I Have a Feeling We Are in for Another Wild Saturday

Strong
Strong
Can Charlie Strong and the 'Horns knock off Oklahoma?

Texas (14.5) vs Oklahoma (O/U 47) – I have to say, I’m glad the Red River Rivalry has continued to stay at the original Cotton Bowl. I realize how easy it is to shift to Jerry World but I’m glad some traditions have stayed alive.

I expect the Longhorns to play hard but I also expect a very ticked off Sooners’ team to show up as well.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of Texas’ last six games when playing the Sooners… OU is 3-5-1 against the spread in their last nine games when playing the Longhorns… Texas is 2-5 straight up in their last seven games.

The Pick: Take the Sooners to cover and the OVER

Northwestern (+4) at Minnesota (O/U 43) – I’m sure all of you had this match-up pegged for the lead in the Big Ten West in the second week of October right? Well that’s what we’ve got. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin have already suffered conference losses.

The Gophers are riding the wave of winning the Little Brown Jug two weeks ago while the Wildcats have scored impressive wins over Wisconsin and Penn State.

Trends: The Wildcats are 4-3 straight up in their last six games Minnesota… The Gophers are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games at home against Northwestern… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Wildcats’ last six games against Minnesota.

The Pick: The Badgers gashed the Wildcats’ run defense last week and I expect the same thing from the Gophers. Take them to cover and I like the UNDER.

Patterson
A win at Baylor puts Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs in front of the Big 12 race.

TCU (+8) at Baylor (O/U 66.5) – If the Horned Frogs can pull of another upset they’ll be well on their way to a Big 12 title since they’ve already beaten the other favorite in Oklahoma. If the Bears win, they still have a November date in Norman.

Trends: The Horned Frogs are 4-2 straight up in their last six games against Baylor… The Bears are 14-1 straight up in their last 15 home games… The total has gone UNDER in six of TCU’s last eight games on the road.

The Pick: Expect lots of scoring and take TCU while taking the OVER as well.

Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State (O/U 64) – The Tigers are accustomed to these marquee match-ups while the Bulldogs are still getting used to them. Both teams still have Bama and Ole Miss on their respective schedules.

That means a win is vital tomorrow.

Trends: The Bulldogs are 2-11 straight up in their last 13 games against Auburn… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Tigers last five trips to Mississippi State… Mississippi State is 4-8 against the spread in their last 12 games against Auburn.

The Pick: Take the Bulldogs getting the points at home and the UNDER as well.

Oregon (-3) at UCLA (O/U 72) – This is an elimination game. Both have one loss now and a second automatically knocks them out of contention for the college football playoff. If UCLA follows Arizona State’s lead and runs the ball then they have a good shot at the win.

Trends: Oregon is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games… The Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last five games when playing Oregon at home… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Ducks’ last five games at UCLA.

The Pick: I like the Bruins getting the points at home and I like the UNDER.

Ole Miss (+2) at Texas A&M (O/U 64) – I said earlier this week that this is the type of game that programs who aren’t sued to big wins usually lose. The Rebels beat Alabama but will there be a letdown?

Trends: Texas A&M is 6-0 lifetime against Ole Miss and 2-0 since they joined the SEC… The total has gone UNDER in five of Ole Miss’ last five games on the road… The Aggies are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home.

The Pick: I expect the Aggies to cover and take the OVER as Ole Miss suffers their first defeat.

Big 12 Conference Odds for 2014

Stoops

 

Stoops
Bob Stoops and his Sooners have their sights set on a Big 12 Title.

The Big 12 odds are right here so I’m not waiting any long, let’s go.

Oklahoma 2/3 – The Sooners return nine starters on defense and will look to build on a strong finish in 2013 that featured a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. The road schedule is light with only Texas in the Cotton Bowl being the toughest trip. They get a revenge game against Baylor at home along with rival Oklahoma State in the finale.

Baylor 11/4 – QB Bryce Petty is back after a year in which he threw 32 TD passes and just three interceptions. The defending Big 12 Champs have just four starters back from a defense that struggle at times last year. The road to defending their title will be tough. They play at Oklahoma and at Texas, but they have a very weak non-conference schedule and get TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home.

Strong
Can Charlie Strong revive the Longhorns despite doubts within the fan base?

