NCAA Football Picks ATS – Week 12

Posted November 19, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: NCAA Football

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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NFL Power Rankings – Week 10

Posted November 14, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

Posted November 14, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: Uncategorized

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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

Posted November 7, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: NCAA Football

Tags: , , , , ,

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

NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

Posted November 6, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: Power Rankings

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We have whittled our way down to two teams (Colts, Saints) on top of the mountain and they both appear to be poised to remain there for quite some time. The Ravens sent a message that they are not to be forgotten about and the Cowboys followed suit. The Rams scratched and clawed their way out of the cellar and we have a new team blazing its way toward a dubious distinction despite a week off…here we go from No. 1 to No. 32…

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The Saints keep on marching on...

1. New Orleans Saints (7-0)—Just another day at the office for Drew Brees, who threw for 300 yards and two scores. You know they are playing at a high level when the offense picks up 437 yards and 28 points and you come away not as impressed as usual. The defense was the difference-maker again, picking off Atlanta QB Matt Ryan three times.

2. Indianapolis Colts (7-0)—Good teams win ugly so the saying goes. Indy struggled at times and QB Peyton Manning failed to throw a TD pass despite racking up 347 yards through the air. But, they were able to control the clock enough to keep Niners’ RB Frank Gore in check most of the day and will face the Texans is a big divisional matchup this week that could be a shootout.

3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)—Favre’s big return to Lambeau was a success for him and left Packers fans feeling betrayed. With the Vikings off to their best start since 2000, they have hit the halfway point of their season and bye week feeling great.

4. Denver Broncos (6-1)—The Broncos finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and decidedly so. The Ravens controlled the action all day allowing Denver to enter the red zone just one time on the day. This week, they host Pittsburgh in another key AFC contest.

5. New England Patriots (5-2)—The Pats have crept into the Top 5 during their week off which is probably where they have belonged all along as they are an elite team. This week’s tilt against the Dolphins will set the tone for them and the AFC East for the remainder of the season.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)—The Bengals’ bye week appears to have been well-timed as they host Baltimore in a huge AFC North matchup. They will be out to prove that the first half of 2009 was no fluke.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)—Monday Night Football gets another great game as the Steelers travel to Mile High to take on the now once-defeated Broncos. The Steelers are another team that received a well-timed bye, we’ll see if they can take advantage of it.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)—The sheer 40-17 domination of their bitterest rival was enough to make Eagles fans happy for a long time. Hitting three huge plays of over 40 yards for touchdowns got the Eagles’ swagger back in a big way and they will need to show it again on a national stage this Sunday night vs. Dallas.

9. New York Giants (5-3)—The Giants are finding ways to plummet down this list every week. Between their inability to attack opposing defenses without turning it over and their linebacking corps getting torched a few weeks in a row (180 yards rushing for the Eagles this week), they look like a team in desperate need of a bye.  Unfortunately, they need to play the Chargers before their week of rest.

10. Baltimore Ravens (4-3)—The Ravens got back on track after a three-game skid by playing their game. They ran the ball well (125 yards), threw the ball efficiently (20 of 25), and held Denver to only 200 yards of offense. Up next is Cincinnati in a game where the Ravens will seek payback for a loss earlier this season.

11. Dallas Cowboys (5-2)—The Cowboys played well in all three facets of the game which paced them to an easy 38-17 victory over Seattle. It was a necessary win as they head to Philly this week for a first-place battle in the NFC East.

12. Atlanta Falcons (4-3)—The Monday night game in New Orleans had to be a wakeup call for the Falcons. They will need to be much better than they were to compete with the Saints in that division because giving up over 400 yards and throwing three interceptions is not something that will win you many games.

13. Houston Texans (5-3)—Kudos to Houston who, at 5-3, is two games above .500 for the first time in franchise history. RB Ryan Moats filled in nicely for the benched Steve Slaton and the Texans’ defense held the Bills to only 207 yards of offense. Indianapolis will prove to be a much stiffer test and it will put the league on notice if an upset occurs.

14. San Diego Chargers (4-3)—The Chargers won their 13th consecutive game against the Raiders and did so by outgaining them 346-180. It was not a win that would earn them any style points but is just what they needed as they travel to NY to face the slumping Giants.

15. Arizona Cardinals (4-3)—Kurt Warner was forced into six turnovers in a brutal loss to Carolina on Sunday. His struggles are front and center as the Cardinals have failed to gain any momentum this season. Next up: a trip to Soldier Field to face the Bears.

16. Green Bay Packers (4-3)—The Packers are going to need to find a way to protect QB Aaron Rodgers or he won’t be around to finish the season suffering a league-high 31 sacks. Heading to Tampa this week should be a nice way to land safely and get back on track.

