Michigan Gets Their Man; More College Football Thoughts

Harbaugh
Harbaugh
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.

Stoops
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.

Lots of Leftovers for Your Wagering Plate

Hoke
Hoke
Saturday is likely the end for Brady Hoke's tenure at Michigan.

Today would normally be a day to sit down and give you the breakdown on a handful of college games that are going on today and tomorrow. Instead, I’m going to give you much more. Kind of like how you went back for more turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc.

Loosen your belt and enjoy. (My picks are in BOLD)

Northern Illinois (+7) at Western Michigan – Both teams are tied atop the MAC West with Toledo at 6-1. WMU has won six-straight but needs help while a NIU win gives them the title.

Virginia (-1) at Virginia Tech – Both teams enter at 5-6. The winner goes bowling while the loser goes home and perhaps starts searching for a new head coach.

Nebraska (EVEN) at Iowa – There are some suggesting this game could determine Bo Pelini’s fate in Lincoln while Kirk Ferentz appears to be in Iowa City for life.

Arkansas (-3) at Missouri – The Razorbacks are playing as well right now as any team in the country. They’ve posted back-to-back shutouts over LSU and Ole Miss. A Mizzou win gives them the SEC East title.

Rich
Rich Rodriguez and his Wildcats host rival Arizona State in a game with major implications.

Arizona State (+2.5) at Arizona – This one is simple. The winner stays alive in the Pac-12 South race while the loser is out. This is one of the great rivalries in college football that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Stanford (+6) at UCLA – The disappointing season of Stanford finishes in the Rose Bowl where it all unraveled last season in a loss to Michigan State. The Bruins appear to be peaking and remain a long-shot for the college football playoff should chaos ensue at the top.

Saturday’s Action

Michigan (+21) at Ohio State – Brady Hoke needs a win just to make UM officials even consider keeping him. The Buckeyes have been heavy favorites before against the Wolverines but have struggled to win. Not today… This one will get ugly.

Minnesota (+14) at Wisconsin – Minnesota has to be ticked at being a two-touchdown dog at Wisconsin. The Gophers have played well in wins and losses this season and this one is for the Big 10 West title. Look for lots of running in this one.

Washington (-3) at Washington State – The Battle for the Apple Cup features the bowl-bound Huskies against a Cougars’ team that has struggled all season. Mike Leach’s job security in Pullman can only be described as “not very good” at the moment.

Baylor (-25) at Texas Tech – TCU is in the clubhouse at 11-1 after drubbing Texas. Baylor now must hold serve in order to keep their playoff chances alive. The Red Raiders can score points but their defense is…. Going to be abused today. Normally anything over 21 points scares me but not today.

Georgia Tech (+13) at Georgia – The Yellow Jackets are already in the ACC Title game against Florida State. The Bulldogs will already know if they are in the SEC Title game by the time they wake up today. Either way, I expect home-field to be important.

Oregon (-20) at Oregon State – What a disappointing season this has been for the Beavers. I expected so much more from Sean Mannion and company… The Ducks know the drill; win today and win the Pac-12 title and they’re in the playoff. OSU won’t go easily though and keeps it close.

Auburn (+9) at Alabama – Nothing can top last year’s game so let’s forget that right now. Bama has been a machine at home this season while Auburn has really fallen apart in recent weeks.

Florida (+7.5) at Florida State – The Seminoles have done nothing easy all season and that will continue today. In Will Muschamp’s final game coaching the Gators, I expect them to keep it close.

Rivalries Highlight Several of the Games I Like in College Football Today

P.J. Fleck
P.J. Fleck
Under the direction of P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan has has the best turnaround in college football this season.

Today I’m giving you three in-depth games I like plus a few more just for kicks.

Western Michigan (+1) at Central Michigan (O/U 52.5) – If you talk with anyone that really knows college football then they’ll tell you that this rivalry is one of the most heated and most under-rated in the sport. The schools are about three hours from each and the fans travel well for both teams.

At Western, Coach P.J. Fleck is in the midst of the best turnaround in college football. His Broncos were 1-11 last season and now stand at 7-3 with a chance to win the MAC West Division. At Central, Dan Enos has quietly improved the Chippewas and they now stand at 7-4.

