Archive for November 2009

College Football Picks – Week 13

November 27, 2009

We got back in the winners’ column last week, going 6-4 (42-49 YTD), and face the toughest of all weekends…rivalries abound.

This is never an easy week as emotions run high for a lot of these teams, making this their make-or-break game of the season when we throw most of the stats out the window.

So, we’ll do our best and as always, here are the picks…

No. 3 Texas at Texas A&M (+21)—The Longhorns simply need to keep their eyes on the prize and not get tripped up against the Aggies this weekend. Texas’ Colt McCoy became the winningest QB in NCAA history last weekend but is only 1-2 against A&M, losing in 2006 and 2007. While the ‘Horns second-ranked offense has put up a ton of points, the Aggies have managed to put up over 33 points a game which is good for 17th in FBS. Unfortunately, their defense punches in at 99th place, which will be their downfall. Texas 42, Texas A&M 20.

No. 2 Alabama at Auburn (+10)—The games are only going to get bigger from here for Alabama and Auburn would like to end a potential championship run before it starts. The Crimson Tide ended their six-year Iron Bowl losing streak last season and will bring a dominant defense (No. 2 in FBS) and prolific rushing attack (No. 10 in FBS) to this year’s contest. Auburn runs similarly well but has had trouble keeping opponents out of the end zone. This is the biggest rivalry in college football by most accounts so there’s no need to hype it any further, just watch and enjoy. Alabama 30, Auburn 13.

No. 9 Pittsburgh at West Virginia (PK)—The “Backyard Brawl” causes a lot of blood to boil in this yearly matchup that will likely produce another classic. Pitt ended WVU’s run at a national title with a major upset in 2007 so payback will be on the mind of the Mountaineers on Friday night. The teams are relatively evenly matched statistically and there will be no overlooking this game for Pitt who likely plays Cincy next week for the Big East Title. I’m glad this is a pick ‘em because this might be the most fun game to watch all weekend. Pittsburgh 27, West Virginia 24.

Nevada at No. 6 Boise State (-13 ½)—We have two of the top five offenses going against each other for the WAC title when Nevada meets up with Boise State on Friday night. Both teams move the ball up and down the field with such proficiency that I think we can see an absurd amount of points put up on the board in this matchup. Boise’s defense gives them a clear advantage in addition to the famed blue turf but Nevada should hang tough for a while. Boise 56, Nevada 40.

No. 18 Clemson at South Carolina (+3)—A tricky game here as it is meaningless in the overall picture for Clemson. South Carolina is a disappointing 6-5 but a ‘state championship’ would put a nice bow on the season. Clemson is playing for the ACC title next weekend but will need to be focused against a solid Gamecocks defense. The Tigers have won the past two, six of the last seven and 10 of 12 so I can buy into their focus on this game. Clemson 24, South Carolina 16.

Florida State at No. 1 Florida (-24 ½)–The top-ranked Gators have won a school-record 21 straight games, also the nation’s longest current streak. The Seminoles’ program has been besieged by critics all year calling for Bobby Bowden’s job who, by the way, guided his team to a 28th consecutive year of bowl eligibility. I would like to say that you throw the stats out for this one, but the Gators give up less than 10 points per contest and ‘Noles freshman QB EJ Manuel won’t be prepared well enough for this. Tim Tebow will chomp away in his last game at The Swamp. Florida 42, Florida State 17.

No. 21 Utah at No. 19 Brigham Young (-7 ½)—With Utah’s two losses coming to Oregon and TCU, one would think they would garner a little bit more respect. Don’t expect the Cougars to argue their case for them as BYU is looking for payback after last year’s 48-24 drubbing at the hand of the Utes. The only game between two ranked opponents this weekend should be a close one. Utah 27, BYU 25.

Notre Dame at Stanford (-10 ½)—Charlie Weis’ tenure as Notre Dame Head football coach will come to an end with this game after a disappointing season ended without BCS bowls or championships yet again. Stanford may also be looking for a new top man if Jim Harbaugh decides to leave for alleged greener pastures in the NCAA or NFL; clearly tempered expectations have left him looking rosy even at 7-4 with a loss to their biggest rival. Offense should rule the day yet again for these two teams who have struggled defensively and the Cardinal win a close one. Stanford 35, Notre Dame 34.

Georgia at No. 7 Georgia Tech (-8)—Georgia is going to have a hard time getting used to this second fiddle thing…the Bulldogs had won seven straight over the Yellow Jackets before last season’s loss. Tech will be playing for a chance at the ACC title and a BCS bid next week but will certainly need to be dialed into this matchup against a team they have not beaten at home since 1999. This game is often dubbed “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” something Paul Johnson’s triple option attack will engender in UGA fans by the end of this contest. Georgia Tech 31, Georgia 21.

UCLA at No. 20 USC (-13)—USC is experiencing its worst national ranking in seven years when they take on cross-town rivals UCLA on Saturday night who will look to improve their bowl status with a win. UCLA has turned things around during a three-game win streak, which has seen them give up only 14 points per contest. USC is in unfamiliar territory having seen their defense get rolled over twice in the last three games. I think the week off will do wonders for the Trojans and they will try to earn back some pride to finish the last two weeks of the season strong. USC 28, UCLA 14.

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NFL Power Rankings – Week 12

November 25, 2009

Injuries and upsets were big stories over the weekend and the worst game of the year was actually the best. The Colts and Saints moved to 10-0 making it only the third time in league history with two undefeated teams at this stage, the AFC West threw down with the AFC North and won (!), and the Browns found yet another way to lose. Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

1. New Orleans Saints (10-0)—Efficient and dominant in each phase of the game, the Bucs were in control of this game against the Bucs throughout. By creating four turnovers and leading a perfectly balanced offensive attack, New Orleans put their stamp on this game. They are 10-0 for the first time in franchise history and will look to continue their unblemished run in a huge contest on Monday night when they host the Patriots.

2. Indianapolis Colts (10-0)—Certainly not their prettiest win of the year but as we like to say “good teams win ugly”. The Ravens forced three turnovers and held the Colts to just 17 points but Indy shut the door late with two late turnovers of their own to run their record to 10-0. Next up is a scrappy Houston Texans team who is looking to put a signature win up on the board.

3. Minnesota Vikings (9-1)—It doesn’t often go much easier than this in an NFL contest. QB Brett Favre was able to check out in the start of the fourth quarter holding a 28-3 lead after completing 88 percent of his passes and 4 TDs against Seattle. The reeling Bears visit Minnesota on Sunday.

4. New England Patriots (7-3)—The Pats certainly dished out a measure of revenge, embarrassing the Jets by holding the ball for 40 minutes and creating five turnovers. WR Wes Welker ran free most of the day racking up 15 catches for 192 yards and exposing a less-than-stellar game plan. The Pats play another “Game of the Year” when they travel to New Orleans to take on the undefeated Saints.

