Predicting the Committee’s Penultimate Playoff Rankings in College Football

Yeldon
Yeldon
T.J. Yeldon and the Tide survived Auburn. Can they now get past Missouri in the SEC Title game?

It’s really hard to put into perspective just what the College Football Playoff Committee is facing this week and in the week to come. On Sunday, December 7th, the committee will announce the four teams that will play in major college football’s first-ever playoff.

Let’s address this week and what we can expect from the committee first.

Alabama will remain the top-seed with their win over Auburn. It was the highest-scoring Iron Bowl in history and despite giving up a boatload of points and passing yards, the Tide will remain in the top spot heading into the SEC Championship Game.

While it would not surprise me to see Oregon jump into the top spot following their blowout win over rival Oregon State, I think they’ll stay put at number two. The Beavers were not nearly the level of competition that Auburn was so look for the Ducks to stay at number two.

Jameis
Despite four picks by Winston, the Seminoles hung on to beat Florida.

At number three, I expect the committee to stick with Florida State. To be really, really honest here I can actually see them dropping to number four because they continue to win ugly against lesser competition. Jameis Winston has not played well but the team keeps surviving and the name of the game is to win so look for the ‘Noles to stay at three.

The fourth and final spot is again filled with intrigue. I feel that TCU will stay because the committee has favored strength of schedule over head-to-head competition. The Horned Frogs destroyed a Texas team that was thought to be improving while Baylor survived Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are arguably the worst team in the Big 12.

TCU finishes at home against a pretty bad Iowa State team while the Baylor Bears finish with a very good Kansas State in Waco.

I expect to see Ohio State at five and Baylor at six, but the injury to Buckeyes’ QB J.T. Barrett could be a factor at least this week in the opinion of the committee.

So how will things shakeout?

Next Saturday could reveal a lot of status quo or we could see massive changes to the playoff participant list. Alabama plays a very good Missouri team in the SEC Title game. Oregon plays the only team to beat them this season, Arizona, in the Pac-12 Title game and Florida State will play in the ACC Championship game against a very hot Georgia Tech team who just beat Georgia in Athens.

Let’s imagine for a second that Bama, Oregon and Florida State all lose. With Ohio State playing in the Big 10 Title game against Wisconsin, a win by them immediately vaults them into the playoff but who else would join them?

Arizona would have to get a spot right? They would have been a top four team twice in the same season. With just one loss would Florida State be given a reprieve? I doubt it because the committee hasn’t been impressed with FSU all season. The most interesting question to me is what happens if TCU and Baylor both finish with just one loss.

Would the committee seed them ahead of a two-loss Alabama team?

Obviously there’s a lot that can still happen. Should total chaos ensue, can we rule out teams like Mississippi State, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech or Missouri? I don’t think so simply based on who they would have beat this coming Saturday.

For tomorrow, plan on Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and TCU. For next week, plan on just about anything.

Odds to Win the 2014 Pac-12 South Division

Hundley
Hundley
I expect Brett Hundley and the UCLA Bruins to capture the Pac-12 South.

On Wednesday I gave you the Pac-12 North odds and who I liked to win it. Today, I’m presenting the Pac-12 South which I believe is a four-horse race.

UCLA 5/4 – Jim Mora, Jr. enters his third year in Los Angeles and brings with him high expectations coming off a very nice 10-3 record. Nine starters return on offense while the defense returns eight. Dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley returns to lead the offense as does Freshman of the Year Myles Jack who plays on both sides of the ball. The only scary road trips are against Texas in Arlington and at Arizona State. The Bruins get USC and Stanford at home to finish the season. Another 10-win season is very possible.

USC 7/4 – It’s year of Steve Sarkisian and expectations are high. Cody Kessler is one of seven starters who return on offense and he has already been named the starter at QB. Seven starters also return on defense which bodes well for a team facing a tough start to the season. The Trojans get always tough Fresno State at home before traveling to Stanford and then across the country to Boston College. Trips to Arizona and UCLA also await. SC does get Notre Dame, Arizona State and Oregon State at home. I think eight wins is the number but some will expect higher.

