"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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

WEEK 13 NFL PICKS

We had three Thanksgiving Day games that shortened the slate a bit today. There are five games that pit true playoff contenders against each other, but two of those involve the sub .500 leaders of the NFC South. The gem of the day will be red hot New England’s invasion of Lambeau Field to take on the almost as torrid Packers.

Washington (3 - 8) 27 @ Indianapolis (7 - 4) 24: Between the South divisions in both conferences, there is only one team with a winning record, and that’s Indianapolis. The Colts sit atop a division where the combined record of the rest of the teams is 8 - 25. So if there is going to be any kind of race in the AFC South, Indianapolis is going to have to find a way to lose to a team that’s starting its third QB.  But earlier this season, Washington’s Colt McCoy led them to a big upset at Dallas.

Tennessee (2 - 9) 16 @ Houston (5 - 6) 23: The Texans have been very disappointing and now QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have to come back in after Ryan Mallet was injured in last week’s loss. Another loss for Houston, this time to a bad Tennessee team, and any postseason hopes begin to get slim.

Cleveland (7 - 4) 27 @ Buffalo (6 - 5) 20: The Bills ended a hectic week by drilling an atrocious and dysfunctional Jets team in Detroit last week. The snow is melted and they return home to face a tough Browns team that will give them a lot of problems. Cleveland is in the thick of the hunt in the AFC South and Buffalo is barely hanging on to any playoff hopes.

San Diego (7 - 4) 20 @ Baltimore (7 - 4) 27: The Ravens are on the rise, the Chargers not so much. San Diego is traveling cross country to face a very tough defense. I think it’ll be a long flight back to sunny southern California.

New York Giants (3 - 8) 30 @ Jacksonville (1 - 10) 17: Which Giants team will we see this week? Can they play without turning the ball over and rout a bad team on the road, or will their mistakes give the Jags a chance to get their second win?

Cincinnati (7 - 3 - 1) 34 @ Tampa Bay (2 - 9) 21: I can’t seem to get a Bengals game right this season, so this one will probably be wrong too.

Oakland (1 - 10) 16 @ St. Louis (4 - 7) 24: The Raiders are better than their 1 - 10 record would indicate, but the Rams share the same trait. This might be the best game of the week that no one will see.

New Orleans (4 - 7) 26 @ Pittsburgh (7 - 4) 28: It’s unbelievable that the Saints are still tied for the NFC South lead at 4 - 7. But they are as they head to Heinz Field to take on an inconsistent Steeler team. Of course, Pittsburgh is in a playoff battle of their own.

Carolina (3 - 7 - 1) 19 @ Minnesota (4 - 7) 27: The Panthers have seemed to deteriorate as the season has progressed, yet they find themselves a half game behind the leaders in the NFC South. I’m not sure that’s enough to overcome the Vikings.

Arizona (9 - 2) 17 @ Atlanta (4 - 7) 27: Can the Cardinals head east behind a backup QB after a beat down by the Seahawks? I doubt it. The Falcons are looking to make a playoff run and this should be the week it starts.

New England (9 - 2) 30 @ Green Bay (8 - 3) 34: This is a pick ‘em game for me. These are the two hottest teams in the league and probably everyone’s picks to meet again in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are pretty much a lock in their division, but the Pack needs a win to stay ahead of the Lions. The experts point to the Patriots’ after-Thanksgiving record of 33 - 3 since 2010, but those all of those games weren’t at Lambeau Field.

Denver (8 - 3) 27 @ Kansas City (7 - 4) 30: EVERYONE loses the week after playing the Seahawks, and the Chiefs did just that on a short week on the road against the Raiders. I rarely go against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but they’re banged up and Kansas City is a tough place to play, especially when the Chiefs have ten days to prepare.


Miami (6 - 5) 27 @ New York Jets (2 - 9) 14: I’m pretty sure that ESPN would have flexed out of this game if they could have. This really isn’t the kind of matchup the network, the league and fans envision for Monday Night Football. But who knows, we may be surprised...at least the few that bother to tune in.

Friday, November 28, 2014

COLLEGE WEEK 14 SATURDAY PICKS

The top four teams all face in state rivals today, which can always wreak havoc as the season winds down. Florida State hosts Florida and Mississippi State travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss in the afternoon. By the time Oregon kicks off at Oregon State and the Iron bowl between Alabama and Auburn starts, we'll have a good idea of where a number of teams stand. With TCU's win at Texas, the Horned Frogs will be very interested spectators as a stumble by any of the leaders will most likely move them into playoff position. Although I may not pick any of them, my feeling is that at least one of the top contenders will lose Saturday, possibly opening the door for a two loss conference champion to sneak in to the mix.

Teams I think still have a chance, but are farther down in the rankings:


  1. (7) Baylor: By virtue of a head to head win over TCU, can possibly jump the Horned Frogs provided the Bears get by Texas Tech and Kansas State.
  2. (8) UCLA: A win against Stanford and the Bruins will get a shot at Oregon in the Pac-12 championship.
  3. (9) Georgia: They need for Missouri to lose, then a non-conference win over rival Ga. Tech today would send the Bulldogs into the SEC title game against either Alabama or Mississippi State with momentum and a 10 - 2 record.
  4. (13) Arizona State or (11) Arizona: A UCLA loss puts the winner of this game in the Pac-12 championship versus Oregon.


(15) Auburn (8 - 3) 17 @ (1) Alabama (10 - 1) 27: Auburn just hasn't been the same team in recent weeks that they were earlier in the season. The defense isn't stopping anyone and their offense is sputtering. Not a good combination heading into Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide.

(2) Oregon (10 - 1) 38 @ Oregon State (5 - 6) 20: The Beavers have lost five of their last six games, the only won coming against then #6 Arizona State. That easily gets in my list of inexplicable results of the 2014 season. Can they muster the same kind of effort against their big rival, #2 Oregon? I seriously doubt it.

Florida (6 - 4) 24 @ (3) Florida State (11 - 0) 28: This will be the last game for Gators' coach Will Muschamp. The 'Noles are looking increasingly beatable as the weeks go on. Florida has another one of those games on my inexpicable list by virtue of their 38 - 20 win over Georgia earlier this season. Although I think Jameis Winston and company are vulnerable, they still haven't lost in over two years, so until they do I'll stay with the ability of their QB to rally the troops to victory.

(4) Mississippi State (10 - 1) 23 @ (19) Ole Miss (8 - 3) 20: To possibly continue a dream season in Starkville, the Bulldogs have to defeat Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. After getting totally dismantled by Arkansas a week ago. the host Rebels will need to quickly regroup to end Mississippi State's chances of playing for the national championship, or even the SEC title, which in recent years tend to be one and the same. Too bad this game wasn't played six weeks ago. I have to go with Mississippi State, as I think they're just a little better team right now.

Michigan (5 - 6) 17 @ (6) Ohio State (10 - 1) 28: I can't imagine that Michigan coach Brady Hoke will be back next season, so this is likely his last game at the helm of the Wolverines. This is a big rivalry game, among the biggest in the country, but the disparity in the quality of these teams makes it tough to think the visitors can rise up and end Ohio State's playoff chances.

(7) Baylor (9 - 1) 45 @ Texas Tech (4 - 7) 24: Baylor needs to make a statement in this game. The team they need worry about is TCU, who already defeated Texas this weekend and put up 82 points in defeating Texas Tech earlier this season. I don't expect the Bears to take their foot off the pedal until the final whistle blows.

(16) Georgia Tech (9 - 2) 34 @ (9) Georgia (9 - 2) 31: The Yellow Jackets head seventy miles up the road with a four game winning streak where they've averaged a 43 - 16 victory. No matter what happens in this game, they will take on Florida State in the ACC title game. Georgia's schedule will depend on how Missouri fares against Arkansas, where a Tiger loss sends the Bulldogs to Atlanta to take on either Mississippi State or Alabama. Both teams have good running games but neither defend it very well. This is a great matchup.

(10) Michigan State (9 - 2) 27 @ Penn State (6 - 5) 13: Michigan State can't make it to the Big Ten championship, but can still finish off a good season by winning in State College. The Nittany Lions play solid defense, but their offense has a lot of trouble generating points.

Kansas (3 - 8) 17 @ (12) Kansas State (8 - 2) 37: Kansas State is still mathematically alive in the Big 12 race, but it would take a huge upset by Iowa State over TCU next week and a Wildcat victory at Baylor to make that happen. And Kansas, well...

(18) Minnesota (8 - 3) 24 @ (14) Wisconsin (9 - 2) 27: I have to say that I'm very surprised by Minnesota's staying power in the Big Ten race. Now they have a chance to advance to the title game against Ohio State. Put this game in Minneapolis, and I would probably lean their way. But at Camp Randall and with the way Eric Gordon can run the ball, I have to go with the Badgers in a close game.

South Carolina (6 - 5) 24 @ (21) Clemson (8 - 3) 30 :Rumors abound that this might be the last hurrah for Gamecocks' head coach Steve Spurrier. I don't necessarily believe that, but I know that even if it's true, the old ball coach has always thrived in rivalry games. Clemson hasn't beaten South Carolina since 2008 after taking six of the prior seven from the Gamecocks. Forgetting the history for a moment, I think this game will clearly hinge on South Carolina's defense.

Kentucky (5 - 6) 27 @ (22) Louisville (8 - 3) 34: Bobby Petrino is looking to close out the first year of his second stint with the Cardinals by keeping the Wildcats out of the bowl mix. I doubt Kentucky can keep up.

Utah State (9 - 3) 27 @ (23) Boise State (9 - 2) 31: I haven't been covering the Mountain West, with Boise State making the first league appearance in the top 25 this season. I think this is a pretty even game, but I'll give the nod to the home team playing on the blue turf.

(25) Utah (7 - 4) 30 @ Colorado (2 - 9) 21: The Utes have had a terrific season and should be able to finish it off at the expense of the hapless Buffaloes.

West Virginia (6 - 5) 35 @ Iowa State (2 - 8) 24: West Virginia might be the best 6 -5 team in the country. The Cyclones can be tough at home, but the Mountaineers are battle tested and have a lot of offensive firepower.

Notre Dame (7 - 4) 34 @ USC (7 - 4) 37: At the beginning of this season it looked like this game might be for a spot in the playoffs. But both teams have had a bad loss or two, so now it's just for pride in a big rivalry game. The Irish defense has been very porous of late, so I'll stick with the Trojans in the Coliseum.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

FRIDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS

None of the Friday games should impact the playoff lineup, unless UCLA advances to the Pac-12 championship game and springs an upset over Oregon. Even if that happens, a lot of other surprised will have to occur. I still have a feeling that a two loss team could challenge for the playoffs, but I'm not sure which one it will be. The Bruins are as good a pick as any at this point.

Missouri can get to the SEC championship with a win, but that won't be easy against a suddenly impenetrable Arkansas defense. If the Hogs knock off the Tigers, it sends Georgia to title game against either Alabama or Mississippi State. Just think if Alabama wins against Auburn, Mississippi State stumbles against Ole Miss and Georgia emerges as the SEC champ after beating the Tide. As the legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson used to say, "Whoa Nellie!"