5. San Diego Chargers (7-3)—Right back where they belong, the Chargers withstood some early season trials and tribulations and fine themselves in first place in the AFC West and playing commanding football. San Diego ran over the Broncos on Sunday picking up 203 yards on the ground in a 32-3 shellacking. They now have their eyes focused on a No. 2 seed in the AFC Playoffs and will host the Chiefs this Sunday.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3)—This will be permanently filed under ‘One that we let get away’. The Bengals of old would have even been shaking their heads after Cincy gave up 10 point to the Raiders in the last 41 seconds of the fourth quarter. A big special teams gaffe gave the Raiders the ball in field goal range one play after the game-tying TD which resulted in a 20-17 loss. They forfeited a huge chance to go up two games on Pittsburgh but will attempt to bounce back against the cellar-dwelling Browns this Sunday.

7. Arizona Cardinals (7-3)—The Cardinals have inched their way up the power rankings in recent weeks and find themselves in complete control of the AFC West yet again. Kurt Warner’s injury is not deemed to be serious and he staked them to a commanding 21-3 lead before being forced out of the game against the Rams. The Cards take on the red hot Titans in an effort to stay within a reasonable distance of the Vikings or Saints for the No. 2 spot in the NFC.

8. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)—This one was very ugly so Big D should be thankful this holiday for the win on Sunday. They scored their points (a Romo-to-Crayton-TD) with less than three minutes to play and hung on to beat the Redskins 7-6. The Thanksgiving tradition continues when they host the Raiders on Thursday.

9. New York Giants (6-4)—As head coach Tom Coughlin succinctly put it “it was miserable around here for a month” and that ended with an overtime victory over the Falcons. Eli Manning threw for a season-high 384 yards along with 3 TDs to pace the offense to 34 points. They go to Denver on Turkey Night to try to make it two wins in a row.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)—Despite picking up over 500 yards of offense, three costly turnovers, ANOTHER kickoff return for a TD, and eight penalties doomed the Steelers in the OT loss to Kansas City. With S Troy Polamalu out for several more weeks and Ben Roethlisberger banged up after this loss the defending champs are in a danger zone. This week’s showdown against the Ravens should result in the losing team being out of the playoffs at year’s end.

11.  Philadelphia Eagles (6-4)—Was that balance we saw on Sunday night?  Yes it was. Philly came out running the ball and throwing which led to nearly 400 yards of offense despite three turnovers. They sealed the win with a LeSean McCoy with five minutes to go and now will need to keep pace with a jumbled wild card group in the NFC. Next up: Redskins in Philly.

12.  Denver Broncos (6-4)—After opening the season at 6-0, the Broncos are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. They managed exactly three points in four trips to the red zone and held the ball for less than 23 minutes.  Their 25th-ranked offense will need to get back on track for a huge Thanksgiving night game in Denver.

13.  Atlanta Falcons (5-5)—The Falcons battled the Giants into overtime in a game during which they trailed throughout, ultimately falling 34-31. They will need to find a way to get stops on defense if they are going to have a chance at a playoff run in 2009. The back end of their schedule is loaded with home games so they can get started with a win over Tampa Bay this week.

14.  Green Bay Packers (6-4)—The Pack completely dominated the 49ers despite only winning by six points. They held the ball for over 41 minutes including the last six to run out the clock and racked up nearly 500 yards of offense. The Pack takes on the Lions on Turkey Day and are back in the thick of the NFC playoff race.

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4)—The Jags came from behind to beat the Buffalo Bills by three and put themselves right into playoff contention. One of the hardest teams’ to figure out in the whole league, the Jags have a balanced offense and hard-hitting defense that creates problems for most of their opponents. A loooong road trip to San Fran is up this holiday weekend.

16.  Baltimore Ravens (5-5)—The Ravens failed to score a TD in four red-zone trips settling for five field goals on the day as their only points. Two late turnovers cost them in a game that was there for the taking against the unbeaten Colts. They are in serious jeopardy of missing the AFC playoff race and have a clash against the rival Steelers this Sunday night.

17.  Miami Dolphins (5-5)—A big week from Ricky Williams with 3 TDs allowed the Dolphins to keep pace with the rest of the playoff pack in the AFC. His role will be significant down the stretch as QB Chad Henne continues to develop. They received a nice 10-day break before they head up to Buffalo to take on the last-place Bills.

18.  Tennessee Titans (4-6)—While the hill may be a little too steep for the Titans’ to climb all the way back into the playoff picture, they are playing as well as many teams on that level. RB Chris Johnson, who ran for 151 yards against Houston, is following up his excellent rookie campaign with a breakout season that may make him the NFL’s next big star. The four-game winning streak will be heavily tested against the Cardinals and Colts the next two weeks.

19.  Houston Texans (5-5)—Yet another loss in the books thanks to missing a field goal on the last play of the game…just inexcusable. From clock mismanagement to poor execution, the Texans’ show no signs of being able to get above the .500 mark for any length of time. Titans’ RB Chris Johnson tore them up and now they will need to set their sights on Colts’ QB Peyton Manning.

20.  San Francisco 49ers (4-6)—The only positive thing the Niners showed on Sunday was their ability to fight until the end of the game. Their defense was beaten up all day and their offense only had 18 minutes with which to move the ball. The playoff window is just about closed on San Fran in what has shaped about to be a disappointing 2009 campaign; they host the Jags this Sunday.

21.  Carolina Panthers (4-6)—Carolina has been fighting inconsistency all year and likely dropped out of the playoffs with that loss to Miami. The Dolphins dared QB Jake Delhomme to throw and the he was unable to do so accurately or take advantage of red zone opportunities. They face the Jets this Sunday in a battle of two teams whose seasons have come off the rails earlier than anticipated.

22.  New York Jets (4-6)—The seemingly limitless prospects of rookie QBs are often perfectly counterbalanced with the reality of the developmental process. Mark Sanchez offered up five turnovers against the superior Pats’ team who combined pressure and good coverage to confuse the youngster making just his tenth NFL start. The playoff window has shut on the Jets as they wait ‘til next year yet again. Next up: Hosting Carolina on Sunday.

23.  Chicago Bears (4-6)—The Bears were unable to capitalize on three turnovers and ended the game with two punts, a blocked field goal, and an interception on offense. Unfortunately for the Bears, they appear to have personnel issues on both sides of the ball and will be retooling in the offseason after a third straight year of missing the playoffs. They travel to Minnesota this week in a must-win game for the Vikes…bad times…

24.  Kansas City Chiefs (3-7)—A look at the boxscore will not tell you the story of the Chiefs’ huge upset over Pittsburgh in Week 11. Key turnovers and a few clutch plays in overtime allowed them to snap their 10-game home losing streak, their longest ever. Head Coach Todd Haley has them playing inspired football and we’ll see if they can make it three straight against the Chargers this week.

25.  Oakland Raiders (3-7)—Kudos to the Raiders for causing and then taking advantage of the Bengals mistakes in a shocking 20-17 win over Cincinnati. The league’s worst offense managed 10 points in the final 41 seconds of the upset and look better suited having Bruce Gradkowski under center to run the show. Heading to Dallas on Turkey Day could be interesting as neither offense has lit the world on fire over the last month.

