Who am I?

I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

Follow me on Twitter: @lhd_on_sports


LHD_PotW (308) MLB (118) NFL (117) NCAA (99) NFL Playoffs (52) NBA (51) NHL (41)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2017-18 NFL Championship Weekend Playoff Preview

A step back, but numbers don't lie. I'm doing pretty good.
After an amazing Divisional Playoff Weekend, it's hard to believe there are only three games left in the NFL season, and by default, the football season.  September is so far away.  But we will remember last weekend forever.  The amazing catch by Stefon Diggs.  The see saw affair between the Jaguars and Steelers.  The last minute gasp and odd fourth down playcall ending the Falcons NFC title defense.  And the Patriots continuing to do what the Patriots do.  Reach the AFC Championship game for the seventh straight season.  The best four teams are left, and we break down the games below.

J.R. Ewing and "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) will offer you a full range analysis of the NFL playoffs week by week.  Here each playoff game will have a short breakdown with thoughts on key factors then a final score predict.  The final score predict then gives you a Straight Up, Over/Under, and Against the Spread (ATS) pick to chew on for "recreation purposes only".  We'll be tracking our own progress.  Or if you're someone with disposable income, gamble away (but this blog is not responsible for losses).

My Steelers are out, but I still got some life in my picks!
Not a good week for either of our pickers last week.  Not horrible, but not good.

J.R. Ewing (0-3-1 ATS, 2-2 S/U, 4-0 O/U).  Not a good week ATS.  Had the Falcons, they lost.  Thought the Titans would keep close, they didn't. Thought the Steelers would roll, nope.  Vikings won by the spread (we won't enter the PAT debate).  At least had the Patriots/Vikings winning and wow, did get a lot of the over/under (the overs were a strong play).  All of J.R.'s picks can be tracked at CappedIn.com
(Totals through two weeks: 4-3-1 ATS, 5-3 S/U, 6-2 O/U). 

Bulldog Babe (1-2-1 ATS, 2-2 S/U, 2-2 O/U).  BDB didn't do bad at all against the spread, hitting with Falcons and Bills covers.  Straight up though, only got the Saints winning (although she will tell you that was her most important game from a rooting interest standpoint).  And we won't talk about the over/under.
(Totals through two weeks: 3-4-1 ATS, 3-5 S/U, 2-6 O/U).

Lines and spreads are from VegasInsider.com.

January 21 2018: 15:05 EST
Jacksonville Jaguars (+9, +350) New England Patriots (-9, -450) O/U 46.5

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6)
Last eight games: 5-3
Road: 5-4
Against Playoff teams: 3-3 (2-1 on road)

New England Patriots (14-3)
Last thirteen games: 12-1
Home: 7-2
Against Playoff teams: 6-2 (2-2 at home) 

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Patriots have been here before, like the last six years before.  It's Foxborough, it's January, it's Tom Brady.  I just don't see them losing this game to the upstart Jaguars and Blake Bortles.  The Jaguars defense is being touted but they did give up 42 points to Pittsburgh.  The machine wins.  The house wins.  It's just the way it works.  Patriots big.
Final Prediction: Patriots 31, Jaguars 21

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Jacksonville had the best upset of the weekend when they came into Pittsburgh and completely dominated. I feel like they had a lot of confidence and they wanted that win and they got it! It was very impressive and as a Steelers fan, I gained a lot of respect for the Jags. They wanted it more than Pittsburgh did. Now they're headed into a tough environment in Foxborough to face the Patriots this weekend and if they come into that game with the same confidence as they did with the Steelers, they can win and I firmly believe they will win. They have a complete team and they are hungry! I have the Jags winning this one.
Final Prediction: Jaguars 24, Patriots 20

January 13, 2018: 18:40 EST
Minnesota Vikings (-3, -170)  at Philadelphia Eagles (+3, +150) O/U 38.5

Minnesota Vikings (14-3)
Last thirteen games: 12-1
Road: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 4-2 (1-2 on road)

Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)
Last six games: 4-2
Home: 8-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-1 (1-0 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
I doubted the Eagles last week.  That won't happen again.  I felt like the Falcons were the best offense in the NFC and the Eagles defense tamed them.  The same will happen with the less experienced and frankly less talented Vikings and Case Keenum (which for all intents and purposes should have lost last week).  The Vikings defense is good too, so I see a very low scoring affair.  But the Eagles prevail.
Final Prediction: Eagles 24, Vikings 13

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This is the most deserving NFC matchup. Both of these teams have had an amazing season and they should be very proud. With that being said, only one team can win and I feel like neither team will back down without a fight. Both teams are coming off of close and crazy wins and it makes this weekend's matchup just that much better. I just feel like the Eagles are the stronger team. Yes, Carson Wentz is out with an injury but that's not stopping the Philly offense at all and that will go into this weekend. It will be close for sure, but I have the Eagles winning this. 
Final Prediction: Eagles 34, Vikings 31

J.R. and Bulldog Babe have spoken.  What do you think?  Either comment on our tweet or this post and we'll respond!  Meanwhile, enjoy Championship Sunday!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/14/2018

The NFL Playoffs Division Round typically separates the contenders from the pretenders.  The men from the boys.  Teams coming off a week of rest in their own stadium just two wins from the Super Bowl.  The most thrilling game over the weekend was the late game Sunday and it ended in historical fashion.  With ten seconds left on their side of the field and no time outs, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs did the impossible.  Simply hoping for a sideline throw, to set up a field goal try Vikings QB Case Keenum threw a perfect pass (go back and look at the location, it was perfect) to Diggs on the sideline who performed a Houdini act to avoid two defenders and streak down the sideline and score.  Game over, Vikings defeat the New Orleans Saints 29-24.  Diggs was already Keenum's highest yardage yielding target of the day prior to the miracle finish, but the 61 yard strike enabled Diggs to finish with 6 catches, 137 yards, and the 61 yard TD.  In one play, Stefon Diggs rewrote the NFL history books, and certainly earned the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Does the new National Baseball Hall of Fame Committees Change Everything?

