"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THE USGA IS ABOUT FAR MORE THAN THE U.S. OPENS



HOUSTON, Texas - It's easy to associate the USGA with events such as the U.S. Open Championships for the men and women, as well as the U.S. Amateur Championships. Players such as Tiger Woods, Hollis Stacy, Nancy Lopez and Phil Mickelson established stellar amateur careers playing in USGA events. My first experience with a USGA event was the 1967 U.S. Women’s Open which was won in a stunning wire-to-wire performance by French amateur Katherine La Coste, daughter of the designer of the alligator shirts. However, there is a lot more to the USGA than the high profile tournaments and I came to Houston's Champions Club to get some behind the scenes looks at the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur.

The tournament was originally scheduled for October 7 - 12 at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Florida. Damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma forced the USGA to relocate to the Champions Club Cypress Creek course with the date moving to November 11 - 16. Champions was founded in 1957 by professional golfers Jack Burke, Jr. and the late Jimmy Demaret. Burke, Jr. currently serves as president of the club, which is also home to the Jack Rabbit course on the same property. 



  
The Women's Mid-Amateur is open to female amateur golfers who have reached their 25th birthday by the first day of the originally scheduled championship and have a Handicap Index® not exceeding 9.4. Entries closed on Aug. 2. There were 427 entries received for the 2017 championship and 120 players were chosen from 27 qualifying sites. The remaining players in the field of 132 were fully exempt into the tournament via performances in prior Women's Mid-Amateur championships.

This championship is clearly for players that have a love of the game of golf. No sponsorships are at stake, no endorsement deals on the table and most likely not a future in professional golf awaiting someone with a win or a high finish. In fact, several of the competitors have regained their amateur status after taking a stab at professional success. Take Patricia Schremmer, a fifty-two year-old from Honolulu who took seventeen years off from golf to raise a family. She was reinstated as an amateur three years ago and has two USGA semifinal appearances in the last year. 

Mallory Hetzel, a thirty year-old from Virginia Beach, is more accustomed to watching her players at Old Dominion University where she is in her second year as the Monarch's golf coach. At this week's Mid-Amateur, Mallory is grinding out victories and hoping her players don't give her too hard a time for almost squandering a four hole lead with five to go in her second round match against medalist Katie Miller. A par-saving fifteen foot putt on the seventeenth hole clinched the win to send her to a third round match later in the day against a good friend, Courtney McKim. 

The 2009 champion, 55 year-old Martha Leach, was playing in her record twenty-eighth Mid-Amateur championship. She is the sister of Hollis Stacy, who won three U.S. Women’s Opens and three consecutive U.S. Girls’ Junior championships. Stacy is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and Leach is in the Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame and is scheduled to be inducted into the Georgia Hall of Fame in 2018. I followed Leach for a few holes of her opening round, and in addition to her impressive ability to drive the golf ball, she was extremely gracious to all of the volunteers she encountered on her way around the course.  Another veteran of USGA championship play, Mary Jane Hiestand, 58 of Naples, Florida entered the third round after defeating ninth seeded Paige McCullough 5 & 3 then surviving a one-up match against Kay Daniel to advance. Her next match would be against Megan Stasi, who sunk a thirty-five foot putt from off the green to extend her second round match to extra holes, which she would eventually end on the 23rd hole.  Mary Jane was playing in her 43rd USGA championship and her 20th Mid-Amateur.

Club founder Jack Burke, Jr. was a constant presence, displaying incredible energy at 93 years young. I had an opportunity to spend some time with the legend and asked him since his two major championships were won in stroke play and match play, which one he preferred. “I don’t really care, I just played to beat whoever I was against. Even in Ryder Cups, I’d try to beat the other guys by myself. I didn’t really care what my partner did.” I could feel his competitive nature and have a better understanding of why he is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The atmosphere at the Mid-Amateur is relaxed, with no ropes keeping spectators from the players, but with an expectation that those following the action clearly understand where to walk, stand and how to conduct themselves. It has more of a feel of a club championship without the low hum of partying members on the clubhouse deck, but the calm belies the energy and activity generated behind the scenes by the USGA staff, volunteers and club personnel. When asked how they pulled off the organization of a USGA championship with less than two months' notice, Jack Burke credited his membership and experience in hosting tournaments with enabling the Champions Club to pull off a virtual impossibility.

Unlike many of the higher profile championships conducted by the USGA, the Mid-Amateur’s lack the requirement for extensive infrastructure such as television towers, spectator parking areas, concession stands and ropes restricting access to the course and other player-only areas. There were still nineteen USGA staff members and two hundred thirty volunteers on site at Champions for the event. It serves as a good tune-up for the club as it’s set to host the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open, which will come with all of the aforementioned needs.

The third round of match play in the Mid-Amateur is in essence the initial qualifying round for the next year, as those advancing to the quarterfinals  earn exemptions for the following year’s championship. For those reaching the semifinal, an additional year’s exemption awaits, while the runner up receives a third year’s exemption and the winner gets to play in the next ten Mid-Amateurs. She also qualifies for the following year’s U.S. Women’s Open, a first for the 2017 edition.  If the winner is age fifty or older, they also receive an exemption to the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Patricia Shremmer didn’t make it that far, losing in the first round after reaching the semifinals in 2016. I spoke to her just minutes after she'd lost the last two holes of her match in a 1-up defeat by Eleanor Tucker. She was standing by the open trunk of her rental car with her youngest daughter. “I’m disappointed because I didn’t trail all day until the end. But I’m happy to be competing again and I’m even eligible for the senior events.”  Mallory Hetzel had her third round match all square after the first nine holes, but in her words, she “just ran out of steam”, eventually losing 4 and 3 to McKim. With another year remaining on her ten-year exemption, Martha Leach was looking to extend it, but lost to Amanda Jacobs 3 and 1. Mary Jane Hiestand continued her incredible run, defeating Meghan Stasi by another 1-up score, guaranteeing her spot in the 2018 Mid-Amateur, when she will be 59 years old. “I didn’t expect this at all. I just went out to play golf this afternoon and see what happens.”

With the number of matches winding down, I had an opportunity to sit down with  Champions Club Vice President Robin Burke, wife of Jacke Burke, Jr. In addition to her role at the club, Robin has an extensive amateur golf resume. She has been a Curtis Cup player and captain, as well as a participant in over 35 USGA Championships, including 38 match wins in the Mid-Amateur. I was primarily interested in the Champions Club’s motivation for hosting the championship on such short notice and her perspective on amateur golf. “We stepped in because we’ve hosted before and wanted to contribute to the championship. It’s also good preparation for the 2020 Women’s Open.” When asked about what the USGA means to her, Robin said “they put on the best amateur championships and they do a great job of promoting amateur golf.” I asked her what golf means to her personally. “It’s the competition, the challenge of playing golf. You can never be perfect.” She added, “Now that the Mid-Amateur winner gets the Open exemption, I’m motivated to enter next year. They should give an exemption into the Sr. Women’s Open too.” I mentioned to her later that both exemptions were available. Finally, the conversation turned to the state of golf from a business perspective. “We got overbuilt on courses and the focus turned away from golf. Some of that’s working itself out. At Champions, we’re just about golf and we have an Open to prepare for. The USGA will be in here beginning next summer to begin organizing things. We’re excited.”

Eventually, Mary Jane Hiestand made it all the way to the finals to face twenty-six year old Kelsey Chugg from Salt Lake City who was making her Mid-Amateur debut. Unfortunately for Mary Jane, her quest for exemptions into the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Women’s Open fell just short as she lost 3 and 1. But her appearance in the finals was the farthest she’d advanced in her extensive USGA championship experience and I’m sure the six-time and reigning Florida State Golf Association’s Senior Player of the Year will be back for more, such is the lure of amateur golf competition.