Graham
Todd Graham's Sun Devils could repeat with some big road wins in 2014.

Arizona State 3 /1 – Todd Graham has a very nice 18-9 record in two years at ASU but the real test begins as the Sun Devils return just two starters on defense and only six on the offensive side of the ball. I like the job he has done since leaving Pitt in the middle of the night, but the chances of repeating as South Division champs are going to be very difficult. The schedule is brutal in my opinion with trips to USC, Washington, Oregon State and Arizona. The home schedule isn’t much better with Notre Dame, UCLA and Stanford coming to Tempe. A step back is highly possible in 2014 but there is a lot of talent on the roster too.

Arizona 10/1 – Rich Rodriguez enters year three in the desert and comes off an 8-5 record and a bowl victory. Last year’s Wildcats surprised a few teams like Oregon and USC but lost to a few schools they probably shouldn’t have. Seven starters return on offense and six on the defense which was beaten up in conference play. The schedule features only two road games of note; at Oregon and at UCLA. The other three should provide wins. At home, the Wildcats get USC, Washington and Arizona State. I expect another eight win season in Tucson.

Utah 33/1 – Kyle Whittingham has a really strong 75-39 overall record entering his tenth season in the Beehive State. Six starters return on both sides of the ball as the Utes look to make a splash in the Pac-12 South. Utah faces a tough road schedule with trips to Michigan, UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford. I think the goal here for Whittingham and company is to get back to .500 and a bowl game but that road schedule worries me.

Colorado 50/1 – In year one, Mike McIntyre went just 4-8 but he gets eight starters back on both sides of the ball. The Buffaloes’ defense surrendered over 40 points in seven of their eight losses and three times gave up over 50. Colorado has just four road games and the neutral site rivalry game against Colorado State in Denver. Three of those four are brutal though as they travel to Oregon, Arizona and USC. I think six wins is the goal here and I think it’s very workable as well.

The Pick: Toss out Colorado and Utah right now as they just don’t have the horses. The wild-cards are the schools in the desert and the favorites are the schools from LA. I like the Bruins to take the Pac-12 South in 2014.

Breaking Down Thursday Night’s NCAA Hoops Action

Wilbekin
Wilbekin
The Florida Gators are led into the Sweet Sixteen by guard Scottie Wilbekin.

Here are the match-ups for the opening night of the Sweet Sixteen.

Florida (-4.5) vs. UCLA – The Gators have been college basketball’s most consistent team in my opinion all year and they once again showed why when they held Pitt to just 45 points to advance to the Sweet 16. The Florida defense ranks third in the country in defensive scoring and the challenge for the UCLA Bruins will be immense.

I think the Bruins’ success against the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 tournament will serve them well against Florida because the Wildcats played excellent defense as well. My concern for Florida is whether they can score enough if the defense isn’t clicking. The Bruins rank 12th in the country in scoring so something will have to give in this game.

My gut feeling tells me this will be the one game that really challenges the Gators and should they come through it, the title could well be in reach. I like them to win, but I think its razor thin so take the Bruins getting the points.

Dawkins
Former Duke Standout Johnny Dawkins has Stanford playing extremely well entering their game with Dayton.

Dayton (+3) vs. Stanford – 11th seed Dayton takes on 10th seed Stanford in the only match-up of double-digit seeds in the tournament. The Flyers are the definition of “survive and advance” as they won their two tournament games by a grand total of three points over Ohio State and Syracuse.

Devin Oliver is the catalyst for Coach Archie Miller’s team. He leads in assists, rebounds and is second in scoring at 12 points per game.

The Cardinal hasn’t exactly had blowout wins in their first two games either. They’ve defeated New Mexico and Kansas by a total of eight points. Head Coach Johnny Dawkins seems to have his team peaking at the right time. Dayton has been a great story so far in this tournament but there’s a reason the Pac-12 has done decently. I like Stanford to cover and move on.