In July 2016, the National Baseball Hall of Fame (NBHOF) made a significant announcement with regard to induction, the impact of which is beginning to be understood.  Whereas previously candidates who fell off the primary ballot seemed doomed to probably never see enshrinement in their lifetime (e.g. Ron Santo), that is now changing.  The NBHOF has essentially added its own "hooks" to enable a much broader membership, if the recent selection of Alan Trammell and Jack Morris to the NBHOF Class of 2018 is any indication

Historical Perspective

Historically, the NBHOF has its primary ballot as an induction mechanism, in which identified (well above average) players who were five years removed from their final game are placed on a ballot in which the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) could vote for up to ten candidates for induction.  If any candidate received more than 75% of the vote, they would be inducted among the greatest in baseball into the NBHOF.  Any candidate not receiving at least 5% of the vote, would not appear on the ballot the following year.  A candidate could remain on the ballot for 10 years (reduced from 15 years in 2014) before they would also be removed (and likely never elected...that appears to be what is changing).  A player currently banned from baseball was also not eligible at any point.  This vote was one of the most scrutinized in sports and especially now as former players associated with Performance Enhancing Drugs were making their way to the ballot, it is also the most controversial.

Adding to the controversy was a sudden focus on the BBWAA holding the keys to the NBHOF.  Members of the BBWAA had essentially a lifetime ballot, which seemed to cause consternation for members who hadn't covered the game in decades deciding which players they never covered should get in.  Rumors swirled of empty ballots being submitted as a protest to the PED era or just out of lack of caring to do the research and take the time.  The BBWAA eventually removed members that were 10 years removed from covering the game in 2015, tightening up the pool to those who had covered the game during the era.

The Hall of Fame Gallery
Outside of the primary ballot, the only remaining way for induction to the NBHOF was the Veterans committee ballot.  This ballot found its most use in recognizing pioneers of baseball in the first quarter of the 20th century as well as Negro League players, the talents of which were becoming much more known as media and researchers uncovered more information over the last half of the 20th century.  Seldom was a well known player who missed the primary ballot included on this.

This is all changing.

New NBHOF selection criteria

As of July 2016, four committees that meet on a rotating basis replace the singular Veterans Committee as follows
  • Today's Game (1988 - present)
  • Modern Baseball (1970 - 1987)
  • Golden Days (1950 - 1969)
  • Early Baseball (1871 - 1949)
Candidacy based on those years as as follow (via NBHOF)
The [committee name above] Committee ("The Committee") shall refer to the electorate that considers retired Major League Baseball players no longer eligible for election by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), along with managers, umpires and executives, whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from the [years outlined above].
The committees themselves are made up of "16 members, comprised of members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, executives, and veteran media members".

 The committee members meet on a rotating schedule as follows (via HallofStats.com)
  • 2016 – Today’s Game (selected Alan "Bud" Selig and John Schuerholz)
  • 2017 – Modern Baseball (selected Jack Morris and Alan Trammell)
  • 2018 – Today’s Game
  • 2019 – Modern Baseball
  • 2020 – Both Golden Days and Early Baseball
  • 2021 – Today’s Game
  • 2022 – Modern Baseball
  • 2023 – Today’s Game
  • 2024 – Modern Baseball
  • 2025 – Golden Days (no Early Baseball)
  • 2026 – Today’s Game
  • 2027 – Modern Baseball
  • 2028 – Today’s Game
  • 2029 – Modern Baseball
  • 2030 – Both Golden Days and Early Baseball
Selig and Schuerholz inducted in 2017
As noted above, the first meeting of this committee structure selected Alan "Bud" Selig and John Schuerholz in 2016 (for induction in 2017).  Both had significant contributions to the game and were widely considered strong candidates.  Schuerholz is certainly one of the greatest 1980s/90s executives (very comparable to NBHOF inductee Pat Gillick) and had little controversy.  Selig had a bit more controversy (primarily the 1994 strike and PED era), however the financial health of the league, additional playoff rounds including Wild Card, and relative labor peace after 1994 were instrumental to the growth and popularity of baseball today and got him a deserved nod.

The 2017 Modern Baseball committee has been the first to select former players.  Immediately it seems as if the whole induction philosophy has changed, as Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were selected for induction.  A uniqueness is that Morris appeared on the ballot as late as late as 2014 and Trammell appearing as late as 2016.  Suddenly, this Modern Baseball committee (as well as Today's game) seem as if they are another "catch wire for induction."  At the most basic, a chance for someone overlooked by the media to find their way in.  At the more complex, perhaps the NBHOF ability to circumvent what the BBWAA thinks.  Several NBHOF players (George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount) were on the panel that voted.  Players can now pick their peers.  Which may be a better electorate anyway, but it's a significant departure from the NBHOF historical entry criteria.

Candidacy of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell

Jack Morris
Jack Morris was incredibly close to BBWAA induction and got within 8 percent of the NBHOF vote needed.  Over 18 seasons, Morris notched over 250 wins, led the league in wins twice, finished in the Top 5 of the Cy Young voting five times, and won the iconic 1991 World Series Game 7 with a 10 inning complete game.  In his teams four postseason appearances, he won three World Series title, and was the 1991 World Series MVP.  The knock was always his 3.90 ERA (highest ever for a NBHOF pitcher) which stands about a half point higher than what some consider a minimum entry point.

Alan Trammell is a bit more of a stretch.  He never received as much as 41% of the NBHOF vote.  Meaning at no point did half of the BBWAA believe he was worthy.  Not near the 75% of affirmation needed throughout history.  The 41% was in his final year; prior to that he never exceeded 37%, below half of the votes needed.  So either he was severely under-appreciated by the media, or overrated by the 16 member Modern Baseball committee.  The truth probably lies somewhere in between.  His candidacy is explored further.

The primary ballot NBHOF (more than half their games at the position) since World War II are Ernie Banks, Barry Larkin, Cal Ripken Jr, Ozzie Smith, and Robin Yount.  The most similar to Trammell in terms of offensive style is Barry Larkin in my opinion, he will be used as a comp below along with Craig Biggio, who is also near the minimum level for a second baseman, comparable at middle infield.

Trammell was pretty darn good, but NBHOF worthy?
No NBHOF candidacy exploration is complete without looking at numbers.  Trammell was a lifetime .285 hitter, .352 on-base percentage, .415 slugging.  Good for a middle infielder, but Hall of Fame worthy?  Barry Larkin was higher across all three (.295/.371/.444) and won an MVP.  Craig Biggio's average of .281 is considered low by Hall of Fame standards, but he did have higher on base and slugging than Trammell, and is fifth in all time in doubles (number 1 for a right hand hitter).  And most importantly, got to the iconic 3,000 hits.  Trammell ended his career with 2,365 hits, nowhere near 3,000.