For more information on the USGA and full coverage of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, go to www.usga.org.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Friday, November 10, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WEEK ELEVEN PREDICTIONS

Last week was this prognosticator's Waterloo. After maintaining a record over 80% for the entire season, the upsets finally caught up with me. This week we have three match-ups between top ten teams, clearly a watershed week for teams looking to punch their playoff tickets at some point. There's one thing for certain in college football, that upsets will occur. The secret is picking the right ones at the right time. I've picked a bunch this week, so read on and see who I think will go down and create playoff chaos!

Last Week     16 - 12   57%
Overall         193 - 53  79%

Friday:

(9) Washington (8 - 1) 27 @ Stanford (6 - 3) 14: Washington is hoping for some more chaos to occur in the next three weeks so they have a chance to get into the playoffs if they can find a way to win out. That won't be easy with Utah and Washington State coming up, but the Huskies' defense is the best thing west of Tuscaloosa.  Between this game and one to end the season against Notre Dame, Stanford could also have a big impact on inflicting some chaos of their own. If they're going to stay in the Pac-12 North race, their offense will need to find more consistent explosiveness.

Saturday:

11:00 am CST

(12) Michigan State (7 - 2) 30 @ (13) Ohio State (7 - 2) 27: All of a sudden, the Big Ten East race is a real dogfight, with both of these teams the only ones left that control their own destiny. A win by Michigan State would really put them in the driver's seat with remaining games with Maryland and on the road at Rutgers. Ohio State still has Illinois and then they travel to the Big House to take on a still relevant Michigan team. Last week's blowout loss to Iowa was either a telling game or a wake-up call anomaly for the Buckeyes. The last two games along with their earlier loss to Oklahoma have been a sign to me that against tougher opposition, Ohio State struggles.

Rutgers (4 - 5) 13 @ (14) Penn State (7 - 2) 38: Two weeks ago Penn State was riding high with a big lead against Ohio State and the prospect of playing their way into the playoffs. Now they find themselves virtually out of the Big Ten East title hunt, just trying to win out against lesser competition. They need two losses by both Michigan State and Ohio State the rest of the way, a highly unlikely scenario.

(15) Oklahoma State (7 - 2) 31 @ (21) Iowa State (6 - 3) 27: After giving up sixty-two points to Oklahoma, the Cowboy defense will need to make some adjustments before heading to Ames, a difficult place to play. Iowa State was on a nice run but couldn't get their offense going at West Virginia. The Cyclones have one of the two legitimate defenses in the Big 12 along with TCU. I still like Oklahoma State to bounce back to stay alive, just barely, for a spot in the conference championship game.

Connecticut (3 - 6) 17 @ (18) UCF (8 - 0) 47: UCF needs to make a statement to get the playoff committee's attention, but beating UConn won't be it.

(23) NC State (6 - 3) 24 @ Boston College (5 - 4) 27: This is game sporting two teams headed in different directions. Boston College has an impressive three game winning streak following a tough home loss to Virginia Tech. Their opponent has lost consecutive games to teams that are currently in the top four in the playoff rankings. The long trip to Boston and the early start are advantages for the Eagles as N.C. State looks to recapture its defensive energy. I think these teams will emerge from the game with identical records.

Arkansas (4 - 5) 23 @ (24) LSU (6 - 3) 31: Arkansas has somehow pulled off consecutive last minute, one-point wins to stay alive for bowl contention. The Hogs have a history of shocking LSU, but Arkansas just hasn't shown the ability to consistently stop anyone from scoring. LSU isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut, but they play solid defense and Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley is still getting his feet under him. I'll be pulling hard for the Razorbacks, but even my heart won't allow me to pick them in this one.

Duke (4 - 5) 27 @ Army (7 - 2) 31: Army completes a pass about as often as Alabama coach Nick Saban praises the media. Duke ranks a respectable 41st in rushing yards, but they'll be tested by a unit that leads the nation with an average of 365 yards a game. This isn't one of Duke's best teams and they'll have a long day against the Army rushing attack.

11:20 am CST:

(17) Virginia Tech (7 - 2) 31 @ Georgia Tech (4 - 4) 20: Virginia Tech is coming off a disappointing loss to a team they had a good chance of defeating. Offensively, the Hokies never got it going against a good Miami defense. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has a history of success against Georgia Tech's option running game because of speed at linebacker and skilled defensive backs. The Hokies should be able to win, but they'll need more big offensive plays than they were able to make against the Hurricanes.

2:00 PM CST:

Wake Forest (5 - 4) 24 @ Syracuse (4 - 5) 27: Three of the last four Syracuse games have ended in a 27 - 24 score, so why change now? The Orange will be happy to be getting out of Florida with consecutive losses at Miami and Florida State. This is a tough one to call, but I'm going with the home team as Wake Forest's defensive performance has diminished as the season has progressed.

2:30 pm CST:

(1) Georgia (9 - 0) 23 @ (10) Auburn (7 - 2) 24:  I've maintained for a month or so that Auburn was going to take down one of the top two teams and finally that time has arrived. Auburn's fourteen points from being undefeated and I'm sure that second half at LSU is still haunting the team. Georgia has rolled through a schedule that frankly, with the exception of the Notre Dame squeaker, is pretty underwhelming. I'm sticking with Auburn, primarily because Georgia hasn't had to line up against a team this talented since early September.

Florida State (3 - 5) 17 @ (4) Clemson (8 - 1) 28: Before the season started and Florida State was ranked third, this was penciled in as the game of the year in the ACC. The Seminoles lost their starting quarterback, and well, now it's not. Florida State is trying to get bowl eligible while Clemson is still in contention for the playoffs. I just haven't seen enough from Florida State that leads me to pick the big upset. The Tigers are just better right now.

(20) Iowa (6 - 3) 27 @ (8) Wisconsin (9 - 0) 24 : After Iowa steamrolled Ohio State last week, it would be easy to jump on the Hawkeye bandwagon. The playoff committee hasn't been impressed with the Badgers, as Wisconsin only has two  wins against teams with winning records and only one of those is a power five school. This will be by far the sternest test of the season for Wisconsin and sometimes having to step up in class can be tough. We need to look no farther than fellow Big Ten team Ohio State. I like Iowa in an upset that could really put the Big Ten on playoff life support.

Virginia (6 - 3) 34 @ Louisville (5 - 4) 31: Louisville is a big favorite in this game and I can't figure out why. They haven't been impressive at all this season, with just a single win over an FBS team with a winning record. I like Virginia in what Vegas calls an upset, but I don't think of it that way. Virginia has come a long way in a year and Louisville is likely to find out how far.

West Virginia (6 - 3) 27 @ Kansas State (5 - 4) 20: Even though Kansas State got by Texas Tech in overtime last week, I'm still not a buyer of the Wildcats. They end the season with Oklahoma State and Iowa State, so they have an uphill battle to get bowl eligible, which I don't think they'll be able to do. West Virginia is just a better team.

Michigan (7 - 2) 27 @ Maryland (4 - 5) 14: Michigan and Penn State both have tough paths to the Big Ten East crown, but if the Wolverines keep winning, you never know what their final game against Ohio State could mean. Maryland is dangerous but Michigan is taking care of business down the stretch.