CMU is usually very good at home and with the weather scheduled to be fairly mild in Mid-Michigan I expect a lot of scoring.

Trends: Western Michigan 5-0 straight up in their last five games… Central Michigan is 5-1 straight up in their last six games… WMU is 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games at Central Michigan… The Chippewas have won six of their last eight games against the Broncos.

The Pick: Take CMU in a tight game and take the OVER.

Mora, Jr
JIm Mora, Jr and the Bruins are looking for their third-straight win over USC today.

USC (+3) at UCLA (O/U 61) – The Trojans have won seven of the last ten in this rivalry but the Bruins have won the last two. A third-straight win by UCLA would also give them three-straight nine win seasons which hasn’t happened in while.

Both teams have no problem scoring points and I think the scoreboard will get a workout on Saturday in the Rose Bowl.

Trends: USC is 7-2 straight up in their last nine games on the road… UCLA is 2-5 SU against the Trojans the last seven times they’ve played in the Rose Bowl… The total has gone UNDER in four of USC’s last five games at UCLA… The Bruins are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games at home.

The Pick: I like the Bruins to cover and take the OVER.

Stanford (-5) at Cal (O/U 56.5) – Regardless of what happens today in Berkley, nothing will ever trump the 1982 “The Band is on the Field” game. It was the craziest finish in college football history.

Today’s game features one team continuing its’ turn-around season and another trying to pick up the pieces of a bad season few saw coming. The Bears were just 1-11 last season in year one under Sonny Dykes while the Cardinal enjoyed another Pac-12 title.

This should be a crazy game with Cal’s offense ranking near the top of the nation and their defense ranking near the bottom.

Trends: Stanford is 1-5-1 against the spread in their last seven games… Cal is 2-6 ATS in their last nine games when playing Stanford at home… The total has gone UNDER in four of Stanford’s last six games when playing at Cal… The Bears are 4-2 straight up in their last six games against Stanford when playing at home.

The Pick: Take Cal getting the points and take the OVER.

Other Games

Minnesota (+10) at Nebraska – I can’t see Pelini losing two straight. Take them to cover.

Louisville (+3.5) at Notre Dame – A third loss puts the Irish back into another meaningless bowl game. Take them to cover.

Ole Miss (-3.5) at Arkansas – I have a feeling last week’s win over LSU was no fluke for the Hogs. I like them getting the points.

College Football by the Numbers After a Crazy Saturday

Golson
Golson
Everett Golson has the Irish in position to rise in the polls after beating Stanford.

It all started on Thursday night when unranked but unbeaten Arizona traveled to Eugene and knocked off Oregon. If we only knew that was just the beginning of one of the craziest days in recent college football memory.

Top-ranked Florida State had no problem with Wake Forest early in the day on Saturday making us think that maybe this wouldn’t be such an usual day but then the chips started to fall. #7 Texas A&M went to 12th-ranked Mississippi State and lost 48-31 while Ole Miss scored the biggest win of the day in knocking off third-ranked Alabama 23-17.

So take a breath here because the day of craziness was far from over. Soon after Bama went down #4 Oklahoma lost 37-33 to TCU in Fort Worth. So if you’re keeping score at home, teams ranked second, third and fourth in the most recent Coaches Poll had lost. But the day wasn’t over yet.

UCLA, who had been wining by the skin of their teeth before blowing out Arizona State last week, was beaten at home by Utah 30-28. Fellow Pac-12 teams USC (#16) and Stanford (#14) both went down as well.

Dantonio
Mark Dantonio and his Spartans should run the table making things interesting for the playoff race.

#10 Michigan State survived Nebraska’s visit to East Lansing winning 27-22 after leading 17-0 at halftime. Big Ten West Division favorite and #17 Wisconsin was beaten in Evanston by Northwestern who now stands at 2-0 in the division.

Also going down in the top 25 last night was #18 BYU who was throttled at home by Utah State.

To put this all in perspective, the following ranks all lost this week; 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 16 ,17, 18, 19.

Obviously someone came out smelling like a rose this weekend and there are a few contenders for that title. Number five Auburn destroyed LSU 41-7 and will likely slide into the #2 spot in the polls. #11 Ole Miss and #12 Mississippi State will both rise into the top ten. Also benefiting from the action Saturday is #7 Baylor who beat Texas 28-7 and #9 Notre Dame who needed a last-second touchdown to beat Stanford in South Bend.