When comparing to same era and position peers (which is what the BBWAA typically does for NBHOF induction), Trammell again isn't up to NBHOF members.  We'll explore All-Star games (ASG), silver sluggers (SS), and gold gloves (GG) which compares against shortstops of the same year.  Trammell achieved six ASG, three SS, and four GG.  Compare to Larkin who had 12 ASG, nine SS, and three GG.  Biggio had seven ASG, five SS, and four GG (was also noted for playing three primary positions during different phases of his career).  The great shortstops like Ozzie Smith was 15 ASG, one SS, and 13 GG.  Ripken had 19 ASG, 8 SS, and 2 GG.

Few consider Edgar Renteria a NBHOF shortstop
So looking at those not in the NBHOF, Edgar Renteria (who Baseball Reference has as his closest comp) matches close Trammell with five ASG, three SS, and two GG.  Renteria got two votes from the BBWAA and dropped off after his initial candidacy in the 2017 vote.  Renteria finished with 2,327 hits, a .285 batting average, .343 on-base percentage, and .398 slugging.  Renteria also had almost 300 SB (compared to Trammell's respectable 236).  All a bit below, but the vote for the NBHOF is nowhere near close.  Trammell much more resembles Renteria than Larkin.

Finally, Trammell never led the league in any major statistic.  Being a batting champion or leading the league in hits or doubles can solidify a candidacy.  As an example, Biggio led the league in hits twice, doubles twice, and steals once. So what I see was a plus shortstop for eleven solid years  from 1980 to 1990, where he had all his ASG, GG, and SS recognition.  Short of Hall of Fame credentials.

I think what rubs me wrong is how quickly he turned from a sub-40% vote to the NBHOF induction.  Nothing personal, but suddenly the primary ballot is rendered near meaningless having only waited two years after that, seems almost instantaneous.  What's unclear is whether simply surviving the 10 years on the ballot would get one into the Hall.  Very few people find themselves never below 5% but not exceeding 75%.  Their candidacy simply loses momentum or gains it.  Now if you survive, you're on a very short list for the Modern Baseball or Today's Game committees.

What does the future hold?

Will the new veterans committees go easier on PED users?
Of particular interest is what this might mean for PED accused users.  Considering the committee is made up of baseball elite, I don't see a sudden rubber stamp for the Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  Unless you use the criteria of "they were good enough without it."  Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Frank Thomas have been relatively overt in their objection to PED users.

If Trammell is the new threshold for Hall of Fame induction, then the candidacy of many that made it through the ballot the full allotment might get reconsideration.  Lee Smith, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tommy John, and Dave Concepcion made the full ballot the last ten years.  Of those, I definitely think Lee Smith deserves in (whole separate argument regarding closers), and am on the fence for Dale Murphy and Dave Parker.  Mostly thinking these guys are just below criteria.

Frankly, I think the NBHOF line was in a good place without the expanded access.  Morris was so close he was touching it but there were (Earned Run Average) reasons why he fell short.  Trammell quite frankly was not as close.  Time will tell whether or not the NBHOF is trying to be more inclusive than the BBWAA is enabling or just giving due consideration to latter 20th century players on a veterans ballot similar to how they handled the first half of the 20th century.  My first taste is that it's a "you got close enough" instead of the objective criteria of the NBHOF for the first 80 years.  And I'm not sure I like it.

The NBHOF was always the most difficult to get in considering the number of players and statistical criteria it has taken to be among the best.  I don't see that changing, but the argument is weakened.  I guess everyone likes more guests at the party, but we don't want to end up where Yogi Berra once noted...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2017-18 NFL Divisional Weekend Playoff Preview

Follow me for ATS profits!
After a Wildcard weekend full of surprises, the NFL playoffs now move to the best eight teams.  Some call the Divisional Playoff Weekend their favorite, because you get a full four games and it literally is the best teams.  Road teams typically don't fare well because 1) they're the inferior team by record, 2) they of course are the road team, and 3) the home team had a week to rest up.  Will there be any upsets?  Vegas thinks so and actually has a road team favorite!  More on that in a minute

J.R. Ewing and "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) will offer you a full range analysis of the NFL playoffs week by week.  Here each playoff game will have a short breakdown with thoughts on key factors then a final score predict.  The final score predict then gives you a Straight Up, Over/Under, and Against the Spread (ATS) pick to chew on for "recreation purposes only".  We'll be tracking our own progress.  Or if you're someone with disposable income, gamble away (but this blog is not responsible for losses).

Down but not out
But first, much to Bulldog Babe's chagrin, we must look back on first week performance.  Hint, it doesn't end well for our Steelers fan.

J.R. Ewing (4-0 ATS, 3-1 S/U, 2-2 O/U).  J.R. hit a parlay on the Jacksonville win, but not cover, while staying under.  Outside of that game, He missed the Titans win along with the over on the Saints/Panthers and the under on the Falcons/Rams.  But a very successful week otherwise.  Be sure to track his plays on CappedIn.com

Bulldog Babe (2-2 ATS, 1-3 S/U, 0-4 O/U).  BDB didn't do bad at all against the spread, hitting with Falcons and Bills covers.  Straight up though, only got the Saints winning (although she will tell you that was her most important game from a rooting interest standpoint).  And we won't talk about the over/under.

We also picked the College Football Playoff final game.  Neither of us had the winner as we both picked Georgia.  Both of us won Georgia ATS as they covered the 4 points.  Bulldog Babe won the over on that one, while JR thought it would be just under (which it was before stupid overtime).

Lines and spreads are from VegasInsider.com.

January 13 2018: 16:35 EST
Atlanta Falcons (-3, -150) at Philadelphia Eagles (+3, +130) O/U 41

Atlanta Falcons (11-6)
Last eight games: 7-2
Road: 6-3
Against Playoff teams: 3-5 (1-3 on road)

Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Last five games: 3-2
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 2-1 (0-0 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
By far the most intriguing game of the week, when you take the best team in the conference, put them at home, then give them points.  Yes, they do have a backup quarterback.  But backup quarterbacks have had success in the playoffs, such as Jeff Hostetler and Frank Reich.  The Eagles are a more complete team than people think.  However, I do feel like the Falcons are playing their best football of the year and have playoff experience in spades.  I see the Falcons defense continuing to play well and shut down the Eagles for a relatively easy Falcons win.

Final Prediction: Falcons 27, Eagles 13

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This game is tough to predict, to be honest. Atlanta and Philly are both great teams, but there can only be one team good enough to make it to the NFC Championship and I feel like the Eagles are the team. They lost Carson Wentz in the regular season due to a torn ACL, but they have proven they can win through adversity. This weekend will be the same way. Philly wins. 34-20.

