Giants Win Game Two, Take 2-0 Lead in World Series

After knocking the unflappable Justin Verlander out of game one with powerful offense, the Giants showed another side in game two, winning with precise small-ball execution and near perfect pitching and defense. With a 2-0 series lead, the Giants certainly feel confident, but they know it’s not a coincidence that the Tigers have made it this far and that they can’t let up against a talented team.

Bumgarner's gem helped give San Fran a commanding 2-0 series lead

“It definitely feels a whole lot better than having our backs against the wall,” said game two winning pitcher Madison Bumgarner via ESPN.com. “But you can’t relax. We’ve got to keep pushing.”

Bumgarner dominated the Detroit lineup through seven innings, allowing just two hits and two walks  and most importantly no runs.

Detroit starter Doug Fister kept up with Baugarner, holding the home team scoreless through six innings, but he took his lumps, literally, as he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Gregor Blanco.

“They asked me the typical concussion questions,” Fister said. I’m not concerned. I have a minor bump. According to my dad, my whole life his saying has always been if I got hit in the head I’d be OK. That’s how I take it.”

Everything was A-OK for Fister until the seventh inning when one the one the baserunners he was responsible for scored after he was pulled from the game. The Giants then added a run in the bottom of the eight inning of a Hunter Pence sacrifice fly to double their lead.

Then Sergio Romo did what’s he done all October long, close the door on the opposition and the book on game two.

The momentum shifted in SF's favor after Fielder was gunned down at home

The Tigers lack of offense was visibly frustrating to Detroit players, as even balls that were hit well failed to find outfield grass past the Giants defense. Prince Fielder nearly scored on a base hit in the second, but was thrown out at the plate and Miguel Cabrera smashed a line drive that was snared by last night’s hero Pablo Sandoval, robbing the Triple Crown winner of a sure double.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We got two hits tonight. I’m certainly not going to sit up here and rip my offense because last night I thought we had some pretty good swings. Cabrera hit a bullet tonight.”

Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get easier for the Tigers as Ryan Vogelsong, who has been red-hot this postseason, will get the start for San Francisco in game three. The Giants have won in each of Vogelsong’s three postseason starts and he has only allowed one earned run in each start while striking out 18 hitters.

Coming out the opposing dugout will be Anibal Sanchez, who has also found playoff success, going 1-1 and only allowing two earned runs in more than 13 innings of work.

The biggest advantage that Detroit has coming into game three (other than getting a day off to regroup) will be that they will be at home.  The Tigers have certainly played much better at home this postseason and should be the favorite in game three. The Giants have grabbed the overall advantage in the series with their lead (79% of teams with 2-0 leads go on to win the series), but I like the Tigers to bounce back and take game three. Cabrera and Fielder won’t stay cold forever and eventually they will find some gaps in that San Fran defense.

 

Week 9 College Football Tips

A win for Landry Jones and the Sooners could potentially put Oklahoma back in the race for the National Championship, whilst putting a serious dent in Notre Dame's chances.

With five games left on the schedule for most schools, it’s time to get down to business. At present there appears to be five contenders (Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame) for the BCS Championship Game, which means three teams need to be whittled away.

Whittling could begin this weekend as four of the top five sides facing ranked opposition on Saturday. A loss for any of those sides could be paramount to elimination from the title picture.

To help you navigate this veritable minefield of BCS implications, here are our picks for this week’s big games.

 

#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma

They might not have met in 13 years, and Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) might not have hosted Notre Dame (7-0, 2-0 road) in 46 years, but this has big-time rivalry written all over it. The stakes are simple: whoever loses can wave goodbye to title hopes.

Oklahoma has been on a tear recently, averaging better than 50 points per game over the past three outings, but Notre Dame has made a season out of shutting down teams. The defense still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown this year.

Odds: Oklahoma opened as 10-point favorites, a number that has stretched to 12. The over/under is 47½.

Take: Notre Dame – Oklahoma has been formidable of late but every time the Irish has come up against a team it shouldn’t beat’, it’s done exactly that. Yes, the Sooners have a potent offense but Notre Dame’s defense is so rock-solid, it’s hard to imagine Bob Stoop’s side getting a mass of points. There’s a big payout looming if the underdog Irish wins as well. Take the under.

 

#2 Florida Vs. #10 Georgia (Jacksonville, FL)

A win this week for Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC) will all but send the Gators to the SEC Championship Game. They’ve already beaten LSU and South Carolina in consecutive weeks, and a win over Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) – a team that lost to South Carolina – will leave just #12 Florida State as a potential pitfall on the schedule, and Florida is certainly better than the Seminoles.

