Seminoles Continue to Live Dangerously

Winston
Winston
Jameis Winston threw three interceptions last night but still rallied the 'Noles past Louisvile.

During the 2013 season, the Florida State Seminoles faced very few moments of urgency. They trailed in the first half at Boston College before storming back to win and then in the national championship game they trailed Auburn by 11 points at the break. We know how that ended…

The 2014 season has seen the Seminoles in far different scenarios. Already through eight games Florida State has trailed in half of them. Last night was no exception as the ‘Noles came back from 21-0 down in the first half to defeat Louisville 42-31. This game was seen as the Seminoles’ last serious hurdle in terms of remaining unbeaten.

FSU will host Virginia next Saturday then play their final road game of the season at Miami. Home games against Boston College and Florida round out the season. Certainly anything can happen especially with those two rivalry games but the Seminoles will be favored heavily in all of their final four games.

Cards
The Cardinals just couldn't hang on to the upset over Florida State.

Great teams always find ways to win and so far in 2014 this is exactly what FSU has done. Despite all of the controversy surrounding Jameis Winston for one thing after another and then the more recent allegations against running back Karlos Williams, the Seminoles have persevered. That doesn’t mean some luck hasn’t come their way either.

Most notably was the pass interference call against Notre Dame. While I believe it was the right call, it was still a stroke of luck that it was even called in the first place. There was also the Clemson game in which Winston sat out for his stupid decision to yell obscenities in the FSU Student Union. In that game, the Tigers missed field goals which would have won them the game rather than forcing them to overtime where the Seminoles prevailed.

Last night was no different as the bounces once again went the way of Florida State. Winston threw three interceptions but on one of those he forced the interceptor to fumble the ball back to FSU. Then there was the mishandled snap near the goal line where the ball seemed to roll free for an eternity before FSU tight end ick O’Leary fell on it for a touchdown.

How long can the Seminoles keep living dangerously? My guess is that they’ll survive the final four games but the real test will be when they enter the four-team playoff where they will likely face an SEC team. There’s no question Florida State can win the national title again but the doubts are much greater than they were last year at this time. Will luck and all the bounces continue to go their way? Only time will tell at this point.

Gurley Will Return But I Have Issues With the NCAA

The fact that I have issues with the NCAA is not shocking.They are easily one of the most incompetent and over-judicious bodies I’ve ever seen. Georgia’s Todd Gurley can attest to this. I do not excuse Gurley one bit for signing collectibles and then taking money for his signature because he knew it was wrong and did it anyway. The problem I have is how easily the NCAA has just cast aside Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

The FSU signal caller has far more of his stuff than does Gurley on the website where their wares are hocked. Yet amazingly, the NCAA seems to be uninterested in this fact and takes Winston’s word that he didn’t accept money.

So let’s see; Gurley signed far less stuff and was paid. Winston has been in trouble since he set foot on the Florida State campus yet no one believes he accepted money. Actually, no one can prove he accepted money. I mean, I’m sure the Beats headphones Winston wears all over the place were purchased with money he found lying on the street right?

Saints, Panthers in a Key NFC South Showdown While the Seminoles Visit Louisville in College Football

Newton
Newton
Cam Newton needs to engineer some points if the Panthers are going to beat the Saints tonight.

Thursday night brings two very big games to us with one fro the National Football League and one from College Football. Even though both teams are under .500, tonight’s game between New Orleans and Carolina is for the lead in the NFC South.

Meanwhile, the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles invade Papa John’s Stadium to play ACC newcomer Louisville. If anyone is expecting the ‘Noles to walk out with an easy win then they need to remember the Cardinals are not exactly new to the big game scene.

New Orleans (-3) at Carolina (O/U 48.5) – I take no pride in saying the NFC South is the worst, or at least the most disappointing, division in professional football. At 3-4-1, the Panthers currently lead while the under-achieving Saints are 3-4. New Orleans appears to have gotten back on track now with a big win over Green Bay but that was in the Superdome where the Saints always play well.

