College Football Week 14 Eyes on the Ball

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Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard leading the Hawkeyes over the top – Photo via http://www.daily-iowan.com

It’s the final week of the regular season in college football: Championship Saturday. Who will win their conference titles and head to the College Football Playoff?

Before we go into the week 13 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 12 Point Spread Picks:

2-3 record

Correct: Texas (not covering 1), Stanford (not covering 3.5)

Incorrect: TCU (not covering 1), Ohio State (covering 1), Oklahoma (covering 7)

Season Point Spread Picks:

29-32-3 record

Picking the winners for the Week 13 games of interest:

3-2 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

43-22

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 14 of the 2015 college football season:

  • Texas at Baylor: (11 am Central on ESPN). Both teams are coming off losses last week (Texas at home against Texas Tech while Baylor lost in a monsoon at TCU). Baylor’s chances at the College Football Playoff are over but they can still make into the Sugar Bowl with a win on Senior Day. Texas is decimated with injuries (Jerrod Heard, D’Onta Foreman, Jonathan Gray, Malik Jefferson, Peter Jinkens, Dylan Haines, etc). Freshman running back Chris Warren had a record day rushing the ball versus Tech’s defense but can he have the same success against Baylor’s run defense? Third-string Chris Johnson struggled mightily at TCU last week. How will he respond at home against a defensive staff that should show him multiple looks to try and confuse him? Odds: Baylor favored by 21.5 Prediction: Baylor is clearly the more talented team but what will Baylor’s mindset be knowing their playoff chances are over? Will they come out flat or get back in sync and just steamroll the Longhorns with the nation’s #1 offense? I think there will be at least a little bit of letdown for the Bears knowing there’s not much to play for. Baylor wins at home but doesn’t cover because the Longhorns don’t have enough offensive firepower to keep up.
  • SEC Championship: Florida vs Alabama (neutral site – Atlanta): (3 pm Central on CBS). Alabama gave the ball to Derrick Henry over 40 times last week in the Iron Bowl victory over Auburn. The Tide will face a much better defense in the Georgia Dome. I expect the Gators’ athletic defenders to stack the box and force Alabama QB Jake Coker to find his wide receivers. Coker hasn’t been been able to do that consistently throughout the season. On the other side of the ball, Florida will have to get much better quarterback play from Treon Harris. The Gators have been awful offensively in the last few weeks. So unless turnovers are created by the defense or special teams comes up with a few big plays, I’m not sure how Florida attacks this Alabama defense. Odds: Alabama by 17.5 Prediction: These championship games in the SEC are rarely blowouts. With the Gators superb defense, I don’t see this game getting out of hand. Florida doesn’t have the offensive weapons to move the ball down the field enough times. Alabama wins but they will not cover the spread.
  • Pac-12 Championship: USC vs Stanford (neutral site – Santa Clara, CA): (6:45 pm Central on ESPN). USC has really rebounded after its slow start and firing of head coach Steve Sarkisian. After defeating their city rival UCLA last week, interim head coach Clay Helton was given the head coaching job on a full-time basis. USC should be able to run the ball with Stanford’s leading tackler Blake Martinez doubtful to play. Cody Kessler’s accuracy has been excellent this year but he needs to show it again in this game. Stanford is coming off a great, last second win at home against Notre Dame. QB Kevin Hogan and kicker Conrad Ukropina were the heros in that game and will be counted upon again in this one. But running back Christian McCaffrey will be the difference maker; he can do it all and if USC can contain him, the Trojans likely win it. Odds: Stanford favored by 5 Prediction: The Martinez injury is huge for Stanford’s defense. The first time these two teams met it was a Stanford win by 10 on the road early in the season. I think McCaffrey has a huge game in primetime and the Cardinal win a close one (don’t cover).
  • ACC Championship: North Carolina vs Clemson (neutral site – Charlotte): (7 pm Central on ABC). North Carolina has flown under the radar most of the season. Their weak schedule has hurt them in terms of consideration for the College Football Playoff. But no one can argue with how effective their offense is. Marquise Williams and Elijah Hood will face the best defense they’ve gone against all season in Shaq Lawson and the Tigers. What tricks will Larry Fedora have up his sleeve? For Clemson offensively, Deshaun Watson has been great leading this team all season long. He is so steady in the big moments and should be a legit Heisman candidate. Odds: Clemson favored by 6 Prediction: Clemson has been the #1 team in the nation for several weeks and the pressure has to be mounting to make sure they end up in the College Football Playoff. I think the Tigers defense gets pressure on Williams and is able to control the game. Clemson wins the game and covers the spread.
  • Big Ten Championship: Iowa vs Michigan State (neutral site – Indianapolis): (7 pm Central on Fox). Iowa is the surprise of the college football season. No one expected them to be undefeated at this point in the season. Granted their schedule hasn’t been very tough but 12-0 in a Power Five conference still means Iowa is legit. Quarterback C.J. Beathard is a gutsy quarterback who will throw his body on the line for the Hawkeyes. Beathard along with Jordan Canzeri running the ball will test the Spartans defense. Michigan State has a solid resume with wins against Oregon, Michigan, and Ohio State. Quarterback Connor Cook returned last week against Penn State and was impressive. With a win in this game, the Spartans should be in the College Football Playoff. Odds: Michigan State favored by 3 Prediction: The Spartans defense has been the difference in winning all of its big games this year. I expect Mark D’Antonio’s crew to slow down former Texas OC Greg Davis and the Iowa offense. Michigan State wins and covers.

Give me your thoughts on Championship Saturday. What will you be watching?

-Z

College Football Week 13 Eyes on the Ball

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Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph takes on Bedlam rival Oklahoma – Photo via http://www.bleacherreport.com

It’s Rivalry Week in college football. Which teams can upset their hated foes and claim bragging rights for an entire year? Which teams’ playoff chances will still be alive after this week?

Before we go into the week 13 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 12 Point Spread Picks:

2-3 record

Correct: Ohio State (not covering 14), Stanford (covering 10.5)

Incorrect: Oregon (covering 4.5), Baylor (covering 1), Oklahoma (covering 11)

Season Point Spread Picks:

27-30-3 record

Picking the winners for the Week 11 games of interest:

2-3 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

40-20

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 13 of the 2015 college football season:

  • Texas Tech at Texas: (6:30 pm Central Thursday on Fox Sports 1). After a week off, both teams should be rested and ready to go on Thanksgiving. Tech is already bowl eligible while the Longhorns need to win this game plus a road game next week at Baylor to reach 6 wins. Texas is dealing with injuries on the offensive side – running backs Jonathan Gray and D’Onta Foreman along with freshman lineman Patrick Vahe aren’t expected to play. Foreman has been UT’s most explosive player on offense all season long so not having him against a Tech defense that struggles to stop the run is going to be a major problem. Relying on freshman running backs Chris Warren and Kirk Johnson in the 11th game of the season will be an adventure to say the least. On the other side of the ball, Tech has been scoring at will against opposing defense. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a big-time playmaker through the air going to receivers like Jakeem Grant and running back DeAndre Washington is getting more carries than I can ever recall for a Tech running back. Odds: Texas favored by 1. Prediction: Texas historically has played well in this series against Tech. The UT offensive game plan has usually been to pound Tech by running the ball while pinning their ears back and battering QB’s while on defense. Vance Bedford loves to blitz and if the Horns can get pressure on Mahomes, the young secondary can make plays and force turnovers. Maybe I’m giving Strong (and Bedford) too much credit for being able to keep Kingsbury’s type offenses in check but I like the Red Raiders to win a nailbiter.
  • Baylor at TCU: (6:30 pm Central Friday on ESPN). This game was supposed to decide the Big 12 championship according to all the experts in the preseason. But injuries have changed everything. So many defensive starters for TCU were lost early in the season and recently offensive star Josh Doctson was ruled out as well. Quarterback Trevone Boykin has a chance to play in this game. On the Baylor side of things, both quarterbacks Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham have suffered season-ending injuries. Both teams are even in terms of rushing and pass yards allowed. Baylor seems to be more productive running the ball with Shock Linwood. If third string quarterback Chris Johnson has time in the pocket to find receivers Corey Coleman and KD Cannon, the Bears offensive balance may be the difference in this game. Odds: TCU favored by 1 Prediction: Which quarterback (Boykin, Foster Sawyer or Bram Kohlhausen) will TCU play and will he be effective against a physical Bears defensive front? Oklahoma was able to grab a big lead against TCU last week with its uptempo Air Raid offense under Baker Mayfield. If Chris Johnson can do something similar, I like the Bears chances. Baylor wins a close game on the road.
  • Ohio State at Michigan: (11 am Central Saturday on ABC). The biggest rivalry in the Big Ten takes place in Ann Arbor. Urban Meyer vs Jim Harbaugh has been the talk of the conference since Harbaugh took over the Wolverines program earlier this year. Ohio State has struggled all season offensively without offensive coordinator Tom Herman (now head coach at Houston). The lack of offensive firepower showed up in a home loss to Michigan State last week. The Wolverines have a stout, athletic defense similar to the Spartans so how will Meyer and the Buckeyes adjust? On the other side, can Jake Rudock make enough plays in the passing game against the Ohio State defense, which has been very good all year ? Odds: Ohio State favored by 1 Prediction: I’m buying into the Harbaugh hype. I didn’t think he could turn the program around as quickly as he has. But when you hire great assistant coaches and utilize the talent on campus to fit specific roles, you can win right away. Michigan’s defense keeps the Buckeyes in check and the Wolverines win a close game at the Big House.
  • Notre Dame at Stanford: (6:30 pm Central Saturday on Fox). This is a critical game for the playoff rankings. All 1-loss teams want to see Notre Dame lose while Irish fans can claim a victory over a top 10 team (and likely Pac-12 champ) in Stanford. With a rash of injuries, Notre Dame has managed to go all season with only one loss (at Clemson). Granted their best win right now is a win versus Navy but playing teams like USC, Stanford, and Clemson should matter when it comes to looking at the resume. In this game, Notre Dame will be without standout cornerback KeiVarae Russell. That’s a big loss from a pass defense and tackling perspective. Stanford’s superstar running back Christian McCaffrey will get the ball early and often. Without Russell, can the rest of the Irish defense step up? David Shaw’s team is already in the Pac-12 championship game next week but they should be focused on knocking off Notre Dame. Odds: Stanford favored by 3.5 Prediction: McCaffrey has a huge game as the Irish will miss Russell in the back of the defense. The Cardinal win but don’t cover.
  • Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: (7 pm Central Saturday on ABC). Bedlam is the name of the game. These state rivals usually don’t disappoint in terms of having exciting matchups. This year, the Big 12 championship title is on the line. An OU win and they’re Big 12 champs. An OSU win along with a Baylor loss makes the Cowboys Big 12 champs. Last season’s game included an OSU 92 yard punt return for a touchdown with less than a minute left to force overtime; where eventually the Cowboys won 38-35. There shouldn’t be a lack of points in this game either. OSU with Mason Rudolph has been putting points up on opposing defenses all season. OU has looked great since the loss to Texas in mid-October. Oklahoma is dealing with injuries to offensive stars Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, and Joe Mixon but Bob Stoops claims that all should play. How effective they’ll be will be critical in determining the winner. Weather could also be a factor with icy conditions expected throughout the state. That could slow down OU’s quick tempo offense slightly. Odds: Oklahoma favored by 7 Prediction: The unknown in this game is Mayfield’s status. OU was very ineffective last week against TCU with backup quarterback Trevor Knight running the offense. If Mayfield can stay in control and not turn the ball over, Oklahoma should be able to move the ball. Also the OU defense has been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks with its front seven. This is Bedlam and things don’t always go the way they’re supposed to. The Land Thieves win a close one with a late field goal so they don’t cover.

Give me your thoughts on Week 13. What will you be watching?

-Z

College Football Week 12 Eyes on the Ball

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Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott takes on Michigan State’s defense – Image via http://www.cleveland.com

It’s already week 12 of college football meaning we’re coming down the last stretch of remaining games. Which teams can make their claims to be part of the Final Four selected by the College Football Playoff committee?

This week the focus is on some intriguing games in the Pac-12, critical games in the Big 12 title race, and the most anticipated game of the Big Ten season schedule.

Before we go into the week 12 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 11 Point Spread Picks:

2-3 record

Correct: Alabama (covering 6.5), Stanford (not covering 4.5)

Incorrect: West Virginia (covering 8.5), Houston (covering 3.5), Baylor (covering 3.5)

Season Point Spread Picks:

25-27-3 record

Picking the winners for the Week 11 games of interest:

3-2 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

38-17

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 12 of the 2015 college football season:

  • USC at Oregon: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on ESPN). Both Oregon and USC were favored to win their divisions of the Pac-12 (and technically still could) but stumbled early in the season. Each team comes into this matchup with a 4 game winning streak. The Ducks have been winning shootouts lately with a much healthier Vernon Adams behind center. The Trojans defense has been more organized and stout ever since the firing of head coach Steve Sarkisian and promotion of Clay Helton to head coach. Lots of talented skill playmakers on both sides should make this fun to watch for any college football junkie. The Vegas over/under for total points scored is set at 71 so this is expected to be a high scoring affair in Autzen Stadium. Odds: Oregon favored by 4.5. Prediction: USC has played well on the road all season long and Oregon has lost twice in Autzen already (Utah, Washington State). It’s hard to fathom the Ducks losing a third home game.  Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will cause huge problems for the Ducks secondary all day. This seems like a coin flip game. But I’ll go with the upset and pick the Trojans to win a close one.
  • Michigan State at Ohio State: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on ABC). Before the season started, this was the most important game on the Big Ten conference schedule and in my opinion that is still the case. Ohio State, defending national champs, against a Michigan State team that finished in the top 10 last year and knocked off Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. The winner of this game would likely win the Big Ten and have a spot in the College Football Playoff. Michigan State narrowly lost at Nebraska a couple weeks ago while the Buckeyes remain undefeated against a very soft schedule. Ohio State is talented but now they will finally be tested. Running back Ezekiel Elliott had some big plays in last year’s matchup and his ability to get yards after contact against this tough Spartans defense will be one of the keys to the game. Connor Cook, Michigan State quarterback, injured his shoulder last week against Maryland so his ability to get the ball down the field will be worth watching as well. Odds: Ohio State favored by 14 Prediction: For two teams ranked in the top 10 (with 1 loss combined), that 14-point line seems way too high. But the injury to Cook must be more severe than the Spartans are saying it is. I think Ohio State wins at home but doesn’t cover.
  • Baylor at Oklahoma State: (6:30 pm Central Saturday on Fox). The Big 12 championship goes through Stillwater. No one with a sane mind would’ve made that prediction at the start of the season. But if the Cowboys take care of business at home in their last two games, they will be Big 12 champs and should be in the College Football Playoff. Baylor finally got tested last week and got physically man-handled by Oklahoma in Waco. Freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham was beat up and is dealing with back issues. If Art Briles can get the running game going with Shock Linwood that will help out Stidham. On the Oklahoma State side… they just keep finding ways to win no matter the deficit. Last week they barely survived against lowly Iowa State. The Cowboys’ last home game (against TCU) was impressive as they forced 4 interceptions of then Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin. Like the last OSU team that went to a BCS game, this year’s team also has a defense that leads the nation in turnover margin so it feels like they’re never out of a game. Odds: Baylor favored by 1 Prediction: Picking against Oklahoma State has become a running joke on myself because I always end up looking stupid. So I’m going the opposite way finally. I’m on your side Cowboys; your luck will keep going and you’ll win this game with Mason Rudolph throwing lots of TDs in another Big 12 shootout. (OK so I probably just jinxed OSU).
  • TCU at Oklahoma: (7 pm Central Saturday on ABC). Another critical game in the late season Big 12 championship gauntlet. All the best teams in the conference facing each other in consecutive weeks, knocking each other off, and ultimately crowning a champion. Oklahoma looked really impressive last week in Waco against Baylor. Their front seven on defense was able to make Baylor’s running game look pedestrian. Samaje Perine was able to make some big runs on offense and Baker Mayfield kept plays alive with his feet. If Perine can continue to get decent yardage behind that young offensive line, Mayfield should be able to find Sterling Shepard and the other OU receivers often. TCU’s best two weapons on offense are injured (QB Trevone Boykin and WR Josh Doctson) and may not play. That’s going to make this an even tougher environment for the Frogs if freshman QB foster Sawyer is relied upon. Odds: Oklahoma favored by 11 Prediction: Oklahoma is trending up and TCU is trending down (mainly due to all the key injuries). Bob Stoops is already politicking to get in the College Football Playoff and in past BCS seasons, his teams have gone full throttle in winning games with big margins to impress poll voters. I expect the same for this game in Norman. The Land Thieves win and cover.
  • Cal at Stanford: (9:30 pm Central Saturday on ESPN). The Big Game as this matchup is called should be a fun rivalry game. A month ago this game could’ve decided the winner of the Pac-12 North but Cal went on a 4 game losing streak (before finally winning last week). Stanford’s playoff chances also became virtually none after their loss at home to Oregon last week. But the Cardinal have to win this game in order to still be able to win the Pac-12 North and move onto the Pac-12 Championship game in a couple weeks. When watching Cal and Sonny Dykes’ offense, it starts with Jared Goff. Seeing this guy in person against Texas in Austin early this season and on TV multiple times definitely gives you the impression that he’s an NFL-type quarterback that can be successful at the next level. On the Stanford side, keep your eye on running back Christian McCaffrey; he can make sensational plays on the ground and catching passes out of the backfield. Odds: Stanford favored by 10.5 Prediction: The underdogs usually play well in rivalry games and keep the margin closer than normal. Stanford also has a huge matchup next week at home against Notre Dame so there could be some concern about players looking ahead to that game. Cal has lost recently against teams with more talented rosters (UCLA, USC, Oregon) and this week will be similar. Goff struggled against Stanford last year. I think he plays better this time around but it’s still not enough. Cardinal win and barely cover the spread.

Give me your thoughts on Week 12. What will you be watching?

-Z

College Football Week 10 Eyes on the Ball

LSU RB Leonard Fournette takes on the Alabama defense – Photo via http://www.nola.com

It’s week 10 of college football which means only a month left in the regular season. Conference championship and (ultimately) college football playoff  spots are on the line in each game going forward as teams begin knocking each other out of contention.

As we get deeper into the season, the streak of weeks with crazy endings remains intact. It started with Michigan-Michigan State in week 7, continued with Florida State-Georgia Tech in Week 8, and kept going with this moment from the Miami-Duke game last week…

Before we go into the week 10 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 9 Point Spread Picks:

1-4 record

Correct: Florida (covering 1.5)

Incorrect: Houston (covering 9.5), Texas (covering 3.5), Notre Dame (covering 10.5), Stanford (covering 9.5)

Season Point Spread Picks:

21-22-2 record

Picking the winners for the Week 9 games of interest:

4-1 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

32-13

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 10 of the 2015 college football season:

  • Arkansas at Ole Miss: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on CBS). Ole Miss controls its destiny to win the SEC West. Both teams had hard fought wins against Auburn in their last SEC games. Arkansas will try to use ball control on offense with their massive offensive line and Alex Collins at running back. But the Razorbacks’ secondary has been the weakness that’s been exploited by opposing offenses most of the season, including to Tennessee-Martin last week. I think Chad Kelly will have to get the ball to his receiving weapons like Laquon Treadwell and Evan Engram early and often. Odds: Ole Miss favored by 9.5. Prediction: Ole Miss has looked better after starting tackle Laremy Tunsil was cleared to play. Protecting Kelly and avoiding turnovers should keep the Rebels from being upset. Ole Miss wins at home but doesn’t cover.
  • Florida State at Clemson: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on ABC). Clemson was the #1 team in the first College Football Playoff rankings released of the season. This game will probably be its last real test of the regular season for the Tigers because the winner of this game likely wins the Atlantic division of the ACC. Deshaun Watson has been the leader for Clemson and will be the focal point for the Seminoles to stop. Florida State comes into this matchup banged up. Everett Golson and Dalvin Cook, the two most important offensive weapons, are both dealing with injuries and their status for this game is unknown. My guess is that they’ll both try to gut it out and play with so much on the line.   Odds: Clemson favored by 10 Prediction: I expect this game to be close throughout. The pressure of being #1 and facing the best threat to winning the ACC will cause Clemson to play tight. Clemson wins but doesn’t cover the spread.
  • TCU at Oklahoma State: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on Fox). The Big 12 has backloaded its schedule with the top teams facing each other starting this week and all throughout November. Both teams come into this game undefeated at 8-0. OSU is coming off a 70-53 comeback win over Texas Tech while TCU seems like it scores a minimum of 40 points each week so this should be a Big 12 shootout in Stillwater. Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson on one side against Mason Rudolph and Chris Carson on the other side. Whichever defense can make a few stops is likely the winner. Odds: TCU favored by 5.5 Prediction: I’ve been doubting Oklahoma State seemingly all season long and getting burned each time. They keep winning close games and that’s a sign of good coaching. But I like TCU’s defense a little more than the Cowboys’ squad. TCU wins in the final seconds and doesn’t cover.
  • LSU at Alabama: (7 pm Central Saturday on CBS). This is one of the best rivalries in the SEC and one of the games to watch each season. For Alabama, this is the last remaining tough game on the schedule (Yes, I know there’s still the Iron Bowl rivalry game with Auburn at the end of November). To make into the College Football Playoff, the Tide has to win all of its remaining games. With a week off, Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart should have a gameplan ready for slowing down LSU running back (and Heisman favorite) Leonard Fournette. On the LSU side of things, they also had a week off. But this is the first game in a tough stretch to end the season. Can Brandon Harris make enough plays in the passing game to keep Alabama from loading up the line of scrimmage? Can the LSU defensive line get pressure on Jacob Coker and create turnovers? Odds: Alabama favored by 8.5 Prediction: Alabama has already stopped two run-heavy attacks in Georgia and Arkansas earlier in the season. They know they’re going to see lots of Fournette and should be prepared. I’m expecting one or two trick plays from Les Miles in this one. Maybe I’m missing something (I’m sure there is) but this line seems too high for two fairly even teams on paper. Alabama wins a close one but doesn’t cover in Tuscaloosa.
  • Kansas at Texas: (7 pm Central Saturday on Longhorn Network). A 3-5 team facing an 0-8 team… Yep, I realize noone outside of diehard Texas Longhorns (like myself) will be paying attention to this game. But hey this is my blog so I’m going to include the game since I’ll be in section 1 like I always am watching the game. Kansas ranks 114th in the nation in run defense. So the recipe for a win is as simple as it gets for Texas this week. Run the ball 85% of the time and mix in some deep shots from Jerrod Heard to John Burt or Armanti Foreman every now and then. Jonathan Gary and D’Onta Foreman (if healthy) should both go over 100 yards rushing. After last week’s debacle in Ames, this game comes at the right time to get some positive momentum back for the Longhorns. Odds: Texas favored by 28.5 Prediction: When I originally saw the line was at 30, I jokingly said out loud, can Texas even score 30 points? This really is a no-win situation for Charlie Strong… win convincly and the masses will say it was against the worst Power-5 team in the nation; struggle to a win a sloppy game and the negativity going into the remaining three games will be ratcheted up. Texas rebounds and wins in Austin but doesn’t cover that huge spread.

Give me your thoughts on Week 10. What will you be watching?

-Z

College Football Week 9 Eyes on the Ball

Florida vs Georgia face off in Jacksonville – Photo via http://www.gamedayr.com

It’s week 9 of the college football season and most of the games happen to be taking place on Halloween. So what tricks and treats are we in store for as fans?

Hopefully the streak of consecutive weeks with games ending in amazing fashion continues. Two weeks ago it was the blocked punt in the Michigan-Michigan State and last week we witnessed this crazy moment at the end of the Florida State-Georgia Tech game…

Before we go into the week 9 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 8 Point Spread Picks:

2-3 record

Correct: Texas (covering 7), Oklahoma (not covering 14.5)

Incorrect: Alabama (covering 4.5), LSU (covering 16.5), USC (covering 3.5)

Season Point Spread Picks:

20-18-2 record

Picking the winners for the Week 8 games of interest:

4-1 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

28-12

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 9 of the 2015 college football season:

  • Florida vs Georgia (neutral site – Jacksonville, Florida): (2:30 pm Central Saturday on CBS). This is essentially the game that will likely decide the winner of the SEC Eastern division and just happens to be one of the biggest rivalry games in all of college football. The world’s largest outdoor cocktail party in Jacksonville has more meaning in terms of SEC relevance than it has in the last several seasons. With Will Grier out, Treon Harris played well last time out against LSU. His completion percentage was only slightly above 50% but the offense was still able to sustain drives. For Georgia, it was a struggle scoring points after Nick Chubb’s injury. Winning 9-6 against Missouri doesn’t bode well when going up this athletic Gators defense. Odds: Florida favored by 1.5. Prediction: Florida’s defense controls the game like they did versus Ole Miss. Gators win and cover.
  • Vanderbilt at Houston: (6 pm Central Saturday on ESPN2). Houston is undefeated with new head coach Tom Herman in charge. Herman was the offensive coordinator for Ohio State’s national championship team last season and has the Cougars rolling already. Houston has a true dual threat quarterback in Greg Ward. Ward has been able to keep defenses guessing with his running ability especially. Vanderbilt’s strength is its defense with Derek Mason at head coach (former defensive coordinator at Stanford). Can the Commodores’ defense slow down the Cougars’ high scoring attack? Odds: Houston favored by 9.5 Prediction: Houston wins the game at home but the margin will be closer than the spread.
  • Texas at Iowa State: (6 pm Central Saturday on Fox Sports 1). The Longhorns are coming off a win against Kansas State where they won with a physical running game and stout defense. Jerrod Heard has barely had any passing yards in the last two wins for UT (against Oklahoma and Kansas State). Charlie Strong wants to win with a strong running game and defense. Iowa State is the worst team in the Big 12 in terms of defending the pass. So this would be a good game to try and get Heard going through the air by finding speedsters John Burt and Armanti Foreman. Bruising running back D’Onta Foreman has been dealing with a foot injury so expect to see lots of Jonathan Gray and freshman Chris Warren when Texas does try and run the ball. Paul Rhoads has made some major changes recently by firing offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and switching quarterbacks from Sam Richardson to Joel Lanning. Lanning played well against Baylor with multiple TD passes so the Longhorns secondary will have to be ready. Getting pressure from the defensive line and linebacker Malik Jefferson will likely be the plan from defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. Odds: Texas favored by 3.5 Prediction: The matchup between these two teams has been close the last two seasons with the Longhorns pulling out narrow victories in the final minute. Halloween night in Ames means anything can happen. I think this is a game where Heard’s playmaking will be relied upon and ultimately is the difference. Texas wins and barely covers.
  • Notre Dame at Temple: (7 pm Central Saturday on ABC). I never thought a game between these two teams would be a primetime matchup on national television. But that’s exactly what the case is because Temple is undefeated and hosts an Irish team whose only loss is at undefeated Clemson. Notre Dame’s defense gave up a ton of yards to USC but with a week off, they should be rested. Will Fuller, Deshone Kizer, and C.J. Prosise will test this Owls’ defense more than any other opponent they’ve faced. Jahad Thomas will get his chance running the ball for Temple against the Notre Dame front seven. Odds: Notre Dame favored by 10.5 Prediction: This should be an interesting atmosphere with the game being played at Lincoln Financial Field where the Philadelphia Eagles play their home games. Notre Dame is used to being in these types of games and Temple is known more for their basketball. The Temple offense won’t be enough to keep up with Kizer and the rest of the Irish. Notre Dame wins and covers in Philly.
  • Stanford at Washington State: (9:30 pm Central Saturday on ESPN). If you’re up late after a night of trick or treating and want to watch some more football, this game could be intriguing as both teams are at the top of the Pac-12 North. Washington State has been a surprise in the Pac-12 so far this season by knocking off Oregon and Arizona. The Cougars run a typical Mike Leach “Air Raid” offense throwing the ball seemingly more than any other team in the nation. You won’t be able to miss seeing Luke Falk, Washington State’s QB, pass it over and over and over again. David Shaw is the exact opposite compared to Leach. His teams win with defense and a strong running game behind Christian McCaffrey. More people need to be talking about McCaffrey when it comes to being a Heisman candidate; he can do it all offensively. A good test of styles in Pullman, Washington late on Halloween night could lead to some fireworks. Odds: Stanford favored by 9.5 Prediction: I don’t trust Leach in this matchup. His tendency to completely abandon the running game could play right into the hands of Stanford’s defense. Washington State will be able to keep this game interesting. I just think McCaffrey will be able to get yards on the ground allowing Stanford to control the clock. The Cardinal wins and barely covers on the road.

Give me your thoughts on Week 9. What will you be watching on Halloween?

-Z

College Football Week 8 Eyes on the Ball

Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty – Photo via http://www.usatoday.com

It’s week 8 of the college football season. Without a truly monumental upset taking place to one of the preseason favorites, the race for the College Football Playoff is still wide open. Ohio State remains #1 in both polls but the Buckeyes have struggled offensively so far. Baylor has been blowing out teams but won’t really be tested until November. Michigan State keeps escaping with narrow victories. Utah has been the surprise undefeated team out of the Pac-12. TCU seems to be involved in high scoring shootouts each week because of the number of defensive starters out with injury. Clemson looks to have the easiest path to the playoff if it can take care of business the rest of the way in the ACC. There’s not a clear-cut, dominant team halfway into the season which is surprising; but that also makes it more interesting because there really are so many teams that could be crowned champions in January.

Also just when you least expect it, unbelievable moments (like this one from last week) can happen in college football and make following the sport so entertaining…

Before we go into the week 8 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 7 Point Spread Picks:

3-1-1 record

Correct: Alabama (covering 4), Michigan (not covering 7), Notre Dame (covering 6)

Incorrect: Baylor (covering 22.5)

Push: LSU (won by exactly 7)

Season Point Spread Picks:

18-15-2 record

Picking the winners for the Week 7 games of interest:

5-0 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

24-11

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 8 of the 2015 college football season:

  • Kansas State at Texas: (11 am Central Saturday on Fox Sports 1). The big question is can Texas ride the momentum from the upset over Oklahoma two weeks ago? Was that a fluke or a sign of progress and hopeful expectations for the rest of the season? For K-State, will the team that almost knocked off TCU show up or will it be the team that got shut out at home to OU? I’ll be there in Section 1 watching what should be (by all meterologists’ reports) a game with heavy rain coming down throughout. Who does that give an advantage to? Your guess is as good as mine. Both teams prefer to run the ball. Texas will likely utilize QB Jerrod Heard as well as running backs Jonathan Gray and D’Onta Foreman as much as possible. The Longhorns offense was able to gain over 300 yards rushing two weeks ago in Dallas against Oklahoma. Granted that was against a Sooners secondary that continued to play two deep safeties for the majority of the game so the opportunities for run plays were readily available. I have to believe that Bill Snyder is smarter than that and will stack the box and force Heard to throw the ball. Foreman is the more explosive and bruising back. If he can gain yardage in the wet conditions consistently, the UT offense has a good chance of scoring points. K-State is also banged up in the secondary so if Heard gets time to throw the ball, the freshman will have to try and test the Wildcats on deep passes every so often. On the other side of the ball, K-State will want to run with RB Justin Silmon. The QB situation is also up in the air with Jake Hubener likely starting but with injuries piling up, they may have to go to WR Kody Cook behind center. Odds: Texas favored by 7. Prediction: K-State will play better than they did last week obviously. Injuries may be a factor but Bill Snyder will have his team prepared. Beating Texas 6 out of the last 7 times in this series is a testament to Snyder’s game planning. The wildcard in the outcome has to be the wet weather. Turnovers and field position (after special teams plays) will be crucial. I think Heard makes enough plays against the Wildcat defense as a true dual threat QB and the Longhorns defense is able to control arguably the worst opposing QB they’ve faced all season. Texas wins and barely covers.
  • Tennessee at Alabama: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on CBS). Alabama has been rolling after the early loss to Ole Miss. The secondary with young guys like Minkah Fitzpatrick is creating turnovers and helping out the offense by scoring (three pick-sixes last week against A&M). Derrick Henry has been running for huge yards behind an improving offensive line. Tennessee has the talent on paper with guys like Jalen Hurd and Josh Dobbs to cause problems for defenses but they just haven’t put it together this year. Can they pull off the upset in their biggest rivalry game? Of course Alabama would argue this hasn’t been much of a rivalry since Nick Saban has been the head coach for the Tide. Odds: Alabama favored by 14 Prediction: Alabama is shaky at QB with Jacob Coker. But the running game and defense is going to continue carrying this team. Tennessee can hang around in the first half but I see them running out of gas. The Tide wins and covers.
  • Texas Tech at Oklahoma: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on ESPN2). The Baker Mayfield Bowl takes place in Norman. The former Tech quarterback gets a chance to show Kliff Kingsbury that he probably deserved a scholarship in Lubbock. OU destroyed Kansas State last week and should be able to run easily against Tech’s porous defense with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. I really like Patrick Mahomes for Tech. He’s probably my favorite player to watch in the Big 12. The kid can throw all the passes (deep, intermediate, and short) as well as take off and make plays with his feet with pocket awareness. The Sooners secondary will get tested in this game by Mahomes and wide receiver Jakeem Grant.  Odds: Oklahoma favored by 14.5 Prediction: Tech has been inconsistent; almost knocking off TCU while also looking flat last week against lowly Kansas. The potential is there for an upset because of Mahomes and his ability to torch the Sooners secondary. I just don’t have enough trust in the Red Raiders defense to get pressure on Mayfield consistently like Texas was able to do. The Land Thieves win and cover in a game that Mayfield really wants to run up the score.
  • Western Kentucky at LSU: (6 pm Central Saturday on ESPNU). No, this isn’t a typo. I actually am writing that Western Kentucky against LSU is a game to keep an eye on. This isn’t a typical non-conference cupcake game for LSU at home. Western Kentucky is 6-1 with wins against Vanderbilt and bowl caliber teams like Louisiana Tech and Rice. I’ve been hearing about quarterback Brandon Doughty since last year but now he actually gets a chance to play on a big stage with a national audience. Doughty’s number of TD passes and completions were off the charts last year and he’s continued that trend this season. Obviously this is a huge step up for him in competition going into Death Valley at night against an athletic Tigers defense but as a football fan, it should be interesting to see what he can do. LSU held off Florida last week narrowly with their workhorse Leonard Fournette. QB Brandon Harris surprised many with his passing in that game and Les Miles’ special teams came through. Will the Tigers be looking ahead to the bye (and Alabama after that)? Odds: LSU favored by 16.5 Prediction: The Hilltoppers won’t be able to slow down Fournette. But call me crazy because I think Doughty can keep this game relatively close throughout. LSU wins but doesn’t cover the spread.
  • Utah at USC: (6:30 pm Central Saturday on Fox). A 3-3 USC team against a 6-0 Utah team. No one expected that to be the case going into this matchup before the season started. That’s why they play the games on the field. But like I wrote a couple weeks ago when looking at the line for the TCU-Kansas State game… what am I missing here? Why does Vegas have USC as a 3.5 point favorite in this game? Yes, the Trojans were able to score over 30 points against a solid Notre Dame defense last week on the road. USC also usually plays better at home and has an accurate passer in Cody Kessler. But what’s with the disrespect for Utah? They’ve beaten Michigan, destroyed Oregon in Autzen Stadium, and found ways to stay undefeated. Utah isn’t flashy offensively but they get the job done; and it’s fairly simple to give the ball to Devontae Booker and let him pound defenders. Defensively they do a great job at forcing turnovers. They remind me of some of the Stanford teams from years past and could end up facing the Cardinal in the Pac 12 Championship game later on. Odds: USC favored by 3.5 Prediction: With the head coaching change and injuries, I was surprised USC played as well as they did last week in South Bend. Coming back home and playing a top 5 team should have the Trojans focused. But I like Kyle Whittingham’s team. They keep winning games and going under the radar in terms of college football playoff contenders. The line worries me because it makes me think there’s some info the wise guys have that I’m unaware of. Sure, USC is more talented but to me Utah is a better team. Utah wins on the road.

Give me your thoughts on Week 8. What will you be watching?

-Z

College Football Week 7 Eyes on the Ball

USC vs Notre Dame – The Bush Push – Photo via http://www.ocregister.com

It’s week 7 in college football, which means that we’re already past the halfway mark of the season. Time flies when you’re having fun so we should be in store for some exciting matchups from now through early December.

Before we go into the week 7 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 6 Point Spread Picks:

4-1 record

Correct: Alabama (not covering 17), West Virginia (not covering 7), Utah (not covering 7.5), Oklahoma (not covering 17)

Incorrect: TCU (not covering 10)

Season Point Spread Picks:

15-14-1 record

Picking the winners for the Week 6 games of interest:

4-1 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

19-11

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 7 of the 2015 college football season:

  • West Virginia at Baylor: (11 am Central Saturday on Fox). Baylor is undefeated and rolling on offense but it hasn’t faced a legit defense like West Virginia yet this season. Granted the Mountaineers have lost the last two weeks (at Oklahoma and against Oklahoma State at home) but offensive turnovers were the primary reason for those losses. QB Skyler Howard has to protect the ball better for WVU. The Mountaineers upset the Bears last year in Morgantown, which ultimately cost Baylor a shot at the College Football Playoff. I’ve got a feeling Art Briles and his staff will be reminding his players of that game often leading up to kickoff. QB Seth Russell has been ridiculously efficient on offense but I’m interested to see how he does against this West Virginia secondary which will be covering Corey Coleman and the other receivers. Odds: Baylor favored by 22.5. Prediction: Baylor’s defensive line should continue to cause turnovers on Howard. But I’ve got a feeling the WVU secondary will be able to cause problems for Russell early on. Baylor wins at home but doesn’t cover.
  • Alabama at Texas A&M: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on CBS). In this game, I want to see Alabama’s defense against the A&M offense. A&M hasn’t faced a defense like the Crimson Tide’s yet. There is lots of firepower with Kyle Allen throwing to Christian Kirk but can they take the top off of the Alabama secondary with guys like Eddie Jackson and freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick? On the other side, you have to expect that Derrick Henry will get plenty of carries against the A&M defense. If he can continue to get first downs, that will keep Jacob Coker from having the game in his hands. Odds: Alabama favored by 4 Prediction: Alabama has seen offenses like Ole Miss and Georgia already this season. Even with a bye to get ready for this game, I don’t think Allen and the A&M offense can get the job done against the Tide. Alabama wins and covers on the road.
  • Michigan State at Michigan: (2:30pm Central Saturday on ESPN). Most people expected Jim Harbaugh to get Michigan back to their winning ways sooner than later. But I don’t think anyone expected this impressive start to the season. After losing in week 1 to a Utah team (now ranked in the top 5), the Wolverines have dominated their opponents including 3 straight shutouts. Michigan State looked like a title contender after beating Oregon early in the season but the Spartans have struggled to squeak out narrow victories the last two weeks against lowly Purdue and Rutgers. The Spartans’ defense has been hit hard with injuries. Odds: Michigan favored by 7 Prediction: I’m not impressed with QB Jake Rudock and Michigan’s offense overall. Rudock has more interceptions than touchdowns. That doesn’t matter when the defense is shutting out opponents. But like last week’s rivalry game (Texas-Oklahoma), I’ve got a hunch that the underdog will play much better in this environment. Connor Cook knows what to do in pressure situations. Michigan State pulls off the upset in Ann Arbor.
  • Florida at LSU: (6 pm Central Saturday on ESPN). Florida, with first year coach Jim McElwain, is another surprising undefeated team. With a few close wins and an impressive showing against Ole Miss, the Gators look like the real deal. But starting QB Will Grier was suspended for the rest of the season this week for failing a drug test (performance-enhancing drugs). Treon Harris will be the starter and he doesn’t have the accuracy that Grier brought to the offense. LSU’s attack is all about running back Leonard Fournette. Just give him the ball and watch him bowl over defenders or run past them. Florida’s defense should stack the box to stop Fournette so how will OC Cam Cameron get QB Brandon Harris to move the ball through the air? Odds: LSU favored by 7 Prediction: I don’t trust Treon Harris to make enough plays to win this game at night in Tiger Stadium. Fournette will likely be slowed down and Les Miles may have to pull some tricks on special teams. LSU wins but doesn’t cover.
  • USC at Notre Dame: (6:30 pm Central Saturday on NBC). This is another rivalry game to watch this weekend. I was watching the Trojan War documentary on ESPN earlier this week and was genuinely shocked to hear that it’s already the 10 year anniversary of the infamous “Bush Push” game. Matt Leinart being pushed into the end zone by Reggie Bush on an untimed down on the last play of the game to lead USC to a victory in South Bend has to be one of the moments true college football fans don’t forget. Notre Dame students were already rushing the field thinking the game was over. But more time was put on the clock and USC was able to literally push its way to a win. Fast forward ten years and USC is in disarray. Head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired earlier this week after an embarrassing home loss to Washington. There’s plenty of talent on the roster with guys like Cody Kessler, Ronald Jones, and JuJu Smith but the team isn’t consistent. Notre Dame on the other hand is still going strong even with numerous injuries on both sides of the ball. The close loss to Clemson on the road still lingers but they still have a shot to make the College Football Playoff if they win out. In terms of talent, this game against USC and the finale against Stanford are the biggest hurdles. Odds: Notre Dame favored by 6 Prediction: USC has had a tough time defending the run in their losses against Stanford and Washington. Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise should get plenty of touches behind the Irish’s physical offensive line. Deshone Kizer has also kept the offense balanced with his passing. Irish win at home and cover the spread.

Give me your thoughts on Week 7. What will you be watching?

-Z

College Football Week 6 Eyes on the Ball

IMG_0253

This is week 6 of the college football season; it’s coming up on the second Saturday of October and that only means one thing… it’s time for another edition of the Red River Shootout (or Showdown as they now like to call it) between Texas and Oklahoma. Yes, there are some other games of interest across the country but this is the one that matters regardless of what the records are for each team. I’ll give my quick thoughts on some of the other games of interest this weekend but my focus will be on the game in Dallas.

Before we go into the week 6 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 5 Point Spread Picks:

2-2-1 record

Correct: Baylor (covering 17), Georgia (not covering 1.5)

Incorrect: Oklahoma (covering 6.5), TCU (covering 15)

Push: Clemson won exactly by 2

Season Point Spread Picks:

11-13-1 record

Picking the winners for the Week 5 games of interest:

4-1 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

15-10

Here are quick thoughts on the other games to keep an eye on for week 6 of the 2015 college football season:

  • Arkansas at Alabama: (6 pm Central Saturday on ESPN). Both teams come into this game with SEC road wins last week. This should be a physical game with two predominantly running teams.  Odds: Alabama favored by 17. Prediction: Brandon Allen at QB doesn’t scare any opposing defenses with his arm. The Tide should stack the box and win this game but covering 17 points seems a bit high for my liking. 
  • Oklahoma State at West Virginia: (6 pm Central Saturday on ESPN2). The Cowboys are undefeated and keep finding ways to win late in games. The Mountaineers look to play better at home after giving up several turnovers last week against Oklahoma. Odds: West Virginia  favored by 7 Prediction: West Virginia’s defense will be stout at home and make enough stops to get the win but this one will be less than a touchdown difference.
  • TCU at Kansas State: (6:30 pm Central Saturday on Fox). TCU looked great last week at home while the Wildcats lost a close game to Oklahoma State. Will TCU be complacent against Bill Snyder’s team? Odds: TCU favored by 10 Prediction: I know TCU struggled on the road at Minnesota in week 1. But what am I missing here that Vegas sees? Seems like an easy TCU win and by more than 10 points.
  • Cal at Utah: (9 pm Central Saturday on ESPN). No one expected these teams to be the last two undefeated Pac-12 schools. Watching Jared Goff play QB with his quick release is fun when you’re not rooting for the opposing team. The Utes have the best resume in the nation with wins against Michigan and at Oregon. Odds: Utah favored by 7.5 Prediction: Cal doesn’t have the quality wins that Utah has so far. I think Devontae Booker and the Utes continue winning but don’t cover.

Now onto the game that matters the most… Texas vs Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. There’s not an atmosphere like it in all of college sports. Two rivals meeting halfway between campuses in Dallas during the State Fair of Texas with fans split down the middle. I’m lucky enough to be able to watch the game in person again this year. Check out this video for a primer on the rivalry and the game’s uniqueness…

Watching that video got me thinking about my most memorable moments of watching the Red River Shootout. These are the first moments that pop up in my head when I think about Texas-OU…

1. Stonie Clark’s game winning hit at the goal line in 1994

2. Jordan Shipley’s kickoff return for a TD in 2008

3. Brian Robison lays out Rhett Bomar and Rod Wright takes the fumble all the way for a TD

4. Roy Williams’ Superman dive onto Chris Simms in 2001

5. Chris Whaley’s interception return for a TD in 2013

In terms of this year’s game, Oklahoma comes in undefeated and ranked in the top 10. Baker Mayfield has been stellar running the Air Raid offense. Texas looked lost last week in all phases against TCU. This seems like s total mismatch on paper. But this game isn’t decided on paper. OU’s weaknesses are its young offensive line and its secondary. 

Vance Bedford and the UT defense have to force OU to run the ball, disrupt Mayfield’s timing in the pocket, and create turnovers against an OU team that has had issues in that category this season. Offensively, Jerrod Heard needs time to make plays with his feet and with some deep passes. Tulsa scored 38 points on the Land Thieves by utilizing a quick, passing attack similar to Baylor’s scheme. Jay Norvell needs to give Heard the green light to test the OU secondary. Odds: Oklahoma by 17 Prediction: Turnovers forced by the UT defense make the difference in this game. Holton Hill or Kris Boyd return an interception for the game winning score. Horns win 28-27. A man can dream, right?
Give me your thoughts on Week 6. What will you be watching? What are your most memorable moments from the Red River Shootout?

-Z

College Football Week 5 Eyes on the Ball

Georgia RB Nick Chubb – Photo via http://www.rantsports.com

Another week of college football and another week of surprises are likely to come. Week 4’s biggest surprises were Oregon getting absolutely destroyed at home against Utah and TCU needing a miraculous late touchdown catch on a deflection to defeat Texas Tech in Lubbock. Week 5 features some interesting matchups in the Big 12, a possible SEC championship preview, and a huge primetime game in ACC country.

Before we go into the week 5 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 4 Point Spread Picks:

1-4 record

Correct: Oklahoma State (not covering 3.5)

Incorrect: Michigan (covering 6.5), TCU (not covering 5), UCLA (covering 3.5), and Oregon (not covering 10.5)

Season Point Spread Picks:

9-11 record

Picking the winners for the Week 4 games of interest:

2-3 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

11-9

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 5 of the 2015 college football season:

  • West Virginia at Oklahoma: (11 am Central Saturday on Fox Sports 1). Both teams come into this game ranked and undefeated in non-conference play. The Mountaineers haven’t been tested yet (Sorry, Maryland doesn’t count) while Oklahoma had a comeback victory in double-overtime at Tennessee and faced a high powered Tulsa offense. West Virginia’s strong suit this season is their defense, which is odd to say and type, and are ranked best in the nation in points allowed and turnover margin. Look for senior safety Karl Joseph to make plays all over the field. For Oklahoma, their offense has been clicking with quarterback Baker Mayfield. Running back Samaje Perine had a monster game against West Virginia last year so you have to expect new OC Lincoln Riley will try and feature him again. Odds: Oklahoma favored by 6.5 Prediction: Oklahoma’s defense continues to be their weakness. Tulsa scored 38 points on them two weeks ago. If West Virginia’s stout defense can force Mayfield to turn the ball over, the Mountaineers can pull off the upset. This will be a tight game; I don’t think the Land Thieves are able to cover the spread.
  • Texas at TCU: (11 am Central Saturday on ESPN). Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in this game. TCU is coming off an emotional comeback victory against Texas Tech with a late Aaron Green touchdown in the back of the end zone. The Horned Frogs have been decimated with injuries on defense but keep outscoring teams to win games and stay ranked in the top 5 of the polls. Quarterback Trevone Boykin and wide receiver Josh Doctson are putting up ridiculous numbers with their spread attack. On the other side, Texas suffered a second consecutive brutal loss in the final minute due to a special teams blunder. The bigger story in last week’s loss to Oklahoma State was the blatant bias in penalties being called by referee Alan Eck’s crew. Check out this linked article for more details on the officiating situation. In terms of this particular game, the defense will have to bracket Doctson and not lose contain on Boykin. Easier said than done with several freshman in the starting lineup. Offensively, the injury to right tackle Kent Perkins is a massive loss for the Longhorns offense. Jerrod Heard had no time in the second half last week to do anything other than avoid rushing defenders right after snapping the ball. TCU’s defense hasn’t been stout. If Heard and the running backs can get some sort of success up the middle, there’s a chance to move the ball and match points. Odds: TCU favored by 15 Prediction: Obviously I’m not sold on TCU’s defense. They’ve given up 37 points to SMU and 52 last week to Texas Tech. If Perkins was healthy and UT didn’t have to rely on Marcus Hutchins at right tackle, I think the Horns could move the ball consistently enough to pull off the upset. With Perkins out, I just don’t see how Texas scores enough points. I think the Texas defense can keep the game under the point spread but all logic points to TCU winning at home.
  • Baylor vs Texas Tech (neutral site – AT&T Stadium in Arlington): (2:30 pm Central Saturday on ESPN2). Texas Tech has played well the last two weeks in defeating Arkansas on the road and almost knocking off TCU at home. Their defense under new defensive coordinator David Gibbs has still been giving up lots of rushing yards but the tackling has improved. Kliff Kingsbury’s team is led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes who was banged up with a knee injury last week against TCU but kept playing. His status for this game hasn’t been made clear yet. Baylor has been up to their usual selves, not being tested in non-conference play. Quarterback Seth Russell has looked efficient in games but the running game is what Baylor has been leaning on. Shock Linwood is back as the leading rusher on this offense. Baylor’s defensive line with Andrew Billings and Shawn Oakman will definitely cause problems for Big 12 teams this season. Odds: Baylor favored by 17 Prediction: This one is hard to predict without knowing Mahomes’ status. If he plays, I think Tech can keep it under 17. If he’s very limited or doesn’t play, I think Baylor can easily outscore Tech and cover. For the sake of this blog post, I’ll assume Mahomes isn’t healthy enough to be a real difference maker so Baylor wins and covers.
  • Alabama at Georgia: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on CBS). This is supposed to be the year that Georgia steps up and proves to be a power in the SEC. We’ve been hearing that seemingly every season about Mark Richt’s teams. Now with a higher ranking and the game at home, the Bulldogs can prove they can knock off a legit contender in the SEC. Quarterback Greyson Lambert, who transferred from Virginia, will be smart with the ball and not turn it over. Expect lots of carries for stud running back Nick Chubb, who could get into the Heisman discussion along with LSU’s Leonard Fournette if he has a huge game versus Alabama. The Bulldogs’ defense really hasn’t been tested so that’s an unknown. For Alabama, you have to expect their front seven to stack the box against Chubb which leaves them susceptible in the secondary against the deep ball. I don’t think Lambert is the type of quarterback who can hurt them repeatedly with deep shots. If Derrick Henry can run well behind the Tide’s offensive line, Alabama should be able to put up points in Athens. Odds: Georgia favored by 1.5 Prediction: Alabama had 5 turnovers and a fluke touchdown pass in its loss against Ole Miss. I think Nick Saban will have his team’s attention and being an underdog for the first time in 70+ games will help as well. Until Richt wins a big game, I can’t confidently pick Georgia in matchups like these even if it is at home. The score is close but Alabama wins (no covering for Georgia).
  • Notre Dame at Clemson: (7 pm Central Saturday on ABC). A matchup of two teams ranked in the top 12 where weather could play a major factor with rain and winds from Hurricane Joaquin’s path. Notre Dame keeps winning even after losing key starters on both sides. Deshone Kizer has played well in replacing Malik Zaire at quarterback. The defense is solid and Jaylon Smith is one of the best linebackers in the nation. Clemson barely beat a winless Louisville team on a Thursday night so how legit are the Tigers? Deshaun Watson had two interceptions in that game and will have to play much better against a physical Irish defense. Clemson does have a raucous home atmosphere and is expected to be the favorite in the ACC this season. Can they finally get over the hump and get some national recognition? Odds: Clemson favored by 2 Prediction: With the weather likely being a factor, the running games and the line of scrimmage will be relied upon. I give the edge to Notre Dame on both offensive and defensive lines. Also Brian Kelly versus Dabo Swinney is a mismatch in terms of in game adjustments from the head coaching position; Kelly has proven he can scheme well against his opponents and coach up whoever he has in the lineup. Notre Dame wins on the road.

Give me your thoughts on Week 5. What will you be watching?

-Z

College Football Week 4 Eyes on the Ball

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen – Photo via http://www.ocregister.com

After a wild, upset-filled Week 3 of the college football season, what can we expect during this week’s games? #1 Ohio State struggling to hang on and beat Northern Illinois at home, #2 Alabama losing for a second consecutive season to Ole Miss (this time in Tuscaloosa), and top 10 ranked USC team losing at home to Stanford were just a few of the memorable moments from last week to shake up the status quo. Week 4’s primary focus should be on the Pac-12 and the Big 12 as conference play gets started (for most teams).

Before we go into the week 4 games worth watching further, below is how I did last week in my predictions against the point spread and just picking the outright winners. Keep in mind that I’m only making these picks against the spread for fun based on the games I actually plan on watching rather than which games I think will win for actual betting purposes. I plan on watching these games (or as much of these games as I can) so why not take a shot at what I think will happen in them, right?

Week 3 Point Spread Picks:

3-2 record

Correct: California (not covering 7), USC (not covering 10.5), and Alabama (not covering 7)

Incorrect: Georgia Tech (covering 2.5) and Arkansas (covering 10.5)

Season Point Spread Picks:

8-7 record

Picking the winners for the Week 3 games of interest:

1-4 record

Season Picks (just picking the winners):

9-6

Here are the games to keep an eye on for week 4 of the 2015 college football season:

  • BYU at Michigan: (11 am Central Saturday on ABC). After a turnover-filled game on the opening night of the season, Michigan has looked much better in its next two games. The Wolverines have been able to run the ball with both Ty Isaac and De’Veon Smith at running back. QB Jake Rudock has been a turnover machine and not exactly what new head coach Jim Harbaugh has been looking for in terms of a game manager. BYU has won two games late against quality opponents (Nebraska and Boise State), especially considering senior leader Taysom Hill was knocked out in the first game of the season. The Cougars also put up a great fight against UCLA last week in a 1 point loss so they’re legit. Backup QB Tanner Mangum has been able to take over and make unbelievable plays down the stretch in these early games. Playing at Nebraska and winning on a Hail Mary should give him and his BYU teammates confidence going into the Big House. Odds: Michigan favored by 6.5 Prediction: If Michigan can establish the run like it did against Oregon State, BYU will be in trouble. The defense has to make Rudock beat them with his arm. I just think BYU bounces back from that loss to UCLA last week and wins a tight game in Ann Arbor.
  • Oklahoma State at Texas: (2:30 pm Central Saturday on ESPN). Oklahoma State comes into this game undefeated and ranked #24 in the nation but they haven’t really been tested. Central Michigan, Central Arkansas, and UTSA aren’t exactly going to scare anyone or impress any selection committee members in terms of wins on your resume. But Mike Gundy and his Cowboys team have beat the Longhorns the last 3 times this matchup has taken place in Austin. Oklahoma State has a balanced attack on offense with Chris Carson at RB and quarterback Mason Rudolph through the air. The OSU defense did force 7 turnovers last week (against UTSA) which is really tough to do in multiple games much less a single game. Texas is coming off a heartbreaking 45-44 loss to Cal at home when kicker Nick Rose missed an extra point attempt. After being down 21 points in the 4th quarter, quarterback Jerrod Heard took the offense (and essentially the team) on his back by setting the single game record for yardage by a Texas quarterback. Heard’s ability to improvise and make plays with his feet electrified the stadium and gave hope to UT fans that have been desperate for any sort of offensive explosiveness for years now. DC Vance Bedford’s defense continues to be shredded by any offense it goes against. If Rice’s running game and Cal’s backup RB can consistently gain yards through the heart of your defense, you know there’s problems. The experienced defensive linemen Hassan Ridgeway and Desmond Jackson must play better and hold up the point of attack to allow linebackers Malik Jefferson and Peter Jinkens to have an impact. Odds: Oklahoma State favored by 3.5 Prediction: This could be the first of many shootouts that both teams are involved in this season in the high-scoring Big 12. OSU’s defense will likely spy Heard to keep him from taking off running. If there are opportunities to take deep shots to receivers like John Burt or Armanti Foreman, Texas has to convert. I don’t trust the Longhorns defense but there’s a buzz around the program with Heard’s performance last week that could carry over. Oklahoma State doesn’t cover; Texas wins a close one at home with Heard leading the way again in the 4th.
  • TCU at Texas Tech: (3:45 pm Central Saturday on Fox). The Red Raiders pulled off an upset of Arkansas on the road last week. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs was able to get his defense to actually get off blocks and tackle somebody. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury got in some digs at Arkansas’ Bret Bielema after the game about his team’s toughness.  Quarterback Pat Mahomes has looked great so far and should be able to do some damage against a TCU defense that’s been decimated with injuries; 6 starters have already been lost for the season on Gary Patterson’s defense. But can Tech really slow down Trevone Boykin and that spread offense that’s clicking right now? Boykin is preseason Big 12 player of the year, had 7 TDs in this matchup last season, and will have Tech’s defense on its heels. Odds: TCU favored by 5 Prediction: This has all the makings of a shootout in Lubbock. I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner scores more than 55 points. I can attest first hand to the atmosphere that can be generated for the home team in Jones Stadium. The fact that this is an afternoon game and not a night game works in TCU’s favor because Lubbock gets weird (and much louder) at night. Even with all the defensive injuries, I trust Patterson’s defensive acumen to make enough adjustments during the game. TCU wins and covers.
  • UCLA at Arizona: (7 pm Central Saturday on ABC). Two ranked Pac-12 teams going at it on national TV in primetime; not often that you can say that when it involves these two teams. Arizona hasn’t tested itself in non-conference play so it’s tough to get a read on how good this team really is. They do have one of the best rushing attacks statistically in the nation and quarterback Anu Solomon keeps them balanced through the air. Linebacker and defensive leader Scooby Wright is expected to return for this game as well. UCLA is coming off a close win against a tough BYU team. Josh Rosen is a true freshman who was highly touted coming out of high school and he’s made both great and head-scratching plays at quarterback for the Bruins. How will he handle this road environment in the spotlight game of the week? UCLA will also be without linebacker Myles Jack who got injured last week and is out for the year. I think the Bruins will have to try and get RB Paul Perkins going to take some pressure off of Rosen. Odds: UCLA favored by 3.5 Prediction: UCLA has been a much more physical team since Jim Mora took over as head coach. Rich Rodriguez’s team tends to play well at home and has beaten teams like Oregon in Tucson in the past. I don’t think UCLA can cover the spread on the road.
  • Utah at Oregon: (7:30 pm Central Saturday on Fox). Another matchup of ranked teams in the Pac-12 should be an interesting one. Utah has won all 3 of its games with a solid defense that forces turnovers and offensively pounds the ball on the ground with RB Devontae Booker. The Utes are a fundamentally sound group that will not beat itself but can they step up on the road and knock off the perennial top dog in the conference? Oregon went on the road and lost a close game a couple weeks ago to Michigan State. Quarterback Vernon Adams supposedly played with an injury in that game and had to sit out last week. Will Adams be healthy enough to play or will Mark Helfrich go with Jeff Lockie again? Either way, expect to see a lot of touches for Royce Freeman. That kid is electric and fun to watch as a neutral observer. Odds: Oregon favored by 10.5 Prediction: Even with the uncertainty on Adams’ status, I just don’t see a scenario where Utah scores enough points to keep pace with Oregon. Utilizing ball control offense with plenty of Booker to limit the Ducks’ possessions is definitely the goal for the Utes. But being able to pull that off in Autzen Stadium is something I wouldn’t be very confident in predicting. Oregon wins and covers at home.

Give me your thoughts on Week 4. What will you be watching?

-Z