17. Chicago Bears (4-3)—Matt Forte paced the Bears with two rushing touchdowns as they controlled the clock for over 37 minutes versus the lowly Browns. They will try to keep things moving forward when they take on the Cardinals this Sunday.

18. San Francisco 49ers (3-4)—The Niners suffered yet another tough close defeat, this time courtesy of the Colts. Their inability to convert on third down (2 of 10) coupled with two turnovers kept them from holding their 14-6 halftime lead. Tennessee comes to San Fran this weekend trying to make it two in a row, not something the Niners can afford to let happen.

19. Miami Dolphins (3-4)—The Dolphins scored 21 third-quarter points without the benefit of having their offense on the field and outlasted the Jets 30-25. Ted Ginn’s return heroics were a huge boost for a Miami team looking to get back to the .500 mark. Their trip to New England this weekend will likely set the agenda for the AFC East for the remainder of the season.

20. New York Jets (4-4)—Giving up two 100-yard plus touchdowns on kickoff returns is no way to win a football game as the Jets proved against Miami. They head into their bye week looking every bit the up-and-down team their record suggests.

21. Buffalo Bills (3-5)—The Bills held the ball for only 20 minutes and simply could not sustain any drives going 2-for-10 on 3rd down conversions. Buffalo heads into their bye week with a ton of question marks but will be getting Trent Edwards back after the hiatus. Coach Dick Jauron and his young QB will both be on the hot seat in the second half.

22. Carolina Panthers (3-4)—The Panthers ran the ball for 270 yards and took advantage of six Cardinals’ turnovers in their 34-21 win. They will look to establish the run yet again and get to .500 with a very big test at New Orleans.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)—Giving up 305 yards rushing and holding the ball for 20 minutes make it very difficult to win in the NFL. The Jags were gashed by the Titans and will look to rebound against the well-rested Chiefs this week.

24. Seattle Seahawks (2-5)—Seattle made it look easy for Dallas and with injuries that have piled up; they need to turn it around quick before the season is completely lost. Facing the Lions this week should help but a loss here will effectively end their season.

25. Washington Redskins (2-5)—The Redskins have created enough drama amongst their coaching staff an front office to last several seasons and we’re not even at their halfway point yet. Head coach Jim Zorn has his work cut out for him against the Falcons in Atlanta this week.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-6)—Another week, another struggle. The Raiders had a difficult time moving the ball against the Chargers and continue to look for answers on the offensive side of the ball as they head into bye week. Hint: JaMarcus Russell is not it.

27. Tennessee Titans (1-6)—The insertion of QB Vince Young into the lineup appeared to be just what the doctor ordered as the Titans exploded for 30 points. RB Chris Johnson paced Tennessee with a franchise-record 228 yards rushing as they held the ball for nearly 40 minutes. They head to San Fran to battle a tough Niners team this Sunday.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)—I would imagine that anytime you’re 1-6, an off week is a good thing. But, it’s back to business again the Jaguars this Sunday.

29. St. Louis Rams (1-7)—No one wants to see another team go 0-16 so good for the Rams for digging out of last place of the rankings. Steven Jackson was the big factor in their first win after 17 straight losses by ripping off 149 rushing yards and a score. Consider this a bye week well-deserved for St. Louis.

30. Detroit Lions (1-6)—That single win is starting to seem like a distant memory. One can appreciate QB Matt Stafford playing hurt but he will have to be better for them to have a chance at the end of games. They go to Seattle this week to try and steal win No. 2.

31. Cleveland Browns (1-7)—QBs Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn both saw time in a 30-6 debacle of a loss to the Bears. Five turnovers, less than 200 yards of offense, and a listless defense led to more controversy and the firing of their GM George Kokinis. The downward spiral may very well continue but the bye week gives the organization and their fans a one week respite.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7)—Hopefully, some of the Bucs players were able to take advantage of their off week and stayed in London because the vacation is over…and the reality that awaits them is ugly. Maybe their throwback jerseys can shake things up against the Pack this Sunday—then again it could remind us of the good old days.



College Football Picks ATS – Week 9

Posted November 2, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: NCAA Football

No. 8 Cincinnati at Syracuse (+15 ½)—Tony Pike is likely to remain sidelined recovering from arm surgery as Cincinnati tries to stay unbeaten this week at Syracuse. The Bearcats’ second-ranked offense did not miss a beat without him last week as backup Zach Collaros paced them to a 41-point effort.

The Orange are 3-27 in Big East play since the start of 2005, and will look to avoid their fifth straight loss to the Bearcats. My guess is Akron was not the Orange’s best warm-up game for Cincy, who should roll right over them. Cincinnati 49, Syracuse 17.