Baylor (+3.5) vs. Wisconsin – The Baylor Bears entered the NCAA Tournament as hot as almost any team and so far they’ve stayed that way. I have to believe this may be the most athletic team Wisconsin has seen in some time if not all season.

There’s no secret as to what the Badgers will be aiming to do on Thursday night. They will play excellent team defense, will rebound and will be patient and efficient on the offensive end of the court. Baylor cannot afford to get frustrated by the pesky Badgers who play a very ‘in-your-face’ style of defense.

The coaching match-up is fascinating with the veteran Bo Ryan and the rising coaching star in Scott Drew. ways concerns me with Coach Ryan is that he has teams that seem talented enough to get to the Final Four but they always seem to fall short. This is odd considering his four titles at lower levels of NCAA basketball.

I like Baylor getting the points because of their ability and athleticism but I always think the Badgers will miss being close to home as they were last weekend.

San Diego State (+6.5) vs. Arizona – These two West Coast teams actually hooked up once already this season. It was a 69-60 win for the Wildcats but it was way back on November 14th of 2013. Much has changed in that time for both teams in terms of player personnel, injuries and experience gained.

That was the Aztecs second game of the season and they wouldn’t lose again until February 22nd. I guarantee you that Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller is not overlooking this game in any way, shape or form.

The Wildcats will ride their defense which is ranked fifth in nation in points allowed. The Aztecs will counter with guard Xavier Thames who runs Coach Steve Fisher’s offense superbly. I really won’t be a bit surprised if SDSU pulls this out but I do like them getting the points in an overall victory for Arizona.

A Look at Favorites and Long-Shots As I Pick the Final Four

Donovan
Donovan
Billy Donovan points the way to Florida's third basketball championship.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament starts today and like the rest of you, my brackets are completed and have been submitted. I’m certainly not going to bore you with every one of my picks but in case you want to throw some last minute money on a team I’m going to give you the odds on the favorites and a couple of long-shots as well as my Final Four.

Florida 11/2 – I really don’t care how good or bad a conference is. If you go unbeaten in conference play you’re doing something right. This has been the most consistent team all year long despite having a very average offense. The defense is very good and Coach Billy Donovan has solid senior experience.

Michigan State 7/1 – The Spartans have become the overwhelming pick to not only get to the Final Four but to win the whole thing as well. Their run through the Big Ten Tournament masked some of the issues that plagued them in the season including their bevy of injuries. Are they peaking at the right time?

Louisville 13/2 – Speaking of peaking at the right time, the defending National Champs blitzed the field in their conference tournament and quite frankly, deserved a higher seed. Louisville will have experience on their side but they are under .500 in single-digit games and their free throw shooting is brutal.

Miller
Sean Miller has the Wildcats in prime position for a title run.

Arizona 9/1 – Since losing forward Brandon Ashley the Wildcats have gone 9-4. They were 21-0 prior to that. Despite the loss, I still think the ‘Cats are a threat because of their defense. If they can get just enough offense from their guards and big men they have a serious shot.

Virginia 10/1 – The Cavs aren’t exactly a scoring machine but they make up for that loss of points with stifling defense. They have held opponents to around 55 points per game. In the big dance, you win with defense, rebounding and a solid backcourt and Virginia has all three.

Wichita State 10/1 – What can you say? The Shockers are 34-0; score 74 points per game while giving up almost 20 points less per game. They have plenty of experience from last year’s Final Four run and play very efficient basketball. Do you trust their weak schedule though?

Kansas 10/1 – The Jayhawks will begin the tourney without Joel Embiid for at least the first round and possibly more. I would go so far as to say I don’t think you’ll see him at all. KU is just 2-3 since his back injury and their turnovers need to be reduced. Andrew Wiggins can carry this team but how far?