3:00 pm CST:

(11) USC (8 - 2) 34 @ Colorado (5 - 5) 20: USC can clinch a berth in the Pac-12 championship game with a win over the Buffaloes. Colorado has won the games they should have and lost the ones to better competition. That shouldn't change much in this one as USC quarterback Sam Darnold and the Trojan offense are hitting on all cylinders.

Kentucky (6 - 3) 37 @ Vanderbilt (4 - 5) 24: Kentucky isn't great, but they're better than Vanderbilt, who snapped a five game skid last week against Western Kentucky. Eventually, the Wildcats are going to lose head coach Mark Stoops to a bigger job, but he's done a good job at a basketball school and deserves a lot of credit.

4:30 pm CST:

(19) Washington State (8 - 2) 37 @ Utah (5 - 4) 21: Washington State has a couple of ugly losses and a bunch of impressive wins. They still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 North and will have an off week before facing Washington in what could be a winner take all game in Seattle. But first they need to beat a good Utah team that broke a four game losing skid in a win over Josh Rosen-less UCLA last week. If the Cougars can get their offense going, it could be a long night for the Utes.

6:00 pm CST:

(2) Alabama (9 - 0) 28 @ (16) Mississippi State (7 - 2) 30: My feeling has been from the beginning of the season that someone was going to beat Alabama. There are only three chances left (I can't consider Mercer as a possibility next week) and it will take a monumental effort from Mississippi State. The only blemishes on the Bulldogs' record are blowouts to Georgia and Auburn in consecutive games. On paper, this one is similar, but Mississippi State has run off four wins in a row behind very good defensive efforts. Can I bring myself to pick the home team? You bet I can!

Purdue (4 - 5) 17 @ (25) Northwestern (6 - 3) 30: Northwestern appears to be for real, on a four game winning streak and sporting wins over Iowa and Michigan State. Purdue is improved, but the Wildcats are at home and on a roll. Their all but eliminated from the Big Ten West race but winning out is possible and could get them into a very nice bowl game.

7:00 pm CST:

(3) Notre Dame (8 - 1) 27 @ (7) Miami (8 - 0) 20: It seems like every week we have at least one playoff elimination game and this definitely qualifies, as does the next one. Of the four teams in these two games, Miami probably has the best chance of surviving a loss because they're undefeated and will likely get a chance to defeat Clemson in the ACC Championship. I was surprised at how well the Hurricanes last week, but Notre Dame may be playing as well as any team in the nation. I'm looking for Notre Dame to dominate on the ground and wear down Miami.

(6) TCU (8 - 1) 21 @ (5) Oklahoma (8 - 1) 30:  These two teams have a good chance to meet again in the Big 12 Championship since both hold the tiebreaker over Oklahoma State. West Virginia and Iowa State are also still in the hunt, but have tough finishing schedules. Even though TCU has a strong defense, I just don't think they can keep up with Oklahoma on the scoreboard, especially the way Baker Mayfield is playing at quarterback for the Sooners.

8:30 pm CST:

Arizona State (5 - 4) 37 @ UCLA (4 - 5) 41: Arizona State has won three of their last four, but UCLA will have Josh Rosen back after suffering a concussion. The Bruin defense is awful, giving up almost forty points a game. This is a compelling pick and I'm going with UCLA on nothing more than a hunch. If it's a shootout, the Bruins have more offensive weapons than Arizona State.

Friday, November 3, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WEEK TEN PREDICTIONS

I took a week off from prognostication in favor of spending time with my wife, usually a very good decision. It didn't keep me from watching a number of games, including big comebacks by Arkansas and Ohio State, Notre Dame's dominance of N.C. State, Virginia Tech's defensive gem against Duke, Oklahoma's spanking of Texas Tech and finally USC putting Arizona State back in its place. With the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings, things start to get very serious this weekend. Oklahoma's number five spot should give the Big 12 reason for optimism to get a team into the playoffs, something that will probably be unlikely unless the Sooners run the table. It's worth noting that in the first three years of the playoffs, only five of the twelve teams ranked in the top four of the initial list ended up in the playoffs. The lesson is that there are still a lot of meaningful games to be played, especially by teams that have the strength of their schedules back-ended. Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Miami, among others, fall into that category. The ACC will begin to get sorted out this week, with Clemson traveling to N.C. State and undefeated Miami hosting Virginia Tech. Bedlam takes place in Stillwater, Oklahoma between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, with the winner continuing as a Big 12 contender and the loser facing an uphill battle to make the conference championship game.

Last Week (week eight):   18 - 4    81.8%
Overall:                           177 - 41  81.2%

Friday:

(23) Memphis (7 - 1) 41 @ Tulsa (2 - 7) 34: How Tulsa pulled out a lopsided win against Houston is anyone's guess, but they'll need more of the same to end Memphis' four game winning streak. The Golden Hurricane can pin their hopes on the fact that the Tigers, despite their record and top 25 ranking, are giving up almost 34 points a game, just about the same as Tulsa is averaging on offense. This one should be high scoring and entertaining.

UCLA (4 - 4) 31 @ Utah (4 - 4) 28: On the road in Salt Lake City with a short week after getting whacked at Washington. It doesn't necessarily look good for UCLA as they, just like Utah, are struggling to get bowl eligible. That makes this game critical for both teams, especially since the Utes have lost their last four games. Even though road games on a short week are usually the kiss of death and UCLA hasn't won a road game this season, I just don't like the negative momentum for Utah.

Saturday:

11:00 am CDT:

(7) Penn State (7 - 1) 34 @ (24) Michigan State (6 - 2) 24:This will be a very difficult follow-up to last week's devastating loss for Penn State. Michigan State is also coming off a disappointing defeat at the hands of Northwestern. Unlike Penn State, Michigan State still controls their own destiny in the Big Ten East as they have Ohio State next week. For the Nittany Lions, they will need a lot of help to advance to the conference title game. One certainty is that they can't afford another loss.

(9) Wisconsin (8 - 0) 27 @ Indiana (3 - 5) 14: We'll have to see if Wisconsin gets a chip on their shoulder, because despite an unblemished record, the Badgers find themselves ranked ninth in the initial college football playoff ranking. It's apparent that the playoff committee is watching the games and looking closely at non-conference schedules.For Wisconsin to move up, they'll need to start steamrolling their remaining opponents.

(14) Auburn (6 - 2) 31 @ Texas A&M (5 - 3) 20: If Auburn hadn't let LSU off the hook, its likely they would be sitting somewhere in the top ten of the playoff rankings. Instead, the Tigers have no margin for error if they want to get to the SEC Championship game. They've been dominant at times, but with Georgia and Alabama looming, it will take some valiant efforts for Auburn to jump into the national mix.

UMass (2 - 6) 13 @ (16) Mississippi State (6 - 2) 45: Not much of a game in this one. Mississippi State gets a breather before hosting Alabama next week.

Kansas State (4 - 4) 21 @ Texas Tech (4 - 4) 34: If Kansas State is looking for a win the rest of the way, this might be their best shot. Texas Tech has lost four of their last five, but I still believe they're a better team than the Wildcats. Maybe I'm just biased by K-State's pathetic out of conference scheduling.

11:20 am CDT:

Syracuse (4 - 4) 27 @ Florida State (2 - 5) 24: It's been a miserable season for Florida State as they've been unable to get past the loss of their starting quarterback. Last week's pummeling by Boston College was especially distressing, as the Eagles put up 35 points on what was supposed to be a good defense. Of course, BC has been on a roll since a home loss to Virginia Tech so perhaps the 'Noles can find a way to bounce back at home. The main problem is Florida State hasn't been able to find a way to consistently score points.

