Three Bowl Games You Should Wager on Now

Rawls
Rawls
Central Michigan will need to ride the legs of Thomas Rawls in order to keep the high-powered Hilltoppers' offense on the sidelines.

Trying to keep track of the multitude of bowl games these days is like trying to keep tabs on a colony of ants by naming all of them. There’s a good chance you’ll remember a few of them but you have no chance in heck of remembering every name. Especially when the name changes all the time to boot.

I’ll do my best to get all of the games and their titles correctly as I give you the five best bowl games to wager on for 2014.

Popeye’s Bahamas’ Bowl 7-5 Central Michigan (O/U 65) vs 7-5 Western Kentucky (-3)

I like this guy for a couple of reasons and keep in mind all three of these are games I like because I think they present you with the best chance to gain some cash. Central Michigan is led by running back Thomas Rawls who spent two seasons at Michigan before transferring to CMU. He has over 1,100 yards rushing and averages about 23 carries per game which is one of the higher rates in the country.

Western Kentucky is an offensive juggernaut featuring a quarterback who has over 4,000 yards passing and a running back over 1,000 yards himself. Neither team has what we’d call a good defense. The Chippewas surrender over 23 points per game while the Hilltoppers give up 39 a game. The difference is that CMU scores just two points more per game then they give up while WKU scores over 44 points per game.

I love the Hilltoppers to cover here and I love the OVER even more.

Cincy
Gunner Kiel leads the Bearcats' attack against Virginia Tech.

Military Bowl Pres. by Northrup Grumman 6-6 Virginia Tech (O/U 49) vs 9-3 Cincinnati (-3)

I have to admit I’m a bit jealous of the players on both sides in this bowl game. As you know, players on bowl teams get lots of gifts with some being better than others. Every member of the Hokies and Bearcats will receive their own Xbox One. Pretty nice huh?

I like this game because I really do think it’s a mismatch. The Hokies barely made it into the postseason with a four-point win over rival Virginia. Since beating Ohio State in Columbus early in the season, the Hokies have really sputtered along. The defense allows just 20 points per game and that has to be their calling card in this one.

Cincinnati is led by former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel. He has had an excellent season as have the Bearcats who shared the American Athletic Conference title. The Bearcats score 35 points per game and while I think Virginia Tech will limit them, I don’t think it will be enough.

Take Cincinnati to cover and take the OVER as well.

National University Holiday Bowl 9-3 Nebraska (O/U 61.5) vs 8-4 USC (-6)

There’s two trains of thought here with the Cornhuskers; the players will be so relieved to have Bo Pelini gone that they’ll play out of this world or they won’t respond well to the interim coach Barney Cotton. All Big-Ten running back Ameer Abdullah suffered a keen sprain late in the season but should have ample time to recover. The Huskers have a nice supporting cast that includes wide receiver Kenny Bell but they will be facing some great athletes on the USC defense.

Southern Cal was a hail mary loss to Arizona State from playing in the Pac-12 Title game and finished the season with a blowout of Notre Dame. Trojans’ QB Cody Kessler has had a solid year and can put up serious numbers which I believe he will in this game. The Nebraska defense has been humbled by both the run and the pass in 2014 and I think that continues.

Take the Trojans to cover and take the OVER.

 

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.

Getting You Ready for Some Good Thursday Night Action

Pouncey
Pouncey
Mike Pouncey's return has helped stabilize the Dolphins' offensive line.

Buffalo (O/U 50) at Miami (-6) – Back in week two of the 2014 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins headed to Western New York fresh off of a season-opening win over New England. Buffalo was returning home following an overtime win Chicago to open the season. Oddly enough, the two AFC East rivals meet for the final time this season and again have identical records.

At 5-4 the stakes couldn’t be any higher in an incredibly deep AFC Playoff race. New England controls the division at 7-2 and both the Dolphins and Bills still have road trips to Foxboro in their future plans. Miami is 1-1 in the division while Buffalo is 2-1 but the pressure is really on the Bills here.

Their conference record is just 2-4 while Miami’s is 4-2. With so many teams still alive in the AFC tie-breakers are crucially important. In order for the Bills to win, they must get something out of their 26th ranked offense. Miami boasts the fourth-best defense in the league right now so the task will not be easy.