Duke 12/1 – My concern with the Blue Devils is rebounding and going cold. They rely so heavily on the three-point shot that going cold is a death sentence. Jabari Parker can take over games at times but he will need help to advance the Dookies very far.

Long-Shots (50/1 or Lower)

Ohio State 66/1 – The Buckeyes started so well this season and never really seemed to recover from their mid-season swoon. Thad Matta can flat-out coach in the tournament so keep an eye on them.

Providence 200/1 – The Friars come in as hot as anyone having blown through the competition to win the Big East. They aren’t real deep which is an issue but they rebound well and knock down their free throws as well.

North Carolina State 300/1 – The Wolfpack picked up a couple of big wins in the ACC Tournament to get themselves into a play-in game. They took advantage by beating Xavier to make the Big Dance. They must improve their three-point shooting and foul shooting to have a legitimate chance.

Tulsa 1,000/1 – The Golden Hurricane has won 11 straight games and is coached by Danny Manning who once carried Kansas to a National Title. Why couldn’t he do the same from the bench?

FINAL FOUR PICKS: Florida, Arizona, Louisville, Iowa State.

NATIONAL CHAMPION: Florida. Good defense, leadership, coaching and consistency add up to a title.

No NBA? No NHL? No Problem!

George
George
Indiana's Paul George is my guy in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest

There’s a really good chance that if you reading this that you are probably a sports fan. There’s also a good chance that you like to wager an occasional buck or two on sports. Lastly, there’s a really good chance you know that there are no NBA or NHL games to wager on this evening.

The National Basketball Association is on their All-Star Break down in New Orleans while the National Hockey League has suspended play so that many of its stars can participate in the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

You’re probably asking the question, “Why not go with some college basketball games?” That’s a really fair question except for the fact that the only game worth wagering is Arizona at Arizona State. If you’re dying to know my thoughts on that one read on.

Otherwise, for now you’re stuck with my picks for the winners of All-Star Weekend in the NBA.

Rising Stars Challenge

Lillard
Portland's Damian Lillard will have a hand in just about everything during All-Star weekend.

This one features Coaches Grant Hill and Chris Webber coaching up the best first and second year players in the league. What you need to know is that like the actual All-Star game, little defense is played.

Despite Damian Lillard leading Team Hill, I’m going with Team Webber behind Anthony Davis, Trey Burke and Jared Sullinger.

Skills Challenge

Defending Champ Damian Lillard returns as does DeMar DeRozan. Lillard will be teamed with rookie Trey Burke to comprise Team One of the Western Conference and Team Two is comprised of Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson.

DeRozan is joined on Team One of the East by Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee while Team Two is Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo.

Lillard is the overwhelming favorite but I’m taking the rookie Trey Burke in this competition.

Three-Point Contest

Kyrie Irving returns to defend his title from last season and has three other Eastern Conference competitors with him. Bradley Beal, Arron Afflalo and Joe Johnson throw their hats into the ring represent their conference.

In the West, 2012 champion Kevin Love looks to get back in the winner’s circle. He is joined by fellow Western Conference entrants Marco Belinelli, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard.

Look for an Irving-Curry final with Curry pulling out the victory.

Slam Dunk Contest

Your Eastern Conference dunkers are Paul George, Terrence Ross and John Wall while the three players from the Western Conference are Harrison Barnes, Damian Lillard and Ben McLemore.

I kind of feel guilty that I don’t have Lillard winning anything to this point because he’s the only player in every event and deserves huge props for that. I believe you are going to see some very athletic dunks from this crew but don’t expect LeBron-esque style off the wall dunks because the arena just doesn’t allow for that.

I really like Indiana’s Paul George to win the dunk contest this year.

And now for Arizona at Arizona State….

When these two in-state rivals met in mid-January, the Wildcats took the Sun Devils out behind the woodshed. Arizona beat ASU 91-68 and left little doubt as to who the better college basketball team was in the state of Arizona.

