NCAAF Conference Championships 2018

It is defacto quarterfinals weekend for many teams – its time for the Conference Championships in College Football!  With CFP spots still on the line, there is a lot up for grabs going into this weekend.  With that, let’s go into all of the Conference Championship games this weekend:

MAC Championship – Northern Illinois v Buffalo (Friday, 7:00pm, ESPN2)

A loss two weeks ago against Ohio stopped the Bulls chances of being ranked in the final CFP poll dead in their tracks, but they do get a matchup with perennial top MAC foe Northern Illinois, who is coming out of a very weak Western division.  Buffalo has been outscoring opponents big time this year, scoring over 30 points nine times this season and gets an NIU team that has been allowing more points than they’ve scored on average (19.9 to 20.9).  Quarterback Tyree Jackson has been leading the offense for the Bulls this season and doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon.
MY PICK: Buffalo over Northern Illinois, 34 – 14

Pac-12 Championship – Utah v Washington (Friday, 8:00pm, FOX)

Two great offenses face off in Santa Clara as a Rose Bowl bid is on the line.  The Huskies won in this spot two years ago while Utah looks for its first Pac-12 title.  These two teams played in Salt Lake City back in September, with Washington getting the best of the Utes.  But that was before Kyle Whittingham’s team got it going on all cylinders.  Jake Browning and Miles Gaskin came alive last week against Washington State, but the Huskies have looked like a different team when they leave their home state.  This should be thrilling and a close one.
MY PICK: Washington over Utah, 27 – 24

Big 12 Championship – Texas v Oklahoma (Saturday, 12:00pm, ABC)

The first Red River Shootout this year was one of the best games of the year, so why not do it again.  Revenge is on the line in Jerry-World, as the Sooners look to win round two against hated rival Texas.  The savior of the Longhorns program, Sam Ehlinger, and Heisman hopeful Kyler Murray look to duel it out.  A month ago, Texas looked as if all hope was lost in getting here, with back to back losses at Oklahoma State and against West Virginia, but the pieces fell in place.  Meanwhile, the Oklahoma offense has gotten the best of the rest of its foes – outscoring each since that fated day at the Cotton Bowl – although allowing monster points and yards in doing so.  Offensives will be on display in a true shootout.
MY PICK: Oklahoma over Texas, 52 – 46

Sun Belt Championship – Louisiana v Appalachian State (Saturday, 12:00pm, ESPN)

One of the most well put together and veteran teams of the Group of Five, Appalachian State, tries to go 6-0 against Louisiana in the first ever Sun Belt Championship game.  In their now five years in the Sun Belt, App State has had a share of the Sun Belt title in the last two, but looks for their first outright this year.  Louisiana gets here with first year head coach Billy Napier and off of great offensive play, with a 2000 yard passer in Andre Nunez and a 1000 yard rusher in Trey Ragas.  The Ragin’ Cajun’s have had one of the best scoring offenses in the Sun Belt this year and looks to avenge the loss they had right on this field just over a month ago; that win for the Mountaineers gave them their first AP Top 25 ranking.  A strong rushing game by Darrynton Evans will be the key for App State here.
MY PICK: Appalachian State over Louisiana, 38-21

C-USA Championship – UAB v Mid Tennessee (Saturday, 1:30pm, CBSSN)

This isn’t de-ja-vu, UAB and MTSU will be at it again in Murfreesboro for the second straight weekend.  The Blue Raiders stifled the Blazers offense last week, holding them to 3 points and 89 total yards.  I highly doubt we will see that type of game again this week, but UAB is going to need to improve greatly to be even in this game.  The Blazers offense has to run through receiver Xavier Ubosi, who has been having a great senior season.  In just its second year back from the football program being shutdown, UAB has really bounced back and no matter what the outcome is on Saturday, should be proud of making it to this point.
MY PICK: Mid Tennessee over UAB, 33-27

American Championship – Memphis v UCF (Saturday, 3:30pm, ABC)