A win for Georgia would set the cat amongst the pigeons, leaving the Bulldogs, Gators and Gamecocks tied up, having beaten each other. From that mess you can ascertain that whilst one of those teams will head to the SEC title game, nobody is likely to head to the National Championship game.

Odds: Florida is favored with the spread shifting from 3½ at opening to 7-points today. The over/under is 48.

Take: Florida – There’s no doubt that few expected Florida to ring up this sort of record, but the Gators have looked sharp for much of the season, and when they haven’t looked sharp, they’ve found ways to win. Georgia almost rolled over to the Gamecocks, putting little faith in the mind on any bettor that they’ll fare any better against Florida. Take the over; both of these sides will be able to put points on the board.

 

#11 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama

The SEC West’s ‘Battle of the Unbeaten’ was supposed to take place next week when the Tide travels to LSU. Nobody told Mississippi State (7-0, 3-0 SEC).

The Bulldogs head to Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) on Saturday looking to pull-off one of the biggest, and most important, upsets of the year. A victory over the Crimson Tide would really shake up the BCS standings and polls that have almost unanimously had Alabama inked into the BCS Championship Game.

Of course, a win over Alabama is much easier said than done. The Tide has looked tougher than ever over the last few weeks, dispatching of the likes of Tennessee and Mizzou without stopping for breath. Nick Saban’s side has the best defense in the country, something that could give Mississippi State – yet to play against ranked opposition – a rude awakening.

Odds: Alabama is favorites by 24-points. As large a difference as that is, Alabama has had no trouble winning by huge margins. That being said, they’re only 4-3 ATS this season. The over/under is 47½.

Take: Alabama – The only way Mississippi State could conceivably win the game is if Alabama is caught looking ahead to next week’s clash with LSU. Can you imagine a Nick Saban side doing that? Exactly. Take the over and Bama to beat the spread.

 

#14 Texas Tech @ #3 Kansas State

We mentioned in last week’s College Football Tips how Kansas State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) had very quietly gone about its business. Now ranked #3, it’ll be tough for the Wildcats to do anything quietly.

Texas Tech (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) has had an excellent season, making the top ten in passing yards (10th) and points scored (4th) on the way to some big wins. A loss to Oklahoma is the only blemish on the team’s resume. A trip to Bill Snyder Stadium may change that.

Odds: Kansas State is favored by 7½-points with the over/under at 62½.

Take: Kansas State – There’s no denying that the Red Raiders’ prolific offense has been great to watch this season – especially that drubbing of West Virginia – but it’s time to wave goodbye to Texas Tech and its high ranking. The Wildcats really are one of the toughest teams in football, and a top ten defense is likely to ground the Raiders. Take the Wildcats to beat the spread and take the under on the total.

 

BCS Top 25 (Week 9 Fixtures)

#18 Clemson 42, Wake Forest 13 (Thursday)

Cincinnati @ #16 Louisville (Friday)

 

#11 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama

#2 Florida @ #10 Georgia

#14 Texas Tech @ #3 Kansas State

Colorado @ #4 Oregon

#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma

#7 Oregon State @ Washington

#9 USC @ Arizona

Duke @ #12 Florida State

Tennessee @ #13 South Carolina

Kent State @ #15 Rutgers

Washington State @ #17 Stanford

#20 Texas A&M @ Auburn

#21 Boise State @ Wyoming

#22 Michigan @ Nebraska

#23 Texas @ Kansas

#24 Ohio @ Miami (OH)

Michigan State @ #25 Wisconsin

#6 LSU (Bye)

#19 West Virginia (Bye)

Giants Take 1-0 WS Lead into Game Two Tonight

If someone told you the Giants would rock Justin Verlander and that Pablo Sandoval would hit three homeruns in game one of the World Series, would you have believed them?

The Panda joins Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit 3 homers in a World Series game. Pretty good company.

Of course, if you answered yes you are a liar, or a Giants fan. Either way, game one of this year’s World Series shocked everyone else in the sports world.

Pablo “Panda” Sandoval, a guy who hit just 12 homers during the regular year, went yard three times the Giants’ 8-3 over the Tigers and he hit two of them off arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander. Improbable? Sure, but as we learned last night, not impossible.

“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Sandoval said via ESPN.com.

Well, we can’t either.

Of course, the offensive outburst would have been more dramatic if it was actually a close game. Coming off one of his best outings in recent memory in the NLCS, Barry Zito carried over his mojo into last night’s start where he proceeded to shut down the Tigers, allowing just one run on six hits. I don’t know if we can him an ageless wonder just yet, but the 34 year-old lefty has definitely recaptured some of his old 2002-Cy-Young-winning-self in his last two starts.