This game is on the road though and if the Panthers’ defense plays as well as they did against Seattle then they’ll have a fighting chance. The problem is the inconsistency on offense. New Orleans is going to score at some point but the Panthers must score some points of their own and not put all the pressure on their defense to keep in the game.

Look for Carolina to try and establish the running game early to give Cam Newton more time to find his receivers. Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will of course be bringing the heat so the Panthers’ offensive line has to be up to the task.

Trends: New Orleans is 3-9 against the spread in their last 12 games against Carolina… The Panthers are 4-2 straight up in their last six games at home against the Saints… The total has gone UNDER in nine of New Orleans’ last 11 games on the road against Carolina… The total has gone UNDER in 10 of the Panthers’ last 14 games at home.

Key Injuries: NO – Jimmy Graham Shoulder QUEST, CAR – DeAngelo Williams Ankle QUEST

The Pick: As bad as the Saints have been defensively, I think they are starting to put some things together. Take them to cover and the UNDER.

College Football

Fisher
I think Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles are in for a battle tonight.

Florida State (-3.5) at Louisville (O/U 50.5) – When I initially started writing this piece, the ‘Noles were favored by as many as seven points. I’m not sure what is causing the rapid drop other than the issues with running back Karlos Williams but I’m not sure even that has the power to move the line like this.

Either way, I expect FSU to struggle with the Cards. Louisville is no stranger to big games and Bobby Petrino isn’t either. The Cards most recent of their two losses was 23-17 at Clemson. The Seminoles needed overtime at home to defeat Clemson by the same exact score albeit was without Jameis Winston.

Cards’ QB Will Gardner has a completion percentage under 55% but has thrown for 11 touchdowns versus just two interceptions. If takes care of the ball Louisville will be right there in the end.

Trends: The Seminoles are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games… The Cardinals are unbeaten in their last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in seven of FSU’s last eight games on the road… The total has gone UNDER in five of Louisville’s last seven games at home.

Key Injuries: FSU C Austin Barron, Out-Arm

The Pick: I suspect the Seminoles will have some “Notre Dame hangover” but I think they score late to cover. Take the UNDER as well.

ACC Atlantic Division Odds for 2014

Winston
Winston
If Jameis Winston stays out of trouble the Seminoles should have no trouble staying first place in the ACC Atlantic Division.

It was the ACC Coastal on Monday so today I’m previewing the ACC Atlantic.

Florida State 1/6 – The defending conference and national champs return their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and six other guys on offense while the defense returns six starters. With the great recruiting of the Seminoles’ staff, there are more than capable players ready to stand in. There are just two potential bumps on the home schedule and those would be Notre Dame and Florida. The ‘Noles open with Oklahoma State in Arlington but that should be a victory. Other road trips include at Louisville and rival Miami. FSU should find it’s way into the ACC Title game once again.

Clemson 13/2 – Head Coach Dabo Swinney returns just five starters on offense. Among those he needs to replace are Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. In other words, it won’t be easy. The defense returns seven starters but are they enough to carry the Tigers against a brutal first half of the season that includes road trips to Georgia and Florida State. They do get stubborn rival  South Carolina at home to end the season. Sports books like the Tigers a bit if FSU stumbles but I don’t see it happening.

Louisville 13/2 – The Cardinals make the jump to the ACC and automatically become one of the top teams in the conference despite losing guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Calvin Pryor to the NFL. Bobby Petrino returns for his second stint in Louisville and I believe he’ll have this team up to speed quickly. Just four returning starters are back on defense and that will be an issue. The Cards have road trips to Syracuse, Boston College, Clemson and Notre Dame while getting tough home games against Miami in the opener and Florida State on a Thursday night. This could be a nine-win season.

Addazio
Steve Addazio has a lot to replace as he enters year two in Boston College.

Boston College 33/1 – Head Coach Steve Addazio did a nice job by getting the Eagles back to a bowl game in 2013 but the task in 2014 will be more difficult because he only has three starters back on offense. One that is gone is running back Andre Williams who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season. I find the schedule to be too much for the Eagles as they host Pitt, Clemson, USC and Louisville while hitting the road to Virginia Tech and Florida State. If Addazio can get this team to six wins it will be a terrific effort.

