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Will Florida State Ever Lose Another Regular Season Game? 0

Posted on October 08, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Everett Golson has been making strides in the offense of Jimbo Fisher.

Everett Golson has been making strides in the offense of Jimbo Fisher.

The last time the Florida State Seminoles played a really big game they were in the College Football Playoff and getting crushed by Oregon, 59-20 in the Rose Bowl on January 1. Since then, they’ve stayed in the news for off-the-field incidents and getting a transfer quarterback, Everett Golson from Notre Dame. Amidst all that it can be easy to forget that FSU hasn’t actually lost a regular season game since 2012. They face their first real test of 2015 when Miami comes to Tallahassee on Saturday night to renew a great rivalry (8 PM ET, ABC).

Florida State’s undefeated regular season last year was marked by so many near-misses that it became a storyline as to whether the defending national champs would actually be excluded from the Playoff in spite of their perfect record. Given that, it won’t surprise you to learn that the Seminoles were an atrocious bet—in spite of going 13-0 in the regular season, they only covered the Vegas number three times. And this season has started with signs that it might be more of the same.

The Seminoles are 4-0, and have covered twice, so maybe they won’t be quite the same moneyburner they were in 2014, but the early signs aren’t good. One of the ATS covers was a season-opening 59-16 win over Texas State as a (-27.5) favorite. The games against more legitimate competition haven’t gone quite so smoothly…

*A 34-14 home win over South Florida was a non-cover as a (-27.5) favorite
*A 14-0 win at Boston College was enough to cover a relatively short (-9.5) line
*A surprisingly close 24-16 game at Wake Forest decisively missed the (-19) number.

Now Florida State is giving (-9) to a Miami team that comes in 3-1, and the Seminoles might have to go with a third-string running back. Dalvin Cook, easily the team’s best offensive playmaker left the Wake game early with a hamstring injury and backup Mario Pender is already out.

That’s going to shift the burden to Golson. So far he’s avoided the turnovers that cost him his job at Notre Dame and led to the transfer—no interceptions thus far and while the schedule obviously hasn’t been very good, the Boston College defense is very good. But the mistake-free Golson has come at a price—the big plays he often made in South Bend have also disappeared. Read the rest of this entry →

Surprises Abound During First Month of College Football Season 0

Posted on October 07, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
Leonard Fournette has been the most dominant player during the first month of the college football season.

Leonard Fournette has been the most dominant player during the first month of the college football season.

As college football moves into the second month of the season, there have already been many surprises. As defending national champion Ohio State has struggled against Virginia Tech and barely managed a win against Indiana. While working out the kinks of its two-quarterback system and showing weaknesses in turn overs and fumbles, other teams such as Michigan State and SEC powerhouse LSU have emerged as national championship contenders. With many weeks still to go before the playoff begins, there are still many questions left to be answered.

Pac-12 Conference
While many college football fans tend to focus on the Southeastern Conference and its usual arsenal of powerhouse teams such as Alabama and Auburn, more and more people are turning their attention to the Pac-12 conference. Although Oregon appears to be on a decline after losing 62-20 to Utah, other teams such as USC and Utah appear to be on the verge of having what may be a very special season. With five teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25, the conference appears to be well on its way to breaking the so-called “East Coast bias” that supposedly plagues it annually.

Big Ten Conference
Despite its struggles, Ohio State still remains the top-ranked team in the nation. However, the Spartans of Michigan State are hot on their heels at number two. Add to the mix traditional powers such as Wisconsin and surprise teams like Northwestern and Michigan, and fans have the ingredients for what promises to be a return to prominence for teams in the Midwest. For those who possess an online sports management degree, working in the athletic departments with the likes of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh could prove to make each day an exciting one indeed. Read the rest of this entry →

Saturday Will Tell If Clemson and Georgia Are Contenders Or Pretenders 0

Posted on October 01, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Saturday's game against Notre DDame wiill tell if Dabo Swinney and Clemson have a chance at reaching the College Football Playoffs.

Saturday’s game against Notre Dame will tell if Dabo Swinney and Clemson have a chance at reaching the College Football Playoffs.

Georgia and Clemson are long-time rivals on the field, but they have one thing in common off the field and at the betting window—they have a tendency to play below expectations. Whether it’s aggravating their own fan bases with a crushing loss just when a corner seems to have been turned, or playing just well enough to win, but not cover the number, the Bulldogs and Tigers have a knack for pulling the rug out from under you.

