Archive for October 2009

College Football Picks ATS – Week 8

October 24, 2009

Here’s this week’s quick breakdowns of some marquee matchups:

Connecticut at No. 23 West Virginia (-7 ½)

The entire story of this game being and ends with the loss of UConn Huskies’ cornerback Jasper Howard, who was senselessly killed last Saturday evening following the team’s victory over Louisville; the Huskies have decided playing the game is the best way to honor him this week.

The Huskies bring an opportunistic defense into Morgantown, one that has forced at least two turnovers in six straight games. West Virginia is back in the Top 25 and will lean on RB Noel Devine in case QB Jarrett Brown is not recovered after last week’s helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him out of the game. It’s hard not to root for UConn this week and they will keep it close no matter what.

UConn 27, West Virginia 24.

Boston College at Notre Dame (-8)

The “Holy War” rages on in what will be the last meeting in South Bend for the foreseeable future as the series ends after next season. BC attempts to turn their road woes around where they have managed little to no offense in two losses by a combined score of 73-21.

Notre Dame has lost six straight to the Eagles and will bring in a potent pass offense led by Jimmy Clausen who ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency. This game has seen some shocking results over the past 15 years but I think Clausen is too much for the Eagles’ pedestrian pass rush.

Notre Dame 30, BC 20.

Tennessee at No. 2 Alabama (-14 ½)

The Tide continues to roll right along and the “third Saturday in October” is temporarily the fourth when the Vols travel to Tuscaloosa. Tennessee will jump on the back of Montario Hardesty who ranks 12th in the FBS in rushing yards and try to control the clock against the No. 1 ranked Tide.

Alabama is purely old school in 2009, which is to say, running (ranked ninth in team rushing) and defense (top of the heap in points allowed). Bama’s sophomore Heisman candidate RB Mark Ingram should pace the day and keep Tennessee off the field.

Alabama 27, Tennessee 14.

Clemson at No. 10 Miami (FL) (-4 ½)

Heisman hopeful Jacory Harris leads the 'Canes against Clemson

Heisman hopeful Jacory Harris leads the 'Canes against Clemson

Both teams find themselves in the thick of their respective divisional races yet again in the parity-laden ACC. Clemson comes off a dominant five-sack performance in which their 11th-ranked defense blew out Wake Forest 38-3.

Miami returns to conference play after a month away and will need to protect breakout QB Jacory Harris who ranks in the top 10 in passing efficiency. Clemson’s best performances have been special but they have yet to face an offense quite as versatile as the Hurricanes.

Miami 30, Clemson 24.

No. 11 Oregon at Washington (+10)

Oregon’s season has had quite the turnaround since “The Punch” was landed on opening night as they have ripped off five straight wins and amazingly climbed back into the BCS picture. The Ducks’ defense ranks in the Top 25 nationally in both scoring and total yardage and will need to contain Washington QB Jake Locker.

Washington has lost the five in this series and will need to tighten up on defense (ninth-worst in the PAC-10) in order to have any shot at slowing down Oregon. QB Jeremiah Masoli will likely come back for the Ducks so I think they make it six in a row in a closer-than-expected win.

Oregon 27, Washington 23.

No. 13 Penn State at Michigan (+4 ½)

The Nittany Lions have dominated their last three opponents by a combined score of 107-20 and will look to continue the hot streak in Ann Arbor, a place where they have not won since 1996. Michigan’s high-scoring offense ranks 10th in the nation and creates a challenging matchup for Penn State’s top-ranked scoring defense.

I think last week’s near off-week for Michigan against Delaware State came at a crucial time in the season and I like the upset here with the home underdog and a healthy Tate Forcier back in the mix.

Michigan 24, Penn State 20.

Oklahoma at No. 25 Kansas (+8)

Oklahoma looks to bounce back from the loss in the Red River Rivalry and will do so without QB Sam Bradford, who may be lost for the season. Kansas has lost five straight to the Sooners but enters this contest boasting the second-ranked offense in the FBS with over 503 yards per game. Oklahoma is a surprisingly big favorite and I think they get the win, but they will need to earn it in a close one in Lawrence.

Oklahoma 31, Kansas 27.

No. 6 Iowa at Michigan State (-1)

This game looms larger than it may first appear on paper as the winner of this game will control their own destiny in capturing the Big Ten title. The Hawkeyes are vying to go 8-0 for the first time in school history and have battled close calls all year long, pulling another one off last week at Wisconsin.

The Spartans have battled back and have not lost to Iowa in East Lansing since 1995. Iowa has impressed me all year with their ability to pull out these close games but I do not expect them to run the table and I think it ends this week.

Michigan State 23, Iowa 20.

No. 8 TCU at No. 16 Brigham Young (+2 ½)

The Mountain West Conference does not often get a showcase as big as this one on Saturday evening in Provo. The Horned Frogs from TCU look to run their unbeaten streak to nine games and are led by a stifling defense that ranks in the top 10 in every category.

BYU defends their home turf well as evidenced by their 13-game conference winning streak in Provo. They will also be looking for payback after last year’s 32-7 trouncing knocked them out of their top 10 status at the time. This game will be a dogfight, but I think TCU’s defense gives them the edge even in Provo.

TCU 20, BYU 16.

No. 3 Texas at Missouri (+13)

I would say that Texas is primed for a big letdown but they didn’t play well at all in the win over Oklahoma. The Longhorns likely are in control of their own destiny to reach the BCS title game if they win out and they currently outscore everyone in the country at 42 points a game.