Stanford (6 - 5) 17 @ (8) UCLA (9 - 2) 24: The Bruins win and they face Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Stanford is just trying to salvage a decent season after a disappointing year. The Cardinal defense is stout, but their offense has had trouble scoring against ranked opponents, averaging under 14 points in their five losses. I don't think they can put enough points on the board to spoil UCLA's championship hopes.

(13) Arizona St. (9 - 2) 28 @ (11) Arizona (9 - 2) 30: These teams will need to avoid scoreboard watching, as the winner unseats UCLA if the Bruins fall to Stanford. But that's just a little extra incentive to an already heated desert rivalry. These two teams are as closely matched as possible, with both teams losing to UCLA. The Sun Devils let the Pac-12 South get away with a meltdown at Oregon State and Arizona couldn't beat the other team from Southern California.  I'm just flipping a coin on this one.

Arkansas (6 - 5) 20 @ (17) Missouri (9 - 2) 6: Arkansas has shut out two consecutive ranked SEC teams. Not bad for a team that lost seventeen straight league contests. Now they look to take a crack at keeping the Tigers from clinching the SEC East. The Hogs still have an eight game road conference losing streak to break. Missouri doesn't have a great offense, and Arkansas's balanced attack is as big a reason for their resurgence as the defense.

Western Kentucky (6 - 5) 17 @ (24) Marshall (11 - 0) 37: The Thundering Herd finally cracked the committee's top 25, opening the possibility for them to crash the major bowl party. There's not a quality team on their schedule, but they've won them all and will surely win this one, too.

Virginia (5 - 6) 13 @ Virginia Tech (5 - 6) 16: When the powers that be decided to move this game to the end of the season, they were envisioning a little more on the line than a low level bowl played in mid-December in a cold weather city. For one of these teams it's the end of the season, for the other they get to head to the aforementioned post-season game, with the only real reward being an extra two weeks of practice to get ready for next year's campaign. Even though the 'Hoos surprised Miami last week, I still can't take them against my Hokies in the rivalry game.

Nebraska (8 - 3) 27 @ Iowa (7 - 4) 24: Nebraska has let a good season get away from them and again coach Bo Pelini is having to answer questions about the direction of the Cornhusker program. A loss at Iowa and he may not be asked to stick around for another season. However, despite their close defeat to Wisconsin last week, Iowa's 7 - 4 record was built with wins against non-quality opponents. I have to stay with Nebraska in this one.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Day College Football and NFL Picks

Thanksgiving used to be about eating as much turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie as possible and then settling in to watch the Lions lose and the Cowboys win. Now we have an extra NFL game as well as two or three college games to fit into the schedule. It makes it difficult to schedule a nap time.

College:

(5) TCU (9 - 1) 30 @ Texas (6 - 5) 27: I don't see how the Longhorns could have have any more motivation in this game than to end the season by knocking TCU out of playoff consideration and finishing with four straight victories and five wins in their last six games. Texas has held their last three opponents to an average of 12 points. That's no small feat in the Big 12. But TCU hasn't been held to less than 30 points this season, so while I really like what Charlie Strong has done the second half of the season at Texas, I think the Horned Frogs will win a very close and entertaining game.

LSU (7 - 4) 26 @ Texas A&M (7 - 4) 31: Both of these teams are struggling to get to the end of the season. For LSU, they need to find a way to score. For Texas A&M, they need to find a way to stop someone from scoring. What's interesting is that LSU will be able to score and A&M will probably be able to stop LSU. The question is whether LSU can stop Texas A&M's offense. I don't think so.

NFL:

Chicago (5 - 6) 16 @ Detroit (7 - 4) 24: The Lions haven't figured out how to get their offense going, but their defense should be able to give the Bears fits. After losing five of six games, Chicago got two 21 - 13 victories at home over two teams with a combined 6 - 16 record. Detroit should be able to stop Chicago enough times to get their offense in gear, especially given the Bears' porous pass defense.

Philadelphia (8 - 3) 34 @ Dallas (8 - 3) 28: This is not a great matchup for the Cowboys, one they have to deal with twice in the next three games. The problem for Dallas is that their pass defense is weak and the strength of the Eagles' offense is through the air. This will clearly be a case of whether the Cowboys can stay with Philadelphia in what will likely be a shootout, with neither defense playing particularly well. I'm going with the Eagles.

Seattle (7 - 4) 24 @ San Francisco (7 - 4) 17: The Seahawks dominated the Cardinals last week, so maybe they're kicking it into gear to make a playoff run. These teams are virtual mirror images of each other, with dominant defenses and run-oriented offenses. Looking at the tendencies, I have to favor the Seahawks because of their ability to score more points, even on the road.




NFLWEEK 12 PICKS RECAP

Not a bad week, but it could have been a lot better. The Texans surprised me by failing to beat the Bengals in Houston and the Cardinals disappointed in Seattle. With the bye weeks over, we return to a full 16 game schedule for next week’s games.

Last Week:    10 - 5        .667
Overall:     113 - 63 - 1   .641

Kansas City (7 - 3) 19 @ Oakland (0 - 10) 24:  Correct. This one got the picks off to a great start. I’m also in a point spread pool and I jumped out to a lead on the entire field and never looked back, clinching the week before the Monday night games ever started.  Oakland 24 - 20.

Cleveland (6 - 4) 27 @ Atlanta (4 - 6) 24: Correct. The Browns stayed in contention in the AFC North. The crazy thing is that Atlanta remained in the lead in the NFC South. Unbelievable.  Cleveland 26 - 24.

Tennessee (2 - 8) 20 @ Philadelphia (7 - 3) 30: Correct. The Eagles head into a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas with some renewed momentum. The Titans are going to be hard-pressed to find any silver linings to this season. Philadelphia 43 - 24.

Detroit (7 - 3) 24 @ New England (8 - 2) 33: Correct. The Patriots are on fire as they prepare to invade Green Bay for a night game in Lambeau. Something will have to give, as the Packers have been hot at home. The Lions need to find a way to generate some offense. New England 34 - 9.

Green Bay (7 - 3) 24 @ Minnesota (4 - 6) 20: Correct. I pretty much called this one on the button. The Packers scored their average for a road game and it was just enough to hld off Minnesota. They’ll probably need more than 24 to defeat the Patriots.  Green Bay 24 - 21.

Jacksonville (1 - 9) 17 @ Indianapolis (6 - 4) 34: Correct. I expected a lot more points from the Colts, but their defense stepped up keep the punchless Jags in check.  Indianapolis 23 - 3.

Cincinnati (6 - 3 - 1) 21 @ Houston (5 - 5) 27: No. The Mallet era didn’t last too long, with the former Razorback sustaining an injury in the loss to the inconsistent Bengals, who needed the win to keep pace in the incredibly competitive AFC North.  Cincinnati 22 - 13.

Tampa Bay (2 - 8) 17 @ Chicago (4 - 6) 30: Correct. The Bears looked pretty good, but they were playing a bad team. Next up they travel to Detroit for the early Thanksgiving Day game. Chicago 21 - 13.

Arizona (9 - 1) 23 @ Seattle (6 - 4) 20: No. I guess the Cardinals were due to have a bad game, or maybe it was time for the Seahawks to kick it in gear to make a playoff run. Seattle  19 - 3.

St. Louis (4 - 6) 24 @ San Diego (6 - 4) 23: No. I guess I should have stuck with my analysis instead of my gut. San Diego 27 -24.

Miami (6 - 4) 16 @ Denver (7 - 3) 28: Correct.  Denver’s still having some problems. mainly due to injuries. I’m not sure a good Miami team can get a playoff spot. Denver 39 - 36.

Washington (3 - 7) 27 @ San Francisco (6 - 4) 24: No. A friend of mine suggested that the weekend had a conspiracy theory feel to it, but not the way I predicted. Suddenly, the NFC West is tight.  San Francisco 17 - 13.

Dallas (7 - 3) 30 @ New York Giants (3 - 7) 24: Correct. I can’t comment on this game without mentioning Beckham’s incredible catch. If you didn’t see, it’s worth searching for. As for the outcome, not a big surprise, setting up a big showdown in Dallas with the Eagles. Dallas 31 - 28.

New York Jets (2 - 8) 17 @ Buffalo (5 - 5) 23 in Detroit: Correct. The strange week ended in the Bills’ favor, but like the Dolphins, they’re facing an uphill climb to the playoffs. Buffalo 38 - 3.

Baltimore (6 - 4) 27 @ New Orleans (4 - 6) 31: No. Not a good pick. I went with the Saints’ at home, despite their consecutive defeats in the Superdome. The Ravens made it a clean sweep for the AFC North in this week’s games.  Baltimore 34 - 27.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 13 PICKS RECAP AND PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

There were a lot of big games last week, but none resulted in any big moves near the top of the playoff standings. I missed five games, and three of them were ACC games. Considering I’m a follower of the conference, this is just a little confounding to me.

Florida State escaped again, but unlike the rest of the top teams, they haven’t yet failed to close. I happen to think that’s a great accomplishment, considering three of those wins are against ranked opponents. I’m still surprised that the committee still has Mississippi State in the mix, but if the top four win out, it appears they’ll face Alabama in a semifinal.

My picks for the top four remained unchanged, with Alabama still on top. However, if Arkansas defeats Missouri, the Tide will be facing Georgia in Atlanta for the SEC championship. As good as the Tide is at home, they can be equally mediocre on the road. Of course that close win at Arkansas looks a bit better, considering the Razorbacks’ late run this season.

1.      Alabama
2.      Oregon
3.      Florida State
4.      TCU

Last Week:   20 - 5    .800
Overall:      213 - 81  .722



Kansas State (7 - 2) 27 @ West Virginia (6 - 4) 23: Correct. The Wildcats can still play a big role in the Big 12 race as they end the season at Baylor. Kansas State 26 - 20.

North Carolina (5 - 5) 27 @ Duke (8 - 2) 28: No.  The Blue Devils have pretty much tanked near the end of the season. A probable spot in the ACC Championship game disappeared with losses at Virginia Tech and then getting smoked by the Tar Heels. North Carolina 45 - 20.

Western Carolina (7 - 4) 13 @ (1) Alabama (9 - 1) 38: Correct. Not much to comment on with this one. 48 - 14.

Colorado (2 - 8) 20 @ (2) Oregon (9 - 1) 42: Correct. Oregon smacked around a lesser opponent, but at least they easily won a game they were supposed to. Oregon 44 - 10.

Boston College (6 - 4) 23 @ (3) Florida State (10 - 0) 34: Correct.  Boston College has made a habit of late season upsets over the last thirty years. They almost pulled off another one. Close but no cigar. Florida State 20 -17.

Vanderbilt (3 - 7) 17 @ (4) Mississippi State (9 - 1) 30: Correct.  If you ever want to discount the value of a good head coach in college football, look no farther than James Franklin’s departure from Vanderbilt to go to Penn State.  Mississippi State 51 - 0.

Indiana (3 - 7) 16 @ (6) Ohio State (9 - 1) 41: Correct. This one was a lot closer than the final score for most of the game. The Michigan rivalry game is the only thing standing between the Buckeyes and a slot in the conference championship game. Ohio State 42 - 27.

Oklahoma State (5 - 5) 24 @ (7) Baylor (8 - 1) 38:  Correct. The Bears continued to stay in the hunt for the playoffs. Wins against Texas Tech and Kansas State could force the committee to consider their win over TCU as a tiebreaker, if necessary. Baylor 49 - 28.

