NCAAF Picks Week 8

North Carolina State Wolfpack at Miami Hurricanes +3

The season has not been going well for the Miami Hurricanes.  Devastating losses to UVA and UNC over the last two weeks have them currently sitting at 2-4 and little to know hope of doing anything of note this season.  Miami lost starting QB D’eriq King for the season and added starting RB Cameron Harris to the DL last week. The depleted offense has QB Tyler Van Dyke at the helm.  He has thrown for just 52% with 5 TDs and 3 interceptions. The Hurricanes are running into a red hot defense coming off a beatdown on the road against Boston College. NC State has given up just 14.33 ppg, and just 315 yards per game on the season.  

The NC State offense is led by QB Devin Leary’s 73% completion percentage, 15 TD to just 2 interceptions. The Wolfpack are just as effective on the ground as well as in the air. The two headed monsters of RB’s Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. have combined for almost 900 yards and four touchdowns.  Both rank in the top ten in the ACC for total yardage.  

NC State is 6-2 ATS in their last eight, they are looking to take control of the ACC and to do that, they have to take down the Hurricanes. They have a strong defense going against an undermanned Miami offense.  The Wolfpack will dominate, similarly to what they did against Boston College.   

Pick: NC State -3

Illinois Fighting Illini at Penn State Nittany Lions -23

Penn State’s dream season hit a snag last two weeks ago against the Iowa Hawkeyes.  They got a bye last week, allowing them to regroup and get ready for a matchup with Big Ten bottom dwelling Illinois Fighting Illini.  

The Penn State defense has been stout, holding opposing offenses to just 13.8 ppg. They hold down opposing offenses by limiting big plays.  They are top 5 in yards per play this season.  The Nittany Lions held Wisconsin to 10, Auburn to 20, Indiana to 0 and Iowa to just 23. The defense will be able to dominate, the Illinois offense that is averaging just 17 ppg.  

On offense Penn State will have a healthy Sean Clifford, their offense disappeared against Iowa once Clifford left the game. The passing game is ranked 23rd in the nation averaging 268 yards through the air.  Jahan Dotson has been a great target for the Nittany Lions, he has averaged 82.3 yards per game.  Penn State will have a lot of opportunities for big plays while they lean on the run game to establish the offense.  The Nittany Lions have two strong RB options with Keyvone Lee and Noah Cain.  

Illinois scored a combined 9 points in their last two Big Ten games and now face the best defense in the conference. The Fighting Illini will not be able to get anything going on offense, their defense should be able to keep them in it for a little while, eventually they will wear down and Penn State will dominate.  

Pick: Penn State Nittany Lions -23

LSU Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels Total: 76

The Rebels are down their two top receivers Johnathan Mingo and Braylon Sanders.  The absence of his main targets forced Ole Miss QB Matt Correal to utilize his legs more which led to more hits.  Correal is questionable for this game, if he is able to go he will likely not be on the same level as he usually is. If Correal is not at his full abilities the Rebels offense will rely on their SEC #1 ranked run game. But that may play right into the hands of their opponent. 

The LSU run game made an appearance last week in their upset over the Florida Gators. The Tigers should be able to move the ball on the ground against a 111th ranked Rebels run defense.  Tyrion Davis-Price is coming off of a dominant 287 yard performance.  If Davis-Price can continue to be effective on the ground, LSU will be able to manage the clock and turn this game into a battle of the trenches. 

Both teams have been miserable on defense. Still, ther combined totals against are under 75 and each teams combined total ppg on offense is under 75.  Ole Miss will have to run the ball more due to the injury to Correal, while LSU will want to run the ball to keep the opposing offense off the field.  If this game is turned into a battle of the rushing offenses, not only do I see an under hitting but a potential ML wager on LSU may be in play. 

Pick: Under 76

NBA- Three new teams to take the next step.

The NBA season is here. Every year teams make huge strides in one direction or the other.  Major transformations can happen in an instant.  Teams that are one player away from contending for a championship can immediately find themselves in the gutter if they upset the wrong player.  Look at the Houston Rockets, one minute they are a frontrunner, the next they are competing for the #1 pick.  Last year, I predicted the Hawks, Pelicans and Suns to make big strides, the Suns and Hawks not only made the playoffs, but actually made big runs.  The Pelicans are back to the drawing board.  This season there again were major changes made in the NBA landscape.  Here are a few teams that I think make a big step in 2022.

Chicago Bulls

Additions- Demar Derozan, Derrick Jones Jr., Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Ayo Dosunmou, Lonzo Ball

I once wrote about the potential of a Bulls rebuild beginning with the emergence of Lauri Markkanen paired along with Kris Dunn.  I look back on that blog and realize its stupidity of a cold hard take.

The Bulls rebuild that has seemed like it’s been going on for ten years was finally finding its footing in 2021.  The addition of Nikola Vucevic immediately gave the Bulls a weapon to play alongside Zach lavine.  Vuc was good with Chicago, averaging 23 ppg and 11 rpg in 26 games.  The addition of a bonafide star made the Chicago offense efficient despite being a bottom ten ppg team last season, they were top ten in offensive efficiency with the big man in the middle.  