Final Prediction: Eagles 34, Falcons 20

January 13, 2018: 20:15 EST
Tennessee Titans (+13.5, +700) at New England Patriots (-13.5, -1100) O/U 48

Tennessee Titans (10-7)
Last five games: 2-3
Road: 4-5
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (2-1 on road)

New England Patriots (13-3)
Last twelve games: 11-1
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 5-2 (1-2 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
You just don't see point spreads this wide in the playoffs.  Unless you're talking about the Patriots, who had a similar easy first game last year against the Houston Texans (who actually kept it closer than experts thought).  I've railed all year that the Patriots defense isn't that good.  The Titans aren't exactly world beaters, but with Derrick Henry toting the rock and Marcus Mariota creating, this ends up close. Within the points.

Final Prediction: Patriots 31, Titans 24

Bulldog Babe prediction:
I’m all for upsets and I think that will happen in this game. The Titans came back against the Chiefs in dominating fashion to get to this game and that is so crazy considering how down they were the entire first half of that game. I feel like if they can play the way they did in the second half of the Chiefs game, they will have success against the Patriots. New England I feel like just isn’t as dominant as they used to be and they are completely beatable. I think the Titans will upset them this weekend. 31-27.

Final Prediction: Titans 31, Patriots 27

January 14, 2018: 13:05 EST
Jacksonville Jaguars (+7, +300) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7, -400) O/U 41

Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6)
Last seven games: 4-3
Road: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (1-1 on road)

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)Last eleven games: 10-1
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (2-2 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Steelers are playing some of the best ball now having only lost one game to the Patriots in their last 11.  And some thing they actually won that game on a controversial TD reversal.  The Steelers are way too much at home and Jacksonville's defense, while good, won't be able to keep their offense in the game.  Steelers win pretty easily.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27, Jaguars 17

Bulldog Babe prediction:
The rematch from week 5. I don’t think the Steelers will let what happened in week 5 happen again, that was just the one down game they had. I know that getting Antonio Brown back will be huge for the Pittsburgh offense and it will be a factor in how they perform. The absence of Ryan Shazier still looms upon the Pittsburgh defense, but they’ve been able to get after the quarterback and defend the ball really well. I think the Steelers will have enough in the tank this time to get a win & a berth to the AFC Championship.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27, Jaguars 10
January 14, 2018: 16:40 EST
New Orleans Saints (+5, +190) at Minnesota Vikings (-5, -230) O/U 46.5

New Orleans Saints (12-5)
Last seven games: 4-3
Road: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 5-4 (2-3 on road)

Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Last twelve games: 11-1
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (2-0 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
I feel like the Vikings aren't nearly getting the credit they deserve.  Just one loss since October 1.  Case Keenum isn't a game manager, look at the numbers he put up in college.  The Saints, while strong, had a tough game last week and will be tough to get that much energy back up again.  The Vikings win this one relatively pedestrian.

Final Prediction: Vikings 27, Saints 20

Bulldog Babe prediction:
The Vikings have surprised me this season, I can’t believe they’re in the playoffs and were even able to get a first round bye. With a week off, they will be healthy to compete with Drew Brees and the Saints, who are coming off of an incredible win over the Panthers last week. This will be a close one, I feel like and I have the Vikings in this one. I think they can keep their composure and strength long enough to get to the NFC Championship.

Final Prediction: Vikings 27, Saints 24

Can you believe there are only seven football games left this season?  And four are this week.  Don't miss out, find a way to watch!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/7/2018

The NFL Playoffs got off to an entertaining start with three of the four games ending within a TD.  And while all of the point spreads were 5 or more points, two road teams pulled upsets.  Perhaps the most surprising was the Tennessee Titans, eight point underdogs having only won once since December 3, traveling to Kansas City, who had won 4 straight games.  But it was the Titans who put ground out an old school, playoff-like and came back from a 18 point halftime deficit.  No player was more key to the comeback than former Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry, who ran for 156 yards on 23 carries and the team's only rushing touchdown.  He was also second on the team in receiving yards with another 35 on 2 catches, one brilliant one for 29 yards.  Henry picked the best time to peak, it was only the third 100 rushing game of his two-year career and by far the most yards.  Henry is looking like a steal as he was drafted in the 2nd round.  He most certainly is a deserving Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week, his second nod as he won once in college.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017-18 NFL Wildcard Weekend Playoff Preview

I'm back whether you
like it or not!
As is the tradition for NFL playoff time, Dallas native and Cowboys fan (moment of silence) J.R. Ewing will offer you a full range analysis of the NFL playoffs week by week.  Here each playoff game will have a short analysis with thoughts on key factors then a final score predict.  The final score predict then gives you a Straight Up, Over/Under, and Against the Spread (ATS) pick to chew on for "recreation purposes only".  We'll be tracking our own progress.  Or if you're someone with disposable income, gamble away (but this blog is not responsible for losses).

The legend is back!
For the second year in a row, our regular blog consultant "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) will be offering breakdown.  Those of you who followed our blog during college football season knows she hit over 64% against the spread throughout the season.  And this year she's actually 21 so you don't have to feel so dirty taking her bets to the books.  Once again, her Pittsburgh Steelers are in the middle of it and this year (this week only), we'll also pick the National Championship Game featuring Alabama vs. her Georgia Bulldogs.  Let's just say BDB is really really happy right now.  When she's not blogging here, you can find her at the NASCAR Blog Ladies in Black.

Lines and spreads are from VegasInsider.com.

January 6, 2018: 16:20 EST
Tennessee Titans (+8, +350) at Kansas City Chiefs (-8, -450) O/U 44

Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Last four games: 1-3
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 2-2 (1-1 on road)

Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Last four games: 4-0
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 2-2 (1-2 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
At a glance, particularly looking at the last month of football, the Chiefs should roll in this one.  Neither team has really done that well against playoff competition.  The Chiefs two playoff wins came in their first two games.  They didn't have the mojo after that.  Meanwhile the Titans had to scratch and claw to win their finale.  I think this is closer and more low scoring that people think.  The Chiefs win, but on a last minute score.

Final Prediction: Chiefs 21, Titans 17

Bulldog Babe prediction:
I don’t feel like this will be a close game at all, I think that it’s an easy pick based off previous games from the regular season. I feel like Kansas City has a stronger team on both sides of the balland they will make it to the divisional round to face Pittsburgh.