Since that loss, the Sun Devils have gone on to win five of six with their one loss being a six-point loss at Stanford. Arizona State scores the basketball very well, but the Wildcats play pretty good defense too.

This will not be the blowout the first meeting was but I do expect a very close Wildcats’ victory.

 

Arizona laying 4.5 at California, Syracuse Favored by 2.5 vs. Duke

Saturday’s lineup of college hoops is highlighted by two great matchups featuring the top two ranked teams in the country. In one, No. 2 ranked Syracuse hosts No. 6 ranked Duke, while in the other No. 1 ranked Arizona visits a tough California team.

Syracuse is 20-0 SU and 13-3 ATS this season and has gone 6-0 against the number in his past six games. They will face a Duke team that is 17-4 SU and 13-8 ATS. Duke also has cashed tickets as they have covered in their past 4 games during a 5-0 SU run.

Duke is shooting over 41% from 3-point territory and has 194 treys on the season, which is sixth in the nation. The Blue Devils love an up-tempo game and average over 81 points per game.

Duke has not played since Monday, giving them ample opportunity to practice against the formidable zone defense of Syracuse.

The Orange is holding opponents to just 58 points a game on 41 % shooting overall.

The defense for Duke is no slouch, over the past five games, the defense has held its opponents to 42% shooting while forcing over 13 turnovers each game.

Jim Boeheim the Syracuse head coach said that Duke is currently playing as good as or better than any other ACC team.

The UNDER has cashed in 7 of the past 8 Syracuse games. The Orange has gone 6-1-1 over its past eight games at home.

Duke has a record of 7-3 against the number over its past 10 games versus teams with a winning percentage higher than .600.

Bovada currently has Syracuse listed as the favorite by 2.5 points.

Pick: Duke 72-69

The Arizona Wildcats are tops in the nation at 21-0 SU and 13-7 ATS. They have gone 0-3 ATS over their past three games. Tonight they face a tough California team that is 14-7 SU and 10-10 against the number.

Sportsbooks like topbet, betonline and sportsbook.com have Arizona favored by 4.5 points.

Arizona has struggled against the Golden Bears of California. Last season Arizona lost at home 77-69 to California and is 1-3-1 ATS over the past five games versus California.

On Wednesday, Arizona showed why it is number one in the nation holding the Stanford Cardinal to just a single field goal in its last 16 possession to earn a big 60-57 victory.

Arizona however was just 18 of 29 from the free throw line. Stanford also outrebounded the Wildcats.

While Arizona has played well of late, Cal is 0-3 SU as well as 0-3 ATS over its past three games including a loss at home 89-78 in overtime to Arizona State. Cal is now 10-1 SU at home this season.

The Wildcats are 5-1 ATS over their last six games on the road and 14-5 against the number in their past 19 games against a team with a winning percentage above .500.

Cal has a record of 11-5 ATS over its past 16 games versus teams that have a winning percentage higher than .600.

The underdog has a record of 3-0-1 ATS over the past four games between the two schools.

Pick: Arizona 73-65

Manning and Brady Renew Acquaintances Plus Other NFL Action

Brady
Brady
Brady and the Patriots welcome Denver and snow could be in the forecast as well.

The Broncos and Patriots may be the highlight of the NFL schedule but there are two other games I really like on this weekend before Thanksgiving. Take a look at Indy and Arizona as well as Dallas visiting the Giants for more action.

Indianapolis (+2) at Arizona – Cardinals’ Head Coach Bruce Arians welcomes the Colts to Arizona. It was the Colts who Arians helped get to the playoffs last season while coach Chuck Pagano dealt with his leukimia treatment. Arians has the Cardinals at 6-4 and in the hunt for a playoff spot. The NFC West is Seattle’s to lose right now but that won’t happen. Arizona is currently tied with San Francisco for second in the division.

The Colts come to the desert with a 7-3 record and a strangle-hold on the AFC South. Their most recent game saw them come back from a second half deficit to defeat Tennessee. Indy has still not gotten anything out of Trent Richardson since trading for him back in September, but Donald Brown has done a great job running the ball.

