Michigan Gets Their Man; More College Football Thoughts

Jim Harbaugh is the next head coach at Michigan but how long will he stay?

University of Michigan Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett made it very clear in the days following the firing of Brady Hoke; having a “Michigan man” was no longer a top priority.

There was always an exception to that rule and his name was Jim Harbaugh. Yesterday, Harbaugh became the 20th head football coach of the Wolverines. There is no one more “Michigan man” than Harbaugh who started at quarterback from 1984-1986 for the Bo Schembechler -led teams who were so successful.

I must admit I’m surprised Harbaugh spurned the National Football League and especially for less money than what he could have gotten from just about any of those teams. I think that two things played a major factor in his decision however.

Number one is that of the available NFL jobs, none had a quarterback that Harbaugh really wanted to work with and that’s vitally important for the old QB because as we know he can flat-out coach quarterbacks (see Andrew Luck). The Raiders and Jets both have young signal-callers but neither was enticing enough for Harbaugh.

The argument could be made that both Atlanta and Chicago have good, veteran quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler but each have their issues.

The second reason Harbaugh chose to leave the NFL is because I really feel he was tired of seeing what was happening to his alma mater an the call to come home and fix it was too great.

Michigan fans will once again pack the seats at Michigan Stadium to see the prodigal son return and he will make the program prominent once again but I caution them this; the desire to win a Super Bowl never leaves you as a player or coach if you’ve had a taste of it and Harbaugh has. I believe his stint in Ann Arbor will be five years or less because that desire will be too strong to avoid.

The OU faithful are starting to wonder what's going on with Bob Stoops.

Bowl Game Bullets

-What on Earth has happened to Bob Stoops and Oklahoma? They were a preseason top five team who ended up finishing with five losses following a humiliating 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. That score wasn’t indicative of how poorly Oklahoma played either. It was 40-0 after three quarters and Clemson pretty much emptied the bench in the final stanza. I have a feeling Stoops falls into that category of having been in the same place too long.

-I could be way off base here, but I think the Pac-12’s success in these early bowl games is a sign that Florida State better strap it up tomorrow when they face Oregon in the Rose Bowl. After Stanford’s 45-21 drubbing of Maryland last night in the Foster Farms Bowl, the Pac-12 moved to 4-0 in bowl season making them the only unbeaten conference remaining. Let’s face it – the level of competition between the ACC and Pac-12 wasn’t really a discussion topic anyway was it?

-As if I needed any more proof for my personal war against instant replay reviews in football I give you the LSU-Notre Dame game. Mad Hatter Les Miles went for a fake field goal and replays clearly showed the ball breaking the plane of the goal line but officials concluded it was disputable because of where the knee was. Here’s the thing, if the knee was down the play is over based on where the ball is when the knee touches right? The ball was over the goal line. If you can’t get replay right that you shouldn’t use it.

-Have a great New Year’s Eve and be safe people.

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.


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?


Big Ten, Pac-12 and More in My Weekly CFB Picks

Mariota's Ducks are huge favorites against Colorado today.

Season Record 8-12-1, Last Week 2-1-1

Oregon (-39.5) at Colorado – “He’s calling a game with a spread of almost 40 points?” You’re darn right I am and I feel good about it too. The first thing I noticed about Oregon in terms of trends was that the total has gone OVER in seven of the Ducks’ last ten games and six of their last seven on the road. Bottom line? The Ducks have proven they can score at will.

The Buffs are 2-1 but their wins came against Colorado State and Central Arkansas with their loss being a whipping by Oregon State in Corvallis. This is an improved Colorado team compared to recent years but I cannot see this team hanging with the Ducks unless an early snowstorm hits the Rockies.

Take the Ducks to cover even at that ridiculous number.

Western Michigan (+22) at Toledo – I don’t believe in the concept of ‘it’s a sure thing’ but this is about as close as it can get. Toledo is 2-3 but has losses against Florida and Missouri and both came on the road. While those games ended in defeats, they were far from blowouts as the Rockets held tough throughout.

Western Michigan is 0-5 with a loss at home to FBS Nicholls State. They also dropped hard-fought games against Michigan State and Northwestern but then were destroyed by Iowa in Iowa City two weeks ago by 56 points. This Broncos team is incredibly young and has injuries in tough spots.

The Rockets boast one of the nation’s top rushers in David Fluellen and are playing at home in the Glass Bowl where they rarely lose. WMU is 3-8 against the spread in their last 11 road games. Take the Rockets to win by more than 22.

Maryland's Randy Edsall has himself off the hot seat with a 4-0 start.

Maryland (+16.5) at Florida State – The Terps are the first ranked team the Seminoles will face in 2013 which is why they are averaging over 51 points per game through four games. FSU looked pretty mortal for awhile last Saturday in Chestnut Hill as they fell behind early by double-digits to Boston College. Once they woke up, they went on to defeat the Eagles 48-34.