No. 25 Mississippi at Auburn (+4 ½)—Ole Miss has not beaten Auburn twice in a row in 57 years, which means Auburn would like to keep tradition in check this weekend. The Rebels racked up over 550 yards of offense in a victory at Arkansas last week and will look to expose Auburn’s defense who ranks 10th in the SEC. Auburn’s offense has been in a downward spiral after opening up the season well but will need to right the ship against the nation’s ninth-ranked scoring defense in Ole Miss. Home underdogs in the SEC are tempting but I think Auburn is still a year away from really turning it around. Mississippi 27, Auburn 17.

Southern Miss at No. 18 Houston (-6 ½)—The Cougars will look to extend their home winning streak to 13 games this Saturday against Southern Miss. Houston QB Case Keenum leads FBS by averaging 417 passing yards per contest yet played a very balanced role in last week’s win over SMU. Southern Miss has been tweaking their offense due to injuries, but still relies heavily on senior tailback Damion Fletcher. The home track should be a bit too fast for the Golden Eagles this time around and Houston will outdistance them in what could be a shootout. Houston 40, Southern Miss 30.

Georgia vs. No. 1 Florida (-15) [in Jacksonville, FL]Many have debated whether or not there is still animosity over UGA’s famous (or infamous depending on whose colors you wear) TD celebration in their 2007 upset of the Gators. Regardless of where you stand on that debate, the stats do generally go out the window during this game and it should be another hard-hitting affair. Georgia has struggled to put it together on both sides of the ball during every game and their offense really will have a tough time against the top-ranked Gators’ Defense. Florida has yet to impress the critics enough to solidify their votes as the number one team, but I think they make a push this week by covering against the Bulldogs. Florida 38, Georgia 13.

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Lewis will lead Duke to a bowl game this season

Duke at Virginia (-7 ½)—It is not often that you can say Duke controls its own destiny to win the ACC in near-November but it is true even though they have five wins to go. The Blue Devils will head to Charlottesville to take on the ACC’s biggest yearly enigma in UVA who still can salvage their 3-4 season. This year’s matchup is a bit more interesting as it features the ACC’s top passing defense (UVA), against the top passing offense (Duke) led by Thaddeus Lewis. I think this will be a tight one and an upset for the Dukies. Duke 24, Virginia 20.

No. 12 Penn State at Northwestern (+17 ½)—Penn State has seemingly been forgotten about since their loss to Iowa last month yet here they stand at 7-1 entering this week’s action. QB Daryll Clark leads the conference’s top offense up against the Wildcats who had to rally from 28-3 down at home just last week. Northwestern’s escape against Indiana may have been what they were waiting for to kick start the back half of their season. I don’t often expect blowouts in the Big Ten, but I don’t see how Northwestern can score against the nation’s stingiest point givers. Penn State 30, Northwestern 10.

No. 11 Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt (+12)—Georgia Tech is coming off a major conference win and will try to avoid a letdown against out of conference opponent Vandy who stumbles in at 2-6. The Yellow Jackets will provide the usual heavy dose of the ground attack (291 yards per game) against Vandy’s 85th ranked rushing defense, a potential perfect storm. The ‘Dores will need to step up to end a four-game slide that has seen them score only 40 points. Don’t expect a letdown. Georgia Tech 28, Vanderbilt 14.

No. 22 South Carolina at Tennessee (-6)—South Carolina goes to Knoxville this week to face a Vols team that is still steaming mad over the heartbreaking loss to Alabama last week. Hopefully, they can catch them still thinking about it because they are 1-13 at Tennessee in their history. QBs Stephen Garcia (South Carolina) and Jonathan Crompton (Tennessee) will have their work cut out for them against the nation’s third and sixth best pass defenses, respectively. There will be no style points in this game, expect another low-scoring affair. Tennessee 21, South Carolina 14.

No. 3 Texas at No. 14 Oklahoma State (+9 ½)–Texas hasn’t lost to Oklahoma State since 1997 and leads the all-time series 21-2. QB Colt McCoy continues to lead the nation’s highest-scoring offense as they try to take complete control of the Big 12 South and push towards the BCS No. 1 ranking. Oklahoma State is missing a big piece in WR Dez Bryant but has plenty of weapons for a good old-fashioned shootout. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they have yet to see a defense like this one. Texas 45, Oklahoma State 24.

No. 5 USC at No. 10 Oregon (+3)—Oregon is the one hanging onto first place come this year’s marquee matchup of the PAC-10’s top two squads. The Trojans’ early stumble against Washington can be rectified in Autzen Stadium on Saturday night but they will need to tighten up a defense that has allowed over 900 yards in two games. Oregon has been on fire offensively plus leads the PAC-10 in takeaways with 19, a potentially huge factor going up against USC frosh QB Matt Barkley. USC usually comes through in these big games and I bet against Barkley once already at Notre Dame…not again…USC 27, Oregon 23.

Last Week: 4-6

Season: 32-29

College Football Picks ATS – Week 8

Posted October 24, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

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