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PAC-12 Looks To Shine On National Stage 1

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 →

5 Fearless Predictions for the 2013 College Football Season 4

Posted on August 31, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Will Nick Saban again be lifting the BCS crystal when the season is over?

Will Nick Saban again be lifting the BCS crystal when the season is over?

Though the fact that much of the country has been experiencing some of the warmest weather of the summer might suggest otherwise, the wait really is over and it is time for college football season.

The opening games on Thursday night just wet the whistle for what should be another great year across the country.

Rather than joining the thousands of others who have offered their preseason rankings and conference predictions, here are “5 Fearless Predictions” of things I expect to see happen in college football this season.

1. Someone other than Johnny Manziel wins the Heisman Trophy

This may have been considered an off the wall prediction after the freshman phenom won the Heisman Trophy and  then led Texas A&M to a Cotton Bowl victory last season. However, he has spent the last nine months getting more attention for the parties he has attended and for all the time he spent signing autographs for “free” than for his upcoming sophomore season.

I think Manziel is a talented college football player (though unlikely to be a good NFL player), but his rise to the Heisman last season was a bit of a fluke as it was really the result of one huge performance against Alabama and the lack of a clear offensive star among the elite teams in the game.
Read the rest of this entry →

Zultan’s Fearless Big Ten (+) Plus College Football Predictions: Week One 3

Posted on August 28, 2010 by JA Allen

The Mighty Zultan Tells Football Fortunes...

Zultan, the mighty soothsayer, hibernated soundly after a glorious conclusion to Big Ten Football Bowl Season last January.

The all-seeing one remained zoned out for months after admittedly over-indulging in some exotic-looking orange punch with the kick of a kangaroo.

The Big Ten pounded its way to an impressive 4-3 record during post-season play which included wins over some very highly ranked BCS teams at the conclusion of the 2009 football season.

The action culminated with the Iowa Hawkeye’s victory over the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech. After the Hawkeyes rolled over them, GT may still be putting their “wrecked” offense back together.

When the mighty one’s eyes snapped open this week, ready to dig in for another season of football prognostication –– low and behold, the news was delivered.  The Big Red Machine was going to be joining the Big Ten. What a blow!  After years of living in the shadow of the God Almighty Nebraska Cornhuskers, the all-seeing seer now must feel the singe of the hot poker once again––as Nebraska closes in on the neighboring Hawkeyes starting in 2011.

Putting aside his feelings of betrayal, the all-seeing one now marshals the massive skills that allow him to predict the outcome of football contests.  The Big Ten Conference will be a force to be reckoned with in 2010 along with other highly touted football contests each week.

What he wishes to know is––can you outguess him?  Do you feel lucky, well, do you?  If so click here and you can pit your puny predicting powers against the great Zultan.  If you outguess him, then he will announce that you beat him in next week’s column, plus entering your name for a prize to be awarded at the end of the season.

Read the rest of this entry →

All Hail The Kings 4

Posted on July 13, 2010 by Ryan Durling

It’s been a strange year for sport. A team of Geriatrics made the NBA Finals, taking the defending champs to 7 games. Two teams who had never won a World Cup played for the championship. A team (avert your eyes, Bostonians) with a 3-games-to-zero playoff series lead melted and lost in Game 7 on home ice. At baseball’s all-star break, 3 teams who didn’t finish last year with a winning record lead their divisions. The once-unflappable Tiger Woods flapped and, ultimately, folded. A tennis match lasted over 11 hours, spanning 3 days. The Miami Heat built a basketball franchise that promises to be hated by all.

But when the year is over and Time Magazine writes its Person of the Year issue, these instances will all be asterisks, if that. Sport in 2010 will be marked neither by tragedy nor travesty, but rather by life running its course. Not 40 days after John Wooden – The Coach – passed away, so, too, did The Boss.

George Steinbrenner was, no doubt, a polarizing figure, but nowhere more than in the Bronx. What he represented drew the ire of eyes in Boston, Queens, Atlanta and Los Angeles, to be sure, but it wasn’t until twenty years into his ownership of the Yankees that his own fans warmed to him – and then, only after a three-year, league-imposed hiatus from the game.

Steinbrenner, Guliani and the World Series trophy in 2001 during an Esquire Magazine photo shoot.

But this is not a history lesson. No, this writer prefers to leave history to those more historically inclined. Steinbrenner’s passing happened at a fitting time; it was, after all, the one day of the year in which there is no sports news for ESPN or any other outlet to break. And, let it be known – even in the opinion of one who often criticizes ESPN for capitalizing on narcissistic moments in sport – that ESPN covered the passing of The Boss admirably, devoting an entire morning and early afternoon of coverage to Steinbrenner, his friends, once and former co-workers and the rest.

I am a Boston fan. I grew up in Upstate New York, with the exception some instances during my childhood in which I was transplanted in Massachusetts’ South Shore. That was enough to sell me on the Red Sox and Bruins and Celtics and Patriots, despite the fact that for most of the year I was surrounded by a majority of Yankees, Rangers, Knicks and Bills fans.

That does not make me immune to feeling the same chills that so many others probably felt this morning when Bob Knight, during a phone interview on SportsCenter, broke down crying not once, but twice while talking about Steinbrenner. Or when Dave Winfield got choked up on camera. I’m almost afraid to watch Derek Jeter’s interview, when it comes.

Baseball is the one sport whose season takes place without much competition. Sure, there is the occasional major golf or tennis tournament and every other summer, the World Cup or Olympics take center stage for a few weeks. But really, baseball goes from April to September without rival – it is only its postseason that is really challenged by other, regular sports. So to say that Steinbrenner was almost single-handedly responsible for making baseball what it is today might seem like an overstatement.

It’s not. Read the rest of this entry →

Death of a Legend: Goodbye Coach Wooden 1

Posted on June 04, 2010 by Dean Hybl

John Wooden was a great player and coach, but he is best knwon for being a man of impeccable character.

The World is a little emptier tonight following the news that legendary basketball coach John Wooden has passed away at the age of 99.

There will be much discussion in coming days about his incredible coaching records and accomplishments. Without a doubt, winning 10 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National titles in 12 years is an accomplishment that will never be duplicated.

However, while I never met Coach Wooden, what I have read and heard from many others about him is that he was a better man and teacher than he ever was a basketball coach.

When his former players talk about Coach Wooden they do not necessarily talk about the on-the-court accomplishments. Instead, they talk about he helped mold them into the people that they would become.

The fact that he coached his last game in 1975 yet still had significant influence over college basketball for the next 35 years as a teacher and speaker is a testament to his greatness.

What is to me most amazing about Coach Wooden is that he was truly one of the first great superstar players of college basketball. During his tenure at Purdue from 1930-32 he was the first player ever to be named a consensus All-American for three straight years. Though no NCAA Tournament was played at the time, Wooden and the Boilermakers were selected as the NCAA Champions in 1932.

I find it a great illustration of his great talent as a player that Wooden was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1960, well before he started winning championships as a coach. Read the rest of this entry →

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