2:00 CDT:

Georgia Tech (4 - 3) 38 @ Virginia (5 - 3) 17: Virginia began the season 5 -1, but have been scorched the last two weeks by Boston College and Pittsburgh. With questions on defense, possibly the worst team you want to face is Georgia Tech. I look for the Yellow Jackets to run all over the Cavaliers. This one could be ugly.

2:30 pm CDT:

South Carolina (6 - 2) 23 @ (1) Georgia (8 - 0) 28: Georgia emerged at the top of the playoff rankings, setting up this game as a bit of a trap for the Bulldogs in advance of their game at Auburn. South Carolina is one of a plethora of 6 - 2 teams that are positioned to wreak havoc in the closing weeks of the season. Are the Gamecocks capable of taking out Georgia? Absolutely. Georgia wants to run the ball, but South Carolina has a pretty capable rushing defense. The difference in this game will most likely be the Georgia defense. It's as good as South Carolina's, but the Gamecock offense isn't as good as Georgia's.

Wake Forest (5 - 3)  17 @ (3) Notre Dame (7 - 1) 30: Notre Dame is fifth in the nation in rushing offense and Wake Forest is way down the list in stopping the run. After what the Irish did to N.C. State's sixth rated rush defense last week, I would expect much of the same behind Josh Adams this week. Wake has exceeded expectations this season, but they're overmatched in this one. 

(4) Clemson (7 - 1) 27 @ (20) N.C. State (6 - 2) 23: With Virginia Tech taking on Miami later in the day, many experts are calling this semifinal Saturday in the ACC. I tend to agree, especially since N.C. State can virtually clinch the Atlantic division with a win. I expect Clemson to be able to handle the Wolfpack in much the same way Notre Dame did a week ago, but State is still a dangerous defensive team.

(6) Ohio State (7 - 1) 31 @ Iowa (5 - 3) 17: After a furious comeback against Penn State that put Ohio State firmly in the national picture, the Buckeyes can't sleep on Iowa. After watching a lot of football teams this season, the speed of Ohio State might be the best of any team in the nation. I don't see the Hawkeyes keeping up.

(15) Iowa State (6 - 2) 34 @ West Virginia (5 - 3) 37: This is a very interesting match-up, with Iowa State suddenly controlling its own destiny in the Big 12 after four successive victories. They head into Morgantown to take on a West Virginia team that is fifth in the nation in passing and will put significant pressure on Iowa State's defense that's ranked sixty-fifth against the pass. West Virginia's problems this season have been an inability to make stops on defense, particularly against the run. Iowa State doesn't have a strong running game, which makes this contest so difficult to predict. For some reason, I'm taking the Mountaineers to outscore the Cyclones.

(21) Stanford (6 - 2) 27 @ (25) Washington State (7 - 2) 34: Statistically, Stanford's defense is not among the best in the nation, but they've been able to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. Washington State leads the nation in passing yards per game and they play particularly well at home. Even though the Cardinal have won five straight, I like the Cougars to get off the mat after getting thrashed in two of their last three games.

Northwestern (5 - 3) 27@ Nebraska (4 - 4) 30: Despite having a better record, this game is somewhat of a match-up problem for Northwestern. The Wildcat's pass defense is ranked 120th, while Nebraska's passing attack is 30th. Northwestern has continued to surprise, but their three wins in a row have come against teams with passing attacks ranked no better than 67th in the country. Nebraska showed some grit in grinding out a tough win at Purdue last week and I like them to carry that momentum forward.

 3:00 pm CDT:

(5) Oklahoma (7 - 1) 35 @ (11) Oklahoma State (7 - 1) 37: Bedlam: A scene of uproar and confusion. Perhaps in some prior years, that word hasn't necessarily applied to this game, but it surely does this season. The winner remains in contention for both the Big 12 title and a spot in the college football playoff. The loser likely falls by the wayside and into a large group of two loss teams destined to be on the outside looking in. The similarities are striking, with both teams sporting star quarterbacks, identical records and multiple game winning streaks. Oklahoma has won twelve of the last fourteen meetings, so the history is not on Oklahoma State's side. Fortunately though, quarterback Mason Rudolph is and I believe he can be the difference in this game.

Ole Miss (3 - 5) 37 @ Kentucky (6 - 2) 30:The disparity in records probably belies how closely matched these two teams are. Ole Miss has played a much tougher schedule than Kentucky and is coming off a game against Arkansas which they should have put away in the first half. The Wildcats have a porous pass defense and Ole Miss is ranked eighth in the country through the air, something that Kentucky hasn't faced this season. Unless Ole Miss is still nursing a comeback hangover from last week, I think they'll score on big plays and hold on against an offense that doesn't score a lot of points.

6:15 pm CDT:

Texas (4 - 4) 24 @ (8) TCU (7 - 1) 21: Three of Texas' four losses are by a combined eleven points to three of top seventeen teams in the current CFP rankings. They are also the last team to hang an "L" on Iowa State, something TCU was unable to do last week. I believe the Longhorns are close to turning the corner, and despite TCU's tough defense, I think they will pull the upset of the week. TCU's offensive difficulties will eventually hurt them and Texas is athletic enough to make them pay.

(18) UCF (7 - 0) 42 @ SMU (6 - 2) 27: SMU has a pretty good record, but they are extremely vulnerable through the air and UCF isn't the highest scoring team in the FBS by accident. They'll put up a ton of points on the Mustangs to remain in the hunt for a New Year's Day bowl game.

6:30 pm CDT:

Minnesota (4 - 4) 13 @ Michigan (6 - 2) 23: Michigan didn't hear their name called during the initial playoff rankings show Tuesday night and I'd imagine that didn't sit well with head coach Jim Harbaugh. He's a master motivator and I'm certain he'll use that to his advantage this week. Both of these teams rely on their defense, but Michigan's is better and will find a way to shut down an anemic Minnesota attack.

7:00 pm CDT:

(19) LSU (6 - 2) 20 @ (2) Alabama (8 - 0) 31: It's taken until week ten for Alabama to get to the meat of its schedule, facing current top twenty teams LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn to finish up the season. I still maintain that there is a loss in there somewhere but I don't think LSU has enough offensive firepower or consistency to do it this week. But the line on this game is Alabama -21.5, which I can't help but think is a bit high. We'll have to see how the Tide can step up their game as the caliber of competition increases.

(13) Virginia Tech (7 - 1) 27 @ (10) Miami (8 - 0) 17: Miami has won a number of close games this season, primarily because their run defense is only ranked 83rd in the nation. Their last four wins are against unranked opponents by a combined 18 points. It took a late play to get past a North Carolina team that Va. Tech had beaten 59 - 7 a week earlier. Their last really good performance was over a month ago at Duke. They'll need another one similar to it if they want to remain unbeaten and in the ACC Coastal race. The Hokies sport a top ten defense, ranked in the top fifteen against both the run and pass. If Tech gets pressure on quarterback Malik Rosier, it could be a long day for the Hurricanes.

8:00 CDT:

Colorado (5 - 4) 30 @ Arizona State (4 - 4) 37: Colorado runs a very balanced offense, at least by today's college football standards. This game will come down to Arizona State's ability to throw the ball on a Buffalo defense that is prone to big plays through the air while playing decent enough defense to keep Colorado from putting up big numbers of their own.

9:00 pm CDT:

Oregon (5 - 4) 17 @ (12) Washington (7 - 1) 31: If the Pac-12 is going to get a team into the college football playoffs, it will have to be Washington. Their defense has a good chance of getting them there as long as they don't look past the Ducks. Games with Stanford, Utah and Washington State loom to close out the regular season. The Huskies can't afford a hiccup at home. Oregon will try to run on the second stingiest run defense in the country, so it's likely to be tough going for the one-dimensional Ducks.

