howard, Bryant and Pau Gasol can be in the offense last night, but the Lakers will need more production out of Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake tonight to beat Portland. The Blazers are returning most of their squad from last season, including LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum, but they will introduce J.J. Hickson and rookie point guard Damian Lillard to the home fans tonight. I have to say I like Portland’s balance of experience and youth and I think playing two nights in a row will be tough on the Lakers and on Bryant’s foot. Look for Portland to get the win here.



Last Orders on Pre-Tip NBA Betting

It’s back!

The 2012-13 NBA regular season opens tonight, promising plenty of drama and excitement. From the slew of preseason injuries to the presentation of the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, all eyes will be on the hardwood and those that take to it over the next six months.

Here at CasinoReview we’ve spent the better part of October getting you ready for tonight’s tipoff. We’ve detailed both conferences, MVP candidates, and those most likely to lead the league in a plethora of statistical categories. Now all that’s left is to leave you with a few suggestions. Below we’ve picked those we like best to take each category, and thrown in a wildcard just for good measure.


Eastern Conference Champion

Take: Miami Heat (4/7)

Wildcard: Indiana Pacers (14/1)

The Heat may be a boring choice but the Eastern Conference – which has been shallow in terms of good teams for years now – has little to offer Miami in terms of competition. Of course there’s always the chance of an upstart team coming through, or injury ravaging the Heat, but this is the safest best to take.

Indiana has just enough talent and has shown just enough resolve over the past few seasons to suggest that they can go deep into the playoffs. They won’t be trying to fit in a bunch of new components. Add this to lengthier odds than the likes of Boston and Chicago and you have a nice little wildcard to put a stake on.


Western Conference Champion

Take: Los Angeles Lakers (13/10)

Wildcard: San Antonio Spurs (6/1)

The Western Conference is more competitive than the East, but despite the fact that the Lakers have runaway with the odds of late, there’s still a question of who will take the conference. The Lakers remain the best bet, thanks to that star-studded lineup.

San Antonio is by no means a longshot in the vein of a Minnesota (45/1) or Sacramento (100/1) but realistically the Spurs have a chance of taking the West. A very realistic chance. These odds a worth taking now before Popovich’s side starts rolling to another league-best record.


NBA Champion

Take: Miami Heat (9/4)

Wildcard: San Antonio Spurs (12/1)

The question in the NBA this season is can the Heat beat the West? The answer could prove to be yes, and it could also prove to be a big fat no. At this stage, Miami looks most likely to make the Finals, and has the potential to defeat anybody from the West. OKC couldn’t beat the Heat this past summer. Can they this year?

Again, San Antonio isn’t a massively long shot but they have the potential to win out West and with all that experience, it’s hard to argue against them having the ability to beat the Heat in a long series.



Take: LeBron James (19/10)

Wildcard: Deron Williams (25/1)

James took a massive step forward last year, guiding his team to the championship and being a team leader in the same breath. If Miami is as dominant as it looks capable of, LeBron will almost certainly be a candidate for MVP. The addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis gives James two more legitimate offensive threats to pass off to, which gives him another string to his bow.

The Nets could do some serious damage in the East this year. A new city, arena, and lineup could give the team a new outlook on life. That’s the plan anyway. If it does, expect Williams to be the spearhead of all that is good for those new black and white jerseys. Williams also has the shortest odds (shared with Blake Griffin) for a player not plying their trade in South Beach, Hollywood, or OKC.


Leading Scorer

Take: Kevin Durant (2/3)

Wildcard: Carmelo Anthony (7/1)

Some trends aren’t worth messing with. For three straight years Durant has won the league scoring title. You’d be a fool to bet against him this year, particularly as he may need to make up for the now departed James Harden. Sure Lamb and Martin can shoulder some scoring but you think they’ll have the ball in their hands at crucial moments of the game? Harden did.