Syracuse 33/1 – Want a surprise team to lay some money on in this division then here you go. Second-year coach Scott Shafer returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished the year with a nice bowl win over Minnesota. The non-conference schedule should result in at least three wins out of four with only Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium being a challenge. They get division heavyweights Florida State and Louisville at home as well as ACC foe Duke. If they can stay healthy, they could make a bit of noise.

NC State 40/1 – The Dave Doeren era enters year two and he welcomes 14 starters (7/7) back from a team that won just three times and was winless in the ACC. The non-conference schedule is pathetic and the Wolfpack also get Florida State and Georgia Tech at home. They must travel to Louisville, Clemson and North Carolina. I see more than three wins but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.

Wake Forest 100/1 – Dave Clawson comes to Winston-Salem in hopes of rebuilding a once-competitive program. The Deacons had just four wins in 2013 and lost their last five games. Clawson’s Bowling Green teams were very solid in the MAC and he looks to build the same type of program here with ten starters (5/5) returning. The conference schedule starts brutally on the road against Louisville, Florida State and Duke  but they do get Clemson and Virginia Tech at home. A six-win season and bowl berth would be  a great start to the Clawson era.

The Pick: FSU has too much darn talent to go against so don’t. If you’re feeling crazy though, Syracuse could fit the bill.

Friday Night’s NCAA Tournament Action

Hoiberg
Hoiberg
Can Coach Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones advance past UConn tonight?

Here are my thoughts on tonight’s NCAA Sweet Sixteen action.

UConn (+2) vs. Iowa State – If any team has flown under the radar so far in this tournament it has to be the UConn Huskies. They’ve quietly put together a nice run here as a seventh seed and are led by fantastic senior guard Shabazz Napier who has averaged 25 points per game this season.

The Cyclones enter this game doing three things very well; they score (6th in the nation), they assist like crazy (1st in the nation) and they kill the boards (2nd).  The Huskies are very ‘middle of the road’ in most departments but they do block and alter a lot shots. That’ll be a big issue for ISU’s inside game.

The Key here is Napier. If Iowa State makes him work for everything at both ends of the court then I like ISU big, if they don’t I expect a tight game but will still take the Cyclones.

Payne
Payne and the Spartans will be a monster task for the Cavaliers.

Michigan State (-2) vs. Virginia – I’m not sure how often this has happened but we have a number one seed as an underdog in the Sweet Sixteen. Top-seeded Virginia enters as a two-point dog against Michigan State. While the Spartans have been fairly impressive in wins over Harvard and Delaware, I’m not sure that would elicit such an advantage over a top seed.

I would expect this game to be a war. The Cavs are the top ranked defense in the country as they give up just 55 points per game, but MSU is very good with the basketball. They are the sixth best team in college hoops with over 17 assists per game and they rank 31st in field goal percentage.

If Virginia is going to continue this amazing season all the way to the Final Four then I think this is the biggest road block. Will State’s experience and guard play be too much? I think the Cavs move on.

Tennessee (+3) vs. Michigan – The Volunteers not too long ago were one of those teams forced to play in a ‘play-in’ game just to get to the actual tournament. They dismissed Iowa and have since beaten UMass and Cinderella wannabe Mercer in convincing fashion.

On the other side is second-seeded Michigan who has surprised no one by getting to the Sweet Sixteen. The Wolverines have had most of the season to figure out life without injured big man Mitch McGary and they did just fine in winning the outright Big Ten Title.

This promises to be a classic match-up of shooting vs. rebounding. The Wolverines knock threes down at the rate of 40% and their overall field goal percentage is pretty darn good as well. They will need to make those shots because Tennessee does a significantly better job of rebounding the ball than does Michigan.

I expect a Michigan victory but I will actually take the Vols and the three points in what should be a tight game.

Kentucky (+4) vs. Louisville – I can only imagine what life has been like this week in the Bluegrass State as these two longtime rivals meet in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. They met earlier in the season and the Wildcats grabbed the home court win 73-66.