Mizzou will have their work cut out for them as QB Blaine Gabbert has struggled in their two losses and they won’t be running the ball against the nation’s toughest rushing defense in Texas. Beware the late cover but the game in general should never be in doubt.

Texas 34, Mizzou 20.

Last Week: 7-3

Season: 28-23


Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 7

October 20, 2009

One would think that you could not ask for a better game than matching up the top two teams in the power rankings only a blowout left us…unfulfilled. Tom Brady had Patriots fans thinking of the glorious days of yesteryear (it was 2007, relax), Favre-mania is running wild in Minny, and the QB passing numbers across the entire league had fantasy geeks awkwardly high-fiving each other on Monday morning at the water cooler.  Here we go from the NEW No. 1 New Orleans Saints all the way to ol’ reliable Rams at No. 32…

Is this the year it all comes together for Brees in New Orleans?

Is this the year it all comes together for Brees in New Orleans?

1. New Orleans Saints (5-0)—The marquee matchup was ALL New Orleans as Drew Brees & Co played nearly flawless offensive football and torched the Giants 48 points. The Saints topped the 40-point mark for the third time this season and this time did it against the league’s previously top-ranked defense. They have officially earned this No. 1 ranking on the field.

2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0)—The Colts bring their well-rested and increasingly healthy team to St. Louis after the bye week which almost seems unfair.

3. Minnesota Vikings (6-0)—Another fantastic finish in Minnesota as the Vikings and Ravens combined for 34 fourth-quarter points. While the Vikes defense does not seem as dominant as they were a year ago, the Adrian Peterson-Brett Favre combo is providing a well-balanced punch that can put away any team in the league. Next up: They go to Pittsburgh for another stern test of their undefeated record.

4. Denver Broncos (6-0)—The Broncos defense came up with five sacks and held San Diego to just 2 of 11 on third downs; they continue to impress the entire NFL-watching nation. Oh, by the way, Eddie Royal returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown, only the 11th player to do so in league history.

5. New York Giants (5-1)—When it rains, it pours. The Giants No. 1 pass defense looked anything but that on Sunday against the Saints as they allowed four touchdowns and 369 yards through the air. This is still a team who will be fighting for home-field advantage at season’s end but they lost some leverage after this past week’s performance against New Orleans.

6. New England Patriots (4-2)—A little film study and a 0-5 opponent can go a long way to boosting a team’s confidence. Skewering that team for team records of 59 points, 651 yards, and five passing TDs in one quarter is like a Tony Robbins infomercial boost…in the snow.

7. Atlanta Falcons (4-1)—While Matt Ryan the rest of the offense took advantage of their scoring opportunities, the real story for Atlanta was their defense who created two Chicago turnovers in the red zone. The Falcons travel to Dallas needing every win they can get to keep pace with divisional rival and top-ranked New Orleans.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)—Their inability to run the ball effectively led to their second loss of the year as Houston also tore their defense apart all day. The loss of DE Antwan Odom is a big one for the Bengals who will need to rally quickly as they take on a desperate Bears team this Sunday.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)—Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to over 500 yards of offense as they beat the Browns for the 12th consecutive time. Three lost fumbles prevented a blowout and showed signs that Pittsburgh is still having trouble putting teams away but Troy Polamalu’s return from injury will be a big key for their success moving forward in 2009.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)—The Eagles were able to pick up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground yet called only 14 rushing plays on the afternoon in Oakland. The one-dimensional offense provided the Raiders the opportunities for six sacks and led to QB Donovan McNabb having an inaccurate day under center (22 for 46). I would guess the Redskins are in for a heavy dose of Eagles bounce-back win on Monday night.

11. Baltimore Ravens (3-3)—Heartbreak city again for the Ravens as kicker Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal with no time left. This was their third consecutive last minute loss so they will use this bye week to get past the frustration and figure out how to slow down opposing offenses; they rank 22nd in the league in pass defense.

12. Arizona Cardinals (3-2)—Kurt Warner had a very efficient day as he passed the 30,000-yard mark for his career and put Arizona back on track as they head to New York to take on the Giants. The Cardinals pass defense, which ranked dead last before Sunday, held Seattle to just 112 yards through the air and 128 total—great sign for them moving forward this season.

13. San Francisco 49ers (3-2)—The Niners probably spent most of their bye week erasing the 45-10 shellacking from Atlanta out of their memories. They get RB Frank Gore back and will head to Houston to try to slow down their offensive attack.

14. Green Bay Packers (3-2)—It may be difficult to find negatives in a 26-0 win but I am up for the challenge. The Packers have allowed a league-high 25 sacks and committed 13 penalties for 130 yards against the Lions. They were a favorite amongst many to be the dark horse this season but look every bit the also-ran at this stage of the season.

15. Chicago Bears (3-2)—The Bears may be shaking their heads over this one for a while, losing by seven points after coming up empty in the red zone three times. They will need to regroup quickly as the Bengals are up next.  The 27th-ranked rushing attack needs a boost as well…

16. Dallas Cowboys (3-2)—The Cowboys have managed to make every game seem tough but their opponent coming off the bye week, the Atlanta Falcons, will likely prove to be more than just a worthy adversary this week.

17. New York Jets (3-3)—For all the people who bought tickets to the Mark Sanchez bandwagon, they are non-refundable…five interceptions by the rookie killed a 300-yard rushing performance by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. This was an inexcusable loss for the Jets who have now dropped three straight and look every bit a .500 team.

18. Houston Texans (3-3)—The Texans are arguably the hardest team in the league to figure out but their offense seems to be very straightforward right now; Matt Schaub threw for nearly 400 yards and four TDs in a key victory over the Bengals. They stuffed the run and dominated the clock with over 36 minutes of possession providing them with great momentum as they take on the Niners this Sunday.