(8) Ole Miss (8 - 2) 24 @ Arkansas (5 - 5) 27: Correct.  Talk about a team that just needed one statement win to get untracked! The Hogs pulled off a historic win to post back to back shutouts, the first time a team has done that in over 70 years.  Arkansas 30 - 0.

(19) USC (7 - 3) 20 @ (9) UCLA (8 - 2) 23: Correct.  I think what’s interesting is that there is a lot of football left to be played and the Bruins are in a position to win the Pac-12 South, beat Oregon in the Pac-12 championship and then see what happens. UCLA 38 - 20.

Charleston Southern (8 - 3) 20  @ (10) Georgia (8 - 2) 41: Correct. A great tuneup for Georgia Tech, or maybe not. Georgia 55 - 9.

Rutgers (6 - 4) 17 @ (11) Michigan State (8 - 2) 30: Correct. The Spartans seemed to take out a lot of frustration on Rutgers.  Michigan State 45 - 3.

Washington State (3 - 7) 27 @ (13) Arizona State (8 - 2) 44: Correct. The Sun Devils will be big Stanford fans to beat UCLA, but it won’t matter if they can’t beat Arizona. Arizona State 52 - 31.

Samford (7 - 3) 20 @ (14) Auburn (7 - 3) 47: Correct. Auburn doesn’t seem to be hitting on all cylinders. They better get their act together before taking on Alabama. Auburn 31 - 7.

(15) Arizona (8 - 2) 23 @ (17) Utah (7 - 3) 24: No. The Wildcats’ beat down of Utah kept a number of scenarios alive in the Pac-12 South. Arizona 42 - 10.

(16) Wisconsin (8 - 2) 34 @ Iowa (7 - 3) 21: Correct. The Badgers didn’t overwhelm the Hawkeyes, but still stayed alive in the Big Ten West, and can advance to the championship game with a win over Minnesota. Wisconsin 26 - 24.

(20) Missouri (8 - 2) 30 @ Tennessee (5 - 5) 21: Correct. No surprise here. The Tigers have a big challenge to overcome suddenly tough Arkansas to get to the SEC championship game against either Alabama and Mississippi State.  Missouri 29 - 21.

Kansas (3 - 7) 17 @ (21) Oklahoma (7 - 3) 34:  Correct. Could Bob Stoops be headed to Florida? I’m thinking he’s definitely on AD Jeremy Foley’s short list. Oklahoma 44 - 7.

Georgia State (1 - 9) 14 @ (22) Clemson (7 - 3) 37: Correct. Just a date with in-state rival South Carolina is left in the Tiger’s season. Clemson 28 - 0.

(25) Minnesota (7 - 3)  28 @ (23) Nebraska (8 - 2) 30: No. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was asked this week what direction the Cornhusker program was headed. If they could have figured out a way to close out the game against the Golden Gophers, the answer might have been a bit easier.  Minnesota 28 - 24.

(24) Louisville (7 - 3) 37 @ Notre Dame (7 - 3) 30: Correct. If Brian Kelly is going to get the Irish back in the national picture, they better get tougher and faster on the defense. Pretty soon, they’ll be replacing service academies with ACC teams.  Louisville 31 - 28

Virginia Tech (5 - 5) 26 @ Wake Forest (2 - 8) 16: No. This was a just plain ugly game. Wake Forest 6 - 3  2 OT.

Miami (6 - 4) 31 @ Virginia (4 - 6) 21: No. I have no idea Virginia where this came from, except that the Hurricanes must have had a huge letdown from their loss to Florida State. For Virginia coach Mike London, the win apparently resulted in another season at the helm of the Cavaliers. Virginia 30 - 13.

Maryland (6 - 4) 24 @ Michigan (5 - 5) 23: Correct. The Terrapins seem to be headed in the right direction.  Maryland 23 - 16.

Oregon State (5 - 5) 23 @ Washington (6 - 5)  34:  Correct.  I have good news and bad news for the Beavers: They can still become bowl eligible, but they have to beat Oregon.  Washington 37 - 13.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

NFL WEEK 12 PICKS

Cleveland (6 - 4) 27 @ Atlanta (4 - 6) 24: The Browns stumbled at home last week in a game they really needed to win. Four of their last six are on the road as they head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. This is an interesting pick as neither team has exhibited overpowering offenses, so the matchups will be important. The Brown give up a lot of yards on the ground, but the Falcons don't have a very effective running game.

Tennessee (2 - 8) 20 @ Philadelphia (7 - 3) 30: The Eagles looked pathetic last week, but then again the Packers are making a lot of teams look pathetic over the last few games. Tennessee's offense is pretty anemic, so I don't expect them to be able to keep up with Philadelphia.

Detroit (7 - 3) 24 @ New England (8 - 2) 33: Without Reggie Bush, the Lions are much more limited on offense, not a good thing when going against one of the hottest teams in the league. The Patriots have scored at least 37 points in five games in their six games winning streak.

Green Bay (7 - 3) 24 @ Minnesota (4 - 6) 20: Can Aaron Rodgers take his dominating offensive show on the road? This season's performance would indicate no. The Packers are averaging almost 44 points in Lambeau Field and barely 20 away from that storied venue. That's a huge difference. Minnesota is eighth in the league against the pass, but gave up 42 points in a loss at Green Bay in week 5.

Jacksonville (1 - 9) 17 @ Indianapolis (6 - 4) 34: Indianapolis leads the league in passing yards while Jacksonville is 26th in the league against the air attack. That doesn't add up very well for the visiting Jags.

Cincinatti (6 - 3 - 1) 21 @ Houston (5 - 5) 27: Ryan Mallett made his QB debut for Houston last week to mixed reviews. Of course the most important thing is that the Texans got a big win over Cleveland as Mallett went 20 of 30 with a couple of TD's.

Tampa Bay (2 - 8) 17 @ Chicago (4 - 6) 30: The Bucs don't have a good offense and they have a bad defense. That pretty much sums up why they're 2 - 8. But amazingly, they find themselves only a couple of games out of the division lead. The Bears righted their listing ship last week and I think they'll continue some progress today.

Arizona (9 - 1) 23 @ Seattle (6 - 4) 20: The Cardinals were the only team to knock off Seattle at home last season.This year they're third against the run, and that's the strength of the Seahawks. This game is all about whether one believes that the Seahawks can impose their will on the Cardinals defense. Only Peyton Manning has been able to do that.

St. Louis (4 - 6) 24 @ San Diego (6 - 4) 23: The Rams haven't been able to follow up a win with another one this season. The Chargers have also been inconsistent, losing three in a row after reeling off five straight wins. An unimpressive victory against the Raiders ended the skid, but their problems aren't over. My head says take the Chargers at home, but something is tugging at me to go with the Rams.

Miami (6 - 4) 16 @ Denver (7 - 3) 28: The Broncos' road to the Super Bowl has hit a couple of speed bumps...okay, maybe more like roadblocks. They host Miami, a team that happens to be the second best against the pass in the league. However, Peyton Manning and company are virtually unbeatable at home, where they haven't played in a month.

Washington (3 - 7) 27 @ San Francisco (6 - 4) 24:The Niners are coming off two road wins, taking on a Washington team mired in controversy. Losses to Chicago and St. Louis have marred what could be an impressive record for San Francisco. Can the Redskins pull a big upset after the turmoil of the last week? I'm going with the visitors in my conspiracy theory special of the week.

Dallas (7 - 3) 30 @ New York Giants (3 - 7) 24: This is as close to a "throw the records out the window" game as you can get in the NFL. These teams just don't like each other and the Giants really have nothing to lose by pulling out all of the stops against the Cowboy. But when the second leading rushing team faces the leagues worst run defense, well, bad things can happen.

New York Jets (2 - 8) 17 @ Buffalo (5 - 5) 23 in Detroit: What a strange week in Buffalo, ending up in the Bills moving their home game against division rival Jets to Detroit. The Jets aren't particularly good and the Bills are trying to rally for a playoff spot.

Baltimore (6 - 4) 27 @ New Orleans (4 - 6) 31: The Saints have lost two in a row at home and I don't think they'll lost another one to make it three game skid. If they do, it will be the first time a division had a leader that is three games under .500.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 13 PICKS

Several SEC teams are playing bye weeks disguised as FCS football teams. Kirk Herbstreet, on ESPN's College Gameday, suggested that these games shouldn't be played and that the teams should be penalized. I tend to agree, except the SEC is one of the few conferences to play league games in the first week or two of the season. Auburn, who is playing Samford today, opened the season against western division foe Arkansas. Georgia, who hosts Charleston Southern, opened their schedule with Clemson and South Carolina. And Clemson isn't in the ACC, but they opened against Georgia and host recent a recent FBS addition, 1 - 9 Georgia State. So while I tend to agree with Kirk, it's difficult to fairly criticize a team for playing the same teams late in the season that other FBS schools played in August and early September.

Now regarding the games that matter this week:

Western Carolina (7 - 4) 13 @ (1) Alabama (9 - 1) 38: Really? The top team in the College Football Playoff rankings plays a school from the FCS in the heat of the race. I'm hoping this type of game will go away in the coming years. It would serve the Tide right if the Catamounts pulled the upset of the century.

Colorado (2 - 8) 20 @ (2) Oregon (9 - 1) 42: The Ducks are on a roll and Colorado doesn't have enough for me to even consider giving them a chance to pull an upset.

Boston College (6 - 4) 23 @ (3) Florida State (10 - 0) 34: If this game was being played in Boston, I might see an upset coming, not much different than the one they pulled over USC. But at home, the 'Noles should be able to outlast the Eagles, even if it takes another comeback from Jameis Winston.

Vanderbilt (3 - 7) 17 @ (4) Mississippi State (9 - 1) 30: I know Vanderbilt doesn't bring much to the table, but the Bulldogs are coming off a huge loss. Fortunately, this one's in Starkville and Mississippi State still has a lot to play for. They're number four and if they win out, it would appear that they'll be in the final four.

Indiana (3 - 7) 16 @ (6) Ohio State (9 - 1) 41: The Buckeyes are 34 point favorites over the Hoosiers, and probably need an impressive win to stay in the playoff hunt. I don't have them getting in the final four, but a stumble or two from the incumbents and they're in as long as they keep winning.

Oklahoma State (5 - 5) 24 @ (7) Baylor (8 - 1) 38: The Bears are on the outside looking in at the moment, but strange things happen in the final two or three weeks of college football Saturdays. As long as Baylor keeps winning, things could break their way. As for the Cowboys, they need a win over either Baylor or Oklahoma to get to a bowl game.

(8) Ole Miss (8 - 2) 24 @ Arkansas (5 - 5) 27: The Razorbacks finally ended their 17 game SEC losing streak. Now the Rebels head into Fayetteville with the stingiest scoring defense in the country. Unfortunately, they're giving up 175 yards a game on the ground, the strength of Arkansas' attack. This game comes down to whether the Hogs can stop Ole Miss enough to come away with a win. I think they can.