Memphis has yet to beat UCF since they’ve been playing regularly in 2005, but they haven’t been playing like they are outmatched.  The last two matchups, here last year in this game and earlier this season, have been thrilling editions of what could be the next American Athletic Conference rivalry.  With Milton going down last week, possibly ending his career, Darriel Mack, Jr. will be leading the Golden Knights when they hit the field in Orlando.  Close friends with Mackenzie Milton, Mack will need his best to outscore a Memphis Tigers offense that has been on fire this season.  If you thought that the Big 12 Championship will be high scoring, this could very well top it.
MY PICK: UCF over Memphis, 58 – 52

SEC Championship – Alabama v Georgia (Saturday, 4:00pm, CBS)

A rematch of last year’s National Championship Game, which was the birth of the Tua era at Alabama, and of the 2012 SEC Championship Game looks to be the best game of the day.  Nick Saban looks to continue what is arguably the best season by a college football team since the 1888 Yale Football Team (who outscored opponents 694-0).  However, this will be the first challenge that Alabama will face this season, and they have not looked in the mindset these past two weeks, being tied 10-10 at halftime to FCS team The Citadel two weeks ago and struggling in the first half against Auburn; they pulled out both games in the second half, but looked far from the team was the first ten games of the season.  The Tide have won four straight in this rivalry, but all guns will be blazing in what could end up being a prelude to a possible rematch in the National Title Game this year if certain things fall in line.  By the way, Saban looks to go 16-0 against former assistants.
MY PICK: Alabama over Georgia, 34 – 24

Mountain West Championship – Fresno State v Boise State (Saturday, 7:45pm, ESPN)

The Broncos have made it (and hosted) three MW Title Games, each time having to duel it out with the Bulldogs.  They’ve won the last two, but this year they go up against the best Fresno State team they’ve faced.  These two teams played on the Smurf Turf in early November, a 24-17 Broncos win, but was one that could have gone either way.  The Bulldogs defense has been solid in their last two while the Broncos offense is firing.  Get ready for a good ole fashion matchup in Idaho.
MY PICK: Fresno State over Boise State, 28 – 27

ACC Championship – Clemson v Pittsburgh (Saturday, 8:00pm, ABC)

Clemson looks to be the first team in over two decades to win, outright, four straight conference titles.  But standing in their way is a Pittsburgh team that has never lost to Clemson, beating the Tigers in 2016 in Death Valley.  This is a much improved Pitt team, although they have been a bit Jekyll and Hyde this season.  One of the major pitfalls of Dabo lead Clemson teams – they struggle against strong running teams.  Pittsburgh loves to power through and run the rock; don’t write off the Panthers – even after they only put up 3 on Miami.
MY PICK: Clemson over Pittsburgh 32 – 21

Big Ten Championship – Northwestern v Ohio State (Saturday, 8:00pm, FOX)

The Buckeyes snuck into this game after upsetting Michigan.  They haven’t looked all that great this season, especially throughout the second half of the year, but they have gotten past these slow, defense first teams, very well, like Minnesota and Michigan (and what Northwestern runs).  Pat Fitzgerald was asked  before the season, after his third 10 win season and being ranked 17, what was next for his program and he said “win the Big Ten.”  Now, he is one step away from that.  This is a huge hurdle, but the Wildcats defense has been stopping potent offenses in their tracks.  Dwayne Haskins has struggled majorly when defenses can get pressure – and this is a defense that can get a hand in your face.
MY PICK: Northwestern over Ohio State, 21 – 18

College Football Week 13 Bets

After a couple week hiatus due to work, I’m back in time for Rivalry Week! Playoff spots are on the line across the nation and no one would rather spoil them than a rival.  Get ready for one of the most thrilling weeks of college football!

Overall: 15-15 (8 Outright)

  • SYRACUSE (+6.0) at Boston College
    • Boston College lost in a close one last week to Florida State while Syracuse got embarrassed against Notre Dame.  Both seek revenge in a rivalry game, and the Orange are mad after last year’s blowout in the Carrier Dome.  Take the Orange and the points.
  • FIU (+3.0) v Marshall
    • The road underdog is looking for its C-USA Championship birth here.  FIU has been putting up points and blowing teams out lately.  Marshall’s defense is good, but they can’t win in a shootout – give me FIU.
  • AUBURN (+24.5) at Alabama
    • It is the Iron Bowl!  No way is this going to be a blow out.  Auburn held Georgia down last week and took down Texas A&M the year before.  War Eagle will come to play today and keep it close.
  • RUTGERS (+25.0) at Michigan State
    • Rutgers has been getting points and winning with the spread, throughout the season.  I think 25 is too many points for Michigan State to cover.
  •  BYU (+11.0) at Utah
    • The Holy War has been decided by single digits for 7 of the last 8 matchups.  BYU might not have won since that overtime thrill in in 2009, but this is the best Cougars team they’ve had in years.  Utah has its spot sealed for a date with Washington next week while BYU is looking to get another win before they go bowling.  Can’t see this game being anything but the norm – a single digit game either way.

