Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The NFL Blog: 2010 Week 4 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (11-5); Straight Up: (9-7)

Season: Vs. Spread (21-26-1); Straight Up: (26-22)

Week 3 Review: Finally a decent week.

Week 4 Preview: There are 2 fewer games this week, as 4 teams are idle. It should be an interesting week, with 9 of the 14 matchups being inter-divisional games. I’m going with lots of heavy favorites and you know that could spell a disastrous week for me.

Sunday’s Early Games

New York Jets (-5) @ Buffalo
Pick: Jets cover
Comment: The Bills were much more competitive than I expected last week at New England, putting up 30 points, after scoring only 17 total points in their first 2 games. But Buffalo might not score any points against the Jets.

Baltimore (+1) @ Pittsburgh
Pick: Steelers cover
Comment: Can the Steelers make it a clean sweep without Big Ben to start the season? This will be their toughest test yet, but the Steelers have won 7 of 8 at home over the Ravens.

Seattle (-1) @ St. Louis
Pick: Seahawks cover
Comment: Here’s an annoying thought if you are me: unless the Rams find a way to win their 2nd straight game, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks will be in the driver’s seat in the NFC West. No Steven Jackson again for the Lambs this week, and the Seahawks have swept St. Louis 5 years in a row.

San Francisco (+6.5) @ Atlanta
Pick: Falcons cover
Comment: As a Falcons fan, this pick makes me nervous. But we are a good team and the Niners are reeling. Plus, San Fran will be making a long trip across the country, and we destroyed them at Candlestick last year.

Cincinnati (-3) @ Cleveland
Pick: Bengals cover
Comment: You always hesitate to take the Bengals on the road ATS. Going into this season they were just 1-7 ATS as a road favorite since the start of 2007, but they covered last week as a favorite at Carolina. These games are often close and at times a bit wacky. Cleveland has been competitive in all 3 of their games this season and they could be due for a win.

Denver (+6.5) @ Tennessee
Pick: Titans cover
Comment: Yeah, so what happened to that quarterback the Broncos took in the first round? 3 games, no pass attempts, 2 rushing attempts for 2 yards. Hmm.

Carolina (+13.5) @ New Orleans
Pick: Saints cover
Comment: Carolina is the worst team in football and the Saints should be angry. However, the Panthers have lost all 3 of their games this season by 13 points. In this situation, losing by 13 would be covering. And do you realize that the Panthers have won 7 of the last 9 meetings between these 2 teams? New Orleans has not been an intimidating place for the Panthers. Carolina has won 8 of their last 9 at New Orleans. But the Panthers have also scored just 7 points in each of their last 2 games, and both of those games were at home.

Detroit (+14.5) @ Green Bay
Pick: Packers cover
Comment: This is a big spread and the Packers will be playing on a short week, but they should be motivated to smash the Lions after their tough loss on Monday night. Detroit has had some tough luck this season and the Lions will again be without Matt Stafford. They lost by 14 at Minnesota last week, and the Packers have won 9 in a row over the Lions by an average of 15 points.

Sunday’s Late Games

Houston (-3) @ Oakland
Pick: Texans win but Raiders beat the spread
Comment: This might seem like a strange thing to say, but I actually think this is a bigger game for the Texans than last week’s home game against instate rival Dallas. The Texans weren’t going to be able to make a total transition from pretender to contender all in one swing. They fell back to reality last week. But if the Texans are truly going to get over the hump, they have to win games like this, on the road, against a weak opponent.

Indianapolis (-8) @ Jacksonville
Pick: Colts cover
Comment: Since losing in week 1, the Colts have won by 24 over the Giants and by 14 at Denver. Indy has won 3 straight and 5 of 6 at Jacksonville. And the Jags just lost at home to the Eagles, 28-3.

Washington (+6) @ Philadelphia
Pick: Eagles win but Skins beat the spread
Comment: The Donovan McNabb story is impossible to ignore. The added element of Michael Vick makes it all the more interesting. But beyond those story lines, this is a pivotal game for both teams. After opening the season coming out on top in a game they were very fortunate to win, the Skins have had back to back disastrous losses. First they blew a big lead to the Texans at home. Then last week they went to St. Louis and got beat by 14. If they lose this week and fall to 1-3, it could get ugly in the first season of the Shanahan/McNabb era in DC. On the other side, the Eagles have stumbled into something very promising with Vick, but they really need one more victory here to solidify that they made the right move. They need to win this game to get to 3-1 and make clear to the rest of the League, to the city, and to themselves that they have been reborn as a new team led by Vick.

Arizona (+9) @ San Diego
Pick: Chargers win but Cards beat the spread
Comment: So the Chargers have already lost twice to teams that they had no business losing to. Wow. I’m so totally shocked. This is the Super Bowl of teams that take games off because they know that they play in a shitty division and can get away with it. The only thing that has changed is that Arizona isn’t any good anymore. But who wants to bet on the Chargers at this point?

Sunday Night’s Game

Chicago (+4) @ New York Giants
Pick: Bears pull off the upset
Comment: The Bears will be playing on a short week and it will be tough for them to win another big game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from a big time believer in the Bears. I am, however, convinced that the Giants as currently constructed are finished.

Monday Night’s Game

New England (-1) @ Miami
Pick: Patriots cover
Comment: Of course this line had to be set at 1 so that there could be no possibility of hedging. We all know the history in this series. It’s a tossup. I don’t know who will win, but I’ll be rooting for the Pats and against the Dolphins.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The College Football Blog: 2010 Week 5 Betting Lines

Last Week’s Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 9-1; Vs. Spread: 2-8)

Overall (Straight up: 40-9; Vs. Spread: 20-29; Moneyline Upsets: 2-3)

Season Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 33-7; Vs. Spread: 16-22-2)

Overall (Straight up: 152-35; Vs. Spread: 92-92-2; Moneyline Upsets: 4-10)

Week 4 Review: Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Week 5 Preview: One of the biggest weekends of the college football season. The conference schedule will be in full effect this week. There are a lot of tough games to pick. I can’t believe I’m right back to .500 ATS. I just hope the roof doesn’t cave in this week.


Game 1: Texas A&M (+3) @ Oklahoma State

Pick: Oklahoma State covers

Comment: Yeah, I know, this game doesn’t really move me either, but the fact is that neither team has lost to this point, and it’s a standalone game on Thursday night. I have no idea who will win. I’m taking Okie State because they are at home, although I didn’t think the Red Heads were going to be very good this season. Neither team has played on the road yet. Both teams are coming off of 12 days of rest. Okie State has won the last 2 years but A&M has never lost 3 straight to the Cowboys.


Game 2: Miami (-3) @ Clemson

Pick: Clemson pulls off the upset

Comment: Tough one to call in my opinion. The Canes are coming off a thrashing of Pitt on the road last Thursday, while Clemson will have had 2 weeks to sit and fume over their tough overtime loss at Auburn back in week 3. Last season the Tigers stunned the Canes in Miami in an overtime thriller. I had Clemson winning this game going into the season so I’m going to stick with the Tigers.

Game 3: Virginia Tech (-4) @ NC State

Pick: NC State beats the spread

Comment: Another tough ACC battle to call. I had NC State beating the Jackets last week, but that had as much to do with wishful thinking as any kind of foresight on my part. Clearly Virginia Tech has underwhelmed this season, but they’ve now won back to back games in convincing fashion, including a shutout of BC on the road last week. The Wolfpack has won 3 straight over BCS teams, but I’m not sure they can pull off a 4th in a row. VT creamed NC State at home last year, 38-10, but prior to that the last 7 games in this series had been decided by 7 points or less.

Game 4: Texas (+3.5) vs. Oklahoma (Dallas)

Pick: Oklahoma covers

Comment: Is it just me or does this game rarely look as big in October as it does every year in August? This will be the 5th time in the last 6 seasons that at least one of these teams will play the game with a loss already on their record. Oklahoma hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations so far this season, but after what Texas did last Saturday I simply cannot pick them to stay within a field goal of the Sooners.

Game 5: Wisconsin (-2) @ Michigan State

Pick: Michigan State pulls off the upset

Comment: This is basically a tossup, right? I don’t have much insight into this one. Mark Dantonio will be coaching this game from the booth, less than 2 weeks removed from suffering a heart attack (which was no doubt an after effect of the Spartans letting the play clock hit 00 before snapping the ball on their game winning fake field goal against Notre Dame in overtime). I thought Wisconsin was being overlooked going into the year, but they haven’t been that impressive so far (except for last week when they violated the poor kids from Austin Peay). The Badgers have won 9 of the last 13 in this series, but the home team has won 5 straight.

Game 6: Florida (+9) @ Alabama

Pick: Florida beats the spread

Comment: Okay, I’m thoroughly convinced that Bama is the best team in the country, but 9 points? I realize that Timmy Circumcision is no longer around, but the Gators have still won all 4 of their games this year by at least 14 points. Plus, the Tide had to survive a serious storm at Arkansas last Saturday, and they will now have to get up for any even tougher opponent.

Game 7: Notre Dame (-3) @ Boston College

Pick: Boston College pulls off the upset

Comment: I’m just going with history and my own personal wishes here. ND hung on for a 20-16 win at home last year in the Battle of the Child Molesters, but the Eagles had won the last 6 against the Irish prior to that. Notre Dame was shutout in their last trip to Chestnut Hill back in 2008.

Game 8: Washington (+10.5) @ USC

Pick: USC covers

Comment: I’d like to think that the Huskies can make it a game, but they haven’t given me much reason for hope with their performance so far this season. USC is 4-0 but they haven’t played anybody yet. Washington will be coming off of a bye, but it seems like the Trojans are still capable of pounding undermanned teams. And perhaps they will get through this season without suffering any inexplicable losses now that the pressure is off of them.

Game 9: Stanford (+7) @ Oregon

Pick: Stanford beats the spread

Comment: This pick is based solely on my growing respect for Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford team. The Ducks have looked unstoppable this season, and they have been unbeatable at home recently. They’ve won 12 straight at home and 12 of their last 13 Pac 10 games overall. However, their only loss in the conference over that time did come last season at Stanford, when they gave up 51 points. Also, after years of being terrified of away games, Stanford has become a threat even on the road. They have won 3 straight on the road going back to last year’s 55-21 win at USC. This season Stanford has shutout UCLA 35-0 on the road and won 37-14 at Notre Dame.

Game 10: Penn State (+7.5) @ Iowa

Pick: Iowa covers

Comment: I’ve seen enough of this year’s Penn State team to know that they are nowhere near as good as they were in 2008 or 2009, and they lost to Iowa in each of those seasons. I’m not saying that the Nittany Lions are a bad team, but they’re closer to mediocre than great. I still believe the Hawkeyes to be closer to great than mediocre. Iowa has won 8 of 10 over PSU and they haven’t lost to the Nittany Lions at home since 1999.