9:45 pm CDT:

(22) Arizona (6 - 2) 28 @ (17) USC (7 - 2) 38: Although the national sports media seems to be a little down on USC, it appears to be skewed by their performance against Notre Dame. There's a good chance the Irish will make more teams look bad on their way to a potential appearance in the playoffs. The Trojans righted the ship against Arizona State last week and I expect more of the same against the other Arizona school. This game features a real contrast in styles, with Arizona averaging over 330 yards on the ground, while USC quarterback Sam Darnold wants to throw the ball all over the field. Unfortunately for Arizona, they sport the 128th ranked pass defense out of 130 teams in the FBS.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Saturday, October 21, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WEEK EIGHT PREDICTIONS


Last Week:   21 - 8     72.4%
Overall:      159 - 37   81.1%

Despite losses by seven of the top twenty-five teams last week, I was still able to hold my own in a weekend with more close games than I can remember. It was particularly interesting since there were no match-ups pitting ranked teams against each other. That's not the case this week, as Michigan travels to Penn State and Notre Dame hosts USC. Both of those games have significant implications for the playoffs.

Saturday

11:00 am CDT:

Maryland (3 - 3) 17 @ (5) Wisconsin (6 - 0) 30: Before last week's loss to Northwestern, Maryland seemed to be headed in the right direction. They'll need to do something a few underdogs did a week ago and stun a ranked team, although only one of them, Boise State did it on the road. Wisconsin's offense wasn't impressive last week against a decent Purdue defense, but they should have more success with Maryland.

(10) Oklahoma State (5 - 1) 31 @ Texas (3 - 3) 27: I like the toughness that Texas has shown since their opening game beat down by Maryland. Tom Herman's team is probably a season away from contending. Oklahoma State's only blemish is against a very good TCU team that has a much better defense than Texas. I believe the Cowboys have too much offensive firepower for the 'Horns.

Louisville (4 - 3) 20 @ Florida State (2 - 3) 23: A lot has been mentioned about Louisville's Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson's coming out party in an overwhelming defeat of Florida State last year. Most people would have been challenged to imagine that these two teams have a combined six losses. For the Seminoles to win this one at home, they'll need to get more production from freshman quarterback James Blackman to outscore the Cardinals.

Boston College (3 - 4) 20 @ Virginia (5 - 1) 24: Boston College is clearly improving while Virginia has been the most surprising ACC team so far this season. BC stunned Louisville last week and Virginia buried Boise State on the road a month ago. I'll take the Cavaliers at home in a close one.

Iowa State (4 - 2) 37 @ Texas Tech (4 - 2) 34: Iowa State's win over Oklahoma showed that the Cyclones are for real, but to win at Texas Tech, they'll need to score a lot of points and make key stops on defense. They've been doing that all season with the exception of their loss to Texas, so I like them to pull another road upset.

Iowa (4 - 2) 27 @ Northwestern (3 - 3) 20: Iowa's only losses were by one possession to Penn State and Michigan State, both nationally ranked teams. Northwestern plays tough, but Iowa is just a little better on both side of the ball.

2:30 pm CDT

Tennessee (3 - 3) 13 @ (1) Alabama (7 - 0) 38: Tennessee coach Butch Jones is probably on his way out, but an upset at Alabama could help to keep his hopes of staying in Knoxville on life support. The Tide are as complete a football team as we've seen in a long time, so I don't see much chance of the Vols even making it close.

Syracuse (4 - 3) 24 @ (8) Miami (5 - 0) 27: Syracuse pulled the upset of the week against Clemson last Friday night, the first of a rash of surprises last weekend. Miami has been pulling off close victories to remain unbeaten and will need to be on its game to keep the Orange from upending its second consecutive top ten team. I think Miami is going to be challenged but finds a way to win again.

North Carolina (1 - 6) 17 @ (14) Virginia Tech (5 - 1) 30: It seems like every season, Virginia Tech blows a game they're expected to handily win. North Carolina is given almost no chance to win this game, so it could be a a little bit of a trap for the Hokies. Coming off a bye week, however, I think they'll take care of business, especially if they get the running game going.

Indiana (3 - 3) 20 @ (18) Michigan State (5 - 1) 23: Indiana took Michigan to overtime last week, but that game was at home. The most surprising team in the Big Ten will need to pay attention to the Hoosiers if they hope to challenge Ohio State and Penn State for their division crown. Michigan State is still improving and should have enough on offense to prevail.

(20) UCF (5 - 0) 34 @ Navy (5 - 1) 27: UCF, despite being ranked in the top twenty, is flying under the radar for a number of reasons. They had a number of games postponed or cancelled, including one against Georgia Tech that could have given them a little more attention early in the season. That game also would have given the Golden Knights more experience against the option offense that tends to make it difficult for opposing defenses. UCF is scoring a lot of points and that will be the difference today.

Arizona State (3 - 3) 20@ Utah (4 - 2) 24: After stunning Washington last week, Arizona State has injected itself into the Pac-12 South race. To stay alive, they'll need to do it again, this time on the road in Salt Lake City. I'm tempted to take the Aztecs, but their inconsistency bothers me.

3:00 pm CDT

(9) Oklahoma (5 - 1) 34 @ Kansas State (3 - 3) 20: Oklahoma had to dig deep to beat Texas last week, but at least they looked better defensively than they did in their loss to Iowa State. They'll need to play a good game to beat the Wildcats in Manhattan, but they should get the job done.

Kentucky (5 - 1) 24 @ Mississippi State (4 - 2) 27: This is one of the more difficult games of the week to pick a winner. Kentucky has a win at South Carolina and a one-point loss to Florida in games against quality opponents. Mississippi State whipped LSU, but laid eggs at Georgia and Auburn. I went with Mississippi State Friday morning on "Lou in the Morning" and I'll stick with that pick. However, if Kentucky wins, they could be looking at a special season.

6:00 pm CDT

(16) South Florida (6 - 0) 37 @ Tulane (3 - 3) 23: South Florida is on a collision course with UCF for the AAC East title on Nov. 24. They should be able to keep those hopes alive for another week at Tulane, but the Green Wave has enough to put it all together occasionally and pull a surprise.

6:15pm CDT

(24) LSU (5 - 2) 27 @ Ole Miss (3 - 3) 24: After a bad home loss to Troy, a lot of critics left LSU for dead and there was plenty of speculation  on head coach Ed Orgeron's future in Baton Rouge. Now they have to head to Oxford for a rivalry game that could disrupt their season once again. The Tigers will need to pay attention on defense to keep from giving up big plays.

6:30 pm CDT

(19) Michigan (5 - 1) 17 @ (2) Penn State (6 - 0) 27: This game, potentially the biggest nationally and definitely the most impactful in the Big Ten, will come down to Michigan's ability to keep the game close. The Wolverine's don't have nearly as many offensive weapons as Penn State, who they pounded 49 - 10 last season, which was the last regular season loss for the Nittany Lions. Michigan's offense will be an issue that I don't think they'll be able to overcome.

(11) USC (6 - 1) 23 @ (13) Notre Dame (5 - 1) 30: A one-point loss to Georgia and a 38 - 18 win at now ranked Michigan State puts Notre Dame in the hunt for a playoff spot. Head coach Brian Kelly has done a good job in turning around the Irish's fortune's from last season's disaster. A win today would cement their national chances, but the schedule the rest of the way could be a problem. USC has found ways to keep winning, but that will a lot tougher today.

