College Football and NFL with Nick Yusko

Week 2: Playoff and Hesiman race

Big games are helping paint the early season picture

Week 2 came through in its big games for the most part. Oklahoma controlling Ohio State in Columbus was the only major surprise, but it helps crystallize the early season pecking order. Nothing is decided in the first couple of weeks, but teams have made their statements, while others (Notre Dame) have missed out on early opportunities to vault up the rankings. Unpredictability defines college football and the things we don’t see coming will be the things we love. Yet, there is a definite hierarchy emerging for the top award available to a team and an individual in college football. I want to look at the top of the playoff race going conference by conference before diving into the Heisman contenders, both QBs and non-QBs.

Playoff Race:
1. Alabama (SEC)
2. Clemson (ACC)
3. USC (PAC-12)
4. Oklahoma (Big 12)
5. Penn State (Big Ten)

That is a pretty easy top-5 to make. You can quibble with the order–the AP poll would–but nearly everyone would have these 5 teams. Clemson is the defending champion. Oklahoma and USC had two great wins on Saturday. Penn State has looked like their form from last season was no fluke and Alabama is Nick Saban’s Alabama. This race will come down to which team can tackle their conference’s challenges, so let’s look at what each faces. Continue reading “Week 2: Playoff and Hesiman race”

College Football Week 2 Picks

Huge Games and best bets

Week 1 was great and all, but week 2 should be even better. There are four top-25 tilts and playoff implications all over the place. The four game between ranked teams jump off the page and Nebraska @ Oregon and Pitt @ Penn State headline the next tier of quality matchups. My thoughts on the five biggest games are below, but I’m staying away from gambling on the biggest games. Not only do these games not need the extra adrenaline, but I just like other bets more than any of these spotlight games. I’ll post my bet slip here and be following the results all weekend on Twitter @ScoringPlays. Enjoy the big games this weekend and best of luck!

Pitt @ Penn State (-21):

Penn state fell 42-39 last year and it ended up costing the the playoff. This was before Trace McSorley had grown into his home-run swing ways and James Franlkin’s team found their groove. The Nittany Lions and Saquon Barkley looked  in Heisman form against Akron, which is relevant because Pitt might not be THAT much better than Akron. They had to go to Overtime to beat Youngstown State, which is a good FCS team, but still an FCS team. It’s hard to lay 21 points in a rivalry game, but I think this is a revenge game for Penn State and they have a huge talent edge. They blow this one open. Penn State 45-13.

Auburn @ Clemson (-5.5)
Kelly Bryant looked amazing against Kent State, but we’ll know a lot more about him in 2 weeks after the Tigers face Auburn and Louisville. Even with DeShaun Watson, the Tigers struggled to score against Auburn last year (admittedly, it was the first week of the season) and Auburn’s offense should be better this year with Jarrett Stidham at the helm. If Auburn can go into the reigning champions’ house and get a win, they’ll have an inside track to 6-0 before they face a brutal back half of their schedule. The winner of this game will get a lot of playoff buzz. I want to take Auburn here, but just struggle to see Clemson losing at home. I think Clemson will get a lead and hang on, but Auburn will cover the 5.5. Clemson 34-31.

Oklahoma @ Ohio State (-7.5)
This is another game where I like the underdog (the Sooners are getting 7.5), but struggle to see the Buckeyes losing at home. Ohio State dominated Baker Mayfield and Co. last year in Norman and looked like they shook off their early-season rust late in the game at Indiana. Oklahoma won’t get embarrassed again, but Ohio State will cover the spread late and keep the Big Ten’s momentum rolling. Ohio State 38-28.

Georgia @ Notre Dame (-4)

Is Notre Dame back (to being decent)? Can Georgia win in South Bend with a backup quarterback (Jake Fromm making his first start)? There’s a lot of unknowns with these two teams who look like they’ll be contenders this season, but have struggled to turn top talent into top results recently. I don’t think the QB switch  is a huge loss for Georgia, but a night game in South Bend is a tough ask for anyone. I’ll be in the stands for this one and I think Notre Dame will be ready to have a big game. Georgia will be able to run on Notre Dame, but if the Irish can win the turnover battle this one won’t be that close. Notre Dame 34-24.

Stanford @ USC (-6)

The Cardinal took care of business against Rice and USC faltered a bit against Western Michigan before pulling away late.  I imagine the Cardinal will be a popular underdog pick this week, but I think USC lives up to the hype this week. Darnold gets his Heisman train rolling and Stanford won’t be able to keep up. USC 34-17.

My bet slip this weekend:

Nebraska +13.5 vs. Oregon

Iowa State +120 ML vs. Iowa

West Virginia -24 vs. E. Carolina (they lost to James Madison)

USF -17 vs. UConn (They almost lost to Holy Cross)

Minnesota +2 vs. Oregon State

College Football: Remember this

What should stick with you after Week 1

It’s finally here! After all the Spring games, preseason polls and a Stanford-Rice beatdown we have arrived at the first college football of consequence since Deshaun Watson and Clemson dethroned Alabama. Week 1 is in the books and the reactions abound. Some are right on the money and others way off base, but nearly all of them are forward-looking. The season is a ceaseless march from one week to the next and its easy to get swept along in the race for the playoff  and not pause to appreciate each week in and of itself. How much do we remember from last week’s week 1? Maybe Alabama embarrassing USC?  Possibly Lamar Jackson bursting on the scene with 8 touchdowns? Houston kick-sixing Oklahoma? Notre Dame and Texas in an OT thriller? Most likely all those moments have faded from memory. Which is fine, that’s the beauty of the sport—too many moments to grab hold of just one. But it’s worth pausing after this first week to note a few things to remember…at least until next week.

