ACC Coastal Division Odds for 2014

Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels are looking to capture the ACC Coastal Division.

As my tour around college football continues, today is the ACC Coastal.

North Carolina 7/4 – The Tar Heels have seven starters back on defense but three of those that are gone went to the NFL. The offense returns eight players but one of the three gone is tight end Eric Ebron who was an absolute stud for UNC. Other than Notre Dame, the non-conference schedule is not overly difficult. Besides the Irish, the Heels also have road trips to Clemson, Virginia and Miami. I see UNC finishing with seven to eight wins this year.

Miami 3/1 – Al Golden enters his fourth year with a 22-15 record and seven starters returning on each side of the ball. QB Jake Heaps who is with his third team now, seems to have the keys to the offense but Golden has yet to commit. The Canes were selected as the favorites to win the Coastal and that possibility obviously exists with their talent. Miami opens at the team they last saw in a game and that’s ACC newcomer Louisville who blasted the Canes in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. They also have trips to Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech as well. They do get Florida State and Duke at home. The division title is there for them but is the schedule too much?

I have a feeling Frank Beamer and the Hokies will challenge for the Coastal Division if not win it.

Virginia Tech 3/1 – The Hokies return nine starters on offense but just five on defense from a team that struggled last season with just eight wins and a blowout bowl loss to UCLA. QB Logan Thomas is gone and I think that’s a good thing as he never lived up to expectations. Despite few starters back on D, the talent is there especially in the secondary and on the D-Line. If the offensive line can gel, then the Hokies are a legitimate threat to win the division. The tough road trips are to Ohio State, North Carolina and Duke.

Duke 6/1 – The Blue Devils return eight starters on offense and six on defense as they look to follow up last year’s division title. Duke must replace three starters on the defensive line and Anthony Boone is the only QB with experience. The Blue Devils should roll to a 4-0 record against weak non-conference opponents but then they have four conference road games in their next five and among them are trips to Miami, Pitt, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. I do not see repeat for Duke in 2014.

Georgia Tech 8/1 – The Yellow Jackets return just 10 starters from last year’s team that featured some big wins and heartbreaking losses. Because of the offensive system, losing backs isn’t usually a big deal. Coach Paul Johnson just reloads in the backfield. Other than Georgia to finish the season, the non-conference slate is easy. Besides the trip to Athens, GT also has trips to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State. If the defense comes together, the Jackets can be a threat in the division.

Pitt 25/1 – The Panthers come off of a 6-7 record in Paul Chryst’s first year in Pittsburgh. Eight starters return on offense and just five on defense. Pitt will rely on a new quarterback but he’ll have the benefit of receiver Tyler Boyd who was even better than Larry Fitzgerald was as a freshman. Tough road games are at Boston College, North Carolina and Miami. 6-6 is very possible again in the Steel City.

Virginia 25/1 – With 16 starters (9-Off/7-Def) returning, Mike London has no more excuses especially considering the solid recruiting class as well. London is one of America’s ‘coaches on the hot seat.’ The first four games will tell the story for the 2014 Cavaliers. They host UCLA, Richmond and Louisville and then travel to BYU. The only way London survives is by getting to a bowl game and even that isn’t a guarantee.

The Pick: I have a feeling Coach Frank Beamer will have his Hokies ready to be back among the elite in the ACC.The Tar Heels could put pressure on both Miami and the Hokies but I’m not sure I’m buying the UNC hype.

Duke 7.5 Chalk at Home, Florida double-digit Favorite Over Kentucky

Duke hosts North Carolina on Saturday looking to bounce back against the streaking Tar Heels. North Carolina, ranked No. 14, is 23-7 SU and 16-14 ATS.

The Tar Heels have won 12 straight games and faceoff against Duke, ranked No. 4 in the nation at 23-7 SU and 17-12-1 ATS.

The game will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In the first matchup of the season, North Carolina defeated Duke 74-66 as a 2-point dog on February 20.

In the 12-game winning streak, the Tar Heels covered the first 9 games but have failed to cover in their past 3. However, North Carolina has covered in 7 of its past 8 visits to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The current line on Bovada has Duke favored at home by 7.5 points. However, Duke has had leadership problems this season and has struggled lately from beyond the three-point line, which is not a good sign heading toward the home stretch in the regular season.

The win streaking by North Carolina is the longest it has had since it was 13-0 to start the 2008-09 season. The Tar Heels have won their past three games by four points or fewer.