Final Prediction: Chiefs 34, Titans 20

January 6, 2018: 20:15 EST
Atlanta Falcons (+6.5, +250) at Los Angeles Rams (-6.5, -300) O/U 48.5

Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Last eight games: 6-2
Road: 5-3
Against Playoff teams: 2-5 (0-3 on road)

Los Angeles Rams (11-5)
Last eight games: 4-4
Home: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-1 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
We all pick our spots for upsets, and this is it.  The Falcons are playoff tested and a bit hungry after last year's 28-3 blown lead in the Super Bowl.  After muddling through the first half of the season, they improved over the last eight.  Matt Ryan will enjoy the good weather out west and play a good game.  Meanwhile this is the Rams first playoff rodeo in a while.  They were not spectacular at home or over their last eight games.  I think Todd Gurley gets shut down and the Falcons begin their revenge tour (Eagles next).

Final Prediction: Falcons 28, Rams 23

Bulldog Babe prediction:
These are two of the emotionally toughest teams in the NFC, in my opinion. They have never given up and I feel like they both have their strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the ball. I think that the Rams have more motivation and more talent and they will go on to play the Eagles. This will be a close win for the Rams though.

Final Prediction: Rams 34, Falcons 31

January 7, 2018: 13:05 EST
Buffalo Bills (+9, +350) at Jacksonville Jaguars (-9, -450) O/U 39.5

Buffalo Bills (9-7)
Last six games: 4-2
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 2-4 (2-2 on road)

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)
Last six games: 3-3
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 1-3 (0-2 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
This game at the surface seems like a slam dunk for Jacksonville.  But if you look more closely, the teams are only separated by one game.  And Buffalo played playoff teams much much better than the Jags.  I definitely think this is closer than the points suggest, but I do believe the Jaguars defense will step up and shut down the Bills offense.  Jaguars win.

Final Prediction: Jaguars 20, Bills 13

Bulldog Babe prediction:
I’m so proud of my hometown team, the Buffalo Bills, breaking the 17 year long playoff drought. I think they can go far in the playoffs. Jacksonville has been surprisingly very good all season and they will be a very tough matchup for Buffalo. I think it’ll be very close, but Buffalo will prevail.

Final Prediction: Bills 34, Jaguars 27
January 7, 2018: 16:40 EST
Carolina Panthers (+6.5, +250) at New Orleans Saints (-6.5, -300) O/U 48.5

Carolina Panthers (11-5)
Last five games: 4-1
Road: 5-3
Against Playoff teams: 4-4 (2-2 on road)

New Orleans Saints (11-5)
Last six games: 3-3
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 4-4 (2-1 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
With three teams making the playoffs from the NFC South, which was matched against the AFC East and two more playoff teams, both of these teams essentially played half their games against playoff teams.  And split those games, although the Saints won both head to head matchups.  Again, two teams evenly matched in the standings.  Home field means everything to the Saints, who also have veteran Drew Brees on their side.  The Panthers have been the hotter team lately and keep it close, but the Saints march on.

Final Prediction: Saints 26, Panthers 20

Bulldog Babe prediction:
The third matchup for these two teams this season. The Panthers are on a roll with their games and the Saints have a vengeance. I don’t think the Panthers will have enough in the tank this time. With them being in New Orleans, home field advantage is a major plus for the Saints and they’ll take advantage of that and win.

Final Prediction: Saints 24, Panthers 10

January 8, 2017: 20:00 EST
Georgia Bulldogs (13-1) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)
Alabama (-4, -180)
Georgia (+4, +160)
O/U 45

J.R. Ewing prediction
While the rest of the country complains about an all SEC matchup, these are the two best teams.  And the committee got it right including Alabama.  One loss teams are better than two loss conference champions and better than undefeated teams without a Top 10 win.  Plain and simple.  But on to this game.  I wasn't sure what to expect out of Alabama after the Auburn loss.  It looked like they got exposed.  But from the first snap against Clemson, you could see an edge to them.  They smelled victory.  That being said, Georgia is a very complete team.  Balanced on offense, and strong defensively.  This will be a low scoring game, but I think Georgia's defense matches up well to Alabama's offense while Georgia's two headed running attack monster eventually wears down the Tide.  I go Georgia.

Final Prediction: Georgia 24, Alabama 20

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Alabama and Georgia competing for the national title is the perfect ending to a down season for the SEC. No matter the outcome, it’s gonna be a great game! After Georgia’s miraculous comeback victory against Oklahoma, they’ve officially proven that they’re title contenders and even winners and they won’t back down from Alabama. Alabama is strong, but they didn’t have much competition against Clemson. They haven’t faced an offensive or defensive line like Georgia’s, you have to take into consideration that their defense has been plagued with injuries all season, so I don’t think they will have enough to beat the Dawgs. I know the last time these two teams met to contend for a championship, it was close and a very physical game and it won’t be any different this time around. This time, it’s Georgia’s turn to shine. I know for a fact it will be very close, but UGA will win the national title for the first time since 1980.

Final Prediction: Georgia 34, Alabama 31

The best part about the NFL playoffs is that the best teams play every week.  No more Cleveland vs. Denver or Chicago vs. Tampa Bay.  But with home field advantage coveted and earned by the better team, you get some expected winners when it comes to point spread.  Hopefully we see some sharp play and close games.  Weather may actually be nice, with three of the four games in Florida, Calfornia, or a dome.  Next week, get ready for Philly, Boston, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh.  Quite the contrast!  Enjoy your football weekend, fans!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/31/2017

Another sports year in the books with the close of 2017, and as with most sports years, they end with exciting college football bowls.  The appetizer for the main course was this week, with several great games (especially if you are a fan of the Big 10).  The Big 12 also scored several key victories, including an upset over #20 Memphis Tigers at the hands of the Iowa State Cyclones in the Liberty Bowl.  The Cyclones enjoyed a resurgence this year due in large part to veteran leadership.  Perhaps none more important that WR Allen Lazard.  The senior went out with his best game of the year, notching 10 catches for 142 yards and a TD.  Perhaps more impressive was that his longest catch was only 22 yards, meaning he was consistently finding the second level and pulling in clutch catches, usually in traffic, to move the chains.  In a defensive struggle, each catch mattered and Iowa State notched their first bowl victory since 2009 by the score of 21-20.  Lazard should get a lot of NFL attention and he is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame Vote

On Wednesday, January 24, 2018, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) vote for enshrinement to the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be revealed. The BBWAA holds the keys to such an elite fraternity, which must be a daunting task. They are voting on players to proverbially sit next to Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mathewson and the like.  As done in years past, I will provide my ballot as if I were a BBWAA member.

Here is the full 2018 Ballot (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com)

There are a few major factors that cannot be ignored when it comes to voting.