Gradkowski may not be the "future" but he is definitely the "now"

26.  Washington Redskins (3-7)—The Redskins battled for the entire contest keeping Dallas QB Tony Romo off-balance and holding them to only seven points. But they were plagued with their own inability to do anything in the red zone in losing their fifth game out of their last six. The ‘Skins go on the road to Philly to try to play spoiler for the remainder of the season.

27.  Buffalo Bills (3-7)—The Bills went 3 of 11 on third down, coughed up three turnovers and came away with three field goals in three tips to the red zone – tough way to win a football game. They played more inspired ball with interim head coach Perry Fewell and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the way but will need to be better to break the three-game skid against the Dolphins.

28.  Seattle Seahawks (3-7)—The wheels have come off the wagon in Seattle. Injuries and abysmal play have them out of the playoffs and wondering where the future may lead them in 2010. Only four rushing yards on 12 carries put them in a position to hold the ball for less than 18 minutes. They visit the Rams this week to try and heal some of their war wounds.

29.  Detroit Lions (2-8)—The Lions and Browns combined for over 900 yards in a very competitive contest that ended with Detroit victorious. Their defense has myriad issues but Matt Stafford and the rest of the offense came back from 24-3 in the first quarter to take the game on the last play, 38-37. Lions host the Pack on Turkey Day in one of the oldest traditions in the NFL.

30.  St. Louis Rams (1-9)—The Rams went 4 of 16 on third down and failed to capitalize on another great performance by RB Steven Jackson. Their inability to stop the Cardinals’ offense put them in too big of a hole to finish off their second-half comeback. They will take on the Seahawks in an NFC West battle (read: pillow fight).

31.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-9)—Mama said there’d be days like this…a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of the Saints. Considering how badly he was harassed in this game, the Bucs should be thankful that QB Josh Freeman is not injured. They travel to the Falcons looking for improvement in all three phases.

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-9)—The Browns suffered a heartbreaker in finding a shockingly new way to lose an NFL game. A pass interference penalty on a “Hail Mary” pass was followed by an untimed down for a Detroit TD on the last play of the game; that really was a tough way to go out in Week 11. Bengals, Chargers, Steelers is a tough stretch for Cleveland as we head into December.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 11

November 20, 2009

The old adage about football being a game of inches has come to the forefront of the entire league after the epic decision made by Patriots coach Bill Belichick against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. Clearly, things did not work out in his team’s favor. The Bengals have made believers out of everyone (even me, finally), the Chargers caught the Broncos sooner than expected, and the Browns look just plain awful. Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

  1. New Orleans Saints (9-0)—OK, so it wasn’t their best week but I don’t think most of us would complain about any of the steps that got one’s team to the 9-0 status that the Saints enjoy. New Orleans played it tight with St. Louis but, as we know, on any given Sunday…Anyway the Saints will need to avoid the three turnovers they committed against the Rams if they want to stay perfect. A divisional game against the Bucs awaits them.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (9-0)—On a night when you give up 477 yards of offense, QB Peyton Manning throws two INTs, and allow Tom Brady & Co. to hold the ball for 35 minutes you shouldn’t expect positive results. But, the door was left ajar and a 17-point comeback ensued putting the Colts very much in the driver’s seat for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. They will take their three-game lead to Baltimore for another tough conference matchup.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (8-1)—Adrian Peterson ran for 133 yards, the Vikes racked up nearly 500 yards of offense, and they rolled over Detroit 27-10. Converting only 3 of 11 first downs and committing 13 penalties kept it close until the fourth quarter but it still never seemed in doubt. Next up: Seattle in Minnesota.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (7-2)—The Bengals hurried Big Ben and had the Steelers’ offense off-balance all day which resulted in a season sweep of the defending champs. Cincy is now 5-0 and in full control of the AFC North as they head to Oakland this Sunday.
  5. New England Patriots (6-3)—Fourth and two…ad nauseum. The Pats blew a big one in Indy but may have proved to themselves in the process that they can score at will on the Colts’ defense. It’s not often that you see 477 yards of offense racked up in defeat – no one would be surprised to see that rematch in January. The Pats go home and need to regroup against the Jets who dealt them an early-season loss.
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)—The inability to protect Roethlisberger reared its head again on Sunday and puts the Steelers in a position of chasing the Bengals for the remainder of the year. The loss of Troy Polamalu was felt again when he left this game and will have a potentially big impact if he misses more time or plays hurt. The offense will be looking to put a hurt on the Chiefs in KC this week.
  7. San Diego Chargers (6-3)—The Chargers have been red hot and made a nice leap up the rankings leading into their big divisional showdown against the Broncos on Sunday. LaDainian showed us a flash from the past as he ran for 96 yards and two scores. After starting 2-3, their four game win streak has put them in contention to take the AFC West lead with six games to play.
  8. Denver Broncos (6-3)—The tide turned in a big way against the Broncos after QB Kyle Orton was knocked out of the game in the second half. They threw for minus-8 passing yards and were unable to hold the lead against Washington to drop their third straight. A HUGE battle for first place will ensue this Sunday against the Chargers.
  9. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)—The ‘Boys did not convert a third down until nine minutes remained in the game and snapped a four-game winning streak. While they had an uncharacteristic offensive performance, they still remain in first place in the NFC East and will face divisional foe Washington this Sunday in Dallas.

10.  Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)—The Eagles simply had a hard time punching the ball into the end zone and came up short against a hot Chargers team. In the now unpredictable NFC East, Philly missed out on a huge opportunity to gain ground on their divisional rivals. They will need to win at Chicago to keep pace with Dallas who leads by one game.

11.  Atlanta Falcons (5-4)—The entire Falcons team appears to be slumping right along with QB Matt Ryan’s play. His two picks were crucial in the loss to Carolina on Sunday. Michael Turner’s injury will add more intrigue to a must-win game against the Giants this weekend which amounts to a possible elimination game for two teams battling for a playoff spot.

12.  Arizona Cardinals (6-3)—Finding balance on offense may be possible after all as rookie RB Beanie Wells ran for 85 yards and two second-half scores in a win over Seattle. The Cards have opened up a two-game lead in the NFC West and still have the Rams twice including this Sunday; these are good signs for their playoff hopes in 2009.

13.  New York Giants (5-4)—The ‘sky is falling’ routine was bandied about New York all during the bye week but it is now gut-check time as the Giants host Atlanta and may be out of the playoff mix with a fifth straight loss.

14.  Baltimore Ravens (5-4)—It was an ugly game all around but the Ravens pitched a 16-0 shutout over the Browns. The offense was not impressive at all in scoring only 10 third quarter points but it’s best to turn the page and record the win in these instances. They have a fight on their hands as they try to stay alive in the playoff hunt against the Colts and Steelers the next two weeks.