Chicago has the guys on the offensive end but their biggest issues in 2021 were turnovers and interior defense.  The Bulls went out to address those issues by adding PG Lonzo Ball and veteran guard Demar Derozan.  Both are high level defenders that are efficient with the ball. Zach Lavine will now be able to play off of the ball, his athletic ability will be on full display with less ball control needed.  

The Bulls addition of Tony Bradley will help protect the basket when defense is needed. 2nd year player Patrick Williams will have to begin the season on the injured list.  The Bulls will lilley go with Derrick Jones Jr or Alex Caruso in the starting lineup, but the smart choice would be inserting Troy Brown Jr. into the lineup to try and make up for the defensive loss of Williams for the first few weeks.

Chicago’s offense will be elite, they will lean on Ball and Williams on the defensive end. The Bulls offense will be fun to watch, it will be enough to find themselves in contention for the playoffs and potentially making their way into the middle of the conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Additions- Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkenan, Ricky Rubio

The Cavaliers made a lot of offseason moves. Drafting the uber talented Evan Mobley, along with adding Lauri Markkenan and Ricky Rubio gives the Cavs the depth they have not had in a long time. 

The Cav’s will feature one of the best young frontcourts in the league with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.  Garland in particular made a huge jump in his second year, averaging 17 ppg and shooting 39% from behind the arc.  Cleveland will now have a proven veteran behind the two young guards in Ricky Rubio.  The addition of Rubio will allow the Cavaliers offense to not lose it’s flow on offense.  With Rubio they have a slashing guard that can help set things up while playing alongside Evan Mobley.  Mobley’s athletic ability will be perfect for a pick a roll game with Rubio. 

The addition of Markkenan will give the Cavaliers a boost from the 3-point line, a place that was seriously a problem during the 2020-2021 season.  His ability to hit shots will help Sexton and Rubio break down defenses and set up one on one matchups in the paint for Mobley and returning center Jarett Allen.

The biggest question mark of the team will be what is going to happen with Kevin Love. The Cavaliers seemed to build a team that would be prepared to not have him be a big part of the future plans.  If Love is able to perform to his abilities, a combination of him, Markkenen and Allen could be a nightmare for smaller lineups.  The Cavaliers will likely need more depth in the front court but this team competeded last year and have made vast improvements to the roster. 

Sacramento Kings

Additions- Alex Len, Tristan Thompson, Davion Mitchell

This is laughable, the Kings have had 15 straight seasons without making the playoffs.  That is ten more seasons than the nearst team.  They have been the appendamy of futility over the last decade in the NBA.  The rebuild is close to being able to legally drive a car. Instead of a driver’s license the Kings will be rewarded with a spot in the playoffs.  

The 2020-2021 Kings were a horrid defensive team.  The defense gave up a 55% effective field goal percentage, good for 30th in the league.  Their on ball defense was laughable at times.  It is an indication of a lack of a team concept to rotate onto shooters. To address that problem they added Baylor stud Davion Mitchell in the draft, as well as signing rim protector Tristan Thompson.  They will also have a full season of Maurice Harkless.  The addition of those three along with the offensive acumen that D’eAron Fox will make this team a serious threat for one of the final playoff spots for the upcoming season. 

Davion Mitchells addition gives the Kings a spark of energy likely off the bench.  Mitchell at 23 years old brings a maturity that you won’t usually see from a first year player.  He also brings with him a winning culture, fresh off leading the Baylor Bears to the national title a year ago. A similar addition is Tristan Thompson, a veteran that has won a championship before and can be a great bench asset for Luke Walton’s squad. 

The King’s offense will still need to be on the move.  They will play a lot of 3 guard lineups during the season, which means the defense will not be completely transformed, their style will not allow that. The key for Sacramento will be to improve the half court defense to get to the middle of the pack in opponent effective field goal percentage. If they do that, their offense should carry them to a lot of wins.  

NCAAF Picks ATS Week 7

Auburn Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks Total 53.5

The Razorbacks have become one of the most exciting teams in college football this season.  The rebuild of the hogs has been one of the best stories of the college football season. They can get another statement win on Saturday when they take on the vulnerable Auburn Tigers coming off of a tough loss to Georgia last week.

KJ Jefferson has been awesome for the Hogs, he totaled 6 touchdowns against Ole Miss.   Jefferson and the Arkansas offense have been dominant against anyone not named Georgia.  Arkansas will be able to score points at home behind their run game.  This offense has been able to find holes in most defenses with aggressive play calling.  The Razorbacks entered this season with literally zero expectations, so they can go all out in every game.  

Auburn has averaged 35 points per game this season.  Most of those points were accrued against shotty defenses.  They were able to put together two 60+ point performances against Alabama St and Akron. The Tigers have two monsters at RB in Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter, both have run for over 450 yards this season.  Hunter is the big play back, while Bigsby is the consistent power runner that will break down a defense.  They got to face off with an Arkansas defense that gave up 100 yards on the ground to two separate Ole Miss RBs. Bo Nix finally had his consecutive passes without an interception streak ended against Georgia’s top ranked defense.  