Texas 15/2 – The Charlie Strong Era begins in Austin and the pressure will be huge for an immediate turn-around. The Longhorns lost only 16 lettermen and return seven starters on offense and eight on defense. The first six games feature BYU, UCLA in Arlington, Baylor and then Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Three of their last five games are on the road as well.

Kansas State 10/1 – Bill Snyder enters his 23rd season in Manhattan with a team that returns 11 starters (6/O and 5/D). Road games are not easy with trips to both Oklahoma and Baylor but the home schedule isn’t easy either with Auburn, Texas and Oklahoma State coming in.

Oklahoma State 10/1 – With just eight starters (4/O and 4/D) back, the Cowboys could take a step back in 2014. They open with defending National Champion Florida State in Arlington and then finish the season on the road at Baylor and at Oklahoma. That’s a tough challenge for a rebuilding team.

TCU 14/1 – The Horned Frogs had very uncharacteristic season in 2013 going just 4-8. The good news is that eight starters return on both offense and defense. They have to play at Baylor and at Texas but get Oklahoma and K-State at home. I expect at least a bowl appearance this season.

Texas Tech 20/1 – Kliff Kingsbury enters his second season in Lubbock following an 8-5 record in 2013. Don’t forget however, this team had been 7-0 before losing their last five regular season games against much stiffer competition. Nine starters return on offense but just four on D. They get Texas and Oklahoma at home and Baylor in Arlington in the finale. Road games include Kansas State and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks.

West Virginia 66/1 – Dana Holgerson is in year four at West Virginia and with a 21-17 record some would say he’s on the hot seat. It won’t be easy to change those thoughts with an opener in Atlanta against Alabama. They also play at Oklahoma State and Texas while entertaining Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State.

Iowa State 100/1 – This is likely Paul Rhodes’ final season in Ames if things don’t turn around a bit. He’s 27-36 which isn’t terrible for a coach at Iowa State, but it isn’t great either. The good news is that ISU has 10 starters back on offense and five on defense. The bad news is that road trips to Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma State await the Cyclones in their first seven games. A bowl game is possible but there is little room for error.

Kansas 100/1 – Charlie Weis is just 4-20 at Kansas and this is his make or break year. The good news for Weis is that he gets 17 starters back on offense and defense. The bad news is that his Jayhawks still have to travel to Duke, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State.

The Pick: The Sooners will ride their win over Alabama into the 2014 season and with stability at quarterback now I believe they’ll clip the Baylor Bears for the title. If you want a long shot, look at Texas Tech who has a favorable schedule with the big teams at home.

American League Futures for 2014

Farrell
Farrell
Can John Farrell lead the Red Sox to another American League East title?

Here are your odds for the American League Futures for 2014.

American League East

Boston +200 While it appears that Big Papi and the team have reached an extension, will his amazing bat be enough to get the BoSox back to the playoffs? Jacoby Ellsbury is in New York so his talent will be hard to replace. Pitching will be a question mark in terms of the rotation but the closer spot is locked down.

Tampa Bay +220 The Rays are the sexy pick right now for the East title because of their pitching from top to bottom and their offense which could, and I stress could, be really good if Evan Longoria can stay healthy.

NY Yankees +240 There’s no question the Yanks did not take kindly to their rivals winning another World Series title. They signed Ellsbury and picked up the latest Japanese pitching sensation in Masahiro Tanaka. Questions will revolve around the health of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in terms of whether they can hang in the division.

Baltimore +700 The Birds will look to repeat their success on offense from last year where they ranked in the top five in both slugging percentage and runs. The problem is on the hill where they ranked 25th or worse in many key categories. Manny Machado will start on the 15-DL too which won’t help.

Toronto +700 The Blue Jays had high expectations going into last season and those fizzled quickly. The pitching was for the most part atrocious and the hitting was middle of the road and left much to be desired.

Iglesias
Can the loss of Iglesias be overcome in Detroit in 2014?

American League Central

Detroit -225 The Tigers have already suffered a big blow when shortstop Jose Iglesias was shelved for the season with shin problems in both legs. Detroit should have plenty of talent to still take the division but let’s also remember Jim Leyland is gone. Brad Ausmus is the new man in Motown.

