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Saturday, October 26, 2013

College Football, Week 9: Oregon on upset Alert?

As we start to near the end of the college football season, the race is on to find out which teams (if any) will end the season 12-0 (or 13-0, if that team plays in a conference championship.) First and foremost this week is Oregon, who hosts their biggest game of the week when they face UCLA.

The Ducks feature one of the fastest scoring offenses in the nation, led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota, who many consider to be the top prospect at the position in next year's NFL draft. And let's not forget the returning DeAnthony Thomas, aka DAT, whose 7 yard per carry is just outrageous, even for someone in the amateur ranks.

Then there's UCLA, whose hopes for a national title and PAC-12 North crown took a huge blow last weekend when they lost to Stanford. The Bruins, led by QB Brett Hundley, will look to avenge their first loss of 2013 with a stellar performance in Eugene.

Conventional wisdom says the Bruins don't stand a chance, with the Ducks averaging a whopping 57.6 points per game. And normally I would look to say that Oregon will continue on its hot streak as of late. But today I am throwing conventional wisdom out the books, and going with UCLA to hand Oregon its first lost in a shootout, 44-40.

In other top 25 action

Wake Forest at 7 Miami: I'm not so sure about the sanctions the NCAA handed down to the 'Canes in response to their most recent scandal. I'm also not sure that the 'U' finishes the season undefeated, either. What I am sure of, however, is that this isn't the first week where they lose. Miami, 49-7.

19 Oklahoma State at Iowa State: Last week I had the misfortune of thinking the Mountaineers could upset the Cowboys, only to see the visitors win 37-27. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...there is no fooling me twice. Oklahoma State, 65-3

Connecticut at 23 UCF: The Huskies looked good a few weeks ago when they almost upset Michigan. This week I'm picking them as my upset special. Connecticut, 24-16

24 Nebraska at Minnesota: A game I almost predicted the exact score last season, I have a good feeling about this game again...for the Huskers that is. Taylor Martinez throws for 400 yards and 4 TDs. Nebraska, 45-14

20 Louisville at South Florida: Can 'Touchdown' Teddy Bridgewater and company bounce back against a better-than-their-record-shows USF squad? I think so. Louisville, 35-17

Vanderbilt at 16 Texas A &M: Johnny Football's hopes of repeating as Heisman winner may have taken a blow last week against Auburn. That still doesn't mean the Commodores have any shot of beating the Aggies. Texas A &M, 48-21

Tennessee at 1 Alabama: Less than 50,000 fans who don't 'work' according to Nick Saban even stay until halftime for this one. Like it matters anyway.  Alabama, 49-7

North Carolina State at 2Florida State: 'Famous' Jameis Winston takes another step toward becoming only the second freshman ever to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy. FSU, 28-10

9 Clemson at Maryland: What is Tajh Boyd's status for today's game? Unfortunately for the Terps, it doesn't really matter. Clemson, 27-17.

10 Texas Tech at 15 Oklahoma: At first I was going to pick the Sooners, but then I remembered their debacle earlier this year in the Red River Shootout. On the other hand, Red Raiders are due...
Oklahoma, 17-14

Duke at 14 Virginia Tech: I'd like to take this opportunity to once again wish my sister-in-law Kristen, a proud VT alum, a happy birthday. We'll just call the game against the Crimson Tide earlier in the year an aberration. Logan Thomas and company in a rout. Virginia Tech, 36-21

Eastern Michigan at 18 Northern Illinois: Huskies by a comfortable margin.

21 South Carolina at 5 Missouri: Before the season, I had the Gamecocks pegged as one team to contend for the SEC East title. Now I'm not so sure. But my gut tells me this is another upset.  South Carolina 24-21

 Penn State at 4 Ohio State: Buckeyes have yet to get their act together on defense. Urban is getting anxious, however. Look for a big change to bolster the Silver Bullets D. Ohio State, 35-14

Bonus Pick: Pittsburgh at Navy: Midshipmen lost a heartbreaker against the Rockets last week in double OT. Look for the Middies to bounce back this week at home against the Panthers. Navy, 28-24.
 That's all folks, until next time


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Have the Columbus Blue Jackets rediscovered their swagger?

As if expecations for the Columbus Blue Jackets weren't enough at the end of last season, the way the team started their 2013-2014 campaign certainly had to be disappointing. After just missing out on the NHL playoffs to then division rival Detroit by the narrowest of margins, many people believed that not only was this the year Columbus would return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a vengeance.

Yet, while the Jackets limped their way to a 2-5 record to open the season, the boo birds were out in full force once again ready to point their collective fingers, first at goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (even if it wasn't necessarily deserved) and then at head coach Todd Richards. How could a team that finished last season by winning eight of their last nine games start out so poorly?

But it appears that after last night's 4-1 win(their second straight, bringing their record to 4-5), the Jackets may have regained some of the swagger they had at the end of last season. Marian Gaborik, having scored his fourth goal already last night, appears to be the scorer that fans had hoped Rick Nash would turn into. Brandon Dubinsky proved that not only can he score when called upon to do so, but that he doesn't take crap from anyone. (His takedown in the 3rd period of Devils defender Anton Volchenkov was absolutely bad-ass.) And it is definitely nice for the CBJ to have their enforcer, Jared Boll, back on the ice as well.

The biggest takeaway from last night's game, however, is that even while up 3-1 in the 3rd period, the Jackets weren't content to sit on the lead. They took it to New Jersey until the final horn. Which is why I believe they might have rediscovered their swag.