You’d more commonly be recommended to avoid betting on Carmelo Anthony in any category not titled ‘least likely to make it out of the first round of the playoffs’. This season could be different though. If New York is to be successful, Anthony needs to follow Marshawn Lynch’s lead, eat some Skittles and turn on Beast Mode. Shouldering his team – particularly with Stoudemire out for the first six weeks (minimum) – and scoring a bunch of points will be vital for Anthony if he’ss to lead his aging Knicks anywhere. He led Team USA in scoring during this summer’s London Olympics off the bench, so he can do it. But will he?


Rebound Leader

Take: Kevin Love (5/2)

Wildcard: Kris Humphries (40/1)

The obvious choice and favorite (10/4) is Dwight Howard, winner of four of the last five rebounding titles. But Howard will see some of his numbers absorbed by Pau Gasol. Plus, the Lakers tend to miss shots less that Orlando. Love becomes your best pick then. He finished second in rebounding last year, and once back from injury, looks set to lead the T’Wolves to the promised land of the postseason.

Kris Humphries is a real long shot but consider this: the Nets’ big man finished fifth in rebounding this year, and should be a little less Kardashian-shocked this year. Add to that an improved New Jersey Brooklyn side and you have an outside gamble worth some action.


Assist Leader

Take: Chris Paul (7/1)

Wildcard: Jose Calderon (40/1)

Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash finished ahead of Paul in the assists table last season, but both look to lose some passes this year. Rondo will need to score more, while the Lakers are likely to pass the ball around more. That’s not to say Nash isn’t going to get his fair share of pick and roll assists. But Paul will be able to pass the ball off more, presumably, to the likes of Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, and Blake Griffin, of course. He’ll still need to score, but those lob opportunities will still be there.

Few people will think much of the Raptors this year, which is probably why Jose Calderon is 40/1 to lead the league in assists. The Spaniard finished fourth in assists last year though, and will still be able to play a pass-first offense north of the border, a factor that could make him a worthwhile wildcard bet.


There you have it. You’ve still got a few hours before the Wizards tipoff in Cleveland (7 PM ET) to start the 2012-13 NBA season. Get your last bets in now.

NBA Regular Season Tips-Off with Three-Game Slate

The long-awaited NBA regular season is finally here, tipping-off with some high-profile opening day games, including the Heat vs. Celtics and the Lakers vs. Mavericks. Who will get out to a 1-0 start in the East and in the West? We will find out today as we get to experience real NBA basketball for the first time in almost a year.

Washington Wizards at Cleveland Cavaliers

Irving will hope to avoid a sophomore slump

Two teams that spend most of last season as bottom-feeders will look to begin their 2012-2013 campaign with a win in the first game of the NBA schedule. Washington will go without star guard John Wall, who will miss up to a month with knee issues, but the Cavs will have their young star, last year’s rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving, who just had his wisdom teeth removed this week. It should be a pretty even matchup and we should expect a little rust for these teams who will both field young squads in an early season game.

Washington will also be without center Nene as well and its other big man, Emeka Okafor is listed as day-to-day, so he may be a game time decision. With so many early season injuries and the fact that they are on the road, I don’t imagine the Wizards starting off this year with a win against Cleveland. Look for the Cavs to cover the -5.5 point spread today.

Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers

Another gamed that will be marred be injury is the matchup between Dallas and LA at the Staples Center. Dirk Nowitzki is out, also with knee problems, and Kobe Bryant will be a game-time decision with a bruised and strained right foot. Dwight Howard is expected to make his regular season debut as a Laker tonight, but he did most the majority of training camp and the preseason while still recovering from back surgery. If he does play, expect reduced minutes.

What’s interesting here is that the Lakers are obvious favorites, at home and with all their talented additions such as Howard and Steve Nash, but they did go 0-8 in the preseason and although that doesn’t mean anything in the standing right now, the fact is they still haven’t won a game.

Dallas won’t be that strong without Nowitzki, but I expect them to come in to Staples and play hard. Reserves should get some valuable time and if they do value it, they will play well enough to cover the +8.5 point spread. And if Kobe doesn’t play, the Mavs may win outright.