For Arizona it’s about playing great defense and not turning the ball over on offense. The Colts are 4-1 straight up in their last five games against Arizona and will be looking to pad their AFC South lead. I like Arizona to make some big plays behind their defense and cover in this one.

Manning
Eli Manning must take care of the ball in order to beat Dallas.

Dallas (+3) at New York – Right now the NFC East is led by Philadelphia at 6-5. Behind them is Dallas at 5-5 and then the Giants at 4-6. If you had told me five or six weeks ago the Giants would still have a shot for the division title I’d have said you were crazy. That’s exactly where we find things today which makes today’s game in MetLife Stadium so crucial.

The Giants’ defense has made tremendous strides during their four-game winning streak. They have moved up to seventh in the league in stopping the run which means they’ll make the Cowboys one-dimensional early. If Dallas finds itself having to throw at will, that usually means a few mistakes from Tony Romo.

The Cowboys are 8-17 against the spread in their last 25 games at New York. The over/under of 46 has me thingking over because I can see both teams benefiting from some turnovers. With Dallas having issues in the secondary I like the Giants to cover.

Denver (-2.5) at New England – I don’t know the last time the Patriots were an underdog at home but it can’t have happened very often in the last ten years. New England finds itself in that situation tonight hosting 9-1 Denver and Peyton Manning.  At 7-3, the Patriots have lost two games this year on the final play of the game despite having lesser talent than in previous years.

The Broncos come in after beating previously unbeaten Kansas City last week at home in Denver. They were able to keep Peyton Manning upright and clean as they completely diminished the Chiefs’ pass rush. Bill Belichick will find more creative ways to get Manning’s jersey dirty tonight because if he doesn’t it will be a long night for his defense.

The Broncos are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games against New England. Tom Brady owns the head-to-head record against Manning and I think you’ll see Brady put the ball in the hands of his backs and slot receivers. This game has all the hallmarks of a New England victory in my opinion. The over/under is 53 and I like the under. Expect both teams to play well defensively.

NFC Predictions for the NFL’s Second Half

Romo
Romo
Can Romo and the Cowboys hang on to win the mediocre NFC East?

The National Football Conference is much more balanced than it’s’ counterpart the AFC. There are certainly favorites at the top but I think you’ll see more teams involved in the final push for the playoffs in the NFC as the top teams take aim at each other. Check out a few predictions for the second half of the season.

NFC EAST – Trying to figure out who will emerge from this division may be like trying to solve the great mysteries of the world. Dallas sits atop at 4-4 but can’t get out of their own way when it comes to getting wins in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys have blown leads in their last two games. Philadelphia is 3-5 but has a revolving door at quarterback due to injuries. If Nick Foles can stay healthy, don’t count them out.

The Redskins and Giants are 2-5 and 2-6 respectively. I look for the G-Men to actually finish ahead of Washington because New York is playing defense again and that is something that the ‘Skins are sorely lacking. Look for either Dallas or Philly to emerge but this is clearly a one-playoff team division.

NFC NORTH – This division could and should go right down to the wire. We can go ahead and put a fork in Minnesota because at 1-6 they are going nowhere especially with an unsettled QB situation. That leaves Green Bay (5-2), Detroit (5-3) and Chicago (4-3). All three of these teams will tangle with each other down the stretch.

The question is who emerges? I have to go with the Packers because they have the best balance on offense and defensively, they’ll get Clay Matthews back as well. The Lions rely too much on their front seven defensively and on the arm of Matthew Stafford on offense. Chicago will push but I don’t see them lasting long with issues on defense and a less than 100% Jay Cutler. Look for Green Bay to take the division and the Lions to grab a wild-card.

Brees
I think the Saints and Drew Brees will hang on to win the NFC South.

