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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.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame Vote

On Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 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 2017 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, 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.  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 anecdotal evidence of PED use, I will strongly weigh against voting.  I'm not alone, since fewer than half of voters have written in Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, who no doubt Hall of Famers if not for PEDs.

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.  Three 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 closer0 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. last year.  Likewise, when a player is on his last ballot, 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 (not significant, but 5% ish).


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) Vladimir Guerrero - 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, first ballot bias

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

2) Jeff Bagwell - He was an offensive machine in the mid-1990's, career numbers reflect that (.297, 449 HR, 1529 RBI). More walks than anyone else on the ballot besides Bonds and Sheffield (fear factor and eye), .408 OBP.  He also stole 200 bases and was an above average 1B (Gold Glove in the closet). No hard evidence of PED's, although suspicion without evidence seems to be an argument against.  His numbers are nearly identical to Vlad yet he sits here in his seventh year on the ballot.

Factors against him: Perceived use of PEDs, playing in a small market, lack of postseason success.

At 71.6% last year, it would be historic if he dropped back from that.  He'll get in this time (just barely, not much over 77%).

3) Trevor Hoffman - 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 number one reliever at any given time

At 67.3% last year, the first ballot bias should be overcome. The NL reliever of the year award is named after him, he'll get in with 81% of the vote or so.

4) Ivan Rodriguez - The only think moving him from number 1 to number 4 is potential PED suspicions.  Note that for Rodribues, the evidence against him is mostly anecdotal (from Jose Canseco).  I suspect he was using, but not extensively.  That behind us, his numbers as a catcher are elite:  .296 average, 311 HR, an MVP, best arm behind the plate in the game and a great teammate.  Ten straight Gold Gloves (six of those years he won a Silver Slugger).

Factors against him: Perceived PEDs, first ballot bias

Tough to forecast if he'll make the cut due to PED suspicions.  There might be enough to hold back their vote to keep him in the 65% range.  Most interesting total to see on the ballot IMO.

5) Larry Walker - 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 Bagwell, he won one MVP. He's also a member of the .400 OBP club (with Bagwell, Manny Ramirez, Bonds, and Edgar Martinez the only four 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 15.5% of the vote last year (regressing), 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. With the previous two, defense pushes their case, for Edgar it can't but he still deserves it. Career .312 hitter, .418 OBP, 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 43% of last years ballots he's moving up slowly.  He needs to get closer to 50% to continue the momentum, now in his eighth year probably not going to make it now

7) Billy Wagner - This pick might raise some eyebrows, but when comparing to the four major relief pitchers already in the Hall (Eckersley, Sutter, Fingers, and Gossage), he has 30 more saves than each 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

Only in his second year (10% vote last year), he's more likely to fall off the ballot than to surge to even more than 25%.  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) Lee Smith - As mentioned, the Hall of Fame is still figuring out how to accommodate closers, it's my opinion that they are indeed a key element to the game and the best of the best should be included. With Smith, it's not about the numbers (ERA, W-L) as much as the raw pile of saves he accumulated (478, which was tops for a long time after his retirement). No matter where he played, he never seemed phase by a momentary lapse of success. Fourteen seasons in a row of 25 or more saves shows a level of consistency matched by few. If there are going to be closers in the HoF, Smith should be there.

Factors against him: relief pitcher bias, wasn't overpowering, lacks team identity

Languishing around 35% of the vote last year, he'll need more than double to get in in this, his last and 15th year.  He might get to 50% and like Wagner, maybe get in later once relievers get their due.

9) 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 below 20% of the vote last year, no reason to think he'll move significantly now, or over the next six years.

First four out

10) Tim Raines - Rock falls just short on the numbers. Besides SB's (of which he is more than deserving), his average and power are lackluster, no Gold Gloves. He did accumulate 2,600 hits playing to the age of 40.

Factors against him: mostly small market teams, average defense, never was higher than 5th in an MVP vote, not a feared hitter.

At 69.8% last year and in his last year, wow this is going to be close.  How much of a last ballot bump will he get?

11) 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 43%, surprising he's below Schilling.  Won't move much until he approaches the end of the ballot.  Not likely to get in during the 10 year window.

12) 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 21% last year, he's not moving much. I doubt he gets much closer in this, or the next two years.  Could be a veteran ballot candidate, was very popular with teammates and media and did things the right way.

13) 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.

Factors against him: Low wins, unspectacular ERA

At 52% of the vote, he could make a move (fourth highest returning).  If he can get to 60% now he could eek across 75% by year ten.

The remaining repeat candidates fall into the PED category.

Steroid specter (stats 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.  Ramirez gets his first consideration, it will be most interesting to see how he fares.  Sheffield was surprisingly low last year considering he's a member of the 500 HR club with a batting average over .290.  Goes to show the PED mountain is too high to climb.

Newcomers that might stay on the ballot (besides those mentioned above and Ramirez): Jorge Posada

So my opinions aside, here's who I think gets in (in order by vote percentage).
Trevor Hoffman
Vlad Guerrero
Tim Raines
Jeff Bagwell

They will join "Today's Game" enshrinees John Schuerholz and Allan H. “Bud” Selig, along with J.G. Taylor Spink Award (writers) winner Claire Smith, and Bill King as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence.  The induction ceremony is a homecoming of baseball elite, and will be July 30, 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/25/2016

A number of key NFL contests went down over Christmas weekend, but it was a stealthy MVP candidate that delivered his team to a potential first round bye.  Matt Ryan had a very crisp and clean performance in dismantling the favored Carolina Panthers in Charlotte to put the final dagger in their playoff hopes, while positioning the Falcons (with a surprising Seahawks loss) for they key bye.  Overall, Ryan was 27/33 for 277 yards and 3 TD.  His 27 throws targeted 10 different receivers which kept the Panthers defense off balance.  He's the only QB in the NFL to rate in the top 3 of passing yards, passing TD, and QB rating.  His 7 INT are among the lowest for regular QB as well.  The Falcons are a dark horse team to unseat the seemingly invincible Dallas Cowboys and if they do, it will be because Matt Ryan slays them.  He is our Sportsman of the Week!

This is Matt Ryan's second nod as Sportsman of the Week (9/7/2014)

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 2016-17 Bowl Pick Special

It's time for the Big Boys to play, let's get it on!
The second in the two part J.R. Ewing Bowl picks, the first being straight up underdog picks.  This set is the five best bets ATS; noting that the first week or so of games featured Group of 5 conference that I had not seen much of this season, so it didn't make sense to pick.  Beginning December 26, the Power 5 conferences will take center stage.

Many of these will be favorites, given that I already selected several underdogs to win, therefore go ahead and take those ATS if you're feeling less confident.  Note both playoff games are included!