Boston Celtics at Miami Heat

LeBron finally has his ring, but now he wants two

The defending NBA champions will defend their home floor in what may be the most anticipated game of the night as the Heat take on the visiting Celtics. The Heat are 9/4 favorites to repeat as champs, odds that were certainly bolstered after acquiring former Celtic star, the sharp-shooting Ray Allen.

The Celtics will bring in their returning stars Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce to challenge the champs, but they will also show off their new addition, former Mavs guard, Jason Terry.

These teams, who met in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, always matchup well, so it should be a close game either way. The bullseyes will be on the back of each Miami jersey, but that’s something the Heat are used to by now. Miami is favored by 6.5 points and I like them to win here, but I think the game will come down to one or two possessions, so take Boston to cover +6.5 on the road. These games are always close and since it’s the first game of the season, don’t expect LeBron and Co. to be on their A game just yet.

The Winners of the James Harden Trade

In a surprise move, Harden was dealt to the Rockets just before opening night

 After failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension, the Oklahoma City Thunder decided to trade James Harden before he became an unrestricted free agent. Obviously, the Thunder would have like to hold on to the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year from last season, but it was not in the cards. But was it really the worst thing that could have happened? Hardly, because the trade means the Thunder got something in exchange for the 23 year-old guard and some may say the Thunder actually got the best part of the deal.

OKC acquired guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb in the trade, along with two first round draft picks and a second round pick. Martin averaged more than 17 points per game last season, Lamb is coming off a NCAA National Championship win with UConn in 2011 and averaged 20 points per game in Summer League and the future value of the picks is apparent. So, when you add all that up, it seems like the Thunder, the defending Western Conference Champions, could be even better, if not this season, then very in the near future. If we are talking long term, then I think we can call this an overall victory for Oklahoma City and its fans.

The Rockets, however, are a team that is not in the same position. After enduring some tumultuous years, they are ready and willing to do what it takes to win right now. They have shown this by paying big money for Jeremy Lin and now Harden. The trade will obviously help them contend in the West this season and beyond, as Lin and Harden are both young, but there’s no doubt that they gave up plenty of potential with Lamb and the picks.

Possibly the biggest winner in all of this though is Harden himself. He went from the Sixth Man of the Year to a starting position on a team with major upside and playoff potential this season. He will now be one of the go-to guys in Houston and has plenty of good teammates to play with. And best of all for Harden, he will get the contract he wanted, money and length wise.

This deal is the definition of win-win

The trade may hurt the Thunder’s chances a bit this season to repeat as West champs, but remember that Harden was the sixth man, a position that Lamb or Martin may be able to fill almost as well. There’s no question that the Thunder are a major contender once again, so don’t shy away from betting in favor of them too much.

The biggest change for bettors now is that the Rockets are suddenly a lucrative option. They are a team whose playoff odds are going up in a hurry, so it may be time to jump on the bandwagon. However, they did lose some depth, so if Lin or Harden goes down with an injury, be sure to jump back off.

Overall, the Harden deal appears to be a true win-win for all parties involved, which is a real rarity in sports. Of course, over the long haul we will see how the real beneficiary is as the season plays out.

Niners Visit Cardinals on Monday Night Football

Frank Gore and the San Francisco 49ers will look to run their way to victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.

Sunday saw the New England Patriots defeat the St. Louis Rams in the NFL’s annual International Series game at London’s Wembley Stadium. Monday Night Football sees a clash between the two teams that kick started that series back in 2005.

Whilst the Niners clash with the Cardinals in 2005 game might not have taken place in London – it was in Mexico City – the success that it brought propelled the NFL into a marketing frenzy, taking its product overseas and making it truly global.

This Monday night’s game might not come with the expectation of 103,467 fans – Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca was heaving that night – and the league’s top brass, but make no mistakes, this could be a big game.