1) The specter over the Hall will continue to be Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) use in baseball primarily in the 1990s, an era for which many players accused are now appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot.  There are players whose performance clearly merits first ballot election, however because of their associated with substances that enhanced their performance, members of the BBWAA has been hesitant to cast votes their way.  This may have taken a turn in the 2017 vote when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two who have the most clear credentials, surpassed 50% for the first time.  This could be in response to the induction of Mike Piazza who many believed used PEDs but was not directly linked.  Many believe the same for Ivan Rodriguez, who was implicated by Jose Canseco, a source who has proven reliable at times, and not so much other times.  Will this break down the mental conundrum that may writers have?  Early returns show more support for Bonds and Clemens.  Because the official voting rules include the words "integrity, sportsmanship, and character" and integrity, so their reluctance is justified in my mind.  For my selection, I will not presume guilt, but if there is legal (including Mitchell Report) or strong anecdotal evidence of PED use, I will strongly weigh against voting. 

2) A batch of candidates making their way onto the ballot or relief pitchers who specialized in finishing games in which their team was winning by 3 or fewer runs.  In other words, closers.  To date, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, and Goose Gossage are the modern day versions in the Hall.  Two candidates on the ballot have more saves than each of them.  It's a measure of how the game has changed (with the advent of the specialty closer) whether or not they get strong consideration from the BBWAA.

3) A final point of discussion is how to handle starting pitching.  Whereas the 300 win plateau used to be a norm, it's become increasingly more difficult to get wins in the era of specialty relievers with starters leaving the game before the end of the sixth inning many times in close games.  Conversely, however, one would think this would benefit starting pitchers ERA by seldom going through a lineup more than 3 times.  In the end, I strongly weigh dominance over a discernible period of time, along with Cy Young Awards, All-Star games, Win titles, and ERA.

4) There is also first and last ballot bias.  First ballot some BBWAA voters will hold their vote to protect some sort of integrity of being a "first ballot hall of famer".  Evidence, three voters who did not include Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016.  Likewise, when a player is on his last ballot, as Tim Raines was last year, voters who previously withheld tend to pay a bit more attention to their candidacy considering it's a final shot.  So a bump is normal (up to 15% for a candidate close to election).

With a limit of ten players on a ballot, here are the players I would put on my ballot (in order of credibility).  I don't use all ten votes.

1) Chipper Jones - One of the best third basemen of all time, one of the best switch hitters of all time, and he played plus defense.  He won an MVP, a batting title, and eight All-Star games.  Consistent post-season hitter (And tons of post-season at bats).  He would have been rookie of the year if not for the imported Japanese veteran Hideo Nomo.  It's hard to find a flaw in his game.  Chipper was well loved and respected by the media, he should have no problem getting on his first ballot with a very high percentage of the vote.

Factors against him: Short of 500 HR, could have won more World Series titles, first ballot bias

Chipper is pretty much a slam dunk.  First ballot bias may keep him around 95%, but there is hardly a case against him (the above is pretty weak).

2) Jim Thome - Power power power.  His 612 HR sits eight on the all-time home run list (and two ahead of him have been implicated for PED usage).  While like many power hitters, he did strike out a lot, he also walked a lot, having led the league in bases on balls three times and finishing with an on base percentage over .400 (despite a pedestrian .276 career batting average).  His career seemed to be steady for about 15 years, where he wasn't among the Top 3 or 4 in the game, but always among the Top 10

Factors against him: Never won an MVP, never won a World Series, only led the league in HR once, never led the league in RBI, first ballot bias.

Because of the power era in which he played, some may discount his power.  He never looked the part of a PED user.  He won't get as many votes as fellow 600 HR member Ken Griffey Jr., but should finish in the mid to upper 80% range and get in on the first ballot.

3) Vladimir Guerrero - I'm surprised he did not get in last year.  Clearly has the numbers, so it must have been first ballot bias.  Vlad was a five tool player (.319 average. 449 HR, top arm/glove in the league, and plus speed). Nine All-Star Games, an MVP, and a hit title.  His career numbers fall short of some major benchmarks (like 500 HR) as he retired at age 36.  If he had taken PEDs he might have played another 5 years and approached 600 HR.  No doubt one of the most feared hitters for a decade or so.

Factors against him: Lack of single team identity, no World Series titles, short of 500 HR

To me, he meets all of the criteria and should get in with about 80% of vote.

4) Trevor Hoffman - Another one who should have gotten in last year and was just five ballots short.  One of two members of the 600 career save club (and we know the other will get in first ballot).  That's 40 saves per year for 15 years (average).  Seven All-Star appearances and twice finished runner up in the Cy Young, which is rare for a reliever.

Factors against him: reliever bias, played in a small market, was probably never the best reliever in the game at any given time

This is his year. The NL reliever of the year award is named after him, he'll get in with 81% of the vote or so.

5) Larry Walker - I've been pushing Walker for several years now.  He was another 5-tool player, finished his career with a .313 batting average, higher than anyone else on the ballot besides Vladimir Guerrero.  Let me repeat that, second highest batting average of anybody on the ballot. Also stole 200 bases, also hit 383 home runs. He has so many gold gloves he probably had to build an extra section on his trophy case. Like 2017 inductee Jeff Bagwell, he won one MVP. He's also a member of the .400 OBP club (with Manny Ramirez, Jones, Thome, Bonds, and Edgar Martinez the only six on the ballot).

Factors against him: Perceived higher numbers due to playing in Colorado, soft-spoken personality, injury-prone (only 4 seasons of 140+ games).

He only received 22% of the vote last year (very slight up tick), that needs to trend up significantly for people to start noticing. He's not going to make it.

6) Edgar Martinez - He's of the mold of the previous two players. Hit for high average, good (but not awe inspiring) power, gets on base all the time. While I am not a fan of the DH, if MLB has it as a position, you can't hold that against him. Edgar was a career .312 hitter, with .418 OBP (highest on the ballot besides Bonds), slugged .515 (more than Fred McGriff). He's also a member of the 300 HR club for a guy who didn't try to lift the ball as much as others.

Factors against him: Primarily a DH, played in small market, lack of speed

He was voted for the affirmative on 59% of last years ballots, moving up 15% which was a big jump.  I've seen more buzz about Edgar this year than in years passed.  This is his penultimate appearance on the ballot and I think he falls just short at 73%.  Then gets in on his last ballot.

7) Billy Wagner - The more I see Billy the Kid, the more I think he's getting short changed.  Especially when comparing to the four biggest specialty relief pitchers already in the Hall (Eckersley, Sutter, Fingers, and Gossage) as he has 30 more saves than the best of them.  And a lower ERA.  And a better K/9 IP.  His 7 All Star Game appearances are comparable to all as well.  He sits sixth in career saves and his stuff was dominant.  I noted above we're teetering on how to treat relievers, I believe we're going to see fewer relievers going forward with huge career numbers because so many are going to flame out with arm problems given their use.  Wags should get strong consideration.