Maryland has not played a ranked team either en route to having the nation’s third best scoring defense. They also run the ball very well ranking 24th in the country. They are however, 2-5-1 against the spread in their last eight games in Tallahassee. I think last week was a bit of a wake-up call for Florida State and I expect a big-time effort against the Terps. Take FSU to cover that spread.

Ohio State (-7) at Northwestern – This game is being called the biggest one at Northwestern since at the very least their Rose Bowl year of 1995. A win over unbeaten Ohio State would vault them into the favorites’ role for the Big Ten title. The problem for the Wildcats is that Ryan Field will have as much scarlet and gray in it as it will purple. The Buckeyes travel well and the Wildcats rarely sell out.

With that said, Northwestern has the ability to hang with Ohio State but I believe they must do what Wisconsin couldn’t last week in Columbus and that’s get out early against the Buckeyes. The Wildcats can’t afford to get behind because they cannot become one-dimensional.

Northwestern is 1-4 against the spread in their last four games at home against OSU. That doesn’t bode well for the Wildcats and I think the depth of the Buckeyes will prove too much. I like Ohio State to cover the spread.


Win Totals for the ACC Atlantic Division

If Tajh Boyd can lead the Tigers past Florida State then they should play in a BCS game.

The Atlantic Coast Conference begins its’ two years of change as Syracuse and Pitt enter the league. Next season, Maryland departs for the Big Ten. Today I’m looking at win totals for the Atlantic Division which features Clemson and Florida State who are both talented enough to get to a BCS game. The rest of the division is in re-build mode and should not pose a threat to the top two teams.

Boston College 4.5 (-140 over/+110 under) – Steve Addazio takes over a BC team coming off a 10-loss season and does so with a no-nonsense approach. The Eagles have Chase Rettig back at QB and All-ACC receiver Alex Amidon. The schedule features road games at USC, Clemson, Syracuse and North Carolina. The program will improve but I’m taking the under.

Clemson 9.5 (-125 over/-105 under) – The Tigers under Dabo Swinney have been very exciting and closed last year with a thrilling win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Tajh Boyd returns at QB but the questions will be on defense where there could be three new starters in the secondary. The Tigers open with Georgia at home and finish the season at rival South Carolina. In between are road trips to NC State, Syracuse and Maryland which should be wins. Clemson gets Florida State and Georgia Tech at home. I see nine wins but can’t go higher.

Jimbo Fisher is hoping he can return the Seminoles to the glory they had under Bobby Bowden.

Florida State 10.5 (+170 over/-210 under) – The good news is that FSU is coming off an ACC and Orange Bowl title. The bad news is that the Seminoles must replace E.J. Manuel and a lot of other talent to the NFL not to mention the departure of six assistant coaches. The cupboard is far from bare though as they reeled in a big recruiting class. The road schedule features two tough games at Florida in the finale and at Clemson. They get NC State, Maryland and Miami at home. I see only two games in question for FSU so I’m going for the over.

Maryland 6.5 (-145 over/+115 under) – Last season the Terps were forced to play five different QBs due to injuries. That can’t and shouldn’t happen again. The Problem? The offensive line is still below average and the running game is lacking which is strange under Randy Edsall who typically has good running teams. The final year of ACC play will not be kind for the Terps. They have road games at Florida State, Virginia Tech and NC State. I see a 6-6 season in College Park.

North Carolina State 7 (+110 over/-140 under) – Dave Doeren comes in to revamp the NC State offense and he’ll need time. The athletes just aren’t there to run his spread-type offense yet, but the defense should be the strength of the team as they have speed and experience. A new QB and new system will probably set the Pack back a bit in year one under Doeren. NC State has just four road games but one of those is at Florida State. They have a weak non-conference schedule and get Clemson, North Carolina and Syracuse at home. I’m going to go with the over here and ride the Wolfpack defense.

Wake Forest 5.5 (-145 over/+115 under) – QB Tanner Price returns for the Deacons which is great, but if they can’t improve the running game which was almost dead-last in the nation last year, this team will be home for the holidays again. Jim Grobe will rely on leadership on both sides of the ball and a strong recruiting class on defense should help that side especially. The schedule features six road games including at Miami, at Syracuse, at Clemson and at Vanderbilt in the finale. I think there is enough here for the Demon Deacons to get to six wins.

Week 12 College Football Tips

Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks will look to win the Pac-12 North Division title this weekend, setting up a potential rematch with the USC Trojans, who can claim the South Division on Saturday.

The thing with Week 12 on the college football schedule this year is that there are a lot of bump games that are of very little interest to anybody. That is to say that there are plenty of high-profile teams taking on schools so far down the pecking order, they’re practically starving. Of course, much of this has to do with the incoming Rivalry Week which will see fierce games galore next week.