Can Bumgarner find his game in the World Series?

Fortunately for the Tigers, it’s a best-of-seven series. And as far as I’m concerned, they will be the favorite in the pitching matchup once again as they send out Doug Fister to face Madison Bumgarner. Fister was just 10-10 during the regular season, but has been dominant in the postseason so far. In two starts, Fister is 1-0 and has given up just two earned runs in 13 and a third innings of work while striking out 13. Bumgarner, on the other hand, posted a stronger 16-11 regular season mark, but has struggled in his two postseason outings, failing to past the fifth inning in both. In eight innings, Bumgarner has surrendered 10 earned runs and only struck out six.

Bumgarner did perform well in the 2010 postseason, as he went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in four games and he pitch well against the Tigers last time the teams met in 2011, allowing just one run in seven and a third innings. However, I gotta go with the hotter pitcher and take the Tigers with Fister. I realize that the Giants’ hitters are hot and that they even got to Verlander, but a reasonable person such as myself, can’t expect that to continue. Fister shut down the A’s and the Yankees and he should be able to do the same against the Giants. I like Detroit in this game and you should too. Look for the Tigers to turn the tide in game two of the World Series tonight and even the score at 1-1.

 

 

Tampa Bay Visits Minnesota for Thursday Night Football

Adrian Peterson has impressed despite returning from injuries, helping to lead the Vikings to an unexpected 5-2 start.

There’s no denying that the credibility of Thursday Night Football is up for grabs most weeks. Critics cite the fact that it dangerously gives players too little rest time following a Sunday (or worse, Monday) game, whilst fans have questioned some of the choices of games being broadcasts.

This week’s edition sees Minnesota (5-2, 4-0 home) host Tampa Bay (2-4, 0-2 road). Looking at the schedule early in the season, there would have been a lot of eyebrows raised, after all, the Vikings and Buccaneers was hardly must see TV.

But as luck would have it, this topsy-turvy season has made even this benign encounter intriguing, not least because of Minnesota’s unexpected strong start to the season.

Whilst the Vikings have been ruffling feathers in the NFC North, Tampa Bay has been stinking up a storm in the NFC South. Well, that’s what the team’s record states, but in all honesty that’s a long way from the truth. The Buccaneers may have lost four games this year, but it has only lost one by more than a touchdown – a humiliating 38-10 loss to Kansas City at home – which means these have for the most part been close games.

Thursday’s clash between the two side might not be the prettiest of encounters, but it’s one worth watching, something nobody would have predicted preseason.

 

Statistically Speaking

Tampa Bay’s pass defense has been horrible this season. The Bucs are giving up 323.0 yards per game through the air, which puts the team second from last in the league. Fortunately for the Florida side, Minnesota has a far from prolific passing game. The Vikings are averaging just 203.4 yards through the air (27th in the league).

Minnesota’s strength has been running the football, with Adrian Peterson impressing having returned from ACL and MCL surgeries. The Vikings are averaging 132.3 YPG on the ground, good enough for seventh in the league. However, as poor as Tampa Bay’s pass defense has been, the team’s run defense has been exquisite. The Buccaneers are third in the league, giving up just 76.0 YPG on the ground. If Minnesota is to win, it could be necessary to throw the ball.

Offensively, Tampa Bay is very much a middle of the pack side. Averaging 244.8 passing yards (16th) and 101.8 rushing yards (17th) per game, the Buccaneers are neither one thing nor another. They’ll be up against a defense that ranks just outside the top ten in both passing and rushing. As with Minnesota, yards and points could be hard to come by.

 

Looking for an Edge

Minnesota opened as 5½-point favorites, a number that has risen to seven over the past week. The over/under is 42½, having risen one point in that span.

Over recent years, Tampa Bay holds the edge in the head-to-head series, winning five straight games against the Vikings, including a 24-20 victory last season. Minnesota however leads the all-time series 31-21, and has gone 9-4 over the past 13 home games.

Bettors looking for a jump on the spread should consider that Tampa Bay has gone 5-11 ATS over the last 16 games and 2-4 ATS during the last six road games. That being said, the Buccaneers have posted a 4-2 record ATS this season. Meanwhile, Minnesota is 3-3-1 ATS this season, making predicting the team’s success that much trickier.

The total has gone under in five of the last six Minnesota games but over in four of the last five Tampa Bay games. This could be a toss-up, but as we’ve seen above, points may be at a premium in Minneapolis on Thursday night.

