Monday, August 25, 2014

College Football: 10 Games (Week 1)

Here. We. Go....

1. Texas A&M vs. SC (-10.5) - Leaning towards the Gamecocks here with the points. While aTm is set to have  fairly strong offense, their defense (as a matter of fact, every defense Sumlin has coached) has been atrocious. I think SC is going to be the eventual champion of the SEC so it makes little sense to go against them here. SC 45 aTm 21

2. UTSA @ UH (-12) - Opening up their new stadium, with O'Korn returning and a roster full of speed you have to think the Cougars are going to win big. If they don't, then questions about Levine's quality as a HC are sure to resurface. UTSA 7 UH 52

3. UCLA (-21.5) @ UVA - My pick as the eventual winner of the College Football Playoffs should roll here. This game could be the coming out party for Miles Jack and Brett Hundley. UCLA 63 UVA 10

4. Rice @ ND (-24.5) - I'm not sure if ND's overrated offense can score 25, much less against a pretty good 2nd tier team as Rice.  I think ND wins, but I think the Owls cover. Rice 17 ND 24

5. WVU @ 'Bama (-26) - The trendy pick is WVU, thinking that Coach Dana Holgerson needs a big year to keep his job. He does need a big year, but it's not going to start off well against a Tide team that's reloaded. WVU 3 'Bama 42

6. Clemson @ UGA (-8) - Struggling a little bit with this one. Both teams have lost a lot in the off-season so there's a huge unknown factor here.  That said, I think UGA is still going to be pretty good while I see a big fall-off for Clemson. Clem 14 UGA 35

7. Florida St. (-17.5) vs. OSU - 'Noles roll.  That is all. Fl. St 56 OSU 20

8. North Texas @ Texas (-24) - Call me crazy, but I like North Texas here.  Not to win mind you, but to beat the spread against a team with a new coach and uncertainty at several positions. N.Texas 21 UT-Austin 35

9. Wisc vs. LSU (-4.5) - Running against type I think Wisconsin wins this game outright. Wisc 24 LSU 21.

10. Boise State vs Ole Miss (-10) - This year, we'll be able to quiet the Boise State crowd early. Boise State 14 Ole Miss 42.

I will never bet on Michigan, but will discuss the game every week:

Appalachian State @ Michigan (-34.5) - Go Blue and all of that but 34 1/2 points?  I hope Michigan wins, and if they don't, I think this is the end for Hoke, but I don't see them covering this.  App St 24 Blue 42

Regardless, good luck to you this weekend and here's hoping your teams, and wagers, are winners.

Friday, August 15, 2014

College Football: 10 Games Introducton

Many people are pointing at August 28th as the first "day" of the 2014 College Football season. That's not true.  The first game to be played is Sam Houston State University vs. Eastern Washington University pitting the pre-season number 1 ranked FCS team in all the land against the National runners-up the last two years running.

Eastern Washington has a great college QB and a heck of an offense.  Sam Houston has a lot of questions with a new coach (and new players at key offensive position) so this game could either be a back n' forth monster (Remember: EWU is going to have very little game tape on Sam) or it could be a blowout either way.

Unfortunately, there are no lines on FCS football (yet) so we'll omit them from our weekly 10 game ATS challenge and focus instead on the games that begin August 28th.

This year, to reflect wagering reality, the lines in question will come from the LVH Superbook as reported by the linemakers for Sporting News.  Bets and predictions are accurate as of the day of the post only, and I'm not going to track any line moves.

The goal, as you've seen before if you've read my blogs for any length of time, is to spend just an average amount of time on 10 games per week in an effort to crack 50% and (theoretically) turn a profit.

As a reminder: Since I don't live in a State where sports gambling is legal and my day job would not look kindly on me engaging in illegal activity I will not actually be placing these bets. Consider this more a social experiment to see if a normal schlub can obtain similar results as the so-called "services" which really just exist to take your money.

I won't spend more than 10 minutes researching each game, and I'll always provide a Michigan prediction (because I'm a fan) although I'd never lay money on them.  I'll also try to include Texas teams (when possible) because I live in Houston.

It's important to remember that I'm not predicting these to be the 10 "best" games of the week.  These games will be the ones that I think have profit potential.