Kentucky played much of the second half that game without Julius Randle who was being treated for cramps. The Cardinals only shot 23% from three-point range in the game which is considerably lower than their season average of 37%. Look for that to again be a huge stat in this one.

UK Head Coach John Calipari is 13-12 all-time against Rick Pitino and is 5-1 against him in the last six games. Despite the clear advantage in experience, I think the coaching edge Calipari has right now is too much to ignore. Take the Wildcats and the points.

Four Bowl Games on Tap for Today

Bridgewater
Bridgewater
Tonight could be the last time Teddy Bridgewater throws a pass in college.

The 2013 College Football Bowl seaosn is in full swing and there are four big games on the slate today so let’s get to them!

Rutgers vs. Notre Dame (-14) – The New Era Pinstripe bowl features one team many think should be in the Big Ten and one who is headed there. Notre Dame and Rutgers meet in this one and you can expect a large Irish contingent in the Bronx. In fact, you’ll probably see more gold than you will scarlet despite the close proximity of Rutgers.

Rutgers finished just 6-6 on the season while Notre Dame had a respectable 8-4 consdering the change at quarterback and the loss of numerous players from last season’s BCS Title Game Team. The one area the Knights could find some success is running the ball. With Louis Nix III out for the season, the Irish run defense failed miserably in his absence and wasn’t much better when he was in there. Because of that issue I like the Knights and the 14 points.

Cincinnati (+3) vs. North Carolina – The Bearcats and Tar Heels meet in the Belk Bowl in a match-up of the AAC and the ACC. Don’t read that too fast or you could get confused as I did. I have to believe the over/under (57) is going to get the way of the over with both teams averaging over 32 points per game. Neither team plays great defense either so expect a shootout.

The oddsmakers like the Heels based on level of competition but I’m not biting here. I like Cincinnati and the three points.

Morris
Morris would like his final game for the 'U' to end in a 'W.'

Louisville (-4) vs. Miami – The Russell Athletic Bowl has been getting a decent amount of attention as speculation swirls around the futures of Teddy Bridgewater and Charlie Strong. For Bridgewater, he will announce after the game whether or not he has chosen to turn pro with most thinking he will head to the NFL.

Meanwhile, Strong has been considered a ‘strong’ candidate to replace Mack Brown at Texas. Whether or not that comes to fruition is a moot point right now because like Bridgewater, he is focusing on the Hurricanes at the moment. That isn’t the only drama in this one though because the Cardinals will be joining the ACC next year and will see the ‘Canes much more often. Oh, and don’t forget that Bridgewater orginially committed to Miami as well.

With so many things going on, they’ll still need to play a football game and without Duke Johnson at running back I think the Canes could be in trouble. Stephen Morris is a capable QB but he will force throws and commit turnovers. Miami is 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games while the Cards are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight. Take the Cards to cover tonight.

Michigan vs. Kansas State (-6) – These two teams from the midwest head west to the desert where the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl awaits. Both teams enter at 7-5 on the season but had very different endings. K-State won five of their last six games while Michigan started 5-0 and then struggled down the stretch. Despite a heroic 42-41 loss to Ohio State, Michigan is still not where it wants to be in terms of bowl games.

Regardless, they will move forward without quarterback Devin Gardner who broke his foot in the loss to the Buckeyes. That means Michigan will start freshman Shane Morris who gets his first collegiate start in the bowl game. The Wildcats will actually use two quarterbacks, Jake Waters and Daniel Sams, and both will attempt to get the ball into the hands of play-making wideout Tyler Lockett.

I expect a valiant effort by Michigan but I fear the pressure will be too much for the freshman signal-caller. I like the Wildcats to cover.

NBA Tonight and Louisville/Cincy on the Gridiron Tomorrow

Irving
Irving
Kyrie Irving and the Cavs host Denver tonight in Cleveland.

Tonight offers little in the way of betting action but there are some National Basketball Association games that are certainly worth your attention. I’m also looking ahead to tomorrow night where Louisville and Cincinnati wrap up their seasons on the gridiron.