NFC SOUTH – The Saints have a firm grasp on the division as of right now but there are challenges ahead. The only competition New Orleans faces is from Carolina who is two games back. Atlanta and Tampa Bay are already looking ahead to 2014. The Panthers and Saints will hook twice in a three week span in December. I look for those two games to decide who wins the division.

November offers a tough stretch for New Orleans as they’ll travel to Seattle and host San Francisco. The December slate has the two games with Carolina but also dates with St. Louis and Tampa Bay. For Carolina, they have San Francisco and New England the next two weeks but then the schedule gets easier save for the two dates with the Saints.

I like New Orleans to win the South but I’m not totally sold on the Panthers making the playoffs. Their wins have come against some of the weaker teams in the league and I’m just not convinced they’ll hang with the big boys.

NFC WEST – The West is likely to come down to a matter of three dates remaining on the schedule. On December eighth, the Seahawks (7-1) will travel to San Francisco (6-2) to play the Niners. Seattle already defeated San Francisco back in week two. There are two other dates that may come into play however and those are the final two of the season.

Arizona (4-4) plays week 16 at Seattle and then hosts San Francisco in week 17. The division title could very well be settled by then especially if Seattle wins at San Francisco but I have a feeling the Cardinals are not going to go quietly.

My gut feeling tells me that the 49ers and Seahawks will tie for the division title with one obviously taking the wild-card. Arizona will threaten but will fall just short of a playoff spot.

Teams Facing 0-2 Starts Highlight My Picks

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger
Despite last week's loss, Roethlisberger and the Steelers have been great in Cincinnati.

Week Two of the National Football League is underway and I feel pretty good about my picks this week. Teams that enter 0-1 face critical tests because an 0-2 start almost always means no playoffs in the end. Each of the games I’ve selected features that very possibility.

Pittsburgh (+6) at Cincinnati – This is one of those games where people look at last week and say, “How can’t the Bengals whip a pathetic Steelers team that lost at home to Tennessee?” As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” Both teams enter at 0-1 with Cincy having lost 24-21 at Chicago. Ironically, then whole division enters this week at 0-1 but that will change with game and Cleveland visiting Baltimore today.

Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger is 12-2 at Cincinnati and the team is 11-1 straight up on the road in Cincy over their last 12 visits. The Bengals are 1-10-1 against the spread when playing the Steelers in Paul Brown Stadium in their last 12 meetings there. The Steelers however are banged up with Maurkice Pouncey and Larry Foote out for the season and starting cornerback Cortez Allen out for this game. I think the Bengals will win the game, but take the Steelers with those points.

Brees
Will Brees and the Saints cover in Tampa Bay today?

New Orleans (-3) at Tampa Bay – The Saints enter Tampa as a road favorite after their win over Atlanta and the Bucs stunning defeat to the Jets in New York. The Buccaneers seem to have as many off the field problems as on and that isn’t good with the explosive Saints’ offense coming to town. Tampa Bay is 1-5-1 in their last seven against the spread and is 1-3-1 ATS in their last five home games.

The Saints are 4-2 straight up in their last six visits to Tampa Bay. Both teams have a lot of banged up guys but I don’t think it will matter in the end. Unless the Buccaneers can get their running and passing attack working in unison they don’t have a chance. Take the Saints to cover.

Detroit (-2) at Arizona – The Lions were pretty impressive at home in beating Minnesota while the Cards blew a 4th quarter lead on the road in St. Louis. While both offenses are very explosive, the difference may well be on the defensive side. Detroit will rely on its front four while Arizona hopes its talented secondary will make life miserable for Matthew Stafford.

If you didn’t already know, the Lions have been a traditionally horrible road team. They enter this game in Glendale 0-5 ATS in their five games in the Cards’ home stadium. They are also 2-10-1 in their last 13 road games overall. The Cards are 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings with Detroit in Arizona. Reggie Bush is banged up after a huge performance last week but will play but it won’t matter. I love the Cardinals in this one.