When the format for the college football playoff came out, it was pretty much a given that the SEC would more than likely secure two of the four spots simply because of their strength of schedule and number of teams that would rise especially in the West Division. The problem is that the East Division is not good and unless Georgia can run the table the East won’t put up much of a battle in the SEC title game.

The other problem for the SEC West is that it’s highly unlikely anyone comes out unscathed. Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State were impressive yesterday but they both still have each other to play as well as other top teams in the West.

The SEC could benefit however from all of the losses in the Pac-12 and Oklahoma’s loss too. Now Baylor stands as the only unbeaten in the Big-12 and still has to play at Oklahoma.

The Big Ten’s only hope remains Michigan State. Their only loss is to Oregon but now that loss looks less impressive with the Ducks losing at home. Still, an impressive win over Ohio State along with going unbeaten the rest of the way could squeeze them in to the playoff.

The team that is the most interesting right now is Notre Dame who is unbeaten. The Irish shouldn’t have any trouble with North Carolina in South Bend next week but then has three straight road games at Florida State, Navy and Arizona State. I have a hard time seeing the Irish come out unscathed in that stretch. If they do, it’ll come to down to the finale with USC.

My College Football Playoff Predictions

Michigan State – I still think they’ll need some help but they should run the table.

Alabama – I think the Tide will beat Auburn for the West title and then will go on to win the SEC.

Florida State – I omitted them last week because I thought they might slip up at some point but now I just don’t see it happening.

Notre Dame – Even with one loss, their strength of schedule will be better then many other one-loss teams.

Some Great College Football Action Coming Up Today

GOlden
GOlden
Al Golden brings his Hurricanes to Georgia Tech for a key ACC showdown.

Miami (+1.5) at Georgia Tech (O/U 56) – The Canes scored a big win over defending division champ Duke last weekend at home. Now Miami hits the road to play a Georgia Tech team that has already beaten Virginia Tech and comes off a bye week. The Canes have played a slightly tougher schedule having lost at Louisville and Nebraska but Bobby Dodd Stadium isn’t a friendly place either.

Trends: Miami is 3-10 against the spread in their last 13 games… Georgia Tech is 2-4 ATS in their last six games at home against Miami…The total has gone UNDER in four of Miami’s last six games… The total has gone OVER in four of the Yellow Jackets’ last five home games.

The Pick: I like GT to cover and I like the OVER.

Hogan
Kevin Hogan has to play well if the Cardinal have a chance today in South Bend.

Stanford (-2) at Notre Dame (O/U 45) – The Cardinal enters with a rare early loss while the Irish have stayed unbeaten and have worked their way into the college football playoff debate. Notre Dames defense has been pretty darn good through 2014 and Stanford has struggled offensively at times especially in the red zone. Will the home-field advantage pay off for Brian Kelly’s team?

Trends: The Cardinal are 1-6 straight up in their last seven trips to Notre Dame… The Irish are 12-4 SU in their last 16 games against Stanford… The total has gone UNDER in six of Stanford’s last seven games at Notre Dame… The total has gone UNDER in seven of Notre Dame’s last eight games.

The Pick: I like the Irish getting the points and I love the UNDER.

LSU (+7.5) at Auburn (O/U 58) – The Bayou Bengals were the only team to beat Auburn prior to Auburn’s loss on the national title game. That made three straight wins over the Tigers. After the loss at home to Mississippi State, I’m just not sure if that says more about LSU or the Bulldogs. Auburn hits the field for the first time since surviving Kansas State who should have beaten them.

The LSU QB situation worries me and I think the defense isn’t what has been in the past.

Trends: LSU is 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games on the road at Auburn… Auburn is 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home… The total has gone UNDER in six of Auburn’s last seven games at home against LSU… LSU is 6-1 straight up in their last seven games against Auburn.

The Pick: Auburn covers and take the OVER.

Oklahoma (-4.5) at TCU (O/U 57) – With Oregon going down Thursday night, Oklahoma moves tat uch closer to securing a final four spot in the college football playoffs. The Horned Frogs will not exactly roll over today though. They are unbeaten as well and play well at home. The difference is the level of competition to this point and that favors the Sooners.