All odds from ESPN.

College Football 2018 Week 10 Bets

In the middle of one of the biggest betting weekends of the year in horse racing, I still find some time to make college football upset picks.  Of course, with the first CFP Poll out and season altering games such as Alabama-LSU, Notre Dame-Northwestern, Georgia-Kentucky, and Michigan-Penn State, this is a weekend to sit down and just enjoy all the action.  Here are my five upsets of the Saturday card:

Season: 12-13 (8 Outright)

  • AIR FORCE (+6.5) at Army
    • The Commander-In-Chief Trophy is on the line when these two military academies face off.  Air Force has already beaten Navy and a win over Army would see the Trophy come back west.  Air Force has the points scoring offense to match up with Army very well and this should be anything but a blow out either way.  A close game that might be decided by just a point.
  • IOWA (+3.0) at Purdue
    • The Boilermakers are still riding high off of their win against Ohio State, at least in the eyes of Vegas.  They didn’t look too great against Michigan State last week (but good enough to keep it close) but now face an Iowa team that wants revenge after last week’s loss in Happy Valley.  Watch out for the Hawkeyes.
  • PENN STATE (+12.0) at Michigan
    • 12 points is a huge line to give an in-conference rival.  Especially one that hasn’t lost by double digits in two years (though that game was against Michigan, and in the Big House).  I’m under the belief that Penn State’s offense will find ways to score and keep them in this game, one that could easily become a shootout.
  • COASTAL CAROLINA (+14.0) v Appalachian State
    • Last week, App State saw their quarterback Zak Thomas go down with an injury.  He has since been day-to-day and mainly sitting out of reps instead of practicing.  While I do think they still will win, the Chanticleers have been rolling strong and should put up a test to the bruised Mountaineers, keeping this game close on the surf turf.
  • TEXAS TECH (+13.5) v Oklahoma
    • It has been just a bit over two years since Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes dueled out in an absolute offensive onslaught in Lubbock.  Now the teams meet again under the lights at Jones AT&T Stadium.  The Red Raiders have been playing with a much better defense than previous years and have been scoring at will against many good teams; meanwhile Oklahoma has been on a tear since their loss in the Red River Shootout.  This could be another memorable classic, and one that should be decided by whoever has the ball last.

(All spreads from ESPN)

Breeders’ Cup 2018 – Friday Analysis

The Breeders’ Cup 2018 Weekend is about to begin, and what a way to kick off the festivities at the end of the main portion of the racing calendar.  On Friday, the Breeders’ Cup debuts the new Juvenile Turf Sprint, the start up to the rebranded Friday card – Future Stars Friday.  Five championship races for two year-olds will be on tap as we begin the World Championships of Thoroughbred Horse Racing.  Joining me to cover the Friday card is John Piassek (@theyreoff), the co-founder and handicapper for The Daily Gallop and the managing editor and handicapper for DanonymousRacing.com.

Continue reading Breeders’ Cup 2018 – Friday Analysis

College Football 2018 Week 9 Bets

Week 9 is headlined by the Florida-Georgia/Georgia-Florida rivalry in Jacksonville, a top matchup in Palo Alto between Washington State and Stanford, a tough Iowa team making the trip to Happy Valley, and Texas going under the lights against Oklahoma State trying to get another statement win in the Big 12.  But outside of those big games, there are plenty of matchups to look at and games to bet.  Here are my five upsets of the week:

Season: 10-10 (7 Outright)