15.  Houston Texans (5-4)—The Texans’ bye week was an extra day longer as they pulled Monday night duty versus the resurgent Titans. Perhaps the week off is just what they needed to prepare for Chris Johnson.

16.  Green Bay Packers (5-4)—The Pack sacked Dallas QB Tony Romo five ties, hurried him plenty more, and forced three turnovers in a huge win to keep their season alive. Green Bay can score with almost any team in the league and with the defense playing inspired football perhaps they can be the team to steal a playoff berth in December.

17.  Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4)—The Jags showed their discipline by running down the clock on the Jets and opting for a FG when being given the space for a TD by the Jets – not something you see very often. This team has been impossible to figure out all season and now find themselves back in the playoff hunt with seven games to go.

18.  San Francisco 49ers (4-5)—It may not have been pretty, but it counts. The Niners forced (and I use that term lightly) Bears QB Jay Cutler into five INTs and held on for a 10-6 victory. If you commit nine penalties, barely gain 200 yards of offense, and win then consider yourself lucky and move on the next opponent which is Green Bay at Lambeau in this instance.

19.  Carolina Panthers (4-5)—Head coach John Fox has his team back in business and doing what they do best: run, run, and run some more. After being an NFC worst minus-9 in turnover ratio they were able to protect the ball and force Atlanta into some big INTs. Hosting Miami on Thursday night could get them right back to .500 and in position for a late-season run at meaningful game in January.

20.  Miami Dolphins (4-5)—It was reminiscent of earlier this decade when Ricky Williams stepped up in the absence of Ronnie Brown late in the game and willed the Dolphins to victory over Tampa. The Dolphins racked up almost 200 yards on the ground and will face the Panthers on Thursday night in a game that could effectively end the loser’s playoff hopes.

21.  New York Jets (4-5)—The Jets and Jags matched up evenly across the board…except for Mark Sanchez’ two picks. They have got to protect him and the ball better if they have any chance against the Pats who will be looking to take out the fourth-and-two frustration on Gang Green this Sunday.

22.  Chicago Bears (4-5)—Five, count ‘em five picks for the alleged savior at QB.  Jay Cutler’s play and body language have been a very bad sign for things to come in Chicago and from the looks of it their playoff hopes are nearly extinguished. Trying to get back on track with Philly and Minnesota up next is not what they expected in Week 11 this season.

23.  Tennessee Titans (3-6)—Too bad the one thing we will remember about this game is owner Bud Adams getting fined $250,000 for flipping the bird at Buffalo fans. (Haven’t they had enough, Bud?) On the field, the Titans have been rejuvenated by Vince Young’s versatility and Chris Johnson’s spectacular running ability. They are legitimately fighting their way towards .500; Houston is next on Monday night.

24.  Washington Redskins (3-6)—Credit to the Redskins for fighting back from a fourth quarter deficit and earning the win over Denver. They held Denver’s offense in check after QB Kyle Orton went down and Skins’ RB Ladell Betts was a beast rushing for 114 yards in the comeback victory. The next stretch of games is brutal for Washington (Dallas, Philly, New Orleans) and may very well just secure the end of the Jim Zorn era.

25.  Buffalo Bills (3-6)—It’s not often you see a 24 point-loss declared a close game but this one was tied going into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Dick Jauron was our first coaching casualty of the season as he was let go after this loss. Coordinator Perry Fewell takes over for a Bills team with zero identity, so…good luck with that, Perry.

26.  Seattle Seahawks (3-6)—Amazingly, Seattle finds themselves in big trouble after another loss to the Cardinals. Allowing nearly 500 yards of offense and not punching the ball in during the second half has put them on life support for a playoff berth this season. The Vikes may put them out of their misery on Sunday.

27.  Kansas City Chiefs (2-7)—Despite three turnovers, KC was able to earn the victory and a season split with the rival Raiders. Jamaal Charles picked up 103 yards on the ground and may provide the Chiefs with a more consistent ground game than his predecessor did. There are signs of life with this team but a four-game suspension to Dwayne Bowe going into the Steelers game is not a god way to keep the momentum going.

28.  Oakland Raiders (2-7)—JaMarcus Russell went 8 for 23 and was benched, they committed 10 penalties, and continue to rank near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category. Cincinnati, Dallas, and Pittsburgh is not the trifecta of teams they would like to be matching up against but they need to find some heart somewhere…quickly.

29.  St. Louis Rams (1-8)—As I say often in this space, there are no moral victories in the NFL. The Rams fought hard, Steven Jackson was his usual nasty self, and the defense forced three turnovers but it was just not enough against the top-ranked Saints. Another high-octane offense comes to town with Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals.

30.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)—Tampa Bay committed nine penalties and allowed the Dolphins to run roughshod over them resulting in yet another loss, this one with only 10 seconds remaining. Rookie QB Josh Freeman was adequate for the Bucs but will continue his development throughout the year.  Next up is the Saints is what could be an ugly matchup for Tampa Bay.

31.  Detroit Lions (1-8)—The Lions allowed almost 500 yards of offense to the Vikings and continue to rank dead last in the league in points allowed. This is obviously a building process for the Lions who will have an opportunity to bounce back when the Browns come into town this Sunday.

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-8)—The Browns have managed only 5 offensive TDs in 36 quarters this season. That is truly remarkable. They travel to Detroit next in what may be their last legit chance at a victory for the rest of the season.

NCAA Football Picks ATS – Week 12

November 19, 2009

Well, I’ve taken my lumps the last two weeks going 6-14 in the process but we’ll see if I have something to be thankful for next Thursday after the games this weekend.  It’s a funky week with a lot of big spreads and almost no home underdogs so I tried, as I normally do, to pick the games that I find most compelling for one reason or another. As always, here are the picks…

No. 10 Ohio State at Michigan (+11 ½)—“The Game” does not have much to hype up about it other than your typical border war; Ohio State is already Rose Bowl-bound and Michigan is trying to avoid losing seven straight Big Ten games. Ohio State has knocked off two consecutive ranked opponents and will use their tenacious defense (ranked 6th in scoring defense in FBS) to shut down Michigan’s spread attack. The Wolverines need this game to somewhat salvage another miserable season. Coaching change rumors and last-place standings are far away from where they thought they would be this season but a win over their hated rival would cure what ails them. No chance but it’s closer than some might expect. Ohio State 27, Michigan 20.

North Carolina at Boston College (-3 ½)—The Tar Heels come to Chestnut Hill with a chance to end the Eagles’ bid for a third consecutive ACC Championship Game appearance. North Carolina has been an up-and down team but are on a three-game roll that resulted most recently in an upset of No. 14 Miami last weekend; their 13th ranked defense has been their biggest asset. BC has had similar issues staying consistent but they are 6-0 at home and will play at noon not knowing the result of the Clemson game; the Tigers need to lose for BC to have a shot at the ACC Title. BC struggled badly against the good defenses in Clemson and Virginia Tech but you can never count the Eagles out of a must win game. BC 21, UNC 20.