Friday, October 18, 2013

College Football, Week 8: FSU Rules the ACC

I'm baaaaaackkkk!!! Just in time for the meat of the college football season.

And while it appears Alabama is primed to make a run at its third consecutive national title, another freshman quarterback looks to win the Heisman Trophy.

That's right folks, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston looks to punch his ticket to New York this weekend with a impressive performance against Clemson. You know, the kind of performance that Johnny Manziel had in 2012 against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

In fact, some might say that Winston is performing better as a freshman this season than 'Johnny Football' had at this point in 2012. And while many pundits would argue that Marcus Mariota should be the frontrunner for college football's most prestigious award, I believe that it is Winston's trophy to lose.

But I digress. I'm back to predict this week's top 25 action, and this time there is a little twist. Unlike last year, I won't be providing outcomes. Instead, I am going to go head to head with the most current Las Vegas odds. It should be noted that last season I was 15-7 in predicting winners, nearly predicting the exact score on a few occasions.

On to tomorrow's predictions(note: all lines are from, last updated at 10/18/2013, teams that I predict to cover are in bold)

5 Florida State (-3) at 3 Clemson: This game has been and will continue (until game time) to be billed as the duel between quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Tajh Boyd. Yet the Seminoles would be unwise to count out the presence of wideout Sammy Watkins, who has been absolutely on fire in 2013, catching 36 passes for at total of 582 yards.

The X-factor in this game has to be the play of the Florida State defense. Among the leaders in scoring defense( allowing only 12.0 ppg), the Seminoles have also allowed opponents to convert only 29.41% of their third down conversions. Add to that FSU is +4 in turnover margin, and I believe the visitors will cover the small spread.

11 South Carolina (-7.5) at Tennessee: The Volunteers are still foaming at the mouth over their overtime loss at Neyland Stadium two weeks ago against Georgia. They believe they're better than their 3-3 record would suggest, and feel a win over the Gamecocks would go a long way to proving that.

Unfortunately for UT, SC's defense is a bit better than the Bulldogs. That and a healthy Connor Shaw means the favorites cover once again.

15 Georgia at Vanderbilt (+7): Bulldogs are pissed they let Mizzou walk into Athens and come away with a victory. With or without star running back Todd Gurley, look for UGA to roll.

16 Texas Tech(-5) at West Virginia : My upset special of the week as quarterback Clint Trickett has another big game. Mountaineers cover this one.

TCU (+7.5) at 21 Oklahoma State: Two weeks ago Cowboys were stunned by a game West Virginia squad. Could it happen again? No. Home team by at least 10.

22 Florida at 14 Missouri (+3): Tigers have been this year's Cinderella story. Unfortunately for them, without the services of QB James Franklin, the glass slipper no longer fits.

23 Northern Illinois at Central Michigan(+15): The Chippewas are terrible. Just terrible.

24 Auburn at 7 Texas A&M (-13.5): Johnny Manziel and company continue to play lights out, at least until they face LSU.

9 UCLA (+4.5) at 13 Stanford: Although Brett Hundley and the Bruins are on a roll, Stanford is at home and coming off a heartbreaking loss. Even so, I like the underdog to cover in a losing effort.

18 Oklahoma at Kansas (+22): Even Bill Self couldn't help the Jayhawks cover this line.

In other games:

20 Washington (+3.5) over Arizona State

Illinois (+14) covers at home versus 25 Wisconsin

1 Alabama covers versus Arkansas (do you really need the line for this one? Shaking my head)

6 LSU (-9.5) over Ole Miss


2 Oregon covers against whomever they're playing (I think it's Washington State, but again does it matter?)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Blue Jackets take opener on the chin 4-3: Observations

For the soldout crowd at Nationwide Arena last night in Columbus, Ohio this was not the result they had expected.

Over 19,000 strong attending the game, and over 2 million across central Ohio have high hopes that their hometown team will not only make the playoffs, but advance beyond the first round as well.

After last night's 4-3 loss to Calgary, the more that expectations change for the Columbus Blue Jackets, the reality is that nothing will come easy for this team.

Fans had to be inspired by the play of the offense, who despite scoring only three goals, had numerous shots-on goal, and a power play goal to boot, courtesy of last season's star acquisition, striker Marian Gaborik. In fact, in the 1st period alone, the Jackets showed the same never-say-die attitude they displayed at the end of last season, scoring a goal each time the flames scored.

Yet it was the play of the defense and fan favorite, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, that left fans wondering what this team will really look like this season. Giving up four goals is never good, and to do so to a team that you nearly dominated the previous season only adds insult to injury.

But it was only one game, and hopefully a contest that Jacket players have by now forgotten. A strong start will be essential to the Jackets making a successful playoff run, especially now that they are in what might be the toughest division of the NHL. Being able to bounce back from adversity, like they did toward the end of last season, is crucial for any pro hockey team looking to take the next step.

Prior to last night's game, I pondered what would be the Jackets' new slogan or theme song. You know, something catchy like the Clippers' Our Team, Our Town, but with the edge of  AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck', the song that blares over the PA during Ohio State football games. As I am sure there are many diehard fans who would be content with 'Feel the Power'/'Machinehead (the song by rock group Bush that blares over the PA at Nationwide Arena, for those of you who haven't been to a CBJ home game), it is a new season with new expectations. It's high time that the CBJ show the rest of the nation they mean business.