Seminoles, Tigers Settle Things Tonight

Winston
Winston
How will Jameis Winston handle the pressure of the BCS Title game tonight?

The Bowl Championship Series comes to an end this evening in Pasadena and for most college football fans this is a good thing. Since Tennessee captured the very first BCS title in January of 1999, the system has been under fire for any number of reasons. One thing I can tell you the BCS has accomplished is it has created tremendous talking points.

Without the BCS would we have had the conference bragging rights debate we’ve seen in recent years? Hard to say but the BCS more often than not got it right. The problem is and always will be is that fans want a playoff. They want to see the top teams battle it out over the course of a few weeks rather than on just one night. The College Football Playoffs will be a step in that direction next year as the top four teams will compete for the National Title.

With all that said, let’s get on to tonight’s game.

Auburn (+9) vs. Florida State – You’ll notice this line has moved very little since it opened and I don’t think you’ll see much more movement today. Florida State enters as the prohibitive favorite because of dominance they’ve shown on both sides of the ball. They rank at or near the top of most key categories on offense and defense. Some will tell you that is the result of a weak Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.

For once-beaten Auburn (loss was to LSU), the defense isn’t a good as Florida State’s but it has shown to be opportunistic and has a very good rotation of defensive linemen. The offense is the type you can never take a rest on because of the constant pressure they put on you. Whether it’s Nick Marshall or Tre Mason the pressure the Tigers put on a defense is immense.

So what will this game boil down to?

For Florida State, what will their response be to a close game late in the second half? The closest margin of victory FSU has seen in 2013 was a 14-point win at Boston College. If this game is close in the fourth quarter, will the Seminoles rise to the challenge or will they falter?

Marshall
Florida State will try to force Nick Marshall to throw the ball rather than run it.

Auburn is no stranger to close games so they are battle-tested in this regard. Wins over Alabama and Georgia for example came in the waning moments and were close games throughout. This advantage goes to the Tigers.

The challenge that Auburn will face is if the Seminoles are able to shut down their running game. Can Nick Marshall pass this team to victory? So much of what Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s offense is predicated on is the run setting up the pass. If Florida State can take the run away with their athletic defense, then can Marshall pass the Tigers to victory?

The over/under tonight is 68. Florida State averages 53 points per game and Auburn averages 40. The math would suggest taking the over is a no-brainer but I’m seeing a game in the high 20’s or low 30’s so take the under this evening.

Both teams are 5-0 straight up in their last five games. Despite facing huge margins all season, Jameis Winston led the ‘Noles to an 11-2 mark against the spread this year which is something to consider. Ironically, Auburn was also 11-2 ATS this season so in a game that’s tough to call, what’s one more close statistic?

My Pick: Trends are difficult to ignore. One that I take seriously is the success or lack thereof of Heisman winners in the title game. Since 2000, winners of the Heisman Trophy are 6-7 in their bowl games. The problem? The last four winners have won their bowl games so what is the destiny for Jameis Winston? He will make mistakes tonight but I’m not certain how serious they’ll be.

As good as the Florida State defense is, they a relatively small. I think the Auburn offensive line wears them down. I like the Tigers and the nine points tonight.

The Heisman Trophy Has Become Embarrassing

Winston
Winston
Winston celebrates with his Heisman Trophy.

Congratulations to Jameis Winston who ran away with the Heisman Trophy last evening. He was far and away the winner with 668 first-place votes to A.J. McCarron’s 79 and he was the second-place person. Winston more than deserved the honor with an outstanding season in his first year as starting quarterback at Florida State.

Winston becomes the second and second-straight freshman to win the award following Johnny Manziel who finished fifth in this year’s balloting. He has led the Seminoles to the BCS Title game amidst looming charges for a sexual assault that occurred a year ago. The state of Florida recently announced there was not sufficient enough evidence and the case was dropped.

I do not know what happened on that day a year ago and regardless of what I think of the situation, Winston was not charged. He knows the truth and the rest of us do not so we must focus on what we know move on. For Winston of course that means the BCS Title game.

The Heisman Trophy in general has become a sham in my opinion. It claims to honor the country’s best collegiate football player and Winston was certainly one of the top players deserving of the attention. The problem is that the award is no longer based on “the best player.” Instead, it’s based on the best player on one of the best teams.

Manziel
Would a better record have helped Manziel do better in the Heisman balloting?

Look back at recent winners and check their team’s records. Whether it’s Winston, Manziel, Ingram or RGIII, the success of the team is as important as the player being “worthy.” Go back to 1997 for example. Odds on favorite heading into the season was Tennessee’s Peyton Manning. A loss to Florida and a poor performance to boot set him back behind flourishing Charles Woodson of Michigan.