Games:

UCLA vs. Texas A&M
Through Saturday, the week had yet to produce a truly dramatic finish involving a top team. Sunday delivered. Maybe neither UCL or Texas A&M will be a top team at season’s end, but their primetime matchup lived up to the hype. It seemed like A&M was too talented for the Bruins to overcome even with Josh Rosen–a top draft prospect at the helm. That probably should have been the case, but when A&M’s quarterback Nick Starkel went down, a series of lucky breaks all went the Bruins way and produced a 45-44 victory from a 44-10 deficit. The second largest comeback in the sport’s history and the start of what could be a Heisman season for Rosen. As for A&M, their struggles have come early this season and if Kevin Sumlin can’t right the ship quickly, he may be out. All that is not bad for drama from a week 1 contest.

Alabama vs. Florida State
It was the top-billed game of the week, but it failed to deliver the memorable titanic clash fans hoped for. Both teams were very solid defensively and disciplined on offense, but special teams doomed the Seminoles and when quarterback Deondre Francois went down with a season ending knee-injury, the 24-7 defeat seemed to be the least significant loss of the night. Alabama is set up for another title run and Florida State will need to regroup if they hope to have the season they wanted. This game will be remembered for they hype, but overall it was a disappointing matchup between two teams’ whose greatness is not truly designed to be entertaining. Continue reading “College Football: Remember this”

NFL Playoff Predictions

Season’s about to start…let’s guess how it ends

The last Sunday without NFL football is behind us! This season has a few less questions than others because stalwarts like the Patriots, Packers and Steelers seem solid at the top. Still, young talent for the Cowboys and Raiders looks to build on last year’s strong campaigns, while the Panthers and Cardinals look to put last year far behind them. In the end, teams are looking for the Lombardi trophy and ‘Who will win the Super Bowl?’ is the question that will mark the season.

In my piece on team’s over/under win totals, I laid out the division standings I foresee, which lead to these playoff standings.

AFC

  1. Patriots
  2. Steelers
  3. Raiders
  4. Texans
  5. Chargers
  6. Ravens

NFC

  1. Seahawks
  2. Packers
  3. Buccaneers
  4. Cowboys
  5. Panthers
  6. Falcons

Let’s walk through my playoff bracket and predict how this new season will end. I will highlight my favorite championship bets at the end of the post as well. Continue reading “NFL Playoff Predictions”

MLB: State of the Race

Setting the stage for the hunt for October

With the calendar turning to September, baseball begins to heat up (In a real bummer for the MLB, football also starts…). The division and wildcard races begin to crystallize in ways the casual fan can grab hold of and the excitement of each game, inning and pitch begins to build to October’s crescendo.

The excitement will largely come from the wildcard race as only two divisions are within five games. In the AL, The Indians have put together a win streak that has effectively wrapped up the Central, while the Astros have cruised their way to a West title (the Justin Verlander acquisition is just gravy. In the NL, the Dodgers have run rampant out West and the Nationals have been dominant in the East. If you strain your eyes a little bit, you can see drama in the AL East and the NL Central. The Red Sox have a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees and the two don’t meet after the first weekend of September. The Brewers have hung tough after relinquishing their surprising division lead to the Cubs, but will need to dominate the teams’ seven meetings in September to have a realistic chance of catching the reigning champs.

For the true races, turn your eyes to the wildcards. Continue reading “MLB: State of the Race”

NFL Over/Under Win Totals

Projections for every team with best bets

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 12.17.14 AMWith the NFL season less than a week away, fantasy drafts are in full swing, spirited debate shows are picking apart preseason games and prognostication is out of control. So when looking for dispassionate voices to turn to, Las Vegas oddsmakers are a good place to look. NFL teams’ over/unders for win totals provide a good feel for their expectations, but more importantly provide fun opportunities for investment. I’ve pulled over/under totals for each team from Bovada and combed through every teams schedule to see how I think they will fair. Not shockingly, Vegas seems to be spot on in many cases. But, some teams jump out to me as investment opportunities. Let’s go through my division projections and pull out the best betting opportunities. Best of luck!

AFC NORTH

Steelers (10.5): 13-3 OVER

I’m starting with one of my best bets.  Pittsburgh has the Browns, Bears and Jags all within the first 5 weeks and should use that to get off to a fast start. I think they easily go at least 2-2 against the Chiefs, Packers, Pats and Texans, which should have them comfortably Over.

Ravens (8): 10-6 OVER

Another favorite of mine. The schedule is really favorable and if the offense performs at all this should be a comfortable 9 or 10 wins. It helps that they should be able to get at least 3 out of 4 against the AFC South.

Bengals (8.5): 7-9 UNDER

One of the reasons I’m high on the Steelers and Ravens is how low I am on the Bengals. I think this is a mediocre year in Cincinnati. Week 8-11 they play the Colts, Jags, Titans and Broncos. If they do better than 2-2, they could make a run at the over, but I don’t see it.

Browns (4.5): 4-12 UNDER

I think DeShone Kizer (Warning: Notre Dame bias) and the Browns have a respectable season, but this team is not in a position to win more than 4 games. I think they can beat the Jets and steal a couple AFC South games. They probably hang tough in t

heir division games, but 5 wins is too much to ask.

AFC SOUTH

Texans (8.5): 9-7 OVER

I can’t see myself betting anything in this division because all these teams have an incredibly wide range of outcomes. I think Houston uses their defense and a ball-control offense to grind out 9 wins, but the schedule is tough and they need to get off to a good start.

Titans (8.5): 8-8 UNDER

A lot of people are high on the Titans, but I am not buying in. They are going to be a team that can beat anyone (starting with the Raiders in week 1), but will find ways to lose games they should win. They aren’t built to dominate teams and will end up falling back to .500

Continue reading “NFL Over/Under Win Totals”