(21) Auburn (5 - 2) 31 @ Arkansas (2 - 4) 20: I'd like to think that the Razorbacks will be able to find a way to win this game, but I haven't seen much the last two weeks that would give me a reason for optimism. About the only thing might be if backup quarterback Cole Kelley can mature quickly. Auburn is coming off a meltdown loss to LSU and head coach Guz Malzahn always has extra motivation against the Hogs.

7:00 pm CDT

Kansas (1 - 5) 6 @ (4) TCU (6 - 0) 51: Kansas is possibly the worst team in the FBS and TCU is perhaps one of the best. This is one of those games that could get very ugly, very early.

(23) West Virginia (4 - 2) 34 @ Baylor (0 -6) 24: West Virginia keeps bouncing in and out of the top twenty-five. They need to follow up the come from behind victory against Texas Tech with a good effort against a dangerous winless team.

9:45 pm CDT

Colorado (4 - 3) 24 @ (15) Washington State (6 - 1) 34: Washington State returns home after getting embarrassed at California. They'll be facing a tough team, but the Buffs don't have the weapons to stay with the Cougars. I don't expect Washington State's quarterback Luke Falk to struggle in consecutive weeks.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.







Friday, October 13, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WEEK SEVEN PREDICTIONS

Last Week:      23 - 4    85.2%
Overall:         138 - 29  82.6%

It was another good week, and it would have been better if I hadn't been foolish enough to think Texas A&M and Arkansas could pull upsets. There are no games involving pairs of ranked teams, but there are plenty of close intra-conference match-ups. I'll need some good fortune to keep my average over 80% for the season. I've grouped the games by kickoff times so readers have more information on when to tune into their favorite teams.

Friday:

6:30 pm CDT:

(2) Clemson (6 - 0) 34 @ Syracuse (3 - 3) 17 : The Carrier Dome in Syracuse can be one of the most difficult places for visiting teams to play. Last season, an eventual 4 - 8 Orange team upset Virginia Tech. Clemson is playing far better than the Hokies did last year, but it can still be a tough place to win. I'll stick with the favorites, even though Syracuse has hung in there in losses to LSU and NC State.

9:30 pm CDT

(8) Washington State (6 - 0) 31 @ California (3 - 3) 20: Washington State appears to have a complete football team, an anomaly under Mike Leach, generally considered an offensive minded head coach. The Cougars' defense is pretty good and quarterback Luke Falk is playing as well as any signal caller in the country. Cal has exceeded expectations, but they'll need to bring their best effort of the season to challenge Washington State.

Saturday:

11:00 am CDT:

(6) TCU (5 - 0) 27 @ Kansas State (3 -2) 13: With Oklahoma and and Oklahoma State already suffering conferences losses, it's important for the Big 12 that TCU keeps winning. Ir's going to be difficult for the conference to get a team into the playoffs given the way Alabama, Clemson, Penn State, Washington and Washington State are playing in the other Power Five leagues. As far as this game goes, Kansas State is not as good as their mediocre record, and TCU is every bit as good as their undefeated status.

(17) Michigan (4 - 1) 23 @ Indiana (3 - 2) 16: Indiana was over-matched in their lopsided losses to Ohio State and Penn State. Until Michigan's loss to Michigan State last week, the Wolverines were considered in the same class as those other Big Ten East teams. The big difference between Michigan and the other two teams mentioned above is that they aren't as explosive, giving Indiana a fighting chance in this game. If Michigan has a hang over from last week, this one could be close.

(20) NC State (5 - 1) 34 @ Pittsburgh (2 - 4) 20: NC State is looking to go victoriously into their bye week before a big games on the road at Notre Dame and at home against Clemson that most likely will be for the ACC Atlantic crown. After a big Thursday night win against Louisville, the Wolfpack needs to guard against a letdown. Fortunately for them, Pittsburgh is in a down year and NC State should be able to take care of business on the road.

(24) Texas Tech (4 - 1) 27 @ West Virginia (3 - 2) 30: This is one of the more interesting games in a week where there are no match-ups between ranked teams. West Virginia's two losses are to top fifteen teams by the identical score of 31 - 24. I don't believe Texas Tech is in the same class as TCU and Virginia Tech, so I'm giving the Mountaineers the edge at home.

Florida State (1 - 3) 27 @ Duke (4 - 2) 10: Florida State is coming off a difficult, last second loss to Miami, giving them three losses to the number one, eleven and twentieth ranked teams in the country. Duke is nowhere near that class, so I believe the talent of the Seminoles, especially on defense, will enable them to win the game as long as they can get over the loss to the Hurricanes.

BYU (1 - 5) 17 @ Mississippi State (3 - 2) 37: This a good opportunity for Mississippi State to bounce back after consecutive road losses to top ten Georgia and Auburn. BYU is not very good, especially offensively and will be challenged to stay in this game into the second half.

South Carolina (4 - 2) 27 @ Tennessee (3 - 2) 23: Until Arkansas served up pick sixes to South Carolina like a father lobbing pitches to his kid, the Gamecocks were struggling in losing two of three games and the win was by a point against Louisiana Tech. Tennessee is on a similar path after getting drilled by Georgia in their last game and barely beating a bad UMass team the week before. This is one of the more difficult picks of the week, especially because Tennessee will start a new quarterback. I have to go with momentum: Good for South Carolina, bad for the Vols.

2:30 pm CDT:

Purdue (3 - 2) 17 @ (7) Wisconsin (5 - 0) 24: Purdue is improved, but it will take quite an effort for the Boilermakers to upend the Badgers. Wisconsin, given a schedule that includes neither Penn State nor Ohio State and a home games against Iowa and Michigan, might have the best chance of any Big Ten team to make the playoffs. They appear to be headed to a 9 - 0 record when they face Iowa on Nov. 11, but this is college football and you only have to look at last week to see teams that lost their focus and get upset.

(10) Auburn (5 - 1) 30 @ LSU (4 - 2) 21: In a battle of the Tigers, one will leave Death Valley Saturday afternoon with a loss. LSU beat Florida by virtue of a missed Gator extra point and they'll need the same type of good fortune to get past Auburn. The visitors will put a lot more pressure on the LSU defense than Florida is capable of generating. I just don't think LSU can keep up.

Georgia Tech (3 - 1) 23 @ (11) Miami (4 - 0) 30: After a big win that broke a seven game losing streak to Florida State, Miami hosts the most difficult team in the ACC to defend. But the Hurricanes are on the rise and playing at home after getting a big monkey off their back. It's difficult to tell how good a team that Georgia Tech has, as their victories are against an FCS team and a couple that are winless  in the ACC. Generally, I'd give the Yellow Jackets a chance, but the 41 points they gave up to a mediocre Tennessee team in week one bothers me.

(12) Oklahoma (4 - 1) 24 vs. Texas (3 - 2) 27 (Dallas, TX): This is a compelling game. We have an Oklahoma team that beat Ohio State, then struggled against winless Baylor and lost last week to Iowa State. The Sooners still control their own destiny in the Big 12, but they're currently looking up at Texas in the standings and will probably need run the table to have a shot at the playoffs. I believe Texas' opening game against Maryland was an anomaly and it looks like first year Longhorn coach Tom Herman has the team headed in the right direction.

Baylor (0 - 5) 20 @ (14) Oklahoma State (4 - 1) 37: Unlike their in-state rivals at Oklahoma, the Cowboys have little margin for error and need other teams to lose for them to make it to the conference title game and keep playoff hopes alive. Baylor is actually making some improvements, but I look for Oklahoma State to come out strong.