With the teams difficult to separate, Thursday Night Football itself may nudge you in one direction or another. This season, only two teams have entered Thursday night as favorites and beat the spread (Green Bay in Week 2 and the New York Giants in Week 3). The remaining games have seen three upsets and two games where the underdog lost but beat the spread. Thursday Night Football has been harboring surprise results all season, making the Buccaneers look like an intriguing pick.

That being said, last week’s slate of games saw just one upset – a rarity in this strangest of seasons – which might suggest normal business is about to resume in the NFL.

Finally, the good news for Tampa Bay fans is that the Bucs will not be wearing throwback jerseys again this week. Tampa Bay hardly won wearing those uniforms first time around, and lost again this past weekend whilst donning those orange delights. That makes the team 1-3 since embarking on the once-a-year tradition in 2009.

World Series Game One Preview

Since completing an impressive sweep of the New York Yankees in the ALCS, the Detroit Tigers have been waiting to see who they would face in the World Series. The Giants prevailed in the NLCS, but extended the series to seven games, creating a longer wait for Detroit, which in turn might have created some rust. However, the Tigers feel they are ready to go.

“I loved it because it means we’re in the World Series,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila in an ESPN.com article. “Someone asked me that question after we won and I was like, ‘Would you rather if we had lost some of those games?’ It doesn’t really matter to me. We did everything we could to stay mentally sharp.”

The Tigers say they are prepared, but we know the Giants are after witnessing their incredible comebacks against both Cincinnati and St. Louis. However, the question posed to them right now, is are they more worn out from playing more games?

“You have to throw it all away because it could work in either team’s favor,” Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “We’ve been playing every day, so guys might be a little more tired, whereas they’ve got more rest. Then again, we’ve been playing, so we’ve got our timing, where they might not.”

Neither Oakland or New York could hit Verlander

One thing is for sure with the Tigers. When Justin Verlander takes the mound, they have the best chance to win and that is the case tonight in game one. Not only was Verlander the go-to man in the rotation during the regular season, winning 17 games with a 2.64 ERA, but he has been Mr. Dependable in October as well, winning all three of his starts. In 24 and a third innings of work, he’s allowed just two earned runs and has struck out 25 batters.

The Giants will go with veteran lefty, Barry Zito in game one. Zito is coming off a career-defining performance in NLCS game five, a game in which he shutout the Cardinals through seven and two-thirds innings and struck out six. The win kept the Giants’ hopes alive when they were down 3-1 and gave them a chance to be in the position they are, NL pennant winners and World Series bound.

The Tigers certainly have the edge in the pitching matchup, but they are on the road against a team that is finding a groove offensively. Things will definitely be more challenging than they might have expected. In six of their seven postseason wins, the Giants have scored five runs or more and ranked 12th in the Major Leagues in scoring during the regular season. When the San Fran bats heat up, they can do plenty of damage.

Zito will need to pitch another gem to keep up with Verlander

But then again Verlander has proven he can shut down the best hitting teams in the league. The mighty Yankees couldn’t touch him, so what’s to suggest the Giants might? I do think San Francisco has a realistic chance to win the series, but not game one. Take Detroit to cover the -1.5 runline behind another strong outing from Verlander.

 

 

Picking NBA Division Winners

 

We’re less than one week away from tipoff in the 2012-13 NBA season. While much of the next six days will be taken up with the World Series, now’s the time to get ahead on your NBA betting.

Over the past two weeks, here at CasinoReview we’ve provided you with the latest odds to aid you picking Eastern and Western Conference champions, the MVP, as well as individual props for scoring, rebounding and assists.

Now we’ll give you the inside scoop on which teams to pick as division winners. Some might surprise you. Some certainly won’t. And remember, while you might not make a lot of money on one single bet, a parlay of all six winners could score you a bucketload [pun most definitely intended!].

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets have a new identity and outlook, something that could take them to the top of the Atlantic Division.

Atlantic Division

2011-12: Boston (39-27) | New York (36-30) | Philadelphia (35-31) | Toronto (23-43) | New Jersey (22-44)

The Atlantic looks set to be a bit of a crapshoot this season, with four of the five teams (sorry Toronto) realistically having a shot at winning the division. Whether that’s a sign of improvement within the division is debatable.

Boston certainly doesn’t look improved, and whilst losing one ‘team player’ rarely makes a huge impact, Ray Allen’s departure could do just that. Is New York better? Maybe. The Knicks are certainly older. How about Brooklyn? Joe Johnson makes the side better for sure, as does a stable lineup – no more Dwight Howard talk, yet – so yes. Philadelphia has Andrew Bynum, who could own the division, if he wants.