  • TEXAS TECH (+ 6.0) at Iowa State
    • The Cyclones have blown out the Red Raiders the last two years… but Texas Tech has gotten themselves a defense this year.  Revenge is a sweet sweet thing and Texas Tech has been playing well.  Iowa State might have a great defense, but can’t see a blowout going their way.
  • NORTHWESTERN (+ 3.5) v Wisconsin
    • The Badgers haven’t won back to back games in Evanston since ’97/’99.  They’ve won the last two years, but Northwestern has been getting much better and rarely lets Wisconsin grab three straight as of late in this rivalry.  A win for the Wildcats would spoil Wisconsin’s chances at a Big Ten title, and put themselves in a big spot for their own Big Ten title quest.
  • USF (+ 8.0) at Houston
    • Vegas loves the Cougars this week, but without Ed Oliver, can they stop the Bulls?  USF loves to score and Houston has been playing close games against good teams.  More than a touchdown is a lot of points to give.
  • NAVY (+ 24.0) v Notre Dame (Neutral Site)
    • San Diego County Credit Union Stadium plays host to a long standing rivalry of Navy and Notre Dame.  The Irish will be heading into Navy territory on the West Coast against a team that runs a very tough to stop offense.  This will be a new look for Notre Dame to see this year and they have struggled against big underdog teams.  It is a lopsided rivalry, but never a blowout; 24 is a lot of points to give.
  • HAWAII (+ 26.0) at Fresno State
    • The Bulldogs would love to make their case for the best Group of Five team, and a big win against Hawaii would go a long way.  Hawaii’s offense hasn’t been rolling since their 5OT game against SJSU, but they will need to to beat Fresno State.  This will be Fresno State’s first tough test, and although they should win, it will be a close one.

 

(All lines from ESPN)

College Football 2018 Week 8 Bets

Heading into Week 8, we just escaped a week of chaos where ranked teams constantly went down.  What will this week hold?  Here are my 5 upsets to watch (with the spread):

Season: 7-8 (5 Outright)

  • MARSHALL (+2.5) v Florida Atlantic
    • Marshall has been scoring very easily this year, although their record may not seem like such.  FAU has been up and down this year, and unable to put together a good contest on the road.  The Herd is tough at home and should be able to win outright in my opinion against the Owls.
  • CHARLOTTE (+16.5) at Mid Tennessee State
    • Hard to see what Vegas sees here.  Can’t fathom this line being this large, but it is.  Charlotte has been playing good football this year and has a good defense; MTSU has been doing much of the same, but allows plenty of points per game.  Can’t see MTSU winning by more than 10.
  • NC STATE (+17.5) at Clemson
    • Although the Textile Bowl has been all Clemson, it hasn’t been a blowout in recent years.  I do not know what Vegas is thinking once again with this line, but two undefeated teams will clash in Death Valley, both looking for ACC supremacy, and I can’t see it being a blow out one way or another.  NC State is a very strong team up front and can exploit the weakness in Clemson’s secondary.  This is Trevor Lawrence’s first test too.
  • OREGON (+3.0) at Washington State
    • For the first time in years, the Ducks get to play Washington State with a healthy quarterback.  For years injuries have plagued Oregon against Washington State, but not this year.  The Cougars do look good, but Oregon has been much better this year and should walk out of Pullman with a win.
  • PURDUE (+12.0) v Ohio State
    • Under the lights in West Lafayette, Ohio State tries to stay undefeated against a Big Ten West foe.  They were in this spot just last year – a heavy favorite on the road in conference… and lost to Iowa.  Purdue is a very solid team, and much better than their record states.  This offense of Purdue should be gunning and should be able to exploit an Ohio State defense that struggles against the pass.  This will be a much closer game than expected.

College Football 2018 Week 7 Bets

We had a tough week last week, but time to get back at it! Due to time constraints, I will just be posting my upsets without as much explanation as per usual. With that, here are my 5 upsets to watch:

Season: 6-4 (4 Outright)