Connecticut at Notre Dame (-6)—UConn has lost their five games this year by a combined 15 points and have been in every game to the last minute. The Huskies can become bowl-eligible with a little late-season run starting with this one at South Bend. Notre Dame comes in besieged by rumors of head coach Charlie Weis’ imminent departure but will try to salvage these last two games, run their record to 8-4, and let the chips fall. While it’s possible to think that ND has checked out during another disappointing season, keep in mind Clausen, Tate, and others are still showcasing for the NFL. Notre Dame 30, UConn 20.

No. 8 LSU at Mississippi (-4)—One of the eye-opening spreads of the week has Ole Miss as a favorite against the LSU Tigers who lost their only two games in hard fought contests versus the nation’s top two teams in Florida and ‘Bama. The Tigers allow less than 14 points a game (10th in FBS) but have struggled throughout the season on offense (107th in yardage in FBS). Mississippi’s lethal combo of QB Jevan Snead and RB Dexter McCluster can punish any time as Tennessee learned last week in a 42-17 blowout. A win here would give Ole Miss a second place finish behind Florida and I think they will get it in a close one in a strange upset-but-not-an-upset showdown. Ole Miss 24, LSU 21.

Virginia at No. 23 Clemson (-20 ½)—Clemson comes into this game with a chance to close out the ACC Atlantic Division which would put them in the ACC Championship Game for the first time. The Tigers are averaging 42 points per game during a five-game winning streak and will host the struggling Cavaliers in order to advance and try to win their first ACC title since 1991. Virginia ranks 118th in the nation with 266.7 yards per game and 106th in scoring offense, averaging 19.8 points and will try to move the ball against Clemson’s 20th ranked defense that leads the nation in INTs. This should be a blowout as the wheels came off the wagon for UVA over a month ago and they will play only the role of spoiler on Saturday. But, I think Clemson calls off the dogs in the second half after the game is in hand – back door cover. Clemson 37, UVA 17

Southern Methodist at Marshall (-4)—In another amazing (and under-the-radar) turnaround job by head coach June Jones, SMU can actually lock up a bowl with a win over Marshall this Saturday. The Mustangs sit in first place in their division in C-USA and will try to hang on to it for their last two games. Marshall will also be looking to become bowl-eligible despite being banged up and sporting an offense that ranks in the 100s in the scoring department. I think SMU finally gets noticed after this win. SMU 27, Marshall 24.

Gerhart has dominated in recent wins over Oregon and USC

No. 25 California at No. 17 Stanford (-7)—Generally, one would not expect that Stanford would become a weekly entry regarding the “hot” games on the college gridiron but here we are again chatting about the Cardinal. Stanford is now bowl-eligible for the first time since 2001 thanks to Heisman candidate RB Toby Gerhart who leads the way for the 10th-ranked offense in the country. Cal will be without star RB Jahvid Best when they take on their biggest rival. Points should be abundant in this contest and the PAC-10 has been tricky this season but Stanford should take care of business at home. Stanford 35, Cal 27.

No. 11 Oregon at Arizona (+6)—Oregon needs to practice the mantra “Win and advance” which is usually reserved for basketball teams in March. As the only one-loss team remaining in the PAC-10, the Ducks control their road to the Rose Bowl and will take their ninth-ranked offense to Tucson and try to waddle past the Wildcats. Arizona fell from the rankings after a loss to Cal last week but actually control their own destiny for the Rose Bowl if they can win their last three games. Zona was gashed last week by Cal which was a terrible way to enter the game against Oregon whuch has the most powerful offense in the conference. Ducks take it and cover…Oregon 41, Arizona 30.

Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette (+2 ½)—Louisiana-Monroe (their nickname is the Warhawks for all those keeping score) is looking to become bowl-eligible for the first time in school history. The Ragin’ Cajuns will also be looking to go bowling if they can win their last two. The reality is not many of us have seen these teams play this year but it is a HUGE game for both teams determining potential bowl games and definite bragging rights for a year at least. This is my one chance to take the home underdog this week, so I will. ULL 28, ULM 24.

Kansas at No. 3 Texas (-27 ½)—The Longhorns have the opportunity to put away their division against Kansas and continue their run toward the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena on Jan 7th. With an offense that is as prolific as the defense is fierce, Texas is on a mission right now and the Jayhawks are simply in their way. Adding to this mix is Kansas’ inability to keep teams out of the end zone and a dark cloud hanging over head coach Mark Mangino’s head. Allegations of mistreatment of his players, both present and former, have hit the news and will only serve as further distraction. Texas’ second stringers should see some time on Saturday. Texas 52, Kansas 21.

Last week: 4-6

Season: 46-45

NFL Power Rankings – Week 10

November 14, 2009

The slate is officially clean on winless teams thank to Tampa Bay’s upset of the Packers which means maybe the creamsicle orange jerseys are a blessing and not the curse they were once thought to be. The Saints and Colts both dodged bullets to stay perfect, the Bengals continue to impress us, the Giants have us scratching our heads, and the Patriots are right near the top again which altogether make the NFL gloriously unpredictable. Let’s make our way from No. 1 all the way down to No. 32…

  1. New Orleans Saints (8-0)—It was not a signature performance for the Saints as they toughed out a win against Carolina at home scoring 24 second-half points. Drew Brees was his usual self after a sluggish first half but the defense will need to address getting gashed for 182 rushing yards before they visit Steven Jackson and the Rams this week.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (8-0)—The Colts were the beneficiaries of a missed field goal and a coaching blunder that allowed them to hang on for a three-point victory over the Houston Texans. QB Peyton Manning threw 40 passes in the first half (!!!) but ultimately raised the Colts’ record to 14-1 versus their AFC South ‘rival’. Now, it’s on to an actual real rival in the New England Patriots this Sunday night.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)—The Vikings’ only loss was a tight one at Pittsburgh that left us more impressed than we were when they were undefeated. The 7-1 start is no fluke as Minnesota has been putting up points (2nd in the NFL) and stuffed the run on defense (ranked 6th in the NFL) for much of the year. Hosting Detroit and coming off a bye is a nice way to start the second half.
  4. New England Patriots (6-2)—The Dolphins put up a solid fight but the Patriots made big plays to ensure the victory and run their record to 6-2. All the worries from earlier in the season have begun to fade as the offense appears to be clicking again. The Pats are 71-17 in games played after Nov. 1 since 2001, not a good sign for the Colts this week and everyone else for the rest of the year.
  5. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)—The Bengals controlled the ball for 40 minutes exactly as RB Cedric Benson churned out 117 yards on 34 carries. Cincy is now 4-0 versus the AFC North and will look to run their record to 5-0 when they take on the Steelers this week. They are certainly the surprise team of the first half of 2009.