(19) USC (7 - 3) 20 @ (9) UCLA (8 - 2) 23: When I was growing up, this was such a cool game to watch. Sunny southern California juxtaposed against the dreary weather of late autumn in Virginia. And those cheerleaders...Okay, I digress. I no longer watch for the cheerleaders, but now it's the sunny southern California skies against the now southern midwest dreary weather. What was once O.J. Simpson and Gary Beban is now Cody Kessler and Brett Hundley. I'll be watching, you know, for the game, the players...

Charleston Southern (8 - 3) 20  @ (10) Georgia (8 - 2) 41: Come on now. See the Alabama game...

Rutgers (6 - 4) 17 @ (11) Michigan State (8 - 2) 30: While Michigan State is still mathematically in the Big Ten East race, it will take a miracle for them to unseat Ohio State. Rutgers, despite it's bowl eligible record, hasn't been competitive against quality opponents.

Washington State (3 - 7) 27 @ (13) Arizona State (8 - 2) 44: Arizona State stumbled in a big way last week against Oregon State, but I don't expect it to happen two games in a row, especially since Sun Devils return home to take on the Cougars.

Samford (7 - 3) 20 @ (14) Auburn (7 - 3) 47: This is just getting old...

(15) Arizona (8 - 2) 23 @ (17) Utah (7 - 3) 24: Believe it or not, even with three conference losses, Utah is still alive in the Pac-12 South. A USC win over UCLA would end those hopes, but as of this writing, both of these teams are playing for a potential title. I really like Utah to upset the Wildcats in Salt Lake City.

(16) Wisconsin (8 - 2) 34 @ Iowa (7 - 3) 21: Despite their impressive record, Iowa hasn't really beaten anyone of any consequence. Beating up on the Purdue's, Illinois' and Indiana's doesn't really stack up against Wisconsin's impressive run of the last few weeks, capped by a destruction of Nebraska last week.

(20) Missouri (8 - 2) 30 @ Tennessee (5 - 5) 21: I heard someone on ESPN predicting that Tennessee would roll over Missouri. Really? I'm assuming that was based on a 50 - 16 win over a mediocre Kentucky team. Missouri has methodically run off wins, with the exception of a total gaff against Indiana.

Kansas (3 - 7) 17 @ (21) Oklahoma (7 - 3) 34: The Jayhawks were able to put a scare into TCU last week, but that wasn't in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners are just on the outside of the large group of one and two loss teams, but still very dangerous. There's really nothing wrong with a 9 - 3 season and probably the appearance in a warm weather bowl game.

Georgia State (1 - 9) 14 @ (22) Clemson (7 - 3) 37: Maybe Clemson got confused about which Atlanta team they were playing last week, mistaking Georgia Tech for their crosstown newcomers. Well, probably not, but I'm still looking for a reason that the Tigers got rolled by Georgia Tech.

(25) Minnesota (7 - 3)  28 @ (23) Nebraska (8 - 2) 30: Nebraska was humbled by Wisconsin last week, while Minnesota gave Ohio State all they could handle in a 31 - 24 loss. The outcome of this game hinges on how well the 'Huskers can put the badger game behind them and realize they still have a shot, however long it is, at the Big Ten West title. I'm going with Nebraska, but not all that confidently.

(24) Louisville (7 - 3) 37 @ Notre Dame (7 - 3) 30: Notre Dame headed to Tallahassee on October 18 with a top ten ranking and an undefeated record. Since then, they've lost three of four and are reeling a little bit. Actually, the signs for this swoon was evident in a 50 - 43 win over North Carolina in the game before the big showdown with the 'Noles. I don't like the trend in South Bend.

Virginia Tech (5 - 5) 26 @ Wake Forest (2 - 8) 16: After  upsetting Duke last week, the Hokies have their twenty-second consecutive bowl appearance clearly in sight. They head to Winston-Salem with renewed defensive energy against a team coming off six consecutive losses, with only one of them where the Demon Deacons were competitive.

Miami (6 - 4) 31 @ Virginia (4 - 6) 21:Virginia got off to a 4 - 2 start and stood atop the ACC Coastal division until a four game losing streak put them on the verge of bowl ineligibility. It also puts Mike London's head coaching job in jeopardy. Even though the Hurricanes are coming off a tough loss to Florida State, I don't see the Cavs stopping Miami running back Duke Johnson.

Maryland (6 - 4) 24 @ Michigan (5 - 5) 23: Neither of these teams has a quality win and Maryland has been overwhelmed by the best four teams on their schedule. Michigan's season, most likely its last one under coach Brady Hoke, has been devoid of anything impressive. This is a tough pick, but for some reason I like Maryland to go into the Big House and steal one from the Wolverines.

Oregon State (5 - 5) 23 @ Washington (6 - 5) 34: The Beavers pulled off a huge comeback upset over Arizona State last week, but a lot of that was because the Sun Devils let down late in that one. The Huskies are probably back on the rise in the Pac-12 and can't afford to lose to a team they should beat.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

THURSDAY NIGHT COLLEGE AND NFL FOOTBALL PICKS

NFL:

Kansas City (7 - 3) 19 @ Oakland (0 - 10) 24:  As I look at the Raiders' schedule, this may be their  best chance to avoid a winless season except perhaps a week 16 game where they host the Bills. The Chiefs face a short week after a really tough game against the Seahawks. It's difficult for me to predict that Oakland can pull the upset, but after my abysmal prognostications last week, I'm throwing caution to the wind and going with the home team on a Thursday night. Teams coming off games with the Seahawks tend to have a difficult time physically recovering, and in this case the Chiefs have a short week and have to make the trip to the west coast.

College:

Kansas State (7 - 2) 27 @ West Virginia (6 - 4) 23: Despite a loss to TCU in their last game, K-State remains in the thick of the Big 12 race. Ordinarily a Thursday night game in Morgantown would seem like a slam dunk for the Mountaineers, but the Wildcats have had 12 days to recover and prepare. My first inclination was to go with West Virginia, but I believe  Bill Snyder's troops are too good to lose two in a row, especially to a team that really has to rely on outscoring opponents, especially elite teams Even though K-State give up over 40 at TCU, I think they'll rebound to hold off West Virginia in what could be a very good football game.

North Carolina (5 - 5) 27 @ Duke (8 - 2) 28: North Carolina only has to travel about eight miles for this one, so it really doesn't qualify as a road game, particularly since the Blue Devils usually have about 17 fans in what they try to call a stadium. Carolina blue will be the dominant color as Duke attempts to come back after a sloppy loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday. This is a pretty big rivalry, although the football version pales in comparison to what occurs in hoops. But this game carries a lot of importance in the ACC Coastal, where another loss eliminates the Blue Devils and hands the crown to Georgia Tech. North Carolina is trying to become bowl eligible with a win tonight or over N.C. State next week. Following a four game losing streak, the Tar Heels have won three out of four. Duke will need to shake off the disappointment from Saturday and get focused on stopping a high-powered Carolina attack. I like Duke to flex its defensive muscle and get enough points from its offense to eke out an important win.

WEEK 11 NFL PICKS RECAP

Some football coaches choose to burn the game film after a particularly bad week. That's what I'm going to do here. I don't think I've had a worse week since I began this blog. So hopefully I can just move on to this week and forget about games like what the Rams were able to do to Denver and how the Bucs were able to dominate the Redskins. Enough already!

Last Week: 5 - 9
Overall:103 - 58 - 1

Thursday:

Buffalo (5 - 4) 21 @ Miami (5 - 4) 27: Correct.  Miami 22 - 9.

Sunday:

Seattle (6 - 3) 17 @ Kansas City (6 - 3) 20: Correct.  Kansas City 24 - 20.

Atlanta (3 - 6) 24 @ Carolina (3 - 6 - 1) 27: No.  Atlanta 19 - 17.

Cincinnati (5 - 3 - 1) 23 @ New Orleans (4 - 5) 28: No.  27 - 10.

Tampa Bay (1 - 8) 17 @ Washington (3 - 6) 23: No. Tampa Bay 27 - 7.

Denver (7 - 2) 31 @ St. Louis (3 - 6) 20: No.  St. Louis 22 - 7.

San Francisco (5 - 4) 24 @ New York Giants (3 - 6) 28: No. San Francisco 16 - 10.

Minnesota (4 - 5) 23 @ Chicago (3 - 6) 20: No.  Chicago 21 - 13.

Houston (4 - 5) 17 @ Cleveland (6 - 3) 24: No.  Houston 23 - 7.

Oakland (0 - 9) 24 @ San Diego (5 - 4) 30: Correct. San Diego 13 - 6.

Detroit (7 - 2) 26 @ Arizona (8 - 1) 23: No.  Arizona 14 - 6.

Philadelphia (7 - 2) 27 @ Green Bay (6 - 3) 31: Correct. Green Bay 53 - 20.

New England (7 - 2) 27 @ Indianapolis (6 - 3) 30: No. New England 42 - 20.

Pittsburgh (6 - 4) 27 @ Tennessee (2 - 7) 17: Correct. Pittsburgh 27 - 24.




COLLEGE WEEK 12 FOOTBALL PICKS RECAP

There were more than a few upsets this week. Fortunately, I maintained a pretty good season record by predicting my share. Arkansas finally broke their record 17 game SEC losing streak. I couldn't get the Arizona teams right, but I got my other two Pac-12 picks correct. My Hokies held on to defeat number 21 Duke, keeping alive their efforts to get to their 22nd consecutive bowl game. And in the big one, Alabama prevailed against Mississippi State, probably securing a spot in this week's top four.

My prediction for playoffs remains the same, despite TCU's lackluster performance at Kansas. I would be tempted to go with Mississippi State to advance, but they still have to travel to Ole Miss at the end of the season. I also believe it's unlikely that the committee will advance a team that doesn't even win their division, much less a conference championship. A number of scenarios still exist, even one that allows a two-loss team in the mix. Can you imagine if Georgia defeats Alabama or even Mississippi State in Atlanta for the SEC championship? What happens then? Do you think the committee will leave the SEC champ out in favor of Ohio State, perhaps? A lot of questions, not many answers. The committee gave some indication of their assessment of the relative strength of the SEC by keeping Mississippi State in their top four this week. Does that mean if everyone wins out, the Big 12 and Big Ten champs get left out? Hmmm.....
  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State
  4. TCU
Now here's the recap of the week's action:

East Carolina (6 - 2) 38 @ Cincinnati (5 - 3) 27: No. The Pirates have totally lost their early season mojo. Now Tommy Tubberville has the Bearcats in the hunt for the American title. Cincinnati 54 - 46.

California (5 - 4) 31 @ USC (6 - 3) 40: Correct. Cal made a nice comeback, but the Trojans held on and by virtue of Arizona State's collapse against Oregon State, find themselves in front in the Pac-12 South. USC 38 - 30.

Saturday:

(1) Mississippi State (9 - 0) 16 @ (5) Alabama (8 - 1) 20: Correct. I never had the idea that the Tide was ever in trouble, despite the Bulldogs' comeback. As I had predicted, it just looked like Alabama had been there before and it took some time for Mississippi State to adjust.  Alabama 25 - 20.

(3) Florida State (9 - 0) 27 @ Miami (6 - 3) 24: Correct. This story is getting a little old: Florida State falls behind early and Jameis Winston makes some big plays to bring them back for a late win. This one looked like all Hurricanes until the 'Noles decided they needed to kick it into gear. Florida State 30 - 26.