Keep On Rolling

San Francisco (5-2, 2-1 road) travels to the desert as the number one team in the NFC West, something nobody would have doubted this past summer.

Arizona (4-3, 3-1 home) opened the season winning four straight and looking like this season’s surprise package. A three-game losing skid has put paid to such thoughts, and potentially leaves the Cardinals staring into a losing abyss, not to mention in dire need of a win.

San Francisco’s success has come as a result of a very simple formula: running the football and strong defense wins games.

The Niners have the best running game in the league, averaging 176.6 yards per game on the ground. Lead running back Frank Gore is accounting for 85.9 of those yards, proving the Niners are no one-trick-pony. Kendall Hunter has contributed 36.9 per game, while the QB tandem of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick account for 39.8 yards per game. With such a prolific running game, it’s not that surprising that the Niners rank 28th in passing (199.9 YPG).

On the defensive side of the football, San Francisco is a beast. Number one against the pass (173.4 YPG) and in total yards against (272.3 YPG), and number two in points conceded (14.3 PPG), the 49ers weakness is its rush defense, which still ranks 10th in the league (98.9 YPG). Points and yards will be at a premium for the Cardinals.

That being said, the Niners could come up against a potential roadblock at the University of Arizona Stadium. The Cardinals give up just 312.1 yards per game (7th) and 16.9 points per game (4th), numbers that suggest a strong defensive presence. However, those numbers are skewed in favor of the passing game – the Cardinals are fourth in the league at stopping the pass – and there are definite weaknesses against the run. Arizona gives up an average of 120.9 rushing yards per game (21st), which means San Francisco should be able to keep on rolling.


Looking for an Edge

San Francisco leads the all-time head-to-head 24-17, a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1951 when the Cardinals were based in Chicago. The Niners have had the recent edge, going 7-3 in the last 10. Last time out (December 2011) though, the Cardinals beat their division rivals 21-19, snapping a five-game losing streak.

San Francisco will be favorites entering the game. The spread opened at four points but has subsequently risen to seven.

The 49ers are 4-3 ATS this season. Dating back to last season, the team also has a 2-5 ATS record on the road. Arizona is 3-4 ATS this season, giving bettors a real conundrum when it comes to putting a stake on the pointspread.

The over/under opened at 37 and has risen to 38½ ahead of game time. The total has gone under in four of seven Niners games this season, as well as six of seven Cardinals games. That means the smart money will be on the under in this one.

Giants Take Game Three, One Away From Title

Everyone counted the Giants out when they fell behind the Reds 0-2 in the NLDS. Everyone counted the Giants out when they fell behind the Cardinals 3-1 and most everyone considered Detroit to be the favorite in the World Series. Everyone except the Giants that is.

The San Francisco Giants defied the odds yet again Saturday night by winning their franchise-record sixth consecutive postseason game and by shutting out the Tigers 2-0 for the second time in a row, this time in Detroit.

“I’ll say this: The club is playing well,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said in an ESPN.com recap.

Understatement of the year?

The Giants are now on the brink of their second World Series Championship in three years, as they hold a commanding 3-0 lead over the Tigers and their best pitcher, Matt Cain,  is on deck for game four tonight. You could say it’s over, but the Giants know all too well, that teams are never dead until they are dead.

Romo in a familiar celebration pose

“Well, it’s a good situation, but there’s nothing been done yet,” Bochy said. “It’s a number, just like I said about two. Now it’s three. But that’s not the series.”

San Fran’s starter Ryan Vogelsong brought his best stuff to Detroit for game three, going five and two-thirds innings while holding the Tigers scoreless, scattering five hits. In what has become commonplace with the Giants this postseason, relievers Tim Lincecum and Sergio Romo finished off the night and the Tigers, holding the toothless cats hitless through the final three innings.