Conversely, Miami has to deal with Buffalo’s fifth-ranked defense so I don’t expect a whole lot of scoring in this one.

Key Injuries: BUF RB Fred Jackson QUEST/Groin, WR Sammy Watkins QUEST/Groin… MIA TE Dion Sims OUT/toe, RB Lamar Miller QUEST/Shoulder

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in six of Buffalo’s last eight games when playing on the road in Miami… The Dolphins are 4-2 straight up in their last six games at home against Buffalo… The Bills are 2-4 against the spread in their last six trips to Miami… The Fins are 4-2 SU in their last six games

The Pick: I like Miami to win but I think that number is too much. Take Buffalo getting the points and take the UNDER.

Kiel
Gunner Kiel has been impressive as the Bearcats' starting QB this season.

East Carolina (-2.5) at Cincinnati (O/U 68.5) – The Pirates are coming off a 20-10 loss to Temple where they committed seven turnovers. The Bearcats are just a game behind ECU and would jump ahead of them with a victory.

Cincinnati has won three-straight following a three-game losing streak that saw losses to Big Ten leader Ohio State, AAC leader Memphis and Miami, FL. Gunner Kiel has thrown 20 touchdown passes to just three interceptions.

Both teams have proven they can score but I think the Pirates defend better.

Trends: East Carolina is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Cincinnati’s last eight games when playing ECU… The Pirates are 5-1 straight up in their last 6 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Bearcats last six games at home.

The Pick: In a close one, take ECU to cover and the UNDER.

Cal (O/U 72) at USC (-14.5) – Sonny Dykes has the Bears a win away from being bowl-eligible which is a big step forward from last year’s 1-11 record but the Trojans have had their number of late. Cal doesn’t have any problem scoring as they rank fourth in the nation but their defense is almost dead-last.

That should open up things form Trojans’ QB Cody Kessler who I expect will have a big game.

Trends: Cal is 8-17 against the spread in their last 25 games… USC is 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home against Cal… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Bears’ last five games when playing on the road at USC… The total has gone UNDER in 14 of the Trojans’ last 20 games at home.

The Pick: Because Cal can score, I like them getting the points and take the OVER here.

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.

The Big Ten is Buried and Why is Pat Haden on the Field?

Va tech
Va tech
Virginia Tech handed the Buckeyes a rare home loss on a bad night for the Big Ten.

Three big games faced the Big Ten yesterday in the second week of the college football season and the first one was going pretty well. Seventh-ranked Michigan State had stormed back to take the lead in the second half at third-ranked Oregon and about the same time that Michigan and Ohio State fell behind in their games, the bottom fell out on the Spartans.

Oregon blitzed Michigan State with a 28-0 run to win 46-27. Rivals Michigan and Ohio State both suffered crushing defeats as well with Michigan getting shutout 31-0 at Notre Dame and the Buckeyes getting beaten at home 35-21 by Virginia Tech.

With Wisconsin losing to LSU last week and Nebraska needing a last-second touchdown to get past McNeese State, the chances that a team from the Big Ten makes the College Football Playoff are now slim and none.

For Michigan, they were shutout for the first time since 1984 and if he wasn’t already on the hot seat then Brady Hoke is now. The alumni will not be pleased with the embarrassing loss to the Irish in the final game of their rivalry for the foreseeable future. The Wolverines still have trips to East Lansing and Columbus and the fan base is already turning on Athletic Director David Brandon who has essentially offended the student population in Ann Arbor with crazy restrictions on their attendance at games.

In Columbus, the Buckeyes fell behind the Hokies 21-7 entering the third quarter but rallied to tie the score in the fourth. Virginia Tech responded with a long drive and then capped the victory with a 63-yard interception return for touchdown with under a minute to go. To say the Buckeyes miss Braxton Miller would be an understatement but the defense is suddenly a question mark as well.

The only way a Big Ten team makes the ‘final four’ is with tons of help. We’re talking a situation where the SEC and Pac-12 have some form of armageddon among themselves and the ACC and Big-12 stumble significantly as well. Basically what I’m saying is “it ain’t gonna happen.”

Haden
Haden's actions are inappropriate and he should no longer be on the selection committee as well.

A Major Issue at USC

On the field of play yesterday in Palo Alto, California, the USC Trojans scored one their biggest wins in the post-Pete Carroll era when they knocked off Stanford 13-10. It’s a rivalry that has grown more and more intense even with Carroll and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh now in the NFL.