(4) TCU (8 - 1) 37 @ Kansas (3 - 6) 13: Correct. TCU definitely had a letdown, but as predicted, Kansas just isn't quite strong enough to take advantage. Unfortunately, the close win dropped the Horned Frogs from the top four. TCU 34 - 30.

(6) Arizona State (8 - 1) 34 @ Oregon State (4 - 5) 20: No. This was a big stumble for a team that I thought had a real shot to challenge Oregon in the Pac-12 and even advance to the playoffs. No way now. They may still challenge the Ducks, but they can forget the playoffs. Oregon State 35 - 27.

(8) Ohio State (8 - 1) 26 @ (25) Minnesota (7 - 2) 17: Correct. The Buckeyes picked up a win on the road against an opponent with a good record, but it's a foregone conclusion that they'll advance to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. They' inched up to sixth in the committee rankings, so if they win out, they have a chance. Ohio State 31 - 24.

(9) Auburn (7 - 2) 34 @ (15) Georgia (7 - 2) 38: Correct. Auburn finally had a poor offensive effort and their defense just isn't good enough to overcome that. This performance by the Bulldogs makes the loss to Florida even more of an enigma. I have to wonder what happens if Mississippi State wins out and Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC championship game. Georgia 34 - 7.

(12) Michigan State (7 - 2) 26  @ Maryland (6 - 3) 21: Correct.  The Spartans bounced back nicely against a pretty good Maryland team on the road. But unless the Ohio State team bus gets lost on its way to the Horseshoe, I don't see how the Michigan State can do much more than get in a nice bowl game. Michigan State 37 - 15.

(17) LSU (7 - 3) 20 @ Arkansas (4 - 5) 24: Correct. I couldn't have pegged this one any better. It was a perfect storm for LSU. Will this be the catalyst for a resurgence in the Razorback program? It could be. Woo Pig Sooie!! Arkansas 17 - 0.

Northwestern (3 - 6) 17 @ (18) Notre Dame (7 - 2) 30: No.The Irish just let this one get away. There is no question which team is better, but the Wildcats just seemed to want it a little more. Brian Kelly's questionable call to go for two didn't help, but Notre Dame is left to wonder where their season went so wrong. Northwestern 43 - 40 OT.

Washington (6 - 4) 27 @ (14) Arizona (7 - 2) 26: No. I got this score right, but the teams were wrong. Washington probably should have prevailed. Their clock management at the end was also suspect. Arizona 27 - 26.

(16) Nebraska (8 - 1) 23 @ (20) Wisconsin (7 - 2) 27: Correct. I felt that the Badgers had the edge in this game, but they really poured it on against the Huskers. It's still a four team race in the Big Ten West, but Wisconsin controls their own destiny and leads by a game on Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Wisconsin 59 - 24.

(19) Clemson (7 - 2) 31 @ (22) Ga. Tech (8 - 2) 27: No. Georgia Tech completed its ACC schedule by flattening the Tigers. It didn't help Clemson that they lost their QB in the first half, but the Yellow Jackets looked impressive in the win. After a week off, they take on Georgia in what turns out to be a fairly significant game on the national level. And another loss by Duke puts Tech in the ACC championship game against currently unbeaten Florida State. Georgia Tech 28 - 6.

Virginia Tech (4 - 5) 24 @ (21) Duke (8 - 1) 23: Correct. The Hokies survived late mistakes and clock management issues to upset Duke and move one win away from extending the longest active bowl streak to 22 years. Duke, after jumping out to what looked like an insurmountable 10 - 0 lead, struggled against the suddenly revitalized but banged up Tech defense. Virginia Tech 17 - 16.

(23) Utah (6 - 3) 27 @ Stanford (5 - 4) 24: Correct. The Utes took a big step in establishing their credibility in the Pac-12 with a victory in this defensive tussle. Utah 20 - 17 2 OT

Missouri (7 - 2) 34 @ (24) Texas A&M (7 - 3) 27: Correct.  The Tigers rode a big third quarter to a victory on the road in a tough place to play, putting them in position to control their own destiny in the SEC East. However, a trip to Tennessee and a home finale against Arkansas stand between them and a date with either Alabama or Mississippi State. Missouri 34 - 27.

Texas (5 - 5) 34 @ Oklahoma St. (5 - 4) 27: Correct. The Longhorns became bowl eligible in a season that began without a lot of promise of postseason play. Meanwhile, the Cowboys fell for the fourth game in a row, with #7 Baylor and #21 Oklahoma still left to play. Texas 28 - 7.

Iowa (6 - 3) 37 @ Illinois (4 - 5) 28: Correct. I got this one pretty much right all the way, except that I thought the Illini would put a few more points on the board. Iowas hasn't beaten any winning teams, so the season ending games against Wisconsin and Nebraska could be tough. Iowa 30 - 14.

South Carolina (4 - 5) 38 @ Florida (5 - 3) 34: Correct. Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier didn't just pull out a tight win over the Gators, he chased good friend and Florida coach Will Mushchamp out of a job at the end of the season. Muschamp should land somewhere as a defensive coordinator, but he can make some noise by getting bowl eligible and taking on Florida State to end the season. South Carolina 23 - 10 OT.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

WEEK 11 NFL FOOTBALL PICKS

 There is a lot of separation in the league now, with eleven teams having three or less wins after ten weeks. On the flip side, eighteen teams had winning records entering the weekend (Buffalo has since lost, falling to 5 - 5). It's now about jockeying for playoff position or trying to secure a first round bye and homefield advantage through the playoffs.

Thursday (from an earlier post):

Buffalo (5 - 4) 21 @ Miami (5 - 4) 27: The Bills took down the Dolphins in week 2, but this is week 11 and the game is in Miami, where the Fins dismantled the Chargers before losing a close one at Detroit last week. Buffalo has lived by their defense all season, allowing more than 23 points just one time in a 37 - 22 loss to New England, hardly anything to be embarrassed about. But it's a short week, a long trip and Miami's defense is as solid as the Bills'. I'll take the home team in this one, but it has the potential to be close deep into the fourth quarter. 

Seattle (6 - 3) 17 @ Kansas City (6 - 3) 20: After a rough start, Kansas City has won 6 of their last seven games. The Seahawks have a three game winning streak but haven't been as impressive as last year's Super Bowl winning team. Their defense has still been impressive, as has Kansas City's. Both these run the ball well and defend the pass. I wouldn't expect this to be a high scoring affair, particularly given the weather conditions.

Atlanta (3 - 6) 24 @ Carolina (3 - 6 - 1) 27: Cam Newton has been beaten up and as a result, isn't making quite the best decisions. The defense is also getting shredded, but after four consecutive losses, they should be able to hold off the disappointing Falcons in Charlotte.

Cincinnati (5 - 3 - 1) 23 @ New Orleans (4 - 5) 28: The Saints have been trying to make a comeback  and the Bengals are trying to shed their inconsistency. New Orleans is a touchdown and extra point favorite, a little inexplicable given the differences in their records. But New Orleans is usually pretty tough at home, and Cincinnati has suffered their worst defeats on the road.

Tampa Bay (1 - 8) 17 @ Washington (3 - 6) 23: A couple of years ago, the Redskins made an impressive run to get into the playoffs. If they're going to make a similar run, it will need to start today at Fed Ex Field. I don't know if that's possible, but a win over the Bucs is

Denver (7 - 2) 31 @ St. Louis (3 - 6) 20: It's probably a foregone conclusion that the Broncos will be in the playoffs. Now they're playing to make sure the path to the Super Bowl runs through Denver. The Rams can be tough at home, but unless you're Seattle or New England, they're probably not good enough to defeat Manning.

San Francisco (5 - 4) 24 @ New York Giants (3 - 6) 28: Every once in a while the Giants pull off a win you wouldn't expect. I think one of those might be today.

Minnesota (4 - 5) 23 @ Chicago (3 - 6) 20: The Bears really couldn't have looked any worse last week, but I expect a lot better play against the Vikings. But Minnesota's defense is playing pretty well, so I like them to add insult to the Bears' misery.

Houston (4 - 5) 17 @ Cleveland (6 - 3) 24: Ryan Mallett gets his first start for the Texans, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's been waiting a long time for this chance, but Cleveland will a tough place for his debut.

Oakland (0 - 9) 24 @ San Diego (5 - 4) 30: I don't have a good explanation for how San Diego went from Super Bowl contender to, well, kind of awful. They should still win, but eventually the Raiders will break through.

Detroit (7 - 2) 26 @ Arizona (8 - 1) 23: A great defensive front against a backup QB is not a great matchup in the NFL, at least not for the replacement. I'll go with the Lions in a mild upset. Of course, should the Cardinals' Drew Stanton withstand the pressure, we'll have a good indication if Arizona can continue their winning ways despite the loss of Carson Palmer.

Philadelphia (7 - 2) 27 @ Green Bay (6 - 3) 31: The Eagles are six point underdogs even though they have a better record. But there are a lot of reasons to go with the Packers, particularly the QB's. Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers, Philadelphia has a still untested Mark Sanchez, at least with the Eagles. If Sanchez can go mistake free, then he may pull the upset. I say close, but probably no cigar.

New England (7 - 2) 27 @ Indianapolis (6 - 3) 30: After a big loss against Kansas City, the Patriots ran off five impressive wins, four of them at home, before their bye week. Now they head to Indy to begin a tough stretch of games that includes Detroit next week followed by visits to Green Bay and San Diego. The Colts are favored by three, so I'm thinking the wise guys in Vegas know something I don't.

Pittsburgh (6 - 4) 27 @ Tennessee (2 - 7) 17: All of Pittsburgh's losses have come on the road, not a good sign for the Steelers. They'll need to play a much cleaner game they did against the Jets last week, or they'll be looking at a fifth road loss. I think they'll rebound and get Big Ben back on track.




Friday, November 14, 2014

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 12 PICKS

Even though we're approaching the wire in the college football season, nothing has really been decided. So much can change, or it can stay the same. On today's ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning show, there was a great debate about whether the playoff should be expanded to sixteen teams. I have to agree with Mike Greenberg who feels that it would ultimately diminish the regular season. My opinion has always been that the right number is eight, with the five power conference champions advancing with three at large teams. I even reference this scenario in my book "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" that takes place over ten years in the past. This would in no way take away from the weekly drama of the regular season. For instance, this week's Alabama - Mississippi State game would still be just as important, as would Florida State - Miami, TCU - Kansas, Ohio State - Minnesota and so on. Sixteen is too many and would make the games I just mentioned less meaningful, with as many as three teams getting in from some conferences. Now for my picks.

Thursday (from an earlier blog):

East Carolina (6 - 2) 38 @ Cincinnati (5 - 3) 27: ECU's loss to Temple in their last game took them out of the running for a major bowl, but they still have a lot to play for.  There are currently four teams in the American Conference with one loss and a lot of football left to be played. The conference doesn't have a championship game and there is not a round robin schedule, so there are some interesting possibilities for ties at the top of the standings. After getting thrashed in three straight games, Cincinnati has rebounded by winning their last three contests. ECU basically handed the game to Temple, committing numerous turnovers and losing the game despite holding the Owls to under 200 yards of offense. I like the Pirates speed on the outside to scorch the Bearcats and get ECU back on the winning track.