Odds: Boston (11/10) | New York (9/4) | Brooklyn (4/1) | Philadelphia (9/2) | Toronto (100/1)

Take: Brooklyn — This might be considered bandwagon jumping, but the Nets are certainly better than last year’s record suggests. A new identity and outlook could do wonders for this team. Philadelphia’s another dark horse that could make some noise.

 

Central Division

2011-12: Chicago (50-16) | Indiana (42-24) | Milwaukee (31-35) | Detroit (25-41) | Cleveland (21-45)

Like last season, the Central will be contested between Chicago and Indiana. The remaining three sides have very little hope of achieving anything this season.

Chicago will have to face ‘X’ amount of time without superstar guard Derrick Rose, something that hurt the side badly last season. Preseason results have gone the way of the Bulls though. Indiana meanwhile has undergone very little change and will be hoping experience and familiarity carry through.

Odds: Chicago (5/6) | Indiana (1/1) | Milwaukee (22/1) | Cleveland (50/1) | Detroit (50/1)

Take: Indiana — Without Rose, the Bulls look very ordinary and unless Carlos Boozer is prepared to show up, very beatable. Indiana is deep, not with big name players, but with consistent players. Expect the Pacers to jump out to an early lead in the division. If and when Rose returns, then the Bulls may challenge.

 

Southeast Division

2011-12: Miami (46-20) | Atlanta (40-26) | Orlando (37-29) | Washington (20-46) | Charlotte (7-59)

The Southeast is likely to be a snorefest this season. Miami has improved with the addition of Ray Allen and will garner national attention all the way to the playoffs. Nobody can dispute that. The rest of the division though, well…

Atlanta is worse. Orlando is worse. Washington is, well, an unknown. Charlotte could be better, but that starts with coaching. One thing’s for sure; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist won’t find his introduction to the NBA quiet as plain-sailing as Anthony Davis in New Orleans (not that things look easy for the Hornets).

Odds: Miami (1/25) | Atlanta (10/1) | Orlando (50/1) | Washington (50/1) | Charlotte (150/1)

Take: Miami — It may be an obvious choice, but this is a division that will be lucky to have two teams make it to the postseason. If you’re looking for an exciting bet, take both Washington and Charlotte (yes, Charlotte!) to finish above Orlando. There’s nothing magic about the Magic this year.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

With the addition of Dwight Howard, the Lakers are favorites to win the west but they'll face stiff competition from cross-hallway rivals, the Clippers.

Northwest Division

2011-12: Oklahoma City (47-19) | Denver (38-28) | Utah (36-30) | Portland (28-38) | Minnesota (23-40)

Oklahoma City has been the talk of the northwest for a couple of years now and that looks no different this season. With pretty much the same roster in place, this is a team that is built for long playoff runs.

Elsewhere in the division, Minnesota looks to make huge strides on last year, providing injury allows such. A second-year Ricky Rubio may well be the point guard to watch this year. Meanwhile, the jury’s out on Denver – Andre Iguodala may not be the answer – and Portland, while Utah looks to have made zero improvement this offseason.

Odds: Oklahoma City (1/9) | Denver (6/1) | Minnesota (30/1) | Utah (30/1) | Portland (40/1)

Take: Oklahoma City — Like the rest of the west, the Northwest is unlike to herald a new division winner. Simply put, the Thunder looks better that the rest. Fans of those other four may want to start praying for injuries.

 

Pacific Division

2011-12: LA Lakers (41-25) | LA Clippers (40-26) | Phoenix (33-33) | Golden State (23-43) | Sacramento (22-44)

The Lakers made big moves. The Clippers made small, but vital, moves. The Suns almost took a complete overhaul approach. The Warriors and Kings made few moves of note. The Pacific looks like it’ll be a two-horse race again this season.

Odds: LA Lakers (1/4) | LA Clippers (3/1) | Golden State (50/1) | Phoenix (75/1) | Sacramento (75/1)

Take: LA Lakers — In fairness, the Pacific could be the most competitive division in the west. A cross-hallway battle between the Clippers and Lakers will almost certainly be close. The overall result may well depend on how quickly the new-look Lakers are able to gel as a team. Take the purple and gold in the long-term, but expect a tough fight.

 

Southwest Division

2011-12: San Antonio (50-16) | Memphis (41-25) | Dallas (36-30) | Houston (34-32) | New Orleans (21-45)

San Antonio certainly didn’t make a huge splash in the free agent market this summer but the front office did make the one move they needed to; re-signing Tim Duncan. Dallas meanwhile wished it could have made a big splash. With Deron Williams committing to Brooklyn, the Mavs now look like a ragtag assortment of ill-fitting pieces. Rick Carlisle has worked with worse though. Houston signed Jeremy Lin, hoping that ‘Linsanity’ will propel the team forward. Don’t hold your breath just yet. Memphis will quietly go about business and be there when the postseason comes calling.