Other Games


BYU (-6) @ Utah State (BYU covers)


Louisiana-Monroe (+35) @ Auburn (ULM beats the spread)
Vanderbilt (+7.5) @ Connecticut (Vandy beats the spread)
Northwestern (-5) @ Minnesota (NW covers)
Kansas (+8) @ Baylor (Kansas beats the spread)
Ohio State (-18) @ Illinois (Ohio State covers)
Florida State (-7) @ Virginia (FSU covers)
Ohio (-9.5) @ Eastern Michigan (Ohio covers)
Temple (-4.5) @ Army (Army beats the spread)
Kentucky (+2.5) @ Mississippi (Kentucky pulls off the upset)
Kent State (-3) @ Miami (Ohio) (Miami (Ohio) beats the spread)
Idaho (-2.5) @ Western Michigan (WM beats the spread)
Tulane (+15) @ Rutgers (Rutgers covers)
TCU (-33) @ Colorado State (TCU covers)
Navy (+9.5) @ Air Force (Navy beats the spread)
Tennessee (+16) @ LSU (LSU covers)
Ball State (+16.5) @ Central Michigan (CM covers)
Buffalo (+3.5) @ Bowling Green (BG covers)
East Carolina (+10.5) @ North Carolina (UNC covers)
Michigan (-10.5) @ Indiana (Indiana beats the spread)
Washington State (+27) @ UCLA (UCLA covers)
Florida International (+20) @ Pittsburgh (FIU beats the spread)
Georgia (-4) @ Colorado (Colorado beats the spread)
UTEP (-14.5) @ New Mexico (UTEP covers)
Northern Illinois (-13.5) @ Akron (NIU covers)
Duke (+7.5) @ Maryland (Maryland covers)
Arizona State (+3.5) @ Oregon State (ASU beats the spread)
SMU (-12) @ Rice (SMU covers)
Louisville (-6) @ Arkansas State (Arkansas State beats the spread)
Texas Tech (-7.5) @ Iowa State (Texas Tech covers)
Georgia Tech (-9.5) @ Wake Forest (WF beats the spread)
Tulsa (-10.5) @ Memphis (Tulsa covers)
Wyoming (+3) @ Toledo (Toledo covers)
Florida Atlantic (+21) @ South Florida (FAU beats the spread)
Louisiana-Lafayette (+4.5) @ North Texas (ULL beats the spread)
Boise State (-41.5) @ New Mexico State (Boise State covers)
Marshall (+10) @ Southern Miss (Marshall beats the spread)
Nevada (-20.5) @ UNLV (Nevada covers)
Louisiana Tech (+8.5) @ Hawaii (Hawaii covers)

The NFL Blog: 2010 Power Rankings (After Week 3)

Power Rankings After Week 3

1. Pittsburgh 3-0 (6th)
2. Indianapolis 2-1 (3rd)
3. Baltimore 2-1 (4th)
4. New Orleans 2-1 (1st)
5. New York Jets 2-1 (7th)
6. Green Bay 2-1 (2nd)
7. Atlanta 2-1 (11th)
8. Kansas City 3-0 (13th)
9. New England 2-1 (8th)
10. Cincinnati 2-1 (9th)
11. Houston 2-1 (5th)
12. Miami 2-1 (10th)
13. Chicago 3-0 (21st)
14. Minnesota 1-2 (14th)
15. Philadelphia 2-1 (17th)
16. Dallas 1-2 (18th)
17. Tennessee 2-1 (19th)
18. San Diego 1-2 (12th)
19. Washington 1-2 (15th)
20. New York Giants 1-2 (16th)
21. Seattle 2-1 (27th)
22. Tampa Bay 2-1 (22nd)
23. Arizona 2-1 (24th)
24. St. Louis 1-2 (28th)
25. Detroit 0-3 (23rd)
26. Oakland 1-2 (29th)
27. San Francisco 0-3 (20th)
28. Jacksonville 1-2 (25th)
29. Denver 1-2 (26th)
30. Cleveland 0-3 (30th)
31. Buffalo 0-3 (31st)
32. Carolina 0-3 (32nd)

-Previous week’s rankings in parenthesis;

A New #1. With the Saints and Packers going down in week 3, the obvious choice for the #1 spot this week was Pittsburgh. The Steelers have won all of their games by at least 6 points and they are 2-0 on the road. Their opponents are 6-0 against teams other than the Steelers. The Steelers climbed 5 spots in my rankings this week from 6th to 1st.

Saints Fall. Although the Saints could have easily held off the Falcons last week, I still moved them down 3 spots from 1st to 4th. The Saints have not been as good so far this season as they were last year, particularly on offense. They could easily be 0-3.

Giant Leaps. Several teams made significant climbs in my rankings this week. The Bears made the biggest move, jumping up 8 spots in my rankings from 21st to 13th. Some may find it indefensible that I still have the Bears ranked all the way down at #13, but I wasn’t a big believer in Chicago going into the season, and then in week 1 they should have lost to Detroit at home. In the last 2 weeks they have beaten Dallas and Green Bay, and my regard for them has definitely grown, but I’m still a bit skeptical.

The Seahawks climbed 6 spots in my rankings this week from 27th to 21st. Seattle has now won twice, beating the 49ers and Chargers at home. Begrudgingly, I’m starting to admit that they might a better team than I expected.

The Chiefs also rose significantly in the rankings this week, making a 5 spot climb from 13th to 8th. I was not a member of KC’s bandwagon going into the year, but they are 3-0, and it’s getting harder and harder to deny that they are for real.

Whoosh! A number of teams fell significantly in my rankings this week. The 49ers took the biggest fall, dropping 7 spots from 20th to 27th. The Niners are now 0-3, and they’ve been hammered in each of their road games. They’ve now fired their offensive coordinator. Suddenly Mike Singletary looks like a fool again.

Houston and San Diego both dropped 6 spots in my rankings this week. Houston probably never should have been as high as 5th, but the Texans were handled by Dallas at home this week and I dropped them to #11. San Diego lost again this last week and plummeted from 12th to 18th in my power rankings.

The Bottom Three. Only 5 teams stayed exactly in place in my rankings this week, and 3 of those were the #30, #31, and #32 teams in my power rankings. The Browns put up a fight against the Ravens, but they are now 0-3, and they will have to pull off a significant upset to avoid starting 0-9. Buffalo was surprisingly competitive against the Patriots last week, and the Bills have played a tough schedule, but they look destined for their worst season since 2001. At this point, Carolina is by far the worst team in the entire NFL. The Panthers have lost all 3 of their games by 13 points, and they have scored exactly 7 points in each of their last 2 games, both of them at home.

The College Football Blog: 2010 Season Résumé Rankings (After Week 4)

Season Résumé Rankings after Week 4

1. Alabama 4-0 (1st)
2. Auburn 4-0 (8th)
3. LSU 4-0 (10th)
4. TCU 4-0 (3rd)
5. Oklahoma 4-0 (4th)
6. Oregon 4-0 (6th)
7. Utah 4-0 (7th)
8. Ohio State 4-0 (2nd)
9. Stanford 4-0 (NR)
10. Florida 4-0 (NR)

Out: Michigan (5th); South Carolina (9th).

Explanation: It’s still early but this list is getting more relevant with each week. There was a great deal of movement in the rankings this week. Since the season is still young, only 4-0 teams were going to be in the rankings this week. I also valued wins over FBS teams more than wins over FCS teams. Furthermore, I valued wins over teams from BCS conferences above wins against teams from non-BCS conferences.

Bama was an easy choice to remain at #1 after they knocked off the Hogs to get to 4-0. All 4 of their wins have been against FBS teams and they have 3 wins over teams from BCS conferences. Bama has a blowout win over PSU and a road win against Arkansas.

Auburn made a major jump in my rankings this week, climbing 6 spots from 8th to 2nd. The Tigers are 4-0 against FBS teams and 3-0 against teams from BCS conferences. They have a solid road win over Mississippi State and good wins against South Carolina and Clemson. LSU made the biggest jump in my rankings this week, rising 7 spots from 10th to 3rd. All 4 of the Tigers’ wins have come against teams from BCS conferences.

TCU defeated a decent SMU team this week on the road, but I moved the Horned Frogs down a spot this week, as only 2 of their wins have been against BCS teams, and 1 of their wins came against a team from the FCS. Oklahoma also moved down a spot this week from 4th to 5th, despite their win over Cincinnati in a virtual road game. Several of Oklahoma’s wins this season have been closer than expected.

Oregon and Utah rolled to easy wins and remained at 6th and 7th in the rankings respectively. Ohio State took a fairly big slide in the rankings this week, dropping 6 spots from 2nd to 8th. The Buckeyes have taken care of business in impressive fashion, but their only win over a team from a BCS conference came at home against Miami. Similarly, Michigan fell from 5th to out of the rankings this week, despite a blowout win. One of Michigan’s wins this season was a close home victory over an FCS team and last week they played a MAC team at home.

South Carolina also fell out of the top 10 this week but for more obvious reasons. The Cocks were 9th in my rankings going into this week, but they fell to Auburn, and thus dropped out of the rankings. Stanford took South Carolina’s place in the rankings at 9th after whipping Notre Dame on the road. Florida climbed into the rankings at #10 after hammering Kentucky at home to go to 4-0.

The College Football Blog: 2010 Power Rankings (After Week 4)

Power Rankings after Week 4

1. Alabama 4-0 (1st)
2. Ohio State 4-0 (2nd)
3. Oklahoma 4-0 (3rd)
4. Florida 4-0 (4th)
5. Oregon 4-0 (5th)
6. Boise State 3-0 (6th)
7. TCU 4-0 (7th)
8. Nebraska 4-0 (9th)
9. Iowa 3-1 (10th)
10. Auburn 4-0 (13th)
11. South Carolina 3-1 (12th)
12. Stanford 4-0 (NR)
13. Arkansas 3-1 (11th)
14. LSU 4-0 (15th)
15. Wisconsin 4-0 (14th)

Out: Texas (8th).

Explanation: My top 7 stayed exactly the same this week, and 9 of my top 10 teams stayed in the top 10. Nebraska and Iowa got easy wins to move up a spot to 8th and 9th respectively.

Obviously the biggest change in my rankings this week was Texas’ tumble from 8th all the way out of the top 15. This drastic move was based mostly, but not entirely, on the Longhorns’ stunning loss at home to UCLA last Saturday. Ever since Texas’ lackluster win over Rice in the first week of the season I had been underwhelmed by their performance. They had managed to start 3-0, beating Texas Tech on the road in week 3, and they looked destined to be 4-0 going into the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma.

But then disaster struck last Saturday. UCLA had opened the season with a 9 point loss at KSU, and then got hammered 35-0 at home by Stanford, before beating Houston at home on a day that the Cougars lost their star QB and his backup. Texas entered the game as a 16 point favorite, having won 16 consecutive home games. The Bruins had lost 12 of 15 road games, and 12 of their last 13 road games against teams other than Washington and Washington State. But UCLA pulled off the shocker and they were in control for almost the entire game. Texas led 3-0 after the 1st quarter, but the Bruins outscored the Longhorns 13-0 in the 2nd quarter to take a 13-3 halftime lead. UCLA then took the 2nd half kickoff and drove for a TD to make it 20-3. They led 27-6 at the start of the 4th and went on to win 34-12. This was an epic defeat for the Longhorns, and thus I had to drop them out of the rankings. Their embarrassing performance took a lot of the sizzle out of this week’s matchup with Oklahoma.

Auburn held off South Carolina at home to get to 4-0 and they took Texas’ place in the top 10. The Tigers made the biggest move in my rankings this week, climbing 3 spots from 13th to 10th. Despite the loss, South Carolina moved up 1 spot in my power rankings this week from 12th to 11th. This might be Steve Spurrier’s best South Carolina team and they went on the road and nearly knocked off a good Auburn team.