19. San Diego Chargers (2-3)—After this week’s loss to the undefeated Broncos, the division crown already looks lost but there are plenty of games left and an immediate turnaround is necessary. The transformation needs to begin on defense where they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed.

20. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)—Seattle’s offense looked inept just a week after posting 34 points on offense. They held the ball for only 17 minutes and roll into their bye week a very up-and-down team.

21. Miami Dolphins (2-3)—After the way the Saints looked on Sunday, the Dolphins should be happy to have had two weeks to prepare for them, they may need every last minute.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)—The squeaky wheel got the grease as Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 133 yards and three TDs against the lowly Rams. MJD said last week that he was upset with his “decoy” role yet manned up and helped earn a victory for the Jags despite three crucial turnovers that forced this contest to overtime.

23. Carolina Panthers (2-3)—The Panthers got back to their strong suit by rushing for 267 yards in a victory over Tampa Bay. Despite continually shaky play by QB Jake Delhomme, their ability to pound opponents on the ground will win them some games going forward and this is not a team that should be counted out yet.

24. Washington Redskins (2-4)—The ‘Skins have yet to play a team that has a win entering the game in which they face off. Head Coach Jim Zorn’s days are clearly numbered as he was relieved of his play-calling duties by the team’s management and Q B Jason Campbell was benched. Maybe Sherm Lewis can get things on the right track…I’m not buying that either but I had to try.

25. Buffalo Bills (2-4)—It doesn’t matter how you win, just if you win. Trent Edwards was added to the long list of injured Bills players and K Rian Lindell made up for his miss in regulation by nailing a 47-yarder in OT to win it. The Bills will have a long road to climb in the AFC East but they can get some momentum going by taking out Carolina this Sunday.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-4)—The Raiders played their most complete game of the season and earned a shocking win over the Eagles. Oakland controlled to clock and put Philly in a position to throw the ball downfield, amazing considering they ranked 30th against the run going into the game. They host the Jets this weekend in what should be a very ugly contest.

27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)—This one was not pretty but the Chiefs toughed it out by controlling the ball for over 37 minutes. They have been embroiled in close battles all season and will be in for a brawl this Sunday versus the Chargers.

28. Detroit Lions (1-5)—It’s a good thing the Lions grabbed that win when they had the chance a few weeks ago because they have been awful since. They managed only 149 yards of offense total and have run their winless streak in Green Bay to 19 games.

29. Cleveland Browns (1-5)—Less than 200 yards of offense and four turnovers led to a 12th consecutive loss to the Steelers. They rank 31st in the NFL in total offense and will probably not climb much further than that if this QB play continues.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)—The Bucs are off to their first 0-6 start since 1985 and are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. Five fumbles, four sacks allowed, and two turnovers really does not point to any signs of improvement on offense. This week they get to take their show on the road to London, where the Pats will likely put on an offensive clinic for our international fans.

31. Tennessee Titans (0-6)—The wheels fell off the wagon a few weeks back but who would have thought it would come to this? The 59-0 shutout at the hands of the Pats was the largest point margin in an NFL contest since 1976 and shockingly has the league’s longest tenured head coach, Jeff Fisher, on the hot seat.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-5)—It will be no consolation to Rams Nation (is there one?) that their 16th straight defeat was a hard-fought one that went into overtime. Yielding 500 yards of offense and scoring only one offensive touchdown is simply nowhere near getting it done on the field. Lastly, playing the Colts coming off a bye week is about as bad a way to try to build momentum as there could be in the NFL…good luck, Rams.

Mike Blewitt’s NCAA Football Picks – Week Seven

October 15, 2009

College football rolls right along and the big match-ups continue (hello, South Bend) in an effort to get to January’s BCS Championship game with as little controversy as possible…not likely…

No. 8 Cincinnati at No. 21 South Florida (+2 ½)—This game is about as high profile as a game can get for the Big East Conference, a national TV contest with two undefeated, ranked teams vying for first place and increased recognition. Cincinnati boasts the nation’s third-ranked scoring offense led by Heisman dark horse Tony Pike. South Florida is led by dual-threat QB BJ Daniels and a stout defense that allows less than 10 points per game. In a game that will go a long way to legitimizing both programs, I give the edge to the Bearcats. Cincinnati 20, South Florida 17.

No. 20 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas (-3 ½ – game is in Dallas)—It says a lot about the Longhorns that they lead the nation in scoring offense (47.20 points per game) and many pundits are left unimpressed mainly due to the caliber of their opponents to this point. Oklahoma has Sam Bradford back in the mix and ready to take on the fourth stingiest defense in FBS. Despite OU’s rough start, this game will ultimately decide the Big 12 title as well as the BCS Championship game. I think the ‘Horns are still salty about last year’s decision to send OU to the Big 12 title game. Texas 38, Oklahoma 27.

No. 11 Iowa at Wisconsin (+2 ½)—Amazingly, Iowa will be looking for its 11th straight win when they travel to Madison this weekend, its longest winning streak in 86 years. Their opportunistic defense is second in the FBS in takeaways with 19, which has been a huge factor in three if their wins coming by three or fewer points. Wisconsin looks to bounce back after a loss at Ohio State where they failed to secure the ball leading to two defensive TDs for the Buckeyes, something they can’t afford to do this weekend. I felt an upset brewing with all of Iowa’s close calls and a tough road game, but the Badgers’ turnover issues scared me away from it. Iowa 24, Wisconsin 20.