Just to continue to trumpet a successful college football regular season:

Summary:
Final Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 37-31-2 (+$290, 3.8% profit)

Note that the profit takes into account house take at $10 for every $100 wagered.

Here are the five best College Bowl Bets ATS:

December 27, 2016 (10:15 p.m. EST) - Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, AZ
Boise State (-7.5) vs. Baylor

Baylor was the most overrated 6-0 team in history.  They have lost six straight, only two were within a TD, and two losses were to non-bowl teams.  Meanwhile Boise State has just two losses overall, and always step up their game against Power 5 opponents.  Both teams are an odds defying 3-9 ATS, but it's Baylor who is mailing it in.  The coach and staff are out, some players are skipping the game, and they haven't won since October 15.  Boise takes this big.

December 28, 2016 (9:00 p.m. EST) - Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, Houston, TX
Texas A+M (-2.5) vs. Kansas State

The Aggies will be anxious to match up with their former Big 12 opponent.  The game is in Houston so expect a lot of maroon filling the 65,000 seat NRG Stadium.  Kansas State is a scrappy team in the regular season, but is only 1-7 in their last 8 bowl games, usually drawing a more talented team with time to prepare for their unorthodox, grinding style of offense.  As is the case this year.  A+M will want to finish the season on a positive note after nosediving from the College Football Playoff poll.  They win by 10 or more.

December 30, 2016 (Noon EST) - Autozone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN
Georgia (PK) vs. TCU

TCU has just two wins in their last six games finishing a disappointing 6-6 on the season in a very mediocre Big 12.  A young Georgia squad with a new coach and QB battled tough but loss some heartbreaking losses to rivals like Tennessee and Georgia Tech.  Given a chance to catch their breath, they can focus on building momentum for 2017 with a win here.  TCU is historically good in bowls, but this team isn't like the recent ones that have gone 4-1 / 8-2 in their last five/ten Bowl Games.  Georgia wins a see saw affair.

December 31, 2016 (3:00 p.m. EST) - Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl, Atlanta, GA
Washington (+14.5) vs. Alabama

Alabama is being tabbed as the odds on favorite to win their second straight playoff and why shouldn't they?  They are the only undefeated team remaining and talent laden.  Two factors have me thinking this is closer than experts think.  One is that the top of the SEC was much softer than some of the others Alabama navigated.  It enabled Alabama to have a lot of eye pleasing blowouts, but Washington is a sound team.  Washington is young, so they must step up to the big atmosphere.  I think this is either really close or a Crimson Tide blowout.  I'll lean toward close and a cover.

December 31, 2016 (7:00 p.m. EST) - Playstation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, AZ
Clemson (+3) vs. Ohio State

I think media and fans fell a bit too much in love with the Big 10 this year.  Because of the quantity of teams, the cream of the crop really only faced a worthy opponent 3 or 4 times during the conference season.  Ohio State went 2-1 in such games, with both wins in overtime.  Not exactly dominating.  Clemson was here last year and tasted the atmosphere.  With a veteran squad (vs. a young Buckeye squad), I see this is a near pick'em.  So I'm leaning to the Tigers to get it done and punch their ticket to Tampa.

Enjoy your holiday week and the Bowl Action and we'll see you in 2017!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 2016-17 Bowl Upset Special

I like money.  Let me make you some.
After a romp in the regular season, we turn our attention to Bowl Season.  These games are difficult games to pick, because of the layoff, coach defections, and unpredictability in inspiration by the teams.  That's where I step in to give you the edge.

One final look at regular season performance, nothing short of solid and profitable:

Summary:
Final Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 37-31-2 (+$290, 3.8% profit)

Note that the profit takes into account house take at $10 for every $100 wagered.

This is the first of two Bowl Predicts.  This game focuses on straight up upsets.  No point spreads, but rather games that I've pegged as underdogs winning.  Put $100 on each and if you snag two of five, you get a very nice profit.

December 27, 2016 (Noon EST) - Heart of Texas Bowl, Dallas, TX
North Texas (+320) vs. Army

These teams already played once and North Texas rolled.  People look at UNT and their scant five wins and dismiss them, however Army isn't world beaters.  They did beat Navy, although Navy had a very inexperienced QB and was beat up all over the field.  And how much did that take out of the team?  This game is in my home city of Dallas, at over 3 to 1, I'll see if North Texas can put together a solid effort.

December 29, 2016 (8:00 EST) - Belk Bowl, Charlotte, NC
Arkansas (+225) vs.Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech hasn't defeated a Bowl team since October (0-2 since).  Arkansas is a Jeckyl and Hyde team, but typically plays well in Bowls under Bret Bielema (2-0 and both were blowouts).  Couple that with historic strong play in bowl games for the SEC, and getting this money line seems like a nice play.

December 30, 2016 (8:00 EST) - Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, FL
Florida State (+225) vs. Michigan

Michigan quietly lost two of their last three and never really played that well away from the Big House (roll over against Rutgers withstanding).  Meanwhile Florida State has won six of seven, the one loss a close one to ACC Champion Clemson.  FSU is at home and with a chip on their shoulder.  Michigan felt like they should have beat Ohio State and perhaps made the playoffs despite a loss.  Given the money line, taking the 'Noles.

December 31, 2016 (11:00 EST) - Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Louisville (+140) vs. LSU

There were times this year in which pundits noted that Louisville was the best betting matchup against invincible Alabama.  Then Louisville dropped their last two inexplicably to 17 point or more underdogs.  This is the game they rally; they're not that bad.  LSU had a roller coaster season shedding a head coach and playing without an effective Leonard Fournette (who is out of this game).  Lamar Jackson is the best player on the field and Louisville wins it (as a slight underdog).

January 2, 2017 (1:00 EST) - Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
Western Michigan (+260) vs. Wisconsin

A few factors at play here, one is the Western Michigan is the team with something to prove.  Wisconsin is licking their wounds after a tough Big 10 title game and season of close losses to the top teams.  This game will have very few fans in attendance (relatively) as both teams have a ways to travel and outside of Southfork Ranch, Dallas isn't necessarily a tourist hot spot.  Combine all that with an early kickoff and Wisconsin could be lethargic.  Given the money line play, I like this play.

Coming up next, Top 5 point spread games!