Arkansas gave up 89 points in their last two games, which included 600 yards last week. Auburn may prefer to slow down the pace but they will have too many chances for explosive runs from Tank Bigsby.  The Razorbacks will be able to provide enough offense to keep them in the game.  This won’t be the shootout that last week’s Ole Miss- Arkansas game was but it will be feisty and high scoring, Auburn will prevail by just outscoring an Arkansas team that doesn’t have the defensive players to stop the run.  The Razorbacks are also 3-0 to the over in their home games this season. They can score enough to make this interesting at least.

Pick: Over 53.5, Auburn ML

BYU Cougars at Baylor Bears -6.5

The BYU Cougars were on track to make an outside run at the the college football playoff  until they were tripped up at the hands of the Boise State Broncos.  The Cougars were uncharacteristically loose with the ball, turning it over four times at home.  This was QB Jaren Hall’s first game back after sitting out the previous two games, throwing for 300 yards and a touchdown.  Boise State was able to bottle up the scrambling ability of Hall, holding him to negative yardage.  Hall will need to be able to utilize his scrambling ability to keep the Bears defense off balance.  If the Baylor linebackers are forced to shadow Hall, it should open up running lanes for the Cougars stud running back Tyler Allegier.  Allegier is 6th in college football running for 642 yards on the season.  

Baylor has been a bit of a surprise to start the season. Their most recent blowout victory over West Virginia brought their record to 5-1 overall, 4-2 ATS.  The Bears win with offense, averaging 38 ppg and averaging 450 yards per game.  QB Gerry Bohannon was electric against the Mountaineers, throwing for 336 yards and 4 touchdowns.  The Bears have been great at home going 3-0 SU and ATS.  The Bears have the ability to put points up on you in a hurry, if they can hold downt he run game of BYU they should have success on the defensive end. 

The Baylor Bears have Texas, TCU and Oklahoma coming up over the three weeks following this matchup. It would not be shocking to think they will be distracted in an obvious look ahead spot.  The Bears should have enough to win this game but they will not be able to run all over a stingy BYU defense that has already shut down Pac 12 powerhouses Arizona State and Utah.  BYU will try to run the ball to grind down the clock and not allow the Baylor offense to be on the field.  Baylor is at home and brings more offense to the table but the Cougars should be able to stick around in this one.  I’m rolling with the Cougars, if they don’t turn the ball over they are a handful to deal with. 

Pick: BYU Cougars +6.5 

Utah State Aggies at UNLV Rebels

Utah State kicked off their season with a trio of victories over Washington State, Air Force and North Dakota.  Their momentum was immediately stopped when they ran into the class of the Mountain West in losses to both Boise State and BYU. They will travel to face off against a UNLV team that has been playing better but has been unable to get over the hump in their historic losing streak. 

The Aggies have a vaunted passing game, averaging 303 yards through the air (15th in nation). Their uptempo offense has been a problem for opposing defenses, they have averaged 495 total yards per game. QB Logan Bonner has thrown for 1,235 yards, while his top target Deven Thompkins has put up 639 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Aggies also have a strong ground game averaging 175 yards per game.  Utah State has a favorable matchup along with a whole week to prepare.  They have taken advantage of lesser competition all season and should be able to do it again on Saturday. 

UNLV has lost 11 straight games.  Their most recent loss to UTSA they were torched through the air by Frank Harris for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The Rebels will have to find a way to get pressure on Logan Bonner.  Bonner has had problems with turnovers over the last two weeks.  If UNLV is able to force takeaways they can stay in the game.  The Rebels have only forced 6 takeaways through their first five games and will have to be prepared for the fast paced Aggies that are averaging 80 plays per game this season.  

UNLV has to run the ball and control the clock, they do not have a defense that can match up with Utah State.  It’s simple, if Utah State holds onto the ball, they should be able to score at will.  Aggies will win in a route.  

Pick: Utah State Aggies -6

ALCS Breakdown and Prediction

Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros 

The ALCS is set. One team that has become a cornerstone of the event and a team that has come out of nowhere to shock the baseball world. The Red Sox will head to Houston for game one, for the third time in this postseason they will be the underdog. Boston is coming off a forgettable 2020 season, finishing 24-36, dead last in the AL East. The organization had to start the season without their ace Chris Sale and dealt with injuries to the pitching staff all season.They will face off with the Astros, making their fifth straight appearance in the ALCS 

Both teams have explosive offenses, ranking 2nd (Houston) and 3rd (Boston) in slugging percentage and OPS.  The Astros are 1st in the league in OBP, Red Sox are 4th.  Both teams relied on their offense to carry them in their division series matchups. 

Houston has the deepest lineup in the league. Kyle Tucker could arguably have been the best player in baseball in the second half of the season. He carried his hot streak into the NLDS, hitting two dingers and driving in seven runs.  Tucker could be in the middle of any lineup in the league but he sits in the seven spot in the Houston lineup behind a litany of all-stars and this year’s American League batting champion Yuli Gurriel.  Martin Maldonado would be the only spot in the order where you could conceivably have a “break” but manager Dusty Baker will not hesitate to pinch hit for him when necessary.  This lineup is stacked.