     

    cedricbenson

    Benson's success has the Bengals pacing the AFC North

  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)—After a first half in which the Steelers could not get anything going offensively, they went no-huddle and shredded the Broncos for 173 yards on the ground and three touchdowns by game’s end. Big Ben and Rashard Mendenhall shined on Monday night for the Steelers to get to 6-2 and will host a big AFC North matchup this Sunday.
  7. Denver Broncos (6-2)—Following a field goal on their opening drive, every Broncos possession ended with an interception or a punt. Kyle Orton was forced into three picks and the Broncos’ previously vaunted D had no answers for the Steelers offense in the second half. Time to shake off two consecutive blowouts; the Redskins may be the cure for what ails them.
  8. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)—The ‘Boys have ripped off four straight wins and find themselves atop the NFC East at the midway point of the season. Their offense’s ability to run out the last 4:27 of the game was an impressive exclamation point in their win at Philly and should have them feeling good as they head to Lambeau this week.
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (5-3)—The Eagles’ up-and-down season continues as they dropped a home game to Dallas, failing to hold a 4th quarter lead with a series of miscues including some from the bench. Now, Philly travels to San Diego to take on an energized Chargers team who is surprisingly fighting for first in their division at the halfway mark.

10.  Atlanta Falcons (5-3)—The Falcons sacked Campbell five times in the first half — a team record for sacks in a half. While they didn’t play their best game, they did manage to run the ball well and secure a victory over a reeling Redskins team. Next up is Carolina where they will try to continue to run their balanced offense and stay in control in the wild card race.

11.  San Diego Chargers (5-3)—Sometimes one drive can turn around a whole season and that may have happened in the Meadowlands this past week. QB Philip Rivers drove the Chargers to a go-ahead score with 21 seconds left on the clock for a dramatic comeback win against the Giants. That win coupled with the Broncos loss has them just one game out of the lead which seemed like it could be a runaway a few weeks ago. They get another chance to prove their worth this week when they host the Eagles.

12.  Arizona Cardinals (5-3)—QB Kurt Warner shredded the Bears for five TDs in a game that was really never in doubt. At 5-3, they control the NFC West for now and could deliver an early knockout blow to the Seahawks this week.

13.  New York Giants (5-4)—Four short weeks ago, the G-Men found themselves atop this hallowed list (shameless self-promotion) and now goes into a bye week out of playoff contention in Week 10. If one could point to one issue it would be easier to analyze their problems but, right now, several areas are failing them. They will fight back into the playoff picture this season but injuries and age have made their once formidable defense look ordinary.

14.  Baltimore Ravens (4-4)—The Ravens had not given up 100-yard rushing games to the same player in the same season since 1997 until Cedric Benson accomplished the feat this week. They also must have left the game a bit shell-shocked having held the ball for only 20 minutes and scoring only seven points in garbage time. It’s regrouping time when they play the Browns on Monday night.

15.  Houston Texans (5-4)—Gary Kubiak let time run out to the two-minute warning and cost his team the ball (and crucial points) after a replay reversal and K Kris Brown came up empty after coming up so big earlier in the game which led to a tough loss at Indy. Frankly, turning the ball over three times will keep you out of the win column most times against anybody and almost always when it’s the Colts on the other side of the ball. The Texans will have a long two weeks to think about that loss with the bye week preceding a Monday night matchup.

16.  Green Bay Packers (4-4)—Three interceptions and six sacks allowed go a long way in explaining how the Pack blew a 4th quarter lead and allowed 21 points in the final stanza. High hopes for Green Bay have faded fast for this season with the realizations that they cannot protect QB Aaron Rodgers or come up with key stops on defense when they need them.

17.  Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)—The Jags’ went into ball control mode from the start of the game and held the ball for over 36 minutes. They held off a valiant comeback effort by the Chiefs and at 4-4 are at least in position to challenge for the playoffs in the second half of the year. Next up: New York Jets.

18.  Chicago Bears (4-4)—QB Jay Cutler’s super fantasy stats should fool no one. The offense is not clicking in the way that anyone anticipated and the defense finds themselves in the lower third of the league in points allowed.

19.  San Francisco 49ers (3-5)—The Niners committed four turnovers which led to 24 points for the Titans. Getting run over for 152 yards is not something we would expect out of a Mike Singletary-coached squad.

20.  Miami Dolphins (3-5)—There may not be a team fighting harder to get to .500 than the Dolphins. They are giving it all for Tony Sparano but they just couldn’t get the key stops versus the Pats. They host Tampa coming off their first win and the Fish are unlikely to let them make it two in a  row…

21.  New York Jets (4-4)—The Jets’ embodied the trials and tribulations of a .500 team as they saw great highs (upsetting hated rival New England) and terrible lows (swept by hated rival Miami) through eight games. One can be sure that head coach Rex Ryan worked tirelessly during the bye week to get the team back on track for this week’s contest against Jacksonville.

22.  Buffalo Bills (3-5)—Despite some significant injuries and, at times, abysmal play the Bills can potentially build on their first half. That building process better ramp up quickly as most players and coaches should consider themselves on the hot seat for the duration of the season. Out of their bye week, they go to Tennessee where they hope there is no Music City Miracle in sight.

23.  Carolina Panthers (3-5)—The Panthers hung tough with the league’s top team at New Orleans but three lost fumbles were too much to overcome. Their ability to run the ball so effectively is a sign that they may be one of the struggling teams that rights the ship in the second half of 2009. Hosting Atlanta this week will be a big test.

24.  Seattle Seahawks (3-5)—Seattle capitalized on five INTs turning them into 20 points as they battled back from a 17-point deficit. They travel to Arizona this week in a game that could have their season on the line.

25.  Washington Redskins (2-6)—Looking at the box score would not tell the Redskins’ whole story since they matched up well with the Falcons’ stats. Their inability to protect QB Jason Campbell (5 sacks) and to get the ball in the end zone (they have yet to score over 17 points) have everyone, especially Jim Zorn, wishing the second half of the season simply is over quickly.

26.  Oakland Raiders (2-6)—When your team can’t score points (30th in the NFL) and can’t stop other teams from scoring (25th in the NFL), it doesn’t need to be said that you’re in possession of a failure recipe. It starts at the top where exceedingly eccentric owner Al David hired a head coach, Tom Cable, who appears to be one of the inmates running the asylum. The Raiders may have more talent on defense than other teams but there are just too many holes organization-wide for them to be able to overcome the obstacles. This will get worse before it gets better.

27.  Tennessee Titans (2-6)—After committing 18 turnovers in their first six games, the Titans have none in their last two (both wins). RB Chris Johnson leads the NFL with 959 rushing yards and with play like this will lead the Titans to a few more wins before the season is over. QB Vince Young is playing his role well and will try to make it three in a row against Buffalo.

28.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7)—The Bucs make a nice-sized leap out of the basement based on the level of competition that they beat relative to their peers in or near the basement. It may have taken a wild finish to ice the game but came up with six sacks and three INTs to put their newbie QB Josh Freeman (3 TDs) in a position to win. The creamsicle-colored jerseys appropriately had years and years of losing associated with them until Sunday. Maybe they can make it two in a row against Miami…

29.  Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)—With the Larry Johnson scandal hanging over their heads, the Chiefs once again fought hard and came up short to the Jaguars. LJ is no longer with the team and head coach Todd Haley will need to figure a way for his 27th ranked offense to get it going along with his 27th ranked defense…it’s a marathon, not a sprint, right???