- JR

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/18/2016

College Football Bowl season has kicked in, and there was a weekend of undercard action for fans.  The game with most renown was the Las Vegas Bowl, which featured Mountain West Conference Champion San Diego State against giant slayers Houston Cougars who had knocked off Oklahoma and Louisville, two teams that might have made the playoff if not for those losses.  But it was an lesser known name who stole the show.  And the record book.  San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey broke one of the most hallowed records in NCAA football.  The career rushing record.  Pumphrey did it in dramatic fashion early in the third quarter and ended his career with 6,405 yards to former record holder Ron Dayne's 6,397.  It was that close.  Although in an unexpected route (the Aztecs were underdogs), San Diego State ran away with an easy 24 point victory.  One of the benefits of bowl season is you get to see some of the lesser known players from less recognized schools perform.  Pumphrey more than fits that, and is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/11/2016

The NFL playoff push is in full effect, and an emerging team is the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Thanks to Le'veon Bell, they are suddenly seeming like a short list team to beat in the AFC.  But it was Bell this week that did things that no other Steelers back has done.  In less than ideal conditions against the Buffalo Bills, Bell ran for 236 yards and 3 TD to set a single game Steelers record for rushing yards.  He also added 62 yards receiving to account for 298 of the Steelers 460 total yards.  Most importantly, the win thrust the Steelers a game ahead of the rival Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and positioned well to host a playoff game the first weekend.  This is Bell's third nod as Sportsman of the Week (first time, and second time) thrusting him into elite company with five others like of Peyton Manning and LeBron James.  A deserving Sportsman of the Week!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/4/2016

Storybook.  That can be the only adjective (or is it a noun, or both) to describe Eric Berry's return to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.  For the first time in his career.  Having been there last time to recover from lymphoma.  On the field, his Kansas City Chiefs won the game 29-28.  In a battle of playoff favorite teams, it was two plays that he tilted for his team.  He scored an interception return for a 30 yard TD in the first quarter.  Then in improbable fashion (like never been done in the NFL), he returned a 2-point conversion attempt by the Atlanta Falcons back 99 yards to turn a 27-28 deficit to a 29-28 lead.  Single handedly carrying his team to victory.  The second Kansas City Chief in a row, Eric Berry is our Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: Championship Weekend

Christmas party on me and my profits!
Well well well, it looks like I'll be taking a profit into the Christmas holidays for the whole season.  After a couple weeks of bleeding away my early season profits, things came together last weekend.  It wasn't a romp, but enough to keep the win train going!

Summary:
Previous Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 34-29-2 (+$210, 3.2% profit)

While normally I have a full slate of games to cherry pick, we can do nothing more than pick the Power Five Conference Championship Games (or the defacto version of the Big 12).  But before that, a short commercial break.  If you want to know how I feel about how the College Football Playoff committee should vote based upon results this weekend, check out this Blog.

But back to the picks, here we go!

Pac 12 Championship Game
Washington (-7.5) vs Colorado (Friday 12/2 9:00 p.m. EST - Santa Clara, CA)

Washington seems like a team that woke up when it had it's bell rung on the road against a surging Southern California team.  Throw out that game and they haven't been played in less than a TD.  They didn't seem to play scared last weekend in the Apple Cup, and their defense shuts down the Buffs to win something like 24-7 (take the under 58, too).


Oklahoma (-11.5) vs Oklahoma State (12:30 p.m. EST)

As this is a regular season game, it's in Norman.  The Sooners do well in Norman.  There have been times that Oklahoma State wrecked the Sooners hopes but this isn't one of those years.  Oklahoma muddled through injuries (and some suspensions) during the season but is peaking.  Oklahoma State has been more the category of doing just enough to win.  Explosive offenses abound, I take Oklahoma 42-31 (believe it or not, that's an under 77.5).

SEC Championship Game
Florida (+24) vs Alabama (4:00 p.m. EST - Atlanta, GA)

This just seems like too many points.  Alabama has been a machine at hitting games right near the line, so if I had my choice I would probably no play.  That being said, Florida's defense can be good, and Alabama has been winning more low scoring games lately.  So something like 28-7 would seem right.  That's also an under (40) play.

ACC Championship Game
Clemson (-10) vs Virginia Tech (8:00 p.m. EST - Orlando, FL)

Another big spread, but another veteran team against an upstart team that isn't the same level.  Clemson was in this situation last year and it was tight.  It won't be tight.  Clemson uses their talent advantage and I'm guessing a crowd outnumbering the opposition to win 34-21.  Under 58.

Big 10 Championship Game
Penn State (+2.5) vs Wisconsin (8:00 p.m. EST - Indianapolis, IN)

Penn State continues to get disrespected and they continously prove doubters wrong.  They haven't lost since September 24 and haven't won by fewer than 2 TD since October 1 (besides a stunning upset of Ohio State).  They are rolling.  Wisconsin has had an amazing season playing a tough schedule, but Nittany wins this one by a FG at least. 

So with this result, I would have: Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and Big 10 in the playoff.  I would take Penn State, but the committee seems to value Ohio State.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/27/2016

Thanksgiving weekend was a football feast in both college in the pros, but perhaps the most playoff-changing scenario took place in Denver on the NFL Sunday Night Football.  With the Denver Broncos hosting the Kansas City Chiefs, both 7-3 teams desperately needed a win to keep their AFC West Playoff hopes alive.  The Chiefs won at the gun of overtime, but they would not have made overtime without an emerging rookie star.  The Chiefs scored three TDs in the game, one running, one passing, and one special teams.  The same player scored all three, the first individual to do it since Gale Sayers in 1965. Tyreek Hill didn't light up the Broncos with long plays, but was the one guy in the red zone who could solve the viscous Broncos defense.  He rushed for a 3 yard TD, scored on an 86 yard kick return (after a safety) and caught an 11 yard TD pass on the final play in regulation.  The Chiefs found a way to win, and they may have struck gold with their fifth round pick out of Oklahoma State via West Alabama.  He is our Sportsman of the Week!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

2016 College Football Playoff Breakdown - The year of Chaos?

Nobody should have expected the expansion of a 2-team playoff (BCS) to a 4-team playoff (CFB Playoff) would eliminate close decisions and 2016 might be the toughest year the College Football Playoff Committee (CFPC) faces.  As we enter Championship Weekend (including the defacto Big 12 Championship Game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State), the scenarios have narrowed as to what the top teams need to do to get the blessing of the CFPC a week from tonight.  I'm going to walk through scenarios and tell you who I think should be included and not and why.  This is not what I think the committee is going to do, because I don't know and I think they may go for bigger school names instead of following their charter.  But time will tell.

Here are a few groundrules / assumptions / references
1) In two years, no team has made the playoffs without a conference title.
2) With only two years of history, we do not know how the committee will react based on history.
3) We will reference the Sagarin Ratings (team and conference) .
4) The CFPC has a charter here.


The CFPC charter specifically lists as factors  for comparable teams (not necessarily in order):
  • Championships won
  • Strength of schedule
  • Head-to-head competition (if it occurred)
  • Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
Note that quantity of losses are not specifically cited, but one would think that would figure into "comparable".