Odds: San Antonio (5/8) | Memphis (3/1) | Dallas (7/2) | Houston (20/1) | New Orleans (50/1)

Take: San Antonio — There’s a reason the Spurs have won nine division titles in 14 seasons (the Tim Duncan era, if you will). As with the rest of the west, it’s an obvious pick but it’s all but impossible to see beyond Gregg Popovich – the best coach in professional basketball – and his battle-proven team.

Undefeated National Title Contenders: Who Can Run the Table?

At this point in the season, there are still several teams in the National Championship conversation in college football, but which squads have a realistic chance to go all the way? Here’s a little rundown for each major contender.

#1 Alabama

Alabama has remained the unanimous number one in most of the polls and is now number one in the BCS. The Crimson tide haven’t showed much weakness in any of their wins, as their closest game was a 33-14 win against Ole Miss. But they will undoubtedly have a tough road ahead with Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A & M on the schedule in the next three weeks. The number one defensive team in the country will be tested, but the Tide probably have the best chance of any team right now to make it to the championship game.

#2 Florida

Considering the Gators have struggled ever since Tim Tebow left, this season’s undefeated team has been somewhat of a surprise. Florida has already passed arguably its two toughest tests, getting by LSU and South Carolina, but it still has yet to play Georgia and Florida State. Even if Florida does run the table during the regular season, it will likely have to contend with Alabama in the SEC Championship game. The Gators definitely have a good chance and are getting plenty of love from the BCS, but they are a team with holes (118th in passing offense) that if not filled, may prove costly.

Is Collin Klein doing the Heisman pose?

#3 Kansas State

Another surprise team is Kansas State. We knew the Wildcats would be good, with many returning starters from a strong squad last year, but their win over Oklahoma was certainly an upset and has put them in position to make a serious run at the title. Kansas State is a sound team that doesn’t many mistakes and although the Wildcats don’t have many tough games left on their plate, they don’t really have any easy games either. The concern from a betting standpoint is that K State is still unproven in big games late in the season and may not be able to rise to the occasion.

#4 Oregon

The Ducks have one of the most explosive offenses in the country and are fielding the best defense they’ve had in the Chip Kelly era. The Ducks D is 28th in the nation in points allowed, giving up just 20.1 points per game and keep in mind that most of those points have been allowed by the second and third units. Oregon typically jumps to huge leads early and pulls its starters in the second half. That practice may be hurting them in the BCS, as they have fallen two spots in the last two weeks even after wins, however if the Ducks get past USC and the surprising Oregon State Beavers, they could end up in the National Championship for the second time in three years.

#5 Notre Dame

If defense really does win championships, then Notre Dame has a good shot

The Fighting Irish have one of the strongest defenses in the country(2nd in points allowed with just 9.4 ppg) and they also play one of the most difficult, minefield-like schedules of any team. However because of that, they have squeaked by in many of their wins and consequently some of their victories have looked less impressive. The Irish’s gauntlet of ranked opponents continues this week as they travel to Norman to play the Sooners and then they end the season with USC. There’s no question that they will go to the title game if they win out, but it’s sure a tall order with the amount of tough games they will play.

 

 

 

Tigers, Giants Head to World Series

San Francisco celebrates after taking Game 7 of the NLDS.

Finally, after 162 regular season games (per team) and 31 postseason games (all told), Major League Baseball is down to its final two.

Action begins on Wednesday (8 PM ET) as the AL Champion Detroit Tigers head to the West Coast to take on National League Champions, the San Francisco Giants.

 

San Francisco World Series Bound

By hook or by crook, somehow the San Francisco Giants have managed to find a way to the World Series.

Monday night’s shocking 9-0 dismissal of the St. Louis Cardinals was not only unexpected, but a statement that Bruce Bochy’s side will fight until the very end. Winners of six straight elimination games, the Giants at times looked as though they might not make the postseason, let alone play into late October. The Giants though had resolve, and the mentality to get the job done.

The victory gives the Giants a record-setting 22nd National League pennant, and a 19th trip to the World Series.

San Francisco now prepares for its first World Series since 2010’s victory over the Texas Rangers. This visit to the Fall Classic will be the team’s fifth since departing New York in 1958. It marks the first time the club has met a Detroit Tigers side after July.

A World Series win this year would be the Giants’ seventh such award.