Trends: Oklahoma is 5-0 straight up in their last five road games… TCU is 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Oklahoma’s last five games on the road… The total has gone OVER in six of the Frog’s last nine games at home.

The Pick: Take OU to cover and I like the OVER.

Michigan (+2) at Rutgers (O/U 47) – The Michigan defense was thought to be the strength but that went out the window last week. Brady Hoke is in trouble despite what AD Dave Brandon says. Rutgers will not feel bad for the Wolverines one bit and will take advantage of Devin Gardner’s propensity for turnovers.

Trends: Michigan is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games… Rutgers is 17-6 straight up in their last 23 home games… The total has gone UNDER in all of Michigan’s last five road games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Rutgers last six games at home.

The Pick: Take Rutgers to cover and I like the UNDER.

Four Big Games for Saturday

Jug
Jug
Struggling Michigan hosts Minnesota in the battle for the Little Brown Jug.

Minnesota (+8) at Michigan (O/U 43) – The Little Brown Jug has taken up a pretty much permanent spot in the Michigan trophy case but if there were any year for the Gophers to get it back this might be it. The Wolverines are struggling offensively and Brady Hoke’s job is less than secure at the moment. One of two things is going to happen on Saturday; the Wolverines will rally around Hoke and play well or the status quo will exist.

The Gophers three wins are unimpressive and their lone loss was a beat-down at the hands of TCU.

Trends: Michigan has beaten Minnesota in nine of the last ten games they’ve played… The Gophers are 2-4 against the spread in their six games at Michigan… The Wolverines are 8-1 straight up in their last nine games at home against Minnesota… The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Gophers’ last eight games.

The Pick: I think Michigan finds a way to win but take the Gophers and the points. Take the UNDER as well.

Missouri (+6) at South Carolina (O/U 61.5) –

Bielema
Bret Bielema brings his Razorbacks to College Station where the Aggies await.

Arkansas (+10) at Texas A&M (O/U 72) – The Razorbacks are averaging 324 yards rushing per game and that’s been an Achilles’ heel for the Aggies in recent years. Since losing their opener at Auburn, the Hogs have ripped off three straight wins. The big question is whether or not Arkansas can slow down Kenny Hill and the Aggies offensive attack.

Bret Bielema will look to get his team running the ball to keep Hill off the field because he knows this offense will be much more talented than Texas Tech whom the Hogs defeated.

Trends: The Aggies are averaging almost 52 points per game in their last two contests against the Hogs… The total has gone OVER in all five of Arkansas’ most recent games… A&M is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against the Razorbacks… Arkansas is 3-10 straight up in their last 13 games.

The Pick: Take the Aggies to cover and take the OVER.

Stanford (-8) at Washington (O/U 47.5) – Last week, Washington hosted Georgia Southern and trailed 14-0 at halftime. They ended up winning 45-14. Perhaps the 4-0 Huskies needed a wake-up call?

The Cardinal come to Seattle at 2-1 and have a road trip to South Bend next week that they cannot afford to look ahead. This game will likely be decided by the Cardinal defense which has given up just ten points in three games.

The Pick: I like UW getting the points and I like the OVER.

Trends: The last time Stanford played at Washington they lost 17-13… The Huskies are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home against the Cardinal… The total has gone UNDER in four of Stanford’s last five games at Washington… The Huskies are 2-5 ATS in their last seven home games.

Florida State (-19) at North Carolina State (O/U 58.5) – Upset alert in Raleigh? The Seminoles have lost two straight at Carter-Finley Stadium. They get Jameis Winston back from suspension and are coming off an overtime win over Clemson.

The Wolfpack are unbeaten but haven’t exactly beaten anyone worth mentioning. Still, I believe this has the makings of a challenge for the ‘Noles.

Trends: Florida State is just 6-4 straight up in their last ten games against the Wolfpack… NC State is just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games at home… The Seminoles are 1-5 ATS in their last six games at NC State… The total has gone UNDER in five of NCSU’s last six games at home against Florida State.

The Pick: Love NC State getting the points and take the UNDER.

An Early Look at the College Football Lines for Next Weekend

Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats cannot afford a loss to Northern Illinois after losing their opener.

