Posted tagged ‘college football’

Boston College Eagles at the 2010 NFL Combine

February 27, 2010

All the usual suspects have arrived in Indianapolis for the 2010 NFL Combine this weekend and each promising player will be poked, prodded, and interviewed sufficiently before even hitting the carpet for their workouts. Boston College may not necessarily be the first school that comes to mind for producing NFL talent but with 25 players in the league in 2009, three consecutive first round draft picks (including two top 10 selections); you can be assured that the scouts love the kids BC churns out.

Center Matt Tennant and Linebacker Mike McLaughlin earned invites to the combine and will look to improve upon their stock after having noteworthy weeks at the Senior Bowl last month. A consistent team that runs a pro style offense and possesses a stalwart defense is an excellent breeding ground for players to make it to the next level. Let’s take a look at these two standouts:

Matt Tennant

Tennant started over 40 games during his career at BC

It should be noted that BC, often referred to as “O-Line U”, had eight different offensive lineman drafted in the last decade, two of them in the first round. Tennant came to BC by way of Cincinnati powerhouse Archbishop Moeller high school and proceeded to start his last 41 games at center for the Eagles. The only senior on the Eagles’ offensive line, Tennant was named team captain for his senior campaign and led the way for RB Montel Harris’ breakout season in which he topped 1,400 rushing yards and recorded eight 100-yard contests. At 6’5”, 300 pounds, he may be considered tall for his position but he is nimble enough at his lighter weight to keep in front of any oncoming blockers.

He was solid all during Senior Bowl week during drills and will likely be a strong addition to any team, even if he is not elite at this point. Only six centers were drafted in 2009, we often see the position filled by converted guards, but Tennant is pure at the position. He will likely need to add some bulk to his frame in order to be a star in the league but many said the same about former BC center Tom Nalen and he fashioned an All-Pro, Super-Bowl winning career for himself in Denver.

Analysis: Teams looking for a center will not reach on Tennant so he is a mid-to-late round selection in April’s draft. His pedigree and game tape speak for themselves so the combine will solidify his status and could even push him up a round or two but don’t expect him to fly up draft boards based on anything that happens in Indy this weekend.

Mike McLaughlin

"Mac" impressed NFL scouts at Senior Bowl Week

As the defensive captain for the last two seasons at Boston College, inside linebacker Mike McLaughlin set the tone for a defense that ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense both seasons. Considering this defense included NFL players B.J. Raji, Ron Brace, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Robert Francois, and All-American Mark Herzlich it is no small feat that he earned that type of respect. Known as a very vocal leader, he impressed at Senior Bowl week with his ability to run the defense as well as showing the versatility to be a long snapper when called upon.

His senior campaign at Chestnut Hill was hampered somewhat by a ruptured Achilles suffered during an offseason workout. He came back from the injury after missing the first three contests to contribute in the middle and on special teams throughout the remainder of the season. At 6’0”, 240 lbs, “Mac” may not have the elite athleticism of some linebackers but as you can see in this clip at the 13-second mark, he can certainly hold his own:

Analysis: BC linebackers have found their way in the NFL for a long time and McLaughlin should be no different.  He is a tireless worker who will be fighting his way for a starting job in the league for the next several seasons. His versatility on special teams—and long-snapping if he chooses to do so—will be an asset for any team in the league. Expect a mid-round selection for McLaughlin but if he runs well at the combine next week then his stock will absolutely be on the upswing.


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

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.


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.



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

College Football Picks ATS – Week 8

October 24, 2009

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

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

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

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

UConn 27, West Virginia 24.

Boston College at Notre Dame (-8)

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

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

Notre Dame 30, BC 20.

Tennessee at No. 2 Alabama (-14 ½)

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

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

Alabama 27, Tennessee 14.

Clemson at No. 10 Miami (FL) (-4 ½)

Heisman hopeful Jacory Harris leads the 'Canes against Clemson

Heisman hopeful Jacory Harris leads the 'Canes against Clemson

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

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

Miami 30, Clemson 24.

No. 11 Oregon at Washington (+10)

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

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

Oregon 27, Washington 23.

No. 13 Penn State at Michigan (+4 ½)

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

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

Michigan 24, Penn State 20.

Oklahoma at No. 25 Kansas (+8)

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

Oklahoma 31, Kansas 27.

No. 6 Iowa at Michigan State (-1)

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

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

Michigan State 23, Iowa 20.

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

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

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

TCU 20, BYU 16.

No. 3 Texas at Missouri (+13)

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

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

Texas 34, Mizzou 20.

Last Week: 7-3

Season: 28-23

Mike Blewitt’s NCAA Football Picks – Week Seven

October 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Week: 4-6

Season: 21-20

College GameDay Fights the Good Fight at Boston College This Weekend

October 2, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Eagles.

Go Herzy.