Let’s hit the hardwood first…

Denver  (-4) at Cleveland – The Cavaliers enter this one already 10.5 games behind Central Division leader Indiana while the Nuggets are a respectable 106 in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference.

Cleveland is much better at home than on the road where they have a 1-9 record so keep that in mind. Denver is no slouch with the suitcases packed though as they are 4-4 on the road so far. I like the Nuggets to cover in Cleveland tonight.

Love
Kevin Love will need a big night in order for the Wolves to beat San Antonio.

San Antonio (-3.5) at Minnesota – Two of the game’s finest big men hook up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes for this one. The seemingly ageless Tim Duncan and the Wolves Kevin Love will do battle for what could be one of the final times should Duncan retire following the season.

The Spurs are the “Spurs” as they’ve gotten out of the gate with a 15-3 record. They are getting it done at home (8-1) and on the road (7-2) while Minnesota is struggling to stay around the .500 mark with a 9-10 record. I expect a competitive game but I like the Spurs to cover.

Oklahoma City (+2) at Portland – The top two teams in the Northwest Division hook up in Rip City for this one. Each team has three losses but Portland has 15 wins versus just 12 for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is just 3-3 on the road this year while the Blazers are a perfect 9-0 at home. Portland has no problem scoring the basketball as they rank 5th in the league and they also rebound it quite well too ranking 8th.

They will need a big rebounding effort against OKC because they lead the league. The Blazers are coming off a huge win over Indiana on Monday night and the Thunder played last evening in Sacremento. I expect a close game so take OKC and the points.

And on the Football Field

Louisville (-3.5) at Cincinnati – This line actually opened at -6.5 and has dropped steadily through the week. The Cards are the perfect example of a team playing in the weakest of automatic qualifier conferences. They have a very nice 10-1 record but a three-point loss to Central Florida has eliminated any chance of them even going to a BCS game.

Meanwhile, they may be as many as two teams from higher-profile leagues with two losses playing in the BCS. Such is life in the American Athletic Conference.

Cincinnati is an interesting AAC team in their own right. They have a very respectable 9-2 record until you look at their two losses. One was to South Florida who owns two victories on the season and the other was a blowout loss to Illinois who won just four times this season.

Therefore, taking the Bearcats too seriously might not be good for your health. What you should take seriously is Cincy’s defense which ranks 10th in the nation with about 18 points against them per game. Not to be outdone is Louisville’s defense which ranks third in the nation. The Cards give up just over 10 points per contest.

The Bearcats enter 1-5 against the spread in their last six home games versus the Cardinals while Louisville is 5-2 straight up when playing Cincinnati in Nippert Stadium.

This could also be Teddy Bridgewater’s final game and I think he’s the difference. Take L’Ville to cover.

College Football Moves on to Week Five But Questions Remain

Guiton
Guiton
The Buckeyes haven't missed a beat with Guiton in for the injured Miller at quarterback.

Week four of the college football season is over and there are some trends starting to emerge and things that need to be discussed and I happen to be the man to do just that. I have a number of questions rattling around in my head so what better place to roll them out than right here?

1. Should We Just Pencil in Alabama and Ohio State? It was thought to be one of the most likely match-ups for the title at the beginning of the season but should we just go ahead and pair them up now based on what we’ve seen? Not just yet in my opinion. While the Tide has dispatched their toughest conference foe to date, the Buckeyes will begin Big Ten play next week and it won’t be easy with Wisconsin coming to Columbus.

The Buckeyes usually play down to at least one conference opponent each year so we should expect that and keep in mind too that OSU needs its’ conference members to keep winning because if a one-loss Texas A&M, Georgia or maybe Stanford is sitting there and/or an unbeaten Oregon team then the Buckeyes could be in trouble.

As for Alabama, they were in sleep-walk mode in defeating Colorado State 31-6 Saturday and that was to be expected following the game at College Station. It would be difficult not to mention the rumors surrounding Nick Saban and Texas as well. These are still young people at Alabama and they see and hear the rumors too, but I expect it to be a non-factor from here on out.