After being shutout for two straight games (the Tigers were only shutout twice all season), the fix is an obvious, but not easy one for Detroit against these Giants pitchers. Score runs. The Tigers’ big sluggers, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are a combined three for 19 in the series, but with only one more chance, they need to turn it on right now.

The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team to comeback from a 3-0 postseason series deficit to win, but of course, the Tigers are more than aware of the odds and of history.

“Well, you don’t really have to tell them anything,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “They can count. They’re big guys, they know what the situation is.”

Cain and the Giants are now one away win from a championship

They also know who they are up against in game four in Matt Cain, who pitched a perfect game earlier this season and who has been absolutely dominant in the postseason. He also has experience closing out opponents, as he did so in game seven on the NLCS against St. Louis.

Detroit’s season now rides on the arm of Max Scherzer, who won his last postseason outing against the Yankees in the ALCS. He was reliable during the regular season with a 16-7 record and a 3.74 ERA, but with the way the Tigers are hitting, or lack thereof, they may need him to be perfect.

I liked the Tigers coming into the series, but with the massive amount of snowballing momentum that is rolling towards a World Series title for the Giants, it’s hard to bet against them here in game four. It looks and feels like they will close it out tonight and Matt Cain getting the ball certainly doesn’t hurt their chances. Take the Giants to win game four and sweep away Detroit to win the 2012 World Series.


Week 8 NFL Betting Tips

Giants-Cowboys round two will not only be must-see TV but also an absolute toss up when it comes to betting.

With just one upset last week, oddsmakers are hoping normal business has resumed in the NFL. That one upset came in the form of a Tennessee victory over Buffalo that didn’t really surprise anybody – other than the offensive output that smashed the over.

But what oddsmakers want, they might not get. Normal business could well take a smack to the chops this week, as no fewer than seven games feature pointspreads under three. This is going to be a very interesting week for football bettors.

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys

In one of this weekend’s most anticipated encounters, the New York Giants (5-2, 2-1 road) head to Cowboys Stadium to take on a Dallas (3-3, 1-1 home) side that took an upset victory in New York to open the season.

The Giants arrive in Texas with a four-game winning streak and a burden of expectation. Despite leading the NFC East comfortably, the Giants have yet to hit form and are currently 1-2 within the division, a record that needs to improve to prevent the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins keeping it close.

Dallas has been a hotchpotch of solid play and big mistakes. The number seven passing offense in the league is hindered by an inability to score touchdowns (eight) and an over ability to throw interceptions (nine). A loss for the Cowboys on Sunday could really make any hopes of making the postseason fade.

Odds: The Cowboys opened as two-point favorites but the line has shifted in favor of the Giants (33). The over under is 48.

Take: Dallas – Dallas has not won two straight games against the Giants since 2007 and hasn’t beaten their division rivals at Cowboys Stadium since it opened in 2009. Everything points in favor of the Giants. So why the Cowboys? The way this season has gone, an upset here wouldn’t feel like that much of an upset. They’ve had both awful and impressive performances this year – it’s a crapshoot as to which you’ll get – and have shown they have the ability to beat the Giants. What’s more, the Giants have yet to really roll, and looked very beatable against Washington last week. Take the total to go under.


Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

The Jets stink. Let’s get that out of the way before we go any further. The green side of New York (3-4, 2-2 home) is an absolute car wreck of a football team, something that’s not all that surprising.

What is surprising is that Miami (3-3, 1-2 road) does not stink. Ahead of the season, few positive words were written about the Dolphins, but a 3-3 record represents an overachiever. Consider this then: two overtime losses stand between Miami and a 5-1 record!

The Dolphins head to MetLife Stadium with a two-game winning streak and an extra week of rest. The Jets return home having lost three of four games and looking very much like a lost side. Sure, injuries have taken a toll, but this is the worst Jets team to take the field in years. And that’s saying something.

Odds: Despite the team’s inadequacies, the Jets will be favorites come kickoff. That being said, an opening three-point advantage has fallen to just one point, a sign that nobody has faith in this side. The over/under is 38.

