Putting the Wraps on College Football With Three Questions for 2015

Gary Patterson and TCU have every right to be upset especially after the team that replaced won the title.

By now you know the Ohio State Buckeyes are the champions of college football. While many will tell you this is the first-ever undisputed championship, you won’t catch me saying that.

Let’s remember that this team got into the playoffs simply because the committee wanted to avoid choosing TCU ahead of Baylor. By taking the Buckeyes, that meant neither the Horned Frogs nor the Bears were going into the playoffs so a lot of controversy was avoided. TCU had been listed in the top four for several weeks and in the last poll before the final rankings were released.

Both TCU and Ohio State had one loss. The Frogs lost a high-scoring shootout to Baylor 61-58 in Waco while the Buckeyes lost to 6-6 Virginia Tech in the Horseshoe.

Then bowl season came around and we all wondered how TCU would respond in their match-up against Ole Miss. Would they still be hanging their heads wondering about what might have been or would they prove to the committee that they should have been in rather than Ohio State?

Ask the Rebels which TCU team showed up…

The point is this; The Buckeyes are a worthy champion having defeated Alabama and Oregon and I certainly can’t say TCU would have accomplished this. But the fact that the one team that wasn’t in the top four rankings until the very end won the title tells me the playoff must expand to an eight-team field.

If J.T. Barrett recovers well, I expect him to get the nod at QB for the Buckeyes in 2015.

I believe it will eventually but probably not for several years at the earliest.

Five Questions Heading Into 2015

1. Can the Buckeyes make it two in a row? You bet they can. With Urban Meyer as head coach, a plethora of top new recruits and a lot of guys back from this past season’s team, there is no reason OSU can’t win back-to-back titles. The schedule is very favorable with the only troublesome road trips at Virginia Tech in the opener and at Michigan in the finale.

Obviously the biggest issue is at quarterback. It’s a good problem to have but Meyer is going to need to commit to Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller fairly soon. My gut feeling is that they go with Barrett as long as the leg heals properly.

2. Who bounces back for the SEC? Southeastern Conference expert Paul Feinbaum had a funny tweet yesterday and I’m paraphrasing a bit. “The Big Ten wins the National Championship in football, while the SEC has the top team in basketball. Something isn’t right.”

There’s no question the folks down South are hurting right now. While overall, their run of consecutive national titles still reigns supreme, but the fact they couldn’t even muster a team into the title game has left many feeling blue.

There isn’t a team in the SEC that doesn’t have question marks however. Both Alabama and Auburn will feature new quarterbacks and LSU is undergoing numerous changes on the defensive side. The SEC East should be better overall but whether they have a title contender is uncertain.

There’s no question the SEC will bounce back but there’s no clear cut evidence of who rises to the top just yet.

3. What is a “good outcome” in Harbaugh’s first year at Michigan? If you ask Wolverines’ fans they’ll tell you nothing short of a Big Ten title will suffice but that isn’t fair. Michigan will be better, there’s no way they won’t be with the staff Harbaugh has assembled and the attitude he’s already installing.

The defense last year in Ann Arbor was actually pretty darn good but the offense was the real problem. Harbaugh has to find a capable QB and a running game as well. I believe eight or nine wins is a very acceptable first year. Anything more is a bonus.


Wisconsin Situation Should Serve as a Wake-Up to the Rest of the Big Ten.

Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez finds himself looking for a coach for the second time in three years.

People change jobs for any number of reasons. Tops among those reasons is of course more money. There are very few among us who wouldn’t take a similar job to the one we currently have if it offered more money.

But there are other scenarios that factor into a person’s decision to take a job and I believe those are what caused Gary Andersen to leave Wisconsin.

Coaching changes at Florida, Michigan and even Nebraska were not surprises, but very few on the outside or the inside for that matter saw Andersen leaving the Badgers. His decision to leave for Oregon State has not only raised questions about the situation in Madison but in the entire Big Ten as well.

Andersen is believed to have left because he and his assistants didn’t care for Madison. They are mostly west coast guys who prefer living out there and that’s good enough for me. I get that… We also have heard Andersen was not pleased that he couldn’t bring many of the players he wanted into his program because of the academic standards.

This is where our problem begins…

No one denies that the most powerful football conference in America resides in the Southern and Eastern parts of this country. The past eight to ten years speak for themselves in terms of success on the football stage.