Hoke
Hoke's Wolverines are living on the edge the last two weeks.

Just How Good is Michigan? The Wolverines scored a ton of points against Notre Dame and then in the two weeks following they have struggled to put away two of the worst teams in the NCAA in Akron and UConn. Against the Zips, Michigan needed a goal line stand in the final seconds to win and then Saturday night at UConn, they trailed 21-7 in the third quarter.

Michigan survived with two late touchdowns and a field goal but this Huskies’ team was 0-2 with losses to Maryland and Towson State. Most point the finger at quarterback Devin Gardner who continues to turn the ball over at a ridiculous rate and his passing is no better than his predecessor Denard Robinson. Accuracy was supposed to be his strong-suit.

The offensive line is struggling too however. The running game was very sluggish until the second half and protecting Gardner was not exactly easy either. The Wolverines will get a much-needed bye week before starting conference play. For their sake, they better get things together during that time.

Can We Do Anything About These Blowouts? Ohio State beat Florida A&M 76-0 while to the south, Louisville defeated Florida International 72-0. In Miami, the Hurricanes actually were beating Savannah State so badly that the two coaches agreed to shorten the fourth quarter. These games really don’t do anything for anyone do they?

Oh sure, the schools on the receiving ends of these butt-kickings will make around $300,000 to $500,000 depending upon the deal, but if the NCAA really wants to get involved with something worthwhile, then how about getting some of these match-ups off the schedule? They can’t be any fun for fans and probably cause coaches more heartache than anything.

There are occasionally upsets and close games but those are few and far between.

Good games this week… #6 LSU at #9 Georgia…. #14 Oklahoma at #22 Notre Dame…. #21 Ole Miss at #1 Alabama…. #23 Wisconsin at #4 Ohio State.

Win Totals for The American Athletic Conference

Bridgewater
Bridgewater
Heisman hopeful Bridgewater leads Louisville into AAC action.

The American Athletic Conference begins play for the first time in 2013 and will undergo more changes in the seasons to come. The conference could very well see both a team in the BCS Title game in Louisville and a Heisman Trophy winner in Teddy Bridgewater.

Cincinnati 9 (-105 over/-125 under) – I’m not the biggest Tommy Tuberville fan but he does field competetive teams. He’ll have two senior QBs to work with this season in Munchie Legaux and Brandon Kay who will start the opener. All three non-conference games are winnable. They open with Purdue at homne and then go to Illinois. Both Big Ten teams, but bottom-dwellers. The AAC will be decided when the Bearcats host Lousiville in the season finale in December. I like the over for Cincy.

UConn 5.5 (-145 over/+115 under) – The Huskies were a disappointing 5-7 last year and face a schedule that could cause serious problems. They get Michigan, Louisville and South Florida at home but must hit the road for games at Cincinnati, UCF and SMU. I think UConn will struggle to get to five wins this year. I like the under.

Houston 5.5 (-175 over/+145 under) – QB David Piland returns to lead the 11th best passing offense in the nation. The Cougars finished a disappointing 5-7 last year and now enter AAC play trying to stay out of the bottom half. They should get three wins in four non-conference games with the loss probably coming to BYU. They have to go to UCF, Rutgers and Louisville and all three could be troublesome. I do like them to get to six wins though.

Louisville 11 (+170 over/-210 under) – The Cards return QB Teddy Bridgewater and a team still riding the wave of a Sugar Bowl win over Florida. There are two big games on the schedule that could keep this team from going unbeaten. Louisville plays at rival Kentucky and at Cincy in the season finale December fifth. I would also caution them with Ohio in the season-opener although I believe they’ll win that game. The Cards are the favorites to win the AAC but I think they’ll stumble because of high expectations. 11 is the correct number.

Memphis 4.5 (-140 over/+110 over) – The Tigers had one of the worst passing offenses in the country last year and the running game wasn’t much better. Giving up 30 points a game didn’t help either. They should go 2-2 in non-conference play but have to go to South Florida, UConn and Lousiville. I have to take the under.