The new team in my power rankings this week is Stanford, debuting at #12. The Cardinal took Texas’ place in the top 15 after they moved to 4-0 with a convincing win at Notre Dame. I moved Arkansas down 2 spots from 11th to 13th, despite the fact that they very nearly beat the best team in the country. I was actually impressed that the Hogs were able to hang in the game against the Tide, but their collapse proved that they are not quite ready to challenge for an SEC title.

My #14 and #15 teams swapped places in the rankings this week. I moved Wisconsin down a spot to 15th and moved LSU up a spot to 14th. Both teams won this weekend, and Wisconsin actually won 70-3, but the Tigers held on to beat West Virginia, and I haven’t been that impressed by the Badgers so far this year.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The NFL Blog: 2010 Week 3 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (4-12); Straight Up: (8-8)

Season: Vs. Spread (10-21-1); Straight Up: (17-15)

Week 2 Review: Horrible. Dreadful. Absolutely awful. That’s what I get for rushing my picks. I’ve already completely destroyed my chances for a decent year against the spread.

Week 3 Preview: A fascinating slate of games this week. I doubt I’ll be able to pick many of the games correctly, but I’m very curious to see the outcomes. In light of my horrific start to the season, I’m hedging in several of this week’s games. Maybe week 3 is like this every season but it seems like almost every matchup coming up this week sets up to be a major swing game.

Sunday’s Early Games

San Francisco (-3) @ Kansas City
Pick: Niners win but Chiefs beat the spread
Comment: When the Niners lost on a last second field goal to the Saints on Monday night I really looked at it as if it was just about the most positive devastating loss a team could ever have. Sure they were a play or two away from a huge victory, only to lose at the buzzer to fall to 0-2 on the year, but they had basically erased the stains of their horrid week 1 performance against Seattle. They had gone toe to toe with the defending champs on MNF, and considering the competition in the NFC West, it wasn’t like being 0-2 was a death sentenced. But I have to say, the Niners are facing a tough game this Sunday on a short week. San Fran lost their first road game of the season badly, while the Chiefs pulled off a win over the Chargers at home in week 1, signaling that Arrowhead was once again a place to be reckoned with.

Cincinnati (-3) @ Carolina
Pick: Bengals cover
Comment: A peculiar spread, don’t you think? The Panthers have looked worse than any team in the NFL so far. Meanwhile the Bengals are coming off of a win over the Ravens. The Panthers, it must be said, have been very good at home over the last few years, but they just fell to the Buccaneers at home last week by 13 points. The Bengals lost their first game on the road this season, falling to 11-22 away from home since the start of the 2006 season.

Cleveland (+10.5) @ Baltimore
Pick: Ravens cover
Comment: This figures to be one of the least competitive games of the weekend, as the Old Browns battle the new Browns in the city where the Baltimore Colts helped make pro football king in America. Did that make sense? No? Well, Bob Irsay was this money grubbing, black hearted drunk, you see, and he owned the Baltimore Colts. This detestable coward wanted to move his team out west for some selfish reason or another, but his pathetic drunken behavior led to his plans being waylaid. For spite, the coward then moved his team in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, leaving the great Baltimore fans that had made him so much money to wake up the following morning and discover that they no longer had a football team.

A little over a decade later, another greedy and heartless little man would force a similar fate on another loyal fan base. When Art Model couldn’t blackmail the city of Cleveland into funding a new stadium, he ripped the Browns away from the city. He ended up bringing the club to Baltimore and renaming the team the Ravens. Thus, the great Baltimore Colts marching band, who had fought for so many years to get a team back to the city, was unable to fully enjoy the day that their goal was finally achieved, as they could not ignore the fact that in order to achieve the goal they had been forced to do unto the Cleveland fans as Indianapolis had done unto them. Mercifully, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue had forced Model to leave the Browns’ name, colors, and records in Cleveland. Thus, while Ozzie Newsome remained in the front office working for the cold hearted Model, his retired jersey number did not accompany him to Baltimore.

The Browns were reborn in Cleveland a few years later, but as an expansion team (though retaining the records of the former franchise, as if they had simply ceased to play for a few years). Needless to say they have not had the same success entering the NFL this time as they did back in 1950 when they left the All American Football Conference and won the world championship in their first season in the NFL.

Detroit (+10.5) @ Minnesota
Pick: Vikings cover
Comment: No one should be panicking yet in Minnesota about the Vikings slow start to the season. But should they lose this game it will be most appropriate to panic.

Tennessee (+3) @ New York Giants
Pick: Giants win but Titans beat the spread
Comment: This is a battle of teams who both started the 2008 season 11-1 before losing in the divisional playoffs, and then missing the postseason altogether last year. Each team won convincingly in week 1, but got smacked down in week 2. It will be interesting to see how Vince Young responds this week after he was pulled from last Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh (-1) @ Tampa Bay
Pick: Steelers cover
Comment: Another interesting spread. I know the Bucs are 2-0, and I realize that Hines Ward may be playing quarterback for the Steelers before this game is over, but I would think that Pittsburgh would be at least a 3 point favorite based on their dominant defense alone. They held Atlanta to 9 points in week 1, and the Falcons then put up 41 points in week 2. The Titans scored 38 points in week 1, and the Steelers then held them to 11 points in week 2.

Atlanta (+4) @ New Orleans
Pick: Saints cover
Comment: Sorry, but I just can’t convince myself that the time has come for the Falcons to take such a major step. It should be a competitive game, as it almost always is between these two franchises which have as close a thing as there is to a pro football rivalry in the southeast. I hated having to root for the Colts to win the Super Bowl last year but I had to do it because I did not want to see the Saints win the big game before my team. We all know how that story ended.

Buffalo (+14) @ New England
Pick: Patriots cover
Comment: It was confirmed again last Sunday that the Patriots are still a very beatable team when matched up against hardnosed teams like the Jets, Ravens, and Steelers. This is a matchup they should be able to handle easily, and they should blow the Bills out.

Dallas (+3) @ Houston
Pick: Texans win but Cowboys beat the spread
Comment: What a matchup this is! Big D going into Houston at 0-2 to face the 2-0 Texans. Dallas needs a win desperately. If the Texans win this one I don’t think there will be any further debate as to whether or not they are “for real.”

Sunday’s Late Games

Washington (-3.5) @ St. Louis
Pick: Skins win but Rams beat the spread
Comment: A tricky little game for the Skins, who are coming off of a demoralizing come from ahead loss to the Texans at home in OT last week. The Rams, while 0-2 on the year, appear to be much better this season, though admittedly they have a long way to go before they can be called mediocre. Still, the Rams lost by 4 to the Cards in week 1 and by just 2 at Oakland last Sunday.

Recall also that the Lambs have been quite a pain in the balls of the Washington Redskins in recent seasons. Back in 2008, the Skins were 4-1 when they faced the lowly Rams at home in week 6. Washington had just beaten in succession the Cardinals, the Saints, the Cowboys on the road, and the Eagles on the road. The Rams, coming off of a 3-13 season, were 0-4 and had lost all 4 games by at least 17 points. In fact, they had lost 8 consecutive games going back to the season before, losing all 8 games by at least 9 points, and losing 7 of those 8 by at least 17 points. Washington was a 13 point favorite at home, yet they somehow found a way to lose 17-9. It was the beginning of the end for Jim Zorn. The Skins went just 4-6 the rest of the way to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. St. Louis would win only 1 more game the rest of the season. Last year the Rams visited the Skins in week 2. This time the Skins were 9 point favorites but they had to eke out an ugly 9-7 win. This Sunday the game will be at St. Louis and we will see if the Rams continue to torment the Skins.

Philadelphia (-3) @ Jacksonville
Pick: Eagles cover
Comment: In a somewhat surprising reversal, Andy Reid has decided to start Michael Vick against the Jaguars this Sunday. Even more surprising in a way, Reid stated outright that the decision had nothing to do with the health of Kolb. While Reid’s decisions may actually be further proof that he is a man of good character, he has again shown to be a less than shrewd tactician. With the maniacal uproar in the media concerning “concussions” currently blazing at a Global Warming and Performance Enhancing Drugs level, Reid certainly had the opportunity to keep the move linked to Kevin Kolb’s head injury sustained back in week 1, regardless of the fact that Kolb has been medically cleared. This is particularly the case due to the reactionary and irrational criticism leveled on the Eagles for their handling of a couple of “concussion” situations in week 1, including that of Kolb. Regrettably, Reid would almost certainly have been praised for “taking the player’s safety into consideration” if he had insinuated that Kolb would not start this week as a precautionary measure.

Reid either refused to play this somewhat cynical game or perhaps he did not even realize that the situation had actually afforded him the perfect opportunity to give Vick a chance to “take the decision away” from him. In the late 80’s, Bill Walsh used somewhat minor injuries to Joe Montana as an opportunity to start Steve Young without causing a major controversy. Montana’s direction of San Fran’s epic game winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII and his spectacular season the following year have made it easy to forget that there were many people who thought Joe was done and that Young should take over as full time starter in the middle of the 1988 season.

Anyway, after trading Donovan McNabb, giving all kinds of money to the unproven Kolb, designating him the unquestioned starter going into training camp, and again affirming that sentiment following last Sunday’s game, it seemed like Reid and the Eagles basically had to let Kolb try and prove himself as the starter. Unless, that is, Vick got a few more games and had continued success. If that happened, Reid would have to let Kolb down because it wouldn’t be the right move to jeopardize the team’s success.

In other words, Kolb’s “concussion” situation had given Reid a chance to give Vick a chance to lead the Eagles to success while at the same time taking the coach off the hook for back tracking on Kolb and allowing his starting spot to be lost due to injury. If Vick had struggled this Sunday or even if he had played well and the Eagles lost, the controversy would have been just about eliminated and Reid would have been able to act as if there had never been any consideration of doing anything but going back to Kolb as the starter. However, this chance has been lost. Reid stated plainly on Tuesday that the decision to start Vick this week had nothing to do with Kolb’s injury and was due only to Vick’s high level of play so far this season.

Thus Reid has stripped Kolb of the starting spot promised to him after the QB had only a few passes in the opener before he was knocked out of the game due to the head injury. This might be tougher for Kolb to take than perhaps it would have been if the decision had been made following more convincingly good play by Vick and another victory. In addition, what happens now if Vick struggles? What happens if he makes a number of positive plays, but as happened often in Atlanta, it doesn’t lead to consistent offensive production and a win? When do you pull the plug and turn back to the quarterback that you just removed from the starting spot? What if Kolb then struggles? It could be, as people apparently used to say, “pretty harry.” On the other hand, Vick may continue to play well and lead the Eagles to a number of successes, and if that happens Reid will be applauded for making the difficult, but right decision.

San Diego (-5.5) @ Seattle
Pick: Chargers win but Seahawks beat the spread
Comment: It’s hard to trust the Chargers early in the season, especially on the road. Over the last 6 seasons, the Chargers have gone (beginning in 2004) 12-4, 9-7, 14-2, 11-5, 8-8, and 13-3, winning the AFC West in 5 of those 6 seasons. Despite this run of consistent success, the Chargers have also been consistently mediocre early in the season. They have lost at least 2 of their first 6 games in each of those 6 seasons, losing 2 of their first 3 games in 4 of those seasons. That’s a fairly significant pattern in my opinion. The Chargers lost their first road game of this season, while the Seahawks blew out the Niners in their first home game of the year.