Duke is 12-7-1 ATS on its home court and 1-4-1 against the number in its past six games played. The UNDER has cashed in 5 of the past 6 games Duke has played.

The UNDER has cashed in 9 of the past 11 games the two teams have played head to head. Duke has covered the spread in 6 of the past 9 games following a loss against the spread.

The Blue Devils were embarrassed during the week losing to Wake Forest after being a double-digit chalk. That most likely lit a fire under the Tar Heel players and they should have additional motivation to win this matchup.

Duke has more talent and the home court advantage the Blue Devils enjoy at home is huge. Duke is a perfect 16-0 at home this season.

Pick: Duke by 11

Kentucky ranked No. 25 in the nation visits the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators. The Gators are 28-2 SU and 12-11-3 ATS. Kentucky is 22-8 SU and 14-13-2 ATS.

Florida was a 2.5-point dog in the first matchup and won outright on February 15.

On topbet and betonline, Florida is favored by 8.5 points. With a win, Florida can go to 18-0 for the first time in SEC play.

Kentucky won its last time out over Alabama by 7 points to avoid three straight losses. Kentucky is second in the SEC at 12-5 but trails Florida by 5 games.

The UNDER has gone 7-2 over the past 9 games Kentucky has played. Kentucky has covered just 3 of its past 17 games played on the road.

Pick: Florida by 15 and the UNDER

Four Bowl Games on Tap for Today

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 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.

Rivalry Games Dot the College Football Landscape Today



Miller and Meyer look to extend their winning streak against Michigan.

Its rivalry week which means anything can happen in games in Auburn, Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill but do I like the dogs or the favorites in today’s action? Check it below.

Ohio State (-16) at Michigan – It’s amazing how cyclical this rivalry has been over the last two decades. Under Lloyd Carr, Michigan dominated the series with the Buckeyes while Ohio State behind Jim Tressel turned the tables. OSU Head Coach Urban Meyer is 1-0 against the team from ‘up north’ while Brady Hoke is 1-1 against the team from ‘Ohio.’

For the Buckeyes, the stakes are simple. They already have a date with Michigan State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game but in order to have any chance of reaching the BCS National Title game they must win in Ann Arbor and win convincingly. Because Michigan has drastically under-achieved this season, a slim victory over the Wolverines probably won’t sit well with pollsters.

Michigan has struggled to run the ball and has struggled even more in protecting quarterback Devin Gardner whose play has declined in recent weeks. The Wolverines are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games at home versus the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, OSU is 4-2 straight up in their last six trips to Michigan Stadium. I see a big time beat down by the Buckeyes in the Big House. Take Ohio State to cover.

Cutcliffe has worked wonders at Duke and has them on a seven-game winning streak.

Duke (+6) at North Carolina – It isn’t the same as the rivalry on the hard-court down on Tobacco Road but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot at stake in this match-up. The Blue Devils can clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a victory over their rivals. A loss would create a three-way tie with Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami who won their season finale yesterday.

The over/under is 58 and I’m loving the over as both teams average over 32 points per game and each gives up about 24 per game defensively. Duke has won seven straight games and is riding a wave unseen in these parts in a long, long time. UNC is 8-1 straight up in their last nine home games with the Blue Devils and that concerns me.

What also concerns me is Tar Heels’ tight end Eric Ebron who could find himself as the top tight end entering the 2014 NFL Draft. If Duke cannot handle or at the very least contain Ebron it could be a long day for their defense. With that said, Duke is too much to pass up at +6. Take the Blue Devils in this one.

Alabama (-11) at Auburn – I’ve struggled to get a grip on this one all week but I finally feel like I’ve got some things to go on. The knock on Alabama has been the fact that they don’t win dynamically enough or put up the points that Florida State and/or Ohio State do. That won’t mean a lick to Nick Saban and it never has. He knows a win means a trip to Atlanta to play either South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC Title Game.

Auburn and first-year coach Gus Malzahn also know what is at stake for them. They’ve already completed the season’s biggest turnaround in terms of wins and losses versus the previous season but now they can take another step. A win sends them to Atlanta and puts a bitter end to their rivals’ tremendous streak of success.

The Iron Bowl will be a vicious battle but I think it comes down to two things; big game experience and defense and both of those favor the Crimson Tide. In order for the Tigers to have any success they must run the ball early. It will help them set up their passing game which is typically not much of a threat. Can Auburn handle the pressure of this type of game? It’s a fair question.