Snapshot of each team

1) Alabama - They are in, win or lose in the SEC Championship Game.  If they lose, there will not be enough 1-loss conference champion teams to knock them out which would be the criteria the committee could point to.  And of course the proverbial eye test has favored them all year with big wins against Southern Cal, plus the brutal SEC West (top rated conference division according to Sagarin).  One spot confirmed.

2) Ohio State - And here is where things get complicated.  The Big 10 featured the two highest rated teams last weekend, however, neither is playing for the conference championship this weekend.  The dreaded loss of tiebreaker for Ohio State vs. Penn State head to head in their one loss keeps them from Indianapolis.  At number 2 in all polls, plus a win over a Top 5 team last weekend, some are calling them a lock.  The CFPC criteria states that if teams are "comparable" then championships becomes a discriminator.  I would think Washington and Clemson, also with one loss, would be comparable, giving the Buckeyes lack of hardware is a strike.  Strength of Schedule is another criteria.  While adding Oklahoma out of conference helps, the Big 10 East is ranked below the Pac 12 North/Washington (but ahead of the ACC Atlantic/Clemson) according to Sagarin.  Within a point in
the rating system, might not be enough.  Another team to potentially bump them will be the champion of their conference, the Big 10.  If it is Penn State, then head-to-head dooms them.  I don't see the committee giving Ohio State the nod over Penn State since Penn State won head-to-head and won the conference (two of the four major criteria).  So that puts Alabama plus three more that might have CFPC criteria pointing away from them.  They may need help.  Also look at Ohio State's top three opponents (Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin).  They did not win any in regulation, with 2 OT wins plus a loss.  They also were headed to overtime against very disappointing Michigan State but the Spartans went for two and didn't get it.  Again, when looking to thrust Ohio State into the "comparable" category for which their lack of a title hurts them, these close calls show weaknesses.

3) Clemson - At 11-1, including out of conference wins against two SEC teams, they look like if they win the ACC Championship vs. Virginia Tech they are in.  If they lose, the door is opened for Ohio State and/or the Big 12 Champion.  They'll get that 13th game (which the committee threw in the Big 12's face in 2014 as a discriminator) against another quality opponent (that Ohio State won't get).  If you're going to exclude a 12-1 conference champion, it will be Washington (next).

4) Washington - Also at 11-1, their resume is great in conference (played the second toughest Power 5 Division according to Sagarin) as well as USC/Utah from the South (USC was a loss, but still).  Their biggest problem is a very weak out of conference schedule (picked the wrong Big 10 team to schedule in Rutgers).  A win over Colorado (again, 13th game) gives them
a huge SOS boost, however.  So it would come down to the committee's judgment on whether Washington and Ohio State are comparable, and whether their championship outweighs Ohio State's strength of schedule.  I think it is comparable and the championship means more.  The committee should give the nod to Washington in the playoffs if Washington wins.

5) Penn State - What a spoiler they are playing.  Given up for dead (at 2-2 coming off a 39 point loss to Michigan), they have rolled since.  They would clearly need a Big 10 Championship to be considered and that, with a head-to-head win over Ohio State, to me would mean the committee could not pass them up for the Buckeyes.  The committee has dismissed bad early season losses before (Ohio State in 2014).  Lose and obviously no chance.

6) Wisconsin - If Wisconsin wins the Big 10, they're suddenly with coveted hardware that gets them in the discussion.  Throw in an out of conference schedule that included Louisiana State and they drew Michigan and Ohio State from
the East (as well as Top 10 at the time Michigan State).  If they win, the CFPC should give Ohio State the nod over them head to head (OT loss was in Wisconsin).  But it might be closer than you think, as head-to-head is just one of the four criteria, conference title being the other.

This to me concludes the teams that have a good shot if they win on Championship Weekend.  Others would need a lot of help, mostly Clemson and Washington losing (giving clear nods to Alabama, Big 10 winner, and Ohio State with one spot left).  More analysis.

Big 12 winner - Would have that championship as something to point to as opposed to other teams.  I would think they would be the first one in over Michigan (more in a minute).  Besides Michigan, Oklahoma is the highest rated team not discussed above and they're trending up (which, again, was a factor for Ohio State in 2014).  As for Oklahoma State, they had a rule misinterpretation by a MAC officiating crew cost them a game on the last play (that should not have happened).  So if things go crazy, they could get in with the hardware over ACC runner up Clemson, Pac 12 runner up Washington, and Michigan who don't have titles.

Michigan - The best argument they have is that they lost to the number 2 team in overtime at their place and went toe-to-toe.  All true.  However, two losses and no conference title make it hard for them to get in.  Again, unless comparing them to the field if Washington and Clemson lose.  Especially since they beat Colorado (Pac 12 Champ in that scenario).  Only chance is if Armageddon takes place and the committee is willing to put three Big 10 teams in the playoff, which seems far fetched.  I'm a firm believer that you need conference diversity to figure out a champion.  You cannot definitively call one conference not worthy of a playoff berth based on a short sample of out of conference games by their rivals.  Michigan is no better than the third Big 10 team in, they don't go in over a conference champ and obviously not over Ohio State.

Colorado - As a two loss champion, they'd have trouble getting in over Oklahoma and Michigan, so not seeing any path here. 

So to summarize the eight scenarios and who I think should get in (regardless of SEC and Big 12 outcomes):
Winners: Playoff contenders (in order, I doubt even Alabama would slip much with a loss)
PSU/Clem/Wash: Bama, Clem, Wash, PSU
Wisc/Clem/Wash: Bama, Clem, Wash, OSU
PSU/VT/Wash: Bama, Wash, PSU, OSU
Wisc/VT/Wash: Bama, Wash, OSU, Wisc
PSU/Clem/Colo: Bama, Clem, PSU, OSU
Wisc/Clem/Colo: Bama, Clem, OSU, Wisc
PSU/VT/Colo: Bama, PSU, OSU, Big12
Wisc/VT/Colo: Bama, OSU, Wisc, Big12

At the end of the day, the closest resume's are:
Pac 12 Conference Champion Washington vs. #2 and 11-1 Ohio State.  It's a matter of overall season vs. conference title.  And geography, will the committee want to exclude the Pac 12.  Would not play well to be so midwest/southeast centric.

Wisconsin/Penn State Big 10 conference champ vs. #2 and 11-1 Ohio State.  How much does a conference championship mean?  How much does head-to-head play?  Can they take two of these?

At the end of the day, I think this is what happens:
Wisc/Clem/Colo: Bama, Clem, OSU, Wisc

Thursday, November 24, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 11/26/2016

I like rivalry week!  Big winners forecasted!
Early season winnings keep whittling away as another 2-3 week eats into profits.  Still ahead for the season and this with the house take.  Two weeks of picking left (before the Bowl pick special).  Here's how we stack up.