Right now I'm in the process of selecting the 10 games for the first game of the week.

Good luck this year, and make some money.

Monday, August 11, 2014

College Football: The New Playoff should be easy to predict....

...provided the members of the panel are honest brokers.

IF you believe, as do I, that winning one's conference is a prerequisite to winning the National Championship then 4 of the 5 winners of the major conferences should get an invitation to the dance.  Yes, there will be exceptions if, should one year, two conferences have a down year or a 4-loss division winner pulls an upset but, for the most part, it should be pretty clean.

If you run on that assumption then it makes sense that your College Football Playoff predictions would mirror your Conference predictions.  This lies outside rankings, numbers, 30 people meeting in a room etc.  It's just simple math.

Because of this I'm predicting the following 4 teams will receive invitations to the newly minted College Football Playoff:

1. Ohio State (Champions - B1G)
2. Florida State (Champions - ACC)
3. UCLA (Champions - PAC 12)
4. South Carolina (Champions - SEC)

I think SC goes in with 2 losses but, by upsetting Alabama, they get the 4th seed. UCLA (with one loss) probably deserves the 2 seed but will get the 3 seed because....West Coast.  Florida State and OSU will battle all year long for the first seed, with OSU winning out after an impressive B1G Championship rout over Iowa.

In the Championship Game I think it will be Ohio State and UCLA with the Bruins coming out on top for the championship in 2014/2015.

And yes, I've backed that up on a futures wager in Las Vegas.  That would be the Bruins at 25/1

The weekly pick-em and odds tracker will be up before the first games are played on the 28th of August. At that point I'll continue my mission to prove you can beat 50% (and turn a profit) without an expensive gaming service and with just a modicum of research. (after all, we all have jobs right?)

Good luck this season, make a ton.

Houston Texans: Pre-Season game 1 has changed the conversation.

Before Saturday, the Houston Texans had roster full of talent that just needed to be coached up. After Saturday the new mantra is that this roster is so bereft of talent Rick Smith is a goner after the season. How quickly things can change in what pundits are now suggesting is a "meaningless" game (just a few days after telling us how important that it was to the team.)

Despite Bob McNair's Drayton-like proclamations to the contrary, the Texans are in a rebuilding mode. If McNair can't see that then he's part of the problem. The biggest problem with the Texans 32-0 loss against the Arizona Cardinals is that the team was so inept there were several players who didn't even get to play.  This makes analysis difficult.

That said, here's my quick and dirty review of where they stand position by position....

Quarterback: The prognosis for this position is grim. If there's a place beyond grim then that's where the Texans are. We've known (when being honest with ourselves) that The Fitz is not the answer. Neither is Keenum, and it's way, way to early to tell w/Savage. If things continue on this path then I've a feeling that the Texans game 1 starter might not be on the roster right now. That's dismal.

Running Back: Alfred Blue has promise, Grimes is an OK back-up, Arian Foster will not be with the team past this season (good riddance) and Brown was a no-show. One of the few things the Texans did well on Saturday was run the ball. Had Notre Dame not invented the forward pass way back when they might have had a chance to win.

Wide Receiver: This team's receiving corps is still Andre Johnson and his back-up brigade. I haven't had a chance to view the All-22 game film yet but, from what I could see on the pitiful ABC 13 broadcast, this group of receivers sticks to corner backs like Elmer's glue.

Tight Ends: Salary cap hell forced the Texans to give up most of their good ones. That's pretty much all you need to know.

Offensive Line: Duane Brown & Chris Meyers are good, everyone else would be either a back-up or on the practice squad (or worse) for almost any other NFL team.  This is a horrid unit that's been both a victim of bad drafting, and Rick Smith's inability to manage the salary cap. No matter who's your QB, they're going to struggle behind this line.

Defensive Line: The starting DL has a chance to be pretty good. JJ Watt is excellent and with Crick, Powe and Nix (if healthy) there's some depth here as well. Probably the best unit on the Texans roster.