Rutgers 7 (EVEN over/-130 under) – The Scarlet Knights have one final season before they head to the Big Ten in 2014. If they are to make any noise in the AAC they’ll need to ride a top-notch defense and get improved numbers from the offense. They have a three-game stretch that could be troublesome with Arkansas coming in and then road trips to SMU and Louisville. I think Rutgers gets to eight wins.

South Florida 5.5 (-135 over/+105 over) – The Bulls have a very difficult non-conference schedule with a trip to Michigan State and then Miami, FL at home. Last year’s 3-9 record cannot sit well South Florida and they do get Louisville and Cincinnati at home but getting to six wins may prove difficult.  I’m taking the under.

Gilbert
SMU Coach June Jones believes Gilbert can play in the NFL.

SMU 5.5 (+120 over/-150 under) – The Mustangs must replace 1,200 yard rusher Zach Line but do have QB Garrett Gilbert back to run June Jones’ offense. The schedule is not favorable however. They have Texas Tech at home and #7 Texas A&M and #20 TCU on the road. They do have the good fortune of missing Lousiville in the AAC rotation which could help them over the hump. I like them to get over in 2013.

Temple 4.5 (+105 over/-135 under) – The Owls come off a 4-7 record and open with Notre Dame in South Bend. They have a five week stretch that concerns me a lot though when they get Louisville, Cincy, Army, SMU and Rutgers in successive weeks. Only the Cardinals and Blakc Knights are at home. I’m leaning towards the under.

Central Florida 8 (+145 over/-175 under) – The Golden Knights were 10-4 last season and that number is going to be a little more difficult to get to in 2013. They have to travel to Penn State, #9 Louisville and SMU and get #6 South Carolina at home. I like UCF to get to nine wins this season.

Is This Finally the Year the SEC Doesn’t Get the Title?

McCarron
McCarron
Can anyone outside the SEC end their streak and that of A.J. McCarron as well?

The Southeastern Conference has dominated college football for sometime now. They’ve won the last seven BCS National Championships which has been spread over four teams. Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn have all claimed titles during that stretch and this year is set up to be the same scenario.

Alabama is the clear favorite to win a fourth national title in the last five years but the SEC around them is still very tough. The majority of SEC teams return their quarterbacks to the field and that list includes Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel, Florida’s Jeff Driskel and Georgia’s Aaron Murray.

Perhaps the more impressive thing about the SEC is the teams that used to always be considered ‘bottom-feeders’ have made themselves competitive and forces to be reckoned with in 2013. Ole Miss had an amazing recruiting class that many listed in the top ten in the nation while Vanderbilt comes off of a bowl appearance. Mississippi State and Kentucky will also pose difficult challenges for fellow-conference opponents.

It’s going to be hard to knock Alabama with returning quarterback A.J. McCarron and a host of other guys that includes T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper but there will be teams looking to take advantage of any slip-ups. LSU, South Carolina and Georgia could all represent the SEC in the final BCS National Championship Game.

Let’s assume for a minute and I know the SEC folks would scoff at the idea, but let’s talk about teams outside the SEC that could end the South’s dominance. Teams listed with current odds from Bovada.

Miller
Miller and the Buckeyes have the best shot at dethroning the SEC in 2013.

Ohio State 13-2 The Buckeyes have everything set up for them. They come off a 12-0 season in which they were banned from a bowl game but not anymore. Braxton Miller returns to QB and Urban Meyer has proven he wins titles pretty quickly. The schedule could not be better either with a weak non-confernce slate followed by home games with Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa. The only tough road game is the finale at Michigan.

Oregon 13-2 The Ducks enter their first season without former Head Coach Chip Kelly who is now in Philadelphia. Former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich takes over a talented Oregon team with Marcus Mariota and D’Anthony Thomas both back. The Ducks have to travel to Washington, Arizona and Stanford but the rest of the schedule sets up nicely.

Stanford 16-1 The Cardinal comes off a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin and returns QB Kevin Hogan. They get the Ducks in Palo Alto as well as Notre Dame at home too but must go on the road to USC and Oregon State. If the Cardinal can find a replacement for running back Stepfan Taylor they could be a factor.