Gary Andersen's surprising move to the West Coast may expose more about the Big Ten then anything just at Wisconsin.

For eight straight years a team from the Southeastern Conference has played for the college football championship. The Big Ten meanwhile, the conference that Andersen has left, has played for just two titles in that same span.

So why the sudden shift after so many years of sharing power? There was a long time where teams from the Big Ten, SEC, old Southwest conference and Pac-8 used to consistently vie for titles and bowl games.

Even with expansion, the SEC has continued to pull away from most of the other conferences and most obviously left in the dust has been the corn-fed folks in the Midwest.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has some powerful things to consider going forward and Andersen’s departure will hasten those issues.

If the Big Ten wants to compete on the national stage and gain the respect they once had, then something has to be done to allow lesser academic athletes into its’ institutions. This will not be an easy thing to accomplish and there is growing sentiment that it might never happen.

I say “never” only because I would have thought the cash would have convinced them to jump on board the collegiate football money train by now. No one in the SEC will argue their academic standards don’t match those in the Big Ten.

They are all quality schools but do any actually compete with a Michigan, Northwestern or Purdue when it comes to academics? The answer is “no” and you won’t hear anyone apologize for it either.

The argument I consistently hear is about Ohio State. The Buckeyes belong to the Big Ten yet seem to have athletes similar to those in the South. My take is that OSU has figured out how to get these kids into the University.

If you look at the majors by not just OSU but also schools in the South you’ll notice plenty majoring in “exploring” and “general studies.” Get it?

Andersen’s leaving also brought out the issue of Wisconsin not paying assistants very well and that’s a viable cause for leaving but it’s obvious to me the Big Ten needs to decide if it wants to compete for football glory or continue to be the red-headed step-child to the SEC and beyond.

What We Know and What We Don’t Through Three Weeks of College Football

The SEC has remained in its' dominant place at the top so far in college football.

We are now through three full weeks of college football and typically by this time we have a small glimpse of who the top teams might be. I would accept arguments right now on any number of teams but I still haven’t seen one team that makes me sit up and take notice. Consider the following games from this past weekend.

Georgia was the darling of the college football world after their huge win over Clemson in their opener. Paired with South Carolina’s devastating loss to Texas A&M, many CFB experts we suddenly changing their picks for the winner of the SEC East Division. The Gamecocks barely escaped East Carolina (more on them later) in week two so naturally, we thought Georgia would go into Columbia and win right?

Georgia battled hard by fell 38-35 to the Gamecocks. The loss opens things back up for South Carolina and also makes each team’s game with Florida that much bigger now.

As far as those Pirates of ECU are concerned, all they did was go into Blacksburg and knock off unbeaten Virginia Tech 28-21. This was a Hokies team that upset Ohio State in Columbus just a week before. Suddenly we were all thinking that maybe the ACC wasn’t easy street for Florida State. Well, maybe it is after all.

The Bruins proved they can win without Hundley, but their wins have been ugly.

One of the sexier picks to make the Championship Playoff this season was UCLA led by Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley. The good news is the Bruins are still unbeaten at 3-0, but their wins have been struggles. They defeated Virginia on the road with defense, barely survived Memphis in the Rose Bowl by seven and then Saturday they managed to get by Texas 20-17 with Hundley out with an elbow injury.

Back-up Jerry Neuheisel led the Bruins to the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes to go in the fourth. Let’s be clear; the name of the game in college football is winning and UCLA is winning but I have a hard time seeing this get through the Pac-12 schedule unscathed right now.

What We Know

What is blatantly obvious to all of us is that the Big Ten is not going to go anywhere near the playoff with several miracles. A week ago the conference suffered losses at the top with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State going down and losses at the bottom with Northwestern and Purdue losing to MAC schools.

This past weekend, Michigan was taken deep into the second half by Miami, OH before pulling away in the fourth. Indiana lost to Bowling Green and Iowa lost at home to rival Iowa State by three. This is a Cyclones’ team that was throttled at home in the opener by North Dakota State too.

As bad as the Big Ten has been, the SEC has been quite the opposite.