Arkansas at No. 1 Florida (-25)—The statistics would lead you believe that we may see a track meet this Saturday in Gainesville, with two of the top 11 scoring offenses in the nation matching up. Arkansas has gotten their season back on track after the upset win versus Auburn last week and will look to knock off another top-ranked team which they did to LSU in November 2007. Florida expended every ounce of energy they had in shutting down LSU in Baton Rouge last weekend and may have a bit of a letdown against the Razorbacks at home. Fortunately for the Gators, even their letdowns can be impressive. Florida 34, Arkansas 17.

Can he provide a magical moment for the Notre Dame faithful?

Can he provide a magical moment for the Notre Dame faithful?

No. 6 USC at No. 25 Notre Dame (+10)—The recent slate of games between these two teams has been anything but competitive, with USC in the midst of a seven-game winning streak. The Trojans’ sixth-ranked defense goes to South Bend having allowed just 256 yards and three points TOTAL in the last two meetings with the Irish. Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen has been brilliant through five hard-fought games for the Irish and has actually eeked into the Heisman picture. USC Freshman QB Matt Barkley may find this even tougher than Columbus and if ever there was a time for a signature win for a player, coach, and a school – this is it. No guts, no glory…Notre Dame 21, USC 20.

Memphis at Southern Mississippi (-14)—Southern Miss is in a tailspin having lost three straight putting them right in the middle of the C-USA race. RB Damion Fletcher is on pace for his fourth 1,000-yard season and will look to dominate this Saturday against Memphis. The Tigers caught UTEP sleeping after an upset of their own but are 1-4 against FBS schools on the season and have struggled offensively throughout. Southern Miss 34, Memphis 13.

No. 4 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Georgia Tech (+3)—In a conference that has become nearly impossible to predict, we have a pivotal game in the race for the ACC Coastal division crown. Virginia Tech is on a hot streak, having won five straight including a couple of blowouts over alleged peers Miami and Boston College. Georgia Tech’s No. 1 ACC offense will pave quite the road to the conference title game with an upset in Atlanta this weekend. Frankly, there have not been too many teams as good and balanced in the ACC in recent memory as the Hokies are in 2009. Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 23.

No. 22 South Carolina at No. 2 Alabama (-17)—Alabama is on a mission right now to avenge last year’s loss in the SEC Championship game to Florida and South Carolina is just another team in their way. The second-ranked tide has the nation’s second-ranked defense and will look to shut down the Gamecocks on Saturday night. South Carolina has but one close defeat at the hands of Georgia and brings the 15th-ranked defense into Tuscaloosa. The bad news for South Carolina is that Alabama is averaging over 220 yards per contest on the ground, not the strong suit of their defense, which means the Tide continues to roll. Alabama 27, South Carolina 17.

Missouri at No. 16 Oklahoma State (-7)—Everything seemed to be going according to plan this season for Missouri until the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Nebraska – turnovers led to touchdowns which led to a loss. The Tigers are led by the aerial attack of QB Blaine Gabbert who will look to put them back in the rankings with an upset in Stillwater. The ENTIRE story for the Cowboys is the suspension of All-American WR Dez Bryant who will likely be out for this game as well. The OSU offense is still explosive (ninth in the nation in points scored) and will need to stay focused in order to fend off a feisty Missouri team. The distraction will be there but the ‘Boys are simply the better team. Oklahoma State 37, Missouri 27.

Washington at Arizona State (-6 ½)—Washington is having the most up-and-down of seasons but everyone associated with the program will take it after last season’s winless debacle. While head coach Steve Sarkisian is working aout the kinks on offense, it’s the 90th-ranked defense that needs some stops to produce more consistent wins. Arizona State has managed to solidify its defense but the next four games after this one (Stanford, Cal, USC, Oregon) mean they need to earn their wins immediately to even think about bowl season. Washington 24, Arizona State 23.

Last Week: 4-6

Season: 21-20

Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 6

October 13, 2009

The ranks of the undefeated held strong in Week 6 as the protégé toppled the mentor in Denver. The Bengals and Ravens clashed for the top spot in the AFC North, the Eagles and Falcons soared off of their bye week, and the Browns and Panthers saw a ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy season. Let’s run through No. 1 to No. 32…

Is it possible he's getting better with age?

Is it possible he's getting better with age?

1. New York Giants (5-0)—Yet another cupcake opponent in the Raiders for the G-Men but they ended this one as early as possible. Banged-up QB Eli Manning was resting by the second quarter and the Giants are off to their first 5-0 start since 1990, one of their three Super Bowl Championship years.

2. New Orleans Saints (4-0)—The bye week may be just what the Saints needed to game plan for this week’s showdown with the Giants in a HUGE matchup for Week 6. QB Drew Brees looks to get back on track and will try to get the Superdome rocking in one of the biggest regular season games in the building’s history.

3. Indianapolis Colts (5-0)—Peyton Manning has five consecutive 300-yard games for the first time in his career and the Colts are looking as efficient as ever on offense. They earned their bye week rest and will see the Rams coming out of it which is almost unfair for St. Louis.

4. Minnesota Vikings (5-0)—The Vikings made pretty quick and easy work of the Rams as they remained unbeaten. Favre, Peterson, and even defensive end Jared Allen all got in the scoring mix; that flexibility should help when they host the Ravens this week.

