"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 29, 2015

VIRGINIA TECH ANNOUNCES JUSTIN FUENTE AS NEW HEAD COACH

Reports surfaced during the Virginia Tech - University of Virginia game broadcast on Saturday and were later confirmed on Sunday with Virginia Tech's official announcement that Memphis head coach Justin Fuente would be succeeding the legendary Frank Beamer. As a Hokie fan, I have to say that the hire is very good. Fuente was the offensive coordinator at TCU when Andy Dalton, now a successful quarterback with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, set records at the Fort Worth school. Fuente has re-energized a Memphis program and brings an offensive mindset to Virginia Tech, something that has been sorely lacking in the Hokie attack for several years.

In addition to the hiring of Fuente, it was also announced that longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster, considered by many to be the best at his job in college football, would be remaining on the staff. Shane Beamer, the retiring coach's son, is also being retained, although his role was not announced. I have no confirmation of, but it is easy to speculate that keeping Foster and Beamer was part of the deal that any incoming coach would need to accept. Frank Beamer has repeatedly said, including on at two occasions during and following yesterday's game, that he has great respect for his staff.

Looking ahead, I can't help but think that it's a great hire. Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock acted quickly to secure a coach on the rise in an environment with a lot high profile jobs, including South Carolina, the University of Southern California, Missouri and now the University of Georgia with Mark Richt's departure from the Athens school. Frank Beamer and the administration should be commended for making a midseason announcement that allowed the school to pursue a replacement prior to the usual feedeing frenzy time.

On the field and in the recruiting arena, there's a lot of positives to the situation in Blacksburg. By retaining Foster and Beamer, Tech will maintain their defensive performance and the key recruiting relationships necessary to keep the talent pipeline open at Virginia Tech. Fuente's offensive focus should bring some much needed excitement to Lane Stadium and the rest of the ACC gridiron fields. It would appear that the Hokies' twenty-three game bowl streak that Fuente has inherited might be safe, despite a schedule in 2016 that includes Tennessee, Notre Dame and most likely either Florida State or Clemson.

Are there better potential hires out there? Probably. But at the end of the day, did Virginia Tech get a good coach who can take over a program in decent shape, but in need of some rejuvenation? Absolutely. Go Hokies!

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.




Saturday, November 28, 2015

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 13 SATURDAY PICKS: STILL A LOT OF BIG GAMES LEFT



I had a tough day on Friday, but I did correctly pick TCU over Baylor and Houston over Navy. After today, the playoff picture should come more into focus... or not. 

(8) Ohio State (10 - 1) 17 @ (10) Michigan (9 - 2) 20:  The key to the game will be the ability of Ohio State to run the ball. Michigan’s rush defense is fourth in the nation and it will be absolutely critical for the Buckeyes’ Ezekiel Elliott to run for more than the 34 yards he managed against Michigan State. I don’t think Ohio State will show up, so I’m going with Mchigan.

(1) Clemson (11 - 0) 34 @ South Carolina (3 - 8) 13: A lackluster South Carolina effort got them upset by The Citadel last week. There is very little chance, even in a big rivalry game, that the Gamecocks have enough to challenge the top-ranked Tigers. Clemson is just too balanced on both sides of the ball.

Colorado (4 - 8) 17 @ (23) Utah (8 - 3 28): Utah has had a tough November, but should be able to rebound nicely to position themselves for a top tier bowl game. Colorado just hasn’t risen to the level of the rest of the Pac-12.

Penn State (7 - 4) 16 @ (5) Michigan State (10 - 1 20): Can the Nittany Lions end the hopes of Michigan State to make the playoffs? I think they’re good enough to pull the upset, but they’ll need  some turnovers and a couple of big plays. Penn State just doesn’t have much offense, but defensively they have what it takes to stop the Spartans if Michigan State stumbles on offense.

(16) Northwestern (9 - 2) 23 @ Illinois (5 - 6) 17: If Illinois had a better offense, I’d give them a shot in this one. But Northwestern’s defense is very good and the Wildcats should be able to run the ball just well enough to finish off a nice season.