The best football conference in the country is proving worthy of their title as they now have seven teams in the Top 25. Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss are in the top ten and each is unbeaten. Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri are also listed. The tragic irony of this dominant situation is that the SEC could very well knock itself around too much.

Florida plays at Alabama this coming Saturday and then in two weeks, things get really interesting. LSU will play at Auburn and Alabama will travel to Ole Miss. While it’s doubtful anyone comes out without some scratches, the SEC can’t beat itself up too much or it could cost itself the two spots we’ve all given it in the final four.

As usual, there’s a lot that can happen.


The Big Ten Continues to Struggle Against the SEC, Power Conferences

Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats are 8-2 against power conferences but none of those games were against ranked teams.

For many years in old system of college football, the Big Ten Champion would travel westward to play the Pac-8, then 10 and now 12 in the Rose Bowl. For many decades there was dominance by the Big Ten and then in the 1970’s and 1980’s the pendulum swung drastically in favor of the kids from the West Coast.

In the 1990’s, the Big Ten won six of the 10 games leading up to the birth of the BCS and with that slight edge, some thought the Big Ten had turned a corner and was ready to return as the best or second best conference in America.

The Big Ten, which is now actually made up of 14 teams, is no longer compared to the Pac-12 the way it once was. The standard today is the SEC who had won seven straight national titles until last season. This isn’t to say the Big Ten isn’t still compared to the Pac-12 because it is any time they face each other but the SEC is the cream of the crop right now.

Of the five major conferences in college football right now, one could argue that the Big Ten has slipped not to number two but perhaps as far as fourth or fifth. The ACC has the reigning champion in college football and was better overall last season in terms of depth. The Big 12, which has ten teams, had two BCS bowl bids last season.

Michigan and Penn State need to rack up some wins against the SEC in order to gain any respect for the conference.

If we look at the breakdown of Big Ten teams vs the ‘Power Five’ conferences (this doesn’t include Rutgers or Maryland), only Northwestern (8-2) and Ohio State (5-3) have winning records against schools from those conferences since 2010. Overall, the Big Ten is 35-48 over that time span.

Before we anoint Northwestern the kings of the block, consider that they are 0-0 against ranked Power Five conferences. That means they are thriving on the bottom-dwellers of those conferences. Only the Buckeyes have a winning record against ranked Power Five conferences and that’s a rather meager 2-1 record.

The overall Big Ten record against ranked Power Five conference teams is just 8-25.

Lastly is the record of Big Ten teams against SEC teams dating back to 2010. Not surprisingly it is well below .500 at 7-15 with Northwestern once again “leading” the way with a 3-1 record. The three wins were against Vanderbilt (2) and Mississippi State and the loss was to Texas A&M when they were still in the Big 12.

The Wildcats are the only team with a winning record against the SEC. Ohio State and Michigan State are 1-1 while Michigan and Penn State are both 0-3.

So what does the Big Ten do to regain a place among the top two conferences in college football? Unfortunately not much in the short-term because the bottom of the conference is just horrendous and yes I’m looking at you Purdue and Illinois.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier said this week his team gets more out of a game against East Carolina then they would against the bottom half of the Big Ten. Here’s the thing; Spurrier is absolutely right. Top Big Ten teams usually have starters and first line depth to compete with anyone but once you get into the middle and bottom of the Big Ten the starters of those teams aren’t much better if at all then a school like East Carolina.

The Big Ten for many years has ‘sampled’ the talent in places like Texas and Florida but still can’t compete with Nick Saban and Les Miles coming into a kid’s living room. With Rutgers and Maryland coming in, the hope is that the Big Ten’s recruiting base will now open up places like New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. That will help but until the Big Ten can consistently go into the deep south they will continue to struggle.

Lowering their academic standards might help too.

Odds to Win the 2014 Big Ten West Division

Melvin Gordon and the Badgers are my pick to win the Big Ten West Division.

On Tuesday, I started looking at college football conference odds by opening up with the Big Ten’s East Division. Today I turn the car towards the sunset and head to West Division where it appears there is a two-horse race between Nebraska and Wisconsin. Don’t tell that to a few other teams in the Division because they aren’t going to just step aside in the race to represent the division in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Illinois 33/1 – Illini Head Coach Tim Beckman enters year three with a 6-18 record and his job can only be saved with a bowl bid in my opinion. The non-conference schedule should provide three wins against lesser opponents while a trip to Washington probably won’t go well. The conference schedule features road games at Nebraska, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State and at Northwestern. That leaves Beckman little room for error because those are all losses in my mind. They will not threaten for the division title.

Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes could play spoiler in the Big Ten West Division.

Iowa 5/1 – The Hawkeyes enter 2014 with high hopes under Kirk Ferentz who enters his 19th season in Iowa City. The offense has nice tools to work with in both the running and passing game and the schedule could not set up better. The non-conference slate features rival Iowa State at home and a trip to Pitt with two winnable home games as well. The conference schedule is where the Hawkeyes can make waves. They have both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home in the final two games of the season and they also get Northwestern at home as well. If you are looking for that one team to knock off the Badgers and Huskers then here it is.

Minnesota 10/1 – The Golden Gophers’ biggest question is actually about the guy on the sidelines and that’s Head Coach Jerry Kill. Despite the university giving him a raise, concerns over his health have to be hanging over this team. Twice last season Kill was unable to travel with the team and that’s never good. Throw in the fact their top quarterback Phillip Nelson transferred to Rutgers and you have the makings of a decline in Minnesota this year. The Gophers have a brutal schedule that includes road games at TCU, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraksa. They also have Ohio State at home. I see a step back this season.

Nebraska 3/2 – Bo Pelini was thought to be gone following a blowout loss to Iowa in the season finale last year but the school gave him a contract extension. I do believe that a down season will put him right back on the hot seat in Lincoln and the schedule will be nothing easy to navigate. They have Miami,Fl at home and a trip to Fresno State in non-conference action and conference trips to Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa. Despite the return of running back Ameer Abdullah, receiver Kenny Bell and QB Tommy Armstrong, the defense has only three starters back. I think the Huskers finish third in the West.

Northwestern 20/1 – The Wildcats suffered a disappointing season after a strong start in 2013 and didn’t go to a bowl. They’ll get back to a bowl in 2014 and the schedule should help that.  They get Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan at home. If they stay healthy, they could be a sleeper in the West.

Purdue 100/1 – Darrell Hazell went 1-11 in his first year and a repeat of that will cost him his job. The schedule could help that with Wisconsin and Michigan State coming to Ross-Ade Stadium. Still, the talent just isn’t there. Three wins might be a successful season in 2014.

Wisconsin 6/5 – The Badgers open in Houston, Texas against LSU. If they can get past the Tigers then I believe they have the opportunity for a run at the four-team playoff. The tough road trips are at Iowa and at Northwestern. Outside of that, I think the Badgers can make a serious run at national honors. I expect them to play Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.


Odds to Win the 2014 Big Ten East Division

Brady Hoke has every reason to be concerned. He needs a big season to keep his job.

2014 brings more realignment to college football and in this particular case it’s the Big Ten. Rutgers and Maryland join the numerically challenged conference to bring the total now to 14. Also changed are the division names which go from the controversial ‘Leaders’ and ‘Legends’ Divisions to the much more geographically correct ‘East’ and ‘West.’

Today, I’m looking at the odds on who will represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship Game. As of today, this looks like a two-horse race.

Indiana 33/1 – The Hoosiers started well last season and were competitive in several games before losing. They eventually finished 5-7. The schedule presents some tough road games against SEC East Champ Missouri, MAC Champ Bowling Green and Big Ten Division Champ Ohio State. There’s a chance for the Hoosiers to get six wins but there is no room for error.

Maryland 50/1 – The Terrapins start their inaugural Big Ten Season coming off a 7-6 season in which they went just 3-5 in their division. Their first season features trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State but they do get division heavyweights Michigan State and Ohio State at home. I don’t see the Terps getting to .500 this year.

Michigan 5/1 – Hard to believe that Brady Hoke is on the hot seat but he is. The Wolverines have struggled against the two teams they cannot afford to struggle against; Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan is expected to vie for titles every season and they haven’t. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has come aboard to straighten out this offense. The Wolverines have trips to both of their rivals in East Lansing and Columbus and host Appalachian State in the opener and we all know what happened last time they came to the Big House. I see another struggle for Michigan in 2014. Eight wins would be welcome.

Look for Dantonio's Spartans to repeat as division champions in 2014.