Take: Miami – Kings of the close game, expect the Dolphins to get the better of what is almost certain to be an ugly game. Don’t be surprised if the Jets do something stupid and hand the Fins the game. Take the total to go under; Miami doesn’t score big and the high-scoring Jets have shown up two weeks in a row, which suggests an off week is imminent.


Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia (3-3, 2-1 home) has lost three of the last four games and welcomes an unbeaten Atlanta (6-0, 3-3 road) to The Link on Sunday and yet is somehow favorite.

This particularly anomaly stems more from Atlanta’s schedule than Philadelphia’s abilities. En route to a 6-0 record, the Falcons have beaten the entire AFC West (‘Big deal,’ I here you say) alongside Washington and Carolina. A soft schedule like that is not going to get you any props.

In many ways, the Eagles could be the Falcon’s toughest challenge. Andy Reid’s side has lost the last two games by a combined five points, five points that are the difference between 3-3 and 5-1. The Eagles were able to find ways to win in early season games, and if they do the same, they’ll pose a big threat to Atlanta.

Odds: Philadelphia is a three-point favorite. The over/under is 43, having fallen from 48.

Take: Philadelphia – This is going to be a close one, and like so many of the other games on this week’s schedule, an upset would not necessarily feel like an upset. You may as well go with the better moneyline. Both teams have had an extra week to plan for this one, so expect a very close game. A loss is a much bigger deal for the Eagles so expect them to come out as though they’re fighting for their lives. Take the total to go under.


Week 8 Schedule

Thursday: Tampa Bay 36-17 Minnesota

Sunday: (1 PM ET) Carolina @ Chicago | San Diego @ Cleveland | Seattle @ Detroit | Jacksonville @ Green Bay | Miami @ NY Jets | Atlanta @ Philadelphia | Washington @ Pittsburgh | New England V. St. Louis (London, UK) | Indianapolis @ Tennessee; (4:05 PM ET) Oakland @ Kansas City; (4:25 PM ET) NY Giants @ Dallas; (8:20 PM ET) New Orleans @ Denver

Monday: (8:30 PM ET) San Francisco @ Arizona

Bye: Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston

Who Has The Toughest Path to the BCS Championship Game?

The quest for the crystal football heats up this week as the top five unbeaten sides look to book their spot in the BCS championship game. But who faces the toughest challenge?

With the bulk of the schedule behind us, unbeaten schools now look forward to their remaining schedule with hopes of a place in the BCS Championship Game firmly resting on how each fare over the next five weeks.

With five teams still unbeaten at the top of the BCS rankings, a perilous battle remains ahead. Just one defeat could throw a spanner in the works for any team – including Alabama. This is especially true with the likes of Mississippi State, Louisville, Rutgers and Ohio looking to go unbeaten also. Add to this those teams with one solitary loss (LSU, USC, Oklahoma, Florida State, Georgia, etc.) and we could be looking at one hell of a race to the finish.

Here then is a look at the paths the top five teams face on their journey to remain unbeaten, starting with the easiest* schedule.

*Don’t be fooled: the easiest schedule is by no means easy


#3 Kansas State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12)

Ranked Wins: 2 (Oklahoma, West Virginia)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. #14 Texas Tech (6-1, 3-1 Big 12)

Nov 3: Vs. Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1 Big 12)

Nov 10: @ TCU (5-2, 2-2 Big 12)

Nov 17: @ Baylor (3-3, 0-3 Big 12)

Dec 1: Vs. #23 Texas (5-2, 2-2 Big 12)

Strength of Opposition: 23-10 (.699)

Ranked Opponents: 2

Toughest Game: Vs. Texas – The Longhorns might not have had the best of seasons, but they’re still a tough out.

Potential Slip Up: Vs. Texas Tech – The Wildcats’ defense should be enough to beat the Red Raiders, but then again, this is a team that put an unthinkable hurting on West Virginia.