California (5 - 4) 31 @ USC (6 - 3) 40: Cal can really score and USC has one of the better defenses in the Pac-12. Something will have to give tonight and it will most likely be the Golden Bears' defense. However, if it's a shootout, anything could happen. I still like USC's balance and overall their defense should be better enough than Cal's to prevail. In addition, the Trojans are still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South crown, with a win setting up a big showdown with UCLA next week.

Saturday:

(1) Mississippi State (9 - 0) 16 @ (5) Alabama (8 - 1) 20: Obviously this is the game of the week. No extra hype is required. The winner stays in the playoff hunt and the loser, especially if it's Alabama, will be on the outside looking in. I think a one-loss Mississippi State team could still be in the mix, especially if Alabama stumbles and the Bulldogs win the SEC championship. I know the Tide has looked lethargic on offense at times this season, but Nick Saban has cut his teeth on these games and frankly, Mississippi State is new to the dance.

(3) Florida State (9 - 0) 27 @ Miami (6 - 3) 24: It's been awhile since Miami has been relevant in the ACC...oh, wait, they haven't been relevant since joining the league. No conference championships, not even a Coastal Division crown. Even with a win over the Seminoles, they would still need significant assistance to meet Florida State again in Charlotte for the title. The 'Canes have developed a strong running game to complement a solid defense. The 'Noles have cobbled together an undefeated record with close wins over Clemson and Notre Dame, neither of which were deserved in the eyes of many. I still find it difficult to go against Florida State as long as they have the one thing no one else has: Jameis Winston at QB.

(4) TCU (8 - 1) 37 @ Kansas (3 - 6) 13: If TCU was traveling to almost anywhere else, I could make a case for a letdown after their big win over Kansas State. But the Jayhawks haven't shown that they have close to what it will take to upset the Horned Frogs.

(6) Arizona State (8 - 1) 34 @ Oregon State (4 - 5) 20: The Sun Devils used five Notre Dame turnovers to rout the Irish last week. Oregon State is mired in a four game losing streak, three of them at home. There have been times when the Beavers were an upset machine at home, but this group can't seem to stop anyone, and Arizona State still has a lot to play for. With some of the wild finishes to college football seasons in recent years, they're still very much in the playoff mix.

(8) Ohio State (8 - 1) 26 @ (25) Minnesota (7 - 2) 17: Until their big win over Iowa last week, the Golden Gophers hadn't beaten an FBS team with a winning record. Of course, Iowa still hasn't, so despite those glossy records and competing for the Big Ten West title, anyone outside of Nebraska and Wisconsin are pretenders in that division. Even with a  bit of a letdown, the Buckeyes should have more than Minnesota can handle, even in bad weather in Minneapolis.

(9) Auburn (7 - 2) 34 @ (15) Georgia (7 - 2) 38: What a great game that will determine if the Bulldogs stay in contention in the SEC East. They should have suspended RB Todd Gurley back in action and are looking to take advantage of what has become a porous Auburn defense. Georgia is the only SEC East team to record a win over a team from the other SEC division, but that was against last place Arkansas, who hasn't recorded an SEC win in over two years. If they hope to make it 2 - 0 against the West, they'll need to find a way to control the ball, which they can do. For Auburn, it's about somehow coming up with some defensive stops. I don't think they can.

(12) Michigan State (7 - 2) 26  @ Maryland (6 - 3) 21: Maryland has been able to win some games this season without gaining a lot of yards. Despite getting gashed by Ohio State last week and Oregon earlier in the season, the Spartans still have a formidable defense that shouldn't be overwhelmed by the Terrapins. I think they'll bounce back, even on the road in a very hostile environment.

(17) LSU (7 - 3) 20 @ Arkansas (4 - 5) 24: Thirty degrees at kickoff, a chance of winter precipitation, a young, talented team hungry for a league win, an opponent from the warm weather and coming off a brutal overtime loss...it really couldn't stack up any better for an Arkansas team that always plays their rivals tough. The Hogs probably should have won at least two conference games, maybe three, and I think they'll finally break through against LSU, giving coach Bret Bielema his first SEC victory.

Northwestern (3 - 6) 17 @ (18) Notre Dame (7 - 2) 30: As much as Mike Greenberg of ESPN's Mike and Mike show is pulling for his alma mater, his co-host's former school has a much better chance at victory. Irish coach Brian Kelly told a national radio audience this morning that his team gave the game to Arizona State last week, and he's right on target. Five turnovers against a very good team on the road will spell defeat on almost every occasion. The fact is that Notre Dame is just plain better than a young Northwestern team and will take care of business on Saturday.

Washington (6 - 4) 27 @ (14) Arizona (7 - 2) 26: Upsets get a little less frequent late in the season, but this is one I just have a feeling about. Washington hasn't beaten a ranked team and Arizona has played as well as anyone in the Pac-12, with just two close losses and a win at Oregon. But call me crazy...

(16) Nebraska (8 - 1) 23 @ (20) Wisconsin (7 - 2) 27: I've thought for a few weeks that the Cornhuskers have been unnoticed and underrated. They have a win against Miami and their lone loss was by less than a touchdown on the road at Michigan State. But Wisconsin has been on a roll since an inexplicable loss at Northwestern. They give up just over fourteen points a game, which ranks third in the nation. The winner will have a leg up in the Big Ten West race. I have to give the Badgers the edge in Camp Randall.

(19) Clemson (7 - 2) 31 @ (22) Ga. Tech (8 - 2) 27: This is the last of the matchups between ranked teams. Clemson is all but eliminated from the ACC Atlantic race, needing Florida State to lose to Miami and Boston College in its final conference games for the Tigers to have a chance. A Tiger loss wraps up a spot in the ACC championship game for the 'Noles. On the other side of the league, Georgia Tech also needs to win and get a lot of help. The Yellow Jackets need Duke to lose and Miami to win, forcing anything but a two way tie with the Blue Devils. Not likely, considering Duke's opponents have a combined record of 10 - 17 and none of them have a winning record. If it appears that I'm doing a lot of writing and avoiding making a pick, it's because I'm doing a lot of writing and avoiding making a pick. Georgia Tech hasn't beaten a team with a winning record since defeating Miami in Week 6. Clemson has won six in a row since losing to Florida State in OT. I'll take the Tigers... finally.

Virginia Tech (4 - 5) 24 @ (21) Duke (8 - 1) 23: My Hokies have lost five of their last seven since shocking Ohio State in the Horseshoe. Only one loss was by more than a touchdown, an embarrassing loss to Miami where the team appeared to quit. If Va. Tech is going to show up, this would be the week. Frank Beamer's teams have appeared in 21 consecutive bowl games, and with games left at Wake Forest and at home versus rival Virginia, a loss to Duke would mean they would need to sweep their final two to keep the streak alive. This is a pure homer pick despite what is obviously Duke's superior team.

(23) Utah (6 - 3) 27 @ Stanford (5 - 4) 24: Stanford is clearly not as strong as in recent seasons. Utah has clearly shown the ability to not only compete, but win in the Pac-12. I just think the Utes have too much for the home team.

Missouri (7 - 2) 34 @ (24) Texas A&M (7 - 3) 27: I'm a bit surprised that the Aggies re-emerged at number 23 in the committee's ranking this week, after a gift from Auburn. Missouri was ranked earlier in the season and with only two losses, I would think they might garner more consideration. That probably speaks more to the opinion of the SEC East than the Tigers themselves. In addition, their two losses were ugly: To a 3 - 6 Indiana and then a 34 - 0  drubbing at the hands of a Georgia team playing without suspended running back Todd Gurley. Texas A&M, barring a miracle comeback to beat Arkansas in overtime, would have dropped four in a row to SEC West opponents. I just don't like the Aggie defense and Missouri has straightened things out since the Georgia loss. I can't believe I'm picking two SEC teams over the West.

Texas (5 - 5) 34 @ Oklahoma St. (5 - 4) 27: These are two teams headed in distinctly different directions. Charlie Strong's Longhorns have shaken off some early season criticism to even their record at 5 - 5, needing a win in one of their last two games to get into a bowl. Considering that their final game is against TCU, Texas ' best chance at the post season is win in Stillwater against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State had the misfortune of a backloaded schedule where Baylor and Oklahoma still remain. I like Texas to get bowl eligible, leaving OSU with a lot of work to do.

Iowa (6 - 3) 37 @ Illinois (4 - 5) 28: Illinois beat Minnesota who drilled Iowa, therefore Illinois should beat Iowa, right? Not really. As much as I'm not a real believer in Iowa, the Illini really can't stop anyone, so I'll go with the Hawkeyes.

South Carolina (4 - 5) 38 @ Florida (5 - 3) 34: Oh my, the old ball coach against his former team...again. So outside of their stunning win over Georgia at the world's largest outdoor cocktail party, Florida has beaten 2 - 7 Eastern Michigan, 5 - 5 Kentucky in the Swamp in 3 overtimes, 4 - 5 Tennessee by a point and 3 - 7 Vanderbilt. Along the way they lost at Alabama by three touchdowns, then to LSU by three points and Missouri by twenty-nine, both at home. South Carolina isn't much better, but Florida's record doesn't warrant much enthusiasm about a big turnaround. I'll take Spurrier to find a way to stick one to the Gators.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

THURSDAY NIGHT NFL AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS

There's plenty of action tonight with three good games on the slate. In the American, ECU will be trying to get back on the winning track and stay in contention, along with Cincinnati, in the race for the conference championship. Cal visits USC in the L.A. Coliseum, where there will probably be plenty of work for the scoreboard operator as the Trojans try to stay alive in the Pac-12 South. And in the NFL, a big AFC East matchup will take place in Miami, one of the few warm places in the country today.

College:

East Carolina (6 - 2) 38 @ Cincinnati (5 - 3) 27: ECU's loss to Temple in their last game took them out of the running for a major bowl, but they still have a lot to play for.  There are currently four teams in the American Conference with one loss and a lot of football left to be played. The conference doesn't have a championship game and there is not a round robin schedule, so there are some interesting possibilities for ties at the top of the standings. After getting thrashed in three straight games, Cincinnati has rebounded by winning their last three contests. ECU basically handed the game to Temple, committing numerous turnovers and losing the game despite holding the Owls to under 200 yards of offense. I like the Pirates speed on the outside to scorch the Bearcats and get ECU back on the winning track.

California (5 - 4) 31 @ USC (6 - 3) 40: Cal can really score and USC has one of the better defenses in the Pac-12. Something will have to give tonight and it will most likely be the Golden Bears' defense. However, if it's a shootout, anything could happen. I still like USC's balance and overall their defense should be better enough than Cal's to prevail. In addition, the Trojans are still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South crown, with a win setting up a big showdown with UCLA next week.

NFL:

Buffalo (5 - 4) 21 @ Miami (5 - 4) 27: The Bills took down the Dolphins in week 2, but this is week 11 and the game is in Miami, where the Fins dismantled the Chargers before losing a close one at Detroit last week. Buffalo has lived by their defense all season, allowing more than 23 points just one time in a 37 - 22 loss to New England, hardly anything to be embarrassed about. But it's a short week, a long trip and Miami's defense is as solid as the Bills'. I'll take the home team in this one, but it has the potential to be close deep into the fourth quarter.