Michigan State 13/5 – The Spartans are in prime position for not just another Big Ten Title run but perhaps a shot at the four-team playoff as well. QB Connor Cook is back and as confident as ever and although they have a few guys to replace defensively, I expect that unit to be very good again. The schedule has one daunting road game at that’s a long trip to Oregon. The only other road game that poses a threat is at Penn State in the finale. The great news is that Sparty gets Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska in Spartan Stadium. The game with the Buckeyes will decide the East Division title.

Ohio State 5/2 – The Buckeyes’ schedule is almost as favorable as Michigan State’s with daunting road games at MSU and Penn State. Outside of that, Urban Meyer’s charges will get Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Michigan at home. OSU was 12-0 last season before Meyer suffered his first defeat as their head coach in the Big Ten Title Game. Braxton Miller is back, but the offense does have Carlos Hyde to replace. Because of Meyer’s recruiting they will be a national contender again and that trip to East Lansing could decide their fate on several levels.

Penn State NL – The Nittany Lions are still ineligible to win the Big Ten East Division title. I expect an above .500 season from new head coach James Franklin.

Rutgers 100/1 – After a road trip to Washington State in the opener, the Scarlet Knights have four of the next five at home. Among them are Michigan and Penn State. Rutgers received no favors from the scheduling department as they drew the top two teams from the West in Wisconsin who they get at home and Nebraska where must travel. With other away games at Navy and at Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights will be lucky to get to .500 this season.


Weekend Ramblings Include Phil, NCAA Uncertainty and Steve Nash’s Honesty

Can Phil Jackson save the New York Knicks?

For the first time in his non-playing career, Phil Jackson is taking a risk. Every report this side of Antarctica says the zen-master is headed to the New York Knicks as team president and a ‘major announcement’ has been called by the organization for Tuesday morning.

I say that Jackson is taking a risk because during his tenure as a head coach in the National Basketball Association he has been fortunate enough to coach two teams that were both loaded with talent. He stepped into the head coaching position with the Chicago Bulls when the team was just coming into its own.

Six titles later and a Michael Jordan retirement saw him head to Los Angeles where the Lakers were Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were in their primes. Five titles later, retirement for Phil Jackson looked pretty darn good. Now, Jackson is entering a situation where there is no savior waiting in the wings. Carmelo Anthony is the only player the Knicks have worth a darn and may not even be there as free agency looms this offseason.

At 68 years old, can Jackson handle the rigors of rebuilding an organization that has fallen on the worst of times? Should he be able to get this team into the playoffs within two to three years then he shall have succeeded in some circles. Status quo or worse will tarnish his legacy whether he believes it or not.

Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim needs to get this team back on track.

NCAA Tourney Field Wide-Open

A month ago, Syracuse seemed destined to get to the Final Four and possibly the championship game as they cruised to an unbeaten start. Since they finally lost at Boston College, it’s been a train wreck to put it lightly. The Orange were bounced from their first-ever ACC Tournament appearance by NC State yesterday 66-63. It was the Orange’s fifth loss in their last seven games.

Syracuse wasn’t the only team though across the country to get beaten earlier than expected in their conference tournaments. Kansas was beaten by Iowa State who all of the sudden looks like a team that could make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Big Ten Champ Michigan escaped Illinois with a one-point win while #15 North Carolina was beaten by new ACC member Pitt 80-75.

#18 St. Louis also took it on the chin losing to St. Bonaventure and #13 Cincinnati lost to #21 UConn 58-56. All of this really shouldn’t be that surprising. Conference tournaments have often been the scene of big upsets ahead of the big dance but with every passing year these events seem to get more and more common.

Wichita State has so far held up their end of the bargain by finishing unbeaten and with a conference tournament title in hand. The Shockers will get a number one seed but they are no means a lock to roll into the Final Four.

Bottom line? You better do your homework when filling out your brackets this year because anything is possible.

Nash Speaks the Truth

We have to credit Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Steve Nash for being honest. In the sports’ world, fans often cry that players only take deals in certain locations because of the money but rarely ever admit that’s the reason.

Don’t worry about Steve Nash in this regard. The often-injured former NBA MVP flat out said he is coming back next year because he wants to collect his $10 million pay check. If you’re a Lakers’ fan, you probably aren’t thrilled with this. You’d rather he just retired so the team can move on and rebuild. For the rest of us, it was rather refreshing to hear a guy finally say, “It’s about the money.”