Summary:
Previous Week: 2-3 (-130)
Season: 31-27-2 (+$130, 2.2% profit)

There's some very curious lines this week that we'll take advantage of.  Gonna push up the profits just in time for the holidays!


Michigan (+6.5) at Ohio State (Noon EST)

Both of these teams are talented, both have had lapses where they lost, I see it as an even matchup.  At Ohio State I give them a field goal, not necessarily a touchdown.  Throw in a huge hunger by Michigan for losing this rivalry so much and I think they have an edge.  They might win straight up, but we'll take the points here.

Georgia (-4.5) vs Georgia Tech (Noon EST)

I guess Georgia Tech has won 4 of 5, but not against stellar competition (besides a surprise win over Virginia Tech).  Georgia is an improving team and historically handles the Jackets quite well.  The 4.5 points is almost as if it's seen as a push given the Dawgs are at home.  They win this by a TD, maybe two.


West Virginia (-7) at Iowa State (3:30 p.m. EST)

Just last week, West Virginia was playing a marquee game with an outside shot at the College Football Playoff.  An Iowa State was playing for their third win.  I get that this spread should be tight, but like 14 points tight, not a TD tight.  West Virginia has a plus QB and Iowa State still learning.  Seems like the Mountaineers take this by 10 at least.  Maybe 20.


Tennessee (-7.5) at Vanderbilt (7:30 p.m. EST)

Tennessee is playing for a New Years Bowl instead of a minor one.  And this is a rivarly.  The season has been disappointing for the Volunteers, but the talent is still there and Vanderbilt is overmatched.  Again, the 7.5 points seems too tight, I think 2 TD at least.


Florida State (-8) vs Florida (8:00 p.m. EST)

Florida State has three losses, two are to Clemson and Louisville, the other was flukeish to North Carolina.  Florida has battled in the SEC, but still has little offense to match up with the weapons in Tallahassee.  The game at Florida State makes it a tough win for Florida, who is looking forward to the SEC title game.  Seminoles by double digits.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend and rivalry week!  And may the gambling gods be with you!

-JR

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/20/2016

The end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season provided drama to the very end, and a living legend rose to the occasion.  Hendrick Motorsports 48 car Jimmie Johnson set history on a number of fronts, but we'll get to that in a minute.  He outright won the final race of the Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami, FL, by holding off all the other Cup competitors, plus one or two that were just in it for the race payday.  He came from behind against the other three finalists to take the lead at the end, including the extra laps resulting from a yellow in a green/white/checkered finish.  With it, his 80th Series victory (seventh to reach that plateau).  But most importantly, seventh Sprint Cup Championship, only matched by NASCAR legends Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.  And the 41-year-old isn't slowing down.  And like other sports, you could argue that the field is much deeper and the edges are much more slight than the eras of Petty and Earnhardt. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 11/19/2016

In a small nosedive, but that stops this week
Well things are getting tighter here at the end of the year; the oddsmakers are catching up to me!  Could have easily one 3-2 last week if not for a fourth quarter collapse and a push.  But it is what it is:

Summary:
Previous Week: 1-3-1 (-230)
Season: 29-24-2 (+$260, 4.7% profit)

I'm mostly intrigued by a lot of close point spreads for big conference teams.  Always feel like that enables a good chance to win. 

Northwestern (-3) at Minnesota (3:30 p.m. EST)

Northwestern is playing really well late in the year as one of the most improved teams in the Big 10.  5-1 ATS the past couple of months, took Ohio State to the wire.  Minnesota defense is a little soft, wo look for a higher scoring game with the Wildcats winning by a TD.


Iowa State (+4) vs Texas Tech (3:30 p.m. EST)

Iowa State is improving, and even in losses to good teams (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State) has kept it within a TD.  Texas Tech is up and down, and the weather will be cold and the wind will be howling.  That could neutralize the passing game and give Iowa State a good chance to control the ball against the worst defense in the Big 12.  I like taking the points.

Notre Dame (-2) vs Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m. EST)

An odd spread given the awful season Notre Dame is having vs. the surprising good season Virginia Tech is having.  Do the bettors know something or is this chasing bad money?  Virginia Tech has not covered the last 3 spreads, and this is a big stage for the young Hokies.  At this tight line, Notre Dame, at home, can win by 3 and cover.  I'm going Irish.

Washington State (+6) at Colorado (3:30 p.m. EST)

Washington State is hitting on all cylinders at this point in the season with eight straight wins.  And are getting nearly a TD against a good, but still unproven Colorado.  The Cougars are putting up tons of points and it seems like they can win this straight up.  I'll take the points.

Arkansas (+2) at Mississippi State (7:00 p.m. EST)


It seems like bettors are remembering the one good Mississippi State game and forgetting all the forgettable ones.  Arkansas is a better team.  They need this win for bowl positioning and won't let it get away.  The Hogs go down to Stark-Vegas and take care of the business trip.

Enjoy your chilly Saturday of College Football!

-JR

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/13/2016

An amazing weekend of NFL football concluded with the almost certain Offensive Rookie of the Year and possible Most Valuable Player had a statement play and really game that demonstrated that the Dallas Cowboys are a force to be reckoned with.  Ezekiel Elliott made big play after big play in a see saw battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers to win what might be the game of the year.  In addition to an effective 114 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns, he also scored a TD on a pass while racking up 95 yards passing on two catches, the big blow an 83 yard TD.  The total puts him as the first running back over 1000 rushing yards in the NFL.  His 10 TD are also tied for third in the league.  He's a force, the Cowboys have the best record in the NFL, and for the third time, he is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 11/12/2016

I don't like the looks of this week
A so-so week for sure, but a couple of bad beats in the SEC with LSU and Kentucky fighting close but losing the spread at the end.  No matter, you take the bad with the good.

Summary:
Previous Week: 2-3 (-130)
Season: 28-21-1 (+$490, 8.9% profit)

No good feelings this week.  Not many big games under a touchdown which is the sweet spot I prefer.  Plus I'm still on a "No Texas" stance, they are too unpredictable.  As it is, going to look at four out of five favorites and hope a few go off.

Oklahoma (-17.5) vs Baylor (Noon EST)

Baylor is in shambles.  Shambles.  Their depth is getting tested now that they're in the tougher part of their schedule.  And they go on the road to a surging Oklahoma team.  This is the beginning of the end for the Briles Bears era.  And this one won't be close.

Navy (-2) vs Tulsa (Noon EST)

Two very hot teams, actually, and I like picking this one because it's under a field goal.  The game is in Annapolis where Navy is undefeated ATS.  I just see Navy methodically taking it to Tulsa and winning by at least a FG.

Indiana (+7) vs Penn State (Noon EST)

I know Penn State is hot, but on the road, this is a game the Hoosiers can surprise. In three trips away from Happy Valley, Nittany is only 1-2.  Plus teams that suddenly get in the Top 10 playoff rankings sometimes feel pressure.  I predict Indiana catches Penn State sleep walking and at least keeps it at about a field goal.