5. Denver Broncos (5-0)—Head coach Josh McDaniels proved he was up to the task as he beat former boss Bill Belichick in an overtime battle in Denver. Despite wearing one of the ugliest uniforms of all-time, Kyle Orton made huge plays including the game-tying throw to Brandon Marshall in the fourth quarter. It’s off to rival San Diego this week to try to keep the streak alive.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)—The emotional Bengals managed their third straight last-minute victory over the Ravens and shot up the power rankings board. Cedric Benson became the first rusher to pick up over 100 yards on the Ravens in 40 games and, as the NFL’s leading rusher, is pacing Cincy to this 4-1 start.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)—The Eagles came out firing on all cylinders against the Bucs this past Sunday. Donovan McNabb was efficient and the Philly defense forced three turnovers to go along with three sacks. Facing the Raiders in Week 6 should continue the easy ramp-up period out of the bye week.

8. New England Patriots (3-2)—While there is no need to hit the panic button after a road loss in OT, the Pats simply aren’t as sharp as when Brady was under center in 2007. The timing should come back soon but they can’t afford too many more losses while trying to position themselves for a postseason run.

9. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)—QB Matt Ryan had a career-high 329 passing yards as the Falcons put a hurting on the 49ers in San Francisco. WR Roddy White put up huge numbers and Atlanta forced three turnovers to put them back on track after the bye week.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)—Ben Roethlisberger has upped his completion percentage to a league-high 73.8% and the Steelers have scored eight TDs in their last eight trips to the red zone. Safety Troy Polamalu should be returning in time for them to host the Browns this Sunday.

11. Chicago Bears (3-1)—The Bears will come out of their bye week right into a matchup with the Atlanta Falcons who torched the 49ers for 45 points in Week 5. Perhaps the rest is what they needed.

12. Baltimore Ravens (3-2)—The Ravens had a tough time moving the ball on the Bengals’ defense and managed only seven offensive points in yet another loss that was marred by crucial penalties. They will need to right the ship immediately as they head into the dome to face the Vikings this Sunday.

13. New York Jets (3-2)—The Jets have prided themselves on defense all season but after forcing no sacks or turnovers and letting up over 400 yards of offense, it’s time for a gut-check. The 31 points allowed is not acceptable in head coach Rex Ryan’s locker room.

14. San Francisco 49ers (3-2)—The 49ers go into the bye week on a bad note, suffering a 35-point defeat at home. But, this will allow star RB Frank Gore to get healthy and head coach Mike Singletary to fix the defensive issues that yielded nearly 500 yards of offense to the Falcons.

15. Dallas Cowboys (3-2)—Dallas seemed to go for Miles and Miles and Miles in that fourth quarter and OT in Kansas City. Miles Austin, that is. His record-breaking performance saved the ‘Boys from another blown lead but doesn’t keep me from scratching my head on the rest of the team’s effort headed into their bye week.

16. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)—The Cardinals blew a 21-0 lead but were saved by their defense who returned a pick for a TD and then held strong on a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter. Kurt Warner battles Matt Hasselbeck next week in a big NFC West showdown.

17. San Diego Chargers (2-2)—The Chargers host divisional rival Denver in a Monday night matchup right out of their bye week. This may be the perfect storm to cause Denver’s unbeaten run to come to an end.

18. Green Bay Packers (2-2)—The Lions do not seems to be the pushover they were last season, so Green Bay cannot take them lightly after having Week 5 off.

19. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)—Matt Hasselbeck was back in the lineup after missing two games and was exactly what was missing for the Seahawks; he completed 60% of his passes and threw four TDs. The defense picked it up too, limiting the Jags to less than 200 yards of offense.

20. Miami Dolphins (2-3)—Chad Henne, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and the Wildcat offense were all heroes on Monday night. After a rough start to the season, the Dolphins have put up 69 points in the last two games and go into their bye week in a good frame of mind.

21. Houston Texans (2-3)—Matt Schaub put up fantasy football numbers that made all of his owners thrilled but his key interception with two minutes left cost the Texans the game. This team seems destined to continue its up-and-down season next week in Cincinnati.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)—David Garrard was sacked five times and lost two fumbles as the Jags were blanked by Seattle, 41-0. When you have almost as many penalties (nine) as you had first downs (ten), it will most assuredly be a long day for your team.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-3)—Jake Delhomme’s gutsy first-down run with less than two minutes left sealed the victory and embodied the grit that the Panther showed in their come-from-behind win. With Tampa and Buffalo up next, they may get back on the road to respectability and more…

24. Washington Redskins (2-3)—The Redskins picked up just 198 yards of offense and blew a 15-point second half lead. It’s safe to say Jim Zorn is not proving his offensive genius to anyone right now and has serious work to do to save his job for the remainder of this season.

25. Detroit Lions (1-4)—Playing with experienced backup Duante Culpepper, the Lions hung tough against the defending champs. They will need to protect the QBs better, no matter who plays, as the seven sacks allowed were indicative of their inability to sustain drives on offense.

26. Tennessee Titans (0-5)—Kicking three field goals is no way to fight a battle against the Colts. Injuries are mounting as quickly as losses are in Tennessee and Vince Young’s return to the starting lineup is a real possibility. This team has too much pride to completely pack it in but the playoff hopes are essentially extinguished already – amazing…

27. Cleveland Browns (1-4)—Derek Anderson went 2-17 for 23 yards and one INT for a 15.1 passer rating, the lowest such number for a winning QB in several decades. On a positive note, Jamal Lewis pounded the ball for 117 yards to help the Browns earn the 6-3 victory in Buffalo, their first of the season.