Now, both programs in the national spotlight on Saturday, each undefeated and each with showcase home games. Georgia hosts Alabama (3:30 PM ET, CBS) and Clemson will get a visit from Notre Dame (8 PM ET, ABC) in the day’s two best games that you can watch back-to-back. Will the home teams finally meet their moment?

Let’s begin by giving some context of the last two seasons, because I want to make clear I’m not implying these programs can’t play good football. They can. Clemson is 19-5 over the last two regular seasons and has bowl victories over Ohio State and Oklahoma. Georgia is 17-7 in that same timeframe, and if we go back one year earlier to 2012, the Bulldogs were one play away from winning the SEC title and likely converting that into a national championship.

But each team has been consistently been overrated by the oddsmakers. In the same two-year period where Clemson was winning 19 regular season games on the field, their bettors in Las Vegas only cashed 11 pointspread winners—against 13 losers. With Georgia, that 17-7 straight-up record becomes 10-13-1 when we measure it against Vegas expectations. That’s the roundabout way of saying that Clemson and Georgia have spent two years being bad bets.

Now each team steps onto a big national stage for this first Saturday of October. Over the first month of the season, there’s reason for cautious optimism with Georgia, but guarded skepticism with Clemson.

Clemson is 1-2 against the spread thus far. On a recent Thursday night appearance against Louisville, the Tigers barely survived a very young Cardinal team 20-17, failing to cover as a five-point favorite. Sophomore quarterback DeShaun Watson is talented, but has his inconsistencies. He threw two interceptions against the Cards and failed to generate much in the way of a downfield passing attack.

The rush defense was exposed in an earlier game against Appalachian State, giving up over 200 yards on the ground and allowing 4.5 yards per carry. With Notre Dame and its physical offensive line leading the way for C.J. Prosise, that’s a problem. Read the rest of this entry →

PAC-12 Looks To Shine On National Stage 0

Posted on September 24, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins will look to remain undefeated against Arizona.

Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins will look to remain undefeated against Arizona.

The Pac-12 South takes center stage on Saturday night, when ABC’s main nationally televised game will be UCLA-Arizona at 8 PM ET with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth in Tucson. And there’s a late-night special across the state in Tempe when USC visits Arizona State (10:30 PM ET, ESPN). We’ll take a look at some keys for all four teams, from what to know when wagering on them, to what to watch for on the field.

The winner of this division title might well be in position to make the College Football Playoff when the conference championship games arrive the first Saturday in December, and these games will really start to sort it out. UCLA is favored by (-3.5) over Arizona, while USC is a (-5.5) road favorite at Arizona State.

UCLA: The Bruins are the most highly regarded team in the Pac-12 South right now, ranked #9 in the AP poll. That high regard has created problems for UCLA backers in Las Vegas though. Last season the Bruins were a miserable 4-8 against the spread (ATS) during the regular season and even though they’re 2-1 this year, it’s a very hairy 2-1.

The season opener was a 34-16 win over Virginia, a narrow cover as a (-18.5) favorite. Another close cover followed at UNLV, where UCLA won 37-3 while giving (-32.5). The Bruins came in as an (-11) favorite over BYU, and were picked to win and cover by ESPN Gameday’s Chris Fallica (“The Bear”) but had to rally just to pull out a 24-23 non-cover win. So the oddsmakers have either had UCLA’s games priced almost on the number or overestimate their strength.

What the Bruins do exceptionally well is run the football, something that’s been the case ever since Jim Mora Jr. took over as head coach. Paul Perkins saved the day against BYU with a 219-yard performance. He covered for a weak performance by freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who has been prematurely announced as a Heisman contender.

After a strong outing in his debut against Virginia, Rosen was erratic against UNLV and awful against BYU. There’s nothing wrong that for a talented and developing freshman, but if the media is going to continue to talk about Rosen as though he’s ready for the NFL, it’s going to drive more people to bet on UCLA, which in turn will feed the issue of unreasonably high pointspreads for them to face.

If you’re uncomfortable with UCLA’s ATS history, but hesitant about going against them, the totals line is always another angle. A clear pattern emerges here. UCLA played 8 of its 12 regular season games last year to the Under, and all three games this season have gone Under. The total on Saturday night’s game with Arizona is 66. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering College Football’s “Galloping Ghost” Red Grange 0

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Comic 72 Galloping GhostToday’s Sports Then and Now blog features an incomparable college football player with the unforgettable nickname – The Galloping Ghost.