The Tigers are 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games at home against the Tide which bears some thought but I really like Alabama to win this game but 11 is just too big so take Auburn getting those points.

Four Rivalry Games That I Find Enticing on Saturday

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 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.

Good Opening Week Match-ups in College Football

Clowney and the Gamecocks open against North Carolina in one of the better match-ups for week one.

Because odds are still being calculated in many cases for the opening weekend of college football I’m not going to get into those in this article. Remember, there are still a host of teams, USC among them, that have yet to name a starting quarterback. Those decisions will have an impact on how the sports books formulate the lines for the opening games.

That doesn’t mean I can’t take a look at some of the top match-ups on tap for the final weekend of August as college football kicks off.

North Carolina at South Carolina – There any number of people who have the Tar Heels selected to play in the ACC Title game in December. QB Bryn Renner is back and the recruiting has been very solid the last couple of years. The Gamecocks are interesting here because the following week, they play at Georgia. That game will more than likely decide the SEC East with all due respect to Florida. That said, I still like the overall firepower or the Gamecocks in this one.

Ole Miss will need a solid game from Bo Wallace in order to beat Vanderbilt in the season opener.

Mississippi at Vanderbilt – The Commodores and Rebels open the season with an SEC clash right out of the gate. Last year Vandy went 9-4 but has seen five different players subjected to disciplinary action recently. Ole Miss is coming off a shocking haul in recruiting that landed them the nation’s number one defensive prospect in Robert Nkemdiche. I think the Rebels will go into Nashville and get a win with all the distractions going on there.

Texas Tech at SMU – If you’re a running back, you might be used for pass protection and receiving only as these two pass-happy teams hook up. June Jones’ Mustangs will be a challenge for new Red Raiders’ Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury who brings a ton of experience with the spread into Lubbock. Take Tech simply because I think they have a few more athletes than the Mustangs.

Rice at Texas A&M – With all due respect to the Owls, the Aggies will win this game handily. The reason it’s a game to watch is to see who is under center for the A&M when the offense takes to the field. Will the University take a risk and play Johnny Manziel or will they keep him out while the NCAA investigates any wrong-doing on his part? There will be eyes all over the country watching College Station and especially those in Tuscaloosa.

Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Game played in Houston) – Cowboys Head Coach Mike Gundy announced this week that he’ll go with two quarterbacks against the Bulldogs. Both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh will be seeing plenty of action. These two guys both threw for over 1,500 yards last season and offer different skill sets in having to make Mississippi State prepare for both. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs were 7-0 last year and finished 8-5. QB Tyler Russell returns to help avoid a late season slide. My gut leans with the Cowboys right now in a close game.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Game played in Atlanta) – The two-time defending National Champions go for the three-peat and it starts in Atlanta against a very good Hokies’ team. Many people are already chalking up the win for the Crimson Tide and I can see why but Va Tech returns QB Logan Thomas and probably the best defense in the ACC. Nick Saban has won every season-opening game since he arrived in Tuscaloosa and I don’t see it changing here. With T.J Yeldon, Amari Cooper and A.J. McCarron on offense and speed to burn on defense, the Tide should roll past the Hokies in a game that will be closer than some imagine.

Win Totals for the ACC Coastal Division

A better year from Thomas could mean a better year for the Hokies.

The ACC Coastal Division features newcomer Pittsburgh but should come down to Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. I’m looking at win totals for this division and I don’t see too many surprises but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

Duke 5.5 (+120 over/-150 under) – The Blue Devils enter 2013 with bowl game experience but without QB Sean Renfree and WR Conner Vernon who off to the NFL. Defense is still an issue in Durham for coach David Cutcliffe. The schedule is actually pretty favorable. They get Georgia Tech and Miami at home but will have to go to Virginia Tech. The non-conference schedule should provide some wins. I’m actually going to say the Dookies get to six wins.

Georgia Tech 8 (-140 over/+110 under) – The Yellow Jackets have spiraled towards mediocrity under Paul Johnson since they won the ACC in 2009. They are just two games over .500 since then. Running the ball is never a problem. Passing the ball? Yikes. The defense should be better under coordinator Ted Roof and eight starters back. Tech has road games at Miami, BYU and Clemson while they get Virginia Tech, Syracuse and rival Georgia at home. I’m not sold on the defense or passing game yet. Take the under.

The Canes expect big things from Morris this season.