Kansas City +450 Much like the Rays in the AL East, the Royals are a very popular pick to do some good things this year. They have nice core with Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon to build around. They could be a very nice pick for the wild-card if not the division.

Cleveland +550 The Indians always seem to hang around and they did so surprisingly last year. They must get better production from the rotation because last year they finished 27th in quality starts. The offense wasn’t too bad ranking fifth in runs scored.

Chicago White Sox +1200 The South-siders were just brutal last season at the plate ranking in the lower half of MLB in most hitting statistics. That must get better in a division with Detroit. The pitching could also stand to get better as well.

Minnesota +2500 The Twins are in rebuilding mode and it might take some time. They just weren’t very good in 2013 ranking near the bottom in every pitching category and not much higher in the offensive realm either. This should be another long year in Minneapolis.

American League West

Texas +175 The Rangers were pretty good hitting the ball in 2013 and should get a little better with the addition of Prince Fielder who came into camp in the best shape of his career. Yu Darvish will anchor the rotation which is decent, but they must get more quality starts to take pressure off of the bullpen.

Oakland +200 The A’s didn’t hit for a great average in 2013 but they scored runs and they slugged the heck out of the ball. I look for that to continue as should the really good pitching from last season. Another trip to the playoffs is in the cards here but advancing to the World Series is the goal.

LA Angels +225 This team will go where Mike Trout can take it. The offense wasn’t really the problem last season because the pitching was. They were near the bottom in opponent’s batting average and ERA. Regardless of what the offense does if the pitching doesn’t come around the Angels are in trouble.

Seattle +700 $240 million later Robinson Cano is the toast of the Pacific Northwest. The question is can he produce the way the team and fan base expect him to? I expect Cano to raise the numbers offensively for this team but the pitching needs help too. King Felix can’t do it all.

Houston +5000 The Astros should have one goal in 2014 and that’s to be competitive in each and every game. Both the hitting and pitching cannot get much worse so I expect a little improvement in H-Town.

MAC Decided Tonight; Big Ones on Tap Tomorrow in College Football

Lynch
Lynch
Heisman hopeful Jordan Lynch leads the Huskies against Bowling Green for the MAC Title.

Tonight the MAC takes center stage in college football and that is but a mere appetizer for what’s to come tomorrow. Check it all out right here.

Bowling Green (+4.5) vs. Northern Illinois (at Ford Field) – The Mid-American Conference is in the spotlight for a second straight year and in the center of that spotlight is Northern Illinois. Last season, the Huskies finished off a perfect season by beating Kent State. The win sent them to Orange Bowl. They have the same opportunity tonight as they play Bowling Green. A win pretty much guarantees another BCS trip while a loss sends the Huskies to far less financially rewarding pastures.

I do not expect the Falcons to go quietly however. Bowling Green is 5th in the nation in scoring defense at just 13 points per game while the Huskies’ D gives up about 10 points more per game. I was impressed that Bowling Green went to Buffalo last week and knocked off the Bulls 24-7. The winner of that game grabbed the MAC East Title and the Falcons did just that on the road.

The difference in this one however is the amazing Jordan Lynch who will be under center for NIU. If Lynch is not in New York as one of the four Heisman Trophy finalists then there ought to be an investigation. He will be the difference in a fairly tight ball game but I like the Huskies to cover.

Texas (+15) at Baylor – This one is fairly simple. Should Oklahoma State lose against rival Oklahoma in the early game in the Big 12 then whoever wins between the Longhorns and Bears wins the conference and the BCS bid. In terms of on the field with these two we have to credit Mack Brown who has guided his team to an 8-3 record when many thought he’d be lucky to get to six wins when the ‘Horns were 1-2 on the season.

Baylor bounced back nicely from losing to the Cowboys and still has hopes for a BCS game. QB Bryce Petty has announced he will return for his senior season which should provide some motivation for the Bears. I like Baylor to win but the 15 points is just too much so take Texas.

Chelf
Look for Chelf to stay on his hot streak against rival Oklahoma.

Oklahoma (+10) at Oklahoma State – You already know the scenario from the game listed above and quite frankly I expect the Cowboys to put a significant whooping on the rival Sooners tomorrow. The Cowboys are 1-4 straight up in their last five home games against OU and I believe the over/under of 58 will go over with the Sooners averaging 31 points per game and the Cowboys averaging 41.