Linebackers: Whitney Mercilus is looking more and more like a bust or, more probably, a bad fit for the 3-4.  He's a 4-3 DE who is lost playing at the OLB position. Brooks Reed is a back-up, and the rest of the LB corps is desperately waiting for Cushing to return.  The talent is so thin on this group there's a chance it's among the worst LB groups in the league. Clowney had a good play, and looked lost for the rest of the game. He's got talent but he could be another Mercilus if not handled correctly.

Defensive Backs: This is the worst unit on the field, behind QB, that the Texans have. They might have heard of the concept of covering WR's, but they don't seem to have any idea how to put it into practice.

Special Teams: Who knows? The kickers didn't kick, the return game was anemic and the coverage game was spotty.

As hard as it is to believe, Saturday's game wasn't as close as the 32-0 score suggests. The Cardinals didn't play as well as I think they can and they dropped a couple of should-have-been-sure-fire interceptions to boot.

Perhaps the most telling series of the entire game was the first Texans offensive possession in the 2nd half. They started off with a delay of game penalty, and then proceeded to be penalized on the next five plays. It was an inept performance by a team that didn't seem like it was ready to suit up for the game.

If there's a silver lining to all of this it's that this was the first game the Texans played under a brand new system so you would imagine that things will get better as they move forward. It's tempting to say they can't get any worse but that's not true. We still haven't seen a pick-6 after all.  This week means that the Atlanta Falcons (and HBO's Hard Knocks) come to town so we'll get a good picture of the Texans talent two Tuesdays from now.

Hopefully this was just first-game jitters, that the team is not this much of a disaster. Maybe playing at NRG helps them out a little bit?

Or maybe, we're seeing just what this team really is. It's more likely that 2-14 wasn't a fluke and that dodgy drafts and bad cap management have placed the Texans in a big hole. If that's the case then they're really starting all over again. For a team that's done that twice in the last 12 years that's a pretty awful thing for Texans fans to have to face.

Fingers crossed that things get better.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

College Football: The Also-Rans

I've made the prediction previously that College Football is on the doorstep of a major sea change.  What we currently think of (falsely) as "Division 1" (Or FBS, whatever) is really an amalgamation of 5 'power' conferences and 5 conferences who's members really just want to migrate to one of the big 5.

Because of this dichotomy, fans of universities who are members of the AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt Conference delude themselves into thinking they are playing big-time college football when, in fact, they just aren't.  This doesn't mean that they're at the Division 1-AA level (or, FCS, whatever) but that they're not really competing against the SEC, PAC-12, ACC, B1G or Big-12 even.

None of the champions of these conferences has much chance of being included in the College Football Playoff even IF they go undefeated.  That said, they're still going to play so I'm still going to predict champions, and also where Texas teams will finish.

Let's go alphabetically:

American Athletic Conference:

Champion: Cincinnati - The Bearkats have been a pretty good program for quite a while now, despite not having the resources many of the top teams possess. They are, in my opinion, pretty clear favorites here.

Texas Teams:

Houston (3rd): Picking the Cougars any higher than 3rd is a reach. Yes, they have a lot of talent but UCF and Cincinnati have more. It will be interesting to see if the defense can continue to turn the ball over at the same rate as last year. On offense the O'Korn/Greenberry connection will be exciting.

SMU(6th): I want to pick SMU higher here, but I just can't.  Coach Jones needs to find a QB and a defense stat. Still, with their offense (a combination of the Air Raid and Run n' shoot) they should pile up some gaudy statistics.

Conference USA:

Champion: Marshall - Like Cincinnati the Herd are simply the best team in the conference by a mile on paper.  They also have a head coach in Doc Holliday with the best coaching name in recent memory.

Texas Teams:

Rice(1st Western Division, runner-up) Rice will make the conference championship game (again) but will lose to Marshall. HC David Bailiff has done a great job here.

UTSA (2nd Western Division) - That we're even seriously considering the fact that UTSA plays in a bowl speaks volumes regarding the job HC Larry Coker has done.  5 years ago this was a team on paper only.

North Texas (4th Western Division) - With a new stadium, new conference and revamped facilities North Texas could be a directional school on the rise.

UTEP (6th Western Division) - It's hard to rebuild in El Paso.  This school could be on the bottom for a few years.


Champion: Bowling Green - They have the most talent, and a good HC in Dino Babers. Fortunately for Babers, former HC Clawson left the cupboard stocked with talent.