Woodson played for Big Ten Champion and more importantly, undefeated Michigan while Manning had suffered that one loss. Woodson, behind a massive hype machine because of his numerous positions played, won the Heisman Trophy.

Another major factor in the Heisman being overblown is media bias. Ever heard of “East Coast Media Bias?” It exists and any journalist who has worked on both coasts will tell you as much. Outside of Los Angeles, the rest of the West gets very little attention. Consider that since 1990 when Ty Detmer won the Heisman, only three players from West of the Rocky Mountains has won the award.

Can you guess what school holds the distinction of having all three of those winners? The University of Southern California is the answer and what city is this school located? Los Angeles.

I used to watch the Heisman Trophy presentation when I was younger but like everything else, it has become long and drawn out and in most cases lacks any drama. Leave it to ESPN to create this monster…

For me, the best college football is not always the one with most glorifying statistics. A true football player is one who accomplishes more for his team than anyone else for starters. That describes Jameis Winston and many other past winners though doesn’t it? Yup, sure does but what about the receivers Winston throws to? They had big years worthy of consideration.

What about UCLA’s Myles Jack who returned the game of football to its’ two-way days by playing both offense and defense? To me, that’s a great football player. This doesn’t take anything away from Winston, but is he on par with a guy who plays both sides of the ball equally as well?

When the media and Heisman folks finally recognize there are people worthy of the award who aren’t quarterbacks or running backs, then maybe I’ll tune in again. Until then, I find it embarrassing.

Baseball and College Football on My Docket Today

Fielder
Fielder
Fielder's trade to Texas works for both teams but for the Tigers it was much needed.

Major League Baseball’s hot stove was supposed to be rather boring this offseason. Apparently the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers did not get that particular memo. Earlier this week the two recently successful American League teams pulled off a big deal.

The Tigers sent first basement Prince Fielder to the Rangers in exchange for Texas’ second baseman Ian Kinsler.

The move appears to be a good deal for both teams but I believe it’s an outstanding deal for the Tigers in particular. Fielder spent just two seasons in the Motor City and has had productive yet uninspiring statistics.

The knock on Fielder in Detroit has been two horrible playoff performances and a contract that still has seven years and $168 million left on it. By trading Fielder to Texas, Detroit frees up money. They also sent $30 million to the Rangers as part of the deal by the way.

That money can now be used to re-work deals for Miguel Cabrera and possibly allows them to keep Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.

On the field, the Tigers now have some options. General thought has Cabrera moving back to first base and Kinsler of course taking over at second and probably the lead-off spot in the line-up as well.

It also allows Detroit to give one of their top prospects a shot at third base. Nick Castellanos is believed to be ready defensively but there are questions about his hitting in terms of being an everyday player.

For the Rangers, it gives their line-up an immediate upgrade in terms of power. It’s power that has been missing since Josh Hamilton left for Los Angeles. The Ballpark at Arlington should be much more welcoming to Fielder’s home run numbers than Comerica Park which is clearly a pitcher’s ball  park.

Texas is also getting a guy that plays every day and is rarely injured.

For Kinsler’s part, he will make $62 million over the next five years and immediately moves into second base.

Both teams pulled this thing together in about 24 hours and feel as though they are both getting something they want and need. That’s all you can really ask for in a trade.

Winston
Will the problems for Winston derail the Seminoles?

Trouble at Florida State?

The Florida State Seminoles are preparing for the Idaho Vandals this week as they continue on a collision course with Alabama for the BCS Title. In the background however is an increasingly large police investigation involving Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston.

A woman in Tallahassee claims she was sexually assaulted by Winston in December of 2012. Winston volunteered a DNA sample feeling he had done nothing wrong. He claims the sex was consensual.

The DNA was a match to DNA found on the accuser’s underwear.

Winston’s lawyers are not at all surprised that the DNA matched. They’ve said all along the sex was consensual and believe that no crime was committed.

Basically this will become a situation that will become “he said, she said” and whether Winston is charged or not is unknown.

In this particular day and age, we must not devalue the claims of the accuser and must not belittle the claims of the accused either. Stories about women hunting down pro and college athletes in efforts to collect their semen and they claim assault and or pregnancy are out there.

This doesn’t seem that simple though. I don’t know what Winston did or didn’t do, but the fact an investigator told the accuser’s family to drop things because the city was a “football town” is disturbing enough.

Let’s hope they get to the truth of the matter sooner rather than later.

Negative News Lengthens Winston’s Odds for Heisman

News can make you a superstar one day and bring you crashing down to earth the next. The Heisman odds for Jameis Winston were adjusted this week after news of his alleged sexual assault.