Sadly at 9-2, the Sooners’ season has been a disappointment with a loss to Texas and a serious blowout loss to Baylor. Injuries have not helped but Bob Stoops knows he can’t use them as an excuse. Regardless, I like Oklahoma State to cover.

Ohio State (-6) vs. Michigan State (Lucas Oil Stadium) – The Buckeyes’ defense was exposed last week by a very average Michigan offense and you can bet Mark Dantonio paid attention. His concern however will be stopping Ohio State because they can run the ball with several threats and Braxton Miller can throw it well too. I really want to take Sparty but OSU is too athletic. Take the Bucks to cover.

Missouri (-3) vs. Auburn (Georgia Dome) – Here’s the big question; can Auburn re-focus after such an amazing win over their most hated rival? I think they can but this year has been pretty magical for a Missouri team too that had to manage without their starting QB for much of it. Mizzou leads the SEC in both sacks and interceptions and I like them to cover.

Duke vs. Florida State (-29) (Bank of America Stadium) – Jameis Winston was cleared of any charges from an alleged sexual assault that happened a year ago. While being investigated he stayed sharp and played pretty well. Now that this is off his mind, how much better will he be? The Blue Devils have been an outstanding story but this one is over early. I’m taking the Seminoles to cover.

Saban to Texas Rumors Are Just Warming Up

Saban

 

Saban
Nick Saban might say all the right things now but what about when the season ends?

You knew it had to come sooner or later. I’m honestly surprised it took as long as it has but nevertheless it is here. I’m speaking of course of another sweepstakes involving Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban.

Saban is in his seventh season at Alabama which constitutes one of his longest tenures as a coach at any point in his career. The problem of course with Saban is that he has long been recognized as the ‘Larry Brown’ of football.

Known as an excellent coach, teacher and recruiter, Saban just doesn’t stay in the same place very long.

Where might he be headed now?

There is no secret the University of Texas is likely to come calling and they’ll be armed with millions and millions of dollars when they do. The Longhorns still have a coach however in Mack Brown but the faithful have grown restless.

Not only has rival Texas A&M gone on to be the attention-grabbing  football program in the state, but for a university that reels in more money than any other, losing just doesn’t sit well with anyone and the talk of Saban being brought in to right the ship has already started.

Saban’s agent confirmed that he had a 45-minute conversation with a couple of University of Texas Regents back in January. At that time, his agent confirmed that Texas would be the only place Saban would consider leaving Alabama for but I have to wonder at what cost?

UT knows that Saban coming into Austin would provide instant credibility to a program that is necessarily lacking it but needs a significant boost. With four national titles under his belt (Bama 3, LSU 1) Saban almost guarantees a national title within his first couple of years.

Brown
Saban may be the target, but Mack Brown is still running the show in Austin.

Let’s go back to the price for a minute though.

Texas announced they have hired a new athletic director on Tuesday. Steve Patterson will come over from Arizona State and immediately takes over the nation’s most lucrative athletic department. What does this have to do with Saban?

Remember that Patterson is also the guy who lured Todd Graham away from Pittsburgh despite Graham talking about how much he looked forward to doing great things at Pitt. The lure of the desert and significantly more money was obviously too much for Graham to resist.

Graham’s situation is small potatoes compared to Saban who currently makes $5.6 million per season at Alabama. An amount the Chancellor of Alabama recently said was “the greatest investment the University of Alabama has ever made.”

I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities to see the Longhorns throw a number at Saban somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to eight million per year. Would Alabama be willing to match that offer to retain Saban?

Maybe that’s what this is all about anyway. Saban can continue to allow this situation to twist in the wind while the Tide marches on through the season. All the while a bidding war takes place between Tuscaloosa and Austin and Saban reaps the benefits.

Whoever comes with best possible deal will win his services.

Because Alabama is such a proud university they will not like being shown up by anyone. This is partially why I believe the Tide will not allow Saban to just drift away in the middle of the night.

In the end, there will be two winners and one loser. You already know Nick Saban will be one of the winners and the only thing left is to figure out if the other one is Alabama or Texas.