30.  St. Louis Rams (1-7)—The NFL schedule-makers probably even feel guilty about setting the one-win Rams up with the Saints at this stage of the season. I suppose if there IS a week for St. Louis to play them, it might as well be with an extra week to prepare as they come off their bye week.

31.  Detroit Lions (1-7)—“In youth we learn; in age we understand.” Matt Stafford threw five INTs and the Lions blew a 17-point first half lead against the Seahawks. These are tough lessons to learn for the young Detroit team and playing the Vikings in Minny coming off a bye may be another one of those lessons…

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-7)—The Browns were given a much-needed bye week to collect themselves after a miserable first half of the season that ended with the firing of their GM George Kokinis. Now, head coach Eric Mangini will have to decide whether Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson will be the QB to make the second half of the season a little more productive and save his job in the process.

NCAA Football Picks ATS – Week 11

November 14, 2009

No. 7 Georgia Tech at Duke (-12 ½)—Georgia Tech looks for its first eight-game winning streak in 43 years and will do so against a Duke team still fighting for bowl eligibility. The Yellow Jackets will continue to showcase their dominant rushing attack (second in FBS yardage) against the Blue Devils whom they have beaten five straight times.

jonathandwyer

Dwyer leads the Wrambling Wreck towards the ACC Champioship Game today in Durham

Duke is coming off a loss to rival North Carolina and looks to avenge a 27-0 demolition at the hands of Georgia Tech last season. Duke QB Thad Lewis is second in the ACC in passing yardage and will need to exploit the Tech passing defense, which ranks 10th in the conference. This one could get ugly since it clinches the ACC title game appearance for Tech. Georgia Tech 38, Duke 20.

 

Tennessee at Mississippi (-5)—both teams come in to this contest at 2-3 in the SEC and will look to scratch their way to .500 by game’s end. It could be argued that Mississippi’s 6-3 season is a major disappointment while the Vols’ 5-4 season during a rebuilding year has been every bit as competitive as one should have expected.

Rebels’ QB Jevan Snead will need to be better than his last couple of outings and help his defense which is ranked 12th in the FBS in points allowed. The Vols have been on a bit of a roll with the exception of a heartbreaking loss to Bama three weeks ago, dominating three of their last four foes. Expect that roll to continue, I like the Vols in an upset. Tennessee 20, Mississippi 16.

 

No. 1 Florida at South Carolina (+15 ½)—Despite criticism after nearly every game this season the Gators stand here at 9-0, ranked No. 1 in the country, and looking to complete the SEC slate undefeated for the first time in 13 years. The Gators’ defense is tops in the nation and has helped during some less than impressive days for Tim Tebow and the rest of the offense. South Carolina has lost three of their last four thanks to a sputtering offense that averaged only 12.3 points during those contests. Florida is looking to run their winning streak to 20 games and the Gamecocks are in the way, about to be chomped. Florida 31, South Carolina 10.

 

Stanford at No. 9 USC (-10 ½)—The PAC-10 was thought to be locked up before last week’s surprise upset by Stanford over Oregon which has thrown the entire conference title into limbo – and leaves USC and Stanford still breathing. Stanford will travel to Los Angeles with a Top 20 offense that has averaged over 500 yards for their last three contests. USC and QB Matt Barkley will look to get back on track offensively having scored only 34 points in their last two games. USC will find a way to win this game but the score is likely to be unpredictable. USC 28, Stanford 20.

 

No. 10 Iowa at No. 11 Ohio State (-16)—Iowa dodged quite a few bullets before last week’s loss to Northwestern and Ohio State pulled a off a huge road win to make this the game of the year in the Big 10. Hawkeyes’ QB Ricky Stanzi will be out for this game in Columbus, which will make it even tougher to score on the Buckeyes’ fourth-ranked scoring defense.

Conversely, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will need to find a way to get in the end zone against Iowa’s staunch defense that ranks in the top 15 in the FBS. This will be a low-scoring slugfest to determine who sits in the catbird seat in the Big 10 and I don’t see OSU giving it up at home despite Iowa’s six straight road wins. Ohio State 24, Iowa 10.

 

No. 14 Miami (FL) at North Carolina (+3 ½)—the ‘Canes are looking to stay alive in the ACC Coastal battle and UNC is trying to salvage a season which has not gone as expected. Truth be told, Georgia Tech will likely have locked up the ACC Coastal division by game time and knocked Miami out of the race but the ‘Canes are still pushing for a Top 10 finish and a great bowl berth including a BCS possibility.

They have balanced out their offense as of late helping ease the burden on QB Jacory Harris and grinding out the yardage with tailback Graig Cooper. UNC boasts one of the top defenses in the country, which allows less than 250 yards per contest; it’s the Heels’ offense that has created issues throughout the year. The Tar Heels have actually taken the last contest between these squads and the Canes are 0-3 all-time in Chapel Hill…that ends this week. Miami 24, North Carolina 20.

 

No. 17 Arizona at California (-2)—Arizona enters the game about as under-the-radar as any ranked team in the entire country. They control their destiny to win the PAC-10 title but there are still four tough games to go beginning with Cal this weekend.

Arizona’s run-stuffing defense will NOT have to face Bears’ All-American candidate Jahvid Best who is out with a concussion, a huge blow to Cal who has benefited greatly from the shifty back with 16 TDs. Cal has lost three straight conference games and will have their hands full at home this week despite having beaten the Wildcats three times in a row at Berkeley. Arizona is on a nice roll, which I do not expect to stop this weekend. Arizona 27, Cal 20.

 

No. 16 Utah at No. 4 TCU (-20)—Fort Worth, Texas will be the center of attention this week in college football as the TCU Horned Frogs try to continue an unprecedented run. Their No. 4 ranking is the highest ever for a non-BCS conference team and they have done it on both sides of the ball. The Horned Frogs rank third in defense, eighth in offense, and will look to repeat a similar run that the Utes made last year on the way to beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Ironically, it was TCU who nearly upended Utah last season before succumbing in the final minute to lose 13-10. Utah is also on an impressive run after losing to Oregon in September having won six straight and not allowing 20 points in any contest. This should be an old-school ‘slobberknocker’ kind of game and I think TCU will get it done but not in the grand fashion that the spread suggests. TCU 27, Utah 19.

 

Texas Tech at No. 19 Oklahoma State (-4)—The Cowboys will be looking for revenge at home in Stillwater after the Red Raiders trounced them 56-20 in last year’s meeting between the then-top-10 squads. Texas Tech brings their signature aerial attack into the game with some controversy surrounding who will play QB but they will throw early and often whether it’s Taylor Potts, Seth Doege or Steven Sheffield.