(14) North Carolina (10 - 1) 30 @ NC State (7 - 4) 24: The Tar Heels have their sights set on Clemson in the ACC championship game, but they can’t overlook the Wolfpack. UNC turned the ball over twice late against Va. Tech last week and it almost cost them the game. This should be a very competitive game, but I’ll give the nod to the Heels’ offense.

(2) Alabama (10 - 1) 27 @ Auburn (6 - 5) 17: The only hope Auburn has is that it’s a rivalry game and perhaps that emotion can carry the Tigers. Based on the prior eleven games, it’s very unlikely Auburn can contend with the Tide. Alabama’s defense is too good and Auburn is just too inconsistent.

(22) UCLA (8 - 3) 34 @ USC (7 - 4) 27: These two teams are pretty evenly matched, except that both teams like to pass and USC’s passing defense is susceptible to giving up the big play. Freshman Josh Rosen for UCLA will have a chance to put up some impressive numbers in this cross-town rivalry, with the Pac-12 South title on the line.

Connecticut (6 - 5) 14 @ (25) Temple (9 - 2) 23: Connecticut’s win over Houston last week ranks up there with Texas’ inexplicable upset of Oklahoma earlier in the season. Neither of these teams has much off an offense,  but Temple’s is better and should be good enough to win the game.

(18) Ole Miss (8 - 3) 34 @ (21) Mississippi State (8 - 3) 37: Mississippi State was fortunate to rally from a turnover marred stretch against Arkansas. Ole Miss has a pass defense that allows a lot of yardage. I look for Dak Prescott to run around and make it a long day for the Rebels and spoil any chance that Ole Miss has for an SEC West crown.

(13) Florida State (9 - 2) 24 @ (12) Florida (10 - 1) 16: As good as their defense is, Florida still struggles to score points. But Florida State isn’t impressive offensively either, so this could come down to turnovers and special team. I just have a hard time going with the Gators, especially since I think ‘Noles running back Dalvin Cook will be able to break some big runs.

(6) Notre Dame (10 - 1) 23 @ (9) Stanford (9 - 2) 27: These teams are statistically similar overall, but I like the way Stanford’s Christian McCaffery can run the ball, particularly against the Irish’s sixty-ninth ranked run defense. Notre Dame had to go coast to coast for consecutive games and it could take its toll physically. They also were fairly unimpressive against Boston College. This will probably be the end of the Irish’s playoff hopes.

(3) Oklahoma (10 - 1) 38@ (11) Oklahoma State (10 - 1) 27: Following Baylor’s loss Friday night, the Bedlam game winner will take the Big 12 title. Oklahoma is clearly the most balanced team in the Big 12 and except that this is a rivalry game on the road for the Sooners, they should be rather substantial favorites. Their loss to Texas and last week’s late meltdown against TCU tends to distract from the dominance they’ve displayed at times. I liked Oklahoma at the beginning of the season and I still do.

Georgia (8 - 3) 27 @ Georgia Tech (3 - 8) 20: If Ga. Tech hadn’t gotten the touchdown against Florida State on a blocked kick, they would most likely be 2 - 8. Georgia, while disappointed with their season, can still get a ten win season. The Yellow Jackets built an end zone section just for this game and there will be a lot of happy Bulldog fans filling it today.

Virginia Tech (5 - 6) 30 @ Virginia (4 - 7) 21: The host Cavaliers would like  nothing better than to spoil Frank Beamer’s final season by knocking the Hokies out of bowl consideration (unless the NCAA allows 5 - 7 teams to fill some slots). Mike London is on the hot seat at Virginia. His team has played well at time, but they’ve had some tough losses to Notre Dame, Pitt, Miami and Louisville. But I’m a Hokie through and through and I think the Tech pass defense will be the difference in the game.