After an Unbeaten Week I’m Ready for More CFB Action

Brown

 

Brown
Could a blowout loss to rival Oklahoma send Mack Brown packing?

Season Record 12-12-1, Last Week 4-0

I pulled even on the season with a big 4-0 week highlighted by several blowouts. Big conference match-ups highlight my selections this week. The favorites all look pretty good.

Oklahoma (-13) vs Texas – There have been blowouts in this series in the past but this is the first time in a long time where the spread is this large. Texas needed a lucky break to defeat Iowa State 31-30 in Ames last week while the Sooners won a hard-fought game over TCU by the score of 20-17.

Blake Bell is now entrenched as the QB in Norman and rightfully so. His ability to run and pass with equal success has been key to the Sooners being unbeaten. Texas will again be without David Ash who still has lingering concussion issues.

The Horns are 1-3-1 against the spread in their last five meetings with Oklahoma while the Sooners are 9-4 straight up in their last 13 against Texas. I think Texas will keep this closer than many think but Bob Stoops won’t pass on a chance to put Mack Brown out of his misery. Take the Sooners to cover.

 

Manziel
I expect Johnny Manziel to have another big day this time against Ole Miss.

Texas A&M (-4) at Ole Miss – The Rebels are happy to be home after three straight road games the last two of which they lost. Waiting for them will be Johnny Manziel and the Aggies of Texas A&M. This has the makings of yet another high scoring SEC game. Neither defense is very good as they both give up over 25 points per game.

The Aggies are 3-2 in their last five against the spread while the Rebs are 2-3. I really like A&M to cover in this game behind a huge game from Manziel.

Northwestern at Wisconsin (-10) – This is the type of game where we will find out just how good Northwestern really is. In the past, the Wildcats would lay an egg following such a tough loss and the oddsmakers know it. That’s how we get the ten-point favorite in Wisconsin.

The other factor is that Wisconsin rushes for over 300 yards per game. The Wildcats were run over by Ohio State on the ground last week so the Badgers will look to do the same. Northwestern will press the Badgers defensively with a nice belnd of run and pass but they must take care of the ball. Turnovers doomed them in their loss to the Buckeyes last weekend.

NU is 1-4 in their last five against the spread when playing at Camp-Randall Stadium while the Badgers are 4-1 straight up when the Wildcats come to Madison. When you factor in Wisconsin coming off a bye and the Wildcats losing the biggest game in decades at home, this game is ripe for a big Badgers’ win. I like them to cover.

Indiana at Michigan State (-7) – The Hoosiers make the first of two straight trips to the Great Lake State by heading to East Lansing first. Both Indiana and MSU are coming off big wins, especially IU who defeated Penn State in what was seen by many as the biggest win in Bloomington in decades. Sparty finally saw its’ offense get going in a major road victory over Iowa. Now these two teams meet in Spartan Stadium with a chance to move to 2-0 in their respective divisions.

The game is a clear match-up between the nation’s 10th ranked passing attack of Indiana versus the nation’s seventh-best scoring defense in Michigan State.  Sparty is 8-1 in their last nine games when playing the Hoosiers and they were taken to the brink last season.

Indiana is 3-11 against the spread in their last 14 games against MSU. I see this game boiling down to the offense of Michigan State leaning on the defense of IU which gives up over 31 points a game. Take the Spartans to cover.

Four Thursday Night Betting Opportunities From the Football World

Manuel
Manuel
E.J. Manuel will face a stern test in the Cleveland defense tonight.

Tonight the football gods offer us three good college match-ups and the NFL brings us a surprisingly good game between the Browns and Bills. Take a look and see if you find these enticing.

Buffalo (+3) at Cleveland – Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that the Cleveland Browns traded their best player in Trent Richardson? At the time, they were 0-2 and appeared to be stock-piling picks for the 2014 NFL Draft. All of the sudden, the Browns are 2-2 and went into Minnesota for a win and then beat Cincinnati in Cleveland behind third-string QB Brian Hoyer.

Buffalo is also 2-2 after knocking off Super Bowl champion Baltimore last week in Western New York. The Bills are riding the second best rushing attack in the league and an opportunistic defense that forces turnovers rather than cut down yards. The defense ranks near the bottom against the run and pass but when you’re getting turnovers it really doesn’t matter.