Indianapolis (-5.5) @ Denver
Pick: Colts cover
Comment: The Colts rebounded from their surprising loss to the Texans in week 1 with a dominating victory over the Giants last Sunday night. But now they must go back on the road. Denver crushed Seattle in their first home game of the season this past Sunday. Not for the first time in recent years the Broncos will be playing a game in memory of a deceased teammate.

Oakland (+4) @ Arizona
Pick: Cards cover
Comment: The Cardinals were absolutely throttled by the Falcons last week, while the Raiders pulled out their first victory of the year. But this game will be in Arizona and the Raiders are not usually a good bet to win on the road.

Sunday Night’s Game

New York Jets (+1) @ Miami
Pick: Jets pull off the upset
Comment: This matchup is always fun and this year’s game has a lot riding on it. A win for the Fins would put them firmly in the driver’s seat in the AFC East and leave the Jets with 2 losses after 3 weeks. If the Jets win, there will most likely be a 3-way tie for 1st place in the division after 3 weeks.

Monday Night’s Game

Green Bay (-3) @ Chicago
Pick: Packers cover
Comment: This is the NFL. The Packers. The Bears. Soldier Field. Both teams coming in without a loss on the season. Now all we need is for a freak cold front to arrive just in time for Monday night’s week 3 capper.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The NFL Blog: 2010 Power Rankings (After Week 2)

Power Rankings After Week 2

1. New Orleans 2-0 (1st)
2. Green Bay 2-0 (3rd)
3. Indianapolis 1-1 (6th)
4. Baltimore 1-1 (2nd)
5. Houston 2-0 (12th)
6. Pittsburgh 2-0 (10th)
7. New York Jets 1-1 (8th)
8. New England 1-1 (4th)
9. Cincinnati 1-1 (9th)
10. Miami 2-0 (14th)
11. Atlanta 1-1 (16th)
12. San Diego 1-1 (17th)
13. Kansas City 2-0 (19th)
14. Minnesota 0-2 (5th)
15. Washington 1-1 (15th)
16. New York Giants 1-1 (7th)
17. Philadelphia 1-1 (18th)
18. Dallas 0-2 (11th)
19. Tennessee 1-1 (13th)
20. San Francisco 0-2 (24th)
21. Chicago 2-0 (25th)
22. Tampa Bay 2-0 (23rd)
23. Detroit 0-2 (26th)
24. Arizona 1-1 (20th)
25. Jacksonville 1-1 (21st)
26. Denver 1-1 (27th)
27. Seattle 1-1 (22nd)
28. St. Louis 0-2 (29th)
29. Oakland 1-1 (32nd)
30. Cleveland 0-2 (28th)
31. Buffalo 0-2 (31st)
32. Carolina 0-2 (30th)

-Previous week’s rankings in parenthesis;

Who is the best team right now? It’s kind of hard to say. Maybe there isn’t one. I was sitting there watching the 2nd half of the Monday night game and wondering who I would have as my #1 team if the Niners went on and won that football game. Finally I decided that I’d probably have to go with Green Bay. But the Saints once again proved to be masters of the art of the answer. They pulled it out, and I think they still look like the team to beat. That being said, they aren’t the clear cut top team in the NFL right now. In fact, there is no such team.

What’s up with this year’s 2-0 teams? The Saints at 2-0 makes perfect sense. The Packers at 2-0 was also expected. But the rest of the 2-0 teams (there are only 8 total remaining) are all a bit surprising. The Steelers of course wouldn’t be a surprise 2-0 team under normal circumstances, but considering that they were going to start the year off with Big Ben Roethlisberger serving a suspension, some thought they might get off to a bumpy start. Houston has been on the verge of becoming a contender in recent years, but they also have to be considered a surprise because of the fact that they’ve knocked off the Colts (who they never beat) and gotten a win on the road (which they rarely do). As for the Dolphins, I certainly didn’t have them beating the Vikings at the Metrodome. Then there are the Chiefs. Some people were talking up KC this summer but I mostly pooh-poohed it. Yet they have upset the Chargers and won a road contest in the season’s first 2 weeks.

Of all the 2-0 teams, the most annoying for me is Chicago, mostly because they aren’t special, yet anytime they have any sort of success every person with a tie to the Midwest starts acting like they are Super Bowl favorites. They lucked out and beat the Lions at home. Great. Granted they did win on the road at Dallas on Sunday, but it’s clear at this point that the Cowboys are a mess. A reminder that the Bears started off 3-1 last year and ended up 7-9.

Finally we have the Tampa Bay Bucs, whose 2-0 record is largely a product of the schedule. Yes, the Bucs are better, and they did actually have to go out and take both of the winnable games they’ve played so far, but beating Cleveland and Carolina is not the same as beating the Colts and the Redskins. It’s not even as impressive as beating the Jets and losing to the Bengals. I’m not even sure it’s as impressive as losing close games to the Saints and Dolphins.

What’s up with the 0-2 teams? I’m referring mainly to Minnesota and Dallas. I don’t think the fact that Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Carolina are a combined 0-10 is worthy of much discussion. The Niners are the only other winless team but they showed me a lot in their heartbreaking loss to the Saints on Monday night. The Niners will be fine because of the division that they play in. The Cowboys and Vikings don’t have anything like that to fall back on.

The Cowboys seem to go through a period similar to this on an annual basis, with some of those stretches lasting longer in certain years than in others. If they don’t come out of their current funk pretty soon I think Jurah may act rashly and ax Wade Phillips (which would certainly be a positive in the long run and perhaps even the short run). There is no Peyton Manning or Hines Ward or Ray Lewis on this team. There is a lot of talent but you also need leaders. If you don’t have any captains, you need a field marshal. The Boys are lacking in that area as well. Wade Phillips is more like a substitute teacher who was asked to fill in when the regular teacher had to go on extended sick leave a week before school started, and the school board still hasn’t gotten around to finding a full time replacement 4 years later.

I think the Vikings are actually in better shape. Favre should eventually get going, they should get some of their injured players back in the weeks to come, and they always have Adrian Peterson and a solid defense to rely on. The problem for the Vikings is that they are already 2 games back of both the Bears and Packers in the division. Strange as it may sound, it might actually be better to be 0-2 in the NFC East right now.

Risers and Fallers: The Texans made the biggest climb in my rankings this week, jumping 7 spots from 12th to 5th. Two different teams plunged 9 spots in my power rankings this week. The Giants were pathetic on Sunday night against the Colts. I dropped them 9 spots from 7th to 16th. They probably never should have been in the top 10 to begin with. I also dropped the Vikes 9 spots from 5th to 14th after their surprising loss to the Fins at home.

The College Football Blog: 2010 Week 4 Betting Lines

Last Week’s Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 7-3; Vs. Spread: 6-3-1)

Overall (Straight up: 42-11; Vs. Spread: 29-23-1; Moneyline Upsets: 1-1)

Season Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 24-6; Vs. Spread: 14-14-2)

Overall (Straight up: 112-26; Vs. Spread: 72-63-2; Moneyline Upsets: 2-7)

Week 3 Review: Wow. I’m stunned by how well this has gone so far. Moneyline upsets haven’t been too strong, but I’m off to a pretty good start against the spread. It won’t last.

Week 4 Preview: This is a strange week. A lot of the key games concern 2nd tier teams from non-BCS conferences vs. 3rd tier teams from BCS conferences or against other 2nd tier teams from non-BCS conferences. This could be trouble for me.


Game 1: TCU (-17.5) @ SMU

Pick: SMU beats the spread

Comment: This is a very tough spread. I think TCU is one of the best teams in the country and they usually do a great job of making the final score look impressive. But I’m inclined to think the Mustangs will put up a fight, especially at home. I may be overrating SMU, however.


Game 2: Stanford (-3.5) @ Notre Dame

Pick: Notre Dame beats the spread

Comment: I truly hope Stanford can get it done at South Bend this weekend because ND’s hopes for a better than decent season will be dashed for another year. Stanford crushed UCLA on the road earlier this season but now they’ll be making a longer road trip. You can pretty much count on this game being close.

Game 3: Alabama (-7) @ Arkansas

Pick: Alabama covers

Comment: I think the Hogs are a good team, but I’m not sure their defense is going to be up to the task of slowing down Bama’s offense. Arkansas’ offense hasn’t been quite as potent as I expected so far, and they will be going up against one of the better defenses on Saturday. The crowd will surely be hyped, but an experienced QB and the nation’s best rushing attack should quiet the home fans before the end of the game.

Game 4: Nevada (-3) @ BYU

Pick: BYU beats the spread

Comment: I’m really torn on this one. I think Nevada has taken another step this season but they are still a very sketchy pick on the road, especially against decent competition. BYU is 2 or 3 levels below what they normally are, but they are still a tough team to beat at home. The Cougars have been blown out by Air Force and FSU, but they still managed to beat Washington at home back in week 1. Nevada is 3-0 with a blowout win over Cal, but all of that came at home.

Game 5: Fresno State (+2.5) @ Mississippi

Pick: Fresno State pulls off the upset

Comment: I did not think Mississippi would be very good this season, but I thought there was a chance that my prediction of a 6-6 record might end up being way off because the Traitors had a number of winnable games. They had home games against an FCS team, Vandy, Kentucky, Fresno State, ULL, and Mississippi State; plus road games against Tulane and Tennessee. At the very least, Traitor fans had to expect their team would be 3-0 at this point. Instead they are1-2, and if they lose to Fresno State this week they are going to have a hard time getting bowl eligible, as they don’t figure to beat Arkansas, LSU, Alabama, or Auburn.

I’m not exactly sure why Old Shame is even favored in this contest. I mean they might win, as they should have more talent than a WAC team, and the Bulldogs will be traveling a long way from home. But like, you know, Jacksonville State and Vandy have already won at Oxford this season. Vandy actually won by 2 TD’s there just last week. Why should the Traitors be favored over anybody at this point? In particular, why should they be favored over a team that has already won on the road this season, has already beaten a team from a BCS conference this season, and has a lot of experience with playing against the big boys and playing against them on the road?

Game 6: South Carolina (+2.5) @ Auburn

Pick: South Carolina beats the spread

Comment: Yeah, I’m hedging here.

Game 7: Oregon State (+16.5) @ Boise State

Pick: Boise State covers

Comment: Oregon State kept things fairly close against TCU on a neutral field, but last week they were coming off of a bye and they only beat Louisville at home by 7. I’m not sure they will be able to slow down Boise State on the blue turf.

Game 8: West Virginia (+6.5) @ LSU

Pick: LSU covers

Comment: Since their National Championship season of 2007, LSU has fallen off, losing a combined 8 conference games over the previous 2 seasons, and opening this year with another sloppy win over an undermanned UNC team. Some fans feel that LSU is steadily eroding under the leadership of Les Miles. I must admit that I have gotten the feeling at times that LSU is a bit like a mighty empire which has been gutted, but which is still somehow able to carry on for a while longer out of habit and out of reputation.

I don’t know whether this is truth or not. However, I have become convinced that West Virginia is a corpse which hasn’t yet realized that it’s dead. The fact that the Mountaineers don’t really play a conference schedule has helped them stay in the national picture. That, along with reputation, some luck, and some force of habit has made it appear that West Virginia survived the exit of Rich Rodriguez and is decent shape under Bill Stewart. I disagree. It may not happen this year, but I believe that sometime soon West Virginia is going to swoon, and I don’t think they will be able to get up for a while.