Mountain West:

Champion: Utah State - I'm going out on a limb here and saying that Boise State will NOT win the conference championship. Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton is a Cy-Fair ISD product who is coming back from injury and is probably the most talented player in the conference. He'll get that small conference, not a real chance-in-hell Heisman talk.

Sun Belt:

Champion: University of Louisiana-Lafayette. - The Rajin' Cajun's have been around or near the top of this catch-all conference for a while now. This is really just a home to teams with no natural fit, or those teams trying to make the jump from D-1AA to D-1. (See: Texas State)

Texas Teams:

Texas State (6th) - Coach Dennis Franchione has some youth issues this year but I think the Bobcats are still positioned to pass UH as the top lower-tier Texas college football team sometime in the near future.

Other thoughts: Once the Big 5 conferences change to the Really Big 4 (consisting of either 16 or 18 teams) then these five conferences will form the nucleus of Division II. (or whatever silly name they'll call it.)  I still think they'll play in the smaller bowl games (omitting the former B(C)S bowls and some other key bowls which will remain the exclusive domain of the top tier) and they might even contest their own championship.

There will be, of course, much wailing and gnashing of teeth but for most of these schools uncoupling from the bigger football powers will be a financial blessing not a curse.

Friday, August 8, 2014

College Football: The SEC is the lead dog, everyone else has the same view.

No Conference in College Football took advantage of the B(C)S than the SEC.  Not only did they win 9 of the 16 B(C)S Championships, but they won 7 in a row and parlayed that into a lucrative partnership with ESPN to create the SEC Network which is launching on August 14th.

These are the salad days for the SEC. They have the best talent, the best coaching and the best facilities across the board. They make policy in college football and they (along with the ACC) will drive the sport either forward or backward as they please.

That said, I don't think they will be as dominant in the new 4-team playoff system for a couple of reasons: One, part of their dominance was due to the fact that both Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are the best in the business when given a lot of lead-time to prepare. 2. These things run in cycles, and expansion/realignment is going to have a big effect on who has power going forward.

For 2014/2015 the SEC will consist of 14 teams divided equally into two divisions. (East and West).  I'll get to my picks shortly but first, a bold prediction:

Alabama will not receive an invitation to the 2014/2015 College Football Playoff.


1. South Carolina - Steve Spurrier (The Old Ball Coach) is having fun in SC. He's also got one of the better teams he's ever had at his disposal this year.

2. Florida - They get this spot, sort-of, by default.  The East is not very strong this year.

3. Georgia - I expect the "fire Mark Richt" movement to pick up some steam. Georgia is an against-the-SC-grain pick for the top spot but I think they're replacing too much.

4. Missouri - A good coach in Gary Pinkel, some decent talent. Overmatched against the bigger schools.

5. Tennessee - Showed some signs of life last year. Will take a small step back this year but could be a team on the rise soon.

6. Kentucky - Is it basketball season yet?

7. Vanderbilt - Lost their coach and all of their NFL quality players.  Starting the next 5-10 year rebuilding plan.  Does wonders for conference academic ratings however.


1a. Alabama 
1b. Auburn
1c. LSU     

Yes, I realize this is a cop-out, but all three of these teams are filling huge holes left by the NFL draft. It will be impossible to get a real feel until some actual games are played.

4. Ole Miss - At some point all of that talent has to pay off.

5. Texas A&M - As much as people are obsessing over the loss of Johnny Manziel, I actually think that QB is one position where the Aggies are OK. What they had better do is learn how to play defense. The jury is still out on whether or not HC Kevin Sumlin can field one.

6. Mississippi State - The Bulldogs just don't have the resources to compete consistently with the rest of the conference.

7. Arkansas - Karma I'm not a fan of Bielema as a coach. I think he rode the coattails of Alvarez after Barry retired (Alvarez was still a part of Wisconsin for Bielema to fall back on after he retired.) and I think we're seeing just how out of his depth he is.

Conference Champion: South Carolina (Receives invitation to College Football Playoff)

Other thoughts: The SEC is given the title of "best conference" but, for quite some time, this has only been true at the very top.  The fact is the bottom 10 of this 14-team conference are not very strong.  This has been a hidden problem for the SEC for a while now, something that they've taken to covering up with hilariously weak OOC scheduling.