Arizona State (6 - 5) 28 @ California (6 - 5) 35: Cal QB Jared Goff should be able to have his way with a Sun Devil defense that’s ranked 123rd in the nation. Cal’s defense isn’t great either, but Todd Graham’s offense hasn’t been up to Arizona State standards this season.

Texas A&M (8 - 3) 27 @ LSU (7 - 3) 34: LSU coach Les Miles is reported to be out of Baton Rouge following tonight’s game. I understand the fans’ and boosters’ frustrations, but the Tigers have won a national championship and played for another under Miles. ESPN’s Mark May put it very well, telling the LSU faithful and administration to be “careful for what you ask for”. But let’s get back to the game. Texas A&M has a porous rush defense, and after three top 25 running defenses, Leonard Fournette should be able to get back on track.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.




Friday, November 27, 2015

COLLEGE FOTBALL: WEEK 13 FRIDAY PICKS



Last Week:  16 - 7
Overall:  219 - 64

Friday:

(15) Navy (9 - 1) 24 @ Houston (10 - 1) 30: The winner takes on Temple or South Florida in the American Conference championship next week. For Houston, the season ends either today or after the championship game. However, Navy will still have a showdown with Army on Dec. 12 regardless of what happens in the meantime, in an effort to maintain the top ranking among Group of Five teams. The Midshipmen, led by Heisman Trophy darkhorse Keenan Reynolds, average almost 250 yards a game on the ground.  Houston is ranked 12th in the nation against the run, so this is clearly a strength against strength situation. I like what Navy does, but this isn’t a good matchup for them.

Western Michigan (6 - 5) 27 @ (24) Toledo (9 - 1) 31: Toledo, given a certain set of circumstances, is still in contention for the Group of Five New Year’s Day bowl invitation. A win keeps them on track. The Broncos will give the Rockets a stern test.

Miami (7 - 4) 27 @ Pittsburgh (8 - 3) 31:  The Pittsburgh Panthers have had a good season and can end it on a high note with a win over the Hurricanes, who are 3 - 1 since the firing of coach Al Golden. Pitt’s defense is stellar, but the question is whether Miami can generate enough offense to win the game against a team that has finally found the ability to put points on the board.


(20) Washington State (8 - 3) 30 @ Washington (6 - 5) 23: After an early loss to Portland State, the Cougars were pretty much taken off the radar. But other than close losses to Cal and Stanford, Mike Leach has led his team to a top 20 ranking and a big game at Washington for the Apple Cup and a lot of momentum going into next season. But don’t be surprised if the Huskies make this one very close.

(4) Iowa (11 - 0) 27 @ Nebraska (5 - 6) 28: Nebraska has suffered some heartbreaking losses and celebrated a big upset over Michigan State. This isn’t a particularly good match-up for the Hawkeyes either, especially with Nebraska’s ability to stop the run. Of course, no one really  has to focus on the ground game against the ‘Huskers 125th ranked pass defense. But Iowa would prefer to run the ball, so even though I’ve been a big Iowa proponent since early in the season, I think their run ends today.


Missouri (5 - 6) 19 @ Arkansas (6 - 5) 27: Even though Missouri possesses a  top ten ranked defense, the last time I checked a team still has to score points to win games, something the Tigers have a lot of problems doing. Add the bad weather in Fayetteville, and I’ll stick with the home team in an ugly one.


Oregon State (2 - 9) 27 @ (17) Oregon (8 - 3) 47: I’m not sure how Oregon State can keep this one close, considering the weak point of the Oregon defense is the passing game. Unfortunately, the Beavers can’t move the ball through the air. Add to that that Oregon will be running the ball against one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. This one might get out of hand early.



(7) Baylor (9 - 1) 37 @ (19) TCU (9 - 2) 41: I have a feeling about this one and the questionable pass defense of Baylor. Trevone Boykin is back and should be able to shred the Bears. In addition, I think the TCU defense will show up to thwart a Baylor attack that won’t be as productive behind a third string quarterback. It will be another shootout in Fort Worth with the Horned Frogs coming out on top, giving the winner of the Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State the Big 12 crown.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.