Game 9: California (+6.5) @ Arizona

Pick: Arizona covers

Comment: Arizona got a major win last week, knocking off a very tough Iowa team by 7 points. The Wildcats will have to get up for another big game this week, as they open up conference play. Arizona is tough to beat at home and the Bears just got smoked on the road by Nevada.

Game 10: Oregon (-10.5) @ Arizona State

Pick: Oregon covers

Comment: As stunned as I was by ASU’s performance at Wisconsin last Saturday, I still think Oregon should be able to go on the road and beat the Sun Devils by at least 2 TD’s. The Ducks have won 5 straight over ASU, beating the spread each time, and winning each game by at least 12 points. ASU is just 9-7 at home since the start of the 2008 season (and 6 of those wins have come against NAU (twice), Washington State, Idaho State, ULM, and Portland State).

Other Games


Miami (-3.5) @ Pittsburgh (Pitt beats the spread)


Buffalo (+17.5) @ Connecticut (UConn covers)
Central Michigan (+9) @ Northwestern (CM beats the spread)
Virginia Tech (-4) @ Boston College (BC beats the spread)
Florida International (+10) @ Maryland (FIU beats the spread)
Bowling Green (+23) @ Michigan (Michigan covers)
NC State (+9) @ Georgia Tech (NC State pulls off the upset)
Ball State (+28) @ Iowa (BSU beats the spread)
Toledo (+13) @ Purdue (Purdue covers)
UAB (+13.5) @ Tennessee (Tennessee covers)
Central Florida (+5.5) @ Kansas State (KSU covers)
Air Force (-11) @ Wyoming (Air Force covers)
Miami (OH) (+18.5) @ Missouri (Miami (OH) beats the spread)
Army (+6.5) @ Duke (Army beats the spread)
USC (-24) @ Washington State (USC covers)
Tulane (+20.5) @ Houston (Tulane beats the spread)
North Carolina (Pick) @ Rutgers (Rutgers covers)
Eastern Michigan (+42.5) @ Ohio State (Ohio State covers)
Temple (+17) @ Penn State (Temple beats the spread)
UCLA (+16) @ Texas (Texas covers)
Wake Forest (+17.5) @ Florida State (WF beats the spread)
Arkansas State (+11.5) @ Troy (Troy covers)
Idaho (-7.5) @ Colorado State (CSU beats the spread)
Oklahoma (-17) @ Cincinnati (Oklahoma covers)
North Texas (+6.5) @ Florida Atlantic (FAU covers)
Akron (+21.5) @ Indiana (Indiana covers)
New Mexico State (+21.5) @ Kansas (Kansas covers)
Southern Miss (-5.5) @ Louisiana Tech (LT beats the spread)
Ohio (+5.5) @ Marshall (Ohio beats the spread)
Middle Tennessee State (-2) @ Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL pulls off the upset)
Georgia (+2) @ Mississippi State (UGA pulls off the upset)
Kentucky (+14) @ Florida (Florida covers)
Western Kentucky (+26.5) @ South Florida (USF covers)
San Jose State (+33) @ Utah (Utah covers)
Utah State (+8) @ San Diego State (Utah State beats the spread)
Baylor (-7) @ Rice (Baylor covers)
Northern Illinois (+4) @ Minnesota (NIU pulls off the upset)
Memphis (+9.5) @ UTEP (UTEP covers)
New Mexico (+7.5) @ UNLV (UNLV covers)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Braves Blog: Philadelphia Series Preview

Somewhat surprisingly, the Braves began their last road trip of the season with a 3 game sweep of the New York Mets. Unfortunately, now that the Braves seem to have momentarily dislodged whatever it was that was stuck firmly in their throats, the Bravos must head over to Philadelphia to face a very different opponent. The Braves are now 86-74 (.573) and in 2nd place in the East, 3 games back of the 1st place Phillies. The Braves have the 2nd best record in the National League, 2 games better than the Reds and the Giants. Atlanta is in 1st place in the Wild Card standings, 2.5 games in front of the Padres and 3.5 games ahead of the Rockies.

Despite being on the fringe of the playoffs, the Braves have a +122 run differential which is tops in the NL. Even with the 3 game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field, the Braves are still just 34-41 (.453) on the road. The Braves are back to .500 in September at 9-9. The Bravos are 20-21 in 1-run games and 7-7 in extra innings.

Philadelphia Series Preview

The Phillies are hotter than hot and finally playing like the team everyone expected them to be. There’s no reason to expect them to revert back to their ways of the first 4.5 months of the season. They stayed hot on Sunday, coming from 3 back in the 9th against the Nats at home to win 7-6 for their 7th straight victory. They are now 89-61 (.593) and 50-28 (.641) at Citizens Bank. The Phils are 15-3 in September and 42-21 since the All-Star Break. They are 11-1 in their last 12, 16-3 in their last 19, and 19-4 in their last 23. The Phils are a ridiculous 27-15 in 1-run games and 11-6 in extra innings.

Season Series

The Braves are 7-5 against the Phillies this season, having outscored them just 46-44 over those 12 games. The Bravos have even hung in their pretty well in Philly, going 3-3 there so far this season. It’s been an interesting season series to this point. It started off well for the Braves, as they got one of their many dramatic late game comeback wins in their first game against the Phils back on April 20th at Turner Field. The Braves scored 3 in the 9th on homers by Troy Glaus and Jayson Heyward to tie the game at 3-3, and then won in the 10th on a homer by Nate McLouth. But the Phillies won the last 2 games to take the series. A few weeks later in early May the Braves dropped 2 of the 3 to the Phils in Philadelphia, again being outscored 13-7 during the series.

But by the end of the month things had changed, as the Braves pulled off a 3 game sweep of the Phillies at the Ted, outscoring Philly 18-7 during the series. Then in early July the Braves found a way to win 2 of 3 over the Phils at Citizens Bank, outscoring the Phillies 14-11 over the course of the 3 games. The Braves have won 5 of the last 6 games in the season series. Amazingly, while the Phillies have had tremendous luck in close games and extra inning games this season, the Braves are somehow 2-0 against the Phillies in 1-run games and 2-0 against them in extra inning affairs.

Phillies Stats

The Phillies have finally gotten rolling offensively, and as any Braves fan knows, that is a scary thing. The Phils are now 3rd in the NL in runs per game and 5th in homers. They are 5th in stolen bases but they are by far the best base stealing team in the NL with an 83% SB success rate. The Phils are 4th in walks and 3rd in fewest strikeouts. They are 7th in the NL in batting average; 6th in OBP; 5th in Slugging; and 5th in OPS.

The scariest thing about the Phillies is that their offense isn’t even their strength anymore, it’s their starting pitching. Overall, the Phillies are 6th in the NL in runs allowed per game, 6th in ERA, and 3rd in WHIP. They lead the NL in complete games and complete game shutouts. They are tied for 2nd in the NL in team shutouts. The rotation has been excellent, especially since Roy Oswalt joined the Phils. The Phils are 3rd in the NL in starter ERA and tied 2nd in quality starts. The bullpen hasn’t been as strong as the rotation. The Phils are 9th in the NL in bullpen ERA and 10th in the NL with a 67% Save success rate.

The Phils have been a solid defensive team this season in spite of all the injuries. They are 5th in the NL in fewest errors and 4th in Fielding Percentage. They are 5th in Defensive Efficiency and 5th in double plays.

Pitching Matchups


Jair Jurrgens vs. Cole Hamels

The opener is going to be an absolutely huge game, and the Braves desperately need a good performance from Jurrgens. Double-J is now 7-6 in 20 starts this season with a 4.64 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. The Braves are 12-8 with him on the mound and he has thrown 10 Quality Starts. Jurrgens has struggled mightily on the road this year, going 1-4 with a 5.81 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 10 starts. He has thrown 5 QS on the road and the Braves are actually 4-6 in his 10 road starts.

Since coming back from a hamstring injury on June 30th, Jurrgens has gone 7-3 in 15 starts but with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. The Braves have gone 10-5 in those 15 starts despite the fact that he has only notched 8 QS during that time. In his last 5 starts Jurrgens is 2-2 but with a 7.09 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP. He has just 1 QS over that time and the Braves are 2-3 in his last 5 starts. JJ got the job done in his only start against the Phils this season. Back on July 6th, Jurrgens went 6 innings at Citizens Bank, allowing just 3 runs on 2 hits and 3 walks with 4 K’s. He got a no-decision but the Braves wound up winning it 6-3.

Hamels has found himself again and is once more one of the best left handed starters in the game. He is just 11-10 with 1 Complete Game in 30 starts this year but he has posted a 3.01 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He has 20 QS but the Phillies have somehow gone just 17-13 with him on the mound. At home, Hamels is just 6-5 in 16 starts, despite a 2.99 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He has 11 QS at Citizens Bank but the Phillies are just 8-8 there with Hamels on the mound. Hamels has been very unlucky this season, especially over the last 3 months or so. Since June 7th, Hamels has posted a 2.42 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP over 19 starts but has just a 6-6 record. He’s thrown QS in 15 of his last 19 starts but the Phillies are just 10-9 in those games. Lately Hamels has started to be rewarded for his good work. He is 4-0 in his last 5 starts with a 0.76 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. The Phillies have won 4 of his last 5 starts and he has thrown a QS in all 5 of those games.

Hamels has had a weird year against the Braves. His first start against the Braves this season came at home on May 9th, when he allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks with 5 K over 5 innings to get the win in the Phillies 5-3 victory. Then on the first day of June at Atlanta Hamels had one of the shortest starts of his career, allowing 3 runs on 2 hits and a walk over just 0.2 innings before hitting the showers. He got the loss, as the Braves won 7-3. On July 6th Hamels faced the Braves at home, going 7 innings and allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks with 8 K. He took a no-decision and the Braves went on to win it 6-3. In 3 starts against the Braves this season Hamels is 1-1 but with a 6.39 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP over 12.2 innings. He has thrown only 1 QS against them and the Phillies are 1-2 in his 3 starts against the Braves.


Mike Minor vs. Roy Halladay

Obviously the Braves will not have the starting pitching advantage in game 2. Minor’s main task on Tuesday will be to complete 6 innings and keep the Braves from having to wear out their bullpen. Minor is 3-1 in his 7 starts but with a 5.84 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. The Braves are 4-3 with Minor on the mound and he has tossed 3 QS. Minor is 1-0 in 3 road starts but with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. He has made 2 QS on the road but the Braves are just 1-2 in his 3 road starts. Minor has really struggled in his last 3 starts, going 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. The Braves are 1-2 over his last 3 starts and he did not throw a QS in any of those games.

Roy Halladay just might be the best pitcher in the game right now. He is 19-10 in 31 starts with a 2.49 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. The right hander has thrown 8 CG and 3 SHO. He has 23 QS and the Phillies are 20-11 with him on the mound. He has been excellent in Philly, going 11-5 in 17 home starts with a 2.12 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He has thrown 4 CG, 1 SHO, and 14 QS at home, and the Phillies are 12-5 with him on the mound at Citizens Bank.