The real story from yesterday’s game however didn’t involve the players on the field; it involved the USC Athletic Director on the field. Pat Haden, who also happens to be a member of the College Football Playoff Committee, came down from his seat in the press box to confront officials after Trojans’ Head Coach Steve Sarkisian was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

First of all, Haden can be on the field as many athletic directors are, to come down and confront officials during the game is flat-out wrong and it gets worse. Haden admitted he came down because he received a text message from someone on the sideline asking him to come down. That’s a violation of NCAA rules but that isn’t the point.

Haden must step down from the playoff committee immediately. While he can’t vote for his own school, he can vote for Stanford but with the intensity of the rivalry why would he? This is just one of many problems with the selection committee and if Haden can’t control himself on the field how can he do the same while voting for teams for the playoff?

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

 

Rejoice! College Football Saturday is Back

Mason
Mason
Hutson Mason takes over for Aaron Murray in Georgia as the Bulldogs welcome Clemson.

It’s finally here! Football Saturday is back!

Clemson (+8) at Georgia (O/U 54) – The Tigers enter 2014 having to replace a lot of offensive talent which means Head Coach Dabo Swinney will rely on a seasoned defense to carry his team early in the season. Georgia enters the post-Aaron Murray era with QB Hutson Mason who will benefit from having Heisman Trophy hopeful Todd Gurley in the backfield.

Cole Stoudt replaces Tajh Boyd at QB for Clemson and although it was in mop-up duty last season, he threw five TD passes. The Georgia defense struggled mightily last season and I’m not sure how quickly they turn things around. I sense a close game in Athens so take the Tigers and I like the over.

Driskel
Jeff Driskel returns from injury to lead the Gators into 2014.

Idaho (+37) at Florida (O/U 50) – It’s been an incredibly long offseason in Gainesville following last year’s horrendous season. The Gators and Head Coach Will Muschamp will feature a very good defense and an offense that returns quarterback Jeff Driskel who missed most of last year with an injury. His absence led to many of the problems for the Gators.

Last season, the Vandals surrendered 80 points to Florida State and now they play a Gators’ team that has won 24 straight season openers. I like Florida to cover and I love the over.

Fresno State (+21) at USC (O/U 58) – Is anyone happier to actually play a game than Steve Sarkisian and the Trojans? The last week has seen the coach be called a ‘racist’ by a former player and he’s had to deal with Josh Shaw’s heroic story-turned police investigation. USC and Fresno saw each other in the Las Vegas Bowl where the Trojans routed the Bulldogs 45-20.

USC has excellent talent in the top 22 players but the depth is hurting a bit. Fresno State has to replace record-setting QB Derek Carr who could be starting for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL. I like USC to cover today simply because I think  they’ll be excited to play football and remember, this was a ten-win team last season. I love the over as well.

Florida State (-19) vs Oklahoma State (O/U 64) – The defending national champions open their season in Cowboys Stadium against the Cowboys from Oklahoma State. Like USC, the Seminoles have to be happy to get back on the field after a ‘crabby’ offseason for Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

Mike Gundy has done a great job for his alma mater in Stillwater but he could use a signature win but it won’t happen here. The Seminoles have too much speed and talent in all of the right places and I expect them to cover tonight. I also love the over.

LSU (-5.5) vs Wisconsin (O/U 50) – The good news for Wisconsin is that they are one of the Big Ten’s top teams for 2014. The bad news is that they have lost six of their last seven bowl games which means the jump in competition has been an issue. The fact that the Badgers return just three starters on defense doesn’t bode well for them either. The Tigers always reload well and that’s the case again in Baton Rouge. QB Zach Mettenberger is off to the NFL and Head Coach Les Miles seems likely to play both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris in the opener.

The game is being played in Houston but that favors the Tigers significantly who don’t have a long way to drive. The amount of newcomers on the Wisconsin defense worries me and it looks like the Badgers will go with untested QB Tanner McEvoy. I like the Tigers to cover and I’ll take the under as the Tigers will limit Melvin Gordon forcing the Badgers to throw.