Florida State 20-1 The offensive line and secondary will be strengths this year but the ‘Noles must replace quarterback E.J. Manuel and defensive end Bjoern Werner. FSU opens the season with a conference game at ACC-newcomer Pitt and has road games at Clemson and in the Swamp against Florida.

Louisville 22-1 Let’s be real. The Cardinals must go undefeated to even have a shot but that isn’t unrealistic with QB Teddy Bridgewater returning from a team the whipped Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The ‘Ville goes on the road to Kentucky, South Florida, UConn and Cincinnati. If they can get through those, a BCS Title Game bid will be a possibility.

For any team outside the SEC to have a shot they will need to take care of their own business. With the imperfect system however, they’ll also have to have some help too and that means SEC teams knocking off each other. Even with that it still might not matter.

Cards Win Title and Already I’m Looking Ahead

Peyton Siva

 

Peyton Siva
Siva is the only senior departing the national title winning Cardinals.

Congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals for their national championship win over Michigan on Monday night. This was Louisville’s third title and second national title overall for Rick Pitino who has another one of course from his time at the Univeristy of Kentucky.

Kudos also to the University of Michigan for an outstanding run in the tournament and for rebuilding the pride to a program that hasn’t been the same since the Fab Five left it in ruins.

In what was easily one of the better championship games in recent memory, Michigan became the first team since the 1985 Georgetown Hoyas to shoot over 50% from the field and still lose the title game. Both teams saw spectacular shooting from guards Luke Wilson (Lou) and Spike Albrecht (UM) in the first half before the scoring balanced itself out more in the second half.

Pitino clearly took advantage of Mitch McGary’s foul troubles in the second half by getting the ball in deep and then hitting the boards hard especially at the offensive end. Defensive rebounding has been Michigan’s Achille’s heel on more than one occasion this season and it reared it’s ugly head again Monday night.

The game was not without the poor officiating that was clearly a top issue throughout the tournament but thankfully it really didn’t figure into the outcome save for the possible argument about Trey Burke’s block late in the game that was whistled for a foul.

Either way, it was a great game worthy of another exciting tourney and solid year in college basketball. That doesn’t mean of course that I’m ready to put college hoops to bed permanently because here is your look at some potential for the 2013-2014 season.

 

John Calipari
I expect Calipari’s Wildcats to be in the hunt for a title next year.

Kentucky – Hard to believe the Wildcats who didn’t even make the tourney will be heavily favored to win it next year but they will be. Top freshmen Julius Randle, James Young and Andrew and Aaron Harrison are all top-flight guys. The Calipari-Revenge tour could be vicious.

Louisville – I’m already starting to drop the Cards a bit because it sounds like Russ Smith is going pro. If he doesn’t, they would lose only Peyton Siva who is a major loss, but is still just one guy. I expect another Final Four run.

Michigan State – Sparty loses Derrick Nix, but should return everyone else. Adreian Payne could jump to the NBA but I don’t think he’ll go because his grade won’t be high enough. MSU will have great guard play with Keith Appling and Gary Harris. They are my early pick to win the Big Ten.

Arizona – They lose three top players but do gain some very nice recruits in guys like Aaron Gordon. My question about Arizona as it is about all Western teams is do they play a tough enough schedule to compete with the ACC/Big Ten/Former Big East?

Duke – The Blue Devils lose really good players in Plumlee, Kelly and Curry but do return some talent in Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon plus Jabari Parker who is the top freshman in the country on most boards. Duke should have UNC as their only real competition for the ACC Title.

Teams I wouldn’t lay a dime on….

Florida – They lose their top three scorers and will play in a significantly tougher SEC next season.

Gonzaga – Even if Kelly Olynyk returns what have they done to prove they can make a run?

Indiana – I’m thinking both Zeller and Oladipo make the jump to the NBA and that leaves big holes.

Teams I’d definitely consider…

VCU – Returns all five starters and I like Shaka Smart’s decision to stay rather than take a bigger job.

UConn –  The Huskies return a strong back-court and will benefit from a different conference.