This year there are so many questions surrounding the top teams that I don't see a possible scenario (as some are suggesting) that they receive a 2nd playoff berth.  As a matter of fact, I'm fairly confident they only get one, and might even lose in the first round depending on seeding.

One thing in their favor: The rankings people (who's thoughts will be taken into consideration by the committee) love them some SEC regardless of how many flaws it appears they have.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Soccer at NRG: A bad field, a bad crowd, a bad report.

Last night Italian Serie A power AC Milan beat Mexican League stalwart Chivas 3-0 in a game that will be remembered more for horrible turf and turnout than it will be remembered for good play. In fitting with the horrible conditions and crowd, the Chron's soccer beat writer mailed one in when reviewing the game:

AC Milan's 3-0 win over Chivas marred by poor field conditions, Jose de Jesus Ortiz,
You don't risk ruining your Ferrari on a country road in Porter, and that's exactly the dilemma AC Milan and Chivas faced while contemplating whether to play their friendly match at the Texans' stadium.
Mario Balotelli and AC Milan ultimately took the pitch and beat Chivas 3-0 before a crowd of 14,871, the smallest attendance figure for an international match at NRG Stadium.

Not mentioned in the article is the fact that, despite the horrible field conditions, Balotelli was awesome, scoring two goals and proving too much for the CONCACAF fueled Chivas de Guadalajara to handle.

How bad was the field?

That bad.

In fact, it was an embarrassment to the folks that run NRG.  The stadium was also dumpy looking on TV, with all of the bunting and padding removed the stadium more closely resembles a bomb-shelter. Add to this the fact that it was 2/3 empty and you have a failure on a massive scale. Why there wasn't an effort to play this game at the Dynamo/Dash stadium (Compass Bank Stadium) I'll never understand.

As is his wont, Ortiz doubles down on being incorrect by throwing in this nugget:

Houston soccer fans are sophisticated. AC Milan took Houston fans for granted. Subsequently, the promoters got what they deserved, a crowd worthy of their horrendous pitch.

Houston soccer fans are NOT sophisticated. They're just about on par with the fans in Portland who were chanting "USA!" as a multi-national group of "all-stars" eeked out a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich.  That's right, the best and brightest of the entire American professional LEAGUE struggled to beat one TEAM from the Bundesligua.

And fans chanted USA! to a group of players that included representatives from Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Canada and Nigeria.  American soccer fans, as passionate as they may be, are NOT sophisticated. These are people who think that blocks of four behind the ball is somehow less defensive of a set up than a flat five or six. (Seriously, I had someone argue that with me on Twitter)

Not that it's the Houston fans who were at fault here. The real problem was the promoters: Texas Lone Star Sports & Entertainment and SNG-NRG Park. Both of these companies mailed it in to a degree that there was no advertisement to speak of, and almost no-one knew that AC Milan would be in town.

Ortiz, mysteriously, blames AC Milan for this.  Now, it is his M.O. to prop up the Mexican Leagues as Gods among men, so you really shouldn't expect anything different here.  Fortunately, you don't get anything different.  What you get is a fluff quote from Chivas suggesting that they "heart Houston" and then a bunch of conjecture that AC Milan just blew Houston off. Given that we don't know how the promoters (who got everything else wrong) drew up the itinerary this is a preposterous statement to make. It's opining on the part of the reporter and any decent editor would have sent it back for re-writing.

For a city that yearns to be "world class" I'm never amazed when Houston is frequently less than so. Whether it's poorly planned or executed events or the sub-par media coverage of them, the norm in Houston is to do things half-assed and then blame others for the failure.

College Football: The Pac-12 is a lot of fun, too bad many in America don't pay much attention.

When it comes to pure quality of football, the brand employed by the current Pac-12 Conference could stand at the top of the heap. This doesn't mean that I consider them the top conference however (that distinction still falls in the lap of the SEC) but there can be little doubt that the Pac-12 is rising rather than falling of late, and the prognosis is positive.

Unlike the Big Twen and the B1G, the Pac-12 is mathematically sound.  They also have two teams that I think might have legitimate shots at the National Championship this year. First things first, however, the eventual winner of this conference is going to have to run a gauntlet that is very intimidating.