USC hosts Fresno State to Start Sarkisian Era

College football is back and with it comes some controversy. In southern California, the USC Trojans will host the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday night in a rematch of the Las Vegas Bowl of last year in which the Trojans easily defeated the Bulldogs 45-20 as a favorite by 5 points.

The point total cashed on the UNDER as the line was 65.5 and the teams combined for 65.

In that game, Cody Kessler the Trojans quarterback had 345 yards passing with four touchdowns.

He returns to lead the Trojans under new head coach Steve Sarkisian.

The Fresno State Bulldogs have had to replace Derek Carr a starter at quarterback for three years who moved on to the NFL. Brian Burrell a junior and Brandon Connette a senior transfer from Duke will share the duties early.

On Bovada and sportsbook.com, the current line has USC favored by 21.5 points. While on betonline and topbet, the point total is sitting on 58.

Interesting trends in the matchup:

  • The UNDER has cashed in 12 of the past 16 games USC has played non-conference opponents.
  • The Bulldogs are 13-4 against the number in their past 17 road games.
  • The UNDER was 6-2 last year for Fresno State in the last 8 games after the OVER had started 4-1.

Controversy took hold at USC this week when a story broke that Josh Shaw the starting cornerback injured himself when he saved his nephew. However, it turned out that his story was a lie and he hurt his ankles doing something else.

Anthony Brown also quit the team amidst reports that he said Sarkisian was racist.

USC has changed its offense to a more up-tempo formation with Sarkisian. The key to the Trojans this season will be if their offensive line can hold up.

Fresno State will certainly miss Carr but will continue using its own up-tempo offense. Last season the Bulldogs were sixth in the nation in scoring was 43.4 points per game.

Defensively the Bulldogs were weak finishing No. 95 in yards allowed. Eight starters have returned and there should be some improvement over last season.

For USC, Shaw and Lamar Dawson a linebacker are out and Jabari Ruffin a linebacker will miss the entire season.

Dillon Root a kick returner for Fresno State is suspended.

This could be a big beat down on USC’s part over Fresno State. The Bulldogs have a big uncertainty at their quarterback position, while USC has Kessler securely entrenched as their quarterback.

Sarkisian wants to impress everyone at USC, especially the alumni and that could mean lots of scoring on the Trojans part.

A big win by USC will make the two controversial incidents of earlier this week disappear.

I like the Trojans by at least 28 if not more.

Odds to Win the 2014 Pac-12 South Division

Hundley
Hundley
I expect Brett Hundley and the UCLA Bruins to capture the Pac-12 South.

On Wednesday I gave you the Pac-12 North odds and who I liked to win it. Today, I’m presenting the Pac-12 South which I believe is a four-horse race.

UCLA 5/4 – Jim Mora, Jr. enters his third year in Los Angeles and brings with him high expectations coming off a very nice 10-3 record. Nine starters return on offense while the defense returns eight. Dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley returns to lead the offense as does Freshman of the Year Myles Jack who plays on both sides of the ball. The only scary road trips are against Texas in Arlington and at Arizona State. The Bruins get USC and Stanford at home to finish the season. Another 10-win season is very possible.

USC 7/4 – It’s year of Steve Sarkisian and expectations are high. Cody Kessler is one of seven starters who return on offense and he has already been named the starter at QB. Seven starters also return on defense which bodes well for a team facing a tough start to the season. The Trojans get always tough Fresno State at home before traveling to Stanford and then across the country to Boston College. Trips to Arizona and UCLA also await. SC does get Notre Dame, Arizona State and Oregon State at home. I think eight wins is the number but some will expect higher.

Graham
Todd Graham's Sun Devils could repeat with some big road wins in 2014.

Arizona State 3 /1 – Todd Graham has a very nice 18-9 record in two years at ASU but the real test begins as the Sun Devils return just two starters on defense and only six on the offensive side of the ball. I like the job he has done since leaving Pitt in the middle of the night, but the chances of repeating as South Division champs are going to be very difficult. The schedule is brutal in my opinion with trips to USC, Washington, Oregon State and Arizona. The home schedule isn’t much better with Notre Dame, UCLA and Stanford coming to Tempe. A step back is highly possible in 2014 but there is a lot of talent on the roster too.