The Browns are completely opposite of the Bills as they are getting things done in the air and are in the top ten defensively against both the run and pass. Cleveland is 2-5 in their last seven games against the spread while the Bills are 1-4 in their last five road games ATS. Despite the Bills getting three points, I like the Browns behind their defense.

Texas (-8.5) at Iowa State – The Longhorns will once again be without quarterback David Ash who is out with an injury. At 2-2, Texas has to win games such as this one if they want to keep any BCS dreams alive tiny as they may be. The defense was a little better in last week’s win over K-State but it is going to be an issue all season.

The Cyclones surprised me last week by roughing up Tulsa by 17 points on their own field. I really expected that game to have been much closer. ISU has struggled to replace some really good talent on the offensive line and at linebacker but they seem to be making decent progress. The Horns enter at 1-4 in their last five road games against the spread while Iowa State is 1-7 in their last right games at Jack Trice Stadium. I expect this game to be played into the high twenties at minimum but I do like Texas to cover.

Petrino
Bobby Petrino already has the Hilltoppers looking like his kind of team in year one.

Western Kentucky (-7) at Louisiana Monroe – I have to admit I thought this spread would be significantly higher because ULM has been pretty bad defensively and not much better offensively. They’ve been embarrassed by Oklahoma, Baylor and Tulane with all three winning by at least 17 points or more.

WKU under Bobby Petrino is 3-2 on the year and has solid wins over Navy and in the opener against Kentucky. I wouldn’t call the offense ‘Petrino-like’ just yet but the Hilltoppers are getting there by running the ball first and foremost. The WarHawks are 1-6 in their last seven against the spread and I just see too much WKU in this one. Take them to cover.

UCLA (-6) at Utah – While their rivals across town make all sorts of news, the Bruins have quietly jumped out to a 3-0 record behind the nation’s third-best scoring offense. UCLA is averaging over 52 points per game in wins over Nevada, Nebraska and New Mexico State. They are doing it with a really nice balance of running and passing with each ranking in the top 15 in the country.

Utah enters off a huge win over rival BYU and stands just an overtime loss against Oregon State from being 4-0. Although not as potent, the Utes have also had great balance with their offense ranking in the top 30 in running and passing. If you are interested in a good number then look at the over which stands at 57.5. I would take the over and run in this game and I’m also going with the Bruins to cover.

World Series Odds as the Playoffs Get Set

Ortiz
Ortiz
Big Papi and the Red Sox await the winner of the AL Wild-Card game.

Here are the latest odds for the remaining teams in Major League Baseball. I have one key question for each team heading into the playoffs.

Boston 15/4 – The Red Sox will await the winner of the Cleveland Wild-Card game from Wednesday evening and in doing so will have plenty of rest. The BoSox surprised many this year with their impressive season. Perhaps it was an indicator of just how badly Bobby Valentine screwed this team up.

The big question I have for Boston is can the starters hold up in these series and get the game to their top notch closer?

LA Dodgers 17/4 – There really isn’t much to say regarding the Dodgers. The pitching should be able to carry the Dodgers a long way in the playoffs but what about the loss of outfielder Matt Kemp? Personally, I don’t think they’ll miss him all that much. With that said…

The big question I have for LA is can Yasiel Puig be a performer in the playoffs?

Detroit 5/1 – The Tigers limped into the playoffs having been swept by the Miami Marlins. Granted they didn’t exactly put their best line-up on the field each day, but going into the playoffs stumbling seems to work for this team. Miguel Cabrera had another fantastic season but he isn’t 100% and needs to get his bat going again.

The big question I have for the Tigers is what can they expect from Justin Verlander?

St. Louis 6/1 – The Cardinals will be facing a very familiar foe in the division series whether it’s Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. St. Louis struggled against the Pirates this season so I’m guessing they’d prefer the Reds. The Cards are in the top five in runs scored and in team batting average so if they can get solid starting pitching they should be OK.

The big question I have for the Cardinals is will the pitching match the offense?

Kimbrel
Can the starters get the game to Kimbrel against the Dodgers?