Oklahoma State (-12.5) vs Texas Tech (3:30 p.m. EST)

Oklahoma State is quietly one of the improving teams in the Big 12.  After stumbling against Central Michigan, they've suffered a loss at Baylor but are undefeated since September.  Texas Tech is very very suspect on defense.  Really can't stop much and their offense isn't consistent enough to score.  Throw in a banged up QB and I see the Cowboys winning by a couple of TDs easy.

Texas A+M (-10) vs Mississippi (7:30 p.m. EST)

In a game with backup quarterbacks, I'll take the team with the guy who has experience and the team that's Top 10 and not teetering on bowl ineligibility.  Both teams are reeling, Texas A+M reels this time every year, but I believe at home they'll be able to run away from Ole Miss and a completely unproven QB (whoever he is).

Unfortunately this week doesn't seem to be one where upsets of top teams will be prevalent.  But I do think the above will at least get you a little profit!


Monday, November 7, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/6/2016

The story in sports last week was the Chicago Cubs, and they were led by MVP candidate Kris Bryant.  With their backs to the wall in Game 6, Bryant set the tone in the first inning with a home run to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead that would balloon to 3-0 after the offense got rolling.  In Game 7, he chipped in two more runs on a hit and a walk.  Over the crucial games in Cleveland, Bryant was 5-9, 4 runs and a walk (.600 OBP).  Most importantly, he cluttered bases for the red hot Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist to keep the Cubs line moving.  And delivered the first World Series title since World Series V in 1908.  With Bryant, they won World Series CXII

Friday, November 4, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 11/5/2016

J.R. says "Don't mess with [betting on] Texas"
Sounding like a broken record, but another winning week last Saturday.  In this game, you take your 60% where you can get them.  I'm done betting on Texas Longhorns games, you would think if you just bet home vs. away you'd win every time but too unpredictable.

Summary:
Previous Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 26-18-1 (+$620, 12.5% profit)

As the College Football Playoff poll is released, there is sudden focus on the eye test where teams on the outside looking in may look to push the score up a bit more than in previous weeks with the new urgency.  Teams in the playoff suddenly are targets to upsets.  All that being said, I like five underdogs this week, all are between 2.5 and 7.5 points, many at home.

Pittsburgh (+3) at Miami (12:30 p.m. EDT)

This is a game of teams going in opposite directions.  Once the competition stepped up, Miami has stepped aside.  Meanwhile Pittsburgh is playing some good football, with a narrow loss to impressive Virginia Tech and a win over Penn State.  Meanwhile, Miami has lost four straight both straight up and ATS.  I like the better football team here, and that's Pittsburgh.  Home field is almost irrelevant since kickoff is so early.

Oklahoma State (+3) at Kansas State (3:30 p.m. EDT)

Oklahoma State has won four straight Big 12 games, including a throttling of previously undefeated West Virginia.  Kansas State is well coached, but under talented.  I would nod the Cowboys by a point or three, so if you're giving me points, I'll take the Pokes, even in Manhattan.

Arkansas (+4) vs Florida (3:30 p.m. EDT)

This is an SEC East vs. West play.  The East seldom beats the West, and Arkansas is a solid team.  They're coming off a humiliating loss at Auburn and will have something to prove.  Florida just keeps on playing defense and winning, but, again, give me some points at home with an East team playing at West, I'll go West.

Kentucky (+2.5) vs Georgia (7:30 p.m. EDT)

What is it going to take to get bettors to believe in Kentucky?  Three straight conference wins, 5-1 in their last six games, and five straight covers.  Meanwhile Georgia is struggling, which is what happens when you have a freshman QB and new head coach.  Georgia hasn't won on a Saturday since September 17, a one point squeaker over awful Missouri.  If you look at the rosters, Georgia should win this.  But Kentucky is playing some good football.

LSU (+7.5) vs Alabama (8:00 p.m. EDT)

It's rare that Alabama runs the SEC gauntlet unscathred, there's always a tough road game where they play a bit below par and the other team steps up.  LSU is playing well under Coach Orgeron and would love to play spoiler to their rival.  Given the betting line just above a TD, I'll take my chances on a wild game in the Swamp and a Tigers cover.

It's November, the peak of College Football season!  Enjoy your Saturday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 10/30/2016

The World Series takes center stage in American sports in one of the most watched World Series in a decade or more.  While it seems most of the country is rooting for the lovable loser Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Indians are playing spoiler (and frankly are not necessarily recent winners either.  The Indians took a surprising 3-1 series lead behind the strong right arm of Corey Kluber.  Kluber shut down the potent Cubs lineup over 12 innings, scattering 9 hits and 1 walk and only 1 earned run.  The ERA is 0.73 and he's 2-0.  After a Cubs win in Game 5, Kluber is lined up for Game 7 if the Tribe doesn't win in Game 6.  Kluber is the most dominant force in this World Series and is our Sportsman of the Week!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 10/29/2016

I may have a perfect hat, but I'm not perfect.
The win streak was finally broken after six non losing Saturdays, but only at a 2-3 record.  Manageable.  And I told you my feelings weren't strong.

Summary:
Previous Week: 2-3 (-130)
Season: 23-16-1 (+$540, 12.2% profit)

This week is tantalizing with a lot of highly ranked teams on the road.  I believe if you go across the board on underdogs you'll do well.  But which are the best chances?  And which favorites are undervalued?  All is revealed.

Michigan State (+24.5) vs Michigan (Noon EDT)

I don't like huge point spreads but this is just too many points.  Just too many.  For a Michigan State team playing for pride.  Note Michigan has only had to leave the Big House once this season to a soft Rutgers team (yes, they did cover).  But State can at least make a game of it, the Big 10 home field means something.

Georgia Tech (-6.5) vs Duke (Noon EDT)

This is my small game pick of the week.  Georgia Tech has controlled teams they are better than.  And Duke is one of them.  Outside of a Notre Dame win, Duke really hasn't competed well.  A TD seems like an easy target to control.

Notre Dame (+2) vs Miami (3:30 EDT)

Miami has lost three straight football games and doesn't have a banner win this year (Georgia Tech and Appalachian State don't count).  Notre Dame season has been nothing short of disaster of Oregon or Texas proportion.  But if they get a couple of points at home, I can't resist.  This might be circle the wagons time, but, again, just don't see enough out of Miami to justify the road favorite.

Baylor (-3) at Texas (3:30 EDT)

Texas is undefeated at home, but even their last home win against Iowa State they were losing at half time.  Barely beat a bad Notre Dame team in overtime.  Baylor is much better than both of those teams.  The Longhorns defense has been the Achilles heel all year and this week won't be kind.  Heck, Baylor can win in OT and still not lose the cover.  Also, for the love of what's good, take the Over 72.