The Red Sox have an offense that can match the Astros for depth.  Featuring multiple power hitters up and down the lineup, they will need another solid performance from the top of the lineup to give the red hot Rafael Devers a chance to drive in runs.  Enrique Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber have to continue to set the tone the way they have so far during the playoffs. JD Martinez looks like he is healthy enough to make an impact giving the Red Sox the full allotment of their talent.  

Pitching has been a question for Boston most of the season. Can their staff match up with the vaunted Houston offense.  Chris Sale is coming off a forgettable start against the Rays in game 2.  Eduardo Rodriguez has been inconsistent to say the least. The Sox have been forced to rely on the resurgent Nathan Eovaldi and their bullpen to get them to this point. The secret weapon of the Boston staff is Tanner Houck.  Houck pitched in three games during the NLDS, surrendering just three hits in his seven inning pitched.  Houck along with newly appointed closer Garrett Whitlock give Boston two pieces that they will be able to go to at any time.  The Red Sox were able to make it work in a smaller series but they may be stretched thin in a full seven game series.  

The Astros were able to get two starts out of Lance McCullers in the division series. They will need his stability in this series against the power bats of the Red Sox.  After McCullers, the Astros will have Framber Valdez who has the ability to handle the right-handed power bats of the Red Sox.  The Astros still don’t know what they are going to get out of Zack Greinke, but they have their own weapon that could be used in the bullpen or as a starter in Cristian Javier.  Javier could play a big role due to his ability to be versatile.  Unlike the Red Sox the Astros know exactly what they want to do in their bullpen.  If their starters can get them to the fifth or sixth, you line up Ryne Stanek, Kendall Graverman and Ryan Pressly to seal the deal. 

The similarities between these two teams is pretty remarkable. They are offensive juggernauts that are still trying to piece together what they want to do with their pitching.  The Sox are led by former Astros coach Alex Cora who has brought in a lot of the same concepts on the offensive side of the ball  (not sign stealing).  The Red Sox have the power to compete with the Astros, ultimately it will come down to the pitching depth Houston brings to the table and their home field advantage.  The Red Sox are a great story, but Chris Sale doesn’t seem right and after Nathan Eovaldi Boston has too many questions in their rotation.  Boston has enough to win a few games but the Astros are just  better defensively and on the mound.  Houston will get a scare by losing game one, but the Astros will regroup and take the series at home. 

Pick: Astros in 5

NCAAF Week 6 Picks ATS

East Carolina Pirates at Central Florida Knights -10

Two teams heading in different directions meet this weekend when the East Carolina Pirates, coming off of 3 straight wins, take on the Central Florida Knights, coming off of 2 straight losses.  

Central Florida brings name value to this game, which is why they are getting ten points against a powerful offensive unit.  The Pirates are averaging 30 ppg this season behind fourth year QB Holten Ahlers and freshman RB Keenan Mitchell.  The latter has been a force on the ground, averaging 9.4 yards per carry on the season, coming off a dominant effort against Tulane.  Mitchell went for 222 yards and two touchdowns against Tulane.  The ECU offense will have an advantage against the Knights.  UCF will not be able to stop the ground game and as long as they hold onto the ball they will be able to score at will.

UCF will have to deal with the loss of QB Dillon Gabriel.  In his place is Mikey Keene, who has been solid this season but does not bring the resume of Gabriel.  UCF will have to take advantage of the ECU’s poor pass defense, that is giving up 320 yards through the air. They will have to throw because it looks like leading rushers Isaiah Bowser could possibly miss the game.  

Both of these teams share the same problem, they seem to ignore the defensive side of the ball.  The Knights are not the contenders of a few seasons ago, they will have trouble pulling away from East Carolina, this is a one score game and potentially an upset pick. 

Pick: East Carolina Pirates +10, over 67

Michigan State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights Total 50

Michigan State has exploded up the CFB rankings with a hot start to the season. With victories over Northwestern, Nebraska, Western Kentucky and Miami the Spartans have found themselves ranked #11 in the country. They also take care of business, covering the spread in 3 of 4 games.  The Spartans have been a top notch offensive team all season, they have averaged 37 points per game.  RB Kenneth Walker has been an unstoppable force, he leads the nation in rushing yards with 680 and top five in TD’s with 8.  Rutgers will have to stack the box to slow him down,  but all they will be able to do is slow him down rather than stop him. If they do stack the box, QB Payton Thorne will pick them apart efficiently.  Thorne has 11 TDs and just one interception on the season.  He will get a lot of man to man coverage that his talented receivers will be able to exploit.  

Michigan State’s secondary has been troubling.  Last week the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers lit them up and it was the same story against Miami and Northwestern.  They have given up an average of 300 yards through the air this season.  Rutgers is a run first team but QB Noah Vedral has the ability to throw the deep ball and will test the secondary.  Rutgers has been dominated by superior talent but they should be able to put the points up on the board to keep it competetive at home.  