Atlanta 7/1 – The Braves stumbled to the finish line but survived because of a huge lead they built all season. The outfield could be an issue because B.J. Upton is batting well below the Mendoza line so I believe he’ll be sitting. We know the Braves have a tremendous closer in Craig Kimbrel, but can the starters get to him without having to go through some shaky middle relievers?

The big question I have for the Braves is who is your ace?

Oakland 15/2 – Another magical season out in Oakland has landed the A’s home-field advantage for their first-round series with Detroit. The A’s most recent series against the Tigers saw them absolutely tear them up in Comerica Park so going east should not bother them a bit. The Athletics have always had good pitching but now the seem to have some hitting too.

The big question I have for the A’s is simple; can they finally get ‘moneyball’ to the World Series?

Cleveland 14/1 – The Indians get to sit back and watch the Rangers and Rays battle it out for the chance to fly into Cleveland for the AL Wild-Card game. Cleveland has won 10 straight games and is easily the hottest team going into the playoffs. Cleveland is going with rookie pitcher Danny Salazar who has just ten starts under his belt. He does however have an impressive 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings rank to his credit.

The big question I have to the Indians is can they stay hot? Going from the regular season to the playoffs is not the easy transition many make it out to be.

Cincinnati 18/1 – The Reds are limping into the NL Wild-Card game with Brandon Phillips having struck himself with a foul ball against Pittsburgh this weekend. The all-start second baseman will be less than 100% at game time tonight but should play. Mat Latos was expected to be the starter tonight but has a bone chip in his elbow. Johnny Cueto will get the ball instead.

The big question for the Reds is can they overcome the injury to a key player and handle the raucous crowd that will be on hand tonight?

Pittsburgh 18/1 – What can you say about this team? For the last two years they teased their fans with strong first-halves only to let them back down to Earth with slumping second-halves. There was no such slump this time around for the Buccos. They went into Cincinnati for the final three games of the season knowing they needed two of three to host the very same Reds tonight in PNC Park and they did just that and more sweeping the Red Legs.

The big question I have for the Pirates is can they get the big hit when they need it most?

Tampa Bay/Texas 25/1 – The winner of the 163rd regular season game will not have been decided until I after publish. The winner of the game will travel to Cleveland to play the Indians in the official AL Wild-Card game.

Coaches Highlight a Trip Around College Football

Pelini
Pelini
Fans can live with Pelini's anger as long as he is winning but that's a problem right now.

The news across the college football landscape this week has centered mostly on coaches. Frankly, this is the way most head coaches like it. This keeps the attention off the players and allows them to focus on the task at hand. In this case however, it will be hard for players at Alabama, Texas and Nebraska to avoid the news about their respective team leaders.

End of the Road for Pelini in Lincoln? The University of Nebraska is one of those rare schools where whatever they do, they are the focus of the state media and its’ population. Because there are no professional teams and few other major colleges, the Cornhuskers garner the majority of the attention.

The focus this week has centered squarely on Head Coach Bo Pelini whose team was blitzed by visiting UCLA last Saturday. The Huskers and their faithful aren’t used to that type of whipping anywhere let alone at home. Former Nebraska quarterback and legend Tommie Frazier suggested this week that the school fire all of their defensive coaches after blowing an 18-point lead to the Bruins.

Pelini didn’t take those comments kindly and said the team and the university doesn’t need him, but Frazier stood by his words stating the fans deserved better. It didn’t get any better for Pelini when an audio tape from 2011 was released by deadspin.com. He was heard ranting and calling out the fans of Nebraska. He will not be penalized by the university for the rant but his real penalty will come if he can’t get this program back to its once proud status.

Saban
Will Saban jump ship yet again and head for a rebuilding job in Austin?

Did Texas Mess With Saban? It certainly sounds like it. The Associated Press learned that a University of Texas’ regent and a former one had discussions with Nick Saban’s agent right after the January 7th BCS Title game. The fact that Saban is linked to yet another job is about as surprising Miley Cyrus doing something stupid in a video.

With speculation running rampant that Saban could find himself in the cat-bird seat in a bidding war between USC and Texas, this news really isn’t all that surprising. One of the two regents involved was Tom Hicks who used to own the Texas Rangers and was vital in bringing Mack Brown to Austin 15 years ago from North Carolina.