28. Buffalo Bills (1-4)—The Bills had the Browns at home in what should have been a golden opportunity to pick up their second victory of the year. Instead, they turned the ball over three times, scored three points and now their win over Tampa Bay now looks like a complete fluke. Everyone is on the hot seat in Buffalo which may not be such a bad thing considering the climate in upstate NY…

29. Oakland Raiders (1-4)—After their 44-7 drubbing at the hands of the New York Giants, the Raiders are 25-75 in their last 100 games, the worst 100-game stretch in NFL history.  Tom Cable still may be charged with a felony assault, so…there’s that, too…

30. Kansas City Chiefs (0-5)—While the Chiefs hung in against the Cowboys and pushed them to overtime, key missed tackles resulted in big plays and yet another loss as they remain winless. Again, there are no moral victories in the NFL.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5)—Putting your newbie QB in a position to throw the ball 50 times in a game is never a good idea. Doing it against the blitz-happy Eagles is an even worse idea, which resulted in three picks and plenty of tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-5)—Another no-doubter of a loss for the Rams as they turned the ball over four more times. They are now in the midst of a 15-game losing streak, the longest active streak in the NFL, and are averaging less than seven points a game; they may be regressing in each phase of the game.

NCAA Football Picks ATS – Week 6

October 9, 2009

No. 21 Nebraska at No. 24 Missouri (+4) – Both teams have proven they can move the ball ranking in the Top 20 in the country in points scored and yards gained. Interesting back-story: Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert, who has yet to throw an interception in four games, originally committed to the Huskers before backing out and committing to the Tigers. This is a huge game in the battle for the Big 12 North; I like Mizzou as the home underdog playing in inclement weather. Missouri 24, Nebraska 20.

Boston College at No. 5 Virginia Tech (-13 ½)  – This will be the fifth meeting in the last three seasons as these two rivals have matched up in the regular season and the ACC Championship for two years running…and possibly a third this December. Boston College is the last team to win in Lane Stadium (October 2007) and is revitalized by the play of 25-year old freshman QB Dave Shinskie. Virginia Tech is fighting for more than just an ACC title this season as their No. 5 overall ranking suggests. BC will put up a good fight (and barely cover) but the Hokies are a bit too strong for them defensively and on special teams this time around. Virginia Tech 30, BC 17.

No. 17 Auburn at Arkansas (+2.5) – Auburn has raced off to a 5-0 start and go into this SEC battle ranked for the first time this season. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has the Tigers in the Top 5 nationally in points scored and yardage. Arkansas has been airing it out with talented QB Ryan Mallett with mixed results and will try to avoid a three-game conference losing streak. Arkansas’ inability to stop their SEC foes has been their undoing so until they do, I can’t wager with them even as a home ‘dog. Auburn 35, Arkansas 27.

No. 3 Alabama at No. 20 Mississippi (+4) – Many would argue that Alabama is the most impressive team in the country at this stage of the season, with dominant performances on both sides of the ball in each of their first five games. Ole Miss stumbled against South Carolina early and looked to fold under the pressure of being a Top 5 team for the first time in decades. Frankly, if they walked into this game undefeated it wouldn’t change my outlook – Bama takes care of business again in Oxford. Alabama 34, Ole Miss 14.

Connecticut at Pittsburgh (-6 ½) – Pitt’s offense has looked much improved this season with QB Bill Stull leading them to 37 points-per-game. UConn will try to grind it out on the ground in their Big East opener and try to win a smash mouth contest but can their defense hold up? This one may not be easy to watch but Pitt covers very close. Pittsburgh 30, UConn 23.

Wisconsin at No. 9 Ohio State (-16) – The under-the-radar Badgers are 14th in the country in rushing behind John Clay as they have sped off to a 5-0 start. The Buckeyes have not let up a 100-yard rusher since September of 2008 and will be looking to take command of the Big Ten Conference. I just don’t see that many points being scored in Columbus so take them and run. Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 16.

Stanford at Oregon State (Pick) – Stanford is making an argument for a ranking and will look to go 4-0 in the Pac-10 led by the 1-2 offensive punch of QB Andrew Luck and RB Toby Gerhart. However, Corvallis is never a soft landing spot for opponents (see USC 2008) and sophomore RB Jacquizz Rodgers already has nine touchdowns on the season. This truly is a coin flip but I think Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh secures another signature win. Stanford 24, Oregon State 23.

UTEP at Memphis (+2 ½) – UTEP managed 18 yards rushing two weeks ago against Texas only to come back and upset No. 12-ranked Houston by scoring 58 points and picking up 305 yards on the ground. Memphis has struggled mightily to score points but I like them as the home underdog playing a team who will have a huge letdown after a major upset. Memphis 23, UTEP 20.

No. 1 Florida at No. 4 LSU (+7 ½) – There have been some very big matchups early on this season (USC-Ohio St., Bama-Virginia Tech) but none takes on the ultimate meaning quite like this game. The winner of this game is in charge of the national championship race, period. While there is cause for concern with Tebow, there is no doubt he will be out there playing his heart out for the Gators. LSU has won 32 consecutive Saturday night games but has been far from impressive on offense during their 5-0 start.  The winner of this game has gone on to capture the last three BCS championships and this year will make it four for the Gators. Florida 33, LSU 20

Michigan at No. 12 Iowa (-8) – Iowa is 5-0 for the first time since 1995 and has won nine straight dating back to last season. Michigan suffered an OT heartbreaker to in-state rival Michigan State last week and will look for redemption in another huge Big Ten matchup. Michigan may be using a freshman QB in Tate Forcier but they look incredibly dynamic at times while Iowa has been inconsistent enough to keep the doubters filled with ammo. Michigan 33, Iowa 30.