  • INDIANA (+5.0) v Iowa
    • Indiana has been putting up yards and points this season. Iowa hasn’t been blowing people out. I think when these two teams face off in Bloomington it will be a close 3pt game.
  • BALL STATE (+3.0) at Central Michigan
    • Central Michigan has one win this season, and that came against FCS Maine. Ball State is rolling with two straight as they head to Kelly/Shorts – should win outright too.
  • SAN JOSE STATE (+15.0) v Army
    • The Black Knights go cross country to face winless San Jose State at Levi’s Stadium. SJ State might be 0-5, but they aren’t getting blown out and Army isn’t blowing anyone out.
  • NEW MEXICO (+1.0) at Colorado State
    • While I’m not a fan of only getting a point, I don’t think I will need it. New Mexico puts points up week in and week out. Colorado State can’t stop teams from scoring.
  • COLORADO (+7.0) at USC
    • The Buffaloes haven’t gotten much respect this year, but the only undefeated left in the Pac-12 looks to take their offense to SoCal. Should be a good test for them but I think that their rolling offense is good enough to keep it close and maybe even beat USC.

(All Odds from ESPN at Time of Writing)

Mountaineer Magic in the Fun Belt

The Mountaineers have been hot this year! No… not those Mountaineers from the Big 12, the Mountaineers of the Sun Belt.  Calling Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, North Carolina their home, the Mountaineers of Appalachian State have been on a roll this season, allowing just 32 points in their last four games, and not allowing a single point in the second half to teams since their OT loss at Penn State week one – no other team can say that.  And we haven’t even talked a bit about any of their players.

Everyone remembers eleven years ago, when the defending back-to-back FCS National Champion walked into the Big House in the first live football action on the Big Ten Network, and stunned the college football world with a win over No. 5 Michigan.  Most couldn’t tell you what an Appalachian State was, or where they came from, or if they even knew how to play football (well… they do, in case you were wondering).  But this upstart program was far from a shocker, rather it is a program laced with history.

In 1928, a school from Boone, North Carolina, then known as the Appalachian State Normal School, put an English professor, Graydon Poe Eggers, in charge of their first football team (he would later coach their basketball team).  Although going 3-6 in their first season (a season where the Georgia Tech Golden Tornado and USC Trojans would win the National Title), it would be 1 of only 5 losing seasons for the school before 1955.  The next season, they named C. B. Johnston as head coach, a student of the six time National Champion winning Michigan coach Fielding Yost, where he led them to their first Conference Title in 1931.  But true success wouldn’t come until Duke All-American Pierce “Kidd” Brewer stepped up to the plate; in 1937, he led an unbeaten and unscored upon in the regular season Appalachian State team, outscoring opponents 206-0.  He would become the namesake of the App State stadium.

Throughout the 40s and 50s, Appalachian State would continue to perform well in the NAIA, but true success didn’t come until the move to the Southern Conference in the 70s.  Working their way into the NCAA, App State would remain steady for their first decade at the level, playing about .500 ball; in 1975, they would get key wins over East Carolina, Wake Forest, and South Carolina, three wins that went along way to securing App State a spot among the Division 1 teams.  By the 80s, they gave future Texas and Hall of Famer Mack Brown his first head coaching job, before finding their stride with two coaches, Sparky Woods, who would right the ship, and Jerry Moore, who would pilot it.  While Woods may have given App State their first two playoff births in the Division I-AA (now known as FCS), Moore took them to the playoffs in 18 of his 24 seasons at the helm.  Under Moore, they won three back-to-back-to-back FCS National Championships, had two NFL draftees, a Walter Payton Award winner, and became the first ever FCS team to receive votes in a final AP poll.

Of course, as much as history matters to many, it doesn’t matter what a team did in the past – it only matters what they do now… and App State is still doing it.  Since becoming a full time FBS member, they’ve won three straight bowl games, capping them off with a 34-0 win against Toledo in last year’s Dollar General Bowl, took a 9th ranked Tennessee team to OT in Knoxville, had an NFL draftee in Colby Gossett, and took 10th ranked Penn State to OT in Beaver Stadium (fun fact, the Michigan, Tennessee, and Penn State games all occurred on September 1st).  This season, they are averaging nearly 7 yards per play, just about 10 players on average per touchdown, and an 82% red zone scoring percentage.