Each week this season I’m hoping to give you an early look at the top college games for the weekend. You should see this Monday or Tuesday.

Northern Illinois 1-0 (+2.5) at Northwestern 0-1 – High expectations in Evanston were shot out of the sky in a hurry last weekend as Cal came in and led 31-7 before hanging on to win 31-24. The Wildcats were thought to be a surprise team in the Big Ten West but they looked anything but and now have to deal with perennial MAC power Northern Illinois. To say this is a must-win against the Huskies is an understatement. Right Now: I like NIU and the points

Missouri 1-0 (-5.5) at Toledo 1-0 – Gary Pinkel returns to the campus that helped him get where he is now. The Rockets will not be a pushover either and Pinkel knows it. Last year, Toledo came into Columbia and gave the Tigers quite a battle before losing 38-23 with the Tigers pulling away in the fourth. Missouri is the defending SEC East champs so they aren’t going to sneak up on anyone. Right Now: I like Missouri to cover

Navy 0-1 (-4) at Temple 1-0 – This game is more fascinating than I ever dreamed it would be three weeks ago. Navy gave Ohio State fits into the fourth quarter before losing to the Buckeyes while the Owls went into Nashville and thumped the Commodores by 30. I expect this to be a close and very exciting game in Philly. Right Now: I like Navy to cover

Southern Cal 1-0 (+4) at Stanford 1-0 – There were a lot of college football people who believe the most talented team in the Pac-12 last season was USC. In-season coaching changes and injuries scuttled the chance for a title but now the Trojans get their shot to prove themselves and it will start with a road trip at defending champion Stanford. SC QB Cody Kessler was outstanding against Fresno State and now gets a shot a much tougher opponent. Right Now: I like USC and the points.

Cook
Connor Cok and the Spartans head to Oregon for a game with massive playoff implications.

Michigan State 1-0 (+11) at Oregon 1-0 – You’ll hear this phrase a lot this season; “This is the most important game of the year in terms of the final four teams in the playoff.” The Spartans and Ducks will be playing in this game this weekend in Eugene. MSU can afford a close loss whereas Oregon needs to win at home. Either way, both teams will still be alive for the playoffs. Right Now: I like MSU and the points

East Carolina 1-0 (+15.5) at South Carolina 0-1 – Remember a few weeks back when Steve Spurrier was ripping on the Big Ten? He said his Gamecocks were better off playing “East Carolina” than a bottom tier Big Ten team. Well, here come the Pirates and what do you know? Spurrier and company are still licking their wounds from that beatdown at the hands of Texas A&M. Right Now: SC covers

Michigan 1-0 (+6) at Notre Dame 1-0 – The Wolverines and the Fighting Irish hook up again in another primetime match-up and they have yet to disappoint in under the lights. Both teams got highly anticipated blowout wins this past Saturday and enter with 1-0 records. The key here will be the Michigan running game against the Irish run defense. Right Now: I like Michigan and the points

BYU 1-0 (+4.5) at Texas 1-0 – The Charlie Strong Era got off on the right foot this past weekend by beating up on North Texas. BYU did the same on the road by beating UConn. This will be the first of many tests for Strong in Austin this year and don’t be surprised if the Cougars pull it off behind a tough defense. Right Now: I Like Texas to cover

 

Odds to Win the Pac-12 North Division Title

Mariota
Mariota
I expect Marcus Mariota to lead the Ducks to the Pac-12 North title.

It’s time to head West and pick the winner of the Pac-12 North Division so let’s go!

Cal 50/1 – Things didn’t go real well for Sonny Dykes in his first year in Berkeley as the Bears went 1-11. Their lone victory came against Portland State and only one of their 11 losses was by less then 10 points. In other words, there’s a lot of work to do. Cal returns nine starters on offense and six on defense so there is hope. The schedule won’t do them any favors with road trips to Northwestern, Oregon State and USC but they do get Stanford and UCLA at home and Oregon in the 49ers new stadium. Three wins would be significant for Cal.