Factors against him: relief pitcher bias, lack of postseason success

He got about 10% vote each of his first two years.  He needs to start climbing or I don't think he can ever reach the top.  I'm guessing he never gets in during the 10 year window, but may get in on a veteran ballot in decades to come once the Hall figures out how to handle relievers.

8) Jeff Kent - Quietly one of the top offensive second basemen of all time.  His line across the major stats is .290, 377, and 1518.  He has an MVP in his closet, and three other Top 10 finishes.  Add to that six All-Star appearances.  His power numbers dwarf Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar, but is getting very little buzz or momentum.

Factors against him: Very average on defense, played in a power era in which his home run numbers aren't considered extraordinary, cold to media

With about 17% of the vote the last two years, no reason to think he'll move significantly now, or over the next five years.

First four out

9) Mike Mussina - Without 300 wins or a dominant ERA, he's not quite Hall worthy in my opinion.  No Cy Young Awards, a one-time 20 game winner, five All-Star games.  Career ERA is 3.68, not spectacular even in the power era (considering he didn't face line ups four times in most starts). 

Factors against him: Doesn't have 300 wins, not dominant, played on winning teams but never won a World Series.

At 52%, he has surpassed Curt Schilling and may be on a trajectory for eventual induction, which was not looking as good last year. 

10) Fred McGriff - You can't ignore the near 500 home runs, but he hung on a while to get so close and wasn't elite enough in his prime to warrant the Hall. Average defense, below average speed, not an outstanding OBP. He also never broke 110 RBI in a season.

Factors against him: Unspectacular batting average, lack of dominating seasons, lack of speed

At only 22% last year, he's not moving much. I doubt he gets much closer in this, or his final year on the ballot in 2019.  Could be a veteran ballot candidate, was very popular with teammates and media and did things the right way.

11) Curt Schilling - Seems to get way more media discussion than others as deserving (like Kent or Mussina or even a Bagwell).  3.46 ERA and barely over 200 wins (216).  For careers starting after World War II, only Don Drysdale has fewer wins in the Hall (six fewer seasons, ERA half a point better).  Postseason success aside, it's not a strong case at all.  His willingness to share his unpopular political views also seem to reduce his support.

Factors against him: Low wins, unspectacular ERA, political opinions

At 45% of the vote, he took a step back in 2017.  While sharing of ones political opinions, whether popular or controversial, should not be a factor in the Hall election, it seems to be.  The more he talks, the less support he gets.  I think he will never cross the 75% threshold and is also unlikely to get in on a veterans ballot.

12) Andruw Jones - Power, speed, and defense, he was a 5-tool player.  Started his career at 19, but wore out at Age 35, he still hit well over 400 HR.  His .254 batting average really drags him down, with a lack of huge walk numbers it leaves him only .337 OBP.  His defense was his calling card, but also won a Silver Slugger and narrowly missed the MVP in 2005 to Albert Pujols.

Factors against him: Low batting average, barely was a factor after age 30.

The remaining repeat candidates fall into the PED category.  Their stats are more than deserving, even before they might have juiced, but would not get my vote): Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield.  All would easily be in without it.

Newcomers that might stay on the ballot (besides those mentioned above): Scott Rolen, Johan Santana

So my opinions aside, here's who I think gets in (in order by vote percentage).
Chipper Jones
Jim Thome
Trevor Hoffman
Vlad Guerrero

They will join "Modern Baseball" enshrinees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell along with J.G. Taylor Spink Award (writers) winner Sheldon Ocker and the Ford C. Frick Award (broadcasting excellence) winner Bob Costas.  The Modern Baseball ballot is intriguing in the recency of the inductees to the writers ballot and may be discussed on a future Blog.  The induction ceremony is a homecoming of baseball elite, and will be July 29, 2018.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/24/2017

'Tis the Bowl Season and while many of the games among higher ranked teams begin this week, last week featured several great games (and a few blowouts).  While some curmudgeons posit that there are too many bowls, don't tell that to teams that are just glad to play one more game this year, and for many, in their life.  South Florida ended a successful 10-2 season with a dramatic 38-34 Birmingham Bowl win over Big 12 opponent Texas Tech.  And they were led by a senior quarterback who literally did it all.  Quinton Flowers overcame a slow start to throw for 311 yards and 4 TD.  None were bigger than a 26 yard toss with under 20 seconds left after Tech had scored less than 80 seconds earlier.  Flowers was also the Bulls leading rusher with 106 yards on 14 carries and another TD, thus having a hand in all five of his team's touchdowns.  While Flowers may not project to the NFL as a passer, don't count him out on potentially switching to an all purpose back or defensive player.  He's a darn good football player and the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

College Football Picks - 2017 Bowl Picks Special

Cowboy hat tip to BDB
And that's a wrap.  An amazing college football season is winding down as we enter the lesser bowls before Christmas before the main course starts shortly thereafter.  We've been on break for a few weeks, so we'll catch up with some final thoughts on the playoff selection, overview of the final week of predictions (and season wrap up), and then delve into our picks for the big Bowl games leading to the New Years Day playoffs at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

So now our weekly take on last week and this week, in five bullets:

1) Alabama or Ohio State.  Ohio State or Alabama.  That was the 12 hour debate leading up to the college football playoff selection show.  There was no right or wrong answer, but someone was going to be left out.  After the last two years, it turns out conference championships aren't as important as people think.
2) I still won't hear arguments that there are too many bowls.  If you don't like them, don't watch.  Meanwhile Group of Five programs get more exposure, more practice, and a chance for a national audience.  All good things.  Access to bowls is one of the elements of the NCAA that doesn't bias toward the Power Five conferences.
3) I'm still not in favor of expanding the playoffs to eight teams.  Unless you get rid of conference title games and have the first round that weekend (since outright conference titles are apparently devalued by the committee).  It's actually easier to choose between the 4th through 6th or 7th team than the 8th through 16th team.  Much more gray area.
4) Annual warning not to look at bowl records and surmise conference strength.  It's a short set of data, you have all kinds of factors (coaches leaving and the latest being underclassmen skipping the bowl game to prep for the draft).
5) One of the best things about the College Football Playoff matchups is that both games are within a field goal point spread.  Hoping for good semifinal games (which has not happened much lately).  And thank goodness they moved off of New Years Eve.