In 2014 the Pac-12 will have 14 teams who are divided into both the North and South divisions. Unlike other conferences it's likely that the eventual champions of the each division might be the two best teams in the conference as both are strong.  I also expect the year's Heisman Trophy winner to come out of this conference in the form of either Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota.



1. Oregon - Even without Chip Kelly this Oregon team is still loaded with speed and talent. Mariota is the best QB to come through this program ever.

2. Stanford - They have the best coach in the league, and a ton of physical talent. Not as fast as Oregon but they out-muscle faster teams on a regular basis.

3. Washington - If there's a dark-horse candidate to win the division, it's the Huskies.

4. Oregon State - The Beavers are lacking talent in several key positions on both sides of the ball.

5. Washington State - Coach Leach will keep it interesting, but still needs to bring in his type of talent. Playing some defense would also help.

6. California - It's a school that cares more for it's liberal reputation than fielding a winning team. At the bottom is where they are going to reside for years to come given their lack of resources.


1. UCLA - Might be the best team in the Conference. At least, I think so.

2. USC - Recovering from the Layne Kiffin error. Still has a ton of tradition and talent to fall back on.

3. Arizona State - Yes, Coach Graham is a pompous jerk, but he can coach and they do have talent.

4. Arizona - Last year proved that Rich Rod can still coach, this year will be an even tougher challenge as he tries to find a QB and starting RB.

5. Utah - The Utes are struggling to find their role within the conference. One wonders if they are going to be able to seriously compete with the other teams at a recruiting level?

6. Colorado - The Buffalos are a mess. Contenders with Purdue, Virginia and Arkansas for worst team in major college football.

Conference Champion:  UCLA (Receives invitation to College Football Playoff)

Besides determining the PAC-12 Champion I think the conference championship will go a long way to determining who wins the Heisman Trophy.  IF, voters are smart and hold their ballots until the end of this game I think the winner is the QB who leads his team to victory.  Although I think Mariota is the better talent (and NFL prospect) and think that Hundley has a better team around him.

Other thoughts: Unfortunately for the PAC-12, most of their games are played when the East Coast media talking-heads are tucked comfortably in their beds.  This has caused them to fly a little bit under the national radar and has led almost everyone to be slow in realizing the conferences resurgence of late.  I've been tooting the PAC-12 horn for about 5 years now. I subscribe to the PAC-12 Network so I can watch their games late Saturday night and they are among the most enjoyable of the day.

This conference is another one that I think will be key in the reorganization of college football.  Currently at 12, I believe they eventually want to expand to 16 and will take those four teams from the current Big Twen.  I've a feeling they would like to do this after the Longhorn Network deal runs out but their hand might be forced by either the SEC or ACC before that.  It's known that they covet Oklahoma and are willing to accept OSU as part of the deal. They (and any conference really) would be silly to not want UT-Austin, especially now that DeLoss Dodds and his ego are out of the way.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Houston Texans: Making so much out of such a little thing.

Yesterday the Houston Texans released their first depth chart of the 2014 pre-season to which the Chron's fading sports team responded with a chub, listing the starters sans position and a loosely related slide-show. The Houston Press (Houston's former alt-weekly, current livejournal) provided us with something from Jeff Balke that, sort of, provides analysis.

So while the former newspaper of record is wandering around the perimeter of "do as little as possible" (probably due to having little access to the current regime), the alt-media is running stream-of-consciousness musings and talk radio is busy obsessing over the jerkiness of Arian Foster the public is left to self-analyze in the chron.comments:
Whitney Mercilus was a first round pick and can't even make the starting team his third year in the league.
While the Mercilus "demotion" to 2nd string is a worry, there are other points regarding the Texans' first depth chart that should be made by those who are paid to make such points, but are not.

Offensive Line is a worry: The Texans O-line is weak across the board, with the exception of Duane Brown, and there is little experienced depth should injuries occur. Given that this is the NFL where injuries almost always occur, one has to worry about the health of the QB's trying to operate behind that line.