Oregon 1/2 – The Ducks will get challenged right out of the gate when defending Big Ten Champ Michigan State comes to town in week two. The offense returns eight starters including QB Marcus Mariota but the defense does have some work to do but has plenty in the cupboard. I see only two difficult road trips for the Ducks and those would be at UCLA and at Oregon State in the finale. They’ll be looking for revenge when Arizona comes to town and they also get Washington and Stanford in Autzen Stadium as well. If they get past Michigan State, look out.

Mannion
Don't be surprised if Mannion leads the Beavers to a great season in the Pac-12 North.

Oregon State 14/1 – The Beavers have a whopping 53 lettermen returning in 2014 headed by one of the top QB prospects in the land in Sean Mannion who NFL scouts love. The travel plans for OSU are daunting with trips to Washington, USC and Stanford but every other game on the schedule with the exception of Oregon perhaps is winnable. Don’t be shocked to see this team record nine wins.

Stanford 13/4 – The defending Pac-12 Champions return from a tough Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State. Head Coach David Shaw has a terrific 34-7 record but it will be put to the test in 2014 especially on the road. The Cardinal play an usual six games on the road and all are going to be challenging. Besides Washington, the Cardinal also go to Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. With only five starters back on offense I have concerns about the Cardinal.

Washington 6/1 – Chris Peterson brings his 92-12 record to Seattle from an amazing run at Boise State. The question will be whether or not he can transfer that success from the Broncos to a more high-profile situation. The Huskies return seven starters on both sides of the ball which will help with the transition in coaching staffs. Washington should be 4-0 when they host Stanford in the fifth game of the season. The problem after that is the road where they play five times in their last eight games. Besides the Cardinal, they also get UCLA and Oregon State at home. An 8-5 season here would be a grand success.

 Washington State 12/1 – Year two of the Mike Leach regime produced a 6-6 season and a bowl game. Year three will need to produce even further. The road schedule will not be easy however with trips to Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona State. That said, they get Oregon, USC and rival Washington at home in the Apple Cup to finish the season.

The Pick: I believe this is Oregon’s division to lose. Stanford will challenge but I worry about the road schedule. The one team to look out for is Oregon State because of the quarterback and solid coaching.

Breaking Down Thursday Night’s NCAA Hoops Action

Wilbekin
Wilbekin
The Florida Gators are led into the Sweet Sixteen by guard Scottie Wilbekin.

Here are the match-ups for the opening night of the Sweet Sixteen.

Florida (-4.5) vs. UCLA – The Gators have been college basketball’s most consistent team in my opinion all year and they once again showed why when they held Pitt to just 45 points to advance to the Sweet 16. The Florida defense ranks third in the country in defensive scoring and the challenge for the UCLA Bruins will be immense.

I think the Bruins’ success against the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 tournament will serve them well against Florida because the Wildcats played excellent defense as well. My concern for Florida is whether they can score enough if the defense isn’t clicking. The Bruins rank 12th in the country in scoring so something will have to give in this game.

My gut feeling tells me this will be the one game that really challenges the Gators and should they come through it, the title could well be in reach. I like them to win, but I think its razor thin so take the Bruins getting the points.

Dawkins
Former Duke Standout Johnny Dawkins has Stanford playing extremely well entering their game with Dayton.

Dayton (+3) vs. Stanford – 11th seed Dayton takes on 10th seed Stanford in the only match-up of double-digit seeds in the tournament. The Flyers are the definition of “survive and advance” as they won their two tournament games by a grand total of three points over Ohio State and Syracuse.

Devin Oliver is the catalyst for Coach Archie Miller’s team. He leads in assists, rebounds and is second in scoring at 12 points per game.

The Cardinal hasn’t exactly had blowout wins in their first two games either. They’ve defeated New Mexico and Kansas by a total of eight points. Head Coach Johnny Dawkins seems to have his team peaking at the right time. Dayton has been a great story so far in this tournament but there’s a reason the Pac-12 has done decently. I like Stanford to cover and move on.

Baylor (+3.5) vs. Wisconsin – The Baylor Bears entered the NCAA Tournament as hot as almost any team and so far they’ve stayed that way. I have to believe this may be the most athletic team Wisconsin has seen in some time if not all season.

There’s no secret as to what the Badgers will be aiming to do on Thursday night. They will play excellent team defense, will rebound and will be patient and efficient on the offensive end of the court. Baylor cannot afford to get frustrated by the pesky Badgers who play a very ‘in-your-face’ style of defense.

The coaching match-up is fascinating with the veteran Bo Ryan and the rising coaching star in Scott Drew. ways concerns me with Coach Ryan is that he has teams that seem talented enough to get to the Final Four but they always seem to fall short. This is odd considering his four titles at lower levels of NCAA basketball.

I like Baylor getting the points because of their ability and athleticism but I always think the Badgers will miss being close to home as they were last weekend.

San Diego State (+6.5) vs. Arizona – These two West Coast teams actually hooked up once already this season. It was a 69-60 win for the Wildcats but it was way back on November 14th of 2013. Much has changed in that time for both teams in terms of player personnel, injuries and experience gained.

That was the Aztecs second game of the season and they wouldn’t lose again until February 22nd. I guarantee you that Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller is not overlooking this game in any way, shape or form.

The Wildcats will ride their defense which is ranked fifth in nation in points allowed. The Aztecs will counter with guard Xavier Thames who runs Coach Steve Fisher’s offense superbly. I really won’t be a bit surprised if SDSU pulls this out but I do like them getting the points in an overall victory for Arizona.

College Football Thoughts After Another Crazy Weekend

Pelini
Pelini
Is Pelini in any trouble in Lincoln? I think he has to be.

The Ohio State Buckeyes may be feeling the karma of 40 years ago when you really think about it. It was forty years ago that unbeaten Michigan hosted the unbeaten Buckeyes. As was typically the case in those days, the game was for the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. OSU was ranked number one in the country while Michigan was number four.

The game ended in a 10-10 tie and left the decision of who goes to the Rose Bowl in the hands of the ten Big Ten athletic directors. Back in those days, the conference had a rule that only the champion of the conference could go to a bowl so someone was going to be left out.

Despite the fact that Michigan dominated the game especially in the second half, they lost quarterback Dennis Franklin to a collarbone injury. The injury was ultimately the reason in the eyes of most Wolverines’ fans as to why the athletic directors chose Ohio State. The Buckeyes went to Pasadena and beat Southern Cal while Michigan stayed home.

OSU dropped in the polls after their poor performance at Michigan and as a result, Notre Dame claimed the national title by beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes finished second in the polls while Michigan finished fourth.

Meyer
Meyer could go unbeaten again and be left out of the BCS Title game.

Forty years later, Ohio State may themselves on the outside looking in as they continue to pummel Big Ten competition. Head Coach Urban Meyer’s team is scoring almost 50 points per game and will no doubt finish unbeaten. They have Indiana at home and then finish at Michigan where the Wolverines are struggling.

If both Alabama and Florida State keep winning the Buckeyes will not be receiving an invite to the final BCS National Title Game. Regardless of how many points they score and how much they beat teams by, there’s nothing Meyer or anyone else in Columbus can do about it.

Although there is a similarity between the two events spread 40 years apart, OSU will still go to a bowl game unlike Michigan who couldn’t. Either way, you can’t help but feel the frustration emanating from the Ohio State campus already. There are still a few weeks to go, but it isn’t looking good for the Buckeyes’ hopes of a national title.

The team most likely now to face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game is Michigan State. The Spartans took advantage of five Nebraska turnovers and beat the Cornhuskers 41-28 in Lincoln. The MSU defense was a little more human giving up a 100-yard rushing day to Amir Abdullah but the Spartans still did more than enough get the win.

The Spartans need a win either at snake-bitten Northwestern or home against Minnesota to clinch the Legends’ Division and those won’t be easy by any stretch. Despite a win at Michigan last week, I have to believe there will be questions raised about Bo Pelini staying the head coach at Nebraska.

#7 Auburn got a late gift from two Georgia defensive backs and knocked off the Bulldogs to keep their BCS hopes alive. The Tigers will have a week off before hosting rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. A win over the Tide would be huge on a number of levels for Gus Malzahn’s team which has made an amazing turnaround in just one year.

#4 Stanford was upset by surging USC last night 20-17. The loss more than likely knocks the Cardinal out of the BCS and gives Oregon control of the Pac-12 North. In a matter of 10 days, Stanford went from a BCS shoo-in to not even playing in a BCS game. There is still a lot time for things to happen however.