Michigan State has hit the over in 3 of 5 games and will be able to move the ball for explosive plays consistently on the ground. Rutgers will just need to get in the end zone twice against Michigan State, I see this as a route for the Spartans in the second half leading to a nice higher scoring victory.

Pick: Over 50

Alabama Crimson Tide at Texas A&M Aggies

The Aggies are coming off of two straight SEC losses, one on the road to a revamped Arkansas team and at home against Mississippi State. They will welcome in the Alabama Crimson Tide who reminded us who is the top dog in the conference and in all of college football by putting a beating on Ole Miss last week 42-21. 

Texas A&M has not only lost their last two games, but they have looked abysmal on offense.  In both losses they totaled less than 300 yards of total offense and still have a lot of questions at the QB position.  The Aggies have more turnovers than touchdowns this year. A team that can’t hold on to the football will now get to face the SEC’s top turnover margin team.  Bama will be able to get constant pressure on QB Zac Calzada and force him into long yardage situations, the worst nightmare for A&M.  

Since their close call to Florida three weeks ago the Crimson Tide have been as impressive as can be.  They held Heisman hopeful Matt Corral to just 213 yards and one touchdown.  They ran all over Ole Miss, gaining over 200 yards on the ground.  Alabama RB’s are dealing with some injuries but should be good to go on Saturday.  The Crimson Tide will have to deal with a tough Aggie defense but they are still going to be able to put up the points necessary to pull away in the end.  The A&M offense does not have the ability to put up the points to make this one interesting. Let’s not ignore the fact that Aggie Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has given Saban’s squad some nice bulletin board material with some comments in the Houston Chronicle.  The dogs will not be called off and Crimson Tide will make another SEC statement.

Pick: Alabama -18

AL Wild Card Preview and Prediction

The world wanted madness.  The AL Wild Card race was looking to try and give us that Michael Bay explosive scene that could captivate the sports world.  On Sunday we didn’t get the madness we hoped.  The Red Sox and Yankees retained order, winning their games and forcing the clock to strike midnight for playoff cinderellas, Seattle and Tornonto.  While we didn’t get the excitement we hoped for heading into a potential game 163 for multiple teams, we did however get a matchup between two historic rivals that will no doubt be a huge part in rebuilding a modern day rivalry that has taken a backseat to many over the last few years.  This game will be an epic encounter that will likely help decide the future aspirations of both teams.  The Red Sox will have decisions to make as they continue to rebuild their farm system, they overachieved in 2021, while the Yankees, many would say underachieved.  New York has a bloated roster full of expensive pieces that if they do not work will have to be shuffled in order to find the right formula, something that will be a challenge for years to come.  Both of these historic organizations need to make their run now before the upstart Blue Jays and their young core make them an afterthought in the years to come.  This game will not only be before the Wild Card, but potentially the future of these franchises for the next five – ten years. 

Pitching Matchup: Gerrit Cole vs Nathan Eovaldi 

The Yankees had the luxury of saving their ace Gerrit Cole for just this suation, a do or die situation on the road.  Cole has not been good against Boston this year, in four starts this season he is 2-2 with a 4.51 ERA and an opponent OPS of .852.  Cole has a career record of 8-4 with a 2.68 ERA in the playoffs including a loss in his only Wild Card start for the Pirates in 2015. Much like the Yankees, Cole has been pretty even statistically on the road when compared to home.  The Yankees will have a short leash if necessary, due to the depth of the Yankee bullpen.  Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga and Clay Holmes will bridge the gap to Aroldis Chapman.  The Yankees would prefer to lean on Cole but they have the assets in the pen to keep them in the game if Cole is not on his game. 

Nathan Eovaldi has become an All-Star in 2021.  He stepped into the role left by Chris Sale at the beginning of the season, he was the ace of this Red Sox team all season. Eovaldi finished the season with 11 wins and 3.75 ERA, most notably though was his 1.19 WHIP and a FIP of 2.79.    Eovaldi has a challenge ahead of him, facing one of the best teams in baseball at taking pitches.  In his career the Red Sox starter has been very good against the Yankees, through 71 innings pitched he had just a 3.64 ERA.  If you take out his most recent start on Sept 24th against the Yankees his career numbers are very good.  He is a veteran that will not be intimidated by the moment.  Eovaldi will not be asked to do more than he is capable of, his job will be to keep the Red Sox in the game and let the offense win it in the end.

Offense

Both teams went out and addressed needs during the season.  The Yankees were dealing with injuries to Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks, they went out and got Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo. The Red Sox needed some more thump in the lineup so they went out and added slugging outfielder Kyle Schwarber.   

The Sox have one of the deepest lineups in baseball, averaging 5.12 runs per game on the season.  They are second in baseball in slugging percentage and 3rd in batting average.  The depth of the lineup has been huge all season, Bobby Dalbec has become a force in the lineup, popping 25 homers  on the season from the 7th spot in the lineup.  The key will be the top of the lineup, Enrique Hernandez has owned Gerrit Cole in his career going 5-for-11, while Rafael Devers has three homers in 19 at-bats against the Yankees ace.   The Red Sox will need to jump on Cole early on in order to get the crowd into the game and put pressure on the Yankee offense that will be down a lot of key contributors.  