Arizona 10/1 – Rich Rodriguez enters year three in the desert and comes off an 8-5 record and a bowl victory. Last year’s Wildcats surprised a few teams like Oregon and USC but lost to a few schools they probably shouldn’t have. Seven starters return on offense and six on the defense which was beaten up in conference play. The schedule features only two road games of note; at Oregon and at UCLA. The other three should provide wins. At home, the Wildcats get USC, Washington and Arizona State. I expect another eight win season in Tucson.

Utah 33/1 – Kyle Whittingham has a really strong 75-39 overall record entering his tenth season in the Beehive State. Six starters return on both sides of the ball as the Utes look to make a splash in the Pac-12 South. Utah faces a tough road schedule with trips to Michigan, UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford. I think the goal here for Whittingham and company is to get back to .500 and a bowl game but that road schedule worries me.

Colorado 50/1 – In year one, Mike McIntyre went just 4-8 but he gets eight starters back on both sides of the ball. The Buffaloes’ defense surrendered over 40 points in seven of their eight losses and three times gave up over 50. Colorado has just four road games and the neutral site rivalry game against Colorado State in Denver. Three of those four are brutal though as they travel to Oregon, Arizona and USC. I think six wins is the goal here and I think it’s very workable as well.

The Pick: Toss out Colorado and Utah right now as they just don’t have the horses. The wild-cards are the schools in the desert and the favorites are the schools from LA. I like the Bruins to take the Pac-12 South in 2014.

Long-Shot Possibilities to Make College Football’s Four-Team Playoff

Cook
Cook
Connor Cook and the Spartans have a favorable schedule in 2014.

On Friday, I gave you the top eight favorites to make the new four-team college football playoff. Today I’m looking at teams that are outside of the favorites that I believe will have a legitimate shot at making the playoff.

The term ‘long-shot’ in college football is used a little differently than in other walks of life. Most of the teams listed below are very viable title contenders but they just aren’t listed among those top eight. Let’s get to it.

Will _____ make the four-team playoff?

Baylor Yes +350, No -600 – The defending Big 12 Champs have Heisman candidate Bryce Petty leading the offense but the question will be how well the defense can play? The schedule is not horrible but they do have to go to both Texas and Oklahoma. If they get wins in both of those locations then the sky’s the limit.

USC Yes +550, No -1,100 – The Trojans enter the Steve Sarkisian Era with high hopes that he can return them to glory. After starting all 14 games last season, Cody Kessler will start again at quarterback. USC will face some tough tests but only Stanford and UCLA are on the road. They get Notre Dame, a bowl-game rematch with Fresno State in the opener and both Oregon State and Arizona State at home. Don’t sleep on this team.

Michigan State Yes +300, No -500 – The defending Big Ten Champions are going to be a very sexy pick despite losing some key players from last year’s team. The Spartans only road tests are at Oregon and at Penn State. They get Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska at home in East Lansing. Head Coach Mark Dantonio will keep this team competitive.

Richt
Mark Richt and the Bulldogs need a big season in 2014.

Georgia Yes +250, N0 -400 – If the Bulldogs can get past Clemson in the opener and then at South Carolina two weeks later then look out. The rest of the schedule is pretty favorable including the final three game at home and that includes Auburn and Georgia Tech. If the defense improves and the quarterback play is solid then UGA could be there.

South Carolina Yes +400, No -600 – The Gamecocks have to replace Connor Shaw and of course #1 pick Jadaveon Clowney but the cupboard is far from bare. The good news is that SC has four of their first five games at home. The bad news is that they have road games at Auburn, Florida and Clemson in the second half of the schedule. Spurrier always has competitive teams but this one will depend on the QB.

Florida Yes +600, No -1,000 – Frankly I find it embarrassing that the Gators are listed here. This team was brutal last year and while you can point to the loss of QB Jeff Driskel, his injury was far from the only reason the Gators finished under .500 for the first time in many years. Florida should open with three straight wins at home before their first road game which is at Alabama. They also have Tennessee and Florida State on the road. Don’t waste your time on the Gators.

Others I like to make it… Wisconsin – If they can get past LSU in the opener in Houston then the schedule is extremely favorable the rest of the way… Arizona State – Road games at USC, Oregon State and Arizona are tough, but they get Notre Dame, UCLA and Stanford at home. The Sun Devils are a long-shot but they made good strides last year.

Of all the teams above, I like the Michigan State schedule the best and give them the best chance of making the final four.