Verdict: On paper, Kansas State faces a tough challenge, with its remaining opponents tallying a 23-10 winning record this season. This is testament more to the depth of the Big 12 as a whole than anything else. In reality, the Wildcats have already done the hard work (beating Oklahoma) and look more than capable of knocking off the two remaining ranked opponents. Simply taking care of business will see the side finish 12-0.


#2 Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC)

Ranked Wins: 3 (Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. #10 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC)

Nov 3: Vs. Missouri (3-4, 0-4 SEC)

Nov 10: Vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (4-3, 2-2 Sun Belt)

Nov 17: Vs. Jacksonville State (4-3, 3-2 OVC)

Nov 24: @ #12 Florida State (7-1, 4-1 ACC)

Strength of Opposition: 24-12 (.667)

Ranked Opponents: 2

Toughest Game: @ Florida State – The rivalry is a bigger factor than the Seminoles’ ability. Arguably Georgia is a tougher game on paper, but this one will be heated. Plus it has the pressure of being the last game of the season.

Potential Slip Up: Vs. Georgia – Getting past the Bulldogs with a win this weekend is possible and probable, but peeking forward would be a mistake.

Verdict: Like Kansas State, the Gators have a tough run-in on paper in terms of opponent’s winning percentages. But two FBS games rip that theory to shreds. Florida’s schedule certainly works in its favor. Most of the conference games – and the tough games in general – are history. After Georgia, it’s a clear run until Florida State.


#1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC)

Ranked Wins: 1 (Michigan)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. #11 Mississippi State (7-0, 3-0 SEC)

Nov 3: @ #6 LSU (7-1, 3-1 SEC)

Nov 10: Vs. #20 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC)

Nov 17: Vs. Western Carolina (1-7, 0-6 Southern)

Nov 24: Vs. Auburn (1-6, 0-5 SEC)

Strength of Opposition: 21-16 (.568)

Ranked Opponents: 3

Toughest Game: @ LSU – It might not be a battle of the unbeaten, but this National Championship rematch has been circled on both schools’ calendars since January.

Potential Slip Up: Vs. Auburn – On paper it’s a whitewash but Auburn’s terrible season would be made by an upset victory.

Verdict: Unlike Florida, Alabama still has to play all of its tough games, with the three toughest coming back-to-back. Add to that a fierce rivalry game with Auburn and you have the ingredients for an upset somewhere along the road. The strength of opposition (.568) might seem enticing but take out Western Carolina and things look a little less simplistic. Yes, Alabama can win out, but the potential pitfalls come thick and fast.


#5 Notre Dame (7-0)

Ranked Wins: 3 (Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: @ #8 Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1 Big 12)

Nov 3: Vs. Pittsburgh (3-4, 0-3 Big East)

Nov 10: @ Boston College (1-6, 0-4 ACC)

Nov 17: Vs. Wake Forest (4-4, 2-4 ACC)

Nov 24: @ #9 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12)

Strength of Opposition: 19-16 (.543)

Ranked Opponents: 2

Toughest Game: @ USC – A visit to the Coliseum on the last day of the season will be a tough ask for the Irish, but must-see TV if Notre Dame gets past Oklahoma this week.

Potential Slip Up: @ Oklahoma – This is Notre Dame’s toughest game of the season so far, and one that will determine whether the Irish have a shot at the championship. Slipping up here puts all that hard work to waste.

Verdict: Visits to Oklahoma and USC would be tough for any side, and with both potentially still in the hunt for the BCS title, it’s not going to be easy for a Notre Dame side that has already knocked off tough opposition this year. One thing’s for sure: with the Irish’s schedule this year, unbeaten pretty much guarantees a spot in the big game.


#4 Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12)

Ranked Wins: 2 (Arizona, Washington)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. Colorado (1-6, 1-3 Pac-12)

Nov 3: @ #9 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12)

Nov 10: @ California (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12)

Nov 17: Vs. #17 Stanford (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)

Nov 24: @ #7 Oregon State (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12)

Strength of Opposition: 21-14 (.600)

Ranked Opponents: 3

Toughest Game: @ USC – This one’s been earmarked as a potential Pac-12 Championship Game preview since the preseason.