Brown has had sub-par seasons of late and continues to see former rival Texas A&M gather all the attention both nationally and in state. It hasn’t helped that his Longhorns were dominated by BYU and then Ole Miss in back-to-back weeks. USC of course seems likely to part with Lane Kiffin whose Trojans were beaten by Washington State.

For Saban, this is nothing new or unexpected. Despite reaching god-like status in Alabama, Saban has always proven he loves the challenge of building or re-building a program and both traditional powers would like to have him. Don’t count out Bama though because they’ll throw serious money at him to retain him.

Want to See Some Class? That is exactly what I’m going to give you. Last week, Montana defeated in-state rival Montana State 31-30 and in the process knocked out Montana State QB Denarius McGhee with a separated shoulder.

Montana Head Coach Mick Delaney sent McGhee and hand-written note wishing him best wishes and good luck with his rehab. Sadly, this has gone mostly unnoticed by the mainstream media and because it involves two smaller, non-traditional football schools, it has taken a backseat to the above stories. Either way, a very classy move by Delaney.

College Football Hot Seat Already Warming Up

Brown
Brown
Brown will be lucky to survive the season if things don't improve immediately.

University of Texas Head Football Coach Mack Brown received the one thing most coaches never want to get and that’s the dreaded “vote of confidence” from school presidents. We see it all the time in both college and professional sports where a general manager or in this case, the school president gives his full support to the embattled coach.

Brown has a seat that is getting warmer by the second. Regardless of what his Longhorns do against a very good Ole Miss team today, the outcome of the game in College Station may have just as much to do with whether he survives or not. There are few things a Texas’ Alum hates more than seeing the rival Aggies gain more popularity in the state of Texas and in the nation.

Should Texas A&M knock off #1 Alabama and Brown’s Longhorns lose to the Rebels, I guarantee the calls to Texas President Bill Powers will be fast and furious.

Brown tried to right the ship in Austin a bit this week when he fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Texas was embarrassed by BYU who ran over, around and through the Longhorns at will. The strange thing is that Brown has replaced Diaz with long-time NFL and college coach Greg Robinson who struggled at Michigan under Rich Rodriguez.

Perhaps Robinson, who has been a ‘defensive analyst’ for the ‘Horns, will turn things around but they will need to do a lot more than just coach better. They must play better and recruit better as well. With A&M in the Southeastern Conference now, the state of Texas has been opened wide to other SEC schools who are poaching players that normally would have gone to Austin.

Brown may indeed survive the season but in a weak Big 12, anything shy of a BCS berth might spell the end for him.

Kiffin
Kiffin needs stability at QB or his job will be over sooner rather than later.

Then there’s the situation out in Los Angeles where Lane Kiffin saw the flame under his bum go for temperate to scolding in a matter of one week. Following a ho-hum win over dreadful Hawaii, the Trojans lost their home opener 10-7 to Mike Leach and Washington State. To be fair, the Cougars are an improved team but they shouldn’t be able to waltz into the Coliseum and knock off USC.

Then consider the type of game it was. Normally with Leach on one sideline, you’d expect a ton of points but that wasn’t the case. Wazzu held the Trojans to just 54 yards passing for the entire game and only had 215 of their own. This is USC we are talking about here. A school that cranks out NFL-caliber quarterbacks like Ford cranks out cars.

Kiffin entered the season with his own ‘vote of confidence’ from Athletic Director Pat Haden. That can’t sit well with the Trojan faithful right now.

It was reported late Sunday that the Trojans held a ‘players-only’ meeting which Kiffin denied taking place. According to the players, a meeting did indeed happen but it was just to talk about staying positive and getting back on track. Early media reports suggested that it may have been to blow off steam over Kiffin.

Whatever the main topics of the meeting were really doesn’t matter because Kiffin has proven to be the one coach in America who continues to do less with more wherever he goes. I don’t see it ending well for Kiffin and it could come before this season is over.

Also on the hot seat…. Kirk Ferentz in Iowa. 4-8 last year and lost to Northern Illinois at home to open this season… Randy Edsall in Maryland. Has not delivered in College Park and with Terps headed to Big Ten next year, he needs to get it going… Ron English at Eastern Michigan. Has career record of 11-39 over five plus years.