The Yankees will be without DJ LeMahieu at the top of the order. In his absence they have turned to Gleyber Torres, who has performed admirably in his absence but overall has not put together a stellar season.  Torres will have to get on base in order to force Eovaldi to pitch to the crowded middle of the Yankees order.  Aaron Judge and Gianocarlo Stanton will provide the pop needed to jump on Eovaldi similarly to the way the Yankees jumped on him in his last start against the Bronx Bombers.  That start saw him leave in just the third inning after giving up seven runs.  New York was patient that night, forcing Eovaldi to throw a lot of pitches, a number of the hits he gave up came on 4+ pitch at bats.  If the Yankees are patient they will get pitches to hit and have the bats that can make it a tough day for the Fenway faithful. 

Final Verdict

In a winner take all situation I tend to lean with the team that has the better pitching.  The Yankees will have their ace on the mound and a bullpen that had a 3.66 ERA in the regular season (compared to Bostons 3.99).  The difference though may be the depth of the lineup favoring the Red Sox.  With Cole on the mound Gary Sanchez will likely be on the bench in favor of Cole’s personal catcher Kyle Hishioka.  That takes a power bat out of the lineup along with the table setter in LaMhieu.  New York will need all the runs it can muster against a Boston lineup that can be dangerous 1-9 and will have a huge home field advantage.  

Red Sox win 4-2

College Football Picks Week 5

USC Trojans at Colorado Buffaloes +7.5, Total 51

Colorado enters this game losing their last three while scoring just 20 total points.  Colorado’s offense has been unable to provide any production this season.  Starting QB Brendon Lewis has only thrown for 338 yards in their four games and their leading receiver has a grand total of 45 yards.  It’s safe to say that Colorado would prefer to keep this a slow paced game that will allow them to run the ball. 

USC has looked unfocused after the loss of Head Coach Clay Helton, recently giving up 45 points in their most recent loss to Oregon State.  The Trojans have a solid QB in Kedon Slovis, but the Colorado defense has been solid against the pass and will make it tough for the USC offense.  

These two teams have both had their struggles this season.  The Buffaloes lack of offense is troubling, but being at home should help the offense run and allow them to play their slow down pace.  USC is too stacked on the offensive end to lose this game but the way both of these teams are playing I would look for this to be a sloppy affair on both ends. USC will pull away late because they actually have options that will help them score.  I think USC pulls away late but this game will finish with Colorado scoring under 14.  I like the Trojans but I love the under.

Pick: USC -7.5 Under 51

Troy Trojans at South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina is actually 3-1 ATS this season. Most of those games have been them as underdogs.  They enter a matchup with the Sun Belt Conference’s Troy Trojans as seven point favorites off the heels of a tough loss to Kentucky last weekend.  Troy is also coming off a conference loss to UL Monore.  Both teams will look to bounce back in a rather interesting stylistic matchup. 

The Trojans bring a suffocating defense to the table.  Through four games they have allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing and have sacked the QB 18 times in their four games.  Their dominant run defense will be in great shape facing a South Carolina run game that has been one of the worst in college football, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry and 84 yards per game. South Carolina is going to have to throw the ball.  

Troy has not played the level of competition that South Carolina has but the Trojans have a solid passing game, averaging 273 ypg.  The key for Troy will be continuing to put pressure on the QB and stop the run game.  Gamecocks QB Luke Doty has only thrown for 311 yards on the season and should see tons of pressure on him all day.  This game will stay close, I think it is more likely a 3 point game rather than a 7 point game.  The Gamecocks will win but it will not be easy.

Pick: Troy Trojans +7

Michigan Wolverines at Wisconsin Badgers

If you look at the records and stat lines this one seems like an easy choice.  The Badgers are coming off of a horrid performance down the stretch against Notre Dame over the weekend where QB Graham Mertz threw 4 interceptions.  Wisconsin actually led that game 13-10 going into the fourth quarter before a kickoff return by Notre Dame led to a lopsided beatdown. 

Wisconsin now has two losses in which they realistically played better than both teams. Penn State and Notre Dame both were outplayed until  QB mistakes cost them the outcome.  The pressure applied to Mertz was causing all sorts of trouble for the Sophomore. Michigan has not generated much pressure on the QB this season which should limit mistakes. 

The Badgers will be at home sporting the best run defense in all of college football while the Michigan Wolverines have become overly reliant on the run this season.  They have run the ball on over 70% of their plays this season. Michigan will have to generate offense through the air, something they have not been able to do this season.    The lack of offense will play into the hands of the Badgers and allow them to control the ball.  When Michigan can’t run they will make mistakes and the Wisconsin defense at home will thrive.

Pick: Wisconsin ML

Why the Mets stunk in 2021

It’s always hard to admit when you are wrong. It happens and this season it happened to me when I predicted that the New York Mets were going to win the NL East.  After watching a three game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals at home I realized that the New York Mets straight up stink.