Regardless, CasinoReview has taken a look through the schedule and picked out some choice cuts for you to take a look at, starting with both Pac-12 divisions, which could be decided by the end of play on Saturday. After that, we’ve thrown in a few of the less high-profile but very relevant games to give you a jumpstart over the bookies this weekend.


#13 Stanford @ #2 Oregon

With a win on Saturday, Oregon (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) will take the Pac-12 North Division. Were the Ducks to unsuspectingly lose to Stanford (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12) however, they would need to beat Oregon State in the Civil War game next weekend, or allow Stanford to possibly sneak the title.

So, there’s plenty on the line before you even take into consideration Oregon’s National Championship aspirations.

Oregon will enter the game confident knowing that the team has won the previous two outings against Stanford, as well as nine from the last 10 and 10 from the last 11. In short, over the past decade, Oregon has had Stanford’s number.

But complacency had better not slip into Chip Kelly’s side or they’re sure to face a rude awakening.

Odds: Oregon is the favorite to take this one by a big margin, opening with a 21½-point edge. The over/under is 66.

Take: Oregon – Nothing that has happened on the field this season suggests that either Stanford or Oregon State can stop Oregon on its march to the National Championship Game. Of course, college football was made for upsets, but this doesn’t look like one of them. Stanford simply isn’t accomplished enough offensively or defensively to handle the Ducks. However, 21½-points is a huge margin this late in the season, so take Stanford to cover the spread. Take the total to go over; this is the number one scoring team in the league.


#18 USC @ #17 UCLA

Whilst it’s likely the Pac-12 North Division will be decided this weekend, the South Division will definitely be decided, as the two teams in contention take to the field against one another.

USC (7-5, 5-3 Pac-12) would take the title with a win over UCLA (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) and vice versa. It’s that simple.

USC’s off-color season has been well-documented, while the Bruins have either side of the BCS rankings most of the season. A showdown at the Coliseum is a just way for the title to be decided.

Odds: The line opened with USC as favorites (-3) to win a close game. The over/under is 63½.

Take: USC – There’s no denying that seeing the Trojans fall to the Bruins would be a rewarding end to a season that has seen far too many ridiculous and underhand tactics coming out of Los Angeles this season. Alas, the Trojans will take this one though as they have the last five and 12 of the last 13 (dating back to 1999), setting up a rematch with the Ducks for the conference championship. Take USC to cover the spread and the total to go over with these two high-scoring offenses.


Quick Takes…

#10 Florida State (9-1, 6-1 ACC) can win the ACC Atlantic Division with a win over Maryland (4-6, 6-1) this weekend. A loss opens the door for Clemson (9-1, 6-1 ACC) who plays North Carolina State (6-4, 3-3 ACC). Both the Seminoles (-31) and Tigers (-17) are favorites in their respective games. Take: Florida State and Clemson, giving the Seminoles the division crown.

#20 Louisiana Tech (9-1, 4-0 WAC) hosts Utah State (8-2, 4-0 WAC) in a game that will in all likelihood decide the winner of the WAC, although San Jose State still has a shot. The Bulldogs open as three-point favorites with the over/under at 68. Take: Louisiana Tech.

Despite not being postseason eligible, Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) can win (even though it won’t feel like a win) the Leaders Division with a win over Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten). Wisconsin is favored (-2½) at home. Take: Ohio State to play spoiler and to finish the year unbeaten.

In theory, both Tulsa (8-2, 6-0 CUSA) and Central Florida (8-2, 6-0 CUSA) could win their respective divisions in Conference USA this weekend, but for the Golden Hurricane it’s a little simpler; win on Saturday and win the division. UCF will still need to rely on help from elsewhere. Tulsa is a narrow favorite (-2½). Take: Tulsa, thanks to home-field advantage.

A win for Kent State (9-1, 6-0 MAC) over Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1 MAC) is enough to secure the MAC’s Eastern Division. Bowling Green is favored (-2) at home. Take: Kent State for the upset.



BCS Top 25 Schedule (Week 12)

#1 Kansas State @ Baylor

#13 Stanford @ #2 Oregon

Wake Forest @ #3 Notre Dame

Western Carolina @ #4 Alabama

Georgia Southern @ #5 Georgia

Jacksonville State @ #6 Florida

Ole Miss @ #7 LSU

Sam Houston State @ #8 Texas A&M

Wofford @ #9 South Carolina

#10 Florida State @ Maryland

North Carolina State @ #11 Clemson

#12 Oklahoma @ West Virginia

Minnesota @ #14 Nebraska

California @ #16 Oregon State

#18 USC @ #17 UCLA

Utah State @ #20 Louisiana Tech

Iowa @ #21 Michigan

#22 Rutgers @ Cincinnati

#23 Texas Tech @ #24 Oklahoma State

#25 Washington @ Colorado

#15 Texas – Bye

#19 Louisville – Bye