Conference Tournaments Offer Wagering Opportunities Too

Don't wait for the Big Dance! Start March Madness with some conference tourney wagering.

While many conference tournaments are already underway across the country, the ‘big boys’ start their tournaments next week. We are just nine days from Selection Sunday and while the little conferences have their say in who will represent them, the larger conferences have no such worries.

Conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and so on know they will have multiple schools getting into the big dance while conferences like the Ohio Valley or SWAC are more than likely looking at just one team, the conference champion, getting in.

Fair or not, that’s the way basketball in the collegiate ranks works. It’s also why we as fans pay so little attention to these tournaments until their championship games are set. Even then our interest is little and is much more focused on the major conference tournaments ahead.

If you are already foaming at the mouth at the thought of filling out your NCAA brackets then I have something to tide you over. Many of you are already doing this but I know many of you aren’t and you are missing out!

I’m always on the lookout for numerous ways to gamble around the office. It’s a good way to build morale and goodwill in the workplace. All too often, we assume that there is nothing to do between the Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament and I’m telling you that just isn’t so.

Depending upon where you live in the United States, you should be holding a conference tournament pool based on your nearest major conference.

If you live in Texas then you should be hosting an office pool for the Big 12 Conference Tournament or perhaps the SEC Tournament for you A&M folks.

If you’re in the upper Northeast you should have an American Athletic Conference Tournament pool or ACC if you’re in New York, Boston or Western PA.

Big Ten
Get a bracket just like this for all the major conferences and get your co-workers involved.

I think you get the idea….

What you’ll want to do is just set up a very standard bracket. For the Big Ten, you can print them right off at BigTen.org. The amount of money you decide per entry is up to you and hopefully you’ve been your office’s ‘gaming commissioner’ long enough to know whether $2 per sheet is good or if $20 per sheet is the number.

I suggest filling out the bracket as you would any NCAA bracket but there a couple of things to consider. Because you’re dealing with a small amount of games, you might want to give point values to each round of the conference tournament.

This will help eliminate some potential ties but it won’t alleviate all of them. Therefore, you’ll need a tie-breaker and I have two such ways of going about this.

The most standard practice is to go with “Write in the final score of the conference championship game.” You could use point spread first or use closest in terms of total points for the tie-breaker as well.

The other option for tie-breaker (or as a second tie-breaker if you have a small number of players) is to have each entrant choose the tournament’s most valuable player. This can be quite fun because almost always we see teams make runs to the conference title game that we never saw coming.

That means a larger pool of players to potentially choose from.

Regardless of what you do, don’t wait around for Selection Sunday and March Madness. Get the madness going sooner by wagering on conference tournaments next week. Good luck!

College Basketball Matchups, Lines, Picks

College basketball has taken center stage and with conference schedules well under way, teams are jockeying for position for their eventual conference championships and possible selection to March Madness.

This weekend, with football taking a weekend off, other than the not so popular Pro Bowl, NCAA basketball takes center stage.

These are two games highlighting the busy Saturday schedule in the NCAA.

Florida State vs. Duke (-8.5)

In the ACC, Florida State visits Duke. The Seminoles are 13-5 SU and 11-5 ATS and look for their eighth cover over their last 10 games against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is ranked No. 18 in the nation and is 15-4 SU and 11-8 ATS. The visiting team is 4-0 ATS over the past four games in this matchup.

Jabari Parker, the Duke freshman sensation leads the team in scoring with 19 points per game and averages 7.7 rebounds per game.

FSU has a shooting percentage of 52% on its three-point shots over its last four games, with Aaron Thomas hitting 8 of 13 during that span.

Florida State is 6-3 against the spread over its past eight games on the road. Duke has a 10-4 ATS record over its past 14 games at home. The UNDER has cashed in 4 of the past 5 games FSU has played on the road. The UNDER has cashed in 14 of the past 19 games played between the two schools.

Pick: Duke less the points

Michigan vs. Michigan State (-5.5)

Michigan visits Michigan State in a matchup of archrivals and two ranked teams. The Wolverines are red-hot entering the game and have moved up to No. 25 in the nation, while the Spartans have lost just one game this season and are ranked No. 3.