The star of this team, quarterback Zac Thomas.  This sophomore lead his team out for the first time at Beaver Stadium, one of the toughest places to play, especially for a new quarterback.  Being calm and cool in the pocket, he led drive after drive, for 270 yards through the air, another 43 on the ground, and 3 total touchdowns, putting the Mountaineers in position to upset a pre-season pick for National Champion.  While they only got into OT, Appalachian State garnered enough attention to gain some votes in the Coaches Poll (although the AP Poll remained silent).  He followed up with a perfect 14 for 14 day at Charlotte, with 4 total touchdowns in the route on the road.  After their loss to Penn State, the Mountaineers would outscore opponents 204-32; Kidd Brewer would be proud.  During that time, Zac Thomas would account for 16 of the team’s 28 offensive touchdowns, with WR Corey Sutton, Kansas State transfer and life long App State fan, catching 4 of those, including a 90 yard touchdown.  Jalin Moore, who was the standout star coming into the season, reached 400 yards and six touchdowns before his most-likely season ending injury on Tuesday against Arkansas State; Moore had back-back 1000 yard rushing seasons coming into this season, and was well on pace for another.\

Now, they are creeping their way up into the Top 25, trying to join the 2016 Troy team as the only Sun Belt teams to ever be ranked in the AP Top 25.  They currently sit with 11 points on the AP Poll (good enough for 31st) and 38 points in the Coaches’ Poll (good enough for 29th).  Do they have the wins at top ranked teams like many others on the polls – no.  Do they have the toughest schedule in the nation – definitely not.  Do they have all the national eyes on them – no.  But what they do have, wins – only Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin have had more wins in their last 50 games than App State has.  And they just keep on winning.

With strength on offense and defense, Appalachian State deserves respect.  While they never will be said in the same breath as the Bamas and Ohio States of the world, they will keep on winning, the Rock will keep on rocking, and the Mountaineers will be a Group of Five team to watch for years to come, especially with games at North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Miami, Texas A&M, and Clemson scheduled over the next ten years.

So, AP Poll, Coaches Poll – you watching?

College Football 2018 Week 6 Bets

Moving on to Week 6 offers us a lot of value with games, even with some big games like the Red River Showdown and Notre Dame heading to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech.  Here are my 5 underdog points plays you should keep your eye on:

Season: 4-1 (3 Outright)

  • MARYLAND (+17.5) at Michigan
    • Going to the Big House isn’t the easiest task, but this year has seen Michigan going backwards at times while the Terps have been rising.  Michigan struggled against the two toughest teams that they’ve faced, Notre Dame and Northwestern, and Shea Patterson has yet to look like the QB to lead this Wolverines team.  They should win, but a more than two touchdowns and a field goal points spread is too much to pass up.
  • EAST CAROLINA (+10.5) at Temple
    • Hard to knock ECU with their two losses – one by a lightning delayed to the next day game to NC A&T and the other to USF during Hurricane Florence.  Otherwise, they could have easily been 4-0 entering this matchup at Temple.  Temple caught a Maryland team off guard and rolled a weak Tulsa team, but didn’t get the job done with Villanova and Buffalo – even if they win this week, they are facing a much better ECU and hard to see them winning by much.
  • AIR FORCE (+3.0) v Navy
    • It hasn’t been easy for Air Force this year, with tough road losses to FAU and Utah State, and then a stunning home loss to Nevada.  But when Navy comes to town, it is a new team in Colorado.  Navy has yet to win a game by more than a point, with two losses to teams west of the Mississippi this year.  Travelling isn’t something that the Midshipman do well and that may come to bite them against their rival.
  • BOWLING GREEN (+21.0) at Toledo
    • Heading to the Glass Bowl for this one.  Bowling Green has losses at Oregon, against a rolling Maryland, and at Georgia Tech – all teams with very good defenses.  Toledo… not so much.  Although Toledo has been hot, they have been allowing 450+ yards per game (mostly through the air) – not that Bowling Green is much better with 500+ (but mostly on the ground; Toledo is a passing team).  This will be a shootdown in the MAC – nowhere near a runaway win like the line says.
  • SOUTH ALABAMA (+11.0) at Georgia Southern
    • South Alabama has had it rough, with games at Oklahoma State, at Memphis, and at Appalachian State.  Now they go on the road to a Georgia Southern team that tries to out run you rather than outscore you like the other teams they’ve faced.  Georgia Southern isn’t going to be pulling away from the Jaguars, leaving this game much closer than the line says.

(all lines from Draft Kings at the time of writing)

Inside the Lines of Sports