Florida State (+4.5) vs Clemson (8:00 EDT)

This has become a premier ACC game every year and you know it was circled on both teams' schedules since the final whistle last year.  Something hasn't quite been right with Clemson and Florida State has been pretty good save one dud against Louisville (and an uninspired effort against North Carolina which they should have won).  This one is in their wheel house (and they win for a tight loss).

I think there are at least three winners, maybe four among this group!  Did I mention to take the over on Baylor/Texas?

- JR

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 10/23/2016

When you're in the company of Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson, and Ricky Williams, you know you're in an elite running back fraternity.  That's exactly where Miami Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi finds himself.  The second year running back torched the Buffalo Bills for 214 yards and a TD on Sunday in a 28-25 for the surging Dolphins.  This was after a week in which he ran for 204 yards and two TD against perennial playoff contending Pittsburgh Steelers.  So he joins Campbell, Simpson, and Williams as the only RB in history to run for back-to-back 200 yard games.  During the two game stint, he carried the ball 53 times, which edges near 8 yards per carry.  For a whole lot of carries.  With the retirement of Arian Foster, he is the back of the present and future in Miami.  And a surprise Sportsman of the Week!

Friday, October 21, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 10/22/2016

I don't always win. Actually, yes, I do always win
The win train continued last week with another 3-2 week.  60% won't give me enough to retire, but we are padding winnings at this point.

Summary:
Previous Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 21-13-1 (+$670, 25.8% profit)

It's been since September 3 I had a losing week.  That's six straight winners (one was a push).  Just saying.

This week I'll be blunt.  Struggled to come up with strong winners.  A lot of fat spreads in big games (just can't go on the Michigan, Ohio State, or Alabama games), or unproven teams squaring off (I'm looking at you Mississippi State vs. Kentucky or Michigan State vs. Maryland).  I think we'll pull out another winner but this is a week to go tread lightly.  Note there is one Game per Power 5 (minus ACC plus AAC).

Wisconsin (-4) at Iowa (Noon EDT)

Iowa's offense is lethargic (former Longhorn coordinator Greg Davis I might add).  Wisconsin has stood toe to toe with Michigan and Ohio State and took them to the end.  I would expect Wisconsin to win by 10 points or more.  The only hesitation is the Ohio State hangover.  But the way Wisconsin plays I don't see that as a factor.  If North Dakota State can come into Iowa City and win, so can Wisconsin.  By a few more points.

Stanford (-1.5) vs. Colorado (3:00 p.m. EDT)

A very intriguing tilt.  A near pick'em game at home, Stanford has Christian McCaffrey as questionable but did well at Notre Dame last week without him.  Meanwhile Colorado is 7-0 ATS.  Yes, 7-0.  They can't keep it up, right?  This is a week Stanford circles the wagons.  Stanford's losses have been against higher flying teams, they'll hold home court here, and you even win on a last second FG or overtime win.

Arkansas (+10.5) at Auburn (6:00 EDT)

This just seems like more of an even matchup to me than 10 points.  Both teams have losses to good teams (Texas A&M both, Clemson, and Alabama).  The game is at Auburn and at night, but I think this goes within a TD at least.  To me, a matchup of good SEC West teams with 2 losses.  Maybe the insiders see something I don't.

Oklahoma (-14) at Texas Tech (7:00 p.m. EDT)

I've been a Texas Tech picker most of the year, but they are falling apart.  They've given up 92 points and only scored 45 in their last two games.  Outside of Kansas and FCS teams, it's 40+ a game.  Throw in an inspired Baker Mayfield returning to Lubbock and I don't see many defensive stops.  Meanwhile, Tech's offense is slowed with a hurt Pat Mahomes.  This ends up like 60 to 30.

Cincinnati (-2.5) vs. East Carolina (7:00 p.m. EDT)

I don't often go for games with non-contending teams but in absence of anything else.  East Carolina has lost four straight games and is on the road.  In those losses they've given up about 46 points per game.  They also dealt with Hurricane Matthew last week which was disruptive.  They haven't won since September 10.  Cincinnati has lost two straight but seem like the more talented team.  And it's just a FG to win.  Go with the Bearcats.

Enjoy your Saturday of football!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 10/16/2016

Autumn sports in full swing, with football (college and pro), MLB baseball playoffs, and now NHL starting.  But the baseball playoffs have everything you want.  Including star power in Tinseltown.  Clayton Kershaw seems to pitch just about every game.  Well, this week he almost did.  In four games (2 NLDS against the Washington Nationals and 2 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs), Kershaw started two and saved one.  Dodgers, 3-1 (and two of the three were elimination games, the third might as well have been if Los Angeles lost).  Numbers are decent (3.14 ERA, 18K in 14.1, 1W, 1Sv).  Note that 3 of the 5 runs he gave up were inherited runners, but his work has been key to the Dodgers hanging around and in the NLCS against a heavily favored Cubs team.  Kershaw will start again in Game 6, making Games 3-5 suddenly must win games.  Unless he starts Game 5, and relieves Game 7.  Either way, Kershaw is the biggest weapon in the NLCS and he is our Sportsman of the Week!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 10/15/2016

I'm tickled blue to pick two teams from Texas this week!
I just keep winning.  Another 3-2 week ATS which means profit.  Profit is good.  Greed is good.  Love the greed!


Summary:
Previous Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 18-11-1 (+$590)

Lines are provided by VegasInsider.com and these bets are also registered on CappedIn.com.

Hard to believe we're in Week 7, but glad to know we're not even half way through October yet.  So much more football to play starting this week!  Here's another set of winners!


Texas Tech (Pk) vs. West Virginia (Noon EDT)

I love a good pick'em game, and I love offense.  Texas Tech is another team I pick frequently because they can beat any spread easily.  In this case, they just need to win.  They do that well at home.  West Virginia hasn't beat a point spread since Week 1.  Seems like Tech wins this one with lots of tortillas thrown around.

Nebraska (-3) at Indiana (3:30 p.m. EDT)

Let's pump the brakes on Indiana for a minute.  This line has dived from a TD to a FG and I don't see a resurgent Nebraska team coming off a bye week to have a slip up.  They should outclass the Hoosiers and win by a TD or even double digits.  Remember, Indiana lost to Ball State and Wake Forest.