 

Detroit Makes Trip to the Bay Area

Like San Francisco, during the regular season Detroit looked like it might not make the postseason. A twelfth hour surge saw the Tigers past the Chicago White Sox and into the American League side of the postseason.

Despite having the worst record of those AL teams, Detroit edged out Oakland before humiliating the New York Yankees, booking its place in the World Series last Thursday.

Detroit will play in the Fall Classic for the 11th time, and will be looking to win for the first time since 1984, a year that saw the Tigers defeat the San Diego Padres 4-1.

Life since that World Series victory has been somewhat barren. The Tigers’ only other appearance in the World Series came in 2006, when the team fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals. A victory this year would represent Detroit’s fifth World Series crown.

 

Head to Head

Despite both being rich in heritage, the Tigers and Giants met for the first time in 2003, more than 100 years after both clubs came into existence. The teams never met in the World Series, and it was still six years after Interleague Play was first devised (in 1997) that the two sides would meet.

The teams have met for a solitary three-game series in four seasons (2003, 2005, 2008, 2011). During that time, the Giants have taken a slender head-to-head lead (7-5). This has come on the back of a 4-2 record at AT&T Park and a 3-3 record at Comerica Park.

With head-to-head contests infrequent, it should come as no surprise that the starting rotations of both clubs are less than familiar with the opposition.

Detroit’s Justin Verlander has faced the Giants just once, recording a no decision. Doug Fister has never pitched against San Francisco, while Max Scherzer has pitched against the Giants only once in a Tigers uniform. Scherzer recorded a 1-2 record against San Francisco whilst pitching in Arizona (giving him a 1-3 career record).  Anibal Sanchez is the most experienced Detroit starter when it comes to facing the Giants. He recorded a 3-1 record (with one no decision) while pitching for Florida/Miami.

All told, Detroit’s rotation is 4-4 against San Francisco, with two no decisions.

Four of San Francisco’s five-man rotation account for two games (both no decisions) against the Tigers, with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain never having pitched against Detroit. Barry Zito however is a veritable encyclopedia of experience compared to his team mates. Zito has recorded a 1-1 record while pitching for San Francisco, but went 8-5 with a no decision against the Tigers when pitching for the Oakland A’s.

Overall, San Francisco’s rotation – thanks mainly to Zito – is 9-6 with three no decisions against the Tigers.

 

Early Odds

While many oddsmakers are fine-tuning their betting lines, early odds have come out in favor of the Detroit Tigers. With the champagne barely soaking in in the San Francisco locker room, bookmakers have set the early World Series odds at 8/13 (Detroit) and 11/8 (San Francisco).

Giants and Cardinals Battle for World Series Trip

After Barry Zito pitched possibly the game of his career a few nights ago to extend the series between the Giants and Cardinals to a sixth game, Ryan Vogelsong was obviously inspired, as he also pitched the game of his life, a career-high nine-strikeout performance in San Francisco’s 6-1 win. The win now extends the series again, to a seventh and final seventh game tonight to determine who will represent the National League in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.

Can SF pull off the series comeback?

As much as Vogelsong rose to the occasion when he needed to, the Giants’ bats also stepped up, getting Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter off the mound early by scoring five runs in the first two innings. Carpenter lasted just four innings, with his performance and results being the exact same as his game two start, a game in which he and the Cards also lost to Vogelsong.

Now along with San Fran, St. Louis is also on the brink of elimination, but the defending champions have been here plenty of times before and have won their last two NLCS game sevens, in 2004 against Houston and in 2006 against New York.

“We’ve been in this spot before,” St. Louis second baseman Daniel Descalso said after the game via ESPN.com. “We’re going to be be intimidated by it.”

The Cardinals have certainly experienced tough losses in the past, but they are a team that has always seemed to bounce back and if they want to defend their title, they’ll have to do it again.

“The one thing I know is these guys take these ones hard,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ve had a number of losses this season that felt like we’ve been kicked in the gut as we’re walking off the field. And what I have admired about this club is they show up tomorrow the exact same guys that they showed up here today.”

And so the stage is set for an epic game seven, after which only one NL team will remain.

The Giants will give the ball to Matt Cain, who went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA during the regular season, but who has also lost two games this postseason including game three of the current series. He allowed three earned runs in that game in six and two-thirds innings, but lacked run support in the 3-1 loss.

Lohse baffled Giants hitters in game three

The Cards will once again go with Kyle Lohse, who is 2-0 in three starts this postseason with a 1.96 ERA. Lohse won the previous matchup with Cain in game three, giving up just one earned run in five and two-thirds innings. The righty is now 3-1 in four career starts against the Giants.