Potential Slip Up: @ Oregon State – The Beavers have surprised all this season and come the last day of the season, an upset win over the Ducks could be on the agenda.

Verdict: The two biggest knocks against Oregon this season have been its defense and its schedule. Up to this point it’s been plain sailing for the Ducks but with USC, Stanford and Oregon State still on the schedule, it’s going to be tough for Chip Kelly’s side to navigate the Pac-12 waters. That triumvirate of encounters makes this the toughest schedule of the five.


Whilst we can find enjoyment in looking ahead, the teams themselves cannot. Each has to remain clearly focused on the job at hand, and that’s winning this week. A loss at any point in the next five weeks could seriously affect the National Championship landscape, and that is exactly why we’ll be watching with baited breath.

5 National Title Sleepers

As we enter week nine of the college football season, the national title picture seems to be beginning to come clear, but so many big games left on the schedule, it’s far from over. The top five undefeated schools (Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame) certainly control their own destinies, but don’t be surprised if some sleepers propel themselves into the conversation in November. Here are five schools to look out for down the line.

1. #6 LSU

Some might not consider LSU a sleeper, but let’s face it. Since the Tigers lost to the Gators a few weeks ago, people seemed to have forgotten about them. The Tigers, with the exception of Tyrann Mathieu, are basically the same squad that went to the National Championship a year ago and at number six, they definitely have a chance to get in if some teams lose. The Tigers would surely throw their hat back in the ring next week if they knock off number one Alabama and since they beat Bama once last year and are at home for this year’s contest, it’s far from unlikely. Consider yourself warned. The Tigers are still in the hunt.

2. #7 Oregon State

I know, crazy right? Nobody gave the Beavers a chance this year to do much of anything, but here they are ranked number seven and with two games against top ten schools left on their schedule. It’s a longhsot for sure, but if the Beavers can beat USC and Oregon, there’s no way you can keep them out of the national title game. Of course, the hardest part for Oregon State will be actually winning those games, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Oregon State has already knocked off two ranked teams this season.

If the Bulldogs beat the Gators this week, they are right back in the hunt

3. #10 Georgia

For the Bulldogs, their season basically rides on today’s matchup with Florida. However, if the Bulldogs can pull it off, which I actually think they will, they could crack the top five and then sneak in if some other teams lose down the line. The toughest game for Georgia after this week is Ole Miss, so they are likely to win out. Then if they can win the SEC Championship game, I think they would be a shoo-in, even with one loss. And for those who say they can’t beat Florida, keep in mind that the Gators have not faced an offense with as many weapons as the Bulldogs, who score 40 points a game and put up 300 yards on average through the air.

4. #11 Mississippi State

The other SEC Bulldogs are also still in the mix with a 7-0 record and a chance to take down number one this week. Miss State has a date with Bama today and a chance to leap frog several teams in the BSC standings with a win. Obviously, the opportunity is there for the Bulldogs, but the schedule will present even more challenges, as they still have yet to play LSU and Texas A & M. Can the Dogs do it? It’s possible, but we will see what they are really made of this week.

Does Rutgers really have a chance? Why not?

5. #15 Rutgers/#16 Louisville

I know I said five teams, but let’s throw one more in there. One of these two could become a sleeper because one of them will almost assuredly go undefeated. For these squads it will likely come to the last game of the season when they play each other and looking at each teams’ schedules, it’s safe to say they could both be undefeated entering that game, which means they will both probably be ranked in the top ten at that time. So, we can reasonably conclude that whoever prevails will get a lot of BCS cred and depending on what happens elsewhere, one of these schools could sneak in. I know, it’s a lot of ifs. These teams are the definition of sleeper, but remember. You heard it here first, so don’t be shocked if it happens.