Last Week: 8-2

Season: 17-14

Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 5

October 8, 2009

A clash of the titans in New England and Favre-fueled media frenzy in Minnesota highlighted the NFL action over the weekend. New Orleans delivered a football lesson to the Jets’ rookie QB, the Broncos continue to convert believers, and the Bengals (yes, the Bengals!) have some serious momentum as we head into week 5.  Let’s count them down from No. 1 to No. 32…

Still slinging after all these years...

Still slinging after all these years...

1. New York Giants (4-0)—There is a case to be made that the Giants early-season schedule has been too easy for them to remain in the top spot. But, the way they are easily dispatching of their opponents is reason enough to keep them here. Plus, they hold a top 5 ranking in both offense and defense.

2. New Orleans Saints (4-0)—The Saints possess the league’s No. 1-ranked offense and also lead the NFL in turnover ratio meaning they have finally figured out a way to play some solid defense. Now, they head into their bye week at a perfect 4-0.

3. Indianapolis Colts (4-0)—Peyton Manning is making things look very easy for the Colts right now as he heads up the league’s most prolific passing offense. They will need to balance things out with the running game and tighten up on defense but with the combined 0-8 Rams and Titans sandwiched around their bye week, 6-0 is a very realistic possibility.

4. Minnesota Vikings (4-0)—Brett Favre is looking increasingly comfortable in Vikings’ purple as he beat his old squad becoming the first ever QB to defeat all 32 NFL teams. With that lethal pass rush delivering eight sacks against Green Bay, the Vikes look every bit of a contender in 2009.

5. Denver Broncos (4-0)—One can analyze the schedule all one wants but the Broncos have allowed only 26 points in four games; that’s a surefire recipe for success. The next stretch of games against New England, San Diego, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh will give us an even better idea of how strong this team is.

6. New England Patriots (3-1)—This may not be the most impressive 3-1 start ever but it is a good start nonetheless. Considering how banged up the Pats are on defense and that Brady is still trying to get his rhythm back with Moss, Welker & Co this first quarter of the season is a success.

7. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)—The Ravens might be kicking themselves over the loss to New England that was low-lighted by a couple of controversial penalties and a terrible dropped pass at the end of the game. But, they need to have short memories as they will be playing Cincinnati this Sunday for control of the division.

8. San Francisco 49ers (3-1)—The Niners shook off the last-second loss in Minnesota and promptly went out to destroy the Rams. This weekend’s clash against the Falcons will provide another measuring stick for how far they have come over the last 12 months.

9. New York Jets (3-1)—By all accounts, this has been a good first month for rookie QB Mark Sanchez and the revitalized Jets defense. But, the aforementioned signal-caller will need to secure the football if they are to have any chance of earning a spot in the playoffs.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)—A well-placed bye week and a lighter slate against Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Washington may help them get back to full strength without having to sacrifice anything in the ‘win’ column.

11. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)—The Falcons have had a week to think about the loss at New England but now they need to focus on another tough opponent as they travel to San Francisco to take on a stingy Niners defense.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)—I will refrain from saying they are one miracle tipped-pass away from being 4-0…each Bengals contest has had its own last-second drama but they are finding a way to win. They take on the Ravens to try to get to 3-0 in the division and assume the driver’s seat which is an amazing turnaround.

13. Chicago Bears (3-1)—It seems that all the Favre drama has created a vacuum of media coverage regarding the NFC North. The Bears offense led by Jay Cutler is looking more and more comfortable by the week as they fly under the radar at 3-1.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)—The Steelers ranking should be quickly on the rise the next couple of weeks as they see Detroit and Cleveland. But, they have to learn to stop opposing offenses in the fourth quarter and not wait for Polamalu to come back from injury to do so.

15. Green Bay Packers (2-2)—Not many people thought that Green Bay was going into Minny to spoil their Monday Night Favre party. Their defense getting shredded by Brett was a more disturbing result.

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)—There was already a growing sentiment questioning Romo’s ability to lead this team to the promised land but allowing him to get pounded by Denver is no way to get him out of his slump. Perhaps this week’s matchup with the Chiefs will provide a soft landing for the Cowboys.

17. San Diego Chargers (2-2)—Don’t let the fourth quarter near-comeback and final score fool you, this team looked out-of-sync and overmatched versus the Steelers on Sunday night. The next three weeks against divisional opponents provide San Diego every opportunity to seize control of their destiny in 2009.

18. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)—A press-conference tongue-lashing by head coach Jack Del Rio two weeks ago appears to have worked, the Jags officially have me confused as to what their identity is this season.

19. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)—Hopefully, the bye week provided some respite for a team who needs to turn it around this week to get back on the right track towards the playoffs.

20. Washington Redskins (2-2)—There are not too many teams out there that are harder to watch than the Redskins. They’ve played three of the worst teams in the league in Tampa, Detroit, and St. Louis and, unfortunately, they’ve looked like they belong among that group.

21. Houston Texans (2-2)—The offense appears to be clicking again in Houston but they need to prove they can stop teams when it counts—and, no, the Raiders don’t count…

22. Seattle Seahawks (1-3)—At some point, injuries cannot be an excuse. The Seahawks lone win was against the basement-dwelling Rams in Week 1and they have looked like a bad team since.

23. Miami Dolphins (1-3)—Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ran wild in Chad Henne’s first start (and win) against the Bills. Expect to see a lot more of that game plan over the brutal next month of opponents (NE, NO, and NYJ twice).

24. Tennessee Titans (0-4)—Perhaps they should be lower on this list but this ranking isn’t exactly a vote of confidence, either. It’s panic time in Nashville.