Halladay has completely shut down the Braves in 2 starts against them this season. On April 21st at Turner Field, Halladay shutout the Braves on 5 hits and a walk with 7 K in the Phillies 2-0 win. On July 5th at home, Halladay went the distance again, this time allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and a walk with 7 K in a 3-1 Philly victory. In his 2 starts against the Braves this season, Halladay is 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA, a 0.67 WHIP, and 14 K over 18 innings. If there is anything the Braves can look to for confidence it is the fact that Halladay has been slightly off his game recently. He is 3-0 over his last 3 starts but has thrown only 1 QS over that stretch, posting a 4.79 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP over 20.2 innings.


Tommy Hanson vs. Roy Oswalt

The finale of this series will also be huge. Again, the Braves really need Tommy Hanson to come up big for them on Wednesday. Hanson is just 10-11 in 31 starts but the Braves are 18-13 with him on the mound. Hanson has posted a 3.62 ERA and a1.20 WHIP this season, and he has thrown 17 QS. Hanson has a 3.44 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP, and 8 QS in 15 road starts this season. He is just 5-6 on the road but the Braves are 9-6 with him on the mound in 15 starts away from home. Tommy has actually been very good over the last few months but his record doesn’t show it. Since July 3rd, Hanson has thrown 10 QS in 15 starts with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, but he has just a 3-6 record in those starts and the Braves are just 7-8 in those games. Hanson is 2-1 in his last 4 starts with a 2.77 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP. He has thrown QS in 3 of his last 4 starts and the Braves are 3-1 in those games.

Hanson has fared okay against the Phillies so far this season. On April 20th against the Phils at Turner Field, Hanson allowed only 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk with 4 K but lasted only 4.2 innings. He took a no-decision as the Braves came from behind to win 4-3. On May 31st Hanson again faced the Phils at home, this time going 6.2 innings and allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks with 2 K to get the win in a 9-3 Braves victory. He has allowed 3 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks with 6 K over 11.1 innings in 2 starts against the Phils this season. But both of those starts were at home.

Oswalt has been everything the Phillies could have hoped for when they brought him over in a trade a couple of months ago. Overall in 2010, Oswalt is 13-13 with 2 CG, 2 SHO, a 2.90 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and 23 QS in 30 starts for the Astros and Phillies. In 10 starts with the Phils, Oswalt is 7-1 with 1 CG, a 1.94 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP. He has tossed 8 QS in his 10 starts with Philly and the Phils are 9-1 with him on the mound. In fact, they’ve won his last 9 starts.


Outlook? Well, to be honest, it isn’t very good. Considering that the Braves are just 3 games back of the Phillies with 12 games to play, this might sound like a very strange statement, but I would probably take losing 2 of 3 in this series if someone offered it to me. The 3-game sweep of the Mets in New York was huge for the Braves, but they haven’t been playing that well over the last month. The Phils, on the other hand, have been on fire over the last month. The Braves have not been a good road team this season and the Phillies have been very tough to beat at home. The Phillies have also been very, very good in close games, and these games are probably going to be close (assuming the Braves pitch well, otherwise they’ll probably get blown out).

The Phillies will have all 3 of their aces pitching in this series, while the Braves will not have their ace going in this series and they will have their weakest starter going. In the opener, the Braves will be facing a lefty, and they have struggled against lefties this season. JJ has not pitched well since the collapse in Denver. Monday’s game is huge because a win for Atlanta would take a lot of pressure off of the Braves and put a little bit of pressure on the Phillies. The Braves will be huge underdogs in the second game, facing perhaps the best pitcher in the game, while they will be going with a rookie lefty who probably shouldn’t be in the Majors right now. The finale is going to be a huge game no-matter what happens in the first two games. It may end up being the biggest game of the year for the Braves if they lose the first 2. However, as good as Hanson has been over the last couple of months, the Braves have had bad luck with him on the mound. The Phillies, on the other hand, have been just about unbeatable with Oswalt on the mound.

I suppose this has to be considered the biggest series of the year so far for the Braves. It certainly looks like the toughest. As much as the Braves want to win this series, the biggest concern in my mind is that they avoid being swept. Yes, the Braves are still very much alive for the NL East title, but the main goal is to make the postseason. Being swept in this series would not only put the division title virtually out of reach, it would also put a major hurt on the Braves chances of winning the Wild Card.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The College Football Blog: 2010 Season Résumé Rankings (After Week 3)

Season Résumé Rankings after Week 3

1. Alabama 3-0 (2nd)
2. Ohio State 3-0 (3rd)
3. TCU 3-0 (4th)
4. Oklahoma 3-0 (5th)
5. Michigan 3-0 (1st)
6. Oregon 3-0 (6th)
7. Utah 3-0 (7th)
8. Auburn 3-0 (9th)
9. South Carolina 3-0 (8th)
10. LSU 3-0 (10th)

Out: None.

Explanation: These rankings are obviously still a few weeks away from being very interesting or meaningful. Michigan tumbled out of 1st after their lackluster win over UMass at home. No other team moved more than 1 spot up or down this week.

The College Football Blog: 2010 Power Rankings (After Week 3)

Power Rankings after Week 3

1. Alabama 3-0 (1st)
2. Ohio State 3-0 (2nd)
3. Oklahoma 3-0 (3rd)
4. Florida 3-0 (4th)
5. Oregon 3-0 (5th)
6. Boise State 2-0 (6th)
7. TCU 3-0 (7th)
8. Texas 3-0 (9th)
9. Nebraska 3-0 (10th)
10. Iowa 2-1 (8th)
11. Arkansas 3-0 (12th)
12. South Carolina 3-0 (13th)
13. Auburn 3-0 (14th)
14. Wisconsin 3-0 (11th)
15. LSU 3-0 (15th)

Out: None.

Explanation: It was a much calmer week for my power rankings, as all 15 teams stayed in the rankings and the top 7 teams remained in place. I only moved Iowa down 2 spots from 8th to 10th, despite the fact that they suffered their first loss of the season. They lost on the road by 7 to a good Arizona team, and I still think they are one of the better teams in the country. Texas and Nebraska each had road wins over BCS teams and thus they both moved up a spot in the rankings. Arkansas also had a big road win and the Hogs moved up a spot from 12th to 11th. South Carolina was not all that impressive against Furman but I moved them up a spot from 13th to 12th. I moved Auburn up a spot from 14th to 13th but kept them behind South Carolina because I did not expect them to need overtime to beat Clemson at home. Wisconsin took the biggest plunge in my rankings this week, falling 3 spots from 11th to 14th. The Badgers were not very impressive at home against Arizona State, needing a blocked extra point to hang on for a 1 point win.

The NFL Blog: 2010 Power Rankings (After Week 1)

Power Rankings After Week 1

1. New Orleans 1-0 (2nd)
2. Baltimore 1-0 (3rd)
3. Green Bay 1-0 (6th)
4. New England 1-0 (9th)
5. Minnesota 0-1 (1st)
6. Indianapolis 0-1 (4th)
7. New York Giants 1-0 (11th)
8. New York Jets 0-1 (7th)
9. Cincinnati 0-1 (8th)
10. Pittsburgh 1-0 (14th)
11. Dallas 0-1 (5th)
12. Houston 1-0 (19th)
13. Tennessee 1-0 (16th)
14. Miami 1-0 (15th)
15. Washington 1-0 (18th)
16. Atlanta 0-1 (21st)
17. San Diego 0-1 (10th)
18. Philadelphia 0-1 (17th)
19. Kansas City 1-0 (24th)
20. Arizona 1-0 (21st)
21. Jacksonville 1-0 (25th)
22. Seattle 1-0 (26th)
23. Tampa Bay 1-0 (27th)
24. San Francisco 0-1 (13th)
25. Chicago 1-0 (20th)
26. Detroit 0-1 (30th)
27. Denver 0-1 (28th)
28. Cleveland 0-1 (29th)
29. St. Louis 0-1 (32nd)
30. Carolina 0-1 (22nd)
31. Buffalo 0-1 (31st)
32. Oakland 0-1 (23rd)

The NFL Blog: 2010 Week 2 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (6-9-1); Straight Up: (9-7)

Season: Vs. Spread (6-9-1); Straight Up: (9-7)

Week 1 Review: Not a good start.

Week 2 Preview: Obviously these are late as hell so no time for comments.

Sunday’s Early Games

Baltimore (-1) @ Cincinnati
Pick: Ravens cover

Miami (+5.5) @ Minnesota
Pick: Vikings cover

Chicago (+9) @ Dallas
Pick: Cowboys win but Bears beat the spread

Philadelphia (-6) @ Detroit
Pick: Eagles cover

Arizona (+6.5) @ Atlanta
Pick: Falcons win but Cards beat the spread

Kansas City (+1) @ Cleveland
Pick: Browns cover

Buffalo (+13) @ Green Bay
Pick: Packers cover

Pittsburgh (+5) @ Tennessee
Pick: Titans win but Steelers beat the spread

Tampa Bay (+3.5) @ Carolina
Pick: Panthers cover

Sunday’s Late Games

St. Louis (+3.5) @ Oakland
Pick: Raiders win but Rams beat the spread

Seattle (+3.5) @ Denver
Pick: Broncos win but Seahawks beat the spread

Houston (-2.5) @ Washington
Pick: Skins pull off the upset

Jacksonville (+7) @ San Diego
Pick: Chargers cover

New England (-2.5) @ New York Jets
Pick: Patriots cover

Sunday Night’s Game

New York Giants (+5) @ Indianapolis
Pick: Colts win but Giants beat the spread

Monday Night’s Game

New Orleans (-5.5) @ San Francisco
Pick: Saints cover

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The College Football Blog: 2010 Week 3 Betting Lines

Last Week’s Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 8-2; Vs. Spread: 4-6)

Overall (Straight up: 36-9; Vs. Spread: 26-19; Moneyline Upsets: 1-3)

Season Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 17-3; Vs. Spread: 8-11-1)

Overall (Straight up: 69-15; Vs. Spread: 43-40-1; Moneyline Upsets: 1-6)

Week 2 Review: I have to admit to feeling pretty good about my performance last week. That’s about as good as I ever am against the spread. Moneyline upsets could use a little work though.

Week 3 Preview: As far as the number of interesting games, this week sucks compared with the first couple of weeks of the year. I’m feeling confident after last week. I’m not too confident with upsets, however, and I don’t see many this week. So there should be quite a few actually. No time for comments this week.