Michigan State is 18-1 SU and 10-6-2 ATS. The Spartans will be attempting to cover for the fourth consecutive game versus the Wolverines. Michigan is 14-4 SU and 9-6-1 ATS. The Wolverines have won eight straight games and two straight over ranked opponents. The Spartans are on an 11 game winning streak.

The Spartans however have some injury problems as Branden Dawson broke a bone in one of his hands while slapping a table while watching films of opponents. Adreian Payne is questionable for the game due to an injured foot. The two players combined average over 26 points and 16 rebounds per game.

Michigan does not have the injuries the Spartans have but will be without Mitch McGary who had back surgery to end his season.

Last season Michigan State won at home and lost to Michigan on the road.

The Wolverines are 6-1-1 against the spread over their last 8 games. Michigan State has a record of 8-2 ATS over its past 10 games. The UNDER has cashed in all 4 of the past four games between the two schools. The home team has covered the number in 4 of the past 5 games between the two schools.

Pick: Michigan plus the points

Looking Ahead to College Football in 2014 (Part One)

How will Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M fare without Johnny Football in 2014?

Last night officially brought an end to the 2013 college football season (and the BCS) with Florida State’s dramatic 34-31 win over Auburn. Today I find myself no better than the folks who feel it necessary to look forward to the following season before the teams even leave the field from the BCS Title game. I’m going to take a look at what we can look forward to in CFB in some major conferences next year.

Note: The Pac-12, Mountain West, American Athletic and Independents will follow on Thursday.

SEC – Despite the streak of national titles ending at seven, I think the Southeastern Conference is still in good shape. The exception of course is that the play of quarterbacks is likely to be down with Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, A.J. McCarron and Johnny Manziel off to the NFL.

Burning Questions for the SEC – How will LSU and Georgia fare with new signal-callers under center? Can Will Muschamp survive a poor start in Gainesville with the pressure he is under? How good can we expect Texas A&M to be in year one post-Manziel? Can Bret Bielema survive another down year in Arkansas and can Auburn top their run from 2013?

The Terps, and Rutgers, join the Big Ten for the 2014 season.

Big Ten -The Big Ten, which previously had 12 members, now has 14 and is still called the Big Ten. No wonder American kids are terrible at math. Rutgers and Maryland join the Midwest’s premier conference and with them comes realignment. Gone are the ‘Legends and Leaders’ divisions and in their place are the East and West. The Scarlet Knights and Terrapins will join Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State in the East.

The West will be Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. The conference will also move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.

Burning Questions for the Big Ten… Who will replace Bill O’Brien at Penn State where the Nittany Lions still have two years of probation left? Can Ohio State rebound from two straight losses after their 24-game winning streak? Can Michigan State repeat as conference champion? Can Brady Hoke survive another mediocre season in Ann Arbor and can Jerry Kill stay healthy enough in Minnesota to keep coaching?

Big 12 – The biggest news from the Big 12 comes from Austin where the Texas Longhorns appear to have found their man to replace Mack Brown. Louisville’s Charlie Strong has agreed to become the next coach of the Longhorns and he will immediately be under the microscope by the burnt orange faithful. Not only does Strong have to compete with conference foes for recruits but his Longhorns have played second fiddle to rival Texas A&M the last two years as well and that never sits well in Austin.

Burning Questions for the Big 12… Does Oklahoma enter as a prohibitive favorite based on how they finished their season with wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama? With Bryce Petty and Art Briles both back in Waco what can we expect from Baylor? Is there a surprise team on the rise like Iowa State or Kansas and can Mike Gundy and the Cowboys finally get over the hump?

ACC – The Seminoles have wrestled the title away from the SEC and now will look to repeat but they know it won’t be easy as many guys will head to the NFL. Clemson will be in a similar predicament with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins gone. With a year under their belts in the ACC, Syracuse and Pitt are out of the newlywed phase and expectations will be higher.

Burning Questions for the ACC… What will David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils do for an encore after a great 2013? Does Virginia Tech bounce back or does another average season spell the end for Frank Beamer? What will newcomer Louisville bring to the table in the ACC without Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater? If Al Golden returns to his alma mater of Penn State who takes the reins in Miami? Who plays QB at Clemson and how will Dave Clawson fare in year one at Wake Forest?