In 2008, called this electrifying running back and kick returner the greatest college football player ever.

However, nearly 90 years earlier it was Chicago sportswriter Warren Brown who attributed The Galloping Ghost name to Harold Edward “Red” Grange.

Grange earned the moniker because of his race horse speed and quick, ghostlike movements that avoided tacklers in the open field.

Tackling Grange was like trying to lasso a fast moving cloud driven by a strong wind in a large open field. Few defenders ever succeeded.

A three-time All American at the University of Illinois, the 5’11″ and 175 lb. Grange led the Illini to an undefeated season and college football’s national championship in 1923.

The Galloping Ghost’s best college game was against Michigan on October 18, 1924. Most college football fans called it the greatest individual performance in the history of college football.

Against the Illini’s fiercest rival, Grange spooked the Wolverine defense by racing the game’s opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. He scored three more times on runs of 67, 56 and 44 yards – all within the first 12 minutes of the game.

There was no television or internet back in The Galloping Ghost’s era. Instead, TIME Magazine highlighted Grange’s amazing college career by including The Galloping Ghost on the cover of its October 1925 issue. It was a huge national honor.

An original member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Grange signed with the Chicago Bears immediately after college. Grange is also a history maker for the professional sport of football. Back in the 1920s, professional football was only beginning to form nationally, and Grange became instrumental in its initial success.

Grange participated in a 67 day, 19 game cross-country series of exhibition games. For his efforts, The Galloping Ghost pocketed an incredible $100,000 for his role. The other players were paid only $100 per game.

Chicago Bears Hall of Fame owner George Halas called Grange the greatest running back he had ever seen. Unfortunately, The Galloping Ghost suffered a terrible knee injury in 1927 that inevitably shortened his professionally career.

The highlight of #77′s NFL career came in 1933. Grange made a heroic game saving play on defense in the closing seconds of the NFL’s first ever Championship Game held at Wrigley Field.

The spirit of this Galloping Ghost will always live on. And, today’s Sports Then and Now’s blog rekindles the fiery spirit of this amazing college football player.

Red Grange passed away in 1991, but today let’s remember the elusive, fast gridiron great whom recognized as the best college football player of all time.

MIKE on sports!


Is the SEC West Really College Football’s Stongest Division? 1

Posted on September 17, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers barely escaped an upset bid by Jacksonville State.

Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers barely escaped an upset bid by Jacksonville State.

The SEC West is college football’s showcase division and it’s in the Saturday spotlight with two big games for us to watch. It starts in mid-afternoon with Auburn-LSU (3:30 PM ET, CBS) and then concludes with Ole Miss-Alabama in prime time (9:15 PM ET, ESPN). Here are some early thoughts about these four teams from a handicapping perspective, pertaining to both Saturday specifically and the long-term…

AUBURN: The scare the Tigers got against Jacksonville State on Saturday, needing overtime to pull out a 27-20 win as (-39) favorite has cost Auburn a lot of stock nationally. In fact, the Tigers have been overpriced lately anyway. What do I mean by lately? Like ever since they finished off the 2013 national championship game, a cover against Florida State.

Last season, Auburn was priced like a national championship contender and couldn’t meet that bar. The Tigers were 4-8 against the number and now they’ve started 0-2 ATS this season, even while winning both games outright.

I’m willing to give Gus Malzahn’s team a pass for the Jacksonville State near-disaster. It was right in between the season opener against Louisville in the Georgia Dome and the LSU game on Saturday, the proverbial “sandwich” spot. My concerns lie with what happened in the Louisville game itself.

Auburn jumped out to a 24-0 lead and then had to hold off a late Cardinal charge to hold on 31-24. Louisville is an extremely young team and the Tigers failed to cover the (-10) line. They had serious problems defending Louisville’s versatile quarterback Lamar Jackson, who ran for 106 yards. Auburn’s own quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, threw three interceptions.

That’s not a formula for winning games against SEC opponents that have quarterbacks who can move. However, before turning this into a pile-on-Auburn segment, we also have to point out the positives. Peyton Barber is running the football effectively, going for 115 yards in the Louisville game and again getting 100-plus as one of the few bright spots against Jacksonville State.

Auburn also played good pass defense against Louisville. Jackson was not able to get anything going in the air. That might not project out to very much against some SEC West opponents, but is relevant against LSU, which has significant problems throwing the ball that we’re about to touch on. Read the rest of this entry →

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