25. Buffalo Bills (1-3)—There appears to be just as many people jumping off the Trent Edwards’ bandwagon as there was jumping on it in preseason. Playing the Brown at home should help turn things around this week.

26. Detroit Lions (1-3)–The Dolphins turnaround last year was the exception, not the rule. This is about progress not a massive turnaround in one year so don’t expect them to upset the Steelers this Sunday.

27. Oakland Raiders (1-3)—Head coach Tom Cable is under criminal investigation for assaulting one of his assistant coaches in preseason. On the field? JaMarcus Russell completes less than 40% of his passes so it will probably get a bit uglier.

28. Carolina Panthers (0-3)—The offense needs to stop putting the defense in terrible positions in Carolina by turning the ball over. I don’t think they are actually this bad.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-4)—Playing the Ravens, Eagles, and Giants in the first month is not a way any team would want to start out but there is very little sign of improvement in KC. They are near the bottom of the league in almost every major statistical category on both offense and defense.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)—New QB, same old lack of offense. Their schedule does not line up very nicely for them the rest of the way so buckle your seat belts in Tampa, this ride could get bumpy.

31. Cleveland Browns (0-4)—Derek Anderson has breathed some life into the lifeless Browns offense and will start under center for now. Their porous defense, however, will keep them from winning most games this season.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-4)—The Rams were shut out again leaving their season points scored total at 24 through four games. Scoring six points per game will not win you many, if any, games in the NFL.

College GameDay Fights the Good Fight at Boston College This Weekend

October 2, 2009

So, many of you are wondering how in the world ESPN’s College GameDay decided to set up shop at Boston College this weekend. Certainly those in Berkeley, California feel an extra sting after the loss to Oregon knocked them out of contention for hosting every college football fan’s favorite Saturday morning show. Ditto the Miami fans who thought they were at the precipice of regaining all of their past glory in just a few short weeks this September, only the ‘Canes forgot to run their plans by the Virginia Tech Hokies. In fact, there may be a few other campuses that could stake their claim to Fowler, Corso, Herbstreit, and Des Howard but, I assure you, there is no more rightful place for them to be this weekend than Chestnut Hill.

Herzlich's fight will be featured on GameDay This Saturday (10/3)

Herzlich's fight will be featured on GameDay This Saturday (10/3)

Some of you may know by now why ESPN has decided to bring the party to BC and the reasoning starts with a player named Mark Herzlich. As last season’s ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, the 6’4”, 240-pound Herzlich was working all spring to get ready to destroy offenses in his senior season and repeat that honor (at least) on his way to being a first-round NFL draft pick. But, wouldn’t you know it, a little thing called life decided to step in and set up a roadblock. Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, this past May and has been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments for the past five months.

As an alumnus and long-time season-ticket holder, I have seen plenty of players come through ‘The Heights’ and Herzlich is building as good a career as any of them, including recent high-profile players Matt Ryan and B.J. Raji. As an alumnus I can also tell you that everyone refers to him as Herzy; he’s the player that everybody loves. He physically dominates opponents, he plays hard, AND he plays smart; he truly is on another level on the gridiron.

When the Jeff Jagodzinksi coaching regime ended last season in turmoil, it was Herzy’s phone call and vote of confidence for Frank Spaziani to Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo that helped cement that choice – you’ll notice Coach Spaz is the mustachioed head coach with the 3-1 record patrolling BC’s sidelines in 2009. Not your average linebacker, that’s for sure, he’s a leader who has made his promise to not only beat the disease he is fighting but to return to play football for the Eagles in 2010.

Herzy’s resolve has inspired BC as well as the other ACC member schools to join him in his fight against cancer. Proceeds from BC’s Beat Cancer T-shirts will be donated to the American Cancer Society in support of Ewing’s Sarcoma research. Clemson presented him with a check for $5,000 two weeks ago when the Tigers hosted the Eagles. Members of the Virginia Tech scout team sold wrist bands for $1 at last week’s game against Miami to benefit the cause and then announced this week that it had increased the total of its fundraising campaign to $9,400 after they blew past their original goal of $5,094; a check will be presented to Herzlich when Boston College visits Lane Stadium on Oct. 10. In all, over $60,000 has been raised much of which has been donated to Uplifting Athletes, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for rare diseases.

All of this brings us to the heart of the matter, when deciding why or where we think College GameDay should arrive each Saturday morning. For all the hand-wringing about strength of schedule, Harris Interactive polls, BCS-busters, and marquee games the reason many of us watch college sports is a bit bigger than that. There is a sense of community amongst the fans and players that blow away the atmosphere at any professional sporting event you can attend. It is truly different and anyone that has been to a game on a campus can tell you that. No one would deny that the NCAA is big business but there are stories all across college sports that inspire and encourage others across the country. This story just happens to be Herzy’s, arguably the best linebacker in the nation.

I applaud ESPN for producing a theme for this week’s show based on athletes overcoming adversity and featuring Mark Herzlich’s continued fight against cancer, it is a genuine way to keep the community informed and involved in these battles that require our collective efforts. Selfishly, I am happy to have Gameday back in Chestnut Hill for the first time since 2005 to see BC battle Florida State, a budding division rivalry that has seen zero home-field wins in the four years since the Eagles joined the Seminoles in the ACC.

So, to all those outside of the Boston College community who were perplexed by the choice, miffed at your snub, or bitter about the time you wasted on your new GameDay sign I encourage you to watch this weekend. Enjoy the banter, get hyped for the games, root for Mark Herzlich in his courageous fight, and by all means donate to a good cause.

Go Eagles.

Go Herzy.