Running back is a question mark: The easy line is "wait until Arian Foster gets healthy".  The reality is that Arian is an overused RB who is coming off major back surgery. Furthermore, the depth behind Arian is suspect, at best. Andre Brown is a journeyman, Dennis Johnson has shown flashes of competency, but only flashes and Alfred Blue is a rookie who was dogged by health issues throughout his college career.  Then there's the problem (not talked about much) that Foster is a stretch back whose fit into a power running system is questionable, at best.

Linebacker is a concern: The mantra that Cushing is coming back might, or might not, be a jolt of energy for this LB corps. Right now Cushing is on the PUP, coming off his 2nd major, season-ending, injury in consecutive years. Without Cushing the ILB position is of concern.  In the 3-4 these ILB's are required to make plays and fill gaps created by DL's who plug holes and occupy blockers. At some time they will be asked to make an individual play. We will see on Saturday if the LB unit, without Cushing, has the athletic ability to make these plays.

The defensive backfield is a question mark: Maybe, it can be said that an increased pass rush will help the DB's in coverage. Maybe DJ Swearinger can control his tendency to draw personal fouls. Possibly, Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson become better cover corners with QB's having less time to sit in the pocket. The problem is we just don't know and the track record for the group is one of regression.

The "roster full of talent" lie is being exposed:  Perhaps the biggest problem facing the Texans is that, by appearances, the roster is not a talent-filled cornucopia that's been underutilized but rather a roster reflecting the talent level of a team that went 2-14 last season. For the Texans to make much progress there are a LOT of things that have to fall 100% right. All of the questions above have to be answered in the affirmative. Then there's the issue of Rick Smith's dodgy draft record which is finally drawing attention among the talkers in sports talk radio.

By continually missing in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft and through his seeming inability to understand the basics of cap management, GM Rick Smith has created a talent vacuum in the 2nd and 3rd strings on this team.  I think, but don't know, that Bill O'Brien has a sound plan in place for the team. What I am unsure of, at this point, is whether or not he has the players to execute that plan at a level that wins games.

One thing we forget is that the view around the league that the "AFC South is weak" is, in part, because of the Texans and not in spite of them.  As much as the Texans look at teams such as Jacksonville and Tennessee in terms of season wins the same thing applies in reverse. Right or wrong teams are looking at the Texans as places on their schedule where getting a W is possible.

When it comes to front-line talent in the NFL the Texans have JJ Watt, Duane Brown, an injured Brian Cushing and a whole mess of maybe.  Maybe Jerrell Powe is a starting-quality NT, maybe Clowney is healthy and plays up to a high level, maybe Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph improve, maybe the Safety play is better this year, maybe the LB corps can hold it together and Cushing returns, Maybe DeAndre Hopkins and DeVier Posey continue their progression and maybe The Fitz can become a game manager with a stronger arm than Matt Schaub.

Or maybe none of this happens and the team struggles to get to 4 wins.

College Football: The ACC on the rise.

It's good to be the King. Ask Florida State who, coming into the season, has all of the returning National Championship buzz surrounding it and a team leader, in Quarterback Jameis Winston, who is a Million dollar talent paired with a two-cent head. (remind you of anyone?)

Divided into two Divisions (the Coastal and the Atlantic) the ACC is slowly but surely jumping up the ranks, past the diminished Big Twen and even ahead of the increasingly inaccurate Big 10 into 3rd place in my conference rankings.

Handicapping the Atlantic Division is fairly easy, the Coastal?  Not so much.

So, without further ado:


1. Florida State - Hard to pick against them.

2. Clemson - Lost a lot, and they have a cheerleader for a coach, but they have a lot of talent in reserve.

3. Louisville - There is not a better conference/program fit among the new arrivals this year than this one. Could surprise.

4. NC State - So middle of the pack it's ridiculous.

5. Boston College - Rebuilding.  This is not a school that can just re-load.

6. Syracuse - Unlike Louisville, there is not a worse fit among the new arrivals this year than this one. Could regret this realignment for years to come.

7. Wake Forest - Better enjoy last year's memories. Could be a while before they climb that mountain again.


1. Duke - I see no reason why they won't repeat last year's run.  Might even be more competitive with Florida State in the Championship game.