Miami, FL 9 (+160 over/-200 under) – Al Golden’s Hurricanes will have no problem on offense as Duke Johnson returns at running back and Stephen Morris returns at QB. The problem is defense where the ‘Canes ranked almost dead last in the nation. That should be improved but how much? Miami gets Florida, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech at home but they have potential roadblocks at Florida State and at North Carolina. I can see three loses on the schedule and two other questionable calls so I’m going with the under.

North Carolina 9 (+120 over/-150 under) – The Tar Heels return QB Bryn Renner and very prolific offense from last season. They have to replace Gio Bernard in the backfield bit there are plenty of weapons. The defense has to improve especially against the pass but there are some talented guys in place to do that. They open at South Carolina and have other road contests at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech but they get Miami at home. If they get just enough defense, I love the over.

Pittsburgh 5.5 (-140 over/+110 under) – Paul Chryst returns for year two but faces a new challenge in the ACC. The biggest issue will be who is the quarterback? Tino Sunseri is gone so it’s an open job right now. The schedule is not exactly easy. They open the season by hosting Florida State and then have road games at Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Syracuse plus they host North Carolina, Notre Dame and Miami. I see a down year in Western PA.

Virginia 4.5 (-200 over/+160 under) – The Cavaliers slipped last year after a big season in 2011. There is potential with this team but it lacks star-power. Coach Mike London brought in several former head coaches to be assistants and that always concerns me. Too many chiefs and not enough indians… The schedule opens with home games against Oregon and BYU. They have road games at Miami and North Carolina. I can’t see the Hoos winning more than four this year.

Virginia Tech 8.5 (-145 over/+115 under) – The Hokies will go as far as quarterback Logan Thomas can take them. He had an unexpectedly poor year last season and now has a new coordinator who has worked well with top QBs before. The defense could be the best in the ACC, but they will face challenges if the offense can’t score some points. They open with Alabama in Atlanta and then have road games at Georgia Tech and Miami. I really like the over with this team.

Conference Tourney Picks for Your Consideration

Tom Izzo

As exciting as the NCAA tournament itself is the conference tournaments have often brought on as many thrills in and of themselves. While some of the smaller conferences are already underway, later this week the major conferences and leagues crank up their post-season activities. Even though there are some huge games today to wrap up the regular season, I feel confident enough to throw some picks at you for your wagering consideration.

Big Ten – First thing you need to know here is that only one time has a seed lower than four won the Big Ten and that was Iowa back in 2001. Ohio State and Michigan State have each won the tournament a record three times. Based on what happens today, you could see any number of teams claim the #1 seed. If Indiana wins at Michigan today they’ll get the one seed, if not, it could fall to one of three other teams.

This conference has been the best in the country all year, but it’s become top-heavy. I cannot see some of the bottom-dwellers making too big of an impact in this year’s tournament. While I can easily see the Hoosiers, the Wolverines, Michigan State, Ohio State or Wisconsin winning this thing, you do have to be careful of teams like Illinois or Minnesota who want to secure NCAA bids. The team I like right now is Michigan State and for two reasons; they are as physically and mentally tough as any team and they have the best coach in Tom Izzo. Go with Sparty.

ACC – I’ll make this easy… Go ahead and pencil in Duke, Miami or North Carolina here. The Tar Heels will host Duke today and win or lose they are playing their best basketball of the season. Duke has been more than happy to have Ryan Kelly back after his foot injury. The Blue Devils have not lost this year with him in the lineup. Miami can wrap up the ACC regular season title today despite having lost three of their last four.

Historically, Duke and North Carolina have won every ACC title since 1997 with the exception of Maryland in 2004 and Florida State last year. I don’t see that changing much this year. Miami is a good club as they’ve proven all year, but this is a step up now and I like Duke here.

Big 12 – Kansas is the #1 seed and will have to deal with in-state rival Kansas State and Oklahoma State in this year’s tournament. Iowa State and Oklahoma are the two teams fighting for a shot at the big dance with 21 and 20 wins respectively. I look for one of them to make a little noise in this tournament before one of the big dogs takes over. I like Kansas State and Bruce Weber here because it’s tough to beat a team three teams in a season and that’s what KU will have to do witht eh Wildcats. Go with K-State.

Pac-12 – This tournament is probably the craziest one to predict simply because there are so many teams who kind of limped into to this point of the season. UCLA has gotten its’ act together recently and will be the number one seed. Oregon and Arizona are the other top teams but Arizona State, Colorado and Cal all have apirations of a conference title and a sot at the NCAA tournament.

This might be a situation where it’s the best player in the conference versus the best overall team. To me, that means UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad