NCAAF Pick Nov 20- ACC QB Showdown

Virginia Cavaliers at Pittsburgh Panthers -14.5, Total 66

The Virginia defense stinks. If you take away their shutout of Duke they haven’t given up less than 28 points on the season, that includes beatdowns from North Carolina, Wake Forest and BYU.  In those three games they gave up an average of 54 points per game.They will face a Pittsburgh offense that is averaging 36 ppg (4th nationally) and led by future NFL first rounder Kenny Pickett.

The Cavaliers season has been a roller coaster.  Starting the season 2-2 before reeling off four straight wins over Louisville, Georgia Tech, Duke and Miami. Their momentum was abruptly stopped when they got run over by BYU. That game came with an extra kick inthe gut as star QB Brennan Armstrong sustained an injury that forced him to miss the Notre Dame game.  Without Armstrong the highly vaunted Cavalier offense could not move the ball scoring just 3 points behind backup Jay Woolfok. There are reports that Armstrong should be back for this game, if he is the Virginia offense should be able to move the ball.

The Pittsburgh defense has struggled over the last three weeks, giving up 23,29 and 38 over the last three weeks.  Their early season games against Tennesee and Western Michigan showed the vulnerabilities in the defense.  With the potential return of Armstrong, the Pittsburgh defense will have to deal with a dual threat QB that can expsoe them.  Armstrong is third in college football with 3,557 yards and added 7 rushing touchdowns.  

I am playing under the assumption that Armstrong will be on the field.  If that is the case I am taking the points with Virginia and I am hammering the over. This game will be a shoutout between two extremely talented QB’s against lackluster defenses. 

Pick: Virginia +14.5, over 66

Free Agents Cardinals should add (Non-Shortstops)

The needs of the St. Louis Cardinals are obvious to most that watched the 2021 version.  Edmundo Sosa and Paul Dejong felt like fillers for a position of need at shortstop.  The offseason free agent market will allow for multiple options in one of the greatest free agent markets of all time for the position.  The Cardinals could go aftera number of great players, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Corey Seager or Javy Baez.  Adding a shortstop along with another starting pitcher should be the #1 objective for the Cards in the offseason but they also could look at trying to add some depth on the bench as well as some help with the pitching staff.  Here are five of my favorite underrated potential signings. 

Eduardo Escobar, Utility,  (2.4 WAR)

I feel like I have been writing about Eduardo Escobar for a few years now.  Escobar had another solid year with 28 homers and .786 OPS. He has the ability to play multiple positions and plays literally every position on the field.  He is a switch hitter that can bat in any part of the lineup.  

St. Louis is in desperate need of a power bat off the bench and Escobar fits the build.  He can play second base and move Tommy Edman over to shortstop, you can still have an impactful bat in the lineup if Arenado or Goldschmidt need a day off, or just have a veteran on the bench.   He is a switch hitter that can bat in any part of the lineup.  

Escobar was  having a great year in Arizona but saw a major dip in his numbers when traded to Milwaukee.  His end of the year slump will make him extremely affordable, his versatility makes him the perfect  fit for most teams and immediately improves the Cardinals bench.

Marcus Stroman, RHP, (3.4 WAR)

Stroman quietly had a great season in 2021.  After sitting out 2020, he started 33 games for the underachieving Mets.  He was top ten in the league with a 3.02 ERA, he also included a 1.15 WHIP.  He included his top strikeout percentage in his career with a 21% K rate. 

At just 30 years old he still has a lot of productive years ahead of him. Stroman has shown the ability to be a top of the rotation guy in his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, he also excelled as the #1 option for team USA in the World Baseball Classic.  

Stroman is an innings eater that can compete for a top spot in the rotation. The Cardinals could get him for an affordable rate at around 4-years, $100 million.  

Kendall Graveman, RHP, (1.3 WAR)

Graveman converted to the bullpen full time in 2021.   He saw an increase in fastball velocity to an average of 96 mph and added a slider that got him up to a 27% K rate.  Graveman was surprisingly traded to the eventual American League champion Houston Astros  after dominating for the Mariners in 30 games.  During his time with Seattle, Graveman had 10 saves, with a 0.82 ERA and a .69 WHIP. 

The Cardinals bullpen was one of the highlights most of the season.  Additions of journeymen TJ McFarland and Luis Garcia helped carry a load of young pitchers that were overused during the 2021 season.  St. Louis will get Jordan Hicks back next season to go along with TJ McFarland, Genesis Cabrera, Kodi Whitley and Closer, Gio Gallegos.  The Cardinals will give Alex Reyes a chance to be in the starting rotation next year which means adding at least one power reliever.  Graveman would give St. Louis a solid arm that can go multiple innings and give relief to their young arms.  If he needs to be put in the closer spot, he can do it, if needed to pitch the 6th, he can do it, if he needs to open and go three innings, he can do it.  