I’ve said all along that the Giants would force game seven, which they did, but I also have said that the Cardinals would still take the series and I still believe that to be the case. With the advantage in the pitching matchup and with having gone to the World Series more recently, I like the Cardinals to make a return trip this season. Of course, we will find out tonight, as I’m sure everyone will be watching this highly-anticipated NLCS game seven.

 

Lions Head to the Windy City for Monday Night Football

Matthew Stafford wrenched D.J. Moore's helmet from his head the last time Detroit and Chicago met. Will the Bears be on the hunt for retribution?

You can bet that when the powers that be were putting together the Monday Night Football schedule they fully expected this matchup between Detroit (2-3, 1-2 road) and Chicago (4-1, 2-0 home) to be both a grudge match and a potential division-topper.

Of course, Detroit’s erratic play has the team languishing at the bottom of the division (below Minnesota!) while the Bears have been the talk of the north, charging to an impressive 4-1 record and top spot. This game might not decide who leads the division, but you can count on it being both a grudge match and an important fixture in terms of heading forward.

The last time these two sides met (November 13, 2011) Chicago took a 37-13 win in a hot-tempered affair that is best remembered for Matthew Stafford tearing D.J. Moore’s helmet off following an interception.

It was the kind of moment that has punctuated this rivalry since its inception in 1930, when the Bears took on the Lions (then known as the Portsmouth Spartans) for the first time. It was also the sort of moment this Chicago side isn’t likely to forget. You think we’re not going to see some Chicago defenders looking to get up close and personal with Mr. Stafford?

Chicago’s run of form has been built on a strong running game that has averaged 123.6 yards per game (good enough for ninth in the league). Matt Forte may only be rushing for 67.5 YPG but he’s getting help from Michael Bush (41.2 YPG). Detroit could be in for a long night, but the Lion’s own top ten rush defense may well be up for the challenge.

Detroit may well consider forgetting the run before the first quarter is over. Chicago has the number one rush defense in the league, giving up just 65.8 YPG. That leaves the team relying on Matthew Stafford’s arm.

Stafford has averaged 298.6 YPG through the air, leading the most prolific passing attack in the league. Whilst that is undoubtedly a good thing, the Detroit gunslinger has only connected on four touchdown passes all season. This miserly number is confounded by the five interceptions he’s thrown. Going through the air against Chicago could be tough, especially as the past two weeks have seen Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman return interceptions for touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Jay Cutler has put up consistent, if not awe-inspiring, numbers. He’s averaging 241.8 YPG and has tallied an even seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. The big worry at this time is that opposing defenses have gotten to him 14 times for sacks.

Historically speaking, the Bears lead the all-time series 95-65-5, and have won seven of the last eight and 11 of the last 13, a dominant record if ever there was one.

 

Odds: Lines opened with Chicago six-point favorites to take this one. As the week has progressed, this number has risen slightly (-6½). The over/under is 47½ points.

Take: Chicago – There’s a real temptation to pick Detroit for one simple reason: in the season of the upset, only one underdog (Tennessee) has come away with a win this weekend. A Detroit victory would be at the very least a talking point. However, this Chicago side looks defensively solid enough to put the Lions down. Stafford is unreliable through the air, and the Lions’ run game is less than stellar, and even less likely to trouble the number one rush defense in the league.

The two sides are combining for an average of 55 points per game this season. The total has gone over in six of the last eight Bears games at Soldier Field as well as five of seven Detroit games. The smart money then has to be on the OVER.

 

Player Props

If you’re looking for more action than the spread has to offer, Bovada is offering an extensive list of player props to get involved with. Here’s a few to get you started.

Will Matthew Stafford (DET) pass for more than 285½ yards? Yes (-125), No (-105)

Will Matthew Stafford (DET) throw more than 1½ touchdowns? Yes (-165), No (+135)

Will Matthew Stafford (DET) throw more than ½ interceptions? Yes (-260), No (+200)

Will Jay Cutler (CHI) pass for more than 260½ yards? Yes (-120), No (-105)

Will Jay Cutler (CHI) throw more than 1½ touchdowns? Yes (-155), No (+125)

Will Jay Cutler (CHI) throw more than ½ interceptions? Yes (-200), No (+160)

Will Calvin Johnson (DET) score a TD? Yes (-125), No (-105)

Will Brandon Marshall (CHI) score a TD? Yes (-125), No (-105)

Will Mikel Leshoure (DET) rush for more than 62½ yards? Yes (-125), No (-105)

Will Matt Forte (CHI) rush for more than 80½ yards? Yes (-125), No (-105)