BDB basking in the Championship glory!
This blog will typically pick five games, including the Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs by default (unless bad matchups).  We try and go for one game in each of the Power 5 conferences, sometimes skipping one that might not have a marquee.  This week we'll of course take the playoff games, Texas, then two of the other Big Six bowls.  A nice spread of all the Power Five conferences for sure.

Our two analysts are J.R. Ewing, Texas Longhorns fan and general loud mouth.  And we feature big time Georgia Bulldog fan "Bulldog Babe" (BDB) (@bulldogbabexo).  She's been amazing this year and a great blog partner!

Last week
JR: 3-2 S/U, 3-1-1 ATS
BDB: 3-2 S/U, 1-3-1 ATS

Season to date:
JR: 43-26 S/U, 38-28-1 ATS
BDB: 51-19 S/U, 44-24-1 ATS

Recapping the Conference Championship weekend, considering BDB and JR disagreed on every winner besides Georgia (which both got right), not too bad.  BDB unfortunately had a couple of straight up winners not cover to dent her ATS number, but no threat to her insurmountable lead.  I hereby declare BDB the winner of the 2017 Longhorndave College Football Pick Blog!  She is the Picks Queen of 2017 (get it, it rhymes)!

Spreads are from a great pick site, Capped Sports

Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl
Wednesday December 27, 9:00 p.m. EST, Houston, Texas
Texas (6-6) (+2.5) vs. Missouri (7-5)

JR Ewing:
Intriguing matchup of second tier SEC and Big 12 teams.  Texas defense was able to shut down good offenses like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.  But their offense was a work in progress that never finished.  Missouri finished the season with 6 straight wins, but has no wins over a team with a winning record.  Beating 6-6 Texas won't help that stat.  Texas played even with big teams like USC and OU and has the better team here.  Wins in a low scoring affair.
Texas 21, Missouri 17

Bulldog Babe: 
Both of these teams have been down in the dumps this year, in my opinion. It’s a surprise to me that they were able to sneak into bowl season. With that being said, this will be an interesting matchup. I think both teams have a chance at winning either a blowout or a close one, bowl season is always unpredictable. I have a feeling Missouri will win this one.
Missouri 34, Texas 20

Goodyear Cotton Bowl
Friday December 29, 8:30 p.m. EST, Arlington, Texas
Southern California (11-2) (+7.5) vs. Ohio State (11-2)

JR Ewing:
It's too bad the Rose Bowl could not have hosted this matchup, since it is rare in today's climate to get the true Big 10 and Pac 12 conference champion in a bowl game.  The Cotton Bowl is certainly a stalwart traditional game, so it will have to do.  Both teams won their Conference Title game over strong opponents.  Ohio State was the first team out of the playoff so this is about how they respond.  Last time they did well in defeating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.  USC doesn't seem to have the horses to keep up.  I am really looking forward to the QB matchup in this one.  But Ohio State wins it relatively easily.
Ohio State 31, Southern California 21

Bulldog Babe:
This is probably gonna be one of my favorite matchups of the bowl season. Two strong teams who have had their fair share of high and low points. I think this will be a close matchup with both teams bringing their A game. I’ve been riding the USC train almost all season, but Ohio State to me just seems like the better team. OSU wins it.
Ohio State 24, Southern California 17.

Capitol One Orange Bowl
Saturday December 30, 8:00 p.m. EST, Miami Gardens, Florida
Miami (10-2) (+6.5) vs. Wisconsin (12-1)

JR Ewing:
A battle of two teams that were undefeated when we carved the turkey on Thanksgiving weekend but came up short in their conference title games.  Both against better teams. This is a very intriguing matchup as Miami has lost two straight and looked awful in both.  But when they play in south Florida, they were unbeatable.  Wisconsin always plays well in bowl games, but I think the "U" magic is back and Miami pulls off an upset.
Miami 31, Wisconsin 26

Bulldog Babe:
Probably two of my favorite teams besides Georgia to watch this season. I had so much confidence in Miami to get in the playoffs, but they came up just a bit short. There couldn’t be a better bowl matchup for them than Wisconsin though, I feel like this game will be interesting and entertaining to watch. I feel like Wisconsin may be the stronger team, but I can’t get off the Miami train just yet. I think the Hurricanes will win a close one.
Miami 30, Wisconsin 24

Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual
Monday January 1, 2018, 5:10 p.m. EST, Pasadena, California
Oklahoma (12-1) (+2) vs. Georgia (12-1)

JR Ewing:
A game with teams fitting of the "Granddaddy of them All."  Oklahoma and Georgia had just one hiccup throughout the season.  Going back to last year, Oklahoma is actually 22-1 in their last 23 games.  Both teams have impressive out of conference wins at Ohio State and at Notre Dame  Both were dominant in their conference title game.  If I'm looking for an edge here, I like the more experienced quarterback in Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.  While freshman Jake Frohmm has been impressive, this is a whole new stage. He'll get his title in a year or two, but this year belongs to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma 35, Georgia 27

Bulldog Babe:
The first of the two CFB Playoff games. I am so excited for this game because Georgia and Oklahoma are both really strong and both teams deserve to be in Pasadena playing in this game. While everyone is riding the Oklahoma train, I feel like Georgia has enough mojo to win this game and get to the national championship game for the first time in over 30 years. Georgia wins a close one.
Georgia 34, Oklahoma 24

Allstate Sugar Bowl
Monday January 1, 2018, 8:45 p.m. EST, New Orleans, Louisiana
Clemson (12-1) (+3) vs. Alabama (11-1)

JR Ewing:
Perhaps I have not flip-flopped any more than this game.  Both teams are so good and of course they have met in the last two playoffs (in the Championship Game).  It's hard to see how either team loses.  But I do like Clemson.  They're not intimidated by Alabama, and last we saw the Tide, they looked pretty helpless on offense.  I think they miss Lane Kiffin more than they know.  Clemson's defense is stronger than they get credit for, allowing only 30 points in their last 4 games combined (all wins of 17 points or more).  I think Clemson wins the rubber match of this three game series and takes away the dynasty moniker from the Tide as the flagship team in college football.
Clemson 24, Alabama 14

Bulldog Babe:
Part 3. Another matchup between the Tide and the Tigers, so crazy to think how these teams somehow keep getting matched up to play each other. Alabama’s defensive line keeps getting mauled with injuries and I think Clemson is strong enough to keep up with them once again. They will be able to take advantage of that injury plagued defensive line. Clemson wins.
Clemson 34, Alabama 20

Enjoy the Bowl Season everyone!  We may or may not do a Championship Game Blog (it might depend on whether Georgia makes it)!

- JR and BDB