Virginia (4 - 1) 27 @ North Carolina (1 - 5) 24: It's been quite a turnaround for both of these teams. This is a regional rivalry between elite public colleges. Virginia has already doubled their win total from a season ago and North Carolina has struggled all year. I think the Cavaliers are just a better football team than the Heels and should make things pretty miserable in Chapel Hill. It doesn't get any easier for Carolina, as they travel to Va. Tech and host Miami in the next two weeks.

Northwestern (2 - 3) 27 @ Maryland (3 - 2) 31: Maryland seems to be on rise and need a win this weekend to have a shot another bowl. The bad news is that the Terps play Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State down the stretch. Northwestern has been a little disappointing and a loss would put a real dent into their postseason hopes.

2:45 pm CDT:

(25) Navy (5 - 0) 31 @ Memphis (4 - 1) 34:Not that Navy isn't a pretty good team, but I'm having a hard time understanding the Middies sneaking into the top 25. Their schedule is pretty pedestrian and they've given up a lot of points. Memphis has a quality win over UCLA and can really light up a scoreboard. I'll take the Tigers to come through.

6:00 pm CDT:

East Carolina (1 - 5) 10 @ (22) UCF (4 - 0) 44: There's no question, despite being ranked twenty-second, that UCF might be the most underrated or under-recognized team in the country. They haven't been challenged, but they've only played four games due to hurricane postponements and cancellations. East Carolina has one of the worst FBS defenses, so this could get ugly very early.

Texas A&M (4 - 2) 27 @ Florida (3 - 2) 24:Most teams struggle the week after playing Alabama, and Texas A&M was in a tough one with the Tide last week. But Florida also faced defeat at home and I like the Aggies to put a lot of pressure on Florida's defense. Offensively, the Gators have a hard time moving the ball, so I'm going against the grain and predicting an A&M victory.

6:15 pm CDT:

Arkansas (2 - 3) 17 @ (1) Alabama (6 - 0) 38: Last week's game against South Carolina was a dumpster fire for the Razorbacks. Quarterback Austin Allen looked uncomfortable and made some questionable decisions. I don't see how they can recover enough to challenge the nation's top team. The unit that is generally considered head coach Bret Bielema's forte, the offensive line, is just not performing well. That makes it difficult to run the ball and totally takes the play action pass off the table. Alabama is about as tough as they've been in recent memory.

6:30 pm CDT:

Missouri (1 - 4) 10 @ (4) Georgia (6 - 0) 38: This is one of the biggest mismatches of the week. Georgia is on a roll and Missouri is trying to rebuild. The Bulldogs are on a collision course with Alabama for a potential meeting in the SEC championship game. After pounding Tennessee, Georgia probably only has to take care of Florida in Jacksonville in a couple of weeks to solidify the SEC East title.

(9) Ohio State (5 - 1) 30 @ Nebraska (3 - 3) 13: I would dearly love for Nebraska to upset the Buckeyes, but I just don't believe if the 'Huskers have enough firepower to stay with Ohio State, which is averaging almost 52 points a game in their five wins. The main problem with Nebraska is an offense that hasn't been able to keep up with their opponents. I don't see it happening in this one unless Ohio State self destructs.

Cincinnati (2 - 4) 17 @ (18) South Florida (5 - 0) 41: I could argue that South Florida deserves a higher ranking than their current eighteenth spot, but the playoff committee will have plenty to say about that in another week. The Bulls have rolled through their schedule thus far, but the schedule hasn't been all that challenging. It stays the same this week, but their signature games coming up will pit them against Houston and UCF. That final game will most likely be for the AAC East crown.

7:00 pm CDT:

Utah (4 - 1) 23 @ (13) USC (5 - 1) 30: Utah took a tough, close loss at home to Stanford last week and I think this game will be similar, but with more scoring. Despite a 5 - 1 record, USC can struggle against good defenses. However, the Trojans are clicking on offense and by the end of the season, that loss to Washington State might look very good. My concern is Utah's ability to put points on the board against top, Pac-12 defenses.

(21) Michigan State (4 - 1) 27 @ Minnesota (3 - 2) 13: Can the Spartans consolidate their wins over Iowa and Michigan? No one was giving them much of a chance in the Big Ten East before the season began. They have a loss to Notre Dame, but the Irish are showing themselves to be a very good team. Minnesota will really need to step up offensively against a stout Michigan State defense. I don't see it happening.

8:00 pm CDT:

UCLA (3 - 2) 31 @ Arizona (3 - 2) 27: Arizona hosts the Bruins in what is probably a very big game for coach Rich Rodriguez's future in Tuscon. Both teams are coming off wins over Colorado and UCLA was off last week. This should be a good, competitive game that can go either way, but I'm going to give the edge to the visitors.

9:30 pm CDT:

Boise State (3 - 2) 21 @ (19) San Diego State (6 - 0) 27: San Diego State is trying to run the table and stay in the running for the Group of Five's New Year's Day bowl bid. Boise State is in a bit of a down year and they won't be able to stay with a battle-tested Aztec squad. They'll need some breaks and I'm tempted to go with the Broncos in an upset, but I'll stick with the favorites.

9:45 pm CDT:

(5) Washington (6 - 0) 37 @ Arizona State (2 - 3) 24: If Washington State continues to win, the Apple Bowl on Nov. 25 will most likely be for the Pac-12 North championship. It appears that Todd Graham, head coach at Arizona State will need a couple of miracles to stay on in Tempe. I don't see this as one of them. Washington is balanced and plays well on both sides of the ball. Is it time for Graham to head off into desert sunset? Likely.

10:00 pm CDT:

Oregon (4 - 2) 27 @ (23) Stanford (4 - 2) 31: Willie Taggart has Oregon playing much better than a season ago and the future looks bright, but they lost their starting quarterback and Stanford has rebounded from a couple of early losses. Stanford's defense will be able to control Oregon's explosiveness and Bryce Love should give the Cardinal plenty of yardage on the ground.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Saturday, October 7, 2017

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WEEK SIX PREDICTIONS

I had a good week, getting almost 90% correct in Week 5. I'm going out on a couple of limbs today, going against conventional wisdom to pick some upsets. 

Last Week:     24 - 3   88.9%
Overall:      115 - 25   82.4%

Thursday: (from my appearance Thursday on Lou in the Morning)

(17) Louisville (4 - 1) 31 @ (24) NC State (4 - 1) 34: This has turned out to be a very compelling game. With a victory over Florida State a couple of weeks ago, NC State has injected itself into the ACC Atlantic division title race. The Wolfpack has a good defense and enough offensive power to take advantage of Louisville's less than average defense. This will be a difficult environment for the Cardinals and I look for the Wolfpack to come away with the win.

Friday:

Boise State (2 - 2) 24 @ BYU (1 - 4) 20: BYU just can't seem to generate any consistent offense this season, but Boise hasn't exactly been a point producing machine. Virginia exposed some  big weaknesses of the Boise defense, but I don't believe BYU has the weapons to take advantage of it. Even though this game is in Utah, I expect Boise State to come out on top in what could be a low scoring affair.

Saturday:

Wake Forest (4 - 1) 14 @ (2) Clemson (5 - 0) 30:Wake Forest may have the most unfortunate scheduling in the ACC, with consecutive games against Florida State, at Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Louisville and at Notre Dame. The Deacs are a good team, but they'll be over matched against a Clemson team that might be the best in the country...again. The Tigers dominated a pretty good Virginia Tech team in Blacksburg a week ago and just have too many athletes for Wake Forest.