2. Miami - At some point, all of that talent has to play up to potential right?

3. Virginia Tech - I am a Frank Beamer fan but, his inability to field a functioning offense is troubling.

4. North Carolina - Always seems to pull a surprise in conference play.

5. Georgia Tech - Don't have the horses to contend in this conference.

6. Pitt - There are some who are predicting Pitt could win the division.  All this proves is that some football "experts" aren't.

7. Virginia - Battling Purdue for worst program in major college football right now.

Conference Champion: Florida State (Receives invitation to College Football Playoff)

I think we see a repeat of last year in the ACC, with Florida State beating Duke in the Dr. Pepper ACC Championship game.  I also think Florida State is a shoo-in to be 1 of the 4 teams in the new playoffs barring something crazy happening.

Other thoughts: When the predicted realignment and major-shift in College football comes (What I am predicting to be 4-16 team conferences at the top level) I really believe that the ACC is going to drive the change by poaching two teams for the Big Twen. (at this point I see that as being Baylor (yes, Baylor) and possibly Kansas State.  This will open the door for Tech, UT-Austin, OU and OSU to bolt for the Pac-12 which will result in the Big 10 taking a look at Iowa State and possibly West Virginia (or, if they want to remain relevant, Notre Dame) to fill their ranks. The wild-card in all of this will be the SEC.  If they decide to make a run at Florida State and Clemson, then the ACC is going to have to get creative and possibly take a look at UCF or TCU to fill it's ranks. Should the latter scenario happen I would imagine the ACC will move fairly quickly to replenish and the dominoes will start falling fast.  Either way I think they are the key to the entire puzzle.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

College Football: The Increasingly inaccurate Big Ten's inferiority complex.

The biggest problem for the B1G, a lack of mathematics instruction notwithstanding, is that they are not the SEC.  The league, once a giant and a mover and shaker in college sports, has been relegated to "me too" status as the SEC and even the ACC begin to distance themselves from the pack in collegiate athletics.

A power during the early years of football (Pre-1970's) it's now been since 2002 that the Big Ten has won a football National Championship and they really weren't relevant during the B(C)S era.

Now expanded to 14 teams, with two divisions (East and West thankfully replacing Legends and Leaders) the conference has regressed to the Big 2 and the Little 12 with Ohio State and Michigan State running rough-shod over the rest of the conference in terms of quality and National reputation.

Unfortunately, for the B1G, both of these teams are in the same division so it's highly unlikely the two best teams will meet up in the Conference Championship Game.

For 2014/2015 I'm expecting to see much of the same:


1. Ohio State - Possesses the most talent and a good coach in Urban Meyer. Needs to put it all together. I think they will.

2. Michigan State - As a Michigan fan this top two pains me. But Michigan State has the best coach in the league and should challenge Ohio for the championship.

3. Penn State - This is a team on the rebound. Former coach O'Brien did a great job recruiting.

4. Michigan - Yes, I'm a fan, but I also have to be realistic. Big Blue is still suffering from the Rich Rod error and Brady Hoke seems lost at the helm.

5. Maryland - Not yet ready to compete at this level.

6. Indiana - Waiting for basketball season.  Good Head Coach however.

7. Rutgers - Long-term, the move to the B1G might help them. Short-term they're in over their heads.


1. Iowa - The West is all over the place. Number's 1-3 could win it all. I think Iowa wins via tie-breaker.

2. Wisconsin - Can still run the ball and will have a good defense. On a plus note: will be better than Arkansas....karma.

3. Nebraska - I'm not a believer in Bo Pellini. I've a feeling this is his last year coaching the Cornhuskers.

4. Minnesota - Same old, same old. Will win one they shouldn't, will lose one they shouldn't.

5. Northwestern - Always has the ability to surprise, usually finishes outside the top 3.

6. Illinois - Just a mess of a program right now.

7. Purdue - This is a program that's spiraling downward. Could be the worst team in any major conference this year.

Conference Champion:   Ohio State. (Makes it into the 4-team playoff for the National Championship)

As of this writing, the B1G is a two-team league, with the winner of Michigan State/Ohio State getting the playoff nod.

Big Blue Side note: Michigan opens the season with Appalachian State at the Big House. We all remember what happened the last time out. For Brady Hoke's sake I hope it doesn't happen again.

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