Game 1: California (-2.5) @ Nevada
Pick: Nevada pulls off the upset


Game 2: Arkansas (+2.5) @ Georgia
Pick: Georgia covers

Game 3: Georgia Tech (+2) @ North Carolina
Pick: UNC covers

Game 4: BYU (+10) @ Florida State
Pick: FSU covers

Game 5: Nebraska (-3) @ Washington
Pick: Washington beats the spread

Game 6: Florida (-14) @ Tennessee
Pick: Florida covers

Game 7: Clemson (+7.5) @ Auburn
Pick: Clemson beats the spreads

Game 8: Notre Dame (+3.5) @ Michigan State
Pick: Notre Dame beats the spread

Game 9: Texas (-3) @ Texas Tech
Pick: Texas covers

Game 10: Iowa (-1.5) @ Arizona
Pick: Arizona beats the spread

Other Games


Cincinnati (+1.5) @ NC State (NC State covers)

Kansas (+5.5) @ Southern Mississippi (Southern Miss covers)


Ohio (+30.5) @ Ohio State (Ohio State covers)
North Texas (+5.5) @ Army (North Texas beats the spread)
Kent State (+21) @ Penn State (Penn State covers)
Connecticut (-6) vs. Temple (UConn covers)
Maryland (+10) @ West Virginia (Maryland beats the spread)
Northern Illinois (+7) @ Illinois (NIU beats the spread)
Iowa State (+3.5) vs. Kansas State (Kansas City) (KSU covers)
Ball State (+16.5) @ Purdue (BSU beats the spread)
Vanderbilt (+12) @ Mississippi (Vandy beats the spread)
Eastern Carolina (+19.5) @ Virginia Tech (ECU beats the spread)
Hawaii (+11.5) @ Colorado (Colorado covers)
USC (-12) @ Minnesota (Minnesota beats the spread)
Alabama (-23.5) @ Duke (Bama covers)
Air Force (+17) @ Oklahoma (Oklahoma covers)
Arizona State (+14) @ Wisconsin (ASU beats the spread)
Washington State (+23) @ SMU (SMU covers)
Colorado State (+8) @ Miami (Ohio) (Miami (OH) covers)
Troy (-3.5) @ UAB (Troy covers)
Central Michigan (-9.5) @ Eastern Michigan (EM beats the spread)
Baylor (+21.5) @ TCU (Baylor beats the spread)
Indiana (-12) @ Western Kentucky (Indiana covers)
Louisville (+19.5) @ Oregon State (Oregon State covers)
Central Florida (-8.5) @ Buffalo (UCF covers)
Northwestern (-6.5) @ Rice (NW covers)
Florida International (+27.5) @ Texas A&M (A&M covers)
Tulsa (+7) @ Oklahoma State (Tulsa beats the spread)
Marshall (-3) @Bowling Green (BG beats the spread)
San Diego State (+13.5) @ Missouri (Mizzu covers)
Akron (+25) @ Kentucky (Kentucky covers)
Middle Tennessee State (-4.5) @ Memphis (MTS covers)
Toledo (+3.5) @ Western Michigan (WM covers)
Navy (-3.5) @ Louisiana Tech (LT pulls off the upset)
Mississippi State (+7.5) @ LSU (Miss State beats the spread)
Fresno State (-5.5) @ Utah State (Utah State beats the spread)
Utah (-22.5) @ New Mexico (Utah covers)
Boise State (-23.5) @ Wyoming (Boise State covers)
Louisiana-Monroe (+3.5) @ Arkansas State (Ark State covers)
New Mexico State (+14.5) @ UTEP (UTEP covers)
Houston (-3) @ UCLA (Houston covers)
UNLV (+7) @ Idaho (UNLV beats the spread)
Wake Forest (+17) @ Stanford (Stanford covers)

The College Football Blog: 2010 Season Résumé Rankings (After Week 2)

Season Résumé Rankings after Week 2

1. Michigan 2-0 (3rd)
2. Alabama 2-0 (6th)
3. Ohio State 2-0 (7th)
4. TCU 2-0 (2nd)
5. Oklahoma 2-0 (NR)
6. Oregon 2-0 (8th)
7. Utah 2-0 (5th)
8. South Carolina 2-0 (NR)
9. Auburn 2-0 (NR)
10. LSU 2-0 (NR)

Out: Boise State (1st); Fresno State (4th); Georgia (9th); Miami (10th).

Explanation: These rankings are still a little weird, as it’s so early, and they probably will be strange for a few more weeks. Because it’s so early and we only have a couple of games to weigh, any team that has lost a game already was not going to make these rankings this week. Also, any team that hadn’t played 2 games wasn’t going to make these rankings.

Boise State and Fresno State—the previous week’s #1 and #4 teams respectively—were idle last week and thus got bumped out. Georgia and Miami fell out for obvious reasons. I have Michigan at the top because they have defeated 2 teams from BCS conferences (at least we're pretending Notre Dame is from a BCS conference because that’s the way we’re supposed to look at it) who I think are decent, one on the road, the other in convincing fashion.

All of the other teams have had at least 1 win over a decent team from a major conference. And of course I’m still having to use some preconceived beliefs in order to separate teams like Alabama and Ohio State, who have each blown out a weak opponent and soundly beaten a quality opponent at home. These rankings should become more relevant as the season goes on.

The College Football Blog: 2010 Power Rankings (After Week 2)

Power Rankings after Week 2

1. Alabama 2-0 (1st)
2. Ohio State 2-0 (2nd)
3. Oklahoma 2-0 (6th)
4. Florida 2-0 (3rd)
5. Oregon 2-0 (8th)
6. Boise State 1-0 (4th)
7. TCU 2-0 (5th)
8. Iowa 2-0 (9th)
9. Texas 2-0 (7th)
10. Nebraska 2-0 (11th)
11. Wisconsin 2-0 (15th)
12. Arkansas 2-0 (NR)
13. South Carolina 2-0 (NR)
14. Auburn 2-0 (NR)
15. LSU 2-0 (NR)

Out: North Carolina (10th); Georgia (12th); Virginia Tech (13th); Miami (14th).

Explanation: My rankings were shook up a bit this week. We’ve only gone through 2 weeks of the season and already I struggled to find enough teams to fill out the rankings. That normally happens much later in the season.

Keeping Bama #1 doesn’t need much justification. I think it’s hard to make an argument for someone other than the Crimson Tide being #1 at this point unless you’re going out of your way to keep everything based on just this season, and ignoring all past events, and frankly that would be stupid.

Ohio State is a clear #2 for me. They came into the season as one of the favorites to contend for a National Title and they’ve lived up to the hype so far. Outside of a few lapses on special teams, the Buckeyes creamed Miami at home on Saturday. They are going to be tough to beat if Terrelle Prior doesn’t try to do too much and get his team in trouble. I can’t see them losing a clean game to anyone in the Big Ten. If they were to fall inside the conference it would have to be due to costly turnovers and some fluke plays.

Two teams climbed 3 spots in my rankings this week, one of them being Oklahoma, who I had been quite disappointed with the week before. The team that obliterated Florida State was the Oklahoma I had expected to see this year.

I moved Florida back a spot from 3rd to 4th, as their offense again struggled to get rolling against South Florida. Once again there were some problems with the snap exchange, and they need to get that figured out quickly. I’m also unsure what to do with the suspension of Chris Rainey. Ordinarily I don’t consider suspensions or injuries unless they are season long. Rainey has not been kicked off the team but there’s no timetable for his return. My hunch is that he’ll be back with the team at some point, unless there is more to the story. Frankly, if all he did was send one threatening text message to an ex-girlfriend I can’t see him being kicked off the football team or facing any serious legal punishment. If Rainey is gone for good I think it will hurt. There have been times during Urban Meyer’s reign when the loss of one weapon wouldn’t have been a problem. That might not be the case this season.

The Oregon Ducks were the other team that moved up 3 spots in my rankings this week, jumping into the top 5. Consider me a believer in Oregon. I thought they’d be good this year, but I thought they took a big hit when Jeremiah Masoli was kicked out. Apparently they are going to be just fine without him. While I’m also now much more of a believer that Tennessee is a shambles, I was still awed by what they did at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. They went down 13-3 early in the 2nd quarter, and then proceeded to shutout the Vols 45-0 the rest of the way. I didn’t want to freak out over their ass kicking of New Mexico, but they have now won me over.

The two non-BCS powers dropped in my rankings this week despite the fact that Boise State was idle and TCU won convincingly. Boise State dropped from 4th to 6th and TCU fell from 5th to 7th. It was really more about what other teams did. I think Boise State is very good but I’m just not sure how big of a win that Virginia Tech game was anymore. I thought VT was a really good team. But how good could they really be if they got worked by James Madison at home? I think both TCU and Boise State are great teams, but I still think the best teams from the big boy conferences would beat them on a neutral field if the game was equally important to both sides.

Iowa and Nebraska each moved up a spot in my rankings this week. I moved the Hawkeyes up from 9th to 8th after they smoked arch rival Iowa State. That game is almost always close but it wasn’t this time. Nebraska hasn’t had to play anyone yet, but they haven’t given me any reason to think I overrated them at the start of the year. I moved the Cornhuskers up a spot from 11th to 10th.

My decision to drop Texas from 5th to 7th might be a bit puzzling to some. Basically I just haven’t seen the Texas of the last few seasons yet this year. They eventually pulled away from Wyoming on Saturday but the offense was again stagnant for much of the afternoon. This may be one of those years where Texas is just a good team, and not a great team, like the first 2 years of the Colt McCoy era. On the other hand, last Saturday’s game was quite similar to last year’s week 2 game against Wyoming, so maybe it doesn’t mean anything.

The team making the biggest move in my rankings this week was Wisconsin, which jumped 4 spots from 15th to 11th. However, this was really more about the teams in front of them having disappointing performances than it was about anything the Badgers did. Wisconsin hasn’t been overly impressive, but they have taken care of business against a pair of weaker opponents, and I thought they were a much more dangerous team than most people did going into the year.

My preseason power 15 stayed intact for 1 week without anyone moving out or in, but this week that changed, as 4 teams exited. The UNC situation is one of the most annoying of any I can remember. I don’t understand how this whole thing still hasn’t been cleared up. The Tar Heels were off last week and my first draft of these rankings had them remaining in the top 15 at #11. However, with so many of those defensive stars still not eligible, I decided it was time for them to go away until we find out what the story is. If I thought they would eventually be eligible I wouldn’t have done this, but I’ll be shocked if they aren’t all ruled ineligible.

Three other teams fell out of my rankings this week. As much as it pains me, I had to move the Dawgs out after they lost to South Carolina last week. Obviously I was too optimistic in my forecast for Georgia this season. While I think the Dawgs will obviously be much more capable on offense when AJ Green gets back in the lineup, I don’t think it’s the offense that’s going to end up being the biggest problem. It looks like there will be some growing pains ahead on the defensive side of the ball as the 3-4 instituted.

Both of the ACC teams—Miami and Virginia Tech—disappeared from the rankings this week. Obviously VT’s loss to James Madison at home was the more discouraging performance. Look, I fully understand that they were playing on a short week. I know that they were down after the heartbreaking loss to Boise State. I know that many of the fans stayed away because of the weather, the opponent, and the mood after the disappointing loss to the Broncos. However, they got out worked and out played by JMU. I really don’t care how good James Madison has been at their level. That was an inexcusable loss.

Miami’s loss was much more respectable and understandable. In fact, it was expected. The Canes only lost by 12 at Ohio State, which is actually not that bad. Clearly the speed and power talent is returning to Miami. However, several of their big scoring plays were a bit fluky. They had 2 kick returns for touchdowns. Obviously that’s good in some ways, because it means that they have some athletes. On the other hand, if Ohio State had simply kicked it out of bounds on those 2 kicks the Canes probably would have lost by more than 12 points. Their main problem right now is that they have a really good athlete playing the most important position on the field, who isn’t a very good football player. Making matters worse, he thinks he’s really good. That’s a bad mix. I think the Canes will be inconsistent from week to week.