Okie State is without WR Dez Bryant for the remainder of the year but they lead the Big 12 in rushing yards behind Keith Toston and Kendall Hunter. Whenever offenses like this get together, it is a lot of fun to watch and tough to see how it’s going to go but I see this being close to the end. Oklahoma State 30, Texas Tech 27.

 

Notre Dame at No. 12 Pittsburgh (-7)—Pitt still has yet to play a ranked team but they have gotten the job done putting themselves in position for the Big East title if they win out their last two conference games. The matchup this weekend will help to raise their national profile if they can pull out a win; this is already their highest ranking in 20 years. Notre Dame Head coach Charlie Weis is seeing major scrutiny yet again after a shocking loss to the Naval Academy last week; he likely needs to win out to secure his job in South Bend.

The game will feature two great QBs in ND’s Jimmy Clausen and Pitt’s Bill Stull along with other great skill players like ND WR Golden Tate and Pitt RB Dion Lewis. This really is a massive game for both teams and while ND’s defense has failed them often this season I think Pitt’s soft schedule has not prepared them for a desperate team with this kind of offensive firepower. Notre Dame 28, Pitt 24.

Last week: 2-8

Season: 42-39

NCAA Football Picks ATS – Week 10

November 7, 2009

Navy at No. 22 Notre Dame (-12)—Navy brings their signature triple-option rushing attack to South Bend this week in a bid to upset the Irish for the second time in three years. The Midshipmen, currently the third-ranked rushing attack in the nation, are led by QB Ricky Dobbs who leads the nation with 16 touchdowns. The Irish have a QB standout of their own in Jimmy Clausen who is second in the nation in pass efficiency having thrown 18 TDs to only two INTs. Clausen may very well lead the Heisman race at this point of the season and will continue the campaign with a comfortable win over Navy. Notre Dame 34, Navy 17.

 

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Ingram hopes to roll the Tide and himself to the BCS title game

No. 9 LSU at No. 3 Alabama (-7 ½)—Undoubtedly the ‘Game of the Week’ in college football this weekend, the Tigers head to Tuscaloosa to try to pull off the upset over the Tide. LSU has won four straight at Alabama but their offense has had some well-chronicled struggles finding the end zone this season. ‘Bama RB Mark Ingram will continue pacing the rushing attack which is averaging 217 yards per contest. With two top 10 scoring defenses playing for keeps, this will be another low-scoring affair, I think LSU keeps it close but ‘Bama will prevail on their home turf. Alabama 20, LSU 13.

No. 8 Oregon at Stanford (+7)—Everything about this game screams “letdown” as Oregon goes to The Farm to take on Stanford who are undefeated at home in 2009. The Ducks were so impressive last week against USC that they have launched themselves into talks regarding the BCS title game if they get a little help from some teams losing ahead of them. Stanford QB Andrew Luck ranks first in the PAC-10 in passing efficiency and RB Toby Gerhart leads the conference in rushing but they will have their work cut out for them against Oregon’s defense which lets up only 17 points a game. Oregon’s eighth-ranked rushing attack will simply be tough for Stanford to handle. Oregon 38, Stanford 27.

No. 16 Ohio State at No. 11 Penn State (-4)—The stakes are high in this Big Ten matchup and Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will visit Beaver Stadium, a place the western Pennsylvania native spurned last year to end a highly publicized recruiting battle. The Buckeyes still control their own destiny in the conference but have struggled to find an identity on offense this season even with the talented Pryor. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in offense and have the nation’s stingiest defense, yielding just 9.3 points per contest. Expect a hard-hitting, low scoring affair (even with some possible defensive scores) and Penn State to shut down Pryor when it counts. Penn State 16, Ohio State 10.

No. 6 TCU at San Diego State (+24 ½)—At this point, TCU is focused on winning one game at a time…but some style point wouldn’t hurt in their quest for a BCS bowl. The Horned Frogs have the nation’s top-ranked total defense (yardage) and will look to grind it out with their rushing offense that averages over 233 yards per game. San Diego State’s offense is almost exclusively an aerial attack which ranks in the top 20 in the FBS. There is not much debate as to who will win this game but can TCU provide another blowout to impress voters? I think they may be looking towards the big contest with Utah next week…TCU 35, San Diego State 14.

Florida State at Clemson (-9)—The ACC has become an impossibility in regards to predictions but this game holds major importance in the divisional race for Clemson who controls their own destiny. Seminoles’ QB Christian Ponder has become a leader of this team and a standout player in a tumultuous year for FSU; he is banged-up but ready to go against the Tigers in Death Valley. Clemson will be missing pass-rushing monster Da’Quan Bowers for this contest and their inconsistent offense will need to be in check against the ‘Noles who always have enough talent to beat anyone. Clemson is so bad in these games that everyone is picking the upset but I say they squeak one out. Clemson 30, FSU 28.

Connecticut at No. 5 Cincinnati (-17 ½)—The Cincinnati Bearcats will be showing off their squad in prime time when they host the UConn Huskies on Saturday night. UConn’s season has been heartbreaking both on and off the field but they have played extremely hard every step of the way. Cincinnati boasts a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense and will look to go 9-0 for the first time since 1951, a school record. The Bearcats will be just too much for most teams in the Big East this season and the buzz saw continues. Cincinnati 34, UConn 14.

No. 24 Oklahoma at Nebraska (+4)—This historic rivalry may not carry the weight it used to but the teams will be going at it just like the teams of the 60s and 70s used to in its heyday. The Sooners are back on track with QB Landry Jones filling in well for Sam Bradford and still leading an explosive offense. Nebraska has a top 10 defense led by DT Ndamukong Suh and will look to slow down the Sooners by pressuring the quarterback. I think Oklahoma has had some bumps in the road but is clearly the better team this season. Oklahoma 27, Nebraska 17.

No. 15 Houston at Tulsa (+1)—Houston QB Case Keenum takes his Heisman dark-horse aerial show on the road to Tulsa who is looking to avoid a four-game losing streak. The Cougars score more points than anyone in the country not named Texas and will likely continue the onslaught this Saturday. The Golden Hurricane has been inconsistent and will have a QB question with starter G.J. Kinne questionable with a concussion. This spread is the ultimate red flag since it should be a blowout but I am going against the home underdog this time. Houston 45, Tulsa 31.

Fresno State at Idaho (+8)—Idaho has put themselves in position at 7-2 to receive their first bowl bid since 1998 and will try to continue the good feelings this week against Fresno who looks to gain bowl eligibility this weekend. Both teams rank in the top 25 in yards and points on offense so expect a back-and-forth contest in Moscow. Idaho will have to avoid the trap of looking ahead to an even bigger game in Boise but the real question is whether or not they can slow down the nation’s leading rusher in RB Ryan Mathews. I expect a fairly close one like most Idaho games this season but Fresno State may be too much for the Vandals, just as Nevada was two weeks ago. Fresno State 40, Idaho 30.

Last Week: 8-2

Season: 40-31