WEEK TEN NFL PICKS RECAP

There was really only one big surprise last week, with the Jets somehow finding a way to get a win against the red-hot Steelers. Other than that, the power teams did what they were supposed to, win going away as the second half of the season moved into full swing.

Last Week:     10 - 3
Overall:       98 - 49 - 1

Thursday:

Cleveland (5 - 3) 24 @ Cincinnati (5 - 2 - 1) 27: No. The Bengals are just too inconsistent to envision them getting to or making a run in the playoffs. The Browns are just hanging around in that very competitive division. Cleveland 24 - 3.

Sunday:

Kansas City (5 - 3) 24 @ Buffalo (5 - 3) 20: Correct. I like the Chiefs, especially since the Chargers appear to be hitting the skids. Kansas City 17 - 13.

Miami (5 - 3) 24 @ Detroit (6 - 2) 27: Correct. The Lions have a couple of tough games coming up, but it's the season-ending game at Green Bay that could be for the division. Detroit 20 - 16.

Dallas (6 - 3) 27 vs. Jacksonville (1 - 8) 17 in London: Correct. It appears the Cowboys are back in gear, now that Romo is behind center again. We'll have to see how long that lasts. Dallas 31 - 17.

San Francisco (4 - 4) 24 @ New Orleans (4 - 4) 30: No. Just when it looked like an NFC South team might get over .500, the Saints gave the Niners an early lead and couldn't get a big play to pull out the win. San Francisco 27 - 24 OT.

Tennessee (2 - 6) 24 Baltimore (5 - 4) 27: Correct. The Ravens continue to play good defense as they head into their bye week. Baltimore 21 - 7.

Pittsburgh (6 - 3) 30 @ New York Jets (1 - 8) 20: No. I have no idea where this one came from. The Steelers totally laid an egg and lost a chance to gain a small advantage in the tight AFC North. New York Jets 20 - 13.

Atlanta (2 - 6) 27 @ Tampa (1 - 7) 26: Correct. I continue to be surprised at how badly the Bucs are playing. They just have too much talent to be 1 - 8. Atlanta 27 - 17.

Denver (6 - 2) 27 @ Oakland (0 - 8) 17: Correct. No surprise here. Peyton just keeps putting pints on the board. Denver 41 - 17.

St. Louis (3 - 5) 16  @ Arizona (7 - 1) 24: Correct. Even without an injured Carson Palmer, the Cards look like a playoff team. With their starting QB, they looked like a Super Bowl team. Arizona 31 - 14.

New York Giants (3 - 5) 24@ Seattle (5 - 3) 30: Correct. Speaking of Super Bowl teams, I wouldn't count the Seahawks out, especially if that defense get its act together. Seattle 38 - 17.

Chicago (3 - 5) 23 @ Green Bay (5 - 3) 31: Correct. What can anyone say about the embarrassing performance by the Bears? Even Packer QB Aaron Rodgers could tell Chicago quit on their coaching staff. Green Bay 55 - 14.

Monday:

Carolina (3 - 5 - 1) 21 @ Philadelphia (6 - 2) 31: Correct. Could Mark Sanchez have found new life in an Eagles uniform? I need to see him against a better team than the Panthers, and I won't have to wait long as he leads his team into Lambeau to take on the Packers. Philadelphia 45 - 21.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 11 PICKS RECAP AND PLAYOFF PREDICTION

The list of playoff contenders is either shrinking or growing, depending on your perspective. Some would say Ohio State's victory over Michigan State eliminated the Big Ten from consideration for a spot. Others would say it further solidified the Buckeyes as a potential candidate, provided they can get past a surprising Minnesota team this weekend. Auburn's fumbling away of their game with Texas A&M eliminated another SEC West team from the mix, but the Tigers can still play a significant role in the conference with games at Georgia and against Alabama in the Iron Bowl to end the regular season. I believe it's totally within reason that the SEC is left out of the playoff, particularly if winning the conference is part of the criteria to get in. The SEC West could find itself with no one-loss teams at the end of the season. That would certainly cause some uproar.

Some other teams are starting to make some noise, particularly TCU, Baylor and Oregon. Florida State continues to remain undefeated, despite what many would call the latest in a number of lackluster efforts. It's tough to see the committee leaving them out if they win out, especially since it would mean victories over Miami, Florida and either Duke or Ga.Tech in the ACC championship game. I don't carry any weight with the committee, so I won't try to rank the teams at this point in the season. However, I have my own prediction as to who will be in the playoffs when the announcement is made on Dec. 7. Sorry Big Ten, but you need to get more competition within the conference or better wins outside of it.
  1. Oregon
  2. Florida State
  3. Alabama
  4. TCU
 Of course, one game can topple my listings, but I've watched a lot of football games and the eye test works for these teams. Some may wonder where Mississippi State is, but this list is based on the prediction that Alabama defeats the Bulldogs this week and then goes on to capture the SEC title, including a win over Auburn. Should this week's game go the other way, then I would have to lean toward Mississippi State, possibly as a number one seed.

Now let's see how things went last week.

Last Week:  17 - 4
Overall:     178 - 71

Thursday (from a previous post):

(21) Clemson (6 - 2) 23 @ Wake Forest (2 - 6) 9: Correct (spread) The Tigers are most likely eliminated from the ACC Atlantic race, barring a monumental collapse by Florida State. But they'll have a say in who represents the Coastal when they take on a hot Ga. Tech team this week. Clemson 34 - 20.

Saturday:

UT-Martin (5 - 5) 13 @ (1) Mississippi State (8 - 0) 38: Correct. No comment. Miss. St. 45 - 16.

Virginia (4 - 5)  20 @ (1) Florida State (8 - 0) 27: Correct. Once again, the 'Noles struggled at times, but a two touchdown victory isn't all that bad. Next up is Miami. Florida St. 34 - 20.

Texas A&M (6 - 3) 28 @ (3) Auburn (7 - 1) 37: No. I predicted it would take a heroic defensive effort for the Aggies to win. Instead it just took some lucky bounces. Texas A&M 41 - 38.

(4) Oregon (8 - 1) 30 @ (17) Utah (6 - 2) 24: Correct. The Ducks went into a hostile environment against a good team and won going away. Oregon has already clinched the Pac-12 North and will have to really stumble to keep from making it to the conference championship game with only one loss. It's a wide open race to see who they'll face. Oregon 51 - 27.

(5) Alabama (7 - 1) @ 24 (16) LSU (6 - 2) 23: Correct. All I can say is it was great to watch a terific football game. The Tide came back from the dead, a tribute to the coaches and the players for not giving up after almost fumbling the game away in the final couple of minutes. Alabama 20 - 13 OT.

(7) Kansas State (7 - 1) 28 @ (6) TCU (7 - 1) 30: Correct. Even though this win was at home, I believe this really established the Horned Frogs as the leader in the Big-12, despite their 61 - 58 loss to Baylor. Their win over now 7 - 2 Minnesota looms large, a non-conference quality win that Baylor can't claim. TCU 41 - 20.

(14) Ohio State (7 - 1) 24 @ (8) Michigan State (7 - 1) 27: No. Despite cries from experts to the contrary, the Buckeyes' home loss to now 4 - 5 Virginia Tech will probably weigh big in the minds of the playoff committee members. Wins over Navy, Kent State and Cincinnati will fail to impress. Ohio State 49 - 37.

(10) Notre Dame (7 - 1) 27 @ (9) Arizona State (7 - 1) 31: Correct. The Sun Devils could be on a collision course with Oregon, provided they get past Oregon State, Washington State and archrival Arizona. I'm not so sure about that last one. Arizona State 55 - 31.

Presbyterian (5 - 4) 6 @ (11) Ole Miss (7 - 2) 38:  Correct. Why bother? Ole Miss 48 - 0. 

(12) Baylor (7 - 1) 34 @ (15) Oklahoma (6 - 2) 38: No. Despite what I said about TCU, Baylor is making their own case for the playoffs. But without a key non-conference win, TCU should still get the nod. Beside, the Bears still need to get past Kansas State in the season finale. Baylor 48 - 14.

(18) UCLA (7 - 2) 27 @ Washington (6 - 3) 20: Correct. UCLA is making a late season push and hold the tie-breaker over Arizona State by virtue of their 62 - 27 win over the Sun Devils. UCLA 44 - 30.

Colorado (2 - 7) 23 @ (19) Arizona (6 - 2) 34: Correct. The Wildcats need to win out and hope they don't end up in a three way tie with UCLA and Arizona State. In that scenario, the Bruins would win the division by virtue of their wins over the other two teams. Arizona 38 - 20.

(20) Georgia (6 - 2) 27 @ Kentucky (5 - 4) 21: Correct. The Bulldogs still have to be wondering what went wrong against Florida, or we would be discussing their chances of getting into the playoff with an SEC title. Georgia 63 - 31.

(22) Duke (7 - 1) 30 @ Syracuse (3 - 6) 17: Correct. It will be interesting to see how far the Blue Devils rise in the latest committee rankings. Unfortunately, they won't have another chance to make a big impression with three sub-.500 teams left before a potential date with Florida State in the ACC championship game. Duke 27 - 10.

(23) West Virginia (6 - 3) 37 @ Texas (4 - 5) 20: No.  Don't look now, but Charlie Strong may have Texas headed in the right direction a little earlier than would have been thought a few weeks ago. West Virginia probably had a bit of a TCU loss hangover. Texas 33 - 16.

(24) Ga. Tech (7 - 2) 31 @ NC State (5 - 4) 23: Correct.  The Yellow Jackets will get a couple of chances to end the season on a very high note, even if they don't win the ACC Coastal. Clemson and Georgia loom large. Georgia Tech 56 - 23.

(25) Wisconsin (6 - 2) 30 @ Purdue (3 - 6) 16: Correct.  Not much of a surprise as the Badgers stay in the hunt in the Big Ten West, setting up a big game with Nebraska on Saturday. Wisconsin 34 - 16.

Louisville (6 - 3) 30 @ Boston College (6 - 3) 24: Correct.  Louisville, after an opening win against Miami, had higher aspirations than a third place finish in the ACC Atlantic. But Bobby Petrino has the Cardinal poised for future success. We'll see for sure when they face Notre Dame on Nov. 22 after a week off. Louisville 38 - 19.

Iowa (6 - 2) 23 @ Minnesota (6 - 2) 31: Correct. The Golden Gophers' 7 - 2 record is impressive, but now they get Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin to close out the  regular season. I don't like their chances of finishing 10 -2. Minnesota 51 - 14.

Florida (4 - 3) 20 @ Vanderbilt (3 - 6) 13: Correct.  Florida still has a mathematical chance at finishing in a tie for the SEC East, which would be quite an accomplishment given the way they started the season. A win over Florida State, a 7 - 3 record and a possible appearance in the SEC championship game would probably be enough for Florida AD Jeremy Foley to bring back head coach Will Muschamp.  Florida 34 - 10.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

WEEK TEN NFL PICKS

Most teams are beginning the second half of the season this week, with the cream of the league beginning to rise to the top. New England has a bye following their big win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but they've clearly positioned themselves as a top contender in the AFC. The AFC North is a logjam and could go down to the final weekend, while the NFC North lacks a team with a winning record.