Alabama (-13) at Tennessee (3:30 p.m. EDT)

I'm still drunk on Alabama success.  Rode them to an easy win last week (okay, by a couple of points).  Tennessee is banged up and came off a devastating loss at Texas A+M.  This after pulling some close games out.  This one could get ugly.  And they never beat Alabama.  Tide Rolls by 3 TD or more

Texas (-13.5) vs. Iowa State (7:00 p.m. EDT)

Intriguing matchup between two teams combined 3-8.  Both coming off disappointing losses.  As a Texan, I sense a circling of the wagons for the Longhorns.  They lost to Oklahoma but pushed a good team to the end.  Iowa State has been a hard luck team, blowing leads to Oklahoma State, Baylor, and TCU and covered four straight games.  They take a dip here and the Longhorns win by 3 TD or more.


Ohio State (-10) at Wisconsin (8:00 p.m. EDT)

Ohio State has been covering like mad, only missing a misaligned ATS against a good Indiana team.  Wisconsin has grinded out some wins, but this level of talent will be an upgrade.  Seems like if it's close the Buckeyes could win by two TD.  They'll cover the 10 points.

Given some even lines I wouldn't be surprised at a push, but the wins keep coming!  Have a great weekend!

-JR

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 10/9/2016

College Football is full of upsets, but one thing you can usually lean on is that both teams get all the top recruits and it just so happened that the perceived lower talented team put it all together for a win.  Service academies are a different lot.  This week, the United States Naval Academy did what few thought they could in defeating a Top 6 opponent that many had tagged for a strong playoff contender.  Two key plays to cement the surprising result was Josiah Powell receptions.  However, Powell is not a wide receiver, he plays on defense as a linebacker.  And the receptions were from Heisman hopeful Greg Ward Jr, the quarterback of the Houston Cougars.  The most critical was in the 3rd quarter with Navy clinging to a 6 point lead and he returned the offering for a TD.  Houston went from tied at halftime, to traling by 14 5 minutes into the third quarter.  The other was important in stopping the Cougars in Navy territory just before halftime.  Instead of trailing by 10 had the Cougars scored, Navy tied it up to the locker room.  Game changing performances by unexpected sources, that's what our Sportsman of the Week is about!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 10/8/2016

I'm making money.  You should too.
Business is booming.  A second big week of wins, going 3-2 ATS last week (3-1 after a bad Friday pick).  I'm starting to feel the games, especially which ones to stay away from and which to jump on.


Summary:
Previous Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 15-9-1 (+$510)

This week's theme, finding games that should be near pick'em, but one team is being given about a TD.  I don't like picking games more than 8 or 9 points (because wins then are subject to loss via late touchdown).  So here are this week's winners

Pittsburgh (-6.5) vs Georgia Tech (12:30 p.m. EDT)

Okay, for this pick, I'm going with the TD favorite.  Not quite a TD that is.  I still am a Georgia Tech doubter.  Pittsburgh is a grinding team that should be able to win this at home by 10 points or more.  Even a TD win at the end gets this cover.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Texas A+M (3:30 p.m. EDT)

This is about the time that Texas A+M schedule gets tougher and they start to drop SEC games.  Tennessee has had big game after big game every week and maybe this one they will start better.  I see this as a toss up, so give me 6.5 points and I'll take it.

Alabama (-14) at Arkansas (7:00 p.m. EDT)


I admit I have a problem.  An Alabama problem.  I just can see more scenarios where they beat the spread than not.  They don't always, but this game seems like one they can take control of.  So tee me up again, I'll take the Tide and give the two TD

Texas Tech (+7.5) at Kansas State (7:00 p.m. EDT)

Texas Tech video game offense can render any game into a pick'em.  Kansas State nearly picked up a win at West Virginia, but I don't like this matchup with Red Raiders speed as much as that one.  Tech's defense will give up points, but I think win the game (or at least lose by a TD or less).

Florida State (+3) at Miami (8:00 p.m. EDT)

Florida State is much more battle tested than the Canes.  This is just another big game in a series and I think the rivalry inspires them to step up their game.  Home field at Miami is not what it used to be, and I think Florida State is angry after last week's disappointment and gets the job done.

Good luck to your team, and enjoy your college football Saturday!

Sportsman of the Week Ending 10/2/2016

Once again, we turn to the NFL for an amazing performance that is in the Top 6 all time for a single game.  Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons cracked triple digits in receiving yards.  Not just 100, but triple 100.  Jones torched the Carolina Panthers for 12 catches and 300 yards.  The defending NFC South and NFC Champions had no answer for him.  His biggest catch came after the Panthers erased a 21 point deficit to pull within 8.  One 75 yard touchdown answer, it became apparent that Carolina could not stop Jones if the game went on indefinitely.  Jones has established himself as one of the Top 5 if not Top 2 or 3 receivers in the league, and he's our Sportsman of the Week!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 10/1/2016

You should listen to me.  I'm rich.
Well Yee Haw and tip of the cap.  My last week dominated at 5-0!  If you give me a few weeks of teams to analyze, I'll bring you winners.  No slowing down this week, I will get you some cash.

Summary:
Previous Week: 5-0 (+500)
Season: 12-7-1 (+$430)

Three Top ten matchups highlight the board, and I'll give you picks in two of the three (avoided the third but would take Michigan if you care).  This week the ACC and Pac 12 have the best games to pick, if I do say so myself.

Stanford (+3.5) at Washington (9:00 p.m. EDT)

To me, Stanford is the Pac 12 North King until unseated.  Stanford has beat Washington 7 of the last 8 years, and is already battle tested.  Washington hasn't played nearly as many big games the past five years, so give me the more experienced team that knows how to win.  And I'm getting 3 points.

Notre Dame (-10.5) at Syracuse (Noon EDT)

It's circle the wagons time in South Bend.  After three losses, I think the team (and coaches) will respond.  And this isn't a bowl-bound Syracuse team (at least at the point).  This might help that the game is on the road as the team can focus and execute.  Seems like two TD is achievable.

Miami (-7.5) at Georgia Tech (Noon EDT)


Georgia Tech looks like a pretty mediocre football team.  Meanwhile Miami has stormed through very bad competition.  This pick based on Georgia Tech's ineptitude vs. Clemson, which was the only solid team they faced.  I can't imagine it staying within 10 points.

Clemson (+2) vs Louisville (8:00 p.m. EDT)

Let me get this straight, defending ACC Champion and 2015 National Champion runner up Clemson is underdogs at home?  At night?  In a place they call Death Valley?  And they still have their Heisman contender QB?  Pop the popcorn, tap the keg, this is going to be a great game of two teams who have enough talent to make the playoff.  I love home underdogs who know how to win.

Oregon (-1.5) at Washington State (9:30 p.m. EDT)

Oregon has had a number of big matchups early and not looked bad in any of them (close losses to Colorado and Nebraska).  Washington State has lost to a FCS team and only beat lowly Idaho (who is petitioning to go back to FCS).  Seems like Oregon will win this one, by a FG or more.

Great Saturday for football, the meat of the season is upon us!