On April 1st the New York Mets signed superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor to a ten-year deal.  The addition of Lindor to go along with Pete Alonso will be cornerstones of the offensive side of the ball.  The Mets organization has shown that they will do anything to get to the top of the NL East.  They continue to make moves to try and fill in their vacant spots by adding big names in the offseason.  They opened the season as one of the hottest teams in baseball, taking control of the division up until the midway point of the season.  New York went on a tailspin that they still have not gotten out of.  

Travel Issues

Teams have troubles on the road in every sport.  The best teams usually can be a few games over .500 or at the very least at .500.  If you want to compete for a playoff spot you have to be able to play on the road and the Mets are not able to do that.  Currently they are 29-44 on the road this season. In retrospect of how that has affected them in the playoff hunt, they are 5.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves who are 7 games above .500 on the road.  The difference has been the reason that they have fallen behind in the division and out of contention.

No replacements for Degrom

There is no way to replace the best pitcher in baseball. The goal of any team should be to improve the full pitching staff.  You have to find a way to mask the loss rather than look for one person to step into the role.  The Mets did their best, adding Rich Hill, Brad Hand and Trevor Williams to the pitching staff.  Unfortunately the Mets rotation saw second half regression from pitchers that they thought they could depend on.  

Tajuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, and Tylor Megill were all supposed to be relied upon to help the Mets deal with the injury to their ace.  They all were unable to fill the hole left by the best pitcher in the game and it ultimately caved in their chances at the playoffs.

Walker over his last 15 starts is 1-8 with an ERA over 6.  Post All-Star break Walker has not won a single game.  

Carlos Carrasco was the second piece picked up in the Lindor trade.  Carrasco was not just a throw-in, in 2017 he led the league in wins and sports an impressive career ERA of just 3.82.  When healthy Carrasco was a formidable piece to any rotation.  The Met’s unfortunately did not get a healthy Carrasco, limited to just 10 starts in 2021, he has not been the pitcher of 2017 and 2018, currently he sports an unimpressive 5.82 ERA in just 44 innings.  

Tylor Megill began his 2021 season looking like a diamond in the rough for the Mets.  In July Megill was lights out, pitching 26 innings and giving up just 3 runs in his 5 starts.  Since July Megill seemed to lose his control, sporting an ERA of 7.66 over his last 5 starts.  

You can’t protect Alonso

The Mets have one of the most exciting players in baseball.  Alonso has had a solid season hitting 33 dingers and knocking in 89 runs.  The addition of Francisco Lindor was supposed to help be a table setter for the powerful Alonso, but injuries and inconsistencies at the plate hurt the entire Mets lineup.  Lindor has not been the $300 million spark plug that the Mets were hoping they got.  

Lindor has not been the only problem, an injury to Michael Conforto got him off to a slow start and lineup mainstays Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith and JD Davis are all currently hitting well below their projected numbers.  The Mets as a team are slugging just .325, which ranks in the bottom five of the entire league. 

The Met’s did a great job in addressing this problem at the deadline by acquiring Javy Baez, despite my personal opinion of his abilities, Baez has put up more than solid numbers during his time with the organization.  His slash line of .301/.381/.565 is outstanding but his acquisition was too late for an offense that needed that spark from the start of the season. 

Best Bets NCAAF Week 3

Cincinnati Bearcats -3.5 at Indiana Hoosiers 

It’s strange to see a Big Ten team as a home underdog to a team outside of the power five.  That’s the case as the Bearcats head to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers.  

Hoosier QB Michael Penix Jr. has struggled since returning from his torn ACL of 2020.  A tough first contest against Iowa led to three picks and an embarrassing open to the Big Ten schedule, that was followed by a dominant effort against Idaho, in that game Penix threw for just 56 yards before getting pulled due to the lopsided score.    The Hoosiers will now have to face a veteran defense that has completely dominated the opposing offense and is coming into this matchup with a lot of confidence.  

The Bearcats have been running the ball consistently behind Jerome Ford who scored three times against Murray State.  Cincinnati’s QB Desmond Ridder has controlled the ball in their first two games throwing for six touchdowns.  The Cincinnati defense forced three picks last week and will put a lot of pressure on Penix Jr which will lead to turnovers and the Hoosier defense will have no answers for the combination of Ridder and Ford.  

This game will be the first test for the top ten ranked Bearcats, the road crowd will get Indians hyped but this is a talent mismatch.  Cincinnati is led by multiple veterans that will be able to handle the energy of the crowd.

Pick: Cincinnati Bearcats -3.5

Colorado State Rams at Toledo Rockets -14

The last time the Toledo Rockets were on the field they nearly shocked the football world by giving the Notre Dame Fighting Irish all they could handle. Rockets QB Carter Bradley lead the way going 17/27 for 213 yards, most notably he took care of the ball with zero picks while throwing downfield.  The Rockets have a strong running game led by Bryant Koback who finished last week with 122 yards on just 22 carries.  Koback has over 30 career college touchdowns and was on pace for double digits last season if it was played in full.  