Thursday:

Cleveland (5 - 3) 24 @ Cincinnati (5 - 2 - 1) 27: (From an earlier post): All of a sudden, the AFC North is a real dogfight. The four teams in the division are separated by just a game and a half as we get to the second half of the season. A Bengals' win would give them a sweep of the rest of the division in their first meetings, and put them a leg up in the tiebreaker. Both of these clubs have won their last two, looking to maintain some momentum. Statistically, they're similar, but the Bengals' two losses were blowouts to New England and Indianapolis, both on the road. Cincinnati is a different team at home and I expect them to keep that trend going tonight.

Kansas City (5 - 3) 24 @ Buffalo (5 - 3) 20: This is a good test for both teams as they begin the second half of the season. The Bills are a surprise, the Chiefs aren't. I'll go with the road team here.

Miami (5 - 3) 24 @ Detroit (6 - 2) 27: The Dolphins have suddenly emerged as a playoff contender in the AFC. Detroit is supposed to have Calvin Johnson back in the lineup, not a good sign for Miami.

Dallas (6 - 3) 27 vs. Jacksonville (1 - 8) 17 in London: Tony Romo is listed as probable, but it shouldn't make a difference in who wins, just in the final margin of victory.

San Francisco (4 - 4) 24 @ New Orleans (4 - 4) 30: A tough pick, but the homestanding Saints have taken the lead in the beleaguered NFC South. The Superdome is always a difficult place to play, but especially when the home team is on a roll.

Tennessee (2 - 6) 24 Baltimore (5 - 4) 27: The Ravens find themselves in last place in the very competitive AFC North, so they need to win one the're supposed to keep pace. They should be able to do that against a Titans team that hasn't been able to generate any momentum this season.

Pittsburgh (6 - 3) 30 @ New York Jets (1 - 8) 20: Can Big Ben maintain the incredible passing pace of the last two weeks? The Jets are pretty much done for the season, so I think he can.

Atlanta (2 - 6) 27 @ Tampa (1 - 7) 26: Even though these teams are hopelessly under .500, a run could get them into contention in the division. It's time for Atlanta to start winning, or Falcons' head coach Mike White will be looking for a new home after the season.

Denver (6 - 2) 27 @ Oakland (0 - 8) 17:I expect the Broncos to bounce back, but it won't be a cakewalk against winless Oakland. The Raiders don't look like a team that will go 0 - 16, but I doubt they'll break through today.

St. Louis (3 - 5) 16  @ Arizona (7 - 1) 24: The Cardinals can put their stamp on the division this afternoon. The Rams are tough, but Arizona has too much speed, especially playing at home in the desert.

New York Giants (3 - 5) 24@ Seattle (5 - 3) 30: The Giants have the knack to suddenly show up and play a great game. Maybe that will be today, but it still won't be enough to take down the Seahawks at home.

Chicago (3 - 5) 23 @ Green Bay (5 - 3) 31: Bears' QB Jay Cutler has never won in Green Bay, and the way Chicago is playing doesn't give any indication that his first one will be today. The Packers have caught fire, and are playing great with the exception of last week's performance at New Orleans.

Monday:

Carolina (3 - 5 - 1) 21 @ Philadelphia (6 - 2) 31: The Eagles are poised to keep their lead in the NFC East. The Panthers just haven't been hitting on all cylinders and Philadelphia isn't a great place to play when you need a tune up.

Friday, November 7, 2014

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 11 PICKS

You may or may not agree with the playoff format, but one thing that can't be disputed is the excitement it brings to every week of the college football season. The list of playoff contenders should be whittled further this week, with three games matching one-loss teams and four others where one loss teams face significant challenges. The Big 12 will continue to be more defined, or more muddled, depending on the outcomes Saturday. The Big Ten race, at least in the East, will definitely take shape as Ohio State heads to Michigan State to take on the Spartans. Meanwhile, out west, Oregon travels to Utah in an attempt to put its stamp on the Pac-12 North. And of course, we'll see if Auburn and Alabama can continue to stay alive in their battle to catch Mississippi State in the SEC West.

Thursday (from a previous post):

(21) Clemson (6 - 2) 23 @ Wake Forest (2 - 6) 9: There have been seasons in the recent past where Wake Forest could have been competitive in this game, but the Demon Deacons look more like the Errant Elders. They've managed a paltry 37 points in their four consecutive ACC losses. Clemson is on a five game wining streak, but their offense has sputtered in the last two games. They should still have enough firepower to down the Deacs. The Tigers are still mathematically in contention for the ACC Atlantic crown, but they'll need Florida State to drop a couple of conference games. Not likely, but strange things happen in college football as the season winds down.

Saturday:

UT-Martin (5 - 5) 13 @ (1) Mississippi State (8 - 0) 38: I'm not particularly in favor of how the SEC teams play these cupcake teams in the middle of the conference schedule. This shouldn't be much of a problem for the Bulldogs.

Virginia (4 - 5)  20 @ (1) Florida State (8 - 0) 27: It was Virginia that handed the Seminoles their first ever ACC loss back in the late '90's. The Cavaliers looked impressive earlier in the season, but now have faltered. As long as FSU doesn't look ahead to Miami, they should be able to get past the 'Hoos.

Texas A&M (6 - 3) 28 @ (3) Auburn (7 - 1) 37: The Aggies will be without suspended starting QB Kenny Hill, but they may not lose much effectiveness offensively. Their problem is definitely on the other side of the ball. Auburn has been slowed down, but not stopped very often this season. It will take a heroic defensive effort for A&M to pull the upset.

(4) Oregon (8 - 1) 30 @ (17) Utah (6 - 2) 24: The Ducks are the most impressive non-SEC team I've watched. But Utah has played very well at times, especially at home. This is a tricky one for Oregon, but their speed should win it for them.

(5) Alabama (7 - 1) @ 24 (16) LSU (6 - 2) 23: Talk about your big games! A resurgent LSU team hosts the premier program of the last several years with a playoff berth potentially hanging in the balance for the Tide. LSU lost a Saturday night game to Mississippi State, the effort that vaulted the Bulldogs into national prominence. Since a loss to Ole Miss and a lackluster performance at Arkansas, Alabama has played with renewed focus.

(7) Kansas State (7 - 1) 28 @ (6) TCU (7 - 1) 30: From a rankings perspective, this is the game of the week. The Big 12 is still wide open, with Kansas State, the front runner, with games left at West Virginia and Baylor remaining following this one at TCU. For TCU, with wins already against the top teams in the conference, a victory would be a huge hurdle to cross. This is one of the toughest picks of the season. K-State has done it all year with defense, while TCU has flat outscored people, except when they gave up 61 in a loss to Baylor.

(14) Ohio State (7 - 1) 24 @ (8) Michigan State (7 - 1) 27: From a national standpoint, this may be the highest profile game. With the perceived weakness of the Big Ten, a win by either team positions them for a spot in the conference title game and perhaps a berth in the playoffs. A loss by either team would most likely eliminate them from further playoff consideration. I really like Michigan State's defense, which I think will be the difference in a close contest.

(10) Notre Dame (7 - 1) 27 @ (9) Arizona State (7 - 1) 31: In a premier top ten matchup, the Fighting Irish head to Sun Devil Stadium to take on Arizona State with both teams still in contention for a playoff spot. This is one of many potential elimination games and perhaps the last chance for Notre Dame to impress the committee with a victory over a top ten opponent. The Sun Devils' lone blemish, a blowout loss to UCLA, would look like less of a liability with a win over the Irish. Another very difficult pick, but I'm concerned with the points Notre Dame has given up in recent weeks,

Presbyterian (5 - 4) 6 @ (11) Ole Miss (7 - 2) 38:  Why bother? They can add the Methodists and Baptists and still couldn't beat the Rebels. Unfortunately, the Catholics are otherwise occupied in Arizona.

(12) Baylor (7 - 1) 34 @ (15) Oklahoma (6 - 2) 38: The day kicks off in Norman with a dandy. The Sooners are seven points from being undefeated, both losses coming against top ten TCU and Kansas State. I like Oklahoma in this one for a couple of reasons, 1) their schedule has been much tougher than Baylor's and 2) they're playing at home. Baylor is first in scoring, but SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo, Iowa State and Kansas aren't exactly the SEC West.

(18) UCLA (7 - 2) 27 @ Washington (6 - 3) 20: The Bruins have underperformed this season, but they put together a gem in defeating Arizona last week. Now they head to Seattle to face a dangerous Washington team that has yet to beat a ranked opponent. I don't think that will end this week, with UCLA flexing its newly found defensive muscle.

Colorado (2 - 7) 23 @ (19) Arizona (6 - 2) 34: The Wildcats need to recover from a disappointing loss to UCLA. They should be able to push the Buffaloes around the field and get back on the winning track.

(20) Georgia (6 - 2) 27 @ Kentucky (5 - 4) 21: Georgia's loss to Florida last week opened the door for Missouri to repeat as SEC East champs. But with Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas still to play, a loss for the Tigers is likely. The Bulldogs have to win out in the SEC, not an easy task with Auburn  invading Athens next week. This is a clear trap game for Georgia and an opportunity for Mark Stoops to get a signature win and become bowl eligible.

(22) Duke (7 - 1) 30 @ Syracuse (3 - 6) 17: Duke is sitting behind seven two loss teams in the committee's rankings. I would think coach Cutliffe could use that as motivation this week. The Blue Devils control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal and I don't really see anyone left that will challenge this very balanced squad.

(23) West Virginia (6 - 3) 37 @ Texas (4 - 5) 20: The Mountaineers will have to put a tough loss behind them as they head to Austin to take on the Longhorns. Texas beat Texas Tech last week, but scoring against the Red Raiders, well, isn't, you know, very difficult. In fact, the Longhorns helped the Texas Tech points against average by only putting up 34 points. West Virginia should bounce back.

(24) Ga. Tech (7 - 2) 31 @ NC State (5 - 4) 23: Georgia Tech is still in the running for the ACC Coastal crown, but they'll need some help. A tie with Duke by themselves would eliminate the Yellow Jackets, so either the Blue Devils need to lose at least twice or there needs to be a three-way tie for Ga. Tech to have a chance. But first they have to defeat NC State in Raleigh, a team that hasn't really been competitive against winning teams.

(25) Wisconsin (6 - 2) 30 @ Purdue (3 - 6) 16: The Badgers are considerably better than they're 6 - 2 record would suggest. That loss to Northwestern is still a little inexplicable. With the division still up for grabs, I expect to see a dominating performance from Wisconsin.

Louisville (6 - 3) 30 @ Boston College (6 - 3) 24: Both teams are bowl eligible, but this is more about positioning for the future. I have to go with Louisville, although I like the job Boston College has done this season.

Iowa (6 - 2) 23 @ Minnesota (6 - 2) 31: Both of these teams are flying significantly under the radar, yet the winner of this game remains in contention for the Big Ten West crown. That's the good news. The bad news is neither has played Wisconsin or Nebraska. Or is THAT the good news?

Florida (4 - 3) 20 @ Vanderbilt (3 - 6) 13: Florida can become bowl eligible with a couple of wins, but I'm not sure that will be enough to save coach Will Muschamp's job, unless of course the Gators pull off the upset of the year and take down the Seminoles to end the season. Vandy is trying to stay competitive, but it's not working that well.