The most frustrating part of making these rankings was trying to fill out the back end of the power 15 and not really having anyone I wanted to put there. When in doubt, I always turn to the SEC, and thus all 4 of the new arrivals to my rankings are teams from the SEC (Arkansas, South Carolina, Auburn, and LSU). I felt pretty good about these teams going into the season and they’ve all been okay so far. South Carolina was impressive in their win over Georgia, holding the Dawgs to just 6 points and running all over the field. Arkansas was thought to be a dark horse contender going into the year. I had (and still have) concerns about their defense and we will learn a lot about them this weekend when they travel to Georgia for their first real game of the year. I thought Auburn was flying under the radar going into the year and they pulled out a tough conference road win over an improved Mississippi State team last Thursday. The last team in was LSU and I felt the least good about including them in my rankings. They basically replaced UNC when I decided that the eligibility issues could no longer be ignored. This was interesting because the Tigers opened up the season against the Tar Heels at the Georgia Dome a couple of weeks ago, nearly giving the game away after they appeared to have the game wrapped up on several occasions. I thought the Tigers would be down this season and they haven’t really done anything impressive this year to make me think otherwise. However, I still think LSU in a down year is probably as good as any of the other teams out there to choose from for the final spot in the rankings.

I’m sure some people are wondering about Michigan, but I got burned by the Wolverines last year and I’m going to make them prove it to me this year. I mean they were basically lucky to beat Notre Dame last week after allowing that long TD pass to fall behind with only minutes to go. Anyway, it doesn’t matter that much who the 15th team is. More than likely there will be several new teams again next week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The College Football Blog: 2010 Week 2 Betting Lines

Last Week’s Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 9-1; Vs. Spread: 4-5-1)

Overall (Straight up: 33-6; Vs. Spread: 17-21-1; Moneyline Upsets: 0-3)

Season Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 9-1; Vs. Spread: 4-5-1)

Overall (Straight up: 33-6; Vs. Spread: 17-21-1; Moneyline Upsets: 0-3)

Week 1 Review: Not too good, huh. Below .500 against the spread and oh-for-three on moneyline upsets.

Week 2 Preview: This week’s games are very intriguing but I had a much harder time making my picks this week. I was indecisive on almost every pick I made against the spread this week. I’m not at all confident.


Game 1: Georgia (+3) @ South Carolina
Pick: Georgia pulls off the upset
Comment: I hate this game. Losing this game is devastating. Winning always just feels like a relief that we didn’t lose. And it’s always close. It’s always ugly and really close. Actually last year’s game was unusual. It was still extremely close, but the two teams put up 78 points after they had scored only 67 total points in the 3 previous matchups combined. In the previous 11 meetings the total had never been higher than 38 points. Still, the game was decided by 7 points or less for the 7th time in the last 9 years. Despite the fact that the game usually hangs in the balance on the final play, the Dawgs have managed to win 7 of 8, including 4 straight in Columbia. Thus, I usually have a strange sense of nervous confidence going into the South Carolina game. I’m probably always going to expect the Dawgs to beat South Carolina, just as I will always expect them to beat Georgia Tech, Arkansas, and Ole Miss, no matter how good or bad those teams look. Both teams will be without significant players due to the usual idiotic off the field issues. The Dawgs will have a very inexperienced QB playing his first road game against the always stingy Gamecock defense. And this is a huge game for the South Carolina fans. They will be fired up. Good thing the Dawgs have a very solid offensive line and running game. Plus, Georgia should never lose to South Carolina.

Game 2: South Florida (+15) @ Florida
Pick: South Florida beats the spread
Comment: Hard to know what to make of Florida’s lackluster win over Miami of Ohio at the Swamp last week. All of the fumbled snaps surely had a major impact on Florida’s problems offensively. You have to expect that situation to improve. However, South Florida will be extremely fired up for this one, and they have played well against power opponents on the road.

Game 3: Florida State (+8) @ Oklahoma
Pick: FSU beats the spread
Comment: Oklahoma’s unimpressive win over Utah State in Norman bothered me more than Florida’s unimpressive performance because Oklahoma didn’t have the fumbled snap exchange excuse. Going into the season I would not have thought FSU had much of a chance in this game. FSU’s defense should be improved this year, but great defenses usually have a hard time slowing down Oklahoma, especially at home. However, Florida State’s offense is also explosive, and considering that Utah State put up 24 on Oklahoma and held the Sooners to 31 last week, this game doesn’t seem like as much of a non-threat to Oklahoma as it did a week ago.

Game 4: Iowa State (+13.5) @ Iowa
Pick: Iowa State beats the spread
Comment: I love this game. There is little speed involved. It’s just old school tackle football. And Iowa State rarely goes down easily. Last year Iowa won 35-3, but things were really much closer than that, as ISU turned it over 6 times leading to 28 Hawkeye points. Prior to last year the Cyclones had beaten the spread as an underdog 5 years in a row.

Game 5: Michigan (+3.5) @ Notre Dame
Pick: Michigan pulls off the upset
Comment: This is one of the more intriguing games of the weekend in my opinion. One fan base will get to be overly optimistic for at least another week. The other fan base will again be brought back into reality. ND’s era of mediocrity has been proclaimed to be over several times during the last 20 years, but such claims have always proven to be premature. This is a trend that I would love to see continue this weekend.

Game 6: Miami (+9) @ Ohio State
Pick: Ohio State covers
Comment: This spread seemed a bit large at first, but then I started thinking about it. I think Miami is pretty good, but I consider Ohio State to be one of the best teams in the country. This game is in Columbus. A 10 point win for the Buckeyes would make perfect sense.

Game 7: BYU (-1) @ Air Force
Pick: BYU covers
Comment: A very interesting spread. Clearly odds makers think BYU is down this season. The Cougars have won 6 straight in this series, with each win coming by at least 14 points. They’ve won 3 straight at Colorado Springs. Air Force has been the 4th best team in the Mountain West ever since Troy Calhoun took over in 2007, but the Falcons have gone just 2-7 against Utah, TCU, and BYU during Calhoun’s 3 seasons.

Game 8: Penn State (+11.5) @ Alabama
Pick: Alabama covers
Comment: This spread also seemed much too big at first. But again, once I thought about it I realized that the line was probably just where it should be. I expect Penn State to be a good team this year, but I think Bama is the best team in the country. Bama has an experienced QB and is playing at home. Penn State has a very inexperienced QB who is about to experience the SEC. Plus, while the Nittany Lions have put together some very good seasons over the last few years, they really haven’t won many “big games.” They are 3-9 vs. top 10 opponents since 2001. Oh yeah, and their head coach is an octogenarian.

Game 9: Oregon (-12) @ Tennessee
Pick: Oregon covers
Comment: Stunning. I know the UT program is not what it was a decade ago, but I would be curious to know how many times the Vols have been double digit underdogs at home. I’m almost certain it hasn’t occurred since I’ve been around. The Ducks steamrolled New Mexico last week, but we all know that eye popping scores against weak opponents can be misleading (see Tennessee winning 63-7 over Western Kentucky in week 1 last season and then losing to UCLA at home the following week). It’s a long trip from Eugene to Knoxville, and there will be a lot of orange people at the game on Saturday. And while the Tennessee program has clearly fallen hard, you can be certain that Oregon will be facing an eminently more talented team this weekend than the absolute joke of an FBS team they faced at home last week.

Game 10: Stanford (-6) @ UCLA
Pick: UCLA beats the spread
Comment: Yeah this game isn’t that interesting but there weren’t many other decent matchups left. Stanford is still figuring out how to win on the road, and the Bruins have been much more capable at home in recent years. Stanford’s win over UCLA last season snapped a 5 game losing streak in this series, and the Bruins have won the last 6 over Stanford at home.

Other Games


Central Michigan (+7.5) @ Temple (Temple covers)
Auburn (-1.5) @ Mississippi State (Auburn covers)


West Virginia (-13.5) @ Marshall (West Virginia covers)
UTEP (+19.5) @ Houston (UTEP beats the spread)


Memphis (+12.5) @ East Carolina (East Carolina covers)
Duke (+4.5) @ Wake Forest (Duke pulls off the upset)
San Jose State (+37.5) @ Wisconsin (Wisconsin covers)
Michigan State (-28) vs. Florida Atlantic (Detroit) (FAU beats the spread)
Georgia Tech (-13.5) @ Kansas (Kansas beats the spread)
Hawaii (+2.5) @ Army (Army covers)
Idaho (+28.5) @ Nebraska (Idaho beats the spread)
Eastern Michigan (+16.5) @ Miami (Ohio) (Eastern Mich beats the spread)
Arkansas State (+2) @ Louisiana Lafayette (Ark State pulls off the upset)
Colorado (+8.5) @ Cal (Cal covers)
Kent State (+17.5) @ Boston College (BC covers)
UNLV (+23.5) @ Utah (Utah covers)
Bowling Green (+16.5) @ Tulsa (Bowling Green beats the spread)
Louisiana Tech (+19.5) @ Texas A&M (A&M covers)
Rice (+2.5) @ North Texas (Rice beats the spread)
Wyoming (+29.5) @ Texas (Texas covers)
Arkansas (-34) vs. Louisiana Monroe (Little Rock) (ULM beats the spread)
Toledo (+7) @ Ohio (Toledo beats the spread)
Troy (+13.5) @ Oklahoma State (Troy beats the spread)
LSU (-10) @ Vanderbilt (LSU covers)
Buffalo (+17) @ Baylor (Baylor covers)
Syracuse (+14) @ Washington (Washington covers)
NC State (+3) @ Central Florida (UCF covers)
Western Kentucky (+24.5) @ Kentucky (Kentucky covers)
Rutgers (-19) @ Florida International (FIU beats the spread)
UAB (+11.5) @ SMU (SMU covers)
San Diego State (-13) @ New Mexico State (NMS beats the spread)
Texas Tech (-24) @ New Mexico (Texas Tech covers)
Mississippi (-20.5) @ Tulane (Miss covers)
Virginia (+19.5) @ USC (USC covers)
Colorado State (+23.5) @ Nevada (Nevada covers)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The College Football Blog: 2010 Season Résumé Rankings (After Week 1)

Season Résumé Rankings after Week 1

Note about the season résumé rankings: I started doing these rankings for the first time last year. These rankings are based on a team’s body of work during the season. In the beginning they are weird because we don’t have much evidence and it’s difficult to determine strength of opponent. Early on we still have to rely a lot on preconceived beliefs about teams in order to judge what is or is not an impressive victory. We also have to rely on those preconceived beliefs in order to separate one blowout win over an FCS opponent from another. As the season progresses these rankings will take on more meaning and will likely differ greatly from the power rankings.

1. Boise State (1-0)
2. TCU (1-0)
3. Michigan (1-0)
4. Fresno State (1-0)
5. Utah (1-0)
6. Alabama (1-0)
7. Ohio State (1-0)
8. Oregon (1-0)
9. Georgia (1-0)
10. Miami (1-0)

Explanation: These rankings could obviously change completely after next week. The first week’s rankings are pretty easy to explain. The top 10 can be neatly separated into two parts: the top half and the bottom half. This wasn’t intentional; that’s just how things ended up. There were 5 teams who had wins over opponents that I expect to be pretty good this season. I ranked those teams 1-5 based on how impressive their victory was and how good I actually think those teams are. The other half of the top 10 is made up of teams that I think are some of the best in the country who also blew out weaker opponents in week 1. I ranked these teams 6-10 using the same criteria that I use to make up the power rankings. Essentially, which team I think is better overall.