Iowa State (2 - 2) 13 @ (3) Oklahoma (4 - 0) 34: After a week off, Oklahoma begins to get to the meat of its conference schedule, but not until next week. The Sooners should have little trouble with the Cyclones, as long as they don't start looking ahead to next week's showdown with an improving Texas team.

(4) Penn State (5 - 0) 37 @ Northwestern (2 - 2) 20: Penn State has the most dynamic player in college football in Saquon Barkley, with 960 yards from scrimmage.Northwestern just doesn't have the horses to compete with the Nittany Lions.

(5) Georgia (5 - 0) 31 @ Vanderbilt (3 - 2) 16: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has his Bulldogs on a roll and playing at a high level. Georgia is in a great position to enter their rivalry game against Florida in a couple of weeks with a 7 - 0 record. Vanderbilt is decent, but it'll take some breaks for them to have a chance in this one.

Ole Miss (2 - 2) 17 @ (12) Auburn (4 - 1) 37: Ole Miss was exposed against Alabama last week and Auburn just continues to rack up victories. The SEC West is very competitive as usual and with Auburn's only loss coming against Clemson, we can't underestimate the chances of the Tigers to contend for the division title.

(23) West Virginia (3 - 1) 23 @ (8) TCU (4 - 0) 27: West Virginia can really generate offense, but TCU shut down Oklahoma State and will  probably do the same to the Mountaineers. However, if this turns into a track meet, TCU could be vulnerable. I don't see that happening as the Horned Frogs appear to be on a collision course with Oklahoma on November 11.

(13) Miami (3 - 0) 26 @ Florida State (2 -1) 23: Miami has lost seven straight to their in-state rivals. This game has produced some of the greatest drama in the history of college football. Florida State won a tough one last week at Wake Forest, but I still haven't seen enough from backup quarterback James Blackman to indicate he can lead his team to victory against a top 15 team. It looks like Miami will break the drought.

(21) Notre Dame (4 - 1) 34 @ North Carolina (1 - 4) 20: Notre Dame has injected themselves in the national conversation, especially since their remaining schedule allows for some more quality wins. North Carolina is in rebuild mode and seems in a bit of disarray. Don't be surprised if the Irish are in the playoff mix if they keep finding ways to win. Their one-point loss to Georgia will continue to be more impressive as the Bulldogs chalk up impressive wins.


LSU (3 - 2) 23 @ (21) Florida (3 - 1) 21: Florida has been extremely fortunate this season, and LSU has not looked good at all. But something tells me the Troy loss may give the Tigers a wake-up call to try to salvage their season. I'm not sold on the Gators and think LSU just has too much talent to remain dormant.

Maryland (3 - 1) 20 @ (10) Ohio State (4 - 1) 37: Ohio State needs to be on guard, but Maryland's porous defense gives the Buckeyes a chance to score some points. For Ohio State to get back to the playoffs, they can't afford another loss, and I think they'll take care of business.

Oregon State (1 - 4) 17 @ (10) USC (4 - 1) 44: Oregon State is one of the weakest Power Five teams and it will give USC a chance to rebound from their loss to Washington State. Look for the Trojans to try to get some style points with big win over the Beavers.

(1) Alabama (5 - 0) 30 @ Texas A&M (4 - 1) 31: I've maintained from the start of the season that I didn't think Alabama would run the table this year. Despite drilling Ole Miss last week, the Tide have some defensive injuries and A&M has shown the ability to score points. I'm going out on a big limb and predicting that the Aggies pull a huge upset at home to throw a monkey wrench into the national picture.

(16) Virginia Tech (4 - 1) 34 @ Boston College (2 - 3) 17: The Hokies lost an emotional game to Clemson last week but still control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal. But to have a chance at returning to the ACC championship game, they have to collect themselves, head to Boston and take care of business against an improved but still over matched Eagles team. They should be able to get back on track, but the Hokies drop one of these apparently slam dunks every season.

Michigan State (3 - 1) 17 @ (7) Michigan (4 - 0) 27: Michigan State scored a surprising win over Iowa last week, but they face a daunting task to upend Michigan in the Big House. Even though Michigan's offense hasn't been particularly impressive so far, their defense has been stellar. I think State is a year away from contending in this one.

(9) Wisconsin (4 - 0) 30 @ Nebraska (3 - 2) 24: I'm not sure we can take much from Nebraska's victory over Illinois, but they seem to have gotten some things corrected that resulted in consecutive losses to Oregon and Northern Illinois. Wisconsin hasn't played any tough competition and struggled a bit against Northwestern last week. The Badgers need a better effort against the 'Huskers if they want to make a run at the playoffs.

(11) Washington State (5 - 0) 42 @ Oregon (4 - 1) 31: This will be the test that Washington State needs to pass to be taken seriously. After a tough season a year ago, Oregon has turned it around under new coach Willie Taggert. But the Ducks still have some defensive issues that Washington State will exploit.

(25) UCF (3 - 0) 37 @ Cincinnati (2 - 3) 17: UCF, due to Hurricane Irma, had two games cancelled and another one rescheduled. They've gone largely unnoticed and overshadowed by their fellow AAC foe South Florida. But the Knights are a good team and will put up some points on Cincinnati tonight.

Stanford (3 - 2) 30 @ (20) Utah (4 - 0) 20: After a rough start to the season, Stanford appears to be hitting stride, especially offensively. While Utah is undefeated, their schedule thus far has been pretty weak. I like Stanford to pound the ball with running back Bryce Love, who has turned out to be a very suitable replacement for Mr. Everything Christian McCaffery.

California (3 - 2) 21 @ (6) Washington (5 - 0) 34: Cal started 3 - 0 but now reality has set in. Washington needs to stay focused though, because the Bears are just good enough to cause them problems if they get some breaks.

(19) San Diego State (5 - 0) 40 @ UNLV (2 - 2) 16: San Diego State is in a race with South Florida to remain in the hunt for a New Year's Day bowl game. UNLV probably won't pose much of a problem for a team that has already beaten two Pac-12 teams.

Duke (4 - 1) 21 @ Virginia (3 - 1) 27: After a few years of fielding largely noncompetitive teams, Virginia stunned Boise State on the Broncos' home blue turf. Duke started 4 - 0, but looked pretty average against Miami last week. The Wahoo fans will be up for this one in Charlottesville, so I'll go with the Cavs to win.

Kansas State (3 - 1) 24 @ Texas (2 - 2) 27: I'm just not sold on Kansas State and their high school caliber non-cnference schedule. Texas is definitely on the rise and should be able to take care of the Wildcats today in Austin. If they don't, the Tom Heman era will be off to a pretty rocky start.

Illinois (2 - 2) 10 @ Iowa (3 - 2) 27: This game should look a lot like last week's Nebraska win over Illinois. Iowa was surprised by Michigan State a week ago, but they'll be able to contain Illinois and score enough points to win.

Minnesota (3 - 1) 24 @ Purdue (2 - 2) 30: This is a surprisingly tough pick, especially since Minnesota hasn't beaten a quality opponent. Purdue has played a couple of top 20 teams tough, so I'll take the Boilermakers to come out on top at home.

Arkansas (2 - 2) 27 @ South Carolina (3 - 2) 20: After an impressive start to the season, South Carolina has struggled the last three weeks. Arkansas looked pretty good in defeat against Texas A&M and then followed it up with a strong defensive performance in a win over New Mexico State last week. If the Hogs can get their running game going, they should be able to control the clock and make it difficult for South Carolina to put points on the board.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.