Winston’s odds to be the winner of the Heisman Trophy were lengthened this week when news broke of his alleged involvement in a sexual assault from close to one year ago.

The redshirt freshman quarterback from Florida State however still is the favorite in the race for college football’s highest individual award.

On sites such as Bovada, sportsbooks.com, topbet and betonline, Winston’s odds for the Heisman Trophy went from 1 to 4 to 1 to 8 after the news.

Johnny Manziel the sophomore quarterback for Texas A&M and the current holder of the Heisman Trophy saw his odds shortened to 3 to 1 from 5 to 1. Odds for A.J. McCarron the Alabama quarterback dropped to 4 to 1 from 5 to 1.

Reports are than Winston will not be suspended due to the alleged incident, but like the situation in 2010 with Cam Newton, there are some uncertainties going forward.

Some odds makers had Winston at -150 to win the coveted trophy and are now considering moving him down to even money.

Other books online have McCarron as second and moving closer to Winston. As the tougher matchups approach in conference games, the jockeying around of favorites will occur even more.

The most likely outcome will be Heisman voters will judge Winston on his on the field play and not the alleged assault. That is of course, if no further word involving the incident comes to light between now and when the voters must submit their votes.

Florida State’s next opponent this Saturday is Syracuse. The Orange is drawing some play at sportsbooks like Bovada, betonline and topbet, since the news about Winston broke.

On Thursday, the point spread went down a point from -38.5 to -37.5 for Florida State. That type of movement comes after any negative situation takes place, as bettors believe the team might not be as focused on the game as before.

Not affected yet by the news about Winston are the odds for Florida State to win the national championship. The Seminoles are still 3 to 2 and the second favorite to win behind just 2 to 3 Alabama.

Changes could be made to the national title odds after seeing the way Florida State plays this weekend and how well their next opponent Florida plays against South Carolina.

Four Rivalry Games That I Find Enticing on Saturday

Winston
Winston
I expect Winston and the Seminoles to roll over Miami.

Four rivalries highlight my selections for Saturday. Some will be slugfests while others will be shootouts. See if you like my thinking.

Miami at Florida State (-21) – I honestly have no clue how Miami is ranked in the top ten but hey, it is what it is. Everyone from one side of this country to the other has FSU covering in this game and I can’t for the life of me find a reason to disagree. Al Golden is doing a really nice job in Miami and his team can flat-out run the football at a clip of over 200 yards per game.

The problem is that this Seminole defense is absolutely flying right now. They are more disciplined and detail-oriented than ever and it is showing. FSU is giving up just 13 points per game and to be really fair, some of those were garbage points scoreddd late by opponents.

The only way the Canes pull this off is by creating turnovers, running the ball effectively and QB Stephen Morris has to be efficient and error-free. I just don’t see those things happening. The Noles have too many athletes on both sides of the ball and this Jimbo Fisher team just seems different. I like Florida State to cover… Like everyone else I guess.

Georgia (-3) vs Florida – The last time these two both entered on losing streaks I’m pretty sure cars were just starting to roll off the assembly line. I refuse to call this game anything other than the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” because that’s what it is and I’m not falling into the political correct world here.

The Gators will hang their hopes on their defense which continues to be pretty good despite a rough outing at Missouri. They rank eighth in the nation in points against and they will need every bit of that to contain Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense. The Bulldogs also will be getting running back Todd Gurley back and I think he could be the difference.

The one area the Gators could find an advantage is in special teams where Georgia struggles. Even if Florida gets a score off of special teams, I think the Goergia offense will be too much. I like the Dawgs to cover.

Gardner
Gardner must take care of the ball for the Wolverines to have a shot against Michigan State.

Michigan (+5) at Michigan State – The Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy heads back to East Lansing. Both teams have their respective fates in their hands in terms of a Legends’ Division title and the Spartans could grab a really firm hold with a win and a fairly weak schedule down the stretch.

The Spartans boast the nation’s top defense which is giving up 12 points per game. Last week in Champaign, the MSU offense found its’ groove for the very first time in scoring 42 on the Illini.

Michigan has had an odd season needing late-game heroics to beat lowly Akron and UConn while scoring at will Notre Dame and Indiana. This game always comes down to two things; who runs the ball better who takes better care of the ball. It’s that latter issue that really worries me if I’m Michigan. QB Devin Gardner can be a turnover-machine and that could play right into the hands of Sparty.

I like MSU to win, but I expect it to be within the line so take UM.

North Carolina (-5) at North Carolina State – Let’s get right to the heart of this one. The Tar Heels can throw the ball at will. The Wolfpack run the ball a little better than UNC does. They both give up around 25-27 points per game. North Carolina’s Bryn Renner is the better QB so take the Heels to win a shootout in Raleigh.