Colorado State has had a horrible start to 2021 losing their first two games, one to South Dakota State and the other blowing a lead against SEC bottom dweller Vanderbilt last week. The Rams gave up an average of 175 yards on the ground and they will have a big problem coming their way with the Rockets run game.  

The Rams have not shown the ability to hold a lead on the defensive end while the Rockets have shown the ability to move the ball at will against any level of competition. Against South Dakota State the Rams were dominated by Jack Rabbit’s RB Pierre Strong Jr, going for 138 yards and two touchdowns. The Rockets will use the run game to control the ball and grind out points.  The Rams will not have an answer on the defensive end which will force them to make mistakes on the offensive end.  

Pick: Toledo Rockets -14

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Buffalo Bulls Total 58

Everyone’s favorite underdogs the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will hit the road against the MAC’s Buffalo Bulls for an exciting mid major match up.  Coastal Carolina is coming off of a thrilling 27 point cover over Kansas while the Bulls are coming off of a disappointing effort against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  This game opened with Coastal Carolina as a 10 point favorite, which ballooned to 13.5 points.

The Chanticleers come out flat against Kansas in their season opener.  Kansas QB Justin Bean was able to move the ball at will in the first half.  Bean did it on his feet while Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease will look to do it with his arm.  Vantrease will be backed up by RB Kevin Marks and Ron Cook Jr.  The Bulls play at an upbeat pace which should cause trouble for the Chanticleers defense.  

Grayson McCall and company will do what they always do and move the ball through the air and on the ground with an assortment of pieces on the offensive end. Tight End Isaiah Likely is an NFL talent while WR Javion Heiligh has scored two tuddys on the season, both will be matchup problems for the Buffalo Bulls. 

This is simple.  We know the Chanticleers will score, Buffalo has a history of scoring.  The Bulls were stopped by Nebraska last week but I think they will bounce back against a Coastal Carolina team that has not shown the ability to shut down any offense. 

Pick Over 58

NCAAF Week 2 Picks

Toledo Rockets at Notre Dame Fighting Irish -16.5

Think the Notre Dame defense may be out to make a statement on Saturday after being thrashed by the Florida State Seminoles?  I think so and they will get a shot to make a statement against a Toledo Rockets team that will look to go fast.  The Rockets have experienced skilled players to put up points but the Fighting Irish have more talent and will have a raucous crowd ready for them in their first true home game since 2019. 

Florida State was able to contain the Notre Dame run game, forcing Jack Coen to beat them (and he did).  Toledo does not have the same type of players to contain RB Kyren Williams.  I think this stays close early but the Fighting Irish pull away in the second half because of the crowd and the run game.  

Pick: Notre Dame -16.5

Eastern Michigan Eagles at Wisconsin Badgers Total 52

The Badgers were not very impressive in week one against Penn State.  This week the competition changes as they get the MAC’s Eastern Michigan fresh off a beat down of FCS St. Francis.  St. Francis was actually able to move the ball pretty well against Eastern Michigan which spells trouble for the Eagles. 

Wisconsin got a brutal performance from QB Graham Mertz who threw for just 185 yards to go along with two picks.  Wisconsin will look to get out some of their aggression against the Eagles.  The Badgers have a history of dominating MAC teams including Kent State and Central Michigan in 2019 where they won 106-0 over those two matchups. 

Eastern Michigan will look to take all the chances they can in this game and Wisconsin showed that they can give up the big pass play, giving up two long tuddy’s to Penn State last week  Eastern Michigan should be able to put up at least ten points but this game will be dominated by the Wisconsin offense that will need to squash their lesser foe to put wash away the stink of their home loss a week ago.  

Pick: Over 52

Texas Longhorns -7 at Arkansas Razorbacks 

The Razorbacks didn’t look great to start, trailing the Rice Owls 17-7 at one point in the third quarter.  That quickly turned around with 31 unanswered points, led by the running game of QB KJ Jefferson.  Arkansas leaned on the QB’s run game to carry the offense and the turnover game to carry the defense. Arkansas forced three turnovers in the second half which turned the game around in their favor.

Texas quietly had arguably the second best overall performance by any ranked team taking down #23 Ragin Cajuns without much of a sweat.  RB Bjorn Robinson had 170 all purpose yards to go along with 2 scores.  The Longhorns handled a team that was returning most of the starters that had gone 10-1 the season before with an upset over Iowa State.  Texas will now go on the road to face a hungry and improved Arkansas team. 

This will be the first road test for freshman starter Hudson Card and it will be a hostile one. His job will be to manage the game and utilize his star running back and the superior talent.  Card threw for 224 yards before being pulled late in the third quarter due to the lopsided score.  Look for Card to open it up more in this matchup as this will be a marquee showdown of the weekend between Texas and an SEC foe.  This game will come down to which quarterback plays smarter.  KJ Jeffereson cannot play wild, he will likely be given a chance to throw as the Texas defense will look to contain his running ability.  I can see him throwing a few picks down the stretch and allowing the Texas run game to take over and control the game.  

Pick Texas Longhorns -7