Cleveland (+6) at Baltimore – The Ravens have had to stew for almost two weeks after getting blown out by Denver in the season opener. That spells trouble for a Cleveland team that saw QB Brandon Weeden throw three interceptions in a loss to Miami. The Browns are 3-7 ATS in their last ten games at Baltimore and the Ravens are just 2-5 ATS at home against the Browns in their last seven at M&T Bank Stadium.

Both teams have a few injuries to deal with but I think the loss of Jacoby Jones for the Ravens is the most significant. For whatever reason, Cleveland always seems to play the Ravens tough and I think today is no different but I like the Ravens to pull away in the second half so feel good taking the defending champs.

 

Trying to Right My Ship With College Games This Saturday

Franklin
Franklin
James Franklin leads the Tigers against Toledo in Saturday action this week.

Season Record 1-4, Last Week 1-4

I think I know how Oregon State and Kansas State felt last week. After they both lost to good FCS teams, they were still nevertheless, losses to FCS teams. I really liked the slate of games I had last week and although I was very close on a couple of them, that doesn’t exactly win you points with the bookie.

Here are the five games I like this weekend in college football.

Toledo (+17) at Missouri – Tigers’ Head Coach Gary Pinkel welcomes his old team to Columbia this week and the Rockets have to come in with some confidence despite losing at Florida. Toledo lost in the Swamp just 24-6 and although the Gators had several players sitting out due to injuries and suspensions, the Rockets gave them a game.

Missouri meanwhile laid waste to Murray State 58-14 at home behind an offensive outburst. On the surface, this game seems tighter than expected but consider that Toledo was more than doubled in offensive yards by the Gators including by 212 yards on the ground. I like the Tigers to win by more than 17.

Navy (+13) at Indiana – Last season in Annapolis, these two played an epic game with the Midshipmen coming out on top 31-30 with a TD late in the fourth quarter. Navy was off last week but had plenty of film of the Hoosiers to study as they defeated Indiana State 73-35. What concerns me with Navy is that this is their first game and often with the triple option offense they run, you need a game or two to get the kinks out.

Make no mistake that the Middies will score on a less then stellar Hoosiers’ defense. The problem will be stopping the balanced attack of the Hoosiers. Last week the Hoosiers put up over 300 yards rushing and over 300 yards passing. I think Navy keeps this close early but I like Indiana to pull away. Take the Hoosiers.

Gardner
Gardner must take better care of the ball against the Irish than he did against the Chippewas.

Notre Dame (+4) at Michigan – The Irish return to Ann Arbor for another classic under the lights at the Big House. Last time they were here, they gave up a late score behind the heroics of Denard Robinson. Last season, Notre Dame forced the Wolverines into numerous turnovers and uncharacteristic mistakes in a defensive struggle in South Bend.

‘Shoelace’ Robinson is now in the NFL but Michigan now has a guy in Devin Gardner who is a dangerous dual-threat guy. He isn’t as fast as Robinson, but he’s a much better passer. Both the Wolverines and Irish were good in opening game wins last week against far lesser opponents and now tackle each other.

Tommy Rees isn’t Everett Golson, but he is a darn good passer who threw for over 300 yards last week. I give him the edge over Gardner who looked shaky at times against Central Michigan to whom he threw two interceptions. I expect another defensive battle but I like the Irish here getting four points.

Arizona (-10.5) at UNLV – If ever there were a misleading score last week it was UNLV’s 51-23 loss to Minnesota. The Rebels outgained the Gophers 419-320 but gave up a kickoff return for touchdown, a blocked field goal returned for touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown. That was certainly bad news for the Rebels but it gets worse with Arizona coming into Las Vegas.

The Wildcats defeated Northern Arizona 35-0 behind solid defense and a back-up running back who rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown. The Wildcats get the nation’s leading rusher from last year, Ka’Deem Carey back from a one game suspension and he will be primed to run through the Rebels.

I think UNLV puts up a fight but I expect the Wildcats to pull away. Take ‘Zona.