Michael Conforto, OF, (2.9 WAR)

St. Louis has the outfield basically spoken for.  The combination of Tyler O’Neil, Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson was as good as you can ask for in developing players.  The fourth outfielder all season was a rotating door of instability.  Justin Williams, Austin Dean and Lars Nootbar all had their chances but didn’t do enough to solidify their roster spot for next season.  The Cardinals need to find a reliable bat that can step right into the lineup and make an impact.  With young players, you get inconsistency, the Cardinals need to add a player that can realistically be a starter.  Also someone that hits with power from the left side would be nice.  What about Michael Conforto?

Conforto is coming off a few injury plagued seasons.  His injuries could see him forced into taking a “prove it” deal with a contender.  The Cardinals could realistically offer him a  chance to get at bats against tough righties as well should versatility producing in a bench role.  If the DH is implemented into the National League next year, he could get a full allotment of at bats.  In 7 seasons Conforto has a career OBP of .354 and a career OPS over .800. As recently as 2019 he hit 33 homers for a Mets team that provided little protection for him.  Imagine putting him in front or behind Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.  

NCAAF Picks ATS Week 10

Liberty Flames at Mississippi Rebels -10  Total: 67.5

The Liberty Flames will get their chance to take on one of the big boys when they face off against the Ole Miss Rebels.  

The Flames defense will have their hands full with future pro and potentially top overall draft pick, QB Matt Coral.  Coral will not have his full allotment of receivers but the Rebels will still be able to produce offense on the ground against a Liberty defense that gave up over 200 yards on the ground to both North Texas and UMass.  Corral actually leads the Rebels in rush yards this year with 519 to go along with ten rushing touchdowns, his ability to scramble will be tough for the Liberty defense to contain.  Henry Parrish Jr and Snoop Conner are both explosive out of the backfield, each average over 5 yards per carry. As a team Ole Miss averages over 6 yards per play on offense ranking them in the top ten in all of football.

Liberty will have a chance because they have a dynamic QB in Malik Willis.  Like Coral, Willis leads his team in rush yards, 684 yards while completing 66% of his passes.  The Liberty offense should have their way with a subpar Ole Miss defense.  The Rebels give up 429 yards of offense per game, most notably they give up a ton on the ground. Their inability to stop the run will force the defense to get worn down, Ole Miss ranks 107th in defense time on field.  This will be a huge factor in Liberty cashing in on offense. 

These two squads will both be fired up for this game and we will see a great matchup of the two most athletic and talented QB’s in all of college football. Both defenses will give up large chunks of yards and both defenses will not be able to keep the other out of the endzone.  The total has been set to low for this one.  I am on the over and lean Liberty with the late cover.

Pick: Over 67.5, Flames +10 

San Jose State Spartans at Nevada Wolf Pack  -10

Nevada has scored 49, 55, 34 and 51 while going 4-0 at home this season.  They have one of the most potent offenses through the air in all of college football, averaging 384 yards per game.  QB Carson Strong is coming off of a huge game against UNLV, throwing for 417 yards and four touchdowns.  Strong has built up a resume fit for a top NFL prospect, throwing for a total of 2,883 yards and a 24:5 TD to interception ratio.  Nevada in total averages 37.63 points per game, ranking 15th in the nation. This is a team that has built everything around the offensive side of the ball. 

The Nevada defense is not great, but they are able to force teams to play their way by jumping on them early with the high powered pass attack.  San Jose State does not have the offense to keep up with the Wolf Pack.  Nevada will be able to score, if they limit turnovers and control the field position the Spartans will not be able to keep up with the pace. 

San Jose State is just 1-5 ATS on the road in their last six. Nevada is 4-1 ATS in their last five. The Wolf Pack have to jump out early and when they do they will get the crowd into the game and that will lead to an easy victory and cover.

Pick: Nevada Wolf Pack -10

Houston Cougars at USF Bulls +13

The Houston Cougars have won seven games in a row after upsetting the SMU Mustangs 44-37.  Houston QB Clayton Tune has completed 69% of his passes for 1,883 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Houston is 5-3 ATS and an impressive 3-0 ATS on the road this season.  

USF had some issues holding onto the ball last week against Eastern Carolina.  QB Katravis Marsh threw three picks in their 29-14 loss.  The Bulls have lost four of their last five games.  USF has given up 31.88 points per game (105th in nation), their two wins came against Temple and Florida AM.  The defense is pretty bad, the offense isnt much better.  USF QB Timmy McClain has only completed 56% of his passes, they lean on the run game to produce offense.  Houston has been top ten against the run on the season, they are going to force the Bulls to beat them through the air.  They are not built to do that.   

The Cougars are one of the hottest teams in the country. Their offense is playing at an elite level.  Getting a matchup with a terrible USF team is a great way for Clayton Tune and company to show their dominance. This game will never be close.  Number should be way higher. 

Pick: Houston Cougars -13